The Red Chair and Dead Child – Powerful Lessons For Business, And Life
Eight chairs around the boardroom table. Seven black – one red. “Why one red chair?” I asked the lawyer hosting the meeting. His answer is a lesson in life and business. Use it, please. It’s powerful.
I’ve wanted to tell you about Zelda for a while now. She’s a murdered child. I never had the right ‘hook.’ Now I have it. The red chair.
“We wanted to change our culture to make us more client focussed,” the lawyer explained. “So we have a red chair in every meeting room. When we meet by ourselves, the red chair represents our client. It reminds us we only exist for that client- to deliver solutions and value. It reminds us to keep client-focussed.”
And there’s the lesson on accelerating success and growth – a vital message to:
Use symbols and images to remind us to take action or behave in certain ways.
Stay with me.
Every time those lawyers look at that red chair, they think “Client first.” It turbo-charges a change in culture. It provides a regular ‘conscience’ for their approach, conversations, decisions and actions. It will help their business grow. And improve their careers.
I have a paper clip holder on my desk, with a ‘Bridgestone Tyres’ logo on it, a relic of my first client at a PR agency in Adelaide in 1984. Every time I notice it, I use it as a reminder to pause a moment and to ‘check in’ on my feelings…. to check if there is anywhere in my professional and personal life where I need to ‘show up.’ Where do I feel dis-ease? Where am I noticing something – phone calls not being returned, someone avoiding my eye, an unpaid client invoice- that suggests I need to ‘turn up’ and check in on what’s going on?
I once gave colleague Stuart a little teddy bear to keep by his computer, to remind him to ‘double check’ for typos before he sent an email or document to a client. I met up with him recently, 10 years later. He’s still got it there. It helps.
The red chair. The paper clip holder. The teddy bear. What is it for you? What is your visual image to remind you to ignite a focus, or to take action?
Find some. They really, really help.
Oh, and Zelda? Well, this is a sad story.
I was reading my 12 year old mate’s school book- a Second World War tale by Morris Gleitzman about Felix and Zelda, the Jewish boy and his 6 year old friend Zelda, struggling to survive as the Nazis hunt them down for the gas chambers. The book nears its end, and it looks like a happy ending is nigh. Felix and Zelda are being cared for by a soft-hearted local, and have assimilated into the local community. But there were not a lot of happy endings in that conflict. Zelda goes to town to shop with her ‘protector’. They are ‘outted’ by a disgruntled neighbour, and marched to the local square where they are hanged from lamp-posts. Felix goes looking for them, only to find Zelda swinging in the wind.
It broke my heart.
So I named a tree ‘Zelda.’ I pass it every day on my way to work. And every morning I roll down my window and shout out “Morning Zelda! Love you darling.” And for a moment my heart goes out to all the children killed in that conflict, and to all the pain their parents felt. And to be reminded that brutality and murder must NEVER be forgotten. Those in my car get the same reminder.
Every day. Just for 10 seconds.
Red chair. Paperclip holder. Or Zelda the Tree. Visual reminders to take you places you need to be. Even for a moment. In business and in life.
Oh- and here’s Zelda. Isn’t she just the most lovable, beautiful little girl? Love you Zelda! And you’ll NEVER be forgotten.