Elaine Biech's Open-Door Leader
Too often we underestimate the power of believing in someone. Another's confidence in you has the potential to ignite an exciting future. Many people believed in me throughout my career, but two of the earliest made the greatest difference in my life: Bill Williams and Matt Holt.
Bill Williams, personnel director for NASA Langley Research Center, hired me to design a meeting management training program. But it wasn't just any run-of-themill, stand-up training session. It was going to be used as the basis for the first video teleconference prototype beamed (as Bill would say) to all the NASA sites around the country. His trust in me to design and deliver a typical learning session for an atypical and untested medium was exhilarating. It was my personal “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Liftoff!” It still seems inconceivable to me that NASA trusted an unknown trainer from a farm in Wisconsin with this significant task. Matt Holt, currently an executive editor for John Wiley
& Sons, encouraged me to write The Business of Consulting. At the time, all I had was a stack of scribbled ideas written on notecards, scraps of paper, and napkins. Matt seemed as excited about the book as I was, giving me a double dose of self-confi and a desire to succeed. This has now become my model for starting every book I've published since.
Both of these gentlemen believed in me, and those two projects led me to do the kind of incredibly exciting work
that continues to fuel my passion: writing, creating, and developing others. Believing in someone is the most valuable gift you can give another.
Elaine Biech is the president and managing principle of ebb associates and author or editor of more than 50 books, including The ASTD Leadership Handbook.
Mark Sanborn's Open-Door Leader
I've never liked conflict—who does? But long before I served on the board of directors for the National Speakers Association, then president, Naomi Rhode, asked me to deal with a conflict situation.
“You have just the right temperament to do this,” she said. While I wasn't keen on dealing with conflict between myself and another person, I found that I was a pretty good mediator for others, and a stabilizing influence in the type of situation Naomi had asked me to handle. The problem
was resolved successfully.
Naomi saw something in me I didn't see in myself. And that is a sign of great leadership.
Mark Sanborn is the president of Sanborn and Associates and author of eight books, including You Don't Need a Title to Be a Leader.
Chip Bell's Open-Door Leader
I was a new training director for a large bank and fresh out of grad school. After settling into my new role, I started a search for an assistant training director. The candidate that caught my attention had been a supervisory trainer in the Coast Guard and—this is the part that really impressed me—had gotten his master's degree at a prestigious Ivy League college after the military.
I was eager to make him an offer almost as soon as he arrived for a day of interviews. But my boss, Chuck, who had been a recruiter for a large manufacturing company before joining the bank, had big reservations.
“I think he's all hat and no cows!” Chuck said. But I had Ivy League stars in my eyes.
“What do you recommend I do?” I asked him when it came time to make the offer (or not).
“I wouldn't hire him,” was Chuck's direct answer. “But, it's your decision and I will support whatever you decide.”
I hired the guy. And, six months later, I fired him. He was all about form and not results. My boss never said a word about my bad decision. It was a powerful lesson I have never forgotten. Chuck practiced the belief that the worth of profound learning more than outweighed the price of an occasional error.
Chip Bell is founder and senior partner with the Chip Bell Group and author of more than 20 books, including Managers as Mentors (co-authored with Marshall Goldsmith).
Verne Harnish's Open-Door Leader
An open-door leader who comes to my mind is Arthur Lipper, former owner of Venture Magazine. I had recently co-founded the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs (ACE), but we needed some national traction. So I drove down from Wichita to Dallas, where I had read that Arthur was giving a speech.
Afterward, I cornered him, shared what I was trying to accomplish, and asked him for his advice. Long story short, Arthur became a key mentor. Each year he donated a page in his magazine to our organization, which provided the air cover we needed; he opened his rolodex to speakers for our events; he trusted me with his two teenagers when I led a delegation of young entrepreneurs to China in 1986; and he came to my defense in a serious situation that could have derailed the organization and my reputation.
Thirty years later, Arthur remains a friend and mentor (he and his wife just visited us in Barcelona a few months ago) and I can say without a doubt that I wouldn't be doing what I am today without his early and ongoing support.
Verne Harnish is the founder of Entrepreneur's Organization (EO), founder and CEO of Gazelles, and author of two books, including Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.
BJ Gallagher's Open-Door Leader
Years ago when I was working at the University of Southern CaliforniaCollegeofContinuingEducation,academicpriorities were changing and continuing education was being
decentralized to the individual schools and colleges. This all meant that my job was going to be phased out. Around the same time, I saw a director of training and organization development job advertised in the campus newspaper, and thought, “That's for me! ”
I applied and was given an opportunity to interview— more as a courtesy than anything, since Gary Gould, the faculty member doing the hiring, already had a favored candidate. But during that courtesy interview, I must have said the right things, because I could see that Gould was becoming more interested in me as a serious candidate. Bottom line: He hired me for the job.
What I didn't know until months later was that he didn't hire me for my experience—he hired me for my potential. When he hired me, he told his boss, the VP of administration, “She doesn't know shit about training, but she sure can light up a room!”
What I brought to the job was charisma, outstanding interpersonal skills, creativity, and initiative, as well as the willingness to embark on a steep learning curve. By this point I had been at USC for almost 10 years and had built up a robust network of professional relationships with faculty and staff, whereas Gould was new to campus. I had strong financial skills, good organizational abilities, and was superb at marketing classes and workshops. In other words, I had valuable generic talents, skills, and experience to offer—and my new boss was willing teach me what I didn't know about training and development. I'll always be grateful to him for giving me a chance, even when he'd already made up his mind to hire someone else. His open-mindedness changed the course of my career, and I've been in the training and development business ever since. And 30 years later, some say I can still light up a room.
BJ Gallagher is the president of Peacock Productions and co-author of A Peacock in the Land of Penguins and Being Buddha At Work.