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.

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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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98%: How SEI has Mastered Exceptional Customer Service

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.  You can find out more about the project here.

The Service Express culture can be summed up in one word- service.  In this video, the third installment in the Return on Values Project, SEI employees share how our service based culture makes SEI a better company to work for and do business with.


You can also view the complete Return on Values article “98%: How One Company has Mastered Exceptional Customer Service” here.  It include a question guide that you can review with your senior leadership team. Continue Reading…

4 Ways to Create a Culture that is Fun and Where Teams Get Great Results

In the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with many business leaders and one of the most common challenges that they face is in how to create a culture that promotes fun and gets great results.

I often read about the newest fad in fun workplace cultures; ping-pong tables, drinks, unlimited vacation time, putting for dollars, and other fun perks.  And while those perks can certainly contribute to a fun culture, they are not the answer for an engaged workforce.


Many question when it’s time to turn off the fun and turn on the results. But having fun and getting great results are not mutually exclusive practices.  In my experience, both are indispensable to organizational health, and one without the other does not create a healthy culture.  Having fun without getting results is just goofing off; and getting results without having fun is… well, not fun!

Here are 4 ways that we have fun and get great results at SEI.

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Leadership Lessons from the Race to the South Pole

The 1911 race to the South Pole between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott is a revealing illustration in leadership, team dynamics and how to surmount great challenges.

Amundsen was a master planner who spent a great deal of time preparing for his South Pole expedition.  His plans ensured that his team would never approach the outer-limits of exhaustion and that there would be ample food for the journey.  He did this by taking time to place supply depots along the route at just the right intervals.  He also made the decision early to use dogs to pull his sleds because they were well-suited for the conditions of the South Pole.

Scott, on the other hand, “took delight in exhaustion and suffering” and would push his men as fast and as far as he could to the point of exhaustion each day.  He decided to use horses and motorized vehicles to pull his sleds because they were faster than dogs.  This proved to be a fatal decision on the journey- when both machine and animal broke down- his men would be forced to pull their sleds full of supplies.

As he neared the South Pole, still believing that he would be the first to reach it, Scott and his team made a final all-out sprint.  But when they arrived, they discovered a note from Amundsen who had left 34 days earlier.

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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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Coach, Don’t Tell; How to Empower People & Save Yourself from Burnout

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.  You can find out more about the project here.

Dwight Strayer, Chief Operations Officer at Service Express, was on the fast-track to burnout until he made an important realization: by giving his team members the answers to their questions, he was preventing them from developing their technical and leadership skills. Hear Dwight’s story in the video below, part of the Return on Values research project.



You can also view the complete Return on Values article “How to Empower Your People & Save Yourself from Burnout: Coach, Don’t Tell” here.

They include a question guide that you can review with your senior leadership team.

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Three Pillars of a People-Focused, Results Driven Culture

Recently, Service Express was asked to participate in the Return on Values Project, a three-year, $1 million research project that asks the question “What is the relationship between culture and profit in small and mid-size business?”  The project is sponsored by Inc Magazine’s Small Giants community and Benedictine University.

This is the first in a series of videos filmed on-site at Service Express and it features excerpts from interviews with a number of SEI employees who share how performance measurement impacts them and contributes to an engaging culture.



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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…

Maintaining Progress

One of the first things that I did after purchasing our family cottage was to clean areas of the property that had been neglected for some time.

I sprayed and pulled a lot of weeds, then I reclaimed areas that ants and hornets had claimed as their own.  I was amazed at how quickly nature could take over in the absence of man!

It took a great deal of time and effort to clean the beach of weeds, but after I had, it only took 10 minutes a week for the kids and I to maintain it.

It made me think about areas of life that we often become neglectful of.

What areas need to be reclaimed from the weeds and the nests that are slowly taking over?

  • As leaders in our organization, have we neglected the people with whom we are charged?
  • Have we allowed the weeds of procrastination or busy-ness to eclipse the development of others?
  • Have we failed to maintain healthy relationships by broadcasting and not listening?
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