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A Lovely Reminder of the Power of Presence and Empathy

About a month ago, my son, Cisco, completed his first trip around the sun outside of the womb.

In the picture above you can see him giving me a big, wet, sloppy kiss as part of the celebration.

Although his technique is not as refined as that of most adults, his timing is often uncanny.

For example, when he was around six months old, he had just started giving kisses to my wife and me.  But we had to work to get them.  We had to lay our heads in his lap, which allowed him to just lean forward and give us a kiss on the cheek.

About a month after he started giving kisses, my mother was passing through town on the way back from visiting her sister as she was dying.  This was the last living member of my mom’s immediate family.

Of course, my mom was quite sad as she travelled to our house, and was sad when she arrived.

She had previously only been around Cisco for a few days of his life, spread out between periods of a couple months, so she was essentially a stranger when she arrived at our house that day.

I mention this because Cisco had never given a kiss to anyone other than my wife and me at this point.  He had not even kissed the nanny who spent 25 hours per week with him for months.

About 15 minutes after my mom arrived, I had laid Cisco down on our bed to put a new shirt him.  My mom came in the room and leaned down toward him.  He immediately reached out with both of his arms to grab my mom’s face.

At first, she hesitated.  I said, “Mom, I think he wants to give you a kiss.”

She leaned a bit closer.  Cisco grabbed her face with authority and pulled her close.  He gave her a big, wet kiss and held her there for a good four or five seconds.

My mom was glowing.  In seconds, Cisco had transformed her sadness to joy.

It seemed quite clear that he felt her sadness and knew exactly what to do to help.

Cisco offers us a lovely reminder that when we slow down a bit and are fully present with the people around us, we become much more sensitive to what they might need to flourish.

This is the most important work of a leader – to help people flourish.

Cisco also reminds us that it doesn’t take a huge effort to help another person transform an unpleasant emotion.  Just presence, and a small gesture is often more than enough.

As we near Christmas, let’s follow Cisco’s lead.

Let’s slow down a bit, be present with our team members, family members, and friends, and let’s not hesitate to offer even the most simple gestures of kindness.

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