Step Out Moment


On a typical day at the office in the week leading up to final exams, I received a phone call on my direct line.  The caller seemed startled when I answered the phone.

“Hello, this is Doug Brown.”

There was a short pause and then the caller said.

“Is this the president of Capstone Management?

“Speaking,” I replied.

What immediately followed was a ten minute download from the mother of a student living at one of our campuses.   It was very apparent she had packed her bags for a long visit to the consumer battle field.

I have gotten many calls from students and parents over my nearly 30 years working in this profession, but this mom was different.  She was so charged up that I immediately knew the best approach was to take a “step out moment” and just listen.

Taking a “step out moment” is not easy when the caller is describing what she views as outrageous treatment and injustices caused by the actions of a Capstone employee.  The natural response of a supervisor is to defend your employees and your operating practices while assuming the student caused this problem by his action or inaction.  It is not always the best approach though when working through difficult issues with emotions running so high.

By the time the voice at the other end of the line began to wind down I had learned a lot about their family history and family dynamics.  So, when the time was right I started asking her questions.  What is your son’s name, age, and major?  Why did he decide to attend this university?  Why did he decide to live on campus?  What activities is he involved in at school?  What does he want to do when he graduates?  The questions were intended to learn about her son through her eyes and not simply respond or focus on the issue at hand.

Then I posed a final question: “Will you work with me to help your son sort this out with the manager?”  “Yes,” she replied without hesitation.  We ended the call with an action plan.

Whether or not the student got the refund he was seeking… I do know that mom took a “step out moment” too. If only for a moment.

There has been a lot written about a generation of students with helicopter parents who hover over their children with a mission to help and protect.  I am not sure if this is new or if internet searches and instant communication have just replaced the angry letter delivered by snail mail.

What I am sure of however is that parents are still learning how to parent and students are still learning how to be adults.