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 Operating 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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Define Yourself

At Service Express, our Vision is to “work with our employees to help them achieve their personal, professional and financial goals.”  It’s the backbone of the work we do and the success we’ve experienced.  It’s why we do what we do.

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As a company, we believe in surrounding ourselves with the right people and then inviting them to share their personal, professional and financial goals. Employees write their goals down and then discuss them with their manager during “Vision Talks.”  This allows us to go to work for them to give them opportunity to achieve those goals.

In a very real way, SEI employees get to define who they are and what they do, and we celebrate that!

If this sounds like a culture you’d like to be a part of, I encourage you to check out the careers page on our website and come back often to see if there’s an opportunity that may be right for you!


3 Lists Everyone Should Keep

As we head into the final days of 2015 and begin to plan for the new year ahead, here are 3 lists worth making to set yourself up for success in 2016.


The Start Doing List

If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.

It can be easy to get stuck in a comfortable routine where we focus on the same things and we forget to take a step back and identify things that we should be doing that would have a big impact on our business and on others.

I often tell leaders at Service Express that “what got us here, won’t get us there.”  In other words, we cannot be content to rest on our laurels, we must continually look for new opportunities that will cause us to grow and become better.

As the President of Service Express, I can’t focus on the same things today that I focused on 5 years ago.  As our company has grown, so has the need for me to identify new areas that I must focus on to ensure that I’m having the greatest impact on our company.

Michael Hyatt illustrates this well by saying that just as we must put the big rocks into a vase first, and then add the smaller ones, so too should we prioritize our time so that we put our most impactful activities first.  If we put the smaller ones in first, there won’t be room for the big ones.

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Performance Measurement the SEI Way

At SEI, we work hard, play hard and get great results.

I often remind people that having fun, without getting results, is just ‘goofing off.”  Getting great results on the job is a critical ingredient to building an engaged workforce and it allows teams to have fun while working toward a common goal together.

At SEI, we utilize our performance measurement system, we call it SR5 (it stands for Scorecards, ROIs and 5/15s) to make sure that employees have goals, understand their objectives, and get great results for themselves and for SEI.  It also helps us to recognize employees for the great work that they do on a regular basis.  Here’s a video that details how our performance measurement system works.

You can find out more about SEIs performance measurement system by clicking here.

If you’re interested in applying for a job at Service Express, you can check out our Careers page here.

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…

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