Your attention matters.
Many years ago, I was in Bangkok for a Finance process migration into India. At Bangkok, I was reporting into a Japanese manager and my colleagues were Thai. It was a great team and in spite of language issues, we were working together very well.
We were migrating a process that the Thai team had been managing for a long time but for my colleague and me, it was all new and we had a lot of questions. I still remember Khun Malee (Khun is used respectfully for Mr., Mrs or Miss in Thai) who knew a smattering of English and was playing the role of a translator for us but it was Khun Jintana from whom I learned something very valuable.
Khun Jintana was a gracious middle-aged lady. She had been there for more than a decade and was a knowledge warehouse. Unfortunately for us, she did not speak English but she more than made it up with a wide smile. The particular parts of the process that I was responsible for to migrate were with Khun Jintana. Since she did not speak English, I used to be hesitant to approach her. I used to make a list of my questions and wait for Khun Malee to be available so that I could take her help to approach Khun Jintana.
Whenever we met Khun Jintana with the long list of questions, I could sense that she was upset. After a couple of occasions, she conveyed through Khun Malee that she expected me to approach her as soon as I had a question and not wait for the questions to accumulate. Her rationale: ‘I have to make time to address your question as soon as it comes up. Your need could be urgent. It should not wait for my availability’.
It was a valuable lesson that has stayed with me till now.
Don’t keep them waiting
On many occasions in our jobs, when people, especially juniors, ask for our time, we keep them waiting. We may even forget. Some of the juniors pick up enough courage to remind us but many of them keep waiting endlessly for us to invite them to the conversation…and then, they lose hope.
My attention saved a life
I narrate two instances when Khun Jintana’s principle saved lives.
On one of the late evenings, I saw a lady team member still in office. Normally, she didn’t stay late. From a distance, I could sense that she was distraught and probably in tears. I already knew that she was having serious personal issues of a nature that I could not have helped. When I approached her, she told me that she was waiting to see me. I called her into my cabin.
When we got talking, something told me that it was a precarious situation. I picked up some sentences from the conversation that told me that she was about to do something drastic. Requesting her to wait in the room, I excused myself for a few minutes and quickly called my experienced psychologist-friend who manages cases of extreme depression and those contemplating suicide. I quickly fixed an appointment, arranged for a cab, got another lady colleague to accompany the team member to the psychologist. Returning to my cabin, I prevailed upon my team member to just trust me and follow my instructions. She agreed.
Late in the night, I got a call from my psychologist-friend. He was surprised that I could assess the critical nature of the situation so well. He went on to say that if I had allowed her to leave office, she would have committed suicide that very day. She was in that kind of state.
I remembered this incident recently because something similar happened a couple of months ago. In this case, this young spunky girl had wanted to see me. I always saw her as energetic and fun-loving but she appeared quite serious on that day. I suddenly remembered Khun Jintana and had a conversation with her. She was going through something terrible in her life. She told me that she was already contemplating suicide but wanted to speak to me just once. At the end of the long conversation, she could see that she was much bigger in stature than the problem that she was facing. On my suggestion, she celebrated her ‘newly-acquired stature’ by buying a pack of chocolates for herself – she gave one to me, smilingly. I felt relieved and happy.
I have a habit of giving people time whenever they ask for it. Many of them are surprised and frankly, quite unprepared. I do add in jest, ‘I am the least busy person around here.’
If people find me accessible, I have Khun Jintana to thank.
After all, she helped me save lives.
I have a lot of people approaching me for Life Coaching. If you feel stuck in life and could do with an external perspective, you can contact me at [email protected] Let us work towards freeing you up so that you could soar in the skies.