No shortcuts to being a great leader

27 11 2007

There are no shortcuts to effective sustained leadership.

It is not easy to be a leader, or to maintain a position of leadership.

There is no book, movie, seminar or short course that will turn one into a leader.

We can learn about certain elements of leadership that we may or may not possess, and incorporate these ideas into our lives and behavior.

But leadership is not about what information we possess, our good intentions, or a business title and corner office.

It’s all about what we show to others.

It’s about what we do.

Day to day actions.

Sustained leadership success comes from; listening, attention to detail, implementing ideas, perseverance in the face of adversity, willingness to embrace innovation, training and mentoring others, planning and risk identification, and the most important factor of all, providing a living example to others.

A true leader provides a model to others.

Leaders will consistently provide examples of; honesty, integrity, ethics, dignity, passion, diligence, capacity to learn, and unwillingness to be defeated.

A true leader will also provide examples of how to lose, how to accept defeat and move on, because leaders are not always winners

Leadership is not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a way of life.

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Top 10 reasons for poor customer service and their solutions

13 11 2007

Customer service, the interaction between the client and the supplier is an integral part of the purchasing and user experience, and as such, is the key to continued success in business.

What are the reasons for poor customer service?

Top 10 Reasons for poor customer service and their solution

1.    People are not trained.  When an organization does not spend the time to fully train their people the consequence is poor service.

Solution:  Dedicate resources (time and money) for training and reinforcement.   Employees should be fully informed about company goals, the products and services.  Emphasis and training should be focused upon the importance of listening and responding to the customer’s requests.  People can only do the job if they are given the right tools and objectives.  It costs money to train people.  It will cost more if you decide not to train them.

2.    People don’t care.  Selecting the correct personality is crucial for your business success.  Apathetic or self centered personality types have no place in a business that requires customer contact.

Solution:  Focus the selection and evaluation process to identify personalities that do not fit the required profile.  Get the wrong people out immediately, it also sends a clear message to everyone.

3.    Sabotage.  Angry or frustrated employees can actively work to sabotage and try to destroy the company.

Solution:  Keep honest and open communications with employees.  Informally and formally review performance, goals, objectives and feelings to stop potential problems before they reach the customers.  Get these people out of the front lines immediately.

4.    Employees don’t believe in the company, product or service.  If the image, marketing and promotion of the company is quite different from the reality, workers will not be able to sustain a positive attitude in the face of problems they know exist.

Solution:  Be honest.  Work closely with customer service, marketing and quality control to identify real problems and fix them.  Don’t let  marketing advertise over problems, solve them.

5.    Personal problems reflected in work.  When an employee’s personal life is in crisis or out of control, they may exercise control, aggression and negativism toward customers in an attempt to put some part of their life in order.

Solution:  Clear communications with employees:  If their personal life is affecting work performance, talk about it.  Time off, access to counseling or just listening may prevent more serious problems.

6.    Burnt out.  Too much negative, too many complaints can lower a person’s level of commitment and move their positive and helpful attitude to an apathetic one.

Solution:  Constant communication helps to identify who is burning out and why.  Get customer service people together to talk of success and how to deal with the frustrations.  Provide recognition or incentives for excellence in dealing with problems.

7.    Not providing the correct solutions to customers, lack of empowerment.    There is nothing worse than dealing with an employee who listens to a problem, then shrugs and says they have to ask someone else in the company to intervene and provide a solution.

Solution:  Give the people on the front lines the authority, power, tools and ability to solve problems.

8.    Don’t see the benefits – don’t understand their role in the company. 

Solution:  Employees project an image of the company.  They are the company.  They should be reminded of their importance and value to the customer and to the company.  Incentives, recognition, training and constant reinforcement are important.

9.    Apathetic from hearing the same problems over and over.  A fundamental role of the customer service division is to provide constant feedback on how customers view the company, the products and the service.  If this feedback is not analyzed and acted upon by upper management a feeling of apathy and frustration is created.

Solution:  Set up a model and procedure for the accumulation, analysis and implementation of solutions for the problems identified by customer service.

10.    Incentives/salary not tied to results.

Solution:  If you insist that the company depends upon people, and that people are the key to success, implement compensation packages, evaluations and incentives that support and reinforce this.

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Broken promises

28 06 2007

“The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it.”  Napoleon Bonaparte

It’s too easy to make a promise.

We promise the customer that the product will work, solve their problem, and maybe change their lives.

We promise our coworkers that our part of the work will be delivered on time.

We promise our business partners and suppliers that we they can count on us.

We promise to follow up after the initial sales call, that we will always be there with customer service.

We promise that our priority is the customer and the customers satisfaction.

We promise to hit the sales goals and meet the budget.

All our promises are all full of good intentions, it’s what people want to hear, it’s what we want to deliver.

But, can we guarantee that we will deliver?

Never take a solemn oath.  People think you mean it.  Norman Douglas

The best way to ruin your reputation and lower your ability to lead and manage others is to promise something and not deliver.

We make a promise because it gives others confidence, it seems to make negotiations easier and it reflects our hope that all will go as planned.

“All promise outruns performance.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

A common error of new managers and leaders is the perceived need to make promises to their organization and team.

Don’t promise it.

Promises are very powerful compromises, but extremely fragile and difficult to achieve.  Take care when offering them to others.  

In the place of promises, offer firm plans, describe actions and possible outcome, dedicate the time and resources required.

Do more than you say you will.

Perform, don’t promise.

“It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises but only performance is reality.”  Harold Geneen





Improve your leadership profile

19 06 2007

Ever wonder if your leadership style should be less interactive, less personal with your team?

Do you believe that the “cold emotionless leader” approach will bring better results to the organization?

Teresa Amabile in an interview entitled How Team Leaders Show Support-or Not in The Harvard Business School Working Knowledge newsletter, outlines her study published in 2004 in The Leadership Quarterly, and gives insight into leadership characteristics and styles as they impact group performance and creativity in organizations.

She identified 4 key behaviors that will improve the perception of team leader’s support by the team members (and by association improve group attitude and final results).

The groups perception of the leader’s support were positive when:

  • they received on-time feedback and prompt response to problems. On-time decision making
  • they were supported in their decisions on a personal AND professional basis by the leader and a sense of relationship was developed through exchange of personal information. Create personal relationships.
  • they were recognized individually and in public for their achievements. Praise and recognition.
  • they were included and asked for ideas and input about decision making. Inclusion and participation of all team members.

Sound familiar?

They are fundamental characteristics of any leader or manager.

The groups perception of the leader’s support were negative when the leader:

  • Did not manage the work efficiently. Lack of timely decision-making, disinterest, disorganization.
  • Unable to provide clear role definition and objectives. Lack of focus and objectives.
  • Unable to solve problems or avoid them. Lack of strategy and planning.

Becoming a good leader is not all about barking orders or the implementation of revolutionary, new and improved ideas about data management and numbers analysis .

It’s about listening, doing your job and making decisions that affect others on-time.

It’s about dedicating time and applying common sense to create and maintain human relationships.

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Leading your team to mediocrity

15 06 2007

“Too many chiefs and not enough indians ”

Slow Leadership has a post entitled Too Much Leadership that reminded me of a key concept required to effectively lead and manage people, and insure success in our organizations.

The willingness to pitch in and do the work along with the team.

There is no miracle formula to sustained success.

It’s about getting the work done.

It’s incredible important that we raise our hands to volunteer and roll up our sleeves, and not just point our fingers and give orders.

It creates a sense of camaraderie, provides an understanding of what are co-workers are dealing with, and shows a spirit of “doing what it takes” in order to make the business work.

The desire to “be the boss” somehow leads people to think that they are exempt from work, or entitled to give orders instead pitching in.

Being the leader involves identifying and eliminating the bottlenecks that affect your people in their work.

Supervision and coordination of work activities is part of that managerial responsibility.

Assuring that everyone gets their job done efficiently is what will make you a successful manager.

Best way to understand what that takes is to jump into the fray once in a while, listen, learn, work and think how to make it better or more efficient.

Do more and supervise less.

Start using your whole hand at work, and not just your index finger.

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20 ways to guarantee failure as a manager

15 06 2007

A guide for the new leader who wants to alienate all employees and fail as quickly as possible in their new management position

  1. Immediately purchase new office furniture and redecorate your office.  Spend a lot of money and make your office look very different from any other office in the company.
  2. Insist on new computers, cell phones and software for your use only.
  3. Spend several days working on your title, the press release announcing it and how your business cards look.
  4. Insist and “fight over” small insignificant details and decisions in meetings, leaving big decisions and “big picture” items in limbo.
  5. Treat the people in the organization as if they are there for your convenience and well being.  Be as rude as possible in your communications.  Demand, never ask.
  6. When in meetings and conversations, always answer the ringing telephone, type and send Blackberry messages, read and respond to all incoming email and instant messages.  Interrupt frequently and ask people to repeat themselves because you were busy.
  7. Plan company workshops or events aimed at creating a new atmosphere of “community” at work for weekends or after work hours, and preferable with short notice.
  8. Avoid sharing any information about your goals, ideas and strategies about the company with employees.  Always talk about theory, never get specific.  Keep it fuzzy and out of focus.
  9. Don’t listen to any ideas, solutions or complaints from employees or managers who report to you, especially if they have been with the company for a long time.
  10. Make strong permanent opinions about the company and employees, solely on the basis of discussions with top management and the business owners.
  11. Take lots of “business trips”  and attend every professional seminar and conference possible, do not take anyone from the company with you.  This is especially effective if the company is suffering from cash flow problems.
  12. Talk about implementing massive changes, re-inventing methods and strategies, promote innovation and tell everyone that money is not an issue for them to worry about, at the same time focus all your energy on cutting costs, and minimizing the organization.
  13. Immediately terminate some employees because someone told you to do it.
  14. Insist that everyone in the company learns how to work with a new software program that you like.
  15. Request reports and analysis from all managers and department heads, then several days later, repeat the request.  Don’t read or respond to any report and never acknowledge that you have received it.
  16. Schedule many inter-departmental meetings at odd hours, don’t provide an agenda, then cancel them at the last minute, or just don’t show up.
  17. Always refer to customers as if they were something evil and undesirable.
  18. Constantly remind employees that before you came to the company they were primitive and uneducated, without a clue as to what business is all about.
  19. Hire consultants, lots of consultants, expensive consultants are best.
  20. Never make a decision by yourself, always try and find total consensus on all issues.

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Maximize the impact of business conferences, seminars, and special events in your organization

15 06 2007

Attending business conferences, special events, lectures, seminars, classes and courses are part of our professional lives.

Events provide great information, professional tips, up to date industry information, inspirational and motivational ideas, and fantastic opportunities to expand your business network.

Unfortunately not all the events are interesting, useful or entertaining.   At times it is a waste of time and money.

But the occasional great event is inspirational, we leave the room vibrating with ideas, enthusiasm, motivation and the desire to put the words and concepts to work in our own lives and business organization.

Two days later we forgot about what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, and why it was important.

Then we sign up for another event, and the cycle repeats itself.

How can we take full advantage of the ideas, knowledge and opportunities from business events?

To get the most out of these events a bit of planning and follow through will allow you to maximize this knowledge and it’s impact in your professional and personal life.

Before you go

  1. Main reason why are you going to attend?  Write down your reasons for attending; to gain specific business knowledge, exploration (don’t know what to expect, but it might be good), my boss thinks it might be important, seek inspiration or motivation, networking opportunities.
  2. Why do you expect to learn, or who do you expect to meet?
  3. Can you do anything to prepare before you go?  Contact people before you go, read works from the author or about the topic, prepare specific questions?

After the event

  1. Write a brief,  one page, executive summary.
  2. Include the name of the event, place, date.
  3. What was the conference/event about.
  4. Note any reference materials given at the event, where are you going to file or save them?
  5. What did you learn that is applicable to you or your business?  This might be a general concept, or specific information, it’s what you want to bring back and implement.
  6. Who else in the organization should know about the information or is affected by it?
  7. Who did you meet while there, full contact information, how can they be interesting to your business in the future.
  8. What follow-up required (thank you notes, contact specific people, more research, share it with others, file it, forget it).
  9. What should be investigated further, and who should do it.
  10. What does it take to implement or disseminate the idea or knowledge in your business (resources, people, attitude, commitment).
  11. Personal comments or observations, what did you feel.
  12. Retain all these executive summaries in a file titles “Events, Conferences, Seminars, Classes, Lectures” or something similar, organize events by date, subject or month.
  13. Review your summary in 30 days and note progress or lack of progress.   What happened or didn’t happen?

The key to maximizing the impact of a special event in your organization is to take a few moments to reflect upon your objectives before attending and then summarizing your learning, next actions and follow through required after the event.

Simple, focused and effective.

Highly recommended that each attendee from your organization be required or encouraged to keep such a file, and share it with their co-workers or managers.

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