Creating the customer condition

Last week I encountered a very interesting customer situation. It was early morning and I was getting some breakfast at a cafeteria-style place at work. The short order cook clearly was not in a good mood. He was making orders and serving them up with a “I could care less” attitude. I watched him for a few minutes until I requested my items. He simply asked, “What can I get you?”

I placed my order and took my breakfast items. It was a simple encounter and I honestly didn’t think anything of it at that moment.

I got my coffee (self serve) and went to the register to pay. Here, the lady working the register was energetic, excited, and pleasant. She was very excited that it was a Friday.

I smiled and greeted her, paid my bill, and wished her a great weekend.

As I sat and ate my breakfast, I started to reflect on what just happened. In a matter of just a few minutes, two customer service workers drove in me a condition of response. Their attitude toward their work, affected my attitude toward them.

I never addressed the cook politely or said please and thank you. Yet, I was super polite to the lady on the cash register. In both situations, they created my customer condition.

If you ever wonder about the experience your employees create for customers, this was a perfect example. It took me several minutes of reflection to actually notice what had happened to me in this encounter. Imagine my day, if the cook had been the last person in the process and I went to work then versus after the lady at the cash register.

Through their actions and attitude, your employees create a customer condition. Something to think about.

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A Lesson from Life in Leadership

Here is the perfect lesson in leadership. Not to be political, but to share a point. Clearly, if the results were different, I’m wondering if the actions would have been any different. However, this was a poignant lesson in leadership just the same.

Election night thousands of Clinton supporters waited for hours throughout the day. They stood and watched, all exuberant when the initial polling reports came in. They stood and watched as the numbers started coming in. They stood and watched as the expected New England states started flipping for Clinton. They stood and watched as critical swing states like Ohio and Florida were lost. They stood and waited for their leader.

They stood and waited for something that never came!

Behind the scenes, Clinton was calling Trump to concede, while on stage she had sent her Campaign Manager, John Podesta, address her supporters. “Go home,” he said, “we’re not done yet.”

Yes…yes, you are. 

The moment the leader fails to be a leader and abdicates their responsibility to another is the moment the leader stops becoming a leader. 

By sending Podesta to address (and lie) to her thousands of supporters, she has shown that this is all about her and not about them. A servant leader would have empathized with her people and would have known that they needed her to speak.
Instead, she called, conceded, and went home to bed. The next day she called a press conference at 10 am, but didn’t speak until almost noon. This time it was only to staff, aides, and cameras. Worse yet, the loss was blamed, through veiled statements, on a system designed to keep a woman from the Oval Office. 

This was the best display of poor leadership, demonstrated at the highest levels. What to learn from this:

1. If you lose, something fails, it breaks, etc., get out there and address your people. Be transparent and provide them closure.

2. You’re in charge. Accept the blame and move on. Blaming anything and everything else on the failure might make you feel better about yourself, but it robs you of control of the situation. Taking ownership, means taking control and that’s what your people want to see–it provides hope, not defeat.

Please take a lesson from this and not be like this.

https://www.google.com/amp/www.vox.com/platform/amp/policy-and-politics/2016/11/9/13572218/clinton-concession-speech-not-speaking?client=ms-android-att-us

Mentor or Coach

Over lunch a couple of days ago, we were discussing the subject of mentors and coaches and started to highlight the difference in the roles. Sometimes people can seemlessly operate in both roles at once, so the roles do not seem distinctly different, but they are.

We discussed a few items that seem to differentiate the two roles:

One of the items was Blind Spots. Coaching is designed to identify blind spots, where mentorship is more designed to overcome blind spots once identified. Sometimes the coach can guide the coachee in ways to overcome the blind spot, while in other situations they might recommend they obtain training or a mentor.

Another item was Proximity. Coaches are generally involved with what they are coaching you on, whereas a mentor is someone you mostly meet with to discuss things with. Coaches tend to actively participate in the thing they are coaching you on so they can witness your actions and provide advice and direction if improvement is needed.

Another item was Selection and Appointment. Although some organizations have more formal mentorship programs, generally coaching relationships are formal and assigned for a specific reason. Mentors are normally sought out to discuss and close a gap.

When we were discussing the subject, we discussed two different types of coaches–Lean Six Sigma and Executive. Both of these are very specific roles where an individual is involved with what is going on in a coachee’s life. In Lean Six Sigma, for example, the coach is engaged with every step of a coachee’s project,  guiding them in the application of the skills they should have learned already. If the coach recognizes that the coachee has difficulty in running meetings or presentations, they might suggest that the coachee obtain additional training in those areas. If the coach notices that the coachee has trouble with time management, they might suggest establishing a mentorship relationship with someone that they know is particularly good at time management. If the coach is good at time management, they might quickly switch into that mentor role, but this is outside of the original coaching arrangement.

This is why people often see coaches and mentors as the same thing–they can cover more areas than what they are specifically coaching for. In the case of an executive coach, the coach might be able to provide all kinds of advice and assistance on leadership and employee motivation. However, they probably would suggest the executive have a mentor if the coachee is trying to learn how to navigate the company’s culture toward promotion.

When you think about the roles, this should help you better delineate what each does and which you need.

The Employee Engagement Discussion

For the last ten years, businesses have focused on employee engagement and its cost to businesses. Pretty much any report or study on engagement points out that about 70% of employees in the U.S. are not engaged at work and it is costing businesses approximately $500 billion a year.

Unfortunately, this employee-focused issue has not changed since before the 1950s when the emphasis was on employee satisfaction.  In the 1980s, the emphasis turned to organizational commitment.  The business issue; however, has not changed since researchers started studying and quantifying the situation more than 70 years ago.

There are a few major companies out there that have found some success in this arena and have become the poster childs for how they treat their employees.  Like in everything else, many companies think if they simply do the same visible things that they will be successful and their survey results will go up.

Speaking of survey results; when it comes to this topic, this is another important aspect. The purpose of surveying employees on their engagement (or whatever employee-focused thing) is to quantify how employees feel about the organization. Many companies do not even measure this, which tells someone a lot about how much they care about the issue. A good deal others use the survey results to target specific things in the organization to raise the score. This is a failed approach to employee improvement.  Surveys are for the purpose of providing a gauge of how engaged your employees are, not specifically a roadmap to improvement.

When you look at this issue from the business’ point of view, they do not really care if the employee is satisfied or engaged at work. They just know that if the employee is not, they are not operating as well as they should. What organizations want is employees committed to the organization–organizational commitment.

Employees, on the other hand, do not care about being committed. What they want is to be satisfied with their job–employee satisfaction.

The concept of “being engaged” is a deeper subject that most companies and employees simply do not understand. Employee satisfaction represents how employees feel about the things they can measure in their job. Organizational commitment is a result of satisfied and engaged employees and is measured from the business’ point of view.  But engagement is something entirely different.

Each of these three terms: satisfaction, commitment, and engagement, work together in business. Each one is important and should be the focus of employee and organizational wellbeing.

From a satisfaction point of view, employees are focused on the tangible things that they can measure at work.  Things such as the security of their position, comusurate pay and benefits with their role in comparison to others, recognition and rewards, opportunity for advancement, the company dress code, etc.

From an organizational commitment perspective, there are three factors that exist: employee, leadership, and organization. Employees must be present and they must be dedicated to work. If the company does not have any employees, then who will be committed to the organization? If the employees are lazy and not interested in working hard–just want to get paid–then they will not be committed. If there is no effective leadership to provide a vision and goals, or reward and recognize employees, then commitment cannot occur. The organization might have people in leadership positions, but they might not be leaders. Lastly, the organization must not just exist, but it needs to be an organization worth being committed to. If your organization does not have a strong purpose, vision, and culture, employees find difficulty being committed to it.

Engagement is the term that confuses managers the most. The reason is, because it is really based on how employees feel about their job.  This is difficult for companies to manage to, so most resort to single items scored low on a survey. Employee satisfaction was easy to manage to because, like the employee, the company could see, touch, and measure it. What confuses engagement even further is that many of the surveys out there include questions related to commitment and satisfaction as part of the engagement equation.

Employees are engaged by three things at work. These three things are communication, development, and quality. These things are not obvious to organizations and usually are some of the major problem areas many companies have. Open and honest communication builds relationships and trust with leadership and between employees. Most organizations stuggle with communication (internal and external).  Development is more than having classes available or a training budget that no one uses. Development is about actively challenging employees to grow and helping them with the challenge. It is about assisting them to become something better and stronger then they were when they started with the company. Quality is a recognition of doing good work, that employees around you are doing good work, and that the management focuses on quality work.  If the company does not care, cuts corners, and puts out a shoddy product just to make more money, the employees will be the first to know it.

So, the discussion needs to turn from one of engagement to one of organizational and employee wellbeing. All things, satisfaction, commitment, and engagement should be evaluated to establish a baseline and then to measure effective improvement. For each category, the right things need to occur versus focusing only on statements and scores on a survey. Only then will wellbeing occur.

Kickstarter Project: Overcoming Organizational Myopia

Overcoming Organizational Myopia, stovepipes, sandboxes, short sightedness

At 2:30 pm, Central Time, on June 27, 2015, KS Project, Overcoming Organizational Myopia lifted off.  Overcoming Organizational Myopia will be a new nonfiction book about successfully breaking through stovepiped organizations to obtain organizational effectiveness.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1551087231/overcoming-organizational-mypoia

The Short Story: I discovered that it really does not matter what company or organization I work with, they all have stovepipes.  What I learned is that they are a product of human nature.  The problem is that everyone wants to “break down the silos” as the typical management response. Unfortunately, this NEVER works! All you do is cause confusion and drive unproductivity as the people in your business seek to rebuild the stovepipes that make them feel secure.  This book is about breaking through the stovepipes to become an effective and efficient organization.  It respects the stovepipes and teaches you how to navigate through them using a consistent and systematic application of full-spectrum strategic and organizational methods.  The book is designed to provide you with situational examples so you can self-diagnose your organization.  Across nine areas, the book helps you identify problem areas and, like a business doctor, treat the root causes with solid business solutions.

Bad Leadership is Becoming an Epidemic

It might be me, but the more I look around, the more I am finding bad leadership. Specifically leadership apathy and leaders that lack accountability. “It’s good enough” leaders and leaders who are “just getting by.”

“Why are we seeing this,” I ask myself?

Bad leaders hire and promote bad people. Bad Leadership isn’t just destroying corporate America, but they are doing it at a record pace and doing it way into the future.

These leadership charlatans are building armies of apathy to follow in their footsteps. If you are someone that gets things done, you are kept in a position to get things done because bad leaders don’t want you–you threaten them.

No wonder more than 70% of employees are disengaged at work. Who wouldn’t be with such a sorry leadership outlook.

Often, we talk about the qualities and actions of good leadership, but I think it is important that we learn to spot bad leadership. Here are the top ten results of bad leadership:

1. The realm under the leader has little if no strategy or plan to inspire and drive people. Literally there is no vision, the purpose of the business is primarily focused on making money, becoming bigger, and taking care of itself. Any goals are developed to ensure each subordinate leader can justify their position in the strategic plan and do little to overcome barriers to a future vision. Any vision and goals are such low targets that they in most cases have already been attained.

2.  Program accountability is slowly eroding and nothing is done about it (i.e., deadlines are missed, people not qualified are in positions, reports are misleading, etc.). Expectation barely exists in the organization because targets, rules, and requirements are ignored. Organizations like audit, risk, and compliance are seen as the enemy and kept away from the organization. When there is a finding from one of these organizations, the leaders spends all resources to make it go away and cover it up, but does little to nothing to solve the root causes that created the issue in the first place.

3.  There is a complete lack of organizational performance and process management and accountability. No one knows deeper than monthly what they are doing from a measurement perspective and there is a complete lack of process focus. Everyone simply does their own thing and what little process documentation is lodged tightly in the heads of the employees and passed down like tribal knowledge. Knowledge systems are busting at the seems with senseless information without any organization. Variance across processes run rampant and unchecked.

4.  There is a significant lack of communication both internally and externally. What communication that is occuring lacks any direction or strategic intent. The leadership doesn’t even know who their stakeholders are to communicate to. The term customer is used, but they are a faceless entity that nothing is really known about. Specifications for work are all internally created and bear no resemblance to competition or what customers actually want. In some cases, the customer is seen and portrayed as the enemy.

5.  The organizational structure looks like a Christmas tree and is broken into functional and operational departments that are so siloed that the company looks like an island chain. There is little communication and less cooperation across departments. Each silo is only focused on what they do for themselves, they see everyone else as a competitor for money and manpower, and they simply throw work over the wall versus work in an end-to-end process.

6.  Education and training opportunities might exist, but there is no plan or strategy to develop employees and leaders. The activity, if it happens at all, is chaotic and clearly broken. Employees mainly spend resources to gain skill through training so they can leave the company.

7.  Operational effectiveness, based in things like defect counting, process timing, first pass yield, on time delivery, customer satisfaction, etc. is barely looked at (if at all) and nothing of substance is done about it.

8.  Leaders across the organization focus on tactical operations, ignore problems, lack methodical problem solving, micromanage work, and have little vision at work.

9.  Good, hard working employees are consistently overlooked for promotion opportunities and are kept “getting the work done.”  The great employees have either turned apathetic in the workplace, are looking for other opportunities, or have already left.

10.  Almost all the leadership and management below a bad leader looks the same. The problems above spread to every corner what that leader controls. Bad leaders conspire with other bad leaders to corrupt the entire organization because this eliminates the need for accountability. Soon, the disease has spread to the highest level executives and even possibly the president or CEO. The leadership ranks become bloated with high-paid executives who do little and hold no one accountable to organizational values.

These companies are like the undead. The disease has corrupted the body so badly that it doesn’t even realize it’s dead. It just keeps operating and destroying everything in its path. This mindless company lumber on making money in spite of itself and it decays and starts to collapse. Yet, the bad leadership are so unaware of the situation that they can’t even fathom there is a problem.

Bad leadership is running rampant in corporate America and the undead companies are lumbering across the landscape. Is there nothing that can be done?

When You Need A Swiss Army Knife in Business

Lately I have met several organizations that are at a crossroads in their own evolution. Many companies realize the importance of things like strategy, change management, process improvement, strategic communication, and employee engagement. However, these organizations are making tactical decisions on the direction of these areas versus truly looking at this from a strategic perspectives.

Instead of hiring several different individuals or creating separate teams all focused on doing the same thing, companies today should should focus on bringing all their Operational Excellence activities under one team working directly for the CEO or President of the company.  This group should be led by a senior leader that sits at the same table as the companies other leaders.

This Swiss Army Knife professional–SVP/VP, Operational Excellence–should manage things like:
– Strategy development, execution, and change
– Performance optimization through process, product, and functional continuous improvement
– Strategic communication inside and outside the organization
– Strategic human capital management to include education, training, and development and employee satisfaction, commitment, and engagement
– Information and innovation engagement

This team does not need to be big…depending on an organization’s size, it could be as small as three or four people.  However, it should leverage other support areas throughout the organization, like Human Resources, Finance, IT, etc. These organizations would not report to the position, but work with the position.

Today, some organizations have some or all of these activities occuring, but they are scattered across the organization and have very little singular direction. By bringing the functions together into a small effective team, an organization is equipped to deal with the challenges of today and the future.

Of course, the leaders of these types of organizations have to have a solid understanding of all these functions at strategic, operatiomal, and tactical levels and not focused on creating some massive sandbox of people with various skills. They need to be highly skilled with a focus on lean and mean.

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