“The most successful people in the world are able to look at their experience, draw out what’s useful and translate it into standards for measuring future experience.” An amazing insight Dan Sullivan came to as he took the time to analyze why he had phenomenal results with some people and dismal results with others.
He realized that he had certain mindsets, not bias or behaviors, but ways of thinking that were part of who he was and how he approached the world. When he met someone with a similar mindset, there was a connection that produced remarkable outcomes. It wasn’t that his mindsets were better than everyone else’s, it was about being himself and honest about who he was, his personal like/don’t like responses, which no one can really decide for you. Then turning that into a filter for who he was best suited to collaborate with.
Some mindsets are inherent in who we are; others can actually be developed with desire and determination. One of the mindsets we gravitate toward is service. It is summed up in the old cliché, “It isn’t about you, but it is up to you.”
In a recent interview, Gen. Wayne Monteith, the commander of the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral and Patrick Air Force Base, said, “To inspire your followers and partners you have to be authentic and credible. To be credible you don’t have to be an expert, but you must understand the systems we are dealing with and continually develop as a leader. To be authentic, humility is an essential component. When you start to lose sight of why you serve and who you serve, sub-optimal performance is unavoidable. I call it, ‘The tyranny of the reserved parking spaces.’”
Everyone enjoys the “perks” that come with promotion, but protecting and demanding our privileges is not what got us to where we are, nor will it keep us there. The tyranny he was referring to were the over 30 reserved parking spaces set aside for him, spread over the bases he commanded, not to mention the plethora of spaces set aside for other senior officers and enlisted personnel. The danger, he pointed out, was how a lack of humility causes you to “lose sight of why you serve and who you serve.” In other words, you begin to think because of your brains, success or acumen, everyone is there to serve you.
Three Key Service Concepts
1. Who Knows Best? When you have a service mentality, you realize not only that you do not have all the answers, but that you do not have to have all the answers. Often the people actually doing the job or directly providing the service understand not only the problem, but also the solutions much better than the folks with the reserved parking spaces. When treated with respect and appreciation, they respond with candor and insight about how the work can be done more efficiently and profitably, versus disengaging, or worse, sabotaging, because they are treated with indifference. With a culture of service, you benefit from a treasure trove of insight and experience the boots on the ground can provide.
2. Win or Learn. With a mindset of service, negative experiences or what appears to be a loss can be reframed. All our experiences should fall into one of two categories: We won — so we need to gather as much data out of that win as we can, to transfer it into future opportunities; or we learn — we didn’t close the sale or maybe we lost the client, but that is an opportunity to do some forensic work and find out why. We win or we learn; there is no losing with a mindset of service, and we are better positioned for the next client that comes our way.
3. Am I Invisible? We have all had the misfortune of standing in line at a ticket or “service” counter while the person who was there to “serve” us was busy chatting it up on the phone or texting a friend. Most companies make sure employees have the hard skills that are necessary for their job, but workers aren’t always trained and incentivized to do the equally important soft skills, like friendliness, courtesy or service and using those timeless door-openers like “thank you,” “please” and “yes sir” or “yes ma’am.”
Perhaps this is why a great leader observed over 2,000 years ago, “He who is the greatest among you will be the servant of all.” Greatness is really about how well and how many you can serve; it is a mindset of an ethical capitalist. ◆
Trep Talks is the educational platform of Jeff Piersall and Eric Wright; for more information visit