The Polo Club in Palm Desert—think palm trees, blue cloudless sky, low humidity, Ritz Carleton and cool evening breezes—was the site of the opening reception for our corporation’s annual meeting. All of the directors, corporate officers and key staff, and division presidents, along with their spouses were there for three days of business in the mornings, fun in the afternoons, and dinner every evening.
It was my first time at the annual meeting so I was excited as Dottie (my wife) and I worked our way up the receiving line. After the Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief Legal Counsel, and Chief Financial Officer, we came to the second highest chief, the Chief Operating Officer (COO). (Yeah, I know, you’re thinking too many chiefs, not enough…. Well, a $10B+ corporation takes a lot of chiefs and assistant chiefs.) As we approached the COO, he had a huge smile and made my day by introducing me to his wife by saying, “This is Dick Wells. He runs our Nashville division and he’s one of my favorites.” For about ten seconds my ego soared completely out of control until the COO’s wife brought me down to earth by commenting, “You say that about everyone.” Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
Let’s be honest. Don’t we all want to be someone’s favorite? We learn early in life the advantages of being a favorite. We strive to be the teacher’s favorite, or the coach’s, then at some point it’s a girl or guy we hope to marry, and later the boss’s. If that striving is focused on serving, not manipulating, flattering, etc., it is a good thing.
In my various leadership roles, I have been very blessed to have some exceptional people serve and support me. They earned favor with me. When they needed a hearing to ask for special favor, they got the hearing and more often than not they got “yes” to their requests. They were all different in terms of their talents and personalities, but they all had these things in common:
● They were trustworthy. They did what they said they would do whether it was a huge project that took months, something simple, or something hard.
● They were not high maintenance. I didn’t dread it when they walked into my office. They didn’t expect me to be their counselor or therapist and they didn’t expect me to fix all their problems.
● They were focused on the company’s needs, not personal agendas. They knew that promotions would come if they excelled in the job they had rather than worrying about the job they wanted.
● They were positive and fun to work with. I looked forward to time with them. They didn’t bring gloominess into the room with them.
● They got results. They knew that working hard and being lovable was not the goal. We needed to satisfy customers, deliver profits, motivate and develop employees, and introduce new products.
● They told me the truth when I messed up (which was often). There was no sugar coating or walking on egg shells around the boss.
They gained my favor without manipulating, maneuvering, flattering, politicking, or abusing others. They had a simple strategy: be exceptional every day. It worked for them. It will work for you.
[This is an excerpt from my first book, One Stone At A Time, coming this fall.]
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© Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner