Never underestimate the impact you can have on an individual’s leadership journey. Being Greek and growing up in Chicago in the 70’s, there’s a good chance your family was in the restaurant business – and ours was. From the age of 12 it was the breeding ground of many of my initial leadership lessons.
For those of you in the business, you know that the holidays are the busiest days – and for us, the mother of all holidays, was Mother’s Day. I was 16 when the day that I’d like to forget occurred. The restaurant was packed and the next people to be seated were one of our best customers. At the time, this gentleman was a US Congressman, and he was with his whole family, and I must admit, I had ulterior motives. The Congressman was blessed with two beautiful daughters, whom I wanted to impress. Providing them a great experience was at the top of my mind.
In order to seat the entire family we had to pull 2 tables together. As they were sitting down, there were some extra chairs leftover from combining the tables so I decided I would help to remove them. As I pick the first chair up to lift it over and away from the table, it gets caught in the chandelier fixture above the table. Before I could react, the glass fixture comes crashing down on the table, and with it, any hopes of me ever dating one of the daughters. In addition to the initial embarrassment, I was convinced my dad was going to fire me on the spot. However, contrary to my initial thoughts, my dad went about his day as if nothing had happened.
On the way home that night in the car, I was sensing my impending dismissal. But my dad surprised me with his comments. He glanced over and said we all make mistakes and they’re never as big as we think at the time. He also suggested that I use this opportunity to learn from these moments, and if I do, they usually won’t happen again. In that moment I had one of my first true leadership lessons. Prior to my dad speaking to me, I was feeling down and not very valuable. With just a few words, not only had my dad raised my confidence, but had made me even more loyal to him. Going forward, I wanted to justify his trust in me with everything I did.
Think about the people you lead and manage. Do you help to build them up in tough situations and use those moments as teaching opportunities, or do you compound the situation by coming down on them even harder? Most people are tough enough on themselves already, help them with their confidence and esteem and it will come back to you many times over. Most people want to become better at whatever they’re doing; all they need is a little guidance. Be that mentor and coach and truly impact their performance at work, and in their lives.