Years ago, a magazine featured an interview with a CEO of a medium sized company. Most of the interview was about the standard questions about his leadership style. He gave the usual answers, such as “I’m a people manager”, and “It’s important to walk the talk”. Then the interviewer asked how his job affected his family life. The CEO admitted he didn’t see his wife and kids much. His wife mainly raised the kids, he mainly worked.
So far, so good. People are allowed to make their own choices, and when they’re both happy with it, I’m not judging.
But then he was quoted saying: “It’s better that way for everyone. I’m just not cut out for boring, repetitive, routine tasks; like bringing the kids to school every day.”
Luckily for him, this happened before social media ruled the public opinion. The toll was just a bunch of letters by readers in the next three issues of the magazine. No harsh jokes going viral on YouTube, no thrashing flooding Facebook. Just three weeks of ironic or angry readers. Some felt sorry for his wife, whom he apparently considered excellently suited for repetitive tasks. Some for his kids, who were thought to be better off without him. And some for the CEO himself, for missing out on his kids.
I was mostly feeling sorry for his employees. A manager who can’t see the importance of spending time with his own kids? Who doesn’t see a ride to school as an opportunity to enjoy precious moments, like sharing jokes, listening to what’s bothering the kids, which friends said what in class, or insights in how they really feel about going to school?
Some might ask, so what? There are plenty of people who don’t bring their kids to school because they can’t. Their work schedule, or location, doesn’t allow for it. Does it matter whether he just admits he doesn’t like to do it?
It does. A manager who doesn’t see the value of small moments of interaction with his own kids, isn’t interested in people at all. He’s not interested in small talk. Not interested in your private life. Nor your work life. He’s not interested in what you would like to do with your life, what projects you like to work on, or whom you like to work with. If he does ask questions, he just does it because he knows he should. Because he wants to be able to say “I’m a people manager.”
Someone who will label spending some time with others as “boring, repetitive routine tasks”, is not interested in people at all. And who wants a manager who has no interest whatsoever in his employees?