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Business Lessons From The Dinner Table, Part II

By Chuck Violand

July 1, 2019

Lesson #1: Show gratitude.

Lots of people start family meals by giving thanks for the food they’re about to enjoy. Some refer to it as saying grace, others as giving thanks. Some just bow their heads in silence. Regardless, the important thing is that we express gratitude for the things we have, that we never take them for granted, and that we don’t take more credit for having them than we should. Growing up, the practice of saying grace was as much a part of dinner time as setting the table.

When we’ve been successful in business, it’s easy to take more credit for it than we should and to think we had more to do with it than we actually did. It’s the self-made-man syndrome. And most of us aren’t that good. We discount the role that luck, or a chance encounter, might have played in our success. Maybe we found a product we were good at producing, or had weak competitors, or an abundance of customers. The markets or the economy were in our favor. Or others believed in us and helped clear our path.

It’s important to never lose sight of the outside influences that led to our success. People who had our backs, even when we didn’t know they were there. Those who sacrificed so we could succeed. Our customers; our employees; our suppliers.

Sometimes we don’t say thank you because we’re afraid it’s not enough; that we’ll owe them something more. Rest assured that saying thank you is always a great starting point, even if more is called for.

Showing gratitude toward others is a great way to check our egos and to keep us grounded. Say thank you often. Say it publicly. Say it with sincerity.

Lesson #2: Know what you stand for.

Most parents don’t use dinner time to give presentations on the family mission and core values. At least not in so many words. But make no mistake—that’s exactly what’s being taught through casual conversations over hundreds of family dinners.

While our parents might not have used words like “values” and “purpose,” it was through casual, dinner time conversations that we learned the kinds of behaviors that were expected of us and the difference between right and wrong.

We miss the opportunity to do the same with people at work if we don’t meet on a regular basis—both formally and informally. Employees watch what we do as leaders more than what we say. They follow our example, just like kids do with their parents.

Listen to your people. Hear their stories. Learn what’s important to them. Learn what moves them and what inspires them.

Hanging a fancy mission statement in the lobby or featuring it on the company website where everyone can see it, but not having a clue what it says or not acting in a manner consistent with it, sends entirely the wrong message to our people and leads to cynicism among them.
Don’t just tell your people what you stand for, show them with your actions. Believe me—they’re watching.