It’s 1:45 in the morning and I’m sitting here at the Knights’ Round Table, with a cup of coffee and a heavy, unbreakable silence that pervades the house. Even the Knights have dispensed with their evening wanderings — ensuring that the kingdom is secure before retiring to their abodes (e.g., my bed). The last training session for this program ended today…um, yesterday, and my mind is racing with post-mortem thoughts that needed a place to go.
(In case you’re wondering I don’t look nearly as refreshed as this woman does)
I have told you about the level of engagement of the participants, the richness of our dialogue and the development of professional bonds which will likely continue and thrive. On this, our last ‘official’ time together, the group surprised me (which is rare – I don’t ‘surprise’ easily). I returned to the conference room after making a phonecall, and there they were standing together by the door, snapping their fingers and singing “we love you” (the melody was unclear but it definitely had a beat because everyone was dancing. So…I danced too..) To make this brief, we were laughing and I was fumbling around with my sense of wonder when they gifted me with a memory to last a lifetime. They told me they thought I was terrific and wanted to thank me for our sessions. A gift of personalized stationery and a custom made t-shirt with a motto of mine (that’s a secret which will be revealed in another post). What was just as astonishing were the personal messages each person wrote on a card to me. Expressions of appreciation for the program and hopes for continued dialogue, one person called meeting me a ‘blessing’, every one commenting upon the impact the course had on them and their delight with the content and me as the facilitator. I don’t want to overstate the incredible feeling this evoked in me, nor do I want to make this post about me. It’s about them
You know how much energy I received from their collective and individual enthusiasm. You can imagine the loyalty that I feel towards such a devoted group, and how much I want for them to continue striving to be the best managers in their offices. And they will. At one point, J asked me, “so what motivates you”? And I realized that for me there is nothing more gratifying than positive connections. I facilitated a program – their interest in the content fed my enthusiasm, my soul and my sense of purpose. We can impact many, we can impact one. And if fortune is kind, and those moments become integrated into a person’s way of doing business, his/her approach to others and their lives in general, then they have hit my motivational sweet spot. These participants nailed it every Thursday – and yesterday gave me more than I feel I can ever return (but will continue to try).
I am sorry for their senior managers who don’t recognize the quality in their ranks, the innovative thoughts and strategies that are simmering on the back burners of ‘those in the trenches’. If you don’t seek feedback from your direct reports about what they are seeing, what alternative approaches they are considering and whatever out-of-the-box ideas that are constantly germinating in the minds of those seeking to enhance and engage the workplace, you are missing the greatest resources available to you. The workplace is morphing before our eyes – our challenge is to respond with forethought and consideration. It serves no productive purpose to wait until the tidal wave of change washes over our offices and we are left shell-shocked and reacting to change far too late to do more than clean up the mess. We have some tough decisions to make over the next few years – our staffing paradigms will change, virtual management is no longer a thirty minute sit-com called “Max Headroom” – it’s a reality. Technology is allowing clients to demand 24/7 availability while it is also removing our gift of dialogue and the nuance of the written word. The values upon which most firms were founded no longer hold up under scrutiny (hello Dewey LeBoeuf). Who will respond to these waves of change? People like those who attended this workshop. These are the people who will do the hard prep if you ask them, ask provocative questions before they become moot and who truly want to create the best professional environment possible. I send them love and thanks – they taught me so much and in exchange I feel like I really gave so little. I only offered my time, some insight that experience and training have afforded me, and a genuine focus on their development. It was my responsibility and my privilege. When they return to their offices, I hope someone in a senior position does his/her job – listen to what these people have to say – and consider acting on their ideas. I will miss them next Thursday, but I will remember them forever.