In working with a large store physical retailer recently I noticed that whenever they received an inbound customer phone call they never used their name in the greeting so I asked why not?
The answer they gave me was interesting, “If they have my name then I could get blamed if something goes wrong or they are unhappy.” (Maybe a little fear based culture is present huh)
I knew I wasn’t going to change the fear perception easily so I tried another approach. I asked them to trying adding their name to their phone answering for a day just to see what happens.
The next day I asked how it went and was told that nothing catastrophic happened, in fact the employees said that customers seemed to like it, some customers even took the time to share their name and the tone of the calls seemed to be more friendly and less adversarial. A couple of folks were still reluctant to change permanently but some were convinced enough by the demeanor of the calls to change permanently how they answered.
Customers are human and so are employees, I always believe it is best to encourage and reinforce simple considerate treatment of each other, use a name, listen sympathetically, mirror frustration if it exists, in other words be your best self. In my 30+ years of providing services I have found that most people (98%+) will be considerately human back if you treat them as a person, not a transaction or a task to be completed.
This weekend I had a 30 minute window during which to get some lunch so of course I chose a nearby fast food outlet. Here are the highlights of the experiece:
The order taker took four minutes to get done and the server didn’t listen, she kept trying to steer me to a ‘meal.’
There were no lids for my drink size at the self-serve beverage center.
My order was wrong once I received it and sat down to eat and took a bite.
The tables in the seating area had not been cleaned recently.
So all in all not a good experience. I was going to talk to the manager and provide feedback but my time had run out. I think the solution in this case is pretty basic: Teach employees to listen, keep things clean and stock your supplies. Just basic supervision.
There is a small neighborhood gas station I frequent quite often that has a large sign on the top of each pump that says ‘Value Driven’ that I noticed the other day. It made me start to wonder what they mean by that and why they display it on a sign.
Is that phrase supposed to impress me, influence me to drive more miles and buy more gas? How exactly does a small neighborhood gas station create value for the consumer in the first place? Here is how they do so for me:
Be open early and open late.
Have space at the pump for me when I come to get gas.
Have protection from the weather?
Have good prices, at least relative to the surrounding market?
Have fluid in the windshield wash thingee (no shredded squeegee either, even in winter)
Make sure the credit card swipe process works always.
Have a trash can so I can clean out my car if needed.
Provide free air for my tires.
Sell quick necessities like pop, beer, lottery tickets, etc.
Ok, that is enough of my list and I am sure you would have your own additions as well. My real point here is do you think the company and the marketing professional and the sign maker and the installer and the station owner really thinks that my decision to buy gas here is influenced by that sign?
Do you think anyone actually took the time to talk with customers or the owner/operators of this or another store in helping to craft the phrase or is the ‘Value Driven’ sign added as a feature by the gas pump manufacturer/installer?
This is something to think about as we customer experience professionals go through our day, why do we do some of the things we do? Are they really additive to the experience? There are over 700 stores with this branding, with 4-8 pumps per store this means a couple thousand of these signs were made and installed, a pretty expensive decision. I wonder how the ROI of that decision is measured?
I would prefer the sign said ‘thank you for your business’ with the owners photo on them at least that would tell me the owner recognizes that I shop there.
Note: This superb article was written by my good friend Doug O’Bryon who writes under the moniker The Soundbite Laureate. I concur with the article 100% and thank him for allowing me to post it.
Do Companies Really Want Leaders?
The choir of dissonant voices from corporate America seems to increase each year, with scores of mournful HR departments lamenting their plight, as they recount their sincere, ongoing, yet unsuccessful attempts to recruit leaders, but ending up instead with managers. With the cacophony growing louder and the angst reaching a crescendo, I can hold my tongue no longer. Instead, I’ve decided to enter and exit the discussion with a simple answer:
“The reason you’re ending up with managers instead of leaders is because that’s what you’re recruiting for.”
Tell me – how many classified ads, Career Builder, The Ladders, or 6FigureJobs.com listings have you come across that read, “Wanted: Leader” in their headline? I can answer that for you – ZERO! Sure, you’ve got requests for college graduates, MBA’s, PMP certification, 15-years of experience, Microsoft Office Suite proficiency, or even familiarity with the alternative energy industry. And you’ve got searches for titles like Vice President of Operations, Director of Marketing, Financial Analyst, and Project Manager – and guess what? That’s pretty much exactly what they end up with.
Is Leader Named in Your Organization Chart?
The fact is, there exists no box on the org chart for “Leader” because leaders are – by their very nature – outside the box. And because they exist outside the box, leaders just don’t “fit” – literally and figuratively – into the hierarchy of most corporate structures. And because “Leader” doesn’t exist in the org chart, companies don’t know how to staff for it. So what do they do instead? They simply replicate the structure they’ve always had, and continue to hire managers – who actually fit quite nicely into the boxes on the corporate org chart – and fail to recruit, hire, support, and embrace leaders.
The other thing that most companies don’t understand is that effective, genuine, natural leaders are A. Truly rare, and B. Dangerous. True leaders rock the boat to get things done, which often upsets the status quo, and it is this status quo – sensing their livelihood is at stake – that usually gangs up to oust the leader, and thereby preserve the safety (and bland, incremental performance) of the status quo.
What Exactly is the Difference Between Leader and Manager?
Perhaps the most elegant and insightful description of the demarcation between the leaders and managers that I’ve read was composed a few years ago by an obscure writer in a blog post entitled, “Leadership Unleashed.” Towards the end of his passionate discourse, the author emphatically concludes:
“I believe the reason there are so few leaders is because few have a truly compelling vision, few have the fortitude to take the risk, and because organizations are designed to punish those who aspire to lead. Because leaders are focused on results, their mind is always on the future, predicting how evolving external trends will overlay with existing processes. This outward facing “visionary” posture leaves them little time to “watch their back” and hence extremely vulnerable to “managers” who see them as a threat to the status quo. All too often, organizations will “kill their own” as aspiring leaders are stymied by politically-minded managers, seizing the exposed vulnerability of the risk-takers to deal a death blow, thus ensuring the continued reign of mediocrity.”
America’s 26th president Teddy Roosevelt also had some poignantly insightful things to say about this very matter. His first quote seems to echo the prototypical managers profiled above by stating,
“The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything.”
His other, slightly longer and more famous diatribe amplifies this thought even further:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
No Room for Failure Today
In corporate hiring today, there is no accommodation for failure. A gap in the resume, a risk taken on a startup that failed, or an ambitious venture that was unsuccessful is an automatic disqualification, and the candidate – often very capable and courageous – never makes it through the corporate “search sieve” which was purposefully designed to filter out those who don’t fit into a box.
The tragedy, and the cause of our leadership malaise, is our collective hypocrisy, whereby in one breath we encourage others to take risks and learn from their mistakes, and in the other we punish anyone who has risked enough to fail.
In summary, the reason that management mediocrity continues to reign while giant leaps of achievement gained through genuine leadership remain elusive is because companies reward mediocrity – the game of playing politics and playing it “safe” – and punishes those innovative, out-of-the-box leader personalities, either denying them access on the front end, or pushing them out the back end. The established, entrenched notion that the best, most capable, and most creative leaders progress in an incremental, linear career path from college diploma to Board Director is patently false and painfully archaic, yet firms are too frightened or too lazy to change.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this. If you want transformation, if you want true leadership, if you desire out-of-the-box talent, you need to know how to look for it, where to look for it, and most importantly – you must have the courage to know WHY you’re looking for it. My favorite definition for insanity is doing the same thing, the same way, and expecting different results.
Corporate America – you’ve reaped what you’ve sown. Great leaders are out there – because that’s where you’ve pushed them. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going into battle, I’ll take the guy with deep cuts in his armor and some blood on his sword, over the guy with the spotless shield and the pristine sword EVERY TIME!
When you are pursuing your next career adventure like I am one of the things you do is talk to a lot of people. Of course I talk about my business experience and my desire to make a positive difference in the world. But…
I have found myself using a new term for me, I like to say in the realm of technology that I am an ‘applied technologist’ meaning what I really care about is what you can do with a technology and not so much the technology itself.
So I thought I would throw on my blog here a photo of my home-office tech rig (Click it to enlarge). What you can see is my 15″ Dell laptop, a 22″ Acer Monitor, a Motorola Xoom tablet and my Livescribe pen. Not present is my DroidX phone which is busy take the photo.
Comments on use of each:
The laptop is my main typing device, I still use it portable occasionally if I know I will need to type a lot. I have found the Dell to be a great machine, 2 years old and runs flawlessly.
The large monitor I use when needing to edit something or just want to be able to have mulitple displays of some content at the same time. I find have two monitors really ramps up the pace of which I can do work on the computer.
The Xoom tablet I got last year as we (AWH) were starting to push our software development into the mobile world, I found it easier to speak with employees and clients about applications if I actually had a device as the hub of conversation.
The Livescribe has really come in handy when I have only have pen and paper, with it I can capture notes, record the conversation and easily review and share it with others, it also turns out the Livescribe is also a software platform and all for $99.
My DroidX (not shown) has become a real workhorse, it is my primary email device, phone of course and reading platform, documents, kindle books, dropbox files and there are apps for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+, not to mention camera, camcorder, scanner and more. It is getting a little slow so later this year I hope to upgrade to a faster processor.
Ok, friends, family and visitors there’s a brief look at the tech stuff you all chide me about.
Belonging is part of being human….Growth in human beings is like the growth of plants and of trees. We need to be rooted in earth, nourished by this earth and by the sun, water, and air in order to grow and to reach fulfillment, to bear fruit and give new life.
If this ‘earth’ is a place of language and a culture, it is essentially made up of people, people to whom we are bonded, committed people who love and appreciate us, people who call us forth to healthy relationships, openness, and love. Without other human beings, we close up in fear.
Our personalities deepen and grow as we live in openness and respect for others, when weakness is listened to and the weak are empowered; that is to say, when people are helped to truly be themselves, to own their lives and discover their capacity to give life to others.
Fear closes us down; love opens us up…
Social Media, the latest form for practicing love and respect.
First off I am well over 30 but I and some older associates are cooking up new business ideas and we are drawn directly or through recommendation to consider using some of the new business incubators that exist in our home state.
However we are finding the structure of the incubators difficult to access for individuals our age with some pretty critical financial responsibilities, you know things like mortgages, car payments, health insurance, college expenses, food, heat, light, water, you get it.
While we think the incubator model is great, and the process is great, the financial funding provided by most entities while incubating does not support older entrepreneurs who have these types of financial responsibilities. It might be enough to support some core living expenses and work progress on your idea but the lack of enough funding to care for familial responsibilities serves as a barrier to older entrepreneurs.
Here are a couple of the descriptive lines of one of our states, taxpayer supported incubator entities:
“Accelerating Young Entrepreneur Start-Ups” or
“10 Young Entrepreneurial teams will be selected from within”
That begs the question what does ‘Young’ mean? Maybe we should just start an incubator labeled, “Accelerating Mature, Seasoned Entrepreneurial Start-ups.” Not all great business ideas come from the young but it seems we think innovation can only happen at a certain age.I think innovation can happen at any age. Of course maybe I am a bit biased…
As I got closer and stopped to watch for a bit it dawned on me to think about:
Who are the guys working in the hole?
What are they doing?
What makes the steam happen?
How did they learn how to do this work?
How long have the pipes down in the hole been around?
Do all of us appreciate the workers and the ownership taken to solve these types of problems?
I for one am thankful for the millions of workers of all types who daily work on the invisible structures that we come to rely on in our world. From wireless carriers to ‘cloud’ data storage companies to understreet water departments. It is truly a miracle that it all seems to continuously work pretty well.
I happened to have a meeting this past week with the Episcopal Church’s Bishop of Northern Ohio (www.dohio.org) Mark Hollingsworth to discuss the Capital Campaign our church is doing. I and three fellow members reviewed with him our case elements, attendance figures, pledge rates and other facts and figures pertinent to raising a million dollars.
Finally at one point he asked us, “What Can I Do to Help?” So one of our responses was to pray for us, of course he said he would but then he added, “You know when you pray for others you are really praying for yourself.” This question, at the time kind of floated by all of us without much comment but ever since has been stuck in my brain and won’t go away.
On the way home a friend I rode with to the meeting and I actually brought up that comment and started to talk about it. My friend said of course when we pray for others it is for ourselves, what do you think God keeps a score sheet and whomever gets prayed for the most is paid attention to? Isn’t the hungry child we don’t know as valuable to God as the one we do know and pray for?
Is My Prayer for Others Just a Prayer for Me?
I can answer yes because it does make me feel better to have asked God to help others. Of course I pray directly for myself and my needs. I guess in both cases it reflects to me that I do believe in God and that I believe my prayer matters.
Maybe prayer for others is really just the first awareness of the things that we should be taking action upon and not just pray for. If I pray for the hungry what am I doing to feed them, if I pray for equal justice what am I doing to bring it about and so on.
What this really means and maybe why some people don’t pray much (even Christians) is that prayer is us surfacing to ourselves those things that we need to pay attention to in our life and is God’s way of making us do so.
So resisting prayer may really be a way of hiding.