Leadership Lessons: Getting Lost Can Be a Good Thing

Bruce BroussardIn a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His latest — Leadership Lessons: Getting Lost Can Be a Good Thing — is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

It’s hard to get lost today. Yet sometimes you need to get lost to find something you didn’t expect. This happened to me a few months ago at New York’s Penn Station.

I was traveling with my family, and we couldn’t find our train. We were lost, running late and stressed. I was fortunate to meet Jermaine Jones from Amtrak, who stopped what he was doing to help. I could tell that Jermaine was someone who could write a book on customer service. Given how my company serves 14 million people, I’m always intrigued when I encounter someone who clearly loves helping people.

I certainly wasn’t aware of Jermaine’s title (I learned later that he is the Amtrak Station Manager for Penn Station), but it was obvious that he led by going above and beyond. I knew he’d be the perfect keynote speaker for my company’s annual Perfect Experience Summit, a gathering of several thousand leaders who are there to discuss how we’re going to deliver the perfect experience for our customers.

An inspirational story – that’s still going on

Jermaine isn’t a professional speaker. He speaks from faith, passion and pain. Jermaine is just someone who loves helping people and is in the middle of his own career journey. But he does have an inspiring story.

In 2009, Jermaine lost his job at DHL after 14 years, along with thousands of others. He didn’t have a backup plan, because he never thought it would happen to him. With a wife and three daughters to support, it was very difficult, personally and financially, for him and his family.

Jermaine was at one of the lowest points of his life. Sitting in his back yard late one night in the rain, he made a promise to God that if he ever managed to change his mindset, he would never think the same way again. Jermaine picked himself up and found out through a friend that Amtrak was hiring. After 25 resume submissions by his wife (Jermaine joked that she wanted him out of the house), and a rejection, he was hired as a baggage handler.

Yet in four short years, mainly due to his new attitude, how his actions reflected it and leaders within Amtrak noticing his talent, Jermaine was promoted to Station Manager of New York Penn Station, easily one of Amtrak’s busiest stations. He has been a Station Manager in New York Penn Station for four years and has been at Amtrak a total of seven years and six months.

Jermaine even managed to start Brothers Making a Difference of New Jersey, an all-volunteer-based “nonprofit organization aimed at enriching the lives of youth academically, culturally and professionally.” He has run it for nearly six years.

Five lessons in leadership – regardless of industry

Jermaine did not disappoint and delivered an inspiring and timeless message to our leaders. Some highlights:

Going the extra mile is never crowded. If you are looking for no traffic, go the extra mile. Given my experience with Jermaine, it’s clear that he goes the extra mile for the customer. As leaders, we should strive to deliver a perfect experience and inspire others to do the same. It’s often the small stuff that turns out to be the big stuff in positively impacting someone’s day.

Don’t let the people change you; you change the people. That’s how you hold yourself accountable. Jermaine has a very outgoing, positive attitude, and when he first started his baggage job, some of his colleagues told him to calm down. Jermaine felt that people sometimes look to contaminate you. He knows that when you’re serving your customers, you need to be true to yourself and set an example that can inspire others. Customers deserve the best you can offer them.

Hold yourself accountable, even when no one is watching. Jermaine told our leaders that he never thought that if he changed his way of thinking, his entire life would change. He chalks this up to accountability. He knew that he could pass the blame to others. Yet when he looked in the mirror, he knew he had to be accountable. It’s always easy to blame others (we’ve all done it), but we owe ourselves more.

Your setbacks can become a setup for your comeback. 2009 was a challenging year for our country’s economy. Yet Jermaine brought up a great point. We all get knocked down. Use it as a way to address your faults so you can succeed the next time. For Jermaine, the toughest job was changing his own mindset.

Treat everyone you meet like they are the CEO. Jermaine said that if you treat everyone you encounter as the CEO, you never have to change your behavior because it becomes a lifestyle. Regardless of where you stand in your organization, leadership is not defined by titles but by actions. Give your employees and customers the best service you can.

Jermaine says character is built when no one is watching. As leaders, we have a responsibility to provide the best service to our customers and the best leadership to inspire our teams. Both deserve nothing less. We must always give our best, especially when no one is watching.

In any career journey, you will have success and failure. It’s important to learn how to stay the course. But don’t forget that getting lost can have its advantages, like it did for me that day in Penn Station.

 

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