Growing up, our parents teach us a lot. Lessons that we learned before we began school, or that were reinforced in school; lessons that we had to re-learn on our own as we grew up; and most importantly, lessons that we still live by every day.
Let me share with you five business lessons from five-year-old me, that I use every day:
- Shut up and listen. Ah, a favorite of parents everywhere. I was a particularly high-energy (some might even say ADD) child. My parents always had to tell me that I had two ears and one mouth for a reason: to do twice as much listening as I did talking. It’s easy to make assumptions and prescribe solutions before you diagnose the problem, but it’s so important in business to understand someone else’s perspective before you can help them – so zip your lip and listen up.
- You gotta break things to understand how they work. As a kid, I wanted to know how everything worked. I often broke things to understand what’s inside and how it worked before eventually putting them back together. In business, I still like to break things down to understand the inner workings – the issues, challenges and desires that are really driving the decision. Once I probe deeper to understand and break it down to those real issues (not the surface level “problem”), I can put it all back together with a perfect solution.
- Don’t talk to strangers. I have always been someone who tries to help or offer assistance to anyone who needs it. In my professional life, I tried to apply this same approach but realized it’s not feasible to talk to every person who submits a resume or sends an email. I never want to tell someone I can’t or won’t help them, but I must choose the meetings that generate revenue for my company (or I’ll be looking for a new job myself). So, while I don’t respond to everyone with “let’s talk,” I try to connect on social media with everyone I interact with so we “know” each other going forward. This way we have a channel to communicate and maybe we’ll find the right opportunity down the road.
- Eat your vegetables. No child wanted to eat vegetables because they looked weird and tasted worse. Your parents made you eat them because they want you to be healthy and get all the nutritional benefits. Sometimes the things you enjoy the least in your job are the ones that have the greatest impact on your professional health. Whether it’s that scary call you are avoiding or emails you haven’t responded to, you just have to grit your teeth and get through it.
- Get outside and play. As a child of the 80’s, I grew up through a major evolution of computers and technology. I would space out and get completely absorbed into video games and TV shows until my eyes glazed over. My parents forced me to cut the cord and go outside so I didn’t go completely brain dead to the world. With all the technology and resources today, it’s very easy to send messages through email, LinkedIn, job boards, etc. You can be busy all day and feel like you’ve contacted many people while in reality you have no tangible results. Texting is great for asking quick questions, but it has it’s limitations. Calling someone and having a real conversation is still the best way to drive a process forward. Don’t fall back and rely on the ease of technology. When you need results, go old school and pick up the phone.
When it comes to business, don’t be afraid to implement the same golden rules you learned as a child. They had to have some merit to them to be pounded into your brain! What lessons have you used in business that would make 5-year-old-you proud?