It was May 1975. I accepted a job as the Assistant Winemaker and Cellar Master for Banholzer Winecellars in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. The owner (and my boss) was Carl Banholzer. He had just opened his winery to the public for tours and tastings.
Soon after I joined Carl, he told me about his plan to have an enormous harvest celebration that fall. There would be wine tastings, arts, crafts, music, dancing AND a grape stomp. The grape stomp was for women only. Being the master marketer, Carl advertised this event as “Forty Fabulous Footwomen.”
The Indiana State Health Department (ISHD) heard of his plan and issued an order to stop. They were worried that some of the juice from the stomp would be used in the wine. Never mind that Carl planned to use mediocre quality grapes for the stomp and dump them afterwards. Never mind that even if he did use the juice, the fermentation process would purge any foreign matter. Believe me, I’ve seen a lot worse going into the fermentation tanks than a little toe-jam. Nevertheless, the bureaucrats would have none of it.
Carl, not being one to let an opportunity like this go, leveraged the daylights out of it. He remained true to his purpose – to have an amazing event to celebrate the harvest, give people an enjoyable time, and make a lot of money in the process. The conflict with the health department only fueled his energy. He refused to stop planning the event and negotiated an agreement with the ISHD.
The day came. An official representative of ISHD was present. A huge crowd gathered – I had never seen so many people in a rural setting. Carl asked me to wash down the legs of the Forty Fabulous Footwomen – to symbolize that he was honoring the health department’s concerns for sanitation. The official watched. As the stomp ensued, other workers took the stompings and dumped them into a large 500-gallon tank. At the end of the stomp, the winners were announced. The crowd cheered for the Forty Fabulous Footwomen.
Carl, again the master of seizing opportunities, announced to the huge crowd that the ISHD was there and as a result all the stompings would be poured down the drain. The crowd booed and hissed at the ISHD official. A handful of employees braced themselves against the tank and flipped it over into a large storm drain. The crowd went wild. The ISHC official left, luckily unscathed.
How does this translate to Transformational Leadership?
- Carl’s purpose and outcomes were clear. He planned a major event to celebrate the harvest and give people an opportunity to enjoy everything his winery and the community had to offer.
- He enrolled the folks to drive to success faster and with greater buy-in. His team, including me, was fully supportive and had leading roles in the execution of the event. Clearly, he enrolled the audience to have a fun time, even if partially at the expense of the ISHD.
- He executed and remained true to his purpose despite significant bureaucratic resistance. He was resilient and found ways to profitably navigate through the state’s hierarchy. He was persistent – he would not back down on his intent to have a memorable event.
In the 43 years that have since passed, I have observed time and time again that these three-basic principles are the key ingredients to success. It doesn’t matter if you are leading an organization, or if you are leading a transformation. Your purpose must be clear, you must build relationships, and you must execute resiliently and persistently.
Dedicated to your profitable transformation,