Put Self on the Shelf

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
-Martin Luther King

The culture in North America supports the familiar adage “look out for number one”. In being so self-consumed, we often ignore the needs of others, and paradoxically, overlook a prime source of our own happiness, satisfaction and effectiveness.

Imagine what would happen if we shifted our concern from ourselves to others. What if every time we looked in the mirror, instead of seeing minor physical flaws in need of costly repairs, we saw a true servant of others? What if we shifted from an assumption of entitlement to an assumption of servitude? The outcome would be a literal miracle: A world with unprecedented compassion. Through putting one’s “self on the shelf”, a most interesting paradox would emerge—the achievement of a level of personal satisfaction, happiness and effectiveness far beyond what is possible by “looking out for number one”.

Here is another aspect of this paradox: Recent research on how people deal with economic and business crises clearly shows the following—those who somehow rise above the human tendency to think about themselves, and instead think and act in ways to help others, wind up serving themselves in the process. They quickly become the people who others need, respect and want to be around for the long haul.

A CEO Sees the Light

I have witnessed many examples of the “self on the shelf” concept in life and in business. In my twenty six years as a management consultant, I have coached many CEOs representing a wide range of companies and industries. The concept of “servant leadership” often comes up; that is, the notion that the most effective leaders are typically humble individuals who see their primary role as serving others, in other words, putting their “self on a shelf”. In my experience, when business leaders have the courage to transform their thinking and, subsequently, their behavior in these ways, breakthrough changes occur in their relationships as well as in measurable business results.

One CEO with whom I worked was a highly ineffective manager. He verbally abused senior executives to the point where several had quit and others were in a constant state of upset. Not surprisingly, these relationship issues had a negative effect on business, putting the entire company at risk of collapse.

With coaching, this CEO learned to shift from a micromanager with a “results at all costs” posture to a leader committed to building powerful relationships with the people around him. He became as interested in the success of those people he managed as in his own success. As a result, he enjoys a newfound level of trust with those he manages, and his company’s bottom line has set new records.

A Lesson from the Slums

A vivid demonstration of putting “self on the shelf” is the story of David Neeleman, former CEO of JetBlue Airways. When David was about 20, he participated in a church mission trip to serve the poor in an underprivileged area of Brazil. Most surprising to him was how happy he felt during his stay. He came to realize that his primary contentment came from serving others, essentially diverting attention away from himself. Neeleman’s Brazil experience is reflected in JetBlue’s down-to-earth, egalitarian culture, where caring, respect for others and understanding of others are hallmarks of that culture.

In a nutshell, good news abounds when we put our “self on the shelf”. Not only are those around us influenced favorably, but we open ourselves up to an unprecedented level of personal happiness and effectiveness. When we serve others, we profoundly serve ourselves as well.

If you would like to have a complimentary discussion with me on how “Put Self on the Shelf” might apply to you or your team, please call or email me: 630-673-4254 or contact Al via email.

The Key Behaviors of Great Leaders

I call the highest level of leadership Servant Leadership. That means you choose to be respectful of people; coach your people; develop them; help them succeed. You lead with both your head and heart.

Servant Leadership is serving others while holding them accountable—a powerful combination. In other words, Servant Leaders seek to grow and develop people as an end goal of equal importance to results. When you do this, your organization will thrive.

Do you do the following 7 things that Servant Leaders do?

1 – Listen first, talk last

Give others a great gift—the chance to be heard. Many leaders are too focused on what they’re saying or what they are going to say next. Instead, tune into what the other person is saying. Tune everything else out. The most effective leaders are good listeners. They ask good questions, then through their listening, they lift others up.

2 – Ask for feedback

Although it’s counter-intuitive, asking for feedback from co-workers is really important.  Understanding yourself—your strengths and weaknesses—is essential to great Servant Leadership. In many of our consulting engagements, we have helped the senior leaders receive valuable feedback through a simple yet powerful process where they periodically ask people for feedback on weaknesses they want to improve as well as strengths they want to use even more.

3 – Keep your promises

When you and coworkers keep your promises—you get clear, coordinated actions, strong relationships and visible results.  The ability to keep our word, that is be accountable and hold others accountable, is a key driver of success. Not surprisingly, through people keeping their promises, relationships are strengthened also.

4 – Acknowledge others

Express authentic appreciation to others as often as you can. Both results and relationships will be greatly enhanced. Today, many people are disengaged from their jobs, with the primary reason being a feeling of not being appreciated. On the other hand, we have found that high performing organizations are filled with people who give themselves permission to routinely express authentic appreciation to others for their accomplishments and contributions.

5 – Use breakdowns to learn and grow

Use every problem or setback as an opportunity to learn, grow and forward the accomplishment of breakthrough results.  Instead, like many others, you may view breakdowns, setbacks and problems as a cause for upset, blame, or resignation, and forward progress is slowed or stopped. The best leaders, however, realize that life itself causes problems. Good leaders and good people are not immune. A problem or breakdown, when handled well, is a principle means of learning, and accomplishing the extraordinary.

6 – Remember it’s not about you

The truth is it’s really all about your people, not about you. Great leaders are Servant Leaders. They truly serve others and help others be the best they can be. Extensive research as well as our own experience shows conclusively that the key to any leader’s success is the ability to drive for achievement while demonstrating emotional intelligence with everyone around them. That combination delivers truly unprecedented, sustainable results.


If you would like to have a complimentary discussion with me on how Servant Leadership might  apply to you or your team, please call or email me: 630-673-4254 or ahritter@ritterconsultinggroup.com.

The Power of Emotional Intelligence

In my career as a leadership coach the last 26 years, I have learned that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is more important than IQ in determining leadership performance.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others, in order to guide your thinking and behavior. It’s been especially used to define the skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance. The latest research, and my own experience, demonstrates that EQ accounts for 70% of leadership performance. Traditional skills and knowledge, such as business expertise, technical expertise, and IQ, account for only 30% of leadership performance.

Since leadership is not a position or title, and is a choice that can be made by anyone in any walk of life, EQ has become a universal topic, both within and outside of business.

A good way to think about EQ is to see it as a commitment to relationship with others. EQ is about the heart, while IQ is about the head. Thus, the best definition of leadership I know is this: great leadership is a dual commitment to both results (the IQ side) and relationships (the EQ side), never compromising one for the other.

In other words, great leaders have effective behaviors in both the IQ and EQ sides of leadership:

IQ Behaviors

Use Skills/Knowledge

  • Life/business/technical skills
  • Specific required expertise
  • Mission, vision, strategy development and implementation

Implement the Discipline of Action

  • Hold each other accountable
  • Make precise requests and promises

Handle Breakdowns Well

  • Problems, setbacks, mistakes are a part of life
  • Handle them well, learn from them and bounce back

EQ Behaviors

Have Care and Concern for Others

  • Say “thank you”
  • Listen more, talk less
  • Kind tone of voice, upbeat attitude, smile, positive body language
  • Be non-judgmental, give people a chance
  • Be willing to help others
  • Practice Alignment

Be Self Aware/ Transparent

  • Apologize when you make a mistake
  • Routinely ask for and give feedback

Express Appreciation to Others

  • Don’t just think it, say it

All of us have personal stories when we did the above EQ behaviors well and when we didn’t. It is important to point out that the access to EQ behaviors is application of The 100/0 Principle—taking 100% responsibility for our relationships.

There are common human emotional barriers to achieving EQ, such as pride, fear, anger, snap judgments, etc. The key is awareness (of the barrier when it occurs) and choice of EQ actions (one or more of the EQ actions shown above) to overcome the barrier. As you train your brain by repeatedly practicing new EQ behaviors, your brain builds the pathways needed to make them into habits. Before long, you begin to respond to your surroundings with EQ without even having to think about it.

The benefits of EQ are great. It’s the difference between existing and truly living. Existing is our involuntary, automatic, knee jerk reactions to life’s events. Truly living is the exercise of certain learned skills (shown above). It’s behaving productively—you become happier and more successful in all domains of life.

If you would like to have a complimentary discussion with me on how Emotional Intelligence might apply to you or your team, please call or email me: 630-673-4254 or ahritter@ritterconsultinggroup.com.

The 100/0 Principle – The Secret of Great Relationships

“Eighty percent of life’s satisfaction comes from meaningful relationships.”
-Brian Tracy

I have been in business for 45 years—the first 20 years in corporate America, the last 25 years in leadership coaching. For the past 14 years, I have been president of my own firm, The Ritter Consulting Group. I now have leadership expertise, but I didn’t start out that way. Let me explain.

In June 1990, I was fired. At the time, I was a senior vice president with Citigroup, in charge of a major division. The reason I was given for being fired: I had a tremendous drive for results, but many people were complaining about me, saying I had a tendency to run roughshod over people. My attention was on results, not relationships, and the very results I cared so much about were being dragged down by my inappropriate, rough handling of the people around me. After I was let go, I spent a few weeks agonizing over my next career move. I decided to go into leadership coaching—to help leaders not make the same kind of mistake I had made. For the past 25 years, I have done exactly that, working with thousands of individual leaders and teams to help them generate breakthrough sales and earnings results through a dual commitment to both results and relationships. The biggest single factor in my work has been, and continues to be, “The 100/0 Principle”, which became a book that I wrote in 2010, has sold well over 100,000 copies, and has changed many peoples’ lives in business and other walks of life. Here is a summary of “The 100/0 Principle”.

Most of us have heard of the notion that relationships are a 50/50 proposition. It goes something like this: “I’ll do my 50%, you agree to do your 50%, and we’ll have a great relationship.” The problem, of course, is that when something breaks down in the relationship, each person tends to blame the other, to point the finger as it were.

A few years ago, a philosopher came up with a new relationship theory—the 100/100 proposition: “I’ll take 100% responsibility, you do the same, and we can’t miss.” This looked good at first; however, in practice it had the same shortcoming as the 50/50 proposition, namely the blame game by each person. The 100/100 idea also has another inherent flaw. Each person has high, even unrealistic expectations of the other. After all, each person expects the other to take full responsibility.

So, what does it take to create and sustain great relationships with others? It’s the 100/0 principle, where “I take full responsibility (the “100”) for the relationship, expecting
nothing (the “0”) in return.” This may strike you as strange, but here’s the rub—here’s the paradox: When I authentically take responsibility for a relationship with another, more often than not the other person quickly chooses to take responsibility for the relationship also, and the 100/0 starting point is transformed to something approaching 100/100. When that occurs, true breakthroughs happen for the individuals involved, their teams, their organizations, and their families.

Many of us, without fully realizing it, operate out of the principle of “right/wrong”, that is, we determine our relationship with others based on whether we agree or disagree with them, or whether we think they are right or wrong. There are many people in our lives, however, where the relationship is more important than who is right or wrong. In those relationships, the 100/0 principle applies, whereby one is willing to take full responsibility for the relationship with another, expecting nothing in return. Each of us must determine where in our lives this principle should apply. For most of us, it applies to immediate and extended family, friends, and work associates and customers with whom we are obliged to interact.

The old saying is true: If you want to change someone, change yourself first. The 100/0 principle is the simplest, most direct and most effective way to create solid relationships. Shift your thinking from “it takes two to tango” to “I can and will create a relationship
with that person”. Take responsibility for the relationship working, expect nothing in return, and watch what happens!

If you would like to have a complimentary discussion with me on how “The 100/0 Principle” might apply to you or your team, please call or email me: 630-673-4254 or ahritter@ritterconsultinggroup.com.