Some years ago an online friend of mine talked about having gone to the gym. While there, this guy came in wearing very strong cologne. She said it made her gag and that she didn’t understand why he was wearing so much.

I Can BEE Empathetic
Enokson via Compfight

I knew the answer, even if I’d never gone that far with it. Sometimes with guys there’s this conundrum where we know we’re going to work out but might not be the freshest we can be. We’re not in the mood at that moment to clean up, let alone shower, before we head to a place where we’re going to sweat even more. So, sometimes we try to do what was done back in the Renaissance period… cover it up with some kind of perfume.

Why did I know this answer if I’ve never done it? Because I’ve thought about it. I’ll own up to this one. I don’t go to a gym anymore, but when I did and I felt like other men might feel, I’d get a towel, wet it, do a quick wipe down, then use antiperspirant, since I don’t wear cologne. I figured doing even that little bit would make me bearable, and hope that no one would notice since I’d at least done something.

I didn’t know the answer just because I was a man. Whereas I understood that scenario, there’s a lot of things I don’t understand about guys that they’ve done for… well, at least things I’ve seen since I was young.

For instance, what’s the deal with throwing paper in a urinal? You know that doesn’t flush right? What’s with all the hocking and spitting everywhere? Not only is that nasty but almost no one has the need to spit like that 24/7. I mean, I’ve noticed that not a single man in all my years who wasn’t sick did that sort of thing inside; ugh.

Pleasant stories? Not really, but they help to highlight something that’s been on my mind.

There’s always this assumption that people will know how to deal with someone they perceive is like them better than anyone else will. You know what? That’s not even close to true.

There are a lot of men who, even in today’s world, can’t fathom working for a woman, or even reporting to one. Yet, if they’re actually paying attention to their circumstances, they don’t fare better at work just because they report to a man.

The same goes for women. When I first started working in health care finance there was only myself and another man at the time, and I was the only minority. The vice president and office manager were women, yet neither was all that inspiring with the other women who worked there. All the supervisors were women; same thing.

At some point I was not only the only male, but I was the only assistant supervisor, otherwise known as team leader. I always had better relations with the employees I worked with than our supervisor did, and it extended to working every once in a while with other departments.

I was far from having anything similar with any of the people I worked with, and not only because of race and gender. Turns out we didn’t watch the same things on TV, I read way more than they did, I didn’t drink or party, I bowled 4 nights a week, and I wasn’t married or had any kids, which more than half the women there were and did.

Yet, I got along with everyone, and I carried that into every position, job and now contract I get. I think it’s pretty easy to say I still don’t ever have a lot in common with the people I work with.

Sand Sculpture - friends
Erich Ferdinand
via Compfight

How do I do it? What’s the big secret?

Years ago, when I defined leadership for the first time on this blog, I said that one of the major criteria for being a great leader is the concept of empathy. I said that empathy was finding a way to talk to others.

It’s actually a lot more than that. Empathy is finding a way to care enough about others so you can help and communicate with them.

For most people it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get them to work with you in a positive way. I tend to believe it’s because it’s not something most employees are used to seeing all that often. I like to think this is what allows me to have the ability to talk to people who work on every single level of an organization, or even in places like supermarkets or restaurants when I’m out.

Even though I’m somewhat of an introvert (in that I never start conversations… well, almost never if it’s not related to business), I seem to be able to find opportunities for making a connection with lots of different people. Trust me, that helps a lot because you never know when you’ll need a friendly face.

I like to think that because I’m pretty good at empathy, to the point that I do it when I’m not trying to, that I’ve had some job offers for things I’m not qualified for and I’ve had some people who decided that I was their “guy” and would do anything for me, even find someone to kill anyone who was bothering me if I asked them to… no, I never did that, but it was something interesting to have in one’s portfolio. lol

It’s possible that out of all the leadership recommendations and tips anyone’s ever talked about, empathy has been overlooked by a lot of folks. After all, I’ve written this blog for just over 16 years, years and it turns out this is only the 10th time I’ve even mentioned the word in an article; that’s a major shame, but I’ve made up for it here.

Empathy deserves more respect, and hopefully is something you’ll give some serious thought to. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this concept.
 

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Anybody can learn anything right? Actually, no. It’s not even close to the truth.

For instance, as much as I’ve tried over the years I just can’t absorb anything much about cars. I like how some of them look and I love the colors. I sometimes like the interiors. But if it involves engines or anything under the hood, my mind’s not taking it in. I don’t even know where the oil goes; yeah, I know, it’s a shame.

20150718_102732

This means I’ll never put in to do any kind of work in the automobile industry. Everything isn’t for everyone.

That being said, one would think there should be some things that you might be able to teach anyone. I tend to believe that I can teach anyone leadership. I like to think that I can help anyone get motivated.

I know that’s not true though. Often, the reason isn’t that someone isn’t smart enough, but that they’re not ready to learn the lesson, or don’t want to learn the lesson. It’s a shame because sometimes you really want to get a lesson across that’s just not going to work because the other person won’t cooperate… sometimes they don’t know they’re not cooperating.

Case in point. A few years ago I did an experiment on Twitter, although when I first thought about it I wasn’t thinking experiment. Some may remember hearing about this guy who, after Serena Williams won Wimbledon again, went on Twitter and said that the only reason she won is because she’s so “manly”. A lot of people went after him, he was on the news and all over social media for about a week, but he stuck to his guns on his position.

It stayed on my mind as well, and I decided to try to engage him and talk about the ethics of his actions. To save time, I wrote about the experience on my other blog, which you can check out here if you’re interested.

At the end of about an hour I realized I was beating a dead horse. He didn’t get it. He couldn’t figure out why deciding that not only was a person good because of her physical presence but calling it out in an insulting manner wasn’t a good thing to do. I tried everything, including asking him how he’d react if the tables were turned on him or his family members. It unset him, but he couldn’t relate his feelings about his family and relationship to his treatment of Serena. He was a young guy in his early 20’s, living in Germany. We didn’t have a language barrier; we had a cultural barrier

I left the conversation feeling pretty good with what I said and how I said it. I was also slightly frustrated because he never seems to get an indication as to why people didn’t like what he said. He wasn’t ready to learn it I finally figured. He’s relatively young, early 20’s. Sometimes it takes a bit of aging for more ethical behavior to come to someone who, I assume, isn’t necessarily bereft of some niceties.


ready to learn

Luckily I could afford to leave that conversation and get on with life. His not figuring it out wasn’t going to affect my life. Truthfully, the conversation wasn’t just for him. Seems he’d accumulated a number of followers since his first statement, people who felt he had the right to say what he said. None of them helped him out during our conversation; maybe some of them got the point.

In business, you can’t afford to do the same thing. We all have to face the reality that what we do isn’t for everyone. I’ve always said that we have to treat everyone fair, not necessarily equal. This means figuring out the speed at which people learn and how much they retain once they’ve learned something. We have to acknowledge that everyone won’t learn at the same pace.

Sometimes people never learn it though. I’ve seen that in health care; it’s really not all that easy a business. There are always nuances; it could take years for someone to fully figure out everything there is to know about the work they do.

Still, there are minimum standards that have to be reached. That’s why, as with almost every other job I know of, there are probationary periods. That’s when you’re supposed to be at your most adept in evaluating the training and learning process of each person.

If they’re missing a few things here and there, you modify the training process to help reinforce what they need to learn. If they’re not getting it at all… you have to do the right thing for the company and let them go.

No one likes firing employees. I haven’t had to do it often but I’ve had to do it. As Mr. Spock once said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”. If you don’t let go of an employee whose work is substandard, one who can’t figure out the process, it impacts the morale and efficiency of everyone else in the department and smacks of favoritism. Then you have another problem to deal with, one that’s harder to overcome.

When people aren’t learning and you’ve done everything you can to teach them something, you can feel good about having to take the next step because it’s necessary. If you didn’t do what you needed to do, that’s when you should call your own processes or motives into thought.

Never be afraid to make the right decision, even if someone can’t learn from your trying to teach them the right way.
 

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I like to go to the local casino, even if it’s about 40 minutes away. My game is no-limit poker, but I’m not close to a card shark. I also don’t like to lose a lot of money if I’m not playing well, so I play the game that cost the least amount at the start.

white dogs
zen Sutherland
via Compfight

I got a seat at a table immediately and had a pretty good time for a few hours; only pretty good though. That’s because there was a guy to my left who had problems controlling his temper. To say he wasn’t having a good day would be an understatement. He was mainly losing to two guys who were, for the most part, dominating the table. When I sat down he warned me about the luck of these two guys; that’s a rare occurrence because people rarely point out someone they’re having problems with.
Read more…

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I was having a conversation with one of my local Twitter friends on the subject of groups that specifically exclude others. In this case it’s a local women’s business support group that excludes men for the most part, but will every once in a while vote to allow a male in.

feeling excluded

His belief was that type of exclusionary group isn’t fair because what if the group was all men and the group stated that in public. He cited many debates and arguments from minorities and women on the same subject as it pertained to white men and all the complaints that came up. Wasn’t this the same thing?
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Years ago I was reading a local blog where the writer was referencing an article from Raleigh, NC, comparing the city of Syracuse with the city of Raleigh. Raleigh ranks higher than Syracuse in many areas as far as cities go and to many seemed to have a lot more things of interest than central New York did. Yet the writer of the article found that Syracuse had something it lacks, that being an area of downtown that has a vibrancy, a mix of restaurants and nightclubs and luxury apartments, and wishes it had the same; we call it Armory Square, and it’s a pretty fantastic area.


Armory Square

I found it all intriguing because it reminds me of how some employees at times look at what someone else has, perceives they’re lacking something because of what they “know”, when, if compared to someone else in all areas, they’re probably close to the same thing, if not better.
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