Recently, a dear friend, former boss and mentor passed away. It was such a shock, and I spent days processing all these memories I hadn’t thought of for years: insightful perspectives she had, ways we worked together and observing her subtle, but universally respected, leadership style. I had just seen her.
One particular memory stood out, crystallizing for me the true purpose of development.
Developing people was very important to her. She often asked me about my development. I was remiss to find any meaningful development opportunities for myself then, except within my current role. With her understanding smile, I know she understood the challenge of working full-time while raising twin toddlers and having a husband that also worked full-time.
However, I have this pesky quality. Despite many bosses in the past finding being outspoken to be somewhat endearing, it still always came up. It was less of an issue in some cultures than others. But, I sensed then that “outspoken” could quickly become “pain in the a–,” and so I talked to this woman about it.
Not once had she ever made anything but positive, encouraging comments. She never chided me for being outspoken. In that discussion, she suggested I start meeting with this particular very senior female leader. She said, “This woman is just like you, and she’s been very successful.” Again, that smile.
I realize now what a gift that was. She didn’t want to change me at all. I think she realized this outspoken quality was as hard-wired in me as the culture in which I was operating. Instead of pairing me with someone successful, but perhaps more likable, she set out to find another person like me to have a sounding board about our common challenges.
That was a valuable gift I received from this former colleague. Let’s not try to change people. Development isn’t about becoming something, it’s about becoming your best self.
You’re a leader, maybe also a spouse, parent and friend. Never forget that the smallest, selfless acts can have a lasting, profound impact on others. Also, try hard to see those gifts when they come your way.
Thank you, Rachel.