In October 2003, after 24 years, I stepped away from my role with The Josh McDowell Ministry.I immediately began to wonder what could I give Josh to express my appreciation for 24 years of partnership in ministry. I had absolutely no clue. The only thing I sensed was that it was probably not something I could pick up at the mall.
Four days later I was having breakfast with Bobb Biehl—my mentor since 1980. As I recounted the events of the week, Bobb asked me this question:
I immediately began to share things I had learned. After sharing five or six things, Bobb asked, “Do you have these written down?”
“No,” was my response.
He then asked, “Why not?”
I immediately replied, “No one has ever asked me this question before!”
After recommending that I write them down, he added, “And do you know what else? After you have made your list you need to share it with Josh—it will bless his heart!”
BINGO! That was it! I instantly knew that this was the gift I wanted to give Josh!
Every day for the next two months, I added to my list. My goal was to create a booklet that I could have printed for Josh, his wife Dottie, their four children, and our four children—all to be wrapped and placed under our Christmas trees by December 25, 2003. By December 19 my list numbered 62 things and it was time to head to the copy shop.
Around noon on Christmas Day, I got a phone call from Josh, “Bob, I don’t know where you came up with this idea, but this is the greatest gift I have ever received!“
He then put Dottie on the phone who said, “Bob Tiede, I am mad at you!”
I said, “Dottie, it’s Christmas–you shouldn’t be mad at anyone on Christmas!”
She said, “And you shouldn’t have to cry on Christmas Day either—but for the past half hour my eyes have been filled with tears as I have read ‘Sixty-Two Things.’ Bob, this is an incredible gift! Thank you so much!”
Later, as I reflected on this experience, I realized that while I had given a gift, I had also received a great gift in return—the gift of ending well!
How many times have you walked away from a work relationship and said to yourself, “That just didn’t end as well as I would have liked,” but you had no idea exactly what you could have done differently!
Since that day in 2003, when Bobb asked me that Great Question, every time someone shares that they are about to change jobs (voluntarily or involuntarily) I ask, “What did you learn from your supervisor?”
After they share a few things, I ask, “Do you have these things written down?”
To date, everyone has responded in the negative. I then encourage them to make their list and, when they are finished, send it to their former supervisor—as a way to end well.
Your list does not have to be sixty-two things! It could be as short as two or three things that you learned from them that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
And it is never too late to send that gift. How many supervisors have you had to date? Can you imagine how they would feel if they received a short letter from you, thanking them for the privilege of working with them, and then sharing two or three things you learned that continue to serve you well today? How many letters like this do you think they have received?
One More Thought: the world is small and life is long. So many times when 20-somethings leave their first job they might think, “Good riddance! I am glad I will never see those people again!” Two years later, they decide to make a move from their second job and as they walk into the interview room for what they hope will be their third job, who should be sitting there but the supervisor from their first job! Now, what kind of difference do you think it would make if, two years earlier, they had sent that supervisor a note thanking them for two or three things they had learned from him/her? My guess is that a job offer is almost guaranteed!
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