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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Mirror



 I find that my main role in coaching clients is helping them develop self-awareness.   Typically creating self-awareness is a process facilitated by dialogue and 360 degree feedback combined with questions that help individuals realize and refine their own mechanisms for being self-aware.  Once self-awareness is established, it is much easier to facilitate a productive coaching process.

Some of the best leaders are those that are self-aware.  They are better able to play to their strengths and minimize their flaws.  They also have the ability to discern how to behave in certain situations or around certain people.

One exercise I conduct with leaders stems from the list of 20 flaws developed by Marshall Goldsmith and found in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.  The 20 flaws are:

1.    Winning too much
2.    Adding too much value
3.    Passing judgment
4.    Making destructive comments
5.    Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”
6.    Telling the world how smart we are
7.    Speaking when angry
8.    Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”
9.    Withholding information
10. Failing to give proper recognition
11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve
12. Making excuses
13. Clinging to the past
14. Playing favorites
15. Refusing to express regret
16. Not Listening
17. Failing to express gratitude
18. Punishing the messenger
19. Passing the buck
20. An excessive need to be “me”


I give a list based off this list as well as a list of strengths to the coaching client and to the people that surround them (subordinates, peers, managers, even family). I ask the client to pick their two biggest flaws and strengths, and I ask the others to pick the two biggest strengths and flaws they see in the client.

Those that are self-aware have matching answers with the people asked to select their strengths and weaknesses.   It is much easier to facilitate the coaching process if people agree to what their strengths and weaknesses are.  It is much harder when they resist the feedback they get from others.  

In reality, our leadership is only as strong as how others perceive us. They are the mirrors we need.  The closer we can get to aligning our own self reflection with what the world sees, the sooner we can maximize our strengths and avoid our weaknesses.

So in the spirit of self-awareness and for next month’s Leadership Carnival with the charge to “Get personal!” about a best and/or worst leadership moment, I will be discussing my step in front of the mirror with this list. After all, one of the best leadership moments you can have is when you take an honest look in the mirror.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear responses from you about any self-awareness revelations you have had. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Customer Service at its Best and Worst


Have you ever had an extremely positive customer service experience? How about a totally terrible one?   I’ve had one of each lately and the contrast actually proved to be a good case study in leadership.   Both experiences were a result of a situation gone bad, but the way in which the bad situations were handled was completely different.

The positive experience came from the Apple Store in purchasing a new laptop and transitioning my files from my old PC laptop to the new MacBook Air.   I left both laptops to transition the files, but when I picked it up and they began to walk me through checking to make sure everything was there, it was obvious several things were wrong.  Here are the things they did that demonstrated positive customer service:

1.     Stephen introduced himself from the get-go (before we even know something was wrong) and asked me my name (he remembered it too).
2.     They have a process to check to make sure everything is there.  They don’t want to send a customer home only to find out they need to bring their computers back because something is not right.
3.     When I began to freak out that none of my emails transferred over, he reassured me it could be fixed.
4.     He stayed after the closing of the store to try to get all the files transferred.  When it was obvious that it was going to take a while, he checked my computer in said he could have it ready before Noon the next day.
5.     He called at 10:00 am the next morning and said the transfer was successful and I could come pick it up (2 hours before he guaranteed it).
6.     He recognized me when I walked in the door and even though he wasn’t assigned to cover data transfers that day, he got my computer and checked to make everything was how I needed it.
7.     He couldn’t transfer any financial data in my Quickbooks (which is understandable) but he walked me through how to do it step-by-step.

And now the bad experience.  It came from an appliance store.  My husband and I bought new kitchen appliances because our oven died.  We paid for the new set on March 5th.   It’s mid-May and we still don’t have all our appliances.   We are obviously beyond upset about this, but here are some things they did to illustrate poor customer service.

1.     We were told our appliances would be in in a week when we ordered them.   Here were are 2 months later…
2.     They told us they would call when the appliances were in to schedule a delivery time.   Two weeks after we paid for it, we had not heard from them.  So we had to call them.    This was the first of about ten calls to check on our appliances when they told us they would call us every time.    They have not called us once to update us on the status of the purchase.
3.     We have been lied to at least five times about when our appliances will be in and/or when something that is in will be delivered
4.     We talk to different people each time and get a different story each time.

 The Leadership Lesson

So what is the leadership lesson in all of this?  I think there are several.   I actually learned a few from Stephen’s (at the Apple Store) manager, Mark, when I sought him out to brag on Stephen.

1.     Under promise and over deliver.  Don’t tell someone you can have something done by a certain date or time when you are unsure if you can.  People want you to be honest with them and they don’t want to hear excuses when you aren’t.
2.     Train people on customer service and put processes in place that help front-line staff deliver positive experiences to customers instead of prohibit them.   For example, Apple allows their front-line sales and service people to make most decisions on their own when it comes to meeting customer needs and they are trained on how to best make those decisions.
3.     Consistency in customer service is important.   This could mean assigning particular customers to particular employees to follow the case from beginning to end, or it could mean having a thorough process in place to record and communicate customer cases to all staff members that may deal with a particular customer.
4.     Selection processes should check for behavioral based customer service orientation.   They don’t put the techies with no people skills up front to help customers at the Apple Store, they are in the back fixing computers and transferring data.
5.     That said, those that are customer service oriented do still have to know the product and know it well.   Stephen was a techie, he could answer any computer question I had, but he was also customer service oriented.

All in all customer service is a people thing, but is also a process thing.   You have to have the tools in place to support positive customer service and you have to hire and support people who value positive customer service.

What examples of positive or negative customer service do you have and what leadership lesson(s) do you see in those examples? 


Monday, May 7, 2012

Cranking the Tractor


While doing some research recently on career development for youth, I came across an interesting study.  I’ve always asserted that many people choose their career path for the wrong reasons, one of those being the desire to pursue a career that pays the “most” without giving much thought to whether or not he or she would actually like what pays the “most”. 

The study by Srully Blotnick*  followed 1500 people from the perspective of their career choices and financial success.   Basically, he sought to see what happened when people “went for the money.”

Group A contained 83% of the sample population; the people in this group chose a career path because they believed they could earn a lot of money doing it.  Group B, containing 17% of the population chose a career because of their passion for the work. 

Twenty years later, 101 of the 1500 hundred were millionaires.  One hundred were from group B and one was from group A.

The study illustrates the simple thought that many in career coaching and development see.  You are 100 times more likely to be financially successful if you do work you enjoy and have a passion for doing.  So what cranks your tractor?  What do you have a passion for doing?

The Leadership Lesson in Tractor Cranking

For future leaders, I think the can be translated into a lesson.  Choose a career path based on what interests you or cranks your tractor.   You are more likely to emerge as a true leader in an industry or occupation in which you enjoy.

For current leaders, I think this study demonstrates the fact that getting people on the right seat on the bus is important component to motivation and success for individuals and organizations.   Taking the time to discover what cranks the tractor of those you lead and giving them assignments that cater to their talents and passions, leads to a more successful individual, which leads to stronger company results.  

Be aware though, most managers and leaders do not have this discussion with those they lead.   I think there are many reasons why, but the main reason being, the thought of, “well what do I do with them if they isn’t anything within the organization in which they have a passion for doing and even if there is, there aren’t any openings or they don’t have the skills to do the job(s) in which they do have a passion for pursuing?”

Being prepared to help a person transition into another position, which may take additional training and time, or even transition them out of your organization is difficult.   Most people will not promote the idea of showing people the door, especially if they are competent at their job, but I think a true leader demonstrates their ability to support others, even if it means helping them find their place somewhere else.  This gives you the opportunity to pursue filing the position, whether internally or externally, with someone that does have a passion and a talent for the work you need done.   This, of course, leads to better business results, which you are responsible for delivering.

*In researching the author of this study before making this post, I found that his research methods and practices have been questioned.   As a reader of this blog, I urge you to conduct your own due-diligence to decide whether or not to take his writings and research at full value.