“Clarice the Cow” – Farmer Able [Guest Post]

The pigs are running the farm. So begins the story of Farmer Able. Everyone on his farm — people and animals alike — are downright downtrodden by him. He’s overbearing and compulsively obsessed with profits and productivity. He’s a typical top-down, power-based manager, forever tallying production numbers in his well-worn ledgers. But the more he pushes the hoofs and horns and humans, the more they dig in their heels. That is until one day when he hears a mysterious wind that whispers: “It’s not all about me.” Can he turn things around and begin attending to the needs of those on his farm, thus improving their attitudes and productivity?

The following is an excerpt from chapter 1 of Farmer Able.

Clarice the Cow

“The pigs are running the farm!”

That’s what Farmer Able grumbled to himself and even at times bellowed out loud.

This was the last thing any visitor might notice. After all, the pigs mostly laid in the shade doing nothing, so how could those lazy animals be running anything?

The only initiative they demonstrated was during feeding time. Then they sprang from their mud hole and oinked and squealed feverishly. Being fed by Farmer Able was all they were interested in. Just give them their slop and they were happy.

They were consumed by consuming.

But their piggish behavior didn’t remain with just them. No, this attitude, Farmer Able believed, had begun to afflict all the animals on the farm.

Having heard Farmer Able bellow about the pigs, she finally echoed this sentiment. “It’s all on account of those pigs,” is how she put it. “Those lazy pigs are getting away with doing nothing. Why, if I didn’t have to walk by them every day, I wouldn’t feel the way I do.”

She also hoof-pointed at Farmer Able for his unkindly comments. He, too, was a major source of her rage. In fact, she came to think that her drop in milk production was entirely the pigs’ and the farmer’s fault. And now she could add Bridgette to that list as well. “I don’t need any cow cheering me up because I’m not the one with the problem. She should look at herself. Her cheerfulness is because of her own set of problems that she’s trying to overcome. And I’ll have none of it.”

So Clarice left the milk barn even more determined to eat and chew less. She missed the eating and chewing because that’s what cows do best. Her four stomachs were definitely not full. Not only did this make her extremely hungry, but in addition, the whole thing gave her a sour stomach times four.

However, that didn’t matter. She was willing to put up with these “sacrifices” because she felt Farmer Able was doing her a great disservice. He wasn’t listening. His grumbling and complaining had made him deaf to her moos. In fact, she came to think he didn’t care for her at all.

“It’s all about me,” was how she thought of his attitude. The poor cow didn’t realize that same sour outlook had infected her.

Even the bell he’d hung around her neck came to irritate her. Before, she believed the bell and its sound were gleeful. It confirmed her place as part of the herd, as part of the farm. But it had become just a clanging in her ears. It reminded her of what an awful farm she lived and chewed on.

She imagined other farms and how wonderful they must be. But they were beyond the fence that held her in, so she didn’t let her mind go there. She restricted herself. And she continued restricting her milk production.

Yes, the pigs were running the farm.


Art Barter believes everyone can be great, because everyone can serve. To teach about the power of servant leadership, Art started in his own backyard by rebuilding the culture of the manufacturing company he bought, Datron World Communications.  Art took Datron’s traditional power-led model and turned it upside down and the result was the international radio manufacturer grew from a $10 million company to a $200 million company in six years. Fueled by his passion for servant leadership, Art created the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI).

To learn more about Art and his new Servant Leadership Journal, as well as his book on servant leadership, Farmer Able: A Fable About Servant Leadership Transforming Organizations And People From The Inside Out, endorsed by Stephen M.R. Covey, Ken Blanchard , and John C. Maxwell , visit www.servantleadershipinstitute.com .


Good Intentions Are Never Enough [Guest Post]

(Originally published at greatleadersserve.com)

Good Intentions Are Never Enough

Virtually every leader has a natural bias… we are either more results-oriented or relationship-oriented. However, the best leaders discipline themselves to value both results and relationships. If your natural tendency is to focus on results, one small step you can take to raise the value of relationships is to stop and say thanks.
If you are a more relationship-oriented leader, you can skip the rest of this post. However, I’m guessing tens of millions of leaders should keep reading. Or, perhaps, I just wrote this post for myself; one thing I’ve learned: If I don’t battle against my results orientation, my leadership will always be limited.

The way forward if you are more results-oriented is not to change your bias, but to compensate. To express thanks, gratitude and appreciation can begin to establish a new equilibrium… a world in which even the most results focused leader can demonstrate value for others.

You may be thinking, “People in my life and work know how I feel about them.” My response:

Thoughts of apprec­iation and gratitude unexpressed are m­eaningless.

So, how do you begin? You just do – send a text, write a note, buy a card – and mail it, make a call, send an email, stop by someone’s office, any way you choose, just do it. Stop and say, “Thanks, I appreciate you.”

Who should you reach out to? Here are some broad categories to jump-start your thinking…

Family – When is the last time you thanked your parents for helping you become the person you are today? Have you told your spouse how much you appreciate his or her contributions to your life? Have you thanked your kids recently for the patience they helped you forge?

Friends – I have long believed, you become like the people you hang out with. Our friends are some of the most influential forces in our lives – for good or bad. Assuming your friends have had a positive impact on you, say thanks!

Team – No leader accomplishes anything of significance alone. Yes, your team members are paid to work, but as Peter Drucker once observed, we are all knowledge workers and the key to knowledge work is discretionary effort. Your team can show up and get paid, but if that’s all they do, your leadership is doomed. Thank your team for their discretionary efforts!

Mentors – Who helped you learn what you’ve learned? Who has invested in your growth? Who do you turn to for counsel on difficult decisions? The men and women who serve as your coach, guide or mentor have invested time and energy in your future. Take a moment to say, “I’m thankful for you!”

Influencers – For many of us, this is a far-reaching group. Think back to teachers, coaches, counselors and others who shaped you. Many of them believed in you before you believed in yourself. Why not reach out to these supporting characters in your story and say, “You made a difference in my life.”

The best time to say, “Thank you!” is every day.

Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs. 


leaders made here_2

The Toughest Question in Leadership [Guest Post]

discover-joy-of-leadershipWould you want to work for . . . you?

What insights can this question provide to you as a leader? Could this assist you in understanding how you could be more effective in being a better leader, and how to a better subordinate as well?

Jack Welch is the former CEO of General Electric and is respected widely, not only for his stewardship of this preeminent company, but also for his consistent support for the development of leaders at GE and in business in general. He said this was a critical developmental questions for any leader.

I, too, think this can be very powerful; but it made me reflect on a very painful lesson I learned about this as well.

In my last corporate assignment, I had six bosses and five CEOs in just over seven years. I lead a large team, and one area of my responsibility was leadership development.

I decided to explore whether a 360° assessment from the Center for Creative Leadership would be an effective tool for us to use. I solicited input for this, and received my feedback as a part of a three-day training session for this highly respected leadership tool.

We received our individual feedback at the end of the first day of the session and had to analyze the results, then discuss them the next morning with one of the facilitators.

The bad news is that my team’s assessment of this key question, “Would they want to work … for me?” was pretty much a resounding “NO!”

To say that I got “slammed” by the feedback is a bit of an understatement.

Our organization had undergone a consistent diet of very difficult organizational transitions, and uncertainty and disruption were the norm. I was a very driven leader and my team was well thought-of in terms of what we were able to produce. But the feedback that I received very clearly let me know that although the matter was fine, my manner left a lot to be desired.

I immediately called my boss, Jim.  I respected Jim a great deal, especially his easy-going but very direct style. I described my feedback to Jim and complained that this certainly could not be an accurate reflection of all of my hard work and all that my team and I had accomplished.

His immediate response was, “Are you sure about that, Willy?”

He told me that, although he had a lot of confidence in me getting things done, he had recently gotten some feedback that I could be harsh, dismissive and a less-than-pleasant fellow from time to time.

He reinforced my contributions and his confidence in my potential, but he stressed that this feedback was probably one of the best things that could happen to me, no matter how painful it may have felt at that time. That is, if I handled it well.

Jim was a great sounding board for me as I prepared to give the feedback to my team about my results, and to solicit their support in helping me develop into a much more effective leader. I worked diligently to ensure that I was a leader who my team not only respected, but who with whom they could truthfully say they valued their interactions.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to ask: Would you want to work for … me?
  • Do you know how to accept the feedback of your team and demonstrate the value you place on their candid input?
  • Are you willing to develop an action plan that will encourage those who provided feedback to partner with you in making improvements and enhancing your leadership effectiveness?


Willy Steiner is the President of Executive Coaching Concepts, an executive coaching services firm dedicated to assisting senior executives in taking their individual and organizational performance “TO THE NEXT LEVEL”.  He fine-tuned his skills in leading organizational change, building high performing teams and in devising innovative incentive systems with General Electric, RCA Corp. and Galileo International. Assisting executives in driving change by creating urgency, focus and alignment, with a keen eye for cultivating and sustaining necessary relationships, is an ongoing focus of his work. He is an expert in guiding organizations through complex international mergers and divestitures, blending distinct cultures and supporting growth in international markets.

For more about Willy, his new book, Discover the Joy of Leading: A practical guide to resolving your management challenges, and business, visit executivecoachingconcepts.com.