At the end of last quarter I had a student in my Leadership & Execution class, at the University of Denver, set up an online meeting to ask if I would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for him. This is not uncommon, however, it caused me to pause and reflect for a moment. 

I asked him what he believed the company would like to know about him and what he thought I could best speak to in order to fairly represent him. He considered the question and thoughtfully responded if you would be comfortable, I think the most important thing for them to know is how much effort I put into the class, how curious I was to learn new things, how considerate I am of others and how determined I am to progress. 

I said, those are all things you should be proud of and easy for me to speak to.

 A new quarter had started and I had just met 20 new students that I didn’t know much about. I was thinking, only 10 weeks earlier I had just met this student and I would not have been able to speak to any of those things and he would not have known to ask me. Which is what had caused me to pause.

I said, before you go can I ask you a question? Sure anything, he responded.

If I had asked you before the quarter began “what will I know about you in 10 weeks, that I don’t know today?” and “after engaging the material in this class, learning from your peers, and discovering the value of mentor meetings, what will you take away?” Would you have had the answer? 

He admitted, I don’t think I would have, with a curious look. 

I do, it’s “WHAT YOU ALLOW.” 

You allowed me to get to know you, you showed me what you care about, your work ethic, how you work with others, how you ask smart questions to drive your learning  and how you were willing to ask for help to break down a difficult decision. 

You allowed yourself to learn from your classmate’s diverse perspectives and grow through the material so that’s what you took away.  So, when you ask If I am comfortable speaking to those things I can say yes, because you allowed it and you therefore put me in the position to help you.

I guess I did, he considered with a smile on his face. 


Meeting someone new.

Whenever we meet someone new there are things that we immediately try to figure out and would like to know about them. Of course, the opposite holds true as well. This also happens in interviews, with College admissions and when someone we know makes an introduction for us that could be a mutual benefit. It also happens when we join a new team. Given enough time we would eventually figure it out but sometimes our window of time is short and judgements are made and first impressions form quickly. At times, this can cause us to miss out on potentially valuable relationships, conversations, and opportunities because we didn’t use our time wisely.

In our leadership class, we work through what I consider to be a really important question:  

What will I know about you in a year that I don’t know about you today?

This question often shows up in interviews and it really is what we would love to know when we meet someone. I encourage all of us to take some time to consider how you would answer this question concisely. 

What would we like people to know and how clearly can you communicate it?

I have found that there are THREE main things we are trying to figure out about each other:

  1. What do you care about?
  2. Are you capable, coachable and driven?
  3. Are you good with people?

What you talk about, how you talk about it and how you lay out a problem identifies a lot about you. Be intentional in your conversations and how you share your experiences so people can easily understand what matters to you, how you do things and how you value others. The better we get at this, the more relationships and opportunities will come our way. 

What you allow is what they know. I hope this helps.

Phil McCarthy

20 thoughts on “WHAT YOU ALLOW”

  1. Wow Phil, your post provides many self-reflective questions. There are a few ways to answer how I want or allow people to think of me in X period time. The one I am going to ponder is how I want people to think of me in terms how I deal with difficult times as well as how I deal with difficult or challenges at work. Your post definitely resonated with me. And I will also share with my sons and nieces/nephews. Thank you

    1. Thanks,Dave. I agree those are key things for people to know. WE can all get better at this. I think of the college essay and it is similar – we really just want them to see what we care about and how we think about things. The experience we share just sets up the story and what we want portrayed. In our world, there is a bit of sport-bragging – if we are just proud we could be better at just saying that. Thank you, Dave for continuing to read and sharing your views. It helps and it is nice.

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