Alexa took her current post in 2010. That year she led her group to earn Best Retail Operation for the region, going from worst-to-first in a single year. Along with a public award, Alexa received a “Far Exceeds” rating on her annual performance appraisal.
Unfortunately, at the time of her next review, Alexa’s group was slightly below its Key Performance Indicators (KPI) targets and so her boss rated her performance as only “Meets Expectations.” It turned out to be a case of poor timing as the group rebounded and by year’s end had once again won Best Retail Operation.
An important and tangible difference
For Alexa, the difference between “Meets Expectations” and “Far Exceeds” was important—and tangible. In her company, a rating of Far Exceeds meant the employee had a greater chance of a promotion in the next 12 months, a greater opportunity to participate in juicy cross-functional projects that C-level executives track, and a larger base salary and bonus package for the coming year.
Alexa’s boss apologized for the 2011 rating and said he would make it up to her in the 2013 review. Unfortunately, the damage was done; Alexa interpreted her boss’s decision as unfair given her history of taking a last place group to first place in less than a year, and then repeating that high performance. Her boss said nothing could be done.
The impact of that interpretation was that Alexa went from being highly interested and innovative in her role to being more or less disinterested—just going through the motions. She said, “You rate me as Meets Expectations, and I will meet expectations. Nothing more.”
Leading with Optimal Motivation
When talked with about this, Alexa was immovable, so deep was the sense of betrayal. In considering ways to help her, a purely rational, left brain, traditional business analysis of this situation would have us evoking some version of the Nike slogan—Just Do It. In other words, “Alexa, change your attitude, accept your boss’s apology, and get back to it.”
But, that’s probably a fantasy at this point. Alexa now perceives the performance management system as unfair, so she feels hurt by it and wary of it.
Our Optimal Motivation process suggests a different approach. Instead of suggesting that she just get over it, we would recommend that Alexa’s leader’s work would be to address how Alexa feels, and to help her reconnect with her passion for delighting customers, her passion for making the workplace amazing for her employees, and the important financial and competitive contribution her group makes to the welfare of the entire organization. Her manager, then, would be engaging with Alexa in a series of Motivational Outlook Conversations.
What Would You Do?
That’s our approach (and we would be happy to talk with you more about that) but for now, let’s make this interactive.
- What would you do to help Alexa return to the proverbial sunny side of the street?
- How would you engage her manager?
- What changes do you think her manager would want to make so that she or he is successful with Alexa?
Use the comments feature. It would be great to hear your thoughts and how you would address this situation.
About the author:
The Motivation Guy (also known as Dr. David Facer) is one of the principal authors—together with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop.
When clients ask me to help them with customer service issues, they are often surprised (and a little annoyed) when I ask them a question about what business are they really in. Now I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just trying to help them identify—at an emotional level—the specific need they are satisfying with their product or service.
Because once you identify what business you are really in, you will automatically know the core promise your brand is making to your customers.
You’d think this little question would be easy to answer, but I can tell you from experience—it’s not. Here’s how the conversation typically goes:
Me: ”What business are you really in?
Client: ”What business am I really in?! I’m in (fill in the blank.)”
Me: ”No, that’s what you do. I’m asking about the emotionally compelling need you satisfy. What emotional comfort do you provide for your clients?”
There are usually some awkward moments of silence. Finally, I’ll typically step in with some examples, such as:
- Aren’t insurance companies really in the “peace of mind” business?
- Isn’t Disney really in the “happiness” business?
- And what about fast food chains? Sure, they serve food, but aren’t they really in the “consistency” business? Think about it. No matter where you are on the planet, you know that your McDonald’s Big Mac, Burger King Whopper, Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, or KFC Extra Crispy Chicken are going to taste exactly the same as they do in your town. Isn’t that the real need that fast food establishments satisfy?
Now it’s your turn
So—what business are you really in? Take a minute to consider the emotional need you satisfy for your customers. Look beyond the actual product or service you are providing—look at the big picture. Think about the emotional need your product or service satisfies. That’s where your brand promise lives.
When organizations get off track, it’s usually because they lose sight of the bigger picture. Don’t let the day-to-day tactical requirements obscure the real business you are in. Think bigger—and talk to your teammates about it, too. Together I’ll bet you’ll find some insight—and you’ll have a better handle on the core promise you are making to your customers every day.
About the author:
Ann Phillips is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Ann’s posts as a part of our customer service series that appears twice montly.
That’s a limiting perception. The job of managing people includes managing roles, goals, and day-to-day performance. Redirection is a part of that process.
In some ways it’s like flying airplanes where flight plans are set and frequent corrections in the air keep the airplane on course. The goal is a smooth flight that will arrive at the desired destination safely. But a surprise bout of turbulence may force the plane to change altitude to find smoother air space.
The same is true in the workplace. We all hope for a smooth ride in the course of achieving our goals but people sometimes experience turbulence and need “in-flight” corrections, too. This type of correction is what I call redirection.
A Closer Look at Redirection
A redirection is used for learners in a “can’t do” situation, not in a “won’t do” situation. With constantly evolving priorities, technology, and demands, many a worker is learning something new every day. Add in unclear vision, goals, or roles, and a worker can fall behind or make mistakes.
How should a new manager approach a person who needs redirection? Ken Blanchard shares a five-step process in his bestselling book, Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships.
Here are Ken’s five steps for redirection:
- Describe the error objectively, without blame and without drama. Example: “Your report was two hours late.” No eye-rolling, desk-pounding, or sarcasm. Just the facts.
- Describe the negative impact of the error. Example: “As a result, I had to cancel an important meeting because I did not have the data I needed in time.” Again, no emotion. Just the facts.
- If appropriate, take the blame for not being clear. Example: “I was giving you a lot of direction about several projects at once. Perhaps I wasn’t clear about the absolute deadline for your report.” This is an important step and can be a powerful, face-saving, loyalty-building action to take. It’s entirely possible that a new manager was not clear or specific enough.
- Go over the task or goal again. Example: “To be sure that I am clear this time, let me review with you what I need and when I must have it. I need….” It’s important to give very specific information and also to get agreement that what you are asking for is possible.
- Express continued trust and reaffirm your belief in the person’s abilities. Example: “Now that we have talked about this, I’m sure we’ll have no problem next time.” People need to know that an error will not permanently taint them.
It’s normal to occasionally get off course—especially when you are learning a new skill or taking on new goals and projects. Redirection is a natural part of the process even though it can be uncomfortable at times. As Winston Churchill said, “I am always ready to learn, but I do not always like being taught.” When a correction is required, this 5-step redirection can get things back on track.
About the author:
Cathy Huett is Director, Professional Services at The Ken Blanchard Companies. This is the third in a series of posts specifically geared toward new and emerging leaders.
Most challenging conversations are more effective when we take the time to prepare for them. I’d like to suggest five things you can do to be better prepared to guide your next challenging conversation to a successful outcome.
Gather the relevant information.
First of all, collect the relevant information pertaining to the topic of the conversation—the who, what, and why. Ask yourself:
- Who do I need to talk to?
- What is the problem?
- Why might this problem be occurring?
Envision the desired outcome.
Imagine the best possible outcome. If the conversation goes well, what will be the result? Be specific as you visualize this. Being keenly aware of your intentions will make preparation easier—and keeping those intentions in mind will guide the conversation in the direction you want it to go.
Anticipate the other person’s reactions and your response.
Think about ways the other person might react to the conversation to guard against the possibility of being blindsided by their words or actions. If you have considered their probable reactions and determined how you will best respond , you will be ahead of the game. Remember, though, that you can’t predict every reaction—even from someone you know well.
Pay attention to logistical issues.
The environment surrounding a difficult conversation can affect its outcome. A bit of forethought and preparation can have a significant positive impact. Here are some best practices for handling the logistics of the conversation.
- Schedule more than enough time – 30 minutes more than you expect.
- Hold the conversation in a private, safe, neutral location if possible.
- Make sure you will not be interrupted.
- Turn all phones and devices off.
- Have tissue available if tears are a possibility.
- Have a glass or bottle of water handy.
- If the conversation is with a direct report, be prepared to give the person the rest of the day off if needed—and do not have the conversation at the end of the day on Friday.
Decide if the conversation is worth having.
Note that I put the decision about actually having the conversation last. Sometimes you find that the conversation itself is not as important as the deliberations you went through to prepare for it. What you really needed was to sort out your own thoughts and feelings. After all of your preparation, if you determine that you don’t need to have the conversation, you will lose nothing by changing your mind.
What other ideas do you have for preparing for challenging conversations?
About the author:
John Hester is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in performance and self-leadership. You can read John’s posts on the second Thursday of each month.
- Money cannot buy you happiness.
- Money may not buy happiness, but it will buy things that make you happy.
- The more money you have, the happier you are.
- Seeking wealth, status, or image undermines interpersonal relationships and connectedness to others.
- Pursuing money or other materialistic values results in feeling pressured and controlled.
Did you answer True to #1? Most of us have held a programmed value since childhood that money doesn’t buy us happiness. If it did, we reason, we wouldn’t see rich people with substance abuse issues, struggling with their weight, or defending themselves in court against character or behavior accusations.
Ironically, I find that people also answer True to statements #2 and #3. Despite believing that money cannot buy happiness, they believe that money can buy things that make us happy and that the more we have, the better off we are. But that isn’t logical. If money doesn’t buy you happiness, how can having more money buy you happiness?
Research supports the notion that money and happiness are related, but not in the way you might think. If it were true that money buys the things that make us happy and that the more we have the happier we are, then we would expect happiness scales to increase when per capita wealth increases. But that isn’t the case in the United States or any other country in the world. Pursuing and achieving material wealth may increase short-term mood, but it does not increase one’s sustainable happiness.* Both statements #2 and #3 are False.
Not only does money not buy happiness or the things that make you happy, but the more that materialistic values are at the center of your life, the more the quality of your life is diminished. This lower quality of life is reflected in a variety of measures including low energy, anxiety, substance abuse, negative emotion, depression, and likelihood to engage in high-risk behaviors.
The Problem with More
Interestingly, when individuals are asked what level of wealth they need to be happy, both the poor and the rich respond with relative amounts of “more.” No matter how much you have, you always want more—more money, belongings, toys, status, power, or image. But here’s the thing: No amount of riches will buy security, safety, trust, friendship, loyalty, a longer life, or peace of mind. Moreover, thinking you can buy these things destroys any real chance of experiencing them.
Therein lies the problem. We’ve been programmed to believe that our well-being depends on the quantity of what we have. There is a current TV commercial where a little girl tries to explain why more is always better—which is the message the advertiser is trying to convey because that’s what they are offering you—more. The irony is that the little girl simply cannot explain why more is better. It really is funny. But it disproves the very point the advertiser is hoping to make. More is not always better—it is simply a belief that most of us have yet to challenge.
Quality Over Quantity
What if we were to turn the table and focus on quality over quantity? Consider your answer to statement #4. Did you answer it True? One of our most basic and crucial human needs is for relatedness with others. This longing for connectedness is obvious in the explosion of social media and online dating services. The lack of relatedness is detrimental to everything including the quality of our physical and mental health. Research indicates that relatedness is thwarted by the pursuit of materialism.* Yet we rarely link materialistic values and goals to the undermining of interpersonal relationships that influence the quality of our life.
Statement #5 is also True. If you follow any of the popular culture regarding the effects of extrinsic motivation, or what we call suboptimal Motivational Outlooks, you understand the negative impact that feeling pressure or control has on creativity, discretionary effort, and sustained high productivity and performance. And yet, organizations are hesitant to generate alternatives to pay-for-performance schemes and incentivizing behavior, despite the proof that those systems based on materialistic values generate the pressure and control that undermine the quality of our work experience—and our results.
Our Values Shape Us
And here is a great sadness. When you operate from materialistic values, it not only undermines your well-being, it also negatively affects the health and well-being of others. When our focus is on material pursuits, we become less compassionate and empathetic. Our values shape the way we work, play, live, and make decisions. And those decisions impact the world around us.*
Each of us has an amazing opportunity with the understanding gained through recent research and the evolution of human spirit. We can shift our focus from the value of materialism to the more empowering values of acceptance, compassion, emotional intimacy, caring for the welfare of others, and contributing to the world around us. Not only will this shift in focus improve the quality of our own lives, it will also create a ripple effect that ultimately will improve the quality of life for others. For the reality is that the most important things in life cannot be bought. Indeed, they are priceless.
* For supporting research and more information on this topic, I highly recommend the following resources:
- The High Price of Materialism by Tim Kasser
- The Handbook of Self-Determination Theory Research by Deci and Ryan
- The Price of Inequality by Joseph E. Stiglitz
- Website: www.selfdeterminationtheory.org
About the author:
Susan Fowler is one of the principal authors—together with David Facer and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop. Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.
In a new article for Fast Company, columnists Scott Blanchard and Ken Blanchard take a look at why some companies are successful in implementing change while others struggle.
They also look at why some leaders inspire people to work together effectively, while others cannot.
The pivotal ingredient in both cases? Trust
Drawing from Ken Blanchard’s latest and brand new book, Trust Works! Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships (co-authored with Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence) Blanchard identifies four components that either build—or bust—trust with people.
The four attributes are:
- Able—does the leader Demonstrate Competence
- Believable—does the leader Act with Integrity
- Connected—does the leader Care about Others
- Dependable—does the leader Maintain Reliability
Blanchard identifies that, “The ability to build trust is a defining competency,” and he recommends that leaders take a two-step approach to evaluating their trustworthiness—beginning with a self assessment. To make this easier, Blanchard provides a link to a free online tool www.trustworksbook.com
The self-assessment gives leaders a chance to see if their actions might be contributing to low-trust relationships through behaviors that are seen as less than Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable.”
Second, Blanchard recommends that leaders ask colleagues and direct reports to evaluate their behavior as well.
“What you learn about yourself can be eye-opening,” says Blanchard. “Many of us are unaware when our behavior is eroding the trust of others around us. What seems like acceptable behavior to us may be causing a friend, spouse, boss, employee, or significant other to feel downright wary.”
As a case in point, Blanchard shares a story about his own experience using the assessment and how he discovered that his staff scored him low on being Dependable.
While Blanchard knew he had trouble saying “no” to requests and liked to say yes to others as much as possible, he didn’t realize it was a problem until he learned that, because he said “yes” to so many things and overcommitted himself, he was sometimes regarded as undependable.
Using the assessment and the Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable framework, Blanchard and his team were able to discuss Ken’s “trust buster” trait. Together the team was able to develop solutions. As a result, today—in addition to being careful about not over-committing himself—when Ken goes on trips he doesn’t take his own business cards. Instead, he gives out the cards of his executive assistant, who can make sure Ken has the time and resources to follow through before he makes commitments.
How are you doing on trust? Are your behaviors consistent with your intentions? To read more about Ken and Scott Blanchard’s thinking on this topic, be sure to check out, Do Your Employees Trust You?
In addition to regular traffic signs, drivers often encounter other types of signs. For example, have you ever been surprised by a key route that has recently been designated one-way, or that there’s a temporary detour? In those instances, you have to follow the signs, adjust plans, and adapt to all of these new inputs to get to the destination.
Here’s the bad news about looking for signs in business. There usually aren’t any. Sure, you have market studies, and feasibility studies, and cost-benefit studies, and compliance studies, and studies of other studies, but very rarely do they clearly tell you when and where to turn.
In business, you are on your own most of the time. And when you’re on the business road you’ve got to keep going—even when you are in uncertain territory. And sometimes you have to fix the bicycle while you’re riding on it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here are three action items to help you reach your destination successfully.
- Make it clear to everybody on your team that it is part of their job to look for the clues that it is time to make a turn. And tell them that sometimes that turn isn’t even on the current agenda. You need gutsy people out there where the rubber meets the road. They’ve got to deal with reality.
- Make it safe for people to communicate with you. Very few trips come off exactly as planned. But how many times have people followed along with a driver obviously going the wrong way until everyone’s completely lost, and then said, “I had a feeling we weren’t going in the right direction.” There are always going to be glitches in the plan, and even times when the original plan should be downright scrapped.
- Do what you can to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. Protect people’s time. They can’t be nimble and ready for change if they are buried in bureaucratic distraction and static. They can’t do every last thing that somebody dreams up in a “perfect world.” There is no such thing as a perfect world. Don’t just keep adding to their to-do list; you need to add to their not-to-do list.
Seeing and reporting signs is challenging. Dealing with them successfully depends on having the information in the first place and the initiative to share it in the second place. This stuff isn’t easy. But it’s the stuff that business is made of.
About the author
Dr. Dick Ruhe is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read his posts here on LeaderChat the fourth Saturday of each month.