Monday, August 9, 2010

Today's Lesson: Respect

Today I started week five in the new job. I've been meeting with folks across campus over the past couple of weeks to start building relationships and to learn about the services and programs each department offers - to get a "lay of the land" so to speak.

This afternoon, I met with a woman named Chris. Chris told me all about the programs, services, and processes in the department she oversees. But she did more than just recite facts and review basic information. She took the time to truly help me understand the mission of this particular department. She gave me a very thorough and in-depth explanation of everything they do, and why they do it. She showed me how things work, rather than just telling me. And she did it with passion, conviction, and with all of her energy focused on me.

This was the first time I met Chris, beyond just a passing greeting. By the end of the 50 or so minutes we spent together, she had earned my respect. Not because of anything she had done in the past, or anything she might do in the future, but because for that 50 minutes, I was her only concern. Nothing else mattered. Not her title or mine, not the letters behind her name, not her resume or her accolades. I was the new guy who needed and wanted to learn about her department.

When I start to think about all of the other people in my life who I respect, a common thread appears. I don't mean the people who are respectable, or the ones you have to be respectful toward. I mean those who I personally respect on a basic human level. I respect people who have focused on my needs when I needed something. I respect people who have listened when others could only hear. I respect people who understand that true respect can only be cultivated, not commanded. I respect people who have respected me.

I hope that 10, 20, 50 years down the road, I can be the kind of person who genuinely earns respect because of the way I treat people. I hope I have the ability to put my own agenda, ego, or to-do list aside and just focus on the person before me, whether that is a friend, a coworker, a student, or a supervisee. I hope I never forgot that my purpose here is not to serve myself, but to serve others. It's that type of person I respect.

Thanks for great info today Chris. And for the lesson.

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