By Tim Hayes []

Paul was a trip.

He served as one of the higher-ups in the Corporate Communications Department where I worked in the late 1980s, and there were moments when neither I nor my peers in the group could figure out why.

A nice enough gentleman, certainly.  Loved his little car and drove it like an absolute maniac.  He had been with the company a long while, I believe, yet any strong grounding in writing or communications in general seemed pretty tough to discern.  But he was one of the bosses, so that was that. 

It’s hard to remember anything of lasting impact, import, or imprinting from Paul’s direction – with one blazing, brilliant exception.

Back in those prehistoric days before e-mail, you had to compose things on a “word processor,” pop out the “floppy disk,” walk it over to a shared printer and insert it there, and tell the computer dedicated to the printer to actually print out the document.  Then you had to grab your club, leave the cave, and go kill that evening’s dinner.  Mastodon was always good, but it didn’t keep long.  But I digress.

I was in the middle of a frantic day, and I needed one of the secretaries to send a news release over the business and general news wires.  The cover memo containing all of the instructions had been written and was printing out, when I was called away by a ringing phone (yes, with an actual bell inside…you might have something that sounds like this on your cell phone…God, I’m old) or some other distraction. 

Enter Paul and his One Great Teachable Moment.

He happened to be passing by the printer, read my cover memo to the secretary, ripped the sheet out of the machine and presented himself in my partitioned cubbyhole doorway, memo waving and eyes glaring.  I hung up the phone and looked at him, awaiting further instructions.  And here’s what he said.

“This memo is clearly unacceptable.”

Hey, what did I tell you?  Can you believe the emotional impact that had on me?  What…you can’t?  You’re kidding.  Oh, wait – here’s the rest of what he said.

“You didn’t say ‘please.’  We treat each other with respect around here, Tim.  Please rewrite this memo and make your request respectfully and graciously.”

Such a little thing.  But not really.  Treating others with respect, even when they’re below your little box on the organizational chart, even when you’re in a hurry, even when you’re not having the greatest day – is the mark not only of a true professional, but more important, of a person worthy of respect in return.

I heard through old friends at that now-faraway company that Paul passed on a few years ago.  All I can say is, with all of the respect and grace in me, “Paul, in appreciation of one of the best lessons anyone ever taught me – thank you.”

Copyright 2010 Tim Hayes Consulting