You never know the effect a smile can have on those around you.
I was reminded this week of a time, early on in my career, where I was asked to fill in for a colleague with our CEO. He had a terrible reputation within the administrative pool. In fact it was not unusual for a newer admin or a temp to leave his office crying. Unfortunately, it was a regular occurrence.
When I was asked to fill in for a whole week while someone was on vacation, I was terrified… but determined. No one could be that mean…right?
I showed up my first day and was quickly (very quickly) shown the ropes and left on my own. I sat in my chair and thought…what do I do now? I stood up, put on my best smile and went to his door. I knocked and was quickly reprimanded with a “What?” Entering the room still wearing my smile, I asked if there was anything he needed or if I could do anything for him. Slowly, he looked up from his computer. I think the unfamiliar voice threw him, (he may have actually forgotten his assistant was out for the week). Looking at me he thanked me and stated he would let me know if he needed anything. I wished him a good morning and went back to my desk. I made sure to repeat this every time he called me on the intercom (which was VERY often), and asked me into his office to take his dictated communication.
When it was time for me to leave for the day, I smiled and asked if there was anything he needed before I left, wished him a good evening, and let him know I’d see him in the morning.
Here’s where it gets good. The next morning I was in the office before him and as he walked by my desk he stopped to wish me a good morning, politely asking if I would get his coffee. I fixed it, per his request, brought it in along with his paper and periodicals, pages marked with tabs where I thought there was something that related to the business or might be of interest to him.
I spent the week exceeding expectations with my work, but more importantly, with my behavior. Yes he was old school, I mean taking dictation…who does that?! However, he started including me in conversations, meetings and asking my opinion. He joked with me and taught me. Within one week, his demeanor had changed to the point that others noticed.
I spent the next several years working for this organization and I can say that each time there was a life event, he noted it. When my daughter was diagnosed with Cancer, he gave me his personal guarantee that my job was secure no matter what and that I should reach out to him if my family needed anything.
You can be assured that each time he needed someone to fill in, it was my line he called. If there was a project, new initiative or opportunity, I was included. He helped to shape my young career in ways others could not. This brilliant, stern, dry humored, generous man passed this week. I am sad that the world lost him, perhaps without really knowing or understanding him. I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend with him.
I remember those years working for and with him with a smile on my face. The same smile I greeted him with each day. Do I think that this will always happen when we put our best selves forward? No. Unfortunately the world is still full of people who have to make others feel less, for them to feel more. However, there are also those who have goodness inside of them and might just need someone help them bring it back out.
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