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July 2022 iLead Update: Finding Leadership Wherever You Go

Welcome From Tom

Hello Leadership Challenge Fans,

Lots to celebrate this month as we look forward to travel, family vacations, and time spent with those we care about most. The iLead team would also like to take a moment to celebrate Candi Harris, our newest Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge® (TLC)!

Candi is the mother of four amazing boys, the Assistant Director of Strategic Initiatives at the University of North Texas, an awesome TLC facilitator, and the author of our fun featured article this month, which shares some of her family’s adventures as they travel across Texas. You won’t want to miss it!

The iLead team has had the privilege of collaborating with Candi on numerous workshops ranging from Texas to Canada and in content ranging from The Student Leadership Challenge® to Advanced Facilitation Skills training. She is one of the most energetic, fun-loving facilitators we have come across. We are all SO proud of who she has become within The Leadership Challenge® Community.

Our Quick Tip this month will take you back to your childhood. It is a unique twist on a tried-and-true game that can be utilized in meetings, large and small (even virtually)! As you will read, Candi was the queen of this game in many workshops! Intrigued? Learn more in the article, try it with your team and let us know what you think. We think you will find it is a great way to build energy and Encourage the Heart of your team.

Finally, if you know of someone who might benefit from attending an upcoming TLC workshop, we would be honored if you would send them our way in September or December. These are in-person events in historic McKinney, Texas.

Stay well and travel safely this summer as you celebrate the good things in your life with those you love!


Keeping It Simple

by Candi Harris

How a vision for clean toilets inspired the largest convenience stores in Texas

I love a good road trip, especially when my husband offers to drive most (or all) of the way. I love to take in the scenery – the trees, the wildflowers, the cattle, the burros. On a warm sunny day, I especially love the feel of the wind on my face and my hand as I fly it out the window. Still, as much as I love getting out on the road with my family of six, one question scares me more than the dreaded “are we there yet?” and that is… “are we there yet.” With four boys, the call of nature is often an adventure. You never know what you will find at any of the random gas station toilets.

Enter Buc-ee’s, a convenience store unlike any other found in Texas.

The extraordinary success of this privately-owned chain continues to grow around the founder Arch “Beaver” Aplin’s simple vision to provide clean bathrooms. In fact, his motto since 1985 has been “clean, friendly, and in stock”. As I have read more about Aplin and the growth of Buc-ee’s, several examples stand out in terms of how even a simple vision can guide decision-making at many levels.

Exemplary Leaders Paint a Big Picture of What We Aspire to Accomplish

Though Aplin is both founder and part-owner of Buc-ee’s and responsible for high-level leadership decisions, I was surprised to know that he is directly involved in the actual design of the restrooms for each location. Under his leadership, each store employs resolute crew committed to keeping the restrooms clean 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In fact, the New Braunfels Texas location, where my family and I recently stopped, was announced as the winner of a nationwide restroom contest by service industry supplier, Cintas.

From their website to store signage, and the giant billboards announcing their presence just up ahead, Buc-ee’s leadership does an outstanding job of keeping this vision at the heart of everything they do.

Exemplary Leaders Appeal to Others to Share an Exciting Dream of the Future

Patrons are on board. It is a commonly held belief among Texans that Buc-ee’s is the best gas station in the world. Why else would fans line up at 6am for the grand opening of a new store? Why else would we “hold it” for another two hundred miles? I have experienced firsthand the excitement (and relief) when seeing their iconic billboards letting us know we are getting close. Have you seen these? Every billboard features a larger-than-life beaver head and a clever saying like “Restrooms so clean you can see yourself – Psst, look in the mirror” and “Our aim is to have clean restrooms. Your aim will help.”

Yes, Buc-ee’s is where my family is stopping even if we must cross our legs and dance a little longer. I would say that makes Aplin phenomenally successful at drawing people in, helping us to envision how we might keep our road trips running smoothly for the next leg of the journey by simply having a better experience during pit stops. “You can get a lot of people to pull off the highway and spend money if you guarantee them an immaculate place in which to heed the call of nature.”  (Forbes 2017)

Exemplary Leaders Show Others How Their Long-Term Interests Can Be Realized by Enlisting in a Common Vision

You need a sizeable workforce eager to join your team to transform a gas station (and its bathrooms) into an experience that draws in crowds. Each time I visit a Buc-ee’s, I notice signage displaying hourly wages for employees scattered throughout the store. Buc-ee’s offers its employees hourly wages starting at $15 with benefits. This is noteworthy. According to ZipRecruiter, the average pay for a gas station employee is a little over $11 per hour. While this figure may vary widely depending on location, it turns out that Texas ranks thirty-three out of fifty states when comparing wages. Deciding to offer fair wages to employees that are essential to bringing a shared vision to life is a practical point to start showing others how their long-term personal interests can be realized.

“Do you think we can make it until Buc-ee’s?”  I asked my husband on our last road trip. As a student of The Leadership Challenge®, I was inspired to consider the success of this Texas icon as I heard myself asking this question. After learning about the history of this convenience store, I realized that we had something in common with so many other road-trippers out there; we knew no matter which of the forty-one stores we could visit in Texas, they were all sure to have clean, Texas-sized bathrooms, a parent’s dream. So, we regularly pass sleepy little stations and convenient rest stops, hoping our littlest can hold it all the way to Buc-ee’s.


Candi Harris currently serves as Assistant Director for Strategic Retention Initiatives at the University of North Texas at Denton. She has spent her 18+ year career in higher education advocating for undergraduate students. She received both a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s in Public Administration from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, where she met her husband of over 16 years. Together they wrangle four boys between the ages of 5 and 15, and a deaf boxer pup. Candi is also one of the newest board members of the City of Dentons’ Zoning Board of Adjustment. Whenever she can find free time, Candi enjoys all things outdoors and is most at home on a hike. Regarding The Leadership Challenge®, Candi has been a fan since college where she was first introduced to The Student Leadership Challenge®. Now she has the opportunity to share The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® with her students and colleagues across campus.

Quick Tip: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Anyone?

I do not know about you, but the summer months make me nostalgic. I love thinking back to when I was a kid and summers meant running the neighborhood with friends, playing hide and seek, getting grass burns from sliding off the Slip & Slide, and hours of playing cards with my grandparents. But my favorite summer game was always Rock, Paper, Scissors. I could play with a group of my girlfriends forever. In fact, I still love it today!

Read the rest of this Quick Tip →

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