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Understanding people is essential for business leaders

Posted by Tom Friedman on Thursday, March 9, 2017 in Small Business Today Articles

It all started with a text from our youngest son Ben, on the thread that includes everyone in our family.  Over the years the thread has been the forum for different discussions, announcements and lots of pictures, mainly of our grandkids.  But this isn’t really about the thread; that is a discussion for a different time.  No this is about the text that Ben sent.  Ben is a freshman at Loras College in Dubuque, and he sent us a link to his first ever broadcast as a co-anchor on Loras College TV.  He mainly wanted us to see the story he did about my dad, who co-authored and published a book about the wealthiest man in the history of Dubuque.  Which again is a discussion for a different time.

LCTV, as it is known on campus, is a bi-weekly production by Loras students focusing on local news in Dubuque and airs live on local access cable there.  It also includes some Loras news, but basically it is a 20 minute local news show.  What impressed me the most as I watched the show was not that Ben did a good job, which he did, but how professional it was!  The stories were well done, and if I didn’t know better, I thought I was watching a local Dubuque channel.  But again that is not the point of this discussion.  I want to talk about my daughter Jenni, who responded on the family text thread by linking us to a study that reported that the youngest sibling is the funniest.  She claimed the study did not include any middle children, which is where she lands.

If you looked at our family from the outside, you might concede that Ben is the funniest.  After all he is the one who tried his hand at stand-up comedy.  The study, conducted by YouGov, also shows that the youngest child, in addition to being funnier, is more favored by parents, more easy-going and more relaxed than the oldest child.  By contrast, the study concluded that the oldest child is more successful, responsible, organized, more able to prioritize their own life, more self-confident and more family-oriented.  To Jenni’s point, the survey completely ignored middle children.  This if you ask Jenni, is a very common occurrence for middle children.

I was a psychology minor in college and frankly sometimes I think I use what I learned more in that field of study than I use my business degree.  Understanding people, how they think and the way they will potentially act, is essential as small business owners and managers.  I am also a firm believer in birth order personality characteristics.  Like the survey said, I believe that the oldest in the family tend to be more responsible, organized and self-confident. 

Middle children, of which I am one, tend to be more flexible, have large social circles, are somewhat rebellious and frankly well-adjusted because they have to deal with both the oldest and the youngest.  This also describes Jenni perfectly.  Youngest children, which my wife, Ben and father are, tend to be much more laid back, outgoing and attention seekers.  Maybe, maybe not.

My point here is that we need to get to know our employees and customers on a personal level in order to understand and how to best work with them.  If we get to know their likes, dislikes, tendencies and maybe birth order, then we can best figure out how to help them all become more successful.  Or maybe that is just middle child in me speaking out.

I am excited to watch the next edition of LCTV on YouTube.  And to see what my wife and children have to say about it on our family thread.

Small Business Today is a bi-weekly feature written by Tom Friedman, market president of First National Bank, Ankeny. 

About The Author

Tom Friedman

Thomas J. Friedman
Market President, Ankeny
515-777-7172 Email

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