Servant Leaders Stand Up!

Over the last week, I’ve taken tons of calls and/or exchanged emails, texts and messages with many in the wake of the latest organizational restructure at Walmart.

As you might imagine, a large portion of those were from people that had been displaced and were working through the process of figuring out what’s next.

But what you may not expect is that about 1/3 of those were from people that were “left behind”. Those that remained in their roles and are now having to figure out a new normal.

And honestly – the conversations sounded very similar. People were nervous, uncertain, and anxious about what comes next.

So, let me cut to the chase.

Servant Leaders! It is time to stand up!

Regardless of where you fit in the organization, regardless of whether you are still with the organization or not, regardless of whether you have a team of direct reports or not – it’s time to stand up and be present!

And not just for those that were displaced, but for those that still remain as well.

Here’s 4 actions you can take right now!

  1. Identify.  Be mindful of your surroundings. Use your EQ to help you identify those that may be in need. Keep your radar up. Maybe now is the time to check in on that one person that you don’t know so well, but seems to be extra quiet today.
  1. Listen. Take the time to invest in others by just hearing them out. What are they worried or anxious about? What are they excited about? What questions do they have? You don’t have to have the answers for them. Often times, merely lending an ear is enough.
  1. Help.  Provide what assistance you can. And not just on the work stuff. Use your advice, network, knowledge, and maybe even a little research to provide what people may need, professionally and personally. Put in some effort. You don’t need to coddle them. Rather be honest and thoughtful.
  1. Encourage.  Lift them up.   Whether words, actions, or setting them up for small wins. Whatever it is – find ways to help them get moving in the right direction. The goal is to get them going and then keep them going. It will likely take more than a single action on your part. So, check back and follow up.

Servant leadership is not a new concept by any means, and I would hazard to guess you’re familiar with that to do. Now, just apply it and take action. Lift those around you.

We need servant leaders now more than ever. 

Will you accept the challenge to stand up?

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?

Retweet: Three Words That Will Transform Your Career

Today we’re going to take a little different spin.  

Personally and professionally, I find a lot of value in LinkedIn.  I love seeing what kinds of articles people post.  Yesterday, I came across a quick read by Bruce Kasanoff (entrepreneur, writer, speaker) that really has a great message that we need to remember and act on (often).  As it’s short and to the point, I will post the entire article below or you can click on the link here to access it on LinkedIn.  Enjoy!

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Three Words That Will Transform Your Career

Every time you encounter another person, think: help this person. It’s not altruistic. Nothing else can so quickly supercharge your career and improve the quality of your life.

When you walk into Starbucks for a coffee, think help this person about the barista who serves you. Instead of being frustrated that he isn’t moving fast enough, see if you can make him smile. Better yet, tell him to keep the change.

When the phone rings on a busy day, don’t get frustrated by the interruption. Think help this person while you answer the phone. Doing so will change your demeanor, your thought process, and the entire interaction.

If you have a subordinate who isn’t pulling her weight, instead of criticizing her, every time you see her think help this person. This doesn’t mean let her slide, or ignore her shortcomings. It means help her either improve her skills or find a position better suited to her strengths. But don’t just brush her aside; really help her.

But wait a minute – I know what some of you are thinking. What about the people who take credit for other people’s work? What about the rich and powerful who have gotten that way by crushing others? Doesn’t their success prove me wrong?

Not at all. Sure, there are some people who take the exact opposite strategy. But it takes real skill and focus to succeed by being evil, and most of us just don’t have the fortitude to pull it off. For those of us with a soul and a heart, the only real choice is to succeed by helping others.

By first thinking help this person, you will change the ways that others perceive you. There is no faster or more effective way to change your interactions and relationships. You will be viewed as a positive, constructive, helpful and dependable person. People will think you are more perceptive, attentive and understanding.

That’s why this way of thinking is not altruistic; it is selfish, in the best sense of the word. The single best way to help yourself is to always be looking for ways to help other people. Sure, you’ll be making the world a better place, and in the course of your life you will help many thousands of people. But don’t do it because you ought to, or because it’s the “right” thing to do.

Think help this person because you’re selfish, and proud of it.

Reach Out!

I was able to witness something awesome recently.  At the Walmart Shareholders Meeting this year, there was a brief moment that they were celebrating a young man named Tim Kerfoot from Canada that was named the International Associate of the Year.  Tim works at a distribution center.  Tim is also wheel chair bound.

Why was he the International Associate of the Year?  Well, when you listen to him (video below), it will take you about half a second to realize that this guy radiates positive energy and motivates others to be excellent.

Here is a man that has faced a huge adversity, could easily give up, or be ticked off at the world because of his lot in life, but you would never know it.  This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have troubles or struggles, it just means that he chooses not to let them dictate his attitude.  – which is absolutely awesome.

In fact, while they were recognizing him he said something that I thought was incredibly profound.  He said, “In the midst of a challenge, find people around you that can support you through it.  And then…..find people around you that you can support.

Think about that for a moment.  

What a great leadership lesson!

In the first half his statement, he basically says, when you need help – seek out those that can help you.  Ask for it.  Don’t go it alone.  Rely on others.  Get support.  Reach out!

This is such a fail point for so many leaders.  Often we think that we need to define ‘being strong’ as ‘doing it ourselves’ and ‘not showing weakness’.  There is nothing further from the truth!  We – you and Ineed other people.  That’s how we’re wired as human beings.  There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it may show greater leadership maturity if you do.   And quite frankly, we need other people to offset our own flaws, lift us up when we’re down, and strengthen us when we’re weak.  I’m sure that you’ve heard the old adage that a single stick is easily broken, but a bundle of sticks cannot be broken.   We need each other in order to succeed.

But, the coolest thing about what Tim said followed next.

“…then….find people around you that you can support.”  Wow!  This is POWERFUL! This simple statement brings the first half full circle.  It’s not just about asking for help when WE need it.  It’s about helping others when THEY need it.  This is very symbiotic and brings the whole concept of reaching out full circle.  When I hear this I picture someone reaching down in to the pit to help pull us out, but just as we’re about to be pulled out, we reach back and extend our hand to someone else.

Something important to point out here is that he used the word “FIND”.  This is an action word that we should pay close attention to.  When it comes to helping others, we shouldn’t wait for them to come to us.  We should FIND PEOPLE AROUND US THAT WE CAN SUPPORT.  Good leader’s don’t sit back and wait.  They take action to proactively and positively impact the lives of others.  This requires us to sharpen our skills of discernment and be aware and sensitive to what is happening around us.

REACH OUT – when you need help.

AND

REACH OUT – to help others.

As leaders, I challenge you to do both!  Both are healthy.  And if you are the kind of person that reaches out to help others more often than you ask for help, I guarantee you that someone will always be there for you when you need it.

Tim also made another neat statement.  He said, “Life is better with a team, with family and with friends.”  I couldn’t agree more.

With an outlook on life like this, it’s no wonder that Tim Kerfoot from DC 3059 in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada was Walmart’s International Associate of the Year.  Way to go Tim!

I’ve attached Tim’s acceptance video below.

Who needs you to reach out to them today?

4 Steps to Doing the Right Thing

Do you do the right thing?

I want to revisit where we were last time – talking about Integrity.  This is a timeless topic, but in recent days is timelier than ever before.

Before we get to far away from it, I also want to revisit the example we were using previously in talking about the University of Arkansas Head Football Coach situation.  While I don’t want to draw too much attention to this situation I do want to take a different look at it – this time through the lens of the actions and decisions of the Athletic Director Jeff Long.

While the coach’s actions brought about a very public ethical dilemma, Long’s response/reaction mitigated a lot of the negative that the coach had created and may have created an even greater positive focus on the integrity of the program that will have long lasting positive effects. 

He showed that the university valued ethical behavior over a winning coach, which is a lesson in and of itself not only the players, students, coaches, faculty, and fans, but for us as well.

How often do we focus on the results over how we achieved the results?  This plays out in business all the time.  Our job as leaders with integrity is to ensure our people understand the importance of the ‘how’.

Most interestingly for me was the ‘how’ in the way that Jeff Long tackled this ethical dilemma.  I’ve categorized these in to four distinct areas of action that were taken.

  • Acknowledge.  Houston, we have a problem.  Have you ever tried to avoid a negative situation because you know that it’s going to be painful and energy consuming?  I have.  But when it comes to ethical dilemmas we really can’t just sit on the fence and wait for things to blow over.  We need to deal with it.

When confronted initially with the situation, the first thing that Long did was acknowledge it.  While this was a very public situation for the university, he didn’t try to hide it. Instead, he stood in front of reporters and told them what he knew.  More importantly, he also said that he didn’t know everything and didn’t succumb to the requests to speculate. 

  • Set Expectations.  Okay…so we know have a problem.  Now what?  You need to define what needs to happen next.  And whether that is simply for your own benefit to organize or to publicly let others know what your plan of action is, definition is important because it gives you structure for dealing with the situation.  Jeff Long did this very well. Once he acknowledged the situation, he said, “Here is what I’m going to do next.”  He didn’t paint himself in to a corner either by setting artificial timelines.  He simply said, “Here is what we are going to do.”  And more important than setting the expectation for himself and the public, he followed through on what he said, which improved his credibility significantly.
  • Consult.  Do I need to shoulder all of this responsibility myself?  Absolutely not.  While I don’t possess a PhD in human psychology, I have a hard time believing that humans are built to handle tough decisions alone.  We have a safety net of people that make up our social sphere that help guide us along the way.  This may be your parents, or a sibling, best friend, pastor, boss, career mentor, legal resource, counselor, or other source.  The fact is, gaining other perspectives on tough decisions is a great idea.  I know that I use a network of trusted people in my life to help give me perspective all of the time.

In his statement, Long stated that he sought counsel and perspective from others.  Undoubtedly, there were very different perspectives presented, but in the end, he had to take in all of the information, filter, and then make the best possible decision.  The same is true for all of us.

  • Decide and Act.   Making tough decisions isn’t easy.  Acting upon them is sometimes even harder.  As I looked at these two actions, I thought about splitting them out in to their own points.  But as I looked closer, I believe that you can’t separate them because they are absolutely interconnected. 

As a leader, you can’t decide and then not act. If you don’t act then you really didn’t do anything, now did you?  Leaders make and act on tough decisions.  Don’t forget that.  If you can’t, then being in a leadership position may not be for you.

At the end of the day, Long made a very tough decision.  He made the right decision (in my opinion).  But he didn’t stop at the decision.  He followed through with action.  He terminated the coach, he started a search for a new coach, and then hired a new coach.

One other side note and observation that I wanted to cover is the compassion that Long exhibited in the handling of the situation.  Not only was he sensitive to all that were impacted in the words that he used and privacy he maintained,  but his tone, demeanor, and delivery conveyed that he really cared about all of those involved (including the coach).  Following the above steps in a sterile manner may get you through the situation, but what people will remember is your sincerity and how you made them feel about it.

Every ethical decision that you come to in life may not be hyper-complex.  Some may be much more black and white and easy to quickly determine.  However, I’m confident that you will experience at least one or more difficult, complex, ‘gray’ decisions to make in your life.

Having a framework to approach and deal with these situations will be very important to your success.  Just remember to be sincere and compassionate as you face these challenges.

As leaders, we all have tough decisions to make.  Many may not be as public or complex as the one that Jeff Long faced, but tough decisions nonetheless.  While none of us are perfect, having the right tools in our toolbox will help us when those tough decisions come along.

My questions for you are:

  • Will you step up when it’s your time? 
  • Will you make the right decision when no one else is looking? 
  • Will you act with integrity? 
  • Will you teach integrity to those that look up to you?

3 Lessons from Walking Across the Office

Yesterday morning, I was reminded of some very important leadership lessons.  The funny thing is that they all occurred in a walk across the office that took less than 5 minutes.

On this particular walk, I was in heavy thought.  I was trying to process some complex information before getting to my destination.  As a result, my head was down, my eyes were on the floor, and I was walking briskly.  I wasn’t my normal friendly, approachable self.

And in that short walk from one side of the building to the other, this is what I learned:

Lesson 1:  Eyes on the floor and walking briskly are not a good combination.  It’s a recipe for disaster.   In my brief journey, I successfully ran in to another person coming around a corner,  ran in to a box of marketing materials,  and nearly ran in to a structural column.  Where was my “Danger, Will Robinson, danger” alarm? Simply, I wasn’t paying attention.  I was lost in my own world and was not cognizant of my surroundings.  Besides being a physical threat to myself and others, the lesson is a great leadership metaphor. 

Leaders need to keep their eyes on the horizon to successfully navigate changes in their environment.

Lesson 2:  I am a pretty friendly person and am a strong believer that a leader’s attitude is contagious, which is why I am quick to greet people, give a smile, or slap a high five.  With my head down and lost in thought, I was not acting like I normally do.  And as I walked by a colleague without looking up, he said, “Good Morning, Jason!” in a friendly, yet challenging tone.  I say hello to this guy every time I see him, but this time I didn’t – what was I thinking?  I’ve set a standard and expectation for my behavior, but failed in this moment. He realized it and said something.  I stopped, went back to him, shook his hand and apologized saying, “I’m sorry.  I was lost in thought.” 

What’s worse is that he wasn’t the only one that I did that to on this walk.  I was no more than 50 feet from him before the same situation repeated itself.  And I found myself apologizing in the same fashion.  “I’m sorry.  I was lost in thought.”  What a pathetic excuse.  It really didn’t matter why I didn’t say hello, the fact is that I failed again and was called on it again.  How many people did I pass that didn’t call me on it?

People not only pay attention to your actions, but also to your inactions. …and they hold you accountable.

Lesson 3:  A little later in the day, well after my brief walk, I was back to my normal self.  At our office coffee bar, I greeted an associate and asked her how she was doing.  Instead of responding to my question, she said, “I saw you this morning.”  And then softened her voice and turned her eyes down and finished, “…but you didn’t see me.”  Those words cut me straight to the core, “you didn’t see me”.  It’s every leader’s nightmare.  I asked her, “Where were you?”  She responded, “I walked right by you.”  Ugh! What was I doing?  I asked her why she didn’t say hello.  She responded that she thought I looked really busy and didn’t want to bother me.

I pulled my lame apology back out for the third time.  She said, “It’s okay.”  But I finished with, “No.  It isn’t.  And I am really sorry.”

People not only pay attention to a leader’s action and inaction, but they are impacted by them.

That was a lot of learning for such a short walk.  It goes to show that leaders are “on” all the time.  Whether you realize it or not, people are watching your every move and are impacted by what you do and don’t do. You don’t get “down time”.

While this may seem like a tough concept for leaders to accept, the fact is that more is required from you because of your position – whether formal or informal.  My favorite bible verse is Luke 12:48 because it speaks such truth for leaders –  To whom much is given, much is required.

I appreciate these associates for calling me out and helping me get back on track, because as leaders we are judged by our weakest moments.

So, keep your head up, eyes on the horizon, and make sure your actions positively impact others.

What lessons have you learned while walking across the office?

Put Some Jingle in Your Jangle!

I love this time of the year!  It’s so much fun!

Festivity abounds through the sights and the sounds; the giving and goodwill; the camaraderie of colleagues, family, and friends; and, well…..this time of year just makes me feel really good.

And for many of you, I bet this time of year makes you feel good too!

However, the holidays are not time to sit back on our leadership laurels and simply soak up the merriment and cheer.

It is the time for leaders to lead more than ever!  It’s time to put some pep in your leadership step.  Some extra glide in your leadership stride.  Some jingle in your leadership jangle!

“How do I do that?” you ask?

Here are 4 ways:

  • Set the Tone!  All year long, your teams look to your example for how to act.   I was about to say that this time of the year is no different, but that’s not true.  It’s very different.  This is the time of the year that is filled with all kinds of extra activities and demands on time – and quite frankly, your folks are going to be looking to you even more for what’s acceptable and what isn’t.  Should they go to the Divisional Christmas party or do they stay at their desk and work?   Should you go to the team charity event or not?  Should they pass out Christmas cards and gifts to each other?

You (the leader) need to set the tone for how to act and engage during the holiday season.  If there are rules to be followed, then say so and be clear and consistent.  Demonstrate the acceptable behavior.  For the good of the group, you may have to get outside of your own comfort zone to set the proper example (e.g., go to the department holiday party so that they know it’s okay to attend – even though you’d rather sit alone in your Grinch cave drinking eggnog by yourself).

  • Don’t get distracted!  While everyone may be worried if Santa Claus is coming to town or not, it’s not time to lose focus on what needs to be accomplished at work.  Set expectations and clearly communicate with your teams what needs to get done (and when) during this frenzy of activity, parties, parades, events, and vacations.  Without being Scrooge, help guide your teams to find the balance in their hectic schedules to make it all work.  Lead by example and make sure that you are getting your work done too!
  • Be highly observant!  While the holidays are generally a time of joy for most, there are those that may be struggling.  It could be that they miss their friends or family.  Or they have lost a loved one that won’t be there this year during the holidays.  Or maybe they are struggling financially to make ends meet for their family.  Regardless of the circumstance, you as their leader need to discern the situation and be sensitive to their plight.  It’s time to show compassion and care.  It’s time to provide encouragement and support.  Be a good shepherd and keep watch on all of your sheep!
  • Spread Joy!  This is one of the most important components of holiday leadership!  It is time to inspire and spread joy!  One of the best things you can do during this time of the year is share a smile, laugh, or word of encouragement or appreciation with those around you.  I wrote an article this last April that fits perfectly here.  Click here to learn 5 Ways to Spread a Little Joy!

What other ways can you step up your leadership game during the holiday season?

Get Out of Your Seat!

Day after day, I talk to lots of folks who are looking to improve any number of work place issues.  Whether its resolving a dispute, gaining performance out of others, understanding what people are thinking, or simply building relationships, people are looking for the good ‘how to’ answers.

While there are no silver bullets, I do believe that there is one simple way to solve the above issues (and more).

Simply, get out of your seat.  Go ask.  Go listen.  Go talk.  Go engage!

It’s amazing what a little direct interaction can do to solve your ills.  Back in the day, we didn’t have email, instant messenger, text, or other digital mediums to communicate through (or hide behind).  We actually had to talk face to face with each other.

While that may sound archaic, it’s extremely effective.  And those that do it well reap successful rewards.

So what can ‘getting out of your seat’ do for you?  Check out these three benefits.

Improve your health.  Really!  Instead of sitting and typing an email, get up and go talk!  I was recently reading an article by Michael Hyatt that highlighted the dangers of sitting in your seat for prolonged periods.  There was an infographic that stated that sitting 6+ hours per day increases your likelihood of death by 40% as compared to others that sit far less.  That’s a pretty compelling reason in and of itself to NOT rest on your laurels all day.   Make sure to read through the infographic  – it’s pretty interesting!

Solve issues faster.  More than once today, I talked with colleagues and was asked, “How should I deal with this person?”  My response each time?  Go talk with them.  Stop speculating, trying to interpret emails, and/or listening to the scuttlebutt dished by other people.  Take the initiative, be proactive, and go get face to face with the source.  If approached correctly, you will get to the root issue much faster and gain resolution much faster.

Expand your influence.  One of my favorite leadership tenets at my company is that of Coaching By Walking Around (CBWA).  This is an intentional activity where the leader engages with the troops where they are.  But more important than coaching, is listening.  A leader will learn far more about what is going on in the business, how employees feel, and what’s concerning them by getting out from behind the desk and asking.  The added benefits of this critical exercise, if done sincerely, are that you become more approachable, more appreciated, and more influential – which makes your coaching (when necessary) more readily accepted.

As with all things, you have to use common sense and know when to communicate in the right manner.  Learn to use your tools appropriately.  But when it comes to those issues listed in the first paragraph – get up and go!

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there!

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