Take off your glove and look at your hand

One of the best bosses I ever had asked me to take off my glove and look at my hand. Well, he didn't exactly use those words but that's what I heard.

The organization was just days away from sealing the deal on the third merger in three years. The previous acquisitions had placed me on a fast track to leadership from Financial Manager to Controller to CFO. The pending merger left my professional future in limbo since all accounting functions would be transferred to the home office. Honestly, I was exhausted from the due diligence process and ready for a nice vacation.

I sat across the lunch table from the newly appointed Managing Principal of the acquiring company. I anticipated this lunch meeting was a nice way of laying out my severance package. But instead of a termination agreement he offered me a new position within the organization. This role would stretch me by giving me cross-departmental responsibility. I looked at him somewhat puzzled since I had spent the last twenty years in accounting and financial roles.

You see I was looking at my glove and he was looking at my hand. The thing I recall more than anything else that day was his confident, encouraging words. He wasn't looking at the role I could fill but the qualities I could bring to his team during this critical period of transition. He said I was good at motivating and encouraging people, building a team, and managing change. He didn't say a word about financial forecasting, balance sheets, and profit margins. He was looking at my hand, not the glove I was wearing.

This experience was a professional epiphany for me. It changed so much about my leadership and management style including the way I hired associates, structured compensation plans, and conversed with clients. But more importantly, this conversation opened a new chapter of personal and professional growth for me that heightened my self-awareness and provided new insights into my core competencies.

Are you looking at your hand or your glove? Are you encouraging those you lead to take off their gloves and look at their hands? The individual and the organization will reap the benefits.