Mentoring Future Leaders with Waffle House’s Bert Thornton

Jul 4, 2024

How can effective mentoring shape the future leaders of your organization? This week’s special episode of Fordify LIVE! The Business Growth Show Ford Saeks hosts Bert Thornton, Vice Chairman Emeritus of Waffle House. Bert shares his extraordinary journey and invaluable insights into leadership and mentoring, offering essential guidance to fostering leadership within teams.

In this episode, Ford and Bert examine the essence of effective mentoring. Bert Thornton, who began his career as a manager trainee and climbed the ranks to become President and COO of Waffle House, offers a wealth of knowledge drawn from his extensive experience. He emphasizes the critical role that mentoring plays in personal and professional development, highlighting how the right guidance can transform potential into performance.

Bert’s approach to mentoring is both practical and profound. He discusses the importance of surrounding oneself with successful individuals and listening to their advice. This principle, he explains, is essential for anyone looking to grow in their career. Through relatable anecdotes and real-world examples, Bert illustrates how mentoring can help emerging leaders navigate challenges, build resilience, and achieve their goals.

Bert recounts his journey from managing a single restaurant to overseeing operations across thousands of locations. This experience provides a unique perspective on how leadership skills can be developed and refined through practical experience and dedicated mentorship. His story underscores the value of hands-on learning and the importance of being open to feedback and continuous improvement.

Ford and Bert address common challenges faced by leaders today, particularly in maintaining effective communication and fostering a positive organizational culture. Bert emphasizes that successful leaders do not shy away from tough conversations and are always willing to dig deeper to uncover the root of issues. This mindset, he argues, is crucial for building trust and accountability within a team.

Bert shares his belief that leaders must broker strong relationships within their organizations to foster collaboration and drive success. He explains that mentoring is not just about providing advice but also about building a supportive network that can guide individuals through their career paths.

Ford complements Bert’s insights with his own experiences, reinforcing the importance of personal accountability and continuous learning. Together, they explore the impact of situational leadership and the need for leaders to adapt their styles to meet the needs of their teams. This adaptability, they agree, is a key factor in effective mentoring and leadership.

Bert’s philosophy that “your attitude is the single most observed thing about you” resonates throughout the episode. He underscores the idea that a positive attitude can significantly influence one’s success and the perception of others. This concept is particularly relevant in the context of mentoring, where the mentor’s demeanor can set the tone for the mentee’s development.

Bert and Ford discuss the future of leadership and the evolving role of mentoring in today’s fast-paced business environment. They touch on the challenges posed by digital communication and the importance of maintaining personal connections in an increasingly virtual world.

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About Bert Thornton

Bert Thornton, Vice Chairman Emeritus of Waffle House, boasts a remarkable career that began as a manager trainee in 1971. Rising through the ranks, he became President and COO, overseeing operations across thousands of locations. A graduate of Georgia Tech and a Vietnam veteran, Bert’s dedication extends beyond Waffle House to his work with the Georgia Tech Alumni Association, where he served as President and received the Joseph Mayo Pettit Alumni Distinguished Service Award. An accomplished author, his books “Find an Old Gorilla” and “High Impact Mentoring” provide valuable insights into leadership and mentoring. Bert continues to influence the business world through his roles on various boards and as an Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of West Florida.

Get Bert’s books, Find an Old Gorilla and High Impact Mentoring on Amazon.

Show Host: Ford Saeks, Business Growth Specialist, Keynote Speaker, Author and Consultant. Helping you find, attract, and keep your customers. Find out more about Ford