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10 leadership lessons from Jeffrey Fox

Mike Lyles | July 11, 2014
Do you remember when you were first assigned a leadership role? It's an exciting adventure, filled with anticipation, anxiousness, fear of the unknown and an overwhelming need to ensure you're ready to take on one of the greatest responsibilities of a career.

Lyles: What's the most important advice you've ever been given? What's the most important advice, from your books, coaching, speaking and mentoring, that you ever gave?

Fox: I have a weird memory. I can't tell you my license plate number, but I can remember things from when I was 3-years-old. I've been absorbing good advice all my life.

Remember what people say and what they actually do. As I noted in How To Become CEO, you must always practice ... words are cheap and deeds are dear. People will respect you based on what you do. If you tell someone you'll be there, and you're late, you lose value with that person.

Lyles: Who was the most influential person in your career?

Fox: I'm a "blender." I don't have just one person ... I have many. I'd start with my 6th grade teacher, Gertrude Laughrey, at Towpath Elementary School ... The thing that stood out was [her book report] contest. We were required to do reports on note cards, and the winner got a prize. I had to win. I read more than 40 books. She said, "I'm not sure I approve of all of the books you picked. They aren't typical school books, but I do approve that you read 40 of them." She made reading a game, a competition, and people reacted to it positively.

My basketball coach, Bill Risley, taught the team how to comport [itself] before, during and after the game, and in the classroom ...

Lyles: It's a statistical surety that there are people reading this very article who feel they have no control over their future that no matter how hard they try, the organization will never see their value, never promote them, never show appreciation for their contributions. What advice do you have for someone struggling to feel appreciated and important?

Fox: This goes back to the first question. Find out how the company makes money, and then do the things that make the company money. Focus your efforts there. Most people don't understand the company strategy the "real strategy." Know what your company's doing and how it's thinking about its profits. Part of Burger King's strategy is to let McDonald's find the best location, and then build a location across the street from McDonald's.

If you really want to be appreciated for your work, start doing what others won't do, can't do or don't do. Be the one who visits that long-lost customer. Get your hands dirty. Talk to prospects, report back on the results, call your own customer service number and see how they treat customers. Do you think the new government healthcare website folks called the customer service number even once?


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