The 2015 Post Worth Re-Reading

By Tony Vengrove

Raphael HernandezinKabul

As we approach the end of 2015 and look forward to a new year with a refreshed sense of optimism and hope, I’d like to invite you to re-read our favorite Miles Finch Innovation post of 2015. The post was guest written by Raphael Hernandez who recalled a poignant story from his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Raphael reflected on an encounter with Anwar, a 10-year-old boy he met while shopping in a crowded market on Kabul’s Chicken Street.

Raphael used the story to glean lessons about employee engagement and salesmanship. While the piece holds its own in this regard, it’s actually much more powerful when we consider the disconcerting events taking place across the globe. When we look at the story through the lens of increasing global conflict, we’re reminded of a simple remedy: the uplifting power of human connection.

There’s been so many tragic events during the past year with an equal amount of troubling trends that lay before us. Sadly, I fear things may get worse before they get better. The increasingly divisive nature of our national and global discourse is especially disconcerting. It seems many of us are separating into factions and digging into our philosophical trenches for the long haul.

Raphael’s piece reminds us that we can overcome stereotypes and labels with a simple hello. We can build community and friendships by asking questions and listening. We can create lasting friendships when we refrain from judgment. We can make the world better if we care enough to serve others before we cater to our own selfish needs. We can start by making eye contact and smiling.

Please read Raphael’s post, What a 10-Year-Old Boy From Kabul Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement, and take a few moments to reflect on what you will do in 2016 to connect, build community and make a positive difference–wherever you are. If so inclined, please share your ideas and thoughts below.

My personal reflection on Raphael’s story and the power of human connection brought me back to our Seven C’s of Creative Leadership–“Connecting” is one of the seven principles. As I considered all Seven C’s in context of this post, I realized they also serve as a great framework for driving change in the world.

So, here they are, re-written as a 2016 Call-to-Action for Change!

communcation1. Let’s commit to healthy COMMUNICATION. Let’s listen and understand before we speak and judge.

curiosity2. Let’s be CURIOUS about other people’s perspectives and traditions. Let’s understand the “Why” before we jump to conclusions and label things good or bad.

creativity3. Let’s be CREATIVE about finding solutions to problems. The “how things are done around here” mentally is slowing dying off. We’re empowered to utilize our miraculous creative powers to discover better ways to get things done.

connecting4. Let’s extend our hands and hearts to lift others up. It’s harder to hate someone when you’ve CONNECTED with them on a human level.

culture

5. Let’s embrace the diversity of all world CULTURES. It not only makes the world more interesting, it inspires creative connections that can unleash innovation.

change-management6.  Let’s commit to CHANGE. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and commentate on the state of affairs. It’s up to us to make a difference.

courage

7. Let’s have the COURAGE to walk to the talk or, as Raphael and his fellow Marines would say, “Let’s make it happen.”

And with that, it’s time to sing Auld Lang Syne and flip the calendar. Happy New Year!

Founder, Miles Finch Innovation LLC

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

Calling, Purpose, and Customer Service Via Sukhothai

By Raphael Hernandez

Cobra Goldi 002

There I was, in central Thailand, one of two passengers in a van being driven by a driver I will call Chen. We were there conducting a site survey to identify training venues for the U.S. Marine Corps who would be conducting training exercises with their Royal Thai Marine Corps hosts later on in the year. It was our second day of the survey and we were approaching the ancient city of Sukhothai, which means “happiness,” when we were suddenly surprised by the wonderful aroma of Thai cuisine in the air.

We decided to stop for lunch near Sukhothai’s ancient ruins; an open-air market lined with restaurants came into view and we agreed it was the perfect spot. The smell of Thai curries hung lazily in the air and we quickly selected a place to eat so we could quell our growing appetites. As we disembarked the van, I turned to Chen and invited him to join us for lunch. I was shocked by his reaction and what his facial expression communicated. Chen looked at me like I had just gifted him a check for a million dollars. His eyes welled up with water and his face lit up with a grin that spread from ear-to-ear. When I turned to my companion and gestured, “What’s up with this guy?” my friend answered, “Usually clients don’t invite their drivers to lunch; this is a big deal for him.” Chen joined us for lunch and we had a great conversation. He shared his personal story, we learned about his family, and he enthusiastically shared how much he enjoyed driving “important’ people in his van, which was maybe 10 years old and a bit worn, but impeccably maintained – one could say it was lovingly maintained for the maximum comfort his clients!

I was so grateful that Chen joined us instead of sitting in his van, going without a lunch meal while waiting for us to finish ours. We learned a great deal about Sukhothai and the surrounding area that our online research had not revealed and Chen offered to give us a personalized tour of the ruins for free. Chen was one of the most interesting, thoughtful, and happy people I’ve ever met. We learned so much from him in that hour or so we spent breaking bread together. We were so appreciative of his company and generosity of spirit. As the meal came to an end, Chen suddenly excused himself and darted across the street to where his van was parked. I asked my companion why he turned so serious, so abruptly. He explained that Chen wanted to ensure his van was ready to be re-embarked by us. “All we’re going to do is jump back in and move to the next stop and jump right out again,” I said. Quickly, I Cobra Gold 001realized that Chen saw his job as a calling and ensuring the happiness of his clients was his purpose in life. I wondered at that time if the Buddhist-inspired decorations inside the van had anything to do with his desire to make others happy. For Chen, it did not matter whether he was hired to transport people a few blocks within Bangkok or hired for a multiple day trip, like the one we were on—he was going to treat his every client “like royalty,” regardless of time and distance. The attitude and actions Chen displayed during our week together made me realize three valuable lessons:

Embrace diversity and connect with people you don’t normally speak with. Had I not invited Chen to join us for lunch, we never would have learned the rich history of the areas we visited and we would not have benefitted from the wisdom he shared via his captivating stories. Our worldview expanded and I believe Chen’s had as well. When was the last time you had lunch with someone that was not in your socio-economic circle? Why not make an effort to connect with someone completely different that yourself? You may just learn something new about yourself and your community.

You don’t need a high-paying job or a fancy title to pursue your calling and live a life of meaning and purpose. Chen was clearly a servant leader—a servant leader puts the needs of others first. He was called to serve and he did so by putting his heart and soul into providing the best possible transportation services for his clients. He did it in such a way that one didn’t notice that his van was not the most up to date model, and he did it with an infectious joy that made his clients “feel like royalty.” During our lunch, Chen spoke fondly of the year he spent as a young man living the austere life of a Monk, which is a customary rite of passage for most young Thai men. We might conclude that his “others-focused” worldview was driven by a higher purpose. What are you doing to align your life with a “calling” and/or with your “purpose” in life? Have you found your purpose?

Customer Service is all about putting others first; those who do it well are poised to be tomorrow’s leaders. Chen was a leader. I know this because on subsequent trips back to Thailand, I observed him organizing and leading multiple groups of drivers and from observing the group dynamic. It was clear that he was a trusted leader who was looked upon as an inspirational person by his peers. He led with a smile and his inspiring leadership made things happen. What are you doing to develop your customer service representatives on the front lines? Do you put the needs of others first? What are you doing to inspire your customer service employees to enhance their desire to put others first?

The last time I saw Chen was in 2011. He came searching for me at a hotel in Bangkok after learning I was in town. We met by chance just outside my hotel as I was stepping into a taxi. He shook my hand, gave me a hug, and told me he would miss not seeing me again. As I pulled away for the airport, I couldn’t help but think once again about the meaning of Sukhotai: happiness. Suddenly, I felt a smile form on my face and I happily gazed out the window to appreciate the beautiful landscape one last time.

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Raphael HernandezABOUT RAPHAEL HERNANDEZ: LT. COL. RAPHAEL HERNANDEZ (Ret) recently served AS THE CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER FOR THE MARINE CORPS RECRUITING COMMAND AND IN COORDINATION WITH J. WALTER THOMPSON ATLANTA, THE CORPS’ ADVERTISING AGENCY, LEADS A STRATEGICALLY ALIGNED, MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR, NATIONAL INTEGRATED MARKETING PROGRAM DESIGNED TO INCREASE BRAND AWARENESS, GENERATE HIGH QUALITY LEADS FOR 3,700 PLUS ENLISTED AND OFFICER RECRUITERS LOCATED ACROSS THE UNITED STATES. RAPHAEL HAS SERVED IN THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS FOR 21 PLUS YEARS AND HAS EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE IN LOGISTICS, STRATEGIC AND OPERATIONAL PLANNING AND EXECUTION, RECRUITING OPERATIONS AND ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERSHIP. HE EARNED A BUSINESS DEGREE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT EL PASO AND A MASTERS IN ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERSHIP FROM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, LAJOLLA, CALIFORNIA. HE SERVED IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ AND IN 2011 WAS PART OF A 6 PERSON PLANNING TEAM WHO ASSISTED THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE AT THE U.S. EMBASSY IN TOKYO, TO RAPIDLY DEVELOP CONTINGENCY PLANS AS A RESULT OF THE 9.0 EARTHQUAKE, TSUNAMI AND NUCLEAR CRISIS. IN ADDITION, HE SERVED AS THE DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS AND LOGISTICS, FOR THE THIRD MARINE EXPEDITIONARY BRIGADE DURING HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE DISASTER RELIEF MISSIONS IN THE SRI LANKA IN 2009 AND THE PHILIPPINES IN 2009 AND 2010. CONNECT WITH RAPHAEL ON TWITTER: @RAPHAELEADS

More from Raphael:

What a 10-Year Boy From Kabul Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

The Stories of Creative Leadership: Raphael Hernandez