Why I Told My Work Colleague I Loved Him- And I Meant It
I was taken by surprise this week. Shaking the hand of a colleague at a meeting’s end, I looked him in the eyes and said: “Arthur- I love you.” I meant it. And, he did not immediately phone the HR department ‘hotline’ for urgent counsel. Here’s why. And why it made me feel so energised.
I am struggling to do up my business shirts these days. No excuses. Just binge eating under pressure. But I’ve turned the corner (fingers crossed), and have started exercising again. While ambling around a park last week, I was listening to, aptly, Meat Loaf. One of his most famous lyrics jolted me…. when Mr Loaf suggests ‘… two out of three ain’t bad.’ And the jolt was the realisation that, quite simply, it’s not true.
Here’s why. I had an intriguing meeting the next morning- with a ‘dynamo’ younger colleague I mentor (he mentors me too), who was seriously thinking about taking a client-side senior role. I was not sure how to handle the meeting- what to say- and it was Mr Loaf who gave me the answer. He reminded me of this deep truth:
People don’t care about how much you know until they know about how much you care.
Now- that’s a David Ogilvy-ism about clients, but it holds true for how we need to behave with those we work with, and those in our lives.
Meat Loaf’s protestation is this: “I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m ever going to love you….now, two out of three ain’t bad.”
Wrong! Two out of three is not good enough. If you are a leader, and if you have it in your power to influence and inspire others, if you want the best out of others and for them, then give them the respect of honesty, care, and ‘love.’ Put their interests before yours.
I knew this colleague deserved absolute honesty and transparency. Let me be clear. I needed him, and wanted him, to stay. If he left now, important clients in his business would be jeopardised: the business would be weaker. But two out of three wasn’t good enough. So I simply gave him the very best, most balanced counsel I could. I put his best interests before mine.
“I am just worried I will have regrets in years to come if I think ‘why did I not do it?’ ” he said. I explained those regrets could apply just as much to not staying where he is as to not taking the new role. I explained how I had left a role once where, had I stayed another 18 months, a takeover event would have delivered me several millions of dollars- which I missed out on. “So, do you regret not staying? ” he asked.
My response was spontaneous. “Not at all. Because if I had stayed, I would never have met you.” And I meant it. I don’t regret for a moment missing that ‘pay day’, because what happened since I made that decision almost 20 years ago has just been thrilling and amazing- and I value so much the relationships and camaraderie along the way. My point to him was essentially to ‘have faith’- that whatever decision he made could haunt with ‘regret’ fears- but to trust his instincts and go for it- whatever ‘it’ was.
So here’s the point, I guess. I know I’ve shared this with you before. I like the sentiment a lot. “People don’t remember what you say, or what you do, but they will always remember the way you made them feel.”
I need Arthur to stay. I want him to stay. But more than anything, I want Arthur to be happy, inspired, fulfilled. So I gave him the best I could. And when we said farewell, I looked him in the eyes, and again with spontaneity, said: “Arthur- I love you.” It wasn’t weird- it was real, human, true. I just hope – when he left that meeting with me last week- he felt most of all, cared for, and safe.
That’s where the love comes in. Do not let the pressures of day to day business cloud your genuine and positive intent to give others the very best chance for happiness. Make sure you use courage and integrity when dealing with people- particularly those you have some influence over. Be generous in words and deeds whenever you can be.
As Buddha said: “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” I know this because someone stuck it on my fridge at home. I look at it every day. Now I feel like I am getting it.
A bit kumbaya? Maybe- but honestly, I don’t care. It’s from my heart. Do I do it all the time? Of course not! I’m often a grumpy shit who bullies and pushes, can be emotional and unreasonable, selfish and self-centred. But I want to do better. And Meat Loaf has given me the clue how to do just that.
Are you showing enough ‘love’ to those around you? Remember- people always remember the way you make made them feel. Leave a huge legacy. Be generous with your ‘love.’