Going To Work, Mr. Rogers Style

Going To Work, Mr. Rogers Style

by elainesuess

We spend more time with people at work than we do with our own families, and yet, what do we know about them? This is an important question, because the answer and action that follows can pay off big time.

I was listening to an NPR TED radio podcast while out walking last week. Filmmaker and storyteller Andrew Stanton (Toy Story and others) talked about the ingredients of a great story, and shared a quote that he had heard Fred Rogers kept in his wallet as a reminder:  “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love, once you’ve heard their story.”  

If Mr. Rogers needed to be reminded of this, maybe we do too. 

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Intentional Time

Most leaders I work with feel overwhelmed with busy. They’re moving from one goal/meeting/project/fire to the next. This often means they don’t make time to get to know their employees, colleagues, or supervisors.

Because they don’t see it as a pressing need, building relationships doesn’t often rise to the top of their lists.

Walk A Mile

Why is building relationships and uncovering the stories of those around us important? For many reasons; but especially to build compassion and empathy. To get to the person vs. the work.

When we know the story, we can also know empathy.

Jack Handy, of Saturday Night Live “Deep Thoughts” fame told us: Before you criticize someone you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.

This is not what I’m talking about, but I do think it’s funny.

The point of the maxim we all know (without the Handy editing) however, is clear. Understanding and Empathy are important “tools” we need so we can look through a lens not clouded by inward focus.

Empathic Leaders

When leaders are intentional about building relationships and empathy, the results can be quite dramatic:

  • Stronger collaboration
  • Better recognition of and use of diverse strengths
  • Improved connection and teamwork
  • Insight into motivation
  • Greater innovation
  • Increased employee engagement
  • More positive workplace

Take two steps (in your shoes) toward greater understanding and empathy today:

  1. Set up a regularly scheduled one-on-one with an employee, and make time to talk about life beyond the work.
  2. Invite someone with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye for coffee or a bite to eat to gain a clearer understanding of their viewpoint.

Then, shift your perspective or your behavior with the new knowledge and experience you have.

Just do it. Mr. Rogers said so.

 

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