With the recent passing of football coach, Joe Paterno, Joe he can now rest in peace knowing he touched the lives of many as a coach at Penn State for 62 of his 85 years on this planet.
The horrific scandal at Penn State University will no doubt have an effect on the legacy of JoePa (his nickname suggesting his fatherly quality to his players and students too), some will judge JoePa based on what they know and others will judge JoePa based on what they don’t know.
For me, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Joe Paterno for his foresight and humility to do an interview with the Washington Post before he passed away. You see this interview could and should become one of the most valuable lessons learned for college leaders and organizational leaders around the world. JoePa shared how he felt inadequate to handle the situation that was brought to his attention:
“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” Paterno told the Washington Post in an interview published Saturday. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”
“I called my superiors and I said, ‘hey, we got a problem I think. Would you guys look into it? Because I didn’t know, you know … I had never had to deal with something like that. And I didn’t feel adequate,”
So what lessons learned did Joe Paterno’s interview provide?
First, if Joe Paterno worked at a college over 60 years and was not clear on university procedures and felt inadequate to do the right thing…how many people in your organization feel inadequate? Have you equipped everyone to do the right thing? This is a significant lesson learned that exposes how 20th century tools (binders, handbooks, annual training, intranets, etc.) can leave your people feeling inadequate and ill-equipped to do right thing as 21st century challenges, risks and situations are changing continuously and the consequences of not doing the right thing can be devastating.
Second, Joe Paterno also revealed in an interview: “In hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
College leaders, school leaders and organizational leaders must take immediate and proactive steps to equip their people with 21st century tools to ensure no one feels inadequate, but is equipped to take appropriate actions. No one wants the burden of wishing they had done more when it comes to helping a child, a friend, an employee or anyone in their community.
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