After my husband’s near death experience when my youngest boy was just 2 months old, our parenting philosophy became all about creating memories as a family because you just never know what’s around the corner! So we became a camping family. Before COVID threw our calendar into disarray we would take a 3-day long weekend once a month and a longer road trip throughout the year. Jason would put in 12 leave requests in January and I’d block out the time in my calendar. I remember that no matter how stressed I was or how much was going on, I always felt an immense sense of peace as we’d drive off for our long weekend. And Monday mornings on the way to school, the kids would talk animatedly about the fun they’d had riding their bikes, swimming in the creek, feeding the horses, going high on the rope swing, roasting marshmallows on the fire. And demanding to know when our next camping weekend was going to be and where we were going!
My boys are young teenagers now and we still have the same fun – just slightly different conversations around the camp fire! We’ve booted them out of the caravan and they each have their own swag now which gives all of us some extra space. We had a wonderful 2-week road trip this year that took us through NSW and into Victoria, with many wonderful memories created along the way. It got me thinking, and a little sad, about the day when the boys will no longer want to come camping with us. They’ll have their drivers licences, maybe a part time job, maybe a girlfriend. I want to keep creating these family memories as long as possible and that got me thinking about what I need to do to ensure we have these trips for as long as possible. Which led my thoughts into retention. Here they are.
Our long weekends are usually from Friday afternoon until midday Sunday. What if Zac gets a part time job that he’s committed to every Friday night? I guess we could leave for our trip Saturday morning and come home later in the afternoon on Sunday. We’d still get a good weekend away as a family and Zac can still honour his work commitments.
If nothing else, COVID has shown us better than ever the importance of flexibility. All of my team work from home. They all have various commitments that working from home allows them to meet. If somebody needs to take some time in the morning for a personal appointment, that’s okay. If somebody’s child has a special event at school they’d like to attend, that’s okay. If somebody wants to swap their hours around because of an interstate visitor, that’s okay. Does it matter that the bank reconciliation is done in the afternoon instead of the morning? No. Does it matter that somebody else on the team is taking care of creditor reporting today? No. Does it matter that your child can see you made a special effort to be at their swimming carnival? Absolutely!
Make them feel special
My ‘love language’ is gift giving. Often heading into a long weekend the boys will get a special something that they can eat after dinner while sitting around the fire, or something they can use while we’re away – something new for their tackle box, or an outdoor game we can play together.
I have a spreadsheet (of course) of great websites where I can get cool gifts for my team and clients. It’s broken into sections – for the coffee lovers, for the tea lovers, for the chocolate lovers, for the beer & wine lovers, hampers and gift boxes, self care, gift vouchers and other ideas. And I try to listen out for clues in conversations – one of my team members is into Lego, another is passionate about photography. One of my clients recently had a baby (I love baby shopping!); another was having a really hard time in their personal life (cue the flowers and bath bombs).
I put a lot of effort into ensuring my team and my clients feel appreciated. I try to say “thank you” often. I try to say “I appreciate you” often. And I regularly refer to my ‘feel special’ spreadsheet and send something to a team member or a client for no other reason than to say, “You are important to me.”
Take the time to show you care
I recently went to a seminar in Melbourne. It was something I saw on LinkedIn and thought it sounded interesting and would like to go. But who flys from Brisbane to Melbourne just for a 3-hour seminar? So I sat back and thought about it – how can I justify going? It turned into two very full days in Melbourne where I got to catch up with Lauren (my team member from Melbourne), I had breakfast and dinner with accountants and bookkeepers many of whom I’ve only ever known online, I visited the offices and had lunch with accountants who are clients as well as colleagues, I had lunch and office visits with clients who I’ve only ever spoken to on the phone. It was wonderful to be able to connect on a much deeper level with some awesome people. We shared stories, food, coffee, wine, laughs. And we created a deeper understanding and connection than we had before. And this is one thing that wasn’t in my ‘feel special’ spreadsheet – the gift of my presence.
At some point, my boys will no longer come camping with us. They’ll get busy with jobs, study, friends. They’ll move out and create memories separate to Jason and me. But we all have lots of wonderful memories to look back on, and I’m savouring and trying to make the most of every moment while I still can.
There are many reasons why team members or clients choose to move on. In this age of technology we’re more connected than ever, but strangely disconnected. Try not to let distance or discomfort stop you from creating deep connections. It’s these connections that will keep people close. And if they move on, you’ll both know you’ve made their lives better for being in it.