I had two opportunities today to reflect on expertise and kindness and the relationship of these two attributes.
I had an update meeting with a company where I am providing consulting in my area of expertise – technology strategy as a CIO. The three people I met have no technology background and are currently challenged with overall technology issues at their company. They described the issues and it was obvious they were frustrated and a bit perplexed how things had evolved to the current state. They wondered aloud if they could have done anything different along the way to prevent this outcome.
I described how we could make specific changes to resolve the issues and create a foundation. This would allow visible progress to be made quickly on small items as we created the roadmap for continuous improvements. I added that the issues were not unique to their company or even to companies of their size, and also talked about what they had done right that enabled the ongoing execution of their critical business services. They were doing a lot of things right and one of the most important things was that they cared about their business and supported their team members.
After this meeting, I ended up in a small cafe through pure chance. Traffic was heavy, the sun was out, and I decided to explore the area of town I was in to find a place for quiet reflection. The cafe was one of the cute, comfy types where the tables are approximately one foot apart.
This led to a second less expected encounter for the day. I witnessed three young women having a business meeting. One of the women was pitching an idea to the other two and I could feel it wasn’t going well. The woman pitching was aggressively stating that once they agreed to hire her and pay her, she would share her ideas for how she could help their business. The other two women were trying to understand details of the services that would be provided and what they could expect in terms of timelines and costs.
I didn’t listen to details of the business, but I was intrigued by the interaction and the professionalism of these two women.
When the ‘pitcher’ left, I asked if I could share my perspective. I apologized for listening in, but said I didn’t think the pitcher was up to the task of delivering on what they needed. I went further to say I thought these two were confident, professional, and organized and should expect no less from people who would provide services to them. They thanked me and said they were relieved becuse they didn’t think this pitcher was right for them, but wanted to make sure they weren’t being too rash. After 15 minutes of conversation, they asked me to stay in touch and I offered to be a casual advisor if they ever needed someone to help assess their suppliers or ideas. We exchanged contact information and said goodbye.
I felt the thread of expertise and kindness. My only intent was to help. I came away with as many learnings as I contributed, and met some amazing people in the process.
I was heartened to think about how I was able to provide expertise (technology in the first case, and an outside perspective in the second), and do it in a kind way so the people involved didn’t think I was talking down to them or trying to show that I was smarter than they were. In both cases, these people have loads of expertise in areas I don’t and I was also able to learn from each of these interactions.
Thankful Tuesday indeed.