Ode to Mrs. Saddlemire (and All the Other Great Teachers Out There)

Last week I proudly sent all three of my children off to school for the first time together – Sienna to 2nd Grade, Asher to Kindergarten, and Maddy to preschool. They all attend the same school, so big sis Sienna helped Maddy get settled in her classroom, while Asher unloaded all his school supplies and said hi to his friends.

Their happy little faces were quite different than my experience in school! You know school was not really my thing – rules, restrictions, tests, and only 30 minutes for recess! I was already thinking differently, even in elementary school. I had big ideas and a big imagination, which were often stifled. I don’t blame the schools or the teachers though! They are working with extremely limited resources and a hugely diverse population of learners. Teachers must teach to the masses and encourage individuality and outside of the box thinking when they can… and students will never forget when they do.

I have a very vivid memory of Mrs. Saddlemire’s second grade classroom. I was about eight years old and had a story for everything. Blame it on my aversion to rules, my need to be the center of attention, or my deep belief that I had value to provide my classmates, but I was constantly interrupting Mrs. Saddlemire during our review of the continents, multiplication memorization, and lessons about telling time. Because I had a story to tell! This went on for a while (getting reprimanded along the way) until one day, Mrs. Saddlemire changed tactics and invited me to stand in front of the class and tell my story for all to hear. Game changer for me – and Mrs. Saddlemire.

She recognized this need in me to share and created a framework around it. From that day forward, before our formal lessons began, I was allowed to stand up and share my story du jour. This also meant that I could no longer interrupt the class. I felt valued and fulfilled a need to contribute to the class, Mrs. Saddlemire got her classroom back under control. Win-win.

Now, of course, I didn’t know what she was doing at the time, but looking back at it now, isn’t that what all great teachers, coaches, mentors, or leaders do? They see the individual, really see them (and see through their flaws and their armor) and they provide them with an opportunity to share their talents, nurturing them along the way? When you are able to influence another human and help them feel a certain way (confident, heard, appreciated, smart, resourceful, etc.) then chances are, they will never forget it (nor will you). Case in point? It’s been 30 years and I’m still talking about Mrs. Saddlemire!

In this Instagram Influencer world, I think the term “influence” has been diluted. It is so much more than getting someone to buy a product or service you are selling, but about making such an impact on another human that they not only change their life, but then go change the lives of others. That’s how I hope to show up as a coach, trainer, leader, husband, father, and friend.

Self-leadership precedes leadership.

Before you can lead (or teach) anyone else, you have to be able to lead yourself first. If you don’t lead yourself first, walk the walk, and practice what you preach, people will quickly see through that facade. Self-leadership must come before leadership, not the other way around.

Teachers come in all forms – in the classroom, online, in your home, in your community, and at work. No matter what role you play in your organization, you have something to teach others and something to learn. And it really starts by paying attention to those around you, understanding their spoken (and unspoken needs), and then helping them self-discover a solution to nurture their growth in whatever area of their life needs it.

For example, I know a consistent fitness routine and overall better health seems to be an insurmountable goal for one of my employees. She has been struggling with it on and off for years. A few weeks ago, a conversation around fitness goals was circulating via email between a few leadership team members. To my surprise, this employee committed to running a half-marathon with another one of our team members. I couldn’t have been happier and told them both so. All my Ironman training talk must be paying off! I immediately offered to pay for a running coach and then created a framework around it (i.e. if she does not complete the training and run a half-marathon, then she will pay me back for the coaching). Ultimately, I know a coach is going to help her get there and I know that she will never forget that I was willing to support her in her life goals, not just her business goals.

Listen, part of the reason I committed to doing an Ironman in the first place was so that I could become a better leader and teacher for my employees. It’s just an added bonus that we now have several triathletes and runners at our company now and collectively we are getting healthier and pushing each other to grow our emotional fitness and take on even bigger challenges. Leaders set the tone for the entire organization and I am committed to constantly raising the bar, while encouraging everyone in my life to do the same.

I encourage you to take a few minutes today to reflect on some of the most influential teachers (coaches/mentors) in your life. Better yet, send them a text or handwritten note to thank them! What made them so influential? What specific tools or tactics did they use that you could implement in your life or business? What changes do you need to make in order to become the Mrs. Saddlemire in your world?

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