Late for school

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I am fortunate enough to take my daughter to school most days. She is still young and actually likes to have me walk her into school. Often I stay the extra 10 minutes for Morning Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. On many mornings I unfortunately have to leave shortly after the bell rings in order to make it to my first appointment of the day.

When we were new to the school I would walk out the closed front gate of the school. Often times as I was walking out there would be a stressed out parent shuttling their young child along the pathway toward the gate. A look of relief would come over their face when they saw me come out because then they would not have to deal with the obtrusive (and somewhat embarrassing) process of having to go into the school office and get a tardy slip. I would hold the gate open for them, understanding how crazy the mornings can be and then walk away.

This repeated itself many times in different ways. A parent would fly up in their car and I could hear them say to their child, “Oh good, you don’t have to go through the office.” I would once again hold the gate open until the child came through and then safely lock it behind them.

One day after leaving school I was talking with one of my colleagues and the financial crisis was beginning to reveal itself, it was late spring of 2008. Her boyfriend was looking for a new job. He had worked as a telemarketer for a mortgage firm. He was making huge money and now couldn’t find a job. I remember asking my colleague if her boyfriend, while making six figures as a telemarketer, ever heard a voice in the back of his head that said, “How can I sell this guy who makes $40,000 a year a $500,000 loan?” Her response was, “Oh no, that decision wasn’t his responsibility, it was the responsibility of the underwriter. Once the person said he was interested, it was the underwriter who made the decision to approve or not.”

Soon I began to ask myself why I held the gate open for those kids all of those times. My daughter and I got our tails out of bed every morning and were not late yet I was rewarding those kids and more specifically, their parents, for not doing the same. What was worse was the parents were hoping, out loud no less, that I would hold the gate open for their kid so they wouldn’t have a tardy on their record. I guess they could justify it by saying to their child, “Well, it was Mr. Kelly who made the decision to hold the gate open, not you or me.”

I don’t know if my colleague’s boyfriend was let in the side gate of his elementary school as a young kid. What I do know is that we often “let those things slide” because we don’t want to seem “uncool” or “not friendly.” I know often those of us who try to stick with the rules are called “inflexible” or we are told we have something stuck in us in an uncomfortable place. But for me it is not about the rules, it’s about what we are teaching our kids. It might seem like a small infraction but our kids notice and without trying, we have just taught them it is not their responsibility to be on time, to respect others, to follow the rules – to listen to that little voice inside their head. Besides, what’s the big deal, who is going to notice? They will, they always do.

Leadership is hard work. Whether it be as a parent, friend or professional. As for me, I try to avoid going out the gate now, and if I do, I make sure to close it quickly behind me.

Jack Kelly
Jack Kelly
Jack founded the Corlea Group in early 2009 with his first client coming on board in January of that year. Jack loves to coach. He coaches his clients and he helps coach his kid’s teams – it’s his passion and has been for over 25 years as a professional, father and volunteer. Why? Because he likes to help a team succeed.
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