Serving Well Is A Covenant …

“To kalidescope-by-chip-bell-02-2017serve well is to enter into a covenant with a customer that guarantees worth will be exchanged for worth and in a way that keeps central the customer’s best interests.” (pg. 35)

So says Chip Bell and I could not agree more.  In his latest book, Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles, Bell uses the analogy of a child’s toy, a kaleidoscope, to illustrate some solid principles of effective customer service.  As in his earlier books, Chip’s words and phrases are pithy and colorful, with many easily memorable statements that just beg to be quoted and digested by those of us who care about such things.

I see several valuable points in that sentence at the head of this post, each of which guides us beyond the common and tired sayings about customer service, while helping us aspire to a much higher level of involvement:


I have only worked in one organization where this word was regularly invoked to describe our relationship with each other and with those we served.  That non-profit provided help and comfort to the aged, families, and people in need.

To me, covenant indicates more than a promise, more than a guarantee … Covenant is a sacred duty to honor commitments and to treat others in an honorable way as you offer services and goods to them.

Covenant is also a relatively equalized relationship between you and another


Since we are talking about a relationship here, it makes perfect sense that we consider the values involves.  Most businesses run on a transactional model:  You give me something and I give you something in return.  Nothing wrong with this, as long as each person receives what they expected to receive.

Worth is another word that pushes us toward a higher level of engagement.  Worth goes beyond the mundane or trivial.  Worth means something of real value.   I offer my dollar bill and you give me an ice cream cone … we have completed a transaction.   I give you my dollar bill, and without being asked, you add sprinkles (yes, a nod to another Bell book), a genuine smile, and a cheery “Have a great day!“, and now we are talking worth.


Not “The customer is always right” because they are not, and not that the customer can ask for or do anything, but here we have a clear reminder that we are in our business to serve the customer’s best interests.

As a realtor, I sometimes serve customers who have a well-designed list of needs and wants, price range, and vision for their ideal house … then  they fell in love with a fire pit (not on the original list) and all else goes away.  Their best interests are served by helping them move beyond the emotion of the moment to reconsider all the other things they said they had to have in the house they buy and to look at their decision from the financial perspective as well.  

Adding perspective to their decision may mean losing a higher commission, but I am serving my customer’s best interests.

Look at what I gained from reading just one page of one chapter in Kaleidoscope, and you might well think “Wow, if he can do that, I could gain so many more valuable insights from reading the whole thing” … and you would be absolutely right.  

Enjoying another great book from one of my favorite authors in the Heartland ….



Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books.  Global Gurus ranked him both in 2014 and 2015 as the #1 keynote speaker in the world on customer service.  He has appeared live on CNN, CNBC, ABC, Fox Business Network, Bloomberg TV, and NPR; and his work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, Fast Company, Money Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Businessweek.

Images reposted with permission

Caveat:  I received a copy of this book for review prior to publication.  I now have a great stocking stuffer for family and colleagues this Christmas.

Guest Post: Serving It Forward by Chip Bell

Kalidescope by Chip Bell 02 2017.jpgAny post which starts with a lesson from one of my favorite films is sure to be full of thoughtful insights.  Any post by Chip Bell pretty much meets the Excellent Customer Service Thinking standard, whether he mentions a favorite film or not.

Chip’s latest book is Kaleidoscope – click the image to the left to learn more.

Chip is one of my most trusted sources of solid and engaging leadership thinking … enjoy the following slice, which provides my claim nicely:


Lawrence of Arabia won the academy award in 1962 for best picture. Given the current conflicts in the Middle East, I recently watched the four-hour movie to learn more about the cultural history of the area. Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (played by best actor winner Peter O’Toole) was a British intelligence officer assigned to investigate the revolt of the Arabs against the Turks during World War I.  He embraced the culture and dress of the Arabs and organized a guerrilla army that for two years raided the Turks with surprise attacks.

In the early part of the movie, a poor Bedouin guide is hired to escort Lawrence across the desert to meet with Prince Faisal (played by Alec Guinness), the leader of the Arab revolt.  (Faisal would ultimately become King of Syria and King of Iraq pushing for unity between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims).  It was customary then for desert guides to be paid at the end of their assignment.  Instead, at the beginning of their journey, Lawrence gave his military pistol to the guide—a gift of great value and pleasure for any Bedouin.

What followed was a powerful example of “serving it forward.” The guide instantly gave Lawrence some of his food, provisions better suited to desert survival than the military rations Lawrence carried.  The guide then assumed a mentoring role revealing valuable desert survival secrets.  The timing of Lawrence’s unorthodox gift completely changed the dynamic of the relationship, with the Bedouin transforming him from “compliant servant” into “resourceful partner.”

Customer service is a reciprocal act.  Customers exchange money, time and effort for goods and services.  There are unwritten norms about how this mutual undertaking is performed.  Customers are expected to communicate their needs; service providers are expected to indicate whether they can meet those needs.  There are generally stated or implied expectations around speed, quality, cost, and so forth.  Both parties assume a modicum of respect; both assume the exchange will employ a measure of fair play.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia started getting a lot of publicity after their decision to sell single slices of pizza for a dollar. But it didn’t have to do with the price of the slice; it was about a customer-suggested idea for how to fund pizza for the homeless. It works like this: when customers buy pizza for themselves they put a dollar in a container, write a message on a Post-it note and stick it on the wall.  Any homeless person can come into the store, take a Post-it note off the wall and get a slice of pizza. Rosa’s has given away thousands of slices.

The principle of abundance is about giving more than is expected.  It is a proactive attitude of engulfing a relationship with emotional plenty without concern for reciprocity. An attitude of abundance is more the belief that if we employ a giver mentality, the customer will take care of the bottom line.   It is leading with an orientation of selflessness—of focusing on the customer first, not on the bottom line.  “Generosity,” wrote Khalil Gibran in The Prophet, “is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.”

Chip Bell.jpg

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books.  His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.  He can be reached at



Guest Post: Leaders Ready Now

Leaders Ready Now bannerAnother launch week, another useful and well-written title on effective leadership development …  

This post is an excerpt from the chapter 1 of Leaders Ready Now.


Whom Should You Accelerate?

Of course, acceleration can dramatically energize a culture, but that’s not its principal purpose. As we mentioned at the outset, the goal of making more leaders ready now is most urgent for those businesses imperiled by inadequate or insufficient leadership. For that reason, the fear that a new system will damage the culture must be answered with a clear business case and a strong communication plan to counter perceptions of exclusion. Leaders Ready Now will outline how to make that business case and how to make choices about whom to accelerate in a way that creates positive energy in the organization. Meanwhile, having gained a consensus that acceleration is a business necessity, you can anticipate at least some of the following general acceleration needs:

CEO and C-level acceleration: Naturally, having replacement plans in place for the CEO and members of the senior team is essential; nearly every organization with more than a handful of employees has considered the issue of succession, at least at the very top. But the replacement pool may be shallow, and again, the best way to ensure a strong succession plan is to set up an Acceleration Pool to develop and prepare potential replacements long before a position becomes vacant. Accelerating the growth of a small cadre of executives who can develop readiness for these critical roles is crucial to organizational stability and success.

Executive acceleration: The most common crisis that acceleration addresses is the absence of leaders capable of taking on executive level roles. Because the responsibilities and required skills in these roles increase so dramatically, the transition represents one of the most significant and challenging jumps in the career of any leader. And because the feeder pool for these roles is often stocked with individuals several levels below the necessary levels of capability and experience, failure is common, heightening the need for effective acceleration.

Mid-level leader acceleration: Some organizations also create pools that prepare individual contributors and frontline leaders to fill mid-management roles, where much of the organization’s execution energy resides and where many organizations have trouble building strength. Because population sizes are larger, these pools tend to be built and managed somewhat differently than executive-oriented pools, often with more cadre-based learning and growth options that equip leaders with core skills to apply to the challenges of mid-level leaders.

Global/Regional/Business unit acceleration: Multinational, multibusiness, or multidivisional organizations often establish pools for each unit to meet the needs of the separate groups. In some instances these disparate pools are managed totally independently of one another; others build in review sessions to create insight into talent across boundaries and to find opportunities to share and grow leaders who have awareness and capability across the enterprise.

Critical role-acceleration efforts: Not all acceleration efforts should focus on traditional leadership roles. Many key positions are technical or functional in nature or require a unique brand of creativity or insight that gives the organization a competitive edge. These positions might require special project leaders or innovators of new concepts, products, or methods. They might have typical leadership responsibilities, or their leadership might be more nontraditional (such as thought leadership) or lateral. Acceleration efforts should target these roles as well and take a pool or individualized approach based on the nature of the role and size of the group. For example, one global social services organization established an Acceleration Pool for its Country Manager position. In another case, a technology firm cultivated the development of three high-potential players for the role of Product-Design Executive—a highly creative role without traditional leadership responsibility

Given that not everyone can (or wants to) be a leader, generating more leaders ready now requires you and your senior team to determine which individuals and groups will be the focus of your acceleration investments. Executives must make difficult choices about whom to accelerate and when. Some organizations struggle with this basic point of departure, maintaining that differential development is harmful to the culture because it excludes some people from participating. This point of view is a nonstarter, because acceleration is not an investment in the culture; it is an investment in the business.

Matthew J. Paese, Ph.D., is Vice President of Succession and C-Suite Services for Development Dimensions International (DDI). Matt’s work has centered on the application of succession, assessment, and development approaches as they apply to boards, CEOs, senior management teams, and leaders across the pipeline. He consults, coaches, speaks, and conducts research around all those topics and more.

Audrey B. Smith, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President for Global Talent Diagnostics at DDI. Audrey’s customer-driven innovation and global consulting insights have helped shape DDI’s succession, selection, and development offerings, from the C-suite to the front line. She has been a key strategist and solution architect, encompassing technology-enabled virtual assessments and development aligned to current business challenges.

William C. Byham, Ph.D., is Executive Chairman of DDI. He cofounded the company in 1970 and has worked with hundreds of the world’s largest organizations on executive assessment, executive development, and succession management. Bill authored Zapp!® The Lightning of Empowerment, a groundbreaking book that has sold more than 3 million copies. He has coauthored 23 other books, including seminal works on the assessment center method.


Three Parts of Trust …

Trust Fall - 1 on 1 - Presenter MediaI USED TO HANG OUT IN THE WOODS AND FALL DOWN A  LOT …

At several points in my life, I have been deeply involved in experiential group learning … translated, that means I used to camp out in the woods with my staff or a group engaging in creative and challenging exercises, with hours of debriefing afterward.  We would experience and then process how the group communicated, made decisions, and worked together.

People faced with uncommon issues and problems can gain insight into themselves and their strengths and values, along with learning how to better interact with and appreciate the contributions of others.

Most of the exercises involved some level of trust between individuals.   A trust fall is a common way to display or build trust.  One person falls backward, hopefully into the waiting arms of another or others.  This can be terrifying the first time a person experiences literally letting go and trusting someone else to keep them safe.

Even when a person is on what we call High Challenges (ROPES terminology), all alone on a pole or beam high above everyone else, trust still matters.   You are tethered to a rope which another person on the ground holds, ready to help you keep your balance or lower you safely if you start to fall.

The ability of the person up there to recognize and trust the person holding their safety rope is essential.  Feeling safe enough to risk, since the perception of falling is still strong, even when you have a strong rope anchored to you and are in little real danger.  Trusting that person on the ground is critical.


It strikes me that leadership and life coaching is something like those outdoor learning experiences.  Trust is also an essential ingredient in the coaching relationship, and trust is developed within three related, but distinct categories:


As the coach , I must believe that my experience and skills are adequate to the challenge of helping another grow intentionally and in a positive direction.

As the client, I must develop the belief that I am capable of intentional and positive change, with discernment and support.


As the coach, I must trust the coaching process includes everything needed for me to help another engage in intentional and positive change on multiple levels.

As the client, I must trust the coaching process will help me develop confidence, courage, and clarity of vision.


As the coach, I must trust the client.

As the client,  I must trust the coach.

This is the type of trust we tend to think of first, but in truth, trusting each other is both a combination of the first two types of trust and the interaction of personal chemistry.   

It’s sort of like magic how all this comes together to create a relationship of trust…

Hoping that this provides value to someone today in the Heartland …


Image: Presenter Media



Easy As Pie …


At least, so it would appear to some.

Coaching is seen as one of the “easy” careers by many … adding it to a list which includes teaching, counseling, and consulting.  I find it morbidly interesting that so many jobs I have done fall into this category.

For several reasons, people in general often perceive these helping professions as ones that are simple and easy to do, hardly requiring any work or preparation at all.

After all, look at how people who are really good at these jobs act … like it is no big deal to help a person or an organization change, learn, or heal.  When you really know how to do what you do, it does look easy.

During my therapist period, a good friend once said to me “Well, all you do is sit around and talk to people.  That’s not very hard to do.”  

I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has ever said to me, especially about being a counselor or a coach, something like “I‘ve been doing that all my life and I’ve never needed any training”.    Usually said right after I mention the rigors of completing a degree program, certification course, or licensure process, this admission only tells me that the person has little or no understanding of the change process.

Off the top of my head, here are some reasons why this might be:


Change is partly behavior, which is visible, but more so emotional and cognitive, which are less visible and more open to misinterpretation by others.   If you stop smoking, you are visibly not smoking, although you might be visibly more “edgy” or “tense“.

Emotions can be reflected physically, as when body parts quiver during times of high stress or we perspire more than normal.  However, we cannot truly know the emotion that another is experiencing.

Cognitive changes are displayed directly by our words and indirectly by our behaviors.  Words and behavior can be congruent or not congruent, and identifying which is occurring is key for any effective change process.

We cannot know how another person is changing, unless we know what to look for and how to evaluate what we see or hear …


Talking is something everyone does, more or less, on a regular basis.  Since most of us talk every day, we tend to see talking as “no big deal“, something that does not require special preparation or focus.   

If we think that chatting with someone provides therapeutic outcomes, we are half-right.  Sometimes a person derives great value on one level from simply talking with another person.  This is why we encourage people to visit the ill or lonely and reach out to others.

However, chatting is not change …


Here’s where it gets interesting.  A client may leave a meeting sounding positive and looking confident, without having created either a plan for change or commitment to that change.  

A relatively long discussion can represent empty minutes without any valuable content or progress, while a short interchange might mean significant shifts are occurring.   A trained person, be they a teacher, counselor, coach, or consultant, has been educated to sense deeper levels than the superficial. 

If a coaching sessions looks simple, it could be either a master coach doing what they do apparently effortlessly OR a couple of people just passing time while talking.

So, in one obvious way, coaching without being trained IS easier … but not particularly effective or professional.

By the way, have you ever baked a pie?   Ain’t all that easy to do:)

Unexplainably feeling rather hungry for something sweet in the Heartland ….