Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” Aristotle

At 16 I bussed tables after school, and on Saturdays, at the Sears cafeteria. Then I was promoted or perhaps I’d just broken too many dishes in my clumsiness on the floor and my boss thought I’d be less dangerous in another area. I was assigned to the steam table serving alongside a woman who was likely older than my mother. Eager, friendly and generous with advice and support, Helen reminded me of my mom and my long-dead grandmother. I would have done anything for her.

One Saturday, I forgot to order the mixed vegetables from the kitchen and we ran out on our steam table. The line up grew. I had never seen Helen get angry before. She reduced me to tears and the kind of shame only someone who truly cares about you can instil. I’m still embarrassed thinking about that day.  

She didn’t yell or scream at me. Calmly she told me I’d let her down and as a result we let both our customers and our employer down. We have to take care of these small things so that everything else falls into place. I never forgot that lesson. Never.

I was reminded of this incident a few weeks ago while watching a report on The National about a program run for MBA students at Queen’s University. Students participate in a survival sort of weekend to test their resiliency. Apparently this skill is sought after in the corporate world. Go figure. I can think of a few other things that are more important in my opinion, but I’ll get to that.

I personally detest games or activities that place people in situations meant to emulate real life. What’s wrong with real life itself? Just wondering.

What if the students worked in a homeless shelter as this man did or with the elderly or with young kids or inmates or refugees or the entire gambit of other groups who could use a helping hand? If you want students to learn resiliency, have them spend a day working with people who have to stand in line to get a meal or find a bed for the night with no guarantees they will get either. Let a student solve that problem and then talk to me about resiliency.

And besides, resiliency is only one aspect of being a good corporate citizen and a leader. How about teaching the lesson about taking care of each other? Corporations and leaders do that by paying a decent living wage, communicating effectively and with empathy and compassion and taking care of employees so they have a reason to be loyal to you, your business and their colleagues.

Empathy and responsibility, these are the things that should be taught. And this comes from real life experiences, not games.

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