This picture reminds me to listen

I recently posted a photo, which received quite a number of views and reactions.

It was a picture of the shadow cast by my 18-month-old son holding my hand on the beach. After a period of Covid-enforced isolation, we had managed to get out for a lungful of ozone.

Why did this photo prompt such interest? It’s unusual to see photos of people and their kids on LinkedIn. That’s normally the preserve of other, less businesslike social media platforms. So maybe it came as a breath of fresh air (pardon the pun). But I suspect that its appeal lay in the fact that it stepped outside the day-to-day issues of business and touched on a wider concern: namely, what kind of world are we creating for our children?

The image of a child holding their parent’s hand is hugely symbolic. It speaks of trust, dependency, nurturing and love. It triggers the adult conscience. Are we running our lives and our businesses re-sponsibly? Are we considering the long-term picture? Are we doing enough?

When I was a boy, the big issues were unemployment, racial discrimination, terrorism and nuclear war. I remember my dad used to say to his friends, “What kind of world have we brought our children into?” Not much has changed, you might say, and I often find myself asking the same question.

Climate change is the big one. What are we doing to curb global warming and safeguard the planet's ecosystem for our children and their children to enjoy? There are more personal issues too: mental health, obesity, infertility, addiction, a longer working life, a prolonged old age…

So many of these issues stem from the workplace and the way we treat our employees. Are we making their lives happy and secure? Are we looking after their physical and mental welfare? Are we giving them the opportunity to develop? Are we listening to them?

The parallel with the parent-child relationship is palpable.

And listening is the key.

The more we listen, the more we learn and the more we learn, the more we can give back.

The picture I’ve added to this post is of my son on the beach on his own. He’s not holding my hand, he’s finding things for himself, testing himself, learning to go into this world alone. But I think he knows I’m right behind him.

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