Can people ask you a hard question? If so, what is it?
We stood around the lobby for our weekly 10-minute kick-off chat. The talks were meant to pass along some intangible part of the brand or some lesson we'd been learning but not quite mastered.
Sometimes the chats cut a little too close as people might feel some conviction instead of inspiration. Sensing that was the case in one day's chat, I asked the group for some feedback.
"What's the hardest question for you to ask me?"
There were a few responses, but this is the one that shook me.
"For time off. It always feels like we're asking for the moon or special treatment to ask for a day off. It's hard to ask. It's hard to do."
I wondered why.
"Well, you're always working. You're always talking about work. You're encouraging us to make our personal brands about work. So, how can we ask for a vacation? I mean, you don't take one."
While I thought I'd been demonstrating an ethic, I was projecting the impossible. It wasn't that I wasn't approachable. It was that my lifestyle made it uncomfortable for them to do theirs.
Dumb of me. I was wrong.
Soon, I began to clarify that sometimes I was leaving the office for band practice, going to the doctor, having lunch with my son, or taking an early night out with my wife. I began to make sure they saw humanity and not some working machine.
Did it change anything? Well, it changed me. You know, the funny thing about trying to teach is that if you pay attention, you learn.
Working for a busy boss is hard. Working with a human is easier.