Growing up with my father was not always easy. He was often demanding –expecting every job to be completed and to be done right. Whether it was drying the dishes, scrubbing the floor, raking the leaves, shoveling the snow from the drive in the winter, writing a term paper, or something as simple as addressing an envelope, nothing less than completion and excellence was expected. When I was a teenager, his personality rankled me, and more than once my interactions with him left me feeling frustrated and hateful. Little did I realize how his insistence on finishing well would lead to no regrets when my father died.
Recently I spoke for the Michigan Assisted Living Association on the topic of my PIG book, creating great relationships—the bedrock of true leadership. A woman from the audience came up to me afterwards, put her arms around me, and with tears in her eyes whispered, “You have no idea what your words meant to me today. I am forty-seven years old and have been battling with my mother for years, and today, for the first time, I realized that she will never change–it’s up to me if I am to have the relationship I want with her.” She realized her part in finishing well with her mother.
Last week a young man who works on a physicians’ team emailed me to say that he’d read my PIG book and it brought tears to his eyes as he realized the part he’d played in contributing to a miserable relationship with his boss. He said that one simple idea allowed him to see his boss in a whole new light, relieving a mountain of stress he’d been carrying around. He now understood his role in finishing well with his boss.
I don’t know about you, but today I like to finish well at anything I do, whether it be finishing a speech or a consulting job or work with a coaching client or participation in a 5K walk (no, I’m not a runner). Finishing well with my father meant that I needed to change. It meant allowing my father to be who he was without expecting him to be different. It meant loving my father and honoring him by focusing, not on the things that irritated, but on all the incredible gifts he poured into my life (albeit, I didn’t know it at the time)–things like standards of excellence, honesty, generosity, loyalty, commitment, resiliency, courage, and faith–the list goes on. These were all things my siblings and I learned simply by having the good fortune to be raised by loving parents who cared about “finishing well,” whatever the job. And I was determined that I wanted to finish well when it came to my relationship with my father.
There are lots of things I could share to illustrate how our often contentious relationship changed over the last 10 years of his life, but my father’s parting words to my son Joe the day before my father died says it best. Joe went into my father’s bedroom to say goodbye, and emerged with tears streaming down his face. “Mom, Grandpa said, ‘Joey, your mom is an angel; she’s always been here for your grandma and me. She’s the strong one in the family and you need to know that about her. Take good care with your mother; she deserves nothing less.’” I don’t believe that my father could have said that 10 years earlier. Thank God he lived to be old enough for me to mature enough to make it possible for me to say at the end of his life, “Yup, my dad and I, we finished well.”
I’ve read that only about 30% of leaders finish well. As a leader in your organization – home, business, church, or community – I am convinced you want to be a part of that 30%, whether it be finishing well in your career, a job, a project, or a relationship. To be an enduring positive influence in the lives of others requires a commitment to finish and to finish well.
Consider these questions:
1) In each area of your life, are you on track to finish well? If not, what areas need a renewed commitment from you?
2) What needs to change in order for you to finish well?
3) Who do you need to be and what specific actions do you need to take to finish well with each significant person in your life?