February 24, 2009

Unique people bosses can learn great lessons from - Part One

Steve Irwin
I could write three million reasons why we should all be like Steve. The most important one is probably his energy and passion. If we lived life how he did – with that much joy and excitement this would be a very different world. Steve is real, he is so authentic. He has a love of everything. If you launch into Steve mode in your office all of a sudden you’ll probably scare the heck out of your staff (or they’d think you’ve finally lost your marbles!). You should ponder areas you need more Steve in your management style and gradually let him shine through. You may even end up quitting coffee! An interviewer once asked Steve if he drank coffee. He responded “nah mate the top of my head would blow off” and it probably would have! Imagine having that kind of energy and excitement in your life everyday. Create it within yourself!

Gordon Bethune
There is a well known story about then CEO of Continental Airlines Gordon Bethune. Before a flight, he was chatting to staff. He then left them so they could get ready for the flight. As he was taking his seat on the plane he saw a passenger making a scene. The passenger had seen empty seats in first class and wondered why (with his elite member card) he wasn’t up graded. The flight attendant said she'd contact a gate attendant to see what they could do. The passenger started swearing. Gordon approached and said to the man "can I help somehow?"
The passenger said "who the **** are you"
Gordon responded "I’m the CEO of this company. May I see your ticket sir?"
The passenger handed it over to him. Gordon saw the price, pulled some notes from his pocket and handed him the cash, ripped the ticket then said "now, you get the **** off my airplane” the flight attendant could hardly keep a straight face.

This story was circulated by email and fast became well loved. Gordon had a reputation as a leader who really respected his people. He gave out a great message to the team that day – he will back them, and protect them no matter what. He will not tolerate his staff being disrespected. This is quite different from some businesses that always put customers first “the customer is always right” and encourage staff to do whatever it takes to please them. There are some customers that are just not worth it. Lots of businesses have ‘banned customer’ lists – they are people that are not worth the trouble, and are not welcome as customers. It is an awesome way to keep your staff #1.

Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen has an almost cult following all around the world. Her talk show is like NO other. I always say “that could only ever happen on Ellen.” Like Steve Irwin, it is her energy and attitude that makes her amazing also. Her show has won so many awards and gives people a daily dose of happiness and positivity. I am not going overboard when I say she is changing the world. She helps loads of great causes and people in need everyday – that’s right – through a talk show! The best lesson to learn from Ellen would probably be the craziness. Applied to your business it would mean thinking from a unique perspective and coming up with solutions that are a bit wild. Having no boundaries and being prepared to do things differently. By watching her show you will also learn how humour can fit into a workplace and engage a team.

Richard Branson
Richard has always been known as a bit different. He is the king of PR stunts and is an all round fun and crazy guy. It’s his approach to life that has made Virgin so unique. My favourite incident is definitely the ‘river’ incident. When visiting my home town of Christchurch in New Zealand, he was in a small punting boat with two of his airline staff launching some new initiative. He jumped out of the boat into the river and pulled the two ladies that were with him in as well! Perhaps don’t throw your staff in the river, but consider where you could apply such an impulsive attitude. Are you being too serious and scared of the water? Do you have an over the top adult attitude of “oh but we’ll get wet”?

I'll profile four more people to learn from in Part Two of this article. Check out another of my articles in USA website 'Winning Workplaces' newsletter here. The direct article link is here.

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