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Seeing Life Long-Term

WARNING: This may seem like a long story. The ending is worth the wait. It emphasizes my point that the ability to look at life with a long-term vision is so important for leaders.

January 2002. I’m in charge of Franchise Development (sales) for 27 states at Midas. Best job of my life working out of my house in Wisconsin. Company car. Loving life. My phone rings and my boss tells me to sit down. He proceeds to inform me that the following Friday I need to bring my computer and car in to headquarters. Half of the development staff was being downsized. I was part of the downsizing.

Having exceeded all my sales goals for the previous year I was shocked.

My boss reminded me that Midas had already paid for my registration and plane flight to the International Franchise (IFA) Convention in Orlando the next month. He helped me by saying I needed to network there and find a job with another franchisor. The downsizing had nothing to do with performance.

Out of absolute fear I sent over 120 resumes out by the weekend. One led to a meeting in the Tampa area immediately after the IFA Convention. I also set a couple of other appointments with companies in Florida where there was mutual interest.

At this point I vowed that I would do whatever I could so this never happened to me again. I loved the franchise world and realized if I got heavily involved in IFA committees I could network my way for future opportunities.

I loved franchising because it represented small businesses. All of us are involved in that arena – regardless if we are franchised or not. We make the world go around. We all offer jobs to people in our communities. We all work hard for an honest day’s wages. In fact, most of us work longer and harder than most who have the “corporate jobs.”

Two months later I started working for Valpak working out of my home-office in Milwaukee working with their franchisees throughout Canada. This led to a promotion and Florida move within a year.

Within two years I served on three different committees at the IFA. One of them with the now-president and CEO of the Dwyer Group – Glass Doctor’s parent company. I also go to know Dina Dwyer-Owens, CEO of Dwyer, who became the chairwoman for IFA in 2010.

At Valpak I met this amazing woman who was managed the Los Angeles Valpak operation – the largest Valpak operation in the world. We dated cross-country for two years before she was promoted and moved to Florida. Several months later Mary Kay and I got married.

In the next decade I realized that asking for things is the first steps to getting them!  As I became president of Glass Doctor I reached out to glassBYTEs offering to write this weekly column on leadership. What a blessing this has been as Mary Kay and I were able to coauthor a book recently.

A couple years ago I was invited to be a member of IFA’s Board of Directors. This distinguished group includes the President of a Marriott International Division, VP and Sr. Counsel of Hilton, as well as the Presidents and Founders of Edible Arrangements and Sports Clips.

Last week the Board received an e-mail from the senior VP of governmental relations and public affairs that read:

IFA is working with the White House to identify employees of franchise owners who have benefited from tax reform. If you have any franchisees who have employees who have a positive story to share about receiving more take home pay or other benefits from tax reform, please let us know. IFA is sharing names with the White House to consider being invited to a Rose Garden event on April 12th in the afternoon.

I sent this notice out to a select group of Glass Doctor franchisees. One responded that this reform had helped him as well as a couple of his employees. To end this long story – he and his employees were at the White House, in the Rose Garden, with the President of the United States last Thursday.

My favorite job ever, in 2002, doesn’t hold a candle to this one. My wife has been an inspiration to so many people in business as the president of Five Star Painting and is a wonderful grandmother to nine kids as well as a very well respected and loved stepmom.

Who would have thought that an event in 2002 made this all possible when I received the phone call that I was being downsized? Who would have thought that the best years were just a decade ahead? I certainly could not see it then – could not even imagine a good outcome from those events. It is difficult to avoid getting mired in the down times, but it is critical that you keep moving forward so you avoid that pitfall. Take control of your future and refuse to be a victim of circumstances.

Leaders understand that life isn’t all about one negative event in their life. It holds a bright future when you keep pushing forward.

What Are You Doing to Change Yourself?

Over the last several weeks we featured twelve of Richard Voreis’ 15 “Leadership Best Practices Self-Evaluation.” This week we will finish with the last three.

To date the best practices include:

—Optimizing productivity without intimidation;

—Representing a role model with a high degree of ethical conduct;

—Demonstrating imaginative leadership and imparting a vision for the future;

—Excelling in training, leading and motivating people;

—Communicating effectively to all employees; especially the values and priorities that drive success;

—In terms of effective communications, being known as an avid listener;

—Balancing negatives with positives, not just one or the other;

—Uncompromising in personal “leading by example;”

—Expecting great things from themselves, expecting the same high-caliber performance from others and always setting high personal standards for others to follow;

—Taking responsibility for failure and sharing “lesson learned the hard way.” Show people a leader is human helps them learn by example;

—Subtly provide guidance by “planting” ideas in the minds of others to motivate success and giving credit to others even when it is a leader’s ideas; and

—Very good at influencing and inspiring people so they believe in themselves and believe they can accomplish challenging tasks.

The last three best practices are:

—Treat everyone with respect and dignity;

—Exhibiting drive and energy with a bias for urgency, excitement, enjoyment and results; and

—Making an obvious contribution to the success of a company.

As I reread all 15, I can see why these are paramount for the self-evaluation of leaders.

Treat Everyone with Respect and Dignity

At the Dwyer Group we have something called the code of values. In the Waco newspaper on Sunday October 13th there was an article about our CEO and Chairwoman Dina Dwyer-Owens taking the stage with some leading business innovators at the 2013 Growth summit in Las Vegas sponsored by Fortune. One of the other innovators was Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh. A few years ago Tony sold Zappos to Amazon.com for $1.2 billion. Yes, that is billion with a “b.”

Dina’s book, “Live R.I.C.H.” and the company’s code of values were showcased in the television show Undercover Boss. One of the code of values is “Acknowledge that everyone is right from their own perspective.” Once you acknowledge everyone is right from their own perspective it helps to treat everyone with respect and dignity. This also helps you get through the days when the U.S. Government is shut down. The last thing I want to do at times is to understand some politicians are right “from their own perspective” … but that helps me adhere to Voreis’ No. 13 Leadership Best Practice.

Exhibiting Drive and Energy with a Bias for Urgency, Excitement, Enjoyment and Results

Urgency. That is the toughest one for so many people I know. Is it in your operation also?

This reminds me of the story that my vice president Brad told me about when he was operations manager for Glass Doctor of North Texas. They had a customer service representative who received bonuses based on what he produced while talking with customers on the phone. It was the end of the month and he needed just a few dollars to hit his bonus. At 4:45 p.m., the representative was getting ready to end his day when Brad reminded him that he just needed a few more dollars. In fact, he could have put windshield wipers on his own car and received the bonus—which Brad had hoped he would have the urgency to do!

The employee left at 5 p.m.—just a few dollars short.

It wasn’t long before the employees “future was freed up” to find a job that fit him—one that didn’t depend on achieving results or having this sense of urgency.  

We all need employees who have an urgency to achieve the results necessary. We want and need for them to have this enthusiasm that drives results and need for them to enjoy their jobs. Enthusiasm and joy within your employees can spread like wildfire.

What are you doing to help drive urgency, excitement, enjoyment and results?

One of my favorite quotes is “The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.” So look in that mirror and see yourself how your staff looks at you when you walk in the office in the morning. Are you energetic? Excited? Do you show enjoyment for your job and your staff? You set the tone! You set the pace! You set the speed.

Making an Obvious Contribution to the Success of the Company

Scoreboard. Have you ever been to a sporting event where one group of fans starts chanting “scoreboard … scoreboard … scoreboard … scoreboard?” I love that chant and have always been a firm believer in judging my own results based on the scoreboard—not based on if I achieved those results the way that I thought I should have achieved them. As a result of managing people for more than 40 years now, I’ve always looked for those team members who achieved—not worrying about their style or methods—as long as it is honest.

Do me a favor. Write down the most important person on your team.

Now write down the worst member of your team.

Did you have a tough time writing down who is most important? Did two or three names come to mind? Was it much easier to identify the worst member of your team?

If this is the case, make sure you are using these 15 leadership lessons to motivate and keep your top performers who make an obvious contribution. It sounds to me as if these people are very integral in your operation. On the other hand, what plans do you have to motivate and change your worst team member? Should you free up their future so that you can hire someone who might end up being your best team member sometime in the future?

Being a great leader is hard. Simple—but hard. That is what I love about Voreis’ 15 best practices. They allow you to look in the mirror, without anyone present, and be honest with yourself if you are implementing these practices. If you aren’t, what are you going to do to change yourself?