In his entertaining and insightful book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell reinforces an idea I presented in Lead From The Heart: How people are made to feel has an enormous effect on their future behavior – especially when a leader makes an inevitable mistake.
To illustrate the point, Gladwell tells us that the risk of a doctor ever being sued has very little to do with how many errors they make. Actually, there’s an overwhelming number of people who’ve been by shoddy medical care yet never have filed a malpractice claim. harmed
So what’s the common denominator of people who do choose to sue?
We learned not long ago that a dear family friend, Rachel, had taken her own life.
The news, as you might imagine, was immediately shocking and devastating to all who knew and loved her – a married woman who’d devoted much of her life to raising her son and daughter and seeing them both graduate from college.
What struck me over the subsequent days leading up to Rachel’s funeral was how her circle of friends tapped into some special energy reserve to immediately support her grieving family. Contending with their own feelings of profound loss and sorrow, they rapidly mobilized.
Collectively and thoughtfully, they took full responsibility for planning a celebration of Rachel’s life. They selected her favorite park – with its sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean – and decorated the site with exquisite flowers and multi-colored balloons. Just a few days after Rachel’s death, they delivered moving and heartfelt eulogies and performed some of her favorite songs. To conclude the ceremony, they released white doves into the summer sky – a symbol of peace and deliverance.
This and so much more was done by Rachel’s friends to elevate her family’s spirits. This is what friends do in times of crisis, of course, and they executed magnificently.
Yet of all the acts of remarkable kindness and generosity that occurred after Rachel’s death, one struck me as being most extraordinary. Ironically, it was made by someone outside of Rachel’s group of friends – someone who had never met her.
I had coffee with an old friend this week and, by the end of our conversation, I had the content for this week’s post.
My friend, Kelsey, was a human resources manager when I first met her 30 years ago. Sitting across from her in her office one afternoon, I endured the most grueling and stressful interview of my life. Gratefully, things worked out and she hired me into my first career-level position after college; we’ve been friends ever since.
As background, Kelsey is characteristically no nonsense and direct in her business dealings, and not generally one who displays her feelings to others. She’s the managing director of an executive outplacement firm that provides professional coaching to employees who’ve lost their jobs through layoff or job elimination.
Over the past several years, her firm has been extremely busy. Not only have more managers been out of work, but new career opportunities have been scarce. As a result, she and her team have had to work longer to help clients define their strengths, construct effective resumes and prepare themselves for interviews to compete for prime positions.
That it’s taking people longer to find employment has changed the dynamics of Kelsey’s job. Where in the past, her relationships with clients were brief and superficial, recently she’s had time – and had to take the time – to know them more personally. And because Kelsey’s been able to establish greater intimacy with these clients, she made an interesting discovery.
Kelsey found that many people were stymied (paralyzed even) in their efforts to move forward in their job search because they lacked meaningful resolution with their previous employer.
Over and over, clients described the same process of how they were let go.