Musings of a Boss

A “New to Me” Holiday

It’s an adventure to be running a company in a foreign country.  You are always encountering new things that more often than not, warrant pause and reflection. Take something as simple as a national holiday.  As an outsider, it’s hard to fully grasp the meaning and significance of certain dates, but it’s important to keep an open mind even if you don’t understand them.

For example, July 25, 2012 is the day of the patron saint of Antigua, Guatamala, Santo Santiago, otherwise known as St. James. According to Wikipedia, this is a holiday that started in Spain where Western European Catholics have been making a pilgrimage to his believed grave site in Santiago de Compostela, Spain since the Middle Ages.

In modern-day Antigua, this tradition is honored with morning parades and festivities. But instead of making a pilgrimage to a certain grave site, most families usually end up with their children at the nearby carnival.

Team Outing at Best Restaurant in Town, McDonald’s

As an employer, I thought it would be nice to use the holiday as a means to rally the troops, build more camaraderie, and thus decided to take the staff to a lunch gathering at one of the best restaurants in Antigua, McDonald’s. Understandably, McDonald’s in the states might not be held in the highest regard, especially in the high end restaurant industry, but here in Antigua, the restaurant is actually quite superb. To put it humbly, the Antigua McDonald’s is probably the most beautiful McDonald’s in the entire world! Different from most other McDonald’s, it is not entirely enclosed. Once you purchase your food you walk out into this marvelous courtyard and are greeted by one of the most precious views of Volcano “Agua” from your shaded garden seat. Additionally, because of the high-altitude, approximately 5000 feet elevation, the weather is almost always at a cool crisp 75°F.

Another thing really striking about Antigua’s McDonald’s is the level of service that you get from the McDonald’s employees. They have to be the fastest most coordinated group of McDonald’s teams in the world. They also is so much pride in the eyes of these employees and so much energy and motivation that it is quite inspiring. I think it’s a testament to McDonald’s and their training program.  Here, it’s not just a job, it’s an elevation of status. It’s something greater; it’s hope, prosperity, a sign of upward movement on the social ladder. To these young aspiring professionals, the golden arches are a symbol of success.

Reflections of Being the Boss

I keep this in mind as I sit here contemplating and enjoying the company of my own employees. And I remember that what is more important than the physical paycheck is an ideal that there is more to our company than just work. Through this experience, I’m learning that people, more than a lot of things, want to be inspired and want to work for a team that is making a difference. They also want to see a trajectory to success; something obtainable and inspirational within their grasp; something to keep striving towards and a place to offer their dedication.

My concentration is interrupted by my laughter from children at next table. They are the children of one of my teacher’s three kids age, the youngest a 1 year old, three year old, and the eldest, nine. They seem super excited to be here, open up their happy meal and hunt for their packaged toy. I often forget how much of a privilege it is to go to a restaurant like McDonald’s and just sit and enjoy the carefree bliss of the golden arches.

It is also rare to be at a company function or gathering and see all the different generations spread amongst our company’s tables. Babies, preadolescents, adolescent teenagers, adults and even grandparents attended the event. As I began to make this observation and reflect, I realized that I was the youngest adult of this entire group, 29.  At some point another revelation dawned on me, that this is more than just a job, it is a great responsibility that effects more than just me. It affects these children and even these grandchildren. I understand now that the jobs my company provides are not just for these individual teachers, it effects the future generations that will come after us. For my attendees, to be able to take part in, and enjoy the freedoms Westerners often take for granted, brought a lot of joy to my heart. Yesterday was a realization that whether I like it or not, I am making an impact on the lives of a lot of people. And I have to take great care  in honoring that responsibility ethically, morally, and respectfully.

My Thoughts on Leadership

Leaders are not born, they are made.  Forged through the trials of success and failure and, at least the good ones, sharpened by the team that they lead.  As I understand it, being a boss is more than giving orders or telling people what to do. It’s about understanding investing in lives and inspiring each person to do their best day in and day out. I’m encouraged by the relationships that are being formed with these types of team events.  My hope is that as we continue to move forward as a team, we face our upcoming obstacles together and I grow and develop into a leader that people will be proud to call their boss.

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