“How would you describe the kind of manager you most like to work for?” asked Steve. He was interviewing applicants for an administrative assistant role on our team. The role reported directly to me. Steve and I had worked together for many years at this point and he had a really good sense of my management style. He wanted to make sure we were hiring someone that would work well with not only the team, but also with me specifically.
“Oh, good question,” Ann[*] responded. “I’d probably say I work well for managers who are . . . loving and patient.”
Steve thought for a moment and then said, “That’s great. I think that takes care of all my questions. Thanks so much for coming in.” Impressively, he managed to keep a straight face all the way back to my desk. You see, my management style was basically the antithesis of loving and patient. Demanding and impatient probably were more apt descriptions. Steve later said, “As soon as she said ‘loving and patient’ the interview was over. There was no way that was going to work.”
I have worked hard over the last decade to become a better manager. I like to think I have more patience (divorce and toddlers will do that to you) than I used to. But I still need a daily reminder in the form of a note on my computer monitor reminding me that I should “Never let a problem to be solved be more important than a person to be loved.”[†]
As part of this year closing out and a new one beginning, I have been thinking about love, and specifically about love and community. This past November, the film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which chronicles the career of Fred Rogers, was released in the US. I read several film reviews and commentary written at the time of the film’s release. One article in particular affected me, written by Shea Tuttle and published in UC Berkley’s The Greater Good Magazine: Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life.
Tuttle proposes that the reason we were drawn and continue to be drawn to Mr. Rogers is:
. . . he told us one thing again and again: You are loveable. He didn’t usually say it quite like that. Instead, he said, “I like you just the way you are,” or “There’s only one person in the world like you,” or “You’ve made this day a special day for me by just your being you.”
The story and message of Mr. Rogers resonates so powerfully with each of us because each of us deeply, and sometimes desperately, wants to be loveable. Loved by others, perhaps. And more importantly, loved by ourselves.
Fred Rogers, at least as I know him from his television neighborhood, was a master of Crucial Conversations. His good intent was always clear and he created safety for us all to learn and be. To every interaction with us, he brought love.
While I am definitely more patient and often more loving than I was ten years ago, I still live far below the bar set by Fred Rogers. When I step up to a crucial conversation, I regularly check my intent by asking the questions we teach:
- What do I want for myself?
- What do I want for the other person?
- What do I want for our relationship?
- What do I want for our organization (or neighborhood)?
When I look inside my heart, I almost always find respect, patience, and kindness. But love?
What if we answered these questions how I imagine Mr. Rogers’ did? What do I want for myself? To be loved. What do I want for the other person? For her to know, deeply and fully, that she is loved and is loveable.
Can you imagine that conversation? I can. I have been in that conversation, when I have not only been loved but also knew that I was loved and loveable because of how my peer communicated with me. It is incredible.
This is my promise for 2020: to answer the question “What do I want for the other person?” with love.
[*] Named changed.
[†] Quote from Thomas S. Monson