There are many who worked more closely with him and knew him far better but for me our relationship was special. I first met Ben in 2002 at an AOM meeting in Denver. When he assumed editorship of AMLE, he invited me to join the editorial board even though I did not work at a major research university. As much as I grew to know Ben over the years, it was not until his memorial service that I learned that he enjoyed line dancing!
In Ben’s story I think there are lessons that are useful regardless of where you work or where you are in life. As I have reflected on his story, here are a few of my take-ways. I am sure others could add many more.
- Bring people together. Herbert Shepard is his classic article, "Rules for Change Agents," suggested that when you know people with similar interests who do not know each other, bring them together. Ben knew many people and was expert at bringing people together, often creating synergies for initiatives and research projects.
- Don’t just build networks, build friendships. In his last lecture Ben talked about the joy of working with friends. His manner of interaction made you feel special, appreciated. He was an easy person to like.
- Work hard but seek balance. I know this was a tough one. Ben was prolific in his many undertakings. But he knew his priorities and he stuck to them even when conflicting priorities also offered rewards. He liked the question posted by Clayton Christensen, how will you measure your life?
- Time management is about tradeoffs. Choose wisely.
- Know your metrics, be evidence-based. Let the data speak and try to understand what the data are saying. Decisions based on evidence will usually be superior to those they are not.
- Read. Never stop growing, developing. At Ben’s memorial service there were tables and displays from a life well-lived. I should not have been surprised when I saw that one display was “Favorite Books.”
- Help others, support others. I was deeply moved when I realized that one of his last activities on Twitter was in support of the release of the audio version of my book. Helping others is not just an attitude but involves behaviors. Hang around Ben long enough and you could see that being kind and supportive was in his DNA.
- Live a life of integrity. Know who you are. Have virtue.
It was my honor and privilege to have called Ben Arbaugh my friend.
Image,"Hawaiian Flowers," © John Ballard.
© John Ballard, PhD, 2018. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “deals with principles and practices that are timeless . . . Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Ron Riggio, Book Review, Academy of Management Learning & Education June, 2018