Category Archives: Mentorship

What The Kid Did With His Opportunity


A leader’s best moments are undoubtedly when their people take the mantle of leadership themselves and successfully apply it.

Like parents and their children, the sense of pride that exudes from seeing someone develop and flourish is probably what attracts most of us to consider leading and influencing others.

One of the most satisfying moments for me was many years ago when a 19-year old boy stepped up and made a tremendous impact. I oversaw the operations for an entertainment/theme park, and one of my foodservice supervisors had to take medical leave for the bulk of the peak summer season.

She oversaw three small but high volume units in the park, and the timing of this news was crucial. She had a very young staff that worked for her, with a few shift leaders, and her absence meant an increased workload for myself.

Normally this would have been a difficult challenge and cause for worry, but hidden in her staff was a gem of a leader that I found out we could call on to hold the fort. If only I could foresee how much of a leader he would turn out to be.

Bonfilio was his name, a quiet kid who was reliable and steady. He always seemed to understand how to make his staff, which was mostly his peer group, motivated to work and overcome obstacles. He was a shift leader who ran a good operation, so we set the stage for him to take the reins. We promoted him to a supervisor role on a temporary basis which allowed him the scope of authority he needed to assume the role left open for a few months.

Bonfilio immediately started to have the operations run smoother and more expedient within a couple of weeks. He made sure that the other shift leaders knew how to train new hires, use their daily task lists, and take care of the customer. Within a month, sales and profits for those locations exceeded prior years.

As he became more efficient, I started to give him duties for scheduling, ordering, and cleaning. He effectively worked those into his routine and delegated some of the tasks to others who he thought could learn and help him out.

Impressed, I started to give him more responsibility. I would give him weekly goals on cleanliness, service times, training, and other operational challenges. We would check weekly, and I would ask him “So how are you coming on A, B, and C?” He would respond, “A, B and C are done, here are the results. And, oh, I also did an D, E, and F for you as well, here’s what became of those.” I was floored by Bonfilio’s initiative, and his ability to take on more while ensuring the operations ran efficiently.

Bonfilio, like many others, needed 2 things in order to exercise his leadership influence:

1) A chance to step up, and 2) The motivation to step up when the chance is presented.

His story gives us solid lessons in how to foster chances and groom people to be ready for those opportunities:

  • Scan The Horizon That Is Your People – Leaders need to take the time to know their players and where they can fill in during various situations. Coaches know how their players react in a given situation, parents know their children’s strengths and weaknesses. Get to know your people, and their talents, intimately.
  • Identify Traits, Not Personalities – Many people have been discounted from leadership roles for reasons based solely on their personality. What may be hardness might be high standards, likewise shyness could be keen observation skills. Be discerning in your assessment of your people.
  • Build Skills & Develop Their Character – Without skills, the job doesn’t get done. Without character, it doesn’t get done right or consistent over the long haul. Their future leadership trajectory will in part be determined by the path you set them on on these two fronts.
  • Give Them A Chance To Lead For Real – Start with a can’t fail situation, then grow from there. Stretch them, push them, but get them out there so they can show their talents. Waiting for the “right moment” may never come, so create it for them.

It was Bonfilio’s vision, talents, and initiative that made an incredible impact that summer. We just merely set the stage; but he had to show up and perform each time the curtain rose up.

That summer the shops that Bonfilio operated set records on sales and margins, as well as customer satisfaction and employee engagement. When his supervisor returned from her leave in the fall, Bonfilio was ready for the next challenge.

He knew of an opening as a supervisor in our largest restaurant, and wanted to take on the challenge of learning a new concept, new skills, and work for the person who later became our executive chef for the park. While a step down from what he just accomplished, he saw even more opportunity to learn and grow as a leader.

Do you know who the Bonfilios of your organization are? Have you given them an opportunity to showcase their talents? They are out there, waiting to make your business better and become dynamic leaders in their own right.

(first posted on Lead Change Group 3/15)

(image: pixaby)


Good Leaders Spread Good Manure

If you think of a manure-laden farm, the picture you derive is probably unpleasant. The sight of dirty brown fields may be bad enough, but the awful odor that emanates will linger with you for quite some time.

Yet farmers put up with the gross and smelly substance because of the benefits it provides. However there are good and bad manures, and the wisest farmers know that bad manure can be toxic and harmful to plants, animals, and people associated with the farm.

As leaders, we need to discern the difference between good and bad manure. Manure in it’s very nature is waste, cast-off, an unpleasant by-product. Yet in it’s purest form, good manure is rich and will allow people to grow and flourish in a very healthy way.

Some examples of bad manure in your organization may be:

  • Unchecked negativity and toxic behavior
  • Unrealistic goals and timeframes
  • Restricted resources that prevent tasks from being accomplished
  • Deliberate sabotage to prove power or advance agendas
  • Politics that derail the missions
  • Behaviors and procedures that are not congruent to the core values

As stated above, good manure can be healthy and allow people to thrive and blossom in ways that cannot be done without it. Think for a moment on these issues and what good benefits can be derived:

  • Ripple effects from toxic team or leadership leaving (pruning)
  • Goals that stretch people beyond what they perceive as their limits (growing)
  • Limited resources (due to financial or procurement constraints) that challenge people to be creative and innovative (moderating)
  • Threat of competition and loss of business and/or market share (urgency)
  • Company expansion that brings in new staff and fosters internal competition (flourishing)
  • Openness of budget challenges that allow staff to find new ways to generate revenue and contain costs (sharing)

As leaders we need to do everything we can to not hamper progress and growth in our people and organization. But we cannot keep them in an incubator free from any harm or disease – the reality of the world does not afford that. By managing the type of fertilizer that is spread across our teams, we can foster a rich and healthier growth in our people.

(image: pixaby)

A Checklist For Proper Training

A recent workplace training study over the last year resulted in an astonishing fact:

Between 79-80% or workplaces spent less than $1000 in training on their employees

That’s a staggering amount and even more when you break it down further:

  • Given a median hourly rate of $22, this equates to 45 hours of training
  • 45 hours is just barley the first week of work for a full-time employee
  • This is an annual figure, meaning onboarded staff from prior years barely get 1 hour of training and development a week
  • Weekly, the average employee gets less than $20 of training spent on them to develop skills or increase productivity

It’s no wonder that lack of adequate training, development of skills, and creation of new challenges are a consistent metric that appears in most every survey of why employees leave.

Leaders and organizations can do better than this. So as to get our mental acuity focused into the realm of increasing training competency, here is a checklist of items you’ll want to consider in making your training programs effective to better develop your staff and organization.

  1. Onboarding with Clear Expectations.
  2. Onboarding with a Mentor, Big Sister/Brother
  3. Mini-boot camp (or training camp) training (any title will do)
  4. Yearly skills calibration
  5. Micro-learning accessibility
  6. Tailor training methods to meet employees needs, not company’s (or the trainer’s)
  7. Thread Culture, Values, Vision through every fabric of training (yes, the finance team too!!)
  8. Subject ALL staff, from hourly to C-level – to the exact same training modules and sessions
  9. Mix up remote digital training with in-person small groups
  10. Find each person’s needs and match to a training plan
  11. Train every day (athletes and orchestras do it!)
  12. Make training a bigger budget line item – it does ensure a solid ROI if done right
  13. Leadership must by in
  14. Training must be a culture, not a counter-culture
  15. Always work to improve content, engagement, and relevancy
  16. Ask trainees for feedback personally, not through a survey
  17. If you do ask for feedback through a survey (because some of you will), leave open ended comment boxes so employees aren’t penned into a few irrelevant answers that don’t allow them honest feedback
  18. Infuse fun and creativity
  19. Encourage training credit in extra-curricular training that augments and dovetails into the work (thru, local colleges, online sessions, etc)
  20. Reinforce continually to keep skills sharp throughout their career
  21. Have a monthly training focus throughout the entire organization to rally around a core value (customer service, safety, communication, integrity, etc)
  22. Combine learning styles for maximum impact and reach
  23. Include your hourly staff in teaching to build there skills and grow future teachers, trainers, subject matter experts, leaders
  24. Don’t make it boring – mix it up with breaks, change seat locations, content structure to avoid boredom and increase retention

These are just a few of the many ways great companies get proper training done. It’s easy – if you’re willing to make it happen. And it reaps benefits – if you execute it correctly.

If you have other methods of training that you’d like to include, please list them below!!

(image: pixaby)




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