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In Print The Essentials

Leadership: What it Means to Be More Human


Think about your last performance evaluation. What sticks in your memory? Do you remember the energizing pluses or the dreaded minuses?

Let’s flash back to 2010 for a moment. It was the day of my annual review as a general manager of the Wisconsin Athletic Club. For the first 58 minutes, things were positive and uplifting. I felt confident and on top of my game. For the last two minutes, after I expressed a strong desire to be promoted, not so much. My bosses remarked, “If you want to move up in our organization, you need to learn how to be more human.”

Outwardly, I initially acknowledged them by nodding my head and acting as if I understood what they meant. Inwardly, I felt dejected and thought to myself, “What the heck are you talking about? I am human. Whatever.” It took every ounce of my energy to not get defensive. My blood was boiling, and I wanted to quit.

Thankfully, I paused and inquired, “Can you explain what you mean by that?” I braced myself and heard them say, “You are one of the best we’ve ever seen with systems and processes. However, we want you to slow down a bit, so that you can connect more with others. Think people before process.”

They were right. I was valuing process over people. I had exhibited growth, but wasn’t going to go anywhere without making relationships my top priority. Have you ever been mad at a manager who offered you constructive or critical feedback, only to realize later just how helpful and essential that feedback was?

Not too long ago, my daughter, Ellie, came to visit me at work. On our way out, she asked, “Dad, why do you say hi to everyone? You have so many friends here.” Ellie answered her own question. Just Google, “Harvard 75-year Study on Happiness.” The key to health and happiness is good relationships.

For some people, you’ll stay at the hello phase, and that is OK. For others, you’ll create a deeper relationship. Regardless, pause and reflect for a moment. How much time and energy will you spend working this week, versus investing in relationships?


Derek Deprey is the director of people and service for the Wisconsin Athletic Club.

Derek Deprey

Derek Deprey is the director of people and service at Wisconsin Athletic Club.

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