Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash
As I put my little girls (ages 7 and 9) to bed, during that focused time alone and without the distractions of screens, I have had a habit of asking them each questions about their days.
What was the best thing that happened today? Were you sad at all today? What happened? What did you do that was fun or made you proud?
These have been some of my favorite bonding experiences with them over the past couple of years, and I cherish these brief conversations.
Every night after we talk for a few minutes, I tell them that they can ask me two questions - whatever they want. If I’m really tired it might be just one, but we always “do questions”. It is amazing the things that they come up with.
They usually ask about how something in their world was created - like “Where does rain come from?”, or “How were light bulbs invented?” Occasionally, they will ask something about themselves, like “How did you and mommy pick my name?”, or “Why do you have blue eyes and I have brown?”
I do my best to answer these questions in a way they can understand, and it has led to me refreshing my own knowledge of science and history.
A few nights ago, my older daughter asked me, “Daddy, what is your job?”
That would have been an easier answer in the past as I spent almost 25 years as a strategic HR leader inside companies. Now, I have been independent for about 4 years, consulting, advising, mentoring, writing, and public speaking.
While I do a lot of related things, those things are not easy for a 9-year-old to understand. After stumbling through an unsatisfying answer for my daughter, I thought that there might be some value in trying to clearly (and simply) state what it is that I do. Following is my best - or at least my most recent - attempt.
I help companies meet their goals - through how they manage people.
“Does that mean you tell people what to do?”
I suppose to, but I just make suggestions. They get to decide.
“So are you the boss?”
Nope. Just of myself. Although I want to make the people happy that I give advice to.
“What do you tell them to do?”
Usually I tell them to make sure everyone on their team knows what to work on, and who is supposed to do what things.
“That sounds easy!”
It does, huh? You’d be surprised how hard it is when you get a lot of people working together, who are in different places, working on different things.
“What else do you tell them to do?”
They usually call me because they have hired a lot of people or a few new leaders and things are changing. I’ll help them figure out how to make decisions differently, how to communicate to a bigger group of people, and how to let people know how they are doing.
“How do you decide what they should do?”
Usually I read all the instructions that they give people, talk to a bunch of people at the company, and maybe send out a survey. Then, I think about what might be missing or what might not be working well.
“But, how do you know what to do, and they don’t?”
Well, they usually know that something isn’t working as well as it could, which is why they call me. I went to school to learn how to do this. I did it for a long time inside different companies. And, I even wrote a book and teach classes to help other people learn how to do it. I guess I have seen a lot more companies do a lot more things than most people have. So, they trust me to help them decide what to do and how to do it.
It is! It feels really good to help people. It’s hard sometimes if they don’t do what I suggest, but I usually check in with them and try to help them get it done.
“Do you make a lot of money?”
Ha! It’s pretty good, and it helps me pay for our house and your toys. I used to make more when I worked inside a company instead of giving advice to a lot of different ones.
“So why do you do this now?”
I really enjoy what I’m doing and I feel good helping people. It also lets me spend more time with you and your sister.
“I like that.”
Me too. Now, it’s time for bed. Let’s sing Twinkle Twinkle. 🌟
Robin, myself, and Samantha on top of Mount Diablo in 2022