In my last post, I mentioned my days as a music teacher and how a whole community had so generously gathered around to support our students and the program. Alas, one of the main supporters of my music program, Mr. Jim Campbell, then, Superintendent of Schools, passed away this week and it brought to mind just how important he was to the success of our music students, so through writing this post, I’d like to honor his amazing style of leadership.
If there was ever a gentle giant, it was Mr. Campbell; a very large, imposing man, with a welcoming face and soft-spoken voice. As a leader, he understood the adage that “you have two ears and one mouth – listen twice as much as you speak.”
There was a brief and glimmering time when I couldn’t turn around from the podium and not see Mr. Campbell’s face. There were only two high schools in our county, so he was able to show up for most of the important occasions to support his people. He knew that just being present spoke volumes about how much he cared for his teachers and students. There was always a friendly handshake, a nod, and a smile, but not a whole lot more. Betsy, his lovely wife, was consistently alongside her giant, helping encourage the conversation with a constant smile. It meant so much to all of us when the “big man” showed up and shook your hand.
But the gentle giant had his ways – and when he spoke, you didn’t dare to not listen. So one day when I got a “Mr. Campbell is on the phone for you,” I tensed up a bit because I wasn’t sure why he would be calling.
When I picked up the phone, I heard, “David, the end of the fiscal year is next week and I have some extra money in the budget. Don’t you need some equipment or instruments for next year? If you can get Mrs. Miller a list by tomorrow, I’ll see what I can do. Thank you.” I’m sure I wasn’t the only one he called that day, but it spoke volumes to me that my boss had my (and my students’) back. He was looking out for his people. That was 20 years ago, and I’ll never forget it. His generosity in the long run impacted so many people. It quietly happened, without any fanfare or formal, public thank you. He led without the need for recognition.
Today, I look at my own business. In the middle of being an art director for events (which inherently involves hundreds of decisions per day); simply trying to run a business in one of the busiest cities in the world; overseeing logistics and assembly; trying to find actually time for my craft; AND carve out a life of what’s left in the day; it’s really easy to forget who has my back now that I’m in the driver’s seat.
I’m surrounded by an amazing staff; they work hard each and every day to make our business thrive and grow. They depend on amazing vendors and service providers who depend on amazing suppliers and so it grows outward. Trying to constantly remember this, I try to extend my gratitude as much as I can so that it spreads. I quite often forget – but I try and I’m going to try harder.
Happy, healthy, and satisfied people are going to work much better than someone who is unhappy. It’s just a fact — if the energy flows, work flows. If the energy isn’t flowing — work doesn’t happen, at least not good work.
So. Who has your back?
How can you make their day?
How can you look out for your people?
Make time to cast your net of gratitude wide and far.