A few weeks ago, I had the honor of speaking to a group of printers. As you can imagine, this is not a particularly booming industry right now with the entire world focused on being green, and communicating in ways that don’t require paper. (Just so you know, printer’s ink runs in my blood. My grandfather was an “itinerant” printer [I don’t know exactly what that means either other than that he went where he could find work] until he could afford to start his own printing company in 1918. My daddy bought the business from my grandfather, my brother took over my dad’s business and my nephews now work for my brother. But ink can run even in a woman’s veins…) So this particular meeting was especially important to me (yes, they all are and this one was well, different). I admit I spent even more time than usual researching, asking questions, thinking and learning about what I could bring to this group that would motivate them to transform their business models to succeed and flourish…
I focused on communication skills and how using effective interpersonal skills can help you (and help you help those you manage and lead) successfully deal with change (because goodness knows, printers need to change from ink on paper to providing their customers with an entire package of promotional materials, including web-based [non print!] campaigns.) My keynote talked a lot about helping others feel safe and smart. And the industry professionals who spoke truly provided hope and direction to those who attended.
In no way, however, was I prepared to receive this email, after the conference, from Matt Feldman, brand owner of Xtreme Coated Cover? in NJ. He wrote:
” To my new friends,
It’s been a long and tough year for all of us. Many of us have had to face challenges that we never dreamed we would face. I know as 2009 rapidly comes to a close I can say that I am thankful for a great many things. First and foremost I am grateful to my friends and family who have stuck by me. Next I am thankful for meeting you. In meeting you, I have had the opportunity to learn something new or validate something I have learned in the past.
I have learned how to listen better to others during this past year. Previously, I was the type of guy who liked to hear myself talk. Truth be told, I am still a work-in-process on that point, but my 7th grade math teacher would always say to me, “Mr. Feldman, God gave you two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion.” I think this year it might finally have sunk in!
I want to leave you with a quick story. Last night I received a phone call from my wife and she was very upset with my two oldest kids. She explained to me that the kids had given our babysitter a very hard time while we were at work. When I arrived home, I asked my son to join me in his room for a “chat”. While walking upstairs I looked into my son’s eyes and I saw the fear mounting as we climbed each step. He knows that I am a big believer in respect and he knew he was “in for it”. Keeping myself poised and in control of my emotions was tough at the moment, but I knew that I needed to impart a valuable lesson to my kids. I said to Noah, “Please tell me everything that happened today with you and the babysitter, and don’t leave anything out intentionally because I will check up on you.” As he started telling me his story in detail I realized how thankful I was to be in that moment. My child, who could have broken down in tears for fear of being punished or could have lied to me to try to avoid punishment, looked me in the eye and gave me the whole truth. Once he was finished I asked him one simple question, “What could you have done better?” He replied, “Treated Norma with respect.” Once I heard him say those words I knew he understood the lesson.”
“What could you have done better?”
What will you do better?
Thank you for the lesson, Matt.