Know

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” 

Norm McLean


These iconic closing lines from A River Runs Through It are some of the most haunting in a film.  It is nearly matched by the opening line of the book by the same name…

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.

One of my other favorite books by Norm McLean is the story of the U.S. Forest Service’s elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, and the Mann Gulch fire of 1949.  The book, Young Men and Fire is a tale of courage, determination, and the undaunted fearlessness of youth.  It is also a story of tragedy.

In a third listening on audio book, a line jumped out at me that I hadn’t recalled from a previous listen or reading.  They were referring to the foreman (the designated leader of the Smokejumpers) and his relationship with the men he led:

He did not know them by name, they only knew him by his.

There is no hint of accusation in the way Norm references this, but the mortality rate of these “jumpers” might hold a clue as to why their leader didn’t want to know them any more personally than he did.

When I heard it, my mind immediately went to one of my favorite leaders of a small business.  While it is not uncommon for leaders to not know the names of their team members, this one, in particular, seems to know everyone's.  He told me recently, however, that knowing them all by name wasn’t enough.

He wanted to know them better.  He asked a person on the administrative side of the business, to comb the employee files and get him the names of their spouses and the names of all their children. He wants to learn those as well. As his team is maturing and taking over the leadership of the company in more substantial ways, he is using some of his bandwidth to engage and know his team members even further.

He told me recently that in one of these conversations a new employee was remarking what an incredible place it was to work and how much he was enjoying the experience so far.  This leader said,

“You haven’t seen anything yet.”

This great leader who has created this incredible company is just getting started.  His team has envisioned a transcendent future, and through clear strategic initiatives, a clear organizational plan, and the ownership of a newly formed leadership team, they are going to get there.

They are not where they want to be, 

but they are no longer who they used to be.

The thoughtful, intentional leadership of one, will get them where they need to go.  Knowing all their names is just the tip of the iceberg.  You haven’t seen anything yet.

Consider

  • Do you know the people that work for you?
  • Why or why not?  (The answer to that question might speak volumes about intentionality, overwhelm, or desire.)
  • Do you know about their life beyond work; their families, hopes, and dreams?
  • If you think it would be valuable to know them better, what is one step you can take in that direction?