Don’t just be a “people person”, be a “people nerd”

nerd

Via Wikipedia – Nerd (adjective: nerdy) is a descriptive term, often used pejoratively, indicating a person that is overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills. Such a person may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, little known, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical, abstract, or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities.

Mrs JJ Gill was my favorite middle school teacher and of the class’ too.

She was a nerd, not a stereotypical one (in appearance or in practice of her subject) but due to her obsession, attention to detail and extraordinary drive to understand her students. The drive was not just to connect with us, but to genuinely reach out to us with compassion, to learn –

  • What scared us ?
  • What confused us ?
  • Why were we sad that morning ?
  • Why did we withdrew from the singing competition at the last minute?
  • What did we do over the summer vacation ?
  • Why is our mum unwell ?
  • What are the frictional dynamics between the toppers of the class?
  • Why do the back benchers find it really hard to step up?
  • Why did we bunk classes and returned drunk to class ?

This drive was disproportionately large as compared to other teachers and manifested consistently in her actions. While other teachers focused on the bustle of achievements, exams and marks, Mrs. Gill’s focus was ‘us’.

Not that she was the most kind, congenial, friendly person (she was viciously candid when she used to give us feedback).Not that she was the most charismatic and influential teacher teaching the most critical subject ( she was an English Literature teacher).Not that she favored us unduly.

She just used to put in so much effort to “get” us.

In her nerdiness,she made us the center point of her teaching, rather than the books or the school reputation or grades.

Some folks are data visualization nerds, some are violent South Korean movies nerd, some are Indus valley civilization history nerds.

I am a people nerd

I am extremely curious about how people behave in organisations, how organisations influence their lives, how are they different from when they are in leadership positions versus at home,how do they react to authority,why do they shy away from taking initiative.

I work with discipline to study people’s achievements, what does success mean to them, what kind of work stokes their imagination, what kind of behavior stokes their fear, how do they like to be recognized, how my behavior affects them, why they shoot down my every idea,how do they negotiate, how do they put up resistance, why do they complain incessantly, how to influence them, why do they bitch behind their colleagues backs,why do they dont say good morning to everyone when they start….and so on …

People skills are useful but effective Leadership is not just limited to being nice and humorous or having the ability to get along with stakeholders or having a communal reputation of a leader.

It is the nerdiness of wanting to study people, wanting to understand people and putting them at the center of your sense of purpose and service.

This nerdiness is the nucleus of creating empathy and forging trust through people leadership. This nerdiness is what creates a sense of integrity about your leadership and travels much farther than charisma or people skills.

Someone asked Mrs Gill , as to why did she care about her students so much ?

Her answer….”I just like to”

Now that is a nerdy answer !

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Image via nz.pintrest.com

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