About 10 years ago, I read about a young man who wrote and sent a thank-you note every day for a year. He started because he lost his job, felt depressed, and wanted to remind himself that he had a lot to be thankful for. He soon learned that he got more out of saying thank you than simply counting his blessings.
In 2023, I’m taking a slightly different approach. I’m planning to publicly thank people who have had a positive impact on my life in ways they probably didn’t plan, and most likely did so without even realizing it.
A hat-tip to a colleague
I’m not even sure I can call this engineer a colleague. We weren’t on the same level. At all. We didn’t work in the same department. We had very few direct interactions. Yet, I had lots of opportunities to observe.
I was a newbie. My very first job in my professional career. I worked in the micro lab on a launch of a new product. Launching a new product is stressful and takes long hours. I was so new, I didn’t know a different way.
Ken was a consultant, hired to help the engineering department. Sometimes, Ken came into the micro lab to talk to Dr. M, my boss, a microbiologist.
Ken had an extensive background. He had a lot of product launches under his belt. Yet, Ken wore his expertise with humbleness. He knew what he knew and he knew he didn’t know everything. Ken was quick to tell us when he didn’t have the answer. He asked for ideas and welcomed opinions. He freely discussed his mistakes along the way. He treated everyone he talked to as if they were as intelligent as he. Even me.
I still remember thinking, Someday, I’m going to be like Ken. I’ll know what I know and I’ll know what I don’t know, and I’ll have confidence expressing both. And I won’t be afraid to admit when I’m wrong.
That was almost 40 years ago.
I gained a lot of insight into how to be a good manager as I gained experience. I’m sorry to say I observed way too many behaviors that I never wanted to repeat. (Like a boss that questioned my commitment because I requested a personal day to go on a field trip with my daughter.)
Still, it’s Ken’s example that tethered me to my goal. I think I finally got there. I hope I did. Well, maybe not 100%, but I’m not finished yet.
Hat’s off to Ken. You provided a wonderful example. I will never forget you.
Is there someone in your life like Ken? I’d love to hear how he or she influenced you.