Things my father taught me

I saw a post recently from @KateGL in which she spoke about her uncle and what she had learned from him.  It made me think about the biggest single influence on me professionally; my Father.

My Father (sort of) retired last year, after over 40 years’ service to his employer.  During that time he went from an engineer driving a van, to the MD.  Not a small feat for someone who left school with no qualifications and went to work down the pit.  When he retired, his team gave him a watch.  It was inscribed with his name, the company name, and the legend: From 1969 to infinity.  That’s some legacy. 

He has taught me many things in my life.  To drive, to tie my shoes laces, he even once tried unsuccessfully to teach me to play badminton (I have zero hand eye co-ordination- it was never going to work).  These are the things he taught me that I take to work every day:

  • You pay back what you owe.  If people help you along the way, treat you well, go the extra mile, you always give it back and then some.
  • Work bloody hard for what you want.  There were no school holidays for me.  No long university vacation.  Oh no.  You’d find me in his office, doing six months of filing and shredding.   They used to actually save it up for me.  (Thanks Carol).  It’s a lesson I’ve taken into every job I’ve ever done, and it has served me well. 
  • Leading means being truthful with people.  Telling them what you expect, holding them to account, and giving feedback – good or bad.
  • Treat people properly.  Fight for them if you have to. 
  • When you start a new job, you don’t need to take your existing deckchairs with you and set them up on day one.  Learn the business; don’t assume you know what’s best because you’ve done it before, or that’s how you like it.  Learn, ask questions, then decide. 
  • Sometimes, you have to be a bastard; it’s just a question of how big a bastard you are going to be.  Those are his words, not mine.  Some people might find them harsh, but they mean you have to be prepared to do difficult things and make difficult decisions, and often you are the bad guy.  Sounds a bit like working in HR to me. 
  • Don’t give up because things are difficult, but know when it’s time to walk away. 

 To me, these lessons equal leadership.  Cheers Dad.    


Photo by @AATImage (Graham Smith)

8 thoughts on “Things my father taught me

  1. I loved this Gem…especially knowing you, knowing your Dad…I loved it! (The accompanying image is pretty special too!) x

  2. Hi Gemma, an interesting blog, one of those that someone might write on a Friday afternoon as they head off to the pub to celebrate the completion of another successful week.

    You and I have had many a late night chat over a beer, but I didn’t know your Dad had started his working life ‘down the pit!’ Interestingly, so did my father and ultimately went on to become MD and Chairman of his own business. He too is now semi retired & has very firm views on the failings of today’s business leaders. You mentioned the “B” word in your blog, my Dad talks about “arse kickers” – they don’t exist anymore, in his view. He believes that leaders and managers are overly concerned about peoples feelings these days, rather than their ability to perform and do a good job. My Dad and yours sound like chips off a similar block.

    Have a great weekend, I’ll see you soon!

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