My three-year-old son asks me if I am happy. He’s waiting for an answer and I look down at him and smile while I tuck him into bed. I nod and ask him if he’s happy. My smile is reflected back at me. He seems to pick up so much of what I’m feeling. He has a way of saying the words I feel, but that the years have pushed down inside me. I must make sure I use the words inside me more often.
Words convey ideas, thoughts, and knowledge, but over the years, social convention has made it almost impossible for people to say what they think. Times are changing, a new language is forming – e-talk – and it ignores convention. The web is influencing the way people communicate, opening doors which were once closed, and even influencing the dialogue that still needs to occur face to face.
I sit down with the president of a major telecommunications company. He faces me with his arms folded tightly across his chest. I notice his defensive position and wonder what I did wrong. Was it something in the way I said hello? As I tell him about the strategy organization we have formed, designed to connect presidents and CEOs in open communication to build more productive companies, his face tightens. He’s not interested in meeting the CEOs or presidents who have joined us. He tells me he is far too busy and doesn’t think time with them would be valuable. I get a strong urge to give his head a shake. To think that industry leaders in Canada are not worth connecting with ignores the fact that they are some of his biggest customers. No wonder his company is losing so much market share.
I point out to him how badly the meeting is going for me, but my smile is met with a blank stare. I think of my son’s question to me the night before, and I ask this president if he is happy. He asks if I have anything more to discuss. I close my binder and get up to leave, regretting the time wasted. The attitude of this leader is reflected in the company he runs. I make a mental note to cancel all our services and investments with his company. But at the same time, I feel as if I have failed to connect with someone who needs this organization we’ve formed more than any of our other members do.
I think of the successful business leaders I know, like Ben McNally, who runs Ben McNally Books in downtown Torontowww.benmcnallybooks.comHe knows what it takes to run one of the best bookstores in the country. He knows his books, he knows his customers, and he knows how to give them what they will enjoy reading. Then there is Aaron Bick, who runswww.wineonline.ca He is perhaps one of the smartest wine importers in the country. When you combine this with his understanding of his customers’ tastes and preferences, it is easy to see why his company is such a success. There is Doug Wilson, president of Sony Canada,www.sonystyle.ca, who believes understanding his customer is just as important as delivering quality products. What makes these business leaders successful is their desire to learn as much as they can about their industries, to be open to ideas, and to truly care for their customers and the people they meet every day.
I’ve always believed that the most successful people in life are those who enjoy meeting others, who are open, friendly, and driven to understand the world around them. This describes my son perfectly. Perhaps the most important thing that I can do as a mother is make sure that he never holds back the inquisitive, open, and friendly little man that he is inside.
Sarah Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org