Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Why People Leave Managers

Image courtesy of pedrosimoes7
Do people leave managers or do they leave companies?

My last few posts have focused a bit more on culture and leadership (or lack thereof); in today's post, I'll continue the trend with a focus on management sins. I found three separate items that I wanted to share with you, all quite interesting, some with overlap.

The first is a whitepaper I recently came across titled 7 Deadly Sins of Management™. It comes from the Management and Leadership Network (MLN) and the Center for Competitiveness (CforC). They conducted research among executives in Northern Ireland to determine if there was a common understanding or thread as to why businesses in the region fail. Apparently, there is a "management and leadership deficit"in the UK. According to their research, the following leadership behaviors cause a business to under-perform or to fail.
  1. Lack of vision (No desired future state identified to be working towards)
  2. Lack of focus (Lack of focus on the areas of the business which add most value)
  3. Inappropriate role model (not leading by example - actions not matching words, not open to learning, not taking ownership)
  4. Not close enough to the business (lack of understanding of markets, customers, staff or product evolution)
  5. Lack of accountability or discipline (no action for non-performance, chaotic/fire-fighting environment, too fluid)
  6. Lack of constancy of purpose (Not staying the course because of the distractions or opportunities which causes the “eye to be taken off the ball”)
  7. Too much focus on the numbers (short-termism, lack of patience, mechanistic environment, blame culture)
Without a doubt, these behaviors are 110% detrimental to any business. When there's no clarity for employees, when they see leaders fumble around trying to figure out next steps, and when they feel like leaders don't understand the business itself and what they're supposed to be doing, employees begin to question whether they want to continue to work for these folks. And worse, employees decide to leave.

The next item I found was Dr. W. Edwards Deming seven deadly diseases of western management, which he notes are:
  1. Lack of constancy of purpose
  2. Emphasis on short-term profits
  3. Annual rating of performance: “it is purely a lottery”
  4. Mobility of management (i.e., job hopping)
  5. Use of visible figures only, with little or no consideration of figures that are unknown or unknowable
  6. Excessive medical costs
  7. Excessive legal damage awards swelled by lawyers working on contingency fees
For any business to be transformed, for businesses to survey, clearly these diseases need to be cured. The first five are his original "diseases," and he added the other two later.

And finally, the third item is a book by Dr. John Collis, The Seven Fatal Management Sins | Understanding and Avoiding Managerial Malpractice, in which he calls out and defines the following sins:
  1. The character flaw: erosion of trust and integrity
  2. Blind ambition: focus more on managing your career than managing the organization
  3. Short-term scare mentality: managing for survival
  4. Indecisiveness: unclear on when and who decides
  5. Blurred focus: the fuzzy vision
  6. Employees perceived as an expense, not as an investment
  7. Managing unchecked: lack of real accountability
Pundits actually ponder if people really leave managers, not companies. With traits like those listed, why would an employee want to stay. An interesting observation is that none of these three really put a heavy focus on employee development; each one stated only one sin that pertained to the employee, although, ultimately, they all impact employees,

From these lists, some of the deal-breaker behaviors for me - ones that I've witnessed fairly consistently over the years, unfortunately - include:
  • Lack of vision
  • Lack of focus/constancy of purpose
  • No real accountability
  • Too much focus on the numbers
  • Not leading by example
  • Lack of trust and integrity
  • Managing for survival
Based on your experience, what else would you add to the sins outlined by the three sources I've noted? What sins have you seen your managers or leadership team commit? What are your deal breakers?

So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work. -Peter Drucker


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ready. Fire. Aim.

Image courtesy of prairiemomof2
Have you heard the saying, "Ready. Fire. Aim?"

What does it mean?

Shoot before you aim. Shoot (or do anything) before you think or before you think it through. Shoot before you know what you're shooting at. Shoot before you know why you're shooting.

Take your pick.

The saying has a few different definitions, but I believe it refers to taking immediate action, or just reacting to something, without even thinking through the options or the implications. Oftentimes, we take immediate actions that are usually based on wrong assumptions or previous experiences that might not apply to the situation at hand.

Some believe that's a good way to operate, but others believe it's a business killer. While I'm all for being agile, doing what's best in the moment, and asking for forgiveness later, I typically tend to lean to the other side when it comes to strategy and decision making, being a bit more methodical and stepping back, looking at the big picture, and understanding implications of the decision or action. I've seen the opposite happen too often, and typically with negative outcomes.

If you've ever worked with or for someone who reacts before getting all the facts and before thinking things through, you know what I'm talking about.

1. How do you make decisions? Do you move forward with an initiative and ask questions later? Or do you get all the details, think it through, and then proceed?

2. Do you think you can make organizational changes (including your culture) by making snap judgments? Without thinking through the implications and outcomes on your employees? On your customers?

3. When a customer asks for something that seems out of the norm for what you do - or you simply don't know how or if you can do it - is your knee-jerk response to say, "No?"

4. If a customer is rude, is it your immediate reaction to be rude back?

The Ready. Fire. Aim. approach to decision making happens at both strategic and tactical levels. Regardless of level, it can be dangerous. Buy yourself a little bit of time and think about what your response means to the business, to employees, to customers.

I recently stumbled upon a UPenn online book called Going through the goop: An introduction to decision making. It provides a lot of examples on decision theory and how to make the best decision.

They define decision as a situation in which:
  • You have more than one option.
  • The option you choose can have some effect on the outcome.
  • You can think about which option to choose.
What I like is the concept of GOOP, which stands for the four things you need to consider when you're making a decision:
  • Goals: Goals result from decisions. What is the (desired) result of the decision?
  • Options: Options affect outcomes. What are the alternatives to reach your goal? What else could you do?
  • Outcomes: What are the potential and alternative outcomes, given those options?
  • Probabilities: How likely is each outcome?
Clearly, all four are critical to decisions and decision making. It's really tough to think about those four in the split second that you say, "Ready. Fire." Perhaps it's time to reconsider your approach - and Aim first.

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind. -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The 10 Commandments of Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Castles, Capes & Clones
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on June 7, 2016. I've made slight modifications.

Are you following the 10 Commandments of Customer Experiences? Or is it time for a confession?

In May 2016, I spoke at CallidusCloud Connections (C3); if you've never been to this event, be sure to check it out this year! The topic of my session was The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience. With the topic of today's blog post, I seem to be on a bit of a spiritual customer experience journey.

In thinking about the customer experience, there are at least 10 Commandments that must be adhered to as you embark on your customer experience journey. These are essentials to ensure a successful customer experience transformation. Here's what I've come up with, in no particular order.

1. Thou shalt listen to customers and act on their feedback.
This is probably two commandments, but you really can't do one without the other. Listening to customers is, without a doubt, important to designing a great experience and to business success. Without understanding customers, their expectations, and how well we perform against those expectations, we can never correctly or appropriately redesign the experience to meet their needs. But too many companies forget that the "work" doesn't end with listening. It's only just begun! You must act on what you hear.

2. Thou shalt map the customer journey in order to understand the experience.
You can't transform something you don't understand. If you don't know and understand what the current state of the customer experience is, how can you possibly design the desired future state? Take the time to map it, and make sure you map it so that it's actionable: map it from the customer's viewpoint and be sure to bring in artifacts and data that bring the journey to life.

3. Thou shalt put employees more first.

The link between the employee experience and customer experience is real. And yet, many companies still refuse to make the employee experience a priority, focusing instead on shareholder value, the bottom line, or customer experience without considering the implications a poor employee experience has on all of the above. Yes, you're in business to create and nurture customers. But without your employees, you have no customer experience. If employees aren't happy, satisfied, and engaged, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers. This is known as the spillover effect, i.e., “the tendency of one person’s emotions to affect how other people around him feel.”

4. Thou shalt define and communicate the brand promise.
A brand promise is, well, a promise to your customers. Everything you do should reflect this promise. It sets expectations and defines the benefits customers can expect to receive when they engage in your services or use your products, when they experience your brand. It's not a mission statement or a brand position. It's meant for employees and customers. Employees at all levels live the promise and deliver on it. In order for employees to deliver on it, they must know it, i.e.,  it must be clearly communicated to them and reiterated often.

5. Thou shalt hire for attitude and train for skill.

Hiring the right people for your company is always a challenge, but it's critical. Get the right people in the door - not just those folks who fit your culture or your values but also those who truly want to be there, for the right reasons. Define what "right" means for your company. And when you have the right people, they will attract other "right people." While you need to define what your culture fit looks like, typically hiring people who are positive, passionate about what you do and what the role entails, and love talking to and being around people will set you on a good path. With enthusiasm and passion for the brand, employees are eager to work hard and do what it takes to contribute to, and ensure, its success.

6. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's experience.
Imitation is the death of innovation. When imitating, there's no need for innovation, right? Get motivated by what your competitors are doing, but don't dwell on them. Don't try to be just like them; nobody wins when you imitate. Instead, competition drives innovation, and vice versa. And innovation drives success, simply because it allows you and your competitors to offer a variety of products to meet your customers' varying needs. When that happens, the customer wins. And then you do, too.

7. Thou shalt not proceed without getting executive commitment.
If your executives aren't on board with developing a customer-focused and customer-centric organization, then forget it; it won't happen. You might have localized or departmentalized efforts, but those will be siloed efforts that translate to siloed experiences for the customer. You must have global, cross-functional executive commitment; and most importantly, the CEO will lead the charge. Just know that, without executive commitment, you'll never get resources - human, capital, or other - to execute on your customer experience strategy.

8. Thou shalt empower employees.
What does it mean to empower employees? Empowerment is all about responsibility, ownership, and accountability. It's also about trust; the employee is given the keys to the castle and trusted to do what's right for the customer and for the business. Empowerment means they never have to ask, "Is it OK if I do this for my customer?" Empowerment means not having to ask for permission. Because employees know. And why do they know? See the next commandment...

9. Thou shalt define a purpose, vision, and strategy.

Your purpose is your why. Why do you do what you do. Your vision is where you're headed; the corporate vision must be aligned with the CX vision. The CX vision will be inspirational and aspirational; it will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action. Your strategy is how you'll go about delivering on that vision.

10. Thou shalt communicate, communicate, communicate.

This one seems like such a no-brainer, but it's one thing that folks need to be reminded of regularly: communication is critical to the successful execution of organizational and customer experience  transformations. Communication is a key leadership skill that must be mastered. With communication, we can instruct, motivate, convince and align the audience, drive open and candid discussions, share, and set expectations. It's the most valuable tool in any relationship.

Bonus. Thou shalt kill bad policies and rules.
There's one more commandment that I thought was worth adding as a bonus. In order to transform the organization and the experience, it's imperative that we lose the "we've always done it that way" frame of mind. Question everything. Is there a better way to do something? Is there a stupid rule or policy in place whose origin cannot be recalled by anyone? Are there rules that make it painful for customers to do what it is that they're trying to do? Are bad policies making it painful for employees to do their jobs well or to deliver the desired customer experience? Never let "that's just how it's always been done" get in the way of doing things more efficiently and with less effort.

Without a doubt, there are more customer experience commandments! Perhaps I'll write about others in a future post. How many of these commandments have you fallen short on?

Some rules are nothing but old habits that people are afraid to change. -Therese Anne Fowler


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Creating a Culture that Delivers Results

Image courtesy of hundrednorth
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on April 26, 2016.

I recently came across some research conducted among customer experience (CX) practitioners that found that their #1 challenge this year is creating a customer-first culture. I'm an "employees more first" advocate; so while I understand their point and this challenge, I'd still like to see more focus placed on employees. It all flows together in the end, though: creating a customer-first culture requires making the employee experience a more-first priority. You know by now, of course, that the employee experience drives the customer experience.

How does an organization create that customer-first culture? Well, it's a huge undertaking. Know this: just because you say it is so doesn't make it so.

I'll take you through some steps you can take, and I'll start at the top. Literally.

Executives are key to success of any culture transformation. Without them, it won't happen. Executive commitment, not just buy-in, is a must. Not just one executive, all of the executives: the CEO and her entire e-staff. Without their commitment, you won't get the resources (human, financial, etc.) to get things done. Without every executive across the organization, there will be barriers that will inhibit any progress toward a cohesive, consistent culture, and ultimately, experience for the customer. Without executives setting the tone and the direction, change will not happen.

A set of values, or guiding principles, also needs to be defined and communicated. Values outline which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong, both for your employees and toward your customers. Everything you do must be aligned with your values, and they should be integrated into everything you do. If employees ever question what they should do, or if what they're planning to do is aligned with the organization's expectations, they can refer back to these values.

By the way, those values will also guide how you hire. And hiring the right people is key to building and maintaining that customers-first culture. Imagine running a service organization and hiring people who don't like talking to or helping people. Yikes.

Not only do you want to hire with the culture in mind, you also need to make sure these people have the right tools and resources to do their jobs. So onboarding, ongoing training, setting clear expectations, providing ongoing feedback and coaching, and communicating openly and transparently are important components of this culture you're creating.

Employees in a customer-first culture know how their work matters, and they know how they contribute to the customer experience. (Journey maps are great tools to help with this.) Employees are recognized and rewarded for actions and behaviors that create delight for their customers.

Another thing that's important with regards to employees and the culture transformation is that you'll want to get buy-in, commitment, and adoption from existing employees. Involve employees in what you're doing as you transform the culture. Invite them to be a part of the transformation; don't just force it on them. And then, if you find that someone is no longer a fit, perhaps it's time for them to move on. You need everyone on the bus; for those who chose the wrong route, it's time to get off.

Leadership is key, and it's different from being an executive or a manager. Sadly, some executives and managers don't have great leadership skills. Hire the right people, trust them, listen to them, empower them, and let them do what they need to do; be their guide but set them free. They were hired for a reason. Set the course, outline the vision and the purpose, and then let them execute based on the bumper guards you've provided them.

Communicate! The things you talk about are deemed important; those you don't talk about, aren't. So talk about customers. Share their feedback, their painpoints, and their stories. Talk about great customer experiences, what went well and what delights customers.

Give the customer a chair. In every meeting, in every decision. Don't do anything without asking, "How does this impact our customers?" "How will this make the customer feel?" "What does this do to the experience?"

Make sure everyone knows your brand promise. If employees don't know what it is, how can they live it? How can they deliver it? The brand promise creates alignment. The smart CEO uses the brand promise to align all of the activities of the organization; that promise guides people, processes, products, systems, etc. Everything you do must support and reinforce the brand promise: every product, every person, every interaction, every touchpoint, all of it. Every time.

There's more, but these are the basics. None of this is easy; and it takes time. Just get started. Make sure you have the right people on board and then begin to lay the right foundation, and you'll reap the rewards soon enough!

If you quit on the process, you are quitting on the result. -Idowu Koyenikan

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment


Image courtesy of lambert03
Is your work environment toxic?

You wake up every morning and drag yourself into the office. You know there's a reason you drag and don't skip. The thought of being in your office makes your stomach turn, and you wake up every morning checking your temperature to determine if today might be a sick day rather than a work day.

Don't worry. We've all been there!

I recently read an article in Forbes titled 5 Signs You're in a Toxic Workplace. I'll briefly summarize the five here:
  1. Narcissists on top: Leaders believe they can do no wrong and don't believe the rules apply to them. They seek perfection from others, even though they don't meet those standards themselves. And they believe disagreement is defection: it's my way or the highway.
  2. Commiserating colleagues: Employees drown out the bad environment by listening to music with earbuds in their ears and then commiserate about their leaders through chat or text. When their bosses aren't around, employees happily interact, gossip, and count down the hours til the days is over.
  3. Lack of transparency: Are your performance expectations clearly defined? Do you know how your performance will be measured? Do you know what your position entails? Is there a clear job description for your role?
  4. Inconsistent rule book: This one's pretty self-explanatory; rules aren't applied equally across all staff, including the leadership team.
  5. The place is sick, literally: Employees are often calling in sick, fighting off colds at their desks, etc.
A few years ago, I wrote a post called A Culture of Distrust. It lists 19 signs that you're in a culture of distrust and even includes a couple of the items mentioned in the Forbes article. Take a look, as this type of culture is definitely toxic.

Shortly after writing that post, I wrote another one about culture issues called Circle the Wagons and Shoot Inward. My favorite lines from that one?
What happens when they circle the wagons and shoot inward? It's exhausting. And quite toxic.

What does that look like? It's like an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, thinking it's an antigen. Quite simply, the culture and the employee experience are a mess.
So why am I writing about this yet again? Nothing much has changed since 2014, right?

Exactly. Three years later, employee engagement is still dismal, and you hear more and more stories about toxic workplaces. Have you read about Uber's culture lately? That's not a unique story, sadly. Stories like that bring to light other, uglier issues that make the workplace quite toxic.

I've been thinking about more about this topic and wanted to add a few more signs to the lists in my earlier posts. I may have mentioned some of them in the previous posts, but if I have, it just means they're worth mentioning frequently! Here goes...
  • You're not having fun. (Listen. You spend a third or half of your day at the office; you need to have some fun there, too.)
  • Missing: sense of humor! You're not allowed to laugh, be playful, or make jokes (at your own expense or anyone else's). 
  • There's a lot of anger and yelling. And name calling.
  • And bipolar behavior. How are employees or leaders going to act today? Will it be the same as yesterday or the polar opposite?
  • Oftentimes, conversations with managers and leaders can be described as patronizing and disrespectful.
  • Men and women are treated differently. I'm not just talking about pay; I'm referring to assignments, respect, appreciation, inclusion, harassment, and more.
  • Employees avoid each other or their managers.
  • There's no appreciation or recognition or acknowledgement for a job (well) done.
  • Emails to/from colleagues go unanswered. People don't care or don't want to help each other.
  • Employees no longer collaborate.
  • But they do gossip.
  • The company (seems to) lack direction, purpose, a mission, and a vision.
  • There's infighting among the leadership team.
  • Employees are monitored. Office arrival time, departure time, emails, work from home time, etc.
  • Trust is broken. Or non-existent.
  • There's a clear lack of meaningful and transparent communication, i.e., information about the company and how the business is faring, from leadership is sparse or lacking.
  • Accountability is missing, especially among leaders.
  • Negativity abounds.
Doesn't sound like a great place to be everyday, does it? I'm sure it's not. There have to be great places to work. And there are. These great places build cultures that encourage trust, pride, collaboration, and fun.

Take a look at a post I wrote several years ago about about defining your employee-centric culture, which can be described as having strong leadership, trust, respect, communication, collaboration, empowerment, appreciation, recognition, and a solid understanding of vision, goals, and objectives. That's a complete 180 from working in a toxic workplace!

To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace. -Doug Conant