There’s a little game that I play with my three beautiful daughters. I’ll say to Michaela Siobhan (11), “You know, you’re my favor…no…,” and then I’ll sputter to Skye Teresa (9), “…no, Skye-Baby you’re my absolute favor….well…,” and then land on Alia Noelle (7), “Li-Li , the truth is that you’re the one I really lo…ugh…”and then I’ll begin again with Chaela and work my way around my beauties until they’re all giggling. The truth is that I love Michaela the most; I love Skye the most; and I love Alia the most.
We have a relative who tries to propagandize us that “there’s nothing like your oldest child.” Poppycock. Each of our girls are so unique and all are to be preferred.
Em Griffin in his wonderful little book on communication, Getting Together, reports that his daughter names her relationships with others. So, for example, she has a special name for her relationship with her dad; she names her relationship with her best friend, etc. That approximates what I feel about about each of my daughters.: They are all so different that it’s quite impossible for me to attempt to quantify and compare the love I have for each of them. Micha and I share a love of reading and Harry Potter – she read Deathly Hallows in about 5 hours the day after it came out. Skye-Baby is one of the most emotionally intelligent people I know and is unfailingly courteous. And Li-Li is quintessentially cute and loves to chase me. To say that I treat them fairly and provide them with equal regard is to obviate their endearing idiosyncrasies and the highly individual love that I have for each one.
This familial reality has an analogue in organizational life.
Markus Buckingham and Curt Coffman suggest in First Break all the Rules that great managers do not treat everyone equally and even play favorites. As a manager myself, while I provide each of my employees with open doors for growth and development, there’s no doubt that my stronger employees get more of my time and attention. This may seem counter-intuitive to the egalitarianism of the heart I suggest above but for me it’s consistent in this way: Folks are so unique that we do them a disservice if we treat them all exactly the same way. And so I resonated with these recent comments by Granger Community Church‘s Tim Stevens and Kem Meyer:
– Fairness is not priority for us in what we communicate and in what we don’t.
– As a leader, I’m not fair with my time. Some people can call and get time with me at a moment’s notice. Other people can’t. That’s not fair.
– We aren’t fair when we determine what gets in the budget and what doesn’t.
Of course, these are broad brush statements and are not intended to illegitimize “fairness” as a concept. But these type of statements are intended to dethrone “fairness” as a privileged setting that’s mindlessly applied to all circumstances.