April 13, 2010

A Life Well Lived

A couple of weeks ago I received a call in the wee hours of the morning that I had been dreading for months. My good friend and cousin called to tell me that his dad, my uncle, Howard Glenn “Jiggs” Childers had passed away at the age of 89. His health had been slowly deteriorating for several months and I knew it was just a matter of time before he succumbed. I share this story with you only because I think there is a message here we need to embrace.

During childhood and even into my 20’s and 30’s, my uncle’s children, grandchildren, siblings and other extended family complained about his controlling nature. They complained about his demanding personality and brutal honesty when you wandered outside his scope of approval. People would also comment that he never got his hands dirty – but as it turns out it wasn’t because he was lazy, it was because he insisted on orchestrating the tasks and organizing the projects.

He had an eye for detail, a sharp pencil when negotiating terms and a soft heart for any project that improved his community. He also loved the land. Many of you know that my parents were first generation ‘off the farm’ – both my dad and uncle were born in a 3-room house on the acreage their father farmed. I am proud to say, like my father, my uncle never forgot his roots. He was grounded by the land and the majesty of nature.

I flew to Oklahoma for the funeral and was immediately immersed with family, many of whom I had not seen since my dad’s funeral in 2007. I come from a big family and when you have a big family there tends to be a lot of bickering and strife. That wasn’t the case on this day. Everyone was there to honor my uncle who we recognized had touched each of our lives.

By the time I got to the service, it was apparent my uncle had touched the lives of many people. The 750+ people in attendance filled the neighborhood church, its gym and every other overflow area available - a truly amazing sight.

As the eulogies started I began to reflect on my uncle’s influence on my life. He was a man of integrity and insisted on honesty, fairness, love of God and family. He always put family first. As my peers began to express their sentiments I realized that what they were saying was true. During my 55 years on this Earth, I had never heard my uncle utter a harsh word – a stern word yes, but never in anger and always in love and directed at the best possible outcome for the situation. They spoke of his kindness and his compassion and how he made time for people and listened to their needs. The minster spoke of when he needed something done in the church – money, building, and supplies – he only needed to make one phone call. My uncle would tell him not to worry and the minister knew that someone would be calling soon to volunteer, provide the necessary items or discount their work to make it affordable for the church.

I also heard from every person I had grown up with who had so often criticized or bemoaned my uncle’s controlling nature and rigid expectations, acknowledge and appreciate his unwavering expectation of principled behavior. This day they spoke of how he had made them better and shaped them into who they were today. They also spoke as mature adults (most of us are 45+ today), of how his values and guidance had helped them formulate the way in which they shepherded their own families.

I began to reflect myself and I could only agree. I admired my uncle. His immediate family was just as idiosyncratic as mine, but they were tight and mutually supportive. They were all educated and had been provided the opportunity to excel. They each also carried a responsibility to serve their family, church of choice and community. I had a sobering moment because I realized these are character traits I demand from my six children and their spouses.

As the expressions of love and respect continued, I began to ponder and in fact question my own corporate leadership. I asked myself – am I demanding enough? Do I balk to be politically correct or “keep the peace”? Am I harsh with my tone or do I express my expectations with love and a calm firmness and set expectations that are both realistic and unwavering?

Then I began to reflect on what we do at EthicsPoint as compliance professionals. I realized we should set the same expectations for our organization – realistic and unwavering. I realized I worry too much about being loved in the moment and so I tread too softly when my management team fails to meet my expectations. Do you do the same in your company?

Have we become more concerned about turnover, morale, creating a “hip culture” or just avoiding the work it takes to stay the course instead of creating an unwavering expectation of principled based performance?

For me, I plan to dig deeper this year, work harder to inspire great leadership with my team and ensure that my values and expectations are visible and verbalized.


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About Me

David Childers
of EthicsPoint

View David Childer's profile on LinkedIn contact david Email Me


Favorite Quotes:

Ronald Reagan
There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.

John Quincy Adams
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.

Ray Kroc
The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.

John Maxwell
The first step to leadership is servanthood.