Growing up in a depressed neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, will leave you with many life lessons. It will show you the power of determination, and the strength that comes with humility. But most of all, it teaches you that if you want to be successful in this world, in asset protection or in any arena, you must understand that finding success is a privilege—not a right. If you see something you want, go for it—but never at the cost of hurting someone else. Approach your objectives with character, a positive mindset, personal fortitude, and by absorbing as much advice as you can from people that have been there.
Of course, there’s much more that can be said about growing up tough and escaping the ghetto. But if you think it through, it’s not that much different than any other challenge you might face. Whatever your background is and whatever your goals may be, you have a choice—you can go after those goals, or you can choose to be satisfied with where you are in life. You can’t have it both ways. In fact, it’s my motto to go after your goals as long as they are smart and achievable.
I was taught many of these lessons from my real father, who one of my greatest heroes. Unfortunately, his life ended early as a result of drug addiction. Being a semi-professional athlete, he instilled in me a lifelong lesson: “Listen to your coaches. They always have your best interest in mind. They will tell you good things when you’re doing well, but they also care enough to have the tough conversations that will make you better. They will humble you, because they always know or will have coached someone with more talent and ability than you.”
The concept of coaching is the focus of this message. What if we all became students of asset protection, and sought out our true coaches from amongst our leaders and peers? What if we lay our pride aside and accept that we don’t have all the answers? What if we could admit all of our mistakes, and ask those closest to us for counsel in our professional growth plans? What if we said, “I am not as good as I thought I was, but with the right coaching, I will gain the skills and competencies necessary to be who I want to be?”
So what does growing up in the ghetto or having a father who was an addict have to do with leadership? The answer lies both in the path and the result. Our personal and professional life experiences often shape who we are today. Unfortunately, we can find ourselves in bad situations or learn bad behaviors from others, and as a result turn them into our personal perception of reality. But perception is not always reality, and it may just be a situation where we lack experience or understanding. This is where a great coach can make a tremendous difference.
It is our natural desire to want to do the right thing. But we have to ask, “Am I doing what is right, or what I think is right?” I believe that if we can all get together and form the type of relationships where we seek each other’s coaching and challenges–with no gossip or ill will intended—we can be great. In fact, I think that if we can learn to begin by judging the situation at hand rather than the people involved, our results should be awesome.
Do we want to be at war with and judge others, or do we want them to say, “Thanks, your coaching helped me. In fact, I am now able to continue to grow in areas where I previously thought I truly excelled.” If we want these experiences and relationships to be positive and productive, they must be met with patience, flexibility and understanding.
Finding Strength through Humility
I want to continue to grow as a leader, and I have come to realize through some recent coaching that humility is one of the greatest attributes you can have. I even want people to like me. I particularly don’t care for the saying, “They don’t have to like you.” What’s wrong with being liked? I’m learning that I want people to generally like me because they see me as a humble yet capable leader that has the ability to make tough decisions accurately and with compassion.
As a leader I fully realize that I am responsible for driving results with urgency, holding people accountable, guiding and managing the asset protection team, and building a winning program. But regardless of the potential challenges we may face along the way, I also believe if we lead with humility and successfully drive the competencies necessary to excel, we will win most of our battles, and ultimately win the war.
Many traits help make us great leaders, yet I truly believe that humility and perspective are among the most important. Those who can emulate this leadership style will be better leaders as a result. I also believe this approach will not only help build a great team, but great leaders. I want to be known as an asset protection leader who gets results. But I also want to be known as a leader who cares for his people, their goals, and making them better.
I urge you to write down the professional development areas where you feel that you need coaching, whether it’s communication, urgency, teamwork, trustworthiness, accountability, winning attitude, or some other area of opportunity. You have to be willing to make the commitment and get the coaching you need. You must be self-motivated, have the desire to win as a team, and be there for each other.
Be a leader who is there for the team, will go to bat for team, and appreciates the efforts and sacrifice of his or her players. This is the type of leadership that will help build a team that is second to none because you share a message of teamwork and success. In the end, you will not have just a department, but a winning asset protection program that others will wait in line to join.
This article was originally published in 2014 and was updated April 21, 2016.