His name was Connie Parsons. He was my first real manager and my first experience with a small-time leader at work.
A small-time leader is a person who did a small thing that made a big difference in your life and work. That small thing may have been a question, a recommendation or an action that was so on point and timely that it radically shifted how you viewed yourself forever.
When I was in college, I loaded packages into UPS trucks to pay my way. I got up every day at 3 AM and worked until 10 AM. Then I went to school the rest of the day. Connie was my manager and during my three years at UPS, he pushed me to take on assignments that were way above my head and my pay grade as a truck loader. These were tasks like making presentations and working on efficiency improvements projects. I complained and wondered why he was doing this to me. I did not understand, but Connie did.
A few months before I graduated, Connie and I were standing near the package delivery beltline after my shift was over. He said, “Have a seat. I would like to talk to you about something.” I thought, “Oh no, not again!” Connie looked directly into my eyes and asked, “Mike, are you planning on pushing packages for the rest of your life?” I remember thinking for a minute and then saying, “Connie, I don’t know. Are you?” He said, “As a matter of fact, I’m not. I just passed my LSAT and am going to law school next year.” He smiled and walked away. No shoulds, oughts or musts. Just a question.
Connie went on to get his law degree and became a well-known attorney in our city. A year or so later, I walked away from a management position at UPS and went to graduate school to follow the dream I didn’t know I had until he asked that little question.
One question. No recommendation. A small-time leader in action.
Journal Entry: Have you experienced a small-time leader that made a big difference in your life and work? What small thing could you do to help a child, spouse, friend or co-worker catch a glimpse of their potential in leadership and life?
Note: Over the next several months I’ll be writing about small-time leaders in my life. If you have had an experience with a small-time leader and would like to share it, please send me an email. I would love to hear your story.
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. – Vincent Van Gogh
If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. – Napoleon Hill
Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than to the large things; to the everyday things nearest to us rather than to the things that are remote and uncommon. – Booker T. Washington
If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. – The Bible Luke 16:10
You can’t change the world; you can’t fix the whole environment. But you can recycle. You can turn the water off when you’re brushing your teeth. You can do small things. – Patti Smith
You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership. – Dwight Eisenhower