It has been said that behind every good man there is a great woman. In my life I have been blessed to have a couple of great women who have helped guide and support me in all my endeavors. First is my wife who has never been behind me, but has been beside me for over 30 years. Second is my mom who has always been there for me and is responsible for the kind of person I am today……well, at least the good parts. The bad parts I have been able to develop all on my own.
In a recent post I reflected on the principles my dad taught me that I have implemented in many areas of my business life. My mom was an incredible model for the emotional side of my character development. To set up the lessons let me briefly introduce my mom. She was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland by a single parent (her dad died when she was a baby) and married my dad when he was stationed there in the US Air Force. She knew no one other than my dad when she moved to the US and then had four children in 5 years. Whew! At times, and by some, she was seen as a foreigner who married my dad just to move to the US. Almost 57 years of marriage later I think she has proven these negative people wrong. She also came into a completely different culture. As I mentioned, she grew up as an only child in a single parent home with very few relatives and married into a very large southern family. My grandfather was 1 of 13 and my dad was the oldest of 8. Needless to say, family reunions were pretty large and mom was the only one with an “accent”. But, none of these conditions changed her character and it was from this core where her lessons were taught.
She may not think it, but my mom is one of the nicest people you will meet. (I say “one of” because she would have to compete with my wife) I rarely heard her say anything negative about anyone. She would often instruct us by saying “if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all”. Although I am not even close to her level in kindness, I do try to be nice in my words and my actions, whether dealing with people in business or during my everyday walk. She is the inspiration for my daily attempts at kindness. Even today in the midst of a heightened sense of disagreement in our world, she still maintains the ability to be kind and resist the temptation to say anything negative about another person. In fact, it is not uncommon for her to interject a challenging comment when a discussion within her earshot turns negative toward another person. She truly looks for the good in everybody. Sadly, there are too many companies where the kindness trait is missing. What is even more disappointing with many companies is that the leadership is modeling the behaviors that generate negative emotions.
My mom certainly taught me the value of developing deep and devoted friendships. Even as a young kid I noticed the incredible friendships she developed with others. Whether it was a group playing cards or getting together for dinner, I heard loud laughter and fun. I guess that is why I firmly believe that we SHOULD have friends at work and have fun. In the book “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently”, a survey was conducted and identified 12 dimensions that describe a great workgroup. One is “I have a best friend at work”. Too many believe that personal relationships should be kept out of the workplace, but by watching my mom all these years I will have to respectively disagree with that sentiment.
Coming from Scotland, mom had no clue about the rules of American sports. She did not know the difference between a home run and a touchdown. But, that did not stop her from enthusiastically cheering for each of her kids who were very active in sports. She did not worry about anyone making fun of her lack of knowledge and yelling “hit a home run” when I was playing football. I never doubted that I had a fan in the seats who cheered whether I played great or not so well. In today’s culture where we have reality shows showing parents acting crazy while their kids compete, my mom drilled in us the incredible opportunity we had to be competing in the first place. I have attempted to be that enthusiastic encourager I saw in the stands when I played. In today’s workplaces we could use more enthusiastic encouragers who motivate us to try, get knocked down and try again without fear of retribution.
“I had the blues because I had no shoes, until I met on the street a man who had no feet.” I remember my mom saying that when I was tempted to have a pity party about something that was not going right in my life. She continually reminded us that we should be grateful for what we had because there are many others who have much less. We never had the nicest clothes and didn’t drive the most expensive car, but I never felt inadequate. I still hear those words today and it helps keep me centered. She also was very big on using our God given talents. I was blessed with a singing voice and have been involved with choirs and other groups since I was young. She challenged me to always use the talents I was given because they were given for a reason. She stressed that it was an honor to have been entrusted with the gift, so use it. Imagine what could happen it the workplace if we looked at our talents as gifts instead of tools to get ahead. Removing the ego from those things we do well would have an incredibly positive impact on our circle of influence.
A word that has always come to mind to describe my mom is selfless. She is the kind of person others want to be around. She welcomes everyone. During college, if I brought friends home from school unannounced, she would sneak out the back door and go to the grocery store to make sure we had enough food for all our guests. It was and is her pleasure to serve. I have read numerous books on servant leadership and am confident that my mom would have been that kind of business leader if that had been her career choice. The truth is it is much easier to be selfless rather than selfish. The kind of workplace that can be created by leaders who are kind, friendly, enthusiastic encouragers and appreciative can be amazing. I know some companies have mastered these tools and it shows in higher employee engagement, higher employee productivity, lower turnover and increased business opportunities. We need to all practice the mom theory of management. Wouldn’t that be great!
To Your Success,