Wednesday, 30 January 2013

When did we stop keeping our promises?

So this is going to be a bit of a rant, for which I apologise (and that is more than can be said for those who have caused this rant).

Over the past few months I, some of my partners and a few of my clients seem to have experienced a spat of false promises, blatant misleading and down right lies from organisations who should know better.

I think we have all had these experiences...From the sub-contractor who claims it'll only take a few minutes and then go awol; the colleagues that you entrust who fail to deliver what they say they will; the companies who can't do enough for you until you have paid them and then they are no where to be seen; right through to the old favourite "The cheque is in the post" brigade who have no intention of paying you on time but are not courageous enough to admit it.

We have all been let down by someone in business. We have all been promised that something will happen at a particular time, in a particular way and then it doesn't.

So here's the message to all those who make fales promises.

It's really simple. 

Do what you say you will.

That's it. No more. No less.

Now I am not saying that I am perfect. I make mistakes too. But when I make a mistake I admit it; I apologise a lot!; I do whatever I can to put it right and I look at what is broken in my business that needs fixing so that it doesn't happen again.

So...before you say "I will do this" ask yourself "Will I be able to keep my promise? Can I actually deliver?" and if the answer is no then tell us.

We won't be mad and we may even respect you a little bit more for it.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Work with Soul

How do you get your staff to be as motivated and passionate as you are about building the business?
Is it possible to set up an environment where people motivate and empower themselves? What if I were to tell you, you can have a team that is as passionate about your business as you are. Would you want to know how?

In all the years of working in team development and coaching there is one question that managers, directors and CEO's consistently ask...

"Why can't all my employees be self directed and motivated? What can I do to motivate them?"

In truth the answer is pretty simple.

Stop trying to motivate people!

Stop spending good money on motivational team building initiatives and expensive incentives. All you are doing is throwing your money down the drain and annoying your staff. The most successful businesses "live" their vision and values. They don't have to invest enormous resources in motivating people, because everyone is already motivated – they are aligned to the same purpose and share a common set of values.

As a leader, it is important to realise that you can't motivate anyone. It is impossible for you to make a committed, motivated and passionate team. Each one of us is responsible for motivating and empowering ourselves.

Your role is to make sure you are doing nothing to de-motivate people and everything to create an environment in which they can flourish. After all our behaviour is simply the response to a given set of circumstances. Change the underlying circumstances and you'll get a different response.

Sound easy? Actually it is.

All you need to do is create the right environment that:

1. Allows people to work towards purpose that is meaningful

Urging employees to simply rethink their jobs was enough to drop absenteeism by 60% and turnover by 75% according to a University of Alberta study. Researchers found that "people who are able to find meaning and purpose in their work, and can see how they make a difference through that work, are healthier, happier and more productive employees"

2. Enables people to use their skills, experience and ingenuity to work out the "how"
3. Treats people as equals that have a valuable contribution to make

Did you know?

  • It is estimated that £1.4m a day is lost to UK business due to unnecessary sickness absence. This adds up to a startling 6.5million sick days per year. (HSE)
  • The cost of losing employees can be anywhere between 30-150% of their annual salary.
  • The average manager spends an astounding 30% of their time dealing with conflict. However, conflict situations typically involve more than just the manager. They also involve a minimum of 2 conflicted parties and typically a senior or HR manager to arbitrate! (2002) (John Ford & Cynthia Barnes-Slater 2002).

Monday, 17 September 2012

To What End?

The Mullah Nasrudin stories originated as Sufi teaching tales in the Middle East but their appeal is universal. Nasrudin is the wise fool who says the unsayable, plays the fool, tricks us into seeing clearly, and turns our thinking upside down. Peter Hawkins has updated the Nasrudin stories for the world of the modern organisation and corporate advisors in "The Wise Fool's Guide to Leadership", O Books, 2005. Here is one of his stories:

The board of a large company were working on their mission statement.
"What is your fundamental purpose?" asked Nasrudin.
"Our mission is to create constantly increasing dividends for our shareholders," they declared.
"To what end?" asked Nasrudin.
"So they make increased profits which they will want to reinvest in our company," they said.
"To what end?" asked Nasrudin.
"So they make more profits," they said, becoming somewhat irritated.
"To what end?" asked Nasrudin nonchalantly.
"So they re-invest and make more profits."
Nasrudin pondered this for a while and thanked them for their explanations. Later that week they had arranged to visit Nasrudin's house to work further on the Mission Statement. They found him in his garden stuffing oats into his donkey.
"What are you doing?" they asked. "You are giving that poor beast so much food that it will not be able to go anywhere."
"But it is not meant to go anywhere," Nasrudin replied. "Its purpose is to produce manure."
"To what end?" they asked.
"Because without it I cannot grow enough oats in my small allotment to feed this greedy beast." 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A story about transformation and growth

After years of yoyo dieting, perfecting the couch potato and moments of extreme fanatical exercising I decided 2012 was the year to take control and craft my body into peak physical performance.

The process of transformation my mind and body has been going through reminds me of the change process that an organisation goes through to move to the next level.

1. Commit to what you want
It may take some time, but eventually you come to the realisation “things just can’t go on as they are”. There is always some pain, some frustration, some un-fulfilled desire that spurs you to action. You just have to listen to it.

It makes you ask what do I really, really want. This is when I decided what I needed was some outside help - a personal trainer. When I started working with my trainer we spent a lot of time working out my health and fitness goals and making decisions between fitness vs strength, weight loss vs toning up. And importantly why I wanted to do this. Knowing what you want is half the battle and it's where business transformation starts.

2. Get excited
This is a great part of the change process. The anticipation that something good is going to happen. You have a clear vision of what you want. You are filled with energy and ideas of what you need to do and you are invincible!

3. Reality Check
Then it’s time to get real about where you are currently. This can be a painful part of the process. I was horrified to learn that my arms were only 3 cm smaller than my trainers’ and he has big muscled biceps. The difference – he has no fat and I had a fair bit of it! Painful as it is, unless you know where you currently are and what is going to stop you from achieving you will not know what you need to do differently. You will also not know how far you have changed as you go through the process.

4. Hard work
Transforming your body into a lean, mean fighting machine is not easy. In fact it takes a lot of hard work. A personal trainer gives you access to the expertise to know what you need to do and how you need to do it, but they don’t do the work for you. You have to put the effort in and you have to be consistent for any change to take place. You ultimately own the work.

5. Accountability
The best thing about a Personal Trainer is that he holds you accountable. If you haven’t put the effort in he will know about it, and whilst you can kid yourself that you have been good, it is hard to lie to your trainer. A trainer also helps you to focus and maintain your motivation. When you don’t feel like putting the effort in he can help you show up, focus on the goal and push you through it. So too in business. It helps to have someone outside the process.

6. Despair
Inevitably at some point you are going to get stuck. For me it happened week 5 when my body stopped changing, I was tired of doing the work and I couldn’t see how things would get better. This is a normal part of any change process and this is the point at which it is really easy to give up. But you have to keep on going! You have to believe that it will get better and this is when you change things up – move to the next level to break through.

7. Hope
There is nothing like seeing progress to give you hope and keep you on track. This can be as simple as being able to lift a weight you couldn’t lift before, run further or lose a few cm’s from your waist. The important thing is to be able to look back at how far you have come.

8. Celebrate & Reward
If you’re anything like me rewarding yourself is tough. I tend to be my own harshest critic and only reward or celebrate when I have achieved the final outcome. The problem is when your goal is long term it can feel like all stick and little carrot for a very long time – not very inspiring or motivating. Small rewards and celebrations make you feel good and helps your subconscious want to do more.

9. Commit to a new way
So what happens when you finally reach your desired goal – is this the time to get the donuts out? Tempting but NO!

In order to maintain you have to keep on working, keep on setting new challenges for yourself. You are never going to stop working hard. You are never going to stop giving it your all. Anything that you want in life and business takes effort. This is when it is essential to remain connected to the why, to the benefit of what you get, to the successes you have achieved and how good it feels.

So is it worth the effort?
Absolutely. Moving from a place of disappointment with myself, frustration, tiredness and lack of energy to a place of power, strength, positivity and momentum is worth a few hours a week of hard work and skipping the odd pizza.

And what has made the big difference this time round?
Having a guide to help me establish and commit to my goals, an expert to show me what works and doesn’t work, someone to be accountable to and help me celebrate success have made the difference between feeling good and feeling awesome!  

For more info on Personal Training Check out:

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Reached a plateau? How to breakthrough to growth!

Most organisations will experience plateaus in growth at some point in their business lifecycle.  Unless you have the resources, time, energy, thinking and people to anticipate these and put strategies in place to proactively move through them - which let's face it, would make you more than super human!

The fact is that often
what has worked in the past to build business success is not always what will be needed for the future.The good news is that within every plateau there is opportunity and having the desire to grow and change is key to recognising these opportunities and doing something about them.

Get an outside perspective
The challenge can often be letting go of what has worked in the past or knowing what needs to be done differently to move forward. Extensive research shows that when people know something, it is impossible for them to imagine not knowing it. Getting an outside perspective can be key to changing things up.

Business coaching is a cost effective means of achieving great growth results for business owners. Coaching provides for an individual “thought partner” to help you confidentially think through important decisions. A business coach can help you confront the issues, develop options for managing them, challenge existing approaches and ask the difficult questions.

Change the way you Lead
When an organization is small and entrepreneurial the leader of the organization has a greater role in shaping, directing and controlling it. As new employees come on board a different leadership style may ultimately be needed – empowering and inspiring employees to “own” the business becomes key.  Often the style of leadership which enabled the organization to reach its current position will not be suitable for the next phase of growth.

Do less
Most organizations that I have worked with suffer from an ever growing to do list and when it comes to growth can get into the mindset that they need to work harder and do more to grow. Often the key to growth is to stop thinking of all the things you might do and focus on the top few activities in your business that will deliver 80% of the results. It’s essential to discover:
1.      What’s working really well for the business to grow, so you can do that more!
2.      What are your core business strengths, that you can further build on
3.      What isn’t working for you, so needs changing
4.      What three things will be important for you to focus on now

Involve your Team to change Culture
Research suggests that there is an inter-connectivity between internal and external service and profitability (Heskett et Al the service profit chain). Research is not new but many organisations still do not recognise that employees need to live the brand promise in order to both attract and retain profitable customers and create a customer culture.

Involving the team in the process of changing culture and growth planning is key to building a long term sustainable business. In order to do this an organisation needs to:
1.      Focus on values that are relevant to their customers
2.      Involve employees in the development of values
3.      Link these values to their brand
4.      Work with employees to change their behaviour in line with values 
5.      Reward people for ‘living the brand’

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

What is an organisation? A Nasrudin Story

The Mullah Nasrudin stories originated as Sufi teaching tales in the Middle East. Nasrudin is the wise fool who says the unsayable, plays the fool, tricks us into seeing clearly, and turns our thinking upside down. Peter Hawkins has updated the Nasrudin stories for the world of the modern organisation and corporate advisors in "The Wise Fool's Guide to Leadership". Here is one of his stories:

A board of Directors invited Nasrudin to help them change their organization.
"What is this organization that you want me to help you to change?" enquired Nasrudin.

The Chairman produced the glossy company annual report, full of graphs and pictures of Directors shaking hands with the workers.

"So you want me to redesign this report for you?" said Nasrudin, who was always ready to help.

"No, no," interjected the Finance Director, "that is just what we tell the shareholders. Take a look at these company accounts. These will give you the real picture."

Nasrudin flicked through the pages, each full of columns and columns of figures. "So am I to understand that your organization is made up of figures, all neatly lined up in rows on paper?" he enquired.

"Not at all," replied the Operations Director. "Take a look at this organizational structure chart. This will show you how we are put together."

"I see," said Nasrudin, and the board thought that at last they would get some sense from him. "The company is made up of a series of boxes, each joined to the others by straight and dotted lines."

The Human Resources Director said, in exasperation, "All right, the organization is not the propaganda, the accounts or the written structure. I understand the point you are trying to make.
Unlike my colleagues, we in HR fully understand that the organization is really the people. If you like I will clear the car park and get all our four thousand employees out there. Then you will really see our organization:'

"So," said Nasrudin, "your organization is a large crowd, in an empty place, wondering what the hell they are doing there."

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

5 things we can learn about WOW from Zappos

Meeting customer expectations is not enough. You need to work out how to WOW your customers, ensure you exceed their expectations and anticipate their needs before they even know they have them!

And you need to find ways to do this consistently over time.

One of the most exciting examples of WOW customer experience is Zappos (the biggest online shoe retailer – now diversified into clothing and handbags - with turnover in excess of $1bn). This is what we can learn...
1. Create purpose
At the heart of Zappos’ purpose is creating happiness (for both employees and customers). But this is not just printed on mousemats and coffee mugs, gathering dust on people’s desks. It is at the heart of everything that the company does, from the people it recruits to the way the service is delivered.

Chief Exec Tony Hsieh views Zappos as a service company that just happened to sell shoes. Happiness at Zappos is exemplified by free delivery, 365 day free returns policy, employees who are empowered to do whatever it takes to keep their customers happy, a culture that embraces fun and quirkiness and a happiness movement with website, books and blogs.

Delighting customers even extends to directing them to competitors if they don’t have the size, colour or style of shoe they are looking for. Why do they do all this? Because they understand that delighting people, even if you don’t make the sale today, will make people come back to you again and again in the long run. And when people are happy they tell their friends and family.

2. Really live your values

As soon as employees join the company they are involved in projects to make the core values at Zappos live. Leaders demonstrate, talk about, and structure activities that enliven values like “be humble”, “create fun and a little weirdness,” and “do more with less.”

Below are the 10 core values:
  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble
Every year Zappos publishes its “Culture Book” in which all employees are encouraged to write about what the culture means to them. Tony Hsieh says of culture “I can’t force the culture to happen; so part of people's job description is to display and inspire the culture.”

3. Pay people to leave!

Zappos understand that at the heart of great customer experience are employees who are motivated and committed to wowing their customers – whatever it takes. So along with the expected interview processes for skills profiling and culture fit, Zappos have another wonderfully quirky strategy.

They encourage their employees to leave. During the induction and training period (which is 4 weeks long) employees are told "If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you've worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus." Their thinking is that they want people who really, really want to work for Zappos because committed employees will deliver better customer experience.
Some people take up the offer. The rest stay and become Zappos fanatics.

4. Get the metrics right
Go to any online customer service department and you will hear talk of minimizing call times and 1st time resolution.

At Zappos call centre time and resolution is not measured. There are no scripts. Call center members do not up-sell. Zappos boasts the longest customer service call of 8hrs 23 mins! Whether this demonstrates that something is broken or that this was a particularly difficult customer is not clear. But it does demonstrate the ethos of whatever it takes to solve the customer problem.

The call metrics focus on whether customer interactions have the potential to generate more revenue for Zappos instead of how much it’s costing them. The ratings are intangible (unlike call time) so it forces employees to focus purely on customer happiness. They measure:
  • How likely would you be to recommend Zappos to a friend or family member?
  • How likely would you be to request the person you spoke with again?
  • How likely would you be to recommend this person to a friend or coworker?
  • If you owned your own business, how likely would you be to try to hire the person you spoke with?
What Zappos measures is customer happiness, and their success is demonstrated by repeat purchases (which make up 75% of daily orders) and repeat customer spend (2.5x more than 1st time buyers).

The point is not that every customer service company should have these metrics. It is more that every company should have the right metrics which measure what’s important. And what’s important has to be related to the purpose that the company is trying to fulfill for its customers.  

5. Deliver what you say you will
Zappos delivery is underpinned by a business model and associated processes which enable it to delight customers.

For instance, free shipping listed as two-to-three days is frequently upgraded to overnight. This service has to be backed by clearly defined, extremely efficient processes. To do this, Zappos trains employees in working capital principles so that they understand the impact on overall profitability. The company also seeks to eliminate paper and manual processing by working closely with suppliers to automate across the source-to-payment process. Underpinning this is a principle never to outsource their competitive advantage and to treat vendors well so that they can form long term partnerships.

Warning: If your delivery processes are broken, if communication between employees and departments is broken don't try to wow your customers. (Some companies do this a bit back to front throwing in a coupon or freebie initiative to make up for a broken service). The fundamental priority should always be to deliver what you say you will, when you say you will. So make sure you have the processes, foundations and systems to deliver before you try to wow anyone.