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Pull It Out of Them

Before I began my professional career I spent a brief time teaching fifth grade students in the Detroit Public Schools. I was an ESRP (Emergency Substitute in a Regular Position). I inherited a classroom from a teacher to died of cancer at the beginning of the school year. The students were grieving and no substitute could handle the class. I went to the Principal and asked her if I could have the class. She told me that If I thought I could make a difference take it.

This was a rough bunch. A few of them were grades behind and a couple should have been in special education. The fourth grade teachers the year before gathered their most incorrigible students and sent them to this teacher knowing he had health concerns. I took the class and decided I was going to teach them at a collegiate level. I created a syllabus and let them know my expectations. I assigned textbooks for them to take home for homework as well as supplemental reading. They had term papers, quizzes, mid-terms, and final exams. The students rebelled. The parents rebelled. I received threats from the parents citing I was giving their children too much work. The assistant principal was my English teacher in Junior High school and was very hard on me. He even told me to lighten up because these children "did not have the ability to learn at that level." I stuck to my guns.

About mid year, the Principal stopped by my classroom and could not believe these children were learning. She asked me how I did it. I told her I loved them, made them believe they could conquer any obstacle, and did not make excuses for them. I expected them to learn at a high level. The students were disciplined, respectful, and knowledgeable of the subject matter I taught. These students went from hating me to being my allies. If anyone said anything bad about Mr. Binion they were ready to fight. At the end of the school year as I was packing up my classroom, one of my students stopped by with her mother. She thanked me for the way I had prepared her daughter for college. Her daughter's name was Kimberly. Kimberly is now a Pediatric Neuro-Surgeon. A few years ago I stopped by a Sprint store and one of my students recognized me. We shared a laugh about his adolescent behavior. His name was Steven and he was a Regional Vice President for Sprint overseeing three territories.

Many leaders and managers do not know how to pull the best from those they serve. They get frustrated, quit, or fire them because they are not living up to the expectations. It takes a person with vision to be in leadership. That vision includes how you see your team growing and maturing as professionals. It is not just about results, but making investments in people, their goals, dreams, and aspirations. Great leaders know how to get the best from people, talent that lies hidden beneath years of rejection, humiliation, abuse, and insecurity. Many adults in professional positions have not managed their lives well and carry baggage that prevents them from succeeding in other areas of their lives. The greatness is there, but fear prevents them from trying harder. They are apprehensive about acceptance, how they appear and are perceived. They choose the safe route in their daily duties, only doing the minimum required. They never reach their potential because no one believed in them.

Many people I train tell me they wish I had been their teacher in high school. They may have chosen a different career path. That may or may not be true. However, a great leaders does not give up on people. A great leader pulls out the best and makes others great.

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