I had the honor of being interviewed by Michelle Coppola, an MBA student at William Jessup University for an assignment. I am pleased to share her essay.
September 30, 2021
Leadership Biography: John Shanahan
I recently had the pleasure of spending time with John Shanahan, owner and founder of Lighthouse Window Cleaning. As a devout Christian, John has found a way to use his business to share the word of God while simultaneously providing a service that our community needs. John has recognized the importance of showing up, the interactions you engage in, and the impact that you can have on the lives of those around you, even if through a small window of their life.
For most of his life, John worked in the corporate world, serving in middle management roles for major corporations, the kind of corporations with locations in most towns across America. While he was always able to feel somewhat aligned with the callings of those organizations, there was also a part of him that was often at conflict. While supporting the front lines, he had to be the face to deliver messages that employees might not want to hear, and often messages he didn’t agree with. In one situation, John was informed at a management meeting that there had been a budgeting error and the employees would not be receiving their annual bonus, after all, what would the shareholders think to seeing such a significant expense that wasn’t in the budget? It was communicated to John that he was to share this message with the employees of his location. Later that evening, the management team proceeded to order $100 bottles of wine and enjoy a far from modest meal on the company’s dime. The situation was not holy, it was not just, and it certainly was not loving. By the explanation of Hill (2018) this business act was not ethical. Ultimately, this marked the end of John’s time in corporate America.
Having worked for four great brands, John knew a great deal about building a brand, creating a strong culture, and producing high quality results. He was able to take the things that he did like from those experiences, adjust for the things he didn’t like, filter that information through a significant amount of prayer and the result was Lighthouse Window Cleaning. John shared how the lighthouse is a wonderful symbol of how he can reflect God’s light into his team, into his customers, and into the community. What John realized is that there was a real opportunity to connect with people when cleaning their windows. For some people, especially elderly, he might be the most interaction they’ve had all day. There is a profound way that you can impact their life by reading the situation and looking for opportunities to connect with people and share the love of God. While he applies Christian principles to his business, he doesn’t feel that he uses it as a venue to preach, but rather he sees it as an opening to engage and reflect God’s light in all his interactions.
Over the last 13 years Lighthouse Window Cleaning has seen substantial growth from a one-man operation to a team of roughly 20 employees. It was interesting to hear how John’s role in the organization has changed over that time, but the mission and objective of the company has held strong. John has always felt that he is in service to others. These days, he is more in service to his team, and expects them to show up in service to their clients. Much how Christ was in service to his disciples, and then expected them to serve, this model holds true in Lighthouse Window Cleaning as well. Identifying as a servant leader aligned with the teachings of Ken Blanchard, John has provided a simple set of expectations for all of his employees, the do’s and don’ts that can be seen in Appendix B that has set the foundation to ensure that his vision for his company can be further expanded and shared in the community. He also shared that there have been times when he has had to make the difficult decision of parting ways with an employee, even when top-performing, who didn’t want to follow those expectations. He noted that profit needs to always be at the bottom of an organizations mission, although, at times that can be incredibly difficult to apply in practice. On the other side of that experience, John has found some truly committed and loyal employees, he is reminded that sometimes he needs to provide them the opportunities to take the reins and continue to grow. He hopes to let his employees become better than he is and believes that is a powerful requirement of true servant leadership. He has provided his team with the skillset, the passion, and the direction to do just that. While it may be easier said than done for someone who has built a company from the ground up, it is important to step back and watch the success you’ve empowered others to experience.
My time spent with Mr. Shanahan was truly enlightening, having also invested my career thus far to working for large corporations, I can relate to the conflict that we are often charged with in middle management roles. I think that the one thing that stood out to me the most was his commitment to showing up, being present, and expecting his employees to do the same. It reminded me of the words of Mother Teresa reminding us that we can all “do small things with great love”. It was evident that John doesn’t let an opportunity pass him by to do a small, or even not so small thing, with great love. He is a beacon, a true lighthouse, reflecting God’s love into his business, and into the community every day.
Hill, A. (2018). Just business: Christian ethics for the marketplace. InterVarsity Press.
- I see from your website that Lighthouse Window Cleaning was founded in your faith, can you speak to that? What was it that compelled you to use your faith to serve as a cornerstone for your business?
- How do you think your faith has impacted your business, from onset through growth?
- Who has been your biggest leadership influence in your life?
- What is a significant leadership crisis you have faced and how did you overcome it?
- What traits do you look for/desire in your employees?
- How has your faith or spiritual journey affected your leadership?
- What do you do when your usual leadership style doesn’t fit your current business situation?
- Do you ever feel unqualified as a leader or unprepared for a particular situation? What do you do in those circumstances?
- Describe a situation that tested your leadership skills. What would you do differently in hindsight?
Lighthouse Window Cleaning, Inc.- Core Values and Communication
The Don’t List:
- Don’t whine
- Don’t complain
- Don’t make excuses
- Don’t talk negatively about others
- Don’t talk negatively about the company
- Don’t compare yourself to others
The Do List:
- Listen and acknowledge
- Motivate others and enhance self-esteem
- Provide constructive feedback to team members
- Offer ideas and solutions
- Compare yourself to yesterday’s performance
- Always seek to grow
- Think like an owner
- Have fun – may your actions and words make it a better day for others
- Say thank you!