Thank you, Scott Gaalaas

“The YMCA will eat you up if you let it.  Be careful to take time off for what’s most important.”

Those words were spoken to me by my very first boss in the YMCA movement, Scott Gaalaas.   It was 1986, and he’d just hired me to be the aquatics director at the Monroe County YMCA in Bloomington, IN.  He was cautioning me that a career in the YMCA would be time consuming.  “It ‘s your responsibility,” he said, “to take time off when you need it.”    He punctuated that advice with the statistic that YMCA professionals had a higher divorce rate than the general population.  He was an advocate for living your life by your values.  He took his own words seriously, and retired from the YMCA at the age of 63 and moved from Oak Park, IL to Loudon, TN, enjoying time with his family and grandchildren.   He was building homes with Habitat for Humanity, riding his bike, and playing racquetball.   He recently suffered a catastrophic stroke and “graduated to glory” on February 22nd, 2012.

I will miss my former boss, mentor and friend.  Not only did he teach me life balance,  he taught  me how to read a financial statement, develop a budget, and how to delight the members.   He was a man of integrity, because he could be counted on to do what he said he would do.   Over the years, as we each moved to different locations, we often reconnected at AYP events.   In the early 1990’s, we both served as executives in the Chicago area.   We played golf in Arizona, and Florida with  YMCA colleagues.

I will miss Scott deeply. He poured into my life in a way that had a huge impact.  I know he did that for countless others.  While I didn’t always have the best life-balance, I was better than I would have been because of his mentoring.   Great leaders count their success by how many people they developed.   Scott is right there with the best.  Thank you, Scott.

Response to an email spammer

The email subject line was:  Follow-up request for online instruction

Then the message started this way:  I trust this finds you well.   This is  Jeremy, reconnecting.  It’s been a while since we were last in touch.

Then I knew it was a spam message.  I’d didn’t think I’d inquired about instruction,  but I knew I’d never met this person, or even corresponded with them.  It was a classic attempt to catch my attention with spam.  So here’s the response I sent:

Dear Jeremy:

You and I have never met or even corresponded.  So when you start out your email with an obvious catch line and a lie about our relationship, what makes you think I’d want to do business with you?  I want to work with someone I can trust, that I know will honor his word.  You started out in your first communication with me by lying.  So there’s no trust and certainly no desire to even consider your product or on-line seminars.    Business goes where it’s invited, and stays where it’s treated well.  Please add a little integrity to your approach – you’ll be amazed by the results.

What Do You Tolerate and Reward?

Culture is measured by what you tolerate and reward.

 I once worked for a CEO who had a two pronged focus  – financial health and the avoidance of failure.  As long as the monthly financials were in line and there was no bad news, he tolerated almost anything.  Instead of catching employees doing something good, the emphasis was on catching them doing something wrong.  Rule after rule was implemented, designed to prevent something bad from happening.  He didn’t value big successes as long as nothing was lost.  He avoided feedback.  The result:  Sunday night found me dreading going to work on Monday morning.   I don’t think I was the only employee feeling that way.

 I worked for another inspiring CEO who tolerated nothing less than outstanding customer service.  He promoted that culture by putting employees first. He inspired us to always go the extra mile and he loved to celebrate the stories of employees delighting our customers.   I saw him get angry only once, when members of our senior team were having parking lot conversations instead of going directly to him.  He didn’t tolerate the lack of respect and he rewarded risk taking and continuous improvement.  He valued feedback that made us stronger.  The result:  I loved coming to work and so did the other employees.  We were making a difference, and it was fun.

 What do you tolerate and reward?