Back when I started college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and struggled to choose a major. I thought about a degree in special education, or maybe animal science, and then I started to pursue biology because I love the outdoors. I was not good at that at all. Unfortunately, due to my lack of focus and direction, my grades suffered. In the summer, back at home with friends, I joked about my poor grades and made some self-deprecating remarks about how “I don’t know what I want to do”, “I’m just not good at this”, “I’ve never been good at school” and “I hope someday I figure this out, haha”.
Enter stage left…. My friend George. George took this golden opportunity to scold me in the friendliest way. I clearly remember him saying “Ellen, what the F. You are so much smarter than that! Get it together!” Then, I think he made me a bet for a certain amount of real money. If I didn’t earn all A’s and B’s the next semester I would have to pay up. I distinctly remember thinking he was right. I was so much smarter than my grades were showing, and I wasn’t at all proud of where I was at. There was also no way I was going to pay him real money if I didn’t get all A’s and B’s the next semester. I stammered, made some excuses, and laughed. George suggested I look at a business degree in information systems. He thought I would be a good fit and suggested I check it out. The whole interaction was maybe 3 total minutes. I don’t think George would even remember it.
It was exactly the kick in the rear I needed though. I knew he was right. I was better than what I was doing, and I wanted more from myself. I was going to step it up and was going to do something right. I did investigate the management of information systems program at UCONN. It was interesting and I was good at it. Most importantly though, I started to have my own back and take more ownership over my education. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems with excellent grades. It set me on a career path I enjoy and prepared me for success.
Maybe I would have done this for myself without those 3 minutes, but maybe not. I’m not sure.
Today, I remember this story, and it reminds to be the “George” for others. People need a kick-start sometimes. Observe, Listen, and tell it like it is in the friendliest of ways.
Here are the basic Leadership Lessons I learned from my friend George that I apply daily.
Challenge people to take ownership
Expect people to up-level themselves
Have high expectations
Take the 3 minutes to encourage someone and tell them what they need to hear
When you have an impact on someone you may not even notice. Pay attention to the little things. They matter, and you just might inspire someone to be an Inspired Leader.
Thanks for the kickstart, George. It’s what I needed in those 3 minutes.
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p.s. George doesn’t want to take credit for my kick-start, but I will give him credit anyway. It was exactly the 3 minutes I needed at that time.