July 14, 1994. That was the day I was whacked upside the head with a new life lesson about respect.
That day, I was a couple of years into the research that would put me on the map as a thought leader in organizational simplicity as well as the future of work. Communication kept popping up in the research as critical to both. But in ways that were beyond how most experts talked about it. To quote Stephen Stills: “There’s something happening here; What it is ain’t exactly clear.”
July 14, 1994 was the day my mom died. And set in motion a completely new life’s journey for me, and a much deeper view of respect.
We were all in the ER with her and were told that Mom wasn’t going to make it through the night. The emergency room doctors asked us to go to another floor, to the intensive care unit, where they’d bring Mom, and wait in the family waiting room. Once they brought her there, they’d call us in, and we could be with her when she passed.
Ten minutes went by. No Mom. Twenty minutes. No Mom. Thirty. Still no Mom. At forty minutes, I went ballistic, screaming and cursing. Lots of doctors and nurses came over and while they were very caring and kind, the gist of what they said was, “Ooops, sorry. Your mom’s been dying alone in the emergency room. Nobody’s been with her.”
There had been a miscommunication between the ER and the ICU. Nobody knew to go get her.
Mom passed away that night, but at least they did bring her to where we were, and we were all by her side.
Many months later, after the toughest part of grieving was behind us, it dawned on me: While it wasn’t intentional, that hospital stole forty of the last minutes that I would ever have with my mom.
That experience and that Aha set in motion a completely new life’s journey for me.
Taking Respect to Completely New Levels
Returning to my research, I suddenly realized what the findings were trying to tell me about communication. It’s this…
· Confusing and non-useful communication is one of the biggest time-wasters and sources of work complexity in each of our days
· Every day we are given an amazing gift. We all get only 1440 minutes every day to use as we see fit
· The only way each of us can get our work done is to use a portion of someone else’s life. We each use portions of other people’s 1440
What I discovered by what happened on July 14 is — that in today’s overloaded, communication-crazed, and miscommunication-filled world of work — how we use each other’s 1440 matters. How we use each other’s time and attention matters.
It’s the new highest form of respect and worst form of disrespect.
Taking respect to new and higher levels in today’s world goes beyond “please” and “thank you” and kindness and empathy. It’s also about how we use each other’s 1440.
The new highest form of respect is how much value we can provide to others in the most effective ways possible, properly using their time and attention. How useful and impactful we make our communication — from the receiver’s perspective. And how we helped them do more with their 1440.
Since that hot day in July, my new life’s mission: For every individual whose life I touch — because of how I created value for them, how I shaped what I had to share — they get to spend at least forty more minutes with someone they love.
Practicing that respect here, now: I hope the way I shared my story, my mom’s legacy, helped to pay that lesson learned forward to you.
Bill Jensen is CEO of The Jensen Group, a transformation consultancy based in Morristown, NJ. He consults with senior executives on all things people related to the future of work. His most recent book is Future Strong. www.simplerwork.com.