Character Creates Opportunity® – The Call Home: Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My comments last week were around the opportunity we have to show people that they “matter” by just being a better listener and giving someone our full and undivided attention.  When we focus on listening to others we send the signal that they matter and we meet them at a clear point of need.  I received a few emails and phone calls about last week’s post and I wanted to follow-up with some additional information.

As we enter the holiday season and most likely visiting with family, I thought it would be helpful to share another opportunity to build and strengthen our character by providing support and encouragement to those closest to us during these upcoming holiday gatherings.

In preparation for a meeting with a potential client, I was reviewing information about some specific actions organizations can take to sustain a high level of engagement and motivation among its workforce.  The information reinforced some learnings I had from leading teams over the years.  However, the real insight was not in reminding me of actions to take to maintain employee engagement, the real insight was in what employees do in response to the programs.

Throughout my career, we instituted a variety of reward and recognition programs to keep teams engaged and motivated to deliver results.  Many of the programs involved some perks like company-wide recognition ceremonies, cash bonuses, trips to warm destinations, gifts of various kinds, etc.  After receiving the awards, I was always surprised to find the one common thread through almost all employees who received some type of special recognition.  Many called to tell a spouse or close friend about the award which amounted to something like a “high-five” moment of celebration.  However, the common response that just about everyone had, regardless of whether they were 25 or 45, was that they all “called home” to tell their mother or father about the award.  These calls amounted to much more than a “high-five” moment of celebration and the reason behind the call goes much deeper.

In my research on human behavior and my experience with numerous award winners, there has always been a consistent theme that individuals desire to turn to those who gave them the “gift of a good start”1 and tell them that it paid off and they “turned out ok.”  Many times, awards are the catalyst for an individual to make that call and meet that need.  This need to show the person who gave us our start does not end with the 5 year old who gets a gold star on his drawing and proudly displays it to mom and dad.  There is a strong desire for adults, both young and old, to reconnect with parents who were their original source of character and in some way describe that they “turned out ok.”  However, the truth is that without some specific reason or proactive step, most remain silent and the need goes unfulfilled.

With this finding so clear in our human psychology, I would recommend that this holiday season, amidst all the food, shopping, and football, that we, as parents of grown children or young adults, exercise some empathy, not wait for some special occasion, and proactively tell them that they “turned out ok” and they are demonstrating the “right stuff” to make it in this world.  The reality is that they probably need to hear it as our world is short on encouraging comments and they may never build up the courage to bring it to our attention.  Even if they are falling short in a few areas (as we all do), find some positives and tell them.  We all feel better when we hear something like that from a loved one.

Our Character Creates Opportunity® to build and strengthen relationships through our decision to empathize with others and take action to meet their needs.

Do you have a comment about “calling home?”  If you would like to leave a comment, please do so below.

1 – “gift of a good start.”  General Colin Powell. TED Talk, January 2013.