The Unselfishness of Love in Action

Time for Part 4 of my “Elements of Love” series based on Henry Drummond’s nine elements of love from his book The Greatest Thing in the World.

Drummond’s sixth element is Unselfishness. Here’s what he writes about it:

“Love as unselfishness never seeks its own to the harm or disadvantage of others, or with the neglect of others. It often neglects its own for the sake of others; it prefers their welfare, satisfaction, and advantage to its own; and it ever prefers good of the community to its private advantage. It would not advance, aggrandize, enrich, or gratify itself at the cost and damage of the public.”

I interpret Drummond’s definition of unselfishness in many ways as being related to humility. It’s all about moving from a focus on yourself to concern about helping others. This is really a journey in life. How many of you have ever known a baby who came home from the hospital asking “How can I help around the house?” No, they’re screaming for what they want! Humans are naturally selfish beings. Being unselfish is a learned behavior.

My father modeled unselfishness for me when I was very young. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1924. Since World War I had ended and people thought that was the war to end all wars, the Navy didn’t think they needed as many officers at that time. As a result, my father was released after his senior cruise. In January 1925 he entered Harvard Business School with a major in finance and then headed to Wall Street to begin his career.

In 1940, when I was one year old, he was about to be made a vice president of National City Bank. Instead, he came home and said to my mother, “I quit my job today.”

My mother said, “To do what?”

“I rejoined the Navy.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

My father responded, “Remember when we got married, I said that if the country ever got in trouble, I owed it something. Hitler is crazy and pretty soon the Japanese will be in this war.”

So my father went from being a potential bank vice president to a second lieutenant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. When Pearl Harbor happened in December 1941, it looked like he was going to stay there because he was 40 years old with no naval experience. But that wasn’t my father’s style—so he called one of his classmates from the Academy who was a top person at the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington and said, “What do you have for an old fart with no experience? I’ve got to get in the action.”

His buddy said, “Let me see what I can find and I’ll get back to you.” A few days later he called my dad and said, “All I have for a guy with your experience is heading up a suicide group going into the Marshall Islands.”

My dad immediately said “You’ve got your man!” Of course, he didn’t tell my mother what his friend had said. He was given the command of twelve LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry) leading the first wave into the Marshall Islands. Well over half of his men were killed or wounded. I have a picture of me at five years old in a sailor suit saluting him as he got off the train, returning home after being away for more than two years.

All this to say my dad was the most unselfish person I have ever met. How about you? Who models or has modeled unselfishness for you in your life? Remember—just because we were all born selfish doesn’t mean we can’t master unselfish behavior as adults!

Refiring Spiritually: Working for the Common Good

Japanese meditation or zen garden simplicity , calmness and balaIn our new book Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, Dr. Morton Shaevitz and I talk about four keys. The first key, Refiring Emotionally, is about creating connection; the second key, Refiring Intellectually, refers to lifelong learning; and the third key, Refiring Physically, is about keeping active to improve your mental outlook.

The fourth key is Refiring Spiritually. When I begin to talk about this topic, people often assume it’s going to be about religion. But I’m actually referring to the universal sense of the word spiritual as the opposite of material things. Refiring Spiritually is about getting in touch with something important outside of yourself—looking outward instead of inward. I believe when people have an opportunity to focus outside themselves, they will work toward a higher purpose. After all, it’s hard to become stale, bored, or dissatisfied with your work or your life when you are doing something that serves the greater good.

As the Chief Spiritual Officer of our company, I leave a morning message every day to praise and inspire people. I want everyone in our company to hear when someone has accomplished a big goal or when someone needs a little help with achieving something personally or professionally. Leaders who provide opportunities for giving and spiritual growth help people understand that it’s not all about them.

For example, we have a self-organized team called Blanchard for Others that donates time and funds to help other charities in the community. In another program we call Blanchard Gives Back, every year we set aside a percentage of our profits and allow each of our people to designate a portion to go to a charity of their choice. We also encourage employees to take up to 40 paid hours a year to donate their time to charitable organizations. Do our people feel good about the difference they are making in the world? You bet they do.

In our book, Morton and I share a code of conduct that I think can help you find ways for your people to grow spiritually, too. Encourage your people to think about these statements from the perspective of their own working environment:

  • Be aware—See the big picture
  • Be forgiving—Give up being right
  • Be grateful—Count your blessings
  • Be accepting—Realize you’re not in total control
  • Be humble—Realize you’re not the center of the universe

It’s amazing what people can do when they work toward something bigger than themselves. Encouraging people to focus on the greater good works in our company—and I think it can work in yours as well.

RefireTo learn more about Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, visit the book homepage where you can download a free chapter.

What Great Leaders Know and Do: It’s All About the Values

Business teamI’ve enjoyed telling you about the elements of the SERVE model from the first book I wrote with Mark Miller, The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. Before I explain the final element, let’s review the first four, which I’ve shared over the past several weeks.

The S in the SERVE model stands for See the Future and points out the importance of having a compelling vision for the future. The first E in the model stands for Engage and Develop Others and focuses on hiring the right people for the right roles and investing in their development. The R stands for Reinvent Continuously and refers to personal reinvention, system and process reinvention, and structural reinvention. And the V in the SERVE model stands for Value Results and Relationships. For many years, leaders thought they had to choose between people and results, but in fact both elements are critical for long-term success.

The final E in the SERVE model stands for Embody the Values. Effective leadership is built on trust. Although there are many ways to build trust, I believe the easiest way is to live consistently by your values. Leaders must establish, articulate, and enforce the core values of their organization. More important, they must model the behaviors that support the values. For example, let’s say being customer focused is your number one value. If you make decisions and take actions that negatively impact the customer experience, you are not embodying that value. This gives people a reason not to trust you, which negatively impacts your effectiveness as a leader. If your decisions and actions always place the customer experience first, you’ll not only honor the values but also build trust with your team.

Remember to walk your talk to build and maintain the trust of your people. When you embody the values, you help shape the organization’s culture. When you don’t, you can damage your own leadership—and the organization.

Are you ready to start working on ways to Embody the Values? Ask yourself these questions:

  • How can I integrate our core organizational values into the way my team operates?
  • What are some ways I can communicate our values to my team over the next thirty days?
  • How can I create greater personal alignment with our values on a daily basis?
  •  How can I recognize and reward people who actively embody the values?

Establishing a leadership culture in an organization takes time and involves continuous, focused work. It starts by establishing an agreed upon leadership point of view. The elements of the SERVE model are a great place for that conversation to begin. Teach the common point of view to all current and emerging leaders. Practice it. Measure it. And model it. And remember—a servant leadership culture begins with you. Good luck on your journey, and let me hear about your progress!

 

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.