As a student at the University of Southern Mississippi, I began a love affair that has endured throughout the better part of two decades. No, the affair of which I speak was not with one of the beautiful southern belles that make up 60 percent of the student body, but rather with a dirty, disgusting looking, beady-eyed little creature called the crawfish. Until I ventured onto the USM campus in the early nineteen nineties, the only crawfish I had ever seen had been in the creek behind my parent’s house and the thought of actually putting it in my mouth never crossed my mind. Imagine my surprise and trepidation when I was invited to a fraternity party only to find rows of tables covered in newspaper with piles of red, steaming, crawfish waiting to be devoured. As the Zydeco band played in the background, one of my buddies showed me how to pinch the head off of the little lobster like creature, peel back the first layer of shell on the tail and pull the meat out with my teeth. I was hooked. It was the most wonderful tasting food I had ever eaten. It even made the beer taste better. I later learned that for generations of Louisiana folks and Southern Mississipians, crawfish is social fare in the same way that chili is for Texans, clams are for New Englanders, and fried catfish is for my native Alabamians. I also learned that they take pride in the spiciness of their crawfish. Cayenne pepper is the predominate seasoning for boiled crawfish, and for many daring souls, the hotter the better. When crawfish season was approaching, arguments would begin to float around the halls of the ATO house as my fraternity brothers would boast about who made the spiciest crawfish. When I later observed one of my drunken brethren writhing on the ground in pain, wiping his tongue after sampling a crawfish boiled in his personal blend of spice, I decided that it takes no great skill to dump heaps of cayenne pepper into a pot of boiling water. The real test is can you eat your own crawfish?
Not long ago I gave four speeches for a major utility company in Tennessee. After the event, I was chatting with the meeting planner who told me of a negative experience they had with a previous speaker. I was told that he was really good, highly energetic and well-liked by the audience. He talked about not letting the little things get you down and negatively impact your attitude. She said it was well received until the second day when he arrived complaining about his hotel room, the noise next door, and the food, among other things. This is a speaker who talks about not letting the little things impact your attitude and all he was doing was complaining about the little things. My contact said that she and her staff were put off because this person obviously did not practice what he was paid to preach. This guy didn’t eat his own crawfish.
Are you a good ambassador of your credit union’s value proposition? Do you preach service but don’t promptly return phone calls? Do you promote a positive attitude but allow your frustration to show? Do you talk about teamwork but reject input? Do you encourage donating but don’t give back in your community? The most successful leaders tend to be the ones whose behavior becomes the model for excellence. Simply said … they eat their own crawfish.
THREE INGREDIENTS FOR KILLER CRAWFISH … THAT YOU CAN EAT:
1. A TABLESPOON OF TRUTH: If you can’t take the heat … don’t make it so hot. Too many times we will promise anything to close the sale or pacify our members. If you can’t deliver on what you promise, then don’t promise so much. You will always be judged on the margin by which you fail to deliver … and rightly so.
2. A DASH OF OVER-DELIVERY: Don’t just do what you say you are going to do … OVERDO. The cajuns have a word, LAGNIAPPE, which means “a little bit extra”. The difference between good and great is found in the lagniappe.
3. A HEAPING HELPING OF ATMOSPHERE: “Laissez les bons temps rouler – let the good times roll.” The best way to enjoy crawfish is in a group of people who are drinking beer, dancing, and having a great time. What kind of atmosphere are you creating? People want to buy from, learn from, work with, and do business with those whom they enjoy being around. If you are not reaching your goals, then look at the messenger.