As people continue to get inoculated and children return to in-person learning, hopefully this is light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic and people can feel safe to return to work. As I travel around New York City to different job sites, it is encouraging to see more people out. As I speak with colleagues and friends from around the country, the job market seems to be rebounding for businesses across many industries and sectors. This is an encouraging sign for our economy and those that have been unemployed, but it also means those who were gainfully employed during the worst days of the pandemic will begin to change jobs with a new employer or in a completely new industry. 

When I took over the leadership role at Woods & Jaye from my father more than 10 years ago, I recall one of the first leadership lessons I learned from Don Morris, chairman and CEO of Morris Group International. As we sat down to dinner in Chicago, the first question he asked was, “Did you leave well?” 

It struck me. Without hesitation I answered with an affirmative "yes" and explained exactly how and what I did to turn over my responsibilities at my previous employer as thoroughly and professionally as I could. As we talked over dinner, I determined that my answer to this question was really a way for him to learn about my character. He knew I had the capacity to run and grow a business, but as a successful businessman, he wanted to learn and understand if our values and character aligned. I understand now that my skills and ability were merely the ticket to entry. Many have skills. Even more may have ability. But without good character and sound judgement, those skills or abilities will only get you just so far. 

Leaving well is a trait of sound judgement and making good choices. It defines so many other unspoken aspects about a person. We all would do well to pause and consider, "How is what I am doing today building my reputation for the long term?" Often in the world we live in we run into people and say, "It’s not even 6 degrees of separation — it’s more like two!"

“Greatness is not just a mindset or attitude. It’s how you approach everything you do, and repeating the process day after day, every day. If your plan is to be great, study examples of greatness, great moments and great people or you are not planning on being very good.” — Chuck Grillo USMC, mentor and friend, retired NHL Scout, San Jose Sharks.

The world is a small place. Bad behavior displaying a breach of character will come back to haunt you. Maybe not tomorrow, perhaps not even in a year. But why risk tarnishing your own personal brand because of lack of maturity and good judgement? Both are the culprits of why one leaves poorly. The apparent “ease” of just walking out, or bad mouthing a previous employer may seem the easiest solution in-the-moment. But the trouble you leave behind will only someday greet you at another door.

Yes, Don was the wise one, at that moment. He was making sure I would be an asset for Morris Group International and Jay R. Smith and have good judgement when acting as a rep for any of his brands. What Don taught me in that moment I learned to highly value even more the longer I am in business. Good character and judgement rule the day when times are tough, or times are great. You can hope you are hiring for talent. You can always train for skill. But you cannot manufacture great character. It is the essence of the core of leadership in any industry and in any position no matter what the level. Whether plumbing, beauty, food services, hospitality or you name it. It transcends race, gender and time. 

Oh, and did I mention that all industries seem to be more connected than ever? Business, communications and life in general are more connected and move at the speed of light. So maybe, just maybe, someone who affected almost everyone as a child was onto something with his message of how to think about protecting and guarding one’s character and values. Walt Disney summed it up for us in one simple phrase. So thank you Mr. Disney, because, indeed “It is a small world after all!”