Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
The title would probably be closer to the truth if I replaced “Leaders” with “Managers” and “Young” with “New” or “Inexperienced.” I bring this up because in the post I share something from my early days where at the time, I thought I was being a leader, but in reality, I wasn’t. I was an ineffective manager, let alone a leader.
During the Christmas break, I was going through old boxes while cleaning out my office and I came across a letter I received on February 2nd, 2001, from a retired coworker, Herb Lambert. Herb was an icon at Brewer Science and in the industry. He worked on the first chips produced at Princeton Bell Labs. He was a chain smoking, red wine drinking, share what he was thinking, Penn State loving curmudgeon. Boy, did he have an impact on my younger self.
There are so many entertaining stories about our times spent traveling and visiting customers or sitting in the office working through challenges or sitting with him at his smoking area as he shared stories of the love he had for his wife who had passed or his granddaughters. But many of those stories are best left to closed doors and after hour drinks! I had tremendous respect for Herb and cared deeply for him and his opinion of me.
I had returned from being stationed in the field (Texas) in 1998 and had been promoted to Customer Support Manager. It was a new position that brought together Logistics, Order Entry, Applications and Customer Service. While I was a new manager, I was familiar with most of my team through my previous years at the main office and through our working relationships while in the field. Many of those in the Applications area would be more technically savvy than myself, but that didn’t bother me as I would let them be the experts and I would focus on the relationships and “leading” my people.
While being an inexperienced manager would have its challenges, what added to the difficulty is that many of the people on my new team were older than me, had longer tenure at the company and essentially knew more. Herb was one of my teammates and was close to retirement, so he took on the fatherly role of advice giver. I valued his wisdom - not only technically or with his critical thinking approach, but with his simple view on life.
Needless to say, I had some issues as a new manager and those will be left for future posts. Right now, I want to share a letter Herb wrote to me after his retirement. One last piece of wisdom to share with an inexperienced manager and a want-to-be leader.
February 2, 2001
Looking back, I could have gotten mad or defensive. I could have quit because a mentor just looked at me and found me lacking. But I kept that letter and used his words to remind me of my shortcomings and the importance of continued learning and growth. I have talked to people through the years about this letter, the tough and direct advice from a friend, but until now, I have never shared it with others.
Herb was a Person of Impact. He had the Courage to Challenge. He Expected Excellence. He Empowered Others.
This letter IMPACTS me today just like it did 21 years ago. It is reflections like this that drives you to be better. A challenge that fuels your inner fire. I hope that by sharing this letter from my coworker, my mentor, my friend Herb, that it will motivate you to continue your journey of growth so that you too can IMPACT someone Beyond Today.
Originally posted Tuesday, August 25, 2009. Revised & updated on January 19, 2022.
Homework! A word that strikes fear in the heart of your typical student almost as much as the word "Test". Why? Probably because it takes time and effort that they would rather spend doing something else.
Whether or not you, as a student, likes doing homework, you typically do the homework that is assigned by your teachers at school, and you typically study before tests to improve the likelihood of performing well on the test. The same expectations exist for you in football, basketball, or whatever sport or activity you choose!
In basketball, you need to work on your ball handling and dribble drills at home – as part of your homework. You need to work on free throws and form shooting at home – as part of your homework. You need to work on these skills the same way that you are taught in practice. Taking advantage of muscle memory to help secure repetitive motions that hopefully will result in greater confidence and competence in the respective drills.
If a teacher shows you a certain way to perform a math problem and states that she wants it done her way or you will not get credit, what do you do? Do you do it your own way or the way that she is teaching you? Same in basketball. Practice at home so that you will be prepared for your test – which is the game.
If you do not do your homework, you will struggle on your test. Some people need to study more than others. Some can retain information through hearing and then can immediately put it into practice. We know that these kids exist in the sports world as well. If you do not do your homework in basketball, more than likely you will struggle in the games. Those that get by now with little homework or do not use good study habits may find themselves enjoying success now, but as they progress through Middle School and onto High School, chances are things will change. It may not happen until college, but at some point, the lack of discipline, effort and practice will come back to haunt that student. The same can be said for sports. It is evident by the play on the court who is doing their homework. As in school with a Teacher, a Coach provides your final grade with your playing time. So, the question is simple: Will you be on the Honor Roll, Beyond Today?
I began the journey of searching for my One Word heading into 2017. I was a big fan of Jon Gordon’s simple but powerful messages he would deliver in his books and the One Word was next on my reading list. My first One Word was LISTEN and I will share that story in a later post but since that time there are typical moments of clarity where the One Word appears. I strongly encourage you to read the book and look back at some of my previous posts such as One Word For a New Year and then the story of my 2021 One Word, FOCUS, with Focus on One Word.
The One Word that I had in mind, even prior to starting the process, was IMPACT. This word has been hitting me hard the second half of 2021 starting with my good friend and mentor, Steve Moles, talking about Being a Person of Impact. He was focusing on my article writing since he was the person who encouraged me down this pathway. He felt that my approach to writing was enabling me to be a person of impact as I tend to do these three things in each of my articles:
I created a poster with this information, printed it out and hung it on the wall in my office as I felt it was a great reminder, not only when I am writing, but when I am engaging others at work and in my personal life.
I followed this up with writing my 3 Pillars of Impact series where I discussed 3 principles that I felt were critical to success.
These principles were established many years ago when I would talk to prospective new hires and deliver my expectations for them. I wasn’t focused on the word Impact back then as I was describing my vision for our group and conveyed it back as simply “Making a Difference.”
As the word IMPACT started to take on a more significant role in my life, of course, it started showing up everywhere! (On a side note, this phenomenon is written about in a lot of motivational books regarding positive thinking. You know the I buy a certain car then I start seeing that car everywhere I go. This is referred to as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon or the Frequency Illusion)
People are using IMPACT back to me in their emails. I see it on blog posts and news feeds. I started reading the book Impact Players by Liz Wiseman which is a great book! So, while I kept waiting for the AHA moment that has occurred with my other One Word journeys, this one kept staring at me and waving saying, “hello! I’m over here…’ while I kept looking past them searching for my word.
I tossed around words such as FINISH, MOVE, and ENGAGE. All these words have meanings to me and where I am in my life, and they all had merit. But they didn’t really trigger anything deep inside. They made me feel like I was trying to shoehorn (there’s a good term for the younger crowd!) it to be the one. It was then that I realized that when I would delve deeper into each of the words, I would always end up using IMPACT in the explanation.
So, there it is, my One Word for 2022… IMPACT. I intend to have a positive IMPACT on my family and friends. I strive to have a positive IMPACT on those who choose to read my writings. I am committed to positively IMPACT the company and employees and those we serve. Because ultimately, when our time on earth is done, all we can really hope for is that our IMPACT will last Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.