We All Want to Feel Seen

There’s something profoundly powerful about truly seeing someone, about recognizing the worth they bring, even in the smallest details. Equally impactful is the moment when YOU feel seen, when someone acknowledges your presence and contributions. It validates you, reminding you that you make a difference.

Two weeks ago, I had the honor of being part of the team at TEPSA, putting together the annual TEPSA Summer Conference. This event draws over 2,000 school and district leaders from Texas and beyond.

Organizing this conference is a monumental task. It involves managing an exhibit hall, coordinating three keynote speakers, overseeing over 150 session presenters, handling AV requirements, addressing hotel concerns, organizing food, managing registration, and much more.

Our team is small, just 11 dedicated TEPSA staff members, so the volunteers who step in to help are game changers.

Today, I want to share a lesson I re-learned from one of our remarkable staff members, Joni Carlson. Like all of us, Joni wears many hats, but she is primarily responsible for the logistics, hotel arrangements, technology, food, and more at the Summer Conference.

One of the roles Joni assigns to me each year is working with the audio/visual team contracted by the hotel. These folks ensure that slides, sound, and video are flawless for the three big keynotes. The three AV guys I worked with this year were phenomenal. They remain behind the scenes, often unnoticed, but are easily the first to be blamed by the public at large if anything goes awry with the audio or visuals.

These guys were incredibly nice, and I genuinely enjoyed my time with them in the booth each day.

At the end of the conference, I found Joni and couldn’t stop telling her how fantastic these guys were. She smiled, a big, warm smile, and did something I’ve seen her do several times before. She grabbed an envelope with some cash and said, “I’m so glad to hear how wonderful they are. I want to give them a little extra money to personally show our appreciation for their work and kindness.”

That moment struck me deeply. Joni’s leadership reminded me of the importance of validating and acknowledging others’ work, and celebrating them.

She even found me afterwards to let me know one of the men was almost in tears expressing how much that moment meant to him.

And you know what? This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed her do something like this. At every event involving catering, AV, or maintenance, Joni ensures that everyone knows the names of those working behind the scenes and leaves a little something extra for them.

We can’t do this alone. Success comes when everyone pulls their weight and works towards a common goal. The more we acknowledge and celebrate others’ efforts, the higher we all rise.

So, I’ve decided to be a little more like Joni. I want to make a conscious effort to notice those who are often invisible and go out of my way to show them that I appreciate them and see them.

In the end, we all want to feel seen.

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