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Leading Through Contradictions

Balancing traits in a complex world Dive deep into the complexities of leadership with Adam Bryant on the Fast Leader Show! Discover the art of extracting every lesson from life’s experiences, akin to wringing out a wet towel. Adam unpacks the delicate balance leaders must strike between contradictory traits, shrewdly adapting to the uncertainty of …

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032: Shep Hyken: What did I sign up for

Shep Hyken Show Notes

Shep Hyken took over as President of the National Speakers Association, a volunteer position, and he had no clue what he was in store. After months of consideration, the association leadership team decided to change the name of the association. After the announcement of the name change at the annual member meeting, within 48 hours Shep received 800 emails and 750 of them threatened to quit the association. Shep was now faced with the biggest crisis he had ever faced. That’s when Shep turned to his 5-step process. Listen and learn Shep’s process and what happened to see how it can help you get over the hump.

Shep started doing birthday party magic shows at a young age, and eventually took his comedy and magic routines into nightclubs. He even managed to score a gig at the Playboy Club when he was 16 years old. Nice job for a 16-year old!

After graduating college, Shep was hired full time at the retail company at which he worked while in school. About eight months later, however, the company was sold and Shep was out of a job. Searching for inspiration, he attended an event one evening that featured legendary motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins. He found their messages powerful and amazing. And by the end, Shep felt like he could do anything, even give a speech. Shep was no stranger to performing. With a little business experience and a college background, Shep wrote a motivational speech and started selling it — just picking up the phone and smiling and dialing. As he researched information for the speech, he landed on the topic of customer service. It was a topic in which he strongly believed and had incorporated into all of his previous business endeavors – from the birthday party magic show business to the retail business where he worked during and after college. So the focus of Shep’s business became customer service.

In Shep’s business, every day presents new opportunities and challenges. No day is exactly the same. He travels around the world and lives the life of planes, trains and automobiles (in the form of taxi cabs). But even when he’s on the road, Shep tries to maintain a routine. He starts the day with an early-morning workout and follows it with a good breakfast. From there, Shep meets with his clients in preparation for the speech he will be delivering to their employees.

At home in St. Louis, Shep starts the day out the same way, with a workout. Once in the office he’s on calls throughout the day with clients. He also shoots weekly videos in his studio and does a lot of reading and writing. The content he reads comes from a variety of sources and provides ideas and inspiration for his weekly blog posts, Forbes columns, and other articles. Shep also engages heavily in social media throughout the day to interact with his followers.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen and @hyken will help you get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“Perfection is not reality.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet

“If I strive to do my best along the way, I will probably do my best.” -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong, just do your best.” -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Stoop to excellence.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“When things aren’t going well…that’s when your true leadership abilities come out.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Bad days for me only last a day.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Leaders need to be goal oriented and they need to share those goals.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Retirement is only doing what you love.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“If anything is holding me back it’s my own fault.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Don’t ask people to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Without the ability to speak or write, you have nothing.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“I wish I would have written my first book sooner than I did.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

Hump to Get Over

Shep Hyken took over as President of the National Speakers Association, a volunteer position, and he had no clue what he was in store. After months of consideration, the association leadership team decided to change the name of the association. After the announcement of the name change at the annual member meeting, within 48 hours Shep received 800 emails and 750 of them threatened to quit the association. Shep was now faced with the biggest crisis he had ever faced. That’s when Shep turned to his 5-step process. Listen and learn Shep’s process and how he got over the hump and moved onward and upward.

Advice for others

When dealing with complaints: acknowledge it, apologize for it, discuss the remedy, do it with the right attitude, and do it fast.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

Nothing. If anything is holding me back it’s my own fault.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Don’t ask people to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.

Secret to Success

I read daily; 30-40 books a year.

Best Resources in business or Life

The internet is my best resource. I get a digest every day of things that I want to know about.

Recommended Reading

Values, Inc.: How Incorporating Values into Business and Life Can Change the World

Contacting Shep


email: shep [at]



More Resources

Shep Hyken on Amazing Business Radio discusses frontline leadership, conflict resolution, and customer loyalty with Jim Rembach, host of the Fast Leader Show and president of Call Center Coach.

These Two Little Tips are Making Contact Centers Rich – My interview with Shep at Contact Center Expo where we talk about two little tips that can impact the customer experience immensely.

Offer from Shep: “Moments of Magic” and his white paper, “Customer Service Will Fix the U.S. Economy (and a Few Companies, Too).”

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.

Show Transcript:

[expand title=”Click to access edited transcript”]

032: Shep Hyken: What Did I Sign Up For

 Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.


Jim Rembach:    Thanks, Kimberly. Okay, Fast Leader legion, today I am so excited because we have magic on the show to help you get over the hump and that’s going to be performed by Shep Hyken. Shep was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri as a kid he did birthday party magic shows and eventually took his comedy magic routines at the nightclubs. He even managed to score a gig at the Playboy club when he was 16 years old, I don’t know how that was legal. Since Hugh Hefner wasn’t retiring, Shep went on to college and after graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in Speech Communication, Shep was hired full-time at the company that he was working out while he was in school.


After about eight months later working for Mars and Marine convenience stores the company was sold and Shep was of a job. Searching for inspiration he attended an event one evening that featured legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins. He found their messages powerful and amazing and by the end Shep felt like he could do anything, even give a speech. Billing upon his magic and comedy experience Shep wrote a motivational speech and started selling it. He just picked up the phone and started smiling and dialing. 


As he researched information for speeches he landed on the topic of customer service. It was a topic in which he strongly believed and had incorporated into all of his previous business endeavors, from the birthday party magic show business to the retail business where he worked during and after college. So, the focus of Sheps business became customer service. Now, Shep Hyken is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and customer service expert and Shep still resides in St. Louis, Missouri as an empty nester with his wife Sydney.


Shep Hyken are you ready to help us get over the hump?


Shep Hyken:     I am ready to rock and roll. [Laugh]


Jim Rembach:    Okay, awesome. I’ve given are Fast Leader legion a little bit about you, but can tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you better?


Shep Hyken:    Sure. My whole thing and my whole world is making experiences where customers walk away from a business and it could be a customer client, guest, patient, anybody who does business with the company or organization. I want them to walk away and say, “Wow! That was a great place to do business with.” And that’s what I been doing for years. But in the past several years I have gotten more and more involved with an online learning program. I take all my content on customer service and put it online, switch on demand virtual training but here’s what I’m passionate about, I just realize I always been one to give back and I figure out a way to give back, and this is special because you’re the first person that basically publicly I’m sharing this with, this is brand new exciting and here’s what we’re doing similar to the Tom’s shoe model where’s one-for-one, buy a pair of shoes they donate a pair of shoes to people that can afford it, buy a pair of their glasses they donate a pair glasses and do other charitable things. For every company that buys one of my licenses, and actually most companies buy group licensed, 100, 200, 300, 500, I’m going to donate the same number to an urban school so that the kids come out of high school and college can go to this eight hour course, get a certificate of completion and a tax certificate to the resume when they’re out looking for a job. I want to help young people be more successful and I want to do it with passion and I figure out a way to marry them together. 


Jim Rembach:    Shep that’s awesome. I really appreciate what you’re doing for society, for our education system. That’s one of the things that we’ve talked a lot about on previous episodes is building that knowledge and skill set within folks so that—one of your passions, I think you had said something to the effect of helping change the American economy through customer service, and that’s one way you’re making a big impact, so thanks. 


I know you are of high passion and on the show we focus on several things and one being leadership quotes. And you shared with me, you kind of struggled with that because you have so many quotes that really drive you but, have you been able to focus on one or two that you can share with us?


Shep Hyken:    Oh, man. There are so many. One of my favorites, and I don’t have been exactly word for word, but there’s one, Vince Lombardi used to talk about that perfection is not reality. I believe he said perfection is not unattainable, but upon the pursuit of perfection you can achieve excellence. And I would love a perfect world but I know this, if I strive to do my best along the way I will probably do my best. And I think that’s why I inspired the people around me, who work with me to be that way. I talked to my kids about it, don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong, just do your best, and I think that what counts. And if you chase that goal of perfection, along the way great things are going to happen.


Jim Rembach:     I think that’s a great point. In keeping that strength to know that your best is something that could change and develop as you—first of all, continue to make the effort and the attempt, just keep trying, just keep striving. Thanks for sharing that with us.


Shep Hyken:     Yeah. There’s another one that I’ll share with you real quickly. I love Walt Disney. There’s so many things about Walt Disney and the guest experience and customer service are important but from a leadership perspective he had something he called it ‘stooping to excellence’ if you want to quote it that’s it, stoop to excellence. And what he meant was, as he walk into the theme park, he knew that all of the cast members, the employees that’s what they call them was cast members, would be looking at him going, “Wow, there’s Walt Disney. And if he walked by a piece of paper and left it on the ground he gave permission to everybody else to do that. So, instead he would stoop down, pick it up and throw it away and he call that stooping to excellence. And I believe he modelled what customer service was all about, what guest service is about, he modelled his leadership and I think that’s a powerful thing to do.

I know that in the past I thought about the people that I would like to be most liked and it’s because they do what it is that they talked about, they do what it is that they preaching, believe in, and they are who they wear it on their sleeves. 


Jim Rembach:    Definitely being authentic and genuine can have a huge impact with both employees and customers. And trying to be able to do that through all times, whether you prosper or whether you’re struggling that consistency and the authenticity is something that we can never, ever fail to deliver upon.


Shep Hyken:    Right. It’s easy when things are going well, it’s when things aren’t going well that’s when I think the rubber hits the road that’s when your true personality and your leadership abilities come out.


Jim Rembach:     That’s for sure.  And so with that we often have times where we’ve had humps to get over and they test our character, help build our character in those time, so that we can hopefully as time goes on, not fall. Is there a time for you where you had to get over a hump? And a kind of really gave you that renewed sense of direction and that energy to continue on? Can you share that with us?


Shep Hyken:     I do have one  that I’ll share with you but it’s kind of what you think I would normally do. I’m a very optimistic person. I’m very upbeat, I can get up in the morning it’s time to go and my wife jokes that, I’ll be taking late at night in the middle of my sentence I’ll fall asleep I just wake up and continue where I left off. I love life. I play a lot, that’s important. Bad days for me on last a day, they don’t last, just like my philosophy.


 So, here’s what happened, I can’t believe I actually did this. I became president of the National Speakers Association, the Industry Organization Association for Professional Speakers. I been on the board for, I’m now on my 10th year but I was just recently president. When I took over as president, and it’s a volunteer position, prior to that our leadership team had decided we were going to change the name of the association from the National Speakers Association to something else what we change it to wasn’t important. 


The way we went about it we thought we were doing it right, by the book we’re doing it right, by the by-laws and what our board did and the way we voted on it approve it, it was done correctly. But by our membership, in other words by our customers we didn’t do it right. And when we announced last year at the national meeting that we were changing the name to this name, I received within—I will say 48 hours almost 800 e-mails from our members. By the way, probably 750 of those 800 e-mails said we hate it, we can’t believe you’re doing it were going to quit if you keep this name. We had a crisis on our hands and this was one of the biggest challenges that I ever went through from a business standpoint.


We all have life challenges that cause personal—a love one passes away or you have a relationship issue but in businesses this was my biggest crisis I may have ever gone through. I think, maybe what made it work is I’m the customer service guy. It’s not that I want everybody to be happy but I knew we need to respond quickly and I have these five-step process for dealing with the customer complaint real simple, acknowledge the problem, apologize, fix it or discuss what the remedy is going to be, do with the right attitude which is usually one of ownership and confidence and then finally do it fast. 


So, this was happening just really quickly. We left the meeting and the next day all these e-mails are coming in. Within three days we put a video up to our membership, “Hey, we hear you and I’m sorry that you guys aren’t happy which means number one, I knowledge it, number two, I said I was sorry and number three here’s what we’re doing were going to have a board meeting by the end of the week, an emergency board meeting were calling all the board members from all over the country plus past presidents who acts ex officio board members—they’re going to get on this board meeting and I promise you I’ll keep you inform but I need you to do me a favor, please stop email me, because if I will answer all of your e-mails will prevent me from getting this good work done. 


And the e-mails came to almost a complete halt, by the end of the week I’ll let them know. The board was officially meeting on Sunday, on Monday I got back to them and told them exactly what has happened we reverse the decision, we’re going to create a committee of members—90 members by way, stepped one of the volunteer to determine whether or not we were actually going to change name, not only to the name we propose but any name at all. 


Basically, it was crisis management, managed, I’m not going to say to perfection, but it’s good as we could have done it, we acted quick, swiftly we made good decisions, we listen to our members everything seemed to work. As a result of that, we not only renewed the confidence of our members we may have renewed it to a higher-level letting them know that, “Hey, we admit our mistake, we listen to you and here we are today.”


Jim Rembach:     That’s a great story. It’s fresh and new in your mind, I’m sure there’s a lot of emotion associated with that as well.


Shep Hyken:     Yeah. A year later which was just a couple weeks ago, I was on stage as the president—it take over at the end of the meeting and now it was mine and little self-effacing humor mentioned it from the stage on the first night like probably two sentences literally and it made people laugh. In my opening line was, “It’s great to be here at Influence 2015, the premiere event for professional speakers, this is the National Speakers Association annual meeting. And yes, I did say National Speakers Association and I got a laugh and that’s the last we heard of it. 


Jim Rembach:     Good for you. When you’re going through that moment and starting to get that backlash, what was going through you mind?


Shep Hyken:     What did I sign up for? [Laugh] This is a volunteer position. And by the way, I didn’t make the decision, the board made the decision. But I am now the face of that board and the face of our association. I need to step up and do what’s right, and I think we did. I must you it wasn’t all me, I have a great team to work with. The CEO, which is our executive director of the National Speakers Association, Stacy Tetschner, he’s an amazing man, the staff was so supportive of the board members who were able to come together and make this decision quickly.

 I met with somebody briefly after this who’s very well informed about these types of things happening and he said,” Shep you did in 10 days what most people take 10 months to do. How did you do it?” And my response was, “I just knew it had to get done and that’s what we did, we just did it.” 


Jim Rembach:    I’m sure that as you were going through talking about all of that emotion and getting that thing done that there was probably several epiphanies that you had that you could use as part of a really in setting up a better course of direction for your future as well as for the association, but if you were to stop and think about what advice you would give to our Fast Leader legion from what you learned through that story, what would it be?


Shep Hyken:    At that point, when this is happening, I didn’t realize it was a customer service issue. I realize were having a crisis in our management. But when I reflect that what happened in that week. By the way, I realize it right when it happened I said, “Wow, we did exactly that five step process. We acknowledge it, we apologize for happening, we discussed what we’re going to do to fix it and we did we did it with the right attitude, ownership, and then we did it fast, we did it within 10 days, that was pretty quick. 


And I started to think back, “Wow, that’s exactly what I teach my clients to do. I mean, whenever we have a customer service situation in our office—somebody didn’t receive a box of books that they ordered from us—it’s really easy we can do all these five things rather quickly. We acknowledge it, apologize then we’re going to send another box of books out right away, thank them again for their business and we acted fast. And then we followed up to make sure that they receive it this time. That’s easy but how about when you have hundreds and hundreds of people breathing down your neck angry, threatening to leave the association that just a day or two before that they laugh, wow, that is a crisis. And I think we handled it beautifully and we handle it in style of managing a customer or members expectations.


Jim Rembach:     You know, Shep as I’m listening to you tell that story I even thinking about situations personally within family and friends and things like and those experiences, I think we can apply those same five rules to our relationships as a whole, I don’t  think it matters whether or not it’s business.


Shep Hyken:     Any time you had a disagreement it works in your personal and professional life as most good business principles do.


Jim Rembach:    So, when you start talking about where you are and all the things that you’re learning and the passions that you have and the work that you’re doing and the give back, which is just incredible, what are some of the goals that you have for the future?


Shep Hyken:    Wow, my future? I’m a very goal oriented guy and I think that leaders need to be goal-oriented and they need to share those goals with the people they work with and the people around them. By the way, I shared business goals with my wife, so she knew and can grow with me, just as I share the business goals with their team and say, from a financial standpoint.  Let’s go back –you mentioned that I saw a couple motivational speakers and decided, this is what I wanted to do, and one of those speakers is Zig Ziglar who talked about goal setting. In 1983 I set a goal when I was 22 years old at the time or 23 years old just—I just turned 23, I set a ten year goal from age 23 to age 32 and I hit those goals around age 30 or so, I did it about eight years, not ten. 


Then I set another set of 10 year goals, and they’re all financial goals by the way, I needed to make this amount of money in order to be able to build my business, in order to be able to pay for my family’s education and all their well-being, all the good things. When I hit the goals at age 40 I started to move in the lifestyle goals. So, for me, at a certain age—I’m still feeling young and just barely halfway home, so to speak, I’ve got a long way to go. But I know this, I work really very hard, I’ve saved a lot and my goal is to continue to work hard but I what lifestyle to be a good part of that. 


So, I surround myself with good people, those good people are best at what they do which allows me to be freed up to do the things that I’m best at doing and try to focus on what I call ‘retirement’ and I learned this from Dan Sullivan, who’s my coach I go to a coach every quarter Dan Sullivan’s program called, “The Strategic Coach” and basically the  was Michael Chandler code shut record and settlements program called the strategic Coach and definition of retirement is only doing what you love. They are part of my business that I love doing and that I hope I can do until the last days of my life. So, I don’t know if that’s somewhat—zappy, but that’s truly where I’m at right now.


Jim Rembach:    Shep, I think that’s awesome. The Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Alright, here we go Fast Leader legion it’s time for the –Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Shep, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insight fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Shep Hyken are you ready to hoedown?


Shep Hyken:    I’m ready rock and roll time. 


Jim Rembach:    Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?


Shep Hyken:    This is a simple word. Nothing. There’s nothing holding me back. If anything holds me back it’s my own fault and I take personal responsibility and there’s nothing in my mind right now that can hold me back. I surround myself with great people, great people that work with, great people that I aspire to be liked and I take in from all of it. 


Jim Rembach:    What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?


Shep Hyken:    Wow! How about this, don’t ask people to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. I was about 15 years old, I was working at a building doing maintenance and I was struggling to get these weeds out of the ground—I was young, small, these were huge weeds and the owner of the building or the president of the company showed up in his fancy car, had his coat and tie, saw me struggling and he walk over and he told me I was doing it wrong. He took off his sports coat, took off his tie, he got his hands dirty and he started showing me the proper way to get thi big, huge weeds out of the ground. I was like, “Wow! I can’t believe you’d do that” He said, “I would never expect anybody to do something like this if I wouldn’t be willing to do it myself.”


Jim Rembach:    What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?


Shep Hyken:    Reading. I read daily dozens of articles. Every week I read. I read books, I probably read about 30 to 40 books a year.


Jim Rembach:    What do you feel is one of your best resources that helps you lead in business or life?


Shep Hyken:    Wow! One of my best resources, this is a good question. Once again I think the Internet is probably my best resource because I Google alert the topics I’m interested in. Every day it gives me a digests of all the places and the written articles and things I can read and learn from.


Jim Rembach:    Now, Shep is a reader and also an author. Sometimes it’s difficult to recommend a book or two to our legion but do you think you can make your way through it?


Shep Hyken:    Sure  because this is about leadership I have just finished a great book by a woman named, Dina Dwyer-Owens, it’s called “Value, Inc.” And she is an amazing leader in business. She believes that of you have the right core values and can get everybody along with you on that same journey you’re going to be  successful. Values, Inc. great book by Dina Dwyer-Owens. 


Jim Rembach:    Okay, Fast Leader legion, you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to Shep is also offering a free download of his book, Moments of Magic as well as a white paper on how customer service will fix the US economy and that will be available in the show notes pages as well. Okay, Shep, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question:  Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you have been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have back with you but you can’t take everything you can only take one thing, so, what one piece of skill or knowledge would you take back with you? And why?


Shep Hyken:   One word communication. The ability to communicate, the ability to speak and write without that you have nothing—speak, you talk clients, in my business you talk to audience, communicate you write to clients and I write articles. I always tell my friends if there’s something I would have done sooner, I would’ve written my first book sooner than I did. 


Jim Rembach:    Shep Hyken, it was great to spend time with you today. Can you please share with the Fast Leader listeners how they can connect with you?  


Shep Hyken:    Sure, just go straight to my website and there you’ll learn all about I do but there’s also over 350 articles that I’ve written plus, guest bloggers that had posted on my site and check out my YouTube channel which is just Hayken. There’s about 400 videos, I take all of my content and make it available at no charge and you get it in chunks and pieces so that you can watch as quickly and as long as you want to do it. Hope you enjoy.


Jim Rembach:    Shep Hyken, thank you for sharing her knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump? Woot! Woot!


Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the so we can help you move onward and upward faster.