Book Review: Challenge the Ordinary

ChallengetheordinaryIn my post, Upright and Breathing Are Not Key Qualities, I shared two reasons why some employers hold on and keep less than stellar performers on their payroll.

Reading ‘Why Evolutionary Companies Abandon Conventional Mindsets, Challenge the Ordinary, Question Long-Held Assumptions and Kill their Sacred Cows’ confirmed another suspicion I had as to why some employers let them stay.  It’s easier to settle than create the environment where exceptional thrives.

Being the kind of company exceptional people want to work at and then want to stay at, demands a commitment to exceptional and a whole lot of hard work.

There is a wealth of information and wisdom in Linda’s book. I have tabs stuck on numerous pages and lots of highlighted information. Here are notes from just four of those tabs:

1.  The Competitive Advantage quadrant outlines four ways companies operate.  Some companies have a clear vision of future but no clear plan on how to get there. Others rest on the laurels of previous or even current success. Because they are successful now, they continue to operate exactly as they have always done and therefore, quickly fall behind.  Some companies look for instant gratification. They have short-term goals which are successfully implemented, but those goals are without long-term focus. Companies in the competitive advantage quadrant have a proven track record of success, but unlike those resting in their laurels, they ask the question “Is this still working  Can this be done better, differently, more exceptionally?”  Companies in this quadrant also have clear direction and take the time time develop strong execution plans.

2.  A change-oriented, learning culture is needed to achieve exceptional.  This really ties back to willingness to ask “Is this still working? Can this be done better, differently, more exceptionally?”  Providing training and coaching support is critical and exceptional leaders ensure their teams get that support, but a learning culture goes beyond that.  A learning culture also includes the assumption that positive change, improvement, happens when there is a pro-active approach to problem-solving.  It means an understanding of and willingness to take on the inherent risk of trying a new approach and perhaps failing. It is through trial and error that better solutions are found.

3.  Setting, sticking to and living  high standards.  Exceptional companies expect so much more than good or great companies. They set their standards high and they don’t let them slide. Mediocre or ‘good-enough’ is not accepted.   The leaders of exceptional companies understand that they must be the living, breathing example of what they expect from the people on their team.  They do not demand or expect more from others than they themselves are willing to give.

4.  A one-size-fits-all approach to coaching doesn’t work.  Some of you will know how much I dislike the one-size-fits-all approach to anything, so I couldn’t help but love this statement.  Coaching, rewards, recognition .. they all need to be done with the individual in mind.  What works for one individual won’t work for another.  Too many companies have approaching coaching, training, rewards and recognition with a one-size-fits-all approach and then abandon them because they don’t work.

These are is only four quick take-aways from Linda Henman’s book. If I kept writing, and I could, you would all need to go and get another cup or two of coffee.  In short, if you want to be the kind of exceptional company that draws star performers to you and then keep them with you, create an environment where stars flourish and shine.  Stars ditch companies that tolerate mediocrity and companies filled with mediocrity don’t attract stars.

Now go, work hard and shine!

(Thank you to Career Press for the opportunity to read and review Linda Henman’s book, Challenge the Ordinary.)

Upright and Breathing are not Key Qualities

Tired businesswomanIn the last four years, I have facilitated over 100 customer service training sessions.  By far, the majority of people in my sessions want to provide their customers with great service.  They are excited to learn about the concept of internal customer service; they want to learn how to present themselves as professionals and how to effectively manage unhappy, disappointed customers.  They are eager to share their experiences with others in the group.

But every once in a while, someone will show up in a session who simply does not understand why they should provide some of the basics, never mind go out of their way to make a customer feel valued.  They believe that unhappy, disappointed customers are rude and demanding and refuse to consider using techniques to manage difficult situations.

I had one participant openly admit to spitting in a customer’s burger when it was pointed out to her that the burger wasn’t cooked as ordered.  (I must admit to thinking that was an urban myth.  Nobody would do that, right?  Wrong!!)  Another participant told me he had absolutely no intention of ever apologizing to a customer or trying to find a solution to a problem because “Customers get what they get and if they aren’t happy, they can just deal with it.”

Each time this happens I am astounded at the negativity.  We need customers. Customers pay our bills for us; they pay for our new car, our dream vacation, our children’s education.  Yes, sometimes customers come to our businesses with unrealistic expectations.  Sometimes the customer is “wrong”, but that does not give service professionals the right to treat the customer with disdain and disrespect.

Why do some employers put up with this type of behaviour?

Here are two reasons I’ve been given.

1.  The employee is great at everything else. Because they are technically proficient, they are allowed to get away with atrocious behaviour.

2.  They fill a time slot in the schedule.  Sometimes labour shortages result in the “hey, a living, breathing person who shows up for work at least 80% of the time is better than nobody.”

I understand the temptation to let high customer service standards slide a bit in those situations, but don’t give in!  The reality is that an employee with this type of negative attitude damages your business.  Having toxic, negative, people-haters showing up for work damages your reputation, your current customer leave and potential customers stay away.  Not only that, but the work environment becomes increasingly toxic as the negativity starts infecting previously positive attitude employees who see bad behaviour not being addressed.

Attitude truly does count.  You can teach someone HOW to complete a task, but you can’t train them to complete it with professional and personal pride or to care about their co-workers or their customers.

Upright, breathing and technically proficient isn’t good enough!   Hire people that want to succeed.  Hire people that would not dream of settling for “barely good enough” .  Hire people that actually care about and like people.

 

Are you happy?

Are you happy?  Are your employees happy?

Happy is a fluffy word.   It’s not a word that is used very often in business settings. In business, we like to use important sounding words like engagement, return on investment, bottom line revenues, core competencies, best practices, leverage and buy-in.

Happy is for children.  Happy is for kindergarten, although even that seems to be disappearing in our continuous quest to maximize all learning opportunities.  Play time and nap time are wasted time.

Many companies don’t measure happy, which is unfortunate, because corporate sounding or not, happy matters.

Happy employees = happy customers

Think about someone you know who is perpetually unhappy.  Now think of someone you know who is happy.  Who accomplishes more on any given day?  Who comes up with innovative ideas more often?   Who looks at challenges as opportunities to explore as opposed to something to avoid?  Who do you spend more time with? Who would you like to spend more time with?

Your customers also like to be around happy people.   Unhappy employees drive customer away.  Happy employees bring them back.

So how can you increase the happiness quotient at work?  It’s not all about the money.  Margaret Heffernan says “Recent research into happiness demonstrates that the happiest people aren’t those with the most money but those with a sense of purpose – a sense that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.”

Happiness and purpose:  How can you make work about more than work?  What purpose does your business serve?  Is it only about making money or is it about making the lives of your customer better in some way?  Does each individual on your team know how they contribute to that purpose?

“Have fun, do good and the money will come.” – Richard Branson

Happiness and play:  Bring play back to work!  Work should be fun.  Opportunities for play bring your individual team members together.  It helps them get to know each other.  It provides an opportunity to laugh together.  Those opportunities create connections and connections create community, something bigger than just us.

Happiness and accountability:  Those two words really don’t seem to go together, do they? And yet, when everyone understands your company’s purpose, their individual purpose and the purpose of those around them, they are more willing to hold themselves and those around them accountable.  That increases the chance that your company’s purpose will be met.

Happiness and kindness:  What if you made it a habit to do or say something kind to someone on your team every day? Perhaps that will start a chain reaction of random acts of kindness.  When people start looking for ways to be kind to each other, increased happiness is sure to follow.

Happiness is important.  Is there something you are doing to increase the happiness levels at your business? If so, please share.