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Permalink to What is Your Goal for December 7, 2017?

What is Your Goal for December 7, 2017?

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  As President Franklin D. Roosevelt described, December 7, 1941 is “a date which will live in infamy.” It is a date which instantly brings to mind memories for those who lived through that day. Younger generations have November 22, 1963 or September 11, 2001 as dates which made indelible marks on their lives. All you have to do is mention the date, and people can recall where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of the tragedies that occurred on those dates.

Anniversaries mark important personal and cultural events that can bring either fond or, as Roosevelt describes, infamous memories. We celebrate anniversaries to recognize a birth or a death, the first day of employment or retirement, the beginning or ending of relationships, the beginning or ending of wars, and the formation of organizations, communities, cities, states and nations.

Anniversaries not only mark important dates, they are important for our growth, if we look back on how that event helped us develop as a person, organization, community, or nation. Often times, the most difficult circumstances have led to the greatest personal growth.

You may not have been alive on December 7, 1941 for this date to be important to your past. However, you can mark today, December 7, 2016 as a date where you make a choice for personal growth and development.  When you look forward to December 7, 2017, where do you want to be? What will you have accomplished? What obstacles will you have overcome? And, how will you have changed personally to make it happen?

Make December 7th, not a date that will live in infamy, rather, a date where you made a conscious choice for something good.  Choose that for yourself today, and mark your calendar to celebrate it, 365 days from now.


Permalink to Hiring Superior Performers

Hiring Superior Performers

One of the biggest decisions a business owner makes is hiring that first new employee.  On the one hand, they wonder if they can afford to pay someone full time.  On the other hand, they worry about whether that person will do the work the way they want it done.  If I had a third hand, it would point to the third issue — the business owner needs to hire someone who will represent the company in the manner that will reflect positively on the owner.  And the list of concerns goes on…

Assuming that you can afford to hire a new employee, what are the three biggest obstacles to hiring superior performers and what can you do about them?

#1 Be clear about the job – why it exists.  Too often people create a job description as a list of activities and tasks, but fail to consider the desired results.  For example, a task might be “answer the phones,” but the desired result might be “to provide customers with accurate, timely and friendly service.” Having a clear picture of why the person answers the phone will give you insight that helps you overcome the second biggest obstacle to hiring superior performers.

#2 Be clear about what it takes for superior performance on the job. Thinking about why the job exists, it is easier to objectively identify what it takes for superior performance.  A job that requires significant interaction with people in a friendly manner will require a different person than a job that requires attention to detail and data analysis.  With clarity of what it takes for superior performance and using assessment tools, you can identify whether your candidate is a good match for the job.

#3 Be clear about your company’s culture and the shared core values. Just because a person can do the job, doesn’t mean they will be a good fit in your company.  Use the job posting and interview process to attract the person who will thrive in your company’s culture. This means using values-based questions to help you recognize a good fit.

A thorough and effective selection process takes an investment of time and money but a bad hiring decision can be significantly more expensive.  It is worth the time and effort to invest in hiring a superior performer, otherwise you’ll end up paying the price for a bad hire later.


Permalink to My Pleasure

My Pleasure

The Ritz Carlton Hotel is known for the quality of its facilities and exceptional service. These add up to deliver a consistently exceptional experience for their guests. The Ritz is also known for its leadership development training where they share the Ritz Carlton business practices which have earned them the esteemed Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award, twice!

Such a legacy of quality doesn’t happen by accident. In fact, it is very intentional. They operate on a foundation of values and a philosophy they call the Gold Standards. These Gold Standards systematize living the Ritz’s motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen,” and ensure that each employee owns their core service values.

You don’t have to be The Ritz to consistently create an environment where your employees love to work and your customers love to do business. But you do have to be intentional about it. There are Five Keys to Success that any organization can follow.

Own Your Values – Core values are not just something that sound good. They are not created for marketing purposes and are not task to check off the strategic plan list. Owning your values means they are a non-negotiable part of who you are.

Define Your Values – Words have different meanings to different people so defining your values must include behaviors that reflect what the values look like in your operation. That requires dedicated leadership by the CEO, with the collaboration and buy-in of others within the organization. Collaboration increases commitment. People who share in defining core values are more likely to participate in living them.

Share Your Values – They must also be continuously shared internally and externally, in words and deeds, through a variety of channels. As with any other marketing program, the message needs to be clearly focused, creatively presented, and frequently repeated.

Institutionalize Your Values – Core values need supportive infrastructure in order to thrive. If you don’t integrate them into your company’s operations—if you don’t institutionalize them—they will have little sustained impact.

Honor Your Values – Clear definitions, effective communication, and comprehensive support of core values are all necessary. But in the final analysis, actions speak louder than words. To be authentic, core values must be lived. To guard against compromise in your company, establish an accountability structure that starts at the top. Honoring core values requires conviction and courage, reinforced by accountability.

Although living core values promotes maximum business success—and the definition of business success includes profitability—organizations that benefit most from living their core values tend to define success in light of their values. They’re working for rewards that are substantially greater than profitability alone. Find out for yourself how valuable core values can be. Your company will be more prosperous in tangible terms. But even more important, you will grow to appreciate that the greatest value of core values is ultimately in the values themselves.


Permalink to Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

I frequently visit an office building with an attached parking garage.  A while back, someone had the great idea that they could squeeze in one more parking space by painting the lines closer together and designate the spaces for “compact cars.” It was not a bad idea—in concept.  However, somebody forgot to ask the customers.

The first problem is the assumption that the distribution of compact to non-compact cars is equal and that drivers of compact cars will only park in the teeny-weeny spaces. Wrong!

People with “compact cars” don’t want door dings any more than the next guy so they will park in the more generous spaces.

The second problem is the assumption that drivers of non-compact cars will only park in the larger spaces even if it means they have to drive around and around up the ramp until a more generous space is available.  Wrong!

People with “non-compact cars” park in the first available space even if it means they park over the line and therefore take up two spaces.

The net result? There are always 3 or 4 ½ empty spaces in each row that are not suitable for any car to park. The space saving idea has resulted in wasted space because all drivers want the most convenient parking space and the ability to actually open their car doors to get out.

Before you make a “penny-wise and pound foolish” decision in your business, think about it from your customer’s perspective. If the decision doesn’t add value to your customer, perhaps you should find another solution.  Great service rarely starts by forcing your customers to do business “your way.”


Permalink to Cast a Stone Across the Waters to Create Many Ripples

Cast a Stone Across the Waters to Create Many Ripples

Ever since my book The Value of Core Values: Five Keys to Success through Values-Centered Leadership, was published, I have had the pleasure of speaking on the topic of core values to a many audiences representing a large number and variety of companies.  Whenever I have this opportunity, I always ask the participants “What are your company’s core values?”

If you are reading this now, I’d like to ask you the same question.  Do you know what your company’s core values are? Can you name them and what do they mean?

If the groups I’ve spoken to are a representative sample, only two to three percent of you will be able to answer correctly.  Another two to three percent will have heard your company’s values mentioned before and may recall one or two of them, but about ninety-five percent of you are searching your company’s website right now in hopes of finding the answer.

It is sad. The vast majority of leaders of organizations have not given thought to their core values, or if they have, they have not given them a second thought. With a void in core values, corporate disfunction is prevalent and it manifests itself in costly, time-consuming, and energy-draining problems with employees, customers and other stakeholders.

If you’re experiencing some of these problems, do yourself a favor. Seek out your company’s core values and if they exist, dust them off.  Contemplate their meaning in your everyday behaviors. How would someone know your core values by observing how you act and make decisions? Then make the change in yourself to live them every day.

You may only be one person, but as Mother Teresa said “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” You can be the one who creates a ripple that starts a tidal wave of change.


Permalink to 5 Things NOT to Do to Provide Exceptional Service

5 Things NOT to Do to Provide Exceptional Service

I recently had a bad experience with a service provider.  I admit that I made a mistake by not understanding the terms of their service.  But the way they handled it, made me consider not doing business with them again.  The problem is, they are the United States Postal Service and to some extent, I’m stuck.

Most of us don’t have the luxury of being the provider of last resort when it comes to attracting and retaining clients.  So here are five lessons that we can learn from the USPS about what NOT to do if you want to provide exceptional service:

#1 Do NOT spend more money telling the customer they were wrong than it costs you to overlook their mistake.  The result is a dissatisfied customer and lower profits.

#2 Do NOT make your customer wait for 20 minutes in line to fix their mistake. They are already upset and the wait time just adds fuel to the fire.

#3 Do NOT put an employee who has neither the knowledge nor the authority to address customer’s issues in the position where they are set up to fail. This decreases morale in your organization and adds to the customer’s dissatisfaction.

#4 Do NOT have a customer feedback mechanism on your website that makes it impossible for your customers to give you valuable information that you need so you can improve. It frustrates an already frustrated customer and prohibits you from getting the feedback that you need.

#5 Do NOT promise your customer that they will get a response from you within 48 hours (when they took the time and suffered through your impossible feedback process) and then fail to contact them.

What should you do instead?

#1 If a customer’s problem happens repeatedly and if fixing it causes you lose money on each transaction, you should evaluate the root cause of the problem and correct it.  If the problem is isolated, ignore it and let the customer win. Telling the customer “they were wrong” is a bad approach if you want happy loyal customers.

#2 Never make your customers wait 20 minutes for anything.  If you see a line, it might be a sign that business is good today, but it is also a sign that you need to expand your capacity to serve. Your customers value their time and you should too.

#3 Provide your employees with both the training and the authority to provide exceptional service and back them up with your business systems and processes. There is nothing worse for the employee (and the customer) than having to say “there is nothing I can do.” Train your front-line employees to gather and share customer feedback. They are the first point-of-connection and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to learn how you can better serve your customers.

#4 Solicit customer feedback and welcome their input.  Make it easy for your customers to tell you what you are doing right and what you need to fix.

#5 Under-promise and over-deliver on all your commitments.  In this case, I felt obligated to share my concern with the USPS before sharing it on my blog.  I wanted to give them the opportunity to address the issue instead of complaining to 20 million of my closest friends on the internet.  Since you are reading this now, you can assume that they weren’t interested in my feedback or fixing the problem.

The interesting thing is the three major strategies in a document titled Vision 2013 on the USPS website are:

1) Focus on what matters most to customers.

2) Leverage our strengths to create customer value and profits to invest in continued improvement.

3) Embrace change in the way we respond to emerging customer needs and a rapidly evolving business environment.

If your company is giving lip-service to its strategic initiatives (and you are in year five of your five-year plan) you are not likely accomplishing your objective.  Chances are the employees at the USPS, from the IT department that developed its complex and totally useless customer feedback do-loop, to the front line employee selling stamps, have no clue about these strategic initiatives. At least they failed to demonstrate it.

Take a lesson from the USPS.  Focus on what matters most to customers. Leverage your strengths to create customer value and embrace change so you can respond to your customers’ needs. Their strategies are excellent but they failed in the execution.


Permalink to Are You Living Your Core Values (or Not?)

Are You Living Your Core Values (or Not?)

Recently, I called several local retailers to find the best price for copying a fairly large document.  It was about 8:45 AM. Although one of the companies I called wasn’t open yet, an associate answered the phone so I asked my question. “How much do you charge per page to copy a document?”

The answer: “We’re not opened.” Okay, that was a true statement, but really?

I convinced this employee who obviously wasn’t quite awake at 8:45 AM to connect me with someone who might be able to answer my question.  The response from the manager of the printing and copying department: “We’re not opened.”

What makes this episode more incredible is that the company’s core values are integrity, innovation, inclusion, customer focus, and accountability. I think someone failed to notify these employees.

Core values have no meaning if they aren’t lived. In fact, stating core values and then following them up with behavior like I experienced does more harm than not defining your company’s core values at all.  For core values to truly shape the culture of any organization, they must be known, understood, defined, supported and honored by everyone.

If you want to be known by your customers and employees as a company that values customer focus, you need to let your employees in on that secret.

For more information, see www.thevalueofcorevalues.com.


Permalink to Thought Power

Thought Power

I was out walking last weekend as I usually do most Saturday and Sunday mornings. The neighborhood where I walk has a 4-mile loop where walkers, joggers and children on bikes share the sidewalk. Given my relative speed, I’m often overtaken by others.

Being a retired marathoner, I remember the mental zone a runner gets into as they find their grove. So, as I walk I try to listen for approaching footsteps and move out of the way in order to not interrupt the runner’s cadence.  When I’m not successful at being proactive, they will call out “On your left!” as a warning for me to move to the right.

The interesting thing is that 9 times out of 10, when someone yells “On your left!” I immediately jump to the left.  My reaction is to do the exact opposite of what I should do.

Our minds are always filtering input and responding to stimuli without conscious thought. We hear the word “left” and move to the “left.”  Our behaviors follow our thoughts.

Knowing this, we can put the same principle to work for our advantage. The Law of Attraction, affirmations, and visualization are all based on the concept of filling our minds with what we WANT, not what we DON’T WANT so that our behaviors will lead to our desired results.

To take advantage of the power of our thoughts, we need to become aware of thoughts that reflect what we don’t want and replace them with the opposite.  If I don’t want my children to run, I should encourage them to “walk, please.” If I don’t want to be late, I need to think about being on time.  If I don’t want to gain weight, I should think about being thin.

Our thoughts have power. Harness the power!


Permalink to Doing the “Right” Things “Right”

Doing the “Right” Things “Right”

Doing the “Right” things, right!

Business leaders face challenges every day and have to make decisions that financially impact not only their businesses, but the people who work there.  The process of determining the “right” thing to do in any situation can be tricky, especially when there are difficult consequences associated with every alternative course of action.  So what is a leader to do?

Determining “right” from “wrong” is a function of values. The same is true in companies where the core values of the organization should guide decision making. I emphasize should because you and I both know that is not always what happens.  But when guided by core values, even the tough decisions become easy.

What are core values? Core means center, heart, nucleus, interior, foundation, mainstay, focal point, and substance. Values are principles, standards, morals, ethics, and ideals. Values always have worth, importance, and significance.

It follows then, that core values are the ideals and principles that lie at the very heart of an organization and guide all of its behaviors. They are the foundation upon which all strategies, processes, decisions, and actions rest. Strategies describe what the organization is going to do. Core values define how the organization is going to do it.

All organizations have values that guide their decisions. Some of these values exist by design; others exist simply by default. Successful leaders don’t leave their company’s decision making criteria to chance. They identify and define core values that are aligned with the vision of the business. Then they incorporate the core values they value into the life of the organization on an on-going basis.

Once defined, core values become the criteria upon which all decisions, big and small, are made. They are the ultimate standard of what is “right.”

Unfortunately, too often the goal of profitability is mistaken as a core value and the organization suffers in the long term.  But companies don’t have to sacrifice financial returns in exchange for doing the “right” thing.  Living your organization’s core values and profitability are not mutually exclusive In fact, it is through living your core values that long term sustainable profitability is possible.

Doing the right thing “right”

Doing things the “right” way is a function of process. Every organization needs business processes that are first effective – lead to the right results from the customer’s perspective – then efficient – use the least amount of resources possible – and finally, adaptable – because the environment is constantly changing.

Most leaders know the failure points of their exiting processes. The symptoms are easy to spot—rework, bottlenecks, waste, customer complaints—but for some reason, organizational habits get in the way.  That’s the bad news. The good news is that the ability to fix the things that get in the way of doing things “right” exists within the organization. Employees who are closest to the problem typically have the best solutions, if only someone would ask.

Doing the “right” things “right” requires intention and attention but the rewards, financial and otherwise, are worth it.

image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Permalink to Overcoming the Myth of Work Life Balance

Overcoming the Myth of Work Life Balance

If you search Amazon.com you’ll find hundreds of books on work-life balance. Obviously this topic is of interest to the world. I suspect it was started by women who taught men the importance of the concept. But do we really want work-life balance?
My educational background is finance/accounting. When I think of balance, I think of the balance sheet where assets=liabilities+equity or debits=credits. In accounting, everything in balance is a good thing. But in life, I’m not sure what we need is balance.

Let’s look at a typical work day: Rise at 6:00 AM; get ready for work 6:00-7:00 AM; commute from 7:00-8:00 AM; work from 8:00-5:00; commute home 5:00-6:00; personal time 6:00-11:00; and sleep from 11:00 PM-6:00 AM. Admittedly averages don’t really represent anything real, but for purposes of making my point, let’s assume this day is typical. When you calculate work and commute time as “work” and everything else as “life”, 54% of the day is spent outside of work. If we add weekends into the mix and look at a 168 hour week, 67% of our time is allocated to “life.” So what’s the problem?

I suspect the real problem is that we don’t feel like we have enough time in our lives for what is really important. Or, we don’t really only work from 8:00-5:00. For some reason we bring work home and work on weekends. If we really are all out of balance, I’d like to offer four things to consider: Productivity at work, how we define success, attitude about work/life balance and living a life of integrity.

Productivity – Early in my career, one of my supervisors told me “If you think you are impressing me by staying at work late, you’re not. If you can’t get your job done in an 8-hour day, perhaps I should replace you with someone who can!” This advice helped me focus on productivity.

There are many factors that impact our productivity but some of the most common are broken processes, doing other people’s work, poor communication, agenda-less meetings, unclear goals, and allowing or seeking interruptions. If you pick just one of these to focus on and make changes, you’ll likely see improvement.

Defining Success – Most people define success in terms of career achievements – promotions, raises and bonuses. The vast majority of people if they set goals at all, only set career and financial goals. This is part of the reason they think of success in career and financial terms.

In reality, we are complicated beings with many dimensions and needs – family, social, physical, intellectual and spiritual – in addition to career and financial. Each of these areas of our lives works for and against each other. Is it really possible to achieve balance? Even if it were, it wouldn’t last long and like a teeter totter that sits in balance, it isn’t much fun.

Balance is really a misnomer. Harmony is a much better term for what we seek in life. Think of an orchestra. Many individual and intertwined sounds create the composition. Not every instrument plays all the time. Some carry the melody and others create the harmony.

Setting goals in each area of your life is an important part of creating work/life harmony. Sometimes the problem is not really work/life harmony. Rather, the problem is mastering the art of saying “no.”

Once you’ve considered what is really important in all areas of your life and set written goals, the art of saying no becomes more of a science. The process is simple. Say yes to those things that will take you closer to your goals and no to those things that will take you further away.

If it is so simple, why don’t we just do it?

That brings me to the next point. What is your attitude about achieving harmony in your work/life? Do you have to stay late? Do you have to take work home? Do you have to work weekends? In other words, is your attitude that work always comes first?

You’ll never achieve harmony in your life unless you realize that you are in control and you choose to stay late, take work home and work weekends.  It is your choice and not a requirement.  Accepting the reality that you are 100% responsible for your choices is empowering in itself.  You are in control. Once you acknowledge this, you are able to make the choices that will bring harmony to your life.

Go ahead! Picture the success you want to achieve, set goals in all areas of your life, eliminate the waste and make the choices that will take you closer to goal achievment.  Soon, you’ll be singing the sweet song of success!

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