Don’t assume they know. Tell them!

SuppotDon’t you just love it when you can see the lightbulb come on in others?

Recently, I had a conversation with one of our senior leaders and they were talking extensively about servant leadership and the importance of it in our business.  As I then sat through several meetings after that, I was very keen in my observations of those leading and participating.   

What did I see?  That we need more servant leadership.  We need to lose the egos and practice some humility.  We need to stop working in silos.  We need to be inclusive of other perspectives.  We need to be respectful of people’s time and opinions.  We need to champion and challenge each other.  We need to get away from what’s most important to ME and put others and the good of the organization first.  We need people to realize that ‘how’ we get there is just as important as getting there (if not more so).

In listening to Walmart CEO, Mike Duke, over the last few years he has been very clear that servant leadership is an attribute and behavior expected from our leaders at all levels.  So why is it that this message isn’t always filtering down or demonstrated? 

Then I remembered one of Tim Yatsko’s (EVP @Walmart) favorite Don Soderquist (former COO @Walmart) quotes, “Don’t assume they know.  Tell them.”  While this is a paraphrase and Don was referring to Integrity – I think the theme of the message is equally relevant here.  Maybe their leaders, mentors, and peers aren’t telling them.  Or holding them accountable to it.

So, I am telling you.   Be a good servant leader. 🙂

If you become known for this throughout your organization, I guarantee you that your career will blossom and flourish.

Servant Leadership is one of those topics that should be a regular course of conversation, because it’s important!  And not just at work, but in life in general.  It’s not something that we turn on and off.  It’s something that permeates who you are and is reflected in your thoughts, words, and actions.   

I realize that we all have different aspirations, styles and ambitions in life, but my personal experiences have led me to the truth that I am most fulfilled and accomplish the most when I am able to help or serve others.

If servant leadership is a new concept to you or is something you don’t understand, feel free to reach out to me, your mentors, or your leaders and inquire.  This is one of those “journey” things.  We all have to start somewhere.  Once we start, we find that there is always more to learn.  And the people that care about your growth and development should be happy to help you on your journey.  🙂

Special note for leaders:  Teach.  Teach servant leadership.  In your words.  In your actions. Talk to your teams about it. Don’t assume they know.  Expect it from the leaders on your team, whether up-and-coming or seasoned.  Hold them accountable to it.  Teach them to teach it.  If you want to leave a mighty legacy – invest this in others.

 If you take anything away  – let it be this –>   Be a good servant leader. 

 How do you demonstrate good servant leadership?

There Is Hope!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the Mi Futuro mentoring program graduation. 

For those of you unfamiliar, Mi Futuro (which means My Future in Spanish) is an 8th Grade mentoring program that was started three years ago spawned from an idea shared by a couple Walmart Associates.  Volunteer mentors from  Walmart/Sam’s Club spend one hour a month with a group of handpicked students over the course of their school year.   They discuss topics ranging from goal setting, to public speaking, to high school prep, to college prep and beyond.  The goal is encourage the students to think broader and more positively about their future.

This is the third school year we’ve done this.  And the program has grown extensively, much to some Associate leaders’ vision and dedication.   The first class started with one school and 26 students.  This year, there were 8 participating schools with 13 mentoring groups and over 300 students participating in the program.

Initially, the program was targeted at Hispanic students that showed promise, but were at risk (whether due to family situations, social influences, etc.).  The program now represents total school demographics, but still targets those same promising students that are at risk.

Next year, the goal is to reach over 1,500 students and have over 50 schools represented across the United States.

The reason I write all of this comes down to a couple statements made by students during the program.

First, the self awareness of these students was a little surprising to me.  While talking about the program and her future, one of the students said, “I don’t want to get lost in the crowd.”  Then she continued on to talk about her dreams and how she was going to succeed.  Her determination was admirable!  It was a proud moment for every mentor in the room.

Second, and perhaps more impactful, was a statement made by one of the students from the first year of the program.  We had three students from the first year (now sophomores in high school) talk about the impact of the program on them and the lessons learned from their two years of seniority over the kids in the audience.  This student, who was the least formally dressed of the three, who started every sentence with “I guess…” said something incredibly profound.  He said, “I will be the first to go to college from my family.”  Then he said, “I want my little brother to follow in my footsteps.

This statement took my breath away and made tears well up in my eyes.  Here is a sophomore in high school that was mentored and is now mentoring and setting an example for his little brother.   This is what it is all about.

In that moment, it was clear that this precious investment of time that the mentors provide these students is making a difference.

Often when we talk about mentoring at work we’re thinking about either our own professional development and/or how we are developing others in their positions or skills (which is important!).  Rarely though do I hear about people developing our next generation on a continuous basis.

But, as we get older, we realize how fast the time goes and we start to see the bigger picture.  If we don’t take the time to mentor, develop, grow, shape, and inspire our future generation what will the future hold for our society?

The good news?  There is hope!  I saw it and heard it yesterday.

My challenge to you is to find time to invest in the upcoming generation on a continuous basis.   Whether it’s Mi Futuro (for you Walmart/Sam’s Club associates), the Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, a church youth program, or some other youth program – INVEST in the future of a child.  If we all joined in this investment just imagine what the future could hold.  There is great hope in our future!

Will you rise to the challenge?

A Conscious Legacy

Last night, I was doing some blog surfing when I came across a blog by a gentleman named Rick Forbus.  In one of his posts, he was recanting the recent loss of his father and the importance of the legacy that he left.

Rick made a great statement in his post, “Leaders are conscious of their legacy.

As the night went on, my mind kept drifting back to this statement.

I think there is real truth and power in this statement.  I have one small tweak though  – “Good leaders are conscious of their legacy.”

And not only are they conscious, but they are also deliberate, passionate, and diligent when it comes to the legacy that they are creating.

They realize that they have the power to build up, grow, nurture, develop, encourage and inspire others; just as much as they have the power to do the opposite.  The question though is, “What will they choose to do with their time?”

One of my favorite leadership quotes is from baseball hero Jackie Robinson who said, A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” 

As stated by Al Duncan, what Jackie meant was “Do something to breakdown a barrier or carve out a path for someone else, not once, but as often as you can.”

Leadership is not about one time; it’s about as many times as possible.

There are many types of legacies that leaders can leave, but what I want to focus on here are four words for those of you aspiring to be good (or even great) leaders.  In thinking about the legacy you will leave, be:

  • Conscious.  Be aware of what you are doing.  Know what your words, body language, and actions really say.  Know how they impact others.  Be self-aware of the message you send – always.  Leaders are always “on”.
  • Deliberate.  Be intentional about growing and developing others.  Seek out opportunities to nurture others – don’t be a passive bystander.   The greatest legacy you will leave behind is that in which you have invested in others.   Purposefully and actively think through how those within your sphere of influence will best be encouraged – and then act on it.
  • Passionate.  Be fanatical in your advocacy and support of other people.  Clear their path, give them the tools, and then get out of the way – and not just once – do it over and over again.  When they don’t think they can do it, lend them your energy and inspire them to new heights.
  • Diligent.   Be tenacious.  Developing others is hard work. It may take you many attempts with some people, but I promise you that the reward of seeing them blossom is absolutely worth it.

Leaving a legacy is not something that happens after you’ve left this earth.  Leaving a legacy is about now.  It’s about the investments that you made yesterday, today, and the one’s you’ll make tomorrow.

So, be conscious – be deliberate – be passionate – and be diligent in the legacy that you are creating in others.

What are you doing about your legacy today?

Steve Jobs: Don’t Settle

As my daughter and I were getting ready to leave the soccer fields tonight, my iPhone buzzed.  It was a text from our local news station letting me know that Steve Jobs had passed away.

When I arrived home, I grabbed my Mac Book Pro and sat down in our family room to surf for some more news about the tragedy.  As I looked around the room, my wife was on her iPhone, my 8 year old was playing on her iPod, and my 3 year old was watching a movie on our iPad that she launched from iTunes.

It was a profound moment of realization at the impact of what this one visionary had created.

Jobs was a visionary.  He created things that will impact us for generations to come.  He laid an amazing foundation from which even greater innovation will come.

He didn’t just create things that we wanted.  He was able to create things we never dreamed about.  Things that stretched imagination.  Things that made our lives better.

But why?  How?

Then I found it.  Buried in an interview he conducted somewhere along his journey, two little words.

“Don’t settle.”

He didn’t settle in the way he designed and innovated.  He didn’t settle when he was losing millions of dollars in Apple.  He didn’t settle when the naysayers were their loudest.  He didn’t settle when there was an easier path.  He didn’t settle in developing a great culture and company.  He didn’t settle in developing others.  He didn’t settle when it came to his customers.

He didn’t settle…       …and ended up doing the impossible and building the improbable.

Interestingly, he also said, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

And it’s through this relentless pursuit and passion that he created a legacy that will live for decades ….perhaps forever.  He was inspirational.

There are many leadership lessons to learn from the life of Steve Jobs.  But for now, I will simply say we will miss him.

What kind of legacy will you leave?

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