Archive for the ‘ Accountability ’ Category

The Customer Experience: Generation-Driven?

Are expectations from the younger generations driving changes to customer service and product support?

genyEarlier this week, I came across an article on Forbes.com titled What Kind Of Customer Experience Are Millennials (Gen-Y) Looking For?.  In the article, Micah Solomon, the article’s author, attempts to summarize the expectations of the Millennial generation when it comes to expectations around customer service and customer experience:

Millennials are looking for the same customer experience as are older customers–but even more so. (More efficient, more respectful of their time, easier, more reliable, more transparent, with more choices and more control for the customer.)”

Expectations around customer service, customer experience, and product support are definitely on the rise, though I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is specific to Gen-Y.  In general, people want options when it comes to products and services and how they interact with business.

For example, if you’ve ever needed to contact Amazon’s support, you know they offer different methods to contact them via phone, email, or live chat.  They also have a web interface for their customers to do things like initiate a return, track shipments of orders, manage browsing history, along with a list of other options.  As the customer, I can decide my preference for how I want to interact using the various options Amazon has provided.

serviceAlternatively, red tape can slow down or even destroy a customer’s experience.  If I buy a product from a retail outlet and decide I want to return it, why should I have to fill out a form and then provide my driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate, etc…, just to get refund?

I understand that businesses need to protect themselves from fraudulent returns, but if I have to jump through hoops just to make a return as a customer, I may start looking elsewhere for my next purchase from a business with a less-intrusive return policy.  That extra 15 minutes it costs me to do a return as a customer may also wind up costing the business-in-question a future revenue stream.

If you want to improve your customer experience, don’t look at just Gen-Y, but look at your entire customer base.  As cliché as it sounds, ask your customers for feedback!  Most won’t hesitate to tell you what they want or would like to see if the benefit for them is an improved experience, product, or service.  However, you have to be sure to follow through with implementing at least some of those requests (and make it known to your customer base that those implementations are due directly to customer feedback) to show that you’re receptive to their feedback and suggestions.

Leave your comments!

The Balancing Act of a Leader

Being promoted into your first management role can be both an exciting and scary experience.  It shows that your employer trusts you to make decisions and lead others.  However, it can also be a major shift in responsibility.  People are going to look to you for direction, and it’s up to you to have the best possible answers for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile most people are told that they will have new responsibilities, there’s one crucial piece that tends to be left out of that promotion-prepared conversation: get ready to start the workload balancing act.

What I mean by that is most people assume that their focus on work shifts to people they lead when coming into a management position.  While that’s true, that only paints half of the picture.  You had your own individual tasks and projects you completed before this promotion, but now that you’re promoted, you’re individual task work doesn’t simply stop (though the focus of that individual work may shift).  In fact, not only are you now responsible for your own workload, but you’re also responsible for the workload of those you lead.

It can be a major challenge when you have your direct reports coming to you needing direction, yet you’re in the middle of trying to complete a project with an impending deadline.  How can you balance the needs of the two?

  1. Start with the open door policy: Hopefully, you’ve heard of this term. If not, the basic idea is that your door is always “open”. If someone you lead has an issue they need to discuss, they can come by your office, email you, call you, etc… at just about any time of the working day. Having this policy can remove a major hurdle and allow the people you lead to get past problems faster than having to waiting until you’re available.
  2. Draw a boundary with your open door policy: While it’s great for your people to be able to discuss issues or get direction at anyJuggle Balls time, it may not always be feasible for you to maintain this policy at all hours of the day. If you have approaching deadlines or your own workload is starting to pile up, block out some time on your schedule. Set a ground rule with the people you lead that you can’t be disturbed during this time unless it’s absolutely critical. Be sure to follow up with step 3 below after establishing your boundary.
  3. Find your second-in-command: You’ve established your boundary, but now what? Your people need a backup plan for time-sensitive issues. After all, customers will only wait for so long before an issue gets out of hand. If you work in an organization with a large workforce, perhaps there’s another manager in the same department as you who can be your backup (also allowing you to reciprocate the favor).
    If you work in a smaller organization and there’s not an immediate manager who can cover for you, perhaps there’s someone you lead who is an expert in their role who can be groomed to take on this responsibility. Not only will it allow you to keep your boundary, but it allows you to tackle another management responsibility of developing your people.

Finding the right balance between being available and completing your own work will always be a juggling act, and you may find yourself needing to adjust and readjust your boundaries depending on the needs of your work and the needs of your people.

Leave your comments!

Quit & Stayed, or Quit & Paid?

If you’re not familiar with the term “quit & stayed”, it is the act of mentally quitting, yet staying in the same physical environment. More specifically, it’s the act of becoming disengaged in the work you complete, whether that’s for a business or just in general.

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Chances are that you work with one or more people who have quit & stayed.  They are people who show up just for the paycheck.  They aren’t passionate about their job.  They don’t have the motivation to go above and beyond.  In a perfect world, everyone would get paid handsomely to do what they love, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Almost every company and organization has employees who fit into this category.

Amazon recently listed this trend in the annual letter to shareholders from company CEO Jeff Bezos along with a plan to deal with employees who have quit & stayed.  The idea behind this plan is that once a year, employees will be offered a payout to quit.  Depending on how many years you’ve been with Amazon, you could make anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for handing in your resignation.   The idea isn’t to create a high turnover rate, but instead, bring in new blood and energy where existing employees may have no interest in maintaining their career with Amazon.

Personally, I’d be curious to know what this does to their turnover rate.  Will they see an uptick in the number of employees who move on to other companies?  More importantly, are they paying adding unnecessary costs by paying employees to resign who might resign in either case even if they weren’t getting a bonus to do so?

Jeff Bezos says it best: “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”  That is one statement I wholeheartedly agree with.

Be sure to take a look at The Ken Blanchard Companies Quit & Stayed Leadership Livecast.  You can even view 17 minutes of the Livecast for free.

Leave your comments!

What’s Your Management Astrological Sign?

I’ve been out of the dating scene for a while, but from what I see on the World Wide Web and the occasional post on various social media outlets, kids these days are using astrological signs to best match up with partners. In order to have a great experience at work, it’s important to find out what astrological signs exist for managers and which work for you. But there are some obvious signs that anyone in the workforce should be careful to avoid.

The Seagull:

Often the seagull is seen hovering around various office spaces looking to “connect.” He might be seen wearing baseball cap with a sports coat and a tie. He often checks fantasy football on his iPhone and rarely skips a chance to “do lunch” with the boss. He’s not really into how you feel and in fact would rather not know. As Ken Blanchard says, “You gotta watch out for Seagull Management. Seagull managers fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly out.” These seagulls think they are special because when they “show up” they cause a lot of havoc and they think they are just “getting things going.”

Seagulls don’t play well with direct reports but tend to get along well with same level managers and especially executives.

Direct Reports:

  • Be careful about getting wrapped up with what the seagull manager brings and be prepared to diffuse the situation.
  • What to watch out for:  He’s not really your friend, unless he needs something from you.

Managers:

  • Play in the weekly football pool, but never accept his trades on fantasy football.
  • What to watch out for: Don’t get wrapped up in his management style. It may look effective and envious, but it’s not an efficient way to manage long-term.

Executives:

  • They are gimmicks. He might “get the job done”, but he will lose some of your best talent.
  • What to watch out for: Pay attention to turnover in this department. It might be a red flag for a dysfunctional team.

The Peacock:Male-Peacock-displaying

Don’t be confused with the peacock. He’s a deceiver. He looks like he’s doing a bunch of work but he’s really lazy. His favorite management tool is the “delegation.” He’s too busy with everything he’s got going on so he gives away everything he’s supposed to do. He is tangential with his speech because he’s not really saying anything but words continually spew out of his mouth. No one understands him, but somehow we hear him. You may think its Armani but really the suit is a hand-me-down from his late, great Uncle Cornelius.

Peacocks don’t play well with direct reports but tend to get along well with same level managers. Executives aren’t fooled.

Direct Reports:

  • Prioritize the tasks given and don’t be afraid to get clarification.
  • What to watch out for: He will task you to death, so don’t get burned out.

Managers:

  • Don’t be a Peacock. For the sake of those who work for you, please don’t be a Peacock.
  • What to watch out for: 3 Piece Suits aren’t that great.

Executives:

  • Please send to remedial leadership training.
  • What to watch out for: Take a second look before you decide to promote.

The Chameleon

This guy. He’s quite the charmer and is generally liked in the office. He brings donuts on Fridays and loves puppies. These are all good things, but those that know him best are not sold on him. He has a tendency to say one thing and do another, over-commits to projects, and rarely delivers on what he promises. He tries to please too many people and has mastered the art of the fake smile.

Chameleons generally get along well with everyone, except those closest to him.

Direct Reports:

  • Have a conversation with him about how you feel; it might actually go better than you think.
  • What to watch out for: Stay away from the donuts.

Managers:

  • If you have this tendency, then don’t be afraid to say no every once in a while.
  • What to watch out for: If you know other managers like this, be careful in conversing with them. They may gossip and take up too much of your time with unnecessary conversation.

Executives:

  • May not be the best to run day-to-day operations.
  • What to watch out for: You may see signs of disorganization and lack of process in their department.

If you happen to run into one of these types of managers, just be sure to steer clear as much as you can!

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

How to Manage your Competing Values

In the spring of 2010, I received a phone call from my commanding officer. “Jaramillo, you have been selected to a deployment in Afghanistan for 400 days. I don’t know what you will be doing or what unit you will be with, but I trust that you will have a successful mission and that you will make us all proud.”

Ok, whoa! Can I get a little more detail here?

I wanted to serve my country and go to war, but, I mValuesean, do I have to go now… like, right now? I had just gotten married 3 months earlier and was working on my graduate degree. I had no plans at the time to pack up and go. “Hey boss, look, I’m a little busy right now, can we move this war thing later on in my calendar.” Of course, it doesn’t work like that, but I still had these two strong competing values. In this instance, I wanted to go to serve my country, but my family and school were also very important to me. We all have competing values, and we must understand them and embrace their complexity. What I needed to do was figure out how I would internalize these feelings and contain my emotions through this experience.

What are your competing values? Take a minute to really ponder this question to understand your own thoughts and feelings. Really evaluating your competing values will help you to look at them objectively. Gather the facts in all scenarios to be open to exploring and doing a little soul searching. These competing values can come in all aspects of life, from relationships with friends and co-workers to grand theoretical and philosophical questions. It’s important to realize that they exist in our lives, so make sure you take some extra thought when you are confronted with one to be fully content with your decisions.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

A “Business Decision” May Not Always be the Right Decision

When I hear someone say “it’s a business decision”, money is usually the first thing that comes to mind.  The choice that was made was based on overall cost to the company or individual.  While it’s wise to consider cost, spending and/or investments, it’s not the end-all, be-all of choices within business.

Money There are other factors you need to consider, such as how the choice-in-question will affect your employees or customers.  Depending on the outcome of those choices, they may even change public perception of you or your business.  It could be that saving on immediate cost can hurt your income in the long run.

Take, for example, a news report out of Melbourne, Florida, regarding a man whose vehicle was wrecked by an employee of an auto repair shop.  This wasn’t an accident that happened during a test drive of the vehicle.  Instead, this happened during a joyride by one of the auto shop’s employees who crashed the vehicle not once, but twice on the very same morning.  In the eyes of the law, the employee didn’t do anything illegal.  After all, repair shops tend to take vehicles for test rides all the time to make sure they did the repairs correctly.

While there is nothing criminal that took place in the eyes of the law, you would think the auto shop would take responsibility for the actions of the employee, right?  According to the news report, the auto shop refuses to state it did anything wrong or reimburse the owner for the loss of their vehicle.

Obviously, paying for the loss of the owner’s vehicle is a direct cost to the auto shop.  They could choose to pay for it directly, or Downward Trendhave their insurance cover the loss, in which case, they will likely face increased insurance premiums.   No one wants to deal with costs that weren’t planned for, but in this case, what is going to be the long-term cost to the auto shop by not paying the immediate expense now?

I know that if I needed to take my vehicle in for repairs, I wouldn’t want to take it to this particular auto shop simply due to this story.  While it’s highly unlikely they will have another situation like this come up, why would I risk it when the vehicle owner in this story allegedly has to go through this hassle?  The choice being made by the auto shop now is sending a message to potential customers that they may not put their customers first when making decisions.

Immediate cost cannot always be the deciding factor.  If it is, it could cost you in the long run.

Leave your comments!

‘Tis the Season to Make a Fool of Yourself

This time of year can always be stressful.  If you celebrate Christmas, you’re probably worrying about decorating, shopping, shipping, preparing, cooking, baking, traveling, etc…  However, there’s a hidden danger this time of year you should be concerned with: the company Christmas party.  This party can be seen as a time to cut loose and forget about job stress, but it can also lead to the end of a career.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While a company party is a great time to come together with coworkers, you can’t treat these events the same way you would with a night out on the town with your closest buddies.  Before you find yourself packing your personal belongings (or at a minimum, finding your foot in your mouth), follow these basic guidelines to ensure your job is still waiting for you:

  1. You represent your employer outside of work – I’ve mentioned this before, but even if you’re partying away from your place of employment, and even if you’re “off the clock”, anything negative you do outside of work can reflect badly on your employer, along with affecting you directly.  Be sure to think ahead before you act.  You might not be “working” at a company event, but your employer will treat bad behavior the same way they would during normal working conditions.
  2. Be careful with the booze – This can be the biggest reason for a loss of employment.  Some companies don’t allow alcohol at company events, while others do.  If your company allows it, just remember that alcohol affects your judgment.  I’ve personally seen more than one employee get fired (at different places of employment, nonetheless) for doing or saying something foolish because they drank too much at a company event.  If you’re going to drink in front of coworkers, be sure you drink in moderation.
  3. Don’t be a “Don Juan” – Maybe you have a crush on a coworker.  The company party may seem like a perfect time to make a move since it may be more informal, but it can actually backfire and create a nightmare with HR.  If the target of your affection doesn’t reciprocate that affection, they might claim harassment, and you might be escorted to the exit the next day.
  4. Image courtesy of pat138241 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Image courtesy of pat138241 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Watch the gossip – Again, the less informal setting can give you a false sense of security.  You might think that you are free to say more than you normally would about your coworkers or boss, but be ready to pay for each negative comment.  You might not be fired, but your comments could earn you a label you don’t want.  At a minimum, it could jeopardize future promotions and/or merit increases.

  5. No unnecessary use of the copy machine –  Ok, maybe people don’t do this as much as you see in a stereotypical 80’s movie that shows a holiday company party, but don’t use the office copy machine to take images of certain parts of your anatomy.    Just don’t.

What other traps exist at a company party?  Leave your comments!

Lead Thyself: Quick Tips for Those Managing Themselves

There’s a common misconception regarding the title of “leader”: You don’t have to be a manager or a supervisor in order to lead.  If you’re providing direction or support to fellow colleagues, you’re a leader.  More importantly, being a leader starts with being able to manage yourself effectively.

If you one day wish to move up the corporate ladder and lead others, you must start with yourself.  Even if you have no interest in entering a management position, it is still in your own best interest to lead yourself.  Those who tend to get the largest raises or are consistently recognized by peers and management are the top performers who have mastered the art of leading themselves.

leadNo matter what your career is, if you want to be successful, leading yourself effectively means you do the following:

Be proactive – A good leader can solve problems.  A great leader recognizes smaller problems and works to solve them before they become critical issues down the road.  They take action without needing to be told by their immediate supervisor when to do so.

Use the term “I need…” – No one has all the answers.  The best leaders are those that recognize they can’t do everything themselves.  They use the term “I need” with appropriate individuals, such as their own managers or content experts.  They also don’t let their ego get in the way of saying “I need help” when they are overwhelmed.

Know that there are alternative solutions – Sometimes, you have a problem that cannot be solved by what you have available within your company.  Not every organization has loads of cash to throw at problems that can only be solved by external tools.  Maybe the issue can be solved by open source software.  Or, perhaps it can be solved by a subject matter expert who you just happen to network with.  A great leader knows that cash is not the absolute means to an end.

You align with others on goals and tasks – What is the end destination? Do we know how to get there? Are we in agreement regarding the answers to both questions?  Getting alignment with your leader and those you work with is critical so that they know what’s expected of them and you know what they expect of you in return.   All it takes is a conversation to figure out the road map.

Tell us your thoughts: What characteristics do self-leaders exhibit that make them top performers?

Leave your comments!

Another Day, Another Employee Fired for Online Behavior

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it, again: Be careful of what you post online!  It can come back to haunt you.  This may seem like common knowledge, but these stories just keep popping up.

Jofi Joseph, who previously was the director of nuclear nonproliferation on the National Security Council, was recently fired for being outed as a “Twitter troll”, tweeting various statements that were critical or various government officials along FIREDthe White House administration.  It’s bad enough when your employer is a business, but when you work for an entity that has vast resources to track you down (think NSA), you might want to think twice about that negative comment you’re preparing to post to the rest of the world.

This isn’t the first time I’ve brought up cases where employees have been fired for their behavior online (see The Privacy Blur of Personal Information or “You’re fired!” – Did You Criticize Your Boss on the Web?).

There’s still an ongoing debate about what you should or should not be able to say about your employer, especially when you’re “off the clock”.  I’ve heard people state that what you say or post outside of business hours is your 1st Amendment right.  What I tend to tell those same individuals is that most businesses have a right, too: they can fire you for any reason.  What most people forget about in these situations is that most businesses here in America practice at-will employment.  It means they can fire you at any time for almost any reason (any type of discrimination is a definite no-no).

You don’t even have to post anything critical of your employer online to find yourself in hot water.  Maybe you posted a photo to Instagram showing how you’re “kind of a big deal” from a party from the night before.  Or, maybe you’re trash-talking on some sports news column about why your team crushed the opponents.  Either of these could find yourself handing in your resignation if your employer deems it necessary.  Hopefully, it wouldn’t come to that, but there is always that possibility.

rightsWhat a lot of us fail to realize is that we are representatives for the companies we work for both inside and outside of work.  Our actions have the potential to leave blemishes and/or affect the creditability of those who employ us.  For example, if you work as a street sweeper, but someone snaps a photo of you dumping trash on the side of the road and posts that picture online, that’s going to look extremely bad on your employer.

Watch what you do in the off-hours, especially if you’re doing something online.  It might not affect you, now, but the internet is an ever-growing history book.  What you do now could come back to bite you down the line.

Do you know of anyone who ever did anything outside of work that landed them in the hot seat at work?  Leave your comments!

How Young Leaders Can Get Ahead

Thirty days after I turned 12, my mother sat me down in the living room to have a very adult conversation with me. She said, “Hijo, next week I will drive you over to the farm and you will begin working in the fields. You will have to get up early before the sun comes up and I will pick you up in the afternoon after the harvest time is over.”

I didn’t really know what that all entailed, but after having to get up on the first day at 4:00AM, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into. Picking strawberries in the summer in Oregon sounds pretty romantic, but cold mornings, long days, and PB&J for lunch every day is a less than thrilling experience. Plus, I was horrible at picking strawberries; I was the worst strawberry picker they had hired that summer and probably the worst one in the history of that farm. After a few weeks, one of the farm managers said, “Hey Gus, we like you, but we don’t like the way you work.” Yikes!

ku-bigpic

Working hard- A skill worth having

Aside from the fact that I almost lost my job at 12 years old, I made $180.00 dollars that summer and to this day, I still don’t think I’ve spent it. I always make sure my bank account doesn’t go below $180.00. But really, I earned a lot more than the money I made that summer. I earned a sense of the importance of hard work. And that is what I truly feel is not being communicated to the older generations. I say communicated because I feel that while Gen X and Y are truly hard workers, the message they communicate is perceived much differently. The younger leaders of today are quite frankly a lot more demanding. They want more time off to spend with their family, want a work-life balance that allows them to work from home from time to time, and want autonomy in their roles.  These are the same people who saw their mothers and fathers work for a company their whole lives only to be laid off and left on unemployment. So, I don’t blame them (myself).

Established leaders in the organization want to hear this: “I will work for it.” That’s what they were told as young leaders and it embodies the values they hold on to dearly. So give it the good ol’ college try. You will be surprised at what opportunities may be given to you if the boss knows you’re going to give it all you got.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

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