As part of her research on adult students in higher education, professor Nancy Schlossberg developed the theory that adult learners will persist if they believe that they “matter” to someone at the institution. This could be a professor, a classmate, advisor, learning resource specialist — the “who” was less important than the fact that the student believed someone would notice (and care) if they were not there.

I think her concept of “mattering” has far broader implications than adult students.  I think it applies to any organizational context in which we find ourselves.  We want to know that our presence makes a difference and that our work is valued.

When you notice someone’s absence, do you always acknowledge it the next time you see the person? When co-workers are out on vacation or maternity leave, do you explicitly welcome them back and show them that they were missed? If someone misses a meeting, do you try to get them caught up and let them know their absence mattered?

We aren’t always quick to show acknowledgment and appreciation to those who do show up either.  I was at a wedding of a colleague this weekend, and I was very glad to see so many of my other colleagues in attendance, but I didn’t tell them all that it mattered to me that they were there.

Try to be intentional this week in letting others know that their presence and contributions do matter to you and the organization.  It will feel good for both of you!

— beth triplett

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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