When I retired from Procter & Gamble after a 34-year career there, the company threw a party for me at our offices in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
It was a special day for me. Several of my previous managers came to town and even several officers at Walmart stopped by say farewell. But the best part of the event was that my entire family was there, including my 83-year-old father. As I stood in front to say my goodbyes at P&G, I realized I was speaking to two different families—the ones who raised me, who I grew up with before P&G and who are with me long after retirement—and my company family, a group of people I had been with for over three decades.
It was a bittersweet day. At the party I realized that I had fallen in love with the only company I had ever worked for, since graduating from college. When I said my goodbyes to P&G that day, I thanked many people for how they had invested in me over the years. I was speaking to both of my families.
Reflecting back on that day, five things come to mind that have truly mattered most in my career and life:
1. Success is measured not by what you personally achieve, but by the impact you make on others.
As I thought about how members of my two families impacted me, I realized the most successful people I knew were the ones focused on helping others grow and develop. The people I have admired most over the span of my career are true Servant Leaders.
2. Character tops competence: the character of a leader is the most important trait they can have.
No single leadership trait has impacted me more: the best leaders will always choose the harder right decision, over the easier wrong. I am not saying competence is not important…but if given a choice, always pick character first!
3. We’re always on stage.
I first heard this from a colleague, Joe Scarlett, and it is so true. Honest, sincere words are important to hear from our leaders, but are not nearly as impactful as what they do or how they act. Great leaders understand they have to always model the behavior they want to see in their organization.
4. Positive attitude is contagious.
Have fun and do not take defeat as failure, but instead see it as a way to learn how to improve. Lead with the belief that if you work hard and stay true to your values, results will get better over time. I have always been attracted to people who believe the best is yet to come!
5. Humility with self-confidence is a virtue.
Be quick to admit your mistakes. Great leaders I have admired and worked for always had a quiet confidence—but never showed it to others. I believe it was their faith in God that helped them in this area. They always knew they had to keep EGO in check, because arrogance can be a fatal flaw for any leader.
When I think about this list today, I believe these five points still matter most to me because the people in my life who lived and exemplified these characteristics are the ones that I will never forget. I remember them frequently, and I believe I always will. My role and responsibility after leaving P&G and witnessing these traits lived out has been to continue building on lessons I learned from these great people—and find avenues to share these ideas with others.
Written by: Tom Verdery, Milestone Leadership Associate Facilitator and Executive Coach