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Passing the Mantle

It’s been a busy week in Waco, Texas. We bought another company, which brings the number of home service brands in the United States at The Dwyer Group to 15. When growth like this happens, you’ll be grateful if you’ve had programs in place to develop your people at all levels.

I was reminded of this how important this is during a conference call with one of our vendor/partners late Friday afternoon. We’ve been working on a major project since last October to help our franchisees find more technicians. We all know what that challenge looks like.

The person leading the charge on this project had been our chief operating officer. Since her focus has been on activities associated with acquiring the new company, I volunteered to take the project off of her hands. I quickly discovered we had a real expert in one of our brand vice presidents. Each week he updates every president and vice president in all brands of the progress being made. He’s working closely with the Subject Matter Experts (SME) across Dwyer Group. It’s fun to watch him grow the program.

Passing the mantle of responsibility is so important in an organization. To have that option, one must ensure there’s someone on the team preparing for the opportunity. Success happens when a leader can pass on the mantle when there’s someone ready for the challenge.

In an article last year in The Balance Careers, an H.R. publication, I found an article identifying what employees want from work. The top two are:

  • Trust: the most important secret; and
  • Employee involvement and empowerment.

As I read this I thought about being able to pass the mantle. This is difficult. One of the smartest leaders I ever worked for had a goal of always hiring people who was smarter than he was. He knew if he did this, he would grow his organization more quickly.

The whole notion of building a bench so you can pass the mantle and grow your people is clear in sports. Many of us know the Wally Pipp story. He was a great first baseman with the NY Yankees in the 20s. In fact, he led the majors in home runs in 1916 and 1917 and led the majors in RBIs and triples in 1924. Wally was a stud baseball player. In June of 1925 Wally came to the ballpark with a headache and asked the trainer for an aspirin.

The coach saw this and told him to take the day off. The coach said he was going to try this young kid at first base. His name – Lou Gehrig, and 2,130 games later he was still at first base!   The mantle was passed on to Gehrig although it is the last thing Wally Pipp wanted. It was said that Wally Pipp made a comment over a decade later, “Those were the two most expensive aspirins I ever took.”

Preparing your team members to step up when the opportunity presents itself is just smart business.

There are now more millennials in the workplace than baby boomers. Fifty percent of those millennials are already in leadership positions. Unfortunately, many aren’t ready. Remember this is the generation whose parents called their college professors because the parents didn’t like the grade. (Honest! MK and I have a good friend who is a college professor, and this happens)

The article from The Balance Careers tells us workers today are seeking “A Mentoring Culture.”  Smart leaders understand they can pass on the mantle slowly while making sure the person who will carry the mantle is ready for the challenges that leadership provides. How? By mentoring the person.

Yes, there’s another Lou Gehrig out there in your organization, but you don’t have to be Wally Pipp who has a headache. Instead, you can mentor and build leaders. We all remember who we must thank on our way to being good leaders, don’t we?

Won’t it be nice when someone points at you as the reason they’ve become a great leader?

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