This past week, Yvonne Jones, who has been a friend of ours for over 35 years, had her annual company planning meeting here at our conference center. She is now the president of a specialty gifts and wrapping paper rep firm. She and her associates sell to specialty gift shops all up and down the west coast from Mexico to Canada. As she was introducing me to her reps, she began to tell stories about some of her experiences working for me when she was our office manager for a short time over 30 years ago. As she told stories about her experiences, she said several times, “Do you remember?” An example of us going to lunch to talk about her expanded role and how she wanted to be paid; another time about how I kept a file of my grievances about her work and some of her behaviors; another time about how she sometimes responded to my requests. These were all wonderful, lighthearted exchanges. What stands out for me is that I do not remember any of these incidents that seem so vivid in her mind. I have zero recall of the incidents she seems to remember in great detail.
What I learned from this experience is that what’s memorable to one person may not be at all memorable to the other person. What makes an impression on one may just be a fleeting routine to another. When I am in a position of authority, I may be doing and saying things that are just routine to me, and at the same time can be very life-impacting to the other person. I urge you to be more aware of the fact that what you’re saying and doing could have a lifelong impact, positively or negatively, on the people you interact with on a daily basis.
“There is a vast difference between management and leadership. In management you get people to do things. In leadership, you help people become someone.”
Just because I couldn’t remember doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and doesn’t mean that it doesn’t count. Yvonne remembered it; therefore it did happen and it does count. And just because you didn’t mean for it to be taken that way, or you didn’t mean for it to be taken seriously, or you didn’t mean to hurt someone, or you didn’t mean to imply that, doesn’t mean that what you’ve said or done couldn’t have that impacting effect. It takes an extraordinary amount of selfawareness, a kind of self-awareness that most people never develop to grow in your effectiveness as a truly empowering leader. So I challenge you to open yourself to the kind of reflective feedback that is required to grow in your own role as you accept the responsibility of leadership. Your job now is to help others grow in their capabilities. Before saying or doing anything, let this be your test. Ask yourself this question; “Is this how I want to be remembered 35 years from now?”