Powerful lessons from an 11- year old

Powerful lesson stories encourage us to believe in ourselves and become effective leaders.

Can you identify a mentor, other than a parent, who has had a powerful influence on your life? I often pose that question to audiences when giving keynote speeches or motivational talks about effective leadership.

I remember when I was first asked that question. What’s more, I remember being surprised at my own answer. The person who flashed into my mind was Mrs. Leftcoast—and I hadn’t thought about her in years. I met her when I was 11. Our family had just moved to Canada from Italy, and my English was minimal. Mrs. Leftcoast was a teacher who tucked me under her wing. She taught me English by ensuring I understood what was happening. She made life in my new country fun and took me swimming and bowling with the class.

The power of believing

Yes, Mrs. Leftcoast taught me essential skills, but beyond this, she led me to believe in myself, to believe that I could undertake a challenge, persevere, and be successful. Her mentoring approach was calm and gentle, and she nurtured in me a belief that I was capable and could help support others.

In our work as wedding professionals, we need the skill of effective leadership. We need to ensure that the people that work with us, and for us, confidently understand what is occurring. And, like Mrs. Leftcoast’s students, we all benefit from a little fun in our lives and the sense that we are learning, laughing, and moving forward together.

The power of bullying

The same year that we moved, I got my first job. My mother took a job in one of Vancouver’s five-star, popular restaurants. To be with her, I was employed there as the “bread and butter girl.” The owner had been a penniless immigrant from Italy, and he had built his restaurant through hard, unrelenting labor.

But he was unrelenting with his staff, too, using curses and continually yelling to verbally whip us “into shape.” No mistakes, however minor, were tolerated and all omissions were embarrassingly and publicly pointed out in front of other staff. We never had an opportunity to learn from, or make amends for our own errors.

The message that we received was that we were all unworthy of our jobs and that only he had the ability to do our jobs effectively. He was “Founder’s Syndrome” personified. Customers had no idea the way he treated his staff behind doors, and this duplicity made the staff further despise him.

Why did staff remain in his employ? It certainly wasn’t because of loyalty. It was simply because of the high-end tips. There was no opportunity, let alone desire, to improve ourselves or the business. We identified the restaurant as belonging only to him, the “enemy,” who thought we were so beneath him. There was no training provided for learning other roles within the restaurant, and no succession plan was in place. So when the owner became ill with cancer, the business floundered.

The power of best practices

Effective leaders ensure that when events, such as illness, affect management, there are plans in place to protect and even expand business. Succession plans are vital. In times of crisis, staff loyalty and dedication can make the difference between success and failure.

Development and expansion derives from a growth plan involving loyal staff. We need “blue-sky thinking,” so both staff and management can co-operatively be involved in achieving that future. When leadership empowers, those working over us, with us, or for us become our allies and ambassadors.

Since I have Italian connections, it became an obvious move to expand my business to Europe. But how could I manage that when my family and I were located thousands of miles away on another continent? The foundation—a business plan and structure for collaborative communication—was developed. Employee roles were clearly defined; however, staff was encouraged to explore training opportunities as well. Finding phenomenal staff became an easy buy-in. Creating, sharing, and implementing a business plan has brought growing opportunities for everyone and ever-increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty.

The power of becoming

Effective leadership takes the leader from the front of the line and positions him or her as the guide on the side, as a supporter and cheerleader. However, encouragement is a returning investment as, in turn, staff encourages the leader.

My family, students, and employees encouraged me to become an entrepreneur and motivational speaker. Through the mutual belief and support of others, I’ve been able to embrace teaching, and have developed and delivered certification programs for wedding and event management, leadership, and business management. Who would have thought that leadership lessons when I was 11 would have had a wide-ranging influence on my life and those of others? So, thank you Mrs. Leftcoast. You’ve given me the power to become a believer.

What’s your story?

We all have a “Powerful Lessons” story. These are personal stories that help us discern our own skills and abilities and that help us become effective leaders. The challenge is to see ourselves in a light that shines upon our strengths, so that we can build upon them and encourage our own hearts and those of others.

What’s your “Powerful Lessons Story”? Share it with me at: Milena@milenasantoro.com or on Twitter @santoromilena. WPM

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Milena Santoro, CWP™, CMM, CMP, PIDP, MS Productions, Canada and Europe