I get fired up about Human Resources work. Not because I'm supposed to...and not because it's my job...but because it matters. Doing HR well can actually make a difference. We all see the obvious examples: great changes to a benefits program, maintaining merit increases when competitors have stopped giving raises, and creating more and more opportunities for employees to participate in decision-making across the organization. These are some of my favorites, and yes, they are fairly easy to see.
But sometimes we don't notice our impact until someone brings it to our attention.
A number of years ago I was working late and was the last member of the team hanging around. The environmental services employee who cleaned our offices was passing by and stopped to say something. He was an older gentleman who had emigrated to the United States and we had rarely interacted, other than me greeting him each time we saw each other.
What happened next really surprised me. As we chatted he said something that really struck a chord in me. He told me I "must be a man of God because of the way I treat people."
His words threw me off. As an HR guy, I obviously don't run around discussing religion in the workplace, so initially I was surprised that he chose that way to describe me. My next reaction was a much more personal one. You see, my Father was a United Methodist Minister and for this man to even begin to suggest that I might share some of the rarefied air that I placed my Father in was almost too much to fathom.
Why Share This Story
This moment has stayed with me for years, not because I am a "man of God" (or even close.) It has stayed with me because I never realized the full impact I was having on those around me, and certainly not to such a profound degree, until I had this exchange. For me, it's been a difficult story to live up to as life has moved along. But I believe there is value in keeping it close so that when I get caught up in how important I am...I can remember the kind words of this man and get my ego back down to earth.
How About You
When have you been surprised by the impact you've had in someone's life? Did you expect to have such influence; or, was there a moment that helped bring you to a new level of understanding that leadership means more than a job title.
I'd love to hear from you.