There are times in life and at work when it makes sense to make a small sacrifice simply to benefit others.
I was flying home on business from California to Massachusetts. By the luck of the draw, I was one of the first people on the plane and got a nice aisle seat near the front of the plane. There I sat as person after person and suitcase after suitcase went by. As the plane filled almost to capacity, the only seats left were the middle seat in my row and the middle seat in the row diagonally ahead of me across the aisle.
Then, on comes a man with his (about) six year old daughter. The man motions to his daughter to sit in one middle seat across the aisle and then he begins to sit next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I see this little girl looking longingly to sit next to her dad. Her one look caused me to give up my aisle seat so that she could sit next to her father. This middle seat I soon occupied was far less comfortable, but not unbearable, even given the length of the flight.
I gave up my seat because I could see that she wanted to sit next to her father more than I wanted to site on the aisle. In effect, I traded a little to give someone else a lot.
My goal in telling you this story is not to show you that I’m a nice guy, many people would be willing to make this small sacrifice for the benefit of a child. It’s to draw a contrast between how people are at home as compared to how they act in the workplace. Having been in the workplace for many years, it seems that more than ever, people are far less willing to sacrifice for others in the workplace, and also, dare I say, in American politics.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t look out for yourself first, because if you don’t, no one else will. I’m simply suggesting that you should be willing to “give up” or “give in” a little bit when it truly means a lot to others.
My question to you is, as a manager, what little things can you do to:
- Make work or life a little easier for those working for you?
- Help a co-worker struggling to complete a project on time?
- Help someone you know who lost their job find new employment?
- Make the department you manage and/or your company in general a little bit nicer?
If you take this approach at work, you will see that occasionally your kindness will be returned in unexpected ways.
- Maybe someone you assisted a few years ago is now in a senior role at a new company and recommends you for a great new job.
- Maybe a quick favor you did for a small client a few years ago is now a multi-million dollar company and calls you to provide needed services.
- Maybe you did a nice thing for a college intern working at your office one summer and serendipitously three years later is dating your son or daughter.
As they say, it doesn’t hurt to be nice.
Back to my airplane story, I truly didn’t like the middle seat I offered to take. Even so, I got home from California the same time that I would have in the other seat. As for the little girl, she spent the flight leaning comfortably against her dad, half reading, half sleeping, and always smiling.
Until next time, lead well, always communicate, and think business first and technology second.