Eulogy for My Father / Facebook + Your Employees + Your Business
The Newsletter of Redpoint Coaching
Volume 10, No. 3, April 2011
Welcome to the April 2011 ChangeAbility Ezine, where our goal is to give you hands on tips and cool resources for growing your business and your leadership abilities.
In this edition Urs shares his very personal account of his father’s life. No business lessons here but Urs touches upon some very personal topics that are relevant for many of us.
Ever wondered about how to handle employees posting comments about work on their personal face books site? Lauren gives you tips on how to handle this touchy situation.
We welcome your responses, comments, and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauren and Urs
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by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA
Personal Note from Urs:
As many of you know my dad passed away at the end of last year after a massive stroke in January of 2010 that left him paralyzed, unable to speak, read or write.
At the funeral on December 15, 2010, in Kusnacht, Switzerland, his younger brother and I shared our very personal accounts of my dad's life.
I thought long and hard about how appropriate and relevant it would be to share my words from that day with you here. After all, they were not written to communicate any smartish business 'lessons' or 'take-aways' - something I always intend to achieve! :)
While my father's eulogy was my attempt to describe and share my very own love story with my Dad, I believe it touches upon some topics that are relevant for many of us, namely:
- Living a purposeful live and remaining true to oneself
- Supporting and loving our children even when we do not agree with their decisions and actions
- Establishing your identity as a son with a highly accomplished and widely admired 'uberfather'
- Combining a demanding, no-nonsense, results-driven leadership approach with warmth, empathy, and understanding.
The night before your death, I sat by the fire place in the house where I grew up with you, along with Mami, Annette and Vroni, and I told you why you are, in so many ways, my life's role model and my best friend.
Papi, I know how much you value organization and structure. Therefore, I have made an effort to organize my thoughts into three sections.
First, you are a man of substance, who was always true to yourself, often bucking conventions and taking on new challenges
Papi, I always admired you for your bold and uncompromising approach to life projects. You critically assessed your professional situation every five years. Unlike the majority of people, you then followed through and made unconventional changes or interrupted assignments and activities "as long as they were still going well" as you often said. You then had the courage and tenacity to redirect and start something new that felt right for you.
In your philosophical moments, you often told me, "Use (my childhood nickname), family, relationships and friendships are important, but at the end of the day, you are your own person." And you even said: "in the end, we each die alone, and then your life has to have felt right for you alone."
One of the most important questions you often asked me when I came to you for advice on a difficult problem was "What feels right to you?" And not: "what do others think?" or "how will this or that person perceive this?"
And then when I responded: "Yes, Papi, it's the right thing for me," that was enough for you. My decision was the right one.
Your example inspired a lot of people, but especially your three children - Annette, Vroni and me - to pursue our very own passions.
You left this life the same way you lived it, straight-as-an-arrow and without compromising yourself.
Second, you define the ideal, competitive athlete
In sports, you pushed yourself hard and leveraged your strict sense of self-discipline. I have many childhood memories of you as a competitive athlete: on cross country skis, on the running trail and even on the 'army obstacle course.'
Here is one example that stands out: I am about eight years old. We are jogging together in the forest, close to our family home in Forch. All of a sudden you take off, away from the trail and up the steep hills through the forest. You run 30, 40, 50 meters until you have nothing left. Little Use knows what you are doing: "Intervals until collapsing" or, as you also used to say, "just like the old college days, when Wale (his brother) and I used to push each other until we've tasted the blood in our mouths."
Much like in your professional career, you were highly demanding of yourself and others in your athletic endeavors. It is in no small part that because of your influence, all three of your children and many of your grandchildren are passionate about sports.
Of course, Vroni outdid all of us competitively with her orienteering career. I was very moved when she told me how an old orienteering friend of yours cheered her on during her fourteenth and last orienteering world championship this past summer. You were in a wheel chair, unable to walk or speak, and there was your 41-year-old daughter and mother of four children, on her way to a Top Ten finish being cheered on - "Go Vroni, RUN HARD, do it for Peter, GO HARD for Peter!"
Papi, we have experienced countless sports adventures together: On cross country and ski mountaineering skis, riding our bikes, running, mountaineering, rock climbing and paddling. Even during the last 15 years, when I was living abroad, at least once a year as you would say did we "do something challenging" together.
Two memories of our sports adventures have stayed with me in particular:
It is 1991. We are racing a military ski mountaineering competition called the Patrouille des Glacier from Zermatt to Verbier. There are three of us: Major Peter Konig, Lieutenant Urs Konig and Private Kobi Grunenfelder. We've been at it for thirteen hours and we are in the last climb up to Rosablanche.
Kobi is dog-tired and suggests a quick rest. I am secretly thankful that I do not need to suggest it and I happily agree to the break. However, Papi, although you are 51, and more than twice as old as us, you refuse to even talk about a rest. I still hear your response as if it was yesterday: "Come on partners, let's finish it off now!" Then you take off. Kobi and I have no choice but to quietly suffer behind you as we continue the climb up towards the finish.
Since that time, we've turned "Partner, Patrouille des Glaciers" into our secret farewell code, and we've used it at many partings at the airports in Zurich, Sydney and Seattle when one of us was about to walk towards the departure gate.
Also, at the beginning of the 1990's, we both participated in what was then called the Trans Swiss Triathlon: swimming 3.5 km (2+miles) across the Lago Maggiore in Southern Switzerland, riding our bikes 240 km (150 miles) km across the Alps to Zurich, and running 47 km (29 miles) to the Rhine falls located at the Swiss/German border. My sister, Annette crewed for us.
Papi, you are an even weaker swimmer than I am, and so later when you were climbing the Gotthard through the Tremola, you were one of the last competitors in the biking leg on the road. It was pouring down rain where you were and it was snowing on top of the pass. The crew in the race sweep vehicle suggested you quit and hop in the car, as it would be very tight to make the 2 a.m. cut-off time to the finish line. Your response, which even you were proud of later, was simply this: "I have to get to home to Zurich anyway, so I might as well ride my bike."
I was ahead of you and arrived at the finish about 9 p.m. I was anxiously awaiting your arrival, unsure if you would make the 2 a.m. cut off after your run. Sure enough, ten minutes beforehand, the speaker announced: "Peter Koenig, 500 meters from the finish line!" I ran towards you and we crossed the finish line, hand-in-hand, just minutes before the official race cut-off. We were both proud of our stamina, but most of all, we were super impressed with your perfect race time management!
Papi, before I touch on the third and last point, I want to talk about you as my "uber father." You often told me half-jokingly that you never really were yourself: during the first half of your life you were merely the "son of the political father", (your dad was a member of the Swiss National Assembly and a State level minister), only to then become the "father of the top athlete daughter" during the second half of your life.
You told me that you were told on several occasions, especially during school and your National Service, that as "son of minister Konig," you had to perform twice as well as anyone else. You also never forgot what your father used to say, "A Konig boy does not get Cs or Bs but only As." We agreed that your immense drive to perform and to prove yourself was, at least in part, driven by the role your father played in your life.
As a highly-driven and competitive person myself, the oldest child and only son of yours, was it sometimes difficult to grow up with a father who was a top-performing athlete and so immensely successful in his academia, business and personal pursuits? For sure it was!
It may even be that my decision to live abroad and establish myself in a world far away from home, despite the intensity and closeness of our relationship is, in part, due to the fact that you set virtually unattainable standards here in Switzerland. However, it speaks to the trust between us, as well as our ability to communicate honestly and openly, that you and I were able to talk about this.
Papi, despite this sometimes difficult dynamic between us, you have remained my Lebensvorbild (life example) and one of my very best friends. The reason for this has to do with my third and final point.
Third, you are warm, tolerant and understanding
Papi, you were always over-scheduled. You calendar was notoriously over-booked and you never gave yourself enough unstructured time. However, when one of us needed you or wanted to talk to you, you were always willing to drop all of your well laid-out plans and be there for us. A ton of people (and not just your immediate family) found you to be a warm, tolerant, honest, and active listener who really cared about all of our professional, family and relationship issues.
Each of us - your three children - have at times done things in our lives which you did not really approve of. And it always impressed us how you handled that. Your first reaction often was, "Urs, Vroni, Annette, is that really necessary?" Then we would talk about it and you would say, "Look, I don't like it, and I wouldn't do it, but I love and support you anyway."
Papi, I very much hope that we were able to give you back some of that unconditional warmth, tolerance, and understanding over the span of your life, particularly these last months and weeks of your life. Intellectually, I understand your decision not to want to live in your weakened state anymore. In my heart, however, I did not want to let you go. As painful as it is to not have you with us anymore, you taught me how to deal with an extremely difficult situation like this one. Here it is: "Papi, it hurts, I wish you were still here, but I love you and I support you 100% in this decision which feels right to you."
Partner - Patrouille des Glaciers!
by Lauren Owen, MBA
One of our clients recently sent us this email:
"The topic came up in our morning meeting about our employees using their personal Facebook pages to comment about their work. Some of the comments: 'It was such a rough day at work,' 'TGIF,' 'Why can't customers be nice' (with some of our customers replying back on their comment), and 'I don't want to go back to work,' etc. What can we do about employees' posts on their personal Facebook pages? What should we do about it?"
Anything too restrictive probably isn't going to fly legally...
This is an interesting and not surprisingly hot issue that a lot of attorneys are busy wrapping their legal minds around, as evidenced by all the court cases about this very topic.
Just recently, a company that had a policy prohibiting its employees from making negative remarks on the Internet about the company or its workers, terminated an employee for posting derogatory remarks about the company and her supervisor on her personal Facebook page. The terminated employee then sued the company.
The case was settled out of court. As part of the settlement, the employer agreed to revise its policies so they do not 'improperly restrict' employees from discussing their employment outside of work.
No doubt a lot of billable hours will be used up before the issue of personal Facebook (and other social media) posts is settled (if ever). As a non-attorney I would venture to guess that any social media policy that is too restrictive will probably not hold up in court.
I believe a better way to handle this issue is in the form of guidelines and good sense.
It needs to be an on-going (and two-way) discussion
As you develop your guidelines, it's a great opportunity to have a discussion about industry policies, your company mission, culture and values, with your employees engaged in the creation of these guidelines. Just as you wouldn't expect to conduct a one-time, in-service training on operational or compliance issues and expect the knowledge to stick, you also cannot create mission and values statements and know that every employee will always uphold them in every situation. There needs to be a continuing (and two-way) discussion.
Re-visit industry requirements, your mission statement, and your company values
This gives you an excellent opportunity to re-visit both your industry requirements (if your industry has them) and your mission/values statements when devising such guidelines. For example, a client in the medical field was subject to Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy restrictions. Very likely any Facebook comment that might allow a reader to identify a customer would be a violation of customers' privacy. Certainly, guidelines that reinforced this would be appropriate, and indeed prudent.
For example, a post that states: "I just had the worst day when a 30 year old woman with five snotty kids came in today and demanded we help her immediately" is very likely a violation of customer privacy as there's a good chance the customer could be identified.
What about guidelines that also ask your employees to consider any potential Facebook statement in light of the company mission? Let's say your company mission is to provide excellent customer care and service. Think before you post: is it good reflection on this mission or not?
Focus on the real issues
I also think there's a continuum here. For example, "TGIF" is fairly harmless and might just mean someone is enthusiastic about the upcoming weekend. Who hasn't felt that sentiment on occasion, no matter how much we love our jobs and our co-workers?
However, the statement "TGIF! Because my customers are jerks and my co-workers suck and my bosses are idiots," clearly isn't representative of a company that provides excellent care and service, nor is it reflective of a company culture of respect and trust.
I would also guess that employees who are making derogatory statements about the company and customers on their Facebook sites are also making similar comments in person. However, unlike traditional water cooler griping, their comments are instantly readable and shareable throughout cyberspace.
What's your role?
This is where your mission and values as a company can go from just being words on a page to a true reflection of how your company conducts business. I also believe respect and trust tends to be a "top-down" quality. In his book, The Referral Engine, John Jantsch states, "Here's something your customers won't ever tell you but that you had better understand: Your employees probably treat your customers about the same way you treat your employees."
For employers: could it be that your employees griping about customers and their workplace mirror a similar lack of respect they get from you?" Or, as Pogo would say, "We've seen the enemy and they is us!" If your employees have valid complaints and frustrations, are they being listened to and addressed?
There's a great Bonnie Raitt song that goes, "Let's give them something to talk about..." In this instance, let's put more time and energy into creating positive things to talk about (or blog or post) and less time worrying about what we shouldn't say.
Our new column is our effort to celebrate the simple joys of having fun. Remember fun? You know, “lively, joyous play or playfulness: amusement, sport, recreation, etc.?"
Urs - The most fun I had this month was...
Trying out a brand new cross training device called the Elliptgo. It's an outdoor elliptical trainer which has the look of a bike. It's been out for a bit more than a year and some of the more impressive ultra runners such as Dean Karnazes swear by it as a cross training device. I was trying it to see if it would be easier on my knees than riding. Unfortunately, I had so much fun that I promptly overdid it and suffered a set-back with my knees... Surgeries might be next but fun it was!
Lauren - The most fun I’ve had this month was...
When you have one son in college and the other in high school, you grab any opportunity to spend some alone time with them when their spring break schedules overlap. So we spent two days at a remote cabin just north of White Salmon, Washington (near the Columbia Gorge). We took long walks, listened to great storytelling via moth.org podcasts, read by the fire, and played an epic game of Risk, during which Andrew and my armies were slowly but steadily overtaken by Patrick's. (I guess all those military science classes at Central Washington University ROTC's program are paying off.) It's a beautiful area and we're thinking about going back this summer.
Dusted Valley is based on the notion that when family pulls together, the American Dream can turn into a living reality. It was founded by Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson, two friends from Wausau, Wisconsin who married two sisters and then moved to Walla Walla, Washington to open a winery. They opened a second tasting room in Woodinville, Washington. (We think these guys have a thing for "W's"!) They also have a talent for making very good wines: in 2010 Dusted Valley was named Washington Winery of the year. Next time you're in Woodinville, try some of their excellent wines and be sure to say hi to tasting room manager Jill Scott.
US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK+++++
Send an email to ChangeAbility@redpointcoaching.com. We welcome your feedback!
ChangeAbility is a publication of Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching, which is run by Lauren Owen, MBA and Urs Koenig PhD, MBA.
Copyright Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching, 2010. All rights reserved
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