With all of the changes going on in the airline industry over the last few years, it has definitely been more the exception rather than the rule when getting great service while traveling. However, I had a pleasant surprise a few months ago while traveling back home on United Airlines.
Once everyone had boarded the plane and we were all getting settled in our seats, expecting to hear the flight attendant start making their welcoming and safety comments, the captain himself got on the intercom and started talking to us. He didn’t stand behind the little wall that tends to hide the flight attendant from the passengers, but instead stood halfway down the aisle of first class and addressed the entire plane.
He welcomed us all on the flight and thanked us for our business and choosing to fly United. He acknowledged that we have a choice in airlines, and he hoped that this flight would be a great experience for all of us. He then went on to introduce the rest of his “team” as he called them, his co-pilot and flight attendants, saying that they all work together to make the flight enjoyable and safe. He encouraged us to ask the flight attendant if we needed anything during the flight and thanked us one more time before he handed it off to the attendant to finish all of the safety messages. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but smile to myself and think how a simple gesture like personally welcoming the passengers set the tone for a pleasant flight and put the customers in a good mood.
So what can your organization learn from this? Here are three simple ways to create a stronger team and build customer loyalty:
- Always look for opportunities to practice what you preach to your employees about making their customers feel welcome by talking to customers, saying a simple hello, asking how their day is, or if there is anything else to help them with.
- Remind your employees to look for the 1% better concept—the little things you can do while interacting with customers that may not be a huge thing, but may be huge in the eyes of that customer.
- Constantly look for opportunities to praise your team members when you see them delivering great service to their customers. They will feel valued and acknowledged for their efforts and want to continue to serve their customers in a positive way.
I actually was a little sad getting off the plane at the end of the flight knowing I may not see that pilot again on another flight, but happy that he had restored my faith in the airlines and knowing there are leaders out there that really do want to make a difference.
About the author:
Kathy Cuff is a senior consulting partner and one of the principal authors—together with Vicki Halsey—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program.
They are a Division II football program that went undefeated last season and were ranked #1 in the nation for Division II schools at the end of the season. Pretty good, huh?!
Although that is pretty impressive, what impresses me even more is the coaching staff—the leaders at the top of the football program.
I went to visit Head Coach John Wristen to drop off a couple of Ken Blanchard’s books that I thought he would enjoy, and ended up spending 45 minutes chatting with him about his philosophy as a coach and what he is trying to teach these young men. In addition to running a top-notch football program, just as important to Coach Wristen is preparing these guys for life and real world circumstances that they will encounter.
He is very clear about the importance of having clear goals and re-evaluating the goals often to make sure they are on track. He also wants the players to know what the values are of the program, since he strongly believes that values guide the specific behaviors he is looking for from his players. His job, he says, as the Head Coach is to be very clear in sharing his goals and values, and then making sure that he and his staff do everything they can to help the players be successful throughout the year.
He and his fellow coaches truly care about the development of these young men–not only their abilities on the field–but off the field as well. He says that he thinks of each player as his son and he treats them in the way that he would want a coach to treat his own son. Needless to say, as a parent of a player, this warmed my heart and confirmed in my mind my son’s decision to come and play for this coach. I know that he is in good hands.
A lesson for all leaders
I believe all leaders in organizations can learn a lesson from Coach Wristen. Let your team members know you care about them by being clear on what the goals are, what specific behaviors are expected from them, and what are your values that will help guide those behaviors. Remember, your direct reports, just like the football players, are part of YOUR team and you, as their leader, are only as effective as the rest of the team is.
Thanks, Coach Wristen for being a great servant leader to your team! Now it is up to YOU to be a great coach to YOUR team! Maybe you, too, can take “your game” to the next level like Coach Wristen did this past season.
P.S. Coach Wristen was named the National Coach of the Year by American Football Monthly magazine, a leading publication for football coaches.
Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, a time to reflect back on the life and teachings of the great civil rights leader and activist. While most of us will not be called to engage in social activism on the scale that Dr. King did, we can still have a great impact on the people around us through our actions and behaviors.
Here are three ways to honor the spirit of Dr. King’s message in your corner of the world.
Be inclusive. It’s never a good idea to create artificial divisions between people even though, as humans, we seem to love to do it. People have a fundamental need, and a right, to be included in decisions that affect them. No one likes to be left out. Go out of your way to bring people into the process.
Listen. Once you’ve brought people together, make sure that you take the next step and truly listen to them. One of our favorite reminders for leaders is to occasionally stop and remember the acronym WAIT—Why Am I Talking? And one of our favorite recommendations for leaders is to “listen with the intent of being influenced.” Use both in your interactions with people.
Act with integrity. Even though people may not always agree with the final outcome, it’s important that we always agree with, and respect, the process. Leaders need to be especially conscientious in monitoring the ways that decisions are reached. Resist the tendency to cut corners. Ken Blanchard recommends that leaders hold themselves to a high standard by using a 3-step ethics check with all major decisions. Start with the basics—is it legal and is it fair? Then hold yourself to a higher standard by asking, “Would you be proud if your decision-making process and result was published and widely known?”
As you go back to work this week, take a minute to review the way you are interacting with people. Are you including all stakeholders in the process? Are you truly listening to everyone’s ideas and concerns? Are you being fair and ethical in the way you are making decisions and allocating resources?
Today, more than ever, we need a process that includes, instead of excludes, people. See what you can do in your areas of influence this week. You’ll be surprised at the difference you can make.
WD-40 CEO Garry Ridge and best-selling author Ken Blanchard got some eye-opening responses to questions they asked in a recent webinar. They were sharing some of the key points from their book Helping People Win at Work, and as a part of their presentation they conducted a survey with their audience. They wanted to find out how attendees felt about the performance management process in place at their organization and how it was impacting culture and performance.
To get at that, they shared five key questions from WD-40’s annual engagement survey and asked the audience how many of these statements they would personally agree and/or strongly agree with. Here are the questions (and the percentages of positive responses.) See how this stacks up with your experience.
In my organization/company…
- I am treated with dignity and respect. (78% agree/strongly agree)
- Employees work passionately toward the success of the organization. (52% agree/strongly agree)
- I am allowed the freedom to openly discuss an alternative point of view concerning issues at our company/organization with my supervisor. (71% agree/strongly agree)
- My supervisor respects me. (77% agree/strongly agree)
- I know what results are expected of me. (68% agree/strongly agree)
Then Ken Blanchard asked one additional question to highlight the connection between performance management and culture. After the initial results were shared, he asked, “Do you believe that you, as an employee, benefitted from your last review with your supervisor?”
Over 58% of the 500 people in attendance said “no”.
Blanchard and Ridge used this final question as a springboard to share their thoughts on what makes up a successful performance management system for employees. They identified three key components.
- Clear, agreed-upon goals.
- Consistent day-to-day coaching designed to help people succeed.
- No surprises at performance review.
The core of their message was that it’s all about trust and respect. Organizations that treat people as valued team members by taking the time to structure jobs their properly, provide direction and support as needed, and focus more on helping people succeed instead of evaluating them, are the ones that create engaging work cultures that bring out the best in people.
But does it work? That’s where Garry Ridge’s experience at WD-40 really caught my attention. After working at this for the past 10 years, Ridge answers, “absolutely” and he has the numbers to back it up.
Check out these responses from WD-40’s most recent survey on the same questions Ken Blanchard asked the audience.
- At WD-40 Company I am treated with dignity and respect. (98.7% agree/strongly agree)
- Employees at WD-40 Company work passionately towards the success of the organization. (98.6% agree/strongly agree)
- I am allowed the freedom to openly discuss an alternative point of view concerning issues at WD-40 Company with my supervisor. (98.3% agree/strongly agree)
- My supervisor respects me. (98.0% agree/strongly agree)
- I know what results are expected of me. (97.7% agree/strongly agree)
The numbers at WD-40 are at least 20 points higher in all categories and an eye-popping 46-points above the audience survey response when it comes to question number two, “Employees at WD-40 Company work passionately towards the success of the organization.”
Ridge also has the bottom-line impact numbers you’d expect with the company experiencing consistent growth over the time period and record sales for the most recent fiscal year.
How about your organization?
Strong performance management is a basic key to success but its implementation is very uneven in today’s organizations. Some companies have strong processes in place while others leave it up to the discretion of the individual manager.
What’s your company’s approach to performance management? How is it working?
If you could use a more consistent, proven approach, check out the process that Blanchard and Ridge suggest in their book Helping People Win at Work. It can be implemented at any level in an organization. To see the complete presentation Blanchard and Ridge conducted check out the webinar recording posted up at Training Industry by clicking on this link.
Good performance management is a basic to better performance. Don’t let an uneven approach create inconsistent results. Your people deserve better. Conduct a performance review of your performance management system today.
Boss watching is a fact of life in many organizations. Frontline employees are more concerned with keeping the boss happy than they are with keeping the customer happy. Leaders can help employees focus in the right direction by taking the mystery out of what people can expect from them as a leader.
Employees are always concerned about how their boss will react when he or she finds out about a situation. This uncertainty keeps people unwilling to step out of tightly defined roles for fear that they will do something wrong. People shouldn’t have to guess how their leader would respond. Leaders can improve the situation—and open up a little playing room for employees—by clearly sharing their expectations.
Recently I was channel surfing while watching TV and I ran across a showing of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Larry the Cable Guy was one of the featured performers, and if you’ve seen his act before, you know his signature catch-phrase is “Git R Done!” Now, normally I wouldn’t recommend listening to Larry the Cable Guy for advice on building trust in relationships, but it struck me that if you’re a leader known as someone who can “Git-R-Done,” the chances are you’re considered a trustworthy individual.
Trust in relationships is comprised of four elements: Ability, Believability, Connectedness, and Dependability (TrustWorks!® ABCD Model). Part of being an able, competent leader is knowing how to get things done. Yet with today’s flat organizations and wide span of control, it’s impossible for a leader to know the answer to every problem that crops up.
Although most managers agree with the importance of setting goals, many do not take the time to clearly develop goals with their people. As a result, people tend to get caught in the “activity trap,” where they become busy doing things, but not necessarily the right things. In his book Leading at a Higher Level, business author Ken Blanchard recommends that managers set SMART goals with their people. SMART is an acronym for the most important factors to remember in setting quality goals:
Specific and measurable. You don’t say to somebody, “I want you to improve.” You have to be specific about the area that needs improvement and what good performance looks like. Being specific reinforces the old saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Therefore, goals have to be specific, observable, and measurable.
Motivating. Not every job people are asked to do will be super-exciting, but having motivating goals helps. Sometimes all people need to know is why the task is important. The “why” explains how the person’s task fits in with overall job performance and the goals and objectives of the unit, division, organization, and customer. It clarifies how the task supports higher-level outcomes. People want to know that what they do makes a difference. That’s motivating.
Attainable. It’s a false assumption that to motivate people you have to set goals that are unattainable. What really motivates people is to have moderately difficult but achievable goals.
In a classic research experiment on achievement motivation, researcher David McClelland asked people to throw rings at a stake from any distance they chose. McClelland found that high achievers positioned themselves the appropriate distance from the stake through experimentation. If they threw the rings from a certain spot and made most of their tosses, they moved back. If they missed most of their tosses, they moved forward. Why? McClelland found that high achievers like to set moderately difficult but attainable goals—that is, goals that stretch them but are not impossible. People who set goals that are too easy or too difficult don’t want to be judged or held accountable.
Relevant. Eighty percent of the performance you want from people comes from the 20 percent of the activities they could get involved in. Therefore, a goal is relevant if it addresses one of the 20-percent activities that make a difference in overall performance.
Trackable and time-bound. As a manager, you want to be able to praise progress or redirect inappropriate behavior. To do that, you must be able to measure or count performance frequently, which means you need to put a record-keeping system in place to track performance. If a goal consists of completing a report by June 1, the chances of receiving an acceptable, even outstanding, report will increase if interim reports are required.
Goals energize people when they are set correctly. Make sure your people know what they are being asked to do (their areas of accountability) and what good performance looks like (the performance standards by which they will be evaluated). It’s a great way to get 2011 off to a successful start!
Everyone hates reporting to a micro-manager—those leaders and supervisors who watch an employee’s every move and who always have a better way of doing something. But micro-managing is very appropriate in some cases—for example when an employee is brand new to a task. How can you, as a leader, provide people with the direction and support they need without seeming overbearing? Here are three tips:
Be clear on goals and tasks. People need different levels of direction and support depending on the task they are facing. As a leader your job is to clearly identify each of the tasks an employee has on his or her plate.
Know your people. Most employees are good at some of their tasks and still developing skills in others. A good manager tailor’s their direction based on what an employee needs and their level of experience. For example, a salesperson might be great at booking appointments but not so great at using the new conferencing technology to demonstrate the product. A good manager will recognize the difference and trust the salesperson to book appointments their own way while at the same time using a more directed, hands-on managerial style, when it comes to using the new software.
Provide the right level of direction and support depending on the task. In this case, the manager needs to take a very hands-off approach when it comes to appointment setting, while at the same time using a very hands-on approach to learning and using the new software. As long as the manager uses the right style with each task, it won’t feel like micro-managing to the employee. It will just seem like active, helpful leadership.
Very few employees are experts at all of their tasks these days. Most people are good at some and still learning in others. By adjusting leadership style to fit the task at hand, managers can move their people to higher levels of performance without the danger of being labeled a micromanager.
Has there ever been a time when we’ve had more access to good information about leading and managing people? Probably not. Has it changed the way the majority of managers are leading their people? The jury is still out on that one.
What gets in the way of managers making the shift from knowing to doing? In their book Know Can Do! authors Ken Blanchard, Dick Ruhe, and the late Paul Meyer, identify three big reasons why people don’t put more of their good ideas into practice. See if any of these rings true for you.
- Too much knowledge
- Too much negativity
- Bad habits
To overcome these roadblocks, the authors recommend three strategies—a “less is more” approach, positive—instead of negative filtering, and spaced repetition with active coaching.
- Less is More. Before you can take a step, you have to decide on a direction. Don’t become paralyzed wondering if there might be a slightly better idea out there. The key is to move from analysis to action. Which diet works best for you? The one you stick to!
- Avoid Negative Filtering. While it is important to evaluate an idea from different perspectives, make sure that you are not letting a “why that won’t work” mentality keep you from moving forward. What’s easier for you? Seeing the reasons why something will work, or the reasons why something won’t work? If you tend to see the negative first, practice seeing the positive side as well. It will help you get started with taking action.
- Repetition, Repetition, Repetition. There is no substitute for just doing it. Take action—evaluate the outcome—adjust accordingly—repeat. You’ll be surprised how much you will accomplish once you set yourself in motion.
At its core, behavior change is a personal process. Any real change has to start by addressing the beliefs, limitations, and thought processes going on inside of a person.
Today, the gap between knowing and doing is probably wider than the gap between ignorance and knowledge. Close that gap in yourself and your organization by identifying and resolving the three challenges. Make the shift from knowing to doing.
BNET columnist Jessica Stillman recently shared some reactions she got from readers to a blog she wrote on What’s the First Thing New Managers Need to Learn? The original posting prompted so many responses that Stillman offered up a second column on the subject aimed at sharing some of the ways that recently promoted managers could avoid “new manager syndrome.” According to Stillman, here are some of the symptoms that afflict the under-trained management newbie:
- Providing reports with too much “helpful” advice.
- Trying to show confidence by refusing to admit weaknesses or mistakes.
- Missing the mark with recognition through overdone or meaningless kudos to staff.
- Working 12-hour days to complete all work individually, instead of delegating.
You can read the complete second posting—plus see up-to-date additional comments by readers, at Readers Diagnose “New Management Syndrome,” Offer Cures
For additional thoughts on the challenges new managers face and some of the ways to meet these challenges successfully, be sure to check out two past articles featuring The Ken Blanchard Companies Madeleine Homan-Blanchard. Madeleine is co-founder of Coaching Services and she shares her thoughts on the challenges new managers face in an article entitled First Time Manager: It’s Not Just about You Anymore and is featured in a second article for new managers on Providing Feedback and Direction.