As I work with leaders and employees, a recurring theme seems to be resonating through the workplace. To illustrate, please allow me to share three conversations I experienced recently.
Conversation #1 - with my son Jack.
If you follow my blog regularly, you know that my youngest son Jack broke ranks this fall by enrolling at Auburn University. You also know the pedigree of my family.
Fast forward to November 25, 2017. The Iron Bowl. And, oh yeah, Christy's birthday.
Auburn 26 Alabama 14.
Want a test to see if you are a good parent? Try having a civil conversation with one of the people you love the most in this world who has crossed enemy lines. And the enemy won. On your birthday.
We opted not to call Jack after the game that Saturday evening, justifying our silence because "we were sure he was having fun and we didn't want to throw a wet blanket on his day."
Translation: We weren't ready to eat crow, nor were we ready to say War Eagle.
But we have a set schedule to call Jack every Sunday afternoon.
So, the next day, Christy suggested that I call him. By myself. In a different room. Preferably outside.
I'm not gonna lie. The conversation was a little more difficult than I anticipated. Guilt must have overwhelmed Christy because about 5 minutes after I dialed, she wandered outside and joined the conversation.
After some awkward comments about Alabama's lack of third down efficiency and Auburn's decidedly home field advantage, a curious thing happened.
We quit talking football and shifted the topic to Jack's summer plans. He told us of his desire to be a camp counselor in Texas. Of his need to give back and help high schoolers navigate life decisions. Of his longing to live out his values through his life choices.
Dadgummit. War Eagle.
Conversation #2 - with a friend of many years.
Being a self-employed leadership consultant means that a lot of people want to meet and talk over coffee. As of this writing, my personal record is four back to back to back meetings in one morning. I still remember that day because I was so jacked up on caffeine I came home and:
(1) Organized the clothes in Christy's closet by color--R.O.Y.G.B.I.V.
(2) Completed our taxes--for the next three years.
(3) Changed all the batteries in our home smoke detectors . . . and all of our neighbors.
(4) Had that suspicious mole checked.
(5) Updated our wills.
Recently, I had one of those coffee meetings, but just to catch up with a friend.
On paper, the potential topics of our conversation would seem limited. We diverge on many of the hot button issues of today--politics, religion, whether David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar was the better front man for Van Halen. . .
Both of us do wonder why Jack went to Auburn, so there is that.
As you might expect, our conversation was lively.
We delved deep into the chasm that divides our nation.
The following words peppered our discussion:
-Jesus, gay, diversity, Southern Baptist, Muslim, Obama, his birth certificate, taxes, wealth inequality, values, Doug Jones, Roy Moore, marriage, divorce, fake news, Trump and Twitter, #bothagreedheneedstostop, the Holidays or Merry Christmas, the environment, and I think one of us threw out solar energy before we were done.
Then, a curious thing happened.
No, we didn't throw hot coffee on each other. Neither did we attach labels or stereotypes. Nor did we attempt to evangelize each other.
We simply enjoyed our friendship.
Conversation #3 - with Matt McGee.
Matt visited Fairhope this week and, you guessed it, we met and talked over coffee.
Matt recently completed The View from the Rocking Chair, a book that asks the simple question:
When you get to the end of your life, what will you care about the most?
Matt's passion is to help families answer this question correctly. Yet each year many parents who attend his retreats struggle with how to make this happen when they "return to civilization."
The first time I attended one of his retreats I had just started my consulting business. Like many of you, I was running the rat race at full speed. I was chest deep floating downstream in rapids.
Then, a curious thing happened.
Matt and Chantal extended a hand as I floated by. As I grasped their hands, Matt's question clearly came into view: what do I care about most?
I suddenly felt it. The force of the water. The pull of the current was separating me from what I cared about most: the relationships in my life.
To get back to shore, I had to resist that pull. I had to swim upstream, go against the grain.
It meant I had to swallow my pride when I talked to Jack.
It meant I had to suspend judgment when talking to my friend.
For leaders, it means you have to realize this simple formula. If you polled every employee with Matt's simple question, "When you get to the end of your life, what will matter the most" I guarantee they will answer with one word: relationships.
So what are you doing to make this happen?
Some of you might question the validity of this in the workplace. You might challenge this approach as too touchy-feely. I get it. But to dismiss this as something without merit is foolish.
Research is now showing that:
Soft values drive hard results.
Still don't believe me? Let's have a cup of coffee and discuss.
Call To Action
Want to see the evidence? Download my free checklist here on what exactly employees value. Make it happen and watch the change in your organization.