I have been doing some TEC/Vistage talks recently called, “There’s NO Training after Toilet Training!” taken from my August Blog. The goal of these talks is to convince business people there is no use in trying to coach “C” players into “B” or “A” players, because it’s just not going to happen. Or….it happens so seldom, it’s usually not worth the energy and time expended, since the ROI will likely be negative and the coach (i.e. you) will be frustrated and exhausted from the effort.
My belief is personality and its suitability for a person’s role in the work place, is the major, if not the sole determinant, of success on the job (and in life, too!).
One of the interesting questions that ALWAYS surfaces is, “Where does our personality come from?” Followed by….“Are we born with our personality or is it a function of our environment?” Which, in turn, is followed by….”When is our total, adult personality formed?” My reply to these questions is always the same: “How the hell should I know?? I am a business guy!” But, in truth, I am more of a “one-man sociology study” than I’d like to admit. Here’s why…
I am adopted. Dick and Katie Howman brought me home on April 1, 1958. I had a modest, but awesome upbringing in Neenah, Wisconsin. My Mom, Katie Howman (now 86 and with a better social life than most 20-year olds) was the secretary at our high school. She was and still is a superb Mom. Funny, Irish, kind, unselfish. My Dad, Dick Howman, was a fairly quiet guy, who, while friendly, definitely wasn’t in charge of the social calendar. He wasn’t a Reagonesque communicator, but he loved and could tell a good and dirty joke (and so do I!) My Dad was a rural letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office before it went bankrupt. My Dad and I were extremely close. We played catch almost every day after school from my 1st grade on. We fished and did my paper route together. We bought my first dog together (for which my Mom didn’t speak to either of us for a couple months, by the way). He got me into gun collecting and hunting. We even tried to start a business together until the neighbors discovered he was converting our garage into a gun store. I learned what a zoning violation meant when I was 12!
As I was working on my Psychology Degree, my parents and I would often talk about the “Nature versus Nurture” question. I would always tell them it was my loving home and their wonderful Nurture. My folks would always say, “We didn’t do much. You came to us with great genes.” They were on the Nature side, of course.
My Dad, Dick Howman passed away in 1998. He was an incredible guy. He loved my Mom until the moment he died. A bittersweet anecdote about his death I cherish is that just before he died, he was having a Brandy Manhattan (which I’d never drink!) after which he and Mom had planned to go out for a Friday Fish Fry with friends. He died with that glass in his hand; I put it in the freezer when I got to our house to help Mom and it stayed there for about a month until she finally made me throw it away. I just know he would have loved and chuckled at this last story. I really miss him!
About 15 years ago, more or less by accident, I met my “other” Dad, my birth-father, Richard J. Callaway. My Dad, Dick Callaway, was a lawyer and a judge in Madison, Wisconsin. The first time I met my Dad was at the Badger Candy Kitchen in Madison. He had on a blue, pinstriped, Ralph Lauren suit. So did I. He wore a set of yellow suspender braces. So did I. When we went outside that first day, we both put on our crushable Bailey hats (his was green, mine black). My Dad and I both drank Scotch as our preferred vice. I’ve signed my name as “JRH” since I was 12. He went by “RJC.” We even had friends in common. If I sat down and made a list, I could come up with at least 40-50 things I did the same as he, without any rational explanation — except “Nature.”
My Dad, Dick Callaway, would be described as a larger than life guy. A one-of-a-kind character with a real memorable personality, he knew everyone and made friends everywhere. He was non-conventional, non-conformist, and very politically-incorrect (especially for a lawyer and a judge). Funny, smart, he had a wide variety of interests from boxing, flying, golf, cars, and politics. He once helped prospect an old underwater silver mine in Canada. Enthralled with the area (which was once an old-time mining camp in the late 1800’s), he bought the camp’s old Methodist Church and converted it into a cabin. Each summer for at least the past 25 years, he “went to camp” (as they say there) at Silver Islet, Ontario, Canada.
Interestingly, most of these personality traits have also been used to describe me.
So when I was growing up, I was all-in for the “Nurture” side of the argument. After meeting my Dad, Dick Callaway, I swung way, WAY back to the “Nature” side of the argument. I have been constantly surprised and amazed at the similarities between my Dad and me over the past 15 years.
But in reality, it doesn’t matter. Because no matter where it comes from — your genes OR your environment — your personality just doesn’t change. And I really believe it’s a waste of time to try. So, here’s my business tie-in…are you ready? Please, do me and your company a favor: Select the right people and don’t try to change them. (P.S. This applies to employees and spouses.)
Finally, and most important, I am writing this on Friday, September 23, 2011. My Dad, Dick Callaway died today at the age of 84. While I only knew him for 15 years, I so appreciate the gifts he gave me. My intellect, personality, sociability, my non-conformist bent…and, of course, an appreciation of great Scotch! Plus the 1,000’s of other traits that make me who I am.
On a very personal note, I am most grateful for the three “other” brothers who I found at the same time as my other Dad. I can’t say I share as many personality traits with them as I did with Dick Callaway, their Dad, our combined Dad. Yet, the legacy Dick Callaway so graciously gave me (beside just the “ME” that I am and will always be) is a lasting relationship I now share my newest brothers, a relationship which I will forever cherish and Nurture….because of the Nature!
Many Thanks to my Editor and Muse, Laura A. Gille. She does a great job!