‘Tis the Season for Resolutions

“New Year’s Day now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” ~ Mark Twain

It’s that time of year again, the time of year when many people start thinking of all the things they can and should be doing to make their life, their business, stronger and better than it was the previous year.  All too often, the resolutions are a repeat of previous year’s failed attempts at change or progress and this time next year, will be pulled out again to try just one more time.

Perhaps it’s because so many resolutions, both business and personal, are made because someone has told us we should, not because we have any passion or desire to make the change.  Now, sometimes those people may be right, but unless we can find a way to personalize the benefit of change, the chance of success is slim at best.  Instead of resolving to be better at promoting the business, clearly identify the personal benefits of doing so.  Better promotion = more business = a week away with the family during the  holidays.

Another reason resolutions fail is because they are ambiguous. What does “better at promoting the business” mean?  Is it more sales calls?  Is it different marketing activities?  A clearly defined goal or resolution provides direction and purpose.

Perhaps it’s fear that  holds us back.  We may not like where we are, but it is at least a place we are familiar with. There are no guarantees of success when we try something new and failure hurts.

And, last but not least, perhaps it’s because we make the list so long we have no idea where to start. Which changes have the potential to make the greatest positive impact on your life or your business?  Focus on those first. And plan how to achieve them.  Identify who can support you in the process.

What are your thoughts? Do you make resolutions and if so, what do you do to increase the odds of success?

Don’t let Policy Trump Service

Creating service standards and setting policies and procedures provides your service team a framework to work within.  Service standards, policies and procedures help create consistent customer experiences.   They support your company’s service promise.

But … service standards, policies and procedures will never cover every eventuality that your customers throw at you.  They are guidelines that apply to the majority of situations, but when they don’t, service oriented companies are willing to adjust, alter and tweak those standards, policies and procedures to make sure the customer’s experience is positively memorable, whenever possible.

They ask  … what is the purpose behind this standard, policy or procedure?  Is it customer-focused? Why was it created? Does it improve the customer service experience?

Better  yet, ask the people who are responsible for delivering the service standards, policies or procedures. They are a wealth of information.  They can help decide if a policy need to be tweaked, if a major overhaul is required or if it is even necessary at all.

When creating or reviewing your standards, policies and procedures, take some time to consider when exceptions may be required and plan for them so that your service team knows that excellent customer service trumps policy.


Glass Bubble Management

If a leader isn’t careful, moving up the ladder can lead to glass bubble management.

Glass bubble management is characterized by distorted or inaccurate perceptions of employees’ day-to-day activities and challenges.

Some glass bubble managers make decisions based on the job as they knew it before they got their promotion.  Unfortunately, the likelihood of the job duties, demands and expectations being unchanged is pretty low.

Some glass bubble managers have never done a particular job or filled a particular role. Without that knowledge, it is easy to underestimate the time, the physical demands or the mental processes required to fulfill the expectations associated with the job.

Effective management means getting out of the glass bubble and talking to employees.  It’s not about becoming an expert on all the day to day tasks and challenges employees face.  It is about recognizing lack of expertise. It may mean job shadowing in unfamiliar roles for a day or two.  Most importantly, it means being willing to throw out assumptions, asking questions and keeping an open mind.

Getting out of the bubble and spending time with the people completing those daily tasks, the people interacting with customers on a regular basis, leads to better decisions and demonstrates a leaders willingness to learn by consulting with the experts.  Leaders who do that enjoy a level of respect and trust from employees that glass bubble managers never will.

Leadership and Freeing Your Inner Child

Today’s post is an expanded version of my comment yesterday to Dan Rockwell’s blog post on Leadership Freak titled “The Secret of Imperfections”.

Here is a copy of my original comment.  “Imperfect progress is better than no progress at all. Your reference to imperfect steps brought to mind the first tentative steps a child makes. They don’t wait until they can walk perfectly to walk; they get up, take a few imperfect, wobbly steps, fall down, get back up and so on until they can walk and then run. Perhaps reverting back to childish behavior now and again is a good thing!”

Children are brave enough to take those first tentative steps without being sure of success. They are determined enough to keep trying and trying and trying again until they finally succeed.

Other attributes children have that translate well to the topic of effective leadership are:

Their ability to see beyond the obvious.  Instead of a blanket,  a child sees an ocean.  Add a few styrofoam packing blocks, a stick and some paper and they have everything they need to explore the world.

Leaders need to be able to see the story behind the story; they need to be able to look beyond the obvious, easy solution, the one that has been done before over and over. Leaders must keep an open mind and be willing to explore new ideas and new paths.

Their ability to celebrate accomplishments.  Don’t you love the way kids jump up and down, saying “I did it, I did it” when they finally figure out how to tie their shoes?  Or the way they high five or hug a friend who wins the race across the playground?

Leaders must be be fully aware of, confident and proud of their skills, knowledge and abilities.  Jumping up and down may no longer be appropriate, but an “aw shucks” attitude or feeling it’s necessary to brush off recognition of their accomplishments is also not appropriate.   Leasers also recognize the importance of celebrating team accomplishments and  individual team member accomplishments.

Sadly, very often it is well-meaning adults who turn off the tap of wonder, of determination, of the sense that all things are possible.   As children get older, we start saying things like:  “That’s not how to do it.”  “Make sure you colour in between the lines.”  “It’s just a box.”

Instead of letting them explore and learn, we tell them how things are to be done, in what order and why.

Leaders find a way to open that tap up again. They ask questions, challenge assumptions, encourage creative thinking and allow their team members to explore new opportunities and take on new challenges. And when they fall, leaders encourage their team members to get back up, try again and then celebrate their success.

What do you think?  Are there other childish behaviours that can make us better leaders?

And for those of you looking for a Friday smile, enjoy this short video clip of a child taking her first steps.

Relationship First, Sale Second

What do you offer that will help address a pain, a need, a problem, a wish, a dream or a goal that I have?  If you sincerely want to make my life just a little bit better by helping me relieve or achieve one of the above, instead of spouting off a bunch of statistics that tell me 78% of your customers like your service or product because (fill in the blank), you’ll ask me questions designed to help you match what you offer to what I want or need.

And if you don’t have what I want or need, instead of trying to get me to change so that what you offer works, you’ll tell me where I can find what I’m looking for, even if that means sending me to your competitor.  If you do that, I may not buy from you this time, but you will absolutely be my first stop when I do need what you offer and you will be the first company I tell my family, friends and colleagues to go to when they need what you have.

Why?  Because you demonstrated that you cared about me more than you cared about the sale, and when you do that, I trust you, I like you and I want to do business with you, even if that means I may need to change my expectations in order to do so.