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Business Lessons From My Grandson

Business RemindersI’m not sure it “gets any better than this” when I think of the joy I felt watching my daughters grow up. All three of them are in their 20’s now, and are focused on being great contributors to society. My middle daughter has blessed us with my first Grandchild, a little fellow named Charles III (aka Little Charlie). We enjoyed this past Easter weekend with him and his mother, my wife and our youngest daughter. As I reflected on the time he and I spent together, I’m reminded about three fundamental business principles.

1 – Keep it simple. 2 – Smile more often. 3 – Offer help when someone needs you.

First, Keep it simple.

For Little Charlie, one word can be enough to express what he desires. When he wants to crawl or walk on his own, but I have him in my arms – he looks me in the eyes and simply says “downnnnn.” Almost like he’s singing that word! When I sit him down, he takes off! Message sent, message received.

I relate his simple, yet effective communication to times when I did the opposite and provided a string of directions to those on my team. At the beginning of my leadership career, I noticed I didn’t always communicate in the most effective and efficient way for each individual I interacted with, although it seemed best at the time. As I progressed, I learned there was no need to repeat directions when I kept my communications simple, along with simplifying how we communicated as a team. Unlike the example of Little Charlie, communicating with the use of only one word may not always work in a business environment. I’ve also learned that issuing a series of directions in one interaction may not always work either. Getting to a happy medium tends to get the job done. I now recognize that to increase the likelihood a given message will be received, understood and acted upon, there’s no need for a complex message. Keep it simple.

Second, Smile more often.

Little Charlie is 15 months old now, and it’s hard to remember a time when he isn’t smiling. He isn’t much of a complainer and even when he bumps himself, he’s smiling a few moments later. As I reflected on my career, I recall many times where smiling made a difference. I began my corporate life as a Repair Clerk, where I answered repair requests directly from subscribers whose phones were not working. Some of them were angry callers! I noticed that when I smiled during our conversation, they could somehow ‘hear my smile’ and sometimes the call went better. Sometimes!

As I progressed to a Network Manager of installation and repair technicians at the same company, I would remind my team to find reasons to smile as much as possible throughout the day. This was primarily to strengthen their attitude, but their smile also had a positive effect on both internal customers and external customer interactions. Conversely, there were many times in my career when I should have smiled more. No doubt, I could have smiled more, but for whatever reason I didn’t. When I later reflected on why things didn’t go smoothly that day or during that interaction, I had to admit my lack of a smile might have set an adverse tone. Since then, I’ve made it a point to smile more.

Sometimes my daughter will surprise me and bring Little Charlie into my home office. More often than not, I’m intently pecking away at the computer and don’t realize they’ve entered the room. When my daughter taps me on the shoulder or calls my name and I turn around, my Grandson is smiling at me. Seeing him smile instantly puts me in a better mood. He’s happy, my daughter is happy that we’re happy, and the energy in the room increases. You have the same transformative effect when you walk into your workplace or home with a genuine smile. I recall reading someplace that it takes fewer facial muscles to smile than to frown, and I believe that. I also believe I’d rather have a face full of smile lines than frown lines. Little Charlie reminds me to smile more often.

Third, Offer help when someone needs you.

We became empty nesters as the last of our three daughters recently began her adult life away from home. No more PTA potluck dinners to volunteer for. No more proms dresses to buy. No more kids playing high school or college sports.

When Little Charlie comes to visit, suddenly the void fills and he becomes the singular focus of the household. Yes, even our family dog becomes more energetic! Little Charlie needs us to change him, feed him, and try to keep pace with him until he tires and is ready for a nap. We pay close attention to his progress and process, so we typically know to feed him when he’s hungry versus feeding him when he needs to be changed.

In our business settings, there are those who need us too. While they don’t need us to change them literally, we help ‘change’ them figuratively by adjusting their perspective to focus on the positive aspects of their daily experiences. I’m reminded of an example where I was moved to go a bit deeper and offer a direct solution to what turned out to be an immediate need.

One of our technicians seemed to be uncharacteristically quiet during one of our morning meetings. This was a guy who normally had a good word for everyone and was typically smiling. We finished our morning huddle and everyone left the office to begin his or her installation and repair routes. I visited this technician later that morning at one of his repair calls to determine if there was an issue I could help resolve, or if he just needed to talk. He reluctantly told me the electricity to his home would be disconnected unless he came up with the money by 5pm that very day. He had exhausted all his financial options, and didn’t want to bring it up to his co-workers. He was one of our best people, and a great teammate. I offered to help, and he promptly refused. He didn’t want a handout. After our long conversation, he realized that I considered my offer to be a loan, not a gift. He accepted my help, and we are still friends to this day. I’m not sure what prompted me to make such an offer, other than I realized someone I cared for really needed help, and I was in a position to provide it. In my opinion, this was a human need in a business setting. Little Charlie doesn’t always know how to ask for help, and the same holds true for those in business settings. Let’s keep our eyes open for opportunities to offer help and mentor those we care for, when they perhaps need us most.

I always enjoy my Grandson’s visits. I’m continually amazed at what he’s learned since our last visit, and I look forward to the next lessons Little Charlie will teach me. Who knows – perhaps he’ll grow up to be an educator like his Grandpa.

Which business fundamentals have your kids and grandkids reminded you of lately?