Playground Perspectives: May 2012

Just last week, Thea was glued to the preschool antics of Sprout, the PBS kids channel. In the blink of an eye, she's taken the plunge to the pre-kindergarten land of Disney Junior. The developmental leap of small children as measured by the distance between Curious George and a bevy of princesses.

As hard as it is to believe our tousle-headed tot is now four years old, it isn't hard to map some of her behavior forward a decade and seriously consider boarding school. My current favorites - the eye-rolling when she thinks I'm being absurd, and the periodic tantrum anchored with a screaming, "You're not the boss of me!"

I feel more than a little chagrined when I think of my own workplace behavior in the past, and the sorts of things my past managers might have considered. But I also think back to some of those managers and think about the ways in which they helped me grow and develop, and move past my periodic employee tantrums.

Simple things. Stephanie Halloran, who hired me in the PR office at Virginia Commonwealth University as a student intern treated me like an adult. She also brought me groceries when she realized that she was employing an honest-to-God starving college student. Her own boss, who became my mentor and remains a close friend, recognized the importance of listening and connecting on a personal level.

My manager at Ukrop's for many years, John Burton, always greeted me with a smile, worked shoulder-to-shoulder with our team, and let front-line employees determine their schedules - he'd usually take the less attractive time slots for himself.

At Luck Stone, my best managers gave me opportunities to grow and develop - and held me accountable. Leveraging very different styles, Tammy Cummings and Jay Coffman gave me honest feedback, supported my success, and helped me appreciate the contributions others made in my life.

Little things, right? Respect. Friendship. Teamwork. Hard work. Choices. Ownership. Growth.

And one big thing. My best managers rarely acted like they were the boss - of me, or anyone else. My best managers have been my friends, mentors and teachers. They inspired me to do my best work. Every day.

Tom Poe, my mentor from VCU, officiated my marriage to Nikole in his Ginter Park garden seven years ago this May - and serves the important role of third grandfather to Thea. He continues to teach and influence me.

How much time are you spending on the little things - with your team, or with your family? Am I inspiring my daughter to do her best every day, am I helping her grow and learn? What lessons is she learning from me?