Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Friends the Experts: My Pops Gets Down to Business

The last two years have been pretty loaded with significant life events for my parents.  Their oldest daughter (yours truly) got married and finally gave them a grandchild. Their youngest daughter graduated from high school and gave them an empty nest.  And this month, Dad ended his 34-year professional career and entered into retirement.

Career in the Defense Industry
My pops joined his company as a manufacturing coordinator after earning his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin and serving as an officer for four years in the U.S. Navy.  He soon became manufacturing project leader and later progressed into the field of program management.  During his career, he also was a director of quality assurance during the launch of Six Sigma.  He became a general manager in 2000 when he inherited a small and fresh communications group that is now a half-of-a-billion dollar business.  He had an exceptional 34-year career at the same company, the last 12 years as vice president and general manager of various businesses leading a diverse portfolio of radios, encryption products, key and identity management and all kinds of other cool government things that I don't even know about.

A Wise, Wise Man
Dad has given me a lot of good advice over the years. Personally, but especially professionally. This month for My Friends the Experts, I wanted to share with you some pearls of wisdom I've collected from him over the years.

I hope you will read my entire list of wise words from John Cole, but here are just a few of my favorites:
  • Work is about people.  Smile in the hallways. Make a point to remember people's names, their spouses' names and kids' names.  Sit with different people in the lunch room and get to know them.
  • Proofread your emails before you send them and always write in complete sentences. Compose every email as though it could be forwarded to the president of the company.
  • Support your boss.  If you can't or won't, get a different job.
  • Ethics and Integrity trump Outcome.  When deciding how to handle a situation, consider how your behavior would look as a headline in the local paper.  Otherwise known as the 'what would my mother say' litmus test.
  • Before making major changes, always stop to ask the question: What problem are you solving?  

On the day of his retirement "party"
in the cafeteria at work.  Standing room only,
and lots of tears!
Being My Dad's Daughter At Work
My dad's retirement affects me greatly because I have had the unique experience of working for the same company as my pops for almost eight years (my whole post-college career).  Of course I never worked directly with him, but while most people live in two parallel universes of personal and professional lives, we shared both worlds.   And that was pretty cool.

We would grab lunch in the cafeteria sometimes on Fridays and I always knew I could pop into his office any time to say 'hi', or pick his brain, or cry in his private bathroom in the rare event I was having a personal crisis.

Of all the things that coworkers or strangers-who-knew-him would come up and tell me about working with my father, the recurring theme was that he cared about people.  Alongside intuition and integrity, something that made me proud to be my dad's daughter was when people told me that he had affected their life or their career in a positive way.  He took a chance on them, or invested in them, or simply listened.  He always believed in mentor-ship and developing people, not just managing them.

What an inspiration he is.

A Trivia Tribute:
Those who worked directly for my dad know that he always started his staff meetings with a trivia question to "break the ice" as he said.  It must have worked because he seemingly had a very candid relationship with his staff, relatively speaking.

I leave you with his favorite trivia question, feel free to use the next time you need to break the ice!
How many major metropolitan areas are home to a team for all four professional sports (NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB)?  And name them all...


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