Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Who Are Your Employees Playing For?

This week, we're celebrating the paperback release of the 2014 best-seller, Why
Motivating People Doesn't Work...and What Does, by Susan Fowler. I liked it so much when it first came out that I just got done reading it again. The "traditional" ways of motivation just don't cut it anymore. Through real life examples and process Susan shows us how to understand the reasons people are motivated and to capitalize on them.

Today, I have the honor of hosting Susan Fowlers blog post, Who Are Your Employees Playing For? I know you'll get as much out of it as I did.

Who Are Your Employees Playing For? by Susan Fowler
As the young man ducked his head getting into the elevator, I recognized him immediately as a new face on my favorite pro basketball team. I don’t seek out celebrity sightings and have never asked for an autograph, but like most people, I think it’s fun to see someone in person that you’ve watched on television.

I couldn’t help but ask him about the dismal circumstances of his team. “You must have been thrilled to be drafted by such a legendary franchise to play with the most winning coach in history,” I began. “But what’s it like now that he’s been replaced with a different coach, to have a losing record, and to learn this week that your teammate, who was known as the heart of the squad, has been traded to a conference rival?”

After a pause, where he must have been considering the risks of being honest, he told me, “It’s hard. You tell yourself it’s just a game and have fun. But, it’s also a business and my life and livelihood. My family depends on me.”

“How do you keep up the physical and mental energy needed to be a professional athlete under these circumstances?”

As the elevator stopped at the lobby, he shook his head as he ducked getting out, and said, “To tell you the truth, you stop playing for the name on the front of your jersey and you play for the name on your back.”

Of course, on the front of the jersey is the team’s name. On the back of the jersey is your own name.  I often think of that promising young player, caught in a situation he couldn’t navigate effectively. Currently, he’s playing on teams overseas, unable to take advantage of his untapped potential in the NBA.

I was reminded of this chance encounter again last week. I was on a coaching call, listening to an employee describe changes going on in her organization and how her sales territory is being rearranged and her clients being parceled out among other reps. I asked how she was handling her frustration, and she said, “I’m just playing for the name on the back of my jersey, not the front.”

My heart sank. I could hear the anguish in her voice. It is in our human nature to thrive through meaningful work in concert with like-minded people. Feeling alienated or unable to trust her tribe was threatening her sense of well-being.

As leaders, we need to help employees understand the reasons for their anguish. Then, we need to help them satisfy their psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Employees can’t thrive when their psychological needs are thwarted at work. When employees don’t thrive, they suffer–and so does the organization. Disengaged employees, who are so overwhelmed by circumstances that they simply give up and begin looking after their own best interests, are costing organizations billions of dollars every year.

As our coaching call continued, three lessons emerged that might help you deal with a disenfranchised employee.
  1. This employee’s sense of autonomy was nonexistent. She felt she had no control over the changes “being done to” her. My question to her was, “What do you have control over?” We identified three areas of her role where her choices would make a difference in the quality of her experience.
  2. She felt her sense of relatedness with the organization was compromised. She didn’t trust her company or the reasons for the changes being made. When I asked her why, she replied, “The changes are unfair.” Nothing erodes an employee’s psychological need for relatedness like injustice. My question to her was, “Have you discussed why the changes are taking place with your manager? Have you asked for a rationale so you can understand the reasons for the changes?” She admitted she had not. Should her leader have provided the rationale for change? Sure. But, even the best-intentioned leaders usually share an organizational perspective. People need a personal rationale–they need to understand why the changes are “being done to” them, their job, role, and world. I encouraged her to be a self-leader and seek out the answers she needed. With information in hand, she could then determine if the reasons for the changes were unjust or just unclear.
  3. The employee’s sense of competence was diminished because she didn’t know how to navigate through ambiguity and uncertainty. But, she realized that identifying ways to refocus her autonomy and relatedness needs already made her feel more confident about moving forward.
I will continue tracking her progress. My hope is to hear about the success and flourishing that both she and her organization experience as she plays for more than the name on the back of her jersey.

Susan Fowler implores leaders to stop trying to motivate people. In her latest bestselling book, she explains WHY MOTIVATING PEOPLE DOESN’T WORK… AND WHAT DOES: The New Science of Leading, Engaging, and Energizing. She is the author of by-lined articles, peer-reviewed research, and six books, including the bestselling Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have learned from her ideas through training programs such as the Situational Self Leadership and Optimal Motivation product lines. For more resources, including a free Motivational Outlook Assessment with immediate results, visit www.susanfowler.com.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Surprise Me!

Chip Bell has done it again! I so anticipate getting his newest book releases in the mail
and his newest, Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles, was worth waiting for. Chip's writing style of giving us inspiring stories of actual people and organizations getting customer service right makes reading interesting and thought-provoking. Even if you're not in the customer service industry, you'll find this book worth a good read.

Today, I have the privilege of hosting a Chip Bell blog post.

Surprise Me! by: Chip R. Bell
How would you like receiving a birthday present without any wrapping or colorful bow...just a Post-it note on the present with handwritten: “Happy Birthday?”  What would an Easter egg hunt be like if the location of all the eggs were clearly marked with a red flag?  How exciting would a treasure hunt be if some else did if for you and just brought you the bounty?

Customers today live in an over-stimulated, highly entertained world and love surprise. Unfortunately, we have so automated, programmed and managed surprise that it is now assumed when it was once upon a time enchanting.  Remember a time when a front desk clerk, rental car agent, airline gate attendant, merchant or waiter enchanted us with an unanticipated value-added something.  It had a neighborly, old-fashioned feeling when we got an extra.  The mechanic fixed something broken while servicing our vehicle and wrote “no charge” on the invoice.  We heard words like, “It’s on the house” or “we’ll comp it!”

Then, the world of unexpected extras pretty much came to an end.  Easily blamed on the tough economy, the shift was more subtle.  Extras were not actually taken away, they were managed away.  The extremes of a “no variance” philosophy from TQM and Six Sigma got pushed way beyond its rank and pay grade requiring the frontline to hand over their spontaneous generosity to the computer.  Now, the computer, not the gate agent, decides if you get that first class seat upgrade based on your frequent flyer status and seat availability.  Getting upgraded to the concierge level at a hotel is a  computer-driven decision based solely on availability and affinity program status and not the judgment call of the desk clerk.

And, the customer, robbed of that Jack-in-the-box feeling of surprise, has simply built the expectation of an extra into their criteria for satisfaction much like the cleanliness of a hospital or the security of a bank.  Value-added has become value-assumed and no longer a loyalty-creating value at all.  Proof that it has become a given not an extra is how easily the customer is disappointed when he or she fails to get what was once presented as a true surprise.

It is time to bring back the trust and authority the frontline needs to be both generous and ingenious.  If the Ritz-Carlton can trust a housekeeper to responsibly spend up to $2000 to make sure a guest leaves happy, the waiter can be trusted with the decision to comp a dessert for a loyal customer. Employees who can successfully manage a family budget, juggle soccer, tutoring and baseball practice schedules, and shop for groceries can figure out ways to surprise customers without jeopardizing the unit standards or the bottom line. 

Turning ho-hum service into a compelling story customers are eager to share requires bringing back a setting lined in trust; a place filled with joyful innovation.  It takes leaders who are as courageous as they want their employees to be creative. It calls for leaders in search of invention, not obedience.

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.