Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and director of Management Moment Leadership Services. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to learn more.
Always render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be." – Og Mandino
In the book, "It's Not About the Coffee", Howard Behar, the former president of Starbucks International, relates an observation during a store visit. A customer approached a barista and explained that he didn't like the drink he had just purchased. The customer wanted a new drink.
To make the customer feel satisfied, the barista opened the till and handed the customer a cash refund and then commenced to make the customer a new drink. Was that the best response? From a purely economic point of view, obviously not.
Behar says the way they teach people to handle a situation like that is to apologize and offer to remake the drink. There's a good chance the customer would have been satisfied and everyone would have benefited. He didn't have to give the money back. But this response was better than a lot of others. It was an honest, care-filled exchange, and the barista demonstrated that he understood and appreciated the most important element of his role: human service. In the business of life, what can be wrong with that?
Behar concluded the story with the simple reminder that as long as you know why you're here, as long as all of you together know why the organization exists; you'll get to where you need to go.
If you have a desire to be a player in the competitive marketplace that exists today then you must acknowledge the need for and re-engage your team in this leadership skill known as the human touch. With it you can excel and without it you will be at a distinct disadvantage. Here are three characteristics of leaders who have the human touch.
They know what business they are in. No business will succeed or prosper without people. Without people you will fail. As Behar likes to say, ""At Starbucks, I've always said, we're not in the coffee business serving people, we're in the people business serving coffee." The philosophy is profoundly simple yet so hard to embrace. Until you have a day of reckoning whereby you understand this leadership principle you will always struggle.
Leaders who understand the human touch know that people are the driving force of your business. How you treat people, serve them, and respect them makes all the difference in the world to your success. Take care of people and they will take care of you.
They are problem solvers. At the closest point of contact between your team members and your customers should come the highest degree of problem solving skills. When team members are allowed to act and solve problems without having to jump through multiple hoops to get there it is a positive reflection of your leadership. This can only happen in a corporate culture where the skills of the human touch are given priority and when your people are empowered.
The lifeblood of your business is people. The problems people bring you are simply opportunities to showcase your skills and to prove them right by choosing to come to you with their needs. Leaders with the human touch welcome new challenges and are always looking for ways to make things better. In business it's a simple rule – people love problem solvers.
They are creative thinkers. Excelling at the human touch requires non-conventional thinking. It necessitates making an effort to see things with a creative eye and fresh perspective. Creative thinkers are not bound by the dictates of the rule book but prefer the flexibility of crating new opportunities for success that at times may be unwritten.
The barista in Behar's experience is but one example of creativity at work in which the human touch was more important than the rule book. It's when you empower your team with the skills of the human touch that you begin to transcend from success to significance.
Leaders with the human touch do this by knowing what business they are in, excelling at problem solving, and are creative thinkers. Human service is not always easy, but in order to get ahead you must command that leadership skill. The human touch makes the difference.
If you're going through hell, keep going. – Winston Churchill
A story is told of a group of friends who went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under the weight of an eight-point buck.
"Where's Harry?" he was asked. "Harry had a stroke of some kind. He's a couple miles back up the trail," In disbelief the others replied, "You left Harry laying there and carried back the deer?" "Well," said the hunter, "I figured no one was going to steal Harry."
That humorous story sets up a not so funny real life scenario involving the state of mind of many of corporate leaders in today's workplace. Writing in Forbes (http://onforb.es/122XxYT), Susan Adams opined about a recent Booz &Co. survey that revealed that "many corporate leaders are not able to keep their priorities straight. They are also pursuing strategies they don't believe in, and many of their strategies fail to build on the things their companies are especially good at, compared with competitors. It's like everything that can go wrong already has gone wrong for them."
More than 3,500 managers from around the world took part on the Booz survey. Here is a sampling of the results:
• A majority, 64%, said their biggest frustration was having too many conflicting priorities.
• 54% said they don't believe that both employees and customers understand their strategy.
• Only 33% said they thought the company's "core capabilities" support their company's strategy.
• Just 21% said all their businesses "leverage their core capabilities.'
• Only 20% said they think their company has a "right to win" in all markets where it competes.
From these findings we get an idea as to why so many corporate leaders feel the way they do and the need for strong leadership to correct it. The issues are complex and the solutions are varied. If you feel like you are in over your head then here are three solutions worth considering.
Organizational values should be shared not sacrificed. At the heart of your business is a set of values that define who you are, the product you deliver, the customers you serve, and how your will conduct your affairs. It's the creed of your business that transcends 'what' you do and answers the question of 'why'.
Until everyone is on the same page as it relates to your values you will never carry out your priorities. If managers and leaders are feeling the tension of competing priorities then it's time revisit your values in order to get to the root of the problem. Values are the glue that binds you together and without them you will always have tension.
Organizational priorities should complement not be in conflict. Not even the best corporate leaders will be able to execute their plans successfully if the company's priorities are not in harmony with its values and embraced by everyone. When competing agenda's and ego's interfere with what's best of the company then there will be problems.
Everyone has priorities as it relates to individual performance. That being said, those priorities should not run contrary to the overall values and priorities of the organization. They should complement it. If you don't fully embrace your core values then you will never fully execute your priorities. Why? Priorities flow out of values.
Organizational communication should give clarity not lend to confusion. The lifeblood of your organization is clear communication –on all levels. Many of the concerns expressed by the survey respondents can be traced back, and in part attributed to, poor communication. If the lines of communication are not open and clear it makes keeping priorities straight much more difficult.
Tony Robbins said, "To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others." This is a great point to consider going forward. Wise leaders will make every effort possible to communicate core values clearly so that they are known and embraced internally, and as a result known and appreciated by your customers.
The challenges of corporate leadership are as complex as they've ever been. But in the search for solutions we must not be our own worst enemy by engaging in approaches that are self-defeating. Values should be clear. Priorities should be mutual. Communication must be clear.
People always move toward someone who increases them and away from anyone who decreases them – John Maxwell
I came across a story about renowned photographer Edward Steichen that has significant leadership application. His fame as a photographer was almost never realized as he nearly gave up on the day he shot his first pictures. At 16, young Steichen bought a camera and took 50 pictures. Only one turned out—a portrait of his sister at the piano.
Edward's father thought that was a poor showing. But his mother insisted that the photograph of his sister was so beautiful that it more than compensated for the 49 failures. Her encouragement convinced the youngster to stick with his new hobby. He stayed with it for the rest of his life, but it had been a close call. What tipped the scales? The vision to spot excellence in the midst of a lot of failure.
The opportunity you have as a leader to add value and encouragement has never been greater and never more needed. A recent Harvard Business Review blog (http://bit.ly/WQkqgG) reported the findings of a new American Psychological Association survey that reports that fifty-four percent of workers say they are not paid enough for their efforts and 61% say they don't have sufficient opportunities for advancement. When you couple those findings with long work weeks, the endless answering of emails at all hours of the night, it contributes to one-third of U.S. workers reporting chronic stress.
As a leader who is committed to adding value to those around you it is important that you are aware of what is taking place among your team, the stress they are under, and your investment in their personal development. Here are three ways you can show it.
Recognition. The long hours, work and dedication of your team is the life-blood of your success. Their success is your success. Their achievement is your achievement. How do you adequately recognize the people in your organization who believe in you, who have embraced your vision, and work tirelessly to make it happen? You start with recognition.
It's as you understand that recognition and loyalty go hand-in-hand that you will add value as a leader. When you give recognition to those around you it sends the message that you not only recognize their work but that you value them as individuals. Recognition adds value to the person and builds the morale of your team.
Respect. Albert Schweitzer said, "Only those who respect the personality of others can be of real use to them." Adding value to others is a matter of respect. Recognition is nice but if there is no accompanying respect attached to it then it is meaningless. Value is added as respect is shown.
Leaders who add value to others understand that respect is the basic premise by which a relationship is forged. It opens the door to all other possibilities. A leader who wants to add value to those around him begins by respecting the gifts, talents, and contributions of those he leads. To be sure, respect must be earned, but if never given, value will never be added.
Reinforcement. In adding value and moving your team forward it is important to understand the role that reinforcement plays as part of your leadership style. Your corporate culture is developed by implementing the formula of BP (best practices) + DE (daily execution) that = VBO (value based outcomes) for success. It's as you reinforce your values that you will achieve the results you desire.
Consider the effects of low morale, high stress, and the general feeling of not being appreciated by many in today's workplace. Certainly a lack of respect and recognition are factors. As you give recognition, show respect, and reinforce values you can be a leader that adds value to those around you.
I would rather have a Medal of Honor than be President of the United States.
- President Harry S. Truman
Not long ago I had the privilege of visiting the Medal of Honor Museum aboard the USS Yorktown in beautiful Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Showcased in this museum is a moving tribute to our military heroes who served our country with honor, valor, and bravery.
What caught my eye was recognition given to the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor, William “Willie” Johnston. Born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont in 1850, Johnston was a drummer boy in Company D of the 3rd Vermont Infantry. His service in the Seven Day retreat in the Peninsula Campaign was exemplary.
During the retreat many of the men threw away their equipment so they had less of a load to carry. Johnston retained his drum and brought it safely to Harrison’s Landing. It was there he had the honor drumming for the division parade. He was the only boy to bring his instrument to the battlefield. Upon receiving word of Johnston’s bravery, President Lincoln suggested he be given a medal; a Medal of Honor.
Heroic acts by leaders like Johnston cause us to reflect on our motives and how we might better serve those we lead. An 11 year-old drummer boy on a battlefield 163 years ago teaches us three leadership traits worth emulating.
Leaders carry their own weight. While the other men in the infantry threw away their equipment, Johnston held on to his. So often during difficult times, the leader is not the one who discards the weight of responsibility but carries it on his shoulders. Think about it - how many people in your organization are shirking their responsibilities and how many are stepping up and being responsible? See a disparity?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” At a tender young age, Johnston exemplified leadership beyond his years of understanding. As a drummer, he reminds us that it is not about rank or role within the organization, but heroes in our midst can be found in unlikely places if we dare to look.
Leaders know how to stand alone. At the conclusion of the retreat it was only Johnston who returned his drum from the battlefield. And it was only Johnston who had the honor of drumming for the division parade. When others exempt themselves from the bravery of the moment, they exempt themselves also from the honor that follows.
It’s been said, “When you are forced to stand alone, you realize what you have in you.” When you march to the beat of your own drum you do so knowing that there are certain places where only few leaders go. When others choose the path of least resistance, you can cast your lot with the company of the brave. Those ranks may be few but there are worse things than standing alone. By standing alone today you will lead the parade tomorrow.
Leaders summon uncommon courage in uncommon times. By shedding their gear, the other men did what was expedient. By holding on to his drum, Johnston did the exceptional. C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” What is your testing point?
Testing points come and go, but the enduring qualities of honor, sacrifice, and valor shine in unexpected ways from unlikely persons. This 11 year-old drummer boy distinguished himself among men and earned a medal from the president.
Consider the ranks of your organization. Who are the ones that stand out by their service, sacrifice, and dedication to the organization? These are the ones who march to the beat of their own drum- called to stand out, not to blend in. They may not have the title, but are leaders worthy of respect.
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. – Winston Churchill
The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.”
The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It was not until the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Bewildered, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”
For leaders, there is nothing quite as important as listening. In fact, according to a report in Business News Daily (http://bit.ly/ABntlJ) it ranks as one of the top reasons why employees hate their bosses – they do not listen. To be sure, there is a time and place for leaders to step up and speak up, but the truly effective ones know when to be quiet and listen. Here are three tips to becoming a better listener and why it matters.
To be informed, listen with your ears. This is the most basic form of your communication as a leader. Listening for informational purposes is primarily to receive information that one needs to perform a task or make a decision. It has little to do with anything beyond what is communicated at the time of delivery. And in some cases this is perfectly acceptable and appropriate given the circumstances.
But as a leader if this is your primary form of communication then you are not engaged with your team and are likely experiencing some form of deficiency with respect to how they view your leadership. Listening to be informed is necessary at times, but if you want to lead on a higher level you will have to step up.
To connect, listen with your heart. Informational listening is appropriate at times, but to lead on a higher level you will have to listen on a higher level. When your team members buy into your vision, when their passions are your passions, and when your goals become theirs goals – then listening to your team takes on a whole new meaning. And it is when you listen with your heart that you connect with their heart.
As a leader there is nothing more powerful than the ability to connect with those around you. Be it your staff, clients, or shareholders. The most meaningful and effective way of doing that is found when hearts are connected. Whatever the challenges you face or the goals you have if you have made that connection then together you can face it and together you can achieve it.
To demonstrate (listening), let your actions show it. Listening in some ways can be like paying lip service. You can go through the motions of listening but at the end of the day nothing changes. The same problems exist tomorrow that existed today and the levels of frustration only worsen. But as a leader who has made the connection with his people, the ultimate show of respect is given when you follow up with your actions.
To be sure, not every idea and not every proposal is going to be a fit. But the respect you show by listening builds your credibility as a leader and fosters a culture of respect. The greatest thing you can do as a leader is to create the climate in which ideas are welcomed and everyone has a voice that is heard.
Are you listening?
When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him go. – Abraham Lincoln
A well-known story in some sectors of coastal communities such as where I live is that of the crab mentality. It is used to describe selfish or short-sighted people whose thinking bends toward the notion of, “If I can’t have it, neither can you”.
The crab basket mentality says that if you have a pot of crabs and one is climbing out in an effort to escape then the others will pull him back down rather than allow it to go free. The other crabs had rather share the same doomed fate than allow another among its ranks to climb out.
As a leader you may find yourself in a crab basket with others who have the same intentions for you. You get the raise or promotion and inevitably someone is jealous and you feel that subtle tug. You landed that coveted new account and strangely now begin to feel the claws of others around you. Every time you make an effort to move up and better yourself you have to resist the tug of those who would like to pull you down and hold you back. But you have to learn to let them go. Here are three things to consider as you climb out of the crab basket.
Let go of your past. Before anyone in your present can restrict you in a negative way you must lighten your load and let go of negative things from your past. So long as you hold on to past defeats, mistakes, or bad attitudes you will never climb to the heights you desire.
Your climb to the top of the basket begins when you make peace with your past and place yourself in a position to climb unencumbered toward your goals and dreams. When you let go of the past you can create your future. Your climb up begins here. You may have to forgive others; you may have to forgive yourself. But you will not move up so long as you allow your past to hold you down.
Let go of bad people. This is perhaps one of the hardest things to learn as a leader. But if you are ever going to climb your way to the top of the basket and live above the level of mediocrity you will have to separate yourself from those who want to hold you down.
It may be hard because up until now you may have seen these crabs as your friends. They have been colleagues; you have enjoyed happy hour together, and thought of them as allies. But keep this in mind - good people do not try to sabotage your success they celebrate it. Good people do not try attempt to pull you down and but had rather climb up with you. As a leader you have to wise up and recognize that not everyone in the pot with you wants to see you succeed. Be strong enough to acknowledge it and have the courage when necessary to climb alone.
Let go of small dreams. In the bottom of the crab basket there is not much room for growth and the view is always the same. The way out is up. It’s when you fix your eyes on larger dreams and possibilities that you begin to realize that life in the basket is never going to change. The road to your improvement begins with the choice to climb out.
It’s been written and asked many times but I will share it again here: What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could not fail? What are you dreams? I don’t know what’s in your heart but I do know this to be true – until you let go of your past, and let go of bad people, you will always have small dreams. It’s time to let go of every bad attitude, toxic relationship, and negative influence that would attempt to pull you down.
Your way out begins with by taking the first step. Let go and start climbing!
Circumstances don’t make a person; they reveal him or her. – Richard Carlson
The story is told of two hunters who came across a bear so big that they dropped their rifles and ran for cover. One man climbed a tree while the other hid in a nearby cave. The bear was in no hurry to eat, so he sat down between the tree and the cave to reflect upon his good fortune.
Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the hunter in the cave came rushing out, almost ran into the waiting bear, hesitated, and then dashed back in again. The same thing happened a second time. When he emerged for the third time, his companion in the tree frantically called out, “Woody, are you crazy? Stay in the cave till he leaves!” “Can’t,” panted Woody, “there’s another bear in there.”
It’s certainly not uncommon as a leader to be in tight spots from time to time. Like the two hunters you can find yourself in a bear jam that can alter the course of your day in a hurry. And when you take into consideration the way stress impacts your team members then it is important as a leader to put it all in perspective.
Research conducted by businessknowledgeresource.com (http://bit.ly/11Kaa6Y) cited some of the top causes of stress at work that include: no appreciation, no feedback good or bad, unclear policies and no sense of direction, random interruptions, and lack of control to name a few. If these causes or any other infringe on the daily demands of your leadership then the necessity for perspective will be even greater.
We learn from the example of the hunters four lessons to consider when you find yourself up a tree, in a cave, or otherwise stressed out by the demands of your job.
Don’t panic. The first mistake the hunters made after discovering the bear was to drop their rifles and run. They immediately gave up any leverage they had by making a hasty decision based upon their assumptions.
When your first inclination as a leader is to panic without gathering all the facts you place those around you in compromising positions. Not every problem is as bad as it may appear at first glance and if you stay calm under pressure you can make smarter decisions.
Stick together. Each hunter reacted in a way that seemed right at the moment. One climbed a tree and the other ran into a cave. Now instead of being united in strength they are divided in weakness and have multiplied their problems. By doing their own thing they limited their options.
Sticking together and working together is a Leadership 101 principle. But when you consider the predicaments you can find yourself in when you ignore it then it makes the reminder worth repeating. John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” And in this case it can make the difference between sitting atop a tree as a meal-in-waiting for a bear and using your leadership skills to your advantage. Play it smart and stick together.
Consider the big picture. In the heat of the moment the hunters did what they thought was best. We all do.? But unfortunately they failed to keep the big picture in mind. Ultimately, it was not the bear they could see that was the problem but instead it was the one in the cave they didn’t see at first.
Having a clear understanding of the big picture of your organizational mission and values is an essential element of your leadership. It’s through the prism of the big picture that the smaller ones are put into context. Don’t allow your immediate short term problem to change your long term view.
Run in the right direction. Out of fear the hunters ran. One ended up in a cave and the other in the top of a tree. Each had a perspective that was created by the direction they ran and where they stopped. While their problem (the bear) was stationary their approach was scattered.
Moving in the right direction is essential to solving the challenges you face as a leader. Having everyone on the same page is important. While differing perspectives is valuable it will not do you any good if you are not working in harmony.
It’s as you refuse to panic that you succeed. It’s as you stick together you win bigger battles. It’s as you consider the big picture that you stay focused on your mission. And it’s as you run in the right direction you solve the right problems.
The bigger we get the smaller we have to think. Customers still walk in one at a time. – Sam Walton
A story is told of how many years ago a man conned his way into the orchestra of the emperor of China although he could not play a note. Whenever the group performed, he would hold his flute against his lips, pretending to play but not making a sound. He received a modest salary and enjoyed a comfortable living.
Then one day the emperor requested a solo from each musician. The flutist got nervous. There wasn’t enough time to learn the instrument. He pretended to be sick, but the royal physician wasn’t fooled. On the day of his performance, the imposter took poison and killed himself. The explanation of his suicide led to the phrase that found its way in to the English language: “He refused to face the music.”
Facing the music with your customer is a matter of good leadership. Knowing where you stand with your consumer is paramount to your success. The findings by the 2013 Edelman Barometer of Trust (http://bit.ly/VKfWVd) indicate that there is a great deal of work to be done. Everyone wants to be a leader and we understand the need for it, but there’s a problem: many consumers don’t trust leaders. According the to report less than a fifth of the general public believes that a business leader can be trusted to tell the truth or make an ethical decision.
Making the leadership connection with your customer is a leadership issue of the highest order. Facing the music is how you begin. Are you taking an honest look and properly assessing your relationship toward your customer in a way that will build trust and credibility? Here are three ways to begin the process.
Be open to the facts. Facing the music may not be a pleasant experience as you assess your current footing but if you are going to build trust with your customers you must be willing to do it. If you are not listening to them then they will go where their voice is heard and valued.
Internally you must analyze your customer relationship in many ways. A great example of how this is being done is found with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and their ‘culture of metrics’ (http://bit.ly/RrWmd4) approach that keeps all eyes focused on the customer. Amazon tracks its performance against nearly 500 measurable goals, and nearly 80% of those have to do with customer objectives. The first step to making the leadership connection with your customers is to be open to the receiving the facts as they currently exist.
Be willing to change. When you face the music as it relates to your customers and you have an honest assessment of your positioning with them you must then be willing to act. Change works to your advantage only because of what you do with your knowledge. For example, if you have a disgruntled customer then you have a choice. Listen to them, help them, and keep them, or lose them.
Writing for Inc., (http://bit.ly/12C9apz) Maria Tabaka says, “Be thankful that your customer is willing to tell you what most won’t. It’s a gift that may offer you insight into problems that other customers aren’t willing to share… It’s a proven fact that when conflict is resolved well, a customer can become an even more devoted fan than they would have if there was never a problem in the first place.” When you empower yourself with the facts and demonstrate a willingness to change in order to meet your customers’ needs then you are on the path to greater success. Embracing this leadership challenge is essential to building the kind of relationships that will sustain you today and into the future.
Be vigilant going forward. The corrections you make today will help you today but the longevity of your success is a matter of vigilance. The needs, desires, and wants of your customers is constantly changing and evolving. Are you prepared to meet the challenges they bring?
A working formula for your vigilance looks like this:
Simply put, making the leadership connection with your customers begins by building relationships and knowing their wants and needs. When these two things become your priority you will not have to worry about your success. It will take care of itself. And it shows good leadership.
Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. – Mark Twain
A story is told of Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, who was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a letter. Stanton did, and showed the strongly worded letter to the president.
“What are you going to do with it?” Lincoln inquired. Surprised, Stanton replied, “Send it.” Lincoln shook his head. “Put it on the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.”
Anger is one of those emotions that if not dealt with can cause many problems for leaders. What’s more important is for your team to know how to deal with the anger of your customers. This was the topic of a recent Open Forum column by Rieva Lesonsky. In the column Lesonsky cited a Futures Company survey that was conducted last year that revealed more consumers are in a state of generalized rage – not necessarily about customer service, but about most things in general.
The general state of mind of most consumers’ worldwide highlights a growing challenge for business leaders, and having an intuitive staff that can handle the growing tensions is imperative. The survey highlighted three primary sources for this heightened consumer anger: stress, suspicion, and anti-business attitudes. Any one of these ingredients is cause for concern but when combined as part of a growing consumer trend it is important not to ignore it.
Stemming the sentiments of consumer anger will require a proactive approach. While space restricts me from presenting an exhaustive approach for dealing with the consumer anger issue I will offer starting points that can position you to address it. Here are three steps to begin with that can help you tame the savage beast of anger.
Create awareness. Internal awareness is the first step toward addressing consumer anger. Is your company or organization paying attention to the warning signs of consumer anger? How consumer anger is manifested towards your business should be on your radar. If you are not aware of how it affects you, your competitors, or your suppliers it can have potentially negative consequences.
Creating awareness within your organization is crucial to its health and vitality. Make sure your frontline staff is sensitive and proactive in how they represent your company and the image they are putting forth. Being aware of potential conflicts can prepare you to surprise your customer with a greater than expected experience. You win your customer over tomorrow by preparing your staff today.
Build relationships. Externally, the success of your business is grounded in relationships. Mark Sanborn nailed it when said, “Customers don’t have relationships with organizations; they form relationships with individuals.” How do you see your customers? If you merely look upon them as transactions you are missing the point and always will. The key to dispelling the consumer anger sentiment is to make it personal which begins by building relationships.
Value is created where value is given priority. The reason consumers feel suspicious is due to their belief that businesses are ready to cheat customers whenever they can get away with it. Dispelling the anger is found in building trust. That can only happen in relationship. Loyalty to the business is not always an economic decision it is one of relationship.
Deliver service with excellence. Taming the savage beast of anger is an internal work (creating awareness) and it’s an external work (building relationships), which can now be solidified with how you deliver your product. When excellence is the standard by which your company or organization operates then it will be reflected at every level of the consumer experience.
The blueprint of your success in taming the savage beast of anger begins with leadership. Your capacity as a leader to recognize the need is the beginning of solving it. Creating a culture of awareness is essential to your teams’ ability to recognize consumer anger and defuse it. And everyone delivers with excellence at every phase of the consumer experience it will keep them coming back for more.
Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. – Steve Jobs
While you may be familiar with the many inventions of Thomas Edison which include the incandescent light bulb and the microphone, but there is a back story to one invention that is of great significance.
It was December 1914 and Edison had been working ten years on a storage battery. One night fire tore through his lab. Fire companies from eight surrounding towns arrived in an attempt to douse the flames, but the heat was too intense and the water pressure was too low. Everything was lost.
In the midst of the rubbles the next day Edison is reported to have said, “There is great value in disaster. All of our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Amazingly enough, three weeks after that devastating fire, Edison delivered the first phonograph. His attitude and determination coupled with his commitment to excellence is why we hold him such high regard today.
We hear a lot of about excellence and the need for it. Theoretically we understand its importance and the need to set a high standard of quality in our work and in our expectations. While this is admirable we will never achieve excellence until we denounce the toxic attitudes and beliefs that prevent us from achieving it. Here are four of the most common excuses that stand between you and excellence. Conquer these and you can fast track yourself to a path of excellence.
Past failures. The road to success will be paved with failures and mistakes. But they don’t have to be fatal. Consider President Abraham Lincoln. He first went into politics at the age of 23 when he ran for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly. He lost. Afterwards he opened a general store. It failed. But we all know how he has taken his place in history and he is considered by many to be one of our greatest presidents.
Dale Carnegie said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” Do not allow your past failures to define you or your future. It’s when you shake off past failures, learn from your mistakes, and commit to excellence you can achieve it. Let go of the past and move on.
Past rejections. Achieving excellence will require a certain level of fortitude as you learn from the past. But rejections sting because it’s personal. Consider Walt Disney. He was fired by the editor of a newspaper for lacking ideas. He could have sulked in self-pity and given up on achieving anything of significance. But Disney persevered and millions of people the world over have been enjoying the magic ever since.
Albert Einstein said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Don’t be discouraged when you face opposition or when you experience rejection. It is all a part of the growing process on your journey to excellence. Don’t give up!
Lack of education. Your lack of education is not a disqualifier for achieving excellence. Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school and applied to attend film school three times but was unsuccessful due to his C grade average. He could have taken that rejection along with his C grade average and given up. Because he didn’t give up we have enjoyed many great films such as Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Jaws, Lincoln, E.T. and Indiana Jones to name just a few.
John Wooden said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” You may not have been the brightest student, your grades may not be a reflection of your potential or passion, but with the right attitude and determination there is nothing you can’t achieve if you choose an attitude of excellence.
Physical limitations. Harry S. Truman was rejected by the U.S. Military and Naval Academies due to his poor eyesight. At one point he was a clerk in a newspaper mailroom, and worked as an usher in a movie theatre. Yet, he did not allow his poor eyesight to keep him from achieving excellence as he later became President. His inspiring story is but one of countless others who have also experienced some type of physical limitation on the way to success.
Les Brown said, “Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” It’s as you embrace this attitude that you will know, live, and enjoy a life of excellence. There is no limitation, physical or otherwise, that can keep you down but by your own choice. Shed the negative, embrace the positive, live with excellence.