In You Can’t Send a Duck to Eagle School: And Other Simple Truths of Leadership, founder of Simple Truths and Successories, Inc., Mac Anderson shares lessons learned from forty years of leadership experience in building teams, creating a culture, and casting vision.
Anderson begins the book by sharing a story of how he learned the truism “You can’t send a duck to eagle school.” He writes;
“I once had lunch with a top executive from a company known for their legendary retail service. My wife and I are both huge fans, and over lunch, I shared with him some of the great service stories his people had provided the Anderson family.”
“I said, “With the service your people give, you must have a training manual two inches thick.”
He looked up and said, “Mac, we don’t have a training manual. What we do is find the best people we can find, and we empower them to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer.” Then he said something I’ll never forget: “We learned a long time ago that you can’t send a duck to eagle school.”
“Excuse me?” I asked.”
“He repeated, “You can’t send a duck to eagle school.” He said, “You can’t teach someone to smile; you can’t teach someone to want to serve; you can’t teach personality. What we can do, however, is hire people who have those qualities, and we can then teach them about our products and teach them our culture.”
As long as I live, I will never forget this simple analogy about hiring people.
It is branded on my brain forever. And since that day, with every hiring decision I’ve made, I find myself asking this question:
“Am I hiring a duck, thinking they will become an eagle?”
What can I do to help?
There is one question that every employee will love to have you ask: What can I do to help? So many times as leaders, we assume we’re doing all we can do; however, these six words—What can I do to help?—will usually prove your assumptions are dead wrong. The question should address three areas:
- What can I do to help you serve the customer better?
- What can I do to make your working environment more pleasant?
- What can I do to help you better balance your work and family life?
“Listening is wanting to hear.”—Jim Cathcart”
Change Is Good…You Go First
Change is the key that unlocks the door to growth and excitement in any organization. The leader’s ability to inspire a culture of change can make or break their success. Tomorrow comes at us with lightning speed, and our competitive advantage is a fleeting thing.
Keeping change and continuous improvements on the front burner is never easy. We are so focused on today’s problems that we put off planning for tomorrow’s opportunities. Keeping change alive starts with rewarding innovation, risk-taking, and creativity. In fact, you need to fail quickly and fail often to stay ahead of the competition.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T. S. Eliot
Forget Real Good…Remember Feel Good
Far too many companies are focused on the product and not the experience. We need to replace our brain with our heart, because that’s often how people make decisions. Studies have proven that the essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action and reason leads to conclusions.
“When hiring someone, start with the premise that attitudes are contagious. Then ask yourself one question: Is theirs worth catching?“
You Only Get One Chance to Make a Good Impression
Most leaders grossly underestimate the power of a first impression, not only of their employees but also of their customers. Never forget: with every new employee and every new customer, you have only one chance—just one—to make a great first impression. Plan it. Make it all it can be!
“The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
As a leader, however, we must manage our attitudes. Do we need to be perfect? Of course not. But we can never underestimate the influence that our actions and our attitudes will have on our team.
Managing your attitude is a very personal thing. For me, however, the most important factor is exercise. My attitude and my energy levels are directly tied to exercise. I can be doing everything else right, but without regular exercise, I can feel my attitude heading south.
Exercise, more than anything, is a stress buster. And don’t kid yourself: stress is a killer. A Carnegie Mellon research team showed that the effects of psychological stress on the body’s ability to regulate inflammation can promote the development and progression of disease. Therefore, if you’re not proactive in busting stress, it’s very likely to come back and bust you!
Change your thoughts and you change your world.—Norman Vincent Peale
Companies Don’t Succeed…People Do
To build a customer-first culture, you must put them second. Your employees must come first, because there is a rule of thumb in business that says, “Your people will only treat your customers as well as they are being treated. Thus, to have satisfied customers, they must be served by passionate people.
A leader’s job is to look into the future and see the organization, not as it is, but as it should be. —Jack Welch
Know the Power of One Page
Joe Calhoon and Bruce Jeffrey are consultants who specialize in helping companies create a simple one-page strategic plan. Here are the six key elements of the plan:
- Vision: a clear picture of your destination
- Mission: the driving purpose of your business
- Values: the guide you use for decision-making and how you treat one another
- Objectives: the numbers you track
- Strategies: the paths you’ve decided to take
- Priorities: the work that needs to get done and who needs to do it
According to Calhoon and Jeffrey, they’ve never seen a business plan that was too short, but they have seen hundreds that would make an acceptable cure for insomnia. They also said that once the management team understands the process, they have never encountered a company that couldn’t fit their plan on one page. Does it take a little more time to drill down? Sure it does, but it’s well worth it, because it forces you to cut out a lot of verbiage and make decisions on what’s most important.
You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life. —Zig Ziglar
So many times, the difference in a good leader versus a great leader is one word—humility. A great leader is never afraid to poke fun at himself and is always first to give all the due credit to others.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.—Rick Warren
Identify Your Core Value
- Core values are critical to build great brands and great companies.
- They must be continuously enforced to truly make it a part of your company culture.
Why the need for values in an organization? Core values serve as critical guides for making decisions, and when in doubt, they cut through the fog like a beacon in the night.
Identifying the core values that define your company is one of the more important functions of leadership. They can make or break your long-term success. But you also should know that gaps between your values and your actions can do more harm than good. In other words, if you talk about building a customer-first culture but fail to do so, you’ll lose the respect of your employees and your customers. Therefore, as a leader, you must select your core values carefully, because once you commit, your credibility is on the line.
Goals are for the future; values are for now. Goals are set; values are lived. Goals change; values are rocks that you can count on. —Sheldon Bowles
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.
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