How a Memorial Service Reminded Me to Laugh…....

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On September 22 the world lost a great force for the good, my friend and mentor, Jim Faulstich. He went quickly as these things go; I was not even aware he was sick until I heard the news. Jim was a person of extraordinary accomplishments. If you Google him you will be astonished and impressed.

Yet I believe those accomplishments are not where Jim’s real legacy lives.

For Jim, it was always about people. Without a doubt his true legacy will live on in all the people whose lives he changed.

I can say this with some certainty because I am one of those people, and I know I am not alone.

The memorial service was held in the lecture area of McCaw Hall. Jim was instrumental in getting this amazing facility built. It was no surprise to me that the room was packed. All seats were taken and stairways were full of people standing. I am certain that every person there had their own story to tell about Jim and his impact. Here is mine.

I had the pleasure of working with Jim in a boardroom setting. At first, I just kind of thought he was mild-mannered character, no fist pounding, seldom a declarative sentence, knowledgeable but not pushy. This was in the “swim with the sharks” era where bad behavior was often admired and touted as a superior leadership style. Jim was the antithesis of this yet one of the most effective leaders I ever knew. It took me a while to figure out that, with Jim, I was in the hands of a master.

What I ultimately learned is that toughness has many faces. Jim never flinched, never turned away from the most difficult of conversations. But instead of typical boardroom maneuvering or high-handed tactics he used grace, kindness and – perhaps most importantly – self-deprecating humor to bring people together. Because he was able to get folks to smile he was almost always able to get them to listen to each other. I know now that that’s real leadership.

I had always fancied myself a fairly amusing person but until working with Jim I had never understood the power of humor in a business context. As a woman leading a male-dominated industry, my style had tended toward the forceful. After all I had to keep up with some pretty tough characters! I am past that now. Thanks to Jim I embraced my inner comedienne and it worked! I can’t say I was never annoying or hard-edged again, but I do know some of my best accomplishments happened because people left the room smiling.

Thank you and farewell Jim, you certainly changed my life, I can only hope I can pass some of it on. But whatever else happens, I promise to always do my best to leave ‘em laughing.