Earlier this month I was hired
to give a speech to the US Marshal Service.
up to it, I wasn't sure what to expect. It was my
first leadership speech addressing a Federal agency, let
alone one that conjured up images in my mind of Tommy
Lee Jones hunting down Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive"
or James Arness as Marshal Dillon in
you would suspect, I had images of tough, austere, and
rigid leaders. The kind you would imagine getting
hardened every day simply by dealing with the dark side
found was quite the opposite.
arrived the evening before the event, I was greeted by
three senior male officers. They were so warm and
welcoming that over a cocktail we spoke about our
families as they enthusiastically told me about being
fathers; saddened about their children growing up too
fast or in the case of one, wondering if he will cry
when his last child goes off to college. Their
realness extended into expressing their passion and
purpose in their work. Ironically, it seemed to me
that they weren't hardened, but instead softened...with
a strong belief in the good of humanity.
their work, they are clear on who they are serving and
this clarity enables their leadership and gives them a
sense of purpose and passion.
experience sat with me for some time and I reflected on
it as I read Greg Smith's article "Why Am I Leaving
Goldman Sachs" in The New York Times Opinion
Pages. He wrote about the declining culture and
growing lack of moral fiber at this company with 143
years of longevity. He spoke about how the
customer, who used to be the one they served eagerly,
was becoming instead the one they squeezed, ridiculed
and often misled for profit.
says it all started when "The firm changed the way
it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about
ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing.
Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are
not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into
a position of influence
seemed to me that unlike the US Marshal Service, Goldman
Sachs had lost their way and no longer had clarity about
who they were serving. The customer was no
longer their reason for being.
Goldman Sachs is not alone. Unfortunately,
we can all lose our way.
focusing on the monetary aspects of business and life at
the expense of all else, can cause subtle shifts that
can cause you or your business to lose focus on who you
are serving. As a result you forget the purpose
and the reason for your work and you lose your passion
for it as well.
follow Goldman Sachs' example, here are some tips to
help keep you on track.
- Get clear on who you
serve. Too often we don't even
think about who we are serving with the work we
do. Getting clear on this can help you find a
stronger purpose and passion to fuel your work.
Formulate a picture of that end consumer your product
reaches. Know that key customer who is going to
benefit from your efforts. Be specific with
describing your target and their needs. Put your
work in context of service, even if you work in a
- Make choices consistent with the needs of
those you serve.
Part of the clarity of knowing who you serve is also
ensuring that the actions you take and the choices you
make are in line with the needs of those you
serve. When those actions and choices are in
line with their needs, you strengthen your focus and
connection with your target. Over time this will
enable stronger leadership that will also fuel your
passion and purpose.
- Be brave and keep your
integrity. My mother used
to say"Just because your friend jumps off the cliff,
doesn't mean you have to too." If you find that
your company culture no longer supports or aligns with
your own internal compass, don't sell out. Stand
your ground and find another way. While Greg
Smith's actions in writing this article might be met
with criticism, he showed bravery and a strong sense
of integrity. It is hard to do what's right when
the tide goes against it, but those who do certainly
sleep better at night.
am all for a good night's sleep. What about
you? Do you know who you serve with the work that
you interested in developing yourself as a better leader
and understanding what your next step should be?
Consider one-on-one business
coaching to help you get clear on what's next and how to
position yourself for success. Contact Laura for
and personalized coaching.
Laura Lopez is an
award-winning author of The
Connected and Committed Leader.
She is also a consultant, and a Birkman Method
certified business coach who has been featured on the
Today Show ,Latina Voices Smart Talk, Living Smart and
In addition, her
accomplishments have been highlighted in several
business periodicals including Personal
Excellence, The Long Beach Business Journal, The Houston
Chronicle, Latina Magazine, and Central Valley Business
Times. Her articles on management and leadership are
regularly seen in Leadership Excellence.
Laura can be
contacted via her Web site at: