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Kevin Eikenberry

Last week, I asked you to walk in the shoes of your Customers for a minute — and closed by asking you four questions with easy answers … but without helping you get to those answers. This week, I will close the loop by helping you lead in a way that creates closer, stronger relationships between your team and your Customers (whether they are internal or external). What we are really talking about is moving from having Customers to creating partnerships. Here are four ways to move in that important (and profitable) direction.

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Let’s say you decided to start a business (I know, some of you have, stay with me). There are lots of things to think about — marketing, sales, production, financials and LOTS more. But regardless of what type of business you are in, you can’t do it alone. You will have suppliers — from insurance to … well, everything. And in your business, since you have so many things to do, wouldn’t it be nice if some of those pieces were easier to manage? Most people look to solve that through strategic and effective hiring, which is a great idea. You bring in a rock star marketing team, a top financial mind, etc. to help you grow the business and make your life easier.

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This week, I had the incredible opportunity to tour one of the most productive coal mining operations in the United States. The River View Mine outside of Waverly, Ky., is also the largest mine of its type in the U.S. — bringing 62,000 tons of coal and rock out of the mine each day. I had the opportunity to go down 400 feet and see how this operation works. The tour happened because we are in conversation about how we might help this operation continue to improve the skills, confidence and results of their leaders.

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So you are a leader and a coach — and you need to give someone some feedback. Most people would focus on getting their facts together and thinking about how they are going to give feedback. That is fine preparation, but it is only half of what you should do, based on what I call the biggest secret when giving feedback.

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We as leaders make a big mistake sometimes, and when we fall prey to this mistake it spreads throughout our organization. I’m going to tell you what this mistake is, why it happens and how to fix it, in less than 400 words. Are you ready?

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Yes, there are many times when coaching needs to be a formal sit down, with clear expectations, and planning. But effective coaching can also be a clear, quick conversation that is heard, understood and acted on.

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The feedback I give you is about something you did. It isn’t about me at all, is it? Not so fast, my friend.

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I’m writing this on December 19th, and I believe the only way to prepare for your most successful next year starts now. Don’t worry — the lessons I’m suggesting will apply at any time; my point is you can’t expect a few minutes spent before the ball drops in Times Square (or you leave the office for the year) to set the start for your best year ever.

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Perhaps the most viral video on YouTube this week is a Santa Surprise put together by WestJet, a Canadian airline. I’d like to highlight a deeper and more lasting leadership lesson the video provides.

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I don’t often (OK, basically never) write about politics or the political system, except to look for lessons we can learn from what our leaders are doing (or not doing). That’s where this piece will end, but first, a bit of a rant. Why can’t our Congress and our president get along? I mean, we have serious issues facing us as a nation and they just keep kicking issues further out on the calendar like a little boy kicks a dented can down the sidewalk.

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Last week, I wrote about a dialogue disaster, and this week I want to talk more about dialogue because it is such an important way to communicate with others.

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It happens everywhere I go — and it does to you too — if you notice (and aren’t doing it yourself) … Last winter I was at my daughter’s first middle school swim meet, and I was appalled. Not by the contestants, actually I was inspired by their performances, support for each other and more, but that is for another time. I was appalled by the spectators.

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This is a blog about leadership, so I want to use recent events to help us see some truths about leadership, not take a political side or further an agenda. I see three specific and immediate things for us to learn as leaders from the launch and failures of the healthcare.gov website.

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Because you are reading these words, I am confident you are a believer in ongoing learning and development for yourself and those you lead. Precisely because this is your bias, you may find it hard to understand why your team members aren’t anxiously looking forward to attending the training you offer them or that is in some way made available to them.

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Let me get personal and direct and maybe even get in your face a bit. If you want change to happen in your organization, you’ve got to be willing to change too. More than willing; you must change.

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Perhaps the oldest conundrum of all is — which came first, the chicken or the egg? Perhaps the oldest in the minds of savvy leaders is what is more important, my Customers or my Employees?

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As we plan for the annual goal-setting process (if yours isn’t upon you yet, it will be soon), this is an important question for both your team and for you personally. I’m going to address it for you here because I believe if you want your team to set goals, you should be setting them too.

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It is almost that time of year. It’s about time to start setting your goals for next year. I know it might not be time quite yet, but chances are it is coming. My advice today may be a bit controversial or challenge your assumptions. Are you ready? Don’t set goals. Am I serious? Kinda …

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We all want to pay the mortgage, eat and live comfortably; but is money the only or most important reason we go to work? As a leader it is important to think about this question from two perspectives, so let’s do each of them now.

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I mean no disrespect here, but my bet is, based on my experience and observation, that you don’t completely finish your projects. The lack of completion comes on two levels. You give up before the finish line, and you put the finish line at the wrong place.

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