John O'Connor
John O’Connor

Here’s one thing you should know about Bob Kramer: When he talks, it’s generally a good idea to listen.

I was reminded of this truism Tuesday night, when he received the Career Achievement honor in Chicago. Bob graciously accepted the recognition during the first-ever McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards ceremony.

“Every single one of us is here because we stand on somebody else’s shoulders,” he noted.

Amen! For whether it was grandparents, parents, teachers, coaches or others, we are all the beneficiaries of people who aided us along the way.

Of course, anyone who has spent time with Bob knows that he is a man of action. So he didn’t just stop there. Kramer wisely reminded us to pass it on — in a unique way that is both practical and ingenious.

“Every single one of us in this room — if this industry and this field is going to grow, and it needs to — every single one of us needs to be sure we have at least 10 people who stand on our shoulders. That means mentoring. That means time spent, because that’s where we have the greatest impact,” he added.

Some will say that Kramer’s legacy is that he was instrumental in founding, growing and for more than a quarter century leading the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.

There is no denying that this achievement has been a game-changer for this field. If there was a Mount Rushmore for impactful people in this sector, his face would be on it for that reason alone.

But that remarkable accomplishment is only part of his legacy. A just-as-notable — and in some ways more notable — contribution is this: He made it possible for some of the most ambitious, intelligent and creative people in this field to do great things that otherwise would not have happened.

Many of his friends and colleagues gushed about how Kramer helped them become better thinkers, better doers, better leaders — and better people.

Now to be clear: Kramer was absolutely deserving of the accolades and kind words he received Tuesday night. But if we simply acknowledge that and move on, we are not really honoring him in a befitting way. To do that, we will have to take up the gauntlet he threw down.

So how about it? Are you ready to give 10 others in this field a shoulder to stand on? To be sure, it will be quite a lift. But it’s well worth the effort. And it is one heck of a way to help repay a debt.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.