When my sister, Sylvia, read an article in the December 2011 issue of Vogue Patterns Magazine, it resonated with her, because it was very similar to a scenario she experienced.
When my Mom was pregnant with by brother, Jack, in the winter of 1955, Sylvia walked in on her making doll dresses. She assured Sylvia that she was making clothes for the new baby. But Sylvia was curious as to why she was making girl clothes when we didn't know the gender of the baby. Mom covered her story by making corduroy overalls for the "baby" the following day.
This explanation satisfied Sylvia for the time being, and she kept dreaming of the bride doll she hoped to get for Christmas. When Sylvia found that beautiful bride doll under the tree on Christmas morning, it wore a lovely, white satin gown with a beaded sweetheart neckline (Sylvia now has that very dress framed and on prominent display in her home). The doll came with a small suitcase full of her wardrobe for every occasion - an organdy party dress with matching hat for garden parties, a seersucker nightgown, a corduroy coat, a skirt and matching blouse, and a pair of corduroy overalls and blouse for gardening.
As Sylvia walked outside with her treasured doll that warm Christmas morning, all of a sudden it came to her that she had seen some of those doll clothes before! And that is how she came to understand about Santa.
Sylvia has many other poignant stories about Mom, but this is one that will always stand out in her mind. At 36, Mom was having trouble with varicose veins when pregnant with Jack, and she had to rest in a chaise lounge most of the time in the weeks before he was born. Yet Mom was determined that Sylvia would not be disappointed on Christmas, and she bought a generic doll and tricked it out with all these beautiful clothes, including a handmade wedding gown!
This story occurred in 1955, before Barbie dolls came about in 1959. By 1959, Sylvia was 11 and getting too old for dolls. Besides, those unnatural-looking, skinny Barbies held no interest for her. They paled in comparison to her amazing bride doll.
My brothers and I have many stories of Mom also. I have published a number of them in my book, "You Can't Push a Pig into a Truck: Everyday Leadership Lessons," and a few in my newest book, "And my Brother Jack: 111 Everyday Leadership Lessons." She was the lynchpin of the family. Today, in Lebanon, Kentucky, Sylvia, her husband Bob, and a couple of women who are wonderful caregivers take care of Mom, who is now 91 and years old. Her health is frail and her short-term memory fading.
The stories we tell about those around us (loved ones or friends) usually capture the essence of the person. In the workplace, people tell stories of peers and leaders. Wouldn't it be good if the stories told about us were those of compassion, honesty, clarity, and commitment simultaneously to the organization and to staff? Leaders can change the stories told about them by changing their behaviors. It is not too late to have more positive stories told about you.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.