Wednesday, November 15, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: Culture - The Soul of the Organization

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In business, your culture is the soul of the organization.

The soul is the essence or the moral force of a person, their emotional or intellectual energy. It's the the part of you that consists of your mind, character, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.

Translate that to your company, and it becomes a good proxy definition for culture. The culture embodies the soul of the organization. As I mentioned in a previous post, we know that Culture = Values + Behavior. Core values are the fundamental beliefs of an organization. Further clarified, they become guiding principles, which dictate behaviors and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. 

“The only thing we have is one another. The only competitive advantage we have is the culture and values of the company. Anyone can open up a coffee store. We have no technology. We have no patent. All we have is the relationship around the values of the company and what we bring to the customer every day. And we all have to own it.” -Howard Schultz

But what happens when your executives' and your employees' behaviors don't align with your values? Bad things. Here are some examples, taking us back to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
  • Take a look at Enron. Enron's core values were: integrity, communication, respect, and excellence. But their leaders destroyed the company and went to jail for fraud.
  • I've searched for MCI-WorldCom's values, but the company is gone, and so are any traces of their core values. 
  • I couldn't find Lehman Brothers' values either, but I found plenty of articles talking about their toxic culture. And I did find an article stating that executives and employees were rewarded for taking risks - at all costs. That led to fudging the books, as well. So, integrity and ethical behaviors went out the window.
  • If you take a look at Goldman Sach's principles and standards, you'll see the first one states that they do everything in the best interest of their customers - and the last one on the page is all about honesty and integrity. And yet, they admitted to defrauding investors in 2008.
  • Merrill Lynch's principles, which were replaced by Bank of America's core values when they acquired Merrill Lynch, were all about teamwork, client focus, integrity, and more. Merrill Lynch was headed in the same direction as Lehman Brothers because it carried a lot of the same toxic debt/assets.
Do you have any more-recent examples? Maybe not a total fail but some bad outcomes of not living your core values? Perhaps Uber? Others with similar issues/stories?

It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are. -Roy Disney

What's my point? 

It's not to belabor the mistakes of those who failed - and failed badly.

The point is this: values are meaningless unless they inspire and drive the behavior that you expect your employees and executives (they're not exempt!) to display. In other words, your core values mean nothing if everyone in the company doesn't live them.

Is there a reason that employees aren't living them? Are the values regularly-communicated, not just posters on a wall? Is it time to revisit them? Once values are defined, they must be communicated regularly, and they must be reinforced. They can - and should - be updated as the business evolves or changes.

If you don't know your company's values, if they aren't a driving force behind your culture - or if you believe they aren't the soul of your organization - it's time to dust them off and put them in the spotlight where they belong. Don't have any core values? Make sure everyone understands why they are critical to the organization, to the employee experience, to the customer experience, to your culture - and then make the time to get the important task of developing them on the docket right away.

It's the job of any business owner to be clear about the company's nonnegotiable core values. They're the riverbanks that help guide us as we refine and improve on performance and excellence. A lack of riverbanks creates estuaries and cloudy waters that are confusing to navigate. I want a crystal-clear, swiftly-flowing stream. -Danny Meyer

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

We Have a Crisis in Leadership

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Why is employee engagement at an all-time low? Why is turnover as high as it is? Why are employees constantly looking for better opportunities?

When you think about those questions, combined with what I wrote in my post on Employee Engagement: A Confluence of Passion and Purpose...

That engagement comes from within the employee, and yet the company has a role in it, as well. When there's some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (mission, purpose, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment - then we have employee engagement.
... it makes you question where the company is lacking. And, by company, I mean, the leadership of the company.

So let's talk about leadership.

It's been more than five years since I first listened to - and wrote about - Bob Chapman's TEDx talk about Truly Human Leadership. I've included links to that post in several other posts since then. His message is a powerful one and probably resonates with me even more today. It doesn't hurt that I had a great conversation with him a few months after I wrote that post and learned more about what he and Simon Sinek were doing together to stand up a leadership institute. And since then, I've read his book and watched his Amazon Prime documentary short by the same name, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.

Here's his basic, yet powerful, underlying message:
We have a crisis in leadership in this country and in this world. ... In the United States, an estimated 88% of the workforce, 1.3 million people, go home every day feeling that they work for an organization that doesn't listen or care about them. That is seven out of eight people! These are our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters; they all have a high probability of working for an organization that doesn't care for them as individuals but instead sees them merely as functions or objects, as means to the success of the organization.
He goes on to say:
We're destroying people and killing our culture because we send people home after treating them as objects and functions, instead of caring about them as human beings. We want them more engaged because we want them more productive. We want more productivity out of them because that creates more profits and that creates a better future for the company, but we don't care about them as people.
 Ouch! And yet, so true.

And then this...
The good news is we have the power to change this and begin healing tomorrow. We just need to engage our heads and our hearts in an approach to leadership that validates the worth of every individual, an approach in which everybody matters.
Everybody matters. Amen.

Leaders have an awesome responsibility over their employees. Treat people like people. We are all human. Why do leaders fail to see employees as humans? Why do employees lose human status the second they walk into their employers' offices?

There's more - and the quotes above are from Chapter 4 in his book - but you'll just have to read it to find out what's next. (And, no, I don't get an affiliate fee if you click the link, and Bob hasn't paid me to write about his book. It's just that powerful - and that important.)

If you want to better understand the crisis, check out this video.


It's a compelling message; if this message doesn't move you to do something in your organization, I'm not sure what will. We can change the world. We can change how we treat each other, every day. We can change those employee engagement numbers. As leaders, as executives, we choose.

But what can we do? Where does it begin? How do we move from me-centric leadership and a me-centric organization to a we-centric organization? (Sounds a little like Weology, doesn't it?)

It comes down to culture, right? That's one piece of it.

Having the right values and guiding principles in place is a solid foundation and really creates the framework within which leaders can create an organization that puts people first, profits last, aka Truly Human Leadership. Take care of your people, and they will take care of the business.

The other piece of it is that your CEO and her executive team (the entire team, everyone on the same page) must choose to lead differently. It begins with them. The choice is theirs. The day they choose to lead differently is the day employees take notice. And it's the day that they'll want to become part of the change.

How do you lead differently? Consider adhering to Bob's 10 Commandments of Truly Human Leadership:
  1. Begin every day with a focus on the lives you touch.
  2. Know that leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you.
  3. Embrace leadership practices that send people home each day safe, healthy, and fulfilled.
  4. Align all actions to an inspirational vision of a better future.
  5. Trust is the foundation of all relationships; act accordingly.
  6. Look for goodness in people and recognize and celebrate it daily.
  7. Ask no more or less of anyone than you would of your own child.
  8. Lead with a clear sense of grounded optimism.
  9. Recognize and flex to the uniqueness of everyone.
  10. Always measure success by the way you touch the lives of people.
Imagine if every CEO ran her company based on these Commandments!

Everybody Matters is about what happens when ordinary people throw away long-accepted management practices and start operating from their deepest sense of right, with a sense of profound responsibility for the lives entrusted to them. -Bob Chapman


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

7 Pillars of a Strong Culture

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Culture is best defined as "values plus behavior" and is often described as "how employees act when no one is looking."

Culture is such an important part of your business. It's really the foundation of the organization.

I've previously defined culture as the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates; culture happens when we operationalize the values.

Herb Kelleher's definition of culture is still my favorite: Culture is what people do when no one is looking.

But while some say culture cannot be designed or is not deliberate, I disagree; it certainly doesn't just happen by chance. If you've ever read about Amazon's culture or Zappos' culture, to name just two, they both are what they are because they were designed that way. They were quite intentional, not happenstance.

Their cultures are rooted in strong core values, as should yours.

Culture should really stand on the following seven pillars:
  1. Mission: describes the business you are in, i.e., what you're doing and who you're serving.
  2. Vision: defines where the company wants to go in the future.
  3. Values: the fundamental beliefs of the organization that guide your employees, identifying right and wrong, good and bad, and how to interact with each other and with customers. If there were no other pillars - and all you had was values (and behavior) - you'd still have a pretty solid foundation for your culture.
  4. Guiding Principles: are more specific than values in how they guide the organization through everything it does; they are more prescriptive in nature. Principles are objective "truths" or "laws," while values are subjective and provide a sense of direction.
  5. Purpose: the company's reason for being, the why. It's typically stated in such a way that helps employees understand who the business is trying to impact and in what way.
  6. Legend: if we tell the story about how the company started or where it came from, it creates a connection for employees, perhaps similar to purpose; it lets them feel how special and unique the company was/is and encourages them to carry that legacy forward, every day.
  7. Behavior: driven by all of the above, but especially by values/principles.
When culture truly stands on these pillars, it's really most strongly reflected in the seventh one, behavior. You can have the other six in place, but if what employees and executives actually do doesn't align with any of them, then it's a big culture fail.

Behavior is reinforced in the following:
  • People: it starts with hiring the right people, those whose values and purpose align with the organization's values and purpose. Culture fit is no joke. Hire for attitude; train for skill.
  • Executive Alignment: executives are not exempt from culture fit, and they certainly must all be on the same page when it comes to each of the seven pillars, the goals of the business, and how the business should be run. Key for executives is to lead by example, to model the behavior that they wish to see from their employees; if they don't live the values, why should employees?!
  • Servant Leadership: leaders within the organization must always put people first and recognize that their employees' needs come before their own. This should be a basic tenet of any culture.
  • Rules and Policies: if policies are out of line with the core values of the business, your employees will be confused; as a matter of fact, if your culture is strong, there's no need for excessive rules and policies.
  • Metrics and Measures: measure what matters; if your performance metrics are not aligned with your core values, don't expect employees to live them. Performance reviews should include core values.
  • Rewards and Recognition: reward the behavior you want to see, the behavior that supports your culture, your values.
  • Events and Programs: these should also reflect your core values; if happy and healthy employees are important to your culture (and they should be!), take a look at wellness programs and similar programs that help employees achieve that state.
  • Communication: the way executives communicate with their employees - and the way employees talk to each other - is a huge part of your culture, as well. Communications, including those to/with customers, should reflect the values, always. And, by the way, values should/must be regularly be communicated.
The bottom line is that it's important to have all seven pillars in place, but culture really is best defined as "values plus behavior."

I'll leave you with this quote, which reminds me of the "What the Hell is Water" story.

Determine what behaviors and beliefs you value as a company, and have everyone live true to them. These behaviors and beliefs should be so essential to your core, that you don’t even think of it as culture. -Brittany Forsyth, VP of Human Relations, Shopify


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

CX Complacency and the Lack of a Burning Platform

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When it comes to a customer experience transformation, is there a burning platform in your business? Or is everyone happy with the way things are? No need to change how you do business? How leaders conduct themselves? How your people are treated?

I've been writing a bit about complacency in business lately, including my last post from two weeks ago, Complacency or Innovation: You Decide.

As I'm working with clients through their transformations, I often revisit Kotter's 8-Step Process for Leading Change. I've written previously (at a high level) how that process applies to customer experience transformations.

The one step that resonates with me quite often is the first one, especially as it pertains to garnering executive commitment and, eventually, employee buy-in: creating a sense of urgency.

In his book, Leading Change, Kotter cites nine reasons for complacency, and it typically has nothing to do with inept or unintelligent leaders; instead, their focus is misplaced or misguided, they fall into a "not in my department" mentality, or they choose to believe that things will get better (seemingly on their own).

The first reason he cites is the lack of a burning platform or a major, visible crisis. What's the burning platform in your business? Customers are leaving. Employees are leaving. Costs are rising. Processes are out of whack. The culture is a mess. Bankruptcy. Impending hostile takeover.

Pick one. They are all bad. Absent all of them, you find yourself with the first source of complacency and inability to create and drive that sense of urgency that Kotter states is the first step in change management. In other words, if things aren't so bad, why should we change?

The second reason is too many visible resources. Perhaps a false sense of hope is a better name for this one. It means that there are a lot of lavish furnishings, perks, parties, trips, and events. Things must be positive because it looks like we're doing really well, i.e., we're spending a lot of money.

Low overall performance standards is the third reason. Performance standards are relative and can't be discussed in a vacuum. Your NPS may be up 3 points this year, but perhaps last year you were down 10 points from the previous year. And how does that compare to the rest of the industry?

The fourth reason revolves around organizational structures that focus employees on narrow functional goals instead of on broader business goals and outcomes. Departmental goals and metrics are fine, but they must all tie into the bigger picture, into the overall business goals.

The next one is a favorite one: internal measurement systems that focus on the wrong performance indexes. Again, they tend to focus on the department or on simplistic goals that don't necessarily tie into the big picture, giving the false sense that all is well.

Lack of sufficient performance feedback from external sources is the sixth reason. If you're not listening to customers, vendors, or shareholders and hearing from them how well you're performing, then you're missing a huge opportunity to uncover whether all really is well or not. Inside-out thinking rather than outside-in thinking rules the day. If the business is successful, leaders often get arrogant and think they don't need to listen to anyone outside of the organization. Until they need to.

I'd add here, too, that if you're not listening to your employees, empowering them, allowing them to innovate and find ways to do things better or to solve customer problems in a different way, complacency has also set in.

The seventh reason Kotter cites for complacency is a kill-the-messenger-of-bad-news, low-candor, low-confrontation culture. Any attempts to resolve reason #6 and bring in an outside perspective is viewed as treason.

Denial. Reason number eight is all about denial: human nature, with its capacity for denial, especially if people are already busy or stressed. We don't want to hear it. We don't hear it. So it must not exist. We're busy enough, so if we ignore the problem rather than doing something about it, we won't put more work on our plates. (And maybe it will just go away.) This is head-in-the-sand logic.

And, finally, reason number nine is one that I've written about before, as well: too much happy talk from senior management. The post I wrote is "Be Postive" is Not a Strategy. Your problems aren't gone just because everyone acts like they're gone.

I'll leave you with a thought from John Kotter:

Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo.

There are many forces... and they are strong.

It's so much easier to do nothing, sadly. And, oftentimes, fear of change rules the day.

But remember that what got you here won't get you there. The world is changing. Your customers are changing. Their needs are changing. The industry is evolving. New competitors (disruptors) come along all the time.

Executives must light that fire! Create that sense of urgency (not panic, urgency). It's time for your culture, your employee experience, and your customer experience to change!

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. -Theodore Roosevelt


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Preparing Employees to Deliver a Great Customer Experience

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I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloudCX. It was published on their blog on April 24, 2017. 

When you think of the phrase "inside out" relative to the customer experience, you probably cringe. This is not a phrase that customer experience professionals take lightly.

Inside out means companies focus on processes that are designed and implemented based on internal thinking and intuition. The customer's needs and perspectives aren't considered in this type of thinking. Company leaders make decisions because they think they know what's best for the business, not for the customer. There's a conscious decision to make process, policy, people, systems, or other changes that:
  1. Don't improve the customer experience at the same time
  2. Are about maximizing shareholder returns, not about benefits for the customer
  3. Improve internal efficiencies but to the detriment of customer interactions
  4. Are cost-cutting measures that also negatively impact the  customer experience
  5. Might be the wrong process, policy, people, or systems to change
On the other hand, outside in means that executives look at the business from the customer's perspective and subsequently design processes and make decisions based on what's best for the customer and what meets the customer's needs. They make decisions based on what they know is best for customers - because they've asked/listened.

So imagine my surprise when CallidusCloud CX started talking about "inside-out CX." It made me pause for a moment; but when you hear them define it as "how employees impact customer satisfaction and, ultimately, the customer experience," that makes a whole lot of sense. That does not make me cringe. Employees are critical in the customer experience equation.

Let's think about this for a minute. What exactly does that mean?

It can really only mean one thing: you better make sure that your employees are prepared to impact customer satisfaction, to deliver a great experience!

But employees need the right tools and the right information to do that.

Like what?

First and foremost, they need to know what it means to your organization to "deliver a great experience." Without that information, they will always fall short. How do we ensure that employees are informed and ready? How do we ensure that they know what's expected of them? How can we be sure they know the difference between right and wrong actions, behaviors, and more?

Let's take a look at some of the tools that will address those questions.

Core Values: Your core values are guiding principles for your employees; they outline which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong. Everything they do must be aligned with your values, and those values should be integrated into everything employees do. If employees ever question what they should do or question if what they're planning to do is aligned with the organization's expectations, they can refer back to these values.

Brand Promise: Make sure you've clearly communicated your brand promise to employees. If they don't know it, how can they live it? How can they deliver it? 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 the organization does must support and reinforce the brand promise: every product, every person, every interaction, every touchpoint, all of it. Every time. This is probably one of the key tools for your employees when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.

CX Vision: Your customer experience vision is an inspirational and aspirational statement that outlines what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It briefly describes the experience you plan to deliver. And it serves as a guide to help choose future courses of action. It should align with your corporate vision. The hope is that this vision fuels innovation and reminds employees that there's a human being on the other end of your CX strategy and transformation.

Corporate Vision
: Your corporate vision not only outlines what the company is trying to achieve but also guides decision-making processes and the resultant course of action. It not only spells out what you're doing and for whom you're doing it but also creates alignment within the organization. Your corporate vision and CX vision ought to be closely connected, if not one and the same.

Customer Understanding
: Employees need to be well-informed and well-versed on who your customers are and how they impact each customer and his experience: provide persona definitions, journey maps, and customer feedback. The better employees understand customers and the current experience - alongside the desired experience - the better they are able to adjust course and deliver the experience that is expected of them.

Training and Communication
: I'll lump these two together because they go hand in hand but, individually, are equally important. Training and communication begin at the point of hire, with a solid onboarding program and communication around the importance of customers and the customer experience to the organization; if you don't have an onboarding program, it's time to develop one. Then throughout the life of the employee's employment, provide regular training opportunities (especially as customer feedback, customers, and the experience evolve), communicate and set clear expectations, and provide ongoing feedback and coaching about how well the employee is delivering on those expectations.

Not sure where to begin? It might be a good idea to start with an Employee CX Assessment to identify what employees know and don't know about your customers and the customer experience. This assessment is time well spent by the entire organization, not just frontline staff. You'll use the results to better frame training efforts and to provide the right tools needed to ensure employees have a clear line of sight to customers and are equipped to deliver the experience you need (and customers want) them to deliver.

If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is. - Jan Carlzon