In Tribute to my Dad; Four Career & Life Themes from an Old-School Banker

gentleman in a brown suit

Lessons in How to Manage Your Career & Personal Impact from My Dad

My Dad, David Christie, passed away peacefully on Sunday after a long but dignified journey with Alzheimer’s. Reflecting on his life and career, four themes occur to me that serve as valuable reminders for our professional and personal lives. My Dad started his career with the Royal Bank 3 days after completing high school and retired with the bank 43 years later. Here’s what comes to mind as being key lessons from his life.

Old fashioned values never go out of style

He was an old-school business person who believed in the power of the relationship, character and the handshake. Punctuality, a broad vocabulary (he used to drill us in the car) and the golden rule were core to how he operated and he was always turned out just-so, with the right suit, shirt and tie. He was classy, gracious and generous and I never heard him speak ill of anyone. These are habits and values that should never go out of style.

We touch & impact people: Use that power for good

To be a bank manager in the old days meant making your own calls on who was a good risk for a loan. Companies, entrepreneurs, ranchers and even artists looking for someone to believe in and help finance their vision owe something to my Dad taking a risk on their dream. He was a leader of large teams and inspired loyalty and affection, partially because he not only knew every person’s name, but their family details, personal interests and troubles. He stopped to joke, to check-in, to touch-base. Beyond work, he took time to build relationships with shopkeepers, to buy a coffee for the less fortunate on the street, to ensure that he regularly donated to charities. He would wait in the December cold to make sure the garbage collectors received their Christmas beer. He had the belief that everyone has a story worth telling and hearing, no matter their station in life.

Relationships come from attention, caring and respect

I have vivid memories of my Mom and Dad reviewing hand-written recipe card notes of the names and family details (kids names, etc.) of colleagues and clients and even preparing my brother and I in the same way for when guests would come over. Dad was a walking CRM. I don’t think it was a tactic. He simply believed that we should make people feel comfortable, ask questions about their lives and not talk about ourselves too much. And through that, and the equal attention he gave everyone in his life, relationships were built. People liked doing business with him and they liked working for him. And that meant invitations to weddings and Christmas gifts and other gestures of appreciation. Personally, that’s a really nice way to lead a career; surrounded by a community of mutually beneficial relationships.

Hard work wins the day

My Dad was self-effacing. He admired the intelligence, talent and energy of his clients and others but firmly felt that he had none of those. He’d come back from visiting the facility of a client, tap his head and say boy, they are really smart. I had no idea what they were talking about. To him, hard work was what propelled his career and kept him going. Which meant going to the office at 6 am every Saturday to catch up and working nights. I happen to think he was brilliant in the areas of people skills and communication and he was an excellent judge of people and risk. As a career consultant, I often focus on natural abilities and talents, and these are critical to leverage. But thinking about my Dad this week, I’m reminded also of the power of good old-fashioned hard work. Looking at someone’s life can provide valuable perspective on your own. This week has certainly done that for me. I value all of these themes.

I’m not sure how I measure up to his high standards, but I’m trying.

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