It’s the weekend. I’ve come home to an empty house after a week on the road. My wife is away with my daughters at ComiCon in London, probably having a ball!
Now, I wake up on Saturday morning in an empty house and – here’ the important bit – I’ve got a cold!
I’m a man, so you know how bad that cold is, right?
Selfishly, my first instinct is to interrupt my wife‘s good time, to let her know how much I’m suffering. It is a man-cold, after all! I need some sympathy and attention! But I stop myself. She’s 250 miles away, having – I hope – a good time. Why does she need to know that I’m under the weather?
Now, before I paint myself as some kind of liberated hero (with a man-cold, just in case you’ve forgotten), this probably isn’t my typical behaviour. So, what stopped me sending that, “Don’t worry about me!” (No, really do worry about me) text?
Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about rewarding relationships lately. If I think about the times my relationship with my wife has been at its strongest and richest, it has been when my focus has been on her needs and not mine (and visa versa). Thinking back to our courting days, this was my complete focus; if it was in my power to do something for her, I would do it. My focus was her, not me. I wouldn’t dream of unloading my hardships on her then.
As I thought about picking up my phone to share my probable-near-death-man-cold experience, I had a sudden flash of insight as I was reminded of a group of managers I was working with a while back.
They were a focused group of people who all wanted to succeed and deliver the goals of the organisation but they worked in a very transactional and self-centred way. There was no energy in their relationships (well, to be honest, there were no relationships) and goals were delivered, often begrudgingly, because they were demanded as a right, not because they gave a reason or shared common cause.
It was the classic, ”I’m your manager, it’s my job to tell you what to do”, sort of thing.
Their relationship with their direct reports was based on their own wants and needs. There was no attempt to see what their people wanted or needed. It was all about them, just like my text was going to be all about me.
What if those of us that have the privilege of leading took a different approach? What if, instead of focusing on our needs, we spent more than half our time focused on theirs; authentically, patiently, sacrificially even?
Results are not guaranteed and they might not be instantaneous but nor are they in wider life and yet, somehow, I feel this is still the way to go.
Can we refocus our leadership agenda in this way?
Instinctively we know that if we want to build deep, meaningful and rewarding relationships, we do so by focusing on the other person’s needs and not just our own. Why do we think it should be any different at work? Work is part of life, after all.
There, that was my flash of insight! – Rather more verbosely and less suddenly explained than the way it hit me through my sniffles this morning, but hey, I’ve got a man-cold, so cut me some slack! – And before you ask, my wife’s not on LinkedIn, so she won’t see this post.
So, I think I might just manage to survive this one on my own without making it all about me and raining on someone else’s bright day. – Only just, though… it is a man-cold, after all.