Leadership Lessons ezine by Mark Sanborn
Some “Freds” don’t intentionally set out each day to be Fred-like. It’s just a natural part of who they are and what they do. Such is the case with Kelly Wilkerson, who daily goes above and beyond her formal responsibilities as an early morning opener for the local YMCA in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
Praise for You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader
“…I call his book a “little” book only because of its size… In reality, it is a very big book, full of big ideas that are worth reading…” David Mercer – Mercer Capital
Wilkerson’s position requires unlocking the building each weekday at 5:00am and then welcoming YMCA members as they arrive for their early morning workouts. But this dedicated employee doesn’t stop there. She makes coffee, brings in breakfast on Fridays, mends clothing in need of repair, bandages fingers, and more.
“To me, it’s just how I fulfill my job responsibilities,” said Wilkerson. “I learn about each customer so that I can make them feel personally welcome.”
Wilkerson views it as her responsibility as a morning opener to build members’ motivation to keep coming in and to remind them of why they chose the YMCA.
That’s why she gives cards of encouragement to members who have an upcoming test or deadline, researches pertinent details for a member’s errands for the day, and remembers to ask about spouses or children who have been ill recently. She has even gone so far as to prepare an entire meal for an older member who hadn’t been able to make it into the Y for a couple weeks and personally take it to his home. She’s also delivered a young man’s baseball uniform that was forgotten at the Y directly to the game field so he wouldn’t have to sit out of the game for lack of a team uniform.
So what motivates someone who serves such as this? Wilkerson says she simply wants to see others happy. “I’m the first person many of them see each day, so I want to make a positive influence on their day.”
Wilkerson has definitely made an impact on those people with whom she interacts at the YMCA. Says Jason Andrews, a Lakewood Ranch YMCA member, “Kelly is one of those rare individuals who really makes a difference in your daily life. Starting the day off with her always smiling face, perky attitude, and sincere personality really points everyone in the right direction. She makes the YMCA what it was supposed to be all along. She gives people a reason to come and motivation to stay.”
Wilkerson says it’s the little things that make the difference. She asks for feedback on whether the coffee is too weak or too strong and provides a jar of inspirational quotes for visitors to draw from.
Wilkerson works at community positions and volunteers in part, she says, because it teaches her so much. She began volunteering in high school at her mother’s prompting, but has kept at it for the last decade because she enjoys helping others. But don’t think that she works part-time at the YMCA because she has extra free time. Wilkerson also has a full-time professional career in the major league baseball industry. Opening at the YMCA is an addition to her other career responsibilities.
Wilkerson exemplifies the Fred principles. She knows that her small tasks each morning make a significant difference for each person she encounters at the YMCA. She seeks out a relationship with each member by being interested in and helpful to each of them. She adds value to her YMCA duties simply by fulfilling them with a sincere, enthusiastic personality.
Do the Fred principles come naturally to you? Or must you intentionally focus on achieving Fred-like behavior? If you still need to remind yourself to greet your colleagues with sincerity, to notice the difference your demeanor makes to your child during their early morning moments, or to recognize opportunities to create value for your associates, you’re probably not practicing Fred-like behavior on a frequent enough basis to develop the “habit”.
Experts tell us that habits are formed after three to four weeks of consistent behavior. Perhaps it’s worth focusing on one Fred-like action that you’d like to possess for the next month. Before you know it, you’ll be doing it out of habit.
We’ve all been there. We read a book, hear a speaker, or see someone else’s actions and wistfully think to ourselves, “I should really start doing that” or “I need to start doing more of that.” Instead of imagining the difference that action could make, start doing it! Too often we let those nice thoughts become stale before they can begin to influence our behavior. Any true change requires focus on the behavior, not just for one day or one week, but long enough to form a habit, a natural course of how you interact with the world and others.
So what behavior are you going to focus on? What action will you intentionally carry out each day? Before long, you’ll be like Fred – and Kelly Wilkerson.
Note: Kelly Wilkerson and her story came to our attention through the “Fred Award” nomination process on our website. She received not one, but two, nominations from Lakewood Ranch YMCA members. Find out how you can nominate a Fred and share a Fred story with us.