Frances Frei – Widely regarded as one of the top business strategy experts in the world, Frances Frei is the UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management at Harvard Business School and the co-author of the best selling book, Uncommon Service. Her research and keynotes focus on how leaders can compete on excellence by designing, managing, and scaling exceptional service organizations.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Frei’s research has shaped the strategies of the world’s most competitive companies. Some of her most influential and talked-about publications include “The Four Things a Service Business Must Get Right” (Harvard Business Review, 2008) and the groundbreaking article, “Stop Holding Yourself Back” (Harvard Business Review, 2011). Her case studies examine companies from multiple industries, including financial services, government, retail, software, telecommunications, and travel and leisure. Dr. Frei’s more recent research focuses on how to increase diversity and inclusion at work, and how doing so improves an organization’s performance. Her advice is frequently sought by senior executives looking to transform their organizational culture and scale their business.

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  • Sustaining excellence =
    • Cannot beat the competition of everything. Must realize that.
    • Be different than competitors.
  • The #1 obstacle to excellence:
    • Steve Jobs – MacBook Air. If you’re going to be great, what are you willing to be bad at?
      •  When should you disappoint customers? “In order to be great, you have to be bad. We need the wisdom to know what to be great at.” — This is particularly difficult for service organizations…
  • Cara Shortsleeve – CEO of The Leadership Consortium: The two types of feedback:
    • Evaluative feedback – Done annually
    • Improvement oriented – Need positive reinforce: sincere, specific, actionable.
    • “You need a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative”
  • Why the “PCP” (praise, criticism, praise) method is not useful:
    • It’s not useful if it’s not authentic. “Feedback is to make someone better. You need positive reinforcement.”
  • Be obsessed with trust:
    • Empathy, logic, authenticity –> Leadership lessons from ancient Rome
  • “How to disagree — Reasonable people can disagree. Understand the context.”
    • “This is not obvious. This is why our leaders job is so hard.”
  • Empathy – Others need to experience your empathy. You must be present. Don’t use your phone.
  • Logic – You must be competent
  • Frances was rejected by Harvard five times!
    • Her ability and willingness to persevere — “Don’t let mere mortals define your life.” Sometimes people make the wrong decision. Don’t let that define your life.
  • Empower someone who is different from you
  • Basketball player — Learned about reliance. “I learned that I liked to be relied on.”
    • Reliability = trust
  • “Just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” – Toni Morrison
  • Trust has three drivers: authenticity, logic, and empathy. When trust is lost, it can almost always be traced back to a breakdown in one of them. To build trust as a leader, you first need to figure out which driver you “wobble” on.
  • “Leadership, at its core, is about making other people better as a result of your presence—and making sure that the impact lasts in your absence.”
  • “In our experience, the number one obstacle to great service—number one by a long shot—is the emotional unwillingness to embrace weakness.”
  • Her experience working with Travis Kalanick and Uber:
    • “He admitted his faults.” He was humbled.
    • She taught 1,500 people about management/leadership and how to think strategically.
  • “Set the standards”
  • Here is WHY joining a Learning Leader Circle is a good idea…


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