How the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company Never Misses His Kids’ Special Moments

JCPenney CEO Marvin Ellison
JCPenney chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison.
JCPenney.

He might be the critically-acclaimed chief and expected change agent at a mega department store chain, but JCPenney chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison has never gotten too far away from his small-town family values.

Ellison — who grew up in what he refers to as a “two stoplight town” of Brownsville, Tenn. — was on hand at the 76th Annual Father of the Year Awards luncheon in New York on Thursday to accept the honors alongside co-honoree and NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan.

When he took the stage, the father of two offered a moving acceptance speech that highlighted three critical commitments that drive his decision-making as a father.

Here, in honor of Father’s Day, Ellison’s three key pieces of advice for fathers.

Be Accessible

“I read a long time ago that children spell love ‘t-i-m-e.’ I’m a person who travels a lot — all around the country and literally all around the world. But not one time have I missed a parent-teacher conference, a band concert or sporting event for my two children. When people ask me how that’s possible with such a busy schedule, I tell them I have a full-proof way to determine what’s important to people: I don’t listen to what they say, I simply look at their calendar because the calendar dictates priorities. So what I do at the beginning of every year — in a very painstaking way — is I meet with my wife so we can understand all of the family events and I make sure that my calendar, from a business perspective, works itself around that. Not boasting — but it’s a commitment that I make to ensure that I have a lot of accessibility to my children.”

Remember Who’s Watching

“I treat my wife Sharyn like a queen. She’ll tell you that she deserves it — which she does — she’s a beautiful, wonderful person. But that’s really not the reason why. It sends a message to my son about the importance of honoring and respecting women, which is something I think we’ve kind of lost in society. More importantly, it gives my young daughter — who is 15 years old — a green light to understand that she has to set high expectations for the men in her life.”

Nurture their Dreams

“When I was born, my parents were sharecroppers — picking and chopping cotton. That’s how they provided economically for their family. They had limited access to education but still preached the importance of education. They also elevated the dreams of all of my siblings and me. They did not allow the economic environment we lived in or the lack of success that was visible to us to limit the capacity of our dreams.”