The Ultimate Compliment

I once worked for a software company that was acquired by a larger company. In the first few months following the acquisition, I noticed something interesting. My new manager, who had been at the larger company for many years, started saying things in meetings along the lines of, “What I learned from Karen is the following…” What he then said resembled something I had shared with him, yet translated into the language of the new company. It sounded so much more impressive than what I had originally told him.

By rephrasing my words, this manager taught me to how to speak more effectively, using the right lingo and phrases to tie my thoughts into the strategic direction of the company, its culture and values, and its past successful initiatives. What a gift!

He also demonstrated a great deal of respect for me in front of my new colleagues. The simple phrase of “What I learned from Karen” made me feel great; who wouldn’t want to be recognized for teaching their more experienced manager something new. I think it was the ultimate compliment.

Since then, I’ve done my best to use that simple phrase in my leadership and parenting. For example, I recently exchanged email with someone I worked with a long time ago. In my email, I wrote,

One thing I learned from you is the importance of prioritization. At the time, you were a product manager who received more voice mail than you could possibly return. You told me how you strategically decided which messages to answer. To this day, I still think of you whenever I consciously decide not to do something. Thank you for inspiring and enabling me to do so!

As you might imagine, she was touched and wrote back,

I remember you absolutely and what a tremendous compliment you shared with your memory of me. I’m honored.

I learn from people around me every day, and I’m so grateful to be surrounded by talented family, friends, and professional contacts. I should thank them and compliment them more than I do. So, one of my resolutions for 2013 is to use the phrase, “What I learned from so-and-so is….” at least twice a week, either at home or at work. I’m hoping it will then become a life-long habit.

Have you made resolutions that apply to both parenting and leadership? I’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2013,


© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.