True leaders listen, learn

On a road trip to Maine several years ago, my wife Carol and I spent our first night in Geneseo, New York. We stayed at the Temple Hill Bed and Breakfast. The directions were easy to follow and we arrived at about 6 p.m. There, sitting behind several white oaks around one hundred years old each, an impressive brick building with green shutters met us.

When we rang the doorbell, a friendly black dog, which we later found out was a rescue from a local shelter, signaled our arrival with good-natured barking. Mary White, the assistant innkeeper, welcomed us and explained the logistics. Then we hurried to get dressed for supper. The evening was extremely pleasurable and we got to know a little about the town and the local college, SUNY at Geneseo. Nine o’clock found us back in our room preparing for bed.

Since this day was our 10th anniversary, I surprised Carol with a pair of diamond earrings. I purchased them at Baker & Baker Jewelers only a few days before and struggled to sneak them in the car and keep them hidden all the way to New York. Carol and her mom had visited Baker & Baker since Carol was a little girl and she continues to have a fondness for the store.

The next morning we awoke rested, anticipating another interesting day exploring the road to Montpelier, Vermont. We shared a wonderful breakfast with a couple from Long Island. The wife was an Episcopalian minister who was interviewing at a local church and the husband was a retired IT person. Breakfast began with a fruit cup and ended with a delicious frittata and fresh baked blueberry muffins. The frittata is best described as an egg pie, started in the skillet and finished in the oven.

We continued a very interesting conversation with Gail White, the innkeeper. Gail and her husband, Jon own Temple Hill and Gail operates the bed and breakfast. Their family has lived in the area for six generations as farmers.

Temple Hill was built in 1926 as the Livingston County High School for young men. In 1842, it became known as the Temple Hill Academy. The school was abandoned in 1872. In 1911 the Henry Colt family, a branch of the famous handgun maker, remodeled the building as a private residence. In 2006, the Temple Hill Bed and Breakfast was opened. As we were preparing to exit, I noticed two cases of prehistoric spear points on the wall. They were found by some White ancestor and were from different time periods but were made from the same type of flint.

Carol and I love to visit bed and breakfasts. It is interesting to learn about the history of the families and communities. They each have fascinating stories. I believe leaders who are interested in the lives of their followers will treat them with more respect than those who dismiss their interesting backgrounds and history. The best leaders are not intrusive with their staff, but they spend time listening when it is appropriate. The more you know about your employees, the more you will value their potential contributions.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s new book, “And my Brother Jack: Everyday Leadership Lessons,” visit his website raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.