Father’s Day is a much more complex holiday for me now. As both a son and a father, I stand in the middle, thinking about the role of fathers and their influence. And I realize the subtle ways that a father’s example can influence important decisions without even realizing it.
I am a mechanical engineer practicing public relations. That may sound like a strange career path, but as I think about it on Father’s Day, it makes sense. I became an engineer in large part because my dad was always an engineer at heart. Never one to call a repair man or replace something just because it stopped working, our Saturday trips to the Sears Parts Department in Memphis reinforced the idea that everything mechanical can be understood and repaired.
But my transition into public and community relations was also driven by his influence. While engineers are not generally known for their communication skills, my dad continually taught me to pay attention to tone – how the things we say sound to others. I was always allowed to express my opinion and even challenge his decisions, as long as I was respectful and reasonable in my arguments. A respectful “no” was better than a sarcastic “yes.”
My work for clients is driven by the work ethic I saw I him every day. He would never give anything less than 100 percent, whether working as a warehouse supervisor conducting the dreaded Saturday inventory count, or, later, as an executive responsible for a national network of distribution centers for the largest auto parts retailer in the country.
His ability to connect with and relate to employees on the warehouse floor influences the way I think about a client’s internal communications strategy. Is this a message Dad would be proud to deliver?
And finally, my passion for corporate giving and community relations is fueled by his example of generosity. I remember the Christmas gifts that would be left at our doorstep every year by a family of immigrants that my dad had not only hired, but helped them get their start in the new world by delivering boxes of household necessities. He did it in the name of the company, but without his concern it would not have happened. They never forgot his generosity, and neither will I. He is retired now, but continues to find ways to give back, from generously supporting family members in a bind, to leading building projects at his church.
His influence runs through my thoughts when I step out of the garage after a hectic day and step into the kitchen to greet my family. What will my actions teach my son and daughter? How will my attitude influence the big decisions in their lives? I can only hope the old saying is true: like father, like son.
Happy Father’s Day.