Serve to Be Great: 7 Lessons from Matt Tenney

We all make mistakes.  When we learn from those mistakes, we are said to be wise.  When we not only learn from those mistakes, but also then decide to use the experience to better the world, we become an inspiring example of what is possible.  When we make serving others our primary goal, our view of the world shifts and new possibilities emerge.

I am excited to introduce Matt Tenney, who has written a terrific new book, Serve to Be Great.  I’m always looking to learn from others, and here are a few lessons I learned from Matt’s powerful story:

 

“There is no better way to build our influence with others than to serve them.” –Matt Tenney

 

1. You can create happiness anywhere.

Few people have experienced the depths of despair like Matt Tenney.  His failure landed him in prison for years.  And yet, in prison, Matt learned to be happier in a cell than he was when he was free.

 

“Leaders who consider others’ needs first are more likely to empower employees.” –Matt Tenney

 

2. Your greatest failure may be your life’s greatest catalyst for change.

As I spent time with Matt, I could see that his zest for life and appreciation for everything around him was somehow different.  Undoubtedly this came from experiencing the loss of all that he knew.

 

“Asking ‘How will this help me to serve others?’ makes us more effective and happier leaders.” –Matt Tenney

3. When you change your self-talk, you change your world.

Reading Matt’s terrific new book, Serve to Be Great, I noticed that his self-talk changed throughout his story.  As he planned a crime, he was justifying his actions.  Now, his self-talk is all about how he can serve others.

 

 

“Being fully present with a person is one of the most effective ways to show that we care.” –Matt Tenney

 

4.  Learn how to change selfishness to selflessness.

Matt is constantly asking himself this question: “How will this help me to serve others?”  By focusing everything outward, it changes his motivation and the trajectory of his actions.  Matt’s goal is to be the most kind, compassionate person he can be.  Get around him and you will find that you, too, want to be more compassionate.

 

“Wisdom is much more likely to develop while we are still than when we are in motion.” –Matt Tenney

5.  Service leads to greatness.

Leaders who lead with love are the ones we remember.  Among the many examples Matt shares in his keynote speech is Joel Manby, who wrote Love Works.  Joel is a CEO, featured on Undercover Boss, who leads with love.  When leaders serve with love, the positive impact creates sustainable success.

“The more focused I became on how I could serve others, the happier I became.” –Matt Tenney

 

6.  Notice the extraordinary small moments.

Previously, Matt wrote a guest post for Leadership Insights about what he learned about leadership from Daniel.  Daniel was a teenager dying from cancer, and yet he taught lessons that still make Matt emotional.

“Every time we interact with another, we have the opportunity to add value to a life.” –Matt Tenney

7.  In stillness, you can change your state of mind, your present and your future.

Practicing mindfulness and awareness training, which he learned from monks, is important for leaders.  Lowering stress, becoming focused, and increasing your compassion for others is all possible through the practices he shares in his book.

Last week, I spent some time with Matt.  I had the opportunity to watch him keynote for industry executives.  I watched him interact with people from all walks of life.  And I learned from his story.  I think you will enjoy Matt’s story and his book.

As I wrote in a blurb he included in the book: Serve to Be Great is both inspiring and practical.  Matt Tenney delivers a powerful narrative that takes you on an incredible journey.  The insights from that journey and the examples he shares of truly great leaders will improve your performance, widen your perspective, and raise your leadership game.”

Because service does lead to greatness.  And servant leadership is the best form of leadership there is.

Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom

Gender Diversity: The New Balanced Scorecard

Business Team

G. Shawn Hunter is the author of OUT THINK: How Innovation Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomesas well as Vice President and Executive Producer for Skillsoft’s leadership video-learning products.

 

“People who are right most of the time are people who change their minds often.”
– Jeff Bezos

 

In his wonderful book, Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard researcher Daniel Gilbert points out that often our best bet for making decisions we will both enjoy and benefit from is to ask our peers who have made similar decisions.  Gilbert’s advice before embarking on an important decision is to ask someone whom we trust, who has also made the decision we are contemplating, and follow their advice.  And as Gilbert points out, once we learn their point of view on the matter, we often refuse that advice on the grounds that our situation is different.  We reject their advice claiming, “But I’m unique! How could they possibly know what’s best for me?”

 

Research conclusion: The inability to accept outside advice and insight increases with power.

 

More recent research concludes that this inability to accept outside advice and insight only increases with power.  The more power and resources controlled by an individual, the more confident they tend to be in their decision-making and the less they tend to listen and be influenced by outside opinions and points of view.  However, in their study women were often an exception.

In two phases of the study, women tended to be more open to outside points of view regardless of their position of power within the organization.  In their study entitled “The detrimental effects of power on confidence, advice taking, and accuracy,” Kelly See and her colleagues discovered that women more often reported less certainty in their decisions than men and solicited the advice and opinions of their colleagues more.  Most interestingly, because women more often solicited the opinion and advice of their colleagues, they were viewed by their peers as more confident leaders.

So while they may have lacked confidence in their decisions, women were regarded as more confident and effective leaders precisely because they asked for advice from their peers.

How to Overcome Leadership Blindspots

Blind spot

 

When you first learn to drive, do you remember learning about blind spots?  The driving instructor likely emphasized it repeatedly.

I can remember my driving instructor saying, “Check your blind spot before you change lanes.  Your life depends on it and so does mine!”

They are called blind spots for a reason.  They are not visible, not readily apparent, and are easily missed.

Author Robert Bruce Shaw has just released a new book called Leadership Blindspots.  I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his new book and the challenges facing leaders.

 

A blindspot is an unrecognized weakness or threat that has the potential to undermine a leader’s success.

 

The Need For An Early Warning System

 

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” –Jonathan Swift

 

You discuss the balancing act that all leaders face.  That is the need to be both supremely confident and yet also see situations accurately with no distortion.  It’s always easy to look in the rear view mirror and judge leaders, but how does a leader know early enough to change course?Robert Bruce Shaw

Leaders need warning systems that signal trouble ahead.  Savvy leaders, for example, have a group of trusted advisors whose role, in part, is to surface vulnerabilities that a leader may overlook.  Or, some leaders assign “sentinels” to track data on emerging competitive threats and report out periodically on what they are finding.  I also describe in the book ongoing leadership practices that are useful in seeing threats early in the game, such as having regular contact with customers and front-line colleagues.  These techniques don’t tell a leader if and when to change course – but they provide the information needed to make that decision. 

 

Levels of Blindness

 

You have a chapter on this, but I want to ask:  How do you spot a blindspot if you are blind to it?

Keep in mind that there are levels of blindness.  There are times when leaders are completely blindsided by a weakness or threat and other situations when they are partially aware of a weakness or threat but fail to understand its potential impact or the need for action.  That said, you can simply ask a few people who know you well if they think you have any blindspots.  You then probe in specific areas as needed – for example, blindspots in how you view your own leadership team or the capabilities of your organization.  Ask for specific examples in each area they identify.  Another approach is to examine the mistakes you have made over your career and look for patterns in the causes of those mistakes.  If repeated over time, mistakes are valuable in pointing to an unrecognized weakness that will most likely surface again in the future.

 

Blindspots always come with a price.

 

 

Critical Leadership Skill:  Peripheral Vision

Seeing what others miss—what you call peripheral vision—is a critical leadership skill.  What techniques help improve a leader’s peripheral vision?

9 Leadership Lessons from Mom

Spring Flowers

 

In my very first blog post, I shared the unique way I grew up.  Instead of filling our home with things, my parents filled it with people.

Our childhood home was always open.  There was always room for one more person at the table.  We had countless people live with us of all nationalities, backgrounds, and religions.  Some would stay a night, but most would stay months.  A few stayed for years.  Most of our adopted family members arrived with serious needs and issues from drug addiction to abuse to serious psychiatric needs.

As I reflect on Mother’s Day, celebrated on Sunday May 11, I think about the lessons I learned from my parents.  And, just as my mom prefers to give to others more than receiving gifts, I thought I would share that spirit and pass these lessons on.  Today I honor her with more than flowers by sharing her wisdom.

 

1. Personal power is more important than positional power.

 

As I reflect on my childhood, I cannot think of a single time that my mom used her “positional” power as parent.  But she always used her personal power, her persuasion, and her personality to influence.  Anything I learned about how to relate to people started by watching her in action.

Even today, my mom is never interested in titles or your position.  She is interested in you.  What is your story?  What are your talents?  What are you doing for others?

 

Leadership is not a position. It radiates from within. -Skip Prichard

 

2. Giving to others will always make you happier than receiving.

 

Yes, we’ve all heard that it is better to give than to receive.  But why?  Mom taught me that happiness is always rooted in service to others.  I’ve seen people with depression improve dramatically when they serve others.

Mom was always happy, always singing, always sharing.  And that may be because she was always giving—to us, to friends, and to all of the people she met each day.  Our house was always full of people in need, and so the opportunity to give was always present.  She is still the same way today as she was then.

 

Leaders give of themselves more than they take from others. -Skip Prichard

 

3.  The spiritual is more important than the temporal.

 

Some things are temporary, fleeting, lasting but a moment.  Other things are forever.  Make sure you are spending time on what matters in the long run.  One of the very few rules I can remember was this:  If you needed a place to stay, you were welcome to stay as long as you needed.  But, you were required to attend church with the family.  There is something powerful about connecting to forces greater than you.

One of the verses she would share with me was Colossians 3:2: “Set your affection on things above, not on things of the earth.”Mrs. Prichard

Here is one story my wife recalls about my mom:  Someone was staying in the house and she was learning a new skill for a job:  How to cut hair.  As I recall, she was somewhat troubled and my mom was counseling her.  Mom volunteered to let her practice her newly learned skills.  The girl transformed her hair, butchering it on one side.  Instead of anger, my mom graciously turned to her in love.  As she poured love on this girl, she taught us all what really matters.

 

Leaders realize what is forever and what is fleeting. -Skip Prichard

 

4.  The heart is greater than things.

 

If you broke something—even something precious to her—she didn’t care much.  Sweep it up, throw it out, and it was long forgotten.  But, if your heart was broken, she spent as many hours with you as you needed.  She would agonize with you.  If you were broken in spirit, she would encourage and lift you out of a dark place.  She still does.

How to Create a Winning Business Culture

Star Shape Gesture
This is a guest post by Sandra Mills. Sandra specializes in covering management topics that are relevant in business and healthcare. She has managed both large and small projects on a number of occasions. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+.

When you’re trying to grow a successful business, attitude is often more important than specific skills and experience.  Someone who is eager to learn can easily be trained to meet your business’s needs, but someone who will only do the minimum to collect a paycheck will never help your business grow. Here are 6 ways to build a winning culture that will drive success.

 

1. Set clear goals

Employees who are eager to please can’t improve if they don’t know how you’d like them to improve. Broad statements such as, “Get better,” or, “Increase profits,” don’t provide a clear direction for them to follow.  A specific goal such as, “increase sales by 5%,” gives your employees a visible target to shoot for.  Once that goal is set, they’re more likely to know exactly what needs to be done to reach it.  Even if they don’t, they’ll at least know where to start to get there.

 

2. Make sure goals are reasonable

The goals you set can’t be too high or too low.  If they’re too low, they’ll be easily attainable and will create a culture of complacency instead of one of growth.  If they’re too high, employees might initially be motivated but then quickly realize they may never get there.  When that happens, morale will drop, productivity may return to or drop below previous levels, and future goals will likely be ignored.  Encourage employees to write down goals to stay focused. SMART goal planning (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Timely) can keep goals challenging but reasonable.  Encouraging goals to be written down will keep them measurable and in focus as well.

 

3. Don’t lose sight of the big picture

The best employees still need a strong leader in order to function well within a company. When you’re setting your goals, always think about where you want your company to be in five or ten years.  For example, sacrificing quality may increase profit margins now but may also lead to customers who leave and never want to come back.  Try to make all decisions from the top down.  Come up with a true vision for your company, the main ways to achieve it, and then set specific steps employees can take to get there.

 

4. Promote responsibility