7 Leadership Lessons from John Ratliff

Standing room only! That’s how popular our 10th Annual Growth Strategies Breakfast was early this month. I’m sure it was because our speaker, John Ratliff, the Founder and former CEO of Appletree Answers has broad appeal to entrepreneurs and business leaders. He’s also refreshingly honest and transparent in sharing his own successes and mistakes as a CEO.

I know I was inspired. And – I learned a great deal about how to be a more effective and powerful leader.

Here are my 7 biggest takeaways:

  • Start with Outcomes 

    Too often we fall into the trap of having a meeting, or talking with an employee or customer, or going about our day to day work without defining what the end game is. If you have Core Values (and you definitely should) what outcomes should you expect from them? How do you want people to behave? And more importantly WHY? BE AUTHENTIC as a Leader. If you don’t care, don’t even try to implement what John shared with us. It won’t stick.

  • Learn how to Inspire 

    In everything you do, ask yourself, “am I inspiring others with my behaviors? Or, am I demotivating them?” In today’s world, unlike in the 1950s as John reminded us, people have unlimited choices regarding where they want to work. They can sit in their PJ’s all day at home if they’d like and still get a paycheck. Millennials, in particular, can be wildly passionate OR completely disengaged. To attract and retain the best, you need to create a workplace where people want to come to work and have the opportunity to care about something bigger than themselves.

  • Focus on the Experience

    Ask this question to your employees and your customers – how can I make your experience better? And mean it! The title of the HR person at Appletree Answers was the Employee Experience Manager. John made sure they had the time to focus on creating an environment that fostered new ways to engage and teach employees and staying aligned with his company’s Core Values. Let employees know that if they find themselves in a difficult spot, they should focus on the company’s Core Values to make the right decision. Obviously, in order for this to happen, they need to know them by heart – which leads to point #4…

  • Go Home and Read Your Signs

    Remember what your parents told you, “always say please and thank you.”  Do the signs around your office and facilities reflect that common courtesy? Or are they punitive? (“Thanks for washing your hands and taking care of yourself and others” versus “Employees must wash their hands”.) And can your employees even tell you what the “inspirational” signs that you have hanging around say?  If you gave them $100 as John told us, could they recite your Core Values, Quality Policy, or Mission Statement? What are you doing to make the “platitudes” come to life?

  • Use Town Halls Religiously

    “I believe most answers are already in the room. You just need to give them a space to surface.”

    John visited all of his facilities (26 of them) at least twice a year to share information about the state of the business as well as gather input and feedback from his staff.

    After the first part of the meeting was done he always sent his leadership group out of the room so that people could share their concerns and have a heart to heart with just him. Free of that constraint, people would point out issues and challenges that needed to be addressed. In the process, their input saved the business tens of thousands of dollars. But most importantly, they went away from meetings knowing that they could have an impact. It’s a concrete example of how you as a CEO can, improve your employees’ experience, inspire them, and promote positive outcomes.

  • Remember the 10% Rule

    If you’re creating a policy for the 10% of employees who have a poor work ethic, or take advantage, or show poor judgement – DON’T! Address that person with Core Values and focus your energy and recognition on the 90% that are trying and doing the right things!

  • Unleash the Power of Videos

    And make them engaging and humorous. John hired a videographer full time to help broadcast his message, launch themes , share business results, and train. A picture paints a thousand words, and the right video is priceless for getting the message out. Often employees would create videos too – don’t limit what’s possible. As John shared, people’s commitment and engagement will blossom!

    Check out some of his Customer Service videos here.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can grow as an Enlightened Leader, drop us a line today!

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