It's All About How We Make Others Feel!
Each of us can look back on our lives and think of at least one person who inspired us along the way. Perhaps it was a parent or family member. Maybe it was a teacher, a mentor, a coach, a celebrity or an author. More than likely, we probably don’t remember exactly what they said, or what they did or even how they did it. When we think about their inspiration, our memories trace back to more about how they made us feel!
In my life I have had many people who have inspired me — my parents, for one, who raised me to become the man I am today. They led by example and were positive role models. They taught me to work hard and dream big. They always put family first. They taught me to appreciate; they taught me manners; and they inspired integrity, courage, and love. In high school I had a teacher, Mr. Schauffleur, who inspired me. He taught me that you do not have to be the giant among others to succeed, and just a few months ago I wrote him a letter to share with him how he inspired me and changed my life! He wrote back and shared his joy in hearing from me, and true to form, he inspired me yet again by stating he was simply a catalyst, as success was deep within me and he had no doubts! In life I have crossed paths with a few rare individuals who inspired me, not by what they said but how they said it, meaning with so few words. They were strong and influential people who I truly wish every day I could be more like! Then there were my Elks mentors. There was PER Jerry Gummere, a man my dad’s age from Terre Haute, Indiana, who sponsored me to membership, selling me on the social aspects of course! I believe it was only weeks before he had me in the chairs as Lecturing Knight and that was my start in the Elks. Jerry was someone who inspired me, as he lived life on his terms. He had a gift in the way he talked with and treated others. I only wish I could be more like Jerry and I strive to be every day. There were two other gentlemen who inspired me early in my Elks career — Frank Dooley and Don Williams. Both were Past District Deputies (PDDs) in my lodge. These men saw leadership potential in me and mentored me along the way. They believed in me and made me feel that I could succeed even when the odds were against me. You see, I joined the Elks in 1985 at the age of 25 when the men (it was only men then) in leadership roles were all old enough to be my father!
Not to make this about me, but my life experience serves well in any discussion about the importance of support and the mentorship of others. I hope my experiences serve to demonstrate the need for us to strengthen this in our Elks lodges today! In my examples, it was clearly not the who, the what or the where. It was the how, the inspiration derived from how it made me feel! The how is the driver and the awareness of this should motivate each of us to the inspiration of others, not only in our Elks lives but in our personal lives as well and with our children. We are a greater influence than we know, and we must make sure our influence is of the positive nature and not of the diminutive type!
I have spoken often about the trends in our order, especially those that relate to the education and training of our leaders. Gone are the days when a member progressed “through the chairs” serving in various positions prior to becoming Exalted Ruler. The goal was for the member to serve as Lecturing Knight (third Vice President), then Loyal Knight (second Vice President) and then Leading Knight (first Vice President) before finally being elected Exalted Ruler. Each chair had specific responsibilities and duties to learn, and each served as a training grounds for leaders. Even with this progression and invested time, the chairs still had mentors, oftentimes to assist with the ritual responsibilities at each station, but nonetheless mentors who believed in you, supported you and made you feel like you could succeed!
Today, our leaders are thrust into positions of leadership often as very new members and often without a shred of training. Positions in the Elks are like those in other organizations but are also very different. The Elks order has time-honored traditions; we are more technically advanced than many organizations; and we have oversight and follow-through via district, state, and national/Grand Lodge oversight. We are strong because of this but because of this, our positions require more than the average skill set. Our weekend of training each March put on by the state is great training but is never enough. For this reason, we must provide on-the-job training through mentoring from others who have served in that capacity. We must also use our PER (Past Exalted Ruler) associations and the skills of our lodge Past District Deputies to further our training and mentoring efforts.
More importantly, though, we must improve our approach to our leaders and realize that their motivation comes mostly from how we make them feel. We must help our leaders through the steps by giving them a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction. The mentor must mentor not by how they might have been mentored but how they would have liked to have been mentored. We must shield our leaders and prospective leaders from those with only self-serving ideals and who do not have the best intentions for the lodge in mind. As I have said many times, we must find a way to make these often-thankless jobs in the lodge easier or no one is going to want them!
A good leader measures their success through accomplishments, but a great leader measures their success not just by accomplishments but also by what they have inspired others to do!
Granted, our leaders bear some responsibility for training and educating. The resources are there for them and they are often online. So, they must be able to use technology and they must invest the time in researching and reading. When our members reach out to me for answers, rarely do I just provide the answer. Rather, I show them where to find the answer in hopes that this will inspire them to become more familiar with the resources available. I have succeeded when they at least first search for the answer before contacting me! A lodge mentoring relationship should be no different. The mentor is not there to just answer the question; they are there to support and inspire. Our very own youth camp uses this with the children. They inspire, connect and expand. You might have heard their acronym — ICE.
Inspiration is not only providing stimulation to do something but also stimulation to help them feel something!
What inspires you? How are you providing inspiration to others? Please visit https://floridaelks.org/carls-corner and join the conversation by logging in and posting your comments.
Carl Seibert, COO/State Secretary
Florida State Elks Association