I was shocked to see the office of my friend, a managing director: It was in an absolute state of chaos and disarray: Books thrown on the floor, files scattered all over and the glass top of the table shattered. “What happened?” I asked, “Tornado passed through?”

“Something like that Bob,” said the MD as he looked sheepishly from his chair, “I don’t know what got into him. He’s a hard working chap, and I would hate to lose him, but after what he’s just done, I might not call the police, but I’ll have to sack him for sure!”

I watched as his secretary and peon came to help clean the mess, and I looked at the forlorn face of their boss, “He came in to ask me for leave, said his father was sick. This is our busy season and I told him I couldn’t allow him to go right now, and he went berserk!”

“His father is dying of cancer sir!” said his secretary as she bent down to pick the last of the glass pieces on the ground, “He’s got just a few days more to live!”

“I didn’t know that!” gasped the MD.

A survey by a professional network for executives discovered that many bosses apparently do not know their employees nearly as well as they think they do. For instance, almost ten percent of executives that were surveyed responded that work-and-home balance was important to them, but very few of them believed it mattered much to their subordinates.

Many religions and philosophies talk about the importance of leaders having a strong, growing relationship with their followers. Christ stated, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me." He understood how wayward and helpless sheep can be without the vigilant care of their shepherds. Applying that principle to the workplace, it seems equally important for us to devote the time and energy necessary to know the men and women under our supervision – and for them to get to know us better.

Knowing how your flock are – the people you are responsible for shepherding – will help to ensure they are as productive as possible, that they perform their respective jobs well, and that they will remain content in your employ.

So if you are in a managerial role, it would be very wise to take the time you need to know and understand your people. Ask questions, listen, and offer them the opportunity to get to know you as well.

To bring the story I started with to a close, the employee who had gone berserk was brought in weeping. I watched as the Managing Director put an arm round him, and together they put the files back in place, while the boss gently talked to him about his dying father...!

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