Lessons in life

When I think about the things that my father taught me, two immediate pieces of wisdom come to mind:

– Never put a cork back in an open bottle

– Life is too short to stuff a mushroom

I’m sure there were others. He probably told me not to go in to hotel management (I listened), not to get married young (I didn’t listen) and not to do drugs or get a tattoo (I’m staying silent on these elements).

That’s the way we roll.

When I think about my approach to organisations, to management and leadership, however, I realise that I’ve maybe taken a little bit more on board over the years. Dad was a leader, a leader of people in some of the hardest circumstances that you can imagine. He ran prisons throughout his career, dealing with the good, the bad and the ugly.

Dad believed in trust. I know, because I heard this time and time again. He believed that people were best when they were trusted and should be trusted until they proved they couldn’t be. Dad believed in fairness, in equity and in transparency. Dad believed in building a workplace that showed respect and in turn earned respect.

My dad was a pretty awesome guy.

When I talk to people about my organisational philosophy, they often tell me that, “it won’t work in larger organisations”, or “it is fine in the creative industry”. I even hear, “that’s fine with professional people, but my staff….”

All of which are, of course, just excuses for inaction and ineptitude. Because dad was doing this years ago and in environments that would make your hair curl. Indeed, when a prison publicly melted down in 1995, they called on my dad.

Dad turns 70 today. We don’t always have a perfect relationship, we don’t always see eye to eye, we argue and say things that we don’t mean. But deep down, I’m starting to realise that so much of what I believe, so much of what I do, so much of who I am is driven by the way in which he ran, led and managed his organisations.

I hope one day to get to the top of my profession, in the way my father did. To be the exemplar, in the way he was. And when I do, I know that so much of everything that I believe is down to the early lessons I learnt as a kid. The beliefs bashed out over the dinner table.

Life IS too short to stuff a mushroom. You should NEVER put a cork back in to an open bottle. And you should lead people with dignity, respect and trust. Those are the lessons that my father taught me.

You can’t ask for more than that as a son.