Tag archive for "training"

by Bill, Leadership, Think About It...

Ebola and a Lesson on Leadership

No Comments 20 October 2014

Since passage of reform legislation in March 2010, the U.S. healthcare industry has struggled with wrenching change brought on by movement of the tectonic plates underneath the delivery and payment sides of the industry. With the introduction of competition from new sources (e.g., diagnostics and urgent care via Doc In a Box), and the early melting of fee for service payment models, much of the industry is under tremendous pressure to adapt to completely new realities.

Particularly among hospitals, which are seeing demand for their services and assets shift, and in some cases decline, new fiscal pressures abound. As is too often the case whenever there is belt tightening going on, one of the first shoes to drop inevitably lands on the organization’s training regimen, as if working your way out of an earnings problem by dumbing down the organization is ever a workable idea.

We saw some of that play out on the world stage recently with the Ebola episode in Dallas, where it became painfully evident that protocols for handling even one Ebola-infected patient had not been fully worked out, let alone communicated and trained. The patient died, and a lot of good, talented people were unnecessarily exposed to potentially lethal health risk. So what’s that got to do with leadership, the focus of this blog? In a word, everything.

As leaders, our first obligation to the women and men who follow us into work every day is NOT to improve market share or optimize next quarter’s earnings, but to make sure that they leave work at the end of the day in the same (or better) condition than they got there. Second, it is our duty to see to it that they are equipped, by virtue of training, tools, and trust to do their very best work, and accomplish their mission. In other words, they deserve a fair shot at success. Indeed one of the cruelest things we can do to someone is to put them in a position where they are destined to fail (or worse).

As you go about your business this week, take stock of how well prepared and how safe the people on your team are. Do they have what they need in the way of training, tools, information, and trust to do their jobs successfully? Safely? Make sure, damn sure, unless you want to get to write a letter like this:

http://texashealth.org/images/letter-to-the-community-101914.jpg

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Bill, by Richard, Leadership, Management

Three Things That Will Improve Employee Engagement

No Comments 03 July 2014

Recently I read a piece in the e-version of a major business publication which, by title and implication suggested that seventy percent of Americans hate their work. The piece used as its factual anchor the oft-quoted “State of the American Workplace Report” by Gallup, which suggests that only about 30% of American workers are truly “engaged” in their jobs, leaving 70% or so in one level or another of disengagement.

Without doing too much ballet on the head of a pin, let’s make a distinction, an important one. My strong belief, after a couple decades of effort in this arena, is that by and large, people don’t hate their work at all. In fact, most of us rather like our work. Some of us even love it. What we dislike, and what we have difficulty ‘engaging’ with is our jobs, that broader context within which our work resides, and does or does not get done. The “job” encompasses a lot more than the task(s) that we get paid to do. It includes the terms of the deal, the people we interact with and answer to, the support that we get (or lack), the culture that permeates and defines the workspace, et. al.

Indeed, satisfaction and engagement surveys, which our firm has done for longer than I care to admit, suggest that quite often the greatest source of disengagement stems from people and processes that keep us from doing our very best work. In other words, that utterly stupid purchasing policy, or clueless manager who frustrate, rather than enable our best effort are among the primary culprits causing us to disengage. If we didn’t like our work, or want to go home at the end of each day feeling that we made progress, that stuff wouldn’t bother us. But we do, and people and things that block our work progress do more than cause disengagement – they make us crazy! Following are three things that most leaders can do (or refrain from doing) to improve employee engagement levels:

1. Become More Intentional and Selective in Hiring: By most measures, the burner underneath hiring in this country has been turned from “Off” to “Low”, and recently to “Medium” heat. In parts of the energy and tech landscape, it remains on “High.” Ergo, it’s more important than ever that, beginning right now, we use methods and processes that yield more talented, more compatible people. Put plainly but crudely, our staffers (particularly the better ones) don’t want to work with turkeys. Few things are more disengaging than working alongside people who can’t do the work, choose not to, or just plain don’t fit in.

So, as we go about the process of adding staff, it is imperative that we find people who have a penchant for doing terrific work, and whom others want to work with. If they don’t fit the culture, do NOT hire them, regardless of how talented they may be. And, it is also important that we move more quickly to identify and de-select those folks, including managers, who fail to measure up. Doing otherwise is unkind and a disservice to all involved.

2. Get Serious About Learning and Development: Every dentist office is equipped with a sign that says something to the effect of: “Do I have to brush and floss my teeth? Only the ones you want to keep.” The same thing could be said for training and developing our workforce. Engagement surveys consistently tell us that one of THE most important engagement drivers is the opportunity to learn, grow, and yes, build your resume. Yet, owing perhaps to a formerly soft job market, the response from most quarters has been a big, collective yawn.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the realm of so called “soft skills” training, especially leadership development, which for too long now has been a DIY proposition. And it shows. We are now seeing people move into every level of management, including the C-suite, without the benefit of even a shred of training. Consistent with the recent shared ownership of the healthcare equation in the U.S., we would do well to engage our staff members in earnest discussion about their professional development, and work with them toward a more jointly owned development process that is uniquely tailored to them. Beyond getting a more engaged workforce, we’ll also benefit from much better execution.

3. Don’t Fool* With the Gravy: Legend has it that not long after he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain to Heublein Inc., Col. Harland Sanders began taking issue with some of the changes imposed by the firm’s new owners. Upon reaching a point of exasperation, the Colonel invited himself to a Heublein management meeting. When asked the purpose of his visit, he allowed that, for the $285 million purchase price, the new owners probably had the right to exercise bad judgment in changing store layouts and the menu, but, he nonetheless had five words of advice for them… “Don’t fool* with the gravy.” (*Legend also has it that the Colonel’s choice of verbiage was, like his chicken, a little spicier than mine.)

The lesson for us is that, as we continue to innovate, streamline, and economize, we must be mindful not to callously ignore the hard earned knowledge and opinions of those who are, and have been doing the work and who might, just might be able to prevent us from making big, expensive mistakes. Doing a better job on the listening front isn’t just a tool for avoiding mistakes though. Anyone with as few as five gray hairs in their head can affirm that one of the quickest ways to disenfranchise a workforce is to ignore (disrespect) them.

Better listening is a product of hard work as well as technique. A tip given to me not long ago is to try to “read” the words as they come off of someone’s lips. It’s akin perhaps to the advantage that great baseball hitters get by seeing the ball come out of the  pitcher’s hand and then tracking it all the way to the plate. Try it, I think you’ll like it.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

 

by Bill, Leadership

Some Advice for New Leaders in the New Year

No Comments 08 January 2013

This week I’m recording an interview with Kathy Tuberville, a University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business instructor who has elected to use our book, Rebooting Leadership in an upper level undergrad course on leadership. As a precursor to our discussion, she posed two questions for me to address in our interview. I did my best to answer them in a fashion that I thought would be most useful to her students, and have shared my thoughts below. To the degree that you have new or young leaders in your organization, or perhaps you are one yourself, you/they may find this of interest:

What are today’s biggest leadership challenges for emerging and newly appointed leaders? The greatest challenge perhaps is that the on-ramp to today’s leadership highway is short, steep, and unforgiving. Less than a decade ago it was still conventional for newly appointed leaders to experience the benefit of some pretty intensive leadership training in their first few months on the job (if not prior), and be on a relatively short leash with their reporting senior during that period. Within reason, mistakes were expected, and were considered part of the learning curve. Today, not so much. Most of the prep work is a DIY proposition, and mistakes are things that your boss may be less able or inclined to provide air cover on, so it’s probably best that they happen to other people.

Not unlike the world of professional football (the U.S. variety), where yesterday’s rookie players (quarterbacks in particular) could expect to ride the bench for a year or more before being inserted into the starting lineup, today’s players are paid (and expected) to be fully productive from day one. And sadly, once on the field, we tend to forget that they are still rookie players, and not fully developed.

I will submit that had a lot to do with the recent re-injury of Washington Redskins’ rookie phenom quarterback, Robert Griffin III during the team’s first (and only) game of the 2012-13 NFL playoffs. As a 22 year old man who, to my knowledge has not spent any time in med school, Mr. Griffin was allowed to be the sole decider as to whether or not his previously injured leg was ready for action. He guessed wrong. It wasn’t, and hopefully he will recover.

Perhaps the most challenging part of this for the rest of us has to do with the fact that today’s newly appointed leaders can’t always count on having a good example set for them. By virtue of having a sour economy for the past five years, it is entirely likely that their boss hasn’t had the benefit of any leadership training either, ergo it’s not unusual to have the blind leading the blind.

The good news (and it is good news) is that, due to the fact that most of today’s workers are more likely to engage with (and on behalf of) their leader rather than the broader organization, the efforts of each individual leader tend to matter quite a bit more. It’s truly motivating when you realize that what you pour yourself into every day is indeed mission critical.

What are your recommendations for students to achieve success as leaders? For better or worse, here’s what I said.

1.    For openers, be bone honest with yourself about whether or not you are up for this particular ride.

  • Do you have the courage to make tough, unpopular decisions, and to deliver bad news without blaming them on someone else? How about telling a friend that they either need to change or leave?
  • Do you have the resilience to take shots and beatings that are intended for other people (your team) without whining? You better be, because that’s part of the job.
  • Are you willing to subordinate personal interest for the good of the team?
  • Are you willing to liberally share credit with others, perhaps even more than what they deserve at times? If so, proceed. We need a lot more like you.

2.    Early on, it’s important that you become a real master of your time and priorities. On day one, and every day thereafter, you’re going to have a hundred fresh emails and other incoming items of varying importance before you even get to work, and a line out the door (oops, doors are a thing of the past) when you do. How you handle that stuff and keep it in proper context will materially impact your success as a leader, not to mention your sanity.
3.    Though you must be ever mindful of the fact that accepting the mantle of leadership means that you are held to a higher standard, you must at the same time, be authentic – be real. People who are not comfortable in their own skin have a habit of becoming petty tyrants.
4.    Be grateful, and show it, every day. Really. Leadership is not about you. It’s about the mission, and it’s about them.
5.    Become a good listener. It’s one of the quickest ways of gaining the respect and trust of others, not to mention being a great path to the answers you need.
6.    Lastly, unless you find that you’ve been blessed with having a really good boss who is both competent and willing to invest a lot of time in your development, get a coach or mentor that you can rely on – somebody who has been around the block a few times, who cares about you, and won’t blow smoke up your nose.

These are my thoughts. You are invited to join the discussion.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Management

Let’s Get Smarter About Training

No Comments 24 September 2010

Sometime very soon, when businesses are drawing slightly more assured breath, they will begin to restart training programs that were shuttered (as they always are) at the beginning of the economic down cycle. As training fees represent a significant portion of our business base, I’m all for that. But here’s what I’m not in favor of. And that is a return to business as usual, where all too often, training is seen as the silver bullet solution to every performance gap. It’s not.

As a case in point, USA Today reported earlier this week that New York Jets owner, Woody Johnson will soon spend somewhere in excess of $160,000 for “workplace training” for young, virile, male athletes who act like young, virile, male athletes within the confines of their player’s locker room. Specifically, the training was mandated by the NFL after a post-game incident in the Jets’ locker room when TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz was, to use her words, “made to feel uncomfortable.”  Really… in a men’s locker room?

I’m all for legitimate reporters of either gender having reasonable access to players and coaches in an appropriate forum. That said, I’m confident that we’ll see offensive tackles wearing tutus at midfield before someone can “train” a bunch of half-naked 20-something year old guys to act like monks when in the presence of a not unattractive female. No, the NFL doesn’t have a training problem – they have a policy problem inspired by their slavish obsession with media attention, and a policy decision that there is effectively no place that reporters are not allowed to go.

We see the same thing in our more pedestrian organizations when:

  1. An entire class or craft of workers is marched off to obligatory training because one or two knuckleheads can’t or won’t perform/behave at standard
  2. A long time non-performer is sent to be “fixed” to avoid the necessity of their boss having a difficult conversation with them
  3. Training is used to offset the impact of a broken policy or system

As a result, a lot of time, effort and money gets wasted.

Let’s try something different as we crank up the training machine. Rather than “spending” our training dollars, let’s invest them a little more wisely this time around:

  • In areas where enhanced knowledge and skill really can make a difference
  • In ways that are completely aligned with our espoused business strategy
  • In a manner that allows us to measure progress, and hold both learners and trainers accountable

Maybe then we’ll get a little more bang for our buck, and won’t be as hell bent to work our way out of the next downturn by hitting the brakes on training and thus dumbing down the organization.

Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.

*****
A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Leadership

No Comments 11 November 2009

Since the murderous outrage at Fort Hood, TX last week, the mumbling has reached a crescendo about, “In view of this guy’s checkered work performance, if not confused loyalties, how could the Army have allowed him to A. Get promoted, B. Reassigned to another unit, C. Continue practicing as a psychiatrist with emotionally fragile troops, and D. Deployed to a combat role?” While the truth will eventually be known, in the meantime, we manager types would do well to lighten up on the finger pointing.

The reason is that we do a fair amount of the same stuff ourselves. In a 17 year career as an HR manager/executive, I seldom saw a terminated employee with sub-par performance reviews, but I’ve seen lots of problem employees transferred over and over, rather than having someone man-up and deal with the issue. Likewise, I’ve seen hundreds of people sent to training or executive coaching by a gutless manager who silently hopes that they will somehow come back fixed.

My hope is that, if anything good can come from the Ft. Hood episode, it might serve as a reminder of the bad things that can happen inside any organization when problems are allowed to fester, or are swept under the rug.

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A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Management

Why We Suck at Job Interviews

1 Comment 29 May 2009

In a recent Fast Company piece, Why It May Be Wiser To Hire People Without Meeting Them, authors Dan and Chip Heath (Made to Stick)  essentially suggest that, since work samples, employment tests, and references are a better barometer of future job success than a job interview carried out by an untrained/unskilled interviewer, we might as well dispense with the interview.

“When the economy finally turns around, you’ll start hiring people again. You’ll sift through dozens of impressive-sounding résumés — who knew there were so many VPs in the world? — and bring in the standouts for the critical final stage: the interview. You’ll size them up, test the “culture fit,” and peer into their souls. Then you’ll make your decision. This is the Official Hiring Process of America. And it ignores, almost completely, what decades of research tell us about how to pick good employees.

According to the pair, “Here’s the reality: Interviews are less predictive of job performance than work samples, job-knowledge tests, and peer ratings of past job performance. Even a simple intelligence test is dramatically more useful.” They go on to point out that one of the central flaws might be that we (hiring managers) persist with interviews, “because we all think we’re good at it.”

Whoaa! Full Stop! The major premise seems to be that interviews shouldn’t be used because most hiring managers lack interviewing skills (true). Most people, even most MD’s lack surgical skills, too, so…

Work samples, valid tests, and references should all be part of the mix, but let’s not kick interviews out of bed because absent training/practice they make us uncomfortable and we’re not very good at doing them.

I continue to be amazed that, while maintaining that hiring decisions are the most critical decision any manager makes, most organizations send those same managers out to conduct employment interviews without the benefit of any training, other than a few purely prophylactic EEO admonishments. It’s a little like turning a six year-old loose on a construction site with a D9 wheel loader!

Here are two not so humble suggestions from one who has been involved with the recruitment of tens of thousands of people over the course of his career:

1. For the very same reason that Tiger Woods employs a golf coach, get some training on how to conduct effective, behaviorally anchored job interviews. Come on folks, this isn’t hard!

2. Practice. The very best way to work on your interviewing skills AND recruit some great people is to continue doing it every day. Don’t wait for the economy to pick up, when your skills are even rustier and everyone is fishing in the same pond!

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A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Management, Meeting Goals

Learning and the 'Need for Speed'

1 Comment 11 September 2008

Vince YoungIn pondering, arguing over, and eventually deciding on the title for our most recent book, Contented Cows MOOve Faster, we were searching for something that conveyed one of the foremost needs of the early 21st century… the need for speed. Whether one is engaged in the world of education, commerce, health care, sports, you name it, the pressure to perform, and perform right now is immense.

That’s fine, but people don’t always hit the ground running, and running in the right direction, at the proper cadence. There is often a certain amount of orientation, preparation, training if you will, that is a necessary precursor to hitting stride. As we continue to ramp up our performance expectations, we simply must do a better job of preparing people to succeed. Having reflected on this a bit of late, I’m convinced we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Two cases in point:

Thirty-two months ago, two of college football’s brightest prospects, Matt Leinart (USC) and Vince Young (Texas) squared off in one of the more heralded BCS championship games. Each subsequently entered the NFL, Leinart with the Arizona Cardinals, and Young the Tennessee Titans. In both cases, the clear expectation of teams and fans alike was that these uber-talented players would instantly adapt to the speed and complexity of the NFL game and make contributions as outsized as their paychecks. Now entering their third season, both players are struggling mightily. The wily veteran, Kurt Warner, has replaced Leinart as a starter, and though the Young – led Titans are winning, he’s nursing more than a sore knee after being lustily booed by Titans fans.

Sports columnist, Tim Cowlishaw did an interesting piece on this in the September 11 Dallas Morning News.   One of the conclusions that Cowlishaw came to is that, in their own way, each team needs to dial back its expectations a bit, and increase the support shown for  two still very new, very young, gifted players.

On a more pedestrian level, I stopped yesterday for a few items at a nearby grocery. As is so often the case these days, upon reaching the checkout, my options were clear:  Stand in line for 10 minutes, or check myself out. With no pressing urge to socialize, and not exactly blessed with an abundance of patience, I opted for the latter.

Though I have shopped in this particular store a good bit, I wasn’t as familiar with their self-serve system as the one at their across the street rival. No problem. Upon entering the self-checkout area, I noticed one of the regular checkers, a lady named Debra, manning the “help the dummies” station. When I placed two unmarked potatoes on the scanner and paused momentarily to look at the on-screen instructions, Debra instantly swung into action, rushed over, elbowed me aside, and said, “you’ve got to enter the codes for these items” as she punched in the 4 digit universal code for Idaho bakers. After pointing out that there was no little coded sticker on the spuds, to wit I had no way of knowing what the code was, I thanked Debra, who returned to her station.

Next up were two equally unmarked tomatoes. Once more, as I put the items on the scanner and glanced at the on-screen menu, Debra hustled over and again started feverishly punching codes into the machine. With absolutely no one in line behind me, and thus an opportunity for a little social experimentation, I said, “Hang on a second, Debra… what are you doing? Where am I supposed to get the code from? Isn’t there another way to do this?” Wishing perhaps to show off her mastery of fruit and vegetable codes that she must have learned in school along with multiplication tables, Debra again insisted that I needed to enter the correct numeric code, rather than let the machine do its thing.

Just as my annoyance level began to ratchet up a notch, a store supervisor magically appeared, and uttered the words, “I’m sorry, she (Debra) is getting some on the job training right now.”  I started to remark that it seemed that I was the one getting the training, but as quickly as she had appeared, the supervisor was gone. After subsequent identical (I am NOT making this up) experiences with two more food items, I swiped my credit card thru the reader, grabbed the bags of groceries, and bolted for the door.

What Debra was getting wasn’t training at all, but something more akin to a public hemorrhoidectomy. Having successfully gone through her regular checkout lane before, I had firsthand knowledge that this lady is quite proficient as a checker. But when it came to overseeing the self-checkout operation, someone had basically thrown her in the pool and said, “swim.”

My point is this: If we’re not going to lower our expectations about the speed at which people reach peak performance levels (and we’re not), then it stands to reason that our training and orientation (onboarding) methods must keep pace with those expectations. To wit, here are three simple reminders:

1.    Though it is likely not an issue with the likes of Debra, Vince Young, or Matt Leinart, one of the major learning “bridges” that must be crossed in our own workplaces has to do with making sure that our people understand, really understand how and why their work matters. Otherwise, all the methods training in the world will be for naught.
2.    In case you haven’t noticed, owing to concerns about their safety, security, health, finances, and the like, people are wrapped way too tight these days. Accordingly, if you want to create memorable impressions, build some fun into the equation. That is particularly the case with learning scenarios. In fact, that’s a point we emphasized in partnering recently with CRM Learning in the production of a management training video based on the aforementioned Contented Cows book. Having just read the final script, I’m happy to report that they’ve succeeded beyond our expectations. Sometime in January, you’ll get the chance to enjoy it and put it to use in your organization.
3.    Be very deliberate and thoughtful about your choice of training delivery methods and sources. Debra’s supervisor clearly subscribes to Mark Twain’s theory that, “a person who carries a cat home by the tail learns 10 times as much as one who only watches.” (Please, no PETA protests.) Indeed OJT has its place, but often there is a need for some adult supervision. Be very choosy about who that human trainer is. There is a big difference in learning under the tutelage of someone who is the very best at what they do, as opposed to someone who is merely available. Similarly, high tech distance learning can shrink the globe and put tremendous amounts of knowledge at our fingertips. Witness the fact that one can “learn to fly” at a computer screen without ever leaving the comfort of home. Yet, I don’t know about you, but I prefer to ride with someone who I know has actually had to deal with an engine fire-warning siren in the midst of a takeoff roll.

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com

by Bill, Management, Think About It...

Qantas Crew Safely Handles Inflight Emergency

No Comments 26 July 2008

Qantas 747Earlier this week, a Qantas Airlines 747-400 jet with 350+ souls aboard, en route from Hong Kong to Melbourne experienced sudden decompression at cruise altitude, resultant from a mysterious rupture in the underbelly of the aircraft. See the BBC for an account of this episode.

Owing to the skillful reaction of a well-trained crew, the plane made an emergency landing in Manila, resulting in no injuries.

We’re thankful that this episode ended as well as it did. One of the chief reasons that flying is as safe as it is relates to rigorous training and testing of flight crews. Contrary to what a lot of other businesses are doing right now, commercial airlines are not trying to work their way out of a tough economy by suspending training and “dumbing down” the organization. Our bet is that if you think about it for a minute or two, you’ll conclude that your business is no less dependent on having a trained, competent workforce than Qantas.

A thought leader in the areas of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com

by Bill, Management, Meeting Goals, Motivation, Think About It...

The Customer-Employee Connection

No Comments 26 February 2008

SstarbucksBusiness Week Magazine has just released its 2nd annual ranking of “The Customer Service Champs”, heralding 25 firms which, amidst an otherwise pretty dismal scene on the service front, are doing the best job for customers. Representing a diverse cross section of American industry, including hotels, retailers, airlines (yep), banks, quick-service restaurants, and insurers, the Business Week list includes rankings for both “process” and “people.” In other words, high tech or high touch alone won’t get it. Some observations:

1. Once again, it is impeccably clear that those organizations with a reputation for having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce (e.g., USAA, L.L. Bean, Marriott, Edward Jones, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Chick-fil-A) stand a much better chance of garnering kudos for delivering higher quality service. A visit to their annual reports suggests that ink from Business Week isn’t all they’re getting out of the deal.

2. These folks are serious as a heart attack about improving (as opposed to maintaining) service. The article details efforts made by USAA to improve software and launch mobile Web service to make it easier for its highly mobile and often forward deployed military customers to do business with them. Starbucks is also taking some serious measures. At 5:30PM (local) this evening, all 7100 U.S. Starbucks stores will stand down, as in close the doors for three hours so that every Starbucks partner (including those who are scheduled off for the day) can get the benefit of “Espresso Excellence Training.” Hint: 9PM this evening would be a real good time to get yourself a latte.

3. Some organizations are starting to use their heads, along with some real cash and creativity to recognize and reward workers who go the Extra Mile for customers. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has modified its rewards program so that customer service stars actually get something they really want, like help buying an automobile, a trip to places they want to go, and the like. Said, Fairmont’s SVP of HR, Carolyn Clark, “Our guests do not want service that’s cookie-cutter. Just as we’re trying to deliver individualized, personalized experiences for guests, we wanted to introduce a customized, personalized reward program for employees, too.” Yippee!

I decided a while back that life is too short and too precious to waste it by spending time being aggravated over preventable customer service snafus. For that reason, there is an ever growing list of companies (airlines, banks, restaurants, and the like) with whom I will not, under any circumstances, do business. Rather, I strongly prefer to give my business to folks like those mentioned on the Business Week list. It feels better, turns out better, and I’ll probably live longer. You may want to try it.

A thought leader in the areas of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, motivated, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com


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