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Chris LoCurto

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August 8, 2011

Wake Up Leader!

August 8, 2011 | By | 19 Comments">19 Comments

Most of my blog posts on Leadership and Entrepreneurship come from two types of personal views: running a business and being a customer. Each time I teach EntreLeadership Master Series here in Nashville, I always stress the importance of walking through your own business as a customer.

I feel until you do, you don’t really understand what’s truly working and what’s not. You might be doing an amazing job selling your widget. But at the same time, you’re missing out on opportunities you didn’t know existed. The other day, we were eating in a burger joint in downtown Franklin, Tennessee, when one of the restaurant’s team members stopped by our table. She was really nice and wanted to see if there was anything we needed.

While she was there, she also informed us when they feature live music and recommended we come down and hear it sometime. We thought that was cool and asked her a few questions about how they are doing as a business. I was actually surprised the burger place wasn’t really busy. The team member said they had a great summer when traffic was high, but now people just weren’t coming their way.

She also told us her ideas on bringing customers to the restaurant. Now, this is a 17-year-old high school girl who is giving us great ideas on how to get sales into the store. Seventeen! And the concepts were really good. I asked if she had shared her thoughts with the owner. She had, but they weren’t up for it. You could see her frustration that they weren’t going after business. Instead, they were just sitting around waiting for things to happen.

OK, talking to us, the customers, about bad processes at the store technically goes against one of my pet peeves. In Stop Talking! I share how you shouldn’t discuss negative things about your business with customers. Sooooo, shame on her, and shame on us for asking. Now that’s out of the way, here’s the other pet peeve I have—LEADERS NOT LISTENING TO THEIR TEAM MEMBERS AND TAPPING INTO THEIR TALENT!

This girl not only wanted the company to succeed, but also had ideas of how to do it. Believe me, they would work.  (One was handing out coupons to people walking around downtown.) And all of them involved her doing the work. The crazy thing is she will be leaving for college soon, so she doesn’t have to care. But she does.

So why in the world is this owner not only not listening, but also not acting? I don’t know. But I can tell you from the tons of coaching sessions and thousands of conversations, I see this type of leadership all the time.

Don’t let your ego, pride, knowledge or whatever get in the way and stop your business from growing.  Be intentional and consistent about racking your team’s brainpower on what they think will help the business. After all, you hired them. If you didn’t think they were good enough for ideas, why are they there?

Question: Can you relate to this story from either the team member’s or leader’s point of view? It’s OK to be transparent.

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  • http://gravatar.com/lgthaxton Louise Thaxton

    Chris – I wrote 6 consecutive monthly articles for “Origination News” – an industry publication after I had a series of nightmare experiences with a dentist! I compared my experiences to the mortgage experience.

    I literally “….walked through my office as a customer…” – and compared how we can act or react just as that dentist did.

    The team really had some ideas of how we could get better – stronger – and we implemented several of those ideas. Really, the team has better ideas than I do!

  • http://twitter.com/ibnabeeomar ibn abee omar (@ibnabeeomar)

    let me know if you’re hiring :)

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Always brother, always!

  • http://twitter.com/ibnabeeomar ibn abee omar (@ibnabeeomar)

    would it be bad etiquette to email this to my boss? :P

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      HAAAA!!!! Only if I was your boss Omar!!

  • http://twitter.com/tbric Tom Brichacek (@tbric)

    That is great, now the tough part. How do you get your team to offer those ideas when you ask?

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      You have to treat them with dignity. When you do, then you can ask and they will give freely.

    • http://ginasmom.wordpress.com ginasmom

      Every time a company declares that “their people are their greatest asset”, i tend to be a little cynical:), and my follow up question usually is prove it!. This is one of the best ways a company can prove this, by soliciting feedback and actually acting on some of those suggestions, and at a minimum acknowledging them.

      Initially it may be tough to get them to give you the feedback, but simple things like ‘Suggestions boxes’ can be very effective, if the ideas are acknowledged and acted upon.

      I once worked for a company, that preached that particular message, but we never believed it, until one of the leaders decided to do something about it. His team came up with a formal process to get the ideas accross, had a formal kickoff, advertised it everywhere, got the other leaders to support it, and made it into a nice little project. Everybody who submitted an idea that month, got a response, and i still recall walking away with a $50 gift card for having submitted the highest number of ideas (3) during the initial kickoff. None of my ideas got implemented, but i got some serious feedback, some great comments from this leader, and had my $50 for the trouble, but more important, i felt valued as a member of the team.

      The initial low numbers were a reflection of what had happened in the past and so not very many people were that keen to participate. The next month, the ideas submission rose by close to 120%, and just kept going proving the point that your employees have some of the best ideas, especially since they are close to the action and most are willing to share. You just have to ask them.

      • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

        Wow! Great comment, great process!!

        • Andrea Brichacek

          I manage a restaurant where, as of now, the business isn’t failing, but isn’t at all where it once was. One way we get ideas from our team members is “one-on-one’s”. The management sits down with each team member on an individual basis – asking for general information (i.e. how was vacation last week) to, are you having any problems here (i.e. with other staff, the systems in place, the management, etc) and, do you have any ways that these issues could be resolved. Especially in a restaurant, the staff doesn’t want to be the one that “tattles”. This is a great way to hear what goes on behind you without putting anyone in the fire, and these are the people that are affected most by slow business – they work based on tips. If guests aren’t paying them, they aren’t happy.

          • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

            I have always been a fan of one-on-one meetings! Thanks Andrea!

  • http://medicalaccountsolutions.wordpress.com medicalaccountsolutions

    Chris, I think you answered your own question and truly hit the nail on the head: don’t let your ego, pride, knowledge or whatever get in the way! of you…of your business…of your success. I think too many people do not stay focused on working on them just as much as their business and consequently they get in the way. Ego, pride, knowledge, money, self confidence (in a bad way), or “whatever”.

    Maybe this business owner lost his perspective about service? Maybe he lost his vision for his business and employees? Maybe he is no longer passionate and doesn’t care? Maybe he needs you to send him a flier to a One Day EntreLeadership because he probably would not consider the week long event?

    Great reminder to me to not let my ego, pride, knowledge, or whatever stop me and may God help me to work on those areas if it does!

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Haha…I think he DOES need Entre!! As always, great stuff!!

  • http://www.cabinart.net Jana Botkin

    That lack of interest on the part of the owners is EXACTLY what motivated me to go full-time with my art. I had a ton of jobs, and only once did I work for someone who cared about their business as much as i did. She was the one who invited me to move my art studio from my home into her business!

    And yes, you probably do have a new TV show! I might even learn how to turn on the TV in order to watch it. . .

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      The crazy thing is, all it takes is spending time with your team asking questions.

  • http://joelfortner.wordpress.com Joel Fortner

    What’s up with you locating future entrepreneurs? From California to Tennessee, Chris Locurto discovers American’s future business stars! It would be fascinating to talk with the owners to get their take on the business and her ideas.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      So you think I have a new TV show?

      • http://ginasmom.wordpress.com ginasmom

        Nothing wrong with exploring new opportunities, and new avenues. Anything is possible.

        • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

          Amen!