Do You Know What “Sawubona” Means?

It’s a word from the Zulu culture, in South Africa.  It means, “I see you.”

Its literal translation is “we see you…”. As if to say, “Our whole tribe sees you.”

Inherent in the Zulu greeting, “Sawubona,” and the grateful reply, “Ngikhona,” is a sense that “…until you saw me, I didn’t exist.”  

In Zulu culture, this exchange literally means, “By recognizing me, you brought me into existence.”  A Zulu folk saying further clarifies the sentiment, “Umuntu ngmuntu nagabantu,” which means, “A person is a person because of other people.”

Have you worked somewhere or for someone and felt like you didn’t even exist?

Do you think anyone on your team feels like they don’t exist?

Now think about your role, as a leader who leads with hospitality.  

How can you help them think differently, feel differently, and work much differently?


Our job, as leaders, is to connect with and inspire people to give their best, become their best, and deliver their best.  So, it’s incumbent upon all of us, to recognize people, letting them know we see them, their talents, and how hard they’re working.  

When they know we see them, they’ll feel comfortable and confident, in their own skin, lean into their special talents, and deliver their absolute best. Recall, once again, this is our role, as leaders – to connect with people, on a human level, and inspire them to go to the next level; becoming their absolute best.

Here are three ways to let people know you see them – all of them and all they bring to the table:

  1. Recognize their effort
  2. Recognize their uniqueness
  3. Recognize their special talents

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life.  Your willingness to put it into words is all that’s necessary.”
— Margaret Cousins, Indian-Irish poet