One of my favorite books of all time is the children’s book, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. In short, the book is about the relationship between a boy and a tree. Throughout the boy’s life, the tree offers whatever it can to make the boy happy—to swing from its branches, to pick and eat, or sell, its apples—to even cut it down and build a boat to sail away—all in an unselfish manner.
Great leaders do the same with their employees—doing whatever they can to help employees feel valued and be successful. I love when I catch a glimpse of this as a customer and witness great servant leadership—a manager in the grocery store stepping in to bag groceries when it gets busy; the manager in a restaurant clearing dirty dishes from a table to seat guests faster; a manager taking the time to train an employee on a process they haven’t quite mastered yet. All so they can unselfishly meet the needs of the employee, and ultimately, the external customer.
Leading is giving
My favorite part of the book, and the one that always makes me cry, is at the end when the boy, now an old man, comes back to visit the tree that is just an old stump. The tree is sad since she doesn’t think she has anything else to offer the boy, but is overjoyed to find out that the boy just wants a place to sit and rest, and a stump is a great spot to do just that!
What’s the attitude of the leaders in your organization? Is it to serve—or to be served? What can leaders in your organization teach employees that may help them in their jobs? How can leaders help their employees manage their time more efficiently to reduce stress? What can the organization do to show employees that truly ARE the best asset to the organization?
Being a true servant leader is putting the needs of others ahead of your own in service to a larger organizational goal or purpose. The good news is that in doing so, you will get so much in return yourself. That’s ultimately what the giving tree experienced. Because in the end, as the book says, “and the tree was happy.”
About the author:
Kathy Cuff is one of the principal authors—together with Vicki Halsey—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their customer service focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
As you look back over your work career, who is the supervisor, manager, or leader that you would identify as your best boss? And more importantly, what was it about them that made them great in your eyes? Take a minute now to identify that person. We’ll use your experience to identify something that will help you in your own personal leadership journey.
Once you’ve got your best boss in mind, take another minute to identify what it was about him or her that made them special and memorable for you. Chances are that you will identify a couple of traits similar to these that other people have identified when we’ve asked this question.
“_____________________ was/is my best boss because he/she …
- Believed in me
- Trusted me
- Gave me an opportunity to grow
- Took me under their wing
- Made work fun
- Treated me fairly
- Went to bat for me
- Stuck their neck out for me
Was your boss’s trait one of these—or something different? While each of us will identify different specific traits that our best boss has, there is probably a word that includes any that you might have come up with. All of us, no matter what our experience, could probably say that our best boss was so special in our eyes because they truly CARED about us.
I know that this is true in my own case. My best boss was Margie Blanchard, the cofounder of our company who I reported to from 2000 to 2003. The traits that made Margie so special in my eyes included that she
- Connected with me
- Acknowledged me
- Respected me
- Expected more from me
Now I know that acronyms can be overdone at times—especially in the consulting business, but I couldn’t help but notice that the first letter of those traits spells CARE.
Magic? I don’t think so, just a great reminder of a key ingredient to being a great boss. Though it will be displayed in many forms, at its core, one of the key traits of our best bosses is that they cared about us.
A Fun Exercise and Way to Celebrate
So let’s have some fun with this and tap into our collective brilliance. I’m a big believer in “catching people doing things right” and that “none of us is as smart as all of us.” Let’s put both of those ideas to work today with a little exercise.
Help me expand on this CARE acronym by adding your boss’s trait into the mix. As the cheerleaders say, “Give me a C, Give me an A, Give me an R, Give me an E!” Just use the COMMENTS button above to type in a trait of your best boss that goes with one of these letters. (For extra credit, take a minute to identify and say thanks to that best boss while you’re here.) I promise you’ll feel good and get off to a good start this week if you do.
Who knows, together we might create one of the truly great leadership acronyms (rivaling SMART goals even!)
And even if we don’t, we will still have a great reminder of this one important trait that we can carry with us today as we work with our colleagues and direct reports.
Ken Blanchard and Southwest Airlines president emeritus Colleen Barrett present an extraordinary, wide-ranging conversation on the leadership secrets that have propelled Southwest Airlines and other great companies to unprecedented business success. Drawing from their new book, Lead with LUV, these two legendary leaders will share what “leading with love” means, why it works, and how it can help you achieve unprecedented business performance.
Participants will learn:
- What “leading with love” looks like in an organizational context
- Love in action: what leaders need to do to make it work
- “Tough love” and redirection—how to handle inappropriate behavior or performance
- Love and culture—building the right vision and helping people succeed in the long term
The complete webinar can be viewed for free by visiting http://www.kenblanchard.com/Webinars
Join The Ken Blanchard Companies for a special complimentary webinar and online chat beginning today at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time (12:00 noon Eastern). Best-selling author and consultant Ken Blanchard will be joined by Southwest Airlines president emeritus Colleen Barrett to present the key concepts from their new book Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success. The webinar is free and seats are still available if you would like to join over 1,500 people expected to participate.
Immediately after the webinar, Ken will be answering follow-up questions here at LeaderChat for about 30 minutes. To participate in the follow-up discussion, use these simple instructions.
Instructions for Participating in the Online Chat
- Click on the LEAVE A COMMENT link above
- Type in your question
- Push SUBMIT COMMENT
It’s as easy as that! Ken will answer as many questions as possible in the order they are received. Be sure to press F5 to refresh your screen occasionally to see the latest responses.
We hope you can join us later today for this special complimentary event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies. Click here for more information on participating.
That is the advice that Herb Kelleher, legendary founder of Southwest Airlines, offers readers in the foreword of a new book, Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success that looks at the leadership practices that have made Southwest a benchmark for great management.
As Kelleher explains, “…an infusion of love is an essential, but oft overlooked, ingredient in any business organization that wants to be superlative for a long period of time, rather than just “successful” for a limited time.
“Most people are looking not only for monetary security but also for psychic satisfaction in their work. That satisfaction is provided in our personal lives by the love and affection of family and friends. Why shouldn’t a business simply be an enlargement of our circle of family and friends?”
A large part of Southwest’s success is the servant leader attitude of its top executives as well as leaders through all levels of the organization. And a great example of that philosophy in action is Colleen Barrett, president emeritus and coauthor of the book.
“For more than forty years,” says Kelleher, “in her relationships with the People of Southwest Airlines, Colleen Barrett has ensured that no grief goes unattended; that no joy goes unshared; that each achievement is celebrated; and that those requiring help receive it.”
The result has been a corporate culture where Southwest’s employees feel the love and in turn, share the love, with customers. And customers have responded with Southwest generating the same types of legendary customer service stories in their industry that Nordstrom’s generates in retailing.
Where does love fit in your organizational culture? Do your people feel that someone has their best interest at heart—or are they just another cog in the machine? Try a little caring. You might be surprised at the difference it makes!
To learn more about how Southwest has made love a part of their operating system, download the first chapter of Lead with LUV here. And if you know of an organization that exemplifies love in action when it comes to treating employees and customers right, be sure to let others know at Spread the LUV –a special blog site for success stories.
PS: On January 26, Colleen Barrett will be presenting a free webinar together with Ken Blanchard, her coauthor on Lead with LUV. The event is free and over 2,000 people have already registered, but there is still room for others to attend. To learn more visit http://www.webex.com/webinars/Lead-with-LUV-A-Different-Way-to-Create-Real-Success
All organizations have three groups of people that they need to keep happy—customers, employees, and shareholders. It can be a real juggling act at times trying to balance the needs and desires of all three groups—especially when important decisions need to be made. How does your company rank order these three groups of stakeholders?
At Southwest Airlines, (NYSE stock symbol LUV) the rank ordering may surprise you. Employees are first, Customers are Second, and Shareholders are third. The reasoning behind this is based on the Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have done unto you.
Treat your people right, and good things will happen
As Colleen Barrett, president emeritus at Southwest, explains in her new book, Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success, “When we talk to our People, we proudly draw a pyramid on the chalkboard and tell them: You are at the top of the pyramid. You are the most important person to us. You are our most important Customer in terms of priority.”
As a result, managers at Southwest are expected to spend approximately 80 percent of their time treating employees with Golden Rule behavior and trying to make sure that employees have an enjoyable work environment where they feel good about what they do, about themselves, and about their position within the company.
But this managerial focus on employees also sets an expectation that employees will demonstrate the same behavior with customers. As Barrett goes on to explain: “But if I do that, what I want in exchange is for you to do the same thing by offering our Passengers—who are our second Customer in terms of priority—the same kind of warmth, caring, and fun spirit.”
At Southwest, the belief is that if leaders take care of their people, then their people will take care of their customers. This in turn will create a loyal customer base which comes back often and recommends Southwest to other travelers which pleases the third Customer—shareholders.
What’s your ranking?
At Southwest, leaders put their employees first, their customers second, and their shareholders third. It’s a winning formula that has resulted in superior customer satisfaction ratings and financial performance in a notoriously competitive industry. How does your top management prioritize these three groups of people? Could your company benefit by creating a high support, high expectations “Golden Rule” environment for employees?
PS: To learn more about the benefits of putting people first, be sure to check out Barrett’s new book (coauthored with Ken Blanchard) Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success. Also check out a free webinar she is conducting together with Ken Blanchard on January 26. Over 1,400 people have registered for this complimentary event, but online seats are still available.
Once, while sharing her thoughts on leadership, Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines (stock symbol LUV), was asked if she was worried that competitors would now be able to steal her management ideas—like writing thousands of thank you notes to employees. She said “no” because the real magic wasn’t in knowing the concepts, it was in doing the work.
For Barrett, doing the work is a key ingredient to the success that Southwest has enjoyed in the tough airline industry over the past forty years. It’s also one of the reasons why best-selling business author Ken Blanchard wanted to work with Barrett on a new book that captures the real-life leadership examples that have made Southwest Airlines a model of good management. Titled Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success, it’s just out in bookstores this month.
“She does the things I write about,” says Blanchard. “The stuff that I’ve learned and taught over the years, it’s all in there with a real person who did it.”
And one of the things that Blanchard writes about often is the importance of celebrating both people and results.
As Barrett explains, “What’s important is the fact that you’re honoring people and acknowledging that what they do makes a positive difference. In the process, you are making heroes out of them. You are letting them know that you love them for their efforts and you want everybody to celebrate their success.”
But it does require doing the work. And at Southwest, this means that officers hand-write notes to thousands of employees each year.
As Barrett explains, “Besides being loving, we know this is meaningful to our people, because we hear from them if we miss something significant in their lives, like the high school graduation of one of their kids. We just believe in accentuating the positive and celebrating people’s successes.”
You can learn more about the ways that Southwest Airlines takes the time to stop and recognize their people by accessing the first chapter of Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success here.
Also, don’t miss a complimentary webinar that Colleen Barrett and Ken Blanchard will be conducting on January 26. Hosted by Cisco WebEx, click here to find out more about this free Lead with LUV event.