How To Have The Best Customer Service with Shep Hyken and Leading With Courage, Compassion, And Wisdom with Jim Bouchard

With so many business competitors at hand today, it has become very important to stand out. One of the ways to do this is by taking care of your customers. Customer service and experience expert, Shep Hyken, gives great insights about his field. He is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, as well as a professional speaker. Shep shares some tips on how you can become a better and good speaker and provides the three must-do items you can’t avoid. He also touches on his latest book, The Convenience Revolution, and gives us a sneak peek into the six important principles, covering topics from self-service and reducing friction in order to have the best customer service.


In this fast-paced and ever-changing world, it is important for businesses to become adaptable and to take leaps towards change to avoid getting left-behind and ultimately fail. Jim Bouchard talks about the role of leadership in business success. As an international leadership activist, speaker, trainer, executive mentor, and author, Jim has gained insights on what it truly takes to become a leader. He talks about his book, The Sensei Leader, and shares how the job of a leader is to inspire people to their very best and operate on it with courage, compassion, and wisdom.

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We have Shep Hyken and Jim Bouchard. Shep is a customer service and experience expert. He is a Hall of Fame Speaker and a bestselling author. Jim Bouchard is a leadership activist speaker and the Founder of The Sensei Leader Movement. These two are so interesting.

Listen to the podcast here

How To Have The Best Customer Service with Shep Hyken

I am here with Shep Hyken who is a Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement in the Speaking Profession. His book is titled The Convenience Revolution. It’s nice to have you here, Shep.

It is great to be here. Thanks for having me.

We have a lot of people we know in common and a lot of the things you talk about are very interesting to me because I was in sales forever. Customer service is huge. I’m curious what got you on that path?¬†Did you wake up one day go, “I have to be the customer service guru.” How did that happen?

I’ll give you the very brief version of the story. Many years ago when I was twelve, I had a birthday party magic show business. After doing my first birthday party, I came home my mom made me write a thank you note. My dad said, “Call them in a week, follow up and say thank you again and ask them, ‚ÄėHow did you like the show?‚Äô Get some feedback.”¬†He specifically said, ‚ÄúWhen you start doing a bunch of shows, ask them what tricks they like the best and whatever tricks they didn’t like get rid of them and put new tricks in.‚ÄĚ You only want to put good tricks in there that people talk about. They were teaching me how to say thank you, how to get feedback and how to execute on the feedback and process improvement. My dad also said when they like the show mention, “Do you know any friends that have kids that would also need a birthday party magician?” There were parents in the back of the room at that first party. I asked for those numbers. Within a year or so, I’m doing eight magic shows every week. I built my business. I learned customer service without even knowing it was customer service. We go all the way through college. I’m working in nightclubs doing my magic act. I’m also working in the oil business, which meant I pumped gas.

[bctt tweet=”Anything worth doing takes time to do.” username=””]

I did this on the weekend but on the weekdays, I worked in their accounting and operations department. When I graduated, I thought I was going to be here for the rest of my life. I became a regional manager and I’m 22 years old. Most region managers, we had about 100 and some odd stations and convenience stores, the average age of the person in my position is 50 years old. Here I am, right out of college doing this. They’re telling me, “Shep, you’re going to run the company.” Five months later, they sold the business. I didn’t have a job. I said, “What am I going to do?” I went to a couple of motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins.¬†I bought his book that night and I bought¬†See You At The Top audio cassettes.

I listened to this goal-setting program and within a couple of days, by the end of the week, I already have my ten-year plan. I’ve got my list of 100 prospects. I’m starting to smile and dial. I’m 22 years old at the time. That’s how it all started. When I finally booked my first speech, I thought I wanted to do the motivational thing. I went to the bookstore and I was drawn to all of the customer service books. As I’m reading, I’m going, “This is everything my parents taught me.” When I worked at a gas station, it was the coldest day of the year that day. We were a self-service station where people would come up and pump their own gas.¬†An elderly woman came up to me. She must have been 85 years old. I said, “Ma’am, stay in your car. Let me pump your gas for you.” My manager gets mad at me because it’s a self-service station. I’m going, “I’m being nice to this woman who has flipped.‚ÄĚ He said, “Keep in mind we’re self-service station because she’s going to expect that the next time.” I thought, ‚ÄúWouldn’t it be nice if she came to our station instead of the one across the street or the one opposite of us on the corner?‚ÄĚ I’ve always wanted to take care of the customer.

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Moments of Truth

When I realized there were books on this, I read every one of them. One of my favorites was¬†In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. Another one that made it work for me was called¬†Moments of Truth by¬†Jan Carlzon,¬†a short little book. Ron Zemke and Karl Albrecht wrote a bunch of books. All these guys back in the ’80s were writing these books.¬†That’s what I devoured then. As I started to work for companies, I researched and I learned from them. Here we are many years later and it‚Äôs what I do for a living and travel around the world. I’m very lucky to do this.

You are very good at it too. I saw that you were inducted into the National Speakers Hall of Fame. Tom Hopkins is in that group too. There are so many people like you that you can learn so much from in terms of speaking. A lot of our audience wants to be better speakers so that is always interesting to me to find out. I talked to Joe Calloway and all the people. They all say that they had to speak a lot of times for free at the beginning before they ever got to that point. Did it take you a long time to become a good speaker or did the magic thing helped you a lot?

The magic thing helped tremendously, no doubt about it. In addition to the birthday parties, I eventually graduated in nightclubs. I was doing comedy and magic at the Playboy Club when I was sixteen years old. That’s a whole other story. What a great job. It‚Äôs probably the best job I’ve ever had in my life. Working through college I did that and it set the base of my performance. I wrote an article not that long ago, I do a Forbes column every week. I wasn’t doing my typical speech. I was talking to about 2,000 students that had graduated from college. They came up and asked questions afterwards and a number of them said, “I want to do what you do.¬†How do I become a good speaker? How do I become a speaker?” I said, “You can spend five years learning to become a good speaker, but I’ll give you three must-dos. You can’t avoid these. You have to do this in every speech no matter how early you are in your career, even if you’re only giving a sales presentation. They’re real simple.‚ÄĚ

Number one, you have to know who your audience is. Number two, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. When I prepare for a speech, more than ever, I’m doing these one-offs where I won’t ever do them again. I may not have it scripted as well. When I say the word script, it’s rehearsed and it’s practiced. It’s not word for word every single time, but I know it so well. If I’m going to give five points, I know it well enough that I could do them in reverse order. I could start with number three, go to number two, go to number five, go to number one. That’s how I know I’ve got it down. You’ve got to know your content. Number three, you‚Äôve got to know yourself. What I mean by that is early in my career,¬†I remember we’re staying out too late and getting up the next morning. I did well. I maybe could have done better, but I know how I felt when I was doing it. I felt off. I felt uncomfortable. I was totally prepared but I knew at that moment physically, I felt unprepared. I say know yourself. Know how many hours sleep you need to get. Know what you should or shouldn’t eat before a speech. Make sure you take care of yourself. Three things: know your content, know your audience and know yourself.

You said that one statistic that matters most is if customers come back for this. With the speaker world, I have a lot of speakers who tell me that even if they’re great, they’re not going to invite them to come back because they want new people. Does that work in that industry?

[bctt tweet=”It’s very difficult to change the overall culture within an organization if the leaders don’t buy in.” username=””]

That’s unfortunate. I enjoy those types of programs. That’s for your keynote at a big event and they’re using you to put some name or put some butts in the seats. In the customer service and support world, I managed to do that a little bit. It is unfulfilling to think that when I’m finished, that this is it for the company. I’d like to do more but I realized that it’s an exposure play. For example, I might keynote at an association meeting and they’re not going to have me back year-after-year. There could be 500 people in the audience and 50 of those people are interested in figuring out how to work with me, maybe five of them actually do. In that sense, it’s fulfilling. My favorite is I did a speech for a client. I talked to him on the debrief call that we always have. I do that for two reasons. Number one, I want to express the gratitude, like when my mom and dad taught me when I was a kid. Express the gratitude again, which he had already received this thank you note.

I did something different with him than I do with many people. I didn’t send a thank you note, I sent a thank you video. I use BombBomb. It‚Äôs a video program.¬†I sent a video saying, “I‚Äôve just got back. I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated you having me speak.” He sent an email, “Nice touch. Nobody’s ever sent me a video before.” We talked and I thanked him again. I said, “What’s your next step?”¬†He said, “I want to talk to you about all of next year. What’s all of next year? We have monthly meetings with our employees. Maybe we have you come out once a quarter to help me in between. What do we do to keep the magic going?” That’s what I love. Creating that, designing that long-term program. It might not be me ever coming back to speak again, but they’re using our online learning. We have trainers that work with me that go out and deliver my material at a much deeper level. We designed an amazing program and we watch that culture change. His culture is already great.

Here’s an interesting point, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this or not, but in whatever you do I get hired to talk about customer service and customer experience to the companies for the most part that is already great at doing it. I don’t get hired that often to do a total turnaround. We’ve done that and I enjoy that. Part of the problem with the reason they need a total turnaround is because they’re lagging in that area because of their culture, their management and leadership. Even though they bring me in to do it, sometimes they’re still not willing to make the change in investment to make it happen. Anything worth doing takes time to do and to do it right. Think about it. You’ve got these great sales organizations, what do they do every year? Every quarter? They’re bringing in sales trainers. They bring in outside speakers. They’re bringing in resources to help their people. That’s what makes them world class and great.

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The Convenience Revolution: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience that Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty

I get that similar thing when I speak about emotional intelligence and the importance of curiosity. The people who need¬†it the most are going to be the ones who recognize it. It is a cultural thing. I see the exact same things. It’s very difficult to change the overall culture within the organization if the leaders don’t buy in.¬†I can see the best of the best are trying to become even better. I know you wrote about some amazing things that companies do to become better in your book,¬†The Convenience Revolution. I was watching your book trailer or something online and you said that Amazon is perhaps the most convenient company on the planet.¬†They are convenient and everybody has to be more convenient. We’re becoming an impatient society. What can we learn from companies like Amazon?

Are we becoming impatient? Perhaps a little. Are we becoming lazy? I don’t think we’re lazy. I think part of convenience is saving somebody, sometimes it’s money but for the most part, it’s time. People love, “We’re convenient. We save you time and money.” The time is the convenient part. It’s what we do at that time. I want you to think about it. It used to be before Amazon ever came around if you wanted to go buy a book, you had to get your car and drive to a bookstore. They figured out a different way. They said, “Go online and we’re going to give you not only the books you get in the bookstore but a whole lot more. We’re going to give it to you at a discount.” They became a convenient company to do business with. Since they’ve expanded into virtually everything you can buy on Amazon.

Think about the way they’ve done this. I write about six specific convenience principles within the book. Amazon covers all six of them. By the way, a number of companies in the case studies in the book could have been chosen, but everybody probably if they don’t do business with Amazon, it’s because they consciously don’t want to do business with them. It’s not that they haven’t had the opportunity. I remember going into my local bookstore and I said, “Just so you know, Amazon has this 30% off.” This person said, “I’ll never buy from Amazon. They’re the big bad evil.” They aren’t. They’re a business. In any business, let’s figure out a way to grow the way they have. You’re going to have people who are naysayers along the way.

I love Disney. You can find people who said, “I worked at Disney. It’s a terrible place.” Then why are all these people that work there say it’s still, for them, the happiest place on Earth to work? There’s always going to be somebody who’s not. Amazon, they are uber convenient. They’ve reduced friction. That’s what all great convenience is about is reducing friction. That alone is a convenience principle, although all six have some element of reducing friction. They created this self-service solution. Not just if you need customer service you can go get the support you need, but if you want to go buy something it’s all self-service. They are using technology to drive that. In addition to being a website, all the different ways are figuring out how to be convenient for the customer. Do you know about the dash button? Have you bought one?

Is that like when you order a laundry detergent you push a button?

You get a button, it’s like a doorbell button. You pay $3 or $4, which they credit you back if you use it. Then you would hear it say to the side of the washing machine. If you want the detergent because you notice you’re getting low, push the button, done. You don’t even have to open the computer anymore to buy detergent from Amazon. The cool thing is now you can do that. You can ask her to buy you a pizza. That’s another technology that Amazon came out with. Google has it and some other companies will be coming out with their version of it. You’ve got reducing friction self-service using technology. How about subscription? Companies are figuring out ways that their customers could subscribe to what they sell rather than buy what they sell. When they’re subscribing, they are in fact buying. I use Netflix as an example as the key case study. There are case studies on all of these from little companies, big companies, recognizable brands and some that you won’t know.

With Netflix, we pay a monthly fee and we get to stream movies. It’s a subscription service. It’s way beyond publications. How about the hardware store that knows that every six months I need to replace the filters in my air conditioning and furnace units?¬†Rather than I go to the store and buy them and then have to remember, they’ve got my credit card and they send them to me every six months, which is the reminder to change them. It also makes sure I don’t forget, which means that make sure they always have a sale.¬†, dog food. I want it delivered to me once a month, done. Amazon subscribes and save. I did a little research on car companies because I worked with an automotive manufacturer. I wanted to go through all six ways to show how the dealers are becoming more competitive. There are Volvo, Cadillac, Lincoln, BMW, Jaguar and Porsche. They all had these subscriber programs. You don’t own the car, you don’t lease the car, you subscribe to the car.

I use Porsche as an example. They have different levels that you can subscribe, pay different monthly fees which allows you to choose a group of cars. If you are on the lower level, you’re not going to drive the $150,000 Turbo Carrera Convertible with wings that flies. At the lower level, you might get a choice. You‚Äôve got your basic Porsche Boxster. You’ve got your SUV. You might have a choice of four or five cars. You subscribe and at any time, you pick up the phone and you call them and say, “I’m tired of driving the two-seater convertible. I want to drive that SUV for about a month or so. Would you bring it over?” They swap it out. I believe they allow you either twelve or eighteen switches a year.

Software as a service is where you pay a monthly fee to use the software.¬†How about cars as a service?¬†The car industry is going to be interesting to see how that completely gets disrupted as it is.¬†How about the insurance industry? If people don’t own cars anymore because companies like Uber and Lyft are going driverless and taking you everywhere, that’s the whole thing. I asked my financial¬†adviser¬†because I’m getting ready that my car is about seven years old. I need to get a new car, but I’m wondering if I buy a car in two years, am I going to want to get rid of it because everything’s driverless? That’s pretty aggressive thinking, but it’s more convenient. Speaking of cars, the next category or principle is delivery. My car dealership disrupted a dealership that I had been working with for 22-plus years buying cars from them for myself and my family. By chance, just stop at this dealership. It isn’t anywhere close to where I live.

[bctt tweet=”A part of convenience is saving time.” username=””]

I was admiring this car and I said to the salesperson, “I’m just looking. I’m not going to buy from you because you’re too far away.” He said, “If you buy a car from me, I’ll deliver it. Every time you need service, I will drop you off a brand-new car, pick up yours and bring you another one. You bring your car back at the end. No extra charge. Here’s the price. Shop it around,‚ÄĚ and he did. He got the business. I’m getting ready to buy my third car from them.¬†That’s convenience.¬†The last area is called access that principle. That means are you accessible to your customers either by hours of operation and logistics?¬†Think about Walmart. 90% of the citizens of the United States are within ten minutes of a Walmart.¬†Starbucks, you can walk down a busy street and there’s a Starbucks on both sides of the street of a major city.¬†Huntington Bank¬†decided to compete with other banks. What they did is they extended their hours beyond traditional bankers’ hours. They’re open later in the evening and they’re also open on weekends. No other banks were doing that. They figured out a way to disrupt the competitor with hours of operation. I could go on and on. I wrote a whole book about it.

I’ve seen it. It’s a great book. You bring up a lot of the technology. I find all this new technology all the bots, I think even in that meeting where I met you in Dallas they were talking about bots. Do you remember that at the C-Suite event?

Bots are huge because they allow a chatbot. If you set up a good one, a customer can go online, interact with the chatbot and not have to pick up the phone. Talk to somebody. If all you want to do is change your address or a different credit card that you want to give, you can do that in a form or through a chatbot. It’s self-service. The issue becomes if the chatbot doesn’t respond to the question properly and frustrates you. There needs to be a backup and chatbots are self-service. If you think about the grocery store that you might go to that has a self-service lane where you can scan your own groceries, put them in your bag and walk out, there is always an employee standing around to help you if you run to a glitch. It’s the same thing with good technology. If you’ve got good technology, if something doesn’t work, the customer needs to be able to hit a button to immediately be transferred to a human, with no problem, no issues.

It is interesting to see how convenience has changed. You talked about Uber and I am a big fan of not having to get out the credit card, not having to worry about all those things. The more they can make it convenient, the better. It will be interesting to see what the different innovations will be. Do you have any predictions of what you think is going to be the next big innovations that will make it more convenient?

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Customer Service: Figure out a way to disrupt the competitor.


Companies are figuring out ways to allow people to either stay at work without having to be less productive or be at home and enjoying more time with your family. They’re figuring out that’s a very important part of this proposition. You’ve got great service, which is expected now. You started to talk about the most important statistic, does the customer come back? You measure customer satisfaction scores and how likely you are to refer somebody. These are all scores of experience and intent, but the true behavior is how many times they come back after that experience. The way you get them there is number one, you sell something that does what it’s supposed to do. If you sell a car, the car works. If you sell clothes, the clothes are of the quality that’s expected based on the price that they pay. You deliver it with the level of service that’s expected, and ideally even a little bit better than expected. Then you figure out a way to save people time, make it more convenient for them. If you add those three together, it’s a triple threat.

A lot of companies are still mired in mediocrity. In other words, if you give the rating of one to five, they’re not hitting fives often. They’re hitting a lot of fours. The companies that hit fives, though you only hit a five all the time, be a four all of the time and you’ll be a five. Anything that’s better than average consistently and predictably on one to five, three is average. If you’re better than average consistently and predictably, you’re going to get five.¬†When you drift from average to good and good occasionally lower, you’re never going to get that five. You’ve got service, you’ve got product, add that triple threat there with the idea of convenience. I think down the road, you’re going to see companies try to make it easy. That’s why you’re seeing a grocery delivery is becoming big. Home meal delivery, it’s not that they bring you a prepared meal. Part of the fun of it is you prepare yourself. They send you all the ingredients to do that. There are still companies out there and grocery stores that are trying to figure out how to beat the companies because those companies are taking business away from the grocery stores. Amazon is trying to figure out how to get it all. Walmart is trying to do it too.

I worked with about a thousand people in the audience and they were all independent retailers. After I was finished with this speech, the CEO brought me back up he says, “We‚Äôve got some questions for you. You mentioned Amazon, are we going to win? Are we going to be able to survive with Amazon?” I said, “Do you remember the story about David versus Goliath? Remember who wins in that story? We’ve got a bunch of Davids sitting in the audience going up against the big Goliath. There’s a way to win. Every company is different. You’re a bunch of independent retailers in your local markets. Amazon can’t compete with you on a local level. They compete with you on a bigger level.‚ÄĚ Ace Hardware is one of my clients. I wrote a book that featured them throughout the book.

[bctt tweet=”You’re going to have people who are naysayers along the way.” username=””]

There was a gentleman that I interviewed down in Houston, Texas. He talked about how one of the big box stores came in. I don’t know if it‚Äôs Home Depot or Lowe’s. They said, “First of all, they went right next to me practically. What are we going to do?” Then their ad budget. This store was about 15,000 square feet. The big store was over 100,000 square feet. Then they outspend them in advertising 30 to 1. How do you compete against that? I said, “What did you do?” He said, “I thought about I can focus on one area and hopefully that will help.” When he ultimately decided, he pulled all of his ads altogether and took 100% of that marketing budget an advertising budget and he went out to schools. He said, “When is your next dance?¬†I want to sponsor the dance.” He went to churches. He went to the baseball teams. The soccer teams for the kids. He had his name on the back of every one of those jerseys. He became the sponsor of the community. These big box stores can’t do that. The Goliath doesn’t have the opportunity to create that community in road that some of these smaller businesses. David beats Goliath. You have to figure out where that opportunity is.

It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out in the end and who will be here. They say 75% will be gone. I don’t¬†remember the prediction of how many years companies that are here probably won’t be here later. Kodaks of the world whom you think will always be here.¬†Something happens.

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Customer Service: Amazon can’t compete with a bunch of independent retailers in the local markets on a local level. They compete on a bigger level.


Look at In Search of Excellence. There were 50 companies represented there. I don’t think there’s half of them that are around. The companies that were excellent fell out of favor. Some of them have come back. Times change and Amazon may be that company that stays around forever or maybe the company that ten years, “Remember when we were worried about them?” I can’t predict that. I highly doubt that’s going to happen.¬†That’s what happens to these amazing companies. It’s hard to stay on top. In order to stay on top, you’ve got to constantly innovate and you’ve got to constantly be focused on that customer. You can’t let what got you to the dance yesterday take you the rest of the way.

Your book is such a great tool for people to learn more. I don’t want to give away too much from it, but your book is titled The Convenience Revolution. A lot of people want to know how they can get that. Can you share some links of how they can reach you and find out more?

Go to or you can go to Amazon and buy it there. If you can’t remember my name, just remember, It will take you straight to the book.

Thanks, Shep. It was fun having you on the show. It was nice to talk to you again.

It’s my pleasure. Whether you get the book or not, I hope we gave you some insight as to what you can do to be more competitive and successful. Thanks for having me on the show.

Leading With Courage, Compassion, And Wisdom with Jim Bouchard

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The Sensei Leader: Effective Leadership through Courage, Compassion and Wisdom

I am here with¬†Jim Bouchard¬†who is an international speaker, trainer executive mentor and author. He’s the author of several titles including¬†The Sensei Leader and¬†Think Like a Black Belt. It‚Äôs so nice to have you here, Jim.

Thanks, Diane.

I saw your latest book and I was watching some of your videos. I was looking through your book and I saw some of the great reviews you‚Äôve got including people who’ve been on my show like Randy Pennington, Dov Baron and even Joe Calloway wrote the foreword.¬†You have a lot of wonderful things that people have said about your book. It’s an interesting book to me because I teach so many leadership courses. In the courses I teach, we talk a lot about are leaders born or made? The difference between leadership and management, this is right up that alley. You say leaders are not born nor made.¬†What are they?

It’s interesting because that’s where we dig into my resume. I’m a two-time college dropout and a former drug addict.¬†I used to think it was a poor resume for somebody looking in leadership. I think arguably, and please argue with me, so many people in academic leadership¬†have dismissed the idea of the born leader. There are people who are born into certain conditions and circumstances that might produce leaders. That doesn’t make it happen all the time. Sometimes those conditions produce some lousy people too.¬†The born leader I think is a dead myth but it‚Äôs interesting. Made? Sure. When we talk about transformed, it means people take the circumstances and conditions that they’re dealt with and it’s what they do with them that determines whether someone’s going to become a leader or not.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion for myself that who better to talk about that process of transformation as someone who had to do it to survive? I learned that process intimately. It’s translating very nicely into business leadership and political leadership as well. The idea of transformation has to do with that. It has to do with the fact that we’re trying to keep pace with a very busy, very dynamic ever-changing and accelerating world. If you’re not intimate with that precipice of transformation as an individual or as an organization, you’re going to be in serious trouble these days.

It’s interesting to see how many organizations are in trouble because of their cultural lack of understanding at the top. A lot of them say they want to make big changes or be innovative or be the next big thing, but it takes serious top-down buying in the whole thing. You say there are essential characteristics of a sensei leader. I’m curious what you think those are.

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This is the template why the word sensei applies to it so well. Sensei is used to designate teacher in martial arts in Japanese culture. What is the job of a teacher? The job of the sensei is to inspire people, to empower them, to guide them to their very best. What better description of a leader’s responsibilities as well. That’s been translating very nicely. Also at the heart of it, I believe with every fiber of my body at this point we have to embrace the idea that we need to lead through courage compassion and wisdom. Those are the three most essential traits. Unfortunately, if they’re not taught at a university or at business school, they’re certainly not emphasized in most programs. I understand why I understand the weight of efficiency and trying to produce people job ready.

We’re also finding that in the workplace, these are the characteristics. They’re not soft.¬†I hate the term soft skills.¬†These are the most essential things that people need to be paying attention to. We have to go into the workplace and make sure that those things are taken care of. Doing the right thing, behaving well whether it’s in the workplace and the community, and politics is a discipline. It requires a lot of work. If you’re not paying attention to these fundamental human qualities and characteristics, then you’re leaving the door wide open to all the different challenges that we see in business and in politics these days; the corruption, the abuse, the fraud. These are very expensive problems in business and in our communities.

There are so many issues. You mentioned courage, compassion and wisdom. It ties into the work I’m doing. I’m researching curiosity and its impact. I think that everybody wants to have good engagement. They want to improve innovation. They want to have productivity. You and I are both working on it from different angles. You could call them soft skills, you can call them whatever you want to call them, but they’re important for leaders to take a look at some of these things that have been overlooked. We’re talking about strategies, disciplines and action steps.

We’re singing the same song and we are not in different choirs either. We’ve come at it from different experiences.¬†Sometimes I get challenged because people will say something. Take wisdom, for example, some people will challenge me on that say, “That’s such a big idea. It’s a rare quality.” I say it shouldn’t be if we define it properly. Wisdom includes knowledge and experience, but it has that X-factor of awareness of looking in the mirror. That’s how we define it as a martial artist. I said, “That shouldn’t be a rare quality.”¬†This is probably a little more of your world than mine, but research has clearly shown that one of the great deficiencies of leadership and this is global crossing all the cultures, is a lack of self-awareness particularly among business leaders. It’s understandable. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes an investment and people are busy with what they have considered hierarchy or other priorities, at least other priorities. That’s why I’m focusing on that area. Wisdom should be very commonplace that should be embraced, developed and practiced at all levels of an organization. We want leaders on the frontlines as well as in the C-suite.

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Customer Service: Being good requires discipline.


When you talk about self-awareness, that’s a huge component of emotional intelligence. When I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence, I remember thinking that it was such a cool new topic at the time.¬†I wonder where this will go and they’re still not necessarily getting it. It’s so important.¬†There are so many aspects to leadership and management that you write about. It tied into what I’m interested in as well. I was watching your video about should you kill the manager.¬†I think maybe you better explain what you mean by that.

The fact is these are not new ideas. Believe me, I’m not teaching rocket surgery or promoting any radical new ideas. These things have been around for thousands of years. I quote Laozi a lot, the author of¬†Tao Te Ching, Confucius and these folks because it’s a tradition that I studied. I tease you in academics a lot. I appreciate the fact that you’re validating these principles that people have known about for a long time.¬†We have to also acknowledge some people say, “Everybody should know about these things.”¬†Remember that in these traditions, they were often kept for the elite too. They were sheltered from the common person. Now, we have access to it. These aren’t new ideas. I love Daniel Goldman’s work. I rip my hair out sometimes listening to the lectures because it’s, “We need how many studies and how many different people to prove that people work harder if you care about them. Interpersonal relationships are key essential to effective leadership.

Laozi said 2,500 years ago, “When the people are not in all of your majesty, then great majesty has been achieved.”¬†How nice would it be if we could embed that principle in the halls of government? They’re not new principles. They’re basic, they’re fundamental.¬†We do live in a complex world and I acknowledge that. When people are running a large organization, there are a lot of moving parts.¬†We have to keep going over the fact that these things need to be practiced. The fundamentals are the easiest ones to let go when things get busy. We have to encourage people to get back to the roots. That’s my whole focus. I try hard. I’m fascinated by the more technical aspects of management and leadership. I try hard not to stray into those areas because there’s a lot of work to do over here, from my perspective.

There’s so much talk about how management is about things and leadership about people. Management is more tactical and leadership is more strategic.¬†Are you trying to aim to get people to be better leaders, better managers or both?

How about better people?¬†Leaders are people and we lead people. What you’re saying is validating what I put out there. We were so addicted to complexity. In some form, it’s our attempt to understand things that are very complicated.¬†On the other hand, we have to break it down to its component parts if we’re going to do something about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a conference where I’m fascinated by listening to great thinkers, great people who study these things and they have done the research.¬†Oftentimes there’s a breakout or a workshop and say, “This is great information. What do we do? How do we make this actually work? How do we embed this in our own behavior and in our culture and around our organization?” That’s what we’re focused on. Our workshops are a bloodbath and you come out of there with a set of disciplines. Not just nice things that you’re going to do but you have to also analyze, ‚ÄúAre you able to reasonably expect to accomplish these things?¬†Do you have the resources to take that first step? If not, how do you build those resources?‚ÄĚ

[bctt tweet=”Many organizations are in trouble because of their cultural lack of understanding.” username=””]

Take the emotional factors for example. Do you have to support the organization in order to implement that change? Have you involved all the different levels in the introduction? You mentioned buy-in. I hate the word buy-in. Why not asking? I’m not trying to be clever. If we involve people early in often, you don’t have to try to get them to buy-in later. By that point, most of the organizations I’ve worked with, they’re talking about buy-in. They’re trying to sell something that nobody wants and why? Usually because they haven’t involved enough people early and often. When you do, most of those problems, you don’t have to overcome the resistance and it isn’t meaningful at that point or it’s a very good signal.¬†When people resist change, shouldn’t you pay attention to that? Why are you trying to overcome it? Maybe there’s a good reason they’re resisting that change. That’s back to that human element. It’s to help leaders get in touch as Daniel Goleman called it, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Getting back to being people again and interacting with other human beings in the workplace. That’s what it’s all about.

He had some amazing talks he gave about that. I am a big fan of all that research but some of these stuff does seem very fundamental and simplistic. I have this talk with my friend, Ford Saeks, and I’ll say, “Everybody knows that, Ford.” He goes, “People don’t study it, don’t live it like you do.” There are so many fundamental things we know outside of work. In general, you need to be reminded of.

That’s why very purposely we use the word discipline. In a martial arts sense, discipline is nothing more than the development and the adaption of meaningful and purposeful habits. We know that in the absence of those meaningful habits, bad things creep in and we see that. We can talk about some recent cases. The fraud that happened at Volkswagen over the emissions. The troubles that are happening at Wells Fargo. These things though if they appear in a vacuum, the vacuum is the lack of discipline for helping people work as human beings for the right ends in the right manner, with the right ethics that requires a lot of discipline. That’s where we have to get back to it. You hit the nail on the head. These things are simple.¬†Knowing about it and doing it is two different things.¬†I haven’t seen yet a motivational poster that’s ever prevented theft or lost time or sexual harassment in the workplace. It requires hard work, constant reminders and reminders of the most fundamental things. As we study these cases, we’re seeing breakdowns in these very fundamental human areas. Enron didn’t collapse in a vacuum. It’s not a mystery. We can trace it right back to specific offices, where leaders forgot or decide purposely not to act as decent human beings.

I was watching that Enron movie again because the woman who wrote the book is going to be on the show. It’s astounding what takes place sometimes.¬†When you watch and you think, ‚ÄúHow does this go on for so long without being aware of it, or doing anything about it?‚ÄĚ there are so many people who are resistant to change and there is resistance to a lot of things out there. Sometimes they have good resistance to change. Is there a good reason for the resistance to do the right thing? What are the reasonings behind this? Everybody knows what’s going on.

I’m not going to say good reasons but certainly understandable and rational reasons, and we all do it. We all behave badly at times. Let’s face that. Daniel O’Reilly has some terrific work with behavioral economics. One of the comments that he makes that gets people upset is that we all lie. We do. Research is showing that it’s probably an evolutionary advantage to be good.¬†Being good requires discipline. Why do people behave badly? The short answer is a lot of these cases is simply profit, but it goes a lot deeper than that. You take the conditions with the checking account cases with Wells Fargo. Why were these people opening false checking accounts? Some people turned and they tried to blame the rank and file and say because they’re trying to make their commissions. When you research that a little bit deeper, what conditions and circumstances were they operating under? Certainly, they have to own their own actions, and good people did come forward and talk about it. That’s why we found out about it. Leadership, alleged leadership in that case, they created those conditions. Incentives that practically encouraged it and incentives can work both ways.

We’ll go back and talk about killing the manager. The evil manager is someone who will try to motivate. Motivation is compelling someone to action and you can do that with incentives. You can bribe them. You can say, “We’ll pay you more. We’ll give you a commission. If you don‚Äôt make this quota,¬†you’re out of a job.‚ÄĚ They’re going to do whatever they need to do to survive. That’s understandable. That’s why we look at a case like that we say, “The exemplary people are the people who raised the question.” A leader will inspire rather than try to motivate. That’s a deeper intellectual and emotional connection, that’s getting back to some of your work, trying to get people to understand that they’re part of a bigger purpose. That’s the leader’s responsibility. We’re curious, ‚ÄúWhat are we doing? How am I satisfying my self-expression as an individual, as well as being part of the organizational purpose and mission?‚ÄĚ Thank goodness there are people like you doing this work so that organizations are looking at that with a different perspective the value.

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Customer Service: Leaders have to look in the mirror a lot.


It is interesting to see what incentivizes people. I’ve been in sales for three decades where you’re only as good as your last deal. I was in banking and lending. I understand what the Wells Fargo pressure and what that’s like. You get so used to that of what is required, where everybody else is doing in the industry that it doesn’t even seem unusual, when you’re in it.

Not only the people in the industry but the person in the cubicle next to you. They’re doing something nefarious under pressure, probably encouraged in that case we’re seeing evidence of that, “I’m trying to survive,¬†I’m going to lose my job. That person is getting a bonus. What am I getting if I don’t do it?”¬†It doesn’t make it right and that’s what we have to combat. We have to do that from a perspective. That’s why it’s important we recognize leadership at all levels. It has nothing to do with a position of authority. We need leaders to stand up at that point and say, “This is wrong.¬†I’m not doing it that way.” Some of them walked, some of them said, “I’m not staying here. This isn’t the right place for me.” That’s good.

It did surprise me to some extent even though sales doesn’t surprise me. It’s interesting to see how everything’s changed. I think that what you’re doing is important to get to the core of the foundational things that make leaders successful. I’m interested in your opinion of what you thought of Steve Jobs as a leader?

[bctt tweet=”The job of a teacher is to inspire people, empower them, and guide them to do their very best.” username=””]

I get asked that a lot these days. I like to consider myself a scientific skeptic. I’ve been trying to train myself more and more not to be judgmental. I try to get as many facts as I can. There are three sides to every story and we’re lucky to get two sides sometimes. Steve Jobs is an interesting character. Is he a leader in the context we’re talking about The Sensei Leader Movement? He was certainly inspirational. We’ll give him that. Empowerment? To a large degree, he did empower people but he was also very ruthless. He alienated a lot of people. He was very authoritarian and may have slipped into what I would call¬†authoritarian slip. He may have slipped into that dictatorial type of behavior where he was trying to impose will or control by fear, force or¬†coercion. A lot of evidence said he did that. That’s what we’re trying to watch in ourselves.

That’s why one of the themes we keep talking about leaders have to go back to self-awareness. Leaders have to look in the mirror a lot, “Am I crossing that line? Did I cross a line without knowing it? Am I trying to justify it or rationalize it?‚ÄĚ At some point in your life, almost every human being is going to have a moment where you’re going to look in the mirror and you go say, “Am I who I want to be or who I wanted to be?¬†Did I bring some goodness into the world or was I just a jerk?” That transcends. I’ve had the experience of sitting with people on their deathbed. When you’re in that moment, all the profits in the world don’t mean a damn thing. I know that sounds clich√©, but it’s absolutely true. I’ve been through this experience about three or four times and not once have I heard anybody say, “I did a pretty good job because I made an X amount of money.” I think he did have his moments where he was a genuine leader. As we all do, he had his struggles where he probably slipped into the role of a dictator from time to time.

I think everybody grows, everybody changes. I bring him up because I do like to share some of these shows with my students. We talk about him a lot in the courses. Everybody knows who he is. It‚Äôs like Enron, you pick certain things because people know more about it. It’s fascinating to see what you’re doing with your programs to develop these leaders. I think that a lot of people are probably interested in why the sensei thing. What’s your thing with karate? Can you get a little background on that?

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Think Like a Black Belt

In one of my past lives, I did teach martial arts professionally for almost 30 years. This grew out of it. People were asking me to talk about the philosophy of martial arts and apply it to their real lives and to business. That‚Äôs where¬†Think Like a Black Belt¬†came out of. I tried to think about how did the martial arts help me in this process of transformation? What strategies, what disciplines did I learn to change myself? Can you use that to change you and change your organization?¬†The Sensei Leader¬†was born out of that. I’d written an article and it was on compassion and leadership. It was one of those nice moments where things totally blew up. I think there were 5,000 reads in a matter of a couple hours and 500 shares. People are sharing it all over the place. Then we‚Äôve got a call from an organization in Saudi Arabia to ask me to do a webinar on that subject. That’s when we decided, “This theme is resonating. People care about it.” We bring that out. I’m still teaching martial arts, I’m teaching it in a different context.

You were an inductee into the US Martial Arts Hall of Fame too.

It was very cool because of who inducted me. It was somebody that I had a lot of admiration for. That was a very nice moment.

You have an interesting background. A lot of people would probably like to know more about how they can get ahold of you, find your books, learn more about your training programs and anything that you have to offer. How would they be able to find them? is the best way to reach me. I’m very easy to find on LinkedIn. You come on the website, if you sign up there, we’re a very painless subscription. You’ll get an eBook version of¬†The Sensei Leader¬†and then you’re a part of the movement. If you don’t want to be, just opt out at any time. Fortunately, most people are staying.

[bctt tweet=”A leader will inspire rather than try to motivate.” username=””]

How about kill the manager thing?

It came spontaneously one time. It comes from an old tradition in Asian philosophy and more so it’s called a¬†KŇćan. It’s a puzzle that doesn’t have an easy solution. It’s meant more to stimulate thinking. One of the most famous ones is what do you do when you meet the Buddha on the road?¬†The appropriate answer is you‚Äôre supposed to be, ‚ÄúKill him.‚ÄĚ When I first said to my wife, she said, “Why do you want to kill the Buddha for? He’s a nice guy, isn’t he?” It’s not about doing harm to a person. The Buddha represents enlightenment and the tricky thing about enlightenment like many things, especially leadership once we think we got it, we ain’t. It’s elusive. It’s about humility. It’s about killing those parts of us that become arrogant, that become too self-important and it keeps us from our true nature. When we created this character, the evil manager, we’re talking about killing those pieces of us that are keeping us from being authentic and effective leaders. That’s all it is. That requires that strength, it requires the courage and self-awareness. You have to sometimes look at some painful things and say, “I want to change that.” That’s what killing the manager is about.¬†It’s a metaphor, people.

Jim Bouchard, thank you so much for being my guest.

Thank you and please come on to our show, Walking the Walk. I think you’ve got a lot of great insights that you can offer to our audience too. Would you do that?

I would love to. That will be fun.

Thank you.

I want to thank Shep and Jim for being on my show. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Shep Hyken

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Shep Hyken is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. His latest book is titled The Convenience Revolution.


About Jim Bouchard

TTL 266 | Customer ServiceJim Bouchard is an international speaker, trainer, executive mentor and author. He is the author of several titles including THE SENSEI LEADER and THINK Like a BLACK BELT.




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