I recently came across an inspirational video about hospitality featuring Will Guidara, a New York City restauranteur. In the video, Will talks about two life lessons he learned from his mother that he applies in his day-to-day approach to management. First, be fully present. Block out all of the noise and genuinely focus on the people you interact with. Second, be emotional. This might sound odd for a workplace, but Will’s argument is this: in the absence of emotion and vulnerability, the people you work with aren’t invited to be emotional and vulnerable with you—and that absence makes it impossible to have a genuine, meaningful connection. Will’s speech reminded me of the importance of relationship building, not just among clients in a “strictly business” way, but among staff as they build their careers. If you have 10 minutes, it’s a good story. (Fast-forward to around the 4-minute mark where Will comes on stage.)
On the heels of this video, we were evaluating candidates for our first-ever Bill Hermann Staff Development Award. You might remember that, last year, I wrote a blog about announcing the award and reflecting on our culture of mentoring and staff development. We had a number of great candidates, but after reviewing the submissions, it was obvious that Mike Abramo from our Columbus office was the perfect honoree. Just listen to some of these quotes from his fellow staff members:
- “Mike provides a great balance, allowing me to stretch my knowledge and get out of my comfort zone while still being present as a useful resource if I encounter a problem.”
- “Mike puts in the time to give us verbal feedback, makes sure our jobs are going well by teaching job and client management skills, and uses complicated transactions to grow our technical skills.”
- “Mike gave me constructive criticism in just the right way that kept me enthusiastic about continuing to work with him. He’s not afraid to give feedback that might be tough to deliver; this has made me very loyal to him and what he’s striving to accomplish in the Columbus office.”
- “Even during tight deadlines, Mike is always approachable and committed to not just telling staff what to do, but why it needs to be done.”
- “Mike is the manager that I strive to become. He is a level-headed, caring, dedicated, and challenging leader.”
The threads running through these comments are presence and caring. One of the greatest gifts we can give as leaders is time — and Mike has given plenty of his, blocking out the noise to focus intently on his staff and their careers. And he cares. Staff know his comments are in their best interests, and they respect him all the more for his candor. The comments reminded me a lot of the Will Guidara video.
One of the greatest gifts we can give as leaders is time.
Staff development is not something we practice to enhance our own careers, although we can learn a great deal from the process; it’s an exercise in building and nurturing fulfilling relationships that are both personally enriching and professionally rewarding.
True leaders take more pleasure in the success of their team than in their own success. We thank Mike for acknowledging the importance of leadership, and for investing so much of his time to promote the successes of others.