AS Father’s Day approaches, I remember vividly an interview I did eighteen years ago with Thomas Watson Jr. the former CEO of IBM. Watson was the selected Time magazine Man of the Year in the ; he is credited with being the person who turned IBM from the foremost maker of typewriters to becoming a leading manufacturer of computers.
I never met Watson ,but I interviewed him by phone about the book he had written Father, Son &Co: My Life at IBM and Beyond. I read the book as I always try to do before an interview. I found it fascinating and moving. On the air Watson shared the relationship with his father the former CEO of IBM, a man who never really retired but went on working as Chairman of the Board. I mean working; he showed up every day sometimes before Watson himself. Although Watson loved his Dad, theirs was a complicated relationship. His father could be very harsh in his judgments of his sons. Looking back Watson believed that he suffered from would now be called clinical depression” He never felt his father truly trusted him enough to turn the company’s direction over his son. Many in the world looked at Watson Jr,, president of one of the world’s largest companies, as a man whose vision led that company to become an international leader in technology. his father did not seem to be convinced that his son could handle the job.. The senio r Watson believed in typewriters not these new fangled computers.and that view was shared by most of the top administration at IBM. Watson Jr. struggled not only to make his father see his vision but with his own self-esteem. The man he loved and respected above all others didn’t believe in him or so he thought."When my father died in 1956 — six weeks after making me head of IBM — I was the most frightened man in America. For ten years he had groomed me to succeed him, and I had been a young man in a hurry, eager to take over, cocky and impatient. Now, suddenly, I had the job — but what I didn't have was dad there to back me up". Watson also shared with me his vision of the future of technology now that he was stepping down at CEO. Who would succeed in this new world and who would fail? Watson paid me one of the biggest compliments anyone has ever paid me. “If anyone succeeds in business today”, he said, “that person has to be as good a communicator as you are.” He told me after the show that he had never revealed some of the personal information about his life that he had shared with me. We stayed in touch. He was in retirement and spending a good deal of time on his yacht ThePalawan off the coast of New England. I wrote to him in care of his niece who lived on the mainland and he in turn gave her his letters to send to me. Thomas Watson Jr. touched my life in some deep way I don’t understand. Perhaps it was his ability to capture in his book that complex relationship between grown child and parent. It was something that I had come to believe ; it is the opinions of our parents, which can have more of an impact on us than the opinions of any others. Recently it was echoed by best-selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard the first author to be included in Oprah’s Book Clubfor her novel The Deep End of the Ocean. After her book reached the top of the charts and was made into a movie starring Michelle Piefer , she had a conversation with her father .He said “You wrote a book, Big deal anyone can write one book.” It took her years after that to finally believe she was a good writer. (Her interview will be on 1510WWBC.com July 2nd 10-10:30am)My own father was a mystery to me. He never talked about anything personal. I had yearned since childhood for his approval.The day before he died I interviewed Mitzi Gaynoron TV one of his favorite movie stars. While watching the interview he turned to my mother. “Did you ever think our daughter would grow up to be someone who would interview stars like her?” He died suddenly the next day. I have cherished his quote for twenty-five years since his death. Thomas Watson’s book is a great read, not just because IBM into the future. Thomas Watson Jr. died in 1993, three years after my interview with him.. These quotes from Thomas Watson Junior seem to be in direct lcontrast to the ethics and values of some of the CEO;S of today’s large corporations."Whenever an individual or a business decides that success has been attained, progress stops.""Nothing so conclusively proves a man's ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.""Really big people are, above everything else, courteous, considerate and generous — not just to some people in some circumstances — but to everyone all the time.""Every time we've moved ahead in IBM, it was because someone was willing to take a chance, put his head on the block, and try something new." Any comments on a grown child’s relationship with a parent or on the ethics and values of today’s CEO’s. Any comments on your relationship with your Dad or the ethics Thomas Watson touts and those of CEO's today I welcome .