I couldn’t stop thinking to myself that this was a bad location. My 10-year-old daughter and her friend chose a location on a street that had little traffic. Why wouldn’t she get on board with my initial suggestion to just locate at the entrance of my apartment complex, where cars are going in and out all day?
Biting my tongue, we set up shop at their chosen spot. It was adjacent to a playground, where no kids were playing, and across the street from a town fitness center that didn’t seem to have much traffic in and out.
Then something extraordinary happened. EVERY time a car pulled out from the fitness center across the street, the girls were able to wave them down, get them to pull over, and sell these thirsty folks a cup of cold, fresh (from the carton) lemonade.
Also, because they put their stand in front of the parking lot of the playground where “no kids were playing,” they had ample customer parking! When they had several cars pull over at the same time, the cars could park, and they could serve all those customers in turn.
The girls sold all their inventory within 2 hours, and cleared $80 in revenue. After $20 of expenses, they were each able to walk away with $30 for two hours of work – a tremendous success for 5th graders! Here were my lessons:
- By staying out of the decision of location, it created a sense of ownership and self-confidence for the girls. Ultimately, it was truly their own success, without my interference.
- I was reminded that when I keep my mouth shut and let others pursue their ideas, it can work out better than if I was calling all the shots.
How many times does our internal “know-it-all” miss opportunities like this with our employees? It’s easy to forget that leadership is not about knowing all the answers, but allowing our people to rise up to challenges. A true leader trusts others and resists the temptation to control everything, even if it means watching others make mistakes. Sometimes those “mistakes” turn out to be a recipe for success.