One of the discussions we’re having in our strategy meeting tomorrow is on the topic of legacy. A few months ago I wrote a blog specifically on that topic. In our Express Leadership Academy we were offered up the following definition of legacy: “The impact we have on the lives of others.” It’s not about what we are remembered for, it’s specifically focused on the impact we have in the lives of others. When I consider my professional career one of the few who’ve had biggest impact in my life is one of my mentors, Mark Tasler.
A handful of years ago we were conducting an exercise talking about our personal values. There were three sets of voices I kept hearing in my head as I thought… my parents, my favorite priest, and Mark Tasler. I could hear his voice as I thought about the values of giving, dreaming big, and being a great and human leader. As we talk about legacy tomorrow the impact he’s had in my life will be readily apparent. In most cases i still have a long ways to go before I’m to his level, but he’s helped me set the course. Those three key values are a part of the legacy that Mark has left on me that I hope to continue to pass on to others.
Before we even talk about values I’d be remiss to not mention that quite literally I would not be with Express without him and his wife, Sheryl. They opened a staffing service on their own in Rochester many years ago. Taking a leap of faith they took out a loan and started working on their dream. That dream has continued to grow bigger and bigger as they opened more offices then moved on to helping others open new offices, then moved into helping other grow into their offices, all while continuing to help generation after generation of their beloved Express family. Their dream and leap of faith have left quite the legacy, who knows how many thousands of lives they’ve impacted for the better.
One of the biggest values Mark instilled in me really hit me in our first meeting. All new hires for their offices went to Rochester to meet with Mark and Sheryl and then they would take us out to lunch. Even though Mark had a meeting with all of the franchisees in his region that day he carved out time to spend with me, an entry level brand new employee. As he and I talked the conversation quickly went away from business and went to family. We shared stories of our parents and how we grew up. He had lost his father not too long before our meeting and at one point he shared how he’d wished he’d taken his dad up fishing in a specific spot. I spoke from the heart and told him that if he went now his dad would be with him this time. At that moment I saw his eyes well up a little. He took a deep breath and excused himself from the office. A while later we jumped back into conversation and then had an excellent lunch in downtown Rochester.
As I drove back to Winona my mind kept going back to our conversation. In the span of about 30 minutes Mark showed me how to be an excellent leader. Treat everyone on your team with the utmost respect regardless of position. A great leader is human, has feelings, and is not afraid to express him. What Mark didn’t know at the time was that when we met he was by far and away the most successful person I’d ever met and I was scared to death to meet him. Within seconds he helped me see that regardless of how successful he was that he was a real and approachable person. That single conversation helped me see that great leaders are real people who care about their family and that they consider their teams their family.
At another one of our monthly meetings Mark and I had a conversation as we both grabbed a cup of coffee. “Mike, what are some of your dreams?” I immediately told him the dream I had of making a specific personal income goal. He smiled, chuckled, and said, “and then what?” I shared that if I made that much every year I’d be good. He again chuckled, “you’ve got to dream bigger than that! First dream big, and then dream bigger.” At the time i was a little frustrated and totally missed the point. I kept thinking, but that’d be enough, why dream bigger?
Even though I missed it at the time that conversation has stuck with me. At some point a few years later as I was running multiple offices and I started helping to grow others on my team it finally sunk in. There was much more that I could do, more lives I could impact if I kept dreaming bigger and kept pushing myself. Since then as I start to dream I first get my dream pictures in my head and then ask myself, “what would be even cooler than that?” The results sometimes might sound a little ridiculous, but they would be pretty awesome! Instead of dreaming of opening one new office and occasionally vacationing in New Zealand why not dream of opening several Express offices in New Zealand and then working as a developer to help others in that country live the dream of business ownership? See what I mean? A little out there, but that’s when the really cool stuff can start to happen… dreaming bigger opens up many new possibilities and I have Mark to thank for that!
Quite possibly the most beautiful value Mark has helped to instill in me is to give more than I think that I can. In another one of our monthly meetings Mark and i had a great conversation about philanthropy (seeing a trend? Maybe I should ask him to have a weekly conversation instead!). As we talked he told me, “Mike, just give and keep giving. Give without thought of receiving. Give more than you think you can and you’ll always find that you can give a little more. The more you give the more rewards that come back to you. Those rewards are never why you give in the first place, but they’re a fantastic benefit.”
Mark and Sheryl have lived this value many times over. The number of ways they’ve given to their communities, friends, family, and countless others is nothing short of staggering. From starting a golf outing that’s raised over $1m to trips and support to those in need in Africa to helping fellow franchisees they’re always amongst the first to offer help before it’s asked for. One only needs to spend a little time with them to see just how giving they are.
In addition to giving of financial help Mark is an incredibly giving leader. He’s always willing to help guide us through any situation we may face. Mark’s there for us when we need advice and guidance. Another thing he gives is his passion and his honesty. Never one to mince words he’ll open tell me when I’m wrong. In times when I’ve disagreed with him both of our voices have been know to raise with the passion we have for what we do, yet never has he made me feel belittled. Mark will push me and challenge me to lift myself to be greater than I think I can be at times. He gives that honesty and passion even though it’d be so easy for him to not say anything. It is because of his love and respect for us that he speaks up and does everything he can to make us the best we can be. What a gift is it to have someone like that in my life? I’m so thankful for this and for his helping me see one of the areas in which i need to continue to grow if I truly want to live up to his legacy.
One of the many facets of Mark’s legacy are those three values he’s helped me see and understand. To always be a human leader who values every single one of his family (team). To dream big, and then dream bigger. To give more than I think is possible without thought of receiving. There’s a long, long way for me to grow before I’m truly loving up to his legacy, but I’ll stay the course and I know that at anytime he’ll let me know if I’m getting offtrack. In keeping with the concept of legacy I hope to have that same impact on the lives as others, to keep the ripple that Mark has started moving forward.
Mark, thank you so much for all you’ve given me throughout our past 18 years of working together. From the opportunity to work with you to helping me see that dream of ownership more clearly to pushing me to dream bigger to openly sharing your values. I am the man i am today because of the impact you’ve had on me. Thank you for seeing something in me that i hadn’t quite seen for myself. Love you Mark!