July 11. “You can make your life whatever you want it to be.” (Wally Amos)
Children have amazing imaginations, and lofty aspirations. As a parent, I encouraged my children to dream big, and to aspire to greatness. When they were growing up this might have meant that they dreamt of being star athletes, super heroes, doctors, or any of a number of other things.
When I was a child I had similar aspirations. I wanted to be, at various times, an astronaut like Neil Armstrong, a baseball player like Buddy Bell, a geologist, a police officer, and many other things. These were the dreams of youth. Some were very attainable, others were less likely, but they were my dreams.
As time went on, I did settle on what I wanted to be in life. Somewhere around the time I was 9 or 10, I decided that my life’s ambition was to be a father and husband. From that time on, whatever other job aspiration I had was only to facilitate that goal. As you know I am a husband and father, and that fulfills my ultimate desire in life. Nothing could take the place of being those two things.
But, while being husband and father is the ultimate part of my life, it is not the only part. I have other dreams and aspirations as well. My life is primarily defined by those roles, but not wholly defined. I also aspire to be a successful photographer, a published writer, and more.
This year is half over, and at work I had my interim review. There was a lot of valuable feedback packed into the 30 minutes with my primary boss. I also had some follow-up time with another person who contributed to my review. There was one comment, and one bit of coaching that has stuck in my mind most. I was told that some find me unapproachable and fear talking to me.
My job is in project management. I am accountable for all of the project management on a large-scale, global program at work. I manage a budget that is in the tens of millions of dollars every year. There are people all over the world who update forecasts, schedules, issues and risks, and so on. How and when they make those updates is done by a set of standards and processes that I establish and enforce.
There are some who are quite remote from me. Some are in India and China for instance. It was they who gave the feedback to their boss, which was fed back to me, that I can be difficult to approach. They said that when they have to bring something to me, especially if it is bad news, that they fear dealing with me about it. Also, if they have a difficult task or unusual request, they fear that I won’t be helpful. The feedback said that I am ultimately very helpful, but that there was this issue with approachability.
Some who read this will have their mouths open in disbelief, others will nod knowing that this this feedback is spot on. The truth is that I can be difficult to approach at times. Getting the news in my Performance Review didn’t surprise me, but it did upset me.
I know that this is an issue for me. I need to be more approachable, especially by those with difficult requests or bad news. The worst thing I can be professionally is unapproachable, because it could mean that some issues are not getting resolved. At home it means that those who might need me most won’t seek me out, and thus deprive me and them of my being able to help.
So, this morning my reflection is on being more approachable. It is on giving off the first impression to people that I am here to help, regardless of their issue. It will take time to change that impression. It isn’t like I can just make an announcement and have a press release with a headline “Breaking News… Bobby-C is Now Completely Approachable. Form a line to the left.” No, it will take time. I will need to be approachable long before people change that perception of me.
So, this is a twist in the road from the original quote. But, I think it is still valid. This quote reminds me that I can make my life, and make myself, anything I want to be. In this case, I want to be seen as approachable and helpful. And, I know that I – and ONLY I, can make that happen.