Carrot and Stick: An Epic Fail in the 21st Century?

So, if we repair this mismatch between what science knows and what business does, if we bring our notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses. ~ Dan Pink

Today’s Challenge

Here’s the challenge. How do you maintain your own motivation and that of the people who work with you? Our experience tells us a balanced programme of incentives and targets is the way to go. Paradoxically, pretty much every independent laboratory and work-place study shows the opposite is true.

So what is the right approach?

Well as always it really depends.

“Offer someone the opportunity to rebuild a company or reinvent an industry as the primary incentive, and it will attract those drawn to the challenge first and the money second.” ~ Simon Sinek

Dan Pink, a thought leader on motivation in business, proposes in his TED talk that carrots and sticks are only useful for simple linear tasks requiring little creativity or flexibility in approach; what he refers to as 20th Century challenges.

Just The Facts…

This strategy backfires when more challenging, fast moving, multifaceted problems with no clear solutions are encountered. Here research shows that incentives actually reduce performance and achievement!

Seems crazy but an overwhelming body of objective evidence shows this is the case.

So, why ignore facts?

As a good example of this research, Uri Gneezy and his colleagues Stephan Meier, and Pedro Rey-Biel describe very well the unplanned consequences which can arise from introducing incentives for education, public good, or behaviour and also when they are withdrawn.

Intriguingly, it seems that crowds also behave counter intuitively in response to incentives. In their fascinating on-line experiment using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (AMT), Winter Mason and Duncan J Watts showed that financial incentives increased the quantity but decreased the quality of work performed by participants.

If we then look at what it takes to create intrinsic motivation to change whole systems Michael Fullen takes a pretty good shot at it.

21st Century Challenges

How then should we approach complex uncertain 21st Century challenges? The answer is to go to the solutions that we know in our hearts are the answer.

If you are leading a team or an organisation, first take a minute to investigate what motivates you:

  • The money is nice but again the evidence shows that this is not even close to the top motivating factor in work
  • Do you enjoy being trusted to make decisions (autonomy)?
  • Do you enjoy the feeling of command of your business subject (mastery) and do you enjoy it when you understand why you are doing this thing (purpose)?

“Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now.” ~ Denis Waitley

Reaching our Goals

How then do targets get met you may ask? The answer is that if all of us have autonomy and mastery which we apply to a common purpose it is more likely that targets become mere guides rather than endpoints.

More often than not they are over shot by actual achievement.

It also means that the workforce is equipped to adapt to rapid and sometimes extreme change rather than have a myopic fixed target. The last advantage of dumping carrots and sticks is it’s just more enjoyable to turn up to work. A happy workforce focused on meaningful goals is more likely to be a productive workforce.

And that includes you!

All Things Considered

Consider this:

  • Notice which things and events left you feeling positive and motivated – were they carrots or sticks, simple or complex and most of all how did this affect your motivation?
  • Look for any moments where you exercised your autonomy and/or mastery – how did it make you feel?
  • Notice the effect on you if things you did today felt as if they had no purpose?
  • Chose one thing to do that shows your autonomy, mastery and purpose and sense how you feel.
  • Reflect on whether those you work with might have similar experiences.

Recommended Reading:

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H Pink


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 Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
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Engaging Adult Learners: Avoiding the Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole Learning

What comes to mind when you think about designing coursework and presenting the staff development content to a group you’ve never met? 

Perhaps is it nervousness? Dread? Excitement?

Designing for Adults

It can be a challenge to design learning sessions for adults whom you don’t know personally. I’ve experienced the good and the bad when it comes to presenting. Facilitators, trainers and instructors can face a myriad of challenges that can make them wonder if they are truly being effective.

And not all of the post-training survey questionnaires (aka “smile sheets”) really provide the kind of honest feedback needed for course or delivery improvement.

So what is the best way to configure and design the most effective course content for adult learners? Well, a lot of answers pertain, but probably the most important one is participant engagement.

5 Ways to Engage Adult Learners

Here are five ideas that have helped me engage a crowd:

1) Backward Planning

Decide what it is you want the audience to know, understand, and be able to do at the end of the training. Be very specific with this. Then plan the training so as to maximize time and achieve the goals.

Show others you value their time by not wasting it on unnecessary tasks that don’t lead to a greater and deeper understanding of the topic or training. Comedians are not the only ones who face “tough crowds.”

Don’t be a time waster! Instead, be a bucket filler!

2) Have a Hook

In his book “Teach Like A Pirate,”  Dave Burgess emphasizes the importance of capturing a student’s attention with a hook. The same technique is important (and just as effective) when working with adult learners.

The first few minutes of any training determine whether or not you will draw them in-or have them thinking of what to fix for dinner instead. I have used funny videos that relate to the topic, pictures, and even storytelling.

What matters here is that your choice is relevant, brief, and motivating.

For example, recently I delivered a training on progress monitoring and examining data. Not very exciting stuff.  So I used storytelling  to pique interest. I started the session off with this:

“For the next few minutes, I want you to imagine progress monitoring in a way you never have before. Imagine it as a map. A map you will develop and use on your journey toward maximizing student progress.”

My audience was quietly listening and immediately intrigued by this. They wanted to hear the rest of the story. They wanted to become a part of the story.


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3) Respect Learning Styles

Students are not the only ones who fail to flourish with the “sage on the stage” type of instruction. Engage your audience using activities that draw upon multiple intelligences.

  • If you present with slides, make sure the have limited wording on them…maybe even only an image. The audience will remember what you have said by having an image to which they can relate the thought. There is no need to include every word you are saying on your slides.
  • For every ten minutes you talk, allow an equal opportunity for participants to engage in dialogue with those around them and with the larger group. Be comfortable in the role of “facilitator.”  This is easy to say and most would agree, but often times we fail to do this. Whether due to nerves or time constraints, this seems to be an area we want to cut corners on. Don’t do that.

4) Establish Importance

Nothing helps motivate learners more than seeing a real connection between what is being learned and their own lives. Better still if you can share personal testimony on how you have experienced it.

The National Criminal Justice Reference Center writes this:

“A key principle in adult learning is that the ultimate educator needs to develop an appeal, a “need to know” in the learners—to make a case for the value in their life performance of learning what is offered. At a minimum, this case should be made through testimony from the experience of the instructor.”

5) The Closing

Just as we embrace the importance of the closing in our lessons in class, we must also give this consideration when working with adults.

Allow plenty of time for your participants to ask questions, share insights, and debrief with others.

I often encourage people to use social media both during and at the end of the session to share out their own takeaways. This builds ownership and solidifies the learning while allowing you an opportunity to address any lingering questions.

Include a way to further the conversations after the session ends. You may consider using Today’s Meet, your website, or another back-channeling tool. The learning shouldn’t stop at the end of your session.

Focusing on these five simple areas has helped me tremendously in engaging a group and leaving them inspired and informed…and also avoid many rabbit holes along the way.

What strategies have you found particularly effective when delivering adult training? I’d love to connect and share ideas!


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Traci Logue

Traci Logue is an educator at Northwest ISD
She has twice been named Teacher of the Year
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On Leadership and The Politics of Onions

The Politics of Onions

There’s an interesting dynamic taking place in India right now. It’s a lesson about creating political change, but it also offers a great insight into how to be more effective as a leader and/or a marketer.

Indian politicians have been battling one another as to how to reverse the country’s declining economy, but no consensus has been reached. (Sound familiar?) However, the weakened economy has taken an interesting twist.

It’s driven the price of onions up dramatically – nearly 5-fold in a month!

On Onions and Culture

While this may not seem like a major event to many of us, in India, it’s catastrophic. Indian families of all social strata eat onions in or with just about every meal. An increasing portion of the population cannot afford to buy onions, and therein lies the interesting dynamic.

As we all know, politicians tend to argue for solutions which favor their own agenda or the agenda of their party. But a groundswell of public protest and discontent is about to change all that. It will change the politics because unhappy constituents tend not to re-elect politicians.

Appreciating the impact of this dynamic can give us an insight into how to be more effective in our leadership and in our marketing.

Motivation is Personal

If you want to motivate people to take action, you must address something that matters to them. Whether we’re talking about politicians, members of our team, or potential customers, people tend to act in their self-interest.

When it comes to leadership, if you want to motivate people to take action, you must appeal to something that matters to them. Setting goals does not motivate most people. Yes, some love the challenge , but many are not motivated by goals.

And, as you’ve probably observed, most people aren’t motivated by more money, either.

What’s In It For Me?

Study after study has demonstrated that more money is pretty low on the list of things that are important to people.

Instead, people appreciate things like:

  • Getting respect
  • Having autonomy
  • Gaining recognition
  • Being Appreciated
  • Having a purpose
  • Taking pride in their work
  • Work/life balance

When it comes to marketing, that old acronym comes to mind – WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?” Prospects are not moved to action by logic – they are moved to action by emotion.

In your marketing, if you can appeal to what matters to them (the benefits) rather than how great you and your products are (the features), you’ll have far more success getting people to take action.

Whether it’s politics, leadership, or marketing, if you want people to act on your behalf, you must give them what they want – what matters to them.

So, as a leader, are you considering what “the onions” are to your team members? Are you looking to their personal, professional, and social aspirations as you lead them? How can you recalibrate your thinking to become more influential with the people that you lead? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Michael Beck
Michael J. Beck is President of Michael Beck International, Inc
He helps leaders improve their personal effectiveness and productivity
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5 Questions To Become a Better Leader

Become a Better Leader

Leading a group of people is not an easy endeavor. There are so many responsibilities, duties, and things to remember. And once you have considered all of these things, you then have to take your employees into account.

You have to consider both the way you lead them and the way you look after them.

For those of you who are concerned about your leadership skills, here are 5 questions that you should ask yourself before you can become a better leader.

5 Questions To Become a Better Leader

How Do My Employees See Me?

To be a good leader you must be seen to be a good leader.

  • Are you the type of leader that your employees fear?
  • Do your employees scatter as you walk past?
  • Do they exhibit their trust in your leadership?

If this is the case you need to interact with your employees more often and in a less formal manner. Your employees should view you not just as their manager, but as a part of the team; because that’s what a workforce should be, a team.

Am I Leading by Example?

It’s inevitable that your employees will attempt to “follow in your footsteps”, due to this you must tread carefully.You should be seen to take responsibility and work well, cutting corners and spending too much time on the phone or talking with colleagues implies that it’s okay for the staff beneath you to do the same.

It would be hypocritical of you to caution your employees for doing something that they have witnessed you doing, so be the best role model that you can be.

Do I Provide my Employees with Enough Motivation?

Understanding how your employees are motivated and what you can do to motivate them further is imperative as a leader. Discover what it is that makes your employees tick and use it to help them; a motivated employee is often a productive employee.

A more productive workforce could see you with an increase in profits overall.

Methods of motivating your employees include competitions, rewards and bonuses for hard work or targets that have been met.

Am I Devoting Enough Time to Helping My Employees Progress?

There simply aren’t enough hours in the day when you are in a management position or a role where you are having to lead others.

But is this an excuse to neglect your employees?

It’s understandable that you may feel stressed due to your work but to be an effective leader you must overcome this and take some time to speak with your employees.

Help your employees overcome the obstacles that they are facing in the workplace and support them where possible; if one of your employees is dealing with a difficult client take over for them and later explain to them the best approach when dealing with demanding customers.

Do I Listen to The Needs of My Employees?

If you want to maintain mutual respect between you and your employees it’s essential that you listen to any problems that they may have within the workplace. Bear in mind that not all employees will be forward enough to tell you of issues straight away, you must take the time to speak with them on a regular basis and encourage them to discuss their problems with you.

When they are telling you of their troubles it’s imperative that you don’t interrupt at any point as this can make people feel nervous which in turn makes them less likely to discuss things with you in the future.

There are several other things that you can do to improve your methods of managing and to become a better leader, one of these would be to speak to your boss and ask them how they have achieved their position within the company and how it affected their leadership skills.

So how long has it been since you have taken one or more of these steps to improve your personal leadership effectiveness? Are you ready to make the personal changes in attitude, demeanor, tone, and tenor that it will take to improve? What other steps have been successful for you? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories!


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Georgina Stamp
Georgina Stamp works for Marble Hill Partners
She helps Organisations to Recruit for Executive Roles and Interim Management
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Hey Leaders: X Marks the Spot…or Does It?

X Marks The Spot

Recently I have been reading a lot of business best sellers, both current and classic (and while I would argue that these readings are really more communication books than business books, that’s a post for another time). As an academic I’m always interested in seeing how key concepts are presented and applied, and often can take examples from these popular sources back to my students as a means of clarifying an idea or theory.

For the past thirty or so years, key figures consistently are referenced as foundational to various business perspectives and concepts. Among these great minds is Douglas McGregor who presented the idea of Theory X and Theory Y employees in his The Human Side of Enterprise.

Finding X or Y

In this now definitive essay, McGregor categorizes employees as either Theory X employees, who are seen as lazy, unambitious, avoidant of responsibility, and off to their own doing as soon as management is out of sight; or Theory Y employees, who embrace their responsibilities, seek additional challenges, and view work to be “as natural as play”.  These attributes often are highlighted specific to motivation, which, indeed, is a focal point of McGregor’s original work.

However, too frequently the discussion of this theory begins and ends with the employee attributes.

What often gets lost in the extended analyses of McGregor’s description of employees is that this is a management theory.  While the characteristics associated with Theory X and Theory Y employees  certainly help provide anchors for a spectrum of employee types, it is equally important to recognize leadership’s role.

Perceptions of Employees

McGregor speaks to management assumptions based on their perceptions of their employees. For example, let’s say a manager notes that an employee, Kim, is forever coming in late to work and really seems to have a thing for John, whose desk she stops at every morning when she gets coffee.

It would not be surprising for the manager to assume Kim fits the Theory X mold. He might assume that she has little regard for timeliness and work responsibilities, and that her interest in John is far more personal than professional.

However, if the manager asked around, he might learn that Kim participates in the company’s social outreach program and mentors students before school, putting in extra hours throughout the week to  make up for any lost time.  She also has been instrumental in collaborating with John from the accounting department to streamline billing protocols, resulting both in a reduction of wasted resources and an increased customer satisfaction ratings.

Marking the Spot

Even if we assume the opposite occurs, that is, less enthusiastic workers are mistaken for shining stars, there are other repercussions.  Managers are more likely to offer additional opportunities to employees they view as industrious and competent.

If someone is marked as a Theory Y employee, the expectations of him may be too high as his receives additional responsibilities which he is ill-equipped to handle. He may be less likely to seek assistance because he does not want to appear incompetent, or to disappoint his boss.

Inevitably mistakes happen, blame ensues and someone loses a job.

Taking the Right Approach

Just as there are qualities associated with Theory X and Y employees there are characteristics associated with leadership. Leaders of Theory X employees believe that employees are motivated almost exclusively by monetary incentives so they attempt to maximize responsiveness.

Some take a “hard” approach and try to control through coercion and keeping a tight rein on all that goes on, while others favor a “soft” approach and allow more freedom in the hope that their kindness will be rewarded when a pressing task comes along.

Neither approach is ideal as both establish a standard that is difficult and undesirable to maintain. Further, it can be an emotional and physical drain to continually attempt to control behavior in the hope of gaining compliance, which results in lost time to actually conduct business.

Conversely, Theory Y managers have a better sense of employee motivation, and recognize that individual fulfillment is more effective in creating a humanistic and productive workplace. This allows both employees and leadership to explore opportunities that otherwise may not arise under the micro-managing domain of a Theory X approach.

Although developed more than half a century ago, McGregor’s theory remains surprisingly (and perhaps disappointingly) reflective of many current practices, and also provides an excellent baseline for reviewing not only how we view our employees, but also to reflect on the foundation from which that perception stems.

On what do you base your judgments of your employees? Do you consider their actual behaviors and actions, or your perceptions of their behaviors and actions? Did these perceptions grow and develop as you learned more about the employee, or are you holding on to first impressions?


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Andrea Pampaloni
Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D is a Professor of Organizational Communication
Her research focuses on Relationship-Building and Presentation of Image
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On Leadership and Living a Below Average Life

Dr. Ben Carson

His mother dropped out in the 3rd grade and then married at age 13. When he was 18, his parents divorced. Growing up in a rough part of Detroit was no plus, either. In effect, he had nothing going for him.

But then, at age 32 he became head of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John’s Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. At 36, he performed the first operation to separate Siamese twins conjoined at the head.

So how does a kid with his history turn around and make history?

The Place All True Leadership Begins

Dr. Ben Carson refused to let a “far below-average” life cripple his walk toward achievement.

Average is contrived, a “fake” number or concept, the middle ground between extremes. What leader wants to be average? We know “average” is for losers. No one says,

“We were so excited to learn that our daughter tested ‘average’ in math! Next stop Engineering School!”

We love to think of ourselves as “above average” because average is boring and below average is downright despicable.


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Leveraging Your Past

Life Below Average Can Make You an Above Average Leader

My leadership and vision become crystal clear at the extremes. We learn how to really live and truly lead at the extremes, and often that means extreme failure or disappointment.

My life is a case study:

  • In my first major swim competition, my coach remarked I looked like I was taking a bath at a retirement home
  • I flunked organic chemistry in college, flushing my dreams for med school down the drain
  • I failed a blood pressure test for my application to the Naval Academy
  • In college English my first writing projects were awful (go figure)
  • Broke my foot just before senior year, losing all hopes to be a regular starter in college football
  • Lost 5 elections to a campus organization, taking second place each time
  • Was virtually fired from a dream job assisting the CEO of a top bank – I say virtually because I quit when I got wind the SVP was about to fire me
  • I failed at fund-raising for a new venture I was helping a team launch, and could not get the organization off the ground
  • Led a discussion group with 4 participants and, in just 6 weeks and with great skill, I was able to grow that fledgling little group to a whopping total attendance of … ONE!  Just me at meeting 6.
  • My first speaking engagement to a large group was a flop and I was raked over the coals by the organization’s top leader

Listen to the wisdom of Winston Churchill.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts….Success is going from failure to failure, without loss of enthusiasm.”

The Rest of the Story

During each of my decidedly “below average” experiences, I found something far above average was taking shape.

  • My swimming failure led me to football, where I excelled and guided a team to an undefeated season
  • Failing Chemistry kept me from doctoring and thrust me into business and ministry, both of which I have enjoyed
  • Failing a blood pressure exam –only time– changed my educational trajectory from military science toward the humanities
  • My writing disasters led me to seek coaching from an editor, and now I write professionally, and love it  (See how I be a much more better writer? Hah!)
  • Leaving my bank job was the nudge I needed to explore ministry, something I was starting to love but was afraid to investigate
  • In that small group I “grew” from 4 attendees to 1, I discovered the keys to what makes a group or team thrive, and have become an expert in the field
  • My public speaking debacle confirmed my passion for communication but humbled me; I needed coaching and hard work to excel at the craft
  • Initial failures at starting an organization gave me insights for later starting my own business with greater confidence and wisdom

I now realize that living “below average” was a launching pad, not a landing zone, for my leadership.

Leadership Lessons from Being “Below Average”

  1. It can make you work harder when you ought to
  2. Below average work experiences can make you move on when you need to
  3. Below average performance can open your mind to new ideas and catalyze emotional and spiritual growth you otherwise would miss
  4. Sometimes pounding the same nail creates a desire to change nails and leave the carpentry business
  5. Having below average performances does not mean you will become a below average leader; these can be the fuel for greater success
  6. Many below average leaders are just 5 minutes and 1 decision away from seizing an above average leadership opportunity, if they are willing to persevere

Failure is not always good, but it can be useful. This article; “Failing by Design” by Rita McGrath in HBR is very reassuring. A good leadership read.

So how about you? Make a list of your “below average” experiences; they might be the foundation blocks for living an above average life and becoming an extraordinary leader.

Where did failure motivate you? How did disappointment bring clarity to your future? When did you realize that a below average living was actually the seedbed for extraordinary achievement later in life? I would love to hear your story!


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Dr. Bill Donahue
Dr. Bill Donahue is President of LeaderSync Group, Inc

Bill is a professor at TIU and a Leadership Speaker and Consultant
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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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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
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