A Thankful Time of Year

I love Thanksgiving, don’t you? What a great holiday! It’s got everything, a homecoming with loved ones and friends, a feast, a bit of football on the television, and possibly even a turkey-induced nap or two…. This year I’m incredibly thankful for another bountiful year of success and want to recognize some of the great human beings who helped me get to this special place. (wherever you are, it’s always a special place…) I was fortunate in my life to be blessed with leadership from a number of influential individuals who made me better. If you’re interested in learning more, read on…

Harry Haslanger: Harry was a math teacher and a coach at my high school and developed a dynasty in cross country running. Harry was a master of motivation and knew just which phrases carried the greatest weight and understood exactly which buttons to push. One year, he sat me and my co-captain down the night before an important meet and told the two of us that tomorrow’s outcome rested entirely on our shoulders and that he was counting on each of us to give the team our best, or our string of conference tournament victories was in jeopardy. We won the tournament the next day and were all laughing during the post-race cool down when we realized that Harry had essentially met with EVERY member of the team the day/night before the meet and told them some version of the same pep talk. Truly, Harry Haslanger was a great coach, an inspiring leader, and a master motivator. He knew precisely how to get my competitive edge honed sharply. Thank you, Harry Haslanger, and may you rest in peace, my good friend!

Mona Wilczek: Years later, during the early days of my corporate life, a woman named Mona Wilczek touched my life with her generous leadership. Mona and I did business together regularly as she was in the operations of a distributor that we did business with. Mona saw some potential in me that I couldn’t see myself. She asked me to serve in a volunteer role giving advice to the industry that we both worked in. I felt surprised and somewhat unworthy. But after a brief pep talk from her where she bolstered my confidence, I accepted the challenge and spent the next 8 or 9 years working on an advisory council that changed my life and gave me the opportunity to change the future of the high technology industry as a member of the council. Thank You, Mona Wilczek, you are like a sister to me!

Mike McGuire: After my first brush with entrepreneurship, I went to work for a corporation from Colorado in the data storage industry. It was my serious good fortune to land on a team under the leadership of Mike McGuire. Mike, or “Spike” as he prefers, is a one of a kind leader. He makes choices based on his observations, and he observes everything and misses nothing. I learned how to be a courageous leader from Mike McGuire. Best of all, I learned from him by observation. Mike is a leader who exercises restraint in communications. He doesn’t chatter with direction and guidance every minute of the day. Rather, when he speaks, he always has something impactful to say. Most importantly, he leads by action. If you want to know how to conduct yourself, stand back and watch Mike “Spike” McGuire, because his conduct will be a model for the executive you want to become. Mike taught me to be honest, direct, courageous, dedicated to doing the right thing no matter the consequences, and many more valuable lessons. Thank you, Spike for being a great influence on me, and helping me to become a better man.

Dennis Johnson: As my corporate life entered the second half, I joined a start-up firm in Minnesota, excited to have a chance to work for a company with ambitions to change the data storage industry forever. A friend recommended that I meet with Dennis Johnson to talk about the opportunity. We had coffee together in mid-morning, and something clicked for both of us. By the time I got home, I had a job description and a job offer waiting for me. Dennis was instrumental in teaching me how to handle people and how to handle myself. Dennis saw my strengths and my flaws, and he encouraged my strengths and educated me on how I could smooth out the flaws, without ever making me feel inferior. Dennis reminded me many times during our years together that if you get the right team in place in business, they will take care of the rest. He was right then, and he’s still right today. He taught me how humility matched with intelligent action is a deadly combination in business. His emphasis on teamwork and on surrounding yourself with a high-performance team was brilliant. Thank you, for being a tremendous mentor, Dennis, and for being a great friend as well.

Kevin West: Kevin is my business coach and a person who has done more to help me thrash through my entrepreneurial journey than I could list here. Kevin is a giant in the world. He has enough love and positive energy to allow him to share it with his clients, who are successful companies all over the country. When we chat, Kevin finds a way to get me thinking correctly, and to be forgetting about the tyranny of the urgent, and focusing on the vital few things that are going to keep me happily moving forward. I walked away from corporate life five years ago because I was tired of all the politics and the compromises. Kevin has helped me to build an award-winning and thriving consulting and coaching practice. I will be forever thankful for your presence in my life, and for the gigantic contributions you’ve made to my business, Kevin! Best of all, you’ve challenged me to become a more outgoing and giving person. Amazing, what a difference you’ve made in my life!

Well, I could go on, and on, and tell you about the many other people I’m thankful for, but you get the picture. None of us ever gets anywhere in life without a boost from the great people around us. If we are smart enough to listen, we can stand on the shoulders of our coaches and mentors and become something even greater than we had previously planned. Take a moment this Thanksgiving to contemplate who made a significant contribution to YOUR success, and take a moment to telephone them or pen a thank you card and let them know how much they’ve helped you. You’ll never regret it.

Michael is an award-winning business advisor and executive development coach, living in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Michael works with C-Level Executives, their leadership teams, and their emerging leaders. Michael has developed a curriculum to help high growth technology companies to develop the next generation of leaders for their growing businesses. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday and take a moment this weekend to let people know that you appreciate them….

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