Food for Thought

November 28, 2012
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller
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What do you like to talk about during dinner?

I have little patience for the kind of chit chat that takes place at most social occasions– talk about sports, the weather, celebrity gossip. At 67 years old, I feel the pressure of time. I don’t want to waste a moment of my precious time on this earth discussing trivial things; it’s time that could be used to engage in meaningful dialogue.

One night at dinner a young man in our organization asked me, “Bob, what’s your greatest fear?” I’m an optimist so I had to think about it for a moment.

I responded, “My greatest fear is that we will have worked hard to build something of significance here at Barry-Wehmiller and that it will fade away. Somehow it will not be sustained beyond my time.”

His simple thought-provoking question and my impromptu response became a clarifying moment in our organizational journey. Shortly thereafter, we began to engage in bigger conversations about the legacy of our business. As a result, we took action to create and preserve that legacy. (More on that in future blog posts.)

The question I like to ask at dinner is this: “What do you hope to achieve while on the face of this earth, and how does your professional role relate to that?”  The dialogue that results from this question is profound.  You should try it.

What is your favorite thought-provoking question?

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