Over the last several months, I’ve been writing about what leaders should be providing their team with to help them succeed and grow. Without question, leadership is a selfless role, one that requires an individual to give more than they get in return if they are to be successful in performing this function for their organization.
And yet, if we understand that all interactions in the workplace should be viewed as relationships between people and not simply ‘transactions’, what can leaders expect to receive from those they lead – outside of attaining their shared goal? Reading some of the commentary written last week over how this past Father’s Day was celebrated helped to bring this particular issue into a sharper focus as I think there are some strong parallels between these two groups.
When it comes to discussions about Father’s Day, there’s usually a reference made to how less money is spent celebrating this day as compared to Mother’s Day, or how dads often end up with presents like a striped tie or some other stereotypically tacky present. This year, though, I read a few articles that recommended that ‘homemade gifts’ should also be included as a present that dads would least like to receive for Father’s Day.
Personally, I couldn’t disagree more with this. In fact, for this year’s Father’s Day, I wore the hand-painted T-shirt my kids made for me last year as they took me out to be celebrated and spoiled. As I walked around our city streets, wearing this homemade T-shirt with the words “Best Papa in the Universe” blazoned across the front, I noticed how every time passersby caught a glimpse of the message on my shirt, a warm smile graced their face. It was clear from seeing the reactions of these total strangers that they saw not just a lovely gesture on the part of this father’s children, but also a father who appreciated – if not loved – this gift of appreciation his kids had given him.
So, why would these writers criticize offering such gifts for Father’s Day, preferring instead that children offer either some prized power tool or the latest tech gadget on the market? In looking at the rationale behind these complaints, it’s clear that the focus here is more on the value for the receiver rather than the perceived value the giver was trying to impart. In other words, we’re making the mistake of limiting our perception to our own expectations, of what we believe to be an appropriate display of gratitude or appreciation, instead of trying to understand what the message or meaning is behind the gesture itself.
Of course, a similar perspective can be found among leaders in both their expectations as to what they’d consider to be gestures of appreciation, as well as their response to what their employees actually offer. As leaders, we need to understand that we should learn to be more perceptive to those gestures that our employees make to demonstrate how much they value our support and direction. As part of our interactions with our team, it’s important that we open ourselves to receiving such gestures by not focusing on what we’d want, but more on what our employees are capable or willing to give as an expression of gratitude for our leadership.
Regardless of whether we’re talking about fathers or leaders, we need to recognize that the goal is not for us to get the latest technological toy or to have our employees create grand efforts to demonstrate what a great leader we are. Instead, our sole objective should be to serve those under our care, to help them become the best individuals and contributors to our organization by helping them in reaching their full potential. How they choose to express their appreciation for our help is not the point. Instead, it should simply be seen as a sign of a healthy relationship at work where both parties are benefiting from these interactions.
Whether you’re a leader or a parent, it’s important that we remember that it’s not only the thought that counts, but the message being presented in the offering that matters the most.