Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Friday, January 27, 2012

Advice For a Friend

     I received an e-mail last week from the wife of an old friend, asking if I would be willing to have lunch with her as she wanted to "pick my brain" regarding some business issues.  Since I don't really know her that well, I was a little surprised that she reached out to me, but I replied that I'd be glad to help in any way that I can (especially if it was over lunch!).  We scheduled it for today and I met her at an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia, curious to learn more.
     Without going into all the details, her problem involved how to get a group of people to coalesce around the possibility of combining a number of separate businesses into one larger entity to gain certain strategic advantages.  She had some vision of where she wanted to go, but had no idea how to succesfully move the group from Point A to Point B.  As I listened and began to understand the various dynamics, I was able to offer a useful (I think!) framework for how to think about and approach the problem, and I provided her with some suggested next steps on the path to a solution.
     As I left the lunch and began the drive home, I was struck by how confusing and difficult this all seemed to her, and how straightforward and clear it seemed to me.  It also had me thinking about a new book that my brother, Larry, shared with me just yesterday.  It's the latest work by Marcus Buckingham, called StandOut.  The core message of the book is that we each have certain natural strengths and that when we focus on leveraging those strengths (vs. trying to shore up our weaknesses), we achieve the most success and we make our biggest contribution - to our families, to our companies, and even to the world.  The book provides an assessment tool to help you recognize your greatest strengths and then provides additional insight into how best to leverage them.
     So what does all this have to do with intentional acts of kindness?  Not surprisingly, my greatest asset is my ability to discern patterns where others see complexity, and to organize chaos in a logical, orderly way that's useful and easy for others to understand.  I've helped many people over the years in significant, sometimes life-altering ways, using this skill.  While offering flowers to a stranger or shoveling someone's driveway is fun and no doubt meaningful, my biggest impact will likely be when I use my natural strengths to help others see a situation with greater clarity. 
     I mention this thought not because I intend to abandon doing simple gestures of kindness every day, but simply because it's the result of my current reflection and is just one of the learnings I'm gleaning from my experiences.  Having said that, I'll continue to enjoy, appreciate, and take satisfaction from all the various acts of kindness, wherever, however, and to whomever I do them.  All are worthwhile and all have lessons for me to learn.

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