Tag Archives | Servant leadership

Is Your Company a “Best Place to Work”?

Business team working together24/7 Wall Street just released their 2015 “America’s Best Companies to Work For” list.

They studied current and former employees’ company ratings and testimonials on Glassdoor.com to establish the top 54 best places to work.

Glassdoor’s ratings are very relevant. Employees rank a variety of factors beyond their personal satisfaction with the company, including pay, benefits, work-life balance, culture, leadership (including rating the CEO), and more.

On Glassdoor’s five-point scale, only nine of the 54 best places to work scored a 4.0 or better. Five of those are in technology, including Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Adobe, and Apple. Rounding out the top ten are Insight Global, McKinsey & Company, Expedia, Nike, and Chick-Fil-A.

An interesting note: being a great place to work doesn’t guarantee financial success or consistent results! A number of the 54 companies on this list reported revenue losses, including T-Mobile.

I am much more impressed by companies that WOW their employees, WOW their customers, AND meet or exceed performance expectations. Those are my big three – engagement, customer service, and results. Hitting all three of those targets is much less common today.

I compared the top ten list of 24/7 Wall Street’s best places to work with their 2015 list of Customer Service Hall of Fame members.

Only two companies made both top 10 lists: Apple and Chick-Fil-A. Along with their top engagement scores and customer service ratings, both these companies have outstanding fiscal performance. Apple is expected to announce last quarter gross revenues of $49 billion, a 30 percent increase over the same quarter’s sales last year. Chick-Fil-A has enjoyed 47 consecutive years of sales growth – including nearly $6 billion in sales in 2014.

That sweet spot – delivering consistently on my big three – is a unique, exciting, rewarding experience for companies, their leaders, their customers, and employees.

How do you know how your team or department or company is doing on those big three? You need to do regular, honest assessment of employee engagement, customer service, and results. Most companies monitor results, profits, etc. hourly or daily, with major milestones assessed monthly.

Some companies gather regular customer service data. Too few gather employee engagement data, as well. Only when you have reliable data on each of these three elements can you assess your organization’s impact.

How can you make your team or department or company a great place to work? My research proves you can boost engagement, service, and results by doing these three things:

First, define minimum citizenship expectations. Effective leaders formalize how they expect everyone in the organization to treat each other and customers. By defining values in observable, tangible, measurable terms, a leader creates the opportunity for workplace interactions that demonstrate trust, respect, and dignity.

Second, define minimum contribution expectations. Effective leaders formalize performance standards. They ensure projects, goals, and tasks are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and trackable. By defining SMART performance standards, a leader creates a clear path to consistent contribution.

Third, hold everyone – including all leaders – accountable for both contributions and citizenship. Effective leaders model the team’s valued behaviors in every interaction – and demand that all players do the same. They measure, monitor, and reward performance traction and values alignment regularly. They don’t tolerate mis-treatment of others at any time.

If you don’t aim for the big three and hold others accountable for the big three, you won’t enjoy a high performing, values-aligned organization.

What is your experience? To what extent does your company measure engagement, service, and results? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Rido – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2015 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Three Ways Servant Leaders Recognize Employees

Ubieranie butw“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

― William James

How many of you get enough praise on the job? I ask this question at nearly every keynote I deliver. The results are astounding. Less than 10 percent of audience members raise their hands!

My informal social research mirrors that of Tiny HR’s 2014 Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report which found that only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued at work.

A 2010 study by Psychometrics Canada found that 69 percent of HR professionals believe that engagement is a problem in their organizations. When asked what leaders can do to improve engagement, 52 percent replied, “Give recognition.”

It is clear that there is too little praise and encouragement that happens in our organizations today.

As William James said, humans crave appreciation. My 25 years of research and experience leads me to the conclusion that humans also crave validation, trust, and respect.

If leaders want better results and higher profits, they’d be remiss if they ignore the positive impact of employee recognition and engagement.

When team members feel appreciated, validated, trusted, and respected, significant benefits occur. Engagement goes up, by 40 percent or more. Customer service ratings go up, by 40 percent or more. Results and profits improve by 35 percent or more.

How do great leaders – servant leaders – recognize their employees? They do three things consistently.

First, recognition is personal. Servant leaders know that relationships drive everything in our hectic world. They spend time daily networking with team leaders and team members, casually and informally. When they praise someone, their preferred means is to do so face-to-face. If face-to-face won’t work, they don’t delay – they call the person to recognize them voice-to-voice. If a live call won’t work, they don’t delay – they write a personal note, thanking them for their efforts and contribution.

Second, recognition is authentic. Servant leaders gather key information before they deliver praise. They learn what the opportunity was, what the person did, and what the impact was on their customer, team, and the company. They include that information in their recognition, which makes the conversation authentic and meaningful. A simple “Atta boy” or “Atta girl,” without the context of what the player did to deserve recognition, is meaningless.

Third, recognition is frequent. Servant leaders take time daily to learn about good things that are happening and then promptly praise those good things. Servant leaders resist the temptation to sit at their desks engaged in solitary activities. Leadership is a verb! Servant leaders have “scouts” that report back the good things that are happening in the business. Servant leaders praise quickly – they don’t want the sun to set without praising that day’s aligned actions. They spend time daily “wandering around” their operation, looking for and recognizing things going well.

Employee recognition is not a complex process. Leaders, boost engagement, service, and results by recognizing your employees – personally, authentically, and frequently.

What do you think? How did your best bosses recognize leaders and team members? How do you praise and recognize your peers at work today? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © bzyxx – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Leadership Void

Undecided businessmanWhen I’m invited in to help executives refine their organization’s culture, I start with learning as much as I can about the executive team before I start learning about their company.

Why? Because leaders of organizations maintain the current culture, whether it’s beneficial or not, productive or not, engaging or not – and whether they know it or not! Senior leaders of teams, departments, regions, business units, etc. have the authority and responsibility to change policies, procedures, and norms – which can change the culture for the better.

My discovery process allows me to learn who this executive team is, how they lead their organization, how they communicate, what they validate (through recognition and praise), what they value, and what their desired culture is.

I immerse myself in relevant data – documents like employee satisfaction or engagement survey results, mission statements, strategic plans, internal newsletters, and more. I spend hours reviewing these cultural “artifacts” before I begin executive interviews, which offers much more detailed information on the executive team and how it operates.

One client shared their new vision statement and strategic plan. The CEO was quite proud of these documents. He told me, “We worked for two weeks on the vision statement. The strategic plan didn’t take that long – we already had pieces of it formalized.”

The problem? The vision statement was full of buzzwords and didn’t specify what this company did for their customers or why customers should care. It simply stated that the company “creates value for shareholders, employees, and customers.”

The strategic plan didn’t include any clear strategies at all. There was no outline of new customer needs to be addressed or new market opportunities that will be explored. The plan simply presented percentage growth targets for existing products and services.

I asked the CEO what employees’ responses were to the vision and strategic plan. He said reaction was rather subdued – and that the executive team had gotten feedback that employees didn’t know what the company’s strategy was, even after reading the documents.

These documents were not helpful. They didn’t provide the clarity that was desperately needed. The vision wasn’t clear. The strategy wasn’t clear.

This organization was operating in a leadership void. In the absence of leadership, strong personalities fill the void. We’ve all seen it.

In some cases, those strong personalities provide clarity of purpose and strategy. Those strong personalities create a cooperative work environment. They propose clarity and direction, and proactively align plans, decisions, and actions to move their team forward.

However, in most cases, these strong personalities provide clarity for the player’s own benefit – not the team’s or organization’s benefit. An “I win, you lose” mentality gets embedded. What gains traction are norms that pit people against each other rather than aligning each other to common goals and shared values.

Left to our own devices, us humans typically serve ourselves rather than engaging together to serve others. Politics and power become the coin of the realm, not cooperation and service.

The executive team I worked with didn’t realize they were causing difficulties with their bland vision and strategic plan. They didn’t intend to abdicate leadership – and they were frustrated to learn that’s exactly what they’d done.

I worked with the executive team to create a more actionable, present day purpose statement and a clarified strategic plan that set context for business branding, marketing, and operations for the next three years.

Their executive team is embracing their purpose, values, strategies, and goals. They’re working cooperatively so that every function and unit aligns to their company’s organizational constitution.

They’re not done yet, but the politics, power plays, and self-centered behaviors are diminishing.

The executive team is optimistic about their culture transition, which is terrific.

How clear is your team or company’s present day purpose? Do team members understand your strategies and goals well enough to articulate them to others? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © alpha spirit – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Your Character is Showing

business woman lyingThe 2016 US presidential race is heating up, which means the time is ripe for truth-stretching, name calling, and worse.

This week’s “I’m running for president” announcement by one candidate was so filled with distortions and untruths that fact checkers immediately pounced.

In another case, a news anchor was suspended for six months for “misrepresenting” his reporting experiences. In an interview this week, the anchor said his ego drove him to embellish stories.

What causes humans to embellish, to lie, to discount others, to take credit, or worse? Financial gain or showing they are smarter than others or winning while someone loses are outcomes that may drive us to lie.

For me, it all boils down to character – moral character. And, moral character matters.

Moral character is at the heart of many philosophers’ ideologies. We can learn about virtue and character through the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Heraclitus and others.

In fact, one of Heraclitus’ most popular quotes is “ethos anthropos daimon“, which roughly translates as “character is fate” or “character is destiny.”

Being of strong moral character means we are trustworthy. We are reliable. We do what we say we will do. We treat others with dignity and respect. Not once in a while, not most of the time, but all of the time, in every interaction.

Every plan, decision, and action reveals our character. We may think that our selfish drive is invisible to others, but it is not. It is amazingly transparent and consistent. If we are self-serving, it is obvious. If we are of service to others, it is obvious.

I have utmost control over the quality of my moral character. Should I be of grace and of service today, or should I screw everyone over so “I win” and they lose? It’s my choice.

Maintaining strong moral character takes effort, energy, reflection, and intention. It doesn’t happen naturally. We live in a society that reinforces “I, ME, MINE,” daily. If we want something different, something that serves others more than ourselves, we have to invest in those behaviors and those decisions.

Even when you are successful in aligning to strong moral character, others around you might behave in less giving ways.

For example, my worst boss asked me to lie. Years ago, in my non-profit executive life, my branch team of volunteers and staff worked our butts off to raise $25,000, which was double what they had ever raised before. But at the campaign’s closing dinner, with 300 people in attendance, my boss told me to get up in front of everyone and tell them we had raised, not $25,000, but $30,000. I refused, and announced the real total.

My boss wasn’t happy. Neither was I. He felt that I let him down. I felt that he had revealed his true moral character, and I had discovered his values were much different than mine. I didn’t want to interact with him anymore. I left that job as quickly as I could.

Make the choice today to be trustworthy, to do what you say you will do, to be kind, to be gracious, to express gratitude for effort as well as for accomplishment, to be reliable, to be respectful with everyone.

You’ll be able to hold your head high – and you might even influence others to be more respectful and of service, over time.

How do you maintain your strong moral character? How do others whom you respect demonstrate their strong moral character? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Steven Coburn – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Demand Ethical Behavior

crowded football stadiumThis week the world of football (soccer in the US) was shocked by the US Department of Justice indictment of 14 defendants for alleged FIFA kickbacks of more than $150 million over the past twenty years.

What was more shocking to me was the response of the FIFA president, up for re-election within hours, who said, “We cannot constantly supervise everyone in football . . . you cannot ask everyone to behave ethically.”

What an amazing admission by Sepp Blatter (who won re-election, despite the “distraction” of the arrests). Blatter believes he is not responsible – nor is any leader – if someone in their employ breaks the law (or bribes officials or launders money, etc.).

This is not just a FIFA leadership problem. Many company, region, department, and team leaders around the globe believe the same thing: “Leaders cannot ask their people to behave ethically. I am not responsible for whether my leaders or team members behave in an ethical manner.”

These issues are prevalent across the globe. For example, the CFO of the Phoenix VA hospital testified last June that the hospital environment was toxic, the “most dysfunctional place I’ve ever worked in my life.” She reported she was subject to sexual harassment, racial slurs, and bogus investigations during her two years there.

Phoenix VA administrators didn’t just focus on harassment of the CFO. They were apparently preoccupied with accusing and investigating one another for years – all while veterans awaited care in a system of backlogged appointments and fabricated wait-time reporting.

Here’s another example. In Denver, a former sheriff’s department investigator reported that he was told by his captain to avoid logging into evidence a videotape of inmate mistreatment that occurred last month. If the tape wasn’t logged into the evidence system, the incident would not be investigated further. The department has suffered systemic problems including poor training of officers and mistreatment of inmates for years.

The reality is that leaders are, indeed, responsible for the creation of productive workplaces that treat everyone with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction.

Where leaders create clear performance expectations and hold people accountable for those, results and profits steadily grow. Where leaders create clear values expectations – like integrity, honesty, cooperative interaction, etc. – and hold people accountable for those, employee engagement and customer service steadily grow.

Where leaders do not create clear expectations of performance and of citizenship, a void is created. In the absence of leadership, we humans will fail. We are flawed beings. We make mistakes. We are tempted to take advantage of systems and circumstances. Most of us resist those temptations; some don’t.

Leaders can absolutely ask – yes, even demand – that everyone behave ethically. By formalizing performance standards and values expectations, the ground rules are clearly set. The hard work comes after these expectations are formalized. Leaders must then model the performance and values in every interaction, showing they are champions of their desired culture. And, they must hold others accountable for both performance and values.

They do that by gathering performance data, feeding it back, and coaching players to success. They do that by gathering values data – inviting feedback from peers, employees, and customers to assess the degree to which players are modeling desired values and behaviors – and feeding it back, and coaching players to desired citizenship.

It’s not easy, but it is the right thing to do.

What do you think? Is ethical behavior demanded in your organization? How did your great bosses demand integrity and honesty? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Csaba Peterdi – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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