Hey Leaders: Lighten Up a Little

Walt Disney

One of my favorite Walt Disney quotes is, “That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.”

Now think about it a minute. You don’t need to “grow up,” in the common sense of the word, to be “professional” or a “leader,” It’s all about how you embrace yourself – your attitude – and how you present yourself. There’s nothing wrong with having some “kid” left in you. Having that bit of kid makes you more approachable – more likeable – easier to associate with.

The Right Balance

We all know the people who have changed as they’ve been promoted. They become more (too) serious and in the process lose touch with the people they supervise. They lose the kid in themselves – quite often on purpose.

When you lose that part of you it causes you to lose your:

  • flexibility
  • understanding
  • communication
  • ability to retain employee’s
  • ability to empathize.

It may also cause you to destroy your:

  • culture
  • ability to attract talent
  • current relationship’s.

What am I saying here? Act like a child? Not at all. Just keep an open mind. Continue with that ability to relate to your employees – on all levels. You did it as a peer so why lose it as a supervisor. Have some fun. Think about the best work experience you’ve ever had. I bet it had something to do with having fun.

Being An Encourager

A number of years ago I had a manager, a leader, (we’ll call him Bob) that was moving up quickly. Our team worked extremely well together and enjoyed it. We could joke around with Bob – not like a “buddy” – and we could all brainstorm to come up with any off-the-wall idea. In fact, it was encouraged. That’s a big key – no matter how goofy the idea, there may be something to it. You can’t cut ideas down. Bob always smiled, was energetic, and even poked a little fun at himself now and then. Bob’s position was putting him pretty high, but we were always on a first name basis.

But something, we don’t know what, happened in his life that drained the kid out of him. He became that serious “professional”, and it was all downhill from there. There was no more fun, no more lunches together, no more cohesiveness . . . and no more goofy ideas. People started transferring and Bob’s quick climb came to a screeching halt.

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Organizations Who Have Fun

What’s one of the most common things that the most successful organizations have with each other? They have fun. People are allowed to hold on to that most precious part of their personal history.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Disney
  • Zappos
  • Flickr
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Cisco

If employees can say that they’re having fun at work, it also means that they’re not as uptight and communication will flourish because people are easier to approach.

Fun, But Serious

Now, they call it work for a reason. So I don’t mean wear a red nose, do magic tricks or a stand-up acts all day long. However, a sense of humor can go a very long way. It’s a great way to bond with people. It instantly lightens the mood and lifts morale.

The office is the office. There has to be some seriousness also. Some of us are in some very serious occupations. Just remember that no matter how serious the work is, it’s still being performed by human beings and we all need a little time to lighten the mood. As a leader, you have to be accessible and able to hear and sense when performance is needing a lift. Better yet is to not even wait that long.

Terminal Seriousness?

Do you know the general tone of your office or work environment?

Take this short quiz from Jody Urquhart to get an idea whether your staff is suffering from terminal seriousness.

Yes or No

Do you regularly catch people laughing or smiling at work?

YES or NO

When something funny happens do people stop and appreciate it?

YES or NO

Does your organization have fun activities at least monthly?

YES or NO

Do you have tools (fun giveaways, drawings) to invite employees to participate in having fun in your environment?

YES or NO

Are managers usually optimistic and smiling at work?

YES or NO

If you answer NO to two or more of these questions, your staff probably suffers from “terminal seriousness,” which is negatively affecting morale and productivity.

The Right Environment

If you need to create a turnaround in your culture, just remember, it’s not your job to MAKE work fun but rather it’s your job to create the conditions where fun and happiness can flourish.

Are your employees relaxed, or uptight? Do you see many smiles at work? Are you projecting a positive attitude? What can you do to create the opportunity for fun?

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch

Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development and Customer Service Specialist
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

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I’m a Leader Now But No One Likes Me

Confused

What too many people fail to grasp is that one doesn’t become a leader overnight.  You may have the title, but that’s not all it takes to be successful.  To become a good leader takes some planning and experience.

Have you ever felt like this:

“I was “one of them” on Friday, but since I’m their supervisor now, no one likes me.  Why?”

You probably made the jump too suddenly.

Learning Leadership

When people tell me they want to be a leader in their organization or I hear that someone is being looked at to fill an upcoming position, the first thing I tell them is to start the transition NOW.  Plan and learn.

Don’t wait to make a sudden change over a weekend, because you’ll set yourself up for disaster.

Two Lessons on Leadership

Here are a couple of stories to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Story One

Mike has been one of the guys since he started at ABC Company.  He knows his job well, and that of the department, but really only does what’s required.  He watches the clock, is always yucking it up with everyone, and hits the bars every Friday afternoon having drinks with the best of them.

But behind all of that, Mike does think about moving up and his managers believe he has some good leadership potential.  A supervisor position is getting ready to open up in 2 weeks and Mike is offered the job.  That means more money, control and responsibility.  He says he’s up for the challenge.

Mike does nothing to prepare, thinking he’ll learn what he needs to know once he starts.  He continues his ways and on Friday Mike goes out with the gang and pounds shots.  On Monday morning, Mike is a straight-laced, all business, suit, barking orders around every corner.  What do you think the reaction of his staff is to this new look?  “What the h*ll happened to you?”  Is his staff ready to work for/with him?  I don’t think so Tim.

From then on, Mike is in an uphill battle to get respect and support.

Story Two

Patty, on the hand, knew she wanted to be a leader within the ABC Company someday.  Everyone likes her and although she’s also one of the guys, she never goes overboard.

She has fun, but within limits.

Patty, like Mike, knows her job and the department well.  But unlike Mike, she asks questions and tries to understand the business as much as she can.  She also reads leadership blogs online (i.e., Linked2Leadership) and participates in leadership type webinars.  The people she works with know where she’s headed some day.  So it comes as no surprise that when a leadership position opens in her department, she’s offered the job and accepts.

She immediately asks for time during the next two weeks to meet with experienced leaders to discuss her new position and to ask questions.  At the same time Patty discusses how this new position is going to alter her relationships with her,

  • old peers/new team,
  • new peers/other leaders,
  • old/new boss, and
  • . . . family.

How do you think Patty’s transition goes, compared to Mike’s?  I see much success in Patty’s future.

Leadership and Family

When I talk to people about changing relationships, many don’t immediately understand how there’s a change with family.  After all, work and family are two separate things.  Well, not exactly.  Even though we like to keep the two separate, they’re pretty well intertwined.  The added responsibility of being a leader is going to cause more stress, working more hours, and possibly travel, among other things.

Your future is also your family’s future.

Don’t get caught up just looking at the job itself.  It’s going to affect other people besides you.  The better prepared they are, the less stress it will cause.

It’s never too late to learn and plan for the future.  It doesn’t matter if you’re an up and comer, or you’re a director, or even a CEO.  Learning should be a lifelong endeavor.

When we stop learning, we stop growing.

The two books I always recommend to people when they’re starting out in their first leadership role are:

These books are not only good for new leaders but also serve as great reminders and inspiration – and some new info – for the seasoned leader.

It takes little effort, or time, to read a couple of blogs or books here and there.  Then be sure to share that new found information with the people coming up underneath you.  Remember, some of those people are going to be in your position some day.

Have you planned your future?  Do you discuss your future with your family?  Are you investing in continued learning?  Are you helping others succeed?

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch

Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development and Customer Service Specialist
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

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On Leadership and Leading a Legacy

Legacy Wake

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Fifty years ago, on November 18, 1963, President John F. Kennedy made a stop here in Tampa, FL.  Who would have had any idea that four days later he would be assassinated in Dallas, TX?

Your Leadership Legacy

I just watched a special on the Tampa visit, and it got me thinking . . . I mean seriously thinking . . . what legacy would I leave behind?  What plans would I have, in place, that would keep going after I was suddenly gone?

When a prized leader leaves an organization, you normally hear things about how “he did this” and how “he did that.”  But that’s all in the past.  Times keep changing.  Needs keep changing.  Are the things that you DID, lasting through to the future and making an impact?

We all want to be remembered for something.  But that’s where the problem starts.  “Something” tends to be singular.  It’s a definitive.  You do it, it’s done, people remember . . . for awhile.  Think big – think bigger – – think long-term.  You’ve given a lot of time to your employees and your organization.

So why does it have to stop when you leave?

Legacy Planning

Now don’t confuse this with succession planning.  Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing your internal employees with the potential to fill your leadership position(s) in the company.  You could have the most detailed succession plan possible but still not leave a lasting legacy.

The key is to THINK of your job in terms of how you will leave it.  This provides a different way to look at your work and what you want to accomplish. Instead of focusing on the day-to-day tasks, it helps you to focus on the bigger picture and take a more organizational view of your work. Consider your own job, your team, your department, the leadership, and how all of these pieces are connected to bring the overall organization together.

On Talking and Walking

So many people can talk the talk.  But how many people can actually, truly, walk the talk?  I love Mark Miller’s analogy in his new book, The Heart of Leadership.

He uses the example of an iceberg:

As you look at the iceberg, you only see about 10% of it.  The other 90% is below the waterline. The portion you see above the waterline represents leadership skills – reproducible by many.  Below represents leadership character – practiced by few.  The people who talk the talk represent the 10%.  The people who walk the talk represent that, along with, the other 90%.

I’m going to use my favorite example again . . . Disney.  Walt Disney passed away from lung cancer in 1966, before his vision of Disney World in Florida was realized. After much mourning and wondering where to go from there, his brother and business partner, Roy O. Disney, postponed his retirement to oversee construction of the resort’s first phase.

Walt had vision and plans for the company that extended for years.  And, to this day, things are still being developed from Walt’s original visualizations.  In fact, it wasn’t decided until well into the construction process to name the resort WALT Disney World, in honor of the man whose ideas and visions brought it to life . . . five years after he passed away.

On Big Shoes and Footprints

So maybe you’re not the owner or the CEO of the organization.  What does that matter?

You still have the opportunity to leave some pretty good-sized footprints.

Not trying to blow my own horn here, but at my last two jobs I developed customer service programs, from scratch, that saw great success within the first two months.  Now if I had been putting things together month by month, my legacy would have ended when I left.

But I had a whole vision, training materials, schedules, tracking procedures, customer response actions – the whole package.  My footprints weren’t in the sand.  I “lived on” through the people who took over after me.

The Nurse Bryan Rule

In his book, The Essential Drucker, management guru Peter Drucker told a story about how a hospital adopted what came to be known as “Nurse Bryan’s Rule.”

“A new hospital administrator, holding his first staff meeting, thought that a rather difficult matter had been settled to everyone’s satisfaction, when one participant suddenly asked, ‘would this have satisfied Nurse Bryan?’ At once the argument started all over and did not subside until a new and much more ambitious solution to the problem had been hammered out.

Nurse Bryan, the administrator learned, had been a long-serving nurse at the hospital. She was not particularly distinguished, had not in fact ever been a supervisor. But whenever a decision on patient care came up on her floor, Nurse Bryan would ask, ‘Are we doing the best we can do to help this patient?’ Patients on Nurse Bryan’s floor did better and recovered faster. Gradually, over the years, the whole hospital had learned to adopt what became known as ‘Nurse Bryan’s Rule.'”

– At the time this story took place, Nurse Bryan had been retired for 10 years.

Leading a Legacy

Someday, you’ll look back over your career and ask, “What did I really do?”  You’ll regret the opportunities you missed and time you wasted.  But you’ll also remember all that you did right.  And people will still come up to you and say, “Oh yeah, you’re the one that ______. We still use the guidance from your _____. Our team wouldn’t be as successful without you.”

Ask not what your organization can do for you. Ask what you can do for your organization.

What kind of future for your organization are you looking at?  What is important to you?  What parts of your work do you most value?  Is there a need in the organization you can fill? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development and Customer Service Specialist
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

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Organizational Health: I’m Not Here For The Money

Empty Pockets

Talent development, succession planning, leadership training – call it what you want . . . but be serious about it. 

In most organizations, talent development is probably the most under-budgeted, under-staffed, under-creative, and underutilized department in the organization.

The First Thing To Go

I know a person who was laid off three months ago when his entire Talent Development Department was eliminated due to budget cuts.

Anyone in training or HR knows the old saying, “Training is always the first one to go.”

It happens over and over again, when actually during budget cuts is not the time to cut talent development.  But that’s just one portion of the whole picture.

Looking to the Past for Hope

What I’ve been seeing so much of lately is that leaders don’t want to try anything “new” and they don’t want to invest any (more) money.  They want to stick to the same old tried and true models.

So when they go to hire, most leaders look mainly at things like this:

“What you’ve done in the past…”

“What positions you have had in the past…”

Rather than looking forward at things like this:

“What you can do for us now…?”

“What you can bring to us in the future…?”

In this day and age (and economy,) no one can simply rest on their laurels, so to speak.

A Healthy Understanding

We have seen through numerous studies over the last few years that money is not the number one thing employee’s want from their jobs.  Up around the top of most desired benefits from employment is usually something to do with development/promotion opportunities.

Consequently, it’s the job of the HR and organization leaders to stop and say, “Hey, we need to start looking at this more seriously and investing in it”.

According to a recent survey by Burson-Marsteller and global research training firm Great Place to Work, the top two programs that help companies achieve stability are Branding (75%) and Career Development (75%).  What’s that?  Career development?  Hmmmm.

When you only hire someone on the grounds of what he HAS done in the past – over and over – then that’s what you’re going to get, the same OLD stuff.  Not only does leadership need to look at what the person HAS done, but what he CAN do, and WILL do in the future, and build upon that.

Modern Day Training and Development

There have been so many advances in training techniques over just the last few years.  The days of the instructor standing at the front of the room talking about textbook theories (boooooring…..) are gone – or should be.

Now we can add video, audio, animation, Internet links, and infographics to our PowerPoints (remember to keep your slides simple).

We can make it easier for employees to get access to training with online courses using such programs as Lectora or Captivate.  We can get the message out to more people at one time with social media, Go-to-Training, Google hangouts or your own built in video/teleconferencing.

And don’t forget about team facilitation, gaming, and other types of interactive programs.  There are countless ideas if you just look for them.

Looking Fresh. Feeling Fresh.

Don’t hire the guy that’s done the same thing over and over for 25 years.  That’s just going to get you the same thing that he started out with and has been regurgitating for years.

Hire for experience AND knowledge AND attitude.

If you look at the most successful organizations today, you’ll see that they do just that – Disney, Zappos, Wegman’s.  And sometimes the focus is mainly on attitude.  That way you have a better chance of people “fitting” in the organization and staying longer.

But leadership also has to do their part.  unfortunately, quite often they just hire and hope for the best.  This is quite sad because developing your talent from within is one of the most important aspects and advantages of your business.  This is what employee’s want and what your organization needs.

Creating a Magic Kingdom

Here’s a good example.  The Walt Disney Company (my fave).  I would LOVE to get a job there training with the Disney Institute, HR, or about anything else for that matter.  However, that may not ever happen.  Disney does a great job of promoting from within.

They do that with a lot of cross-training and putting cast members in positions where their knowledge of the organization will work best . . . like training.

Facilitators at the Disney Institute and Disney Traditions (orientation) classes have all come up within the organization.  In fact cast members who facilitate in Traditions may very well be heading to work at the Jungle Cruise or Tower of Terror after class.

A Final Note:

Leaders – the composition of the office has changed, and you have to acknowledge that.  We now have FOUR generations of workers in our businesses:

  • Mature/World War II Generation (born before 1946)
  • Baby Boomers (1946–1965)
  • Generation X (1966–1980)
  • Generation Y/Millennials (1981–2000)

I guarantee you that the Gen-X’s and Gen-Y’s do not learn well in the same ways as the previous two generations. So for leaders and the people in charge of the organizational health, it is highly important to train and develop in ways that work for EVERYBODY!

So ask yourselves a couple of these questions:

Where is my organization honestly headed?  What do my employees want?  How many employees do I lose to competitors who develop them better than me?  What’s my next step? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development and Customer Service Specialist
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

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Leaders – Don’t Give In

New Hire Orientation

New employee orientation (NEO), or onboarding, is one of the most critical aspects of a new hire’s beginning.  But to so many leaders, from HR to department directors and managers, it’s becoming just a check on a quick list of to-do’s.

“Just get through the paperwork, tell them their schedule and who to report to.”  I’ve been seeing this more and more lately, and I just don’t understand it.

Creating Successful Organizations

In successful organizations, leaders focus on creating a culture that provides a feeling of ownership, belonging, and purpose.

And how best to expose new hires to this culture, that so many have worked so hard to develop, than new employee orientation?

The idea of NEO is not to just throw people some benefit information and tell them who to report to, but to immerse new people in the culture.

This includes:

  • How the organization began
  • What it went through to get to where it is today
  • The people who have made a difference
  • How these new go-getters can understand how they can make a difference

If asked about the organization, everyone should have a similar description of it.

Creating a Magic Kingdom

Probably my favorite quote of all time came from Michael Eisner, former President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

He said, “We don’t put people in Disney, we put Disney in people.”

Every new cast member goes through a 3½ day Traditions course (NEO), where the Disney culture is communicated through powerful storytelling.

In The Disney Way, authors Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson describe how Traditions was once reduced by one day . . . one day.

 “Complaints from supervisors throughout the parks began to pour in.  ‘The quality of guest service is not the quality we had last season.’”

That extra day was soon added back in and the complaints diminished.

Given Time to Succeed

NEO is the first opportunity for new people to learn about your company.  If they’re rushed through the benefits speech and the safety presentation and not given any information about how great the company is, that’s exactly the kind of employee you’re going to get.

  • You will get employees that rush their job and who don’t  feel any ownership for what they do.
  • You’ll have employees that are there just for a “job,” not a successful “career.”
  • Your company will never see the potential success it could if it properly set the tone in the beginning.

I’ve heard some managers say, “Well, they’ll learn the culture from working in it”.  They sure will.  But the culture they’ll learn is the “underground” culture – not the one that you should be immersing them in from the start.  There’s usually a culture all its own that says, “this is the way that it’s supposed to be, but this is the way that I do it”.

Right From the Start

You must teach the new people, from the start, the importance of your mission and vision and how they should act in order to fit into it and make it successful – whether its following local SOP’s, federal regulations, or putting themselves in the customers shoes to give extraordinary service.

Don’t let them learn things the hard way. Or the wrong way.

Okay, think of it this way.  Ask yourself this:

Why would I just throw a new employee into the fire to figure things out for himself? But if I bought a new piece of machinery, I’d follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set it up and get it working properly?

Getting a new employee going properly and getting a new piece of machinery going properly is the same thing.  You have to “install” a new employee in the culture, just like you would install a new piece of machinery in order to get it to run properly.

Leading By Example

Take a look at the Zappos culture.  This legendary company is one of the most successful customer-service-based companies ever. Everyone, regardless of department, hired into their headquarters goes through the same four week training that their call center staff goes through.

This includes:

  • Company history
  • The importance of customer service
  • Their long-term vision
  • Philosophy about the company culture

Everyone is on the same page because everyone gets the same information and they get it up front.  They know exactly what the company is about and how they fit into it.

Not convinced yet?  Lets turn the tables.  Yes it’s true that employee orientation centers around helping the new employee, but it just could be the company that ultimately gains the benefits.

Think about these company benefits:

  • Reduces costs associated with learning on the job
  • Saves coworkers and supervisors time training the new employee, thereby increasing production
  • Increases morale and reduces turnover by showing the employee he/she is valued

Hmmm, I never thought of it that way.

However you look at it, a strong new employee orientation program is a requirement for success – both for the employee and your company.  It’s been proven time and time again that happy knowledgeable  employees are productive employees . . . and productive employees create successful organizations.

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

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Leadership Lesson: Do You Hear Me?

Hearing vs. Listening

Do you hear me?  Are you listening?

Many people use these two questions interchangeably, but they’re two significantly different questions.  You can “hear” people are talking, but then you can “listen” to what they’re saying.  Let me give you an example.

Hearing vs. Listening

When I was in the Navy, on board USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), I shared an office space with our Chief Petty Officer.  Basically the only thing separating our areas was a small file cabinet with a 13” TV on top.  In the evenings, I always had the TV on, but the volume low.

Harold asked me one time, with a puzzling tone, “How can you concentrate with the TV on?”

My reply was that I’m not “listening” to it.  I just “hear” the sound.  I really had no idea what show was on.

Straight Talk

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says, in part, that

To “hear” means:

1: to perceive or apprehend by the ear.

To “listen” means:

1: to pay attention to sound.

Big difference.  When you “hear”, it’s just sound going in.  But when you “listen”, you are actually understanding the information.  In other words, you can hear something without wanting to, but you can only listen to something intentionally.  Listening is a skill.

Anyone who’s been a leader for any length of time should realize that you have to learn how to phrase questions properly in order to get the most honest and useful information and understanding in return.

The answer is always going to be “Yes” to the question, “Do you hear me?”, but “No” (at least in their mind) to the question, “Are you listening to me?”

Never ask, “Do you hear me?”

Leadership Lesson: Focus on Listening

Now, with that background, let’s change direction and talk about our listening skills.  Leaders need to focus in order to keep listening, or else we’re just . . . hearing.  Too many leaders have so many things on their minds that if they don’t just stop and focus on listening, it’s not long before they’re thinking about other things and slipping into the hearing mode.

Listening requires you to stop what you’re doing and to have patience with the conversation.

In his book, Creating Magic, Lee Cockerell says, “it’s vital to hang in there, because you never know when a glimmer of an idea might shine through.  The sentence you tuned out on might hold a crucial fact, or reveal an important problem you need to know about.”

A Listening Attitude

If you want to actually listen to someone, and not just go through the actions of hearing, you need to use the proper means.  A lot of my work has been in customer service.  That’s a great subject to take a look at.

How many of you have suggestion boxes, or comment cards?  All you get there are statements that you’re most likely going to quickly glance over and then move along.  Do you send written responses back to the customers?  You tell them that “we hear what you are saying.”  You HEAR what they’re saying.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you are LISTENING to them.

Most people tend to be “hard of listening” rather than “hard of hearing.”

Active Listening

Guest Relations at Walt Disney World used to send apology letters to Guests who complained.  But those letters, like most organizations, are just a form that specific information is inserted into.  So they started phoning the Guests instead, creating a two-way conversation where they could actually LISTEN to the concerns and work them out.

So what can I do right now to start listening better?  Good question.  I’m glad you asked.

  1. Go to the door and greet the person – personally welcome them into your office.  Help put them at ease.
  2. Get out from behind your desk and sit with the person.  Chairs should be the same height so you don’t give off a domineering vibe.
  3. Stop what you’re doing and turn to face the person.
  4. Take notes.  Tell the person that you’d like to jot down some notes while you converse in order to help you understand better.
  5. Unless you’re a doctor on-call, don’t answer the phone.
  6. Use open, positive body language.
  7. Watch the person’s body language to help you “listen” to what’s NOT being said.

Keep in mind what Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni said in their book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go“It’s the quality of the conversation that matters most to employees.”

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

Image Sources: creative.newlifechurch.tv

Leading Customer Service

Leading Customer Service

Good customer service doesn’t begin nor end with the customer.  

It begins with the leader and, well, I don’t believe it ever ends.

Defining Customer Service

You may have heard the saying that, “customer service is not a department,” right.  You may have a department called Customer Service, but by doing so, you make it feel as though that’s where it’s all taken care of.

  • But what about you, the leader?
  • Aren’t you supposed to be involved?
  • Don’t you have some say in the matter?

Absolutely, you do!  

If you want to dig even deeper, you should see that it’s everyone’s responsibility, not just yours, not just the Customer Service Department’s, but everyone who works within the organization. It is everyone’s responsibility to keep the organism healthy and functioning well.

Leadership is Influence

But leaders influence.  Some positively, some negatively.  Either one of those effects others’ customer service abilities.  You need to treat every employee you come in contact with, with the utmost sincerity and respect.

If you don’t do it, your employees won’t do it.  Unless you’re dedicated to taking the reigns to develop superior service in your employees, it’s not going to happen.

Taking a customer service class here and there or reading quotes on a poster once a month, is not going to furnish that sustained motivation that your employees need to provide that WOW service.

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L2L Reader Survey 2013 banner

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L2L Reader Quote: “Invaluable advice and encouragement!”

Doing Your Whole Job

“I don’t have time to take on anything extra.”  How many times have you heard that or thought it?  Well first, customer service is not “something extra.”

Customers are where your revenue and profit comes from.  In any organization, there’s typically somewhere else they could go, or at least just stop coming. So when you’re that dependent on something like customers, how can you call service, “something extra?”

In Lee Cockerell’s (former VP of Operations, Walt Disney World Resort) new book, The Customer Rules, he points out that:

 “Great leaders speak loudly and often about what they want their organizations to focus on and what employees are expected to do.”

Hello . . .  How many of you, or other leaders you know in your organization, speak loudly about customer service?  But you always hear about sales, production, etc.

Keeping Ahead of the Pack

Don’t wait for customer service to get bad before you do anything about it.  By then it’s too late.  The damage has been done.  Now you’re into damage-control mode – which takes a lot more effort.

Monkey see, monkey do, here’s an easy activity to do (didn’t mean for that to rhyme, but I’ll take it).  Go to a few local retail stores or restaurants.  Spend just a few minutes in each one, just observing the employees.  You’ll be able to tell what the management is like within just a couple of minutes because the employees walk the leader’s talk.

No matter how good the stores’ customer service “program” is, it won’t be successful unless the leaders walk the talk.

You can’t just focus on the everyday business stuff – products, marketing, sales.  In his book, Lee goes on to say that, “Managers have to recognize that sustained profits depend on their ability to generate consistent, ongoing, excellent service”.  You have to keep good service in the forefront of everyone’s mind if you want it to be consistent.

A Whole New World

We don’t live in a world anymore where we can focus on one product and be the only place to get it.  You may come up with a one of kind product, but you, very soon, will have competition.  You must lead the customer service attitude.

“But seriously, I have very little time.”  In Beverly Kay & Julie Winkle Giulioni’s newest book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, they say it so perfectly – “let’s get real.  You’re having conversations already . . . What if you could redirect some of that time and some of those conversations to focus on careers?”

In this case, bettering customer service is bettering a career.  A few words here, and a few words there.  Just be sure you’re backing up those words with what you do.

Leadership By Example

Most people aren’t going to personally try to get their teams to improve customer service.  It has to come from you.  If you bring the horse to the watering hole, the horse will have a drink.  But if you offer a trough, the horse will always be able to get a drink.

You’re always looking for new and better ways to increase sales, improve products, or streamline production.  If you can’t increase customers or keep the ones you have . . . none of that will matter.

Do you walk the talk when it comes to customer service?  How much time do you spend talking to employees?  How much time could you spend talking to employees? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Andy Uskavitch
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

Image Sources: image.naldzgraphics.net

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