Smiling employees with overlay text, "Service with a smile"

In a world increasingly divided and hostile, the best thing we can offer is service with a smile.

The Benefits of Smiling

It’s not something we think about often, but there are benefits associated with smiling. In addition to providing a warm, welcoming demeanor, smiling has other benefits, like:

  • Increased mood
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Aid digestion
  • Regulate blood sugar
  • Decrease pain
  • Stronger immune system Smiling employees with overlay text, "Service with a smile"
  • Create a positive mindset
  • And more!

But here’s the crazy thing. Smiling, scientists have discovered, is contagious. This means that when you smile (and get these benefits), others will too!

Service With A Smile

I remember a conflict I was in with one former employer. He wanted to know why I never smiled at him when he walked into the office. Convinced something was wrong between us, he began to harbor feelings of anger and resentment. It carried into other spheres of working together, and eventually, I was almost written up over it!

The sad truth? My desk faced the doors and I’d often look up, lost in thought. If they walked by, it wasn’t that I was upset, angry, or dismissive of them. I was simply thinking too hard!

But this did cause me to become more aware of my facial expressions towards others. Instead of dismissing those claims, I took them to heart. I want everything I do to be a warm, welcoming place for people to be around.

I made a conscious effort to work on smiling when engaging others. For someone used to being accused of RBF, this was no small challenge. It has been, however, entirely worth it. The effort to put more work into smiling and engaging others has proved useful for business and personal reasons.

Engaging Leadership

One of the great things that smiling does for us as leaders are that it engages others. It marks us as warm, approachable, open, affirming, and in control.

Smiling communicates that we are calm and steadfast.

Providing service with a smile is more than plastering on a fake veneer, it is training our brain, and those around us, to look for the good in all situations.

It demonstrates our ability to work under pressure.

Service with a smile provides reassuring calm in the midst of surrounding storms.

One area I’ve seen this work is in parenting. When I need to have difficult conversations with my children, I make sure to put on a smile. Not to dismiss wrong or correctable behavior, but to let them know that it is okay. Everything is going to work out fine. Sometimes, I even let them know, “I’m not bad, but I do want to talk about what happened.”

This works in the workplace as well. Really, in all areas where we feel called to lead. 

Service with a smile lets others know that we will all get through this together.

Take An Inventory

The easiest way to get started experiencing the benefits of smiling is to smile. The quickest way to get there is to take an inventory.

Where are the moments we struggle with the most? How have we responded? What would we like to do differently?

Start by planning your day, based on how you want to engage the world and what you hope to accomplish with a smile.

Then, think about the common places where you’re interacting with people and write down intentional things you will do to smile and engage them.

One area where I had to work hard (and to be honest, I’m still working at) is to smile when I produce online content. It’s not that I’m unhappy or grump. Instead, it’s that I take seriously my calling to make great content that I get so focused on that that I can forget to enjoy myself.

I’ve started to write down physical notes when I record (or speak live) to smile. It’s actually in my notes, BE SURE TO SMILE HERE.

It engages the audience and creates rapport.

Smiling communicates value.

It demonstrates appreciation.

As leaders, everything we do is monitored. To be at our best, one simple way is to smile.

Creating opportunities for service with a smile transforms our thinking, influences our actions, transforms conflict, creates opportunity, and advances the mission.

Smile on!

Compass and Map with overlay text, "Compelled by something greater."

The best leaders are always compelled by something greater. Something that is beyond them. Driven by something just out of reach, they are striving for new growth and new opportunities.

Great leaders, in short, are driven by a vision.

Guided By Vision

Vision drives great leaders.

Vision also drives great business. 

It’s popular in the business world to talk about three closely related things: mission, vision, and values.

And while similar, they are distinctly diCompass and Map with overlay text, "Compelled by something greater."fferent. All are needed and all are necessary. However, they should not be equated to the same thing.

Michael Hyatt, in his book The Vision Driven Leader, makes the following distinction:

“Both mission and vision inform strategy but in different ways. Mission provides day-to-day clarity by defining the identity and scope of the business. Without a clear mission, you can easily drift off target and head into either too many directions, or the wrong direction…A proper Vision Script is…a robust document, written in the present tense, that describes your future reality as if it were today.”

This is a helpful distinction and provides clarity for where we’re headed.

Values – The moral and ethical code the leader or the business operates by. This is integrity in the personal and business sphere. A list of words (usually 5-10) that are non-negotiable.

Mission – The identity of the leader or business, defined by the practice and day-to-day operations. This is usually a sentence or two that provides strategy and action principles for the organizational culture.

Vision – The future destination of the leader or business. A full, robust manuscript that has actualized success and invites the readers into a compelling narrative of what could be as if it has already happened. This is usually much longer, much larger, and much more integrated.

Make It Compelling

Truly great leaders are able to draw people into their vision of the future. Their vision of the future is compelling, motivating, inspiring, and equipping. It guides other people into proper ways of thinking and doing.

Think of a vision board on steroids.

It’s large, comprehensive, and transformative. Vision creates the principles by which the mission is executed and the values are maintained.

A compelling vision removes any doubt about the direction we’re going and as well as irradicating the opportunity for settling or stopping short of the goal.

A vision statement covers all aspects of personhood or business to make sure that nothing is missed or left to chance.

3 Steps For Creating A Compelling Vision

1.) Take the Necessary Time

This is not a quick process. A compelling vision doesn’t happen overnight. It may not even happen in a weekend. It’s an intentional time of focus, reflection, integration, and prospecting.

Creating a compelling vision means carefully crafting words, feelings, and desires into a language that motivates, inspires, and equips.

2.) Suspend Doubt and Judgment

Too often, we are our own worst critics. We want to achieve great things but are plagued by doubt and fear.

Great leaders with a compelling vision have been able to squelch that voice.

Don’t be limited in your imagining of the future. Your current reality or availability does not determine your final destination. In the future vision, you have unlimited resources, ability, people, and technology to meet your goals.

Avoid limiting language and limiting belief. Hold space that all things are possible. Ignore the voice that tells you to play small or live in fear.

3.) Firmly Believe The Best Is Yet To Come

To craft a truly compelling and transforming vision, we must hold firmly to the belief that the best is yet to come. The products we create, the people we help, the influence we have, the legacy we leave. All of that grows and expands over time. Unleashing a force of good, we continually reach new heights, meet new expectations, and bless new people.

We must remain certain that the best is yet to come. We embrace the challenge of leaving the world a better place and know that by fulfilling the vision we are writing we will do so.

Where Are You Going?

Ultimately, the question for everyone is, “Where are you going?” For leaders, this is especially important.

No one drifts towards greatness. If we don’t pursue it intentionally, we will never reach it.

Failure to clearly articulate our desired vision of the future means we will never have it.

If we can’t firmly affix our steps to a larger purpose, we will never have one.

 

Friends with thought bubble cutouts and overlay text "A Failure to Communicate"

The one thing any business owner, entrepreneur, or leader never wants to happen is a failure to communicate clearly.

Why?

As Mark Miller points out in his book Win Every Day, “Communication is the oxygen of execution.”

A Failure To Communicate

In his book, Miller highlights the difference between what is expected of everyone in an organization, and what is expected of leaders.

Everyone in an organization must be concerned with “Helping Others Win.” Leaders have the added burden to “Communicate Tirelessly.”

When it comes to communicating mission, vision, and values, the experience of my own coaching clients bears this out.

One of the points I make repeatedly is the need to over-communicate these key aspects of the business.

Here is the rule we start from: Once you’ve talked about your vision a hundred times, the average employee has heard and understood it less than ten.

Shocking, right?

But it’s true.

One of the great failures of business owners and leaders happens when they think everyone else ‘just gets it.’

They don’t.

As a business owner, you may be passionate and inspired by your vision. Compelled by the mission, you get out of bed every day ready to change the world.

Your average employee doesn’t.

To bring them into the mission and vision you created, it must be shared.

Constantly.
Relentlessly.Friends with thought bubble cutouts and overlay text "A Failure to Communicate"
Effectively.

4 Levels of communication

1.) A Failure to Communicate

The first way we communicate is not at all. Like the famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”

A number of years ago, I shared a meme that reminds me of this. The caption I posted was, “This signifies my day so much”

The meme was of a couple, sitting on opposite ends of the couch. The woman, in her diary, was writing about her the distance her husband had been displaying that day. She had made his favorite meal, and there was not so much as a “Thanks.” involved.

She wanted to go out that night and get dressed up. He seemed disinterested.

She tried to snuggle him and watch tv, he was cold and stand-offish.

The diary continued, wanting to know what the problem was. Was he seeing another woman? Maybe their relationship was in trouble? Did he not love her anymore.”

Then we see his diary. Motorcycle won’t start. Can’t figure out why.

This lack of communication led to marriage trouble that didn’t have to exist, at least as far as the meme was concerned.

I shared it that day because it resonated. If I remember correctly, I had a lot of apologizing to do after that.

2.) Poor Communication

Since we’re on the subject of things I’ve learned the hard way, here’s another one.

A couple of years into our marriage, in the midst of a ‘heated discussion’ my wife finally snapped. “I wish you wouldn’t call me “dear.” You only say that when you’re angry with me.”

Lesson learned

Sometimes we communicate. We just do it poorly. The wording is wrong. The metaphor doesn’t work. The imagery fails. It happens when I speak (more than I’d like to admit) and it happens when we share the vision with others.

Business owners just as frequently communicate poorly.

Every time a business owner shares company values but doesn’t practice them, there is poor communication.

When a business leader excuses poor language, crude humor, or angry outbursts as “their personality”, poor communication is experienced.

3.) Base Communication

Assuming you as a leader don’t want to fail to communicate or communicate poorly, what are the other options?

The first is base-communication. But let’s be clear upfront, this is still not considered good communication.

It’s the bare minimum required to get any given task accomplished.

Base level communication is, “John I need you to send me that report.” Why? “Because I said so.”

The job gets done. You will get the report emailed to you, but it’s hardly exhilarating leadership.

Base-communication cares about one thing: results. But, as great leaders know and practice, we care about more than results.

First, we care about people over projects.

Second, we make intentional investments into new leaders.

So where does that leave us as leaders wanting to do more, be more, and have more?

4.) Over-Communication

Over-communicating is people inspiring, mission clarifying, and value-enhancing. Over-communicating looks at more than the task or the goal, it examines the heart of the person we are speaking with.

The best leaders we know practice the art of over-communicating. They speak clearly, concisely, and contextually. Great leaders know how to get at both the heart of the matter and the heart of the person quickly. Excellent communicators know what it means to elevate others and embrace the mission.

Over-communication requires commitment, bravery, and an extreme commitment to service.

The Case to Over-Communicate

To win the hearts of those around, the only way forward is to over-communicate. But note that over-communication is not micro-managing. It does not over. It does not belittle. And it does not de-value.

Over-communication accentuates the positive. It brings out the best in others. Over communication sparks light and life in those that are listening.

Over-communication holds unwaiverlingly to the idea that everyone can witn.

When we over-communicate with our spouse, employees, team-members, and friends we bring value and honor to their personhood.

And as we’ve already seen:

Communication is the oxygen of execution.

Stock and Computer overlay with text "Intentional Investment"

The greatest thing we can do every single day is to make an intentional investment into those around us.

The recent world pandemic of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) reminds us of the fragility of financial investments.

Will the stock market recovery? Absolutely. Eventually.

But this also reminds us of the need to invest in relationships.

One thing that pays immediate dividends and lasts forever is investing in people. Finding, developing, resourcing, and equipping future leaders around us is always worth the investment. 

Growth Happens Here

When I work businesses, especially entrepreneurs or solopreneurs, this becomes an emphasis of our coaching time. Stock and Computer overlay with text "Intentional Investment"

In the beginning, all work is done by the owner. As anyone who has started a business. In addition to being the owner, they were also the sales team, marketing department, human resource contact, janitor, and security guard.

The business grows, and it comes time to hire a new employee.

This can be scary. Someone who is used to doing it all can be hesitant to give something up. The fear is that the new person won’t do it as well.

Hint: That’s probably true.

But that doesn’t mean we avoid hiring. Instead, it means we get intentional about hiring. We look for people willing to be invested in.

Instead of capping growth at the original owner/banker/marketer/sales/do-it-all-yourself we find ways to offload burdensome tasks to someone else.

The owner focuses on the core activities of the business, the things that only he or she can do to help the business grow. We create a hiring profile based on those other tasks. The ones that are important, maybe even vital to the organization, but something that can be done by someone else.

In the coaching process, we work through four quadrants and have the owner visualize where the growth needs to happen.

The last step is always people investing. That’s where we see the greatest return on investment.

Intentional Investment

What does intentional investment look like? It can take many forms:

  • An encouraging word or letter of thanks
  • Educational support
  • Mentoring/Coaching
  • Professional Development seminars
  • Sharing hard-won battles or industry secrets

In sum, Intentional investing happens anytime we are purposeful about shortening the learning curve between where someone is at and personal mastery.

Previously, we have looked at what it means to choose people over projects.

This goes one step beyond that.

More than just the relationship, we care about the growth of the person.

Ready to invest in someone else? Here are three ways to seek out relationships for intentional investment.

3 Ways to Cultivate a Life of Intentional Investment

1.) Intentionally Create Calendar Space

Personally, I’ve stopped using the phrase, “I don’t have time.” I’ve discovered that I’m always willing to make time for things in my life that really matter. If you want to find the time, you never will. Ultimately, that’s because you don’t value it enough. Create calendar time to intentionally cultivate relationships.

2.) Find a bit of yourself in the other person.

In many ways, the coaching field is full of coaches who utilize their time to help others that are like them. I know this is true of me personally and several of my other coaching friends. We coach what we have come out of, or where we see ourselves going.

Mentoring. Connecting. Investing in others all look like this as well. Find someone who reminds you of you at a younger age and guide them towards maturity. What are the things you wish you’d know at that age? That’s the perfect place to start.

3.) Create a compounding vision of success

Albert Einstein is attributed with saying that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. However true this is, I believe our ability to invest in others is even more powerful. In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, people have been hoarding items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. There are even videos online of fistfights erupting over these items.

One thing we never want to hoard is information, transformation, or success. I firmly believe there is enough for everyone. In a world that says, “There’s only enough for one of us if you have it then I can’t.” I choose to fight against that.

There is enough happiness, joy, success, wealth, insight, talent, and ability for us all to succeed.

Instead of seeking out compounding interest, seek out compounding wins of success and personal investment in others. Their gratitude, your joy, and the world’s need for positivity will all thank you.

Justin’s note: During this trying time of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic I am doing my part to give back.

1.) If you want a free downloadable of 50 ways to practice self-care click this link.

2.) If you have been impacted by the COVID0-19 virus as an employee or business owner, I’m giving away free coaching. Go here to apply.

Whiteboard business hierarchy with overlay text: People over projects

As a goal-focused person, one of the hardest lessons I ever had to learn was to choose people over projects.

A Changing Perspective

Several years ago, while living in Denver, I was helping to lead the church I belonged to through a transition. We were tasked with taking years of established tradition and creating something new. We had to honor the old while adapting and evolving into something new.

Honor the past.

Build the future.

As with any such endeavor, emotions were high. There were literally people still on the attendance roster that were there when the church started. With member number one still active, I literally had someone who could tell me in all seriousness, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Whiteboard business hierarchy with overlay text: People over projects

How do you handle the need for change without destroy what has been? How can we, as leaders, honor and celebrate the past while creating something new? Something beautiful? Something expansive?

We choose the people over the projects.

People Over Projects

I remember the moment this crystalized for me. I was sitting in the living room with my wife after I had received some negative and unfair criticism. In that situation, my natural inclination is to fight back. To wound. I wanted to hurt them the way I had been hurt.

But I also knew that I had to model something different. If those I was trying to serve were ever going to see the picture I was trying to paint, I’d have to expose them to something different.

So I mentioned to my wife, “I don’t know how to respond yet, but if I win this battle but lose the relationship, I’ve lost everything of significance.”

That sparked this idea of “People Over Projects.”

Together, we can do so much more than we can on our own. As leaders, we are called to not just lead our people, but to serve them as well.

Leading Our Teams

I have seen this idea now play out over the last seven years in a variety of fields, locations, teams, and organizations. The truth has remained. Leaders who are willing to choose the health of their employees and relationships over the bottom line numbers end up winning.

Leaders that care more about profit than people end up having neither.

Why?

Because no one will follow a leader that makes them feel dispensable. Great employees, excellent team members, world-class staff all have one thing in common: a leader that believes, inspires and equips.

Leaders that are willing to choose people over projects see amazing results in all categories.

Three Tips For Growth

Looking for ways to choose people over projects? Look no further! Here are three of my best tips to help you:

1.) Focus on people-development.

As leaders, we should always be concerned with how our people are growing. 

We also need to realize that people have lives outside of work.

An owner of a business once told me that he was willing to work 24-hours a day on his business and he expected the same from his employees.

Employees usually did .. early on during the honeymoon phase. Once that time period ended, however, employees wanted their normal lives back. Family dinners were missed. Vacations postponed. Weekend naps interrupted. 

Excelling leaders care about the whole-being of their people, not just the 9-5 shift they are working.

One way you can do this is to help your people get the right things done. When the 9-5 is taken care of effectively, they are free to enjoy their life outside of the cubicle.

2.) Focus on the right numbers.

Number matter. The problem is that we tend to focus on the right numbers. Built off of the last point, look for numbers where people are growing.

Sales are a by-product of other things done right.

Do you want better sales? Provide better customer service.

Want better customer service?

Invest in your customer service employees.

When Bill feels valued, appreciated, and integral to the health of the company, he works with more clarity, more integrity, more intensity, and greater levels of satisfaction.

The customer feels that and responds.

Even though Bill isn’t in sales, he directly affects the bottom line and the sales numbers.

Like the janitor that believed in NASA’s mission when approached by JFK with the question of what he was doing responded, “I’m putting a man on the moon.”

He bought into a larger mission and saw what was at the time beyond him.

3.) Don’t be afraid to try something new.

I’ve always found it funny that leaders are criticized for discovering a new idea or reading a new book and trying to implement it. One of the criticisms I’ve often heard is, “You’re just trying this because you learned a new skill in a book.”

Of course, I am.

That’s how learning works!

Learning is about discovering new ideas and implementing what works. But how will we know what works if we don’t give something new a try?

Maybe for you, that directly relates to your people. Maybe you want (or need) coaching for you or your team.

Or maybe it’s a new concept, time-saving strategy, or brainstorming topic.

Perhaps the conference you just attended wants you to offer more flexible working hours and you’re convinced to give it a try.

Whatever it is, go for it!

Involve your people. Offer to create an experiment (scientists do this because they don’t know or can’t guarantee the final result) and tweak what didn’t work.

Whatever it is, just keep trying. Push through fear and criticism and lead boldly.

Conclusion

Every day we are presented with a list of objectives. As a goal-oriented person, and a success coach, much of what I do is help people reach their goals, push through obstacles, and experience success.

But we must also remember that we never choose projects over people. We need each other, go farther together, and ultimately only ever find lasting success when it can be shared.