In our coaching practice Ron and I talk a lot about leadership. Companies with great leadership at the top are certainly more likely to succeed. But what if you are not at the very top, or even near the top? Do you feel like you just work there? You don't have to feel this way.
I could tell you all kinds of stories about how unexpectedly an individual stepped up to the plate and made a huge difference in their organization. Because of limited space I will mention just a few.
Perhaps you have heard the story about "Johnny the Bagger." Johnny is a bagger at a local grocery store. He is also has Down syndrome. Johnny attended a company-wide seminar by motivational speaker Barbara Glanz. At the end of the presentation Johnny decided he wanted to make a difference in his job so he comes up with an idea. A very simple and clever idea.
Johnny decides he will write a note with a happy thought for the day and put it in each patron's bag. Johnny wrote nice things and when he ran out of ideas his dad helped him. They printed the thought of the day on their home computer and Johnny carefully cut them into small strips.
Johnny cheerfully began handing them out to everyone who went through his check-out line. So many customers were touched and looked forward to Johnny's inspirational messages that they visited the grocery store much more often to purchase something and get a note from Johnny.
On one occasion a check-out register had such a long line that the manger opened some others and encouraged patrons to switch lanes to speed things up. The customers refused shorter check-out lines. Remember they were there for Johnny's message of the day.
This spirit spread throughout the store. When the flower department had a flower with a broken stem they would pin it on an elderly person rather than throw it away. There were many smiles and happy people that worked and patronized the store.
Now for the most powerful part of the story, Johnny changed the attitudes and actions of the store employees and leaders. Johnny was the one individual that you would have thought was at the bottom of the totem pole and who had no impact on the organization. Wham! His actions changed everything! Johnny had HEART! One individual started the change and it kept building momentum.
I have a client in Michigan who has the word "Plus" at the end of their name. They go out of their way to do little extras for clients that other contractors wouldn't think of. When they leave a project their clean-up is immaculate. It probably adds an extra 5 - 7 man hours to every project but their Raving Fans who keep coming back make it worth it.
This was started with one individual whose name is Barney. Barney is a tough neck field leader or as Larry the Cable Guy would say he knows how to "git 'er done." He makes sure everyone on his team pays special attention to the needs of the project owner and their clients. He lives up to the "Plus" everyday.
The reason I know this is important is that those of us who are not appointed or anointed leaders still make a difference. I think about all the interactions I have throughout my 220 days of travel per year and how just one person will make a huge difference in my day. I am delighted to recommend their organization to others.
Conversely, a bad experience will achieve an equally poor recommendation. Remember the old saying, "bad news travels faster than good news." Just one bad experience and most customers won't return. The same holds true for your business too!
One of my favorite aunts passed away this past Sunday. She had pancreatic cancer. They gave her two months to live about two years ago. She was with us a lot longer than any of her doctors predicted. She was a strong Christian woman who tried to take care of everybody even up until her last day. She was concerned that my cousin who is a big brawny SWOT leader from Houston didn't have breakfast, instead of worrying about her own condition.