Updated: Sep 23, 2022
When I was around 9 years old, my brothers and I were working with dad. One day my father got a little upset with me because I did not hand him a tool that was laying on the counter close to me. I said, “Dad, you didn’t ask me for the tool.” Dad replied, “If I have to ask for the tool, you’re worthless to me.” Though I was young and didn’t understand the encounter, dad was teaching me an important principle, but I was oblivious to the message.
Later that day I was complaining to one of my brothers about the encounter. My brother, only a couple years older than me, helped me understand. He asked, “Didn’t you know what tool dad was going to use next?” I said, “Yes, it was easy to see what he was doing.” At that point I started to understand the principle of communication in teamwork. As I started to see through the eyes of another, the needs of that person did not need to be spoken.
A few days later we were working in a similar situation. Without dad asking for a tool, I handed him what I thought he needed. He took the tool and looked at me with questioning eyes. He kept looking at me, then the tool, and back at the project we were working on. Still not understanding why I gave him that tool, he asked, “Why do I need this tool?” I replied, “Dad if I have to tell you what tool you need next, you’re worthless to me!” A smile came across dad’s face. He then started circling around the project and viewed it from my vantage point. Then, with an even bigger smile, he could see the tool I gave him was what he needed. “Scott,” he said, “you’ve got it, good job.”
Over the years I have thought about this story, reflecting on what dad was trying to teach me. For the longest time I thought it was just about efficiency of work and being a good helper or having a “useful tool.” But I now see a deeper meaning.
- Do I recognize the unspoken communication or needs of another?
- Do I act upon those needs?
- Do I allow others to act upon my needs?
- How are my actions or non-actions affecting others?
- Do I show the value of another by my actions? Dad made me feel I was an important part of the team and that I added value.
As I look at the many tools I have in my shop, I now realize the most “Useful Tools” are the people around me. My life is better as I refine my vision of the unspoken needs of another.