People Power - January 2013

By Scott Humphrey

 

The measure of a noble and worthy life can be seen in one’s impact on others. The older you get, the more you focus on the importance of living each day and making it matter. Some days stand out. The reasons for that may vary.

Some stand out because of the emotions they stir (a wedding, the birth of a child, the passing of a loved one). Some are memorable because of the successes they represent (an academic accomplishment, a goal achieved, a trophy won). Still others are memorable simply because of a personal encounter. In this month’s article, I would like to share several encounters I’ve had and how they have impacted my life, my attitude and my outlook. It is my hope that these stories challenge you to make every encounter matter.

Let me frame this article by saying that I have been blessed to meet and interact with people from all walks of life—from John Quinn, a talented and personable tufting machine operator with whom I worked during my early days in the Shaw sales training program, to Warren Buffet, who I have been privileged to interview several times in order to share his wisdom with the members of the Shaw Flooring Network. As a frequent traveler who has logged over two million miles on one airline, I am sure I have forgotten more of these encounters than I remember. Here are a few of the encounters that stand out in my life and lessons I have been blessed to learn from them.

Zig Ziglar—Known as the “father of the motivational movement,” his optimism was nothing short of contagious. Though he passed away a few weeks ago, his impact will be felt throughout the world for generations to come. I began reading his books in the late 1980s and had the privilege of attending his Born to Win conference in the mid 1990s. As a part of that event, I was invited to his house with other attendees to dine with Zig and his wife. Unlike many in the public eye, he was amazingly genuine. When he shook my hand, looked in my eyes and said, “I’m honored to meet you,” I never doubted the sincerity of his words. 

His numerous books are a must-read for anyone who wants to improve their selling skills. But don’t read them if you are interested in gimmicks that will simply help you to close more sales. His writings focus much more on the art of the relationship. Zig was a masterful communicator and storyteller. After hearing him, I set out to fine tune those skills in my own presentations. I can’t imagine anyone leaving an encounter with this eternal optimist without feeling better for the experience.

Lessons Learned
1. We have the ability to choose our attitude and the way we react to any given situation.
2. Optimists are highly outnumbered, so if you really want to stand out, be one.
3. The best way to achieve success is to focus on helping those around you achieve theirs.

Eddie Robinson—Former coach at Grambling State University, Mr. Robinson recorded more wins than any coach in college football history. As a sales recruiter at Shaw in the early 1990s, I was at Grambling for a job fair, looking for potential trainees. I found out that Grambling was playing at home that Saturday and that Mr. Robinson was most likely on campus, so I asked one of the organizers of the job fair if I might be able to meet him. How amazing it would be to meet a man who had accomplished what he had in a time and place of such great racial divide. 
We got to his office, and I was disappointed to find that he was recording his weekly TV show. Not wanting to interrupt him, we turned to leave. To my astonishment, Robinson stopped the taping of the show, removed his microphone and greeted me. The way he acted, you would have thought that he was the one who was excited to meet me. He sent someone to his office to retrieve a poster, which he then autographed. To this day, it is one of my most prized possessions. Class: that is the only word I can use to describe this man.

Lessons Learned
1. It is an honor to meet the people that cross your path each day. Make sure they know you feel that way.
2. There will always be more to do and more meetings to attend, but this might be my only opportunity to meet the next person that crosses my path.
3. Be remembered as a person with class.

Mrs. Douglas—I would love to tell you her first name, but I was so intimidated by her that I never asked. Mrs. Douglas was my English literature teacher in high school. To this day, I still consider her the most difficult teacher I have ever had. I was scared of her before I entered her class as a junior. I knew from some friends who were seniors that even good students often struggled under her teaching, and she had a rasp to her voice that rivaled any I heard on The Godfather. Maybe that is the reason I worked so hard.

I remember the day that changed my feelings about Mrs. Douglas. We had been given a reading assignment for homework the night before. We all knew that we would discuss in class the meaning behind the reading and our interpretation. My goal during class discussions was to become invisible. It usually worked but not today. Not only did she request my interpretation, but also she asked me to stand before the class and read a portion of the assignment. You may find this hard to believe now, but I was terrified to speak in class, let alone in front of the class.

I have no idea what I read, but I get emotional even now thinking about what happened next. When I finished, I turned to her to make sure it was okay to return to my seat, and she was looking at me. It was not the look of, Thank you. Go sit down. It was a look she had never given me. After what seemed like an eternity, she simply said, “That was beautiful. You have a gift.” 

I don’t remember the rest of class. When the bell rang and we all got up to exit, she called me over to her desk. I was still beaming on the inside. She asked me to sit down and told me that she knew what students said about her and that she was indeed tough. She explained that she was tough on some students because of their attitude, but she wanted me to know that from that day forward she would be tough on me because of my potential. To this day, she is the best teacher I have ever had.

Lessons Learned
1. Words are powerful. Telling others you believe in them could make their day and maybe even change their life. It did mine.
2. It is okay to demand much from others, as long as you are doing so to grow their confidence and fulfill their potential.
3. There is power in standing before an audience.

Elbert Shaw—I have written about Elbert before. If I have ever had a mentor, it is he. Elbert is the person responsible for hiring me at Shaw, where I have been for the last 25 years. Though his last name was intimidating, that is not the reason I remember my first encounter with him. I was an immature kid, two years removed from college, having worked in ministry for a couple of years after graduating. I was scheduled to have an interview with him, and I had no idea what to expect. I just knew that he had the same last name as the owner of the company and that landing the interview had been difficult.

I will never forget Elbert’s graciousness and concern for my feelings at our first meeting. I later worked for Elbert as a recruiter and heard him say more times than I can count, “Hi. My name is Elbert G. Shaw. You can call me Elbert. May I take your coat? Would you like something to drink?” It was disarming to say the least. At a time when companies were known for using intimidation tactics to screen potential candidates, Elbert had done something radical. He had simply been himself. This man, who wears his heart on his sleeve, simply treated others the way he would have wanted to be treated. 

Elbert is 92 now and in failing health, but he has no regrets. He has lived a life of integrity. He can rest knowing that his legacy will live on long after he is gone. The challenge will be for those of us who remain to replace the void of love and caring that emanates from him. I could write a book about the lessons I have learned from this amazing man, but here are a few.

Lessons Learned
1. Nothing is more important than the people you are blessed to encounter throughout your life.
2. Live a life of integrity, and you will never live a life of regret.
3. The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is still the best rule to live your life and run your business by. 

I would challenge you all to look back at the people who have influenced your life. What was it about those positive encounters that made their memories last? As you answer that question, you will discover a list of principles by which you can and should live your life. After all, we should all strive to daily create encounters that will be remembered positively for years to come.

Copyright 2013 Floor Focus 



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