Last week, I heralded the wisdom and brilliance of my father. While I still hold that my father eats lightning and discharges marble, he was never alone. Those who know me well, understand that there is absolutely no way that one person alone could have parented me. It took a village... and a belt... and many hours of detention. Most importantly, it took my mother, Saint Barbara. While teachers, parents, and coaches had all kinds of psychological buzz words to describe my hyper-intensive craziness, mom insisted that I was just "busy." God bless her.
Fortunately for me, God did bless her with patience, vision, dignity, and incredible no-nonsense intuition. Every Saturday morning, I call mom and get some of the best business and personal coaching/mentoring I have ever received. My mom rose from being a modest part-time nurse to an Executive Director at one of Virginia's largest healthcare providers as well as one of the leading geriatric memory-care experts. To get business council from mom has been a journey in grace, encouragement, and witnessing a real-life BS detector. So similar to last week's blog, here are some bite-sized business lessons mom has tried to instill in me over the years.
1. Do what's on your name tag.
The modern workplace can be an incredibly distracting place. Email, voicemail, snail-mail, female/male, fantasy football, meetings about reports, reports about meetings, break rooms, meetings that are so purposeless and lengthy that they ought to be on CSPAN, copier rebellion... did I mention meetings? Get the picture? Oh you're working alright, you just aren't doing what you are actually paid to do! Take some advice from mom and check your name tag. If you are in sales, then your job is to be asking qualified prospects to buy. If you are a customer service representative, then your job is to be serving customers. If you are a rocket scientist, then your job is to be inventing a flying car or a time machine. Everything else you are doing is artificial accomplishment. If your work were a meal, doing things at work that are not on your name tag would be the starch.
2. Know your knives and forks.
I know, I know, we are all casual now and we all "work so much more efficiently in sweat pants and flip flops while using the same fork for our salad, sushi, and desert" but we owe it to ourselves (and our mothers) to know our manners, etiquette, and how to dress for the occasion. If you are in the business world and you still don't own a decent suit, can't figure out what fork to use, and think your napkin makes a great Kleenex, you're hurting yourself. Sit up straight, put on a clean shirt, make eye contact, and, for goodness sake, pull up your pants.
3. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything.
Everyone is entitled to your opinion, right? Not necessarily. When your opinion carries the sensitivity and diplomacy of Oscar the Grouch being jet lagged with a nasty case of Tourette's, you may want to do yourself a favor and hush. Even if could teach a thing or two about couth, silence makes you look smart. As King Solomon said thousand of years ago, "when words are many, sin is not absent.". Or was it "who has time to talk when you are surrounded by thousands of nagging wives?". I forget. Regardless, he was a wise man.
4. Respect those older than you.
That does't mean treating those older than you as weaker subjects. It means coming to the realization that just turning old enough to drink doesn't equate to being brilliant. No matter how much you know, someone older and wiser has been there before. Some of the best insight as to what’s really important you will ever get will come from people who have walked the Earth longer than 60 years.
5. Wait until your father gets home.
I call this, "mission unity" Much is written about the subject of teamwork, but mom and dad made sure I knew that playing one parent off the other wouldn't work. When it came to running the house, mom and dad were one. At least it appeared that way to me and, since the odds were in their favor, resistance was futile. On the subject of dad getting home, my parents always made time when they got home from work for each other exclusive of kids for an hour. They sat together and talked. They called it “adult time” and 44 years later, they still have a great marriage.
Hey mom, thank you for modeling what it is to be a no-nonsense, graceful, and adventurous person. I love the song in your heart and can't wait for Saturday's next call.