Kim Smith wrote a book called “Radical Candor: Be A Kick-Ass Boss without Losing your Humanity. Who could NOT read a books with such a great title? I was intrigued. I started reading it. In the first chapter, Kim tells a story that is familiar to anyone who works. She had a big problem that needed her full attention with a brilliant answer in record time. Her plan was to hide in her office and think her way into a solution. Along the way toward her identified goal she encountered several employees who needed her attention - attention she wanted to provide but ended up exhausting her, leaving little energy for her own work.
Feeling like she was a big failure (“I have wasted my life” territory), she called her CEO coach Leslie Koch. In her frustration she asked, “Is my job to build a good company….or am I really just some sort of emotional babysitter?”
Koch’s response was as follows: “This is not babysitting...It’s called management, and it is your job!” (Chapter one paraphrased for brevity, Radical Candor) Koch is suggesting that Kim thought her job was to succeed (and of course there is some truth to it). But Koch may be saying that in order to “succeed” - we may have to redefine what that means, and we definitely have to take a hard look at what that requires. Kim thought that doing an important task was crucial (and it was important) but she was learning that it was not the ONLY crucial factor in her company’s success.
Koch and Smith are speaking in terms of business relationships but I think we can draw from their conversation when we widen the lens of context. Widen the lens with me a bit to include all our relationships and ponder this: our imagination for what “doing our part” in life looks life is often wildly different and far more discouraging than reality. (For example, Pete fears wasting his life all the while the people who love him are daily grateful for his presence and steady hand. The man is a living, breathing example of living his core values.)
Whether we are talking family, friends or work relationships - our part can be a beautiful thing. But it probably will never make the cover of Time magazine. (People magazine maybe - if we do it exceedingly poorly!) So what is our part? As usual - there are no simple answers. But I think today we can find one principle to consider: presence matters. Your presence matters. The people in your life who are willing to be present with and for you matters. What you do may or may not matter. But presence, that matters. Pete, when disheartened, needs my presence more than he needs my troubleshooting skills. But presence often FEELS like doing nothing to help; we must fight against this false belief so as to learn how to get and stay present for those we love.
How are you staying present for others? Yourself? Who’s present for you (I am not asking who you WISH could be present for you - who actually is present?)