With snowstorms raging and people locked up in their homes, I am reminded of the fact that real service has a certain amount of reliance on sacrifice.

For those of you who do not experience snow, this may be hard to comprehend, but when it snows a great deal, many people get held up in their homes, particularly the elderly.  Given the slippery roads and sidewalks, it can be treacherous to go out.  A twisted knee or bad fall can spell doom for anyone but this is even more dire for an older person who may be living alone, so a great many of them spend days inside afraid to go out.

I will never forget one day a few winters back when my elderly neighbor was trying his best to shovel his driveway.  My son and I were diligently shoveling ours and we noticed him struggling.  Almost at once, we looked at each other, stopped working on our driveway and walked over to help him.  We got the job done and he was able to move his car out to go get some groceries.

Now, anyone who has shoveled a driveway knows, it is arduous and oftentimes daunting, it simply seems like a never-ending chore as the snow keeps falling.  It’s like digging a hole and being asked to fill it again.  It can be quite depressing.

My point is that doing it for someone else requires sacrifice.  My son and I were cold, and we needed to finish our driveway, yet we decided to sacrifice.  Now I am not recommending that me and my son be brought up for sainthood, we’re far from that, what I am saying is that the best service is delivered by those who are willing to sacrifice, to humble themselves and do something for someone else even if it requires discomfort.

So how do we get that in business?  How can you as a business leader get that same attitude from your employees?

The answer is leadership by example.  If you want your employees to take up the sacrificial mantle, you must show them by doing it yourself.  You must sacrifice for them.  I don’t know what that means in your business but it could be simply helping them periodically with some tasks that are particularly arduous or providing a new tool that makes the job easier or providing training that helps them manage time or troubleshoot some recurring issue.

How can you, as a leader, sacrifice a little for your employees?  How can you humble yourself and work alongside for a bit to show them you are in their service?  How can you be a better example of sacrifice, service, and humility?  Making it a regular practice will spell more success and greater profit as you build a happier team who want to sacrifice to better serve customers.  Start today.


Consider the Iceberg

Empathy.  The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  What are the chances of getting business leaders to embrace it?  I think many, if not most, will grumble that it’s too touchy-feely for the workplace.  Others will spout off that they don’t have any more money for some crazy HR flavor-of-the-month.  “Besides,” they will mutter, “is this really necessary, does it make revenue, does it make me more profitable, do my competitors have it?”

Think about it.  Do we need empathy in business?  Do we need to have the ability to understand and share the feelings of others?  Can’t people just go through the motions?  You know, smile, shake hands, be nice, show people where the dress shirts are, check them out with another smile and say thanks, can’t we just do that?

That’s what a lot of businesses do, they train a checklist of things and hope their employees behave that way, but does it work?  Look around at the service you get.  Does it work?  I would say, without reservation, “no!”

Why doesn’t it work?  Because you can’t teach a checklist and hope to make people understand and share the feeling of others, and that, empathy, is what business needs to deliver service that makes a difference.  And if you’re a business leader who is grumbling any of those things above, think again, wouldn’t you like to have employees who really care about customers, or better yet, who really care about you, your business and their jobs?  Without empathy, this becomes almost impossible.

So how do you begin to move people in the direction of empathy?  I often teach a principle based on the idea of the iceberg.  It is a simple idea.  Think of an iceberg.  Most of the thing is underwater where we can’t see it.  The little piece at the top only tells a tiny bit of the story.  If you want to begin to empathize, you must consider the iceberg, all of those things you can’t see that contribute to the way people are behaving.

All of us have things going on in our lives, spouses, bosses, children, work, traffic, crabgrass, tired, headache, you name it, and they influence how we interact.  The same goes for employees, customers, family and friends.  When we consider the fact that what we see is only a small bit of what’s really going on, it can help us to move to behave more considerately and to be more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Ask yourself how this might help your business?  How might it make your workplace more civil, more productive, more team oriented, more creative, more innovative?  How might it help your frontline employees deliver genuine service rather than the scripted, fake stuff offered by your competitor?  How might it change things?

Empathy, considering people’s icebergs, how could it change things?  Think about it.

Get Engaged

I was recently reading through some of the newsletters and things that hit my mailbox and read the following in something from David Marquet, the author of Turn This Ship Around and spiritual force behind Intent-Based Leadership, “the next time someone comes to you with an idea, stop what you are doing, look them in the eyes and say “tell me more…” or “how might we…” “

I got excited when I read that and what struck me is how powerful that simple thinking is and how you can engage people so effectively by simply being interested in their thoughts.

Another reason I got excited had to do with my own philosophy on engaging others.  You see, I get asked periodically from managers how to effectively engage employees and my response is that they should spend time in three activities, Connecting, Involving, and Collaborating. From there, I am usually met with a look of “that sounds complicated” so I try and simplify things by telling them that all they have to do is ask three questions, 12 words in total.

  • Connect by asking, “What’s important to you?”
  • Involve by asking, “What do you think?”
  • Collaborate by asking, “How can I help?”

How you might use this in the real world could go something like this.  Imagine a team meeting where you have a new project or challenge to talk about.  Explain the situation and then ask different team members what’s important to them with regard to the issue.  Throw out a potential solution and ask them what they think, and after you decide on some course of action, ask them how you can help.  And to be most effective, after you ask each question, spend time opening your ears and listening…really listening…taking a genuine interest in their thinking.

If you employ this regularly, watch employee engagement grow as team members take more ownership, experience increased customer satisfaction as customers are served better, and enjoy more long-term profitability as happy customers come back again and again, all with 12 words and 2 ears.

Connect, Involve, and Collaborate with your employees and see more success.  Not hard, not complicated.  Try it.

Make a Promise for 2015

What’s your attitude for 2015?  I mean, what attitude do you want to exude in the New Year?

Why do I ask you wonder?  Well, I always notice the change in people’s attitudes during the holidays.  The difficult become a little less difficult, the disgruntled become a little more …er… gruntled, you get the picture.  The bad thing is that people come down from that holiday high and go back to the same old difficult, disgruntled world, and, by extension, our world goes back to the same old difficult, disgruntled way and we all begin to cut people off on the freeway and yell at the checkout clerk at the grocery store.

Can that change?  I believe it can.  We can all take a different frame of mind, and, by extension, begin to affect a better world.  Now I am not suggesting any silly, pie in the sky chanting of positive phrases every morning or doing yoga or drinking more water or any other new-fangled “change the world” formula.  What I am suggesting is just making a point to get up in the morning and add one promise a day to your to-do list.

By this I mean each day making a single promise to do something to affect a better attitude for you and the people around you.  Make a promise each day to do something to make a positive difference.  Make a promise to not get angry on the freeway today.  Make a promise to not raise your voice in difficult situations today.  Make a promise to thank at least three co-workers today.  Make a promise to help someone today, really help, and not just write a check.  A promise a day becomes a habit and habits define our character, and the more good characters out there, the better.

I know we all have a million things we believe are really important and adding one more “to-do” item is possibly over the line, but I also know we live in a difficult, disgruntled world so this is your chance to make some change by doing just ONE THING differently.

Make 2015 the best year ever by promising to do one thing a day to make it the best world ever.

2015 Resolution

I-am-here-resolutionHere’s a reminder about why we’re all here on this planet.  Make this your 2015 resolution.  Make this the year you make a determined effort to help those around you succeed.  Be of service, be of help, be a go-to person for making it happen, get out of someone’s way, just help others succeed and you will succeed beyond measure.

If you need a daily reminder, print out this poster and hang it in your office, bedroom, bathroom, wherever reminders work for you.