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The Champion Forum Podcast

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Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! What do you think when you hear that a leader is a “servant leader”? Many people have misconceptions about what it means to be a servant leader and are skeptical about whether or not it will work for their business. In today’s episode, I interview Joel Manby, author of Love Works, on what it means to be a servant leader and why companies who value servant-leadership are more successful. Joel has more than 25 years of experience as the CEO of major corporations including Sea World and Herschend Enterprises, and Saab Automobile. Using his experience, Joel currently teaches companies how to use a servant leadership approach to reduce turnover, increase employee engagement, achieve higher rates of customer satisfaction, and stronger profits. Tell me about your early career My career decisions were driven more by what I needed to do to provide for my family as opposed to what I love to do. That’s okay to do in the beginning, but you have to eventually do what you love to be successful. I first spent about 20 years in the automotive industry and then another 20 years in the amusement park industry. I probably stayed at those companies longer than I should have. I’m very competitive and hard-working. I just wanted to do good work for my employers. I had good leadership instincts and liked being the play-caller. I loved leading teams, but I almost didn’t want to start my own business. Setting strict monetary or position goals can cause you to make wrong decisions. Focus on making a difference, and the rest will figure itself out. Q: What drives you in your career? What type of leadership do you think that you thrive under? What kind of leadership do you prefer to use as you lead your teams? What prompted you to write the book? When I got to Herschand, I had this huge angst. I thought I was the only one who believed we should expect more from leaders and that working should be fun. When I saw how Herschand led their theme park, I believed that was the answer. It became even more obvious when we started to add new business under the company umbrella. I noticed that they were person-driven, not system-driven. When we were on Undercover Boss, we were inundated with applications and requests for people to help us build the same culture in their business. Love Works is a beginner's take on creating a culture of servant leadership. I wanted to alleviate that angst I was feeling for other people who were feeling the same thing. Servant leadership isn’t soft. It gets amazing results. I’ve done it both ways, and I can tell you that it’s more satisfying. It also gets better results. It’s a harder way to lead, but it’s a better way to lead. Why do few companies practice servant leadership and how can you start a culture of servant leadership in your business? There are several reasons why servant leadership does not have more traction.

  1. It isn’t modeled.

  2. Its definition is unclear. People think of love as we define it romantically in the English language. The Greeks actually have four words for love, eros, philia, storge, and agape, which is unconditional love. When people get over that language barrier, they can understand the kind of love we’re talking about.

  3. Being kind is not being nice all the time. It’s being a motivator, and being truthful. The best leaders and coaches are the ones that confront you. Leading with love includes truthfulness and trustworthiness.

So, the first step for most companies is to define what love is. Then you have to teach it. Then measure it. Review it consistently, and re-word it constantly. People who succeed are not just hitting the financial numbers; they are hitting the culture numbers. A lot of businesses invest in marketing, which is teaching your company what you are about. But building your culture is about teaching your employees what you are about. Q: How would you define love? Do you think that definition lines up with your business’s definition? Why or why not? How do you show love to your customers? How is that different from how you show love to your employees? What is one tip for being more of a servant leader? People usually rank their leaders very low in positive reinforcement. There is no excuse for this because it’s a free way for companies to value their employees. One of my leaders, Jack, was great at providing positive reinforcement, and he did so by writing handwritten letters not only to his employees but also to their families. Q: Describe a time when you got a thank you note. How did it affect your work or relationship with the person who wrote that note? Have you ever seen a relationship change through an act of appreciation? Describe that situation. The 7 Words of Agape Love In my book, I talk a lot about the seven words of agape love. I took them from 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible, and they are patience, kindness, trusting, truthfulness, unselfish, forgiving, and dedicated. Having a common language to define love helps get everyone on the same page. Beyond that, I don’t just describe seven words. I also present three different ways that you can express each word. For example, one of the ways we can practice patience is to praise in public and admonish in private. Q: Which of the words above stands out to you the most and why? Which do you think is the hardest to exhibit as a leader? Why? Give an example of a way that you can practice that part of love in your daily life. What can I do if I don’t have a leadership title? So many people think their title influences how much influence they can have, but that is not true. Judy Ward was a receptionist for a company I worked for. She knew who was sick, and she would put out emails to pray for them. She would make sure we were aware of people issues. She just cared a lot about people. It doesn’t matter where you are in an organization. You can have an impact. Q: Describe a time when someone who was not a “leader” influenced your business. What was their position? How did they make an impact on the business? What do you think allows people to create influence when they do not have a “leadership position”? Application Activities:

  1. Go back and listen to Joel recount the impact his boss’ hand-written note had on his career. When was the last time you wrote a note to one of your employees? Take some time today and write a hand-written note to the family of one of your employees.

  2. For your business, what does it mean to be a servant leader and to love people? If this is a part of your company’s values, do you remember the answer by heart? If it is part of your company’s values, make sure that you know the exact language. If it is not, write down your answer. Consider how you can integrate this value into the way that you train and onboard new employees.

  3. Joel talked about attaching actions to the words you use to describe love. Take it one step further by looking at your other values. How can you express those values in actions? Come up with three ways to express one of your company values and teach it to your employees. Revisit those actions regularly and celebrate when people do them!

Connect with Joel LinkedIn: Joel Manby Instagram: @joelmanby_official Order Joel’s Book: Love Works Website:

JULY 29, 2021

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