Managers who leave Impact

I’m a great believer in the management style that is at ‘eye level’, humane, empowering and inspiring. Unfortunately, I can’t say that such type of managers are always leading successful organizations, or that, in general, a humane and understanding attitude of executives is the code for success. Nevertheless, I’ll keep on believing in it, anyway. In this respect, listen to this small, personal experience:

One day I saw a small article in an Israeli newspaper about a veteran business manager that was recently hospitalized. I knew him just a little at the start of my career, but I’ve never met him since. I found his e-mail address and sent him this:

Dear Ron,

I’m taking you 40 years back in time. I guess you won’t remember this, but I certainly do. I was then a young accountant who had just graduated and chose to travel around the world for a while, with no specific plan. After one year I had to return back home due to health deterioration of a close relative of mine. I decided to cut my travel plans short, stay in Israel to assist him and was looking for a job.

The company, for which you served as an executive at that time, was searching for a young analyst and I applied for the job. After a long process, and out of tens of other candidates, I was accepted for the job, despite my lack of work experience. My final interview was with you, at your home, I don’t know why.

So, I started to work under your indirect supervision, but quite soon I realized that the travel and adventure bug was still in me and wouldn’t give me too much rest. On the one hand, it was a pity to lose such a challenging job and the family-like atmosphere that I felt was there, but on the other hand I was young, eager to explore the world and myself.  I knew that the company spent money and efforts on the search, that you gave me a chance, that I gave you my word… so what should I do?

I struggled for about 2 weeks and then I decided to consult with someone. I didn’t choose my parents or a good friend of mine… I chose to share it with you. You invited me again to your house and I shared all my doubts with you.  I remember, as if it was only yesterday, the relaxed atmosphere there, your listening, your empathy and especially your smile. Finally you said: “Listen, young man, I clearly understand your motives. Follow your heart. I’m not holding anything against you and we, here at the company, will manage. I wish you much success and just follow your passion”

That is what you said. You wished me success and you told me to follow my heart. And it was only 2 weeks that I was there working for you and I assume that I placed a serious problem on your shoulders by leaving so soon. 

This is who you were. Apparently, there is no punch line or moral for the story, but the memory I was left with, your attitude and the way you reacted are, for me, the moral. Thank you for this early lesson in my career for how to bring understanding into my managing style.

Sincerely, Shuka


The following day I received this mail in my inbox:

Dear Shuka,

In my advanced age, and I’m deep into my eighties, I have wondered much if I was the person I am now when I was younger, or did I acquire my current skills along the journey. Unfortunately, I don’t possess an imaginary video with which I can check how I behaved as a person and a manager at the start of my career. And here came your mail and gave me a rare glance into my past self as a person and as a manger. What an excellent opportunity you gave me! Thank you for your flattering letter.

Sincerely, Ron


Few months later, while I was out of the country, I received an E-mail from a woman called Inbal:

Dear Shuka,

You don’t know me. My name is Inbal and I’m the youngest daughter of Ron. My father showed us the letter that you had sent to him. My father died about 10 days ago with a smile on his face. You gave him back the spark in his eyes in his last days. The exchange of e-mails between both of you was laying there on the table in our living room throughout the days of the Shiva (7 days of mourning in the Jewish tradition). It went through hundreds of hands and eyes who read it and hopefully assimilated the content. I know that he left a small mark on you about 40 years ago… well… you certainly returned the favor …                                                                                        

Thank you so much, sincerely, Inbal.

Is there any need to say anything further?

Fireworks (69)
Shuka, Thursday, December 2,  2010

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