No matter where we are in life or how we arrived at that point, from start to finish there are always people along our path who teach or influence us—especially when we are open to learning and embracing a bit of healthy introspection. Sometimes lessons are conveyed very intentionally, and at other times we learn by simply observing someone’s behavior, demeanor or direct actions. This article is the first in a series of blogs where we will share a quote from someone who describes a real-life instance of something their current or past leader said or did that has impacted their own leadership journey.
“My first full time boss was an old Army Sergeant who has served in Vietnam. Warm and cuddly he was not, but he knew how to GSD (get stuff done.) He sat me down when I became a leader for him (dispatcher) and told me that the company we worked for ran long before I got there and will run long after I leave...so don't think that I can't be replaced if I screw up or didn't work as much as it took to get the job done.
“That was shocking to a 19-year old, but really stuck. Though it was meant to be a threat (veiled or otherwise) and I'm no longer with that company...which is no longer in business...I've taken that nugget and made it my own. I now encourage my people to take care of themselves and use that same phrase to show them that though they feel like what they are working on is the most important thing right now, it will all still be here when they get back and are rested.”
-Zac McCool, Senior Manager of Engineering and Technology, J.B. Hunt
The leadership lesson gained from this originally negative comment took on a valuable meaning as the person’s career progressed. Encouraging team members to take time to occasionally refuel both mind and body has enormous benefits for overall long-term productivity. It’s true—the work and the organization will still be there when someone returns from vacation or takes time to recover from an illness—but the reward is increased creativity, enhanced focus, more energy and greater loyalty to the team. Encouraging team members to balance their time and work load to take care of themselves and their families is a small price to pay for attracting and retaining top talent in a tight labor market.
If you have a leadership example you would like us to consider featuring, we would sincerely love to hear it! Please respond in the comments of this post, and we’ll reach out to hear your story. At Milestone Leadership, we understand that teachers and mentors come to us in all sorts of ways, both formally and informally. We also know leadership lessons are best shared so we can all grow together—and the most effective way for us to become better leaders is to clearly understand and embrace what influences and inspires our followers. Who inspired you? What is your leader worth following story?