Sunday, November 10, 2013

A "Role Model" can Automatically be Assigned

A few years ago, I received an email from an employee when I worked at a previous employer.  The email resonated in me, even to this day.  I had received several emails from well-wishers due to leaving the organization.  One particular email stood out more than all the others.  The email was from an employee that I did not remember ever meeting.  The email stated that they wished me well but most importantly wanted me to know before I left that they had watched me over the years, was present at some of my presentations, saw me host the employee recognition ceremonies and other work related events.  The email went on to say that I had inspired them to return to school to continue their education and that I was their role model.  I felt a sense of pride and also disbelief.  I did not know this particular employee or could even guess that I could have impact on someone's life.  Of all the things that have happened over the years, these words were the most gratifying.  The employee actually inspired me a lot more than I could have ever inspired them.
I read the email repeatedly thinking that the email was mistakenly intended for someone else.  I was humbled that someone thought of me this way but I had never imagined myself being a role model at all.  I had not sought this role, nor would I have chosen it.  In reality, the role was automatically assigned.  After thinking about the email, it wasn't so shocking afterall.  Someone had inspired me the same way.  I took my current career path because I was inspired by a gentleman by the name of Ray Kendrick.  Years ago, he was the Vice President of Human Resources at a previous employer.  I had actually watched and admired him the same way.  He more than likely would not remember the conversation but he actually suggested that I consider HR as a career path, as I was headed in another direction and considering law school.  To this day, he does not know that he was my role model and inspiration to achieve greater heights.   

Is being a role model a choice or a responsibility?  Is it automatically assigned when you place yourself in certain positions?  I am implying positions of authority, power, influence or high visibility.  These positions could be athletes, movie stars, politicians, religious and other leaders, executives, managers, service members and of course mom and dad.
Whether we choose to be a role model or it was automatically assigned to you due to your role, it places you in a glass bubble and you become both visible and vulnerable.  When you are in certain positions, your interactions, demeanor, how you conduct yourself, your responses and your reactions are all visible to others.  Anyone in a position of authority, power, influence or high visibility may be a role model whether they choose to or not.  When we are in these roles, there is a high probability that someone may be emulating and aspiring to be who they see or believe we are.  We can either accept our role or reject it.  Either way, it may have an effect on someone who may looking up to us. In either case, I believe we really have the responsibility to behave as such.   

Having served in the military has had a profound impact on my life.  It has pretty much shaped me into who I am today.  It has taught me a sense of pride, hard work, endurance, and discipline, well beyond the norm.  I have always based my life on certain principles.  Over the years, these principles have remained the same.  The main principle is humility.  If you ask me for a list of my accomplishments, the page will always be blank.  Any accomplishments or achievements have never been my own.  I have been surrounded by talented and supportive individuals that have contributed to every gain, success or accomplishment. These are the people that perform the work with a sense of passion and dedication and the credit goes to each and every one of them.   The principle of teamwork is heavily engrained in everything I am a part of and much stronger than any individual person.  Success is always relative and failure is only a process.  For every door closed, there are more and for every mistake or error made, try it differently the next time.  I do not take things too seriously and often laugh at myself.  I concentrate my efforts only on the things I can change, such as the small reality vs. the larger perception.  Most importantly, it is about loving what you do, having fun and not forgetting to smile.  It takes less energy.
I was never able to identify this employee but I can truly say that if we ever had the chance to meet, I would say, “thank you for inspiring me.” 
I graciously accept any role if it is a conduit to inspire others to reach new heights.  I am truly humbled but am never worthy of such an honor.

Joseph Conrod Sr. SPHR

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