I had this great moment with my son recently – he inspired a wonderful aha. It took me barely any time to write down my thoughts, which turned into this blog/article, and before I could think twice, I shared it with my contact and Editor at West Michigan Woman, Amy Charles. I told her I had no plan when I wrote it – I wrote it for me – and she could use it as she saw fit. To my happy surprise, just two weeks later, I opened the online magazine to see it had been published! See below…
I was viewing a Performance Art installation at the museum. The artist/poet was sitting amidst hundreds of loose torn-from-dictionary-black-and-white pages strewn across the floor and posted to the walls. He was nestled in a large padded Victorian-inspired chair, sitting a bit askew with legs draped across the chair’s arm. As each person approached, he gave them a side-glance and a nod, waiting for the single uttered word which would initiate his brief inward stillness, inspiring a spontaneous poem to be written on one of the pages strewn about. Initially I was exasperated at the length of the line (thank-you to my daughter for coaxing me to stay!) – those who had made it through were audibly amazed at the perfection of the messages they received, motivating us to wait. My exasperation turned into curiosity and then angst as I realized “Oh! I’m next…what is my word??!”
Transformation. I love transformation. Transformation is why I secretly enjoy washing a dirty floor. Why I bought two fixer-uppers in my twenties. And why I love being a coach. Nothing better than observing the growth, the movement, the aha’s, the change, the before & after, the betterment that has taken place! So subtle – barely recognizable mid-process really. And then, suddenly, “Wow, what happened?” – polished, clean, transformed! Transformation is exhilarating (to me anyway!).
He was right. The poet, that is. He handed me my poem, simply put, “the transformation happens regardless of what you call it”. The kind of transformation clients hire me for is directional (upward!), and in alignment with their goals. AND, it is intentional. What about when it’s not? Because that happens too…
The point is, transformation does happen, regardless. We are never really static. Shifting, ever so subtly in one direction or another – not even realizing it is happening. Sometimes if not intentionally forward moving, transformation can be negative. Before you realize it, before you can stop the momentum, you’re there. In this place where you don’t recognize yourself anymore. Disengaged. Complacent. Withdrawn. Underutilized. Negative. Unhappy. This isn’t me…
I find, close to 100% of the time, in retrospect, clients know they knew when the shifted happened. The shift in the wrong direction. Let me say that again. On some sub-conscious level, they knew! They (now) know they knew (back then), instinctively, they were heading in the wrong direction. And didn’t pay attention to the warning signs. The dishonoring of self. Sometimes it seems so much easier to ignore your intuition. In the short run! In addition to the presence-of-mind to be able hear, and listen, to your intuition, courage is required. Courage, a.k.a. your voice, moxie, energy, the strength to course-correct, and head back in a positive direction.
You are in control. If you want to be. Transformation is going to happen regardless of what you call it…get mindful and intentional about yours, and set your trajectory in a positive direction.
Have you ever driven a zero-point-turn mower? I was recently and reluctantly granted permission to use my dad’s coveted mower while helping my parents manage their five acre yard due to Dad’s health issues. As a kid, I loved driving…anything – tractors, minibikes, motorcycles, snowmobiles, cars, and horses (technically you ride a horse not drive it, but you get my point). And now I was going to add zero-point-turn mower to my list. I anticipated I would put my earbuds in, enjoy the sunshine, and have a relaxing uneventful ride. Well, that was my intention anyway.
I didn’t realize it was initially going to be such a challenge! Full engagement!! This machine required my full attention, so no earbuds. You see, the clutch, the power/gas, the steering wheel, and the gear shift/neutral are ALL maneuvered from the handles…separate right and left handles – requiring supreme coordination. God forbid you itch your nose while driving, and end up veering off in the wrong direction…oops, was that a strawberry plant?
In the first half-hour of my grass-cutting adventure, I could not stop thinking about all of the leadership metaphors! Primarily centered around engagement. I was so “in it to win it”. My senses were heightened. I was excited. I was challenged. I wanted to do a great job for my parents and prove myself worthy of the task, and that meant taming this beast. How silly that I could be having so much fun cutting the lawn?! But I was!
I realized all three of the factors from Daniel Pink’s book DRIVE were fulfilled – Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. Mastery: My desire to learn, master, and quickly conquer this machine was off the charts. Autonomy: My dad had given me a quick lesson while still parked in the barn, covering the basic mechanics and some trouble shooting, and then I was off to figure it out on my own. Purpose: All of us, my sisters, and spouses included, were helping out during this rough patch with Dad’s health. Taking care of the yard was important to him, so it was important to us.
Engagement is a huge topic in business as the estimated and conservative costs of disengagement are 10-20% of revenue according to the forbesbooks.com article, “The Real Cost Of Employee Disengagement”. And, based on the Harvard Business Review “Disengaged Employees? Do Something About It” article, only 30% of employees are engaged, which means 70% are disengaged! The impact on business is substantial. What to do?
Some of my aha’s:
- The challenge of learning something new is/was fun! When’s the last time you were engaged?
- Basic training followed by the freedom to figure it out and work out the kinks…mistakes included, was critical.
- “Goldilocks” feedback is a critical step in the engagement process – not too much, not too little…training/guiding/tweaking while encouraging.
- Mastery takes time. Period. Get out of your head and cut yourself some slack. I know I didn’t do a perfect job, but for a first timer, I did do a great job. [NOTE: I see this with many clients who step into new roles…they berate themselves for not being immediately accomplished and go into “giving up”/disengagement mode very quickly. Incredibly self defeating. Do yourself a favor and discuss and set realistic expectations]
- Some people enjoy the challenge of learning something new, some people enjoy the perfection of a job well done, some people want the praise from a respected leader, etc. etc. Learn what your constituents need and want. Find ways to engage them.
- My first few rounds were slow. Be patient with yourself. I couldn’t have gotten up-to-speed as quickly if I hadn’t taken time to learn on the front end.
All said and done, it was great to be so engaged in something! My ultimate test was the last section right behind the deck (short up and down turns) …with my father watching. My absolute best and tightest turns of the day. I got the nod.
Many business travelers know this feeling…realizing you just missed your connection by 20 minutes at the end of the night, in the middle of a snowstorm, with no hotels left in the area. leadership
I just rescheduled my connecting flight for an early morning departure. Bummer. After asking the ticket agent if there was a spot for stranded travelers, I was directed to a huge pile of mattresses, blankets, and pillows in a big heap at the end of the concourse. I collected my loot and asked another woman for the “best place to sleep” – she winked and directed me to a quiet little secret hideaway on the concourse balcony. Up the stairs I climbed with my mattress, pillow, blanket, purse, and backpack in hand. Out-of-breath, I chose “my spot” – not one of the fellow straggler-travelers glanced in my direction. In an effort to change the dynamic, I dropped my belongings and immediately began introducing myself to my new roommates. Nearest me were Steve, Hannah, and ticked-off grumpy guy.
In terms of airport-overnight stays, I hit the jackpot! An outlet for my devices, chairs to act as a wall, a mattress (vs. a cot – once upon a time in O’Hare…awful!), and a “trust buddy” in Steve (Steve and I made a pact to watch out for each other on bathroom runs, etc.). Right now, sitting on these two chairs with my feet up, I really couldn’t be too much more comfortable in my own living room – that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. It’s all good. Let’s see what I say in the morning – LOL.
In these situations I love the leadership metaphors that emerge! Here are a few from tonight:
- Trust is a visceral, gut-level, instinctual thing – Standing in line to rebook connections for our 3-4 hour-delayed flight – the young woman behind me, who had barely spoken a word, looked up at me and said “when we get into MN, I live 10 minutes from the airport – you are welcome to stay in the spare bedroom – you can Uber back in the morning to catch your connecting flight.” I laughed, suggesting she was being a bit hasty to invite a stranger into her home, and she responded, “No…I can tell, you’re a good person. You’re welcome to come over if you want.” Unfortunately we lost each other after the flight, but the gesture was not lost on me. Tia, my hero! I so appreciated her trust in me (it was mutual :)).
- How you conduct yourself in a crisis says everything about you as a leader – Need I say more? We’ve all seen the range of behaviors at the airport…
- A common goal or situation can bring people together if rallied. But until rallied, they are just individuals experiencing the same situation.
- People generally don’t trust (or like) grumpy/negative people…or leaders – Everyone steered clear of grumpy guy – I know I felt his bad energy and definitely avoided him. We had this cool vibe going with the other passengers coming together, and he did not fit in. At some point in the middle-of-the-night he disappeared. Our energy speaks louder than our words!
- Unaware people/team members can negatively impact the team. This section of the airport is designated as a “quiet area”. Travelers are attempting to sleep (it is midnight after all) and the influx of unaware late-comers is disruptive and rude at best…loud sarcastic comments (man, this sucks…living the dream!) and lengthy phone conversations (go in the hallway!). Clueless.
- Put yourself out there and do the right thing – AND – Human kindness is our default mode. When I introduced myself and suggested we be “trust/watch-your-stuff-buddies”, the look of relief was palpable…often times, others are “thinking the same thing” but are afraid to speak up. My new buddy Steve, and I, took care of each other…nothing like shared subs, apples, and toothpaste to say “I care.” And again, Tia.
Whether traveling across the country, or traveling into your office…what does your leadership say about you?
I walk into Rishi’s International Beverage to purchase my annual “alcohol inspired” client gifts. Within seconds of walking in the door, the owner Rishi, who is finishing up with another customer, locks eyes with me, comes over and gives me a hearty hug and a warm hello! He knows exactly who I am, yet I only visit his store once a year for approximately 10 minutes (admittedly, I do spend hundreds of dollars in that span of time :)). He springs into action – knowing my intention for locating specialty, high-end, totally indulgent selections. He escorts me around the store, inquiring about my executive clients, one by one. “So tell me about this guy – what’s he like, what’s his personality, what’s your price point, what type of alcohol?” Trusting him implicitly with the task of making the perfect selection (he hasn’t failed me yet!), I respond, “Well…he’s grounded, salt-of-the-earth, classy, manscaped (yes, I actually said that), he likes to drink X, and I want to spend about….” “I have just the perfect thing.” Done. He gives me a brief description and rationale about the choice – we’re on to the next one. One of my responses sends him into the back room to grab a special one-of-ten-from-the-private-inventory bottles of Bourbon. Buying from Rishi is fun. Plain and simple. This is not a liquor store, it is an Alcohol Emporium! He leads by example – his team is engaged, conversational, and professional. As I was paying, I thought, Hmmm…who would have thought, inspiring leadership at a liquor store…no, correction, inspiring LITER-SHIP at a liquor store! Ha!!
In Inc. Magazine’s article, “10 Things Every Customer Wants” author Geoffrey James, teases the reader with the the tagline: “Surprisingly, the best price and best value is at the bottom of the customer’s priority list.” The Top 10:
- Bring New Perspectives and Ideas (help the customer come up with workable solutions)
- Be Willing to Collaborate (customers do not want to be sold, they want you to work with them!)
- Have Confidence in Your Ability to Achieve Results (your confidence is contagious and knowledge in your product greatly impacts the customers’ belief in your solution)
- Listen, Really Listen, to the Customer (It’s about the customer not you – as much as you want to interject with the perceived product offering, let them finish)
- Understand ALL the Customer’s Needs (how will buying from you satisfy their product needs AND their personal needs?)
- Help the Customer Avoid Potential Pitfalls (customers what your help minimizing risk with the purchase…they are relying on you to help them)
- Craft a Compelling Solution (customers expect solution selling – defining and promoting a workable solution)
- Communicate the Purchasing Process (the expectation is no surprises, no last minute up-selling, plain and simple language about price)
- Connect Personally With the Customer (“ultimately every selling situation involves making a connection between two individuals who like and trust each other”)
- Provide Value that’s Superior to Other Options (#10, the first time price is mentioned…if you can’t meet the above 9, and the price is lower somewhere else, your customers should go buy from someone else!)
Amazingly, I could check of every one of these Top 10 in my 10-15 minute encounter with Rishi! It is no wonder he’s growing!
In the Harvard Business Review article “The State of Customer Service Leadership”, Leonard A. Schlesinger states,
Many of the essential skills that great service leaders must have are similar to those that are important for all general managers—effective communication, the analytic ability to size up a situation quickly, skills of reflection and concentration, and the ability to inspire others//The basic relationships between employees, customers, and financial results, in that order, that we set forth in the original service profit chain formulation still hold true. But a great deal of research over the past 20 years or so have put a lot of meat on those bones. As one example, we’ve come to learn more about creating the high-trust environment that leads to engaged employees who provide exceptional service that makes customers coming back for more—a combination that results in higher revenues and profits.
When I dropped off one of those special bottles of Bourbon to a CEO client, he said, “Oh wow, I can’t wait to try this, I’m going to enjoy this!” I assured him, “I’m sure you will too, Rishi always takes care of me!”. His eye got wide, his head tilted to one side, and he said “That’s funny, somebody else said the exact same thing just the other day!”
A reputation for LITER-ship! Cheers!!