Business Lessons I Learned from My Father

When I was young, I was lucky enough to be part of one of those rituals that serve as a training ground for inclusion into the inner circle of business – and are usually only open to young boys. The time was the 1960s, the place was Cleveland and the topic was professional football. Most of the men in the city were rabid Browns fans (what else is there to do in the winter in Cleveland?).

The executives in my father’s office trudged to the games every Sunday with their sons in tow. Since there were two daughters and no sons in my family, I, being the younger and more easily persuaded, accompanied my father and played the role of Number One Son at these outings. We would sit in the stands in single digit temperatures and root for our favorite team.

It was wonderful! I got to bond with my father without my pesky sister around and, more importantly, I felt like part of the “in crowd.” With red cheeks and frozen fingers, my father, his friends, their sons, and I cheered the highs and lamented the lows of the team. From grade school on, I could talk the talk of football. I understood the difference between a field goal and an extra kick, between the offense and the defense. I knew which teams were in contention for the plays-offs and which were lame ducks.

I now thank my father for teaching me some unspoken, unwritten lessons for my future career in business. This early indoctrination into a time-honored, male-bonding ritual has been invaluable. It has caused me to feel more comfortable in the workplace when the talk turns to professional sports (once I mention my childhood experience with the hapless Browns, I am instantly accepted). It exposed me to the ritual teasing and mocking that also pervades the workplace – at least among the guys. I can participate in the male initiated give and take banter that is present in most organizations – an important way to join the inner circle. And it made me understand how valuable taking business relationships outside the office can be. A lot of “work” is conducted at ball games, on the golf course, or while hunting one’s favorite defenseless animal.

So, my tip for you is to think back to those times you had with your father and what you learned from them – and him. It just might be useful on the job.

By Erin Wolf

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