April 18, 2021 marked the first year since cancer took Paul O’Neill, Sr. The Value Capture team came together the Friday before this anniversary to celebrate Paul’s life and reflect on the year without him. There were tears and laughter, of course; gratitude was the prevailing expression.
We are each grateful for the time we had with Paul, grateful for his generosity of time, listening and sharing, his mentoring, and thought-provoking coaching.
Paul set the bar high, for himself, for us, and for leaders across all sectors. That bar was, and is, “perfect.” If we don’t strive for perfect, if we don’t strive always to perform in the way that the best organization in the world would perform – and if we don’t do so in a way that embodies true respect for every individual we encounter – then we fall well short of our responsibilities as leaders, colleagues and learners.
Below are some of the reflections from members of our team. If you would like to share your reflections of Paul, or see what others have shared, please go to PaulONeillLegacy.com.
“Although we miss Mr. O’Neill greatly, his timeless words, as captured in videos and transcripts, live on and continue to inspire. His legacy of action and experience backs up those words… and will be remembered for a long time.”
“Mr. O’Neill’s three questions all resonate with me for so many of the events of the past year: The fundamental right to be treated with dignity and respect has been at the forefront of the nation, with countless examples where people continue to not be treated with dignity and respect. This question has opened the door to uncomfortable conversations for me but I am learning from them every day. Having what you need to do your work changed dramatically, new education and infrastructure to work remotely are the two items for me in the past year.
Isolation during the pandemic where informal interactions with coworkers went away making it necessary to find new & creative ways to recognize coworkers so they can say ‘today I was I recognized by someone I care about.'”
Start with safety. Aspire to do great things. See the connections. It is all still possible. If we decide.
“When I reflect on the year since we lost Paul O’Neill Sr, I can’t separate what he taught us from the COVID crisis that has dominated the world for the last year. How deeply has crisis revealed the truths he spoke to, and the imperative for leaders to act on those truths. Perhaps foremost was that safety cannot be a “priority” but instead must be a precondition, something we don’t trade off against other priorities.
As Paul noted, priorities change, especially when the going gets rough. How deeply ironic and sad that the cause of the profound “shifting of priorities” itself this year was a defining safety issue – a predictable world pandemic. And yet, we were not ready to meet the pandemic. We did not adequately protect our teams, and together with our government and political leaders we did not protect the public….
Paul knew safety had to be a precondition, led and demonstrated by leaders, because only with that constancy of focus can the people of an organization believe it’s really true, at the deepest levels, and commit themselves to the habits of excellence, in all things….”
You can learn more about Paul O'Neill, Sr. throughout this website. We point to a few sources to help you get started.
Paul O'Neill, Jr. Reflects on His Father – The First Year of his Passing (Habitual Excellence podcast)
The Irreducible Components of Leadership Needed to Achieve Continuous Learning and Continuous Improvement (Habitual Excellence podcast and YouTube video)
Habitual Excellence Episode #1: Paul H. O'Neill Sr. (in his own words from a speech)
Paul O'Neill eBooks (“A Playbook for Habitual Excellence: A Leader's Roadmap from the Life and Work of Paul H. O'Neill, Sr.” and “Lasting Impact: Leaders Share Lessons from Paul H. O'Neill, Sr.”)