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Hats off to the past

The stories you tell tomorrow.  

Have you ever heard someone say: “I’m so glad that I’m out of there, I don’t know why I worked for such idiots in the first place!”

Harsh words, but we have probably heard similar stories over the years when a new colleague joins the firm and tells stories of how she felt undervalued in her previous job.  But does it need to be that way? Surely we should be able to exit a position with the same attitude and integrity with which we entered it?  

Knowing when to walk away is wisdom, being able to is courage, walking away with your head held high is dignity.
~ Unknown

This started me thinking about my employment history.  The first company I worked for had been good to me, they had given me an apprenticeship and paid me well. When I felt that it was time to move on to pastures new, I did the expected thing, I handed in my notice and prepared to work out my notice until I started my new job. 

I was a process specialist in an international tyre manufacturing company, and my role was to provide technical oversight for one of the four main processes in the making of tyres in the UK.  I would liaise with the central team overseas and then provide advice and guidance to the UK factories, and to determine the overall equipment requirements to meet the overall manufacturing requirements for the next 5-10 years and manage the projects that ensued. 

A colleague working in one of the UK factories needed my help on a project, and he had invited me to work alongside him for a day to address and help resolve his challenges.  Well, it seems that the factory manager was not happy, and called my colleague to one side demanding that I should be escorted from the factory immediately.  My colleague stood his ground however, he knew that he could trust me to help him, and knew that I would have no intention of causing trouble.

Be the kind of person who leaves a mark, not a scar.
~ Unknown

That was the first time I came face to face with the process of moving from one company to another.  I was completely oblivious to the fact that someone might think of trying to sabotage their old place of employment before they left.  I guess that’s just naivety on my part, caution on the part of the factory manager, and wisdom on the part of my colleague. 

I recalled some advice that my father had shared with me when I was about to leave home for the first time, and although I suspect his advice was more targeted at personal relationships it has carried me well through my career.  His advice was: “Whatever you do just imagine that the great aunts are watching.”

Well, my dad had three aunts; they had never married and all lived together and were the absolute epitome of Victorian spinsters that you read about in Charles Dickens, complete with elegant furniture, hard-backed chairs and sugar cubes to accompany the china teacups.  They had been teachers and headmistresses, and one had been awarded the MBE for work with the Red Cross. 

So, when I was leaving my employer I had only thought to continue doing what I had been employed and trained to do.  I believe that it’s not just about starting well, it’s about finishing well. As the old saying goes “Hats off to the past, coats off to the future”

The decisions you make today with determine the stories that you tell tomorrow.
~ Craig Groeschel

Well, on that occasion I managed to get it right (perhaps more by naivety than planning) but have I ever left wrong?   Oh yes!

I spent a short time working with a company where I felt that I didn’t leave well. No handshakes, no loose ends tied up, no explanations. I felt terrible, and still do to this day. I felt as though I had let myself and others down.  Why?

Well, it started with a phone call telling me that my father had had a serious heart attack, and was on life support.  This was followed by a frantic dash to the hospital, and our family stood around his bed as he breathed his last. Then through the silence, my brother-in-law said quietly “Roger, could you pray for us all?”It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but as a Christian, as a leader, and as the eldest son, I felt it my duty to see that Dad left well. I owed it to Dad, and I owed it to my family.

The following months were filled with probate, endless form filling, as well as my personal grief.  My work life got sidelined, I had let that company down.

So where does this leave me today? Well, I have just parted company with a man I have worked for for 27 years.  He’s more than a boss, he’s a friend.  We’ve been through a lot together, and we have seen his business grow substantially over the years.  Once again the parting was amicable and we look forward to working together again in the future.  He knows he can call me if he needs help, an extra pair of hands, someone to help with the transition.

The next door will be open because of the integrity you showed when you thought no-one was paying attention.
~ Thema Davis

Just as if my great aunts were watching, I feel that it is right to model good values, to lead the way with honesty and integrity in the workplace. Sure we won’t get it right every time, but on the whole, people will want to work with people who they know like and trust.

I hope that I’m one of them.

Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make, makes you.
~ John Maxwell

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.