June 2, 2020

The One Thing

After being fired, I was given a second chance at my company. But first I had to learn a valuable lesson about the relationship between leadership and teamwork.

If you’re just joining me, I recently shared my biggest failure and the critical lessons that began to form in my head. These lessons became incredibly useful in my life thanks to a pivotal event that took place after getting fired and my willingness to commit to one thing.

Getting fired stirred up all sorts of emotions—I felt blindsided, bewildered and ashamed. While I was still busy licking my wounds, Darnell Martin, who was with my former company, called me to ask how I was doing. “How do you think I’m doing?” I said with a little too much hurt and anger in my voice. 

The Event

After hearing me out, Darnell explained that he wanted to give me a second chance at the company. 

Martin saw something in me, and for the next six months he modeled a collaborative leadership approach that helped me make the transition from someone trying to run in my own three-legged race to a budding leader searching for ways to serve the team. Like I said in my prior post, my problem wasn’t the work—it was my understanding of team-work.

Martin’s philosophy toward teamwork is not unlike my memories of Thanksgiving. Everyone brings something to the table. My wife’s cooking, organization, elegance and inviting presence provides the perfect setting for everyone to get involved. For instance, my sister-in-law brings her delicious pecan pie, my mom makes our favorite sweet potato dish and my brother who’s not a cook likes to bring the bread. 

The point is when everyone contributes to the table, we all share in the abundance. Similarly, Martin encouraged everyone on the team to contribute in a way that highlighted their talents and collectively brought out the best in us. He did so in a way that never flaunted his position or views on how best to get something done.

The One Thing

When Martin originally called me to check in and listen to how I was feeling, he kindly broke the news that I had something to learn about leadership. I could have pushed him away with false or naïve courage but something inside me craved to know more about his “table of prosperity” that was sustained by collaboration and vulnerability. 

I began to reflect on what I observed in Martin and discovered my One Thing—I wanted to serve people. The strongest role models in my life were the most vulnerable. Their service of a greater purpose meant engaging others in the journey and owning that we need one another—not just to reach outcomes, but to make us whole. 

Thanks to Martin’s mentorship, I went on to work for the company for five more years and was later hired by other great organizations with increasing responsibility to serve my teams. I still had much to learn and many more mistakes ahead of me, but vulnerability would turn those mistakes into opportunities and transform my role as a team leader. 

Stand by your why,

Steve sig black 150

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5 Comments
  1. Lee Larsen

    Steve, thanks for sharing these lessons you’ve experienced and learned from over the years. Your willingness to admit failures and your eagerness to grow from them is an inspiration to all. It’s no wonder you are the leader that you are and it will be a joy to watch you continue to inspire others and continue to grow your career.

    Reply
  2. James Brown

    Great points to share on leadership traits…

    Reply
  3. sung kim

    FYI I was not fired from Comcast. I got laid off due to covid-19.

    Reply
  4. Jerry Berglund

    Steve, Great that you are sharing your story. Hope to see you soon-perhaps golf. Blessings, Jerry Berglund

    Reply
  5. David Day

    SAW,
    I hope all is well!!
    Really loved your letter, The One Thing!!
    To this day, when I talk to Rob Jones, we still discuss how much of an impact you have had on our personal and professional life’s.
    You always let us “do our thing” and insured us that you “had our back”!! You allowed us to make mistakes, but you demanded that we learn from them.
    You also led by example with your unmatched work ethic and most importantly integrity!!
    I shared you note with Rev. Jackson, and if you are ever in Chicago…he wants to meet you.
    Take Good Care My Friend!!
    Say hi to your wife and SAW Jr.
    Stay Save & Stay Sane!!
    DAD

    Reply
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