Several months ago, walking to my car on the way home from the office, I was reflecting on a couple of moments from that day in which I was able to demonstrate compassionate management. It reminded me of some of the most important lessons I’ve learned that made it possible: The ability to be a spectator to my own thoughts, especially when becoming emotional; putting myself in the shoes of others and seeing the world through their eyes rather than projecting my own perspective; and working hard to manage compassionately not just with the people I connect with most readily, but unconditionally, regardless of how challenging the circumstances. It’s taken years to get to the point where I can manifest these dynamics in my day-to-day role, so it always feels good when I’m able to put them into practice.
However, on this particular night, the satisfaction would be fleeting. As I opened my car door and started thinking about getting home to my wife and our two girls, it hit me: For as hard as I worked to manage compassionately at the office, I was not always actively applying the same approach with my family. To the contrary, by the time I got home on some nights, I’d be so spent after expending all of my energy at the office, that after putting the girls to bed and having dinner, I essentially had little left to give. So when my wife would try to bring up her day, or talk about the things we need to get done, I would reflexively say something to the effect that it had been a long day, I was exhausted, and could we talk about it some other time? In other words, I was doing the exact opposite of managing compassionately and I was doing it with the person who mattered most. My wife is the bedrock of our home and has built the foundation upon which my work exists. As cliche as it sounds, I couldn’t do what I do without her.
Put another way, I was doing what so many of us have a tendency to do: Taking the people we’re closest to for granted by assuming they are the ones we don’t need to make an effort with. After all, they’ll understand, right? However, nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s taken me over 40 years to realize what makes me happy — simply put, it’s looking forward to going to work in the morning, and looking forward to coming home at night. Applying the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in both facets of my life to the integrated whole, and not taking anything or anyone for granted, is one of the most important ways I can make that happiness an enduring reality.