Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Don't Forget the Thanks

As Christmas quickly approaches don't forget to thank the people that have supported you all year. If you think about it for a minute you'll probably come up with a much bigger list than you thought you would. Thank your:
  • supervisor/manager,
  • team members,
  • assistants,
  • customers,
  • confidant,
  • mentors,
  • spouse,
  • family members,
  • friends,
  • business associates,
  • students/learners,
  • office mates,
  • Military,
  • first responders,
  • financier,
  • lawyer,
  • dry cleaner,
  • insurance agent,
  • the kid that cuts your grass,
  • dog walker,
  • mail delivery/newspaper delivery, and
  • God.
A pretty long list, right? You're probably starting to get the picture now. You have a pretty extensive "supporting cast". I bet you can think of more.

You didn't get where you are, all by yourself. You can't do what you do, all by yourself. You can't live the way you do, all by yourself. Skip to the end of the Scrooge movie and go right to the thanks!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Follow Your Conscience

I was going to start out with, “a breath of fresh air”, but someone already did.  So I was going to start out with, “inspiring” . . . already done.  How about “enlightening”?  Nope, taken.

So what the heck, Frank Sonnenberg’s new book, Follow YourConscience, is an enlightening and inspiring, breath of fresh air.  It just is.

There are a lot of people in business who believe that they’re a great leader and they are there to support others.  There are people who believe the same of their leaders.  Have you ever heard the saying, “it’s not personal, it’s business”?  People seem to use that as an excuse to do less than they really could for people.  I (h/she) could do better - but it’s just business.  Just begin reading Frank’s book and you’ll see that you - or your leaders - are missing out on some things.

Think about what type of role model you believe you are.  Then read this book.  Now, what type of role model do you believe you are?  What kind of role model will you become?

Conscience - attitude, authenticity, integrity, humility, passion, fairness, faith.  These are just a few of the things Frank discusses, and in a way that’s easily understood and painless to put yourself in the middle of.

My suggestion?  Read the book.  Share the book.  Use it for a leadership book club.  It all makes so much sense that you’re not going to want to keep it to yourself.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Perception and Pulling the Weeds

Perception . . . it's what ultimately may make or break you.

What customers see, hear, touch, and smell may be the things that put your organization over the top of another.

A good example.  Have you ever noticed the hitching posts on Main Street of Walt Disney World?  Probably not.  That's because they paint them every night if needed.  They're nicely painted, no scratches, no gouges.  Do you think you'd notice them if they were all beat up?  Most likely.  Disney wants to be known as a clean and well kept destination.  And they are.

How many times have you walked into a barbershop, Doctor's office, restaurant, or other business and the first thing you see before even entering are weeds in the planters - that are supposed to hold flowers?  You may also see signs falling down, cigarette butts on the ground, filthy windows, portions of lighted signs that are burned out, hand-written paper signs on the doors and windows, employee vehicles parked where customers should be . . . the list goes on.

The point is, that this is part of the businesses Brand (good or bad), and all of these things form your perception of the service and leadership of the establishment before you even enter!  But it doesn't stop there.  The interior is just as important, if not more.  You may have the better service or the better food, but the guy across the street with the more cared for appearance may have more customers.

Put yourself in a customer's shoes.  Make a weekly walk through with a clipboard and make a list of everything that needs attention.  Better yet, create a checklist of things to look for so you don't miss any.  Just remember that none of this does any good unless you actually tend to the difficiencies.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What's In It For Me?

The first thing that adults in training ask themselves is, "what's in it for me?", or WIIFM.

When designing or presenting courses for your employees, always keep this in mind.  Whether they're actually verbalizing it or thinking it subconsciously, it's still on their mind.  It's the main motivator for most of the things we do.  It helps us to translate an external need into an internal one.  The WIIFM for training could be anything from becoming a better employee, getting a raise or promotion, or . . . just getting done and completing the test.

For the most part, we like the familiar and are uncomfortable with change.  But our brains like novelty, not memorization.  We resist meaningless stimuli.  So any time that we can integrate the information we're gathering into something useful, we're getting that WIIFM.

As adults, we have many experiences to fall back on.  Use that to your advantage when facilitating your employee classes.  Set the tone early.  You don't have to actually state (and I would recommend not) that "the WIIFM for the class is".  But instead of letting them use the get done and test reason, take a couple of minutes to state the objectives/reason for the class and discuss the positive outcomes of attending. Motivated adults seek out learning because they have a use for it.  Get them thinking about why they're REALLY there.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ask For It - Use It

A little bit of soapbox this morning.  I was reminded yesterday of one of my pet peeves - taking surveys or asking for input and not using it.

This is one of the best ways to get people to shut up and shut down.  If you continue to ask and not act you'll completely stop getting meaningful usable information to improve your leadership, customer service, employee engagement, and revenue.

At one of the organizations I used to work for, we were given employee surveys three times while I was there.  Nothing was ever meaningfully acted on with the information that was collected.  While the first survey was completed by a very high percentage of employee's, can you guess what the percentage was completed for the third one?  It was below 50%.

Why should people take time to share their opinions and ideas if they know there will be no action taken?  It's a waste of their time and intelligence.  And it doesn't look well on you either.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Actions For Aspiring Leaders

I am thrilled and honored to have a guest post today by Bill Treasurer. His latest book, Leaders Open Doors-2nd edition, was released this week and became the first book I've read through twice within a year. Check out the links at the bottom to find out more and to pick up a copy.

Actions for Aspiring Leaders

People have high, and often conflicting, expectations of leaders. At once, we expect
leaders to be reasonable but passionate, decisive but inclusive, visionary but explicit, and powerful but humble. We also want leaders who are rational but emotionally intelligent, caring but impartial, and profit-driven but people-oriented. The list of expectations is so long and contradictory that the aspiring leader is right to ask, “Where on earth do I start?!”

Here are six actions that budding leaders can take to point their leadership in the right direction:
Answer the Holy Question: Here are the four most important words that you’ll ever learn in the English language: What do you want? People will follow you to the extent that you provide a clear vision of a better future you can help them reach. But you have to start with a clear vision of what you aim to achieve through the application of your leadership influence. What, exactly, appeals to you about leading others? Why would anyone want to be led by you? What good do you hope to do on behalf of others?

Focus on Them: Leadership is not about the leader. It’s about those being led. A leader is deemed successful based on the results that the people being led achieve. It’s tempting for newbie leaders to spend time hobnobbing with leaders who are more senior to them on the organizational ladder. You’ll go farther faster by dedicating time with the people whose results determine your success…the people you’re leading.

Get Ready for Mistakes: Rookie leaders blow up when mistakes are made. Considering how often mistakes are made in any organization, budding leaders should get a handle on how mistakes are handled. People you lead will lose clients, get the data wrong, come in over budget, or drop the ball in some other way. Don’t explode or mentally write the person off. Be mindful that how you handle (or mishandle) mistakes will set an example for others to follow.

Know Their Goals: As a leader, you’ll be under a lot of pressure to advance the goals of the people above you. Some leaders get so obsessed with the goals of their bosses that they neglect the goals and aspirations of the people they are leading. People have a right to grow and develop under your leadership. But you don’t have a right to dictate the terms of that development. Converse with each person you lead to understand what they want to get out of their job, role, and career. The sweet spot is when you can align the goals of the organization with the career goals of the people you’re leading.

Nudge Toward Discomfort: People don’t grow in a zone of comfort. They grow, progress, and develop in a zone of discomfort. As a leader, your job is to provide tasks and opportunities that stretch people beyond what they already know – which, for them, will be uncomfortable. The trick is to move people enough outside of their comfort zones that they are growing, but not so far out that they are petrified with fear. You’ve gotten it right when people learn to be comfortable with discomfort.

Express Sincere Gratitude: You may say that you value people, but if you constantly move up deadlines, rarely ask for their opinions, take credit for their good work, set unrealistic goals, and don’t say “thank you” for their hard work, then you don’t really value them. And they know it. Remember, they are the ones who will determine whether or not you’re successful as a leader. So get used to saying these words like you mean it: Thank you!

Leading others is not easy. You’ll have to balance the needs of the people above you with the needs of the people you’re leading. You’ll have to deal with mistakes, complaints, and idiosyncratic personalities.

But it is also rewarding. Your leadership influence will advance the goals of your organization and bring about career growth and advancement for the people you’re leading. When it’s all said and done, you’ll become a better person in the process of contributing to the betterment of the lives of others.

Bill Treasurer is the Chief Encouragement Officer of Giant Leap Consulting and author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. 100% of the book’s royalties are being donated to programs that support children with special needs. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, Right Risk, and Courageous Leadership, and has led courage-building workshops across the world for NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and many others.  Contact Bill at btreasurer@giantleapconsulting.com, or on Twitter at @btreasurer.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Leaders Open Doors - And Provide Opportunity

Still one of my favorite quotes, author Bill Treasurer says, "If your door is always open, how on earth would you effectively get any work done ...?" This is something I've tried to figure out for years, seeing many doors open and little being accomplished.

This is the second time in a year that I’ve read Leaders Open Doors, by Bill Treasurer . . . this being the new second edition.

Treasurer, Founder and Chief Engagement Officer at Giant Leap Consulting, provides us a whole new definition to "open door policy" - one that takes action to open doors for others - one that creates opportunities for others, and yourself. He mixes humor, personal stories, and a profound insight into a book that's very easy to read, understand, and put into practice.

This second edition contains an Epilogue with some engaging examples of gratitude that people have had recalling how past leaders that had opened doors for them. It’s sure to get you thinking about who has opened your doors . . . and who has not.

Leaders are role models and set the tone of the organization. Opening doors for people shows that you care for them and want them to succeed as much as yourself. This book will help you reform your culture by helping you to become a positive and powerful influencer. This is a book for sharing.  Share it, along with your new found attitude, with other leaders and you'll soon have employees that thrive and grow . . . and stay.

. . . and keep in mind - All royalities from this book are donated to children's charities!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Customer Service? But They're Co-Workers!

What all employee's need to realize is that INTERNAL customer service is just as important as external.  Everyone is a customer of someone else.  It's not rocket science.  Just think about these 3 simple factors to provide better quality service:
Everyone has their job for a reason.  While all members of a team may not contribute equally, each is considered equally important.
When you give respect, you earn respect.

It's not a one man show.  We can only truly succeed when our entire organization succeeds.
When you are there for someone, someone will be there for you.

“What goes around, comes around”.  Usually, this is used negatively.  With a winning team, it's in reference to mutual benefit and support.
When you're willing to give assistance, support, caring, and benefit of the doubt, you'll also receive the same in return.

 Give a little - gain a lot!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bad Leader Habits

"Is your workplace frustrating and lifeless or is it engaging and inspiring?"  Do you need a
little help transforming your lack luster culture?  So happy to welcome a guest post by author and speaker Chris Edmonds.  His new book, The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results,Inspiring Your Employee, and Transforming Your Workplace, is on the shelves today.

Originally published on June 16, 2014 at www.drivingresultsthroughculture.com

I learn a great deal when I’m coaching leaders and executives. Recent conversations have brought to mind three bad habits that leaders need to break.

A habit can be defined as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

We humans find comfort in routine – even if those routines and habits don’t serve us well all the time!

If habits are “almost involuntary,” we are likely less aware of them. We might be even less aware of the benefit or disservice our habits cause us.

The following “bad leader habits” consistently cause disservice – to the leader, to their team members, to team performance, and to team member engagement. And, I see leaders struggle with the impact of these bad habits quite frequently.

The first bad leader habit is not listening. If leaders don’t listen, they’re working in the dark. They won’t understand the current reality. They’re disconnected from their key players and from key information required for good decision making.

There are two components to leader’s effective listening – understanding the speaker’s ideas, needs, or concerns, and having the speaker feel heard. Understanding the speaker’s ideas requires the leader to pay attention to what’s being said. The leader may need to ask clarifying questions to ensure he or she understands the situation or opportunity as the speaker see it. The leader may need to make notes to ensure they don’t miss anything important that’s being shared.

The speaker will feel heard if they experience the leader paying attention, showing appreciation for the speaker’s insights, and learning the speaker’s recommendations. Note that listening doesn’t mean you agree! The leader can describe their view after listening well to the speaker’s point of view.

The second bad leader habit is abdicating. Abdication is the absence of dialog and mutual problem solving. Why might a leader abdicate to a team member? The leader may trust the team member thoroughly – but isn’t positioning their delegation of authority and responsibility very well. The leader may not know anything about the issue or the opportunity – and doesn’t engage in dialog because they might feel “stupid.” Another common driver of abdication is the lack of time for the leader do to anything with the information the speaker provides.

Strategic delegation is an effective way to assign authority and responsibility. That approach requires discussion, planning, goal and deadline agreements, and the like – which doesn’t happen if the leader abdicates.

The third bad leader habit is fixing – which is the polar opposite of abdication. Fixing happens when the leader takes control of the issue or opportunity and either 1) acts on it him or herself, 2) tells the team member exactly what to do and how to do it, or 3) assigns the issue or opportunity to a different team member.

Even if the leader has the skills necessary to fix the issue, is it a good use of the leader’s time to engage in that micro-level activity? Probably not. If the team member raising the issue or opportunity doesn’t have the skills to fix it, the leader and the company would be better served to engage someone to help teach the team member those skills. That would build capacity for addressing these needs in the future.

Do you engage in any of these bad habits? The best way to find out is to ask your team members. Learn their perceptions. If you discover that you have some bad habits, refine those habits, ask for feedback, and continue to refine.

Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams. Since 1995, he has also served as a senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies. Chris has delivered over 100 keynote speeches to audiences as large as 5,000, and guided his clients to consistently boost customer satisfaction and employee engagement by 40+% and profits by 30+%. He is the author or co-author of six books, including “Leading At A Higher Level” with Ken Blanchard. His next book, "The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace"  will be published by John Wiley & Sons in September 2014.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Make It So

Mark Twain said, "It isn't so astonishing, the number of things I can remember, as the number of things I can remember that aren't so."

Being a leader means that information is coming at you from every direction.  With so much information to decypher, why is it that people remember so many things that aren't so?

Leaders have to realize that they're not always getting fed the best information.  Unfortunately subordinates and number crunchers want to make themselves, or the company, look the best they can . . . even at the risk of a few "fibs".  And what would we rather remember - good things or bad things?

Leadership is not a title.  It's an attitude.  No one becomes a leader because of a name plate.  It takes learning and understanding.  And that means learning to be able to sort through information in order to make the best decisions.  You need to learn to be able to cut through the . . . bad info, and focus on what's right.  It's not always going to be good.  It's not always going to be something you want to deal with.  But it's a skill that will allow you to make better decisions down the road.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Muffin Communication

I had a good laugh the other day while I was reminiscing.  I was my director's second in command.  She was someone I had a good working relationship with and often stood in for her for meetings and decision making.
Around Christmas time one year she was out of town for about 10 days or so.  On her very first day out of the office another director had dropped off some homemade muffins to her - muffins that, the directors, looked forward to every year. . . . I think you know where I'm going here.

Obviously, they would be stale before she got back so everyone in the office turned to me . . . almost in unison.  "Make an executive decision", they all said.  "It would be a shame to let them all get old."  So a decision I made.  They were delicious.

When our boss got back she was asked how the muffins were.  "Huh, what muffins?"  She wasn't too happy, and after everyone in the office pointed, went looking for - you guessed it - me.

Well after I made my many apologies - and hearing snickers from around the corner - I explained the reasoning behind it, and to make a long story short, everything was good.

This is a pretty light hearted example but it could have been something way worse.  Point is, this confrontation could have been avoided with an email, voice message, or even a sticky note.  Sometimes you need to make those executive decisions.  But ALWAYS be sure you keep the communication lines open.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Friend or Boss?

Today is release day for the 10th anniversary edition of The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, by Ken Blanchard & Mark Miller. In honor of today's release, I'm pleased to be able to provide you a guest post by Mark Miller.

Whether you have read The Secret in the past or not, it is truely worth picking up this 10th anniversary edition. Besides the easy to read (and understand) business fable style,it includes a leadership self-assessment and answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to apply the SERVE model.

You'll want to get one for yourself and your team . . . this is a SECRET worth sharing.

One of my current projects involves traveling around the country speaking to audiences
filled with predominantly young leaders. This question came from this group. However, the question is not confined to young leaders… Can I be someone’s boss and their friend?

Although friend and boss may be a paradox, the answer is yes – you can be both. It is not only possible, I believe it’s desirable to have deep friendships at work.

First, the case for friends at work…

For most of us, we spend more waking hours at work than we do with our families. What a tragic place work would be if devoid of friendships.

Although friendship and community are not synonyms, they are closely related. Community is the turbo-charger of performance in a team-based organization.

The Gallup organization discovered that a “best friend” at work enhances performance. Statistically speaking, friendship is an elemental ingredient for full engagement.

How do you make it work?

Clear roles and expectations are critical. Do your friends, or potential friends, at work clearly understand what’s expected of them? Working with friends is no license to be sloppy about expectations or performance. On the contrary, I think you’ll find people will work harder, show more diligence and exercise more creativity for a friend than an enemy.

In the end, the mission, vision and values of the organization must trump personal friendships. As a leader, you are paid to help the organization create a preferred future. This is accomplished one goal at a time. That is your job. If you have a friend on the team and they cannot fulfill their role, you must respond accordingly. You must do your job and lead.

Maturity is required. I am not suggesting that working with friends is easy. I am suggesting, I wouldn’t want it any other way. The longer you lead, the easier this will become. Also, my guess is the more mature you become as a leader, the more you’ll want to go to work with friends.

Some of my best friends are men and women I work with every day. Many of them have been my direct reports at some point over the years. I’m glad I didn’t have to choose: friend or boss. Well, I guess I did choose – I chose both. You can too!

Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Storyboard That Idea!

The storyboarding process actually started with Leonardo da Vinci but was revitalized and developed at the Walt Disney Studios in 1929 with the creation of Steamboat Willie. Since that time it has grown in popularity in movie and animation studios and has also moved into mainstream business.

Walt Disney World itself was planned exclusively via storyboarding in about 10 days. Walt Disney and Mike Vance saw that storyboarding could be adapted effectively for business planning in a mode they termed “displayed thinking.” Displayed thinking can be used for group problem-solving and strategic planning, such as in:

·         Decision Making
·         Strategic Planning
·         Decision Execution
·         Building Consensus and Buy-in
·         Processing Large Amounts of Information
·         Making the Plan Visible While it is Executed

There are 13 basic steps to the typical storyboarding process. You can just as easily go through this yourself for an individual project as you can with a group for a larger project. This is outlined well by the Iowa State University Extension:

1. State the Problem.
Be specific and concise.

2. Brainstorm and Post all Ideas.
Each idea is written in large letters on a separate card or piece of paper.

3. Share Ideas.
Participants talk about what they have written on the cards.

4. Review Each Card for Meaning.
Ask for clarification.

5. Sorting By Content.
In silence, participants begin sorting and grouping the items of similar content.

6. “Header Cards” Added.
Participants are given several “header cards” that are larger (and a different color) than the idea cards previously used.

7. Total Group Discusses the Groupings.
There may be a need to break some of the topics into smaller sub-topics.

8. “Symptoms” vs. “Causes.”
The focus should be on the root causes of the problem, not causes.

9. Vote for Consensus.
The group identifies the top three or four ideas.

10. Restate Header Cards Using A Verb.
Replace a noun with a verb.

11. Subtier Actions.
If subtier actions are necessary, post them under the header cards.

12. Assign Completion Date.
Assign a completion date to each item.

13. Post Dates and Name of Person Responsible.
Post dates and the name of the person responsible for each action item.

“Tell” instructions and half of them will be forgotten – tell a story and it will remembered.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Change Doesn't Have to Hurt

To have success with change requires flexibility and adaptability. If you can grab the reins and act as a change leader yourself, you’ll be personally helping in leading the organization to great achievements.

With change normally comes resistance. In order to lead change you need to know just what kinds of resistance there are. Here are just a few, listed in “Individual Resistance from Employees to Organizational Change”, by Dr. Chuang,Yuh-Shy:
·         Personal loss. Right or wrong, people are afraid they’ll lose something, particularly job security and pay.
·         Loss of pride and satisfaction. A concern about ending up with jobs that no longer require their abilities and skills.
·         Reduced responsibility. Jobs will be reduced to menial tasks without responsibility.
·         Loss of status. Loss of job titles, responsibility, or authority.

But on the other hand, there are probably more positive things to think about than negative.

Yuh-Shy lists things such as:
·         Personal gain. New job titles, more responsibility, more money, and more authority.
·         More security. Greater job security because of the need for increased skills. Possible salary increases.
·         More status/prestige. Possibly a new title or new office.
·         More responsibility or authority. Maybe new responsibility or a new supervisor who assigns more responsibility than the previous one did. This could lead to future promotions.

You know, if you really think about it, people actually love change. People constantly pursue promotions and new job responsibilities; buy personal development books and start their own businesses. They change careers, jobs, and even organizations – all in the name of change.

People love change – they just hate having to be forced to change.

You can help guide change no matter where you fall in the organizational chart. Being a change leader can put you in the position of being someone who has greater career potential. Christina Tangora Schlachter and Terry Hildebrandt, authors of “Leading Business Change For Dummies” say that you can begin to spark positive change by doing one simple thing . . . becoming proactive.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rebuild Yourself

How many of you have ever been in the military? What’s the basic premise of boot camp? They break you down and build you back up “properly”. It doesn’t matter who you are or
where you came from, the best way - and quickest - to build you into a military leader is to knock you back and send you on a different path which will make you “all that you can be”. The next time you Google ‘leaders’, count how many military people - and not just officers - are included.
Sometimes you don’t realize it but you might just need a reality check - kind of like boot camp. Check out the tough love, tell it like it is books by Larry Winget. In his book, People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It!, Winget lays out a list for change for you:
  • Decide to change,
  • Know why it is important for you to change,
  • Be willing to do whatever it takes to change,
  • Do whatever it takes to change,
  • When you fail, dust yourself off and start again,
  • When you get there, celebrate!,
  • Move on, and
  • Become totally committed.
Make the decision, do what it takes, celebrate (don’t forget that one), and commit. Like the old Nike slogan says, “Just Do It”.
Remember - in whatever you’re doing, or will do, you just may fail or not live up to your own expectations - you’re a leader, not a robot. A true leader will be prepared for this and will be able to “dust yourself off and start again”.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sprint Empowers "Social Media Ninjas" to Help in Turnaround

Today I'm happy and privileged to host a blog post by Bob Thompson, author of Hooked on Customers.

In 2007, Sprint’s customer satisfaction rating was 61, worst in the wireless telecom industry by a wide margin. Fast forward five years and CEO Dan Hesse had accomplished an amazing turnaround. Sprint’s ACSI score climbed ten points to an industry-leading 71—the biggest improvement of any company in any industry—and was ranked number one in call center satisfaction.

How did Hesse do it? Given the bleak situation, he could have continued to slash costs, hunker down, and hope for a buyer to rescue the company. Instead, taking a customer-centric approach, he directed the organization to fix its customer service problems and innovate to increase value to customers.

No doubt low morale was a factor in poor customer experiences. In the commentary surrounding the "Sprint 1000" debacle (the company fired customers due to excessive support requests), many said that the calls were the result of dealing with Sprint employees who could not take care of a problem, getting transferred around, and even being dropped and having to call back. In short, customers wanted more “one and done” calls.

I’ve written previously that authority, insights, and motivation are key to empowering call center agents to improve first call resolution (FCR) and delight customers. Sprint has invested in an array of call center technologies and software applications to help agents resolve service requests more effectively. However, it’s not clear that any specific solution had a transformative impact. Rather, it was Hesse’s decision to make customer experience a corporate goal, and the use of analytics to focus on the right problems, that made the biggest difference, in my view.

I do think Sprint made innovative use of social media to empower its employees to serve as “ambassadors” for the company. An offshoot of its “Employees Helping Customers” initiative, Social Media Ninjas was launched in 2010 to help improve Sprint’s reputation using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Jennifer Sniderman, Sprint’s group manager of employee communications, said the program was inspired by discussions about “how to leverage outreach to customers as a competitive advantage.” Customers were taking to social media to vent about problems, so why not equip Sprint employees to engage and help? Sniderman said Ninjas were asked to “have an authentic conversation, talk about what you know, be friendly, help when you can, and answer questions.”

All too often, support issues are dumped on the contact center, including problems created in product development, marketing, or elsewhere. Sprint’s Social Media Ninjas program is a brilliant use of social media to unleash the influence of thousands of employees to rebuild its brand. As of December 2012, 2,700 Ninjas were helping to improve Sprint’s reputation using their personal networks to engage with customers. Inviting all employees to lend a hand helping customers also sends a message that delivering a great customer experience is everyone’s responsibility.

By 2013 employee morale had noticeably improved. On Glassdoor, one account executive employed for eight years called his experience a “wild, awesome ride” and gives Sprint management good marks for innovation, cleaning out poor performers, and listening to employees. Hesse has earned a 79 percent approval rating, significantly better than his peers at major wireless carriers.

About Bob
Bob Thompson is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998. He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of CustomerThink.com, the world's largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His book Hooked on Customers (April 2014) reveals the five habits of leading customer-centric firms.

For more information visit

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hooked On Customers

Listen – Think – Empower – Create – Delight.  There ya go, the 5 key organizational habits of customer-centric companies.  Some of you will say, “got it” . . . and fail.  Others will become curious and read Robert Thompson’s new book, HookedOn Customers: The Five Habits of Legendary Customer-Centric Companies . . . and succeed.  Bob gives us an abundance of research, interviews, and examples to help you outline your path to customer-centric success.

Contrary to what it should be, customer service is quite often just a department in many organizations.  It’s handled in one area by a few employees.  Customer-centric organizations, on the other hand, embrace the customer throughout the organization.  Bob takes a look at how various organizations do it right . . . and wrong – Home Depot, Apple, Best Western, JC Penny, Ryanair, Wells Fargo, Zappos (you’ll have to read the book to find out who’s good or not).

So many organizations focus too much just on the “hello’s” and “thank you’s”.  Those are all great – and needed, but Bob sums it up well when he says, “driving consumer loyalty is not as simple as providing great service.  Providing “the right stuff” at a fair price is still critical”.  What’s also critical are employee efforts in creating a desirable brand.  Keep in mind that your employees ARE part of your brand.

There’s no “best method” for driving loyalty but along with his years of research, Bob provides some very important questions to ask in order to know what to measure in your own research and development.

Bob Thompson is founder and CEO of research and publishing firm CustomerThink Corporation and editor-in-chief of CustomerThink.com, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and execute customer-centric business strategies. An author, keynote speaker and international authority on business management trends, he has been a thought leader in customer-centricity since 1998. Bob’s new book, Hooked on Customers, is now available on Amazon. Follow Bob on Twitter: @Bob_Thompson, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Raise Your Voice

The new book, RaiseYour Voice: A Cause Manifesto, by Brian Sooy, was such a
surprise.  It’s geared toward the non-profit sector and having worked there for the past 14 years it looked like it would be interesting.  What I didn’t realize is how applicable it would be to most any organization.

Brian’s book helps you to stop and ask some important questions.  Questions that too many organizations just don’t take the time to ask or don’t ask because they may realize they’re heading in the opposite direction.

What you’ll learn in this book, I think, is pretty well summed up on Page 2:  “A nonprofit should not be perceived as a soulless corporation, but as a group of individuals who want to make a difference, to change the world, and to have an impact in the lives of people for generations to come”.

You won’t get to the best place possible without purpose, mission/vision, goals/outcomes, and strategy.  Know – for sure – why you’re in business.  Be specific on how to get there.  Have clarity in it all.  Your business is a whole lot bigger than the people at the “top” or the name on your stationary.

Raising money; communicating with donors, employees, and customers; and marketing your brand are all things that require you to “raise your voice” to be able to relay your cause.  Whether a non-profit or for-profit, you’re in business for a reason.  This book will give you the designs that just may help you get your culture back in line and your reputation improved.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bad Management=Bad Service

Don’t wait for customer service to get bad before you do anything about it. By then it’s too
late. The damage has been done. Now you’re into damage-control mode – which takes a lot more effort.

Monkey see, monkey do, here’s an easy activity to do (didn’t mean for that to rhyme, but I’ll take it). Go to a few local retail stores or restaurants. Spend just a few minutes in each one, just observing the employees. You’ll be able to tell what the management is like within just a couple of minutes because the employees walk the leader’s talk.

No matter how good the stores’ customer service “program” is, it won’t be successful unless the leaders walk the talk.

You can’t just focus on the everyday business stuff – products, marketing, sales. In his book, The Customer RulesLee Cockerell goes on to say that, “Managers have to recognize that sustained profits depend on their ability to generate consistent, ongoing, excellent service”.
You have to keep good service in the forefront of everyone’s mind if you want it to be consistent.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Most people have always thought that if we work hard, we’ll be more successful, and if

we’re more successful, then we’ll be happier. Well that just may not be the case at all.

That’s where Shawn Achor comes in. In his book, The Happiness Advantage, he refers to “rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe” when he says that “happiness fuels success, not the other way around”.

Happiness is contagious, just as a bad attitude is. Try it. Walk into a room of your peers or staff with a big smile and just be basically courteous. With few exceptions, very soon everyone will have a smile.

Just as your bad attitude affects the people you work with, so will a good attitude. And as an added bonus, it could very well bring you more success.

For those of you who don’t think there’s anything to this notion of happiness then ask yourself why Shawn Achor’s TED Talk has had over 7.5 million views.

“Okay, so what if I’m happier at work? What’s in it for me?” I’m glad you asked. Your trickle down happiness is going to directly affect your staff, which in turn will result in:
  • better quality of work
  • better customer service
  • conscious acts of kindness
  • teamwork
  • openness
  • innovation
  • cooperation
  • fewer sick days
  • higher motivation
  • achieving potential
Should I keep going?

Abraham Lincoln once said:
“People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”