Sundays are a perfect time to reflect on the past and what has made us what we are. There are lessons in everything we have done and experienced and all that is needed is for us to pull them out and make use of them.
For their entire adult lives, my grandparents ran an office supply department store in the downtown of an old German Wisconsin town. They had inherited the business from my grandmother’s parents and expanded it. They added first a gift area, then a Hallmark shop, and finally a year-round Christmas shop. Both of them worked everyday, and while they did have staff to help them, they handled most of the business themselves. Grandpa was the first one in and the last one to leave everyday. If the bathroom needed tidying, he was there. Snow in the parking lot? Grandpa shoveled it. A purchase needed delivering? Grandpa took care of it. He was the epitome of hard work, dedication, and leadership. He never asked anyone to do anything he was not willing to do himself.
When I would visit my grandparents, which happened regularly throughout my life, they would immediately put me to work. One of my favorite tasks was restocking the greeting card shelves. I would straighten the cards, reorganize them according to theme, match the envelopes up with the correct cards, and fill any open spaces. I took great pride in making sure the display looked as attractive as possible. I kept lists of cards that were out of stock and reported these back to my grandmother. I took pleasure in noticing what kind of cards were selling and which were not.
At the end of each day, my grandparents would talk to me about what I had worked on that day. They would look over the shelves of cards to see how I had done and would comment on what looked nice, what had improved, what still might need work. They would solicit my input as we went along, and would talk to me as if I were just another associate working for them – not a little 10 year-old girl. My grandmother would often say, “She does better work than any adult we have ever hired.” And while yes, I was her granddaughter, she would cite examples of what she meant, helping me to understand that she meant what she said.
I learned so many lessons from my grandparents – most especially my grandfather – that I could go on for days and days on the subject. For now, let me pull out the following:
Lesson 1: Hard work breeds success, and setting this example for your associates and children breeds this behavior in them. I have never asked an employee to do something I was not willing to do myself.
Lesson 2: Honest and timely feedback is critical, and the more specific the feedback, the more impact it will have. The focus of the feedback must be on the behaviors and results, not the personal qualities of the individual. Treat every person with respect while giving this feedback – everyone has something to contribute, and it is up to us as leaders to help them figure out what that is.
Happy Sunday, and have a great week!