Top 5 things I’ve learned working here:

Today’s my last day.

No, not from this site (sorry), but from my current role teaching leadership and management in the government sector.

On Monday, I’ll start my new role as AVP of Learning and Talent Development for an awesome company here in Birmingham. I am very excited to be trekking back over into the private sector to head up their leadership development programs.

As I’m cleaning out my office today, I’ve been looking back over the last few months and trying to reflect upon some the lessons I’ve learned. I’ve been able to learn from people I work for, people I work with, and people I’ve taught.

Lessons learned (in no particular order):

  1. Make time for fun. Spending time in the classroom, I know that having fun and being engaged is essential to learning. If I want to continue learning in my new spot, or even in life, I must be engaged and have fun.
  2. Expect more from people and they’ll deliver. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a great team for a great leader. My immediate manager has made it very clear that he expects us to deliver great product. It doesn’t matter how we get there, just get there. And you know what? It works!
  3. Connect with your team and you’ll be connected. Duh, right? Easy to say; not so easy to do. Everyone can’t be on the team. You should include everyone, but learn who gets it and who doesn’t when you’re trying to move something forward. Often times it’s easier to focus on those who tell you why things can’t change than to run with the folks who are changing things.
  4. Make a difference everyday…even if it doesn’t feel like it’s working. Some days are better than others, no doubt, but as Bob Ferrell say, “Show enthusiasm…I didn’t say be enthusiastic.” His point is that it’s always a show, whether or not you feel like performing.
  5. Practice what you preach. Often, people say “those who can’t do teach.” I can say whole heartedly that you’re going to make much more of an impact than you can imagine if you practice what you preach. It’s easy to say the right things but much harder to live them. I saw that 1st hand when my manger found out I was moving on. We’re good friends and I know he’s sad to see me go, but he’s been genuinely excited for me. Here’s a link to his philosophy. I know for a fact that he lives this. I hope I can always model the behavior I’ve see in him.

I’ve learned countless other things, but these are the 1st 5 I got down on paper. I’m sure I’ll share a few more pretty soon.

See you on the flip side!

3 essentials to being promoted

Today, I was working with a great group of employees who have aspirations of moving into management. We discussed a ton but I wanted to share with you a couple of my key takeaways (and hopefully, theirs too).

This group is a little unique in that they are government employees. Because they are government employees, I should explain that the promotional system is very different than you’d see in the private sector. Mainly, that promotions are based primarily on skills testing and secondarily on leadership aptitude – (the opposite of what you might find in private companies).

The workshop is called “The Supervisor’s Job” but in your world, it might sound more like Management 101.

Here are 3 key areas we discussed that people need to understand when trying to move into management. Unfortunately, the Dwight Schrutes of the world seem to always miss them.

1. You’d better be in it for the right reasons. (Hint: prestige, power & money aren’t the right answer) In our system, there is a very limited financial gain for moving into management. Most people in the class said they wanted to move into management because they wanted to bring change and make a difference.

2. Money and power don’t change you; they make you more of what you are. Ever met a rich person who was mean? No! you met a mean person who was rich. There’s a difference. Money and position/power is simply a tool. You can use that tool for good or for your own self interests.

Any organization desperately needs people who will think in terms of how a decision impacts the organization rather than how it will benefit them personally.

3. The same level of thinking that got you here won’t get you there.You have to think like a manager before you become one. You know those people (hopefully this isn’t us) who always thinks that managers are idiots? Managers forgot where they came from? Managers just don’t get it?

Now, think. Who determines if you get a promotion? Why would the management group want to bring you into their group and let you lead others when you always talk about how bad they are? Yeah, didn’t think so.

It looks to me like these folks have a ton of potential. Just imagine if all of our managers operated on these premises?!?!

What would you add? What else should a new manager be thinking about?



The Passion of the…Customer

Customer service is truly a passion.

passion for customers, No, not the passion you might think – the passion where you get all excited and don’t realize how much you’re working – rather definition of passion for the last 1,000 years before the 1990’s. More like passion you see from Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. The kind of passion that involves  total suffering and labor.

You know what I mean. There is no way you can enjoy the experience because it’s so painful. Remind you of anything? Sounds a little like government service for some. Why do we make our customers (constituents/taxpayers/citizens) pay for our unhappiness? We make them suffer but they don’t have any other choice. They’re definitely not here because they want to be…

I think it’s because we have too many people “Right Fit Roles.”

Why do you stay in a role that doesn’t fit? Why do you STAY miserable if you hate your job?

I know, you don’t hate your job…you just hate your boss/co-workers/technology/system/etc.


Here’s the problem. Christ’s mission was to save those who were lost. Your mission isn’t that important. Yeah, it’s important to you, but you need to step back and see that your mission is not worth this kind of passion.

So what do I do? I think it comes down to 3 steps to avoiding the passion of the customer:

1. Recognize that your job is replaceable. You’re using the excuse that jobs are tough to find. I know you can’t go somewhere and get paid the same kind of money for the level of education or skills you currently have, but that’s no excuse. Get the skills. Find an education. Search for a company that you can get excited about working for. you’ll be amazed how well you will do if you’re excited.

Continue reading

Is Great Customer Service Possible in Government? (part 5)

ImageEver wondered how they manage to hire those folks at the DMV?

No doubt SWA’s success is because of their people. In post #5, we’re talking about Jose Luis Romero’s article Southwest Airlines Employee Motivation – hiring. More specifically, how does SWA’s philosophy compare with the practices within the government. Ultimately, is it possible to have great customer service within the government?

5. Hiring.  Historically in civil service, the government jobs have always been considered stable, well-compensated and safe…(I said historically!!). Because the jobs were very desirable, many government jobs regressed to what’s now called the “spoils system” where anytime a new politician would be elected, he would put his cronies into the government jobs.

Continue reading

Is Great Customer Service Possible in Government? (part 4)

Southwest Airlines is the best…Yep, the best!

We’re talking about how SWA maintains employee motivation according to Jose Luis Romero in his article Southwest Airlines Employee Motivation, and whether that can be applied in the government.

We’ve talked through the 1st three factors for great motivation: Strong Set of Values, Employees Come 1st, and Rewards & Recognition.  Now let’s move to #4.


“The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”

Romero argues that the mission isn’t what sets Southwest apart. Any company can write the words down on paper and post it for the world to see, however, Southwest has managed to get buy-in on a much deeper level because “SWA has been able to place its mission as a noble purpose in the eyes of its employees…”

So what about government?

The issues in this arena I’ve noticed are these: Continue reading

Is Great Customer Service Possible in Government? (part 3)

ImageSo here we are at Value #3.  In this series, we’re exploring the 7 key elements in Southwest Airlines seemingly superior Employee Engagement philosophy. Today, we’ll be thinking through the 3rd value they hold very dear – Rewards & Recognition.

The premise is that Southwest encourages employees to explore every possible option and rewards them for trying new ideas. Although they have a formal recognition process, one key item is that every member of the team continually encourages and pushes each other, not just the management.

How does that translate in the government? Good question.

As we talked about before, there are many legislated rules/regulations with which an employee must comply about virtually everything.  The climate itself doesn’t really promote exploration of new ideas but there are some employees and managers who refuse to bow to the way things have always been.

Think about it. Would you challenge the process if the process had been laid out in a policy or worse yet, a law? Would you encourage your team to think creatively when the environment says we should do things a certain way? I’d like to think I would but who knows.

I’ll leave you with 2 questions Jose gives us in his article. Continue reading

Is Great Customer Service Possible in Government? (part 2)

Okay, we talked yesterday about the possibility of customer service in government.  Southwest Airlines was our starting point and we’re visiting the 7 key elements of Southwest’s success in the white paper by Jose Luis Romero. Let’s get to it.

Value 2. Employees come first.

“To our employees: We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.”

Sooo, yeah…that’s an easy one. From what I’ve seen, the stable work environment is Continue reading

Is Great Customer Service Possible in Government? (part 1)



I recently had the pleasure of listening to the Senior Manger of People Development over at Southwest Airlines talk about leadership and customer service. That got me thinking about the culture of Southwest compared to the culture of government – the industry where I work.

umm…No. Not the well-funded guys

Hold on, hold on…I know what you’re thinking, but I wanted to try and identify WHY it’s not even close.  In my reading, I ran across this white paper by Jose Luis Romero titled Southwest Airlines Employee Motivation.  He lists 7 key elements for success in building a successful company.

For sake of full disclosure, I’ve only worked in the government for less than a year but thanks to my job as leadership/management trainer, I’ve learned more in my short time than I could have ever imagined…I thought I had it all figured out.

I thought it might be helpful to break down each of these 7 elements and explain how they play out in the government. For today, let’s take the first one.

1. Strong Set of Values. The idea here is that values drive behavior.  A company needs to have values, just like individuals have values, and that will drive desired behavior. Values aren’t just preached, they’re lived by everyone…ESPECIALLY the top management.

Southwest Values: Continue reading