Leadership Lessons—Anticipation and Preparation

I write this from DFW airport on our way to Punta Cana via Miami. Minutes ago I just got another lesson on leadership and how I need to get better.

Every year The Dwyer Group has a Leadership Summit. Top franchisees of all eight brands (Glass Doctor, Mr. Rooter, Mr. Appliance, Aire Serv, Mr. Electric, Grounds Guys, Five Star Painting and Rainbow Restoration) are invited to this event. Only the best-of-the-best are invited to attend. Today we are headed to the beautiful Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort with our top franchisees.

Remember the Carly Simon song that played with the Heinz ketchup commercial that was titled “Anticipation?” That is what this week has been. Trying to get ready to be out of the country for almost a week and making sure I have gotten done what needed to be done. About noon yesterday it seemed the week was going slower that the ketchup in the bottle. About 5 p.m., I realized I needed a couple more hours—ever happen to you?

Good leaders have checklists. Good leaders read everything necessary to prepare. Good leaders know exactly what needs to get done before they jump on the plane. This brings me back to the fact that I’m not a good leader yet.

Several years ago we got the American Airlines charge card for the sole purpose of getting better seats when we get on an airplane and being able to check our luggage free. I never read the fine print that said this is “not valid on international flights.” As Mary Kay and I went to check two bags each we learned about this fact. I cost $130 to check luggage. NO WAY!

We checked one bag each for only $50. Score … until I was going through security and they discovered the $30+ of suntan lotion, aloe, block, etc., that I had in the bottom of the one bag.

I had checked the bag with all the liquids only to be reminded that I had plenty of room to put the lotions in that bag but forgot where I put them. As I watched them all go into the garbage I was reminded that I didn’t write this article yet. Why? I didn’t put it on my “to do” list. Another leadership mistake.

Anticipation. The ketchup is now spilling over the side of my plate.

This all comes back to the question of what are we preparing for this year? Are you really prepared or are you somewhat preparing the way I do for a week-long trip? I just received the note that Auto Glass Week™ 2015 is in Reno, Tahoe, this year. Great! Are you planning on it? Are you putting the things in motion necessary to be ready for the trip so they don’t thrown your suntan lotion out … or the equivalent?

I’m sure next week’s article will be about what I learned this week. When a group of leaders are assembled I always come away with many lessons I try and share—and remember!

For the travelers reading this, at least I remembered to walk up the gate agent as soon as he appeared and asked him if there were exit row seats available to Miami … and subsequently to Punta Cana. There were. There is hope for me yet. Have a great week.

Leadership Lessons—Lessons from a Cab

I traveled last week to Phoenix. One of the stories I heard grabbed my heart and I wanted to share this with you about family leadership.

My flight from Phoenix back to Dallas was at 6:30 a.m. The hotel reserved a car for me to pick me up at 4:30 a.m. The driver had a heavy accent and I learned he was born in Russia.

He came to the U.S for religious reasons as he was Jewish. The family moved to New York in the mid-1990s and moved into a small one bedroom apartment in Queens. His family included his wife, their two children and his parents.

Think about that—six people. Why? Freedom to choose their future. The driver was an optometrist and made eye glasses in Russia. He went to college there for this profession. When he came to the U.S. he would have had to go back to school for four years to do this same profession.

Because he had six mouths to feed he needed to find a job. He did. Driving a yellow cab in New York for 14 years. They eventually moved to Phoenix and he now drives a much nicer car. Still, that is his profession and his only profession since moving to the U.S.

His story reminded me of my ex-wife’s grandma, Nana. She raised nine kids. Unfortunately, her husband wasn’t around much. Nana found a two bedroom apartment to rent in a tough area of Brooklyn. As Nana moved in she brought two kids in right away. A couple hours later a couple more kids came up the stairs to the apartment. Later, a few more. By the end of the night all nine were there.

When Nana passed away she was still in that same apartment. All of her “kids” were now in their 40s and 50s. I stayed in that apartment. One bathroom with a stool that was inches away from the wall. A small kitchen where roaches seemed to dance in the sink every night. Nana lived there over 50 years.

So you might be asking, “Mark, what does this have to do about leadership?”

Everything! These are stories about people who do what they have to do to survive. They don’t complain. They are happy they had the freedom to do what they did. Amazing.

Family leadership. We are all faced with family issues we categorize as tough? Are they really that tough? It depends on one’s outlook.

I asked the Russian driver why he chose to drive a cab when he got to the U.S. He said that his English was terrible (even worse than it is now!) and he couldn’t find any other job. Remember, this is before GPS. Failure wasn’t an option for him.

Imagine going to a different country and driving a cab. On our honeymoon I got three moving violations in nine minutes in Florence, Italy, while trying to find our hotel. They use cameras (apparently) for traffic control and I must have been going down a street that is closed on certain hours. Obviously my wife, Mary Kay, and I can’t read Italian. (The bad thing is we didn’t find out for a year and after that long you can’t appeal it).

Leadership is about so many things in life, including family. Many years ago I saw the phrase, “The same fire that hardens steel melts plastic.” Life isn’t about the fire. It is, however, about the leadership we provide.

Have a great week and think about what family leadership should mean for you.