To say my son Britton has a difficult time making decisions would be an understatement.
When the boys were little, Christy had the privilege of staying home and watching soap operas with them. I came home from work one day and overheard Sam having a conversation with Chewbacca and Han Solo. Apparently, Han was lecturing Chewy on how precious time is because he said, "Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives..."
I immediately went to the kitchen and encouraged Christy to leave the house more often.
Her solution? Regular afternoon visits to the Dollar Tree. There was never any doubt that Christy would end up in sales when the boys went to school because she sold the boys a bill of goods on how awesome the Dollar Tree was.
The routine never changed.
-By the time they pulled into the D-Tree (as we called it), Christy had the boys whipped up in a frenzy.
-So much so that Christy threatened bodily harm while they disembarked from the car. It took superior mom skills to restrain the boys and keep them safe. Being run over in the parking lot of Dollar Tree would be tragic on many levels.
-All three boys tugged on Christy's hands pulling her towards the store. Once they reached the curb, Sam always broke free from mom's grasp to hit the sliding doors at full sprint.
-Jack caught him by Aisle One and together they would dash through the store and return with their prize, ready for Christy to pay even before she secured a buggy.
-Instead, they were forced to wait on big brother Britton. He preferred to observe and evaluate his choices before making a decision.
To Jack and Sam, slowly meandering the aisles was agonizing. They were ready to rip into their package, but alas, they would have to delay self-gratification. They must have felt like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Breathtaking beauty, temptation at every turn, and someone bigger than them reminding them not to taste or touch.
The sheer quantity of toys, candy, and knick-knacks was overwhelming.
I don't know if you know this or not, but if you took the whole inventory of the store, it adds up to about $1,578. There were days that Christy wanted to write a check for the entire cache to just speed up Britton and get out of there.
However, being the good mom, she was patient. She held firm to her rule. If they had been good all day, everyone got one toy. Adults who never had kids might be tempted to call this bribery. Parents refer to it as collective accountability.
The last part of the routine was that Britton could NEVER decide on just one toy. He literally agonized over which one to put back on the shelf. The pain of regret was very real. So was his worry about making a mistake. Britton feared his decision would come back to haunt him--like this guy.
Fast forward 15 years. . .
When it came time to look for a job, Britton approached the experience with trepidation because--shockingly--he was a bit unsure of his direction. His cousin Brett actually found his job opportunity through her network in Birmingham. (Brett does not have an issue with caution.) She made contact through a friend of a friend, and within days, Britton was sitting in his first job interview.
When he returned to Fairhope, he was cautiously (of course!) optimistic. Sure, he voiced regret over "having to grow up" quicker than he wanted (pretty sure he wanted to think about options while relaxing at the beach this summer), but Christy and I noticed a bit of excitement when he spoke of the job.
Naturally, we peppered him with questions.
"Tell us about the company."
"Who did you meet?"
"What will you be doing?"
"How soon can you be on their payroll and off ours?"
The more we asked for details, the more Britton came back to his interaction with Will, the person that interviewed him . . . the gentleman that would soon become his boss.
Current statistics confirm that employees leave bad bosses rather than the company much of the time. But can they also be the reason for employees to come on board? If you asked my son Britton, he would say yes.
Will didn't paint a Pollyanna picture of the company, nor did he make promises to Britton. He didn't assure Britton that his salary would explode in a year, nor did he tell Britton he could have Christmas off.
In Britton's own words, Will "seemed to care about me as a person." That translated into a very noticeable change in Britton. Less caution. A willingness to explore the unknown instead of avoiding it. He took the job, left Fairhope in 6 days, and struck out on his own. Not bad for someone who experienced heart palpitations choosing between a Lego action figure and a Pez candy dispenser.
Leadership is a complex set of behaviors, but there is one that makes it on every researchers list: acting like you care about your employees. If it made Britton take the job, imagine what it will do once he gets there. Actually, we don't have to imagine. Studies tell us that employees who feel cared for are more productive, more innovative, and more engaged.
So Will, thank you for taking care of my boy! And if you aren't busy, could you help Britton decide on what apartment complex to live in because he's killing us. . .