The Importance of Validating Others | Allan Kehler

One of my keynotes is titled “Removing the Mask”. Ironically, sometimes when I am on the stage I find myself having to wear a mask. I am human after all, and some days are harder than others.

On one of these particularly challenging days I forced a smile as I shared my message at a large community event. Following my keynote I felt emotionally exhausted, and just wanted to be alone. However, there was a significant crowd that gathered at the bottom of the stage, and the mask had to stay on for a little longer.

Eventually, the people disappeared, and there was only one young woman who remained. I noticed something in her left hand as she slowly made her way towards me. Like me, she seemed to force a smile as she extended her left arm in my direction. I immediately noticed several scars that decorated her forearm, and knew that she had been fighting her own demons.

This young woman never spoke any words to me,
but she looked at me in a way that said it all.

She placed the following item into my hands.

From individual pipe cleaners she created beautiful flowers. But here is what she really did for me.

That young woman restored my spirit through a simple gesture. She also reminded me that we are always in a position to change someone’s day.

In the workplace, there is incredible power through the act of validating the work of those around us. And it can come through a gift, a note, or even words.

My friend and respected leader, Val Desjarlais, reminded me of this while she spoke at a community event on her reserve. Val announced that in the past year she had placed star blankets on eight different coffins.

In Val’s culture, a star blanket is presented to demonstrate great respect, honour, and admiration for that person. The presentation of a blanket is like wrapping the respect and admiration of everyone in the community around the person, both physically and spiritually.

Standing in front of her people, Val stated that she never wanted to see another star blanket on a coffin. She asked a very simple question,

“Why would we not honour individuals while they are still alive?”

Too often, our society only recognizes people after they die. How often do you acknowledge the people around you? When was the last time you expressed your appreciation for someone, or thanked an individual for a job well done?

In the workplace, if an employee feels valued, three outcomes will naturally occur:
1. The individual will feel empowered to work harder.
2. Team morale will be heightened.
3. There will be an overall increase in productivity.

When we have the power to make someone feel good about themselves and motivate them to perform to the best of their ability, why would we not take a few moments out of our day to do just that?


* Val’s story is an excerpt from Allan’s book:


“What’s stronger than a broken man who has the courage to rebuild himself? It’s time to redefine what it means to be strong.”

- Allan Kehler