As they passed each other in the hall, Gail, the VP of Administration and Ray, the HR Director. The VP noticed a slight twitch away from direct eye to eye contact. The VP said the usual, “hey, Ray, how’s it going?” The HR Director, responded, “good,” but then quickly looked away. It wasn’t a dramatic avoidance of eye contact, but there was something different in Ray’s response.
Are you a noticer? I hope so because noticing things, little things, is one of the things great leaders—Servant Leaders—do. In this busy, hectic world so many things pass us by. Things go unnoticed. Things going on with our fellow team-mates and employees. We are just too busy to notice what’s going on in their lives.
What are they not saying and what am I not seeing?
The old adage: “leave your personal problems at the door,” has become an all too convenient way for employers to avoid the reality that people perform best when they are understood. People are not like waffles in which you can easily compartmentalize things—your personal life from your work life. People are like spaghetti—everything mixes together. (BTW, there is a marriage book titled: Men Are Like Waffles — Women Are Like Spaghetti by Bill Farrel and Pam Farrel)
Frankly, the truth is we all are like spaghetti
People are whole, complete beings: emotional, physical, mental, relational, and spiritual. It all mixes together.
It turns out Ray felt Gail had snubbed him at the last leadership meeting and wasn’t exactly feeling great about it. He felt she didn’t care about him much, and that the comment about him at the meeting was uncalled for.
She noticed his cold reaction. Later that day she did what any good Servant Leader would do; she made an appointment with him to clear the air. Noticing means you care.
That small twitch communicates something. It could be that Ray had an argument with his wife before he left home that day. It could be that his daughter was having problems at school and he was focused on that. It could be that his mother has cancer and he was concerned about her. There are a thousand things it could have been. But whatever it was, it would affect his ability to work more effectively.
And whatever it was, we as leaders and fellow team members need the discernment and sensitivity to notice. Then we need the understanding and empathy to draw the person out, give them space, allow them to feel whatever it is they feel. The sooner they feel understood and supported the sooner they will be able to be more productive.
Always remember, we are people leading people. We are people working with people.