Monday, July 13, 2009

In Your Place

I sit back in my chair, comfortable, fully at ease. I am relaxed and confident, and why shouldn't I be, I'm not on the hot seat. I'm not under the microscope being judged. Can I appreciate the pressure that this other person is under? Sure, at least intellectually. I probably even remember enough from my past when I have been in similar situations to say, "Geez, I'm glad that I'm not in their position". Heck, I might even truly empathize, somewhere inside.

The last couple of weeks, we have been conducting interviews where I work for two high-level management positions. Associated with each position, there are a small handful of candidates brought in and put through the wringer. It's so easy to lose sight of what they are going through when my already busy schedule is added to with the inconvenience of interviews to prepare for and to attend. It's easy to drift off during their times of pressure and angst, check my watch, catch up on some email, let my mind drift off. It's not me up their sweating it out, career on the line, trying to sell myself to a panel of judges. Now I appreciate that an important part of my job as a more senior employee is to judge people and to critically examine their work and track record and future potential. However, understanding what these people are going through is something that I don't want to lose touch with. I think it's important to not lose sight of this.

A few years ago I was the chairman of the graduate admissions committee at my University. In this position I was responsible for overseeing the review of about 300 applications to our graduate school and selecting out the best 20 or 25 individuals. Too often I could pick up an application folder and get a sense for the qualifications of the individual in 15 or 20 seconds. In less than a few minutes I could make the decision to either pass the application on to the rest of the full admissions committee for review or reject it. Given the lack of available time and the vast experience I had in reviewing these applications, it became all to easy to lose sight of the fact that this folder represented a person. My split-second decision of no or yes could have a major impact on their lives and future. I had to continually remind myself to treat each person and their record with respect and a caring attitude.

The take-home message today for everyone is to continually strive to put yourself in the positions of others. Take the extra time needed to remind yourself that others are just as important as you and deserve just as much respect as you. This is an especially important reminder for those in leadership or more senior positions.
  • Preserve sound judgement and discernment, do not let them out of your sight, Proverbs 3:21
  • Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement, John 7:24
  • Judge not lest ye be judged, Matthew 7:1