Southwest Airlines Employee Demonstrates Heart In Saving A Lost Teddy Bear

Portions of this post were taken from one of my Forbes articles:

Good friend and fellow speaker Meredith Oliver texted me over the holidays.

“Just heard a news story about a Southwest Airlines employee going way above and beyond to find a lost teddy bear.” 

Here is a video from USA Today about the story:

This was a remarkable story. Steven Laudeman,  a Southwest employee for 13 years, demonstrated a great deal of heart to help an eight year old girl and family friend. He also had fun in the process.

The Heart Sets Things Apart

True advocacy begins only once you reach the heart of your customers. The heart has always been central to Southwest. One may point to the fact that airline was founded at Love Field in Dallas or that its stock ticker symbol is LUV. But according to Dr. Fathi El-NadiSouthwest‘s culture can be traced back to its founder. “Herb Kelleher encouraged informality and wanted staff to have fun at their jobs. Employees were valued, with Kelleher acknowledging births, marriages and deaths by notes and cards. Staff were encouraged to pitch in and help out, especially at check-in, giving Southwest turnaround times less than half the industry average.”

In 2014, Southwest made the heart a prominent part of its branding. It was added to the logo and is being painted on the underbelly of every plane.

The heart on the underbelly of the fuselage. Photo credit:

Start With Heart

How do you hire for heart? You need to put empathy front and central. Empathy is caring. Unlike a smile, you can’t fake empathy. It’s a vital aspect of customer experience. First of all, you need to make it a key hiring factor. In the past, Southwest employed a brilliant interviewing tactic when hiring flight attendants. The airline conducts group interviews. One by one, applicants will be asked to come to the front of the room. The task is to tell everyone their most embarrassing moment. Here’s the Judo-like application of the tactic. The applicant sharing their moment feels like they are being evaluated. Not so much. The interviewers are spending the majority of their focus on the audience. They are looking at the faces of the other interviewees. And they are looking for one thing: EMPATHY. Specifically, Southwest looks for three characteristics:

  • a warrior spirit
  • a servant’s heart
  • a fun-luving attitude

Differentiation is Now Further Downstream

According to marketing and branding expert Rohit Bhargava, “We now live in an age of equivalency.” It’s very difficult to differentiate with your product or service in our connected world. Professor Niraj Dawar asserts that this has forced differentiation to be further downstream. In an HBR article, he asserts the importance of shifting your strategy from products to customers. Marketing becomes your strategy. “ To compete effectively, companies must shift their focus upstream to downstream activities, emphasizing how they define their competitive set, influence customers’ purchase criteria, innovate to solve customer problems, and build advantage by accumulating customer data and harnessing network effect.”

Employees are Key to Experience

Southwest’s focus on employees is a smart move. Your employees bring the customer experience to life. You can’t make up for in training what you missed in hiring. Kelleher was famous for saying that, “You hire for attitude, train for skill.” You can’t train employees to care. In Kelleher’s view, “That was Mom and Dad’s job.” Front line employees are central to the experience. HCL Technologies CEO and best-selling author Vineet Nayar states, “We call this the ‘value zone.’ Every employee who works in the value zone is capable of creating more or less value. The whole intent of Employees First is to do everything we can to enable those employees to create the most possible value.

Logos as Symbols

What is a brand? For many, a simple definition is that, “a brand is a promise.” The symbol of the heart by Southwest is a promise to customers and a constant reminder to employees. According to the author of WTF – What’s the Future? Brian Solis, “Your brand is no longer what you say it is. Welcome to a new era of marketing and service in which your brand is defined by those who experience it.” I would only amend that slightly, “ Your brand is no longer what you say it is. Welcome to a new era of marketing and service in which your brand is defined by those who experience it and more importantly, by those who deliver it. ” Are you willing to put your heart into your brand?

Photo credit: Stan Phelps

Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Want more examples of how Southwest puts experience empowered by employees at the forefront of their brand? Here’s five inspiring case studies:

1. Holding a plane for a passenger going to see their dying grandson.

2. Recognizing the artistic efforts of a young passenger.

3. Stepping up to help a customer with a special need with JOY.

4. Party with a purpose.

5. A Creative Extra for a Customers’ Birthday

Purple, Green, Golden, and Blue: Pal's is a Goldfish Paradise

Burgers, hot dogs, fries, and milkshakes. It’s the quintessential backyard American food and a staple of Americana fast food. But these establishment are a dime a dozen, aren’t they? Sure, there are the Chick-fil-A’s of the world. But isn’t it nearly impossible to carve out your own identity in this sea of sameness?

Pal’s Sudden Service, a double drive-thru fast food restaurant chain with 26 locations in Tennessee and Virginia, is certainly up for the challenge. Pal’s believe that an emphasis on its people, speed, customer service, and quality is what truly sets them apart.

Here are five quick facts about Pal’s Sudden Service that demonstrate that the proof is really in the pudding (or their milkshakes for that matter): 

  1. An astonishingly low turnover rate with the at the assistant manager level coming in at 1.4 percent, the hourly staff at 32 percent, and has only lost seven general managers in 33 years. In comparison, most fast food chains have an average turnover rate between 50-150 percent with management and hourly employees aggregated together.
  2. An average of 18 seconds at the drive-up window, and an average of 12 seconds at the pickup window to receive the order for a grand total of 30 seconds. That’s four times faster than the second-fastest quick-serve restaurant in the country.
  3. Pal’s makes a mistake only once in every 3,600 orders. That’s nearly ten times better the the second most accurate fast food chain, Chick-fil-A.
  4. 1,100-square-foot buildings accruing right around $2 million per year in sales. That’s just over $1,818 per square foot. The iconic Shake Shack and Chipotle restaurant chains come in at $387 and $250 in comparison, respectively. Remember, it’s not how high your sales are, it’s how much you bring home to the bank.
  5. One of two restaurant chains that has ever won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. This prestigious award caused Pal’s to create the Business Excellence Institute (BEI) as a way to share best business practices with others. The other restaurant winner of the Baldrige award is a BEI client, Mighty Fine Burger.

By now you’re probably very impressed but this all begs the question, how does Pal’s do it? 

Here are seven differentiators that Pal’s has instituted that you can learn from:

  1. An emphasis on great people – Pal’s has developed and fine-tuned a screening system to evaluate candidates that includes a 60-point psychometric survey, based on the attitudes and attributes of Pal’s star performers, that does an unprecedented job of predicting who is most likely to succeed.
  2. Top-notch training – Once Pal’s selects its candidates, they put employees through 120 hours of training before they are allowed to work on their own, and must be certified in each of the specific jobs they do. Pal’s also has assembled a Master Reading List for all the leaders in the company and it includes 21 books that must be read. Every two weeks, the CEO, Thom Crosby, invites five managers from different locations to discuss one of the books on the Master Reading List.
  3. Ongoing training – Pal’s believes that all leaders are trainers and educators. They also believe that people educate by their attitudes, their behaviors, and by their focus. At Pal’s, every leader needs to have a coaching and training target every single day. Management and leadership asks their employees at random, “What’s your target for today?” Every single employee has to have a person and a topic every single day.
  4. Technology – Pal’s has a proprietary “training tracker” software system that manages all employees. The software quizzes employees at random every single day whether it’s their first day on the job or they’ve been there for 10 years. The software goes through the basics, the most critical parts of the operations with employees. Management then conducts an observation to make sure the employees are still adhering to the standard 100% without exceptions.
  5. Development of leaders – Employees who have scored 100 percent on four re-certifications are eligible to become coaches within their restaurants and help their colleagues consistently develop and adhere to their standards. According to the CEO, “We are looking to get people to this mastery level.”
  6. A commitment to staying top of mind – Pal’s recognizes that all restaurants are chosen from a defined mental rolodex by customers. and believe that customers only ever think about 2-10 establishments. This is the reason why Pal’s created their website to have a unique and inspiring thought of the day, local movie theatre showtimes, and the CEO answers every single question through the contact form. This is what keeps people coming back to Pal’s site and provides a useful service to the communities Pal’s serves.
  7. A focus on culture – According to the CEO, “Sometimes I get that itch that maybe it’s time to step up and expand faster. But we want to make sure that we hand off all the cultural pieces to each store. I see operations that outgrow their cultures. They can’t pass on their culture so they go from a really great concept with great people to weaker and weaker operations and people who don’t understand the origin of the culture.”

What’s preventing you from instituting world class principles just like Pal’s? Does your business do anything similar? Leave a comment below.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Be sure to check out this incredible overview about living your mission from the president of Pal’s BEI, David McClaskey.

Is It About You or Them? Make a Choice

By this time, it was mass chaos. Exacerbating matters was the fact that this was a post–September 11th world, where cute disguises don’t go over so well with airport security or law enforcement. Still thinking it was a heart attack, a defibrillator was used to shock me as Lindsay looked on in complete horror.

This is an excerpt from a story that my good friend, John Ruhlin, tells about his proposed engagement in his new book, Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention

John reflects on the situation and notes that his elaborate plan to dress up as an old man and surprise his then girlfriend was based on the fact that he loves surprises. She would have been happy with something simple and the engagement should have been more about her rather than him.

John then expounds on this notion and comments, “We make a gift all about us. It’s our event, our colors, our themes, our preferences, our whatever—and it has little to do with the recipient. Be thoughtful about what’s motivating you, and be honest with yourself…[giving] isn’t about stepping into the spotlight—it’s about shining the light on someone else.

This principle of putting others first and genuinely serving them applies to every Goldfish concept. Too often, companies and people are quick to ask how the Goldfish concepts can build the top-line instead of giving from a generous heart to make the lives of the people that they serve better. Here’s a synopsis of the Goldfish:

Purple Goldfish- Give the little things to your customers to touch their hearts and create a better experience.  

Green Goldfish- Go beyond dollars to drive employee engagement and reinforce culture.

Golden Goldfish- Take extra special care of the top 20% of your customers and employees.

Blue Goldfish- Leverage technology to create a better customer experience and differentiate from competition.

Red Goldfish- Embrace purpose to drive employee and customer engagement, and make an impact on the lives of those the purpose serves.

When most people hear those concepts, they typically comment that they share these values and believe that they they’re important, but…

That’s when all of the “but’s” begin to set in and negate everything that was said before:

  • We have to experience growth and have quantifiable metrics and returns for our shareholders and investors. We can’t gamble on an “expensive” initiative and not have it correlate to results.
  • My boss and the board just don’t share these ideals.
  • We just don’t have time. We’re too busy.

On and on it goes. What starts as a positive, fruitful discussion transitions into the same old focus of financial results and nothing more. Oftentimes people will even comment and talk about participating in these business principles but it’s almost always about them and their organization. For example:

  • You give nice gifts branded with your logo to try and buy the loyalty of customers.
  • You’re nice to your employees because it’s expensive to replace them.
  • You invest in technology to alleviate long-term costs.
  • You establish a “purpose” as though it’s a marketing campaign to convey how thoughtful and philanthropic you are.

What can you do about this? Here are the three easy steps that you can take immediately:

1. Make a deliberate choice. You don’t have to overhaul your entire organization today to embrace these principles. You simply need to be intentional about positively impacting your customers and employees and make this the focus of your decision-making. Make it about the people that you serve and the strategic plan and little bits of action will follow.

2. Be the catalyst for positive change. If you truly believe that giving, serving, and making a positive difference in the lives of others then why have you not made this clear to your organization? Is it because you’re afraid of being talked about, not fitting in, detracting focus, or temporarily failing? Relentless commitment to creating and sharing vision with others is how positive change will permeate in your business.

3. Establish a plan. Would our team like to work with you to make executing these principles faster and easier? Of course. However, you can do this yourself if you’re willing to take little bits of daily action to intentionally design your customer experience, employee engagement, technology, and purpose. When you figure out what the right inputs are then you’ll inherently discover how they correlate to your top-line results.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – If you have an hour, check out Lewis Howes interviewing John Ruhlin about the principles of radical generosity. It’s worth your time!


Golden Goldfish – All Customer and Employees are not Created Equal

Here is a slideshare on the third book in the Goldfish Series, the Golden Goldfish: The book is based on the simple premise that all customers and employees are not created equal. For most businesses, 80% of profitability is driven by the top 20% of customers and employees. These are simply your “Vital Few.” The book focuses on nine different ways to do the “little extras” to promote customer advocacy and drive employee engagement with these key stakeholders.

Pareto’s 80/20 principle is brought to life by authors Yoon, Carlotti and Moore in a case study about Kraft Velveeta cheese. In 2012, sales of Velveeta cheese were on a downward trajectory. The brand managers were faced with a challenge. Should they focus on getting lapsed consumers to buy Velveeta again? Or should they work to get occasional purchasers to buy more frequently? Their research uncovered that the top 10% of Velveeta buyers account for over 50% of profit. Kraft decided to focused on this key segment of 2.4 million consumers. According to Greg Gallagher, Velveeta Marketing Director, “The previous thinking was that the quickest, easiest path to growth was to identify light users or lapsed users. But when we talked to superconsumers, we learned that in fact they wanted to use Velveeta more —they were starving for it.” Kraft went to work on creating brand extensions. Additional products that contained Velveeta. The results are anything but cheesy. New product spin-offs totaled over $100 million in additional sales.

GOLDEN GOLDFISH LESSON: Do more for your best ones. In the words of Yoon, Carlotti, and Moore, “Show the love to those that love you the most.”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Speaking of a Golden and a Goldfish, here is a video of Rellie the Golden Retriever discovering a goldfish tank for the first time:

10 Goldfish Takeaways From The ae3 Conference

Building Value

I had the opportunity last week to speak at the ae3 Conference in Houston. ae3 is an alliance of energy services companies that offer energy, economic and environment solutions for non-residential buildings, central plants and landfills. The theme of the event was “Building Value.” I opened the conference with a keynote on the Purple Goldfish and the idea that the little things can truly make the biggest difference. On Day Two I held breakout sessions in each of the conference tracks. We covered Green Goldfish as part of the Leadership Track, Blue Goldfish as part of the Technology Track, and Golden Goldfish as part of the Sales Track. On the third and final day of the conference I presented a closing keynote that recapped the takeaways from the conference.

One of nice additions by the conference was the hiring of a graphic recorder. Caryn Sterling of Drawing Insight joined me for each breakout.


Here is a slideshare that shares the top 10 takeaways and ideas from the ae3 Conference:

Top 10 Takeaways

Here’s a recap of the top 10 ideas:
1. Purple Goldfish – Type: Convenience. One company changed their reporting schedule to mesh with their client. The client needed certain timing to coincide with their SAP system requirements and reporting guidelines.
2. Purple Goldfish – Type: Added Service. One of the challenges of servicing a chiller unit is that the work is not visual on the outside. Similar to the idea of a hotel folding over the toilet paper in the bathroom to indicate it has been cleaned, one attendee shared how they use armor all on the insulation outside of the chiller unit. It’s an added service that visually communicates that the unit has been serviced.
3. Purple Goldfish – Type: Guarantee. One attendee at the conference shared their practice of writing a letter to clients to share a guarantee. They would state a “no bad jobs” guarantee. This gave the client license to reach out if they were unsatisfied with any of the work. It opened the lines of communication and afforded them the luxury of handling mistakes quickly.
4. Purple Goldfish – Type: First/Last Impressions. When one attendee finishes a large rooftop installation for a client, they’d do a signature extra. They would fly a drone up above to take photos and videos to share with the client. A nice little extra to show off the work and make a strong last impression on the customer.
5. Green Goldfish – Type: Onboarding. Managing the first few months of a new hire is critical. Leaders need to establish a strong connection with new employees. The vast majority of employees will make a decision during onboarding whether or not they plan to be with the company for the long term.
6. Green Goldfish – Type: Recognition. One company at the conference has a program called, “You’ve been noticed.” When an employee is seen to demonstrate the corporate values, they can be nominated for an award. Each quarter the firm receives between 45 to 60 peer nominations.
7. Blue Goldfish – Type: Relationship. Business is now about being an insights to actions function. How can learn about your customers faster than your competition and then how can you put those learnings into actions faster.
8. Blue Goldfish – Type: Responsiveness. An attendee shared how their technicians use tablets in the field. The tablet is connected to the back end at corporate. This eliminates the need for paper and increases efficiency. The technician can document on the spot and get sign-off from the client. It’s connected to billing which speeds up turnaround on receivables.
9. Golden Goldfish – Type: Throw-In’s. Not all customers are created equal. You want to do the little extras for your “vital few” customers. Given the Pareto Principle, we know that the top 20% of customers will drive 80% of profitability. This effect is what Joseph Juran called, “The law of the vital few and the trivial many.”
10. Golden Goldfish – Type: Follow-up. One attendee shared how they combat the curse of knowledge. We assume in business that our customers understand all of the solutions we provide. The truth is that they typically know only 20% of our capabilities. The company has a program called, “I Didn’t Know You Did That.” They are constantly reminded their customers of their full range of services by sharing them on their website, emails, newsletters, and invoices.
Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – We shared an idea about drones in this post. Here is some amazing footage of our planet shot using drones:

Breaking Out of the Sea of Sameness

Education of the masses - Cloning the brains of people

My colleague, Brooks Briz, recently shared a fantastic post: What The Heck’s a Purple Goldfish Anyhow? In it, Brooks explains that while the theory behind Purple Goldfish is rather simple, actually giving those “little extras” on a consistent basis is entirely different. In fact, ingraining that something extra into your everyday business practice is so rare, you’d be hard pressed to think of an example outside marketing giants with huge budgets like Southwest Airlines and Chick-fil-A. Maybe that’s why this article about Hyatt attempting to make an emotional connection with customers through each of its different properties really struck me hard this week.

Read more

The Amsterdam Window: How Transparency And Openness Drive Employee Engagement

Portions of this post were part of a post over at 9 INCH marketing and they were featured in the book, Green Goldfish – Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Drive Employee Engagement and Reinforce Culture:

In order to have a strong engaged workplace, you need Transparency and Openness.

Dave Hitz of NetApp believes there are 3 ways to achieve engagement: 1. People like who they work with, 2. They do work that is meaningful and 3. They trust the management. Keying on #3, it begs the question, “How do you build trust?” Let’s look for guidance from India’s HCL Technologies.

Vineet Nayar, the former CEO of HCL Technologies touched on this in his bestselling book, Employees First, Customers Second. He outlines three ways that “Transparency builds Trust”:

  1. Employees First, Customer Second BookTransparency ensures that every stakeholder knows the company’s vision and understand how their contribution assist the organization in achieving its goals. Working in a environment without transparency is like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the finished picture is supposed to look like.
  2. It ensures that every stakeholder has a deep personal commitment to the aims of the organization.
  3. In a knowledge economy, we want customers to be transparent with us, to share their ideas, their vision and their strategies for solving core problems. Why would customers be transparent with us if we don’t trust employees enough to be transparent with them.

The Theory of the Amsterdam Window

amsterdam window theory

Vineet uses an analogy in his book of the Amsterdam Window. Having previously lived on the Herengracht (“Gentleman’s Canal”) in Amsterdam, I can attest that the windows are immense. They are a throwback to the modest Calvinist period when subtle expressions of wealth, such as being able to afford to pay the highest window tax, were favored by the rich. In the words of writer Joanna Tweedy, “Today, the centuries-old glass, beautifully imperfect, frames the olive-green waters outside and lets natural light, and the eyes of curious tourists, pour in.”

While visiting Amsterdam, Vineet asked his friend, “Why so large?” The friend mentioned all the obvious reasons like letting in light and enjoying the view of the canal, but then offered a much more interesting answer… “It keeps the house clean.” It turns out that the bigger your windows, the more glass you have, the more visible your dirt will be – to you and to everyone who visits or passes by. In Vineet’s words,

If you can see the dirt, you will be much more likely to get rid of it.  A transparent house has a dramatic effect on the culture inside.

Opening the Window of Information at HCL

HCL TechHCL (Green Goldfish #809) put together an online forum for employees called U&I. Employees could ask any question to the senior team at HCL Technologies. It was an open site where everyone could see the question, the questioner, and the answer. Employees responded favorably as noted by this comment,

This is the biggest change we have seen at HCL in years. Now we have a management team that is willing to acknowledge the dirt.”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is a TEDx talk by Vineet Nayar at TEDxAix. “Millions of employees walk through our organizations every day not just to get paid but to be inspired by the vision we have for them”, says Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies and author of Harvard Business Press bestseller “Employees First, Customers Second.” In this talk, Nayar gives a compelling account of how this idea channelized the energy and passion of 100,000 employees to increase HCL’s revenues and market cap over six times!

Why Do Good People Make Unethical Choices?

Guest Post by Chuck Gallagher

Is it safe to say that all organizations are expected act in an ethical manner when it comes to the legal, moral, and professional conduct related to the fulfillment of their professional responsibilities?  Who wouldn’t answer YES to this question? 

Yet, in my work as a professional ethics consultant and advocate, I have seen more examples of circumstances where good people, people that are well intentioned, make bad choices by taking one step on the slippery slope of unethical activity. 

The process of making bad choices, unethical choices, begins with a simple almost thoughtless decision.  How do I know?  Well, I am living proof that good people can make some really bad choices and the consequences most certainly can be devastating.  While not proud of this sentence, I have made unethical choices and spent time in federal prison as a result.  So, suffice it to say, I know a thing or two about the simplicity of making one step on the slippery slope that can lead a person to choices that are life changing.

The Three Components of Bad Behavior

If you look at any ethical failure there are three components that always are present in some form or fashion.  Need, Opportunity and Rationalization.  If one component is missing the ethical lapse fails or you can’t stand on the three-legged stool.

Need. Described as perceived pressure that a person is experiencing, is the first and critical component of what motives a person to stray from ethical to unethical. Need may come in a variety of forms. Typically need is triggered by financial issues, relationship issues or health concerns.  When life gets out of balance the NEED index rises dramatically.

Opportunity. It makes no difference what your need may be if you don’t have the opportunity to satisfy it then the unethical and potentially illegal choice fails. Without Opportunity there is no fuel for the potential unethical fire.

Rationalization. Need combined with opportunity provides a firm foundation, but the glue that holds unethical activity together is the ability to rationalize that what is wrong, is right.  If you ask most people found guilty of unethical/illegal behavior, they will tell you they felt their actions were legitimate.

The mind can be tricky and when you combine need with opportunity, and can rationalize bad behavior as good, you have the perfect storm to move from ethical to unethical, and potential illegal, behavior.

Your Ethical Culture

Every organization needs to remember that the creation of an ethical culture is exemplified in the actual behavior and attitudes of all team members.  The question is not so much whether you talk the talk (in policy documents, training materials or video or webinars), but whether you walk the walk. 

From a business ethics perspective, do you want to create a culture of ethical behavior in your organization? It’s easy if you think about it. When you start by understanding how good people make bad choices, and follow it with an effective ethics-training program that reinforces ethical choices and accountability, you have a recipe for success. Every choice has a consequence. What choices do you make for your organization to help keep your most valuable assets between the ethical lines?

Chuck Gallagher is a business ethics expert, consultant, keynote speaker, and author of Second Chances.

Five Unforgettable Bits of Wisdom from John Maxwell

Recently I went to Atlanta, GA, to help serve John Maxwell at a conference. It was a bit of a sacrifice, and I fell behind in my work by at least two days. I also paid my own way just to be there. You heard me correctly…I invested my time and hard-earned money to volunteer.

And I can tell you unequivocally that I would gladly pay to be able to serve, again and again. Spending 10 hours in a room with a master that had devoted his entire life to systems of leadership and constant growth was an honor.


Most would say that John Maxwell is a book writing machine (80 plus and counting), but I believe that he has merely chosen to be intentional, full of purpose, and dedicated to what he has been called to do in his vocation. Those simple decisions are all that it took for him to become the best in the world.

I have over 20 pages of notes on the topic of growth laws but I went ahead and developed the five top takeaways from the weekend along with my thoughts on them:

1. “Good becomes great when you change a life.”

As leaders, this should always be our sole goal in all that we do. Positively impacting and changing the lives of all of the people that we serve is what it’s all about. However, how often do we let ourselves get bogged down with the [not as] important, everyday activities? How often do we focus on our P&L, and only analyze the output numbers?

Those are good behaviors and overall mindset; but it’s one of the keys that separates the good from the great. Greatness transpires when a leader chooses to make a commitment to change lives of the people that they serve, and refuses to dilute their efforts with mediocre behaviors.

2. “Transformation begins within yourself. Start with you, and go from there.” 

Too often we set out to change and mold others when we’re the ones with the major character flaws. Before a flight takes off, who do the flight attendants tell you to take care of first in case of an emergency when the oxygen masks fall from the overhead compartment? For all of those that are too busy getting in those last second emails or watching Inception on your portable DVD player, they tell you to take care of yourself so that you can then care for others. You can’t help anyone if you’re on the floor gasping for air.

The same applies to engaging our people. If we can’t take care of ourselves, and lead in the way that the rest of the world is counting on us to; then there will be no one to follow us.

3. “Every day, get a win. Do something for someone that they couldn’t for themselves.” 

If we’re winning every single day, and celebrating those successes; then we’re making progress. The key to servant leadership is providing value to others by giving them something that they can’t do alone. Most people tend to overthink this component when it’s actually quite simple at its core.

Can people listen to themselves, and give tidbits of wisdom that they’ve never heard before? Can people learn something new that they currently know nothing about? Nope, and that’s where you, as the leader, need to step in and be proactive about how you can help others. As the saying goes, “the more you know, the more you know what you don’t know.”

4. “Don’t tell me, show me what you’re going to do.”

How many people do you know that are still talking about what they’re going to do, and all of the amazing plans that they have? If you’re honest with yourself, do you have the tendency to be one of those leaders as well at times?

This is especially pertinent when it comes to how you lead your people. They don’t care what you were, or are, going to do for them. They want to see how you can serve them, add value to them, and make their lives better. This is your responsibility and calling as a leader.

5. “No matter how far you go, you have to remember where you came from. That’s who you are, and that’s your foundation.” 

John ended his talk with a walking stick that reminds him where he’s been and what he has accomplished. Various areas of success have a way of putting us on a “feel good” drug where it becomes about you and what you’ve been able to achieve. In my estimation, John’s “walking stick” is the perfect symbol.

The walking stick helps support us when we’re dreary and want to give up. It helps us stay the course with where we’re going. It serves as a constant reminder with where we’ve been, what we’ve conquered, and helps keep us grounded.

This was my number one takeaway: “Where have you come from, and who are you, really?”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is John presenting the same content to Nerium, a network marketing company that achieved over $1b in sales in just under six years. Nerium went “all in” on John Maxwell’s teachings, and the results show that the proof is in the pudding.



Photo credit:

You Gotta Serve Somebody

Guest Post by Dee Ann TurnerVP of Enterprise Social Responsibility for Chick-fil-A

One of the things that I love about working for my organization is the commitment to service. Sure, we have a commitment to serve our guests, but we also serve one another.

One time, I spent a week with leaders in another organization. These were truly some outstanding people for whom I have deep love and respect, but during the course of the week, while I was under their leadership, I noticed a certain anxiety building in me.

By the end of the week, I identified the anxiety. It was the absence of being in the presence of servant leadership. During this time with these leaders, they practiced privilege rather than service. When there was a line, they were at the front. When we ate, they were served first. At events, they had premium seating. When others needed help, they allowed someone else to do it.

The absence of servant leadership that I experienced helped me to value what I may have taken for granted in my organization. Leadership is a tremendous responsibility to not only lead, but also to serve those we lead. In my organization, it is imbedded into our culture that leaders are the first to arrive and the last to leave.

Leaders ensure that everyone is served before serving themselves. They give deference to others and do not expect, nor accept privilege.

For a number of years, I had the privilege of reporting to a leader that both modeled and taught servant leadership. This particular executive began working as a teenager in a restaurant for a leader that provided a servant leadership model for him to follow. Thirty-five years later, this executive has personally modeled the same servant leadership that he learned from his boss when he was a teenager.

The impact of one person on one teenage team employee, later turned executive has helped shape the behaviors of an entire organization. Thousands of employees have been tremendously influenced to put service above privilege and millions of customers have received remarkable service experiences.

What are a few key behaviors of servant leadership?

  1. Don’t expect others to do what you are unwilling to do. One of the things that I learned from my leader was working side by side with my staff is very important. When they are in the trenches, I need to be in the trenches with them. When there is a challenging opportunity, we need to be right beside helping to solve the problem. He is a leader that won’t be found in the box seats at the game, but instead, working alongside employees that are serving the fans in the stands.
  2. Acknowledge that every member of the team is important. In traveling to some of our business outlets with my leader, I watched as the very first thing he did was to introduce himself to every member of the team, learning names and asking questions to know them better. He rarely forgets a face or a name and people often feel valued that he takes the time to know them personally. Like his his boss did for him when he was a teenager, he remembers to thank everyone for their service.
  3. If there is a line, be the last one in it. Recently, I attended a company-wide event and we provided bus transportation for all of our employees to the event. As 1,200 people took turns boarding the buses, this same executive was the very last one on the last bus. All the while, he was talking and visiting with employees using the time to catch up both personally and professionally with people from all areas of the company. Putting others above yourself is the hallmark of a servant leader.
  4. Share opportunities and privileges with those who might otherwise never have the opportunity. Not long after I joined my company, I was flying on a charter flight with my husband to our annual company meeting. I was an entry level employee and just grateful to be invited to the meeting. When we boarded the plane, we found our seats in first class. I watched as company executives passed through the first class section to the take their seats in the economy cabin.
  5. Be inclusive. Another leader in my company, who calls himself the ‘curator of the culture,’ learned from his father, the founder, and knows that inclusivity is important to creating and growing a compelling culture. He seeks opinions and spends time with employees in all areas of the business and particularly enjoys connecting with leaders and employees in our business outlets.

At our corporate office, there are no reserved parking spots for executives or private executive dining rooms. The 350 plus capacity childcare center is available on a first come, first served basis available to all full-time employees. The fitness center and the free group training and exercise classes operate on the same basis.

Award winning leaders in the business units often have special celebrations to share their honors with their employees who have helped them achieve high goals. This type of inclusivity strengthens the culture at all levels of the organization. Individuals truly feel a part of the mission of the organization and feel treated with honor, dignity and respect.

Simon Sinek wrote in his book, Leaders Eat Last, “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”

It's My Pleasure BookYou want to be a leader? Find somebody to serve.

Dee Ann Turner is the VP of Enterprise Social Responsibility for Chick-fil-A, a national speaker, and author of, “It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and A Compelling Culture.