I know that probably sounds strange, so perhaps I’d better explain. I recently signed up for a virtual writing class, something to keep me sharp and to teach me how to come up with new ideas whenever I feel the specter of writer’s block hovering just behind me. For this particular exercise, we were instructed to look at our arm and write whatever comes to mind. At first I thought, “Huh?? It’s my arm!” My arm, after all, has been attached to me since I was born. It swings into view on a regular basis. What could I possibly see that I hadn’t seen before?
Was I surprised!
The first thoughts that came to me were simple, shallow ones, generating words that I’m sure you would expect: length, width, markings, color – the words that would describe the surface, what I can easily see when I glance at my arm. “Hmmm, new freckle,” I thought to myself. “Need to keep a watch on that. And my hand is beginning to show it’s age a bit….” Those types of things.
Then something happened. I began to see my arm in a new way.
This was the limb that held my child as he grew up, that cradles my dog when she’s afraid. It helps me grab onto a tree and pull myself up a steep terrain when I hike and wraps around my husband’s neck to let him know that I care. My arm, over the years, may have changed in the way it looks, but it continues to give back to me in ways that I probably took for granted.
How often do we see our employees that way, the way I initially looked at my arm, as something that’s always been there but never really, deeply seen? Perhaps they’ve been working with us for a long time and we don’t really notice them as they were or as they’ve grown. If you were to really look at your employees – beyond the surface features like their tenure, skill, and ability – what would you see? What largely unseen—but deeply important—qualities do they have that, when you reflect on them, you appreciate and value, perhaps couldn’t or wouldn’t want to live without?
Take a moment and look at your employees with simple appreciation. What do they inspire that you may have overlooked?