Last week, while attending a conference, I had the privilege of meeting former New York Yankees second baseman, Bobby Richardson. For those who don’t recognize the name, Bobby played for the Yankees from 1955 to 1966. He played in 7 World Series – winning 3 of them. He won the Series MVP award in 1960 – even though the Yankees didn’t win the title that year. Bobby retired from baseball at the ripe old age of 31.
To be honest, I was raised as a New York Mets fan then converted to the Boston Red Sox after living in Massachusetts for a number of years. When I was a little girl, I remember my grandfather, a huge fan of the Yankees, taking me to a game at the Old Yankee Stadium. These were the times when men still wore suits to baseball games. I remember the thrill and the wonder of being in that new and unique atmosphere and my grandfather’s excitement at watching his beloved team in action. The Yankees were bigger than life. The memories of that day have always stuck with me, and I truly treasure them.
All that is to say that baseball is in my blood, and always has been.
So for me to meet Bobby Richardson all these years later was a real thrill. I watched this spry 79-year-old get onto the stage with a lilt in his step and a smile on his face. He lit up the room. He talked about his time with the Yankees (and anecdotes about the players), about his family, and about his faith. His beliefs have sustained him throughout his life and he seeks to be a blessing to everyone he meets.
He recited a poem, which I won’t attempt to recall verbatim or recreate here, except to say that it was about the fact that his shadow is always watching him. No matter where he went, the shadow was there. And he knew that the shadow was like his little boy, who was learning by repeating all the things that his father did. He summarized his talk with a simple and profound statement, “There is power in our example”.
That little sentence made me think about all the times in my life – both personally and professionally – that someone may have been watching, and what example I was giving.
The truth is that as a manager, my employees learned what was expected by watching me. When I arrive at the office on time each day, they know that I expect them to be there on time. When I treat our customers with dignity and respect, even when they are not present, they see that they are expected to do the same. When I commit to meaningful interactions with employees, they know that I honestly care about them as people.
So while Bobby Richardson was talking about the power in the example that we give to our children, the same is very true for business. When customers see your employees treating each other with respect, they know that they will be respected. When managers treat customers fairly, the employees can expect the same. And when corporations do the right thing for their employees (and society), customers will react positively.
The point is that you are always being watched, evaluated, and judged. People react to who they perceive you to be and the things you do when you think no else is watching. Remember – someone is always watching, even if it’s only your shadow.
As we start a new year, I encourage everyone to use the power of their example. Lead by example. Follow by example. Respect by example. Guide by example. Appreciate by example. Value by example. Admire by example. Believe by example.
Know that no matter how insignificant you think you may be to your organization or to the world, there is immense, even unfathomable, power in your actions and the example you provide to the world around you. We are social creatures. Peer pressure works in a positive direction just as powerfully as it works in a negative one. You can choose to be a beacon of light, integrity, kindness, and cooperation. You can be like Bobby Richardson and learn to light up the room, the company, the world, with your beliefs put into action.
There is power in your example. It’s up to you what to do with it.