Category Archives: Mentorship
Look at the list of professional roles below and see if you can find a leadership trait that each has in common with the rest:
- Circus Ringmaster
- Symphony Conductor
- School Teacher
- Healthcare Professional (Nurse, Doctor, Specialist, Weight Loss Coach)
- Law Officer
What these roles have in common is their sole purpose is to bring out the best in those they interface with, without glory for themselves. This commonality is the core of their leadership, and anyone else’s as well.
Each of these roles function is to make those around them better, while working hard to perfect their calling. They may be the focal point at first glance, but careful discernment shows the prefer others to be focused on instead.
Let’s look quickly at how each one does this and what we can learn from their approach.
Circus Ringmaster. You may think this person is the center stage attraction. Every act they have the spotlight, and their showmanship and persona gain the attention of everyone in the audience. But their core job is to build up excitement and anticipation for the main acts and to slip behind the curtain away from the spotlight to allow the performers to showcase their talents. Great leaders promote their people and never stand in the way of their ability to “Wow” their customers.
Symphony Conductor. It takes years of study to attain to this level of musical mastery, yet the conductor is only 1 of 50, 100 or more people working together. They may be a headliner to a degree (such as Arthur Fiedler) but usually perform with their back towards their audience, having the musicians face the crowd. Their job is to get the best performance of each musician, each section, and create a culture of teamwork and professionalism to give a peak performance, over and over, each night.
School Teacher. To have the power to effect young and impressionable minds of the future should not be a task taken lightly. Teachers are charged with creating foundations for academics, model citizens, and fostering behaviors to mold the next generation of (all-too-soon-to-be) adults. To balance teaching core principles, truth, critical thinking, and mutual respect as well as keeping their students engaged and motivated daily are similar to what many leaders face every day. That all with the focus of getting children to learn and believe in their talents as they are just starting to discover them.
Healthcare Professional. The roles of these women and men may work more on the physical needs, but they work on the mental and emotional needs of those that depend on them. Their goal is a simple one – to make people better, healthier – by their skills and also through education, compassion, and sacrificing themselves. Many of these women and men work long hours to save a life, often putting themselves at risk. A great leader serves others in spite of the inherent danger they may face themselves, without recognition many times. (When a patient heals, it’s almost always said they made a great recovery and rarely does the credit go the to nurse or doctor).
Pastor. A pastor’s true calling is not to build a big mega-church, write best sellers, make people feel better, or have a large video audience. Theirs is a simple yet difficult calling – to faithfully teach the Scriptures to their congregation and help them towards spiritual maturity. Handled properly they can help positively impact many lives; but an incorrect misuse of the text or their office can leave lives, families, and whole communities in shambles. Pastors devote themselves to careful study, long hours, of prayer and ministry, and forego the comforts of their home lifestyle to meet the needs of others in their homes, the hospital, or wherever the need occurs. They grieve when people falter, and are patient and long-suffering to see folks grow slowly over years and decades. They are the true servant leaders who serve others to help them grow spiritually.
Law Officer. While this role may seem out of sorts juxtaposed on this list, their position is a unique one, especially those with integrity. They swear an oath to protect and to serve others, through both enforcing the law and keeping the order and safety of the citizens in their city or town. They serve through all elements (no bad weather days) and oftentimes volunteer to put their bodies and lives at risk to ensure the welfare of others. They personify servant leadership by placing their own well being to the limits in order to ensure citizens have freedom and peace form those who oppose it.
Virtually all of these servant leader roles are thankless jobs; others get the attention and recognition when things go right, and they take all of the blame when things go wrong. Yet true servant leadership is not worried about where the credit goes, they simply want others to do better as a result of their talents and skills and position.
Consider how your own role can model a better servant leader influence. Take some guidance from these noble positions and incorporate their passion into serving others.
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)
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.