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.
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.