Dinner Reservations

In England, it’s back to school time.

Yesterday we dropped off my son at his new boarding school.  As we met his five new roommates, it occurred to me that a dorm room of teenagers is a kind of Petri dish for observing cultures other than bacteria.

Most fascinating to me was to observe the interplay between father-mother-son.  The various combinations and the milestone occasion made for a very interesting window into the family dynamic.

There was tension, there were tears … there were trembling stiff upper lips. 

And in the fullness of truth, most family members appeared to be genuinely excited about the next chapter in their lives – whether it was the son embarking on his next five years of study – or the mother and father coming to grips with it.  

The scene brought to mind a dinner conversation I had with one of our clients in Beijing last week.  The general topic was about the difficulty in hiring top management talent. 

After wringing his hands over the particular challenges in China, our client relayed to me a new element in his interview process.  He invites the family to dinner and looks for the subtleties in the inter-relationships between family members.  Once, he said, he did not make an offer to a highly respected candidate because he could tell the candidate’s son was afraid of his father.

“Trust comes from inside the heart,” our client said.  “And a kid’s eyes tell you what is in their heart.  If you can’t manage your own family, then you’d be a disaster trying to manage my business.”