With Father’s Day just around the corner, I started thinking about my grandfather. How did he teach the men around him to be better fathers? What fathering legacy did he pass on to future generations?
I recently had a conversation with an Amish man who lost his grandfather. We got talking about what lessons he learned from his grandfather. I’ve always thought being a grandfather gives men the chance to be the father he wished he was for his own children. As my father often pointed out, you don’t get an instruction manual with your children.
So, what are some of the life lessons my friend learned from his grandfather? The first life lesson he learned is that age doesn’t slow down activity. His grandfather always approached life with enthusiasm. He would get up early and spent time with the people he worked with. He worked right alongside much younger men, maybe a little slower, but definitely a little smarter.
The second life lesson he learned was to get to know the people on his team. He asked each person about their lives and their families. He made sure he understood what issues might be motivating each person’s actions so that he could leverage their unique gifts and strengths every day.
The third life lesson he learned was to have a sense of humor. He shared learning stories to help others see the humor in any given situation. Since many times they would be working with customers who looked at the world differently than they did, he helped his team be more comfortable with the differences, while subtly reminding them of the larger similarities.
Finally, the last life lesson he learned from his grandfather was when to involve himself in the family business. More accurately, he knew when not too. Most Amish businesses are family businesses. It’s not unusual to have several generations working together for many years. The senior men in the family observe the other men and women to decide when they are ready to step from management to leadership in their families and businesses. His grandfather said it happens in that order. This allows for less disagreement among the family members. As my friend said, it’s like being on an extended job interview.
I asked my younger friend what was the most important lesson he learned from his grandfather. He told me it was how to be a father and family leader. As in many families, my friend struggled in his relationship with his father. But because of the larger age difference, he watched his grandfather to see how he dealt with his own children. In the case of his father, he saw that good working relationships are not always perfect, but with a foundation of love and respect, almost anything can be accomplished. I think that message is the one I’d share with you this Father’s Day weekend. Happy Father’s Day!