How to Find Gold in People
Growing people is like digging for gold. You have to remove layers and layers of dirt for every small piece of gold that you discover.
As a leader, remembering that simple idea will help you stay positive as you grow others.
It was Andrew Carnegie who offered this analogy. He was once asked what his strategy was to develop the leaders around him. He said:
Dealing with people is like digging for gold: When you go digging for gold, you have to move tons of dirt to get an ounce of gold. But when you go digging, you don’t go looking for the dirt, you go looking for the gold. - Andrew Carnegie
This is such a powerful principle in leadership because we are in the business of building people, building teams, and building leaders. Right? We are always searching for unique people and stellar results. Developing people can be hard, and sometimes discouraging. It can even lead us to quit, if we don’t understand the inherent difficulty in the process.
As you grow people, watch for these main traps we, as leaders, are prone to fall into.
First Trap: There is no gold.
Many leaders look at their teams and see hopelessly unchangeable people. Even seasoned leaders can easily fall into that trap. But if we are intentional to consistently remind ourselves that there is more, we will unearth the potential in each of the people we lead. Don’t be one of these leaders who only sees the dirt.
Your people have gold hidden beneath the surface. My friend, if people are breathing, then they have a chance for growth. Don’t be mistaken, there is gold in each person you lead. But sometimes, we have to dig hard to find it.
The minute you give up on people, you should stop leading them. We would all like to think that we have untapped potential and a large capacity to grow. We want our leaders to feel that way about us, too. We want our leaders to believe in us.
Will you dare to believe that there is gold in the people you lead?
Second Trap: We don’t have the right tools.
What are the tools required to mine gold from people? That’s what we must find out. The first and most important tool is the light of knowledge. What principles do you know that can enlighten the depths of others? How can you see people more clearly? For example, studying the personality types or common methods of learning, are very insightful tools for understanding people, and helping them to learn about themselves.
The second tool you’ll need is the shovel of intention and consistency. Purposefully, turn over the soil in each person’s heart, so you may deposit seeds into their lives. Expose them to current thought leaders, new ways of doing things, growth materials, mentors and seminars.
Third, you’ll need a wheelbarrow to discard any unwanted feelings that are uncovered. As you dig away the dirt, if you have no way to remove it, it will accumulate in your own heart. You must be able to deal with dirt. And lots of it. People may be resistant to the process of change; they may project these sentiments on to you. As the leader, you must be prepared to haul off the negativity that gets heaped onto you by others. When you are helping people grow, your patience, your forgiveness, and your gentleness are indispensable. Otherwise, all the dirt you are digging up will begin to suffocate you and them.
Third Trap: Gold is easy to find.
We have a vision of what we want our people to become. But we forget how we became. We forget how hard it was for us to get where we are. Sometimes we expect to start digging and find nothing but gold. It does not work that way—in mining gold or in growing people.
It is a slow, tedious process. It takes a tremendous amount of energy, and plenty of trials and errors. When we are digging, we are going to bruise our hands, maybe bump our heads, or work in noxious conditions in order to reach the prize.
Sometimes we think if we start working with someone on our team, we will see transformation in their life immediately. But that rarely happens. When our expectation is to find nothing but gold soon after we start digging, we will get discouraged, get upset at others, and eventually give up. Accept that it takes time to mine gold in people, and persevere.
Fourth Trap: I am tired of dirt.
Friend, I know you are tired of dirt. And you are weary of digging. But I am here to tell you that seeing people grow is worth the effort. Hang in there. Trust the process. So what if you dig, but nothing happens? You keep digging anyway, because you know you are doing the right thing. You know it deep within. Then suddenly, voila! A breakthrough.
Remember that growth is not automatic. Sometimes we think we are digging out the dirt, but what we are doing is just staring at the dirt. You must teach others, model good behavior, and sacrifice. That process sometimes hurts. You may feel deflated or hopeless. But keep digging. And continue to invest in your own growth because that’s when you acquire better tools for the excavation.
I have taught leadership for the past few years to many managers. A few got it quickly. Many got it slowly. And a handful never got it at all. In the process I saw lives changed and teams improved. I saw hope rekindled and inspiration come to life. I have learned this: Never give up on people. As long as they are in your circle, give them your undying attention, and push them forward.
So, as you go about your day, facing that one person you wish to see change in, remember this:
Actionable Step: Write down the names of your team members, read them daily, and affirm this statement regarding each of them. “I believe that you have great potential. I will do my very best to uncover the gold within you.”
PS: I would love to get to know you more. Here is a personal fact you may not know about me. I hope you’ll tell me more about yourself…
I have a dream to visit every country of the world!
I have traveled to 33 countries so far. (At this rate, I will be 120 years old before I visit them all.) Some of my favorite spots are San Sebastian, Spain; Queenstown, New Zealand; Cork, Ireland; Masada, Israel; Gibraltar, British Territory; and American Samoa, US Territory.
Where are some favorite spots you have traveled to? (Hit ‘reply’ if you’re reading this from your email. Or leave your response in the Comments below.)
For Further Reading: