Friday, January 3, 2014

A True Bigshot Is Never A Snot

I've met and worked with important people over the years. Contrary to what one might think, they're usually very humble.

My husband Andy wrote a blog post about how we met Harry Basil at the Tropicana Las Vegas, home to the Laugh Factory. He co-owns it and performs there.

Basil's act is crazy creative, and you can tell he's been in the movies since forever. But what distinguishes him in my mind is not talent - but rather how he treated us so nicely.

We saw him in the morning at the Starbucks kiosk, getting a coffee. Normally you don't bother actors especially after a night in Vegas...early morning is hangover time. But I had a feeling it would be OK, and so I bothered him.

So I took the photo. Of course as usual it wasn't great. My hands shake a little, and I was nervous too, and standing too close.

We walked away and I said, "Now Andy, I don't think it's the best photo..."

"Oh no," he said. "Not again."

Just as we were going back and forth, there was Harry Basil. He tapped Andy on the shoulder.

"It was too close, right?"

And he stopped so I could take it again! 

Here's another really humble person: W. Ralph Basham, the former head of the Secret Service and also former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

My husband used to work for Basham at the Secret Service, and he told me about the employee ice cream party where he put on a hat and served.

Years later I worked for him, and had the opportunity to talk with him briefly on several occasions.

On the first, he said that we should do something about the fact that CBP employees deserved more credit for what they do, and how could we get the word out?

On the second, he asked me how my husband was doing. When you consider that Basham probably interacted with hundreds of people a week, the recall is amazing.

Here's another story. I used to recruit speakers for the Federal Communicators Network. And one time, I learned that the well-known marketer and author Seth Godin was going to speak at the Warner Theater. So I sent him an email asking him to speak for us.

He responded right away.

Not to run down a laundry list, but I could go on...and tell you about the humble side of so many people you will never hear about. Current and former employers, colleagues and others. Because they simply do not self-promote, and they accustom others to proper behavior. 

More than that - unfortunately - often these people take a bullet when they shouldn't. They are willing to be the "bad guy" (or "bad girl") as long as the important work gets done.

Amid all the bad news we get about leaders' dysfunctional personalities - how they can be cruel and abusive and arrogant and greedy - we do not often hear the good. But there are mensches (good people) out there, and I think it's a good thing to celebrate and copy their fine behavior.

* All opinions my own.