Your Inner Leader: How are You Developing You? 35

Your Inner Leader: How are You Developing You?

This is a guest post by Michael Harred, a passionate blogger and writer from Florida. His topics of interest are leadership and self-improvement. In his free time, Michael writes for LordOfPapers. Connect with him on Twitter.

Leadership is always discussed in external terms – skills that individuals have developed which allow them to lead others, usually in organizational environments. And good leadership is important – it means that organizations meet their goals, that projects get completed on time and within budget, and that morale and commitment to the organization is high.

What is seldom discussed, however, is inner leadership – those skills and talents we develop that allow ourselves to be productive, focused, and successful in our navigation of this complex world.

What Does Inner Leadership Look Like?

History has given some great examples of leadership (and some pretty bad ones too).

One thing that all great leaders have in common, however, is that they have developed their abilities to lead themselves first, before they are able to lead others successfully.

And this is where the journey to leadership should begin for all of us – not because we want to lead others, but because we want to provide direction and purpose to our own lives.

Here, then, are the basic characteristics of inner leadership.

1. Character.

This may be the most important inner leadership quality.

It can be equated with integrity. But integrity is not just how you treat others in your personal and business lives, about following the “rules,” and about being honest and forthright with others.

The inner leader has integrity in terms of his/her relationship with the principles, values, and beliefs that are important to him personally.

Have you set goals? Are you true to those goals? Do you have passions? Are you pursuing those passions?

These are the things of which self-integrity is made. 

You want to be a writer – you feel passionate about it. How is that translating into your daily activities and routines? Are you willing to sacrifice some of your social life so that you can hold down a “regular” job and set aside enough time to pursue that passion? If you compromise, then you have lost some of your inner integrity.

Shakespeare said it best, through Polonius, as he gave advice to his son, Laertes. “To thine own self be true.” This is inner integrity.

2. Optimism/Attitude.

Long before she founded The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington exemplified the spirit of optimism and great attitude, as she led herself through a Master’s degree in economics from Cambridge, and then settled in London to write, primarily biographies. When she moved to the US. and married, she became involved in politics, first as a conservative and then as a liberal.

Even when she dropped out of the race for California governor, it did not impact her optimism. She simply moved on to pursue other avenues of success.

To date, she can count to her many credits not just The Huffington Post, but over 15 books.

The one that probably depicts her inner leadership the most is On Becoming Fearless – in Love, Work, and Life. She has sold her media empire to AOL but continues to lead herself into new endeavors with the same optimism and positive attitude she has always had.

3. Vision.

When Bill gates was in college, he had no plans to lead a multi-national corporation like Microsoft. He simply had a vision of a computer operating system that the average person could use.

So strong was that vision that he quit school and, with a partner, began to work on it. Gates was leading no one else – only himself with that vision.

As a writer, you, too, have a vision – to enrich the lives of others, not through external leadership skills, but by producing works of writing that have an impact.

You may have had this vision since childhood; you may have had to work hard on your skills and solicit reviews from others who were more skilled and talented than you. But through it all, you have continued to lead yourself in the direction of your vision.

4. Prioritizing.

Leaders of teams within organizations prioritize projects and tasks for their team members. People who are not leaders of others still lead themselves in this critical piece of personal success.

Without the ability to prioritize, we flail through life, jumping from one activity to the next, without satisfactory focus on anything. Cleaning up the kitchen becomes just as important as writing that next chapter or finishing that poem.

Without priorities, we cannot schedule sufficient amounts of time and effort for all that we want or need to do.

If you really want to be a writer, then you must have an inner leader who forces you to set aside the time to develop your craft.

These four aspects of inner leadership do not each exist in a vacuum. They are inter-connected and work in cooperation with one another.

When each of these four traits is developed, and they become part of the total leadership picture, we gain the ability to accomplish our goals.

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The Five Elements of Flawless Customer Experience 11

The Five Elements of Flawless Customer Experience

Providing a flawless customer experience is the ultimate goal for any business.

There’s a lot that goes into creating a customer experience that keeps your clients coming back for more. In fact, there’s so much involved that it can almost seem overwhelming.

However, providing a flawless customer experience becomes much easier when you approach the task through these five distinct elements:

Time
Understanding
Ownership of Emotions
The Unexpected
Follow-Through

Time

When it comes to your customers’ satisfaction, time is essential. Think of how a great experience at a new restaurant quickly sours if you’re left waiting for your food to arrive. Think of how your excitement over a great department store sale turns into frustration as you stand in line for what seems like hours.

Time is your most valuable resource and it is up to you to make sure you’re using your customers’ time wisely.

This is why restaurants have comfortable waiting areas with drinks and appetizers, or why airports have lounges with restaurants, shops, and even bars.

If your customers are being forced to wait for a service, make them feel as if their time spent is not wasted. The more positive drivers you offer customers, the less likely they are to grow dissatisfied with their experience.

Think of how you can implement this in your own business. Are there places where you can help fill customers’ time? Are there places where technology can be used to cut down on the time it takes to complete a task? Remember, it’s the customers’ time that should be valued, not your own.

Understanding

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You must understand what your customers want, when they want it, and how.

While this may seem daunting, getting a better understanding of your customers doesn’t take millions of dollars, complex data analytics, and a degree in psychology. Instead, all it takes is a simple look. Watch their process, engage with them, ask them questions, and listen to them.  

How are customers interacting with your product? What’s the first thing they do when they enter your store? What’s the last thing they do before they leave? How long are they spending in each department? Do you notice anything that hampers their experience?

Take a look at your competitors. How are your potential customers interacting with them? What does this business offer that you don’t or vice versa? What is your, as Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen says, “job to be done?” What are your customers hiring your product or service to accomplish? Understand why your users are turning to your products.

Ownership of Emotions

Many companies have already taken hold of their customers’ emotions, though cynically. Subliminal advertising is a key example. However, the ownership of emotions does not have to be cynical. When used correctly, it can be the “holy grail” for companies.

Owning emotions begins with the aforementioned ability to understand. When you truly understand a customer’s choices and then act to make the experience better, you’re building a relationship of trust. That trust is the foundation of emotional ownership.

One way to build this trust is to reduce the “emotional” noise that surrounds your customers. Let them know that, even on their worst day, your business or product is there for them and that it will be a constant in their lives.

Think of restaurants and the long wait times you have to endure when they’re busy. Think of how angry—or “hangry”—you feel as you stand around, waiting for your table, and listening to your stomach growl. However, think of how some restaurants are able to reduce that emotional noise by serving you finger foods and drinks as you wait.

Also, seek to understand what emotionally motivates your customers.

Why should they be motivated to visit your store or use your product? To feel confident? Free? Unique? Secure? Successful? Research shows that all human beings are motivated by one of those factors.

The Unexpected

Experiences become stronger and more memorable when they’re accompanied by an element of surprise. Surprise can be addictive, which will only keep your customers coming back for more.

Think about mailing your customers or clients small packages with gifts and swag. Everyone loves to get mail and everyone loves free stuff, especially when it’s least expected.

A surprise doesn’t have to be a huge flash mob (though it could be!). Hand out snacks at your store. Is it a cold day? Give your customers hot chocolate or warm punch. Is it a client’s birthday? Send a card! Even a small note of thanks for a customer’s business is a nice little surprise.

The most important thing to remember: simply be sincere and don’t become predictable. Chocolates on hotel pillows were once a great surprise for guests. However, now that their wow-factor has faded, hotels are continuously trying to get back to the “unexpected.”

Follow-Through

You’ve made promises and established goals. The only thing that’s left is to follow through on them. This starts with creating your mission statement, one that you, your employees, and your customers can commit to it. This will define your customer experience.

Your mission statement must promise to impact yourself/your business, the community, or the world. It may commit to impacting one, or all three. However, whatever it promises, you must follow through on. Your customers’ trust, and thus their experience, depends on it.

More about these five elements can be discovered in Unforgettable: Designing Customer Experiences that Stick, to be published in 2018.

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Kyle H. David has made a career in technology and entrepreneurship for nearly 20 years. In 2001, he formed The Kyle David Group, now KDG. Over the past 16 years, KDG has grown at a rapid pace, attracting clients ranging from the United States Senate to major financial institutions, international nonprofits, and Division I universities.