If any of you watched the Ravens – Colts football game this past weekend, you were treated to the final home game played by one of the NFL’s all-time greats. Ray Lewis, an iconic figure for over a decade in the NFL, has announced he will retire at the end of this season. While I am not a fan of Ray Lewis, personally, any fan of the game of football still must respect and appreciate him for his tenacity, toughness, on-the-field and locker room leadership and overall football smarts.
What has always turned me off to Lewis is his ballsy bravado and showmanship that is so very much the hallmark of many a famous athlete. It does nothing for me, whatsoever. Nonetheless, watching him play the position of inside linebacker has been a site to behold for a very long time.
The Ravens defeated the Colts handily and, although the game was well out of reach, Lewis took the field for the game’s final play – a meaningless kneel-down to run out the clock from the Colts rookie QB sensation, Andrew Luck. There was no need for Lewis to be on the field. In fact, he stood about 15 yards away from the line of scrimmage, deep in the defensive backfield, avoiding even the suggestion of contact on the final play of a game in which he played with a large, heavy brace on his injured arm.
This play, however, was the most memorable thing for me in the entire game, even with amazing circus catches from Anquan Boldin and explosive runs pulled off by Ray Rice still lingering in my mind’s eye. Ray Lewis left the stadium where he made himself a legend in the one place where he should have – on the field. He was not on the sideline, high-fiving teammates, hugging coaches or waving to spectators. He was active, involved, in the game and doing his job – no matter how trivial or small the play he was going to be remembered by everyone in that stadium as spending his last final moments right where he should have been – on the field.
Now, let’s contrast that with another story……
I knew someone who, after spending over 30 years with a company, decided to retire. After a long but unspectacular career, it was time to leave the rat race as just about every single one of us who is not a legendary NFL icon will do. Unfortunately, also unlike those legendary NFL icons, leaving the job with an iota of respect wasn’t in the cards.
You see, the rulebook indicated employees needed to work on such-and-such days in order to receive certain benefits. This meant reporting to work for 2 more days, even though operations on those days were just about completely shut down for the Holidays. And, of course, there’s no way that a full day of work could be done with all the retirement congratulations going on, not to mention the complete lack of motivation to throw yourself into anything knowing you are never – ever -never-ever-never coming back.
Rather than thanking this person for a lifetime of commitment and riding off into the sunset with a feeling of admiration and respect, like Ray Lewis, the company required reporting to work for a couple more days just to satisfy some meaningless policy requirement from which no value to anyone could be derived. And that is the difference between running an organization on the basis of cost vs. running one on the basis of value, and the difference between people in an organization that understand what Respect for People means, and those who do not.