Posted by Mary Caraccioli | Filed under parenting
I was one of the lucky ones and I know it. Growing up I thought every kid was blessed with an amazing father. Now I know they weren’t all like Jerry Daigle. 14 years after his passing, his absence is felt every day. From my dad I learned that women can run a business, can buy stocks, can think about and discuss the big issues in the world. Most dads weren’t teaching those things to their girls when I was growing up. I learned that life isn’t fair and that I was not entitled. From his example I learned that not all leaders are created equally. My dad supported his family working in retail. He learned from one of the best James Cash Penney. My dad was a demanding, results driven boss, who had the allegiance of his rank and file.
I was in a JC Penney’s a few weeks ago with my mother and and older woman assisted us. She asked me for my mom’s name so that she could have something from the stockroom brought out for us. When she heard the last name – she said, “Jerry Daigle was your dad? What a wonderful man, we still miss him here.” Was that nice to hear? Of course! But what made an impact is that my dad worked at that particular JC Penney’s store for less than a year and that year was 1975.
So how did he earn such lasting respect, still present 35 years after a brief period of leadership that was not during any particular crisis or especially profitable time? I witnessed a few of his work habits when I would go into work with him on the weekends. Here is what stands out:
- 1) He set clear and achievable goals
- 2) Everyone played a role in achieving those goals. From the stockroom staff to the department manager, everyone mattered.
- 3) He judged on results and effort, not on personality, rank or status.
- 4) He watched and listened.
- 5) My dad was quick to let you know when you were were doing well or to ask you why you were slipping up.
I am just now starting to get why last point was so important. It is always important to know where you stand. Early acknowledgement of problems prevented things from festering, Most of us usually know when we are not doing our best, it is often a relief to be called out on it early. That gives us time to get it together before its too late and an indelible judgement has been formed or it gives us the opportunity to bail from a project we know is not right for us. My dad understood that people have bad days, but he didn’t make it possible for his employees to simply “mail it in.” They were better than that.
Accountability matters, my dad intuitively understood this. He understood being held responsible for your actions and attitudes raised your self esteem. If you are held accountable, that means someone believes you can do it. As a young man he saw the ravages of a lack of accountability. He lost his own dad, a hard drinking night club owner from northern Maine, when he was just 8 years old. His family was destitute in the height of the depression. His siblings who chose to work hard and keep their own vices relatively in check, did well. The others did not.
When it was time to have his own family, integrity and hard work were already part of his DNA. With me, the seventh of nine, he talked about what mattered, he listened to my version of things and on occasion he agreed to disagree, but he never let me off the hook just because I had a story ready. I imagine the same was true for his Penney’s employees. That combination of fairness and accountability may be what made Jerry Daigle, an ordinary guy in an ordinary time, so special to the people he lead. Happy Father’s day Dad! I love you.
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