Lessons Learned From a Life Well-Lived: Mary Jeanne Flannery O’Connell

My Aunt Jeanne, 92, just passed away. She was the last living relative of my parent’s generation. Jeanne had 13 children, 32 grandchildren and 36 great grandchildren. Add in spouses and you have well over 120 people. In her lifetime she had to manage the equivalent of a small village, and did it largely on her own following her husband’s passing in 1977. The photo above is from my wedding, when she joined me for the “first dance”.

In today’s economy, managers are asked to manage more people with dwindling resources. I thought about some of the memories that were delivered by my cousin Tommy during the eulogy around Aunt Jeanne’s “mothering” style, and believe it correlates well.

1. Feeling special. My aunt made every kid or grand kid feel like they were her favorite. She expressed confidence in their abilities to achieve and accomplish. If managers made each sales person feel like they could achieve, would they? If they make their sales people feel like they are going to fail, will they? Something to ponder.
2. Teaching (Coaching) moments. Jeanne took advantage of every teaching moment. She not only taught with words but also by example. It’s the do as I do that is most remembered. We could all use a reminder that teaching is not effective unless you live it.
3. Recognition. A nickel, quarter or a dollar was given for small tasks like mowing the lawn, returning books to the library or finding certain pesky insects and turning them in. The important thing to Jeanne, or the kids, was not in the money received but the recognition of a job well done.

As parents, we know that there is more to the equation when raising a family versus running a business, but the parallels are also there to think about. Thank you Aunt Jeanne for showing us how to do it, and God bless you !