How Leaders Approach Development

This post is by SEI’s Chief Operating Officer, Dwight Strayer.  If you’d like to guest post on this blog please contact me.

As a leader, how do you handle an employee who is not meeting your expectations?

In my experience, I’ve found that the problem does not always begin with the employee.

Often, leaders fail to communicate one of the most important messages to their employees, the what.

Not “what I expect from you,” but rather “what I expect from your role in the organization.”

It’s an important paradigm shift that has the power to remove defenses and change behavior.

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The Best Leaders Accept Failure and Embrace Vulnerability [Video]

Great leaders don’t allow failure to leave a permanent mark on their life.  They accept it as an opportunity to learn- a necessary part of their personal growth.  And the best leaders tend to be the most vulnerable; sharing their failures with others and owning the role that they played in it.


Find out in this brief video, the first in a series on servant leadership, recorded during a day of leadership training at Service Express.

If the video does not display, you can view it here

My Top Business Books

Warren Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger once said, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads — at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”


Professional development has played a fundamental and a critical role in my development and in the success of Service Express.

I have a teaching degree from Central Michigan University (fire up, Chips!) but I often tell people that my MBA comes from reading books and then applying the principles I learn to my business.  I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded leaders at Service Express and that has made all the difference.

The right book, at the right time, can have a transformational effect on a person and on a business.

As with any habit, the habit of reading takes discipline to build and to maintain, but not all that much.  The smallest daily investment compounds and produces great returns. For example, if you commit to reading 10 pages a day, you’ll have read 300 pages in a month.  The average business book happens to be… about 300 pages.  Make this small commitment and you’ll read approximately 12 books in a years time!

Here are a few habits I’ve built that have helped me:

  • I highlight and take notes.  The value of highlighting is not more apparent than when you’ve completed a book and want to look back at the concepts that stood out to you in order to organize your thoughts and create action plans.
  • I write a book summary.  Books are timeless and I’ve found myself reviewing my book summaries years after I’ve written them.  This allows me to revisit the ideas and concepts that stood our without having to keep or reread the book.
  • I share what I’ve learned.  The best way to retain knowledge is to teach it.  And, if I’ve read a book that was particularly applicable to our business, I have my leadership team read the book as well and then I schedule time on the calendar to discuss the book.

Here are some of the top books that I’ve read and would highly recommend:

1.) Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Other’s Don’t – Jim Collins

Built of exhaustive research, Jim Collins writes about characteristics that separate average companies from great ones.  He also recounts how average companies made the leap to becoming great companies.

Honorable Mentions: Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, Great by Choice

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How LifeWay Christian Resources is Innovating for Success [Video]

At SEI, we celebrate success.  Whether it’s our employees success or our customers, we know that in sharing our stories, we can create communities that inspire others to think bigger and empower others to solve problems more quickly.



Today, I’m proud to share LifeWay Christian Resources Customer Success Story.  LifeWay is an organization that is employing new technologies and new ways of thinking to meet the challenges of their changing business.

SEI is proud to be a partner with this innovative company and we hope their story will inspire you!

Do you have a success story to share?  Share it on social media with the hashtag #shareyoursuccess!


Be Careful. If You’re Chasing The Competition, You May Just Catch Them.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an acceptance speech that Matthew McConaughey gave at the Academy Awards. In it, he recognizes that his competition doesn’t come from what others are doing, it comes from what he is doing. He isn’t chasing what others are doing today, he’s chasing the person he should be in 10 years.


Too often, people get caught up worrying about what others are doing around them; their accomplishments, their failures, how they reinvent themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, their ability or their inability to bounce after a failure and they benchmark their own success on it.

Such an outward looking singular focus can be damaging, because:

  1. When we measure our success against others, it is a constant moving target and it shapes, and then reshapes, our activities, our behavior and our self worth. When we cannot surpass someone, the effects can weigh us down and can minimize the impact that we are actually having.
  2. We look at the larger accomplishments of others and we don’t see the challenges they had to overcome in order to achieve them. We forget to look at the smaller successes that we accomplish everyday. The smaller successes that, if we consistently and methodically accomplish on a regular basis, compound and over the course of time lead to much larger successes.
  3. Our success should not be measured on the same scale others use to measure their own success. Every person is unique, with unique skill sets and strengths. The strengths that one person leverages in order to accomplish something great are most likely not the strengths that we must leverage in order to accomplish something great. Continue Reading…

What We Can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space [Part II]

What We can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space: This is the second post in a two-part series.  You can view Part I here.

On October14 of 2012, millions around the world watched as Felix Baumgartner ascended 24 miles into space in a hot air balloon, then jumped from it in a free fall that would break records as well as the speed of sound.

But it wasn’t his accomplishment that intrigued me.  It was the story behind it.

This is the second part in my series “What we can learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space.”  If you haven’t read Part I, you can read it here first.

4. Know your Vision

“I’m coming home.”  Those were the last words that Baumgartner spoke before he stepped from the small platform jetting out from his balloon and began his free fall descent.

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What We Can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space [Part I]

What We can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space: This is the first post in a two-part series.  Please check back on Thursday, November 29th for Part II.

On October 14, 2012, as with millions of others from around the world, I too watched and was intrigued with Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump from space.

The world watched in anticipation as he ascended into space in a balloon that was more than a football field wide and 55 stories high, the skin of which was thinner than a sandwich baggy.  For many, the world stood still when Baumgartner reached an altitude of 24 miles above the Earth.  He opened the hatch and depressurized his capsule while ice crystals blew off into the inhabitable environment around him, then stepped into a free-fall that would push him beyond the speed of sound (at his peak velocity, he traveled Mach 1.24).

But it wasn’t so much the act that I was intrigued with as much as I was the story behind it.

It’s a story that many can learn from.

Here are a few things that I took away.

1.  Often, our greatest accomplishments occur after we push through our most difficult barriers.

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Who are You Competing Against?

Recently, I viewed a video of an acceptance speech that Matthew McConaughey gave when he received an Academy Award, the most coveted of all awards in Hollywood, for Best Actor in Dallas Buyer’s Club.


In his speech he said “[There are] three things I need each day.  One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase.”

In the first, something to look up to, he thanked God because that is who he looks up to.

In the second, something to look forward to, he recognized his family; his father who had passed, his mother, and a few other family members.

But it was the third, someone to chase, that made me think.  He recounted a story that began when he was 15 when a friend asked him who his hero was.  He answered that his hero, the person he was chasing, the person who drove him to do more and to become better everyday, was himself… 10 years from now.  After 10 years, when he turned 25, that same friend asked him if he had finally become his hero.  McConaughey replied “not even close.  My hero is me at 35.”  He continued “Every day, every week, every month, every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away.  I’m never gonna be my hero.  I’m not gonna attain that, I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because it keeps me with somebody to keep chasing.”

I’m sure that Matthew McConaughey had role models who he looked up to and who helped to shape his career.  But what motivated him, what drove his self actualization, was not an outward focus on the success or the failure of others, it was an inward focus on the development and refinement of himself.

Too often, people get caught up worrying about what others are doing around them; their accomplishments, their failures, how they reinvent themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, their ability or their inability to bounce after a failure and they benchmark their own success on it.

Who are you competing against?  Who are you chasing?


I’m often asked what it takes to move up at SEI.  We’re always looking for “A Players.”  They look different and bring a new perspectives.  But “A Players” have a few key characteristics.  Here are a few that I’ve identified.  I’d love to hear yours!

Click play or view the video here.

How to be an “A Player” at SEI

Embrace Risk and Fail Forward

All failure is not created equal.  Failure is limited to defeat when we don’t walk away from it having learned something that we didn’t know before or if we didn’t try again.

If you don’t succeed the first time, don’t try harder the next time, try smarter.

Organizations must create cultures that embrace risk, grow as a result of failure, and scale success, if they want to create sustainable growth.  Here’s how.

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