While he admits, “There’s no fix that fixes everything,” Kiedinger believes his company’s About Me Cards program helps people connect and communicate more effectively by identifying and understanding an individual’s motivations.
The communication tool is the culmination of more than three years of research. And it all boils down to the concept of servant leadership – a philosophy in which leaders aim to serve by addressing and respecting the needs of others.
A few years ago, Kiedinger, a De Pere native, longtime performer and advertising/marketing guru, had been teaching servant leadership to corporate leadership teams. But he was looking for a more tangible way to engage audiences to put the philosophy in practice.
After several years of research – including studying an array of personality tests and other indicators of personal motivators – Kiedinger hit upon an assessment program that culled a person’s motivations, based on their personal passions. It wasn’t in the portable, concise package he was seeking, but Kiedinger boiled down the essence of the assessment into his
About Me Cards, which are about the size of business cards. They list Dos, Don’ts and “What you can expect from me” statements. “These are your values, and it’s very hard to fake values,” he says.
Kiedinger says people often get frustrated when they don’t understand others’ motivations. And he notes that one mistake many leaders make is they too often point out flaws and phrase concerns in negative terms. “You don’t just say, ‘You’re wrong’ without pointing out what’s wrong,” he says.
But why does effective, positive communication matter? Kiedinger admits that all corporate leaders may not embrace servant leadership. “It is not for everyone. You have to do it because you truly care.”
Still, he believes, “even the average manager can become excellent.” For change to happen though, he says, a manager needs to understand an employee’s motivations – whether that is positive feedback, praise in public or unbridled honesty.
After many years in advertising and marketing, Kiedinger says he’s learned that “marketing is culture, strategy and advertising.” However, somewhere along the way, corporate leaders often forget that first factor.
“No one does culture,” he says. “They don’t know how to because it speaks to our values.”
But, he says, “Everything is marketing.” Employees who feel unhappy or demoralized, for example, will likely not present a positive view of their company, especially to clients and consumers.
By placing expectations up front, About Me Cards can also have a very real and measurable impact. Dahl Automotive in Onalaska, which has been using the tool for about a year and a half, has seen employee retention rise incrementally. Parts manager Tim McCallson says he used to lose about one quick-lube technician each month, prior to instituting the About Me Cards. That occurrence is now rare, he says, and they even have several techs with one year or more of service.
“We use the About Me Card for every meeting with every employee,” he says, enthusiastically adding that it provides a “perfect balance” between the leaders and employees (who, he admits, were initially hesitant to participate).
“It gets us on the same level; we’re up front with each other, and it’s all positive.”
That kind of communication and connection fuels Kiedinger in his goals of promoting the About Me Cards to businesses and beyond – including schools, families and other organizations.
And seeing About Me in practice, engaging people and leading to viable and useful conversation is what ultimately motivates Kiedinger.
“It’s connects people,” Kiedinger says. “That’s what inspires us.”
For more information, visit www.aboutmecard.com.