I Wish You Knew

Perhaps you have seen the video circulating on the news about the 3rd grade school teacher, Kyle Schwartz, who gave her kids the assignment to write a response to the phrase, “I wish my teacher knew.” You can view the ABC news story about it, by following the link below.

thOWU7ODRZBeing children, they wrote some remarkably candid and personal answers to the assignment. She read about kids being bullied, missing their parents, not having friends, wanting to go to college, and so forth. Not only was this helpful to Ms. Schwartz, but to the other children as well. And, in the world of social media, this story went viral in no time, and ongoing responses can be followed on Twitter at #IWishMyTeacherKnew. Very eye-opening!

It seems amazing that such a simple and direct assignment could bear so much fruit. Do you suppose this assignment would be helpful in the workplace? Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air, if managers and their people could have this kind of communication with each other? Any idea what you might hear from your people, if you could get each of them to tell you what they wished you knew about them?

Over the years, I have heard people tell me many things in confidence, which they just did not want their boss to know. Comments such as:

• I am afraid that I will let everyone on the team down on this project. I don’t feel capable to do what is being asked.

• I know my manager thinks I have checked out. The truth is my mother is terribly ill, and I feel totally helpless and inadequate to do anything for her. I still love the work, I just can’t concentrate.

• My boss has no idea how much she built my confidence the other day, when she told me that she knew I was going way out on a limb on a new endeavor, and that she was right beside me on that limb.

• I feel ignored. I am starting to actually take the calls from headhunters.

Like the oak tree, as we grow older our protective outer core gets thicker and more rigid, and we choose not to be too vulnerable in the workplace. The fear of looking bad, weak, incapable, or whatever to our bosses, is still alive and well. And in some cases, it is even hard to let our bosses know what we appreciate about them. Who wants to be known as a kiss-up to a suit?

With all the books written about crucial, fierce, or tough conversations, there is obviously a need to improve the communications with others, especially concerning those difficult topics such as performance or fit. Unfortunately, there is no magic answer, other than some courage, practice and the willingness to take the time and effort to truly learn more and care more about the people around you.

Perhaps as a leader, you can borrow Ms. Schwartz’s process and in some fashion ask your people what they most want you to know about them – as people and as associates. Maybe they will surprise you and be as candid and genuine as the third graders. And maybe you can start the process by offering up what you most need them to know about you. Leaders recognize how important it is to model the way.

A vital component of any solid relationship is genuine caring. When each party knows that the other truly cares, it is much easier to share meaningful information and personal feelings. So, keep working at your relationships, and pursuing additional ways to better communicate the really important things with each other.

Link to the story.

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