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5 Things Dads Teach Us About Leadership and Customer Service

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

Father’s Day is the day we all say thank you to Dad.

Let’s face it, he taught us the value of keeping the thermostat at the right temperature and the finer points of lawn maintenance. I know that I have become the leader I am because of the many life lessons my Dad taught me, and I can only hope I have managed to have the same impact on my son. I know as a Father that I took that job very seriously, as I believe you have to instill as many amazing values as you can to inspire lifelong success with your kids. I know I am a very proud son and an even prouder father.

I promised during my Mother’s Day article that I would be sure to discuss how Dads everywhere inspire leadership and guest engagement. As my Dad taught me to always keep my promises, here is what I believe Fathers everywhere can teach us about serving our guests.

As I tally up the lessons my Dad taught me, and that I tried to instill in my son, I can tell you that there is much we can thank Dad for. I know I would not be nearly the Leader I am today without the guidance of my father. It took me a while to learn that lesson, but I have embraced fully now as I've gotten older.

So the list of things Dads teach us about customer service and Leadership has five pillars:

Don’t Bore People With Your Problems: Dads taught us to be positive. I think most of us were taught when people ask how we are doing to smile and say “Just Fine Thanks,” and I was no exception. I think when we learn to focus on the positives in all aspects of our lives, superior results follow. When we serve our guests beginning with a positive and friendly attitude that sets the tone for the entire experience. Let’s face it, negativity is draining and a waste of energy, so starting from a place of positivity is like bottling success. There is no doubt that our customers don’t want to hear us or our teams complaining, nor do those we work with. Those we report to will not consider you up-and-coming leadership material if you are always in the midst of some negative diatribe. Now that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t share your thoughts on process improvements or things that aren’t working – but come armed with a positive counterpoint: THE SOLUTION!

Leaders love that to be sure. Also, remember the base psychology of the matter – folks generally like positive people much more readily than those who are always grumbling. While it isn’t a popularity contest, nothing was every damaged in the customer service experience because our guests liked us too much.

Hard Work is Important, but not Everything: Many a Father lamented that his family should know he cares because he worked hard. And absolutely we did. I can tell you that I made that mistake early on until I realized that hard work was only half the battle. Recognition is needed to make sure that everyone knows they are appreciated and valued.

I learned (probably too late) that spending more time with my son had more impact than being able to give him more stuff.

When leaders take the stance that the paycheck is the teams’ reward for a job well done and serving the guest is just a part of the daily grind, it is only a matter of time before morale crumbles. The team needs to be recognized for doing a great job and it must be consistent and relevant. It doesn’t have to be complicated or involved. It also doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. In fact, keep it simple and personal, and you’ll be sure to get everyone’s attention.

Here is the magic formula: When folks do something good, tell them. You can speak to them in person (preferred to be sure), write them a note, or call them out in a meeting (be sure to discuss with them first). Everyone likes a slightly different flavor of recognition, so craft accordingly, but the key is to be sure folks know they are appreciated and that they did well. So work hard, inspire your team to work hard, but remember there is more to delivering that great customer experience that just hard work. You have to adopt the soft touch items as well if you are to gain, and build upon, your positive momentum.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush: My Dad took me to breakfast one morning when I was 4 and told me that I was going to have a baby sister very soon – shortly thereafter my sister Kristine came along. No ambiguity, no opacity, and no question – this was what was happening. I learned transparency from my Dad long before it was a buzzword in the business world. Let’s face it, if you tell the truth, and do so with kindness, that will ultimately lead to loyalty. There is a special kind of bond created by leaders who are honest and forthright with their teams. That is the main point to understand here: When a team respects and believes in their Leaders, they will push the agenda with gusto. Your agenda should always include customer service, so that means you can apply the currency you’ve earned from your team to pay forward amazing Guest experiences.

Be Self Sufficient: Fathers are often great when it comes to inspiring self-sufficiency. They teach their children how to change their tires, cook the perfect steak, or put together those “some assembly required” items. I’m not sure why there are always so many pieces left over, but they showed us how nonetheless. The lesson here was the take ownership of your life, career, health, and learning. I often hear so many lament that they aren’t being developed by their organizations or that they don’t have the tools to serve their Guests.

My Tip: Use all the great tools out there and get to work.

There are training programs, books, E-Learnings, and a myriad of tools online. If you have a personal budget that can accommodate a seminar, pony up the cash and attend one. You can find great classes ranging from the John Maxwell one day courses for a few hundred dollars to classes at the Disney Institute that could be several thousand dollars.

I have taken both and found amazing value in each – worth every single penny and minute invested. Of course, these are only as good as the time and effort you put into applying them in your everyday life.

If you are on a tighter budget, there are a wealth of free resources out there. Your local Chamber of Commerce, library, YouTube, or Industry publications likely offer low or no cost learning opportunities. Take advantage of them all.

Be creative and invest in your future career and your Customer’s future experiences.

I know this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what fathers teach us and show us about being leaders and how to deliver top notch service.

I know so many of us owe who we have become to our fathers or those who filled that role of “Dad” for us – it could have been an Uncle, an older brother, or even a mentor later in life.

All of that said, when you are blessed enough to have someone like my Dad, you learn the right kinds of lessons. Not always the easy lessons. Often not the fun lessons. But always the lessons that make us better.

These are the lessons that set us up to be great leaders and to deliver the amazing experiences that our leaders and employees expect, demand, and deserve.

Until next time, give your Dad a call and thank him – and keep your customers at the center of everything you do.


Tony Johnson, CCXP

Customer Experience Speaker | Author |Trainer | Consultant



Improve Your Customer Service with my Book:

TOGETHER WE SERVE: Four Proven Strategies to Create Winning Experiences for Your Guests and Your Team Click to Purchase on


Tony is an award winning speaker and author on the topics of sales growth, customer experience, and leadership. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has been featured on ABC News and Fox News. He is available for customer service training, business planning, motivational keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service skills training.

Tony is the founder of Ignite Your Service and the Chief Experience Officer for 4xi Global Consulting.



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