It likely won’t surprise those who know me that I believe it’s the second. This week I was a bit distracted by reflections about my father. He died 10 years ago today and while it almost feels like yesterday, I know that is largely because of the impact he had in the 43 years I knew him.

“My Dad, he’s alright my Dad.”

With my nephew’s permission, I built the tribute (eulogy) to my Dad, framed by this phrase from his favourite bedtime book adding actual stories about my Dad – about the things he loved and the lessons I learned from him. I will share three of those lessons in this post as I remember my Dad, with gratitude and love, today.

“My Dad, he’s alright my Dad.”

My Dad loved family, farming and his faith – my mother would challenge the order I put them in, but I believe it is exactly right. He loved my mother so much he gave up his second love, farming, and studied to be an Occupational Therapist. Most people who met him may find it difficult to believe this quiet, thoughtful, extremely practical maybe pragmatic man followed his heart above all things – I know I didn’t always believe it.

This is a guy who, after working at the hospital all day, would head out to his farm (he bought 2 quarter sections near a prairie city so he could make my mom happy living in the city and still keep his love for farming alive) until well into the night during seeding or harvest. He would drag his daughters (well 3 out of 4 of us anyway) to the farm under the guise of teaching us lessons in responsibility and the value of work but I have come to wonder whether he secretly hoped to pass on the “bug” to one of us. Leadership Lesson #1: The law of the farm.For everything there is a season and exceptional leaders seek balance between urgency (when it is time to seed or bring in the harvest, the farm waits for no one) and reflection (the land needs rest to restore so it can provide high yield and grade at harvest each year).

“My Dad, he’s alright my Dad.”

My Dad was a guy who was an environmentalist before the term was understood or appreciated. My Dad would gather rain water in a barrel and carefully siphon it out (it was a strange, even disgusting, day when he taught me the art (sic) of doing this) when the garden needed watering between rains. He believed in recycling, reusing and renewing – sometimes to the deepest frustration and even embarrassment of his wife and daughters.

At his memorial I share the story of how we found a pair of farm overalls we gave him for Father’s Day in 1979 still in their package in 1999 so we decided to re-gift them to him. He enjoyed the joke right along with us. You see, he was known to get the most out of everything. He thought his old overalls still had a lot of life in them so why would he unpack a new pair – and to our delight he happily modeled the “new” pair for us that afternoon.

He also felt the need to stretch every dollar. I spent a lot of time during my childhood following him around in the Co-op and when he wasn’t pressing some manager for a ‘deal’ (they all knew he was more than willing to walk away), his dry sense of humour was leaving people raw in his wake. I remember many times pleading with people to understand – “…don’t you see the twinkle in his eye? …he’s joking!”

A quick story my mother told me again recently. My dad asked her to go car shopping one day out-of-the-blue in 1984 – she had no idea he was considering buying their first brand new car. He had carefully chosen the dealership so as not to waste her time. One car and many test-rides later, they just didn’t find ‘the one’.  AND THEN – they walked into the showroom and with a look between them, decided to have some fun by sitting in a top-of-the-line Pontiac Bonneville. It had electric seats and windows and plush velvet seats. Exchanging another “look” and a smile, Dad said, “Okay Mietz (that was his nickname for my mom) let’s go make an offer.” Well he knew what he was willing to pay so he took the lead AND his approach didn’t really fit with how the dealership wanted to operate, so sadly my parents walked away without their dream car. The next day, the owner of the dealership called and asked if they still wanted that car at the price my Dad had offered. That same day the car was delivered to the house. Leadership Lesson #2: Maximize Every Resource. Whether it is the human resource, physical or financial resources, exceptional leaders learn how to maximize the value of all that is given to them.

“My Dad, he’s alright my Dad.”

My parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 1982 – I was 19 years old. We had a lovely party – both my parents were great hosts so while it wasn’t an expensive event (no need to show off!) it was filled with community, music, laughter and stories. After hours of feasting and enjoying friends and family, my parents quieted the hall by taking up the mic to share a few words. My father went first – and my mother thinks it was strategic on his part but that’s another story. What he said was embarrassing to me as a 19 year old sentimental fool. He told the room that he was often asked how to keep a marriage healthy and that he didn’t really know. After laughter died down and I sunk further in my chair, he went on to say, “One thing I do know is that it isn’t love. Because love is a GIVEN. We wouldn’t have gotten married and raised a family if we didn’t start with love. It is more about commitment.” He went on to preach about the power and presence of commitment. I have learned to appreciate his words as I have grown older and realized how much commitment is required to keep going with anything in life, against the odds.

My dad could be a difficult person sometimes – he had high expectations and could be very demanding. He was also a barrel of fun. I have lovely memories of how he would roll up his sleeves and play with us all when we were very little – the times we would “have a catch” in the driveway  – or, when he tried to teach me to play golf in the park across the street (that is a wild story) – or, when he surprised me by buying me my own Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred mare (after I thought he was just being funny when he asked, “which horse do you like best Zandy?” his nickname for me) – how he would be the first to formally congratulate you when you did a good job (and sometimes when you just thought you did). Memories are flooding in so I could go on…BUT greatest lesson he taught me was by showing me his willingness to fully commit. Leadership Lesson #3: Fully Commit – there is no halfway. For leaders to inspire full engagement from their direct reports, they must be fully committed to the mission and vision they are inviting others to help them achieve. (My Dad would tell you that when you do, you will love the experience of being a leader.)

___________________________

The farmer has driven his final round

 The winds of time have turned,  

     the crop is growing rich and full

With many lessons learned.

           Keep life simple and don’t be proud

Be generous, kind and caring

      Work hard at all you do as

              True joy comes through sharing.  

       -lines from a poem by my sister as a tribute to Dad

________________________

Rox is Founder & Head Coach @ ImpactBank where she supports leaders in their first 2 years in a new assignment – specializing in providing a kick-start approach in the 1st six months.

If you are an executive (Director, Senior Director or C-suite) who is starting a new assignment I invite you to check out my upcoming pilot for  ON YOUR MARK….. I am looking for  9 participants – and you can be based anywhere. The pilot is testing a social component that is expected to both kick-start the learning and make the important lessons sticky. Senior Leaders appreciate learning most when it is relevant to their success that day, that hour. SO, I am testing my signature system in a unique way that is convenient for the always-on-the-move executive. Reach out to if you want to discuss if it is a good fit for you or someone you plan to promote or move into a new assignment this year.

Rox is also a speaker, podcast host, leadership coach/mentor, and performance consultant. 

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