Leadership Management

Guest Post From Alex Vorobieff - Transform Your Company

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In our hectic world it is more important than ever to bring our work and personal lives into focus. Alex Vorobieff’s new book Transform Your Company - Escape Frustration, Align Your Business, and Get Your Life Back is an effective tool to Discover, Learn, and Eliminate in order to make change whether you are a business owner or part of a team.

The Other Form of Compensation – Does Your Company Offer it or Extract a Tax?

By Alex Vorobieff

Why do people want to work for your company? Do you have a clearly defined answer? Why are the best going to give to your company their all and majority of their waking hours? Monetary compensation only goes so far especially with the younger generation. More and more people want to work for companies with a purpose and culture that aligns with their values while performing work that is fulfilling. In addition to monetary compensation, they are seeking emotional compensation.

Unfortunately, companies without a thought-out emotional compensation plan are more likely to extract an emotional tax. When a company is frustrating to work in, people feel it especially A-players and they grow resentful. People leave companies when they are frustrated when they realize marginal dollars don’t compensate for the emotional taxes. When you hire A-players, does their life-cycle with the company follow a similar pattern? Do they join the company engaged but grow distant and surly over time? They likely grow tired of paying emotional taxes.

Alright, Vorobieff, I get it, our company needs to remove the emotional taxes and replace it with emotional compensation. What are the forms of emotional compensation?

It starts with acknowledgment. People want to be acknowledged for their effort and contribution. “But they are paid to do their job.” Acknowledgment doesn’t cost anything. When you acknowledge the good when you point out poor performance they know you see the positive and the negative and it is more likely better received. Many people spend more energy on trying to receive acknowledgment than on achieving material objectives and if your compensation plan focuses solely on money? Your wasting money.

Other parts of emotional compensation include being proactive. Consistently work to identify what processes are working and which are not. If they are paying a frustration tax, working with them to eliminate it is a RAISE. Companies that pay emotional compensation do not force their employees to find competitive offers from other companies to leverage changes in their current positions.

Emotional compensation is a neglected topic. The good news is the IRS has ignored it as well since they can’t easily tax it, yet 😉

But where do you start? Assess whether your company is paying emotional compensation or extracting an emotional tax. The most common form of an emotional tax is frustration working in a dysfunctional business. Lifting a burden is a raise and the first step to unleashing your HumanPower.

About Alex Vorobieff

Founder and CEO of The Vorobieff Company, Alex Vorobieff is a business turnaround specialist, working to implement Business Alignment Tools for their specific needs. Alex has served as clean-up CFO and president of companies in telecommunications, aviation, aerospace, and real estate development, leading successful turnarounds in as little as three months. He shares his how-tos and techniques through Confident ROi magazine and his latest book, Transform Your Company: Escape Frustration, Align Your Business, and Get Your Life Back.

Does "Going Green" Need to Cost You Green? By Nat Greene


I have an unwavering passion for growth in the garden and of people. Following is a guest post from Nat Greene that really speaks to me and the impact that we can all have on the world every day. Nat is the author of the new book Stop Guessing - The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers. His book reflects on how we should be solving problems and he offers 9 behaviors to push our skills to the next level. Nat's book is available on Amazon.com

I’ve seen environmental sustainability gradually added to almost every business's short list of bottom-line success metrics over the past decades, right up alongside safety, employee happiness, and profit. It’s a priority for many businesses to improve their environmental impact, but they often find themselves at a tough decision point: how much money should they invest in improving their environmental impact? How much will they demand of their shareholders, and how much should they put their bottom line at risk for the good of their community?

Environmental sustainability doesn’t have to be a trade-off between the earth and the business’s financial health. Most people believe in this fundamental trade-off because they don’t believe they can effectively improve their environmental performance using their current assets and business processes. So many businesses will upgrade to new infrastructure that runs more efficiently or uses fewer resources. They may switch their electricity to a more expensive alternative. Or they may switch their raw materials to a more expensive recycled or environmentally-friendly alternative. Even if these pay off in the long-term, they require significant up-front capital investment.

The reason many businesses only believe in shelling out money to improve their environmental performance is that they believe their business processes are nearly optimized. They believe their assets can only work with the amount of fuel or electricity going into them, that the waste they produce is inevitable, or simply that they can’t make more of their product without adding new systems to the mix. But, on the contrary, the performance of every business process has incredible potential to be improved. There are critical performance problems holding every process back from its best performance. Great businesses, instead of horking over money, solve these problems--leading to both greater profitability and better environmental performance in the same stroke.

If businesses develop the skills in their employees to identify and solve these problems, they’ll turn sustainability from a scary word into an addiction.

War Stories

Reducing wasted raw material:

At a business that makes rubber belts, they had a scrap problem. Their belt-cutting process intentionally created a significant amount of scrap in order to make sure the belts were the right width. They had accepted this as a part of the business until the plant’s leadership piled a week’s worth of scrap in the middle of the plant to visually demonstrate how much they were throwing away.

When the business set about to solving the problem, they understood that they were cutting the belts because the process that made them was unreliable, and the width of the belt varied. They dug into how the machine controlled belt width, and were able to reduce variation almost entirely, allowing them to make the belts thinner and cut 90% less scrap.

Transportation optimization:

A consumer products company shipped materials from its plants to warehouses all over the country in order to deliver it to customers. They found that their deliveries were late over 60% of the time, but struggled to solve the problem--they manufactured each product in a day and could not safely and legally drive the trucks any faster.

They approached the problem by modeling their shipping network and schedule, and challenging every shipping route. They found that they were transporting many products from facilities much farther away than was necessary, and were sometimes even shipping twice to make up for shortages in other warehouses. They rebuilt their shipping schedule to reduce the total distance each product traveled, bringing their on-time deliveries to over 95% and reducing fuel burned per product by over 20%.

Reducing CO2 output:

A chemical upgrader has iconic yellow flares, that are used to alleviate pressure in the plant as variations occur. The business had accepted these flares as part of life, but when they analyzed how much money they were losing by flaring this gas rather than selling it, they found an urgency to solve the problem.

They dug into understanding what controlled pressure variations, and found they could greatly reduce variation by eliminating clogging in some of the smaller pipes. They searched for and found the source of the clogging, leading to smoother operation. This saved them millions per year in flaring, and eliminated enough excess CO2 production to offset the carbon footprints of everyone in the facility for their whole lifetimes.

Avoiding a new facility:

A consumer products business was planning on building a large new facility to take on additional volume. When they realized how much opportunity was in their current facility to produce more, they realized they could increase the production of their current assets and avoid the new facility altogether.

In the span of three months, they solved a number of large, valuable problems in the business that let them take on the new volume almost a year earlier than previously estimated, and eliminated the cost and footprint of a new facility.

Every business process can run more effectively by solving problems. No matter the business, the environmental impact per product can be reduced by increasing the performance of the process. Even in processes that have little marginal environmental impact can improve the impact per product by solving problems to produce more with the same overhead.

Improving Problem-Solving In Your Business

Businesses can improve their problem solving results by investing in developing their talent to become better problem solvers, and unleashing them on valuable problems in the business. Most problem solving efforts in business are held back by a habit of using brainstorming, guess-and-check, or more structured ways of “producing ideas” to solve problems. Such approaches waste time, often cost money, and frequently don’t work.

To solve these problems, teams need a new approach to stop guessing and improve their skills. To replace the guessing habit, teach your team a new set of behaviors that far more effectively solves problems. Help them practice by unleashing them on easier problems in the business, and progress them to harder problems as their skills and confidence grow.

Want to test which behaviors are your team’s greatest strengths? Use this quick quiz.

Nathaniel Greene is the co-founder and current CEO of Stroud International, and author of Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem-Solvers. Nat has a Masters of Engineering from Oxford University and studied design, manufacturing and management at Cambridge University, in addition to executive education coursework in Harvard Business School's Owner/President Management program.



Are Waves Dragging You Under?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley via Flickr.com

“My life is like a stroll on the beach…as near to the edge as I can go” – Thoreau

A few days ago I ventured down to my family’s cottage on the beach of Lake Michigan. The cottage is a 100 year old wooden structure perched on a sand dune and we have to winterize it every winter from the raging winds, ferocious waves, and cold. The autumn wind burned my face and the lake looked ominously angry as it usually does in November.

 If you aren’t familiar with the Great Lakes, perhaps you are picturing a small puddle lake with houses dotted around the parameter. Most people are surprised to learn that the Great Lakes consist of 5 lakes and hold some of the largest area of fresh water in the world. The lakes are massive in size and if you sit on our beach and look west, you won’t see Chicago across the way as many think. Lake Michigan takes numerous lives every year due to its unexpected and sneaky riptides. The waves can reach 25 feet in height and the churning waters are no match for large ships. Remember the Edmund Fitzgerald? Lake Michigan swallowed it up and boasts about taking other ships as well.

November is the most dangerous month for massive storms and waves on the lake. Lake Michigan stays relatively warm this time of year when the cold air temperatures hit. This forces the warm air close to the lake to rise and the cold air to drop. Bam! The opposing forces kick up the winds and the energy creates waves as the air blows over the water surface.

The lake water is darker this time of year as the sand churns continuously in the waves. I always feel powerless and small watching the waves. The constant tug of the water and the fierce wind reminds me of who is boss. It reminds me that life is like a furious wave and we all face our own waves every day.

Are you caught in the waves?

  • Waves blow you off course and before you realize it, you are drifting alone
  • An undertow can’t be easily seen but it will creep up and pull you under. Ever have that feeling when with deadlines and work piles?
  • You need to stay on top of the waves to see your end goal and reach it safely
  • Remember that waves don’t make themselves, other forces create them. Manage outer forces and you can handle any waves that come your way
  • Waves aren’t always destructive. They can serve an important purpose. They take out the old and bring in the new. Storms have delivered us more beach from time to time while preserving the shoreline. Teams need a shake up once in a while to bring everyone back on track
  • Waves don’t have rules and they churn forward and backward as well as side to side. This is the type of conflict that you want to avoid in teams because there is no one managing the process or outcome
  • Always wear a life jacket in strong waters. Safeguards like strategies, plans, goals, and strong teams are your backups and provide safety
  • Waves can move and destroy the heaviest rocks over time. Likewise, your leadership, infrastructure, or culture can erode over time
  • Sometimes you just have to stop fighting the force and ride the wave. You never know what may come of it until you work with it, instead of against it

 I welcome you to brave the November winds and waves on the Great Lakes some year. You will leave in awe of Mother Nature and maybe even give more thought about how you can ride the waves or use them for change. Where are the most powerful waves that you have experienced? I would love to hear! What waves are dragging you under this week?

Dance The Dimensions of Leadership

"Leaders are those who are responsible for their world" - Co-Active Leadership

The most effective leaders aren’t those that are loud, extroverted, and attention seeking at every turn. Diverse leaders come in all shapes, sizes, background, and experience. I’ve always thought that we are all leaders, it just depends on our role in the moment or perhaps what we are passionate about in our stage of life. I know that I can be an effective leader in one group yet, I may glide to the background in another group. That’s what’s so magical about true leadership. Just because someone is “in” a leadership position a leader they may not be!

I was thrilled to read the book Co-Active Leadership – Five Ways To Lead by Karen and Henry Kimsey-House. They approach leadership from a different angle. A modern angle with a realistic view. Leadership is not static but moves as we move to different situations or groups. We are all leaders but we aren’t always “The” leader. Life changes as we do and sometimes we all need to change our leadership style or role.

Co-Active Leadership is unique even by its title alone. The “Co” refers to a shared relationship. The ‘Active” is action oriented. Together they become a new powerful leadership style. The authors have had years of experience working with leaders and found that leadership is a choice.  Moreover, leadership is all about being responsible which breeds creativity and freedom. Becoming a Co-Active Leader means taking control of your own leadership and being responsible while doing so. It enables you to see the world in a different way and become passionate about how you impact your world. Co-Active Leadership enables us all to play different leadership roles as we shift from situation to situation. It’s all about being flexible, not static and rigid.

Karen and Henry offer up 5 different “dimensions” within their Co-Active Leadership Model. As you read each one, try to think of a time when you played each role. Think about the setting that you were in and the players around you. How did you feel? How did you react? Were you comfortable in your role? Did it feel right? Which one is your favorite?

·         Co-Active Leader Within – Self Acceptance and Self Authority: This is leadership from the inside out. You are striving to be the best every day by taking responsibility and fully accepting yourself while living with integrity. You don’t feel the need to “fix” yourself. You are whole.
·         Co-Active Leader in Front – Connection and Direction: It’s not all about being the boss for you. You prefer to grow connections with people. You choose to inspire and engage people. You know that you need others to achieve yet, you can step aside to let others glide into the spotlight.
·         Co-Active Leader Behind – Serving and Coaching: This is the role where you are the glue that holds everyone together. You love serving others and give it your all every day to help others grow. You love to be the coach and cheerleader.
·         Co-Active Leadership Beside - Partnership and Synergy: This is where you become the catalyst to partner. You design a bond around shared visions and work with the strengths of others. Likewise, you strive for balanced relationships and are committed to growing synergy within a group.
·         Co-Active Leader in the Field – Intuition and Innovation: This style is a “quiet” internal leadership. You are in this role when you still yourself and use your senses to see the big picture and how you can have an impact. You put your best foot forward with creativity and contribute by slowing down. You strategically use your intuition to bring out your own personal strengths to bring out the best in those around you. You are using your insight and are really being present.

No doubt that as you reviewed these unique leadership roles you saw yourself in each one. Humans are always changing and our leadership must move with us. At times I prefer to sit back and observe while I savor the big picture. I’m in a new job and really feel that before I can step out in front, I need to feel comfortable and really hone in on my inner creativity and intuition first.  As a committee leader in the community I slide more into the role of the “leader in front” or the even being the “leader from behind” as I encourage and empower others.

See how easy it is to switch roles and feel comfortable in all of these leadership roles? Karen and Henry refer to this dynamic as the “Dance of the Dimensions”. Life is a dance as we smoothly move from role to role and as we grow and change. You should never be satisfied with being stagnant in your leadership and you can’t always be the one in the “spotlight”.  You need to partner with others from time to time to share or flip roles. This will help you to grow as a person, leader, and as a member in your community.

Because I subscribe to the rule that anyone can be a leader I really enjoyed “Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead. It’s a quick easy read with actionable lessons. It reminded me that it’s okay to not always be an “out there” leader. I can be effective from a variety of directions and I may be at my best when I “Dance the Dimensions”. If you feel stagnant in your leadership or want a modern view into the variety of leadership styles, pick up this book today and start your own dance.

Are You A Lightning Bolt?

"Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work" - Mark Twain

Picture courtesy of  MRHSfan via Compfight.com

One of my favorite things about summer is the spectacular thunderstorms that roll in off Lake Michigan where I live. There’s nothing like the slow approaching sound of thunder, the darkening thick clouds drifting in, the warm breezes picking up momentum, a smell in the air, and the lightning.  I love to watch Mother Nature’s symphony in the heat of the summer. Every element of a good storm plays their part with the lightning often being the conductor – in more ways than one.

After a strong storm passes through and all is calm, have you ever noticed how healthy and green everything looks in the garden? The air smells fresh and cool. Raindrops glisten like tiny diamonds off plant leaves. If you think that everything looks greener and fresh, it does. You can thank the lightning from the storm for leaving a gift in your garden – nitrogen.

As destructive as lightning can be, it has some magical qualities. Lightning works with rain to clear up the atmosphere of dust, pollen, and other pollutants. A lightning bolt can be 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit releasing up to a billion volts of electricity! All this power produces 100 million tons of nitrogen compounds a year worldwide. The valuable Nitrogen that lightning produces is like a power drink to your garden. Nitrogen is the key nutrient that gives plants their rich green color and leafy growth. It needs to be continually renewed for plants to use it. Nitrogen is like a giant fertilizing machine. planetseed.com.

Nitrogen is all around us in the atmosphere but it’s not in a form that plants can readily use. In order to green up and grow plants need Nitrogen at the soil surface or in the dirt in order to take up Nitrogen to grow. This is where lightning comes in.  Our atmosphere is about 79% Nitrogen. When we get a strong storm the lightning provides energy that converts the atmospheric Nitrogen into Nitrogen Oxide which just happens to be the prime ingredient in fertilizer. Once this takes place, the Nitrogen is in a form that plants can absorb and use it to green up and flourish. As with any fertilizer this isn’t an instantaneous process after a lightning storm. The plants still need to draw up the nitrogen from the soil, but the rain does immediately help perk things up.www.myproductivebackyard.wordpress

Next time the storms come rolling in be thankful for the rain but hope for some strong bright lightning bolts of thunder – your plants will love being struck by lightning!

“I seem to be some sort of lightning rod. I really irritate people, you know? I really do. “– Howard Stern

There is no question regarding the power of a single lightning bolt in a turbulent stormy sky.  It has the power to inconvenience, destroy, and yes, even kick start plant growth. As bright and powerful lightning is, it can also be very silent. We know that lightning travels through the atmosphere turning nitrogen into usable Nitrogen Oxide which our landscapes gobble up producing green growth. We don’t see the process, but it’s there and it delivers a punch of growth.

Guess what? Every team has a lightning bolt as well. Is it you?

Team dynamics can really impact productivity and success. Most of us have been catapulted into teams where there is a disconnect or lack of partnering and focus. Some of my experiences still make me cringe to this day. Often the key to changing the negativity and dysfunction of a group is a lightning bolt. The lightning bolt that I am referring to is that one person on a team that has that special “something”. This person is a catalyst for new ideas, change, building consensus, and jump starting people into action. Although we see lightning bolts as dramatic and bold, that’s not always the case with the lightning bolt on your team. Often they are the quietest, steadiest, yet energetic person in the room. Look around you today at work and ask yourself who electrifies your group and has the ability to jump start change. Is it you?

The key drivers of a lightning bolt

·         He or she is the go to person on the team. This person has the knowledge, skills, and guts to jump in and contribute.
·         Not only does a lightning bolt know what others don’t, he jumps on problems and even has a sense where they will pop up. They can smell a problem a mile away.
·         Lightning knows exactly where to strike and is drawn to particular things. Those bolts on your team are equally as decisive and easily make key decisions. Decisiveness is powerful.
·         Are you flexible and open to change? In a storm it’s critical to have the ability to change direction on a dime and go in another direction.
·         The sky is a big place. So must the view be of a kick starter on your team. The ability to see the big picture is critical to leading teams.
·         Lightning is full of electrical charge. To be a lightning bolt, you must be positive.
·         Lightning bolts know how to get people moving and challenge them. They strike to bring out the best in others.
·         They are disruptors. They bring creativity and innovation which can intimidate some people.
·         Key players have the courage to strike and learn from their mistakes.
·         Lightning bolts have strong intellectual firepower - they know when to use it.
·         They have the courage to show their passion in everything that they do.

Next time you are caught in a strong storm at work, peer through the clouds and look for the lightning bolt of energy in the room. Is it you?

Are You Ready To Be Human?

"Touch has a memory" - John Keats

We have two pet cats that roam our farmland. Very spoiled cats. They get to romp about all day and do what cats do. They follow me around the garden – for attention and treats of course. They are outdoor cats, yet they have a kitty door, heated garage, and canned cat food.  They frolic over the rocks on our pond and roll around in my Catmint flowers. There are plenty of shrubs to nap in and mice to catch. We are a cat allergic family so the outdoors is their home.

This past winter we started seeing a stray cat trailing Leo and Charlie. I quickly guessed that it was a “she”, especially when some kittens popped up this spring under our shed. 4 tiny kittens darted around the yard and scavenged food wherever they could find it – especially from our garage. My kids jumped into action and caught one of the kittens. They put him in our large empty rabbit cage as he hissed and growled away. As tiny as he was, I was hesitant to get near him, let alone touch him.

We steadfastly gave “Jinx” food and kitty treats. Slowly each day the kids tentatively touched his head as he hissed and nipped away. Then they would lightly pet his head as we crooned sweet words at him.  From there we were able pet him without him acting up. We progressed to being able to pet his whole body. The kids held and cuddled him. He played with them and quickly walked up to us wanting attention. Incidentally, he also began yearning for treats and ran to us when he heard the bag crinkle. Our hissing, nipping little kitten had turned into a playful, lovable, attention seeking little guy – all because of human touch.

Our kitten experience really touched me and I’ve continued to think about it. I saw an amazing transformation in this tiny being in a span of a week. All it took was belief that this little fellow could change through the caring use of human touch and a desire to make a difference.

 Guess what? We are quite similar to the little kitten.  Some human care, touch, and attention also bring out our best. We all respond to someone believing in us, giving us attention, and giving us what we need to grow. Who have you helped lately with a little human attention?

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around” – Leo Buscaglia

One of the things that I love about managing people is bringing out their best. People flourish when they feel empowered and know that someone has faith in them. Just a touch of interest, encouragement, and belief in someone is key. Are you ready to get human?

The power of being human to your team

·         Builds commitment to values and goals. People are committed when they have a stake.
·         Teams that are asked for their input and form a road map are engaged.
·         Open communication bubbles up ideas and new technologies. To share is human.
·         Emotional connections build trust and allegiance.
·         People  read non-verbal communication more so than verbal. Sharing human expression builds understanding.
·         Being partners is a relationship. People who are in a human focused relationship are empowered to extend partnerships to those they work with and even customers.
·         The more interest that we take in each other, the less judgmental we become. Team members don’t want to be judged and want the autonomy to grow.
·         Resistance to change is a human trait. It becomes easier when people are connected to it and they don’t resist what they understand.

Just as the human touch and new emotional bond with our feral kitten changed his behavior, you too can change others by simply being human. 

Are you ready to Dare To Serve? Is Your Garden?

"A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them" - Liberty Hyde Bailey

Photo courtesy of Barrett Discovery via Compfight.com
Spring is almost here which means that my weak winterized body is going to be mighty sore once I get outside working in my garden. All the pulling, cutting beds, and spreading mulch is like a landscape triathlon. If you don't believe  me just pop over and see. Springtime literally means that I'm out there serving my gardens and preparing my plants for growth. My legs will be like jelly and I'm hoping that there's some weight loss involved!

Whenever I have visitors to my garden the first thing that they always state is "Wow! This is a lot of work! How do you do it?". It is work this time of year, but I LOVE it! I know what my work will bring and it's well worth it. Once spring cleaning is done there is little labor in the garden other than some weeding and deadheading of my flowers. Gardening has never been a chore because I love it and I become completely immersed in what I'm doing. I bet that anyone who has a hobby gets a bit obsessed at times and really understands where I'm coming from. It's a labor of love and I'm happy to serve my plants to "plant the seeds" for growth.

I can't repeat myself enough in my blog. I love finding the special gifts in people and bringing them out to help with personal growth and impacting others. Like gardening, it's one of the most rewarding experiences that I am privileged to experience. I've done this as a manager and continue to have an impact even without a supervisory title. We should all be committed to serving others and bringing out the best in those that we work with. Think of the changes that we could collectively bring about.

For the past few years I've really focused on my leadership style and through some soul searching,  I've  been able to define who I am, what I stand for,  my values, and how I can help others. Serving others as a leader is like serving my gardens this time of year. Preparing for growth and seeing how I can serve to do so. I have found some powerful books and articles on the "new" leadership style  which has really impacted me - Servant Leadership.

"There's nothing fundamentally wrong with our country except that the leaders of all our major organizations are operating on the wrong assumptions" - Robert Townsend

I couldn't agree more with this quote. I just finished an incredible new book that has really impacted my leadership growth. The book is Dare To Serve: How To Drive Superior Results By Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. Cheryl enthusiastically shares how serving others as a leader ultimately impacts the bottom line but most importantly, serving influences people. People are the key to a company's success and servant leadership is rewarding for everyone. I've finally been able to define my own leadership style and Cheryl offers some sound advice on how to Dare To Serve. 

Dare To Serve is divided into 3 parts. Cheryl explains the Popeye story of rising from the ashes to financial success AND how her people grew as well through the transformation. She shows how to drive superior results. She shares how to become a Dare To Serve leader. Lastly, she offers a strong call to action. Throughout the book she shares 40 Dare To Serve reflections for the reader to think about or share with teams. They are guaranteed to get you thinking! I really enjoyed Cheryl's journey of clearly defining the issues at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and in particular, the relationships between franchisees and Popeyes employees. She doesn't hold back and is very transparent. Moreover, she is very quick to admit that they still have a lot of work to accomplish as a company and they still experience rocky times. Also? This book is written for you and me - not leaders of major high profile companies. We can make a difference.

Cheryl begins our journey by pointing out that most people (including most leaders) expect leaders to be in the spotlight. Too many  leaders work for, live, crave, and love the spotlight. To them it means that they have "made it". Wrong! Servant leaders willingly step out of the spotlight and shift the light from themselves to their people. They focus on their people. They listen. They involve others in decisions and continually empower. They are humble and courageous. They aspire and serve over self interest. They help others pursue dreams. They serve others and bring superior results. So, move that spotlight. 

There are clear benefits to becoming a Dare To Serve Leader and you will want to dig in deep within this book to learn. They include "gold" that every leader wants.

  • People will tell you the truth and what you need to know.
  • Your bold vision is more likely to have followers.
  • Teams will perform without being reminded or pushed.
  • People perform at a superior level.
  • People are more likely to have your back and will even protect you from yourself.

A key to being a true servant leader is bringing the best out of your people. It's fun. It's challenging. You find gifts and skill gaps. You learn and respect different team talents. You grow people and the bottom line. You bring purpose and let people know that they their work has meaning. Getting to know what drives people and motivates them goes a long way towards success. Cheryl shares her "Journey to Personal Purpose". This is a plan to help people determine their purpose because no one  can do it for them. The keys to the plan include: 

  • What are an individuals life experiences?
  • Establish your personal values. Live them.
  • Strength identification. Grow them and use them to serve.
  • Personal purpose for leadership.
  • Asking "My purpose can serve the organization for ______"

After we live Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen's 6 year journey from  financial and franchise troubles to average restaurant sales increases up 25%, market share increases from 14 to 21 percent, and an impressive improvement of 40% profitability, we get to learn how to become a Dare To Serve leader . This is where the magic really happens because this is your chance to learn what is takes to be a servant leader and how you can make a real difference. 

What does it take to become a Dare To Serve Leader? Are you ready?
  • Choose to serve. Be a servant leader and avoid these traps - Power, achievement for yourself, too much personal ambition. Know any of these leaders stuck in the trap?  Don't be a self centered leader.
  • Be bold and brave. Have the courage to serve and be willing to accept failure. I love how Cheryl compares servant leadership to extreme sports. You need to "go big or go home". Stretch yourself and others. 
  • Have clarity of purpose. You need to find your purpose before you can help others do the same. Sit down and do it today. Examine your life. Choose your key 3 values. Know your gifts and use them. Write your purpose. Test your purpose and ask are you true to it?
  • Avoid the spotlight. Remember. Jump out of the spotlight and move it onto others. Do this while following these core beliefs: Practice the golden rule, have personal responsibility, and be humble every day.
  • Call to action.  As a leader you have influence and are a steward to others. Stand up with a call to action and find a way to spread the Dare To Serve word.
Perhaps your leadership style has become outdated. Maybe you are realizing that you are acting like a leader back in the 1980s or 1990s. New leaders need guidance and role models. We really are all leaders in some form or another and we need to be authentic - not a copy cat. Becoming a servant leader will transform your life and your career. Dare To Serve: How To Drive Superior Results By Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder really has influenced my leadership growth. I feel like I have a clearer plan to guide my walk down the path to success. I want to continually personally grow and really positively impact others. I am a servant leader and I Dare To Serve. How about you?

I sincerely encourage you to pick up Cheryl's book today to begin your journey in becoming  a servant leader. If you are interested,  you can learn more about the book “Dare to Serve” and download a free sample chapter  here Dare To Serve

Are You Cutting Your Team Down OR Being Their Support?

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"To lead people, walk beside them...As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear, and the next, the people hate.. When the best leader's work is done the people say, "We did it ourselves!" - Lao Tsu

I have a confession to make. We have an artificial Christmas tree complete with integrated lights and branches that pop right out. No watering, no dry needles, no wonderful pine smells, probably no authentic Christmas spirit.. As a gardener, I should probably have a real evergreen inside for the holidays but I have always had a tough time even cutting my flowers to bring inside! I prefer to be outside enjoying them and avoiding the house when it's nice out! Surprising, I don't even have a lot of indoor plants. The ones that I do have tend to ask for little attention and scare the bugs away! I prefer to enjoy my garden as a whole and love to watch everything interact. This year I have vowed to decorate with more live greenery to bring more of the outside in.

This is a popular time for families to forge out and find that perfect Christmas tree. They bundle up and often make a full day of searching for the best tree that they can find. They cut it themselves and take care in carting it home while hoping that it fits in the house! The tree is lovingly watered and cared for until THE big day and then... all is forgotten.... out with the tree and in with Valentines Day. Next week I will give you some tips on finding the right tree and caring for it so that you can enjoy it into the new year.

Christmas trees can take anywhere from 7-15 years to grow, only to be cut down for a few special weeks in December. We don't think too much of cutting a tree for the holidays and it's such a priceless tradition throughout the world. Our tradition continues automatically every year, often with certain rituals being passed down through generations. As I watched my neighbors come home with their huge live tree this week a thought popped into my mind. Sometimes we don't even think twice about cutting things down. Guess what? Too many leaders cut their people down without a thought or without even realizing it!

Are you a leader unwittingly cutting your people down?
I have worked for both effective and just plain bad managers. Like many of our teachers back in school, we tend to remember the teachers that stood out and made a difference to us and really remember with vivid details the worst teachers ever. Surprisingly, they get worse over the years when we think back.....One of the best leaders that I ever worked for knew how to light up a room with his energy and positive attitude. He empowered us and allowed us the freedom to do our job. He encouraged us to learn from our mistakes and backed us up when we needed the support. I could easily talk to him about my frustrations without fear of reprisal. My worst boss? She was very threatened by her team. She looked for mistakes and picked on the little things. She micromanaged and jumped into matters that she didn't need to. In short, she made everyone miserable and no one respected her. We never knew when she would strike and it was tough to love our jobs and to perform our best. Neither of these leaders were "bad" people at heart (there was some debate on this in our team however). They probably didn't even realize how they were coming across to their teams. In my worst boss's case I hope that she didn't consciously try to cut people down. Don't be this type of leader - Don't cut your people down!
You could be cutting your team down if......
  • You whine or complain too much about systems, people, progress, your problems
  • You are negative and closed minded
  • You deliberately deceive others for personal gain or for your own career growth. You take credit and push blame
  • You are arrogant or have a deflated ego
  • You act like a dictator and micromanage
  • Keep to the status quo. Don't fall into the trap of saying "That's how we do things here". Be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Don't belittle new methods
  • You aren't accountable. Stand up and take responsibility
  • Make empty threats or don't follow through on your commitments
  • Ignore the truth, data, feelings
  • Yell or scream
  • Don't thank people and recognize their gifts and accomplishments
  • You cut people down in a group and publicly humiliate them to make a point
  • You sugar coat feedback
  • Do what is wrong or stretch the truth
  • You can't self manage or self lead
  • Have no emotional IQ or are inflexible in showing empathy
  • Ignore team strengths and individual gifts
  • Can't adapt to or encourage change
  • Are over reactive and prefer to put out fires as they flare up
  • Can't communicate or won't foster stronger skills
  • Put teams or people in boxes
  • Churn people rather than develop them
  • Put processes first and can't foresee the need to step off of your path

Is this YOU? Are you cutting down your people without realizing it? If so - STOP! Go through this list and add your own weaknesses. It's not easy and not a lot of people can actually go through this process. Make a growth plan and address any areas where you are having a negative impact on your team. ASK for feedback and be strong enough to "take" the truth.

You can't keep cutting down trees in the forest and think that you will grow the group unless you are planting and nourishing new growth in your people. What will you start working on today?

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Please, Don't Be A Turkey!

"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow" - Melody Beattie

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It's turkey time again for Americans. That's on top of all the high caloric food that we all vow to resist but can't! Years ago I finally decided what bugs me about the holidays this time of year. Too many people are thankful just two months out of the year. It's probably only because many of us are"guilted" into showing our thanks or for some, pretending that they are thankful. Being grateful should be a daily occurrence for all of us. Every day we should sit back and reflect even for mere minutes what we are thankful for. Those thanks should focus NOT on the material goods that we hav, but for life, health, family, rewarding work etc.

Not only should we be thankful for all that we have in our lives, we should voice what we are thankful for to those that it really matters - our families, friends, and teams. Make a practice of thanking people every day for what they do. Tell them the impact that they have in your life and those that they are around every day. Lead by example. Show gratitude in every way that you can and it will come around to reward those that you serve.

Showing gratitude has an enormous impact. It builds trust and fosters communication. It costs nothing but means so much. Be sincere or don't bother at all - people can see through falsities. Thanking others is one of the most powerful and empowering things that you can do for people. Start today and offer up at least one thanks every day!

T - Tell them thanks
H - Hand out compliments and empowering words
A - Ask how you can help them
N - Never thank someone publicly if they are shy or scared of attention. Do it privately
K - Kinds word mean more than money to so many and have a lasting effect
S - Say it often and mean it!

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Don't forget that there are so many ways to show gratitude. It can be in person or by sending a note. It can be at the office or to someones home. How about thanking a spouse or family too ? Use your imagination. No matter how you do it, DO IT!

"Give thanks for a little and you will receive a lot" - Hansa Proverb

Got Your Scared On This Week?

"I think on some level, you do your best things when you're a little off balance, a little scared. You've got to work from mystery, from wonder, from not knowing" - Willem Dafoe
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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year. The season is still colorful, the snow hasn't hit, the spooky shows are all on, and I love seeing people dress up for fun and adventure. Halloween brings out the creativity and inner child in most people. I also love chocolate which I can conveniently pull out of my kid's trick-or-treat bags, and drinking warm spiced wine.

In the Midwest we love to decorate the outside of our homes with corn stalks (we have a lot at our disposal!), mums, pumpkins, grapevines, and colored corn cobs. Some people take it a step further and add graveyards, spider webs, and ghosts. Turn on the Travel Channel this time of year and see what outlandish creations that people have come up with. This is the season for all things scary! This is the perfect time of year to introduce you to some of the "scariest" and oddest plants around. Perhaps you will choose to add them to the exterior of your home this season or invite them inside......

Plants that dare you to bring them home

  • Venus Flytrap: Many of us had these vultures as kids and read scary books about them. They quickly close and trap bugs to digest them with powerful enzymes. Imagine the stories that you can tell your kids!
  • Pitcher Plants and Monkey Cups: These are equally as frightening because they also eat bugs live. Some of these plants are blood red or almost black. They are sure to ward off .. your bug problem.
  • Black Bat Flower: This gem is tropical and near black. It has "ears" and "whiskers" sure to intrigue.
  • Chinese Lanterns: These perennials are available at nurseries and resemble actual orange lanterns or tiny pumpkins. Beware.... they will pop up where you least expect them!
  • Black Mondo Grass: This is an awesome all black perennial that adds drama and mystery to your gardens. You can cut some and bring it inside to add fright.
  • Milkweed pods burst outside this time of year and resemble tiny ghosts floating through the air.
  • Many of us plant Cockscomb in our annual gardens every year. These plants come in different colors and resemble fuzzy, odd shaped brains.
  •  Amaranth: These annuals come in a variety of tones and sizes. They can often be found dried for inside decoration. They have a unique fuzzy texture and resemble long pulsing blood vessels.
  • Tropical Orchids: Orchids come in so many sizes, colors, and shapes. The spookiest ones are black with white tendrils like the Octopus Orchid. Some Orchids prefer to grow without soils and have creepy thick fleshy roots. Yuck!

The list of spooky plants go on and on - just use your imagination! For more ideas and pictures go to Vegetable Gardener.com or Sunset Freaky Plants. View at your own risk!

"It is not what we know that scares us, it is what we do not" - A.G. Phillips

Scary plants are unique, unusual, and fun. Fearing leadership isn't. Everyone has their fears, some people just excel at covering them up. At one time or another we have all been scared to death when we started new job, been promoted, or been thrust into a management or leadership role that we just didn't feel ready for. We are all human and there's no harm in admitting that you have your scared on! In fact, admitting that you are scared and looking at why is a healthy and natural thing to do. What scares you?

Let's get it out in the open. This is what scares us when we think "Leadership":
  • I'm just not ready! Most of us ever are. For instance, did you feel ready to be a parent? Really?
  • I don't have enough experience. No one knows everything. Leaders lead - they aren't the know it all.
  • Lack of confidence. We all feel deflated at one time or another. Trust me. A lot of people fake confidence. A lot.
  • What if I fail? You earned your spot. Keep showing 'em what you've got!
  • Public speaking and addressing groups scares me! Practice, practice, join Toastmasters.
  •  What if my people are smarter than me? Leading isn't just about smarts. It's about connecting people, empowering them, and encouraging people to achieve.
  • It's a lot of responsibility. 
  • Forming the right team and a strong team. How do I that that? 
  • Will I make the right decisions? We all make mistakes and can learn from them. Publicly learning from your mistakes is one of the best leadership traits.
  • It's scary managing people older than me. Been there and done that. That's YOUR problem, not your team's. Not everyone wants a leadership position and some peeps are content just doing what they love in their job. 
  • I'm not good with criticism. You have been dealing with it your entire life. You've survived and will persevere. 

Being scared is healthy and human. It's what has kept us alive and thriving going back to the caveman days. Being scared keeps us on our toes, propels us forward, and forces us to look at why we are scared. Being scared makes us deal with what we don't know or can't control. Being scared can be a leaders best friend!
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How do you deal with your fears?