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Leadership – It Is Just Like Taking Little Kids Bowling

About a month ago my son and I visited two of his sons in Illinois. One is seven and one is four. When it is snowing outside and you have a small hotel room there just isn’t that much to do with a seven and four year old—especially when they’ve seen all the kid’s movies playing at the theater. So, we decided to take them bowling.

It has been a while since I took kids this young bowling. Even the lightest of balls is still heavy for kids. The way to make it a fun event is to make sure they put the bumpers up on the sides of the lane so the ball can’t go in the gutter. If you don’t do this every roll will end up being a gutter ball and it just won’t be fun for anyone (regardless of how much pizza you buy them!)

I’ve never seen a bowling ball bounce between the rails five or six times like I did those couple of days. The kids, of course, wanted the bumper off. We told them when they could actually roll it down the lane six times in a row, without hitting a gutter, we would do that. We never had to remove the bumpers, though. We went bouncing merrily along.

Isn’t that what leadership is often about? Keeping people between the bumpers?

Here is an example. You need your CSRs in your office, ready to take phone calls by 8 a.m. each day. You also need them to stay on the phones until 5 p.m. to make sure your customers are taken care of. This doesn’t mean 8:15 or 4:45, it means you are relying on them to do their job every day between 8 and 5. The bumpers are the boundaries make sure they understand your expectations. If you didn’t have these bumpers many people would come in when they wanted and leave when it was most convenient for them, not for your customers!

Are you are a company that requires your technicians to wear uniforms? Even the most highly paid athletes in the world have to wear a uniform. If they don’t wear it the right way they have to pay a fine.

Chicago Bear, Brandon Marshall, wore green cleats to promote Mental Health Awareness Week for the October 13th game last year against the Giants. Because he chose to do that he received a fine of $10,500 from the NFL. The NFL sets up bumpers, or boundaries, to make sure the image of the league is maintained. Imagine if they let players wear whatever they wanted?

I recently heard of a situation where a technician took the company truck out at night. After a few drinks, he got into a terrible traffic accident and someone was killed. Imagine looking in the paper the next day and seeing your van on the front page with the headline, “Woman Dies in Accident with (your name here) Van?” What does that do to your reputation as a company? If you have clear bumpers, and you manage your team to stay within those boundaries, the likelihood of events like this diminishes.

You may have to explain to your employees why you set up rules or bumpers. Most often it is to provide customers better service or protect the integrity of your company. If you are afraid to set these up, think again. Usually there is a consequence if you don’t.

As a leader you have an obligation to set them up … for everyone.

What Would 20 Million Viewers Say About You?

Last week my wife Mary Kay and I joined about 75 top performing franchisees from all seven of the Dwyer Group brands, along with Dwyer Group executives, for our annual Leadership Summit. This year we were in Scottsdale, Ariz., and enjoyed cloudless skies and weather approaching 80 degrees each day. I’m not sure some of our franchisees have even made it home yet, in their snow-blanketed areas!

Here is what I learned from the best-of-the-best. They do things differently. They pay attention to more things. They measure more. They treat their teams better. Their focus is different. There is a reason for their success—it has nothing to do with their market or anything else!

In fact I had a chance to moderate a “retention panel” with a very successful franchisee from each of the brands. Getting a better understanding as to how each of these leaders retain employees was enlightening for me and the other attendees.

The worst thing about being away was missing the nightly Olympic coverage. (But, if I had my druthers, I’d still be in Phoenix lounging by the pool each day and reading the Olympic results sitting in the hot tub.)

Many of us enjoy watching the Olympics coverage.  When Mary Kay and I got home from Scottsdale we went back to our norm … open our computers and put them on the kitchen counter (as usual), turn on the Olympics coverage, and eat dinner in front of the TV watching that day’s events.

I had a thought while watching the coverage of the men’s figure skating finals. Patrick Chan of Canada was in position to win the gold. He had waited four years for this opportunity. Four long years. Since the 2010 Games in Vancouver, where he finished fifth, he had won the past three world championships—all with eyes towards Sochi.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, who had a huge lead going into the final event, fell twice during his long program and opened the door for Chan. Wide open. All Chan had to do was skate a clean program—not a great program—and he was the Olympic champion. He didn’t. He had three big mistakes and lost by just over 4 points. A four-year wait with the door wide open to win and he now has to wait four more years.
Approximately 20 million viewers watched it happen. So here is this week’s question:

Imagine 20 million viewers watching your technicians or CSRs perform. Take any one of your employees and tell them that 20 million will be watching them … doing a play-by-play of everything they do that day from how they dress to how the drive to how they approach the customer and how they interact with customers as well as you. Imagine play-by-play coverage with two experts “judging them” on their performance. How would your employee do?

Ask your entire team who is the best at what they do. I’m sure you’ll get more than one person with their hand raised. Then tell them a camera crew will be following them for the entire day and replay it tonight on NBC, including slow-motion replays of their best/worst performances during the day. See who keeps their hand up?

Ridiculous? Keep going …

Now picture yourself with the cameras on you. How you greet your team. How you interact with your techs before they leave the office. How you talk to customers. What are your activities all day? Would it change how you work?

To be honest, it probably would change me (unfortunately.) That is the point this week. Leaders need to understand there aren’t 20 million viewers watching every move, but there may be 20 people (throughout the day) watching them. Instead of a microphone in their hand, it might be a cup of coffee as they share with others the way you work and lead.

It is easy to watch an event and judge someone else along with 20 million others. Just imagine it happening to you! Have an Olympic week.