My little cousin is probably the cutest little girl you could ever meet. Her cute brown bob and contagious giggle are just the start of what this girl has going for her. She is full of spunk; she loves dressing up as Elsa and appreciates any time when you play princess with her. My cousin is also brilliant. Her young mind is bursting with knowledge, but her brilliance shines the most when it comes to her ability to be herself. She is able to do this because of her mom and my aunt, Kristie. Kristie is someone who I have looked up to my entire life, and as a child, I wanted to be just like her. Kristie loves to encourage her to showcase her loves and styles, and because of this, she picks out whatever she wants to wear. Whether it is printed leggings, a tutu, a colorful sweatshirt, or funky shoes, she can pull it off.
Whenever I see kids dressed like this, I can’t help but smile because they are so proud of the outfit they picked out. The best part is the joy these children are feeling because of the mom or dad who let them choose their outfit standing behind them. As leaders, we can learn a lot from parents. Parents, like my aunt Kristie, are maximizers. They are leaders in our lives who do not think for us but encourage us to think for ourselves. They are genius makers.
During my senior year of high school, I had a genius maker that entered my life. As the fall of my senior year approached, I decided I wanted to have a part time job outside of working on my family’s farm. My mom received an email with a job posting for Lit’l Wizards, a hometown family business that specializes in educational toys and resources. I immediately felt that it fit me and decided to apply. A couple days later, the owner of the store, Maria, called me and told me she would love to have me join their team. At that moment, I was ecstatic and immediately called my mom. I knew this was going to be a great experience, but what I didn’t realize was that working at Lit’l Wizards would impact my life in a very special way.
Each of my days looked similar but were always filled with different tasks. School would get out and I would head over to work. When I buzzed the doorbell at the door in the back, Maria would come open the door and begin to tell me what I could work on that day. One of favorite things she would ask me to do was to redecorate the store. I would always ask, “How would you like me to do it?” And Maria would always reply, “However you want.”
When I first began my job, I was terrified of these words. What I was doing would affect how people saw our products and sometimes whether they bought items or not. I wanted the store to look amazing, and I wanted to do it well because Maria always did such a great job. Now, she wanted me to decide how to decorate her store. The thing about Maria is that she never saw it as her store. She saw it as ours. Lit’l Wizards had a lot of pieces to it, and she recognized that. She wanted her family and employees to feel like they were integral parts to the store. We were never employees; we were her team. By Maria using the words “However you want,” I soon realized that she believed in me and felt as if I was capable of making our store look wonderful, and I fell in love with my job.
Throughout my year of working, I got to wear pajamas one day to work, decorate for Christmas, and use my creative mind in all parts of our store. I even got to help with social media posts and create our newsletter. The greatest part of my job though was having a person in my life like Maria. Maria is creative, innovative, motivated, and loving. She is person who does not let anything stop her. She is a wonderful mom, teacher, and boss, but in all of these roles Maria is a maximizer.
This past fall I had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference called Live2Lead in Marshall, MN. Speakers touched on all concepts of leadership, but one of my favorite points came from Simon Sinek. He said, “It is not about being charge, it about taking care of those that are in our charge.” You see, Simon talked about how Millennials (our generation) are not lazy; we are just simply looking for a place where others care about us and show us empathy. As leaders, it is not our job to micromanage people who are fully capable of doing great things. It is our job to take care of these people and make sure they feel loved and cared about.
I seriously love this mostly because I had the opportunity to have one of these leaders in my life. The true question is how can we be maximizers? How can we show empathy to others instead of looking only for results? We can do this by looking to people like Kristie and Maria. When we are leading others, let’s not do their job but help them feel confident in doing it themselves. Whether it means letting an FFA member take over a project that is normally done by an officer or asking a couple of freshmen to help decorate the FFA float. Maybe it simply means that we show someone we care about them and know that they are fully capable to accomplish what they set their mind to.
This is what it means to find the genius in others. The idea of the “genius” came from Liz Wiseman who I also had the privilege of hearing speak at Live2Lead. She talked about how each person we come in contact with has a set of unique gifts and talents. We all have a little genius within us, but sometimes it just takes a leader to bring it out. Let’s be those leaders who encourage creative thinking and self confidence. By believing in others, we will create more leaders, more geniuses, and more maximizers. As FFA members, we have the capability to do this. Look around in your classrooms, FFA meetings, sports practices, work, and band practices. Each person has unique talents and gifts that are so special. How can we help others use them? I challenge all of us to empower someone with a task, compliment, or job.
Whether is it letting kids wear what they want or empowering others to be apart of something, maximizers have the ability to change how we see the world. They give us strength, confidence, trust, and pride. We can do this, too. I have decided I am going to be a leader who finds the genius in others, and I hope you join me in this. FFA members, advisors, and supporters, let’s build our communities and grow leaders. Let’s help others realize their worth and ability. Let’s maximize the genius in all of us.
Stationed by the Plow,