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The Storytellers Channel
They Need Us
I was fortunate to work for my dad when I was a boy. He was a masonry contractor and he employed his brother, brother-in-law, cousins, nephews and folks he’d knew from, childhood, church and the community. My dad modeled leadership in everything he did. Reflecting back, I’m stunned at how long it took me to realize what he was doing. In my twenties and thirties, I just wanted people to do what I dictated.
I don’t ever remember Daddy belittling people. He would bring “misbehavior” to the attention of the crew and explain the behavior he expected, but I assume he handled the individual feedback with his other employees as he did with me, in private.
There were a few things he was intolerant of, one of which was any behavior that communicated disrespect for the customer. A lot of our work was residential. We’d be putting on a porch, building an addition or paving a sidewalk and someone on the crew would throw trash around or trample the flowers or exhibit a lack of care for the customer’s property. At which point Daddy would gather us all around a bucket of water.
He would say, “watch this.”
Then he’d stick his finger in the water and then quickly pull it out.
“You see how long that hole lasted? That’s how long they can’t get along without us. We need them, more than they need us.”
Then he would explain what behavior he did not want to see again.
Sometimes going as far as describing the behavior he wanted to see.
Over time, he’d only have to catch your eye and make the motion of sticking his finger in the water and you knew to stop whatever you were doing and straighten up and fly right.
Occasionally, after watching behavior I consider disrespectful, I have caught myself unconsciously assuming the “finger in the bucket” position.
If anyone ever notices, they probably think, ‘That poor old man.’
I’ve been in business in one form or another since I was 10 years old. I’ve been self-employed, an employee, and a contractor. But even when I’m negotiating from a position of power in the back of my mind I still hear, ‘We need them, more than they need us.’
I Want to Hear from You
I need you to share stories of formative events in your life.
I’d love to hear your stories.
Til next time,