Menefee: The Journey to Becoming a Better Leader 

March 18, 2024
Attending Discover Leadership training has made me a stronger, better version of myself.

Leadership is a daunting word for me that makes me conjure many questions. How do I know if I am a good leader? Am I effective? Am I helping my team to grow, or am I holding my team back? Am I showing enough empathy? Am I communicating enough? These questions — and more — have played out in my head many times. I read books on self-growth. I listen to podcasts. I have even taken a few classes. Ultimately, what I found for myself is that to be an effective leader, I have to continually work towards that. Leadership is not a skill you learn once and become efficient in it; it’s a skill that requires constant reinforcement and self-growth. I know I cannot have a strong team at work without being a strong leader. 

Last year, I had the opportunity to see Mike Jones from Discover Leadership speak at the FenderBender Management Conference. He spoke on leadership and identifying your leadership traits. I was intrigued with Mike’s presentation and accompanying exercise he asked us to do. I talked to a handful of other shop owners and operators at the conference who had been through his Master Graduate Leadership Program, and everyone had encouraging things to say about it. Two mentors of mine both told me they wish they would have found the class sooner because they were more successful than they ever were before.  

I started looking around at other leadership programs, but I kept coming back to the Discover Leadership program. The more I investigated it, the more I was intrigued because it almost felt a little like a “cult”. People would give me a very broad overview of the course and then say things like “all will be known in due time.” “What does that even mean?” I thought. Graduates would not give me any details into the program. The only thing I really knew was that I would have to give up my cell phone for four days.  After much thought, I said to myself, “What the heck do I have to lose? All of these people are telling me it’s one of the best things they have ever done, so let’s do it.” 

I won’t lie, I went into the program with an open mind but an attitude of reservation because I did not know what to expect. What I can now tell you is that the Master Graduate Leadership Program was probably the hardest thing I have ever done mentally and emotionally, and I am 100% glad I took the leap of faith and went through the program. I get the hype.  I truly believe it’s one of the best leadership courses out there, so much so that I’m sending three of my employees through it. 

The first two days of the program are mostly classroom-based learning in a group environment. But wear comfortable clothing because the days are extremely long. This is not an 8-to-5 program; you will be going till 10 at night or later.   In the beginning you will be shy and reserved around the people you are going through the program with. By day two, you will have already started to create a bond with these people; embrace it. On days one and two, you will be mentally out of your comfort zone -- and that is okay. You will be sleeping in cabins like summer camp, “boys” in one cabin and “girls” in another. You won’t care about sleeping arrangements; you will be too tired! 

At the end of day two, you get a bit of downtime at the very end of the day. This, I feel, is meant as a reward and to encourage you going into day three. Day three and four will mostly be outside, no matter if it’s raining or 20 degrees, like it was one of my days. The last two days do have a physical component to them, but not in a way in which it would hinder anyone from participating. No matter your age, shape, or size, you will be able to participate. Day three and four have a more emotional element, too. The physical and emotional elements play well into each other and turned out to be a lot of fun for me. 

By the end of day four and graduation, you will have bonded with your classmates, and some of them will be your closest friends for the rest of your life. It sounds crazy, since it is just a four-day-long program. But you will be completely shaken out of your comfort zone, and the people with whom you go through this will be your lifeline during the program and after. This is a leadership class, but leadership isn’t just in the workplace. You will come out as a stronger and better version of yourself, which will ultimately affect every aspect of your life on a personal and work level. 

I now understand that leadership does not just pertain to me as the owner or manager of my company. Every single person in my shop is a leader in some form or fashion, even if they do not realize it. I would encourage you that you need to continually grow and educate yourself to be a better leader, it is a never-ending process, but you also need to do the same for your team. You can be the best leader in the world, but your team also needs to buy into what you are doing. And you are the one who will have to get their buy-in. If you want a highly functioning team, it won’t just happen by chance. You must develop it. I know now I am a better person and a better leader. I am working to make my team into leaders because I know by doing that, I will have a better shop. 

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