What Creates An Organizations Culture?

Leaders are facing enormous business challenges, and need to make changes in their organizations. Gain insight on how best to effectively make these changes and form a new culture.

Leaders at all levels are facing enormous challenges in achieving and sustaining planned operating results. Challenges are emerging from every business arena. Executives need to be cognizant about globalization, political opportunities, economic change, tariff negotiations, additional costs due to enforced regulations, and tightened accounting governance so that incidents such as Enron, World Com and the banking crises never occur again.  The CEO and his/her staff have one primary responsibility and that is providing shareholder value, yet this obligation has become even more difficult than in the past. CEOs are typically driving an organization’s culture and its associate’s sense of trust and well-being.

The way things are done in a company from recruitment, rewards, punishments, team building, achievement of goals and objectives, meeting management, handling conflict, dealing with competition and more are all a reflection of the organization’s culture. Yet, one wonders how does a corporation change the establishment’s culture when the business has become so challenging even for the best leaders.

Culture is the framework within which businesses operate and the binoculars through which others view an organization. If we view a business as a system of interacting and interrelated parts, then culture simply creates, defines and supports that philosophy. However, it is extremely unwise to consider that culture is only defined by what companies do today. This can lead to costly and painful problems for the company later. Cultural change efforts that focus only on the what are doomed to failure before the change ever begins. The greater question is why do organizations do things the way they do? One has to ask the question, is there a particular benefit of doing things in a certain way. Are we doing things this way because we have always done them that way and now the technology has changed to offer a better way? Culture can sometimes be described as an anxiety-reducing agent. Because of this phenomena, company cultures are extremely resistant to change.

Consider businesses that failed due to their inability to change their culture. IBM is a great example from the 1980s when the company ran into serious financial difficulties. Up to that point the company was unwilling to change the ways in which it was approaching the market even though the market was rapidly changing around it. Consider your own business. Are you willing to change even if it means breaking tradition?

To determine your readiness for change, take a few minutes and evaluate the organization’s characteristics. Consider each characteristic and how deeply rooted the current business practices are in the organization. Ask yourself, why do we do things the way we do on a particular trait. Then rate the need to change from one to ten. One should be an urgent need to change, while ten would represent no reason to change. Next, rate the ease of change from one to ten – one being the most difficult and ten being the easiest.

 

Organizational Cultural Characteristics

Characteristic Need to change Ease of change
Associate development
Leadership development
Team accomplishments
Innovation
Risk Taking
Stability
Trust in management
Attention to Detail
Meeting management
Project implementations
Managing and achieving goals
Total

Now compare the total score on the need to change to the total score on the ease of change. If the two scores are close together, your company’s ability to change should not be difficult. However, if you honestly evaluate each characteristic you will often find a behavior that needs to be addressed.  Unfortunately, what we often see is that there is a perception of cause and effect and that is enough to cause a behavior to become a cultural value. Assuming that the behavior and the result occur together often enough, the behavior will be taken for granted. Team members will no longer question the behavior because it is the culture and that is how their world works. Other cultural values will arise to support and enable the behavior and in the end, a simple behavior leads to an interlocking network of beliefs, assumptions, and values. Attempting to change any piece is extremely difficult because every other piece attempts to pull it back into place. Suffice it to say that cultures do not change easily.

Making a company cultural change takes hard work on everyone’s part but starts at the top. Initially, leadership needs to gain awareness across the company about the need for change. Doing so requires a solid communication plan and a management team that is locked arm-in-arm. The communication should be designed to create a desire in the enterprise for change. Many times this means educating the employee community about why change is needed and ideas that can help improve business but require acceptance. Once acceptance begins, workers need to be supported with training and education on policies, procedures, and systems changes. Knowledge of what is new must be tested regularly for the first year or more until change becomes the new culture.

Is your organization facing change? Contact Mary Kuniski at mkuniski@me.comor log on to http://www.goldenprofessionalcoaching.com to make an appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

Unrecognized Ineffective Habits of Successful Leaders – Part Four

Did you ever think upholding boundaries as a leader could hinder your leadership effectiveness? No, well think again. Read this blog to surface boundaries that may hurt instead of help!

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Four weeks ago, I began this series with a list of 20 ineffective (unrecognized) habits of successful leaders. This issue is the last installment of those 20 habits. This series is intended to provide, even the best leader, one or two ideas of areas in which he or she can improve his/her leadership style. To read the previous three blogs on this topic, log on to MaryKuniski.com and enter your email address to follow my blog. This week’s blog covers the problems that occur when leaders withhold the necessary information from their teams.

Upholding Boundaries

According to Z. Hereford in essential life skills, personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. The presence of personal boundaries helps us express ourselves as the individuals we are, while we acknowledge the same in others. (Herefore, Z, www.essentiallifeskills.net)

In business, we see the strong need for boundaries, so employees understand his/her limit, which in turn helps them maintain focus on their tasks. Unfortunately, these boundaries sometimes get in the way of a supervisor in providing the employee with the best workplace they can have. For example, supervisors are often required to maintain certain secret information, and it is up to the manager to determine what that might be. Some leaders go so far as to stop communicating with their employees for fear they are crossing boundaries. Listed below are five common areas where supervisors should break through the barriers and recognize their employees.

Withholding Information

Leadership often assigns special projects or reports to their staff to develop the talent of the associate to move them to the next level. There is a delicate balance between giving the associate enough information to complete the task or project and not giving enough information so the employee cannot complete the project.

I once worked for a leader who refused to communicate with me. He had a picture in his mind as to what he was looking for as an output for a project he assigned to me but refused to share his thoughts with me. I spent many hours reformatting the same data over and over again and never did “get it right.”  The refusal to share information with me appeared to be intended to maintain an advantage over me. What was meant to be a learning experience became an immense frustration and all I learned was not to trust this manager when he assigned projects in the future.  What I should have asked him to do was sketch what he thought the output should look like so I had a starting point. Because I did not ask those questions, we both failed in our communication.

Failing to give proper recognition or express gratitude

Many managers cannot praise or express gratitude to their employees because they fear doing so will take away their power and break boundaries with the associate. This behavior is the most basic form of rude behavior, yet we see it all the time with leaders. According to Gallup, employee engagement has been static for the last three decades. Gallup also claims that one of the most common areas of employee dissatisfaction is the inability of their leadership to praise and reward them for a job well done. In our interactions with others, we often miss opportunities to show genuine appreciation and recognition. So often, the only time employees hear our praise is during their performance review. Recognizing the strength of others requires a conscious effort, and it does not take much time. If we commit to doing so regularly, we will find it becomes a positive habit, increases morale and creates a confident culture.

The best formula I have found for giving positive recognition is by using the acronym TAPE, written by Dale Carnegie. T stands for THINGS. Perhaps the individual is particularly proud of something they own – could be their baseball collection, jewelry or clothes. Leaders should be aware of their associate’s pride and joy activities and things and talk with them about their interests in day-to-day conversations.

A stands for ACHIEVEMENTS, which can be research, projects, or anything that takes a focused and concerted effort. These achievements are the most often the areas of praise given in the business world. Achievements should always be recognized publicly and promptly.

stands for PERSONAL TRAITS and are the favorable characteristics individuals possess that make them valuable to you and your organization. When leaders recognize their employees for these characteristics, they are providing the most potent praise of all. When giving praise to employees, one needs to be careful to include evidence of the reason for recognition. For example, if the leader walks up behind his/her employee and says you did a great job today, the employee may wonder whom he/she is talking to and what they did to deserve the praise.

Therefore, the final letter is and stands for EVIDENCE.  When offering praise or recognition to one’s employees, the conversation should go something like this: Look the employee in the eyes and state his/her name. Tell him/her what they did well and provide evidence that what you say is true. Close by thanking the employee one more time.

Example

Jane, you offered the executives an excellent presentation today on your project. I was pleased that you included facts, figures, and projections. When presenting to executives, it is vital that you always back up your theories with numbers. Thank you, Jane, for your hard work.

Punishing the messenger:

Have you ever gone to your leader, presented bad news and felt the lash of his/her tongue. This situation occurs much more often than we think. The poorly misguided manager feels like he/she needs to lash out to someone and attacks the innocent person who is usually only trying to help. The result is that the employee will most likely never present lousy news or offer a suggestion to that supervisor again.

A more appropriate response to this type of news is a simple thank you, and according to Marshall Goldsmith, is the only appropriate answer. Although I agree with Marshall that the response should be simple thank you, I believe asking additional questions, in this case, would be appropriate if asked in a respectful manner.

Not Listening

Not listening is likely the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues. Why don’t leaders listen to their teams? The leader may be embarrassed by what he/she might hear. Alternatively, his or her ego is so immature that they think they know best. In Marshall Goldsmith’s stakeholder centered coaching program we show leaders how to listen and respond to their teams. Doing so is not easy. It takes hard work, humility, and discipline. If you are interested in experiencing Stakeholder Centered Coaching, contact me at mkuniski@me.com.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”   Brene Brown

Final Thoughts

Firm boundaries, such as prohibiting the use of inappropriate language or verbal abuse in the workplace are entirely appropriate. However, associates should be encouraged to speak in a respectful manner that is not condescending or abusive. With clearly defined boundaries regarding communication, associates use the appropriate tone and language with one another, which improves workplace interactions.

Boundaries discourage inappropriate behavior by setting rules of conduct within the workplace. Codes of conduct define what behavior is appropriate on the job and what behavior is unacceptable. It is a leader responsibility to set boundaries for all and then enforce them for all. However, leaders need to ensure their limitations do not take away from the ability of their workforce from receiving the required information and recognition to complete their jobs.

To find out more about Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching for leaders on the rise, contact mkuniski@me.comor go to http://www.goldenprofessionalcoaching.com.

 Presented by Golden Professional Coaching LLC

A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

cropped-Golden-with-plain-C-2.pngWe Build Tomorrow’s Leaders

Reference: “What Got You There Won’t Get You There.” Marshall Goldsmith, pg. 40

 

 

 

Unrecognized Ineffective Habits of Successful Leaders – Part Two

Showing visible emotions have no place in business. Leaders who use emotional volatility as a management tool will only survive a short time as an executive. They use scare tactics to get the job done and use and abuse those around them.

“Last week we talked about great leaders who attempt to add too much value by taking over every meeting and every situation and promoting themselves to all who will listen. This week we will explore the deterioration of management respect when overusing emotions. To read last’s Part One, click here https://marykuniski.com/2018/06/27/unrecognized-ineffective-leadership-habits/.

“I realize there is something incredibly honest about trees in the winter, how they are experts at letting things go.” 

Jeffrey McDaniel

Overusing Emotions

Speaking when angry

Showing visible emotions have no place in business. Unfortunately, we are all human and no matter how hard we try our feelings will come out from time-to-time when we are facing stressful situations.  Our response to these unexpected emotions often separates the good from the great leaders. Alternatively, leaders who use emotional volatility as a management tool will only survive a short time as an executive. They use scare tactics to get the job done and use and abuse those around them.

I once worked for a Regional Vice President who believed in using emotional volatility as a scare tactic to engage his store managers across the region. One can only guess how he rose up the ladder to that level. For nine months he drove the staff crazy with his ridiculous demands. Store managers and their crews were working around the clock to meet his requirements. The stores did improve in appearance, but after a time the regional management team had enough of his needs and together made serious complaints to the corporate office. Not only did this leader have to apologize to his team of District and Store Managers, but he was demoted to a store manager and never had a chance again to rise to a leadership level. His career virtually ended after the complaints rolled in.

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Ambrose Bierce

How does one control his or her emotions?

Here’s a simple formula. Think Ctrl, Alt, Del. Ctrl stands for controlling your emotions. Alt stands for altering your attitude, and Del stands for delete negative thoughts. The next time you feel ready to explode, hit ctrl, alt, del on your emotions and smile and reboot!

 Negativity

 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics negativity costs business $3 billion a year due to its harmful effects. No matter what the cause, negativity is damaging to the workplace. Gossiping, poor attitude, communication, and even external investors can breed negativity. Unless a leader quickly and directly addresses the situation, the consequences will tangibly affect the business. For instance, negativity can lead to distrust within a team, a decrease in employee engagement, or even liability issues if it evolves into harassment. Negativity in the workplace saps energy and diverts attention from productivity and performance, and because of this, leaders need to be proactive in maintaining a positive culture.

How to convert to a positive culture?

Leaders need to model the behavior they want to see. For example, if a leader spends his/her entire management meeting verbally acosting his/her staff when business is down, business will likely get worse. The best leaders I have experienced  communicate in a positive way that they understand why they did not make the plan during the previous period, but identify all the ways the team can overcome the problems they had in the last period. All they need to be successful is a positive approach and extra elbow grease. Using this method provides an encouraging positive environment that discourages negative gossip and improves morale.

Leaders who provide rewards and recognition to their team will see an increase in morale and productivity. Negativity is harmful to the workplace and can be eliminated through positive communication and individual recognition.

Clinging to the past

I once had a district manager who loved to say, “shoot while the ducks are flying.” One day during a district visit my store manager got out a pop gun and put a plastic duck in a Ficus tree. When the DM walked into his office, the store manager came out from behind his door and shot the duck. While it was not a good idea to be holding a gun when his DM showed up, the store manager made his point that we cannot live in the past. Our customers and we struggle with change. How many times have we heard or said, “but we have always done it this way or if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The point both parties were making was going after the business while its happening. Do whatever you need to do to keep it going.

Today, we are experiencing change more rapidly than at any time in history. In 1984, my husband and I  purchased the a board game called Dark Tower. It was the first game with some technology. The game had a tower that spun around for each player. It was pretty exciting, and we spent three days playing it before realizing we were obsessed with the game. Think about what we are obsessed with today. We are in an age of virtual distraction, and our electronics are changing faster than we can absorb. The ideals, beliefs, and perspectives of the past are exploding to reveal a wildly different future, which is why we are perplexed when we see businesses frantically clinging to the past and relying on old approaches rather than shaping new ones. Consider the retailers that failed or are failing due to their inability to change. Montgomery Ward – the original eCommerce retailer failed because they could not adapt to match the Amazon fulfillment approach. They merely operated themselves out of business. Radio Shack, a key retailer of electronics could not keep up with the changing marketplace. Toys R Us – the number one retailer of toys going out of business now. How does this happen? Undoubtedly, the failure of leadership to accept and make a dramatic change to keep up with the changing landscape made a massive contribution to the failure of these retailers.

Too often, we fall into the trap of thinking that our past successes will enable future ones. Events occur, and we overestimate the risks of attempting a new approach to driving business and underestimate the risk of standing still. For example, would we ever have thought that 9/11 would happen and reinforce the need for us to accelerate our rate of change, innovation, and creativity?

How do we make change happen?

Use the acronym ADKAR to remember the steps. First, make sure all employees are aware of the need for change. Outstanding communication that identifies the business problem and provides the financial implication of the problem is required. If the message is on point, it will generate a DESIRE for change. Escalating the desire for change is crucial to final acceptance. Next, an evaluation needs to be completed to determine if each workgroup has the KNOWLEDGE and ABILITY to make change occur and be successful. Most important of all is REINFORCEMENT of the change. Leaders who do not identify a methodology to ensure the change sticks are immediately subject to failure.

Making excuses

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ouerselves. The process never ends until we die. Moreover, the choices we make are our responsibility.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Why is it that we believe we need excuses for not getting work done. We are all busy so making explanations look legitimate has gotten a lot harder. How many times have you had an employee arrive late for work and say traffic was horrible when you were in the same traffic. Perhaps you have someone that is known for not answering his/her emails. Their excuse – it went to my spam email. These plausible excuses become more and more deniable as time goes on.

As a leader, do you accept responsibility for your actions? Accepting responsibility has two primary components. First, one has to take responsibility for his/her actions or failures. Leaders who fail to do this will immediately lose the respect of his/her staff. All human beings make mistakes and/or poor choices – some mistakes being worse than others. Errors include occasions when we fail to act when we know we should.  The second component is accepting responsibility when you have indirect responsibility for those that report to you. When you take responsibility for your direct reports mistakes your character is revealed.

Accepting responsibility, both personal and indirect responsibility is one of the most important factors in defining a person’s character.  When that responsible moment comes, what you do or don’t do is an indication of the type of person you are.

How to change?

Accepting responsibility requires you to own your behavior and that of your team. Admit your misconduct or failure-to-act when you should have done so. Next, offer a sincere apology to those you have wronged. If possible, make amends or do what is needed to correct what you have done. Finally, accept whatever punishment is handed out for the choice you made. These steps may sound simple, but they can be tough to take. Accepting responsibility is part of being a great leader. Start early in your career with this process and accepting responsibility becomes more natural as time goes on.

Playing Favorites

Who doesn’t like to be the boss’s favorite? Unfortunately, for all its management inappropriateness, favoritism is rampant in the business world.  Georgetown University’s business school surveyed senior executives at companies with over 1,000 employees and found that 84% admitted bias is alive and well in their organizations. There is an apparent reason for this behavior. Managers want to give work assignments to those employees whom they can trust. Typically, the favorites are the trusted employees. Trusted employees are most often given the favored assignment due to their competency in completing the task, but this behavior does not allow other employees to be trained or show their skills. They too might be supported if allowed to show their skills and abilities.

How to stop showing favoritism?

Leaders need first to be aware that they are showing favoritism. One of the best ways to ensure they are not favoring certain employees is to make a conscious effort to divvy up the work assignments in a fair and equitable way. Next, managers need to hold themselves and others accountable for getting the work done. If one of the employees fails to do the job, don’t let them off the hook. Instead, challenge them to get back on track and only give them help when they have made the effort to complete the work themselves.

Executives can be successful leaders by receiving stakeholder-centered feedback and addressing areas of opportunity like those discussed in today’s blog.  With courage, humility, and discipline good leaders can become great leaders. The business world could use a lot more great leaders! For more information about improving your leadership skills, contact Executive Coach, Mary Kuniski at mkuniski@me.com.

Published by GoldenProfessionalCoaching.com

A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

We Build Tomorrow’s Leaders

Reference:

“What Got You There Won’t Get You There.” Marshall Goldsmith, pg. 40

“The Golden Book” Dale Carnegie

“https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2018/01/16/a-common-but-overlooked-   howmanagement-problem-playing-favorites/#7f7771f635dd

https://appliedpsychologydegree.usc.edu/resources/articles/discouraging-negativity-in-the-workplace

 

 

Unrecognized Ineffective Leadership Habits

Successful Leadership takes discipline, powerful communication, inspiration to keep good employees happy, inclusion of all cultures, and most of all assuring personal success. Extraordinary leaders still make ordinary mistakes This four part series reviews those mistakes and describes how leaders can avoid them

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Great leaders exhibit courage, humility, and discipline combined with selected competencies that can drive their performance from good to great. Key competencies that successful leaders need to be exceptional managing are communication, associate engagement, business change, the inclusion of ideas and people from all cultures, faiths, and beliefs, and assuring personal success. For a closer look at the definition of these competencies click here https://wordpress.com/post/marykuniski.com/531.

Unfortunately, even the best leaders have bad practices. This series will examine the unfortunate habits of those whom we consider good leaders and provide future leaders with some ideas on how to overcome these unacceptable behaviors. Four primary categories represent 20 ineffective habits of successful leaders. These categories include the following: 1) promoting one’s value; 2) overusing emotions; 3) empowering the ego 4) upholding boundaries. This week’s blog will focus on the methods some leaders use to promote their value.

 Adding Too Much Value

We have all attended meetings only to discover that the person that takes over every session is in attendance. Nothing could be more frustrating to the meeting leader than having an attendee who knows nothing about the topic, shows up late and interrupts the meeting to talk about something completely out of context to the discussion. A consultant I once worked with routinely showed up 20 minutes late to every assemblage and asked us to repeat everything that we discussed in the time he missed. We all decided he was trying to show us how important he was by arriving late, but he certainly did not gain our admiration using this behavior. He would talk and talk about what he had done at other clients but he never really added value to the discussion because he did not understand the day-to-day operations of our business.  He merely wanted to be heard and had an overwhelming desire to add his two cents to every discussion.

Keeping in mind this consultant was a direct pipeline to our supervisors we were a little stumped on how to deal with the situation. In reality, our bosses would have had more respect for us if we called the consultant out on the behavior. Meeting leaders have a responsibility to keep meetings on track by having an agenda with time blocks for each topic and sending the program out to the participants in advance of the meeting. The time and date of the meeting should also be broadcast to all participants, and the meeting should start and end promptly as advertised. Latecomers should not be allowed to interrupt the meeting. When the attendee is late several times and participants refuse his/her request to repeat information they will stop attending late. If they are unavoidably late, they can make an appointment with the meeting leader to catch up after the meeting. The meeting leader should limit the amount of time given to participants to discuss topics. If he or she feels the discussion is going on too long and not making progress, they can undoubtedly table the discussion until the next meeting and ask everyone to finetune their thoughts. Meeting leaders must show balanced governance to prevent participants from attempting to add value when none exists.

Claiming Credit That We Do Not Deserve

As our consultant’s engagement was ending, all the captains of the teams he established were aghast when he took the credit for the results of the commitment. He certainly had the right to claim some credit. After all, he was the one who came up with the ideas for the four workgroups. However, workgroups mean multiple individuals were working together to resolve problems. The teams developed and changed processes, communicated to the executives and their managers, and implemented change management. The workgroups deserved to be recognized for their efforts as they went far and above their regular jobs. The consultant may not have been aware that he was going to be recognized for the results of the workgroups. However, his response should have been to circle back and make it clear where the credit was due to the leaders in each workgroup. Using that approach would have earned him credibility and admiration.

What should the workgroups have done?  Each team had a captain who was steering the work of the group and reporting results to the executives. These captains should have gotten together and provided a list of names in their cohort to the consultant so he could ensure the workgroups were recognized. A small reminder such as this will usually stimulate the individual who is taking credit to provide credit where it is due.

Passing Judgment.

We all are judgmental at times. It is simply unavoidable. Yes, even you. I  am many times. I believe it is human nature.  Walt Whitman once said, “Be curious, not judgmental.”

We have to ask ourselves how helpful it is to be judgmental. Does it do any good when we talked about the girl who just walked by, and most of her body was covered in Tattoos? Did we make a sale when we prejudged a customer and assumed they did not want the top of the line TV? Think about it for a second; we see someone and based on their looks or actions, we pass judgment on them. Not a good judgment, either. Usually without even knowing the person. Moreover, that’s it — that’s usually the extent of our interaction with that person. We don’t make an effort to get to know the person, or understand them, or see whether our judgment was right or not.

So let’s consider what happens when we pass judgment on people we do know. We see something they do, and get angry at it, or disappointed in the person, or think worse of them. We judge, without understanding. That’s the end of it — we don’t try to find out more, and through communication begin to understand, and through understanding, start to build a bridge between two human beings.

How do we stop this personal behavior? Pure acceptance of each other probably will not work, however, what is the most natural solution? Dale Carnegie says, “Become genuinely interested in other people.” Building a new habit of becoming genuinely interested in others helps us recognize when we might be judgmental. To make this change, we should stop at least once each day when we begin to judge another person and observe them. We might reframe what we are seeing in a new scenario that is easier for us to accept. This process takes a great deal of self-awareness. Seek to understand the other person. Put yourself in his/her shoes. Try to imagine their background. If possible, talk to them and find out their story. Once we are aware and understand how the individual got to this point, we will stop being judgmental and begin to accept the person for whom he/she is without trying to change them. Taking this action will relieve a great deal of stress in our lives.

Starting with No, But, or However

Dale Carnegie often pointed out that we should never tell someone they are wrong. Don’t the words No, But or However already say the speaker is wrong? Think about it a minute. You are having a great meeting; Everyone is participating and throwing out their best ideas. Someone brings up an idea that has been tried before and you say NO we tried that before and it didn’t work. Suddenly, dead silence falls around the room, and no more suggestions are forthcoming. The same could happen with the word BUT (which is an acronym for Behold The Underlying Truth). You partially agree with the idea but you want to add one more thing. Instead of saying but, perhaps you could use the word AND we can add one more element and make this idea better.  The word HOWEVER is used to introduce a statement that contrasts with or seems to contradict something that has been previously been said. Doesn’t that definition sound like a fancy way to tell the other person No?

So often when we respond, we immediately say what we think or give our opinion without giving it much thought.  How different our response might be if we allowed ourselves to formulate our opinion with evidence before responding. We might even ask a question or two to ensure our understanding. The next time you disagree with someone take a minute or two to consider why you disagree. Ask yourself why you think that and what proof do you have that what you think is correct. Then when you respond you can begin the substantiation, then tell what you believe the verification indicates to you and then what you believe based on the evidence. The conversation might go something like this.

Person 1 – We cannot add any additional resources to our staff because there is no space for them to sit.

Person 2 – I have read some interesting articles that indicate many companies are adding a second shift to have employees share the space available and the results are improved productivity. I have also read that allowing employees to work from home is becoming very popular and would only require us to supply a computer and access to our network. Therefore, I believe we can add resources to our staff by entertaining one or both of these solutions.

This type of answer does take a little practice but what a difference your response makes and how you benefit with admiration as a leader.

Making Destructive Comments

We all do it; we make negative or sarcastic comments right in front of the person, so they get our point or to make ourselves sound sharp and witty. People make adverse comments all day long, and the comments often lead to downgrading themselves. For example, a person might say to themselves no one ever bothers to tell me anything, or there’s no way this will work. Perhaps they think of themselves as a loser because other people can do what they cannot do.

Facing problems such as destructive comments head-on is the only way to handle these situations. Begin by logging what you and the other person said. Next, analyze why you said something destructive about yourself or another person. If you did say something harmful to another person go back as soon as possible and apologize. Let the other person save face by explaining you were in the wrong by making a comment. Continue this practice until you can determine the true cause of your unhelpful feelings. Once you understand the cause, you can correct the situation. When leaders make destructive comments, they are often showing their insecurity. Only you can change this insecure behavior!

Final Thoughts

Demonstrating genuine and positive leadership can be very difficult at times. Even successful leaders have moments when their behavior does not match the picture of an effective leader. It is very rare when we influence our employees each day through praise and honest appreciation. Even if our employees have made a mistake, as leaders, we are challenged to call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly. Often if we talk about own mistakes first, we can make our point to our employee without criticizing them.

For more information about improving your leadership skills, contact Executive Coach, Mary Kuniski at mkuniski@me.com.

Published by GoldenProfessionalCoaching.com

A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

We Build Tomorrow’s Leaders

Reference: “What Got You There Won’t Get You There.” Marshall Goldsmith, pg. 40

“The Golden Book” Dale Carnegie

Can Amazon Be Beat With Customer Service?

CEO of Fedex, Frederick Smith responds with customer service. He walks the talk.

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The Impact of Amazon

Every day I am asked what I think the impact of Amazon is on brick and mortar retail. There is no question that Amazon is affecting the assortment, accessibility, and speed of delivery. However, with the company’s growth, the organization appears to be lacking in face-to-face customer service. As their home deliveries grow the final miles become saturated with employees that are untrained in customer service skills. Last week, we received a bicycle camera we never even ordered and for which we were not charged. Try to talk to a human being to resolve the problem – impossible.  Have you felt like home deliveries in the little white van are a bit like a private detective arriving at your front door? Are you afraid to open your entry to the person delivering, and if you have opened your door, have you received a thank you for your purchase? The need for outstanding customer service in today’s business world is growing. Providing outstanding customer service is one way for retailers to overcome the loss of business to  Amazon.

Outstanding Customer Service

Recently, I had a positive experience with FedEx that made me realize that some companies are still out there providing outstanding customer service.  I needed some workbooks printed for a workshop that I was giving 1200 miles away. The associate at my local FedEx spent a great deal of time with me so we could determine the optimal number of pages, the best paper, and the best way to copy the document. At one point I mentioned that I had to carry the copies on the airplane, and the store associate indicated she would be happy to locate a local FedEx office so I would not have to take the prints on the plane. She promised they would be ready on Saturday morning by 9:00 am. When I arrived at the local FedEx, not only were the documents available, but I found out that my local store associate had called that morning to ensure the workbooks were ready. I was so blown away by the experience that I was compelled to write a positive note via email to the CEO, Frederick W. Smith. Below is an excerpt of the letter of response I received two days later.

“We appreciate your kind remarks regarding the service you received from Dollie. There is no doubt that our company’s success is directly attributed to the commitment of our employees to provide the best service offered in this industry, and we also understand the lasting impact that a courteous, professional employee can have on our customers. It is a pleasure to hear firsthand that Dollie’s assistance was helpful to you, and I am confident that both she and her manager appreciate your praise. Your letter serves as another important reminder to all of us at FedEx that our customers always deserve our best efforts. We have an internal process for recognizing such events, and Dollie will be rewarded for her efforts on your behalf.

A letter such as yours is particularly gratifying; a heartfelt note of praise from a person says not only a lot about the intended recipient of the recognition, but it also means a lot about someone who would take time out of their busy day to acknowledge the efforts of another. We thank you for taking the time out of your day to bring this to our attention.”

Upon receipt of this beautifully written response, I was reminded of the many years I spent as a store manager, and asked myself the question, “did I provide this level of service every day?” Outstanding customer service begins at the very top. Regional and District Managers need to walk the talk in every visit and every customer interaction. Store Managers need to talk about customer service and customer follow-up every day to their associates. I can tell you without a doubt that the next time I need copies or something shipped, I will be going back to FedEx. Not only did all the local staff meet the customer service challenge, but there was a CEO walking the talk.  The store associate was recognized and he graciously complimented me for taking the time to acknowledge the outstanding employee. He left me feeling like I had done something spectacular when all I did was send an email. I would love to send more emails like this but unfortunately, I have not found that same level of customer service in the brick and mortar stores, and even if I found it would I find the CEO’s email on the Internet? What this says to me is that retailers are missing the opportunity to offset the impact of Amazon with outstanding customer service. Congratulations FedEx’s CEO, Frederick Smith, for a job well done!

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Saving Face

Never criticize, condemn, or complain. Rather than criticizing the other person’s process, we might reframe the situation and look at the process from their perspective. Perhaps there is a reason for the way he/she wants the process completed and we need to understand it. Asking why we should do things a certain way is a great way to start a good conversation.

How often have we found ourselves in a situation where we began evaluating the way another person is accomplishing an activity and saying to ourselves or others, I can do this more efficiently? I felt that way this week as I did some volunteer work and I was tempted to tell the leader of the volunteer organization that I had a better way to manage the activity, but I let it go. I often find myself thinking about how to improve processes because in my retail job I have worked for years to eliminate redundancy and speed up productivity. What I didn’t realize until I started doing volunteer work that when I criticize others for the process they have implemented, I am taking away a little of their self-confidence and making them less accountable for the results of their practice.

Dale Carnegie’s first human relations principle in becoming a friendlier person is, “don’t criticize, condemn or complain.” When we criticize another person, not only does it damage that person’s reputation, the words put a dent in our reputation.

Rather than criticizing the other person’s process, we might reframe the situation and look at the process from their perspective. Perhaps there is a reason for the way he/she wants the process completed and we need to understand it. Asking why we should do things a certain way is a great way to start a good conversation. If we find that we are still in disagreement, a suggestion for a change in the approach should be made gently and privately. Using this process allows both parties to save face and rather than creating an enemy, you may make a new friend!

The Butter Is Melting!

My conjecture is that brick and mortar stores need a wakeup call. The major advantage brick and mortar stores still maintain over online shopping is the human-to-human interaction. A dollar investment made in technology should be countered by a dollar investment in a company’s employees. That investment could be improving productivity so the employee had more time to face the customer and less time stocking the shelves, or a company may seek to hire more qualified personnel using better wages and benefits. The most important investment has to be in customer service training. Let’s see what this season’s retail results tell us when the season is done!

The butter running down the inside of the refrigerator was not a pretty sight. I was in a desperate situation. Fourteen people were a coming for a party the next evening and my refrigerator was heating up like an oven instead of cooling.

I snapped into action and quickly measured the space for the refrigerator. I then went to the Internet and researched all the local appliance stores and found a refrigerator (yes, exactly one) that would fit in the space I had available. I called the store and the salesperson told me they had one unit in stock and could deliver the refrigerator the next morning. I told the salesperson I would be right there, grabbed my purse, and my husband, and we drove to the store only to discover that the delivery spot had been filled. After talking to the manager and explaining our situation, he graciously offered to deliver the unit first thing in the morning.

Delivery went fine and we have been happy with the-refrigerator  until recently when the icemaker began to freeze up on a regular basis. My husband got tired of using the hair dryer on the icemaker, so he contacted the service technician who indicated that the part was permanently out of stock. The tech explained that the problem was actually a design flaw of the manufacturer and advised us to call back the service contract company and let them know he could not repair it. Imagine our surprise when the service company offered to reimburse us for the full amount of the refrigerator and the prorated amount of the contract. I call that outstanding customer service.

Inherently, we as consumers believe we desire good customer service. However, with our ability to stay put behind the television and place our order online only to be delivered the next day, or better yet in two hours makes us ask ourselves are we really vying for good customer service or simply speed of delivery. In the case of my refrigerator, the speed of delivery could not have been better. I was a happy customer until the icemaker could not be repaired.

My conjecture is that brick and mortar stores need a wakeup call. The major advantage brick and mortar stores still maintain over online shopping is the human-to-human interaction. A dollar investment made in technology should be countered by a dollar investment in a company’s employees. That investment could be improving productivity so the employee had more time to face the customer and less time stocking the shelves, or a company may seek to hire more qualified personnel using better wages and benefits. The most important investment has to be in customer service training. After shopping today all day for angels for my church angel tree, I can truly see why consumers are abandoning malls. Help was scarce, checkouts were painfully slow, and stock was a mess. Try to ask for special service like tax exempt status and the entire experience falls apart.

I have a tremendous amount of admiration for the retailer who honored their customer service agreement with me.  For the rest, take a bit of advice from this experience, invest in customer service before it is too late!

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