This past weekend was a busy one. My wife and I had lots of family in town and staying with us. Among them were six grandchildren—none of them over four feet tall.
In my infinite grandfather wisdom I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce my six-year-old granddaughter (the grand dame of her siblings and cousins) to the reason for her holiday visit: Independence Day! The birthday of the United States.
Knowing that I wouldn’t have her attention for long, I had to choose a time when we wouldn’t be distracted by the cacophony and hyperactivity of the other five children, so I decided on bedtime. More specifically, that magic interlude when just the two of us would read a book of her choice right before she jumped into bed. Perfect! Grandpa gets to share his passion for history by relating one of his favorite stories—the founding of the United States, complete with tea bags for throwing out of our chair, and a scroll of paper that served as a replica of the Declaration of Independence.
“How about if tonight, rather than reading a book, grandpa tells you a story?” I asked her. “A story about what?” she responded. “The birthday of the United States. The reason you’re visiting grandma and grandpa’s. The reason for the fireworks and all the celebrations,” I replied.
“Okaay,” she said with a hint of hesitation, letting me know I wouldn’t have much time. No details about significant battles, poor communication between nations, or political infighting. Just the high points. So in the next three minutes, I raced through the three-year span between the Boston Tea Party and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
When done, I couldn’t help but congratulate myself. I was on my game and very impressed with my command of the events and my ability to relate them to a six-year-old.
Instantly I thought about all the opportunities I’ve had to convey lessons in running a business to owners and senior managers who were eager to learn. Some of those lessons were pretty basic, but for new business owners (even owners with advanced degrees) they were critical to their success and needed to be learned. Others were more complex, needing more-detailed explanations and more time for my ‘students’ to grasp.
It’s the same responsibility every CEO of every company has—developing the people within the company. That’s one of the things that facilitates the growth of every successful business. While every CEO may not be inclined or equipped to be the teacher, it is their responsibility to make sure their people are instructed in the lessons they need to learn at that stage of their development. Just like me teaching my granddaughter.
I tied a bow on my lesson of the nation’s founding with “… and that’s the story of the birthday of the United States. And that’s one of the reasons you’re visiting grandma and grandpa’s house this weekend.”
Looking into her eyes I could see she was processing. “Grandpa,” she finally said. “That was a lot of words. Can we read my book now?”
With that one simple question it was obvious that grandpa still has lessons of his own to learn and my granddaughter wasn’t the only student in the room.