Be Happy

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Two simple words to say, but not always something so simple to do. My 4 year old has been known to blurt this out after he has done something wrong and knows he is in trouble. Like if he just says this, it will automatically make his poor choice go away and instantly I will be happy!

Throughout our leadership journey, how many times have we said to a peer or team member something along these lines? “Let it go,” or “Get over it,” were my two personal favorites. Yes, if someone just tells me this, I will magically move past something that has annoyed or upset me. And of course I have said these very words to others, so I am just as guilty.

I believe that we often try to fix a situation just by saying something. While this might help a little, it will not address the issue at hand. We are conditioned as leaders to deal out advice because we have been led to believe this is what our team members want. And, in many cases they do want our advice, but sometimes we need to dig a little deeper and listen more than we speak. In many cases I have often found that a team member will come to you when they are unhappy and in need of a sounding board – someone who can listen and help them work through something that might be bothering them. Guiding the conversation and probing a little further can sometimes aid a team member in finding their own solution without some cliché saying being tossed around.

Do we all need to let it go or get over it sometimes? Yes we do, however simply saying the words doesn’t make it happen. Sometimes as a leader just listening will go much further than offering your words of wisdom!

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Smashing Through the Comfort Zone

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By Lead in the Moment guest blogger, EJ Widun

As leaders, we spend a lot of our time thinking about how to bring our team to new levels of success. As servant leaders, we are always looking for ways to breakdown barriers and empower our team members for their personal fulfillment and success. My question is whether or not we truly live and practice this in our personal life or do we simply focus on the team?

As leaders, we are called to lead by example. We are also called to sharpen our own skills. If we are not sharp and constantly learning and developing, how can we expect our team members to live what we ask?

I find this to be one of the hardest things about leadership to practice. I spend a lot of time focused on my team and will delay my own development. What ends up happening is that I grow complacent. I will put off my development at the expense of the team and say that I will make that up later. The problem with this statement is that later never comes. Daily leadership challenges will aid in your development, but are you really pushing yourself. Are you pushing your limits and thinking differently?

For me the concept of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone came several years ago. I attended a team-building event on a high ropes course. The goal was to climb a three-story tower that required you to stretch yourself to reach the top. On this day, I reached my personal threshold; I was half way up the tower and didn’t think I could go further. My team below me began to cheer and push me forward. In the end, I made it to the top of the tower and I learned that limits and development are often self-fulfilling statements. Today, I will continue to push my goals and growth in several ways. I will add more miles on to my daily bike ride, when I think I cannot go any further. Other times, I will receive encouragement from others. I had this experience again recently. I was co-authoring a piece with my wife Kristin and I did not want my name on it. I have not published anything since the first Bush was president. She told me to embrace the opportunity to put myself out there. If not this time, then it would come soon. We co-authored our first piece and published it this week.

No matter where we go in our careers, always push yourself and help push others. You never know whom it may help.

Give Them What They Need

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As the saying goes, I get by with a little help from my friends…..or my husband!  Insightful thoughts on needs vs. wants by EJ Widun.

While you are at work, do you try to give people what they want? If you are, you are probably not meeting their needs to the max. People will often struggle to verbalize what they actually need. They will explain what they are looking for or what they may want, but it is up to you to apply the “magic” to this list of requirements. The “magic” comes from you taking a step back, thinking like your customer, applying your special skills and techniques to deliver an excellent service or solution. If you do this, the client will be happy because they got what they needed not just what they want.

Let’s look at a simple example of getting what you need mattering more than what you want. I am sure that all of us have gone through a drive-thru and placed an order. Of course, you expect the order to be correct and that you received what you ordered. How much better is your experience when you go into the bag and find all the added amenities that you forgot to request? It could be condiments, extra napkins, a wet napkin. It makes your experience so much better, and you may not even realize it. This is a result of the people behind the counter hearing your order, giving you what you asked for and adding what you need to the equation. This may not seem like a big deal until you need those little extras. The little things matter too, so next time make sure you take the time to apply yourself to the customer’s situation and make their experience extraordinary.

You Don’t Make Decisions Unless You Ask Me!

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I would like to share this post from a guest blogger, EJ Widun.  Besides sharing my passion for Servant Leadership and customer service, he is also my better half!

On a recent family vacation, we were commuting to Naples from Orlando. After an early start from Orlando, we decided to make a rest stop and get some food at a fast food restaurant off the highway. It was 10:20 AM. According to the sign, the breakfast menu does not stop until 10:30 but our children prefer lunch instead of breakfast. I figured I would ask the young lady at the counter if it was possible to get a hamburger instead of breakfast. She looked at what was prepared behind her and noticed some burgers were up. She said sure no problem with a huge smile. I finished paying the bill and stepped to the side to wait for my order. While there, the store manager confronted the young lady. I don’t know if she realized it was my order or not, but the manager said to the young woman: “Who told you we could serve burgers now? Did you ask me? I don’t think so. You never serve anything off of menu without asking me!” The young woman replied with a sheepish response of: “I saw burgers up already and wrapped so I thought it was ok.” The manager snapped back: “You don’t think. You ask me and I will let you know. Is that clear?”

I was amazed and stunned by the reaction of a “customer-friendly” fast food establishment. The young lady at the counter did everything possible to make the visit as satisfying as possible; while the manager did not care and berated the poor customer focused team member.

This manager is clearly not a leader. She had no clue of what it takes to make a successful customer experience or making a team member feel good about taking initiative. As a leader, you should never publicly berate a team member over a customer’s order. So many missteps in what should have been a simple transaction. My experience at this restaurant not only impacted this trip but my opinion of the brand. So sad that a manager could not foster a positive experience, she not only damaged her own identity but the identity of the brand as well.

All Things to All People

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Do people-pleasers make good leaders? Pleasing others can create a nice, happy environment, but in an organization, can being a people pleaser lead to big problems?

You know the old saying about not being able to please 100% of the people 100% of the time. If you have figured it out, please let me know your secret! When you are tasked with creating a positive work environment for numerous people, it is simply not possible to be all things to all people. Everyone looks at the world in a different way, and have different perspectives, which can bring conflict. If you spend all of your time trying to please every single person all of the time, you are not leading – you are just reacting to those around you.

There are times when a leader needs to make a difficult decision, and it is not necessarily a popular decision. While it is important to take the opinions and feelings of your team members under consideration, there are times when tough decisions must be made and there will be unhappy people. Trying to be a people pleaser doesn’t help out; it can make an already difficult situation even worse. For example, if you have to make a difficult decision and you attempt to make everyone happy, there will be some who are satisfied with your decision and others who believe that you are just accommodating others and do not care about them. This can create division and animosity between your team members.

I worked for a leader one time who led with the idea that you could not make everyone happy, but as long as you treated everyone in a consistent, fair manner, people may not be happy with your decisions, but they could at least respect you.

Are you all things to all people?

A Noisy World

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It is hard to escape all of the noise that exists around us. There is the noise you actually hear, such as barking dogs and loud children (something that is heard quite often in my home.) Or the noise you do not hear – all of the outside influences, such as social media, other people, or the many things that roll around inside your brain on a daily basis.

When we talk about a noisy world, I personally believe the internal noise that we deal with is far more difficult to process than noise that is obvious. I know this seems like a confusing idea, but let me put it into perspective for you.

I am a writer, when I sit down to write a blog, story, or article, I prefer to have quiet so I can think and hopefully string together a couple of intelligent thoughts. Sometimes it works, other times, not so much! Can I work if the house is noisy? Of course I can, it just makes it a bit more difficult to concentrate, but not impossible. On the other hand, I can be sitting in a quiet room working on a story, but cannot focus due to all of the “noise” going on inside my head. The list of everything I need to work on, the kids’ schedules, does this blog really make sense, did I forget to pick up the dry-cleaning; what on earth am I going to make for dinner…. dare I even mention the crazy stuff on Twitter? See how difficult it can be to think about the actual work at hand when we cannot clear our minds to focus?

This scenario can be challenging for a leader. You are tasked with leading a group or an organization when there are so many things that can and usually happen in a day creating unnecessary diversions in our paths. Keep in mind that I am not referring to interruptions from your team members or colleagues. Speaking with a team member about an issue should never be considered “noise” in my opinion. If someone is concerned enough to seek out your assistance, calling their concerns noise will not do much to solidify your position as a leader.   The type of noise I am referring to is the type that you can allow to overtake your brain, or you can squash it like a bug. Understanding that internal noise exists and getting rid of it can be a challenge. For some, it is getting up and taking a walk to step away from the noise for a moment. For me, I have personally found that jotting down notes on my writing ideas on paper helps keep me on track. For some reason, once I write something down the old-fashioned way, it puts my thoughts back in order. How do you block out all of the “noise” to effectively lead?

Yes Captain

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The other night I was watching the show “Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel.  (For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a fascinating look at those who fish for Alaskan King Crab.)  I began to think about how leadership exists in professions such as fishing.  It is clearly a top-down leadership hierarchy – one person in charge and the others follow orders. It is pretty obvious that the captain is in charge, and no one questions the decisions made (or if they choose to do so, it makes for interesting television!)

I have written before about leadership and title. I do have a strong belief that anyone has the potential to become a leader, regardless of his or her title. What about professions such as the military or operating a ship? A single person gives orders and the others are responsible for carrying them out, no questions asked. Does this leadership style impact the way in which a leader thinks about motivation? If someone knows that their orders will be followed regardless how they interact with their crew, does motivation really matter?  What do you think?