Who inspired you, that person who encouraged you to become the best you could be?
Was it a teacher? Was it an early boss? Was it someone you met in a later time of your career?
For me it was four people. It began with a rotund journalism teacher with a flattop hairdo and a Tarlton 100 cigarette dangling from his lips. Bob Ward was one of the best teachers I ever had. He taught me about getting it right, about being fair, and above all else, about being a professional at all times. Mr. Ward, as we always called him, put the cool in being a reporter, a writer and an editor. Most of all, he put the cool in being a teacher.
As I was laboring as a composing room editor of The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, where I spent 12 months early in my career, a shop foreman asked where I learned how to put out a paper at such a young age. “Mr. Ward, East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University – Commerce),” I replied without thinking. Oh, there were others, including R. J. McCloud, but Mr. Ward’s name leapt to mind. “Well, he is one helluva a teacher,” this crusty composing room boss said. “Most of you college graduates we get back here are more trouble than they are worth. You know what the hell you are doing!” High praise for my teacher, now my friend, and for my school.
After I left the news business and earned my management spurs at Hermann Hospital running Life Flight, I joined Rocky Mountain Helicopter’s healthcare division and went to work for Phil Mayeux, a fiesty martini swigging, Southern Louisiana Cajun, who taught me how to be a marketing/sales manager and close deals. I was 26 and thought I knew a lot more than I did, but Phil, now deceased, trusted me to get the job done. He taught me a lot about myself through encouragement, stories and, an occasional butt chewing. He treated me like a valued and trusted colleague. Somehow I figured out what that meant and worked hard not to disappoint.
In 1980 I returned to Hermann and I met William E. Young, Jr., a Brooks Brothers styled executive who set an example of style and strategy to help me become a complete business developer. Bill taught me about style, presentation, integrity and having fun with work. Because of Bill I became a better, more confident, business developer. He taught me about the finer things of life – the difference between good and bad Tex-Mex food, between good wine versus swill, but most of all, he taught me how to treat clients with respect and to listen and serve. He also told me to shut up a lot and learn.
Then there is Bill Smith. He was a brilliant hospital CEO and strategist. Bill Smith gave me a chance. He saw something in a cocky, full-of-you-know-what crime writer and investigative reporter and gave me a chance of a lifetime, a chance that changed my life. Bill made a mistake or two and paid the price. Some of his former hospital colleagues ran the other way – they didn’t want to be associated with someone who stumbled and who was publicly embarrassed. Bill taught me about accepting, no matter how difficult, responsibility for your actions, and loyalty to others, even when they show none to you.
Each one of these men had an enormous impact on my life. They each taught me a lot and kicked me in the tail when I desperately needed it, but most of all, they inspired me.
Inspiration is such a precious gift to share with a promising colleague, a friend, or someone you love.
Who inspired you? Do they know it?