I’ve been fortunate to have been mentored by many wise leaders and friends. However, one piece of advice I received more than 30 years ago stands out because it changed my life. But before I share the advice, let me give you my back story.
I was married at 19 years old, dropped out of college, had a child, and went to work. I sold sweepers, cars, and shoes. Then at 28 years of age, I dropped out. I had a mid-life crisis in my twenties. I got divorced and played music full time for the next four years. It wasn’t my proudest moment. I loved performing, but I wasn’t as responsible as I should’ve been.
Near the end of my rocker period I worked with a band who had committed to preforming full time. So, we rehearsed covers we liked and wrote a dozen or so originals. Our first gig was at an outdoor benefit concert with several thousand spectators. We moved up a spot because a regional band with a top 40 hit song wanted to go on first. We rocked. It went well.
After the gig, the drummer and bass player told me they weren’t prepared to go full time. They needed to keep their jobs and play weekends. However, the drummer said he had a job for me. He was the assistant manager of a call center. I took the job.
About a week later, the lead singer of a top local band broke his jaw in an accident. The band asked me to fill in at a gig and then asked me to join the band. They were hitting the road as an opening act. After a day or two of thought, I turned them down. I had responsibilities to attend to. So, I kept my job. (It wasn’t much later that the band’s equipment truck was stolen, which turned out to be an inside job, and the band broke up.)
About six months into the job, I was promoted to a junior assistant and at one year to assistant manager. My primary responsibilities included quality control and training. I was pretty good at the training. One day the Vice President called me to his office. Of course, my first thought was, “What have I done now!?”
A Life Changer
The VP had me take a seat and to put my mind at ease, he laughed his big booming laugh and told me I wasn’t in trouble. He just wanted to chat. He asked me a few questions about the job and then asked me what I wanted? Where did I see myself in a year from now? I answered that I didn’t know, and he came back with, “If you don’t know, who should I ask?” He laughed.
Then he said something I’ll never forget, “Do you know how good of a trainer you are?” I’d never thought about it, and to be honest, my self-esteem wasn’t at its highest. He went on to share leadership qualities he saw in me that no one else had ever recognized. He told me he saw more potential in me than I saw in myself. And he was right.
His mentoring didn’t end that day; it was only the beginning. He taught me a lot about being a leader, father, and friend. I became the manager, and then district manager, and eventually a VP. Would I have achieved the success that I did if I’d never had someone tell me the potential they saw in me? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Throughout my leadership career I’ve taken people under my wing. I’ve borrowed my mentors’ words and told people I saw more in them than they realized themselves. Little did they know I was only paying it forward.
Tell someone that you see more in them than they realize. It can change their life. I know.
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