Authors: Robin Sharma
Business is about loving the people who do business with you and giving them more value than they have any right to expect.
And guess what? If a new club opens up that shows it understands why it is in business—to add value and delight its customers—I’ll be the first to show up. To me, business is about loving the people who do business with you and giving them more value than they have any right to expect. Care for your clients. No … astonish them. And your success and sustainability will be guaranteed. Pretty simple idea. So few get it.
When I go into an organization to help develop and grow leaders, the client often asks me to help employees understand what leadership is all about. Leadership has nothing to do with the title on your business card or the size of your office. Leadership is not about how much money you make or the clothes you wear. Leadership is a philosophy. It’s an attitude. It’s a state of mind. It’s a way of operating. And it’s available to each one of us. No matter what you do within an organization. Robert Joss, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business, made the point splendidly when he observed: “By leadership I mean taking complete responsibility for an organization’s well-being and growth, and changing it for the better. Real leadership is not about prestige, power or status. It is about responsibility.” The invitation I offer to every group of employees I work with: Lead without title.
Here’s an example. I spend a lot of my life on airplanes and traveling so I’m hard on my luggage. The handle on my carry-on luggage broke after my tour of Russia (you have to put a visit to St. Petersburg on your list of places to visit before you die). Anyway, I took the piece in to Evex, a dealer in Toronto. The young man at the counter treated me wonderfully and, within a few days, the handle was fixed. Perfect.
While in New York a little while later, the handle broke again. I assumed that I’d have to pay for the repair when I went back to Evex. Most businesses put clients through so many hurdles: If you haven’t saved the receipt you are out of luck. If you don’t know who did the initial repair we cannot help. If you didn’t buy it at this location you don’t exist. Well, Evex is different. They just get it. They understand that without treating their customers well, there is no business. They haven’t forgotten who puts food on their table each night. Treat your customers like royalty and you cannot help but win.
When I explained that the handle had broken again, the young woman at the counter—without a moment of hesitation—apologized for the problem I faced. She then said: “We promise you that you will have your carry-on in perfect order within three days. And of course, sir, there will be no charge.” No bureaucracy around needing the receipt from the previous repair. No hassles. No issues. Just great service, with a giant smile.
“Real leadership is not about prestige, power or status. It is about responsibility.”
This woman showed true leadership. She quickly diagnosed the problem, assumed personal responsibility and made the right decision. Part of the solution versus part of the problem. And she wowed her customer in the process. She wasn’t the owner. Not the supervisor. Not a manager. Just a leader without title.
Big question for you: “What are you doing to help build a new and better world?” Don’t blame the politicians. Don’t blame those around you. Don’t blame your parents or your background. Doing so is playing the victim and this world has far too many people playing the victim when they could be sharing their brilliance and making a profound difference. Mother Teresa said it so much better than I ever could: “If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.”
Blaming others is excusing yourself. Telling yourself that you—as an army of one—cannot have an impact is giving away your power. After a hurricane a while ago, a couple of college kids got their hands on empty school buses and drove them into the ravaged area when everybody else said the city was impenetrable. A little man in a loincloth named Mahatma Gandhi freed an entire nation. A woman named Rosa Parks sparked a civil rights movement because she refused to sit at the back of a bus. Ordinary people really can do extraordinary things. I love what Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, once said: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”
Live by what I call the Jennifer Aniston Rule. In an issue of
Aniston said that she gives herself one day to play victim after experiencing a challenging event. After that day of feeling powerless and sorry for herself, she wakes up and takes ownership for the way her life looks. She takes personal responsibility for her part in the problem—even if that only amounted to 1%. That’s personal leadership in action. “It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always,” offered entertainment superstar Oprah Winfrey.
Blaming others is excusing yourself. Telling yourself that you—as an army of one—cannot have an impact is giving away your power.
What don’t you like about your life or the organization you work for or the country you live in? Make a list. Write it down. Shout it out. And then do something to improve things. Anything. Start small or go big. Just do something. As you exercise your power to choose, guess what? Your power grows. And as you work within your sphere of influence to make things better, guess what? Your sphere of influence expands. So do your part. Today. Now. The world will be better for it.
I dropped off my son, Colby, at his friend’s house this past weekend. When his buddy walked up to our car to greet him, I asked: “What are you guys going to do?” The reply came in one big word: “Play.” Perfect answer.
Children are our teachers. I’m not the guru in our home—my kids are. As I drove back to my place, I reflected on the importance of play. How often do you ask an adult “What do you plan on doing today?” and get the response “Play”? Maybe that’s why our world is broken.
Adults are nothing more
than deteriorated children.
What would your life look like if there was more play? What would your experience of work be like if you had more fun doing your job, no matter what job you do? What would your relationships look like with more spontaneity, laughter, festivity and youthful—no, wild—abandon? As adults, we stop playing once we assume the responsibilities of life. Adults are
nothing more than deteriorated children. Why? It doesn’t have to be that way. Make the time to play. Find the time to be a little reckless and silly. Be imaginative at work and bring curiosity back to your days. Get back to that sense of wonder you knew when life was all about make-believe, riding your bike and enjoying every second of this journey called living. And the next time someone looks at you—with your briefcase, business suit and serious face—and asks what you plan on doing today, I invite you to confidently give the only reply that matters: “I’m going out to play.”
Most training and learning doesn’t last. No stickiness. We attend a seminar and vow to transform our lives. We say we’ll be better parents, more effective leaders and wiser human beings. Two days later, it’s back to business as usual—seeing the negative, playing the victim and being cranky. The learning didn’t work. Because we didn’t change.
No one wants to fail. So most of us don’t even try.
Having helped hundreds of thousands of people create
change, and businesses around the world win in their markets, I’ve identified four main reasons why people resist change and often don’t take the steps to elevate their careers and their lives, even when they have the opportunity to do so. With greater awareness of these four factors—which I call the Four F’s Syndrome—you can make better choices. And when you make better choices, you are certain to experience better results. Big idea: Personal leadership begins with self-awareness because you can’t
improve a weakness or a blind spot you don’t even know about. In other words, once you know better you can do better.
Here are the four things that keep us from making the changes we want to make:
People fear leaving their safe harbor of the known and venturing off into the unknown. Human beings crave certainty—even when it limits them. Most of us don’t like trying something new—it brings up our discomfort. The key here is to
your fear by doing the very thing that frightens you. That’s the best way to destroy a fear. Do it until you’re no longer scared. The fears you run away from run toward you. The fears you don’t own will own you. But behind every fear wall lives a precious treasure.
No one wants to fail. So most of us don’t even try. Sad. We don’t even take that first step to improve our health or to deepen our working relationships or to realize a dream. In my mind, the only failure in life is the failure to try. And I deeply believe that the greatest risk you can ever take is not taking risks. Take that small step and do it fast. Sports superstar Michael Jordan once said: “There was never any fear for me, no fear of failure. If I miss a shot, so what?” Failure is just an essential part of realizing success. There can be no success without failure.
Sure we leave the seminar room after an inspirational workshop ready to change the world. But then we get to the office the next day and reality sets in. Difficult teammates to deal with. Unhappy customers to satisfy. Demanding bosses to appease. Uncooperative suppliers. No time to act on the commitments we made for personal and professional leadership.
So we forget them.
Here’s a key to success: Keep your commitments top of mind. Heighten your awareness around them. Better awareness—Better choices. Better choices—Better results.
Keep your self-promises front and center. Don’t forget them. Put them on a three-by-five-inch card that you post on your bathroom mirror and read every morning. Seems silly, works beautifully. (You should see my bathroom mirror.) Talk about them a lot (you become what you talk about). Write about them each morning in your journal.
Too many people have no faith. They are cynical. “This leadership training and personal development stuff doesn’t work.” Or “I’m too old to change.” Cynicism stems from disappointment. Cynical and faithless people were not always like that. They were filled with possibilities and hope as kids. But they tried and perhaps failed. And rather than staying in the game, recognizing that failure is the highway to success, they shut down and grew cynical. Their way to avoid getting hurt again.
So there you go, the four F’s of why we resist transformation and showing real leadership within our lives. Understand them and you can then manage and overcome them. Because awareness really does precede success. And ordinary people really can craft extraordinary lives. I see it happen all the time. You truly can get to greatness. Trust me. But you have to start. And how will you know if you don’t even try?
Problems are servants. Problems bring possibilities. They help you grow and lead to better things, both in your organization and within your life. Inside every problem lies a precious opportunity to improve things. Every challenge is nothing more than a chance to make things better. To avoid them is to avoid growth and progress. To resist them is to decline greatness. Embrace and get the best from the challenges in front of you. And understand that the only people with no problems are dead.
An unhappy customer yelling at you might seem like a problem. But to a person thinking like a leader, that scenario is also a giant opportunity to improve the organization’s processes to ensure that doesn’t happen again and to get some feedback that may be used to enhance products and services. So the problem has actually helped to improve the company. Free market research.
An interpersonal conflict at work can seem like a problem. But if you think like a leader and use the circumstance to build understanding, promote communication and enrich the relationship, the problem has actually made you better. It has been fodder for your growth and served you nicely. Bless it.
An illness or a divorce or the loss of a loved one might seem like a problem. Sure it’s painful (been there, done that, on the divorce side). But I’ve been shaped by my saddest experiences. They’ve brought me depth, compassion and wisdom. They have given me self-awareness. They’ve made me the man that I am. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
The only people with no problems are dead.
Problems reveal genius. World-class organizations have a culture that sees problems as opportunities for improvement. Don’t condemn them—learn from them and embrace them. World-class human beings turn their wounds into wisdom. They leverage their failures to bring them closer to success. They don’t see problems. They see possibilities. And that’s what makes them great. Remember, a mistake is only a mistake if you make it twice.