New Shoes, Love Languages, and Leadership

Favorite daughter, Megan, is now in the transitional season of life at the merger of college graduation, career and graduate school possibilities, and relational considerations.  Like many parents at this intersection my wife and I are carefully introducing her to the realities of financial responsibilities:   car and auto insurance payments, rent and utilities, medical insurance.  The four year period of our scraping together resources, seeking scholarship aid, and requiring her to absorb many of her own personal expenses has been challenging, albeit gratifying for all of us.

As I too enter a period of change, having left the relative security of full-time employment to relocate to Florida and take a try at this thing called life coaching, financial stability and assurance now has less certainty.  We have sensitized her to this reality, no doubt presenting an awakening into the world of adult economic challenge.

Each of us demonstrate love to our family members especially in a number of verbal, non-verbal, and token gesture ways.  For Megan it often seems to have been in the provision of athletic shoes.  Regardless of the activity dad has always been there to buy footwear for indoor and outdoor soccer, basketball, softball, and general exercise.

A couple of days ago a text came asking once again for my assistance.  My response was something to the effect of "reduced levels of income, pocket change scarce, unanticipated expenses, etc. etc."  End of story...

...Or so I thought.  Something inside me prompted a reexamination of the initial answer, a burning in the soul that scolded my rigidity over a pair of shoes.  More importantly I realized that I had violated the unwritten, unspoken tenet of the love language agreement between my daughter and me.  Reconsideration of my first instinct was not a difficult decision and Megan is likely more happily than I know in the process of charging up new sneakers on my MasterCard.

Are not we all so eager to exert our righteousness and power in our family, personal, and professional lives that we lose sight of the importance of effectiveness?  Maybe even more importantly the occasional show of humility that results when we rethink is what really earns esteem in the eyes of others.

Knowing love language.  In my career as a Human Resources Executive I had an employee who actually disdained praise.  Complimenting her over an achievement seemed to cause discomfort and anxiety.  By contrast, though, when you engaged in a conversation about new and progressive music and the stories behind and about those artists, there was connection, enthusiasm, and positive stimulus.

Regardless of whether we are in positions of organizational leadership or part of a work crew, self-employed, or in pursuit of career opportunities, we would do well to seek out and learn the love languages of those we wish to influence.  How?  First, it doesn't matter if they are a boss, colleague, or subordinate, but start by asking them simple open ended questions.  How did you learn to do that?  Who taught you or had influence?  How long did it take you to achieve mastery?  Second, seek a common ground.  I've heard of her; didn't she...?  Is that the same so and so who...?  Third, ask them to help you.  Would you show me how to do that?  When could we get started?  Remember that one of the greatest compliments you can pay someone else is to not only show interest in them, but to ask them to help you.  The bonus is you've not only learned something practical from them, but have picked up their love language as well.

So favorite daughter, congratulations on your life's achievements so far and Godspeed on your choices at the crossroads now and in the future.  And enjoy that new pair of shoes.

The Seed Sower

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