The Ethical Edge
The Art Of Integrity
FORCE OF FAITH
Executive Coach, Consultant, Leadership Columnist
Strategic Opportunities Group
“Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!”
‘The Chambered Nautilus’ ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
I met Dr. Gloria-Jeanne Davis in August 1996. She had been hired two weeks before me. Both of us were recruited to help Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America’s North American plant in Illinois create a model workplace.
Sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the target of boycotts led by the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Push Coalition, Mitsubishi Motors hired Dr. Davis to head up the newly-created Opportunities Program Department charged with sexual harassment training and handling complaints related to equal opportunity issues.
As two of the three highest ranking women in the plant, Dr. Davis and I immediately formed an alliance as each other’s support system which led to a friendship spanning our eight years working for Mitsubishi companies and the six years after we both left before her unexpected death three years ago.
Gloria-Jeanne had a way of giving voice to values that remains an inspiration to me. Without vitriol or righteous indignation as an expert in EEO matters, she kept focused on working with others to create a climate of dignity, respect and fairness. Whether talking to union officials, line workers, staff or executives, she was always clear what the outcome needed to be.
Often we reminded each other that challenges were inevitable. In our respective roles we shared the discomfort of operating without a net. Her oasis of calm in a storm was her faith that had guided her since childhood, fueling self-confidence and the energy to enlist others to unravel troublesome issues.
During one of my tightrope moments she left a card on my desk. Reading it, I felt I’d been handed a life line. Its message captures Gloria-Jeanne’s essence that continues to enrich me, inspiring my work: “When you are about to step into the darkness of the unknown, FAITH is knowing that one of two things will happen: you will step onto firm ground or you will learn to fly.”
There are people who come into our lives at exactly the right moment when their gifts expand our realization of what faith, confidence and contribution mean. Gloria-Jeanne Davis was that catalyst for me. Ever a proponent of her development and others, her last gift to me was a small sculpture of a girl sitting on a nautilus shell, a reminder of the imperative of moving forward, growing, and expanding boundaries in the pursuit to make a difference.
Gael O’Brien can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org