WHAT IT REALLY TAKES TO BE A ROLE MODEL

Two years ago my daughter Lindsey had to select a role model for a report in her 7th grade class. She chose Taylor Swift. Not a bad choice actually given Swift’s girl power, philanthropic style. Source: NLG



This year she had to choose someone again for yet another report. This time, her report would be multimedia. And this time her role model was. . .me.

“Thank you,” I said with sincere surprise. “But why me?”

Let’s face it, I don’t have the U.S. Women’s Soccer team coming to my house for dinner or Selena Gomez to Facetime with.

“Because,” Lindsey explained, “When you saw that I was frustrated with math, you stepped in to help. You listened. You were my advocate.”

Still processing this information, I thought about what she said. True, when she came to me exceptionally frustrated with dimensional analysis, I tried to help. I knew she met with her teacher multiple times for support already, to no avail. So I sat down with her. After nightmarish flashbacks of my own high school algebraic experiences and then having no clue what to do, we went together to do what most warm blooded creatures of earth would do; we Googled it.

Unfortunately, Google was no help (I know, shocking!) so I ended up e-mailing her teacher asking for advice.

This was all I did. But to Lindsey it meant more than I realized.

The more I thought about it, the situation resonated on a deeper level with me because here at National Life, we’re working on a culture shift, one that encourages us to be role models for each other by doing things like:

  • Inspiring and empowering others

  • Respectfully disagreeing without fear of consequences

  • Holding ourselves accountable

  • Providing timely, constructive coaching

These aren’t extraordinary behaviors but many people assume they’re unnecessary. And that’s absolutely not true. I’ve learned that a simple, sincere “thank you” or “nice job” can make a world of difference to someone, and, as studies have also shown, will often improve employee engagement.

In our frenetic, fast-paced world, the basic act of listening has also seemed to go by the wayside. I’m not talking about “listening” while you’re checking e-mail on your tablet or “listening” while you stare right past the person who’s talking. Really listening, looking someone in the eye, and understanding what they have to say. It’s almost become a lost art, but it’s one we’re trying to bring back.

Over the past few years as we’ve been working on shifting our culture, we heard about managers who not only don’t thank their team members regularly, they don’t even acknowledge them at all. That’s maddening to me. People want to be recognized. They want to know that someone cares. They want to feel valued. It’s that simple.

The good news is we’ve made great strides in our culture journey. Are we there yet? Not yet, but I’ve seen huge steps forward. I’ve heard people call out those who are servant leaders and those who aren’t. I’ve seen managers who lead with empathy and who truly listen be held high as positive examples. I’ve seen people help their colleagues by taking on additional work or collaborating to get a project done to the benefit of the team, not just themselves.

And I’ve seen that it doesn’t take pop star friends or an amazing stage presence to be a role model. All it takes is some time and a desire to help. It’s easier than you might think.

But as far as dimensional analysis goes, I got nothing.


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