What Lies Inside Of You

I hosted a 20th anniversary luncheon today for one of the people who works for me (with me? It sounds so wrong to say they WORK FOR ME – so demeaning, you know?) but as usual, I digress.

Typically for a 20 year celebration, we have an informal company gathering during the day with cake, etc, and then the person we are honoring has a dinner at a place of their choosing with their friends/family/business associates. The evening is spent doting on the person, speeches about their excellence are given, and the event results in happiness all around.

However, this person (let’s call her Kim) had a different agenda. Kim in fact, didn’t want any celebration at all. None. Which, I sort of understood. But, my boss would not concede and all but forced her into having some sort of party. After a few months of asking, then begging, then simply telling Kim she WAS HAVING A DAMN PARTY ALREADY, she agreed to do so – on her terms.

This is where you see the kind of person that Kim truly is, the kind of person that we really all should try to be more like. Kim said that she would have a gathering, but that she wanted:

1) to be unobtrusive to people, so she didn’t want an after hours function at all, taking time away from their family

2) to keep it simply and not spend very much money

3) to not have an excessive amount of food resulting in waste

4) use the event as a recognition of the people who helped her stay with the company for 20 years, not as a celebration of her remaining here 20 years.

Kim waited until everyone had gathered and grabbed some pizza. Then, she began thanking every person that came, and told the group what that person had done for her throughout her career that had made an impression on her, helped her, or encouraged her. She also gave each person a hand-written note with the same information on it to keep.

As I was sitting there listening to Kim talk about all of the influences in her career, and in her life, I was wondering who I had influenced. How many more of my employees would willingly include me in this type of event and have nice things to say about how I encouraged them, was there for them, helped them make important decisions in their lives? I started thinking about my role as a leader, and wondering if it is about time to start taking it more seriously. I could actually make a difference in someone else’s career, help them navigate a disturbingly huge and difficult company, give them the courage to stick around long enough to have their own 20 year celebration…