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Customer Satisfaction Begins with Employee Engagement

The quickest ticket to customer satisfaction is through dependable, excellent service. As companies contend for competitive advantage, many find that refining service quality and customer satisfaction can be intangible. The first step to realizing both is to raise employee engagement.

'180 Ways To Build Employee Engagement' by Brian Gareau, Al Lucia (ISBN 193553792X) All organizations benefit from having an engaged workforce. But for those whose success pivots on delivering excellent customer service, a superior kind of employee engagement, customer-focused engagement, has an even tougher effect. Customer- focused engagement occurs when employee work groups are committed to (and passionate about) producing excellent service to their customers.

Employees won’t become engaged with service quality just because you demand them to. It takes time and effort to nurture an environment where engagement can set in and grow. With the right leadership, resources and information, you can shape the environment to engage employees and focus their efforts where it matters most—on customer satisfaction.

Correlation Between Employee Satisfaction and Customer Satisfaction

Evidence for Employee Engagement for Customer Satisfaction

Will an investment in employee engagement pay for itself through increased customer satisfaction?

We gauged satisfaction levels of 50 firms using the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). To measure customer-focused engagement, we probed employees to rate elements like, “We help customers beyond what is required,” and “The norm here is to help customers.”

'The Employee Engagement Mindset' by Timothy R. Clark (ISBN 0071788298) When we charted the employee survey results for each company against ASCI score for that company, we discovered that the higher the level of customer-focused engagement, the better the score on customer satisfaction. Actually, we see an absolute correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. When you enhance customer-focused engagement, you will increase customer satisfaction.

Companies whose employees are highly engaged with customer service are rated the highest in customer satisfaction. Raising customer-focused employee engagement translates into dollars on the bottom line, possibly a lot of dollars. A mere one-point rise in your ASCI score can boost your ROI by an average of 11.4 percent!

What Gets Measured Gets Attention

Prior to you can increase engagement, you first must gage it. An precise measure of employee engagement requires a special survey—not the employee satisfaction survey. There is a distinction between employee satisfaction and engagement.

  • Satisfied employees feel enjoyable, satisfied, content, and comfortable. And they tend to have low absence, low turnover, and low substance abuse. But they may be neither engaged nor driven to expend extra effort in their work or for customers.
  • In contrast, engaged employees perform in ways that enhance the customer experience. They go the extra mile in the interest of service quality and customer satisfaction. When your customers receive superior service every day, it can have a spectacular impact on your financial health.

Engaged employees (focused on customers) feel fervent about providing excellent service, energized by helping customers, involved in their work, trusting of their manager. They feel safe to make decisions, take risks, or speak up with worries. They are committed to the goal of providing service excellence. They create relationships with customers, not just fill orders; anticipate customer needs; support coworkers so that they can provide service excellence; take initiative to ensure consistent service; and find answers to customer questions.

Creating Employee Engagement for Customer Satisfaction

Creating Employee Engagement for Customer Satisfaction

Engaging employees is not simply a matter of telling them what to do. The way to change someone’s work performance is to first change the way they feel about their jobs. Tailor your programs around six areas:

  1. Job design. When jobs are thought-provoking and allow employees to use all of their talents, they feel involved. Time passes quickly, and effort required to do the work is easy to give. Engagement is high when employees are working to achieve detailed difficult goals—goals they accept as judicious and attainable, but ones that also provide a “stretch.”
  2. Immediate managers. Managers play a big role in how employees feel about their jobs. Impartiality and trust shown to the employees by their managers will create a culture of engagement in the work group, ensuring a collective, organized effort in serving customers.
  3. Service message. Most of the service message employees receive comes from cues from their immediate manager as to what is important. Managers must recognize and strengthen service excellence, ensure that obstacles to excellence are removed, and set goals for service excellence. Without everything employees experience focuses their efforts on service quality and customer satisfaction, customer satisfaction likely won’t emerge.
  4. Resources. When employees feel they have the resources they need to do their jobs well, they are more involved in their customer service.
  5. HR policies. Organizations that ensure their HR management systems promote customer satisfaction—who gets hired, how they are trained, what is measured in performance management—produce customer-focused engagement.
  6. Benchmarking. You need baseline knowledge about employee engagement levels and customer satisfaction before you make changes. Use surveys and other assessment tools to measure employee engagement occasionally to evaluate progress.

Employee engagement has become such a hot theme that great groups of consultants and authors are undeniably banging on your door as we speak, armed with sufficient action plans and PowerPoint presentations to make your head spin. When employees are satisfied and engaged, the outcome is deeper customer connections and an raised customer experience.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Create Partners, Not Employees or Followers

People want to succeed. The vast majority want to feel good about themselves and their work. Nevertheless, sometimes, it is tremendously difficult to balance day-to-day duties with the emotional needs of your employees.

There are no quick fixes or simple formulas for generating a culture that unleashes the competency of people. It occasionally requires intervention into a number of dimensions of organizational life: challenging management philosophy and practices, communicating and aligning everyone to the business strategy, cultivating processes and systems, providing training in social and business skills, etc.

Whom would you rather have at your side in a tough spot? A partner who shares full responsibility for decisions and their outcomes? Alternatively, a subordinate who does just what you say and shuts up about ideas he has that may be better.

Rationally, you want the former; emotionally, you may choose the latter. Leaders bow to a multitude of short-term pressures: severe demands for quarterly earnings, risk aversion, distress with uncertainty, resistance to change, linear extrapolation from past experience, and reluctance to cannibalize established businesses.

'It's Okay to Be the Boss' by Bruce Tulgan (ISBN 0061121363) Reflect on your career. Have you ever kept quiet when superiors were creating problems? What caused you to withhold your counsel?

I guarantee you they were being “the boss.” Everything about their tone, body language, verbal language, and behavior was indicating you that they were the boss and you were the subordinate. Chances are you learned from them what a boss looks and sounds like. Whether you admired their style or not, some of it rubbed off on you.

When you act as a superior, you will have subordinates. Act as a partner, and you will have partners. Yes, you may be the senior partner, but they are still partners, not underlings, or subordinates.

One key dissimilarity between the behavior of a “boss” and a “partner” is the way you talk. You talk differently to partners. It is not just what you say, but how you say it. To a subordinate, you might say, “This client wants his order fulfilled now. Make it happen.”

What is the message? It is not just “Get the order done now,” but it is also “I’m the boss; this is what I want—and there could be outcomes if I don’t get it.” It does not require a dramatic act to make the point that the receiver is your subordinate. Are you aware of how often and in how many ways you send similar messages?

This is not how you would talk to a partner. You might be just as clear about what you want and when; however, your delivery would create partnership, not subservience. You might ask, “How can we do that?” Alternatively, “Can you make it happen?” You would seek the individual’s knowledge, responsibility, and mutual obligation. When employees are seen as partners, they will understand that their leaders do not simply see them as the means to achieve their own personal targets.

You talk differently to folks below you than to folks across from or above you. So what? The higher you go, the less direct experience you have of customers, stakeholders, and problems. It is harder to get a real feel for what is happening. You become more reliant on on good information and insight from those who are in touch. So, they need to feel invited to tell you the reality they see, especially when it differs from the one you believe is out there.

You likely think that you already extend this encouragement, but you may discourage people from giving you inconvenient information. Unless you make an effort to discover in what ways you do this, you will continue to do so.

Create Partners with Your Subordinates

Create Partners with Your Subordinates

To create partners and have your employees’ best interests in mind, try this exercise:

  • Start every meeting with a question: “Is there anything I’m not getting about this issue that you think I should?”
  • Whatever the answer, respond with interest and ask, “Can you tell me more about that or give an example to help me understand it better?”
  • Ask questions until you have clarity on the points. Do not argue. Do not cross-examine—just clarify.
  • Thank the individual or group making these points.
  • Incorporate what makes sense into the decisions.
  • If no one spoke up, after the meeting ask the individual who is likely to be forthright, “What am I doing that keeps everyone from talking?”
  • If this individual gives you insight into how you dissuade feedback, convey your gratefulness. Find a way to reward the honesty.
  • Invite this truth-teller to sit in on more meetings and after each one gives you feedback on anything you did that made others act as subordinates.

Simple Ways to Build Trust With Your Employees

Build Trust with Your Employees

Trust is established when even the newest rookie, a part-timer, or the lowest paid employee feels important and part of the team. This begins with management not being reserved, as well as getting out and meeting the troops.

'The 27 Challenges Managers Face' by Bruce Tulgan (ISBN 111872559X) By doing this you will have the self-awareness to create partners. You will also have earned their trust. They will give you their best advice and devotedly support decisions that are based on reality.

By creating this environment where your employees are treated as partners working toward a shared purpose, you will foster in your employees a sense of ownership not simply to their job, but to the whole process. This will inspire not only partnership between the company’s divisions/teams, but it will also help nurture innovation as employees are stimulated to look beyond what they usually work on or how they approach their job.

Good partners invest time and energy in making cognizant judgments about who their leaders are and what they espouse. Then they take the appropriate action.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Use Facilitative Leadership to Transform Your Organization

Facilitative Leadership Style

'The Facilitative Leadership That Makes the Difference' by Priscilla H. Wilson (ISBN 097297640X) Facilitative leadership is not about leading by committee or getting everyone together and asking, “What do you and you think?” Committee can decide not everything. The front lines are not the place to take a straw poll. Even so, there are times when a leader can, and should, get people together to talk about how to improve operations and ask for input. That is facilitative leadership.

For this process to work, leaders must create a culture where people not only feel comfortable contributing ideas and suggestions, but where leaders act on those inputs.

Facilitative Leadership Theory

Acting on input does not mean doing everything the group tells you to do. It means making it clear to the group that their input is valued by defining how that input will be used. Many times a leader gives the impression that if the team members give honest input, they will be punished. This is why the leader must clarify how the input will be used before asking for input.

For instance, let the group know if you are:

  • Just asking for ideas and you, the leader, will make the final decision,
  • Asking for ideas and you, the leader, will discuss options with the group before making the final decision,
  • Requesting input so the final decision will be made together as a team,
  • Requiring input, and the team will make the final decision after reviewing it with you, and,
  • Giving input to the team and the team will tell you what the final decision is.

Facilitative Leadership Style

Facilitative Leadership Style

These are examples of how to explain your intentions when involving direct reports in decision-making. Clarity builds respect, trust, and rapport.

'The Practice of Facilitative Leadership' by Ken Todd Williams (ISBN 1523693908) The role of the leader is changing. Once, the leader stood in the middle of everything and directed the team with one-way communication. The leader would say, “Jump,” and followers would only ask, “How high?” As leaders progress, they allow for two- way communication, but they are still in the middle directing the activities. Then, as leaders continue to progress, they step out of the middle and become a part of the team. The leaders are still responsible, but they do not push their people—they tend to pull, to get people to follow them—not to push and micro-manage them.

As leaders progress even more, they can step away from the day-to-day management. This affords even more communication among the members of the team. Again, you cannot do this until you help the team members interact with each other on a level playing field. You can then be free to work on the strategic elements of your job.

These skills are becoming more critical because the leader’s span at control is expanding!

Now, when you step away, you do not disengage! You cannot expect what you do not inspect. So you must be accessible, continue to coach, and have the courage to hold people accountable and not fold under pressure. Suppose, for example, that you have been coaching a direct report on an important project. The project does not reach its target. Your boss calls you in and asks, “What happened?” You might explain how you have been coaching a member of your team who let you down; but you need the courage to also say, “I am responsible, and I will make sure that it doesn’t happen again.” You are ultimately responsible for your group’s performance!

Now, you will want to talk with that direct report about what happened. Clearly, you need to revisit the miscues. It is the employee’s responsibility to achieve the goals, but you need to ensure your people are on-track.

Characteristics of Facilitative Leaders

Characteristics of Facilitative Leaders

Facilitative leaders listen to multiple points of view, including those they do not agree with. This enables them to make better decisions. Facilitative leaders capture the key kernels of information, build bridges between people, and create an atmosphere where people share information.

When you master these skills, you become a facilitative leader. The need for greater collaboration comes at a time when the diversity of perspectives, talents, and cultures present in the workplace is increasing. Achieving better results by tapping into this mix is a goal that can be accomplished through effective application of facilitative leadership fundamentals.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

How to Reduce Conflict at Work

Fierce battles over decisions, finances, resources, power, and authority are fought daily, and combatants often inflict lasting damage, when the personal interests of ambitious managers take precedence over organizational goals.

Competition can cause managers to backstab one another, hoard information, focus on personal needs, and ignore facts that don’t support their views.

Functions that operate as silos create turf wars. And the costs are high. Creativity is lost, reputations damaged. Frustrated, some executives leave for more collegial settings. Here are ways to reduce conflict:

  • Hold retreats to build camaraderie. Put people through a process to build conflict resolution and interpersonal skills co-operationely to achieve goals.
  • Reward cooperative behavior. If you talk about collaboration yet reward individual achievement, you get the behavior you positively reinforce.
  • Encourage innovation. Process routine may minimize errors and cut costs, but it can close people’s eyes and ears to better ways to do things. Innovation can increase efficiencies.
  • Create a culture of collaboration. Open communications in person, on paper, and online can lead to shared information, trust across disciplines, and reduced turf battles.
  • Clarify responsibilities. Help your people know their roles and the roles of others. Everyone’s key task is to delight customers and gain market share.
  • Seek cross-functional initiatives. Encourage teams from different areas to work together in cross functional initiatives. Invite managers from other areas to visit your team meetings when working together.
  • Enter white spaces cautiously. Certain open areas represent opportunities for revenue generation, but rather than enter them without notifying others, meet with them to gain their buy-in or agree to leverage the space together.
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Posted in Management and Leadership

When Crisis Hits Corporate Culture

When Crisis Hits Corporate Culture

Corporate culture, defined as “how we do things around here,” powerfully influences people.

There are four core cultures: control, collaboration, competence, and cultivation. The “competence” culture creates a perception of distinction by offering one-of-a-kind products and services. They pursue excellence and capitalize on high capability. Filled with high achievers, they are highly competitive, and intensely focused on winning.

The power of culture derives from implementation and identity. With success (perceived or real), “how we do things” becomes the equivalent of “who we are” (identity). Now the motivation to keep doing things the same way subtly shifts to a motivation to preserve identity. Culture grows so powerful precisely because it becomes the identity of the firm and its leaders.

Strengths taken to extremes turn into liabilities. When leaders fail to keep behavior in balance, problems emerge. These loom large because they are, in fact, identity problems. Out-of-balance behaviors unique to competence cultures include: mistrust, secrecy, arrogance, fear of making or revealing mistakes, excessive financial incentives, emphasis on winning, refusing to consider odds of losing, selfishness, and ethics that take a back seat to cashing in quickly.

Leaders must monitor their cultures, the strengths and potential liabilities, keeping both in balance and preventing strengths from running to the extreme. Indeed, when an extreme is allowed to “mature,” the company will have a serious problem borne of its strengths but characterized by great weakness.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

Show Uncommon Commitment in Your Job

Show Uncommon Commitment in Your Job

Some people say that the key lesson of strategy has to do with speed. If you can think and act faster than your competition, you can stay one step ahead. Certainly speed is critical, but why do some firms take over the market after others do the pioneer work?

Other strategists say that the concentration of superior resources at the decisive point drives strategy: if you concentrate your resources, you are sure to win. But if superior resources are key, why do some firms with inferior resources beat stronger ones?

After studying great strategic thinkers, I’m convinced that neither resources nor speed are decisive. Some have abundant resources, others do not. Some companies operate at light speed, and it helps them. But others make it policy of not entering the market first and are still successful.

To discover the key lesson practiced by all great strategists, I interviewed more than 200 combat leaders from the military services and asked them, whatif anything they had learned from leading in combat that they applied successfully in their careers. Almost all included the idea of “uncommon commitment.”

What’s so special about uncommon commitment? People follow a leader with this quality for two reasons:

  1. it proves that the goal is worthwhile and important
  2. it proves that the leader won’t quit.

Extraordinary commitment affects the planning and implementation of strategy.

If you hope to implement your strategy successfully, you need to display uncommon commitment.

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Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership

CEOs Want Executives Who Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader

A CEO’s job is to keep his people interested in staying, and working, and growing and prospering with this company.

Larry Bossidy, the retired CEO of AlliedSignal took this philosophy a step further and extended it to the people he moved into senior management positions. Bossidy said, “I want to find leaders who are human beings, and who have an interest in being successful for themselves and want to share that success with others. If I can get people like this, they’re easy to lead.”

Bossidy has said that he is looking for the following characteristics when filling up the executive ranks at his company:

  • Positive people, to begin with. CEOs like to see people with smiles on their faces. Business is difficult. It’s so much better to greet the world with a smile on your face. You can’t show me people with great accomplishments who are negative people.
  • CEOs like to see ambitious people who want to get something done.
  • 'Execution' by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan (ISBN 0609610570) CEOs look to see if they can contain their ego. Do CEOs see a person who can work well with others? Do CEOs see a person who’s shown some interest in others? Are these the people who can share their knowledge with other people and do it gracefully and willingly? Or are they very self-centered, very ambitious, but not necessarily to the benefit of anybody else?

Under Bossidy, AlliedSignal purchased and became Honeywell. Honeywell is a prominent engineering services and aerospace systems company. Before AlliedSignal, Bossidy spent 30 years working his way up the executive ranks at General Electric, where he was a protege of Jack Welch.

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Posted in Education and Career Mental Models and Psychology

Adapting to Change and Managing the Transition Successfully

Life is about adapting to change and ever-increasing demands. William Bridges was right: “It’s not the changes that do you in. Ifs the transitions.”

Organizations must continually change. The question is “how?” The leader’s task is to make change work by helping others through transition.

A successful transition …

  • Explains what is and what isn’t over. Some things never change: You will continue to serve customers and produce products. What changes is not what you do but how you do it. Help people identify what is and is not over.
  • Respects the past. The practices that frustrate you today were someone’s innovative solutions of the past. Do not criticize widely accepted practices. Accept them as right for that time while recognizing that times change.
  • Ensures the “important stuff” continues. What is the important stuff to you? Service? Ethics? Whatever it is, it must continue. Involve others in defining the “important stuff” and ensure that the change does not disregard them. This increases support for the change.
  • Sets the stage for the future. Today’s change will open your eyes to new opportunities. As you evolve, set goals for what you want to achieve. Measure and evaluate progress. And, show others how the change will move them toward a positive future.
  • Recognizes its day will end. Don’t assume that today’s solution will work forever. And don’t think that this will be the last change.

Long-term success depends on anticipating and responding to change and making the transition.

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Posted in Management and Leadership Uncategorized

Build the Reputation Capital of your CEO

By CEO capital, I mean the asset created by CEO’s reputation. It is the collective esteem that significant others, inside and outside company, hold for the company’s CEO and, for the company. It is the composite of perceptions about a CEO that a company’s stakeholders hold, whether these constituents are employees, analysts, investors, customers, media, regulators, or community leaders.

This asset can be harnessed to advance a company’s success. But, like any other wealth-creating asset, CEO capital needs to be invested in, managed, and leveraged over time to reap enduring benefits. Companies can utilize the equity that accrues from CEO capital to attract more investors, partners, customers, applicants, and trust in corporate decisions. CEO reputations, when harnessed on behalf of corporate goals, impact a company’s success and viability.

Every company must develop CEO capital, understand its underpinnings, and manage the important asset of its CEO’s reputation. When accumulated, CEO capital: Has a positive impact on a company’s reputation and success; produces clear, discernible, and valuable payoffs; is known to matter to influential constituencies; and affords more time to develop long-term solutions.

What Builds CEO Capital?

Five factors build CEO capital:

  1. Building credibility. This is critical to establishing a favorable CEO reputation. CEOs earn credibility by being consistently truthful and delivering on their promises and by matching behavior with their values.
  2. Abiding by a code of ethics. Setting and abiding by higher standards make a marked impression. CEOs must act in good faith according to ethical guidelines.
  3. Communicating internally. Unless CEOs communicate change and direction, most employees won’t know why and how they are being asked to lend their hands, hearts, and minds. To build CEO capital, CEOs must be tireless internal communicators.
  4. Attracting and retaining a quality management team. Having a highly regarded management team signals to stakeholders that the CEO has a strategy worth following. A top-notch team also signals that the CEO not only has the right people to execute his or her vision but also has prepared well for succession.
  5. Motivating and inspiring employees. CEOs must be pied pipers, serving as masters of ceremony at town hall meetings, leading anchors on global webcasts and teleconferences, and hosts at breakfast meetings. When CEOs inspire their employees, they build a better culture, leading to increased shareholder value. Everyone is a winner. Stakeholders look to see how CEOs manage people and put operating and social systems into place to build bench strength and keep employees loyal and productive.

These top drivers of CEO capital must all be in place for a CEO to earn top honors. When one is missing, a CEO courts disaster.

The goal is to leverage the wealth embedded in a CEO’s capital to enhance a company’s reputation and well-being, increasing its economic evaluation, and differentiating it from competitors. As a CEO builds capital, the CEO builds a company.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Implement a Retention Plan to Keep Good People

Implement a Retention Plan

Don’t be misled. A soft economy is no justification for abandoning your commitment to employee retention. Good people are needed today more than ever. You need people connected to your mission and focused on delivering your product or service as efficiently and effectively.

The economy will rebound, baby boomers will eventually decide to retire, and staff shortages will return. Generation X does not have enough bodies to replace the retiring boomers, and the Millennial Generation will not offer relief until 2008.

A difficult truth will be discovered when the bidding for talent returns. An exorbitant compensation package might not attract people in a post-scandal economy. And, it won’t retain them or ensure the productivity your business needs to survive.

People hire into organizations. They stay, leave, or contribute based on their relationship with their manager and their opportunity to both contribute and advance in their jobs. They want to work in a place where they can succeed and feel their contribution is appreciated. A positive response to each of the following questions will help you stay connected and keep your best.

Workplace where employees succeed and feel their contribution is appreciated

  • Does a dear focus and direction exist for the business and the individual? Specific goals linked to a common, compelling vision provide a sense of contribution and focus. Commitment to the job is enhanced when a visible link exists between individual performance and organizational success.
  • Do people receive the time, tools, and training to accomplish their jobs? Frustration develops when barriers hinder success. An investment in tools and training reinforces the idea that quality is important.
  • Are efforts recognized and appreciated? Sincere recognition to your stars ensures that they don’t look for a better environment in which to utilize their talents. Poor performers can be motivated when managers recognize their value rather than only look for the negative. Those who do a good job each day view recognition as verification that their performance matters. A one-percent increase in performance from those who simply meet expectations makes a tremendous difference in the bottom-line.
  • Is poor performance addressed? Top employees grow weary of doing more than their share of the performance load. They want those who are not meeting expectations to be dealt with fairly.
  • Are honest mistakes used as a learning opportunity? Most of the important lessons we learn in life are the result of honest mistakes. When people feel punished for those missteps a culture is created where errors are hidden communication lines are closed, and valuable knowledge that could improve performance and results is not shared.
  • Is specific and accurate feedback provided in a positive manner? Everyone wants information about how they are doing compared to the expectations for their performance. The best feedback acknowledges effort, points people toward success, and encourages personal responsibility.
  • Do people have fun? Environments that promote laughter contribute to higher morale, improved productivity, and lower stress. Having fun is not just playing games or dressing up on holidays. The ability to be relaxed and enjoy oneself creates a bond between team members.

Creating an environment that keeps people feeling connected to the mission and vision is every leader’s task It is the one sure strategy for achieving success.

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Posted in Management and Leadership