Does your team really know how you feel about them?
I went up to have dinner with my dad last night. As I walked into the house, I saw on the kitchen table a small white envelope. On the outside of the envelope, written in blue ink in Dad’s handwriting, was the name ‘Allen‘. It occurred to me that I didn’t remember Dad ever having mentioned anyone by the name of Allen before, and I fleetingly wondered who Allen was. In the flurry of hugs and hellos, though, the envelope was quickly forgotten, and we moved onto the task at hand: deciding where to go for dinner.
We went to Dad’s favorite Mexican restaurant in Adrian, a place called Sunnyside Café. Sunnyside is a bit of a local institution, a small, family-owned place on the east side of town that’s been there forever. Dad likes their two-fer tacos, and is a huge fan of their red pop. In fact, the servers will see us come in, and will bring Dad’s red pop to him without him having to order it. They know that he’s a creature of habit.
We finished our dinner and headed back to the house. We walked in the back door and hung up our coats, and as we walked past the kitchen table into the living room, I asked, “Dad, who’s Allen?”
“He’s my mail carrier,” said Dad.
“Wow,” I said. “How do you know your mail carrier’s name?”
“I called the post office and asked them for it,” said Dad. He went on to explain that he wanted to give the mail carrier a thank-you card for Christmas for a good job done throughout the year, but wanted to know the carrier’s name so that he could personalize the note of appreciation.
“He works so hard during the year, and I want him to know that I appreciate what he does,” said Dad.
Dad continued. “I always thought that delivering the mail would be a really fun job. You get to be outside, get exercise, and talk with people.”
Then Dad became reflective. “You know, he makes his job look easy because he’s good at what he does. That doesn’t mean it is easy. He works in all kinds of weather, sometimes on weekends. Sometimes he has to deal with grumpy people, but no matter what kind of day he’s having, he always keeps plugging ahead. You never know what kind of day someone’s having, what challenges they’re facing, what mountains they’re struggling to climb. I just think it’s important to let people know – really let them know – that they’re appreciated, and I wanted to let Allen know that I appreciate him.”
So many lessons in that little conversation with Dad.
First, it was another example of why I’m so proud of this man who is my father. He and my mom, who we lost two years ago, raised my two brothers and me with love, compassion, and humor. And it was incredibly touching to see Dad extending that same compassion to his mail carrier, a man he didn’t know by name but made the effort to find it out.
Second, it made me reflect on how I interact with my team, the EA’s Seminar Learning team. Do they know how much I appreciate them?
My team is a tremendously hardworking group of people who do their jobs well, help each other when workloads get heavy, and genuinely enjoy being with each other. Like Allen, they make their jobs look easy because they’re so good at what they do. But I need to make sure that I never, ever take them for granted or give them the impression that I think their jobs are easy, because that’s just not true. I’m so lucky to be able to interact with them every day, but do they know how much I appreciate them? Do I let them know?
Of course I thank them for calling the member who has a question about a class, or reaching out to someone who’s requested a recertification credit number, or printing and coordinating a huge mountain of name tags for a conference. But am I doing a good job of really letting them know how much I truly appreciate and value them as colleagues and friends? I hope so, but I know as I’m writing this that I have to do a better job of letting them know how much I appreciate their efforts, their struggles, and their commitment to the team.
My challenge to you is to join me. Take a bit of time to reflect on your team and the hard work they’ve done for you and your organization this year, and really let them know how much you appreciate them.
Happy New Year!