One act of kindness I learned about recently has stood out to me in such a big way I can’t get it out of my head. Maybe it is because it stands in such stark contrast to the recent emphasis on what divides us. (Let me say it is important to understand that things divide us. But a civil debate is where progress can be made, not an insult-fest that only brings out the very negative in us.
I rarely wander into current headlines with the Monthly Memo and I will keep up that policy with this message, but I must say it is, in part, motivated by what I see happening around us. There have always been differences and challenges we have faced as a country, but I’ve never seen such an effort to stir up these differences by appealing to the most aggressive, attack-minded side of these issues. Sooo – to focus on what I see as a more productive direction, I offer this story and what can be learned from it.
The story: A friend was on her second day at a new job and going through the obligatory training process – learning how to use the email service. A staff member at the new firm was leading the one-on-one training when an email arrived saying one of the most senior leaders in the company needed to speak with my friend right away. The trainer sent a message politely saying my friend was in a scheduled session now. The senior leader said it was urgent and so my friend was off to a visit with the boss. All pretty standard stuff, but what happened next is why I am sharing this story. After the meeting the staff trainer received a call from the senior leader apologizing for interrupting his session and letting the trainer know his time is very important to the company and only in an emergency would he disrupt his work.
Respect: How do we make a difference in today’s world? Taking the time to communicate a simple gesture of respect is a great place to start. How many people work in a place where the most senior people go out of their way (even in small ways) to pay respect to those who may be a few rungs down the leadership ladder? How tough is it? And finally, what kind of a difference does it make? I can tell you this gesture by the senior leader was not meant to get anyone’s attention. It was done quietly and the gesture so impressed me I have told lots of people. The reaction has been almost universal. Surprise and admiration. “Wow, you never hear that anymore.” “I wish that happened at my work.” “Gee, I want to work there.” And on and on.
If such a simple gesture can have that kind of impact, what does it tell the rest of us? I think it says we all can be persons of note BECAUSE we go out of our way to make those small gestures of respect, not to get attention, but to communicate who we are at our core. If you are stressed when hearing about divisiveness in our world, resolve to be a force for respect and kindness.
For Phoenix readers, Cary will be sharing stories designed to help you tell your story in business. Please join us at Snell and Wilmer’s Emerging Business Seminar: “How to Effectively Communicate Your Company’s Story” next Wednesday, October 4th. Just sign up through this link: