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.
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.
Are you working to create lasting memories this holiday season? Stop and think for a minute, how are YOU feeling right now? Stressed? Anxious? Happy? Sad? How are other people around you feeling? What does the average customer feel like now?
Typically this time of year people are feeling more emotional than usual. This is an opportunity for us to bring a little peace to people that we care about and help them relax and enjoy the holiday season versus being overwhelmed by it. It is important to know that the emotion zone in the brain is the same as the memory zone. You can leverage emotions to create lasting memories.
So, how do you bring a little peace?
P stands for Prioritize and focus. Help people (including yourself) prioritize and focus on the tasks and goals that are truly important. When people are overwhelmed they are usually taking on unnecessary tasks, producing worry that keeps their brain on spin. Creating laser-like focus reduces stress.
E stands for Energize to act. Help those around you with the one or two steps that they need to take in order to get started on their task or goal. Getting started is half the battle and task completion will increase as people just take that first step.
A stands for Acknowledge emotion. What happens when we don’t acknowledge emotions? They can get bigger and bigger and less manageable. Sometimes just the mere acknowledgement of someone else’s emotion, or even your own, can provide relief and support. Remember the last time someone did this for you and you said, “Phew, so glad to get that off my chest!”
C stands for Cherish Successes. Try to notice where others are doing things right and call it out. Listen to people and really make them feel special for who they are and what they have achieved. Cherishing success can be a wonderful gift that you can give to those around you this holiday season.
E stands for Enjoy the holidays. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the moments and the people that matter. Be grateful for all that you are blessed with by doing random acts of kindness. Sometimes it’s the little things we can do for people that really make a difference.
So give the gift of peace! Happy Holidays!
About the author:
Vicki Halsey is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Vicki’s posts as a part of our customer service series which appears on the first and third Thursday of each month.
As we enter into the holiday season, I always remind myself to try and be on my best behavior and keep my patience while out doing my holiday shopping. So when I read the story about the New York City police officer who used his own money to buy a homeless man a pair of shoes and socks, it reminded me that in the busiest of times, we ALL need to take a moment and look around us and see where WE can provide a random act of kindness.
Customer service is just that—SERVING others to make their day a little brighter, a little better. Create a memory, a story, a moment that someone might tell someone else about.
Now, I am not suggesting that we all go out and try to do something for someone else just to get on YouTube—that certainly was never the intent of that officer—but rather treat others with the respect and love that this season is all about regardless if anyone else ever knows about it or not. We all have those opportunities EVERY day.
Let me share with you three ideas of how YOU might make someone’s holiday a little brighter:
- Take a moment as you are interacting with your customers, be it an internal or external customer, and ask them how they are holding up during the holidays. Ask if they are taking some time for themselves and staying healthy, or enjoying time with friends or family. Make sure you listen to their answers. It should be all about THEM.
- Explain things thoroughly to your customers and answer any questions they may have about the transaction, information, etc. I recently opened up a charge card at a department store while checking out, and the clerk, even though there was a long line of customers waiting, took the time to explain the entire process to me and what I could expect to receive in the mail, and never ONCE glanced over at the line or hurried through her explanation. I felt like I was the most important customer in the world to her—and at that moment, I guess I was!
- Make sure that at the end of each conversation, transaction, phone call, face to face meeting—whatever it may be—you take that moment to thank your customer for their business and wish them a very happy and healthy holiday season. Let them know you appreciate their business and MAYBE even ask that dreaded question—“Is there anything else I may help you with?” Especially during the next few weeks, it is easy to forget the one thing you came in for, or the question you really needed answered. You may be the life saver that helped them remember it!
For me, I am going to take the lead of that police officer and look for ways EACH day to look for opportunities to put a smile on someone’s face and let them know I care. I encourage you to do the same.
About the author:
Kathy Cuff is one of the principal authors—together with Vicki Halsey—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their customer service focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
Ken Blanchard has a favorite question he likes to ask audiences whenever he is teaching about the power of recognition. He asks, “How many of you receive too much praise at work?” It’s a bit of a trick question because Ken knows after asking hundreds of audiences, that very few people ever raise their hands. In fact, most people go on to say that the only time they ever get feedback from their manager is when they do something wrong. For these people, the best they can hope for is, “no news is good news.”
Why are managers and supervisors so stingy with their recognition? Especially when we all know how important it is to be appreciated. As William James, one of the pioneers of modern psychology said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”
My guess is that most managers don’t realize how little praise they give employees—or more importantly, what their praise-to-criticism ratio is.
John Gottman, a Harvard psychologist who focuses on marital relations, is famous for identifying that to maintain a healthy relationship, it is important to have a praise-criticism ratio of at least 5:1. That means five positive mentions for every negative.
How are you doing with your level of praise in the workplace? If you’re out of practice, here are a couple of tips.
Be timely. Here’s one time when it is okay for a manager to “shoot from the hip.” As soon as you notice someone doing something worth mentioning, take the next step and actually call them out for it.
Be authentic. Don’t go overboard, just honestly express your feelings. You are not trying to “do” something, or manipulate the person or experience. Instead, you are just showing that you noticed and appreciate what they are doing.
Be frequent. Don’t worry that all this praising will go to their head—or that they will feel like you are overdoing it. Remember Ken Blanchard’s experience asking thousands of people his favorite question. No one has ever said they were praised too much and they just wish their boss would cut it out. That’s not to say that it won’t seem like a lot of praising in your mind. But remember the 5:1 ratio necessary for a healthy, positive relationship.
Don’t be stingy
Everyone loves to be recognized and appreciated for who they are and the good work they do. (Don’t you?) As long as it is honest and from the heart (and free of any ulterior motives) you really can’t overdo it.
Try it this week—and as an added bonus, I think you’ll find that giving others praise, recognition, and appreciation will make you feel better too!
One of my mentors, Stephen Covey, passed away this week. No book, other than the Scriptures, has had a more significant impact on my life than his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The 7 Habits is more than a business book or a self-help book. It is a book about how to be a better human being in all areas of life. And what made it even more impactful for those who knew Stephen is that he modeled what he taught.
Of all of the seven habits, none has changed my life more than Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. As a husband and father, leader, teacher, and friend, the skill of listening with empathy has not only made me more effective, it has transformed relationships.
Stephen Covey described empathic listening as, “Reflecting what a person feels and says in your own words to their satisfaction so they feel listened to and understood.” It means listening with your whole being—ears, eyes and heart.
When you make the time to truly listen to another person and make sure they know they were heard, you:
- Build trust—I believe nothing builds trust as deeply as truly listening to another person and trying to understand what they are saying and feeling from their perspective.
- Solve the “real” problem—Most of us tend to jump too quickly into problem solving without getting to the “real” problem first. Taking the time to listen for understanding, then reflecting what you have heard and felt, allows the real problem to surface.
- Diffuse feelings—Listening allows the other person to get their feelings out.
- Have greater influence—When the other person feels understood, they are more open to listening to you and you have a greater opportunity to influence them in a positive way.
Stephen Covey will be missed, but his spirit will live on through his books, his teachings, and his personal example. The next time you are dealing with an angry customer, an excited coworker, a troubled friend, or even a happy five year-old child, I encourage you to take the time to listen to their story. It’s a great way to honor Stephen Covey’s memory. You will be amazed by the impact truly listening has on the results, and more importantly, the relationship.
About the author:
John Hester is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read John’s posts on the first Monday of every month.
When asked for an example of what he meant by this, he said, “Well … we are asked to acknowledge the customer, get details about the situation, listen, ensure relationship building occurs, and exceed the customer’s expectations. But when I call my manager with a question, he just gives me an answer. For example, I needed to know if we could redo one of our customer policies given some new circumstances. My manager didn’t clarify, listen, or anything. He just said, ‘Follow the policy.’”
Chad’s observation intrigued me, as it made me realize that we forget sometimes how closely our people are watching us. I love the question: “What are people saying about YOU at the dinner table?” As service champions, to properly support our frontline service providers we must model the service we expect others to do—we must CRAFT a vision of collegiality.
C – Connect: Our role is to build relationships of care with the people who will be serving our customers. One of the kindest ways to bring people together is to acknowledge the importance of their position and note that they have the power to change problems they discover. “Thanks for bringing this to my attention. We want to ensure our policies and procedures serve the customers at the highest level. Let’s follow the policy today, but let’s bring this up at our weekly meeting to see if others have similar issues. Maybe we’ll come up with a great idea to solve the problem.”
R – Recognize: We need to recognize the good others are doing. Praise individuals to the whole team—send an email specifying what someone did, how it made you feel, and its importance to the organization. For example, let’s say the manager addresses the aforementioned issue at the weekly staff meeting. She could say, “I would like to take a minute to thank Chad for bringing up an issue that was driving a customer away and for providing his insights. It helped us to clarify our policy and exceed this customer’s expectations while creating a new policy to serve future customers at the highest level.”
A – Analyze: Consistently analyze information regarding customer issues so that you can see and share trends while proactively problem solving. At weekly meetings, be a catalyst for innovative change by having people share their issues, examine the causes and impact of those situations, and then brainstorm best possible solutions. Creating communities of practice increases motivation to act and serve.
F – Follow up: Check back in to be sure customer situations were resolved properly, and to draw out ideas that could be utilized in the future to build organizational intelligence. A few days after resolving the situation above regarding the flawed policy, the manager might call Chad and say, “I want to thank you again for bringing up that issue regarding the policy change. Did it feel to you like our solution was a success? Do you have any other thoughts?”
T – Talk: Ask open-ended questions, listen, and acknowledge emotion while connecting to the heart of the situation. In the example above when Chad called his manager, the manager might have asked, “Is there anything else you’d like to share so I am sure I understand the situation correctly?”
By collaborating with your service providers and unleashing their best thoughts, you are modeling the service you would like them to provide for their customers. As leader and service champion, you need to CRAFT, then showcase, the behaviors that will create the devoted customers who will become your #1 sales force.
About the author:
Vicki Halsey is one of the principal authors—together with Kathy Cuff—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their other-focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
It uses questions from a Mensa quiz to illustrate the point that a team’s collective wisdom is always greater than any individual team member’s.
To get started, see how many of these questions you can answer individually. According to Mensa, if you can figure out 23 of these, you qualify for “genius” status.
(I’ve filled in the first one for you—check the bottom of this post for the complete answer key when you are done.)
Now, gather your team together (or send them a link to this page). How many of these phrases can your team correctly identify as a group?
When we conducted this exercise in class, results varied widely. Some people scored high, some people scored low. Some people came up with the more obscure answers, while others missed the easy ones. The point of course was that no matter what, the group as a whole always outscored the individual members—even the really smart ones who got many of the answers all by themselves. In every case the team was smarter than the individual members and had a greater capacity to answer the questions that were put in front of it.
What gets in the way of sharing?
So why don’t teams share information more freely and use this to their advantage? There are a lot of reasons ranging from, “I like to be the smart one,” and “I like to be unique,” to “As long as I have this specialized knowledge, I have some leverage, etc.”
Now ask yourself two more important questions. 1. What can we do as a team to break down individual silos and share information more freely? 2. What individual or organizational barriers are getting in our way?
Teams perform best when they operate as a collective unit instead of as a collection of individuals. But that takes work—it doesn’t happen by itself. As a leader or senior team member, consider what you can do this week to help your team share more freely. It’s good for you, your team, and your customers!
1. 24 hours in a day; 2. 26 letters of the alphabet; 3. 7 days of the week; 4. 12 signs of the Zodiac; 5. 66 books of Bible; 6. 52 cards in a pack (without jokers); 7. 13 stripes in the US flag; 8. 18 holes on a golf course; 9. 39 books of the Old Testament; 10. 5 tines on a fork/5 toes on a foot; 11. 90 degrees in a right angle; 12. 3 blind mice (see how they run); 13. 32 is the temperature in degrees F at which water freezes; 14. 15 players on a rugby team; 15. 3 wheels on a tricycle; 16. 100 Cents in a Rand; 17. 11 players in a football (soccer) team; 18. 12 months in a year; 19. 13 is unlucky for some; 20. 8 tentacles on an octopus; 21. 29 days in Feb. in a leap year; 22. 27 books in the New Testament; 23. 365 days in a year; 24. 13 loaves in a baker’s dozen; 25. 52 weeks in a year; 26. 9 lives of a cat; 27. 60 minutes in an hour; 28. 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human body; 29. 64 squares on a chess board; 30. 9 provinces in South Africa; 31. 6 balls to an over in cricket; 32. 1000 years in a millennium; 33. 15 men on a dead man’s chest
Ask employers why people quit a company and 9 out of 10 will tell you it’s about the money. Ask employees the same question and you’ll get a whole different story. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) discovered this when they asked 19,000+ people their reasons for leaving as a part of exit interviews they conducted for clients. The top 10 reasons why employees quit? Check out the responses below.
As reported in (2005) The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave by Leigh Branham, page 21, Figure 3.1
Yes, compensation was a factor in 12% of the cases, but look at some of the other issues that drove people away—growth, meaningful work, supervisor skills, workload balance, fairness, and recognition—to name a few.
What type of environment are you providing for your people?
Author, speaker, and consultant Leigh Branham, who partnered with PwC to analyze the results of the study identifies that trust, hope, worth, and competence are at the core of most voluntary separations. When employees are not getting their needs met in these key areas, they begin to look elsewhere.
Wondering how your company would stack up in these areas? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself. How would your people respond if they were asked to rate their work environment in each of the following areas?
- I am able to grow and develop my skills on the job and through training.
- I have opportunities for advancement or career progress leading to higher earnings.
- My job makes good use of my talents and is challenging.
- I receive the necessary training to perform my job capably.
- I can see the end results of my work.
- I receive regular feedback on my performance.
- I’m confident that if I work hard, do my best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, I will be recognized and rewarded accordingly.
Don’t wait until it’s too late
Better compensation is only a part of the reason why people leave an organization. In most cases it is a symptom of a more complex need that people have to work for an organization that is fair, trustworthy, and deserving of an individual’s best efforts. Don’t take your people for granted. While you may not be able to provide the pay increases you were able to in the past, there is nothing stopping you from showing that you care for your people, are interested in their long term development, and are committed to their careers.
People are stuck in place, not particularly happy with the way things are, but staying put because they don’t have any better options. It’s a “quit and stay” mentality that has been hard for leaders to address. The tools they’ve used in the past to motivate performance—pay raises, promotions, etc.—are no longer available. Instead of the usual extrinsic motivators, leaders and managers have been forced to try and find new ways of creating an engaging work environment.
But most leaders don’t know how to create that environment, explains Bob Glaser, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. “Many leaders would prefer to deal with what they know instead of taking a risk with what they don’t know. As a result, leaders don’t think outside the box to look at other options. They know things are not where they need to be, but they are not able or willing to deal with it, or move in a new direction.”
The result is sub-optimized performance, says Glaser. “If you don’t have engaged employees, then they are not really going to take care of customers….they just do what they need to do, day to day, and not much more.”
“It’s normal behavior during economic downturns,” shares Glaser. “But it causes people to focus more on protecting their turf as opposed to looking for innovative new ways to contribute to the organization. It’s a self-serving, ‘circle the wagons’ type of attitude that is counterproductive to the organization.”
Breaking the cycle
While you may not be able to influence the organization as a whole at first, most managers have a sphere of influence where they can make decisions and where they can impact results and outcomes. Inside of this team, group, or department, managers can change the environment that will allow employees to be more engaged. For leaders up to that challenge, Glaser recommends a three-step approach.
1. Create a micro-vision. Leaders need to have a vision of what they want their team, their department, or their group to look like when they are performing at a high level of excellence. Focus on both results and the behaviors that will drive the results.
2. Get everyone involved. Next, involve people in shaping that vision for the department, group, or team. When it’s done right, it’s not just the leader’s vision, but it is the collective vision of where the group wants to go. Work together to create solutions where everyone feels that they can contribute, that they can make a difference, and that they are owners of at least that part of the organization.
3. Reward and recognize desired behaviors. Everyone is operating under a huge scarcity mentality. That takes its toll. People are stressed, working hard, and they’re trying to do the right thing, but their efforts just seem to maintain the status quo. Without explicit rewards and recognition to move in a new direction, it’s not going to happen. Be sure that you explicitly define expected behaviors and then measure alignment with the expectations.
Are your people growing—or just trying to survive and get by?
Ready to start growing again? Begin by putting fear on the back burner and focus instead on moving in a positive direction encourages Glaser. ”Rally people around an organizational vision and show them how they contribute to the vital work the company is involved in.
“When everyone understands how they contribute and how their work makes the organization better, when leaders can put their own self-interest aside and focus on the needs of others, it can have great impact on morale, engagement, and results.”
You can read more of Glaser’s thoughts in this month’s main article of The Blanchard Companies’ Ignite newsletter. Also check out a free webinar that Glaser is conducting on May 23, Leading from Any Chair in the Organization, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies