One of the most difficult things a leader must do is to influence their team to sacrifice for the good of the group. The more self-oriented the team members, the more difficult to get them to sacrifice their interests for the overall good of the team.

To shift people from “me” to “we,” the first and most important step is for the leader to model what sacrifice looks like. They must show the team that they are willing to . . .

  • Make financial and time sacrifices for the team.
  • Be honest about their weaknesses and demonstrate humility by continually learning for the sake of the team.
  • Trust and empower others for the sake of the team.
  • Make difficult decisions for the sake of the team.

Once the leader models their willingness to sacrifice, they build the credibility to ask others to do the same, and, as members of the team begin to demonstrate sacrifices, the team begins to move together with teammate helping teammate instead of moving in different self-centered directions.


Six Questions for Leaders

What can I do to become a better leader?  Here are six questions to ask yourself.

  • Do I give clear direction and guidance and take responsibility for the results?
  • Do I share information through open conversations with my team?
  • Do I exercise my influence by encouraging and developing others?
  • Do I lead an honest life committed to high moral and ethical values even when no one is looking?
  • Am I honest about my strengths and my weaknesses and seek out help from others?
  • Do I demonstrate self-discipline in managing my emotions and focusing on the team mission?

Tough questions.  Ask them regularly.  Lead well.

Noticing…is it the secret to compassion?

Compassion, it’s something we all need if we want the world to evolve rather than devolve.  Without compassion, we turn into a society of selfish individual units out for only what benefits us.  Unfortunately, what I just described is too familiar these days, but why is compassion so necessary, after all, when it all comes down to it, aren’t we all trying to get what’s best for us anyway, even the most compassionate of us?

There may be truth in that statement.  When I find myself doing some good deed out of compassion for someone else, I often find myself thinking about how good a person I am being and how I wish someone would notice.  And before you find yourself thinking that I am pretty self-absorbed, think about yourself, you probably do it too.  I was listening to a TED Talk the other night given by Daniel Goleman called “Why aren’t we more compassionate?” and he mentioned this same irony that we tend to think about ourselves and how good we’re being even when we are doing something out of compassion.

This ironic turn doesn’t preclude the fact that we need to be compassionate in order to have a world that works.  Simon Sinek, in his book Leaders Eat Last, has done a pretty good job of defining why the need to work together in families, tribes, and organizations is primal and how this wiring helps us succeed and survive.  So if it is primal and it is necessary to our survival, why aren’t we more compassionate, why is the world moving toward more and more selfishness and self-absorption?

I believe there are many causes.  Things like materialism, the increasing perception that fame matters, the growing gap between haves and have nots, the fear of insignificance, and the growth in technology that has created the ability to “connect” without real human connection are all contributors to our growing obsession with ourselves.  The technology issue has sped this lessening of compassion because we can now communicate with people without all the clutter of having to really see and hear emotion, we don’t have to react or feel the other person’s feelings, we can simply insert a frowny face and go on about our day.  Technology has also made us numb as we see death and destruction regularly whether it’s actual in the news or theatrical in movies and TV shows.  We see it and we can dismiss it because it’s far away and not about us directly.  Facebook hasn’t helped either because in it we find only the best things.  It’s like some kind of Candyland where everybody’s kid just made honor roll, got married or graduated with honors.  Everyone’s life is wonderful….really?  Not according to the homeless veteran with PTSD who can’t get a job and is hungry on the corner.  But we pass him by every day as if he doesn’t exist, and yes, I do it too but I need to rethink that.

What’s my point?  Where am I going here?

I am wondering what we all need to do to be more compassionate.  What is the secret to moving us from self-obsession to thinking more about others and taking care of those around us?

While I was listening to Goleman’s TED Talk, I caught one thing he said that has resonated for me.  He told a story about helping a homeless guy in the subway who had passed out due to hunger.  He stopped to help and that act prompted others to help.  Goleman said, “all it took was that simple act of noticing” to get this man in a better place.  Noticing, paying attention, is that it?  Is the jumpstart to more compassion just simply paying more attention to those around me?

This simple idea, noticing, strikes me as the place to start, to be more mindful of the moment and really pay attention to the people around me and what they are dealing with.  What is their life like?  What are they struggling with?

The secret to compassion….paying attention, no technology needed, no religious awakening needed either, just simply noticing, that’s it.  Try it; we could change the world if we’re on this together.

No Fine Print

Have you ever been treated unfairly?  Remember when you were a kid and you played games with your brother or sister and it seemed they were making up rules all along the way?  It always seemed the rules worked in their favor.  Hum, funny how that worked.

Anyway, have you ever felt that way when doing business?  You go and buy something, and as your ownership experience moves forward, you find there are all kinds of hidden ifs, buts and policies.

I recently bought solar panels with the understanding that it would not cost me anything due to a lot of government subsidies for environmental and energy improvements. As the job got underway, there arose a problem with my electrical panel and it did not pass inspection.  The fix of this thing cost $1000.  Given that I would have never gone through with the solar panel project if I had known that, I called the company and said they should pay for it as it was something they should have known and/or made me aware of.  Initially, they hemmed and hawed and wanted to wash their hands of it.  I, however, knew that all of those panels were sitting on my roof not making them any money so I held out.  We finally struck an agreement that I could live with even though I still believe it to have been a bit unfair.

The reason I tell this is because I should have never had to play this game.  It was not a win-win and I still have a sour taste in my mouth.  A win-win would have been for the solar company to admit their error and cough up $1000 knowing that I would give them a hearty endorsement.  Now, however, if someone were to ask me about my experience, I feel I would be forced to say less than kind things.  Simply put, it is going to take a while for the solar guys to get back in my good graces…and that’s too bad.

Telling the truth, being transparent, not hiding behind policies and daring to have no fine print, these are the qualities of a great service company.  Being bold enough to share the difficult truth of what you will and will not do so no one is surprised, that is what customers want, this is what would make your company legendary.  Integrity, admitting mistakes, making amends, these are things customers want…desperately.

Let the Customer Speak

I hate calling help desks.  No offense to anyone who works in one of those places, but I always feel like a puppet on a string.  I find this really frustrating as a customer.

It wasn’t too long ago where I had to get something sorted with my computer and I called my internet provider’s help desk.  Now, I am no computer genius but I know a little and I had already tried a few things, some of which I had been asked to perform by the same help desk when a similar problem had reared its head previously.  When I tried to relay all of the things I had already done, I was shut down and asked if my computer was on.  No matter how many times I tried to get a word in edgewise, I was cut off and treated like I was three.

Does anyone like to feel that they have no voice and that anything they say is passed over?  It isn’t that help desk employees are bad people or that they are inept or anything, it’s that they’ve been hog-tied to a very rigorous step-by-step procedure and they can’t take a little time to really allow for the input of the customer.

What’s the moral here?  Even though these help desk personnel are on short leashes, they need to be allowed to let customers have input.  This goes for any business.  Customers’ thoughts and ideas, no matter how relevant or crazy, need to be respected and heard.  Making anyone feel powerless only begins a downward spiral into resistance and, eventually, bad word of mouth and disloyalty.

Let your customers have a voice.  Pay attention to them.  Don’t discount what they may bring to the table.  Even though you may be the expert, they may surprise you with a creative idea or a solution you never considered.