Last month, at my company’s annual leadership seminar, I got to see Eric Boles talk.
My peers in the audience were impressed to see this former Jets football player speaking. I was thinking, “This guy lives outside of fucking Seattle.” I don’t think it’s funny to drag me all the way to Atlanta just to see someone from the PNW speak.
But that’s just my EOG default.
Anyway, he talked about change: what prevents it, why we fear it, how we convince ourselves that we’re fine just how we are. That reminded me of a saying from my early retail days working at South Coast Plaza in SoCal. Whenever they would do work in a store, instead of just slapping up a MallWall to hide the vacant storefront, they would print a thematic and inspirational saying about change on it.
“There’s no such thing as staying the same. You are either constantly improving or allowing yourself to get worse.”
That phrase has stuck with me over the <gulp> decades since, during which sometimes I experienced improvement and others I “stayed the same”…
He told the story of his relationship. How he’s been married 23 years and his wife will tell you it’s been 3-4 of the best years of her life.
You could hear the love and admiration in his voice when he talked about his wife and their daughters. I was touched because that’s not something you hear much these days. That raw reverence for one’s partner in life.
Too often these days, it’s less “all for one and one for all” and more “everyman for himself”.
How do you sustain a relationship over time – a lifelong commitment – with that insular mindset?
This was a leadership conference for a billion dollar retailer, so a guy telling stories about his wife might not have been the obvious choice. But the thing is, I got it right away. Maybe many of us did, perhaps not. But for me it was an easy corollary because it’s one I’ve used quite often in my career.
Spoiler Alert: I stole it.
A while back, I was interviewing with Sur la Table for a Store Manager job in Shittatle and the VP of HR was one of the three people I met with that day. She talked about interviews like a first date. If the first one goes well, maybe we’ll go for a second one and see how that goes. If it goes well, maybe we’ll go steady.
“Is that really the type of analogy someone in HR should use in an interview?”
I still got the job.
I better have, since it went from there and careened onto sushi body shots. What the hell was I getting myself into?
When I arrived at the HQ for my interview, I rode the elevator up with a woman who walked in just as I was hitting my floor. I asked what floor she needed and she said she was going to the same floor.
“Are you interviewing for the Store Manager job, too?”, I asked, making small talk.
“No, I work here, but I have an interview in a little while, too”, she said smirking.
“Well, I hope it goes well!”, I said as we both exited.
She said something about how everyone was excited about the new store I was interviewing for and wished me luck.
I thought that was nice and was super excited to talk to my hopefully new VP group, the final round of which was with my smirky elevator companion. That was a fun moment. Plus, as snarky as I am, I deserve shit like that happening to me.
Anyway, since that interview I’ve considered my job and co-workers a little differently. Evaluated them as the relationships they are, particularly considering the amount of time the situation of work mandates that we spend with our co-workers.
Is my relationship with your job or co-workers a good one or a bad one? Do I want to commit to this for the long run?
It was an eye opening change of perspective at the time and I was glad to see this topic pursued by a public speaker some ten years later.
We’ve all heard our employers talk about the team or how the work unit is a family. When was the last time you heard it in a way that wasn’t slightly manipulative? It shouldn’t be something that you hear once in a while – usually at an inopportune moment for you – it should be something you see in practice frequently.
One of the other analogies I’ve heard is how managers are bus drivers. You only have so many seats available, fill them with the people who want to go to the same place your bus is heading, yada-yada-yada.
But families and buses are different than relationships.
There’s something more potent about the word relationship. To me, anyway. More serious. Weighty.
Plus, it covers a gamut of interpersonal labels. Takes it away from genetic bonds and into a territory I like to contemplate often: Chosen Family.
Talk about weighty. Now you’re into the arena of people you choose to be bonded to, versus the bonds you’re born into.
So, 30 seconds later, after all this has flooded through my mind and I’ve glanced over at my Seminar Boyfriend a couple times <sigh> he’s moved on to talking about our tendency to chase our own happiness instead of invest in someone else’s and how that in turn leads to inability sustain a relationship.
I like this guy. If you’ve never heard him speak – or of him, as was my case – I suggest you look him up.
I bring this all up, not because of my work family, but rather because it so broadly encapsulates behaviors you can see in everyday interactions…and I love being able to understand someone’s motivations. Looking at them through these relationship filters really helps to clarify a lot of what I experience and observe.
Newsflash: people are scared and selfish.
The French have a word for the type of statement I just made: duh. I’m not sure exactly how it’s pronounced.
But just because it’s a simple statement doesn’t mean there’s a simple solution. Tryst me, I’ve been banging my head on that wall for quite a while, before I even knew what that figurative wall was made of.
People don’t think of how their actions impact others, they consider what they want.
When we get feedback, most often it’s rejected if it doesn’t align with our perception of self. Hell, if we accepted it, then we’d have to accept that we need to change something about our favorite person.
And none of that points toward an investment in another person’s happiness…just ours.
A lot of big thinking talk that should hopefully point us toward an internal examination of the motivations behind our actions, but something tells me it was just entertainment for too many of us.
Otherwise, it’s kind of feedback, right? And we can’t have that, because then we might have to change something.