Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Lesson Learned and Today's Application

I started to write a full memorial post about my father in honor of Father's Day.  Dad was my hero, and decades after his death, he remains a major influence on my life and my thinking.  I was musing over 20 things that I learned from him, intending that list to be the center of the blog post, but I kept focusing on one lesson in particular. 

Dad taught us and, more importantly, showed us that a person's class is not measured by that person's wealth, or lack thereof.   Don't look at a rich person and assume that he's classy or better than the other person who works to make ends meet.  Dad believed that how you conducted your life and how you treated other people was the true measure.  He was living proof -- a man of substance, integrity and class whose roots lay in the humble home of immigrants -- factory workers, manual laborers, people who worked hard to support themselves and their family. 

This lesson has resonated for me a various times.  I've seen really rich guys act like entitled, privileged jerks, using their money to bully waiters in restaurants and gas station attendants.  I've seen others who hoped they'd have enough to make their next mortgage payment go out of their way to help people struggling on the side of the road.

Very recently, the lesson hit home again.  In the last few years we've seen the heads of major corporations seek government handouts, lay off thousands of workers, and cut deals to reduce their corporate debt -- but then the people in charge still took their million dollar bonuses and flew around in private jets on lavish trips.  How many jobs could be saved or debts honored if these people, already worth millions, had turned down those bonuses and invested them back into their corporations?

In the last couple of weeks, I heard about a much smaller corporation where the senior management team members already make far less than their peers at other corporations in the same industry.  These managers know that their staff works super hard, often holding down second or third jobs.  The bosses aren't wealthy and they all have bills to pay, but they decided that they wanted to do what they could to provide better raises for their staff this year, so they opted to not take any raises for themselves.  They're doing without an increase in order to help their staff do a little better.

You tell me which management team shows true class.  Scratch that.  I already know.

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