I have a dear friend named Russ Jefferies. He happens to also to be my HVAC guy. I’ve always wondered what HVAC means. Heating. Ventilation. Air Conditioning. I could write a book about Russ. I’d call it Russ’s Way. It would become a national bestseller. Because, if we all lived our lives and ran our businesses like the way Russ lives his life and runs his business, we’d all be tremendously successful–both personally and professionally.

Russ has a heart bigger than his business. And because of that, his business is bigger than he ever imagined. Funny how that works.

The other day Russ shared with me this story:

Although his job is to repair heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, Russ also inspects every home he works in. Just the kind of guy he is. He noticed, over the years, that most homes do not have fire extinguishers and nearly half of the installed fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors do not work properly. And this is the case with high-end homes too. Sadly, this number grows to over 80% with low-economic homes and apartments.

So, what does Russ do?

He starts a nonprofit called Code Red Heart (www.coderedheart.org). And for every high-end home that he gets paid to inspect fire extinguishers and alarms, he serves and inspects one economically challenged family’s home-providing fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors all free of charge. Who does that?

Russ Jefferies does.

After doing this for the past couple years, Russ realized that there are thousands and thousands of homes in Denver that do not have proper alarms, detectors, and extinguishers. So, Russ decided he would visit local fire stations in the metro-Denver area and share this problem with the fire chiefs. Perhaps Russ could train the firefighters throughout Denver on how to inspect, repair, and/or install fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Here comes the point of this story.

When he walked into the fire chief’s office, here were literally the first words out of the fire chief’s mouth, “What do you want from me?” Not “Hello.” Not “How can I help?” But instead, “What do you want from me?”

Six words a Heart-Led Leader would never say.

Russ shared with me how disappointed he was with the fire chief’s response. Broke his spirit.

Got me thinking.

Yesterday I was on a flight to San Francisco. When I was sitting in my seat, the gentleman sitting behind me accidentally bonked my head with his luggage as he was boarding. [Sidebar: when I was a kid, I had a relative that smacked wooden spoons over my head to discipline me. To this day, I can’t be tapped, hit, patted, smacked, bonked, or even touched on my head. It puts me in state of (emotional) pain and I’m literally out with a migraine headache for the rest of the day.]

After my head got bonked, I went up to the flight attendant to ask her for some water so I could take four Advil. Here were the first words out of her mouth: “What do you need from me?” Not “Hello.” Not “How can I help?”

Just “What do you need from me?”

I went into our local Ace Hardware store last week to buy some light bulbs. I wasn’t in the store ten seconds when a friendly guy walked right up to me and asked, “How can I help you?”

Five of the most beautiful words: “How can I help you?”

We all have people…customers…clients…staff members…and employees…that visit our offices. Our stores. Our businesses. Our places of work.

And we can react to these people in one of three ways:
1)    What do you want from me?
2)    What do you need from me?
3)    How can I help you?

It doesn’t matter if you are in the fire chief’s office, on an airplane, or in an Ace Hardware store–our response to people we serve should always be the same: How can I help you? How can I serve you?

My wife always says, “What comes out of our mouths is actually what’s coming out of our hearts.”

What is in our hearts when we say, “What do you want from me?”

What is in our hearts when we say, “What do you need from me?”

I know the answer: not Heart-Led Leadership.

And you don’t need someone to whack you over the head with a wooden spoon to teach you this!