The Executive Leader Who Practiced Kindness

Focus Mindfulness

The Executive Leader Who Practiced Kindness

VIM Executive Coaching does not take a “one size fits all” approach to working with executive leaders or entrepreneurs. We recognize that executive leaders are of all stripes and experiences. It is what makes our job so fascinating.

I would like to begin this post with the remembrance of a man I will call “George.” He was a shy, somewhat reserved man who did not fit the mold of an ex-athlete, hard-charger. In fact, he was slighter of build and was content to allow those around him to make a lot of noise. Yet, his subordinates loved him and his co-workers always enjoyed working with him. His department always met deadlines, and his department’s work was consistently good.

Who was this guy?

One day, one hot sweltering day, a group of us were in a meeting. The air conditioning had “weakened,” and everyone was complaining as to when the technicians would appear. Everyone was complaining, I should say, with the exception of George. He had rolled up his sleeves and he had a slight smile. At first, I didn’t notice, but then I realized his arms had burn scars, and there was the still faint outline of a military-type tattoo on his left forearm.

We had a lunch break, and I was seated at a table with George and several people from his department. I don’t know how or why, but the subject had come up of his life long before the MBA degree and his joining the business world.

A fascinating story

George was once a combat medic. He had seen horrific action. He did not elaborate except to say that he had been “very lucky.” He did not elaborate on his mental health either, except to say he had no choice but to be thankful and to learn to have gratitude. The conversation was ended over someone talking baseball scores.

Later that afternoon, I sat next to a co-worker of George’s, and I asked her about how it was to work with him. I told her I was asking because people seemed to genuinely like him.

“He is the kindest person I have ever met,” she said. “He knows how to say thank you. He has the ability to see the best in everyone he meets.”

I reflected on what she said as I drove home after the meeting. It was obvious he had been badly injured in war, and that he was thankful for the gift of life. That was a given. What was not as obvious perhaps, was his transformation as a person. He could not have had an easy time of it. In his recovery, he found gratitude instead of hate or bitterness. I imagine he was burned over a good percentage of his body. Yet he had not embraced an attitude of self-pity or worse, self-loathing. Nor would he allow his injury to define him. He turned his potential sadness and his “lot in life” into love and kindness.

He learned a basic truth and a foundational element of what we at VIM Executive Coaching conveys to our clients. George learned to respond to his injuries. He learned to accept what was, and not what he felt he deserved. In having that insight in himself, he learned to apply it to others. What he learned is that he possessed a treasure and that treasure was the ability to allow those around him to shine. It is no wonder that he was so well respected and loved by those around him.

I can well imagine that when there were employee challenges, he did not go into meetings with pre-set ideas about who was right or wrong, but he allowed employees to express themselves. He responded to what they said, he did not simply react, accept or reject in a knee jerk fashion. When he needed to make a decision, it was done so in a responsive, thoughtful manner so that those around him understood his rationale and point-of-view. Of course, he was forced into making difficult decisions but he did so within the context of fully understanding all of the issues.

While not all of George’s decisions were universally popular there could be no doubt he was being kind and that he was doing what was best for his organization. Practicing kindness is a function of being thankful for abundance. Is this case, his abundance was life itself. Your situation may not be as severe, but a kind heart, cultivated through mindfulness is a rare and unique treasure.

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