Are you a rocket booster? As I mentioned in my last post “The Shalane Effect”, in competitive sports, business, and life in general, we should all make sure we’re pushing each other forward instead of knocking each other down. By doing so, we serve as a rocket booster for those around us while also catapulting ourselves forward.

So, let’s assume you have the best intentions of being a rocket booster but you just aren’t sure what that really means or how to do it. Think of it this way. What does a rocket booster use in order to do its job? It uses fuel. And, FUEL is what you can use yourself.

F — Be Flexible

Quite often, we have specific thoughts or ideas regarding how a project should be done. Since you know the steps you used to complete a similar project, you know the correct way to do it, right? But, everyone doesn’t accomplish things the same way and on the same path. Is it possible people could do things differently than you and do a better job…or finish more quickly…or even uncover an issue you never would have uncovered? Be flexible!

I had this experience when I was interviewing for my position at Southwest Airlines. I was asked to complete a business case as part of the interview process, and when I went in to present the project, the interviewer — my future boss — told me he was surprised by the way I completed it. He thought my analysis was great but was simply surprised by how I did it. I got the job, and I knew before starting the job he was going to be a great boss. He let me do things the way I wanted and actually appreciated that I did them differently than him.

Being flexible may mean someone needs to work from home more than you want, may want to work a different schedule, or may organize their project differently than you would. Clearly you want to help guide people by sharing your perspective and experience but be flexible. You help the other person do things in a way that’s best for them, and they may end up with something much better than you ever expected.

U — Uphold Others

The definition of uphold is “to support or defend, to lift up.” We can all do this with the people around us by supporting their ideas. If someone comes to you with a project idea, help them with the idea (even if you initially think it sounds crazy). Provide feedback to make the idea better, and when it’s fully baked, help promote it and your co-worker. Don’t think about yourself or how you can get some credit. Talk up the owner. Talk about how you initially thought it was crazy, but they were able to pull the idea together.

Jack Walsh famously talks about this when talking about great leaders. To be an exceptional leader (or exceptional co-worker or neighbor or friend), you need to have a generosity gene. You have to love to see people succeed without thinking of yourself.

Most importantly, even if you don’t agree with their idea after it’s fully baked, tell them to their face. Don’t tell other people. This is especially true if you are their boss. There is nothing worse than a boss who implies they agree with your decision, but when you’re not in the room, they change direction and don’t back up your decision. Ugh!!

E — Encourage

This is a super simple suggestion, but it’s one we all easily forget. Compliment other people. A simple compliment like, “That meeting was really well organized” or “You are really good at thinking about things creatively,” can turn someone’s day around. More importantly, research shows that receiving compliments can actually improve performance. It’s a basic principle in the classic motivational book, “One Minute Manager.”  Spend one minute catching someone doing something right and praise them for it. Don’t give them unearned flattery. Instead, be specific about the great thing they did and you will boost their mood and inspire them to do more great things.

This can be especially true for women, because, as illustrated in “The Confidence Code” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, women tend to underestimate their abilities and performance. So as co-workers, we can help others recognize their value by recognizing it ourselves, complimenting them for it, and encouraging them to step up to new challenges, like public speaking or new jobs.

L — Listen

A good leader knows the importance of this one. You have to listen to what your employees are saying. You are their champion. You are the one avenue they have to get things changed, if needed, and you are the one avenue to speak for them or make sure they’re heard.

Don’t dismiss what they’re saying no matter how inconsequential you think it is or how set you are in your opinions. Open your mind and realize that you might not be right. Regardless of how much experience you have or how successful you’ve been in the past, you can always learn from others. Actively listening to your employees and making sure they’re heard benefits everyone. You learn, your employees gain confidence to question initiatives and provide their insight, and your organization benefits from more clearly-reasoned and justified decisions.

This suggestion is especially helpful if you have a co-worker who isn’t comfortable speaking up in large groups. Listen to them and advocate for them. Then, refer back to ‘E’ and encourage them to speak up in a future setting.

Be the FUEL for your rocket booster!