Leaders know that change is hard. And improving performance is hard. Sometimes leaders are trapped in “we have always done it this way”. Or “isn’t OK good enough”?
Any of these ring a bell?
The challenge with addressing any of these perspectives is that in addition to the leader, everyone in the organization needs to understand the requirements that need to change. Processes and methodologies are great but people are required to deliver. Getting people to change or improve something is hard work and as a result, some leaders just default to “what’s the point?”
In a discussion with colleagues at a recent CMC event we spoke about what types of performance improvement we look for. While we all had different approaches, largely tied to our education and experience, we agreed that people still make the difference. And when people understand the point of their role and overall purpose within the organization you increase your opportunity for performance improvement. This holds for every person.
Here are a couple of examples:
- We need to innovate or we will die! This mantra makes the concept of innovation something people will fear. Leaders may have a fear of getting it wrong and failing the company. Or there is a fear of doing nothing and potentially dying. I learned early on after high school that negative reinforcement only goes so far. And in most cases not far at all. A true leader, someone others willingly follow, can help guide the steps of innovation on an ongoing basis so there is not an “or else” situation that needs to be addressed. Finding ways to continually bring in the new perspectives for incremental growth will have more long term benefit than just searching for that one home run to “save” your company.
- Our difference is our service! If I see this on one more set of values or in a mission statement… “to the moon”! Many companies (I cannot say most with confidence but I believe it is most) have no idea how their customers and their own employees define great customer service. And they really do not know how to craft this into daily interactions, in person and digitally, so that the customer feels like they got terrific service. Audit and learn what your customers are really saying and talk to your employees because they deal with your customers. Maybe you should do more to know your customers better, and not just buy them lunch and talk vacations. And if your staff say “no problem” one more time when I say thank you it will be another moon shot. It darn well better be no problem!
- We can be there between noon and 5 PM. Gee, isn’t that convenient…for you. I just had a utility visit scheduled and it was almost two months into the future because I wanted a time slot during the day. It was even longer if I wanted an evening appointment. When I worked at Videon Cable we were able to schedule a visit within a two hour window because most install or service work took that long to complete and allow our tech to get to the next visit on time. And Videon was very profitable. Arguably one of the best customer service companies I ever worked for. People cared deeply about customers and each other. Leaders truly led the way. And it showed in how we were able to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and financial stability.
- No one else does what we do. In some cases this is true. In many tech situations this is not true. Or you do something that can be copied fairly easily. You need to find out exactly what you do that is important to your customers and ensure you deliver on it. When your staff are really involved and aware, then they can help you stay top of mind and successful. And maybe you can truly say this for years to come.
These are but a few of the items that come to mind and conjure up a “what’s your point” consideration for leaders. You absolutely need to know your customer and how they service their customer in order to become a relevant point of difference. Otherwise you will succumb to be just one of many. And when you are one of many where that evil price factor becomes all too important, then you are in a race to the bottom.
In these situations I say shame on the leadership and I do feel for the employees. In each of the situations I described there is an element of hard work and deep thinking that is required. And this becomes an all the time effort not just once in a while when a leader is getting ready for a bonus.
How selfish are you? Take a look in the mirror and honestly state that you have the best interests of your customers and employees in mind. If you truly do, and I will believe you because I know companies that are like this, then congratulations. Now your performance can improve.
As Winston Churchill said about leaders “Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself, believe.”
And that’s the point.
P.S. We lost our playoff game 53 to 39 which was a terrific improvement from our previous game to the same team losing 59 to 13. Everyone played hard and we will be back for one more season!