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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Find a Mentor Who Will Challenge You

When I was hired into Service Express we were a very young company with a fraction of the employees and resources that we have now.

We hadn’t formalized The SEI Way (Vision talks and SR5) and a mentorship program wasn’t in the works.  As with most new businesses, we were stretching every resource that we had, including people, and it often meant long hours and short tempers.

Find a Mentor Who Will Challenge You

I was hired by Mike McCullough, SEIs former owner, who was also the President at the time.  Mike’s a great business man and he challenged me to grow in ways that I wouldn’t fully appreciate until years after.

We met regularly and before each meeting I would often get nervous.  Mike is Continue Reading…

6 Characteristics of Great Goals

In my last post, I wrote about the important task that a leader has in answering the question of what for their team or organization.

What matters? What should I do? What is your Vision?

characteristics of great goals

A great way to answer that question is through the creation of goals.

In my experience, I’ve found that effective goals are specific, challenging, provide line-of-sight, have a time-frame, are measurable, and are followed up on.

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The First Question a Leader Must Answer


It’s the first question a leader must answer.

This lesson was brought home to me as I was coaching my youngest son in baseball.

Throughout the game, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated as I kept hollering for him to “back up the pitcher.”  I didn’t understand why I had to keep getting on him for it.

After the game, as we were driving home, he asked me what I meant by ‘back up the pitcher?”

My heart sank. I had assumed that he knew what I meant.  I knew what it was that I wanted, but I hadn’t communicated the what in a way that he could understand.

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The Iceberg Principle

In the early morning of April 15, 1912, the British passenger ship RMS Titanic sunk in the North Atlantic Ocean.  The Titanic was dubbed the “unsinkable” ship, but it sank shortly after hitting an iceberg that tore through its hull below the waterline on its maiden voyage.

Only 10% of the iceberg was visible above the waterline, while 90% of it lurked deceptively below the waterline.


The iceberg principle simply says that when confronted with a situation, only 10% of the information is easily visible and is “above the waterline,” while the other 90% is hidden beneath the surface.  But it’s the 90% that can sink you.

I’ve observed the iceberg principle at play in many areas of business.  Here’s one:

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A Pillar of Great Customer Service: Don’t Manufacture a Need, Create a Want

A few years ago I walked into the chiropractor for a routine visit and walked out having experienced an insightful exercise in “customer relation management.”

A Pillar of Great Customer Service

In the past, I’ve visited chiropractors who treat their business like a marathon, trying to schedule and race through as many appointments as time will allow.  But this visit was different.  This chiropractor made some recommendations, we spent a good portion of our time discussing the “why” behind healthy living and we talked about some of the things that I’m involved in that are contributing to good health like Cross Fit.  He went so far as to tell me that if I continued to live a healthy life, I wouldn’t need him for more than occasional maintenance adjustments.

It was evident that he was more interested in empowering me to make healthy life decisions, even if it meant fewer visits for him to bill.  The moment I learned that he was in it for me, and that he was not trying to manufacture an urgency and dependency around his business, I was sold.

Customer commitment is priceless.  

A Big Dumb Company tries to manufacture a need for their products or services.  A great company recognizes that customers don’t need it and tries to create an experience that causes their customers to want to do business with it.  There’s a big difference in how employees approach customer service, from “acquisition” to “customer relationship management,” and it’s an important paradigm shift to make. Continue Reading…

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…

Your Focus Determines Your Future

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct or focus; we never concentrate our power.  Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” –Tony Robbins


Our brains have become attuned to the beeps, chirps and buzzes of a world that competes for our attention and it can be difficult to find focus.  But it’s increasingly imperative that we learn to recalibrate our focus if we want to live purposefully.

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We move by line of sight.  Where our eyes focus, our body will follow.  And where we focus our time and energy, our lives will follow.

What’s in your line of sight?

If you’d like to catch a glimpse of what your future will look like, just open your calendar.  Where is your line of sight today, this week, this month and this quarter?  Have you filled it with purposeful events?  Does it tell your story?

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Is Your Team Speaking the Same Language?

In the 1803 Battle of Maida, an army of 6,200 Napoleonic French prepared for battle against 5,200 allied British and Italian soldiers.

At the beginning of the battle, a commander for the allied army sent orders to “advance when the drums sound.”  By the time the order reached the front lines, it had been interpreted as “advance, sounding the drums.”

Despite such a colossal miscommunication, the allies were able to fight their way to victory.  But misinterpretations and miscues are often one of the greatest hindrances within teams.

Are Your Employees Speaking the Same Language?

Crystal clear communication is an essential ingredient of success for any organization, and in order to communicate well, there must be a shared language; with words and phrases which become the daily building blocks of an organization’s culture.

At SEI, we guard our culture vigilantly.  Part of The SEI Way of doing business is not only ensuring that we share the same core values, but also that our language reinforces those values.

What kind of culture does the following terminology evoke in your mind?  And more importantly, what kind of action do the following words inspire?

  • It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it.
  • Plan your work and work your plan.
  • Just do something. Continue Reading…

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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