I walked into the kennel at the back of the small vet clinic and found him, long beard, white lab coat, meticulously mopping the floor. I had heard the proverbial: “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do,” so many times before, but this was the first time I actually saw someone demonstrating this practice. The coolest part: I don’t think he was trying to model this as a lesson; I think he truly never thought that he was above any of the more menial tasks required in his clinic. As a young man, my boss’s modesty and care left a lasting impression.
Today, I woke up to the news that Dr. Aaron Weissberg had passed away. Dr. Weissberg was not my first boss, but he was undoubtedly my first great boss, and perhaps one of the greatest influences on my professional career.
I grew up wanting to be a vet and through my early days of college I worked in a wide variety of veterinary offices and kennels. My experience at the Community Animal Hospital was unlike all others. Dr. Weissberg knew my aspirations and invested his time in me, always finding opportunities to help me learn and experience everything that I could within the world of veterinary medicine. It was clear that he saw me as more than just cheap labor to wash out the kennels and instead would invite me to observe surgeries, he would talk about complicated cases with me, he would give me regular access to experiences outside of my job description.
In college, the pains of physics and organic chemistry would eventually lead me to a career change toward business. I do not practice veterinary medicine; I do not clean kennels (I barely remember to clip my dog’s toenails) and yet Dr Weissberg remains as one of the greatest influences on my career.
While he thought he was teaching me about animal husbandry and pharmacology and the differences between a neuter and a spay, he was actually teaching me about servant leadership, humility and how to empower employees. He taught me to invest in my employees. He taught me that work relationships should not be transactional, but rather work should be about teamwork and community. He taught me to invest in the betterment of colleagues and to always strive toward enriching the work experiences of my employees.
Dr Weissberg laid the foundation for what would become my leadership philosophy. I never told him that. I regret that. But now you know.
I missed the opportunity to properly thank Dr. Weissberg. I encourage you – don’t miss that opportunity. Reach out to that early mentor today and let them know the impact that they had on you and subsequently on all the people you were able to impact because of their early influence.