Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day — One Day Late

Somehow I have managed to write a blog at least weekly for three years and have never written one about my mother. This fact hit me yesterday on Mother's Day, and I felt very guilty, particularly because, unbeknownst to her, she played a critical role in my decision to enter the communications field. Even more importantly, she helped shape the person I am today.

My mother was a great communicator, although she would not have described herself that way. She just came by it naturally. She was sincere, articulate and had enormous candor. Yes, she would scream at me when I did something inappropriate, but she also recognized me for the good things I did and was not sparing in her praise. On the one hand, she was a cheerleader for climbing the mountain and getting to the top, and yet, she had no trouble having the difficult conversation with me when it was necessary, and only today do I understand the discipline it took.

She never wrote journalistically, but reading her letters, written daily when I was away at college, was like donning a robe and lying on a couch and reading a good book. How I looked forward to getting those letters! Many were strategic in nature, advising me why I should take a certain path and noting the tactics to employ to get there. Mom did have a way of repeating herself, and that isn't all bad in management communications. When I moved to New York, the letters continued to come, and some were five or six pages; it seemed it was nothing for her to write for an hour about the family goings-on and her various concerns. Today they would call my mother transparent.

One of the attractions of being in a public relations firm was the diversity of clients and the intellectual challenge in learning all about the clients and their various industries. It was mom who stressed the importance of learning about many things simultaneously and having many irons in the fire. As children, my brothers and I were given every kind of lesson in the book — from acting and ice-skating to athletics, singing and violin. We needed to become cub scouts and boy scouts, go out for the class play and still get top grades in school. It made me a natural for an arts and sciences education, designed to develop intellectual diversity... one of the traits we look for in our recruits. I don't think she realized it, but she was planting the seeds of management and leadership.

Lastly, mother seemed to handle bumpy rides well. She coped, mostly staying calm, although sometimes the anxiety showed. There were ups and downs with me, my brothers and my dad's business. Nevertheless, she was steady.... she was the glue that held it all together. She helped get us through the tough periods ... and in that, taught me a management fundamental: that you can get through almost any challenging period if you hang in there and actively work at solutions. It was not so much what she said but what she did that demonstrated the ideal of persistence. She understood — and demonstrated — that communication often transcends mere words.

Underlying everything was my mother's passion for her children, their well-being and her desire for us to engage in life responsibly and with self-respect. Although she passed away many years ago, she remains one of my most important role-models.

Technorati Tags: Mother's Day, business, communications, public relations

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