In January of 1998, I met Lee Chipley for the first time. He was one of a handful of people asked to interview a cocky, 25-year-old, punk-kid who came in from a Fortune 500 company as a trainer and wanted to be a full-fledged, multi-million dollar budget wielding manager of a small call center. That cocky kid was me, and Lee was a CFO who gave me a go-ahead vote to become a manager for the very first time. Early this morning, Lee Chipley lost his life in a motorcycle accident.
Lee’s office is filled with golf paraphernalia. There are putters of all sizes and shapes in a rack along the wall. There are golf posters on his walls and a giant brass golfball on his desk. When you walk into his office, there is no doubt that he was a duffer who loved the sport (the golf shirts and the deep tan were a pretty good tip too).
The digital frame on his desk that rotated image after image let you know immediately that he loved his grandchildren, and that they loved him back. Of that, there was no doubt.
Now, I could go on waxing poetic about Lee, and maybe I should, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Our relationship over the last ten years could easily be described as mostly oil and water, with an occassional alliance here and there.
See, I’m stubborn and strong-willed, and so was Lee, and when our opinions about the business differed, we did not hesitate to “get at it” with one another, and often we simply had to agree to disagree.
Having said that, I can tell you that there was never a grudge held between us. We could have been at each other’s throats over the conference room table the day before, and the next morning, it was always the same friendly, “Mornin'” that came from Lee’s office as I walked by. There was always friendly small talk here and there, and the casual ‘salute’ to one another as we saw each other in the distance in the long hallway our building.
All in all, I’m thankful for Lee’s stubborness and opposition. He made me grow as a manager – as an idea man. See, instead of people accepting my ideas and plans on their face, Lee forced me to think about them. Lee forced me to defend them, and in doing so, he made me make better plans. He forced me to have better ideas, and for that I thank him.
As soon as it was warm enough each year and there was a day the sun was set to shine, you’d see that Lee’s motorcycle had replaced his Jeep in his parking spot. This year was no different, and I had seen the large, maroonish Harley backed into his spot several times already this year. He loved to ride, and had done it most of his life. And, I’m sure, with a sunny day and 90-degree weather forecast, this morning was no different. Lee chose to ride.
I’ll miss him. He made it interesting to go to work. Rest in peace, Lee Chipley