Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Leadership quotes

Words of Wisdom

"If you think the cost of an over-satisfied customer is costly, think about the cost of an under-satisfied customer."  Lisa Ford

"Good customer service costs less than bad customer service" Sally Gronow, Welsh Water.

"You cannot improve one thing by 1000% but you can improve 1000 things by 1%". Jan Carlzon.

" A diamond is  just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well" Anon

"For fast acting relief, try slowing down".  Lily Tomlin

"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important" Bertrand Russell.

"A poor life this if full of care we have no time to stand and stare" William Henry Davies.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Motivating Staff

Motivating Staff

In a respected psychology paper published in 1943 and titled "A Theory of Human Motivation" Abraham Maslow defined his hierarchy of human needs.  It is described in summary in this pyramid diagram with the most basic human needs at the bottom.

Maslow pyramid
Employment by itself provides part of the basic needs but engagement and motivation play a bigger role in supporting the higher level needs.

In more recent research Dr Gerald Graham conducted studies into levels of employee motivation and found that money was not the biggest motivator for people. (This may be different if there is a big discrepancy with market rates).  The top 3 motivators were:

  • Personal thanks from their direct Manager.
  • Written thanks from their manager.
  • Promotion based upon merit/performance.

As can be seen these are within the reach of all managers and can be achieved without the expenditure of unreasonable amounts of time and effort.

Recommended Reading:

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Customer Service Leadership

Customer Service.

If you operate in an environment where you have no competition then you are different to most businesses today. Most of us do not have a unique product or are not still in the "first mover advantage" zone and have to compete on both price and service.

There are several common perceived wisdoms about customer dynamics such as "it takes 8 times more effort to get a new customer than to keep an existing one" and "a customer who has had a problem that has been handled well will become more loyal"

If a customer stays with you then their value to your business increases.  Repeat business means that you can consider the lifetime value of a customer rather than the single transaction value.  Supermarkets that make a virtue of their low prices offer loyalty cards to encourage customers to get in the habit of shopping with them each week.

Giving front line staff the authority to resolve customer issues and to offer discretionary compensation (up to defined levels) can really help in resolving customer issues before they escalate.

Being good at resolving customer issues and dealing with emergencies when they arise is a good skill but building-in reliability to avoid customer issues in the first place will have a more lasting impact on customer satisfaction.
Customer Services Levels
Lisa Ford refers to Customer Service circles with the basic requirements in the centre and extra circles of added service, which can differentiate us from our competitors, in the outer circles.

formatted circles

 Customer service levels need to be under regular review for the simple reason that customer expectations will change over time as the higher level of service become the norm and migrate into expected and  generic.
1. Generic/Basic      The minimum level
2. Expected.             What customers have grown to expect.
3. Augmented          More than, better than or faster than competition.
4. Potential              Innovation, on line ordering, delivery tracking...

Customer service levels need to be under regular review for the simple reason that customer expectations will change over time as the higher level of service become the norm and migrate into expected and  generic.

Recommended reading:

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree Feedback.

According to research from Affinity Health at Work and the Health and Safety Executive employees that feel free to speak their minds about their managers abilities are more likely to feel happy, healthy and stress free at work. The study which was presented at the British Psychological Society's conference in January, found that the most commonly reported cause of stress in the workplace is the relationship between an employee and their line manager. In companies where staff are involved in rating and giving feedback on their line manager's performance, stress is reduced.

No matter how open we are as managers most of our people will  find providing face to face feedback difficult. One mechanism that provides a safer environment is 360 degree feedback which has the benefit of providing wider feedback. This is a process that is structured and can be run by an external organisation which collates responses.  As a  manager you provide details of  the person you report to, people who are your peers in your organisation and people who report to you. This covers your working relationships up, down and sideways, hence the 360 degree term. Typically this also results in feedback from 8-12 people and so is reasonably comprehensive.  The collated results can give a manager a real insight into how their colleagues perceive them and provide very useful feedback without damaging relationships.   Some specialist organisations  provide these as web based questionnaires which reduces the administration and speeds up the process.

Recommended Reading:


Sunday, 21 March 2010

Leadership Qualities

In one of our workshops in London last month the participating senior managers and executives identified these qualities of powerful and influential people.


Good Communicator      



Self Motivated

Consider exceptional managers that you have worked for in the past and  compare their qualities with the list above. How did they compare with the qualities listed here?

How do you stack up against your revised list?




Individuals and businesses develop a reputation whether they are planning to or not. As managers  we do well to take note of ours and that of our organisations and to decide what we need to do to maintain it or change it.   Reputations are built as a result of many actions performed over a long period of time and a good one represents  a valuable asset for the individual or business.

Here are some examples of people, professions and businesses that are currently experiencing problems with their reputational capital.

Toyota.  The well publicised concerns over the potential for problems with accelerator and brakes has impacted negatively on the Toyota reputation for quality. So far Toyota's actions to handle the issue seem to indicate that they are more interested in dealing with the safety issues, reassuring their customers and rebuilding their reputation than looking at the immediate bottom line impact.

Climate change scientists. The publication of emails that seemed to indicate that some scientists were less than open when their findings were subjected to critical review has caused ripples throughout their community.

Members of Parliament.  The publication of details  of  MP's expense claims has led to just 3 of the 646 members facing criminal charges. However the reputation of  parliament as a whole would seem to have been impacted negatively as a result. 

How can we test our own decisions and actions for impact upon our reputational capital?  We could consider. "How would I feel if this was on the  10 o'clock news tonight?"

Recommended Reading:

Communication Skills

Communicating well.

There are many obstacles to effective communication. As managers we will spend as much as 70% of our working time in verbal communication.  We learn to talk very early in life and tend to take the way we do it for granted. If we engage in any further verbal communication training in adult life then it is often about how we present to a group, how we express ourselves, how we can communicate our requirements more clearly in order to get what we need to be done actually  done. The main focus is on talking.

Being a good listener is a different skill. There is a story which makes the distinction between the skills of two famous, successful and contemporary British politicians who are reported as loathing each other. A young women had the good fortune to dine out in London two nights in a row and at the first dinner party was sat next to William Gladstone and at the second next to Benjamin Disraeli. On giving a summary of the experience she reported that she had engaged in fascinating conversation with both of them and that after meeting Gladstone had been left with the impression that he was the smartest man in London but that after spending time with Disraeli she was left with the impression that she was the smartest women in all of England.

This story may not be fact but is one that was used at the time to highlight the difference in the verbal  communication styles of these two successful politicians.

Effective Listening.
As managers we will often have a crowded schedule with little time for reflection. The people who work with us may have trouble finding a moment to raise an idea or a concern. Invariably we seem to get interrupted at the most inconvenient moments and push away a discussion.  This can be problematic for two good reasons.  The nagging concern that we may be missing something important and the negative impact on the person trying to impart the information.

So how can we be better listeners as managers?

Make time for the discussion. If  you can not talk now then set a time when you can.

Avoid distractions. There is nothing worse than to try and talk to someone who continues to do their email or read messages on their PDA when you are trying to communicate something important.

Be engaged and make the decision to actually listen.

Here are some ways that you can communicate to the other person that you are listening and at the same time these techniques will also result in you  hearing more of what they are saying.

Terms relevant to this article: 
Communication skills, communication, leadership tips listening skills, effective listening, leadership skills, management skills, top management skills top leadership skills, how to communicate

For a list of the top 10 books on leadership visit: Top 10 Leadership Books on Amazon

Saturday, 20 March 2010

How To Win Negotiations

We tend to consider negotiating as a skill used in business and exercised by a separate group of specialists who negotiate big commercial contracts. In fact negotiating is an important life skill that we all do more of than we think.  In a family setting agreeing lights off time with your children becomes more of a negotiation than an instruction as they get older not to mention pocket money, allowances. use of the car,  curfew hours or holidays without the parents.

At work, negotiating your first salary is not something that occurs to most young people starting their first job but research shows that the affect of  getting an extra few pounds on that first salary can have a huge knock on effect across your whole career.

In business negotiation is often seen as a highly charged game of combat where there are only winners and losers.  This is not the most productive way of building your business. John Paul Getty is reported as having learnt from his father how important it was  when negotiating a deal to not try to make all the money that was available but to allow the other party to made some money as well.  This pragmatic approach was based upon his fathers conviction that if you stopped the other party making any money then pretty soon you would have nobody to do business with. 

Is Win Win possible?
One big problem when negotiating is that we don't know what the other party will settle for and what their sticking points are. We tend to find these out by feeling our way around and sometimes a deal will fall through because of some relatively minor point. 
How can we increase our chances of making a deal without giving in?
Try to avoid a fixed "bottom line" position.  While this protects you from selling yourself short it does not give you any leeway to respond to new information that comes up during discussions.
Establish beforehand if you can afford to walk away from the negotiations and the deal.  Try to identify the risks and judge if you can afford to take them. Remember that if you need to make a deal at any cost then you cannot reasonably expect to negotiate the best possible terms.
Look for scope to expand the deal to cover other areas and increase the potential.
Most negotiations are started because there are two parties who do  want to make a deal. This will  give you more power in the process than you may think.
Listen to what the other side are saying and be open to changing your tack.  Don't offer concessions unless they are asked for.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Imagine leadership - Video

A truly thought-provokingvideo about Leadership. Anyone who is an existing or aspiring leader should watch this.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

How Good Are Your Listening Skills?

A January 14 article in The Wall Street Journal shares that listening to employees is also a terrific way to motivate people when times are tough and/or when money is tight.

"You've got to think outside the money box when it comes to motivating your employees in this economic environment,” shares an executive in the article.

Listening is one of the “outside the box” tactics suggested.

When the co-owner of a debt management company, quoted in the article, encountered low morale among his staff, he began weekly meetings with 14 employees to share (and listen to) ideas and just chat. "I found the more I listened, the better they pepped up," said the company owner. "It takes time from me, but it's worth it. When they get it off their chests and realize I do care, it becomes my problem to solve. I can address it and they can go about their day being productive."

On a related note, do you realize that the popular concept of “Management by Walking Around,” set forth by such admired executives as Andy Grove of Intel, might actually be wrong? Researchers at Harvard studied 238 people on 26 teams in different companies and found that leaders can actually hurt employee perceptions of team leader support if these team leaders proactively monitor personnel effort and offer feedback BUT fail to show lack of sincere interest in employee work and ideas? Therefore, if a manager walks around and tries to be visible and appear involved…but fails to show genuine interest in the people doing the work…that leader is doing nothing more than wearing out his or her shoes. And what’s one of the best ways to show employees that you care…while walking around?
You can read the January 14 Wall Street Journal via this link

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