I use public restrooms more than the average human. Since I’m at the airport two, three or four times a week and stay at over a hundred hotels each year, I find myself using public restrooms more than the actual bathrooms in my own home. And do you know who I think about EVERY time I use a public restroom? A guy name Glen Shepherd.
Ok – before your mind starts wandering, let me explain…
When I graduated college back in 1992, my first job was working for the global youth leadership organization, Up with People. One of the company Vice Presidents, at the time, was a great man named Glen Shepherd. He was Up with People’s Vice President of Admissions. In fact, when I was accepted as a student into the Up with People program, five years earlier, it was Glen’s name and signature at the bottom of my acceptance letter. So, Glen was special to me. Not because he was the tallest guy I’ve ever known, but he had one of the most genuine and gentle hearts.
One day during Up with People’s staff training in Tucson, Arizona I was using the public restroom. After washing my hands, I went to the paper towel dispenser and grabbed three paper towels and began drying my hands. Right when I threw the paper towels in the trash can, I felt a firm hand grab my right shoulder. It was Glen.
When I turned around, this sweet and gentle man had turned into the Hulk. Bright red faced and with a stern tone you can make without yelling, he began lecturing me on the environment. Glen grabbed the three paper towels I just threw in the trash. He then showed me that two of the paper towels were completely dry – unused. He asked me to wash my hands again. And then he handed me one paper towel to dry my hands. And after my hands were dry, he grabbed that one paper towel and held it up in the air, towards the florescent light. Lowering his voice, he then pointed to the dry and unused areas of that lone paper towel. “You see Tommy, you only need ONE paper towel to dry your hands!”, Glen explained.
That was twenty-five years ago. Since then, I’ve visited hundreds of public restrooms. Washed my hands thousands of times. And you know what? I ALWAYS grab only ONE paper towel!
Glen made an impression on me.
When I was a kid I loved my birthdays. My usually strict Italian Catholic mother would make my special day just that – special. She would cook my favorite foods – chicken parmigiana, cheese ravioli, baked clams and always got me a chocolate and vanilla ice cream cake from Carvel. She planned themed birthday parties. I got to eat candy all day. And I went to bed way past my normal bedtime.
However, I grew to hate the day after my birthdays. My mom would revert back to her strict ways – turn back into the Hulk. The first thing she would do the day after my birthday is hand me a pencil and piece of paper. She made me make a list all my birthday presents, cards and party attendees. And then she would hand me a box of thank-you cards.
I wrote more thank-you cards as a kid than just about any kid in the country.
And you know what? As an adult, I write more hand written thank-you letters than just about anyone I know.
My mother made an impression on me.
About ten years ago, I was having lunch with one of my close friends and mentors, Scott. I was telling him some of the companies I was speaking to and the names of some of the people that I was coaching. Halfway through our lunch, Scott – like Glen and my mother – turned into the Hulk. He said in a firm and disciplined tone, “Tommy, I don’t want to hear the names of the people you are working with. Those names are supposed to be confidential. And quite frankly, the name dropping is not attractive!”
That was just about the last time I’ve ever name dropped. A decade later, I’m obsessed with confidentiality and try my very best to live with a humble heart.
Scott made an impression on me.
There are many people in our lives that have made an impression. Helped shape us into the people we are today.
But making an impression on one’s life can go both ways. I can write fifty BLOGS on the toxic people in my life that made a negative impression. You probably could too.
Heart-Led Leaders are in the business of shaping people’s hearts, changing lives and making profound impressions on those that we love and those that choose to follow us.
So, whether you are lecturing someone on the environment, demanding thank-you cards to be written or coaching on the importance of confidentiality and humility – Heart-led Leaders have an opportunity to breathe truth and growth into those we love and serve. And sometimes the Hulk needs to come out to do it!