Business Lessons From The Dinner Table, Part 5

Lesson #7: Save your fork.

When mom would announce toward the end of dinner to “save your fork,” you knew it was going to be a good night, because that meant dessert. You could almost feel the uptick in everybody’s energy and mood knowing the best was yet to come!

Over the years, I’ve found that when I thank people for their efforts or for the impact they’ve had on my career, when I express an interest in the things that interest them, or when I share and don’t waste, I’m much happier in my work and they seem more engaged in theirs. It reminds me of the sweetness at the end of a meal. Something worth saving your fork for.

While I might not be of the same generation as the workers in my company, I usually find their energy, fresh ideas, and different perspectives on topics refreshing. The diverse backgrounds and personal stories each person brings to an organization plays an important role in helping the company stay competitive.

I may no longer understand the language some generations use, or get their sense of humor, but there’s no doubt in my mind that, fundamentally, we all share a common set of human needs. Helping to meet those needs brings a sweetness to the work we do.


Recently, I facilitated a panel discussion between older, experienced business owners and much younger owners just getting started and moving into leadership roles.

The discussion centered on the lessons the older owners had learned growing their businesses; ones they could pass along to the younger owners. Conversely, those younger owners were looking for insights they could employ as they took the helm. I found their conversations insightful.

None of the panelists talked about how to better understand financial statements, or which KPIs to pay attention to in order to maximize the bottom line. They didn’t talk about the latest technology or job management software to capture and analyze data. They acknowledged that, while these were important, they weren’t the most important.

Instead, they talked about the people in their organizations and how the greatest rewards came from watching them grow as professionals. They talked about how important it was to have shared values and the critical role those values play in driving a healthy culture that attracts and keeps the best workers—those you not only enjoy working with, but that you enjoy being with.

As I listened, it was impossible to overlook the similarities in what both generations appreciated and the importance both placed on fundamental human values. There was no mention of Quality Circles, Searching for Excellence, or any other management theory du jour. Instead, they talked about being open and honest with each other; showing a genuine interest in and concern for the other people in their companies.

Not everyone agreed all the time, and no one was singing Kumbaya. But, the more they talked, the more it sounded remarkably like sitting around the dinner table.

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