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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8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company [Part II]

8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company: This is the second post in a two-part series. You can view Part I here.

Last week, I published the first in a two part series on the attributes of a Big Dumb Company.  In that post, I highlighted the the first 4 characteristics which were bureaucracy, prioritizing numbers before people, an intolerance for failure, and a lack of Vision.  Here are the final 4.

5. No Flywheel

Steve Jobs once said “I’m as proud of what we don’t do, as I am of what we do.”

Often, organizations that experience great success in their beginnings, do so because they do some thing well.  They offer a product or service that meets the needs of their customers and provides adequate revenue to sustain their growth.  But as a Big Dumb Company grows, it attempts to become all things to all people and it loses sight of its core-business; it’s Vision becomes blurred.

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8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company [Part I]

8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company: This is the first post in a two-part series. 

As an organization grows from its entrepreneurial roots as an innovative upstart into a larger organization, it must guard against developing attributes of the Big Dumb Company; attributes that repel the top talent that it had once attracted, depress revenue growth and margin, and alienate customers.

At Service Express, we vigilantly guard against “catching” the cultural attributes of, what we call, the Big Dumb Company.  Our leadership team is intentional about consistently communicating the values of SEI to ensure that everyone understands what makes our people and our culture great.  We like to say that we’re living the SEI way.

I have the privilege of being able to talk to SEI leaders and employees regularly about our business.  Because we’re a growing company, I often take those moments to remind them that we must continually guard ourselves against becoming the Big Dumb Company; a transformation that doesn’t happen over night but is gradual and almost imperceptible to those who are unguarded.

Here are attributes of the Big Dumb Company:

1. Bureaucracy

As the Big Dumb Company grows, so also do its layers of management.  Often, managers at the Big Dumb Company create these layers to “shield” themselves from ideas, problems and customers and it works.

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10 Characteristics of a Great Employee

Awhile ago, I was asked to speak to students at a local high school about how they can better prepare themselves for the workforce.

If there’s one thing that I’m passionate about, besides Steeler’s football, it’s developing others.  And I saw this as an opportunity to have the same conversation with them that I’ll one day have with my kids when they’re old enough.

I know something about exceptional employees, I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by them at Service Express.  Through the years, I’ve also sat through my share of bad interviews, and have also had tough conversations with employees who didn’t turn out to be the right fit for our performance-driven culture.

Based on my experience, here are 10 characteristics of great employees that I’ve identified:

1.     Don’t wait for a title or compensation to do something.

Jerry Rice said “today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” Continue Reading…

Hire the Will, Teach the Skill

It’s a phrase I often use with leaders at SEI, particularly when they’re recruiting for talent at our organization.

Hire the Will, Teach the Skill

Because SEI is a growing company with an exceptional culture, we’re fortunate that we attract applicants with a high level of skill and aptitude in their areas of expertise.

But we don’t just hire people who can do the job.  By the time they’ve made it past our initial screening process, we’ve determined that they have both the skills and the aptitude to succeed.  We also have many candidates who rise to the top because they have an advanced skill set.

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God Doesn’t Steer a Parked Car

God doesn’t steer a parked car.  It’s one of my favorite sayings.  At Service Express we have another saying, “just do something.”

We’re a company that believes in action.  You can’t hit a home-run if you’re not in the game.

In this video, I explain what that looks like at SEI and how it impacts our employees and our business.

If the video does not display, view it here

At SEI we take action- trial and error is encourage.  Afterward, we conduct autopsies without blame.  We realize that mistakes are teachable moments and we fail forward.

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 love disagreement.  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…

Make Your Boss Work for You: How One Company’s Fierce Commitment to Personal, Professional, and Financial Goals Drives Corporate Success

This is an excerpt from the Return on Values Project: a three-year, $1 million dollar research project from Benedictine University that asks the question, What is the relationship between culture and profit in small and mid-size businesses.  Find out more about the project or read the entire article on SEI here.

“How do you give team members a sense of ownership in the company, so they work harder, perform better, and reach goals?  Make it clear how their performance at work impacts their personal, professional and financial goals.”  [Read about how Service Express does it here]


View the Video

Great Leaders are in the People Business

Recently I blogged about how performance measurement aids in creating high-performance cultures. But performance measurement should never eclipse an organization’s most powerful asset- people.

Metrics and measures have a funny way of pushing their way into the forefront of a leaders attention, particularly during times when they’re facing economic hardship or increased stress.  Often they hole-up in their office and stare at numbers on their screen thinking that if they just stare hard enough, maybe they’ll move. They retreat and spend less time with their team.

When I see that happening, I encourage leaders to get out of the office and invest in their people first.  I’ve found that when we do that, the numbers will almost always correct themselves.

Performance measurement begins with investment in people.

In his book, The Carolina Way, Dean Smith says that it’s critical to focus on people and process, not on winning. Winning will be the end result. His rational – If

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