The Secret to Development

| Brendan LeBlanc | Team Articles
Reflecting on my career growth so far, it has been a long journey going from a busboy to an Executive Director of Operations over the course of 10 years. Through this journey I’ve learned a lot about the process of growth and development of people. My growth didn’t happen overnight - once upon a time, someone believed in me and planted a seed that made me believe I could be more. This gave me the ability to get over the “imposter syndrome” which causes the cautious tip toeing through the journey rather than “growth through adversity” which is vital.
 
Over time, this idea was nurtured and watered, and I grew. I was given an opportunity and I ran with it. I was lucky to have leaders who invested time in me, and I believe it’s my duty to give others the same opportunity. 
 
I started to notice my growth when I received the opportunity to be part of the opening team at an out-of-state location. Being young in my industry career this was a real challenge but also an important chapter in my story. I wondered why, out of the hundreds of team members in the company they chose me. I was excited, nervous and honored to have the opportunity to help build something from the ground up and work with brand new “recruits” over the course of the opening. They were listening to me. I was always the soldier, but during the chaos of the opening, in my little battalion, I had become the general.
 
This showed me that I could have an influence on those I was leading. Even at this point early in my career, I knew I did not come to this opportunity or achieve results overnight. It was the result of learning and reflection. It was a byproduct of spending quality time with individuals who you could tell wanted more. The same quality time that was given to me by my mentors.
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"Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." – Robert Louis Stevenson
 
Some of the biggest contributors to my growth were the leaders around me that helped ensure that I was being fed and watered, and stayed consistent and persistent to help me reach my goals. The team of leaders always ensured in each way that during my growth phase that they spent the time and shared knowledge with me that helped me have daily gains. Each of them played a key role in developing different parts of me. From Josh Rossmeisl who taught me how to care and take care of others around me as a leader. Jen Fitzgerald who taught me the importance of being constant on a daily basis and how that being a leader reflects those around me. Don Maclean taught me on how to be a successful business leader - that having structure and accountability will lead to success. Chris Barrows taught me how to be more professional and how the image I portrayed reflected in how people saw me. All these individual learnings all came together after years of consistent and persistent reinforcement to help me to become the leader I am today.
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“We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close. The many. The powerful.” - James Clear
 
Giving back to others has always been important to me. My #1 job was to take care of those who protected what we built. I believe in servant leadership and I have always made sure that I took care of the leaders around me the same way my leaders did for me over 10 years ago. When we refer to someone as a leader, it doesn’t only apply to managers. A server or host can be seen as is a leader if they are taking care of those around them. Managers are given the title, but being called a “Leader” has to be earned.
 
Planting seeds and the process of development begins on day 1: Orientation. Talking about who we are and where we want to be. The seed is planted by showing the new team member that they could be part of what we are building and the role they can play. Never promising carrots or threatening with sticks, but simply establishing that if you showed up on time and were coachable the sky’s the limit. It also helped to share the story of my own journey. When they would hear that the “Executive Director of Operations” running this massive venue, started off as a busboy within the same company, our values earned credibility at that very moment.
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We also always made sure that we had a mentor for every new team member entering our store to ensure they had a safety net and someone that would watch over them. Imagine a new team member walking in for their first shift scared and worried about the dozens of new people they will meet on day one. We simply replace that anxiety with connection and safety. The mentor was a major contributor to the seed planting process, so they were chosen wisely to ensure the seed was watered correctly.
 
Growth is not an overnight process, it takes real time and effort. The results aren’t even always tangible or noticeable. To combat the frustration this can lead to, our goal has always been getting 1% better each day in order to embrace and enjoy the process of growth. Small wins lead to big results and start to form a “process”.
 
One of the most important qualities of a leader is the ability to never give up, but always fight to remove roadblocks to allow their team to succeed and grow. Having the grit to persevere as a team is what makes the whole process special. We always succeed and fail as a team. The important thing is to take our wins and losses and learn and grow from them. The problem with making mistakes for most people is not the mistake, but rather their bruised ego when the mistake is made, so what I do is teach them the mistake is part of the process and is a good thing if they learned from it. When ego is not part of the equation, the growth is exponential.
 
“Let me fall if I must fall. The one I am becoming will catch me." - Baal Shem Tov.
 
At the point that I became a senior leader and was overseeing multiple venues in my career, I made it my mission to always give back to others around me and ensure that this was something that everyone around me did for others on all levels. Power makes you more of who you really are and it’s my job to recognize those that want to do good with power as opposed to the alternative. You often have to seek these individuals out as they are more humble than others and less likely to opt in without quite a bit of “watering”, but when you do draft them, they are your best crop. The key is being able to see who they can be, if you let them.
 
“When we treat man as he is we make him worse than he is.
When we treat him as if he already was what he potentially could be
We make him what he should be.” - Goethe
 
Giving back to others is the least that I could do for those around me and was something the team of leaders I’ve had the honor to work alongside and develop, understand and buy into. It’s an investment of time to believe that it’s not who the person is today that is important, but who they can be if we believe in them. Modeling servant leadership becomes contagious and I’m AMPed UP to continue making this part of who I am as a leader and to be part of building a company that values this at its core! I’m hooked at this point and will continue to build a legacy that values the process of planting the seeds of leadership, watering them, and watching them grow.
 
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