What Great Leaders Know and Do: The Importance of Reinventing Continuously

My last couple of blogs were lifelong learning online adult education and knowledge building,dedicated to the first two elements of the SERVE model from The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, the first book Mark Miller and I coauthored, which was just released as a 10th Anniversary Edition.

For a quick review, the S in the model stands for See the Future and points out the importance of having a compelling vision for the future. The first E in the SERVE model stands for Engage and Develop Others. As a leader, you must be able to put the right people in the right roles, and you must invest in their development.

Now I want to tell you about the R in the SERVE model, which stands for Reinvent Continuously. This is a very big concept so I’ve broken it down into three components: Personal reinvention, systems and processes reinvention, and structural reinvention.

First, if you want to be a great leader, you must reinvent continuously on a personal level. Simply knowing how to do your job today doesn’t secure your success tomorrow. Read, watch videos, listen to audio books or podcasts, talk to colleagues, work with a mentor, or join associations or special interest groups. It’s important to keep up with this ever-changing world so that you can be innovative and bring new ideas that will respond to future challenges. In fact, Mark and I believe if you stop learning, you stop leading.

The second component applies to reinventing systems and processes. It’s critical to keep looking for ways to improve how your business is conducted. A key point to always remember, whether you are looking for ways to cut costs, reduce errors, increase speed to market, or simplify processes, is to talk to your people. Because they are in the trenches with your products, services, and customers, they often generate ideas executive leaders wouldn’t come up with. Getting input from people at all levels in your workplace also increases buy-in.

The third part is all about structural reinvention. Sometimes the way an organization is structured just doesn’t make sense for future growth. The best leaders recognize this and are willing to be flexible when it comes to restructuring teams, departments, and sometimes entire functions.

Continuous reinvention is a long-term quest. To get started on your reinvention journey, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are my mentors?
  • What am I learning?
  • What systems or processes need to be changed to improve how we do business?
  • Do any teams, departments, or functions need restructuring to enhance future performance?

I’d love to hear from you. In what ways have you reinvented yourself, your workplace systems and processes, or your organization?

What Great Leaders Know and Do: Engaging and Developing Your Staff

In my last blog I introduced tSuccessful business woman leading a team - isolated over whitehe SERVE model from The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do—the first book I coauthored with Mark Miller that was just released in a 10th Anniversary Edition.

In case you missed it, last time I talked about how the S in the model stands for See the Future and points out the importance of having a compelling vision of the future.

Now I want to focus on the first E in the SERVE model, which stands for Engage and Develop Others. As a leader, you must be able to put the right people in the right roles. This involves making the best decisions when recruiting people for your team. Of course you need to look for specific business skills required by the role—but you should also consider the character of the person. Will they fit in with other colleagues and share common values with the rest of the team?

Once the right people are in place, the best leaders invest in the development of those people. Build an environment where people are so engaged that they dedicate themselves to helping achieve the vision. Create an expectation for learning and growing. Give people opportunities to develop their skills and leverage their strengths by providing ongoing training, mentoring, and other types of growth.

We know from research on employee engagement that as much as three-quarters of employees are either totally disengaged or somewhat disengaged at work—so there is a real opportunity for leaders to make a difference by engaging and developing their staff. Even moving that score a little in the right direction will have a huge positive impact, not only on individuals but on the entire organization.

So ask yourself these important questions: Do I have the right people on board? Am I continuing to help them develop? Have I created an engaging work environment? The answers you come up with are the first steps to ensuring your effectiveness as a leader—and the ultimate success of your organization.

What Great Leaders Know and Do: It All Begins with “Seeing the Future”

OneThe Secret Book Cover of our favorite publishers, Berrett-Koehler, just released the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do—the first book I coauthored with Mark Miller.

The message in The Secret is as powerful in today’s increasingly complex world as it was when it was published ten years ago: You can serve without leading, but you can’t lead without serving. I’ll be blogging a few times over the next several weeks about each element of the SERVE model we present in the book.

To begin, the S in SERVE stands for See the Future. As leaders of a group, department, or organization, we must have a compelling vision of the future.  This compelling vision stirs the passion not only within us but also within the people we serve. It tells everyone who we are, where we are going, and what will drive our behaviors.

Sheldon Bowles, a friend and coauthor, provides one of my favorite examples of a man with a clear vision for his company. Sheldon is one of the founders of Canada’s DOMO Gasoline company.

Many years ago when gasoline companies were all shifting to self service gas stations, Sheldon decided that it would be the perfect time to go into the full service business. He loved to venture where there was no competition—and full service would be DOMO’s market differentiator. He knew people didn’t go to gas stations for enjoyment; they went for a specific reason and wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Sheldon decided to create an experience for the customer when they pulled into a DOMO station, and the pit stop of the Indianapolis 500 race served as his inspiration. He hired mothers, retirees, and others who were interested in working part-time and dressed them in red jumpsuits.

When a customer drove in to one of the stations, attendants would race toward the car, pump the gas, look under the hood, clean the windows, and take the payment. The values that drove everyone’s behavior were safety, speed, and fun. As the customer drove away, they were handed a card that said “P.S.—We also sell gas.” As a leader, Sheldon had a clear picture of the future and communicated it effectively to his people.

What’s your vision of the future?  Is it compelling?  Have you shared it with your team?

I look forward to sharing more about the SERVE model in future blogs. If you’d like to learn more, join Mark Miller and me on Monday, September 29 at 11:00 a.m. PDT/2:00 p.m. EDT when we will host a free webinar on the key concepts of The Secret.

Remembering My Friend Warren Bennis

Warren BennisOn July 31 we lost one of the eminent scholars and authors in the field of leadership, Warren Bennis. Some people have said that Peter Drucker was the father of management and Warren Bennis was the father of leadership. To me, he was a trusted mentor and personal friend.

I first came in contact with Warren’s work when I was working on my doctorate degree at Cornell in the 1960s. I got to know him personally in the 1970s when Pat and Drea Zigarmi, two of my doctoral students who later became founding associates of The Ken Blanchard Companies, chose Warren as the subject of their doctoral dissertations. At that time he was the president of the University of Cincinnati. Pat studied Warren as an internal change agent and Drea studied him as an external change agent.

Warren wasn’t just a writer and teacher of leadership—he was also a practitioner. More importantly, he was a fabulous human being. In the last several years I was fortunate enough to be able to have lunch with Warren in Los Angeles every few months. He always pushed the envelope and thought more creatively about leadership than anyone else. At age eighty-nine he was still teaching a course called “The Art and the Adventure of Leadership” at the University of Southern California alongside former USC President Steven B. Sample.

Not only am I going to miss Warren’s inquisitive mind and his challenging thinking, I will miss him as a human being. We’ve lost a great one.

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.