I hope everyone had a great summer! It is amazing to think that it is already September. I am really looking forward to starting my leadership classes at Kellogg the week of September 21.
Picking up again on the topic I talked about in my last post, the best part of the summer for me was spending a lot of time with Julie and our five children…and when I say “a lot of time”, I mean “quantity vs. quality”!
I often hear people say that they “cannot spend a lot of time with their children, so they focus on ‘quality time’ “. As I mention to students and executives, I am not sure what that means…many children cannot even spell “quality”…..in my opinion, you are either there or you’re not there. It is the times you are together with nothing planned…taking walks, watching the sunset, going on a long bike ride, that children often open up to discuss topics they may never bring up when you are in a hurry running around minute by minute. Even if you don’t have the economic means to get away, just being together is what matters.
I was very fortunate to have two wonderful trips back-to-back this summer with the family.
For the first trip, Daniel, my 13-year-old, asked if I would go on his boy scout campout with 250 scouts in northern Wisconsin for six days. This is the trip I talked about in my last post. I am not much of a camper, but it really was a fantastic time together. I enjoyed spending time with his friends from school and watching them participate in various activities (canoeing, archery, cooking, etc). In the evenings we would spend time in our tent discussing everything from the chances of the Chicago Cubs winning in 2015 (slim) to the “purpose of life” (a slightly longer discussion 😉 ). Daniel wanted to know what I did when I was 13 years old, why I went to college, and when I met Mom…a lot of fun talks and great memories.
The second trip was what I refer to as our “annual two-week road trip”, where Julie, our five children, and I take off in our Honda Odyssey van (this was our 15th consecutive year!!). This time we drove all the way to Montana from Chicago, stopping at the Black Hills & Badlands, and hiking all over Glacier Park for six days. Being all together in a van for 14 days and traveling 4,500 miles really provides a “bonding opportunity”, an amazing chance to share our lives together. Even our two oldest children (ages 28 and 24) join us almost every year, which gives them the chance for fun bonding time with their younger siblings (ages 21, 17 and 13).
I read an article yesterday in the New York Times that summarized this topic of “quality vs. quantity” in a wonderful piece called, “The Myth of Quality Time”, written by Frank Bruni. I love his summary: Nothing nourishes intimacy and love like an investment of hours. If you have a few minutes, do read the article. I think you will really enjoy it….a nice opportunity for some “self reflection.”
What a wonderful set of ideas, and more importantly – what wonderful writing! (did you get a liberal arts education??!!) I can picture the family in the van heading west (ive done half that trip to N Dakota) and in particular a father and son having very meaningful dialogue. Dialogue driven by what’s on Daniel’s mind and not an “agenda”, punch list, or Org Behavior assignment.
Perhaps the times are changing. Our team has been asking executives for decades to have UNSTRUCTURED conversations with family and the use of the “quality” push back has been annoying and disconcerting. But perhaps there is a sea change.
Just recently in a conversation with a major bank in Chicago I learned of a manager who encouraged his team to take two week vacations. This was delightful news (and will make the efficiency consultants and hard driving executives pull their hair out). But – in the end – wouldn’t both the leaders and their families prefer to have warm positive feelings about their work lives rather than bitter “Willy Loman” (Death of Salesman) stories.
So, here’s hoping there is a sea change and thank you for what you have done in your courses and in this blog (and your life!) to make it happen.