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Employee Engagement Course – Free

Years ago I started learning about and practicing the art of Employee Engagement. I believe that if you are a business owner or a leader of any kind, engaging your people is the most important thing you should be thinking about in your work. Here’s why. Engaged people stay! Engaged people attract other people like themselves! Engaged people are the ones who give their discretionary time, talent, and energy to making work better.

But, engaged people don’t just happen. You can’t hire someone for their engagement. Engaged people become engaged because someone engaged them. That someone is their leader. That someone is you. But how do you do that? That’s what I’m going to share with you over the next six weeks.

I put together a training program that I’ve called different things over the years. At one time I called it “Best.Boss.Ever. – How to be the Best Boss Your People Will Ever Have.” Lately, I’ve just called it Engager Dynamics. Each of six lessons covers two specific skills. One of those skills teaches you how to challenge your people to become and achieve more than they ever thought possible. The other one teaches you how to connect with your people on a level beyond just the employer/employee relationship. Those two abilities, to challenge and to connect, are what I’ve found to be the essential abilities of a leader who knows how to engage their people.

Each lesson also has a section called “Change your B.S.” That’s belief system, and one called “Change your Habits.” Those sections get at the heart of how to make the skills we discuss part of your Leadership DNA. The lessons are between 30 and 60 minutes long and are in video format. I’ll post one per week starting next Monday. Until then, here are four 5 – 7 minute videos to get you thinking about Employee Engagement and why it matters to you.

Three Myths about Employee Engagement
Three Mistakes People Make about Employee Engagement
Three FAQs about Employee Engagement
Three Keys to Employee Engagement

Parents, Please Put Down your Phones!

We see it all the time. How many times have you joked with friends when you point at a table in a restaurant filled with 5 or 6 teens or young adults and every one of them is on their phone? You wonder if they’re having a conversation with each other via text, or what? You have so many human beings around a table to share a meal and not one of them is in the same room! It is an amazing and tragic destroyer of interpersonal connection.

A recent event, though, has prompted me to write this post. Suzi and I were traveling home yesterday from St. Louis where we attended the funeral of a dear friend who died way too soon! We reminisced and mourned the lost opportunities to connect with him in the future while we drove.

As we approached Kansas City, we decided to stop for a bite to eat. We pulled into a Chick-Fil-A and went inside. When we sat down to wait for our meal, we began to notice what was going on around us. To the side of us was a table with two toddler age girls, cute as buttons, sitting with their mom. We knew she was their mom because they called her, “Mom.” Now Mom had done quite a bit of work on her hair, but her little girls … not so much. The sad part of this story, though, is that Mom was on her phone doing God knows what the whole time we were there. Those adorable little girls got almost no attention. One of them got down from the table and went over to the door of the play area. She worked, and pulled, and tugged until she finally got it open only to hear from Mom who had just noticed what was going on, “No, come over here.” She almost got to play! Then she started to push a high chair around. Mom got an idea from that and put her in it. No more roaming around for this one!

Soon a grandma and her granddaughter walked in hand-in-hand, cute! Grandma took her granddaughter over to the play area and opened the door for her little doll. As she went in to play, we overheard grandma say, “Be kind to everyone.” “Wow!” we thought. That was cool. Grandma took a seat behind Suzi facing the play area. After a few seconds, the little granddaughter climbed to the top of the climbing area and quickly looked out the window at grandma her face beaming with delight over her accomplishment. But, grandma was on her phone. The little girl waited for a few seconds to be noticed but grandma never looked up. The little girl’s face fell and with a shrug she turned to continue playing. I wonder if she felt less important than a phone or more alone than she had when she came in. She probably didn’t form those thoughts in her head, but those seeds were planted.

Sitting behind me, Suzi noticed a Dad with his little Auburn-haired daughter. Maybe a daddy-daughter date? Cute. They sat across from each other eating. You guessed it. Dad was on his phone. The little girl’s auburn ponytail bounced around as she chatted to her Dad. He didn’t seem to notice. Really? Now, this story takes a wonderful turn. Dad eventually put down his phone. His little girl came over to his side of the table and sat with him while they worked together on the puzzle that had come in her kid’s meal. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Like I said at the beginning, we see this all the time. What brought it home to us more powerfully this time was the realization we were experiencing from our friend’s funeral (not to mention a dear aunt I just lost and a great friend who was the husband of Suzi’s cousin) that life is too short. Don’t waste opportunities.

Parents, please put down your phones. I guarantee you will find in your children more entertainment than any Tic Toc video, more connection than any online instant message, and more education than any training program. You will have to engage them, to be active because relationship is inter-ACTIVE. Read to your kids, play with them, point out interesting things and people in their environment. Let the level of that interaction develop as they grow, but do it. The return on that investment will be children who love and honor you and who will be there for you when you’re old. Can you say that about any of the online “influencers” you follow?

Developing Leaders – Release Them

Could you imagine investing the money to buy a thoroughbred racehorse, investing the time and energy into training the racehorse but never letting them out of the gate, never letting them race? Why would you do that? Why would anyone do that? They wouldn’t. But, that’s what leaders sometimes do with the people they lead and are working to develop. They hesitate to let them race.

Last week I wrote that Experience is the 70% component of Leadership Development.  If you’ve got some thoroughbreds in your stable then take the following as advice from an article called, “The Process of Training a Racehorse for the Kentucky Derby.

“Besides conditioning and timing, it is important to get horses used to racing against each other. It is not uncommon for a farm to train their horses together on the track in the morning. This allows the horses to get used to getting bumped by other horses and the dirt flying up in their face, and allows them to learn to be guided to the rail by their jockey.

On Jan. 1, when horses turn three, they are eligible for the Kentucky Derby®. In order for an owner or trainer to get their horse admitted into the “Run for the Roses,” they must enter in a series of qualifying races called the Road to the Kentucky Derby®.

If the colt is then one of the top qualifiers in the series for the Kentucky Derby®, you’ll see them at the starting gate!”

Getting bumped by others, getting used to dirt flying up in their face, and learning to get to the rail is what experience is all about. It’s how leaders learn to win.

Why We Don’t

Some leaders hesitate to release their people into experience. What might cause such hesitation?

  • Lack of Time – leaders focus on getting things done and may not see time available to guide their protégés through the experience they need to grow. So shortsighted – investing the time now will save immeasurable time in the future.
  • “I do it best” – you may be more skilled at a certain task than the people you’re developing. However, if the task is not one you must do and your people can do it 80% as well as you, let them do it. It’s the only way they will get better.
  •  Past Failures – You’ve invested in someone before and they failed. No one I know likes the feelings associated with failure. But, like with anything else, we learn from our mistakes and do better next time.

How We Can

Here are some thoughts to help overcome the specific reasons we hesitate I just mentioned.

  • Use your Calendar – make coaching a recurring entry on your calendar. That is when you will invest focused time and effort into the people you are developing. This is a Covey quadrant 2 activity. It’s important but not urgent. these are often the things that we overlook but could bring the greatest return.
  • Set a Threshold – establish prerequisites for delegating certain tasks. What knowledge or skill must a person demonstrate before you will assign them certain tasks?
  • Use the “Scientific Method” – Thomas Edison said, “I’ve not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Now we have the electric lightbulb. Evaluated experience is the best teacher. When we fail, we should evaluate what went wrong, learn not to do that again, and construct another experiment using what we learned from the last one.

Racehorses have to race. You’ve walked them around the track and let them stand inside the starting gate (Exposure). You’ve provided them with proper nutrition, guided them in their gate, and taught them when to move to the rail (Education). Now you have to let them race. Release them to do their thing so they can gain the Experience that will make them a champion.

Developing Leaders – Experience

Several years ago the CEO of a large facilities services company, two other top executives of that company, and I did a sales presentation for a large potential client at their headquarters in Pittsburgh. On our way to the presentation, the CEO asked each member of the team, “How long have you been doing this kind of work?” He wanted to (and did) tell the client the number of combined years of industry experience our team represented. The client seemed impressed which pleased the CEO. Notice, that CEO didn’t ask about our education. He asked about experience.

Exposure to new things is valuable. It inspires the desire to learn. It’s worth 20% of an overall leadership development program. Education is necessary for instilling the knowledge and skills for leadership. It’s worth 10% of an overall leadership development program. The remaining 70% of an effective leadership development program should be devoted to experience, giving people real-life opportunities to use their new-found skills/knowledge.

“In the end, the only way for a person to learn leadership is to lead.” –John Maxwell (The Leader’s Greatest Return)

A Case In Point

In his book Bounce, Matthew Syed wrote about the power of practice over talent. He cited a study performed in 1991 by psychologist Anders Ericsson and two colleagues. they studied violinists at the Music Academy of West Berlin. They divided the boys and girls into three groups based on their perceived level of ability:

  • Students capable of careers as international star soloists
  • Students capable of careers in the world’s best orchestras
  • Students capable of careers teaching music

These ratings were based on the opinions of the school professors and the student’s performances in open competition.

What Ericsson discovered was that the biographies of the students in all three groups were remarkably similar. Most began practice at age eight, decided to become musicians right before they turned fifteen, and studied under about four teachers, and had on average studied 1.8 other instruments in addition to the violin. There was no remarkable difference in talent between them when they started. So, what was the difference? Practice time! By age twenty, the bottom group had practiced four thousand fewer hours than the middle group and the middle group had practiced two thousand fewer hours than the top group, which had practiced ten thousand hours. “There were no exceptions to this pattern,” said Syed of Ericsson’s findings. “Purposeful practice was the only factor distinguishing the best from the rest.”

Helpful Experience

That story could be misleading. It’s not just the number of hours spent doing something that determines one’s level of expertise. The conclusion was that “purposeful practice made the difference. That sounds a lot like what Green Bay Packers legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, used to say, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Perfect practice or purposeful practice is practice that is guided and coached. If I practice bad habits, they will become a permanent part of how I do things. But, if I practice under the coaching of an expert, they can guide me into getting better.

In the program I helped develop for the healthcare system, we made experience 70 percent of the overall approach. One example is leading a morning huddle. Many healthcare departments begin the day with a brief meeting called a huddle. Huddles usually consist of a standard agenda and last about 10 minutes. It takes some skill to lead a successful huddle.

Our approach was to have new managers sit in on a few huddles to observe and listen to the information and questions. Then we gave them a few lessons on public speaking. Finally, we had them lead huddles with a mentor in the room to provide feedback. The feedback often included the questions, “What went well?” and “What would you do differently next time?” After hearing the answers to those questions, the mentor would then offer their observations in support or redirection of the new manager’s own thoughts.

Repeating that experience several times led to the development of expert skills. The ultimate goal in all this is to develop people to the place where they can develop other people.

Developing Leaders – Education

At some point, there needs to be a classroom. Once you’ve ignited the desire to learn by providing people exposure to real-life situations they will be responsible for, you need to impart the knowledge and skills. Note: throughout the training process, you will engage the help of others. Providing exposure requires the involvement of others and so will education.

Several years ago, when I was in graduate school, I had the opportunity to take a class from a man who was the top expert in his field. He was a prolific writer, fluent in 26 languages, he was brilliant. I couldn’t wait to be in his class. I learned from that class that having knowledge and knowing how to effectively impart that knowledge to others is two different things. I spent the class mostly confused. It was a huge disappointment.

Don’t be that teacher. If you’re not skilled at imparting knowledge or skills, enlist the help of those who are. Your organization may have a training department or access to online courses.  Use them. As the expert in your field, you can help develop the content but let those who are experts at education use their skills on your behalf. You’ll still get the connection credit from your trainee for making it all happen.

Education is about more than “instructing.” It’s about facilitating learning. True educators focus on making sure students learn.  People learn in different ways.

Learning Styles

Here are several examples of learning styles:

  1. Verbal – these people learn by using words
  2. Visual – these people learn by using pictures
  3. Musical/Auditory – these people learn by using sounds/rhythms
  4. Physical/Kinesthetic – these people learn by using their hands and body
  5. Logical/Mathematical – these people learn by using logic, reasoning, systems, and sequence
  6. Social – these people learn best in a group
  7. Solitary – these people learn best by themselves
  8. Combination – these people learn in a combination of two or more of these styles

Can you see how different instruction methods are necessary to help people with these learning styles learn?

Levels of Thinking

Another consideration is that people’s level of thinking about a subject will grow and mature. When I spent two years working in an education environment I was introduced to something called “Bloom’s Taxonomy.” It’s a way of understanding levels of thinking. Here it is from lowest to highest:

  1. Remembering – the ability to recall basic facts and basic concepts
  2. Understanding – the ability to explain ideas or concepts
  3. Applying –  the ability to use information in new situations
  4. Analyzing – the ability to draw connections among ideas
  5. Evaluating – the ability to justify a stand or decision
  6. Creating – the ability to produce new or original work

A Simple Outline

As you can see, the field of education is deep and complex. That’s why it’s a great idea to use the resources available to you. Tap into your training department if you have one. Use online tools or send people to classes. Chances are the education available through these resources has been put together with learning styles and levels of thinking in mind.

What if you don’t have such resources, or, you want to build a strong connection by conducting the training yourself? Here’s a simple training outline that can help you cover most of the complexities.

  1. Tell Them – explain what you’re about to teach from beginning to end
  2. Show Them – demonstrate how it should be done
  3. With Them – lead them through the steps with both of you doing the same things at the same time
  4. Watch Them – observe them doing it independently while answering questions and offering coaching at the end
  5. Teach Back – you learn more about something when you have to teach it. Have your trainee teach you what they just learned

Last week we talked about the importance of Exposure. This week we’ve been talking about Education. Most leaders make the mistake of thinking Education is the most important training tool. They seem to believe that if you get a diploma or certificate, then you should be ready to go. The truth is that Exposure should make up about 20% of the training experience. Education, while vitally important, should be only about 10% of the overall leadership development plan. Next week we’ll discuss the final component that should make up 70% of how you develop leaders.

Developing Leaders – Exposure

Last week I started a series on developing leaders. I wrote about a project I had worked on with a large healthcare system’s Northern California Region of 21 hospitals. We created a leadership development program for Environmental Services (EVS, the department responsible for cleaning and disinfecting the hospital to prevent the spread of disease) leaders across the region.  Where we started, and what I wrote about last week, was the question, “What knowledge and skills do advanced directors in that department need to have to be successful?”

After identifying the list of knowledge and skills we then asked the question, “How do we help people develop that knowledge and those skills?” The first thing most people think of when asked that question is training. What comes to mind first when we mention training is a classroom, in-person or virtual. But, that’s not where we started.

Forty years ago I read a book that still has an influence on my concepts of leadership development. Here is an excerpt from the publisher’s description of that book:

“On March 14, 1948, Douglas Hyde handed in his resignation as the news editor of the London Daily Worker and wrote “the end” to twenty years of his life as a member of the Communist Party. In [his book], Dedication and Leadership, [Hyde] advances the theory that although the goals and aims of Communism are antithetical to human dignity and the rights of the individual, there is much to be learned from communist methods, cadres and psychological motivation. Hyde describes the Communist mechanics of instilling dedication, the first prerequisite for leadership.”

Start With Exposure

If you have children who are or have been in High School, or you remember your High School days, you may remember the question, “Why do I even have to learn this stuff? I’m never gonna use it.” You can fill in the blank with which subject may be referred to by the question. But, do you remember?

A state and/or local body decides what should be in a school’s curriculum for a set of reasons that make sense to them at the time. Students may have some electives within disciplines but largely their responsibility is to show up and learn.  When they don’t understand why they’re learning this or that, motivation to learn is often very low. Only the most internally dedicated students, usually those who see this course as a necessary step toward a larger goal, excel.

The Communist Party, according to Hyde, takes a different approach to teaching new recruits. To instill dedication in new members, one technique of “the party” is to put brand new members on a street corner to hand out party literature. With very little knowledge or experience, they field questions and often endure negative feedback from passers-by. This exposure to the real world creates within the new recruits a strong desire to learn. It gives them questions they want answers to so, by the time they get to a classroom, they are eager to soak up the instruction.

We took a similar approach with the healthcare system’s EVS leaders. We set up the program to begin with Exposure in order to create the desire to learn. In fact, our goal was to focus 20% of the program on exposure opportunities.

Some Examples

One of the competencies for these leaders was “Demonstrates Customer Focus.” In a hospital setting everyone who comes through the door, staff and members/guests, is an EVS customer. A service strategy to address the whole spectrum of customers is to concentrate on service delivered to each of the many departments.

With that in mind, we had new EVS leaders attend the management huddles/meetings of some of the departments they serve. When an EVS manager is present in a meeting of the Surgery department, for example, the opportunity is rarely missed to bring up questions or concerns about between case cleaning, terminal cleaning (at the end of the day, not after someone dies) , or the sterile core, or bio-hazardous waste removal. The new EVS leader may not have the answers to those questions but, s/he  certainly has the motivation to find them. That exposure generates a desire to learn.

Even if those questions don’t come up, the new leaders are exposed to the meeting agenda letting them know what’s important to that department.

We also had them attend various committee meetings. One important committee, of which EVS is always a member, is the Infection Prevention and Control Committee. In those meetings, data and trend analysis about specific types of infections is discussed as well as strategies for preventing them in the future. This committee also reviews and approves procedures and products related to infection prevention including EVS procedures. What a great opportunity to instill a desire to learn about something that may not have been interesting to that new leader without exposure to the committee.

Exposure creates the desire to learn and grow. What are some things you could expose new leaders to in your organization?

Developing Leaders – What Do They Need?

Several years ago, I was asked to be part of a team tasked with developing a leadership training program for the Northern California region of a large healthcare system. This particular project was focused on developing leaders within the Environmental Services departments across 21 hospitals in the region. We were to standardize a plan that would allow people to grow through three levels of leadership (supervisor, manager, director) and transfer seamlessly from one hospital to another. We started from scratch.

We decided to follow the advice of Stephen Covey and “Begin with the end in mind.” Our approach was to begin by identifying the knowledge and skills required of an advanced director asking “What does that leader look like?” Then we worked backward, peeling away one level of advanced competency after another until we arrived at the base requirement for a first-time supervisor. Our team identified 78 specific skills. We categorized them under a list of 14 competencies that reflected the organization’s 9 Core “Total Performance Behaviors.”  This ensured that the program aligned with the organization’s method of evaluating leadership performance.

We then worked on three levels of development for each of the three positions. Whether a person was a supervisor, a manager, or a director, we developed training that focused on

  1. “Foundations” – the basics for that position
  2. “Full Success” – what a proficient person at that level would look like
  3. “Next Level Prep” – which was getting them ready for promotion

Here’s an example

One of the core behaviors this organization wanted to see in their leaders was that they  “Champion Innovation and Change.” Below are the competencies and skills at each developmental level that we identified.

  1. Core Total Performance Behavior – “Champions Innovation and Change”
    1.  Competency 1 – “Models Change Leadership”
      1. Skill 1 – Understands the business need for change. Facilitates the adoption of change through engagement and role-modeling
        1. Foundations
          1. Communicates the case for change to staff
          2. Develops basic change plans to accelerate staff engagement and adoption.
        2. Full Success
          1. Produces comprehensive change plans that include; stakeholder management, plans for engaging staff, plans for early wins, and strategies for building momentum and post-implementation sustainability
          2. Generates buy-in with staff, celebrates their willingness to change, and acknowledges them for great work
        3. Next Level Prep
          1. Provides Change Leadership on behalf of the Manager for Service Area wide change initiatives
          2. Implements sustainable changes within the department that become best practices
      2. Skill 2 – Provides Change Leadership for special projects involving labor and management (re-bid / re-balance, new space opening, re-organizing workflows, fixing problems, etc)
        1. Foundations
          1. Knows who to enlist to support the change (staff, HR, Labor Leaders, Department Managers, etc.)
          2. Articulates basic actions needed to move forward with a change
        2. Full Success
          1. Articulates changes that need to happen, and works with stakeholders to determine impacts to the stakeholders and strategies/tactics needed to enlist support (Staff, HR, Labor Leaders, Department Managers etc)
          2. Develops basic project plan and schedule to achieve change
          3. Has delivered special projects
        3. Next Level Prep
          1. Develops and negotiates clear roles for all leaders and support functions involved in the change
          2. Creates comprehensive project, risk, and change management plans for special projects.
          3. Has delivered complex special projects
    2. Competency 2 – “Encourages Participation in Change and Innovation”
      1. Skill – Encourages staff to offer ideas about better ways of accomplishing work
        1. Foundations
          1. Creates opportunities and makes time for staff participation and ideas in decision-making about work.
          2. Encourages staff to test new ideas
        2. Full Success
          1. Leverages tests of change and analyzes failures to build sustainable solutions.
          2. Uses both success and failure of tested ideas as learning opportunities for the staff
        3. Next Level Prep
          1. Maintains a portfolio of improvements and tests of change planned or underway
          2. Acknowledges improvement ideas offered by staff that have been converted into practice.

Here’s Why

No matter what you want to create or develop, it begins with a clear picture of the finished product in your mind. Whether you’re baking a cake, building a skyscraper, or developing a leader, you start by knowing what the finished product will look like.

That finished product, especially in the case of a leader, will reflect what your organization needs from them. What do you need them to do for you? Once you know that, then you develop the picture of what they need to have and be able to do in order to deliver what you need.

The next several posts will be on the topic of developing leaders. I started where we should start in that process, identifying what they need in order to deliver what your organization needs from someone in that role. Whether or not you’re currently looking for a new leader (hint: you should always be looking for new leaders), I encourage you to invest the time and energy into creating a “what they need” list. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as the one we created for that healthcare system, but put some thought into it. It will pay huge dividends.

A Dark Night In The Woods

After our delicious brunch with Juliana in Kansas City, we headed out to visit with dear friends, Keith and Terry, in the St. Louis area. To be more accurate, we headed out to visit with Terry. Keith’s work often takes him out of the country and, unfortunately, this was one of those times.

Keith and Terry are friends we’ve know for over 40 years. We met in college where Keith and I were security guards together in downtown Chicago. Keith and Terry were married a month before us and Suzi stood up in their wedding. Life circumstances have prevented us from spending as much time together with them as Suzi and I would love, so we cherish every moment we can get.

The Fun

We met Terry at their daughter’s house where she was finishing up a day of (grand)child care and headed out to dinner. Terry drove us to a favorite restaurant, and, after we were seated, she got Keith on a video call. He was at the airport overseas waiting to come home. So, Suzi and Terry visited across the table while I got to visit with Keith for awhile through the wonders of modern technology.

After dinner (the best pastrami sandwich I’ve ever had) we picked up our car and followed Terry to their house. Keith had built them a house in the woods on land his family had owned for a long time. Though we’ve known Keith and Terry for a long time and I remember conversations about how the project was coming along, we’d never seen their beautiful home in person. We were looking forward to it.

I knew the house was in the woods. I just didn’t know how deep in the woods it was. The fact that it was already dark when we drove back to the house probably contributed to the feeling that we were way off the beaten path. All we could see on the one-lane drive was Terry’s car in front of us and what was immediately within reach of our headlights. That included a deer, a opossum and trees, lots of trees.

We eventually wound around the last bend into the spot Keith had cleared for their home and onto the driveway. What a beautiful place!  Terry took us on a tour. We even got to see Terry’s sister who was visiting and her parents who live in the downstairs apartment Keith built for them. It is a beautiful home and we were so glad to finally see it in person.

Despite Terry’s urging to stay the night, Suzi and I needed to get more highway behind us before settling in for the night. Terry offered to lead us back out to the main road but we declined. I had GPS and the we didn’t remember the route being that complicated. That was a mistake.

The Dark Night in the Woods

We headed back out into the dark night in the woods chatting about how great it was to  spend time with Terry and video chat with Keith. Then we came to an intersection. Left, right, or straight? We couldn’t remember. Straight looked like someone’s long driveway. We couldn’t see anything to the left or to the right. How did we get lost that fast? It had only been a couple minutes since we left Terry.

My GPS was pointing us down what looked like the long driveway so we immediately lost confidence it that and looked for a sign we’d seen on the way in. We didn’t see it so we made a decision. I don’t even remember which way we turned. But it wasn’t the same way we’d come in. I was actually impressed by how calm we both were for two people who had confidently told our friend we could find our way back and, only moments later, were completely lost in the dark in the woods.

We made another turn and stopped short when we realized this was someone else’s driveway. I put it in reverse, just when I realized I couldn’t see well enough to back around that turn headlights came on in front of me.

“Oh, No!” I thought, “this guy is wondering what someone is doing way out here pulling into his driveway.”

Up drove a stern looking man on an ATV. I rolled down my window and said, “I’m sorry, sir. We were just visiting our friends, and are trying to get back to the main road. We turned here but this looks like a driveway so we were trying to back out.”

“Who are your friends?” he asked in a tone that sounded more like an accusation than a question, though I could understand why he’d be wary.

“Keith and Terry,” I answered.

His face softened and he said, “That’s my nephew. This is a driveway. It’s my driveway. But you can pull along in front of the house, keep driving past and it will take you down to the main road.”

“Thank you,” I replied in relief imagining what an idiot he must think I am. At that point I was inclined to agree.

We drove on following his directions and found the main road in short order. We made the rest of the drive to our overnight stop without incident. Whew!

The Power of Stories

How many different lessons could be learned from that story? Aside from what you may have learned about me that I didn’t want you to know, I’d be interested to know what points you think you could illustrate with that story.