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A place at the table

Some years ago, I worked on a family farm. The people I worked for treated me like a part of their family, even though I was only distantly related by marriage. Every morning before sunrise everyone would meet at the farm house and enjoy a large breakfast. The same applied during hunting season.

When my personal life came on a very rough time, I remember not wanting the family to feel uncomfortable or to put them in a bad predicament with my presence in their home. So it was that one morning during the hunting season, I arrived at the farm well before light and instead of going in the house for breakfast I sat in my truck.

I will never forget the farm wife coming outside in her slippers and gown on such a cold morning and knocking on my truck window or her words to me that morning. “Boy you come in this house right now and get your breakfast. What is going on with your life is none of our business, but you will always have a place at our table.” I didn’t eat much, but her words surely made me feel full.

A place at the table.

Leadership often mirrors life. Our work life or our personal life comes upon bad times and we sit in the truck to avoid further pain, hurting others or embarrassment. Work and life go on around us but we are disengaged or disenfranchised to the point that we lose our reason, our morale, our team play, our input for the team and our hunger and we stay still.

We need a place at the table.

My dear Mother suffers from dementia and Parkinson’s. One day I took her fast food and her favorite milk shakes and spent the day with her. I am one of six children. My Father passed away some years ago and my sister was killed in 1977. I saw my mother setting the table for dinner. She set eight places. I asked her if she was expecting company and she replied “you never know.”

If leaders wish to have employees with an appetite, and who enjoy coming to the table, they need to serve up things palatable that are good for the team, and that creates nourishment instead of nausea. The meal won’t always be delicious or perfect. Employees don’t expect it to be and they know how to flavor the presentation to their taste. Employees do expect what they are fed to reflect some thought, some conscious caring, some coordination, some logistics, some timing, some balance, some planning.

Employees can taste, feel, see and smell goodness, honesty, sincerity, and transparency. If their morale has waned and they have moved away from the table, they no longer seek knowledge or improvement, they don’t want to train or they just seem stuck on the truck, and they probably don’t feel the warmth of a place at the table.

Everyone occupying a leadership role does not necessarily know how to lead. Some couldn’t lead goats to oats. They ignore recipes for success and they fail to use the kitchen trash can for their bad traits and they amazingly seemed surprised to be eating alone. Even their shadow hides in disappointment.

IN THESE BOOTS was started, and continues, as a method for me to write, talk, express and hopefully share simple stuff from my time that would help others coming behind me to move forward and to not learn through the school of hard knocks. I have been most pleased with the response, speaking requests, and thanks from those who have either moved back to the table or for the first time realized that they have a place set for them at the table.

All leaders need to set a place at the table for everyone. Some are gone and won’t be back but it is nice to remember them. Thank you for your big table and for allowing me to break bread with you. I like big tables.

Come in this house and get your breakfast.

Throw out the old stuff before it smells.

Good leaders set the table early.

Feed those who are sitting outside, even if you have to go get them from the cold.

Do your best for the team, others will notice and you can get a bigger table.

Good leaders provide plenty and bang the soup pan with good news.

Share the bountiful harvest with others – take all you want and eat all you take – spread the news.

You never know.


Thank you for reading and sharing.

Have a great day – it’s a GREAT day for it.

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Comment by Robert Beattie on December 5, 2013 at 8:03pm

very, very nice. Thank you for sharing it.

Comment by Bobby Halton on December 3, 2013 at 12:59pm


What an incredibly moving story and what a great analogy. I particularly love the line "some couldn't lead goats to oats". You know chief Brunacini once told us an interesting line we were talking about how some people who had resumes a mile wide and an inch deep were out posing as leaders, some of the guys in the conversation were really upset by these people and chief Bruno said the following words. "You can fool the people but you can't fool the players" what he meant was the folks you work with know who you are, what you're made of and what you stand for. Reading this post that you just put up I feel like I now know better who you are what you're made of and what you stand for and it makes me extremely humble to call you a friend.

Yours Bobby

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