Ricardo was the president of the Band Parents for a time while I was a band director. He ran pretty good meetings. His corporate background and command of deliverables worked very well, especially when another officer, Don, ran off at the mouth. Most of Don’s ramblings were trivial, and sometimes they were negative. But Ricardo had a way of maneuvering Don away from the complaint of the day and keeping us on track for a 50-minute meeting.
One night, Don would not stop talking about gloves. The white gloves students wear for uniformity that cost about $2 per pair. Some were getting lost. Some were not being treated well. Something needed to be done!
Ricardo seemed to be having an off night. He let Don go on and on and on. The meeting lasted well over an hour. I talked to Ricardo after the meeting to see if he was okay.
“Don was going on quite a bit tonight, and you didn’t stop him like usual. What’s up?” I asked.
“Nothing much,” Ricardo said. “But I could tell over the last couple of meetings that Don feels like no one ever listens to him. So I decided to let him say all he wanted tonight. He’s a good man, and a workhorse, and we really don’t want to lose him.”
Sometimes people just need to feel heard.
That happened about 15 years ago, but I heard another story recently. Mandy is a facilities operator in an office park. “People always complain about the temperature. When I was younger, I’d tweak and tweak, trying to make everyone happy. But eventually I changed my approach,” he said.
“Now when someone complains about the temperature, I say ‘give me a bit to see if I can get it right.’ Then I go back an hour later and ask if it got better or worse. Ninety percent of the time, they say it’s better, and they thank me.”
I asked what he did with the temp, and he said “Nothing. I know the temperature that keeps most people, including the bean-counters, happy. But people feel like they don’t have control over a lot of things at work, so when they feel heard by me, it helps. It’s what they’re looking for.”
Mandy meets needs. Ricardo met needs. And sometimes, the overriding need for people is that they are heard. Sometimes it makes sense to do it just for the sake of doing it.