In May I had the privilege of attending the Refresh Leadership Simulcast, sponsored nationally by Express Employment Professionals. Featured presenters were Ken Blanchard, globally recognized leadership consultant, football legend Peyton Manning, and Walter Bond, former Utah Jazz basketball player. What an interesting mix of backgrounds and approaches!
So much of what they taught resonated with me, and my own experience through decades of watching leaders. I cannot do justice to the topic of leadership in this short article, but if you are interested I can put you in contact with the local Express Employment Professionals team and they can help you find the entire event online. I will try to pick one concept for each speaker to whet your appetite.
Ken Blanchard's presentation was summarized in the following quote: "Today the present and the future are banging into each other. We must live in the present, but prepare for the future." In order for your company to energetically move into the future, however, you need to create a vision for your employees, including the values that will drive your decisions and some achievable, measurable goals for us to focus on.
Want to know what he termed " the stupidest thing I have ever heard"? It was a company that had laid off a significant position of their people without most of them even knowing that the company was in trouble. One of the biggest problems in corporate America today is leaders in companies that never take time to share ( and enforce) their visions, values and goals!
In tough times, the leader needs to become the "Bearer of Hope" for the employees. Be honest but not defeatist! For example, a good leader might start a discussion with his employees by saying, "This is the present reality, but if we stick together we can . . . . " If ever there was a time when your people need a leader to follow it is when things are most challenging. Don't abandon them when they need you the most!
He spoke of Southwest Airlines, using them as a good example of a company that is doing things right. Do you think the employees of Southwest Airlines know the vision and values of the company? Do you think they are in the airline business, or the transportation business? Every employee he interviewed knew that they were in "the customer service business and we just happen to fly airplanes." That had obviously been drilled into them by their leaders. And listen to the values of Southwest Airlines:
- Safety - (I was glad to hear that is No. 1)
- Warrior Spirit - (They use the term "Do It" to explain that concept)
- Servant's Heart - (This goes hand-in-hand with the "customer service business" mentioned above. They are to be a servant first, leader second. From the bottom of the hierarchy to the top they are asked "are you here to serve, or to be served?")
- Fun-Loving Attitude - (Once you are safe and focused on business basics, why not have FUN while you are at it? Your customers notice it and like it.)
Blanchard's comments were designed to turn today's "managers" into tomorrow's "leaders". It is the leader who will create a spirit, or energy, in the company that will propel it into the future.
Peyton Manning focused his comments on "valuing the fundamentals", whether in football or in business. Don't exaggerate yesterday's successes or underestimate tomorrow's challenges. The focus on fundamentals starts in training camp, even for highly paid professional athletes. "There are no 5-Star hotels in training camp," he said, "and it is the same drill year after year. But that is where you learn to focus (or re-focus) on fundamentals."
"Everyone loves to play the game, but few like to practice." Another athlete, Marvin Harrison, put it this way: "The games are free. You get paid to practice." I like that thought.
Walter Bond compared leaders with parents. He noted that little children love to have their Daddy pick them up, primarily because it gives the child a different perspective on life. He said, "Our job as leaders is to help our employees change their perspective." Blanchard's final thought really hit home with me: "If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat." That is what vibrant leadership is all about, isn't it?
James Smith is the President/CEO of the Davis Chamber of Commerce.