Till Before You Teach

I had the privilege of meeting with a gentleman named Steve Mayers who serves as the Director of Guest Relations at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. As a kid, I’ve always been fascinated with the airport – how people and things were always in constant motion, going to different places yet seemingly always in sync. I learned the latter part of that statement not to be so true when I started flying a lot as a professional baseball player.

During my time with Steve and his team, I wanted to know his top priority in his role as Director of Guest Relations. In summary this is what I heard him say: his goal is for every guest to have an enjoyable experience while on his property. That is an impressive goal to have, especially when you think of all of the different scenarios attached to people’s travels at Hartsfield-Jackson. Some are soldiers leaving loved ones for a long deployment, some are parents saying goodbye to children as they go off to college, some are family members there to receive the remains of loved ones while others are leaving for honeymoons, weddings and graduations. Such a myriad of emotions can be pulsing through guests as they hurry around the airport.

Since Steve and his team cannot service the millions of guests at Hartsfield-Jackson by themselves, they must rely on the talent pool available to them in metro-Atlanta. Since Atlanta Public Schools serves over 52,000 students, the system should be a prime target for employment talent at the airport. While I don’t know the stats on
the percentage of employees at the airport who attended/graduated from APS schools, I do know that the airport has a high turnover rate for vendor employees. Most of the jobs for the various vendors require basic educational qualifications such as a high school diploma or GED. While most are not jobs that one would want to make a career out of, they are, however, entry-level opportunities that could lead to higher positions if a job candidate has the right awareness and make-up.

Here’s what I mean by make-up and awareness:


Candidates must possess CORE VALUES, a guiding set of principles that govern their behaviors regardless of the environment. CORE VALUES do not produce perfect people, however a person who embodies CORE VALUES will be a more disciplined and accountable employee.
Candidates must possess APTITUDE, the ability to learn information and apply it appropriately.

Candidates must possess COGNITIVE learning skills that allow them to expand their APTITUDE from one discipline to another. This skill makes them valuable across organizational competencies.


· Candidates who know how to create and maintain healthy relationships are building networks for their future and their posterity’s future.
· Candidates who know to ask, “What’s next” are positioned to properly evaluate opportunities. Understanding the “What’s next” of an opportunity can help the candidate decide if he needs more information (from a mentor or family member) or if this is an opportunity that he should pass on. Understanding how to EVALUATE opportunities is a vital life skill.
· SEIZING an opportunity includes the acquisition, maintenance, and execution of the opportunity. This is a critical step where most candidates fail.

I’m sure there are more bullets to add, but these are the top three points that affect the young men I encounter each day through L.E.A.D. As a side note, I want to be clear that the young men I serve in Buckhead through my for profit company, Diamond Directors, don’t always make the grade when it comes to having the best make-up and awareness either. However, they have access to strong generational networks that can mitigate their poor handling of relationships/opportunities. For my Ambassadors, if they handle an opportunity poorly, their first shot is often their last; their margin for error is slim to none.

In my next blog(s), I’ll layout L.E.A.D.’s methodology for developing the necessary make-up and awareness in our Ambassadors so they are properly equipped to make the most out of college and career opportunities and ultimately win at the game of life.

As we continue on this journey of proper alignment with Atlanta Public Schools for the purpose of empowering our students, it’s important to keep our mission statement front and center along with that of APS. The updated mission of APS follows ours.

L.E.A.D.’s Mission: To empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their City.

APS’s Mission: With a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will graduate ready for college and career.

We had an amazing lunch today at Sylvan Hills Middle School (Atlanta Public Schools). From left to right: Ralph Berry (Physical education teacher, Sylvan Hills Middle School); Keshun Freeman (GA Tech student/athlete (football); Tre’ Jackson (GA Tech student/athlete (football); Kele Eveland (GA Tech) and CJ Stewart (L.E.A.D., CEO)