An Essential Characteristic of Winning Cultures: Allowing for Failure

There is a fatal mistake that too many organizations make when they grow. It happens quietly when leaders are unintentional about creating the right culture. The mistake is the formation of bureaucracy and a cultural aversion of risk.

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One of the fatal flaws of bureaucracy is the creation of rules that limit talent, including those that discourage talent to experiment for fear of failure. I once heard someone describe the fear of failure as a wet blanket that extinguishes the fire of innovation and I agree.

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The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager

Here’s an update of one of my most popular posts, The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager.

Recently, on Twitter, I got into a disagreement with someone on the difference between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  Those who know me, know that I believe disagreement sharpens people, ideas and organizations.  Agreeable disagreement causes us to examine our beliefs and it challenges us to make sure that we’re practicing what we preach.


I believe that there are very distinct differences between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  But the roles should not be in conflict with each other.  Sustainable, high-performance organizations recognize that there is a symbiotic relationship between managers and leaders and they ensure that both are being utilized effectively.

I believe that we manage things (processes, procedures and outcomes) and we lead people (employees, customers and others).

Here are examples of differences that I’ve identified (I’d love to hear yours in the comment section below):

A manager focuses on process and procedure, a leader focuses on people.

A manager administrates.  A leader envisions. Continue Reading…

An Essential Characteristic of Leaders: Drive

It was 1987 and I was northbound on a crisp late-fall afternoon in Michigan.

My mission that day was clear – to gain acceptance to Central Michigan University to pursue a degree in education.  I had already been rejected once and I still didn’t have the grades, but that wasn’t going to stop me again from getting in.

Knowing that I’d be rejected again if I tried the traditional admission process – submitting an application, writing an essay and sending in my high-school transcripts – I bypassed that route. Instead, I scheduled a meeting with an admissions counselor to try to convince her to let me attend CMU the following year. Continue Reading…

On Vision

Henry Ford once said, “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”  I agree.

At Service Express, our Vision is to “work with our employees to help them achieve their personal, professional and financial goals.”  You can see what that looks like by viewing Service Engineer Mark Krueger’s SEI Vision Story.  Mark accomplished a Vision goal that he “never thought possible” as a result of SEI’s Vision process and his teammates.

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Information vs Instinct

This is a guest post by Mark Aesch, Chief Executive Officer at TransPro.  Mark is also the author of the book Driving Excellence.  Prior to this, Mark served as the Chief Executive Officer at the Rochester Transportation Authority where he brought a private sector mentality to the public sector and turned the the Authority around. I encourage you to follow Mark on Twitter or to connect with him on his website!

So often we hear from leaders in all sectors – business, government and not for profit – about how they are willing to make the “tough calls”. This typically happens as they are pounding a podium or a table for emphasis. They look like such strong leaders – which is precisely the point. They look like a leader.

Leadership- Information vs Instinct

True leaders, on the other hand, don’t have to look like anything. True leaders are trying to minimize their participation to the barest of minimums. They lead by creating an environment where quality information lights the path to the right decision. And instinct is left in the darkest corner.

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Four Core Objectives: The SEI Way

At Service Express, we don’t shy away from talking about company culture. We’re committed to working hard, achieving results and having fun at the same time. And that means we not only take pride in meeting our customer needs and providing great service, but we also focus on creating a positive work environment for our employees.

A key philosophy that’s helped drive results, like our 98 percent customer retention rate and low 10 percent employee turnover, is our shared commitment to making decisions based on what we call our Four Core Objectives.

SEI’s Four Core Objectives are:

Before we make any decision, we bounce it off each of our Four Core Objectives. If we can explain how the decision will positively affect each of the four objectives, we feel confident that we’re making a good choice.

Let me give an example. Continue Reading…

Last year I was invited to be a panelist at a couple of Inc/ Small Giants Leadership Forums alongside Bo Burlingham and Paul Spiegelman.

In this clip, Bo, who is an Editor-at-Large for Inc Magazine and the author of the book Small Giants, asks me how SEI’s Vision to “work with our employees to help them achieve their personal, professional and financial goals,” impacts our customers.

If this video does not play, you can view it here


How SEI’s Unique Vision Impacts Customers

Vision: The SEI Way

At Service Express, Inc. (SEI), our company vision is the backbone of the work we do and the success we’ve achieved. It’s our purpose. And it’s simple:

As a company, we believe in surrounding ourselves with the right people and then inviting them to share their personal, professional and financial goals. After discussing goals with their manager during “Vision Talks,” employees put them on paper. This allows us to take a look at them and get to work helping them achieve their goals.

We believe our annual double-digit growth is a result of this philosophy. Continue Reading…

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.

Why?

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

The Importance of Work Life Balance

The lines between work and home have blurred.  Technology that was supposed to make life easier has affected our ability to balance life at home with obligations at work. Cell phones vibrate all the time, day and night, and they demand our attention.  Our minds have become attuned to the chirps and vibrations of our devices.  So much so that some experience a physiological phenomenon called Phantom Vibration Syndrome where they reach for their pocket sensing the vibration of their cell phone only to find that it was not vibrating at all.

Professionals today feel pressure to be the first to arrive at work and the last to leave.  That often means saying goodbye to the kids as they’re getting out of bed, and hello to them as they’re climbing back into bed.  Often, vacation time goes unused.  When we do go on vacation we’re never more than a text, email or phone call away.

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