A consultant was teaching one day a leadership course for a large healthcare company at the Oakland Convention Center. There were about thousand managers and union leaders in the room. One woman sitting near the front, was given a microphone and she got up to speak to the consultant and to the entire room. It takes a lot of courage to speak in front of the thousand leaders – including top executives, so the consultant was curious to hear what she was about to say.
” I have read many of the things that you have written and have been to your courses a couple of times before,” she said to the consultant. “There is one thing that you have always left out in your teaching that I believe you should add.” The consultant leaned forward with interest to learn what he had been leaving out for all these years.
The lady continued. “You always talk about the value of asking direct questions like – ‘How can I be a better manager?’ ”
Or asking co-workers, ‘How can I be a better team player?’
Or asking customers, ‘How can I be a better supplier?’
And even asking partners or children, ‘How can I be a better partner or better parent?’
However, the one thing that you have always left out that you should start teaching everyone is for the children to ask to their parents, ‘How can I be a better daughter or a better son?’
She went on with her personal story.
“After my last course with you, as you had suggested I asked my daughter, ‘What can I do to be a better mother?’ We had a wonderful discussion. Then I thought, why not call my mother? I called and asked her, ‘What can I do to be a better daughter?’
My mom said, “Now that your dad is dead, I live all alone. Everyday I walk up that long drive to go to the mailbox. Almost everyday there is nothing in it. This makes me feel very lonely. It would mean so much to me if you were to send me some cards, or pictures, or notes.’
After our talk, I started sending cards, pictures, and notes to my mother so when she walked to the mailbox there would be something there. What did that cost me? *Nothing*. What did that mean to my mother? *Everything.*
She addressed the consultant, ‘Please teach the people you meet to ask their parents, ‘What can I do to be a better daughter or son?’ ‘
Since that day the consultant has included her story in almost every class that he has conducted for the past year.
Three good reasons for asking this question:
1) It is good for the children. Even if the parents say, “There is nothing you can do to be a better son or daughter.” – The parents would be happy that their children cared enough to ask.
2) It is good for the children. The number one regret that children have when their parents pass away: “Why didn’t I/we let them know how much I/we appreciated all that the parents did for them?”
3) It is good for the children. If the children have their own children, then they would notice this approach and – conversation their parents are having with their grandparents, and so they would probably try and follow the same.