Let Me Introduce You to….You

Do you know yourself? Really? Do you know how others see you and perceive you?  

 

Many people spend a ton of time trying to figure out what makes other people tick without ever really giving any thought to themselves. Have you ever considered why you actually do the things you do and think the things you think?

 

Do you know, almost instinctively, what your core values are? Do you consider your life principles, those “guideposts” that are most important to you when making decisions? 

 

Can you, at the drop of a hat tell someone what your goals are? Can you tell them with a pretty good level of specificity, what you did this very day to get closer to one of those goals?

 

Have you ever really thought about your temperament?  

 

Are you in introvert who regains their strength after a long day by being alone? Are you an extrovert who recharges from the energy of others? Do you just love details or are you a big picture person who would prefer to leave the details to someone else? Are you a planner who plots out the events of your life big and small or do you just go with the flow and see where life takes you?  

 

When you know the answers to those questions you can put yourself into situations where you’re more likely to do well. You’ll have less stress and more fun. When you know yourself, really know yourself, you can understand why you react the way to do to other people. 

 

You’ll learn that “different” is perfectly okay. You’ll also be more likely to understand that to others you may be the one who is “different” and it won’t bother you a bit. 

 

Don’t spend another minute trying to figure out somebody else until you invest some serious time to understand yourself. Who you really are, what matters to you, what you want out of life and what you’re willing to do, and not do, to have it. 

 

The odds are overwhelming that when you get to know you you’ll like yourself more or at the very least understand what you must change so that you can. 


You can’t really understand anyone until you understand yourself. Start the process of really knowing yourself today and every tomorrow will be brighter. 

It All Matters

I have this thought that we all have have what I call a credibility bank. Every time we do or say anything either a deposit or withdrawal is made from our account. Every time! That means everything we say or do matters, all of it, all the time.

 

When we do what we say we will a small deposit is made. When we fail to do what we say, or we say something that doesn’t align with our stated values or principles, a very large withdrawal is made. So we get very little “credit” when we do what’s right but we are heavily penalized when we do what’s considered wrong. 

 

That almost doesn’t seem fair but it is what it is.

 

There are no neutral actions or interactions. Everything you do and say either improves your standing with others or lessons it to some degree. Everything you say and do either leaves a person feeling better about you and themselves or worse. 

 

Your words and actions matter, all of them. 

 

That’s why it’s so hard to pretend to be someone you’re not. Over time the real you comes out. You can fool some people for a long time but not for all time. 

 

That’s why I would always tell aspiring leaders not to try to look or act like a leader. Simply lead. Don’t try to be the kind of person someone would want to follow, be, really be, the kind of person someone would want to follow. 

 

Understand that your words and actions will determine whether or not you earn the opportunity to truly lead. If your credibility account drops too low that opportunity will be lost because without credibility you simply cannot lead.

 

Don’t let that happen to you. You are a combination of what you say and what you do, when those two align your credibility balance will grow by the day. If they don’t align it will drop like a rock.


It all matters!

Why Customer Service Is So Bad

If I were King I’d make a rule that whenever Customer Service was written out it would say Customer SERVICE. That rule would also require that when spoken special emphasis would have to be given to the word SERVICE. Maybe they would have to say SERVICE louder or slowly so they would have an extra millisecond to realize what the word SERVICE actually means. 

 

That assumes of course that you could get them to utter the word service. 

 

This post is admittedly more of a rant against the ghastly customer service that has been in the news lately but seriously folks a rant seems to be required. It’s required because I know where at least part of that horrific service is coming from. 

 

Sadly it’s coming from huckster training organizations offering terrible Customer Service training. I see brochures and emails cross my desk constantly offering the latest skills in Handling Customers, on how to “convince your customers they are satisfied.” On how to remove the “baggage” of customer interactions. (by the way the only real way to convince your customers that they are satisfied is to satisfy them)

 

The tone and word choices of these so called training programs are just atrocious. I absolutely guarantee that if you were to put your people through these programs your customers would notice a difference and that difference will cause them to  become someone else’s customer as soon as they possibly can.

 

These so called training organizations go to great lengths to avoid using the word SERVICE after the word customer. They strain to come up with any word that can possibly be substituted for that dreaded word which might indicate that the person who PAID YOU MONEY for your product or service is in fact be a very important person. It all seems to be an attempt to dehumanize the customer so dragging them off your damn plane will seem perfectly okay.

 

Congratulations United, it worked! You received exactly the outcome that you trained and rewarded your people to provide. Sadly, so did your customer. (It should be noted here that United didn’t drag a human being off the plane, they removed a randomly selected seat number. The whole process was completely dehumanized. Or so they thought.)

 

These programs offer the latest “tricks” for dealing with customers. Well guess what? There are no new tricks because there are no old tricks. If you’re tricking your customer then you’re not SERVING them. Oh and by the way, you don’t “deal” with customers either, you help them, you solve their problems, you SERVE them. 

 

Any customer service training that doesn’t focus plainly and transparently on SERVING the customer is not worthy to be called Customer SERVICE training. When you see training companies offering junk called “Engineering Customer Experiences,” “Reducing Customer Dissatisfaction,” Low Effort Customer Experiences” or any other buzzword loaded titles, RUN. 

 

Authentic Customer SERVICE involves truly caring about the customer. It means doing whatever is required to make the situation right for them…and the customer determines what is right. When your customer determines that you have a genuine interest in solving their issue they very very seldom have unreasonable demands. Customers get unreasonable when they determine you are trying to “engineer” their situation, when you are trying to trick them into thinking you’re saying yes when you’re saying no. When your customer figures out you really don’t care and are just trying to make them go away they can get “unreasonable” in a hurry. 

 

Your poor SERVICE caused that, not the customer.

 

At the core of horrible customer service is this simple fact. Businesses have forgotten that whatever business they are in they are in the people business first. United Airlines might fly planes but they are in the people business. Cable companies might provide entertainment but that entertainment is created for people. Cable companies have forgotten that they are in the people business. Cell phone companies provide cellular service to people, they too are in the people business. I could go on and on, every business is in the people business in one way or another. 

 

If you don’t enjoy interacting with your fellow human beings, in any circumstance, then don’t go into business. 

 

Customers are people and you don’t handle, deal with, trick, fool, ignore, manipulate, or otherwise abuse people. If you’re in business you SERVE them. 

 

SERVING your customers does not make you a servant, it is not, or should not be, beneath anyone in business. Caring for your customers is not a weakness, it is in fact a tremendous strength. 


We need to put the SERVICE back in customer service. It’s people who put the SERVICE in Customer Service; train your people in basic human relations principles and leave the tricks behind.

Your Reputation Precedes You

I think I’ve written before about the fact that I attended a Military High School. It would be a bit of an understatement (okay, a huge understatement) to say that they took their discipline very seriously there. When a student messed up they paid a hefty price. Discipline came quickly and it was, at least in my opinion, often disproportionate when compared to the offense. 

 

But it worked. 

 

In my Freshman and Sophomore years I decided to “test” the system. Though the rules were very clear regarding attendance I decided to skip a class or two, well maybe three, here and there. I was caught every time and the punishment grew with each infraction. After my third attempt to beat the system I found myself in detention everyday after school for a month. 

 

I found a better way to beat the system in my Sophomore year but sadly, it wasn’t really good enough to get away with it. I fought the law and the law won. Once again I spent the last month of the school year in detention everyday after classes had ended.

 

By my Junior year I had learned my lesson. I was promoted to officer which was considered a big accomplishment for a Junior and I didn’t even consider skipping a class.

 

So imagine my surprise when I was called to the Principal’s office with about a month left in the school year and told I was being given detention for the rest of the semester. I protested and was told they “knew” I was skipping classes but had obviously finally figured out a way to get away with it. 

 

I was offered “amnesty” if I spilled the beans on how to get past their vaunted attendance process. Since I wasn’t skipping classes and hadn’t figured out how to beat the system I couldn’t  “accept” the amnesty. 

 

So off to detention I went. The good news is that since I was the only officer in detention I was now in charge of the other cadets in detention. Since I was wrongly accused and darn unhappy about it those poor souls probably had the worst time in detention in the history of detention. To be sure it wasn’t as brutal as flying on United Airlines but it was pretty rough. Such is life at a military school. 

 

That was the year when I learned about the concept of “your reputation precedes you.” 

 

In the business world you are what people think you are. Now I wouldn’t advise stressing over that too much but you do need to realize that it impacts how people perceive you. Their perception of you will change how you’re treated, whether or not you’re trusted, and whether or not you’re considered for advancement.

 

Now here’s the hard part that you may not like to hear; you earn your reputation. Even if you’re certain they are wrong about you that misperception likely came from somewhere. You can’t simply dismiss it without considering if there is any hint of truth to it. 

 

While it may not have been easy for me to accept at the time people thought I skipped classes because I was known to skip classes. The fact that I wasn’t skipping classes didn’t change the fact that I had. I earned that reputation. 


You’re creating history everyday…it’s your history. It’s also your responsibility to make it a history that you can be proud of. Never blame others for what they think of you without considering your role in creating that perception. 

 

By the way, despite perfect attendance in my Senior year I spent my final month of High School in detention after school. Once again I was in charge of the younger and lower ranking cadets. This time however I tried to help the cadets understand the benefits of conforming to requirements. I helped them grow, I probably didn’t do a very good job of it but I tried to help them become leaders. 


It was part of my effort to change some perceptions about me and it also happened to be the right thing to do. 

The Trouble With Trifles

There is a great book written by Richard Carlson entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” I knew the book was spot on before I even opened it because the second part of the title is “and it’s all small stuff.” 

 

My sentiments exactly!

 

Anger, especially anger that comes from small stuff, is a terrible master and if you let yours control any part of your life you will be worse off because of it. If you allow “little things” to bother you or add any amount of stress to your life then you are limiting your potential. 

 

My dad used to be a worrier; he allowed most everything, even the very trivial stuff, to bug him. It didn’t take much to cause him worry and it took even less to get his hackles up. Then he heard something far from trivial from his doctor. He heard he needed a heart transplant. 

 

Once he received his new heart he was like a new man. Not only was he physically better but he no longer sweat the small stuff and he truly believed it was all small stuff. 

 

After living decades with his still like new heart he would tell you that all it takes for the day to be great is to wake up. To be given a new day. To have one more chance to enjoy life, that’s all that truly matters. 

 

So before you get yourself worked up, before you add an ounce of stress to your life, before you care about anything, ask yourself if it will matter in 10 years. Ask if it will matter in 10 months, 10 weeks or even in 10 minutes. 

 

If you’re like most people you will discover that it won’t. 

 

A mentor of mine once told me to never underestimate the absolute unimportance of almost everything I did. At first I was offended and then I asked myself those questions. When I was honest with myself I was shocked to discover that most of what I did wouldn’t matter for long. Some of it might matter in 10 minutes, some for 10 weeks but hardly anything was going to matter in even a year much less 10 years down the road. 

 

It was a sobering realization. It’s humbling to realize that most of what you do, most of what you stress over, most of what you’ve convinced yourself is important really doesn’t matter. But it was also a freeing realization. It allowed me to “let go” of the little things that had imprisoned my joy of life. 

 

A trifle is defined as a thing of little value or importance. The trouble with trifles is that we give them undue importance and that allows them to block us from the truly important things that we could be thinking about, we could be talking about or we could actually be doing.

 

The most successful people and the most effective leaders don’t fuss over the trifle stuff. They focus on what matters today and what will still matter tomorrow and for many tomorrows to come. 

 

If you have trouble with trifles then decide today that you won’t be fooled any longer, decide today to focus on what truly matters.

Don’t Smooth Things Over

Courageous leaders don’t smooth things over. They don’t put band-aids on the symptoms of a problem. They don’t pretend “things” are okay when they know darn well they are not and they never ever expect that a problem will just fix itself. 

 

What courageous leaders do is make things right, even if sometimes that means plunging headfirst into conflict. 

 

There are and have been many a great leader who preferred to avoid conflict when possible but I can’t think of a single truly great leader from the past or present who avoids conflict at all costs. 

 

The most effective leaders know that “smoothing over” a problem isn’t much different than burying it under a rock. Sooner or later someone comes along and turns the rock over exposing the problem with all it’s rough edges on display once again. 

 

Weaker leaders avoid conflicts because to them conflict means emotionally charged turmoil and fights and disruption and drama. In the hands of a weak leader that’s probably true.

 

Under the guidance of an Authentic Leader, especially an Authentic Servant Leader, a conflict represents the opportunity for genuine learning and long-term growth. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders meet conflict head-on with the compassion, integrity, and understanding that you would expect from such a leader. They know that the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it so they work diligently to lower relationship tension and the emotions that go with it. 

 

They lead the discussion with whatever facts are irrefutable to build common ground. They show empathy for every side of a conflict without minimizing the importance of anyone’s feelings. 

 

They want everyone involved in the situation to come out of it with their self-esteem and the conflict gone. 

 

When that works it’s a great accomplishment. But the truth is it doesn’t always work. 

 

When it doesn’t work the Authentic Servant Leader sets aside the Authentic Servant part and simply leads. If forced, they impose a solution that ends the conflict. They decide! They take action! That may mean some really bad stuff happens to someone involved in the conflict but the conflict is resolved and it’s resolved for good. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders do not allow conflict to linger. Conflicts are like an organizational cancer. Leaders should help diagnose and treat the conflict but if it can’t be treated it must be removed. That will likely result in some injured feelings. Authentic Servant Leaders understand that at least a part of their organization may require some time to heal from an imposed solution. They also know that needing a little time to heal is far better than dealing with a slow burning conflict that never ends.

 

I firmly believe in helping everyone in an organization feel valuable and in continually building their self-esteem. But in every case, in every single case, the good of the many must outweigh the good of the one. 


Dealing with conflict is one of the biggest challenges for a true leader but it’s one they don’t run from, in fact, the very best leaders run to it. 

True Leaders Lead Everyone

Most often we tend to think of the term leading as someone “higher up” in an organization leading people at a lower level of the organization. 

 

Too often we would be right.

 

True leadership is multi-directional. True leaders lead down, across, and sometimes up. True leaders even lead themselves at times. Because they know that a title or position doesn’t make them a leader they know that they can lead in every direction.

 

Leadership, at it’s core is influence. If you have the ability to influence others then you have the ability to lead. It doesn’t mean you will be a good leader, it doesn’t mean you will lead with noble intentions, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be successful as a leader. It’s simply means your influence will at least partially shape someone else’s thoughts or actions. 

 

If you’re only leading down it is quite possible that you are counting on your title or position to influence others. Titles and positions may buy you some time to demonstrate your level of influence but sooner or later, most often sooner, you will have to realize that’s it you, your experience, your integrity, your “brand” which will allow you to influence others long-term.

 

If you’re only leading down in your organization, it’s quite possible you’re not really leading at all. If you only have “influence” downwards in your organization then it may not be real influence. It may be fear or intimidation that causes your people to follow your wishes and you should be aware that following your wishes or “orders” and actually following you as a leader are two very different things. 

 

On the other hand, when leading across your organization, that is to lead others at your same level, you likely have very little other than your influence to shape their thoughts or actions. To lead up in your organization, that is to lead those at higher levels than your own, you have nothing but your influence to impact their thoughts and actions. 

 

But true leaders most definitely lead in every direction. They don’t count on titles or positions. They demonstrate solid, consistent leadership characteristics that earn them a high degree of influence. 

 

If you find yourself consistently impacting the behavior of those below you in your organization but never above you then that may be an indication that your leadership is limited to one direction. 

 

To lead in every direction, to lead everyone, forget about levels. Forget about titles and ignore positions. Do what is right, say what you mean, exert honest and professional influence with integrity to everyone around you. Some of those may be lower than you in the organization, some may be above you. 


None of that really matters because you’ll be making a difference in the right direction, no matter which direction it is.