Personal and Professional Relationships
My Philip story
We have covered a lot about how others are changed by us. We have gone through talks of leadership and communications. Establishing and spreading our styles and habits on others ultimately setting up our legacy. This is not one of those articles, and it’s not an easy article to write. In 13 years, I have spoken to only a few about this.
There are going to be a lot of great success stories in your career as a leader. These are the things that you can sit around and pass down to others hoping that they you can use them for your legacy. Just as important (or more important) is how you handle your situations that completely went away from your vision.
Philip Meyers entered my life in 2005, when I had just been given the reigns as the director of training at Take 5. At this point, the position was a part-time job and required you to run a store 60 percent of the time while working with 16 stores on development. I managed a small two-bay shop located in Chalmette, La., while my office was in New Orleans.
Philip was the assistant manager at Shop 7, attached to my office. He was married to his beautiful wife Tonya and had a little son, Caleb, whom Philip taught that the grass had alligators in it an attempt to keep Caleb at his side.
I brought Philip to my shop and began developing him as a top assistant manager. The style I decided to develop at that time was “mildly satisfied,” and it seemed to work on Philip. I never really praised him for his work, I instead told him when he was wrong and gave him my quiet support when he was right. Being young and inexperienced, I hadn’t really appreciated the “good job” mentality. Still, I cared deeply about Philip’s development.
Like many, Hurricane Katrina displaced Philip, and he found work in Texas. When a position opened in Mandeville La., I offered him a job as manager of Shop 11, another small two-bay.
On a visit to shop 11, I discovered that his assistant manager, Derrick, had violated his terms of employment by keeping a gun in his vehicle on the premises. I left Philip to figure out how to get Derrick on the right track and returned home.
On Thursday, Dec. 15, 2005, the skies cried. A heavy rainstorm passed over the area. I received a phone call that there had been an accident, and Philip was injured. I immediately went to the shop to see Derrick at the shop where Philip’s truck was parked. Derrick could not talk much but said Philip borrowed his car and was at the church down the street. And he was shot.
The rain increased as I pulled up to the church. My mind was racing so much that I could not even answer simple questions, but an officer asked, “Do you know why he would hurt himself?” I realized what had happened.
Driving to the hospital, water had filled the street and my eyes as well. The hospital was a few miles away, and I still don’t remember how I got there.
I devoted the next few days to running Shop 11 in his absence. Countless phone calls and visitors filled the shop looking for Philip. The procedures in the shop quickly adjusted to deal with the overwhelming realities.
“Full server Castrol High Mileage filter number 111” … walk to the bathroom and cry for a minute... wash face…. Return and place the window sticker on the windshield and not looking at the customer … walk in the office… cry for a minute… repeat on every car.
His funeral was held four days before Christmas. I was asked to assist in the process and walk my dear friend to his final resting place.
The anger of him leaving, the resentment of me telling him there was a gun in the car, and the sadness of the families swirled through my head in every step towards the mausoleum. As I walked away, his mother, Charlotte, grabbed me. She hugged me and whispered, “You made us proud of him”. I still cannot digest this phrase.
Moving forward, I have developed a much deeper understanding of my role in developing people. I am certain that I provided a means to departure but not certain that I could have stopped it. We were not awarded the understanding of why he had done this, but it completely changed my development structure. While I understood his workflow and professional responsibilities, I never took the time to dive deep and understand his struggle. Relationships with your employees, your teams or your directs should not stop at checks, schedules and procedures.
This was written partly because I needed to say this after 13 years it has been a very difficult write. More importantly, I wrote this to shine light on your team and your abilities to guide not only their professional development, but their personal development. This is my fuel. Go back and start intimately understanding the people who look to you for guidance. I know I have been able to save more people since this happened, and perhaps that is why.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Know it.