How Did I Get Here?


Over dinner recently, someone asked me to summarize how I have become the person I am today.  The question was not to validate whether I am a good person, which I hope I am.  The question, he said, was to realize all of the specific interactions we have in life (most of which we take for granted) and how they shape you as a leader, a parent, a partner, or any other role that we play on a daily basis.  It was a wonderful conversation which caused me to appreciate how lucky I am to have been surrounded by so many good people both personally and professionally.

During my tenure in training, I usually started off each development session with a quote.  “In order to know where you are going, you need to know where you have been and where you are now”.  A more eloquent way of understanding the meaning of this message is to watch the below video of Matthew McConaughey’s speech after winning an Oscar Award for Best Actor.

Back to the dinner conversation…as I was discussing what has helped shape my professional life, I recognized that I have been fortunate to work with so many good people.  I am grateful for their influence on me, on providing me opportunities that at the time I am not sure if I deserved, and most importantly, always lending an ear for when I needed it. During the dialog at dinner, I learned that I need to personally thank several people for what they did to shape me as a leader and teaching me the core principles I lead with on a daily basis.

MS – First impressions mean everything.  Mike taught me to fully prepare for each day with your appearance (collar stays and shined shoes) as well as walking with confidence and not arrogance.  These initial interactions will help you create lasting two-way relationships. Also, planning for any situation you may encounter will help determine your level of success.

RD – Serve the people who work for you.  Rob taught me to focus on the needs of others first, before my own personal needs.  Acknowledge other people’s perspectives, give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, involve them in decisions where appropriate…these actions will lead to a sense of community within your team.

JB – Make time for professional development and personal growth.  Jim has forgotten more about training then I will never know.  Training cannot always be about a product or a job.  He was always striving for additional personal growth programs for our employees and he valued the role training played in shaping people’s lives, both in and out of the workplace. And Jim promoted the concept of “Life-Work Balance” with life being more important then work.

BA – Sometimes, you need to follow your gut.  We all need to understand the data before making any decision; however, sometimes the data is only a partial indicator of what that correct decision is.  Several times, I would see Brad make a decision that was not supported by the data, but was the right thing to do for the business.  These valuable decisions were made because he trusted his gut feelings.  And if he was wrong (which was rare), his “fail fast” motto made sure that the course would be corrected very quickly.

MG – Understand your position.  Marcus is one of the best marketers I know from a brand as well as a personal perspective.  Building personal brand equity as an individual is the same as developing a strong brand campaign for a product.  Brand positioning is critical to both and understanding how to enhance your position is something I learned a tremendous amount from him about.

DO – Keeping it simple.  One of the best takeaways I have taken from David was the “Art of the Flip Chart”.  When working with David, you should always be able to discuss your business plan on one page of a flip chart (and usually with a calculator not too far away).  Breaking down annual goals into smaller chunks is something he is excellent at and I am so fortunate I have been able to work with him since 2004.

TB & RB – No Gotcha Moments (either positive or negative).  Travis and Rob are two of the most polished and fair people I have ever worked with.  They taught me to be straightforward with any information (no sand-bagging) and to always make them aware of situations which could come up in future meetings.   I will always remember the term “no surprises” and I am honored that I got to work with these two consummate professionals.

MN – Bring positive energy and excitement to everything you do, no matter how big or small.  Michael has a way of making anyone smile, usually within 30 seconds of meeting him.  He is the type of person you have to call when you are having a day that you would like to forget and usually, within that small time frame, he has lifted your spirits and made you laugh.  It’s a trait that very few people can pull off without coming across fake or phony, and he accomplishes this with such ease.  He is truly one of a kind.

There are so many other people who have shaped my leadership style over the last 20 years.  As discussed in previous postings, I look back at my early years of managing others (most of those times, I was managing versus leading) and I am perplexed at some of the decisions I made.  And moving into the future, I know that I will still make mistakes and will continue to learn from the obstacles that I am faced with.  However, I am committed to “always learning” and trying to lead in an optimistic and uplifting way, no matter what the situation.  And to me, there is a huge difference in being “committed” versus being “invested”.  Many people want to be invested in a process, but are not committed to success as evidenced by their daily actions.  More to come on this topic later….