Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Be humble, you are still learning

‘A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.’ D. L. Moody.

I studied relatively late in my career for my MA Management (Healthcare). I was 43 when I returned to study at Plymouth University Business School in 1996. This was a three year commitment – I did the course on day release from my job - and balancing the responsibilities of a family, a senior management position in healthcare and a significant learning requirement meant I had to learn many skills about priorities.

It was during this time that one of the most influential individuals ‘arrived’ in my life.

I had known Professor George Giarchi (pictured above) for a few years prior to 1996 through some work that we had done together in support of family carers. George had always struck me as an inspirational sort of character if a little eccentric. He was not my idea of a traditional teacher.

In the first of my 3 years I was told by my lecturers to start searching for an academic supervisor for my third year major research project and the 20,000 word dissertation that would be required. George was one of our lecturers in the first and second year for subjects such as ethics. One day in year one I asked George if he would be my supervisor for the third year including the research and the dissertation and he had no hesitation in saying yes. I was relieved and delighted at having identified someone so early in my course. I was particularly pleased it was George who was held in the highest esteem by all my peer students – there was plenty of envy that I had obtained George’s commitment so early in our course!
As I began my major research at the end of year two I made a plan in partnership with George to schedule our regular supervision sessions throughout year three. We agreed to meet once every six weeks for an hour.
As I began this journey I got to know George much better with each session. His academic knowledge is awesome. He has written many books and has lived a fascinating life. Above all else he remains a humble man. I used to visit George in his basement office at the University – completely unpretentious. His room including the floor was full of reports and files. I remember one day asking him if he knew of a particular author and George promptly disappeared among his precious and valued boxes scattered all over the floor and emerged with a reference muttering words to the effect ‘Ah yes I remember he wrote something in 1968 that will be interesting … I was staggered that from this apparently disorganised pile of paper came something that was so precious to me.’ I often smile at George’s eccentricities.

One day I asked him why he had a large red ‘L’ plate on white background nailed to his office wall. George explained “The letter ‘L’ is on display just to remind me I am still learning.’

One another occasion I remember George telling me: ‘I learn more from my students than they ever learn from me.’

In the case of some people I have known in my career these two examples would not have been authentic behaviour. With George you just need to look into his eyes and listen to his words to appreciate this is authentic.

In the time I have known George which is probably over 20 years there has never been one second when I have heard George utter one word of self praise. He always defers to his students and can even be self deprecating. He is 76 going on 18 and a better role model does not exist.


Anonymous said...

Hi Trevor

George Giarchi sounds a lot like my MBA Dissertation tutor. A brilliant, but incredibly humble and unassuming man. He is a great inspiration and role model to me. I really think these people have no need or desire to 'big themselves up' because their actions, commitment and selflessness speak for themselves

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Tomjam

Good to hear from you again - hope you are well.

Snap is the word it seems!

George was my supervisor too for my Leadership Dissertation as part of my MA Management (Healthcare) 1996-98.

Good men are few my - sounds like you and I were lucky enough to get one each! :-)