OK, any of us familiar with Chick-Fil-A restaurants know the yummy goodness of their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. However, the stand-alone deliciousness of the food can not actually be separated from the quality of customer service. If I lived in Lenoir, North Carolina, for instance, I would drive across town to dine at operator Mike Sheley’s Chick-Fil-A. His character, kindness, and community commitment infuse his staff. “It’s my pleasure” is part of their heart language and also our customer experience.
My loyalty to Southwest Airlines is similar. The free bag check and cheap fares definitely matter as I choose what airlines to book. Then there is the customer service as fleshed out in Southwest employees like Candace Hewitt. She reached out to me, sitting at the gate, in a time of grieving over two years ago…and she still does from time to time.
That’s the kind of employee that inspires customer loyalty to a company.
Companies these days are often focused sharply on business processes that streamline innovation and the quality and availability of the product or service. Competition is a constant stressor.
What if we are missing the opportunity to nurture our hidden customers? The employees themselves.
Thought leader Michael Lowenstein researches and writes extensively on this. This making employees “ambassadors” of our companies. For those interested in exploring what he and others recommend, I’ve included links below.
In brief, if you’re thinking this might be an issue to address, here are Lowenstein’s recommendations for building such a workplace philosophy and ethic:
Some years ago, my colleague Jill Griffin and I identified nine ‘best practices’ for generating employee behavior which extends beyond loyalty to contribution and commitment.
1. Build a Climate of Trust – That Works Both Ways 2. Train, Train, Train and Cross-Train 3. Make Sure Each Employee Has A Career Path 4. Provide Frequent Evaluations and Reviews 5. Seek To Inform, Seek To Debrief 6. Recognize and Reward Initiative 7. Ask Employees What They Want 8. By All Means, Have Fun 9. Hire The Right Employees In The First Place
To build more of the first best practice, employee trust and empowerment, into the company culture, consider the following:
• Insure staff trust and empowerment are key values in the firm’s mission and vision statements • Practice effective story-telling • Create company rites and rituals that help reinforce the rewards of employee trust • Maintain a free flow of information between management and staff to reinforce the trust factor and help prevent negative communication and gossip. • Actively expose all employees to customers’ perception of experience value • Teach senior managers the importance of ‘walking the talk’ and inspiring employee trust. – Michael Lowenstein
Whatever our company or organization, cultivating practices which enhance employee loyalty will yield the fruit of customer loyalty. Whether or not we can measure that, in the end, the former is a worthy goal all on its own.
Sanborn uses his experience of a mail carrier named Fred as the hero of his story. Fred, because of his commitment to personal care and service, elevates a seemingly mundane job into the stuff of excellence and fulfillment. On the long drive over, I opened the book and re-read the bits of wisdom we can learn from such a person’s character. We actually have such a mail carrier in our daily lives, and the mail delivery when he is on vacation is very different than when he is on the job.
[Our leader guy friend is a deep thinker who actually referred us to one of his favorite books as well: The 33 Strategies of Warby Robert Greene. When we returned home we promptly ordered it and will be reading it by mid-week. Our friend can easily read the little book we gave him in a quick evening. My re-reading it on the drive over stirred its wisdom in my heart and my desire to share it with you as well. One day, I’ll share what Robert Greene teaches us from The 33 Strategies of War.]
The Fred Factor includes five distinctive features:Photo Credit: SlideShare
We can determine to deliver excellence in our action and attitude at work, no matter our situation. Mail carrier Fred demonstrated that and modeled the content for Sanborn’s book.
Just to give you a taste of his writing, I list four quotes from the book:
1) “When those who know are able to show, those who learn are able to grow.” – Mark Sanborn
A clear lesson here is to note your personnel who have shown mastery in their work and make opportunities for them to mentor those who are eager learners. It is a perfect win-win. Leadership development is an often-discussed topic but isn’t always executed in effective ways.
2) “When people feel that their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies.” – Mark Sanborn
Excellent employees don’t need appreciation or acknowledgement to keep them at the task. However, over time, they will weary of the task (and the vision meant to inspire innovation) if they don’t see how what they do fits in the larger picture. One strategy that prevents stagnation or disengagement is going back to 1) – teaming up mentors and those ready to learn.
3) “You are the spark that sets others on fire when you initiate.” – Mark Sanborn
Initiative is rewarded in a culture where there is freedom to create and ownership of work. Control is at a minimum and inclusion in problem-solving is high. For us as employees, nurturing our initiative is huge. For us as leaders, we do ourselves and our employees good when we guard against waning initiative.
4) “Faithfully doing your best, independent of the support, acknowledgment, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling career.” – Mark Sanborn
At the end of the day, for all of us, we are the masters of our own work, in terms of excellence. The greatest challenge to how our day goes is our own attitude. We all know this. Still, it’s easy for us to allow the negative impact of others diminish who we are or what we do. We are wise to keep learning on the job, especially from folks like Fred (and writer Mark Sanborn).
Two workplace scenarios. The first is when either the manager or the team is super excited about a goal, and action items are determined and given to just the right team member and calendared for quick turnaround. Photo Credit: JSC
The second scenario is when either the manager or the team is super excited about a goal, then one or the other digs in their heels. The meeting ends with no clear shared responsibilities, no movement forward, no hope of change.Photo Credit: GangplankHQ, Flickr
Sigh…all the most excellent strategic planning can take place inside a conference room…and without execution. Essentially, nothing happened there.
I’ve had both kinds of team experiences and want to focus on the former one above. Talk about high employee morale when a group of colleagues operate as a finely tuned machine and the yield is high-quality productivity.
When you go to the website, you actually are able to immediately grow in your understanding of how to influence execution in your company. The video below is an incredible teaching tool – 17 minutes of powerful content on execution:
In brief, their 4 disciplines of execution are:
Focus on the wildly important goals (WIGs). The day-to-day operations always stand against those game-changer goals. Determine to be unyielding on the highest-priority goals (1-3 maximum).
Act on the Lead Measure. [New terminology for me.] The lag measure is the goal itself. The lead measure is what you can influence to accomplish the lag measure. Lead measures are the leverage used to get to the lag measure (goal). Lead measures are “predictive and influenceable“.
Create a compelling scoreboard. I appreciate the wisdom of this (Chris McChesney describes it so well in video above). The scoreboard is not for the manager. It’s all about the players at this juncture, and it should feel like a game. [Actually an element of fun and energy incorporated. What a concept!] The scoreboard would be simple, highly visible and the players (employees) should be able to tell right away from the scoreboard whether they are winning or losing toward meeting the goal.
Create a cadence of accountability. Everybody is going to love this! 20-minute meetings are calendared every week, at the same time. All the people in the room have “skin in the game”. This meeting is sharply focused on 3 things (related to the lead measures only): each person reports on the week before; reviews/updates the scoreboard; makes commitments for coming week. That’s it! How streamlined and forward-moving, is that?!
Many years ago, I was on a work team that was given the responsibility and liberty to determine what else was needed in the formation of a comprehensive cancer center. We had many places already in place – excellent medical and nursing care, an engaged community, and a charitable foundation to provide extra resources for taking us to a state-of-the-art cancer center.
3 nurses – Kay, Kathy, and I – had the question to answer of “Why Else?” What else did we need? We worked together on the planning and execution of comprehensive support services and education. Each of us brought our own giftings – I had vision and ideas, Kay was an influential nurse manager, and Kathy was detail-oriented and had a gift for taking a project to completion. Some of the services that came out of those problem-solving sessions are still embedded deeply into the DNA of that cancer center today.
Start at 6:17 minutes in (if you don’t want story and context), and you will hear his wisdom about the importance of radical truthfulness and radical transparency.
“One of the greatest tragedies of mankind: People arrogantly, naively holding opinions in their minds that are wrong…and acting on them, and not putting them out there to stress-test them, and that’s a tragedy.” – Ray Dalio
“Collective decision-making is so much better than individual decision-making if it’s done well.” – Ray Dalio
Kathy, Kay, and I had that sort of team relationship – radical truthfulness and radical transparency.
Whether you are part of a team, or an independent entrepreneur, there are excellent principles here.
If you want to take an honest and critical look at your team or company’s success in operation, you have great helps here – in the FranklinCovey’s counsel, in Ray Dalio’s discoveries and in the philosophies of business leaders like Steve Jobs. I’d also like to add anything on teaming by Patrick Lencioni.
I would love to hear how you get to execution…because until you do, it’s just meetings upon meetings.
Please add in Comments below any other resources that have proved helpful to you in getting to effective execution with the added impact of high morale in getting to goal.
YouTube Video – 4 Disciplines of Execution – Gwinnett Medical Center – This was personally very satisfying and encouraging for me. My dad was a patient at this medical center during the time when there were banners flying everywhere about it being one of the top medical centers in the country. At the same time, we family members stayed with him around the clock, because nurses did not come when we called, nor were other services offered with any communication that my dad or we mattered to staff. To see that they also came to recognize this was a problem and took effective steps to correct it was exciting.
Today’s workplace bends with the culture. Historical and current contexts are present in our work culture, whether or not we acknowledge it. What if our culture has lost its interest in history…in experience… in the wisdom of the ages? What does that mean for those of us in the workplace, when cultural context isn’t seasoned by what we learn from the past? What does history teach us about leadership, about work, about each other?
When I think of audacious leaders, by definition, they can be two different sorts of folks:
Courageous bold risk-takers, or
Arrogant, impudent decision-makers
A negatively audacious leader demands followership. A positively audacious leader, in his own way, also demands followership. Still the most followable leader is the one who leads with both courage AND care.
Hopefully your experience of audacity in leadership is the most a positive one (as will be spelled out more below). Two things leaders always communicate, either positively or negatively, is that “work matters” and “people matter”. Context and history both matter, also, even though the trend in thinking is toward the ever-changing “latest and greatest”.
I am sounding really old here, but fortunately those who speak with much greater authority across the business world are starting to sound the same clarion call. Take Steve Farber and Paul Sohn.
What do they say about radical, audacious history-changing leadership?
In leadership coach Steve Farber‘s article What Is Extreme Leadership?, he talks about taking a “radical leap”. He asks the question: “What can I do, right now, regardless of what others around here are or are not doing, to change my piece of this world/company/organization for the better”?
I love Farber’s definition of extreme (audacious) leadership and I’ve had the great fortune of working with leaders like that.
Paul Sohn, also a leadership coach, write about a bold leadership model – one that incorporates the practices and wisdom of Jesus of Nazareth.
[Sidebar: It’s a shame that most think of Jesus as belonging to Christianity. I wonder, even, if only Christians read to this point of the piece. There is so much to learn and appreciate in the teachings of Jesus. Being put off by how we as clay-footed believers represent him at times is part of our dilemma today. Please don’t miss the wisdom and understanding his life offers to all of us.]
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
“One will weave the canvas; another will fell a tree by the light of his ax. Yet another will forge nails, and there will be others who observe the stars to learn how to navigate. And yet all will be as one. Building a boat isn’t about weaving canvas, forging nails, or reading the sky. It’s about giving a shared taste for the sea, by the light of which you will see nothing contradictory but rather a community of love.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This is such a beautiful picture of audacious leadership in the most positive sense. We who work together to develop a product or deliver a service can create something better together. Not only is the product or service better suited for the customer, but we are changed in the process.Photo Credit: George Couros, Flickr
I do actually think it matters who the leader is, because our whole culture moves and shifts in response to who’s making decisions. However, we can determine (as leaders or as team players) to honor and elevate one another…as servant leader Jesus demonstrated in his life and teaching. We can build capacity, caring, and community, as Farber and Sohn prescribe, in how we lead and work.
We look back to what history has taught us; we consider the context of current culture; and we work forward to, hopefully, a better future. It’s only in giving up, that we fail. Be audacious in moving forward. It’s Monday…lots can happen.
Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.
Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.
We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.
At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.
This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.
In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.
She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:
Have a thin skin and make it about you.
Do not ask for input.
Bully and berate others or their ideas.
Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
Ignore ones who raise issues.
Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
Take credit for others’ ideas.
Accuse and blame in public.
Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
Pit one person against another.
Override every decision others make.
Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.
Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.
Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.
We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.
“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.” – William Ury
I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.
Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.
Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.
We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.
[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]
We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.
Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.
Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.
Happy Friday! Cutting quickly to the chase here, with my favorite finds of the week:
1) Journaling – Writing is a favorite outlet of mine. When I write, it’s like talking to a trusted friend. Everything is clearer after. Less frightening, too, sometimes. that’s what reflection does for you. Journaling has been a life-long habit of mine. In fact, I’ve told my kids that when the time comes and they go through all the stuff in the attic, they might want to read some of the journals. Although, I also warned that anything shocking they read, I’ve probably long since worked through (hopefully).
Those whose marriages didn’t survive were those who allowed their hearts to grow cold and hard toward their spouse.
“In order for marriages to thrive BOTH people need to guard with all diligence against hardness of heart. It has no place in marriage, yet in big ways and in small ways we let it creep in. This hardness often begins so subtly, with the smallest acts of selfishness…but left unchecked can grow to become a raging fire of wrath, anger, hatred and bitterness.” – Meg Marie Wallace
Left. Unchecked. We must guard our hearts if we want our relationships (marriage and otherwise) to thrive in hard places.
Read Wallace’s piece. We can take hope and take charge of those hearts of ours.
4) Trauma Healing – After studying about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), I’ve become more interested in trauma healing. Wanting to be equipped, I went to a training this week. The American Bible Society offers a course especially geared toward those who want to serve people who’ve come through terrible lossPhoto Credit: BPNews
or trauma (refugees, anyone with PTSD, persons with addictions, fill-in-the-blank). The training is designed to help meet the needs of all people no matter the religion or background. Only one section is specific toward Christians.
Through role-play experiences, storying, dialog, writing and art exercises, the course facilitators guide participants how to recognize and lovingly intervene with those who have come through trauma. I was surprised myself how helpful the exercises were in helping me with some losses I’m still recovering from.
The written guide is an excellent tool for anyone and can be purchased online.
5) Neighborhood Gelato – Don’t you love those shops tucked into your neighborhood where you know the people behind the counter and the products are always amazing? One of those around here is The 21Hundred, named for its location on John Rolfe Parkway, in Richmond’s West End. It’s a cozy, friendly place where neighbors gather and others drive over to join them. Payton and Robyn Wilson, the proprietors, serve up espresso, gelato, and other yummy treats every day of the week but Sunday. They treat all of us like return customers, even when it’s the first visit. Check it out if you’re a Richmonder. If you’re not, tell us of a neighborhood favorite of your own.
Have a great weekend and be kind to one another. You never know what someone is going through.
It just happens over time…the ignoring of people around us. Think about this morning, coming into work. Retrace your steps, and think of the people you passed within speaking range…but you didn’t…speak, that is. In another season of life, I might have slowed down to walk with someone a ways behind me, or even run a bit to catch up with someone ahead. Just to use that time to connect a bit. We race into our work stations, heads down, as if the most common courtesy of greeting and inquiring into another person’s life just takes too much time away from the “important”. We sit down in meetings before they start and get lost in our thoughts, or our laptops, or our phones. We just ignore those around us…
Time itself seems to become more important than people. We circle up with our team, or go one-on-one with our boss or a consultant… when including a colleague, intern, or member of another team could have added greater value to that conversation. Are we more in a work culture today of tight circles when larger collaborative ones might prove more profitable? Do we just ignore those working around us who, by our actions, seem of little consequence to our workday? It’s not intentional maybe…but it becomes habit and then part of our character…communicating that people don’t matter.
Throughout my professional life, I have tried to be tuned into those around me, whether they currently are in my work group or not. My nature is to notice and my desire is to acknowledge. In various work situations, it’s been from a place of influence rather than from a position of authority. Any task or responsibility entrusted to me had to be accomplished through winning the confidence and cooperation of those around me. No authority to just delegate or task others with work. Gifted colleagues have always been willing to work on projects with me. People recognize when they are truly valued, and they engage more solidly when they are genuinely respected/regarded. We can build capacity for noticing people.
Ignoring those in our workplace over time has consequences. Just like that adage “Hurt people hurt people”, I think “Ignored people ignore people”. It’s a contagious work culture practice which has been widely researched. Productivity, employee engagement, longevity, and work relationships within teams and across the organization can all be negatively affected by just the casual neglect or lack of regard for colleagues.
Sidebar: As I was reading and thinking about this issue, the chorus of a strange little song kept coming into my head. The Broadway musical, “Chicago“, has a woeful character who laments about his smallness in life, as if people look right through him. The song is “Mr. Cellophane”.
O.K….back to workplace culture. What would happen if we determined to be noticers and acknowledgers at work? This is not a soft practice…it’s brilliant really. Taking little time, we can, each one of us, actually humanize and elevate the workplace experience for everyone we encounter through the course of the day. This is not an exercise of rewarding a job well-done but of noting the person behind the job…as valuable. Period. Full-stop.
I’ve known some great champions in this through my professional life, and I aspire to be like them. Real servant leaders. We may not think of ourselves as leaders, but we can all lead out in serving, noticing, and acknowledging those around us.Skip Prichard writes about servant leadership and lists 9 qualities of these “noticers”.
9 Qualities of the Servant Leader
1: Values diverse opinions
2: Cultivates a culture of trust
3: Develops other leaders
4: Helps people with life issues
6: Sells instead of tells
7: Thinks you, not me
8: Thinks long-term
9: Acts with humility
Consider this challenge as I make it for myself to genuinely and honestly take note of people, moving through our workday. This is not about being only polite, but being “in the moment” with those around us. It may start with a greeting, and then an inquiry, and before we know it, true caring could follow. Translated into workplace language, that is employee engagement where ideas are exchanged toward better solutions for everyone.
I can’t close this topic without a shout-out to any one of you who’s having that experience of being ignored. You know, of course, that it doesn’t change anything of who you are…but it can harden your heart toward colleagues and dull your thinking in your job. I appreciate Jon Acuff’s piece on being ignored, a piece about Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Marcus Mariota:
“Throw the passes when no one is watching. Write the pages no one sees. Work through the business plans people don’t believe in yet. Hustle long before the spotlight finds you. You don’t need the whole world on your side to create something that changes the world.”
It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then
conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? — Robert K. Greenleaf
“…more likely themselves to become leaders” – Isn’t that how you thought Greenleaf would end that sentence? I read it that way. We don’t naturally think of aspiring to serve – “moving up the ranks” to better position ourselves to serve.
Why write about servant leadership?
So much has been and continues to be written about servant leadership. The terms change and trend a bit differently over time. Of late, relational leadership has gained in popularity. This type of leadership is defined as “as a relational process of people together attempting to accomplish change or make a difference to benefit the common good.”
I love that concept and style of leading, but servant leadership goes even farther. Relational leaders can focus on their particular team or tribe, in a mentoring, collaborative role…for the good of those leaders and the organization and client base. Servant leaders aspire to a wide reach. Not just leader to leader, but to permeate the whole of the organization with an ethic that everyone, at every level, matters. This is a huge aspiration but the gains are huge as well.
Marcel Schwantes has also written 10 Compelling Reasons Servant Leadership May Be the Best, Says Science. In this piece Schwantes tackles the misconceptions about servant leadership as well as the many reasons why it’s the best form of leadership. I personally love this article because the evidence of the kind of company that prospers under servant leadership is undeniable. We know these organizations by their service – like Chick-Fil-A, Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, Ritz Carlton, FedEx, UPS, U.S. Marine Corps, and many others. Very persuasive.
Finally, I’d like to share General Stanley McChrystal‘s view of leading “like gardeners”. My husband is a gardener. Even after a long, tiring day at his regular job, he puts in the time necessary to tend the plants he’s growing. Bent over, on his knees sometimes, doing the work of nurturing them to reach their maximum fruitfulness.
“Regular visits by good gardeners are not pro forma gestures of concern—they leave the crop stronger. So it is with leaders.”
Employees and customers know the experience (or lack thereof) of the leader who truly attends to their needs. No drive-by visits here. No sprinkling of some corporate fairy-dust just by the sheer presence of the leader in the room, or the building, or on podcast/commercial.
McChrystal warns against the leader who becomes too important to personally serve his personnel or customers.
“I would tell my staff about the “dinosaur’s tail”: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.”
Always in thinking of leadership, we are tempted to look to our own leaders…to measure them by the scale of excellence (seen above). The servant leader is servant first. Don’t get muddled up by checking off what your leader is not. Serve that leader, as you serve other personnel and customers. Serve. Serve by leading. Lead by serving.
“Servant-leadership is more than a concept, it is a fact. Any great leader, by which I also mean an ethical leader of any group, will see herself or himself as a servant of that group and will act accordingly.”
[Please don’t miss the links below…especially those not mentioned in this blog. Also please share examples (in Comments section below) of servant leadership you have experienced…or your own personal journey in becoming a servant leader.]
Next time you head to the restroom, take a look around. Unless it has just been stormed by a tour group that needed more than the usual service, you can get a sense of readiness. Not the readiness of the restroom, but of the person or agency servicing it…and you as a customer. I wrote about this level of customer service once before here. Why I wrote about clean restrooms then is why it begins my topic today. Clean restrooms demonstrate a sense of pride and caring. We want restrooms to be ready for the workday. How about our own readiness?
Readiness is defined as being fully prepared and willing to execute. It is not just about being prepared for one’s workday. It’s also a ready-set-go willingness to be on our toes, stepping up, taking the ball, and scanning both the horizon and the lines drawn on our playing field.
When a Cintas truck rolls into the parking lot, I can almost smell the clean linens and uniforms inside. Their branding includes this mantra: Ready for the Workday: A confident image, clean facility and safe workplace start here.Here’s their commercial that I just saw this weekend, It got me thinking about the broad reach of readiness in the workplace.
My husband walks out of the house ahead of me every morning with his computer bag and a thermos of coffee. He has his schedule on his phone and he keeps a journal. He has thought about the day. He is prepared…the willingness to execute then comes into play as he goes out our door and enters his company’s door…and all the rest of the doors of his day. Both are disciplines – the preparedness of readiness and the willingness to execute.
Readiness keeps momentum going and momentum has huge impact on business and workplace excellence.
After watching the Cintas commercial, I went to their website. What a feast for anyone wanting to learn about leadership and a healthy workplace culture. Check out their Code of Conduct and Business Ethics page. Nothing on their agenda about Business Casual – and everything about dressing and performing aims at positive impact, and helping their customers do the same.
The website’s drop-down menu displays a variety of helps and services. Honestly, it’s hard to believe this company is for-profit based on the generous sharing of information for helping others (their customers and competitors) be “ready for the workday”.
I want to close with some of the quotes from the Cintas website – both from their own founder and from writers who speak for and to their own leadership. Enjoy.
“Corporate culture is the single most important distinguishing factor between greatness and mediocrity. It is a major reason Cintas is different from our competitors and other companies. It is our ultimate competitive advantage.”Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus
“A key to our success has been a culture that encourages meaningful, respectful relationships between the company and our employee-partners and the commitment to always do what’s right. This spirit of teamwork, camaraderie and trust has become our most important competitive advantage and is a cornerstone of the Cintas culture.” – Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus
“Those who rise to senior leadership levels in almost any organization have one critical attribute in common — they’ve embraced soft leadership skills. This includes having the ability to build relationships with the people you work with. There’s never been a leader in this world without people who wanted to follow them — and the first step to getting people to want to support you is to get them to like you. Take the time to get to know the people you work with, and learn what’s important to them.” – Karlyn Borysenko
“Be transparent. Insincerity and evasion chip away at trust, so whenever you can, be transparent about what’s happening with the business. Of course, there will be confidential data you can’t disclose. Carolyn O’Hara of the Harvard Business Review notes, ‘regularly distributing other information—like financial results, performance metrics, and notes from board meetings—shows that you trust your employees, which in turns helps them have greater faith in you.’” – Lee Polevoi
“Don’t micromanage or give step-by-step instructions. Instead, provide guardrails while giving [employees] the freedom to find smart and creative solutions.“ – Chuck Leddy
It’s the end of the year…anyone who is able is grabbing those vacation days and running with them. Probably few people are reading leadership posts this week, but even on end-of-year time off, I still think about the workplace. Occupational hazard (so to speak).
Thinking about the coming year always sets momentum for change for me. Not just wishful New Year’s resolutions…but actually taking strategic steps toward some change or another. When I came across Ron Carucci‘s post this week on leadership, he got me thinking about what keeps us on our jobs…and what causes us to pull away.
Thinking about work, we gravitate to what challenges us more than what satisfies us. Having interesting work, close colleagues, and a good boss would be a wonderful way to start the new year. If that’s your situation, then you should be off sipping hot cider, head in that new book, or playing games with your grandchildren.
If the challenges of your job are causing you to rethink whether to stay or look for other work, take some time to evaluate what is it that would put you on such a course of action. Having a job at all is no small thing. Go slowly in changing course and know, for sure, why you would make such a change.
There’s a cliché that surfaces in leadership articles (like the ones linked below) which speaks to the reasons why employees quit. It goes something like this: “People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.”Photo Credit: Pinterest
Bosses have their own struggles – balancing the bottom line with keeping their employees equipped and engaged. It can be complicated to keep the customers, employees, and investors all pleased with their efforts and the product/service provided. Still…it is those in leadership that have the onus of keeping the best employees on the job.
So much has been written about this, because losing good people is hard on everyone in the workplace. Carucci talks about the three types of power that bosses wield: positional, relational, and informational. Using their power, managers can do much to assure fair treatment throughout divisions, to invest personally in individuals and teams, and to keep information pathways open and multi-directional. Read more of Carucci’s advice here…and here.
I’ve had some great bosses across my career – bosses that made me want to stay even when the work had become too hard or too same and colleagues had become too wearisome (or maybe it was me). There were times I stayed because of my relationship with that boss.
One of those bosses was Mary Florence Woody. In my first job after graduate school, she was the director of nursing of an 1100-bed inner-city teaching hospital. I interviewed with her for the oncology clinical specialist job. In my mid-20s, full of youth and confidence with little understanding of how much I didn’t know, I presented myself to this great lady. She was a giant in nursing in those days, and for all of her career actually. She asked me big questions that day and listened deeply, and somehow I got that job. It was a tremendous launch into a profession that was very kind to me.
Ms. Woody gave me some great counsel that day. She told me not to let my youth or inexperience define me. “If you determine to get to know and revere the people and their work, at all levels, then respect and regard will be returned to you.” Over the whole of my seven years working there, in the role of educator and practitioner, I did as she had advised. Mopping up spills, delivering food trays, making beds, troubleshooting equipment, rounding with physicians, nurses, dietitians, and chaplains. In whatever capacity the patients were served, I tried my hand at it. Not always well…but with persistence. That’s how I learned how valuable each person was on the team…and it helped me have perspective on the piece of care I provided as well.Photo Credit: Massey
Mary Woody helped me from that first day. Did we hang out together? Absolutely not. She had enormous responsibilities and time constraints, but she communicated what mattered. Ms. Woody cared about her employees and it was obvious to all of us. She also let us find our own way, but not without applying her position and influence on our behalf.
Was I a “keeper”? Not sure…but I never had to guess whether Ms. Woody had confidence in me. She did…and the strength of that kept me out of the ditch for months into that new role. In fact, opportunities came my way that I could never have imagined. Thanks to Ms. Woody and other colleagues like her, I left that job to teach at Yale University…having so much more to offer than before.
All that to say what? When we look to the future as to whether we stay in a job or leave for another one, we must reckon with what matters most to us. There is no guarantee we won’t find a similar set of circumstances in the next job, so there’s that…
I hope you’ll read the Carucci, Bradberry and Myatt articles below. They all resonate with the same message, just different aspects of it. What can make a difference in keeping quality personnel on the job? Care and control are the critical components – more caring and less controlling. Something we can all consider in the new year…whatever our position…
Hold onto that resignation letter for a bit. What would compel you to stay? When the right next job presents itself, take it…absolutely …but know for sure why you’re leaving this job. Then leave burning as few bridges as possible…like Jon Acuffadvises, “Make sure you leave with one finger raised high: your thumb. As in, ‘Thumbs‑up guys. Thanks for letting me work here. I’m off to a different adventure, but you guys are awesome.'”
If you stay, maybe you can influence others by genuinely caring for them and by letting go of some control yourself. If your boss struggles in these areas, she could learn from you. Who knows?
Happy New Year…done with thinking about work for today… Bring on the apple cider.Photo Credit: Foodie Misadventures