Bus Driving

I waved at the school bus driver this morning…she didn’t wave back. She rarely does…too busy driving.

More children would voluntarily ride the bus if the driver was less of a driver and more of a person…a person who’s purpose was to engage, show interest, teach and delight. Children spend hundreds of hours on the bus…to get to the place where learning is supposed to happen. Why can’t it start on the bus?

As an aside…bus drivers are everywhere. They’re disguised as bank tellers, front desk clerks, DMV employees and tech help center agents. Often hired for function over care. What a wasted opportunity…what a shame.

Show Us Something You've Made

Anything. A short movie, a table, a poem, a training pamphlet..a new dance move. The only requirements are original (untested and might not work) and actually released. 

The fear of acceptance, a bosses approval or status in the peer group is the biggest hurdle in trying something new. Creativity isn’t hard until it’s time to show it to someone. 

Leaders dance with this fear and know how to manage it. Status and acceptance is less important than making a difference. And making a difference requires creativity and bold moves into new and uncharted territory. Making something new is the only way to get there.

Leading change requires practice…lot’s of trial and error. It’s best to start with small bits and learn that non-acceptance, failure and ridicule doesn’t hurt as much as you thought. So go ahead…make some art, a new play, a blog post or whatever. Just make.

Don't Jinx It

The HMAS Melbourne sank two friendly war ships during peacetime and was often referred to as “jinxed". The Curse of the Bambino cost the Boston Red Sox an 86 year World Series drought. Or, if we both utter the same thing at the same time…watch out.

The most powerful stories are often the ones we create to match our circumstances and to defend our choices…after they occur. It lets us off the hook…at least in our own minds. It gives us comfort to know that something else is at work, something outside of our control. It can’t possibly be because we made it so, or it was just our statistical turn.

Knowing this we can craft a different story. We can take responsibility to understand what’s really going on, to dig a little deeper to understand the science and the facts. And better yet, we can choose to use that posture of seeking insight to make better decisions, to lead change…and to get back on the hook.

Obsession

…is a requirement for legacy work…doing something worth talking about long after you’re gone. Caring enough about the detail of something to the point of obsession is how the remarkable becomes remarkable. It’s not through luck or happen stance. How something is made and delivered and the posture and culture of the people doing it matters. Is the next one just another one? Or is it the only one…the last one? 

Deciding to focus sharply on the details is a choice. Get enough people to do it and you’ve created a culture of romance, making people feel like they are the center of your universe. That’s really hard to avoid talking about.

Stealing Business

…isn’t a good strategy because much like kids’ toys, it’s based on taking what’s not yours. Typically the tactics include acts of desperation...short-run price drops and deceptive offers to create attention and entice someone to change. The problem then becomes convincing someone to stay…because there’s always a better short-term deal. It’s a downward spiral leading to low quality, poor service and a legacy of trickery.

Alternatively, you could be in the business of creating something worth talking about and delivering what was promised. You could employ care as your strategy…caring enough not to take what you didn’t earn. And you could get busy making something that can’t be easily taken…trust.

Free is Too Expensive

…most of the time. Because most of the time it’s a zero sum game. Free is on offer when there is a concession elsewhere. The movie is free. But we’ll show you some ads. Here’s a free phone…for signing a two year contract. Or, it’s last year’s model. Time, quality, price and trust…they are all interchangeable parts in the system. 

Sometimes though, there aren’t any strings attached. It’s just a generous offer…a gift. Just understand the difference the next time you’re offered a free lunch.

Privilege of Artful Work

A job is more than a chance to do the work someone else prescribes. It’s an opportunity to show your best self, approach and do work in such a way that it changes someone. We all know when we experience someone in this state, it’s a magical and remarkable experience.

Showing up and meeting the standard is important…it’s work that needs to be done. Performing the work in such a way that it moves someone is a choice. It comes with the risk that it might not work. But it’s also one we all deserve. Choose wisely.

All We Need is One Percent

…is one of the most common traps of modern business plans. A speculative, larger outcome is always easier to develop than the smaller, first steps necessary to gain traction. Everyone knows that the grand end will likely be different than planned, so it’s not seen as a promise…just a desired result. But what you’re going to do today and tomorrow to get there…that’s much more real. You’re on the hook and there's no way off.

Best to first focus on how to get the first few people to buy your product or idea. Scale later.

A Bad Day

Everyone has a lousy day. The one that doesn’t start right because the routine, the expected smoothness, a good night’s sleep or just simply feeling well was somehow interrupted. It’s a downward spiral. And we can’t wait to hit the reset button…when will this day end?

Of course having a bad day is a choice. We can stop it at anytime. One bad thing doesn’t need to lead to another. But sometimes we can’t break the chain. Sometimes we need a little help, a boost, some clarity…and someone to see what we are seeing, feel what we are feeling. We need someone to stop for a moment, take the time to notice, to see us as individuals and to care enough to offer to help, hoping to lift the burden in some small way. We need someone to make our day. And that someone might as well be you.

How can you change someone’s day for the better…today?

Selling an Idea

…is often like selling someone a meal when they’re not hungry. You’re offering a solution to a problem they don’t have…yet. But what if you could create a version of the future so compelling, so interesting and legacy driven that you could gain enrollment to go there? And what if you could take responsibility for getting past the obstacles that stand in the way? What if you did the heavy lifting?

Big ideas often come with hard work and risk. But they are necessary for meaningful change. Your job isn’t to sell the idea. It’s to lead the charge to get there.  

A Culture of Help

Your goals aren’t nearly as important as the ones of the people around you.

A posture of generous and caring commitment to people on your team is the most effective way, perhaps the only way, to fulfilling your own dreams…because people naturally want to help those that help. 

Leading change is really hard to do on your own. Gaining enrollment from others may be even harder…unless you commit to seeing them first.

Density and Caliber

There’s a lot riding on the people you choose when building a culture, creating a meaningful legacy that outlives the current group or project. Adding just one person who isn’t aligned at the core and enrolled in your purpose can take a considerable amount of time and energy to unwind. But of course it’s going to happen. No matter how much you interview, research or test, someone’s going to slip by. The key then is to create an overwhelming majority…a high density group of remarkable, legacy driven people who take-over the culture and keep it from falling into the wrong hands. If you have enough high caliber people who care to do work that matters in a generous way, a few oddballs won’t matter so much.

Harmony

Great design, both physical and service, isn’t about one or two parts elevated above the rest of it. We don’t expect a great hotel to have spotless bathrooms but lousy curb service at the front door. We’re far less likely to talk about a restaurant if only the appetizers are worth going for. The most remarkable experiences aren’t the one offs, they’re the ones that consistently and harmoniously deliver at all of the edges. Harmony requires an extra level of care and obsession on all of the details…not just a few. Harmony matters…but it’s really hard. That’s what makes it remarkable.

A Service Culture

…is not merely doing customer service. A service culture exists if you are seeking to change people. Customer service is what we call it when we are nice to people. Customers, whether patrons in the butcher shop, students in class or parishioners at church, all have a problem to solve. Part of the problem is transactional…solved by merely providing what’s on offer…the cut of beef, education or comfort. Solving this part of the problem isn't customer service nor does it require a service culture. One step up, being pleasant and helpful, is what we’ve come to know as customer service. This wrapper around the transaction is part of the culture we’ve developed and come to expect. But it’s not worth extra…being nice just comes built-in. Alternatively, service comes from doing something else. It comes from acting with intent to change a person from someone who merely gets served to one who feels uniquely looked after. It’s a gift of focus, obsession on detail and caring that comes with no strings attached…and it’s usually a pleasant surprise. 

Customer service is an overused and misused phrase connected to what and how something gets done. But a service culture starts before that…it begins with the “why” something gets done. Purpose creates a cause and pins meaning to the act of serving. It’s what creates and drives a service culture. And it’s what changes someone fom merely being part of a transaction to someone who cares about changing the way people feel.

Purpose begets “wow, you did that just for me”.

Have a nice day.

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