The manager-employee relationship is a tricky thing. Always in motion, always changing. As you get to know someone as an employee, you also get to know him or her as a person. Whether you are all business or one that learns about your employees, if you wanted to know what made an employee great, you couldn’t do better than looking at my former employee, Jeff. When he worked for me several years ago, he consistently earned the highest ratings possible and amassed tremendous respect from his customers, while sometimes being a curmudgeon among his peers.
If something in the company wasn’t working for the customer, Jeff told you about it. If there was something to be done to get rid of inter-departmental feuding, he did it. If it was a choice between the customer and the company, the customer was always right — and Jeff could explain the reasoning behind it.
Want an expert? Done. Want to find out about the latest and greatest? He already knew. Jeff was always learning — and as he learned more he was questioned more so he learned even more in a cycle of knowledge acquisition that was the envy of his manager. That would be me.
We’ve lost common sense in our business dealings. We look for data driven information, use Six Sigma methodologies and yearn for the Lean ways of taking whatever is not necessary out of the process. We do so much taking out, bit by bit, that we fail to ask this vital question: Does it make any sense?
Jeff would ask: “But does it make any sense?” Usually, it didn’t.
Tuesday after Labor Day, my wife, Kate, and I found out via Facebook that Jeff had died over the holiday weekend. Now, I live 1700 miles away from where I lived when I was Jeff’s manager. The power of Facebook is that I can still keep in touch with all of my friends and former colleagues back in Seattle.
On Cube Rules, I rightfully focus my work on helping people succeed in their jobs and support their careers. Sure, I provide support in what is often thought of as the most important work we do: our jobs. But there is much more to life than just work and I write about that too. Since it is my site and not some brand, I’m perfectly willing to talk about death and layoffs and, you know…life.
All the job stuff, when it comes to your overall life, is a mirage. What really counts are the relationships you have with people. The relationships you have with your spouse, your children, your friends, and, yes, your coworkers. Your legacy comes from the impact you make on the people you interact with on a daily basis.
It is clear that Jeff impacted countless people he interacted with during his life. He was human, with all of the good, bad, and ugly that goes along the journey with every person born on the planet. But he was a human who touched people’s lives. My remembrance of Jeff is not as an employee, with the obligatory three characteristics that made him great needed for a proper blog post. Instead, I remember him as a wonderful, complicated human being, struggling with life as we all do, working to get to the next day and doing his best to do it the right way.
Kate and I returned to Seattle-land to honor Jeff at his memorial service this day, to comfort those he left behind, and to see all of the people he touched.
Rest in peace, Jeff.