Phenomenal Leadership Lesson

Published on February 7, 2010

A new show, Undercover Boss, premieres tonight on CBS right after the Super Bowl. Larry O’Donnell, President and Chief Operating Officer of Waste Management Corp, goes undercover as a regular worker to better understand what his employees go through. From this experience, Larry has developed a better appreciation for all that his employees do. He understands that most workers really do want to succeed. He also now realizes that the two most important issues for an employee are appreciation and being listened to.

Buck Rogers, the famed Vice President of Sales for IBM in the early years, used to tell the story of how they would hold their annual sales meeting in Madison Square Garden and bring the top performers up on stage to get their bonuses which were paid in cash. Buck said the money was nice, but the real value of the exercise was the public display of appreciation for one’s efforts and success in front of their peers. Many surveys have been done over the years trying to figure out why top producing sales people would leave one job for another. Out of 10 variables, the number one reason was appreciation. The fifth reason was money.

Whether you are an employee, a salesperson, or even a customer, the same rules apply to everyone. If you want to succeed in leadership and increase your level of influence, you need to provide the two things people value most: being appreciated and being listened to. This was true 50 years ago and it is true today. Even truer in today’s tough economic conditions where people need to feel more “love” for their efforts. The moment a customer feels they are not being listened to and appreciated, they will go elsewhere. The moment an employee feels they are not being appreciated, they may stay in their jobs, but they will have lost their motivation and their productivity will go downhill.

This is why I titled my new book Lead, Sell or Get Out of the Way. Whether you are a CEO, a professional salesperson, a provider of professional services or even a teacher, your success depends on how well you can influence others. Are you listening to them? Are you giving and presenting ideas in ways that will motivate your constituents? Tonight, you will see some of the findings and the changes in actions as Larry presents his journey on Undercover Boss.

But how about creating your own journey and “reality” show as a leader in your organization? You can start with getting your constituents time and attention by doing a few simple things, such as: Asking better questions, listening better, creating more powerful value propositions and holding yourself accountable. Little changes in these areas can produce profound results. A retired professor e-mailed me and said if he had read Lead, Sell or Get Out of the Way while he was still working, he would have been a better teacher!

Click here to see how you can supercharge your business. By showing your customers and others who depend on you appreciation for their efforts and by listening to understand their needs better you will become more valuable as you help them succeed.

Bottom line, you are the difference. Not your products or services. The difference lies in each and every person. Sales executives need to understand they are the difference in whether a customer stays or leaves. A leader needs to understand they are the difference as to whether or not an employee is motivated. If each person takes responsibility for their own actions, imagine how successful your organization would be. And it all starts at the top, as it did with Larry O’Donnell.