Do You Have the Heart of a Leader?

teach, inspire, motivate  - a collage of isolated words in vintaI’ve worked with thousands of leaders over the years and the most successful ones achieve results while acting with respect, care, and fairness for the well-being of everyone involved. Many companies put pressure on leaders to reach or surpass goals at any cost. But wise companies realize that leaders who can achieve results by creating a motivating work environment are the leaders who will sustain future success.

What’s the secret behind this kind of leader? I think truly effective leadership begins on the inside—with your heart. Leading from your heart is about leadership character and intention, which form the backbone of servant leadership. As a leader, you must ask yourself why you lead. Is it to serve or to be served? Answering this question in a truthful way is so important. You can’t fake being a servant leader. I believe that if leaders don’t get the heart right, they simply won’t ever become servant leaders.

The most persistent barrier to being a servant leader is a heart motivated by self-interest that looks at the world as a “give a little, take a lot” proposition. Leaders with hearts motivated by self-interest put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of those who are affected by their thoughts and actions. Leaders with a servant heart believe their role is to bring out the best in others. They thrive on developing people and helping them achieve their goals. They constantly try to find out what their people need to perform well. Being a servant leader is not just another management technique. It is a way of life for those with servant hearts.

Are You a Leader? Here’s How to Tell

Ripple effect of dew drop fallingSometimes when I’m leading a session for a big group of managers, I’ll ask, “How many of you think of yourself as a leader?” Usually only about one-third of them raise their hands. Somehow they think the word leader is reserved for high-level positions like President or CEO.

But each of us has the ability to influence someone else, whether it be a coworker, a child at home, a spouse, or a friend. Anytime you are trying to influence the thinking, beliefs, or development of another person, you are engaging in leadership. Of course there are traditional organizational leadership responsibilities that involve goals and objectives, but if you think beyond those confines, you’ll realize that everyone is a leader—you are a leader—unless you’re stranded on an island by yourself!

I’m always reminded of this when I ask people to tell me about someone who has influenced them and had a positive impact on their life. They very seldom mention traditional leaders at work. They usually talk about parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, coaches, or teachers.  The one characteristic common among all of these influencers?  Their interest in helping another person develop.

The truth is that we are all trying to influence people, whether it is in the office, at home, or with friends.  But we need to pay attention to how we do it. Are we there to serve or to be served? The most effective leaders know that true leadership is about serving and impacting people in a positive way. It’s about letting people know that you want to help them be the best they can be and that you truly care about them.

Even if you don’t have a traditional leadership role right now, chances are you are playing a significant role in the life of another person.  Identify it, claim it, and recognize the impact you can have in someone else’s life.

Rekindle, Reinvigorate, and Recharge—It Works at Any Age

Ken BlanchardOn May 6, I turned 75 years old. In today’s society, most people would be retired at 75—or at least thinking about it.

But did you know that the very practice of retirement was designed for the industrial world? During that era, people were physically tired by the time they reached 65 and needed to rest.

Things are different now—we have more options. My goal in life is to be a loving teacher of simple truths. I’ve always searched for methods to improve the skills of leaders and to communicate those methods in a way that makes it easy for people to understand and practice. That doesn’t make me tired—it refuels me. So, I’m adopting a different approach. I’m focusing on an attitude of refirement instead of retirement.

I first heard this word from Zig Ziglar, the great American author and motivator. When he would run into friends who hadn’t seen him for a while, they would ask if he had retired. He always answered this question the same way.  “There’s no mention of retirement in the Bible. Except for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, David, and a few others, nobody under 80 made an impact. I’m not retiring, I’m refiring! I’m not gonna ease up, let up, shut up or give up until I’m taken up. As a matter of fact, I’m just getting warmed up!” Zig lived his life that way until his death in the fall of 2012.

Norman Vincent Peale was another of my mentors who helped shape this idea. When I first met Norman, he was eighty-six years old. What most amazed me about him was that he was excited about every single day. Why? He couldn’t wait to find out what he might learn. He often said, “When I stop learning, I might as well lie down because I will be dead.” He was learning right up until he passed away at age ninety-five.

Learning is more important today than it’s ever been. In the past, if people were loyal to their company and worked hard, their job was secure. Today, the skills you bring to the party constitute the only available form of job security. People who are continually learning and upgrading their skills increase their value—not only in their organization, but also in the overall job market.

So don’t count the days until you retire. Start refiring now and look for new ways to rekindle, reinvigorate, and recharge your relationship with others. I guarantee you’ll have plenty to celebrate each and every day.

Five Keys to Great Customer Service

Legendary Service Book CoverThink of a time when you experienced really excellent service. Now compare that to a time when the service you received was just acceptable—okay, but nothing special. Which organization do you want to do business with again? I’ll bet it’s the one where someone made you feel valued and cared for—someone who understood the true importance of Legendary Service.

That’s the central message of my latest book, Legendary Service: The Key Is to Care. It’s a story that I think will change the way people look at service. I wrote it with my colleagues Kathy Cuff and Vicki Halsey, two experts on customer service. As coauthors of our Legendary Service customer service training program, Kathy and Vicki have spent years teaching the concepts of Legendary Service to clients in every industry.

What we know from working with companies of all sizes is that most organizations recognize the necessity of offering great customer service, but few really get it right. They zero in on specific tactics or trendy catchphrases, or they provide training to just a small number of people in customer service roles. They don’t understand that the best companies work to create a true service culture—where taking care of customers is everyone’s responsibility, not just the job of the people in the customer service department. These companies look at service from three equally important perspectives:

  1. Frontline service providers, who play a critical role because they are the ones who have direct contact with the customer.
  2. Managers, who not only empower their frontline people to provide exemplary service, but also act as role models for both internal and external service excellence.
  3. Senior leaders, who fully embrace the service initiative and communicate desired behaviors to the entire organization. Their goal is to create an environment where associates feel that they are valued internal customers of the organization so that they, in turn, want to take care of external customers and make them feel valued.

Legendary Service is really an inside-out issue—in two ways. At an organizational level, creating loyal external customers begins by taking care of your internal customers—your people.  At a personal level, providing great service begins when you realize that, as an individual, you have control over the service experience each of your customers receives. You can create a loyal customer by the service you provide.

To get at this dual focus, we use a model we call ICARE. We believe that there are five steps to becoming a Legendary Service provider:

  • Ideal Service: Meet the customer’s needs on a day-to-day basis by acting on the belief that service is important
  • Culture of Service: Foster an environment that focuses on serving the customer
  • Attentiveness: Know your customers and their preferences
  • Responsiveness: Demonstrate a genuine willingness to serve others as you fulfill their individual needs
  • Empowerment: Take the initiative to implement the service vision

We’ve found that the lessons of this simple model, when applied, will have a profound impact on the service experience your customers—both internal and external—will receive.

You can find out more by joining my coauthor Kathy Cuff on April 16 for a free webinar called Creating A Customer Focused Organization, where she will be sharing some of the book’s key concepts. We have also created a special web page where you can take an online quiz about your company’s service mentality and read an excerpt from the book. I hope you’ll check out both of these resources and discover the value of creating a Legendary Service culture in your organization.

Contentment, Happiness, and Living in the Moment

Business Man At Starting Line Road PathI was on the phone with my friend Phil Hodges the other day talking about contentment. Phil believes that contentment can only happen in the present, and I think he is right. Contentment doesn’t happen in the past by remembering the good old days.  Having nice memories is pleasant but doesn’t necessarily offer contentment in the present. Also, contentment is not in the future because we don’t know what that will bring.

Real contentment, enjoyment, satisfaction, and happiness happen when we are fully present and living in the now. If you have a positive feeling that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, then you experience true happiness.

Spencer Johnson, my coauthor of The One Minute Manager, also discusses this in his brilliant parable The Precious Present. In this story, an older man’s wisdom launches a young boy on a lifelong search for the precious present. Eventually the young man discovers what the old man was trying to teach him all along: what you have and what you do in the present is a gift. Living in the past can be destructive or demotivating and can hinder your journey to happiness. Likewise, planning for the future is good but it is impossible to live there. And if you focus only on the future, you miss opportunities right in front of you.

Living in the present allows you to focus on the important and to cherish the moment. I encourage you to consider moments when you were at your best. I’ll bet you’ll recall that you were right there in the moment, fully committed and fully present. If you dwell on what was—the past—or what will be—the future—you’ll miss the power of contentment, happiness, and success in the present.