Leadership Lessons—You Never Know Where You Find Leaders

I’m writing this from the Dwyer Group’s 34nd Annual Reunion in Orlando, Fla. We are expecting 1,800 attendees this year, which is the largest attendance ever! This week’s blog is about finding leaders … you need to identify them in your own organization and your goal should be to recognize them.

This morning was the Reunion Golf Tournament. More than 90 golfers teed off. Two people are mainly responsible for the success of this year’s event. Augie works for Rosen Shingle Creek Resort and his job is putting together outings like ours. He isn’t good at it—he is great at it. We had so many say, “Hey can I still play … and I need golf clubs, too” (This is as they stand there with golf shoes in hand). Or we get the opposite “I can’t make it after all.” (We get the money up front and don’t have to deal with that comment often).

The other individual responsible for the success works with me. Shirley Witt, a Glass Doctor training coordinator, has been with us for 14 years. She isn’t a manager but she is a leader. For many years the golf outing has been Shirley’s event. She isn’t a golfer but she makes things happen.

Today, I heard someone say, laughingly, “You don’t have to listen to what Liston is saying but you better pay attention to what Shirley tells you!” That respect is earned. That is what leaders receive.

Who is the “Shirley” in your organization?

Over the last few years I have come to appreciate Shirley’s many talents. She sets up training at Glass Doctor University for franchise owners. She has handled all of our hotel contracts and events for our Glass Doctor Convention in New Orleans last year and is already in negotiations for the convention in San Antonio in March. Shirley is in charge of coordinating our Glass Doctor Reunion.

I’ve told Shirley she can’t ever leave or retire until I retire. She thinks I’m kidding. I’m not!

The trouble with some leaders is they believe that the only leaders in their organization are those with impressive titles. They aren’t. Looking back over my years in business there have been many “Shirleys” in places where I worked. The problem is I don’t think I told most of them just how appreciative I am of their contributions.

People like this tend to be leaders in everything they do. They accept responsibility and take charge. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t manage them. There will be times when you defer to their decisions. Sometimes, they’ll need your input and guidance. However, it is important to validate their decisions when you can to keep them challenged and motivated.

The world turns with the “Shirleys” out there. Your challenge this week is to identify your “Shirley” and put in place a plan to maximize her potential. I’m lucky—I already have mine, and I’m grooming another to keep the organization strong.

One Person Can Change Everything

In 1897 Congress passed an act making the first Monday of September a national holiday – one that honors the achievements of the American worker. I remember Labor Day, though, for something else – the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Telethon.

The new show on Labor Day is called “MDA’s Show of Strength.” It used to be called the “Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.” My wife, Mary Kay, had a chance to attend the event when she lived in Vegas. There are lots of stars on stage and she remembers Jerry running feverishly through audience at the Sahara getting donations when the telethon went to local breaks. A couple of Mary Kay’s sisters were responsible for escorting the stars to the stage. These were great memories for her family.

Jerry Lewis changed the world for MDA as he hosted the Telethon from 1952 to 2010. I’m sure you remember this event growing up. Something we looked forward to each year … and made small contributions to each year. Over the years Lewis raised $2.6 billion for MDA – about $60 million the last year when he hosted.

Until recently, I didn’t understand what Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) was except that I knew Lou Gehrig’s Disease was a part of it. As a kid I love to read books about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. I watched when Ripken broke Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games in 1995 – a record that stood for 56 years and was believed that no one would break.

I hadn’t thought of Gehrig again until a few years ago—the last time I watched “Sleepless in Seattle” and the reference to Gehrig’s famous line, “I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth” (from the 1942 “Pride of the Yankees” movie). Gehrig died two years after uttering that line.

Fast-forward to a couple weeks ago. I was watching Sports Center and saw a 10-minute feature about Pete Frates. Pete played for Boston College in 2007. In March of 2012 he found out he had ALS. Today he is no longer able speak but is changing the world for the ALS Association.

Frates and his buddies tweeted about a way to raise money for ALS. You know about this if you did the Ice Bucket Challenge. Mary Kay and I did it and made our contribution. My son took the challenge. My grandson, did too.

You can watch the Sports Center story here.

It was just announced that ALS raised $100 million in August 2014. Last August they raised $2.8 million. This is a 3,500-percent increase. One person made all of this happen and the world caught fire following Pete’s dream of finding a cure. The last year Jerry Lewis did the telethon with all of those stars they raised less the $60 million.

Today there are 450,000 people in the world with ALS. Their website says every 90 minutes someone else is diagnosed. Once diagnosed a person has two to five years before the disease causes muscle weakness, paralysis, then respiratory failure.

But this week’s article isn’t about curing Lou Gehrig’s disease, Pete Frates or Jerry Lewis. They are remarkable people who had a vision of raising money to cure a horrid disease. But each of them is a person who changed the world.

The week’s article is about you.

You don’t need to have a goal of changing the world. But you need to have a goal if changing your own world. Leaders do this. They find ways. They accept challenges. They think outside the box facing the challenges they have – whether they are challenges at the office, with employees, with finances, or whatever.

Leaders have challenges they can solve. As my friend Mike Gai would say, sometimes you have to put your big-boy or big-girl pants on and get to work solving them! That’s what Pete Frates and Jerry Lewis did and, in both cases, the world is better for it.

One person can change everything.