When our second son Sam was about five, he watched my dad review his impressive coin collection. With white gloves and a hushed reverence, Sam’s granddaddy retrieved his stash from hidden places all throughout the house.
Sam watched with his mouth and eyes wide open as Granbuddy inspected year after year of coin books—each one designated for pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters—the whole U.S. currency. Every slot in every book occupied by the appropriate shiny coin.
Granbuddy’s collection included all fifty of the state quarters, plus Puerto Rico and Guam. (At our house, we found six cents under the cushions of our couch … plus a battery and a French fry.)
Sam sifted through a herd of Buffalo nickels.
He held his first half-dollar, which mysteriously made it to our house.
The result of this Saturday adventure with his grandfather?
Sam came home and immediately started “The Money Club.” Anyone was free to join, but membership wasn’t free. Sam leaned left in those days—he taxed the wealthy to pay for the poor. The rates for membership:
- Twenty-five cents for fellow preschoolers
- Five bucks for “regular” adults
- Twenty-five bucks for his grandfather. (Sam’s rationale: with all that money, he could afford.)
For an additional two bucks, you could be an officer of The Money Club. Sam, of course, was CEO and Chairman.
For the first time in his young life, Sam experienced the siren song of money up close and personal. And once he heard the music, he sang a new song.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
At five years old, Sam was still defining his principles. In his mind, the equation was simple:
- Granbuddy had coin (both literally and figuratively) and thus, could buy many things.
- Granbuddy lived a life of leisure. (He retired because he had so much money.)
- Granbuddy got the girl. Gran (my mom) waited on him hand and foot. (Sam did not see this same principle in his mother to his father.)
Money, therefore, was the answer to comfort, leisure, and the ladies. At age five, Sam had it all figured out.
But then a curious thing happened. Hurricane Katrina.
Sam saw trees down in the yards of people who had money and people who didn’t. He observed the rich and poor wielding chain saws working hard to clean our town. He saw families lending a hand to other families.
He watched as our neighborhood kids set up a lemonade stand amid the aftermath to send funds to the victims in New Orleans. He watched as people donated money without even drinking the lemonade. (How did they know Sam stirred it with his forearm?)
He was surprised when a local businessman matched our total and doubled the money going to New Orleans. I would love to tell you that Sam donated the proceeds of his Money Club to the effort, but I cannot confirm that.
What I can tell you is that Sam saw a competing principle against the love of money. Sam saw the love of people. When our focus is on others, good things happen.
For leaders, when we make employees the object of our attention, we develop an attractive work place culture. The ten questions below serve as a practical guide to help you do just that. How would your employees answer these questions?
- My employees clearly know what is expected of them at work.
- My employees can do their work well b/c they have equipment/materials they need.
- I make sure they utilize their strengths at work every day.
- I have given them praise or recognition in the last 7 days.
- My employees know I care about them as a person, not just as an employee.
- I encourage them to develop professionally.
- Our mission/purpose makes them feel that their job is important.
- I allow them to voice their opinions, so much so that they feel listened to.
- I talk to them frequently about their progress.
- I provide opportunities for them to learn and grow.
Adapted from Gallup’s Q12
Want more? Download my free ebook How to Inspire Your Employees: 4 Proven Strategies to Engage Your Workforce.