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June 2011

Trust, Loyalty and Customer Service

Customer loyalty How loyal are your employees?

Of course you know the answer to that very important question. Don't you? After all, it should be one of your key balanced scorecard measures.

Why?  Because if you don't have loyal employees you cannot expect to deliver the best possible customer service or the best customer value, and that has to hurt your business. Indeed, in his book, "The Loyalty Effect", Frederick Reichfield suggests that lack of employee loyalty can stunt performance and productivity by up to 50%.

I don't know what you think, but that certainly seems pretty obvious to me. And that is why I find all the surveys showing declining employee engagement - or if you prefer, increasing employee disengagement - extremely disturbing. After all a disengaged employee cannot be a loyal employee. So if you don't know the answer to the question, you have a serious problem.

That trend is even more frightening when you realise the book was first published in 1996. We appear to have completely failed to heed our own common sense and the lessons in the book. It would seem that Reichfield himself is concerned by this because in 2006 he followed up with another book, "The Ultimate Question."

The blurb on the website for the book claims that it "offers the missing link of the metrics that hold employees accountable to generate loyal customers." It continues that the key is "elevating customer metrics to the same level of rigor and importance as financial metrics like revenue growth or return on equity. The best way to accomplish that? Using one simple question - How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?"

So, if you don't already have this as a key metric, there is both the justification for and the detail of how to create it. However, to use it properly you must ask the question of your employees. Apart from anything it will save you a fortune in employee opinion surveys! You need to be aware, however, that the answer is a direct reflection on you and your leadership. After all, if your people would not be prepared to recommend the organisation to their relatives, friends and colleagues, it is because they do not trust you enough and you haven't inspired them sufficiently to make it an organisation that they can be proud of. 

And, at the risk of sounding like a stuck gramophone record, the easiest way to instil trust and create pride in the organisation and so build loyalty, is to make the employees co-owners of the business. The power of the pride and the pride of the power of ownership is the primary force that underpinned the phenomenal success of capitalism. So if you want to create a happy and loyal workforce and engender the performance improvement that you are looking for you need to create a more democratic workplace where your people are driven by a common self-interest to deliver their best. Employee ownership is head and shoulders the best way to do this.

You have no excuse if you fail to recognise this and to do something to make it happen!

The Ultimate Secret Of Organisational Success

Success imagesCA11Y5M2 Don't you just love it when you come across something that makes you stop and think?

I know I do.

But have you ever noticed that whenever you do, you want to share it with someone?

That's because you have to share good. You just have to.

Which is why, having just come across "What do these quotes all have in common?" an inspiring blog by Steve Roesler, I just had to share it with you. If you are like me you will enjoy the quotes anyway, but it is the way that Steve has linked them that I find so inspiring. Of course you need to read it for yourself and derive your own inspiration, but for me it came from the essence of Steve's message - that ultimately success is always personal.

Nobody can set goals for you. To succeed you have to determine your own goals and enjoy the journey of achieving them: the results, the reward and the fulfilment they bring you.

So that raises the question, "Can an organisation succeed?" After all, if success is personal, how can an institution that comprises any number of individuals, each with their own ideals and objectives, expect to achieve a universal goal? How can it come close to achieving its potential?

It seems patently obvious that ultimately you can only create a successful organisation if you fill it with people who achieve personal success. In other words a successful organisation is one that employs successful people and optimises personal goals so people come close to fulfilling their own potential. Yet there has to be a framework to make this happen. You cannot expect disengaged people to strive for goals. So reports of declining employee engagement certainly suggest that most organisations are some distance away from achieving this.  

If you are anything like me, you will be asking yourself, "What do I need to do to address the situation?"
The answer is relatively simple, even if it is not easy. What is more you already know it. You need to conceive, create and cement shared values.

And of course the best way to create shared values is through employee ownership. Making the employees co-owners of the business is the ideal way to engender a common purpose and create a platform to embed personal goals that are aligned to the organisation's and that create the energy, enthusiasm and engagement essential for success.

Talent Management that ensures Performance Improvement

Are you getting caught up in the brouhaha of talent management? 

You can hardly be blamed for that. After all, as a manager or leader worth the name you should be looking to your people to improve performance! 

And talent management offers you an exciting new approach to ensuring this.Treadmill

But are you finding it an exhausting treadmill that you cannot get off?

Talent management is another new addition to the management lexicon, and you need to be very careful that you don't get caught up in all the hype, hysteria and hubris that sometimes come with new concepts. You don't want to be like a fan of the latest pop-sensation - screaming so loud that you cannot even hear the music.

Here's a little tool you can use to help you ensure that you do not fall into that trap.

You may recall previously I described the ultimate of talent management as giving your people more respect. I wrote that you could improve performance "if instead of trying to set goals for your people, you gave them enough respect to get on with what they are paid to do!"  Well, that is just another apple pie, motherhood statement unless you have a clear definition of respect.

Respect is more than just another touchy-feely soft-skill requirement. Respect for your people means recognising that they are also making a life-investment in whatever they are doing. It means acknowledging that they are investing their lives in their work and for that reason never want to do a bad job.

The following Mnemonic may help you ensure that you give your people the respect they warrant.
•  R -   Remove barriers to good work
•  E -   Empathise: put yourself in their shoes 
•  S -   Support them in whatever way you can whenever they need it 
•  P -   Praise them (sincerely) at every opportunity
•  E -   Educate them in the true etymological sense of the word - leading out
•  C -  Communicate: Tell them everything that is going on
•  T -  Tend to them: give them the time and nurturing that they need

Feel free to substitute your own terms and create your own aide-memoire that works for you. If you do you will ensure you build employee engagement, because your people are engaged. And with engaged people you guarantee performance improvement.

Also remember that you cannot engage talent because you cannot separate talent from the person. You can only engage the person who provides the talent. So focus on the person and beware the inherent dangers of talent management that could lead you to:- 

  • Focus too much on the talent and forget about the person. 
  • Create perceptions of talented and untalented people and so develop a two tier organisational structure.

This will help you ensure you don't fall into that trap and win the so-called "war for talent."

The Key to Performance Management

Are you trying to improve the performance of your people?

You would be a pretty unusual manager or leader if you weren't!

But are you barking up the wrong tree?

Here is an easy test for you to find out.

Just read the following extract from an article on correcting poor performance that I was reading earlier and see if you can spot it? If you are not one of the very few exceptional leaders who "gets it" you might just find the key that could a huge difference in your life - to your approach, to your relationships and - most importantly - to your results.

"First, look back at the objectives that you set for the person:
• Were they realistic?
• Were they achievable?
• Was the time frame reasonable, given the rest of their workload?
• Have other priorities taken precedence?
• Was the objective clear enough?"

Did you get it? It isn't easy! You have to admit those are pretty sound steps that are being recommended, and you certainly cannot fault them. Indeed, if you are worth your salt as a leader you should be pretty familiar with them and following them all naturally.

Rusty key So do you need a clue? Okay, then. The issue revolves around one phrase. Change just the one phrase here and you will have found your key. 

Have you got it now?

That's right - replace the words "set for" with "agreed with" and you will stand a far greater chance of winning the support of that person. After all, even children hate being told what to do, so how much more will any self-respecting adult.

Of course, there is a question of degree here. After all, I can just hear you saying, "I don't set objectives. They are mutually agreed in a performance review." And, of course, one of the first things they teach you about performance reviews and goal-setting is that you need SMART (Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Realistic; Timely) goals that are acceptable to both parties. But that's precisely the point!

People will set much higher goals for themselves when they are engaged. Agreed goals are always a compromise! How much better performance would be, if instead of trying to set goals for your people, you gave them enough respect to get on with what they are paid to do!  That is the ultimate in talent management. After all, you are ultimately striving to create employee engagement and respect is by far the best way to engender that and so optimise their talents!