Service Above Self

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Service demands sacrifice“Service Above Self” is a statement that resonates with everyone who has ever been on the receiving end of the service. However, it has been my experience that the concepts of “Service Above Self” and “Servant Leadership” while often discussed, and always admired, are far too rarely practiced. It is precisely this shortcoming that accounts for many of the problems faced by our business leaders, but also by society as a whole. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts on the value of becoming a true servant leader…

The sad reality is that human nature adversely affects our perspective in that service is often undermined by short-sighted self interest. What most people intuitively understand, but fail to keep at the forefront of their thinking, is that our personal success and fulfillment will be much more closely tied to how we help others than what we do for ourselves…While there are many motivating factors which underpin a leaders decisioning, nothing is intrinsically more pure, and more inspiring than the call to serve. The dedication and commitment required to be a true servant leader requires a level of personal sacrifice that can only be instilled by a passionate belief in a greater good…something beyond one’s self. 

Let me provide you with a personal example…I just returned from Virginia where my son commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force on Saturday, and graduated from the University of Virginia on Sunday. My son is an exceptionally bright and talented individual who had every option under the sun available to him upon graduation. Rather than head off to Wall Street or to a large consulting firm, he and his fellow cadets chose to serve. They were not cajoled or coerced, but rather they felt a calling to serve as officers in the US military leading other men and women of service.

It is precisely their commitment, attention to detail, discipline, service above self, honor, integrity, perseverance, the ability to both lead and follow, to execute with precision, and the ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome that distinguish them from those that seek personal glory over service. My son and his friends are just one example (but a good one) of what character and integrity when combined with a servant’s heart can accomplish.

The characteristics mentioned above will allow you to inspire and lead with a focus and commitment not present in DNA of those leaders who don’t possess a servant’s heart. It is the ability to stay mentally focused on achieving the mission at hand through service, regardless of circumstances, that will help you take your organization to that next level. 

There are many so-called management gurus in today’s politically correct world who would take great exception to what I’m putting forth in today’s post. They would tell you that the classic strong leadership traits that define our nation’s best military leaders are outdated and they don’t display a proper amount of empathy and compassion. However, I’m here to tell you that strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive terms rather the strongest leaders are in fact the most compassionate leaders. When I was in the service my troops slept before I did, they ate before I did, and they were cared for before I was. A leader’s greatest responsibility is not for his/her own glory, but it is for the well being of those whose care has been entrusted to them.

A warrior’s heart, and the spirit of a servant leader have served my family well in both business and life in general. It is the mental agility, a fierce determination, a never say die attitude, and placing other’s interests above our own that has carried us through the best of times and the worst of times. My father was a Marine before he was an attorney, I served in the Army before I entered the business world, and well, I’m sure you can tell how proud I am of my son’s choice to serve in the Air Force. While not all great business leaders have served in the military, those of you who possess the spirit of a servant leader understand the advantages you derive from a having a servant’s state of mind.

I strongly recommend to all business leaders that they learn to develop a command presence, and lead from a committed and passionate position of strength through service. The word “passion” comes from a Latin root which means quite literally to suffer. If you’re passionate about something it means you care so much that it hurts Refusing to surrender, having the ability to make the tough decision, the needed sacrifice, and the focus to place fiduciary obligations above your self interest will allow your company to continue taking ground and will keep the competitive advantage on the side of your enterprise. Remember that the world does not revolve around you, but what you can do for others…

5 Steps to Better Communication

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

While it would be nice to have the oratory skill of Winston Churchill or to possess the ability to write like T.S. Eliot you don’t have to be a polished public speaker or a prolific writer to be an effective communicator. It can take years of training to master the art of weaving together great word pictures in either written or oral form. While I suggest to all my clients (regarless of position or stature) that they continually seek to improve their written and oral communication ability, this post will focus on 5 actionable steps that can be implemented immediately by senior executives to achieve an almost instantaneous improvement in communications productivity. 

Much has been written about the art and science of external communication, but the importance of internal communication is often overlooked. It is just assumed that executives communicate well with management, management communicates well with staff and that peers communicate well with one another. Any business is only as effective as its ability to excel at managing its internal corporate communications.

I believe that 80+ percent of all problems in business can be avoided with excellent communication. Effective communication is motivating, unifying, efficient and absolutely essential to productivity and corporate success. Excellent communicators are contagious. Their ability to influence, motivate and to catalyze change is a well known fact. Examine any leading company and you’ll find an emphasis placed on effective communication from the C-suite down to the receptionist.

As a senior executive it is important to lead by example. Leaders must be great communicators. If your executive leadership promotes clear, open and honest communication the rest of the organization will follow suit. Begin by incorporating the following 5 items into your communications arsenal:

1. Walk the Floor: In every senior leadership position I have held I have made it a point when not traveling to get out of my office and tour the building each and every day. I make a point to stop and talk to as many people as possible even if the conversation is only a brief one. Too many executives hide out in the corner office to their own detriment. Walking the floor gives you perspective and insight into what is really happening in the trenches giving you a feel for the business that you would never have from solely from reading a management report.

2. Hit Conflict Head-on:  Never stick your head in the sand. Problems don’t solve themselves and will only get worse if not attended to. Conflict is a reality of business and therefore conflict resolution is a skill set that must be honed to perfection. I have always made it a policy to aggressively seek out conflict and deal with it on my terms before conflict finds me and I have terms dictated to me.

3. Utilize Technology: There is only so much time in the day and while technology is certainly no substitute for direct personal communication, used properly it can nicely augment your efforts and increase your leverage. If you are not effectively utilizing your company intranet, instant messaging, e-mail, mobile communications, newsletters, Webinars, conference calls, etc. then you are not even coming close to communicating at an optimum level.

4. Maximize Meetings: While I often refer to meetings as a necessary evil, when my attendance is required you can bet that I will maximize the time spent in said meetings. Don’t have meetings just for the sake of having meetings and don’t call a meeting without a purpose that results in actionable items. All meetings should be managed according to an agenda and should start and end on time. If your employees know that meetings are productive they will come prepared to add value and get things done as opposed to resenting just another time suck being imposed upon them.

5. Make the Most of Lunches: While I typically prefer to work through lunch I have always made it a point to take an employee to lunch once each week. Don’t fall into the lunch bunch click of having casual “executive lunches” with the same group on a frequent basis. The lunch bunch mentality is rarely productive and can in fact become very non-productive. Much like “walking the floor” the employee lunch is a good chance to build relationships, gather information, mentor, coach and influence behavior.

There are very few areas of personal development that will produce the return on investment that improving your communications skills will provide.  Work tirelessly in improving both your personal communications ability and the quality and consistency of your internal corporate communications and watch the value of both your personal stock and your company stock skyrocket.

Affordable Employee Benefits

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Today’s Myatt on Monday’s question was posed by a CFO who asked: “What is the best way to manage the rising cost of employee benefits?” While the escalating cost of benefits is something that all companies deal with, for small and middle market entities the prices and complexities are nothing short of staggering. In today’s post I’ll address one of the best and most often overlooked option for minimizing HR related expenses and maximizing HR opportunities…  

Hard dollar expenditures are just part of the benefits debacle, as soft dollar costs associated with management often act as a silent but very lethal killer. As a business grows, so does the brain damage associated with managing HR related initiatives. Scaling your workforce means spending more time setting up and administering employee benefits, overseeing details like payroll, and making sure the business is in compliance with an ever burgeoning list of employment-related laws and regulations. The aforementioned tasks can create a painful time-suck for executives who now must spend time hiring and managing human resources staff on top of everything else…

One of my favorite solutions for companies ranging in size from as a staff of 5 employees to as many as 2,500 employees is a Professional Employer Organization (“PEO”). Essentially, a PEO provides one-stop shopping for employee benefits and human resources services. When a company decides to contract with a PEO, most or all of the company’s employees actually go on the payroll of the PEO. You determine who gets hired, what they’re paid, how they’re managed and who gets fired…The PEO takes care of the rest…

PEOs manage your company’s health benefits, paid time off (PTO), retirement savings plan administration (401k, 403b or deferred compensation plan). Through the PEO you have access to a variety of health care partners to choose from offering your employees a range of affordable plan options, including HMOs and PPOs, dental and vision insurance, life insurance, AD&D insurance, and short term and long term disability insurance. PEO plan choices also typically include flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, an employee assistance program, a legal assistance program, and several other innovative wellness programs. 

The PEO also takes on responsibilities such as payroll taxes, workers’ compensation coverage, and benefit and employment compliance responsibilities in areas such as the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), HIPAA (which governs health-care privacy) and COBRA (which allows employees to continue group health benefits under certain circumstances). PEOs can also assume a wide range of other administrative functions, such as employee file maintenance, unemployment claims processing, workers’ compensation claims management and employee handbooks.

The advantages of PEO’s are somewhat obvious. You no longer have to deal with human resources issues directly. That means you can say goodbye to the days of maintaining payroll records, negotiating health insurance plans, and mediating workers’ compensation claims. This frees up time for you and your office staff to concentrate on growing your company…there’s an interesting thought. 

The bottom line with PEOs is that they afford companies the benefits of increase the quality of benefits offered, lowering costs, transferring risk, saving time and generally improving the efficiency of HR related functions…If you want more information on PEOs please contact us.  

Is Your PR Effective?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

When was the last time you received a call from the media asking you to provide an expert opinion to be included in an upcoming article? How about the last time you were invited to speak at a trade show or conference? When was the last time you authored anything that was published (and I’m not talking about an e-mail, memo or business letter)? If the aforementioned items are not happening on a regular basis then you are perhaps missing out on one of the most powerful brand building opportunities PR.

It is true that paid advertising is seen for exactly what it is; advertising. However news, editorial content, and speaking engagements are seen a credible, noteworthy or prestigious events. The reality is that both advertising and PR are great venues to build brand equity, and while both clearly represent their own form of “spin,” it is PR that will yield the biggest return on cost. If you’re confused about where to begin, the following three items will help to jumpstart your PR program:

1. Become an Author:  In the world of research and education there is an old quote that states: “Publish or Perish.” Being a published author immediately positions you as a subject matter expert and gives you a point of competitive separation over others. Whether you publish blog posts, white papers, magazine or newspaper articles, author an e-mail newsletter, or write a book the returns will be significant.

2. Grow into a Thought Leader: Every industry, sector, vertical and micro-vertical has thought leaders. These are the media darlings that always seem to get the interview, get quoted, appear on the news, etc. Develop domain expertise and be willing to take a position on things. If you embrace the media they will embrace you Get media trained so you know what a reporter, publisher or editor, talk show host, etc. is looking for. Then simply make yourself available to the media and give them what they want.

3. Become a Speaker: Use your subject matter expertise, published work, position within the industry, or prominence within your company to get on the speaking circuit. Speaking engagements lead to more speaking engagements. I have spoken hundreds of times over the course of my career, and I’ve yet to have a speaking engagement that didn’t yield a new client, and interview, or another speaking engagement.

Good PR can have a significant, viral leveraging effect in that success in any one of the aforementioned three areas will likely result in success in the other two.  The key to launching and maintaining a successful PR initiative is being dedicated to the effort. You must allocate time and resources to furthering your brand through PR. Block time for writing and make speaking and dealing with media inquiries a priority.