by Richard, Leadership

Customer Indifference is a Real Biz Kill

No Comments 27 February 2014

self absorbedWhat’s more toxic than incompetence? Deadlier than old technology? More surely fatal than being slow to market? It’s the remarkable indifference to customers that we all still see from some service providers, those who were nodding off during the part where the rest of us learned that that just won’t cut it anymore. Remember Eastern Airlines, anybody? In a few years, we’ll be asking the same question about K-Mart. And AOL.

For several years, our company relied on a spam filtering service now provided by Excel Micro. We didn’t choose them; we ended up there after they acquired the little startup provider we selected years before, a company that had a really effective anti-spam system, and responsive customer service. Everything was rocking along fine until earlier this week, while flying back to the US from Canada, I began getting notifications via my personal email that my regular (company) email was bouncing everything back. Because, with this system, all mail goes first through the anti-spam system, Excel Micro was my first suspect. When I tried to log in to the spam portal, I got kicked out – invalid password. No way.

The call to tech support went like this: 20 minutes on hold. Young guy who neither knew nor seemed to care why my email was broken. Finally determined that it was time to pay the annual subscription, but my credit card had a new expiration date, so it wouldn’t go through. Their solution? Suspend the account. They never got in touch with me, despite the fact that this is my email company, and they had my email address! Just cut off my email oxygen. That’s all. They figured I’d call them and fix things. I fixed things alright. The billing department apparently keeps bankers’ hours, so “there’s nothing we can do until morning.” Wrong again. There’s almost always something the customer can do. In this case, I went online, asked a few friends what they used for spam, found something I liked, and installed a 10-day free trial. It seems to be working beautifully.

This morning I called the billing department at Excel Micro to let them know they’d been fired as our service provider. Again, I was smacked to the ground with a wall of indifference, the likes of which we rarely see these days. After talking with several people, I couldn’t find even one who cared one hoot about either my email problem, or their customer retention problem. It was as though I had called to report a change of address.

I’ve never had any correspondence with Joseph Vaccone, Excel Micro’s CEO and Founder, so I don’t know how he feels about customers. But I do know that in most cases, indifference is modeled from the top.

The competitive landscape in your business, just like Joe’s, is probably too unforgiving to survive indifference to customers. There are just too many good service providers out there, hungry enough for a share of your business, that they’ll go to great lengths to astound their customers with great service.

When I can go online at Amazon.com, and click a button, and someone from Amazon calls me, in 2 seconds, then replaces my broken Kindle by next-day air; and when the Delta flight attendant takes the time to place a personalized, handwritten welcome note in my seat before I arrive, the response from the spam company (what’s their name, again?) stands out as particularly old school and unsustainable.

It’s not about your products, your services, your prices, or your catchy ad campaigns. It’s about people. The people who work for your customers. Are you, as a leader, at whatever level, setting an astounding standard to knock your customers’ socks off every day? Are you providing them with the means, the tools, the wherewithal, to do it? Do they know it’s important to you? Are you rewarding them when they succeed? And coaching them when they fail?

Or – are the people in your organization just going through the motions, like those I encountered at Excel Micro, with a remarkable indifference to the very people who enable the organization to exist?

Suggestion: find out. But not the way Eastern Airlines did.

 

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Richard, Leadership, Motivation

Are the Generations Really All That Different?

1 Comment 23 January 2014

generationsDon’t look now, but next year, Generation X turns 50.

 

You may need a moment to process that. But it’s true. Following immediately on the heels of the boomers (those of us born between 1946 and 1964), the eldest members of the first alphabetically labeled generation are already receiving mailbox stuffing solicitations from the AARP.

 

As the new year dawned, it occurred to me that I’ve been in the business of studying, writing, and speaking about the workforce for 24 years now, a generation itself. And during that time, among the most persistent themes vexing managers has been how to deal with “the younger generation”. This, incidentally, is a phrase you’ll never hear me use; I’m becoming my father fast enough as it is, without adopting figures of speech I can easily avoid. I’ll just call them younger workers.

 

Look around you, and you’ll find the workspace populated by an unprecedented four generations of workers. For managers in this multi-tiered environment, trying to make everybody happy can be as frustrating as trying to find an unbiased news program on cable TV.

 

Anyone who’s tried to provide leadership to a team consisting of both teenagers and seventy-somethings knows that generational differences do make a difference, but these leaders also tell me that they’ve observed some remarkable similarities among workers born in vastly different decades.

 

For instance, regardless of the hashtag or label used to mark our generation, most of us need:

  • Focus and direction
  • Meaningful work, and the freedom to pursue it
  • Clear, helpful feedback
  • Appreciation
  • A leader who cares about us and has our best interest at heart

 

Generational friction and bewilderment have existed since Adam and Eve despaired over Cain and Abel. Think about it. Your grandparents thought your parents were hopeless – that they would never amount to anything. Don’t laugh. Your folks thought the same about you. And yet, with probably a few exceptions, those of us reading this have managed to avoid incarceration, and hold meaningful jobs, and occupy a valuable place in society.

 

And it gives me no end of satisfaction to think that my own Generation Y offspring will, in the not-too-distant future shake their heads and denounce the profligacy of their own version of “the younger generation”.

 

And if past is, as they say, prologue, they’ll all do just fine.

 

Just you watch. Twenty years from now, well-led businesses (led by people born after 9/11) will be making a profit. The stock market will be up by more than the rate of inflation. And advances in technology will bring us things most of us don’t know we need. (Who among us thought, in 1994, that this lazy bunch of self-centered slackers could have produced a device that could let you simultaneously talk on the phone and navigate your car to a restaurant you’d never heard of when you got in the car a half-hour earlier?)

 

Stereotypes have never served me well. As soon as I think I have some group figured out, some of its members surprise me. We hear certain things about newer workforce members, but those generalizations are of dubious accuracy.

 

For example, we hear that Generation Y won’t commit to anything. Have we, as leaders, given them anything to commit to? Have we indicated any commitment to them? It’s said they’re self-absorbed. Try giving them something else to be absorbed with (like customers, a real sense of mission, or meaningful work), and see what happens.

 

And we hear that, perhaps due in part to the practice of giving school kids “participation trophies” for coming in last place in a competition, the under 40 crowd wants grand rewards for modest achievement. If you see that, don’t feed it! But when someone implements an idea that saves your company a million dollars, a gold-colored paper star on their cubicle is unlikely to stimulate a repeat performance. Make a BIG DEAL out of BIG DEALS. Learn the reward preferences of everyone on your team, and when someone does something really reward-worthy, knock their socks off in return.

 

Generation Y, I’ve been told, won’t stick around if they’re not promoted rapidly. We’ve got to stop equating development with promotion. The career ladder’s not as tall as it was for earlier generations. Help people develop valuable skills, and reward them for it. If you play your cards right, they’ll be eager to stay, yet prepared to go.

 

And finally, I’ve heard that younger workers are rude. I’ve got a real simple solution for that one. Don’t hire rude people, no matter how talented they are. A business owner I know takes finalists for positions in his company on a business trip as part of the vetting process. (Yes, he pays them for their time.) He observes how they treat airline, hotel, and restaurant employees. Only the most considerate and professional get the offer.

 

Sure, each succeeding generation has always been different from its predecessor. How boring it would be otherwise. Good leaders pay attention to the differences, but continue to lead from and pass on a strong set of core commitments, to develop the leaders to come.

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Bill, by Richard, Management, Motivation

Sometimes It IS About the Money

No Comments 22 October 2013

Few issues in the domain of business are thornier, more complex, and emotion-packed than that of how much money to pay someone for the work they do. Employee compensation thrusts its tendrils into considerations no less substantial than motivation, employment law, labor unions, production, and the very profitability of the enterprise. Oh, yeah. That.

Corresponding almost exactly with the arc of the Great Recession, we’ve been blinded of late by arguments put forth, like shiny objects, suggesting that the paper stuff that goes in your pocket (cash compensation) isn’t as important as the cornucopia of less extrinsic factors that have entered the deal in the workplace… things like concierge-type services, telecommuting, or participating in Habitat for Humanity builds alongside your co-workers.

Whoa, full flaps, brakes, stop! To be sure, there is considerable attraction and motivational impact in achieving a state of camaraderie, and in job-related perks that are special. Indeed, one of us helped launch FedEx, and for a while when the business was running on fumes, it certainly helped to be working alongside a charismatic CEO with a warrior spirit, to be a participant in reshaping commerce, and for every employee to have the opportunity to ride free on company planes, because the mixture of cold, hard cash was pretty lean.

But at the end of the day, people, nearly all of us are motivated, at some level and to a significant degree, by money. We are. Aren’t you? Sure, it’s not everything, but it’s definitely in the mix. And it’s more in the mix of late for two reasons:

1. Due to a still struggling economy and a slack labor market, real hourly earnings are mired US$0.24 below the December 2008 high.

2. Employee engagement levels are abysmally low, to wit the deal in the workplace tends to be more transactional, where cash is the coin of the realm.

So chewy and multidimensional is the comp issue that an entire professional association, WorldAtWork (formerly known as the American Compensation Association), exists to help employers figure it all out.

Credible studies abound, suggesting that higher compensation won’t necessarily buy you a better performing organization. In chapter 5 of our latest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, we illustrate that with some NFL stats showing that many of the highest paid football teams in the US consistently turn in some pretty middling results.

Still, most of us don’t lead entire organizations; we lead individuals. And taken one person at a time, let’s be clear. Sometimes it IS about the money.

It’s sometimes about the money, because people who are struggling to make ends meet, or who believe they can earn substantially more somewhere else, or who feel taken for granted spend more time thinking about their comp-related woes than they do thinking about their work, their customers, and your business. When that happens, they can’t possibly be as engaged as you need them to be.

It’s sometimes about the money because, let’s face it: right or wrong, in our society, money sends a message. A message about a person’s worth. One’s composite view of his or her “deal” at work consists of at least these four factors:

  • Leadership: How do I feel about the person I report to, and the big guns who run the place?
  • Meaningful work: Is what I do valuable and important to others, and do I get frequent reminders of that? Expressed appreciation is a HUGE part of this one.
  • Lifestyle fit: Does this job support and promote the kind of life I want to live? Schedule, benefits, amenities, time demands, etc.
  • Compensation “Worth-its”: Am I satisfied with the money I earn?

You’ll notice that the above list is heavily weighted in favor of intangibles. Only one factor – the last one – is tangible. Most of us would like to maximize the mix of these elements, but they don’t all have to be perfect. If I really like my boss, and the work provides a real sense of meaning to me, I may be willing to work long and inconvenient hours for less than optimal pay. But if I have to work for a jerk doing stuff that doesn’t provide much emotional satisfaction, you’d better be prepared to fork over the big bucks, or I’m outta here. Mentally if not physically.

Think about your competition for talent. Someone else can always outbid you on the tangible; not necessarily on the intangibles.

Here’s our position, and some tips to go along with it:

  • You should never pay anyone more than you can afford, or more than they’ve earned. And not substantially more than the market dictates.
  • Without violating anything in the above bullet point, make your very best offer to attract and retain the best people for your organization, and keep them interested.
  • The question of whether or not you can afford a certain amount for a certain person must be balanced with the question, “Can we afford not to pay that certain amount?” Consider the cost both if the person were to leave, and if they were to power back. If you really are underpaying someone, do you really expect to get their best work?
  • Stay educated on what the market demands. Take advantage of current salary survey data for your industry. Your professional association probably has some. Be sure to filter for geography, profession, education and most of all, demonstrated capability.
  • You can offset the desire for more monetary compensation – to a fairly substantial degree – by paying lots of attention to the intangibles mentioned above. Especially appreciation. Simply saying “thank you” – and meaning it – can go a long, long way. It’s worth real money. But be careful about using these intangibles to justify paying less than you can, and less than you should.
  • Apart from paying “stay bonuses” or step increases, never increase anyone’s base compensation simply for hanging around another year. If given a choice, your compensation dollars would be much better spent as merit-based differentiation than endurance pay.
  • Paying people by the hour is intellectually bankrupt. Find a way to correlate people’s pay with the income or value they provide to the organization.
  • Give everyone as much information and control as possible over how much they earn. Here’s a conversation we love to hear (and have): “You want to make more money? Let me show you how.”

Until next payday, wishing you the best!

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by Richard, Management

Why Contingent Telecommuting is a Good Idea

No Comments 08 October 2013

telecommuterTelecommuting isn’t for everyone. It may, however, be the best way to get to work for thousands of workers where I live,  Jacksonville, Florida, for at least the next month or so.

On Thursday, September 26, a retractable (but unretracted) crane atop the USNS 1st LT Harry L. Martin slammed into the deck of the 60-year-old John E. Mathews Bridge, a major crossing over the St. Johns River in Florida’s most populous city. (That’s right – Jacksonville is Florida’s most populous city. Don’t believe it? Look it up.) Fortunately, nobody was hurt. But many thousands are pretty cranky over it, as the bridge, which carries about 56,000 vehicles daily, will be closed, in the words of the Florida Department of Transportation, “indefinitely”. They’re now saying “4-6 weeks”. “Indefinitely” almost sounds better.

top-post-mathews bridge composite

Although the numbers are on a smaller scale, this is proportionally like closing the San Francisco Bay Bridge for a month. The Mathews connects downtown Jacksonville to the beaches and dozens of other communities on the eastside of the river. I live 5 minutes from it. I’m just thankful I work at home. The bridge is, however, between home and work for both my wife and my daughter. Did I mention cranky? And who can blame them?

But they’re among the lucky. Each works in a fairly traditional office setting, but – and under the circumstances, this is a big but – both have the ability to work from home when necessary. And never has it been more necessary.

Earlier this year, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer created an uproar when she decreed that it was time for all Yahoo staff to come back to the office and spend some serious face time together. This blog supported (and still supports) Mayer’s position. She’s the boss, and she had some pretty good reasons for calling the big get-together, known in some organizations as “coming to work”.

But we’re not against telecommuting. Anything but. The practice comes with many benefits – and risks – for employee and employer alike. And for the right people, in the right circumstances, it does lots of good. Whether or not you’re going to establish such a working relationship, on a full-time or most-time basis, is a decision that should be subjected to important questions: how will it affect your customers, your productivity, your home life, and especially, your career development (out of sight, out of mind, and all that)?

But what we call contingent telecommuting is a different story altogether. Contingent telecommuters are regular fixtures in their traditional workplaces. Most days, they mount some form of public or private transportation, and do their work, physically among their colleagues, like people have been doing for ages. But they’re set up – prepared for working from home when it makes sense. Like when the bridge between your house and your office gets whacked by a Navy ship. Or when any of the following comes your way:

  • a rare snowfall closes the roads, and your city doesn’t have snow removal equipment
  • your kids are sick
  • you are sick, as in, contagious, but feel well enough to work
  • the plumber is coming, and has given you an arrival window of something like 8am to 6pm

These are but a few examples.

OK, so unlike 10 years ago, virtually everyone’s got a computer and high speed Internet access at home these days. That’s the starting point. Regular telecommuters have all this stuff set up, all the time. Contingent telecommuters, and their employers, will want to make sure these things are in place and ready to deploy when needed:

  • a reliable, secure platform for logging into the office setup.
  • a quiet place to work, free from pets, or the sound of crying children (or adults, for that matter!)
  • a landline, with an easy way to bill long distance to the employer – OR – a good mobile phone with coverage better than I get at my house.
  • basic office supplies – enough to get stuff done and maintain some semblance of organization. No need for a wholesale raid of the office supply cabinet at work, but get what you need.
  • look around your cubicle or office – are there phone numbers or other bits of vital information scrawled on yellow stickies or tacked to the walls? If so, put this stuff on your laptop, or in some other manner, replicate the cubicle environment at home. Don’t waste time trying to find “that guy’s number” when everyone’s been shut out of the office because of Hurricane Whats-His-Name.

Again, this post isn’t about the pro’s and con’s of telecommuting in general. That’s a tale for another day. But get yourself, and the people you lead, at least setup to work from home when necessary, and when necessary happens, you’ll all be ready.

 

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Richard, Leadership, Think About It...

What Do You Think of Your Boss?

No Comments 30 July 2013

boss love hate

In January of this year, we conducted a survey to determine people’s thoughts, attitudes, and feelings toward their bosses.

Those who subscribed to our free monthly “Fresh Milk” newsletter were invited to take the survey. That particular issue was received by about 3,700 subscribers, and 183 responded by participating in the survey, over a two-week period.

It wasn’t a scientifically conducted survey, but we think the results ARE useful, and instructive.

We’ve prepared a white paper outlining, in detail, the results of the survey, along with our commentary and some recommendations. You can download the white paper for free, by clicking here.

If you want only a high-level synopsis, along with the commentary and recommendations, read on.

The first section of the survey posed this question: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your boss on each of the following attributes? 1= lousy, 10=terrific

  1. Providing relevant information when needed
  2. Integrity
  3. Listening
  4. Fairness
  5. Showing respect
  6. Expressing appreciation
  7. Fostering teamwork
  8. Maintaining high standards
  9. Inspiring us to do our best work
  10. Holding people accountable
  11. Recruiting great talent

The highest rating went to “Integrity”, followed by “Maintaining high standards” and “Showing respect”. Bringing up the rear were “Fostering teamwork”, “Recruiting great talent”, and (in dead last place) “Inspiring us to do our best work”.

Having observed this, let’s consider something about the concept of “integrity”. Having integrity is, in at least one regard, like being pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t. As mathematicians would say, having a little bit of integrity is an “undefined state”. The word “integrity” comes from the Latin word for “whole”, and you simply can’t be partially whole. Still, we asked the question, and included integrity on the same scale as the other attributes. On that scale, a 7 or above was considered a “passing” grade. But under the notion that you either have integrity or you lack it, you’d have to earn a “10″ to get any “integrity credit” at all. While 66.5% of respondents gave their boss a passing grade, only 26.25% were willing to give their boss a 10. That’s disheartening, to say the least.


Percentage of respondents who gave each item a score of 7 or more

 

Next, we asked which of the 11 attributes their boss needed to improve the most. The top vote-getter, at nearly 20%, was “Holding people accountable”, followed by “Providing relevant information when needed” and “Listening.”

We asked other questions, and learned that, by and large, our respondents’ bosses were willing to get their hands dirty, two-thirds were comfortable telling their boss what they thought, and nearly as many felt that their boss cared about them as a person.

Only about 42% felt their bosses had a clue about what they (the employees) have to do to get their jobs done, only 36% have bosses who do a good job telling them how they’re doing, and only about a third have bosses who do things to help them in their jobs.

We couldn’t help but notice that more of our respondents like their boss (65.6%) than respect them (56.3%) or trust them (46.9%).

And when it comes to personality traits, our respondents’ bosses were more kind than heartless, and more cheerful than grouchy. Less than half (47.8%) are interested in their followers’ success, but 54.2% of the bosses are interested in their followers as people. 38.6% said their bosses demonstrated consistently good leadership; 64.1% rated their bosses as “competent”.

The last two questions in the survey were open-ended ones: What one thing would you change about your boss, if you could? And what positive quality about your boss do you appreciate most? The following “word clouds” depict the themes in the answers to these questions, with the most prominently appearing words commanding the most attention in the graphics.

 

What ONE thing would you change about your boss, if you could?

wordblob1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What ONE positive quality does your boss have that you appreciate most?

wordblob2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


If we were to extrapolate the results of this survey to the workplace at large, then we could conclude the following:

* Overall, bosses treat their followers with a reasonable degree of respect, and conduct themselves with integrity, although their followers are hesitant to say they fully trust their bosses. Bosses tend to hold people to high standards, and are reasonably fair in their dealings with those on their teams.

* Employees notice and appreciate when their bosses notice and appreciate their work, especially when they express that appreciation. They also appreciate being left alone to do their work (autonomy), having their ideas considered seriously, and a boss with an open-door policy.

* Their followers would like some – but not all – bosses to spend a little more time with them. This should be meaningful time, though, and not time spent micromanaging them or their work. In fact, based on some of the survey results, we’d suggest that managers could spend more time learning how they can be of help to those on their teams, and then helping them do their jobs better.

* Overall, bosses know how to behave and conduct themselves around others, but some of the subject bosses sound like royal jerks. A few of the responses to our open-ended questions contained words that even we don’t want to publish here (or in the white paper), and the one or two anatomical references in those comments will be allowed to remain in the realm of your imagination.

* One of the most serious indictments of the subject bosses is that they fail to inspire people to do their best work. We’ve written and spoken extensively on the topic of Discretionary Effort – that extra increment of effort that people give to the job because they want to, not because they have to. It’s become clear to us that you can’t beat Discretionary Effort out of people. And you can’t buy it from people. You can only inspire it. If you, as a leader, aren’t getting enough Discretionary Effort from your followers, the first place to look for a solution may be at how well you inspire people to do their best work.

* Many bosses could do a much better job of holding people accountable, of listening, and of providing relevant information when needed.

* At Contented Cow Partners, we’ve long maintained that one of the most essential elements of any manager’s job is hiring the right people to serve on the team. In this respect, the bosses who were the subject of this survey fared particularly poorly. If that is indeed the case, these managers could make their jobs, and those of their current followers infinitely easier by constantly recruiting and then hiring top talent.

 

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Richard, Favorite Folks, Leadership

Hans Tanzler: A Born Leader

1 Comment 25 July 2013

Tanzlers and HaddensWe’re often asked, “Can leadership be learned? Or is it hardwired at birth?”

Our answer: Yes.

We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing if we didn’t really believe that leadership skills and behaviors can be taught and learned. We’ve seen proof positive of it. But, like you, we’ve also known people who just seemed to have that “something special” – call it “presence”, or “charisma” – that sets them apart from the run-of-the-mill. This mysterious trait makes people want to follow these “born leaders”. When their leadership is channeled in a positive way, they can have a tremendous, and equally positive impact on the lives of others.

One such “born leader” was Hans G. Tanzler, Jr., who served as Mayor of my hometown, Jacksonville, Florida, from 1967-1979, and who died today, at the age of 86.

Known locally as the “Father of Consolidation”, he was credited with developing and implementing the plan which combined the local city and county governments into one entity, giving Jacksonville the distinction of being the largest city in the lower 48, in terms of land area. (Barrow, Alaska has us beat, by a long shot.)

Larger-than-life, Mayor Tanzler, who had to have been at least 6’5″ tall, became a legend in these parts, with both staunch supporters and detractors. But I never heard anyone describe him as “forgettable”.

In the summer of 2003, my family and I spent a week’s vacation in the mountain hamlet of Sky Valley, Georgia, near the North Carolina border. There, in the middle of a bucolic vale stands a picturesque country church whose Sunday morning bells beckoned us to attend services. Five minutes after the service started, a older gentleman of imposing height slipped into the pew next to me. I took one look at him and knew in an instant who he was. He didn’t know me from Adam.

During a meet-and-greet time in the service, he introduced himself (an unnecessary introduction), and was surprised and delighted to learn that he had, by chance, sat down next to a Jacksonville family, 400 miles from home, in the place in which he and his wife had a part-time home in their retirement. As it happened, he was in the process of writing a letter of advice to Jacksonville’s newly elected mayor, John Peyton, whose upcoming inauguration Hans would be unable to attend. In essence, his advice to the new mayor (40 years his junior), was to listen to the will of the people, but not to be swayed by every special interest in the city. In other words, take counsel and advice, and then, make your decisions. Good advice for any leader, we think.

After church, we exchanged phone numbers. That afternoon, the Mayor called with an invitation to join him and his wife in their home, just up the mountain, for dinner. As it turned out, when we arrived, we were joined by his son and daughter-in-law, whose son we learned was a high school friend of our daughter (such is the small town nature of Jacksonville, population 1.3 million). We were given a tour of the Tanzlers’ beautiful mountaintop retreat, which was like a museum of Jacksonville history. The Mayor regaled us with stories of the city I had grown up in, and even treated us to recitations of Shakespeare, featuring some of his favorite bits of wisdom. We then were ferried to his favorite local restaurant, a no-frills Mexican place with great food and lots of character.

We partied into the evening (partied being a relative term, but you get the picture), and had an absolutely delightful evening with our new friends, the Tanzlers.

When we got back to our chalet that evening, my wife and I both remarked that there was something about Hans that we couldn’t quite put our finger on. But he had “it”, whatever “it” is. It explained a lot about how he had done the things he’d done in his career.

Two weeks after we arrived home from vacation, I received a very gracious letter from Hans Tanzler, with a copy of the letter he had written to Mayor Peyton. And the earlier referenced advice, “you must be like Ulysses in the Odyssey, and chain yourself to the mast, so you can steer the safe course and not be tempted by the sirens who will be calling”.

What do I take from the example of Hans Tanzler? In addition to the timeless advice he passed on to the mayor of a new generation, the fact that some people have a gift, probably hardwired at birth, that makes people want to follow them. If you have this gift, my hope is that you’ll recognize it, and then nurture and develop it for the benefit of everyone you influence. To the rest of us – we CAN learn and develop the traits, the skills, the behaviors of effective leaders. Let’s try to learn something – every day – that makes others want to follow us on a positive path.

Hans Tanzler

Hans G. Tanzler, Jr.
1927-2013

 

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Richard, Leadership, Meeting Goals

Goal Sharing Leads to Goal Reaching

No Comments 22 July 2013

goalsharing-postI’m a big proponent of personal growth. But when, a few months ago, my own person had grown too much, I decided to drop about 12-15 pounds, or about a stone in my wife’s British parlance.

I knew that I felt, and functioned, better at 195 pounds, and so I picked that number as my goal. Then – and this, I knew, was the only way it would work for me – I shared that goal with my family, and the guys I work out with at the health club. I knew they’d keep me honest. And they did.

Every morning that I was at the gym (roughly 3 times a week), there was a weigh-in. With an audience. As one who craves approval and eschews disapprobation (who doesn’t?), I was motivated by what I knew would be my friends’ reaction when the number trended downward, and the razzing I’d get if it went in the wrong direction.

It must have worked. I’ve been a little below 195 for a good month now, and my gym buddies have been relentless in applying the pressure to keep it that way.

I don’t know about you, but for me, private goals are much harder to reach than those I share with people who care about me. Maybe if I were more disciplined, it wouldn’t be that way. But there I am.

It works the same way with professional goals. So here’s an assignment – one that I give to almost every leadership audience I speak for.

Pick one leadership trait – something that you know you could improve on. If your brain needs a little jogging, here’s a non-exhaustive list of suggestions:

Courage
Compassion
Decisiveness
Authenticity
Communication (Listening)
Optimism
Mission clarity
Delegation

Now, resolve to get better at whatever trait you picked, over the next, say, 90 days. Next, find somebody who will hold you accountable for reaching that goal. Share it with them, and ask them to help you hold yourself accountable. It doesn’t matter what position this person has in your organization, but it should be someone who has ample opportunity to observe your leadership behavior, AND someone who cares enough about you that they’ll give you bone honest feedback about how you’re doing.

My bet is – if you’ve got someone holding you accountable, you’ll reach your goal, and get better at whatever you pick.

Now – if you manage other managers, expand on the value of this assignment by giving it to every other leader who reports to you.

Then, please let us hear from you. Ninety days from today, we’ll post a reminder blog in this spot. We’d love to learn about your results.

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Richard, Exemplars, Motivation

CSX: One of the Best Places to Work in I.T.

No Comments 18 July 2013

csx hqGrowing up in Jacksonville, Florida, virtually every one of my friends’ fathers worked for either “the phone comp’ny” (as we pronounced it), or “the railroad”. That “railroad” was what is today known as CSX, whose riverfront headquarters building occupies a prominent place in the Jacksonville skyline, and which occupies perhaps an even more prominent place in the life and economy of the city. And now, the company’s Information Technology function occupies the number 19 slot on Computerworld magazine’s List of 100 Best Places to Work in I.T. (See the full article here).

If you’re a regular reader of ours, you know our view: inclusion on an annual ranking of workplace quality (like Computerworld’s, Fortune’s, or any other respected publication’s) is a good first indication, but not the only determinant of how great an employer really is to work for. Companies that make the list ostensibly because they let people take naps, or bring their pet ferrets to work are less likely to get the Contented Cows seal of approval than those known for things like great leadership, innovative reward systems, or an emphasis on professional development.

It’s this quality – an emphasis on professional development – that caught our attention at CSX.

Training is a top priority at CSX, and that commitment is seen in full bloom by its technology professionals. Of the company’s 30,000 U.S.-based employees, nearly 500 are in I.T. Each of those workers received an average of 5 days of training in 2012, and the company budgeted $1,125 per I.T. employee for training that year.

It’s not all classroom training, and it certainly isn’t limited to technology training. These I.T. pro’s spend lots of time learning what those who work in the depths of the railroad’s operations do to get the cars down the tracks. Many techies spend time in the freight yards, and on simulators and real trains, to give them irreplaceable experiences vital to integrating the technology with the workings of the freight carrier.

And CSX maximizes the return on its investment in professional development by providing advancement opportunities for lots of talented CSXers. In 2012, 12% of I.T. employees were promoted to more advanced positions within the technology division of the company.

While the labor market for many industries and professions is still a little anemic, not so in I.T. The demand for talent generally outweighs the supply of people with the skills needed to power the work. And yet, in a field where skilled talent can exercise a lot more options than those in many other fields can, employee turnover in I.T. at CSX is low. Very low: 3%.

We think there’s a lot to be learned from the example of CSX: Invest in personal and professional development. Let people see how the whole business works, and how their contribution relates to the enterprise. Then provide advancement opportunities for those you’ve developed – a great way to maximize the return on your investment in people.

 

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Bill, by Richard, Leadership, Meeting Goals

Everybody Needs a Little Help Now and Then: How to Select an Executive Coach

No Comments 15 July 2013

sun cableA good friend of mine took the picture you see here, with his smartphone, from his backyard on the banks of the St. Johns River, directly across from downtown Jacksonville. The photograph’s elements include a construction crane, the Isaiah D. Hart Bridge, Everbank Stadium (home of the Jaguars), and a particularly brilliant star that they tell us sits suspended in the atmosphere, 93 million miles away, unaided by any earthbound mechanical apparatus.

But, of course, at first glance (and really, every glance), it appears as though the sun is being hoisted above the stadium, and held in place there, by the crane’s cable, the failure of which would send the massive sphere crashing onto the field below, causing a disaster of even greater proportion than the one the Jags created on that very spot last season.

And it made me think: even the mightiest among us can use a little help now and then.

Leaders, from the frontline to the C-Suite, are often reluctant to acknowledge that they need help – that they could use a little support from time to time. The very best leaders, though, see it not as a sign of weakness to ask for help, but as a way to go from strength to strength.

We’ve seen great results from the following 2 ways of securing a little help:

First – and anyone, at any level of the organization can do this – identify one person on whom you can count to tell you what you need to know, but may not necessarily want to hear. This can be a peer, follower, or someone up the chain from you, but your boss is probably not a good candidate. (He or she should be doing this anyway.)  Tell the person you’d really appreciate some bone honest feedback and the benefit of their perspective, and make it easy for them to tell you what you need to hear. If there’s already someone serving in this role for you, go to them and thank them, right now, and let them know that their input is valuable and greatly appreciated.

One other good way to get really valuable help as a leader is to engage the services of an executive coach – someone outside your organization who does this professionally. Here are some things to look for:

Gray hair is a good thing, but it’s not everything – One thing to consider: Does the person have the requisite experience to be advising you in the area(s) you want to work on? Generally, you’re looking for someone who’s been around the block a few times, and has the scars and gray hairs to prove it. Yet, the last thing you want is to wind up working with someone who has one year of experience that they’ve simply replicated thirty times, or someone who is not growing and remaining relevant themselves.

With all due respect to authors, pundits and academics, it’s highly preferable to work with someone who has the chops, built on real world experience. If you want to work on your leadership skills, for example, be sure to select someone who has significant real world experience in a leadership role, and is accustomed to working with people at your level.

You’re not hiring a buddy – A good coach is someone who has your best interests at heart, and because of that, can be counted on to be bone honest with you. They’ll tell you when you’ve got spinach stuck between your teeth, when you’re half-zipped, when your method isn’t working, and when you need to apologize to someone. In the same vein, they’ll be quick to notice and appreciate your effort and progress.

Easy access – Not unlike a physician’s patients, your coaching needs don’t always correlate neatly with office hours, let alone scheduled appointments. Make sure you’ll have access to your coach at non-standard hours.

A viable coaching process – Your coach should employ a process, a method that can be articulated and easily understood. That process should involve a good bit of homework on the coach’s part. Simply running someone through a 360-degree survey battery is not enough. It’s but a start. The process should include a written, mutually developed coaching plan that documents the intended areas of emphasis, coaching methods, and measures of progress. A confident and capable coach will be willing to put some (or all) of their money where their mouth is.

 

 

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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by Richard, Leadership

Managers are Appointed; Leaders are Developed

No Comments 19 April 2013

lindsay manager textThe familiar text tone from my iPhone heralded the message from my nearly 25-year-old daughter this morning: “I am officially someone”s manager now. Ahhh!”

Bill and I have said to audiences for years, only half-jokingly, that most of the time, people are notified of their transition to management (usually on a Friday afternoon), in this way: “Congratulations! You”re a manager now. And you”ve got all weekend to get ready.”

At least Lindsay got the news on a Thursday.

This is not the first time (recently) that our firstborn has caused my wife”s and my heads to swell with pride, and because I”m her dad, I can”t be particularly objective. But presumably, the leadership of the university where she”s worked for about a year can be, and they”ve deemed that she”s demonstrated a degree of leadership skill and potential worthy of a supervisory role.

I, for one, am gratified that they based their decision, at least in part, on her leadership skill and potential, and not solely on her considerable operational prowess. That”s how it should be done. Unfortunately, too often, it”s not.

If I were to be asked by this new supervisor, for any leadership advice (so far, I haven”t been), here are 5 high points I”d cover:

  • Remember why you were issued 2 ears, and one mouth. Use them in like proportion.
  • Pay 10 times as much attention to appreciating your employees as you do correcting them.
  •  Recall what you”ve admired most about the good managers you”ve had since you began working as a teenager. Emulate those qualities.
  • Be unfailingly kind to those who report to you. And remember how unkind it is to fail to tell someone that they”re not performing up to expectations. You owe them the opportunity to improve, if they”ll take it.
  •  You get what you expect to get. Expect a lot.

If I were asked to give managers advice on choosing, appointing, and leading other managers (now that I have been asked to do on occasion), here are my top 5 as well:

  • Always remember that to lead – that is, to be followed – is a privilege that is earned, never a right that is bestowed on anyone.
  • Leaders, like attitudes, plants, pets, and humans, have to be fed, nourished, and given access to a healthy environment. Don”t expect people to grow into great leaders unaided by training, good examples, and worthy rewards for being effective leaders.
  • Followers will be far less impressed by their manager”s technical acumen than by their proficiency in people skills. Make that the number one criterion for appointment to a leadership role, above all other considerations.
  • Pick other managers to be on your team who will compensate for your weaknesses.
  •  Never equate position on the org chart with value to the org. Just as it”s foolish to turn a great teacher into an inept principal, it”s cruel to turn a great individual contributor into a lousy boss. Especially when done as a “reward”.

 

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

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