Posts Tagged ‘ service ’

Top 3 Reasons Why Being a Great Leader Isn’t Easy

A few months back, I asked a group of leaders for a show of hands on who had experienced either oversupervision or undersupervision. Almost every hand went up. But then I asked how many had themselves oversupervised or undersupervised their direct reports. Only one or two hands shyly peeked out from the crowd.

So what’s going on? Well, leaders can sometimes be unaware of what they should and should not be doing. And this lack of awareness separates good leaders from great leaders. Great leaders know that leading is a never-ending journey that can be filled with treacherous obstacles.

So what do you need to know to become a great leader?
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British vs. American Culture!

With Greater Leadership Comes Greater Expectation

Like many, my college experience provided the opportunity to make friends and interact with some fascinating people – classmates whom I admire and respect more than they will ever know. We all had our dreams and aspirations, then graduation day came and we parted ways, ready to pursue our passions and make a positive difference in this world. We were ready and willing to be the best leaders we could be, prepared to serve others, stand behind our beliefs, and utilize the tools we had acquired – at least as far as our toolbox would take us.

What began as one such dream for a few of these classmates turned into an international charitable organization employing dozens of staff members, enlisting hundreds of volunteers, and impacting countless lives around the world. This past week, something happened to this organization that changed everything: it garnered global media attention virtually overnight. This organization is known as Invisible Children.

You may be familiar with the latest media blitz surrounding this non-profit and their viral video, Kony 2012. The team posted the video last Monday, hoping for 500,000 views by the end of the year. Yet what they received was far beyond their wildest dreams: 52 million views in just four days…and over 78 million views as I write this. This has led to an outpouring of news articles, TV interviews, blog posts, enormous praise, and even a severe backlash of criticism from people around the world, across nearly every major media entity from the Wall Street Journal to TMZ.

Wow. These young leaders must be feeling so many emotions. I would imagine they are thrilled beyond belief to have their message heard by so many people, yet fearful and/or frustrated by the criticism, and perhaps even nervous by the overwhelming attention in general. The international fame happened nearly overnight. Yet whether they were ready or not, this organization and its leaders will forever be held to a higher standard. Their leadership, or perhaps more importantly, others’ perception of their leadership, has been forever changed.

You see, whether we agree with it or not, leading at higher levels requires a new level of perseverance. The higher we go, the more others expect of us. It may not seem fair, but it is a reality. When you reach a certain level of fame, fortune, or position, opposition becomes inevitable. People will take shots at you, even when you know you’re doing the right thing. Observers will scrutinize your every action just because they can.

As leaders – leaders who are continuously growing and likely aspiring to reach new levels of leadership – we must always remember this. As our ability to influence others and our capacity to act as role models increases, we must expect that higher standards, albeit often unspoken, will be placed over us. As we continuously strive for moral and ethical excellence, we must trust that we’re doing the right thing, even in the face of criticism. And as we responsibly persevere, we must remember the expectation – and the privilege – that the more we receive, the more we must give; the more we lead, the more we must serve.

Our individual leadership journeys may never reach the level that Invisible Children has as an organization (or perhaps they will!), but regardless, the lesson is the same for all. Leadership simply gets tougher the higher you go and the more lives you touch. Not that my opinion matters in this case, but I am enormously proud of my classmates, grateful for their generous work, and fully confident that they will continue to do amazing things for this world… They’ll face a higher level of scrutiny and more forceful opposition, but as with all great leaders, this will ultimately only strengthen their resolve and improve their effectiveness.

Thank you for your Comments!

Leader as Servant

Who is the servant-leader? The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first. – Robert K. Greenleaf 

I recently had the opportunity to take a course on servant leadership. Its impact on my life was greater than I had anticipated. In today’s world where society continually encourages us to seek fame, fortune, or power for ourselves, servant leadership challenges us to something much greater…and perhaps even more difficult to pursue.
As human beings, I think we naturally have a tendency to think about ourselves; we desire protection and well-being. But our culture feeds this – often distorts it – by telling us to only look out for Number One. Our sense of self becomes the priority across all aspects of life. In the workplace, for example, we often crave leadership. We desire to rise to the top as quickly as possible. Our educational institutions prepare us to climb corporate ladders and become the “leaders of tomorrow.” Personally, we feel we’ve earned it; we deserve something for all our hard work in school and in the workplace, right?
Yet servant leadership challenges all of this. It calls us to higher levels of leadership where the self is no longer king, and others become the priority. It stands in stark contrast to the sense of entitlement we often assume. Given today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, each of us has more power at our fingertips than ever before. Yet the irony is that this individual empowerment has disconnected us in a sense; we have become somewhat removed from our sense of community. Servant leadership encourages us to face this – to take the focus off of ourselves and to truly put others’ needs first as we nurture relationships and foster community. In fact, it calls us to love and to serve others so much that out of that a desire for leadership is born…not the other way around.
It’s interesting…  In general, but particularly in light of our recent recession, it seems as though people are sharing about what is most important in life, more than ever before. Often it boils down to relationships and love. If that is the case, then those things should matter in the workplace as well. Servant leadership offers a revolutionary yet timeless approach to satisfying this need. It fosters trust, teamwork, and collaboration; it revives the sense of connectedness so often lost on our competitive world.
One of my favorite quotes from this class was the following by Studs Terkel:
Work is…about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.  
Our world can be a broken place, especially in the workplace. Our endless striving to take care of Number One can be exhausting. But isn’t it amazing how serving others can bring light? Hope? That seems to be the magic of servant leadership. It encourages us to give, to love, to build up, and to cheer each other on in a way that is sustainable. It seems crazy, but perhaps relinquishing our “all about me” mentality can actually be of greater benefit to ourselves, personally?
It has been fascinating to see more and more companies employ this model as their core organizational philosophy around the world. It is inspiring to see more managers desire to invest in the growth, development, and well-being of their direct-reports, and to see more individual contributors grow into leadership positions because of their desire to serve first. And even more, regardless of title or position, it is inspiring to see more of us serve one another – colleague to colleague – as we live out Terkel’s statement and create a Monday through Friday sort of living for one another.
Thank you for your Comments!



The Domino Effect of Actions

All too often, we make decisions by looking at the short term effect.  I don’t think a lot of us come to realize that the decisions we make affect more people than just those around us.  Our decisions affect their actions, and their actions affect those people that they interact with, and the people that those people interact with, etc…

When I was younger, I used to do in-home computer and electronics repair.  It was nothing fancy.  It was more like a self-employed gig on top of my regular job.  I landed these gigs mostly through referrals from people around me.  For the most part, I made myself available whenever someone contacted me with an issue.  However, because it wasn’t a real “job”, I simply saw it as a way to make some extra money on my free time. I didn’t take my commitment to service all too seriously. 

A woman called me one day who needed help with a printer issue.  I had helped her once on a previous occasion, but this was an urgent issue.  She had a flight in a couple hours to do a sales presentation with a potential client the following day.  I had the time to help her, but instead, I put my wants ahead of the service I could’ve provided for her.  I told her that I wouldn’t be able to meet with her.  Instead, I wound up sitting at home, watching TV.  My TV time (in other words, my own satisfaction) was more important, right?

A few weeks later, I was speaking with the person who referred this woman to me originally.  He informed me that the woman wound up going to Kinko’s to print her boarding pass, but Kinko’s was also having some issues accessing her boarding pass to print.  She wound up missing her flight and was not able to find another one to meet with the client at the time the client had expected.  The client wound up cancelling the presentation altogether, and the woman lost a potential sale. Needless to say, this woman never called me again to ask for my help.

Because of my laziness, possible income was lost, a service was never explored by a business, and I’m sure there were other effects that carried down the line that I was never aware of.  

Since then, I’ve raised my level of service, both professionally and personally, but more importantly, I now try and look at how my decisions and actions change the big picture.  How many people will be affected by my decision, and how will it affect them?

Do you have any stories of bad decisions that had far-reaching consequences?  Leave your comments!

The Customer Is Always Right

What was the first basic rule of business you ever learned? Here’s a hint, it’s the title of this post. C’mon, say it with me, “the customer is always right.” Great job gang. Gold stars for everyone.

At first glance, this is a pretty bold statement. And let’s be honest, nobody is always right. Unless of course you’re like me and have occassionally used, and abused, this statement in response to receiving poor customer service. But putting our self-serving interests aside, let’s examine this general principle in an attempt to interpret it’s true meaning.

First, who is this customer person? The customer isn’t just someone paying money for a product or service. The customer can be anyone you have an interaction with. In the business world we can break our customers up into two groups, internal and external. Internal customers are people in your organization such as your boss, your direct reports, and your peers. External customers are your organization’s clients. In your personal life, everyone qualifies as a potential customer. Everyone? Yes, everyone. Make sure you remember this when your wife asks you to take out the garbage tonight.

Next, what does always right really mean? Well, sometimes the customer actually is right. If you give your customer $5 change after they hand you a $20 bill to pay for something that costs $10, they are right in asking you for the $5 you shorted them. More often than not, however, it won’t be this simple. In fact, in many cases the customer is actually wrong.

This is where you say, “well Adam, how can the customer always be right when I know they’re wrong?” Well my friends, let me explain. When the customer is wrong, or feels wronged, what they really want is to be heard, to know that someone empathizes with them, and that someone is going to help them to the best of their ability. This means that even when they’re wrong, treat them like they’re right. Using the wife example, when she reminds you tonight that she asked you to take out the garbage an hour ago, even though it’s only been 15 minutes, simply apologize for the delay and cheerfully take out the garbage.

I was at the doctor’s office last week and witnessed a major failure of this most basic of customer service philosophies. A patient walks up to the front desk to check in. She is told that the doctor has called in sick for the day but the office tried to call her 20 minutes prior to her arrival. An argument then follows over what number the office used to try to contact the patient. Frustration peaks when the patient angrily instructs the office to delete all contact numbers but her cell phone number, the one number they apparently did not try, because “don’t you know that nobody even uses their home numbers these days because we’re all very busy?!?!”

While the rationale behind that statement might be slightly flawed, the impact was very real. The patient wanted to be heard and empathized with. She wanted an acceptable solution. She wanted to hear something like this:

“I understand how frustrating and inconvenient this is. Your doctor is concerned with your well-being and the well-being of his other patients and did not want to risk getting anyone else sick. I apologize that we were unable to contact you in time because we had the wrong primary phone number but let’s correct that now and reschedule your appointment for a time that’s convenient for you.”

Remember that everyone is a customer. Treat your customers like you would want to be treated. And for goodness sake, please take out the trash already.

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