The 3-E’s of the Employee/Employer Relationship: Is your Organization Practicing all Three?

The 3-E’s, early, eminently, and equality, thus forming the fundamental principles of the employee/employer relationship.  Too many times only early is practiced, and the problems emanating result in reduced employee morale, purposeful negative actions, and disruption of the business by both customers and employees acting in a resentful manner.  In order to fully understand the power of combining the 3-E’s, we must first detail, define, and describe.

Early is often considered as akin to new, fresh, and initial; yet, the better application for this topic is in timeliness, punctuality, and promptness.  For example, when a problem occurs, the earlier it is addressed the faster and less damaging the problem becomes to the business as a whole.  Not taking precipitous action leaves the problem festering and infecting eventually leading to organizational cancer (Dandira, 2012), low employee morale, and managerial inertia slowing business processes and increasing the damage.  Hence, prompt, punctual, and timely action to address a situation early enough to affect positively the outcome remains the order of the day and the strongest power business leaders can take with the 3-E’s, but early action is not enough.

Eminent is often considered as akin to celebrity, paramount, and superior; yet a more preferred definition for this topic is often conspicuous and influential.  When an eminent action is taken, the action tends to supersede current policies, procedures, and overlaps or drowns normal work.  Overlaps and superseding are dangerous actions leading to increased costs, lost work, customer complaints, and a general lack of trust in business leadership to properly prior plan and produce positive performances from the business structure.  These thoughts are fed with celebrity-like marketing on new policies, business leaders, and changes, which are not fully understood and appreciated by the employees most affected.  Hence, the need to be frequently engaged, seen being influential in the lives of employees, and known as a person who cares remains the key leadership quality developed by eminent action; yet eminent actions, even if conducted early, are insufficient to properly influence and meet the demands of business.

Equality is often considered as sameness, fairness, and uniformity; yet, all of these definitions fail to capture what equality truly is and the power of equality.  For this topic, consider the following:  equipoise, parity, and concurrence.  Employees are individuals. They might have similar job titles and responsibilities, but the individual approach to the position provides power and separates the individuals and does not collect, compress, and concentrate into carbon copies.  Hence, the same approach of uniform application is not meeting the needs of the employees nor is it meeting the definition of fair.  Thus, the employee needs equality that treats them as individuals concurring in practice, but are individual in approach, and brings parity into treatment as an expression of equipoise.  While early is good and early mixed with eminence is better, but without early, eminent, and equal combined into an action, the employee and the employer suffer in an environment of disaster fed by chaos, corruption, and cancer as detailed by Dandira (2012).

Consistency remains key to employee/manager relationships.  While the principles of 3-E’s are important, all the work of the 3-E’s can be wasted if consistency is not honored and observed by the employees.  Consistency requires flexibility, firmness, and fungibility to meet the demands of creating success in using the 3-E’s appropriately.  The main factor in employee/employer relationships continues to be the individual nature of each employee, not the requirement to make all employees the same carbon copy of another employee or an “ideal” of the desired employee.

Putting these principles into practice requires asking questions, such as “Are employee communications being expressed early, eminently, and equally?”  “Are actions taken by business leaders being perceived as meeting the 3-E’s?”  “Do the trend lines in application indicate consistency or inconsistency?”  While employee perceptions can and often remain hidden, except through properly capturing actionable data in key performance indicators, the answers to these questions and more are evident.  Look at the employees, who show up to work excited, enthused, and enthralled.  Ask them why they possess these qualities.  Then, ask those employees not possessing them and hone in on the differences.  Will employees change from day-to-day; probably, but the answers continue to be important indicators as to whether communication in the organization is occurring.

Sinek (2009) offers that asking why and truly listening to the answers being returned remains the most effective question and action series employers can take from day-to-day as the pulse of the organization.  Gitomer (1998) adds that leaders after asking “why” should ask “what” to empower change and drive motivation.  Consider for a moment, an employee is asked “why” they feel the way they feel, then “what” would that employee like to see changed to aid in feeling differently, and project the employee’s reaction to having been heard.  Project that employee’s reaction if they see the changes they offered implemented into business practice.

Are all employee suggestions implemented; no, this is not feasible and the employees know this when making suggestions.  Yet, when employee suggestions are implemented, this changes the employee dynamic for all employees.  Ask yourself, when was the last time an employee suggestion was implemented and marketed to the other employees?  If the time is longer than 6-months, the program is not consistently being implemented and there is a problem with using the 3-E’s.

Steenhuysen (2009) reported on research discussing the power of praise.  Where praise is offered genuinely, praise has the power to change, and the research supports that the power of genuine praise operates on the same reward sections of the brain as cash. Anecdotal evidence shows many employees appreciate genuine praise, sometimes more than cash.  As a business leader or employer, ask yourself, “When was the last time I caught someone doing good and offered praise?”  If the answer was not yesterday, there is a problem with the 3-E’s, and consistency will be needed to rectify this problem.  Are you setting the goal to not leave the office without offering genuine praise?  Remember, Steenhuysen (2009) is reporting that praise is its own reward.  The research and anecdotal evidence present praise as being as good as cash to the brain.  Hence, praise is its own reward; can objects be added to potentially increase the reward, yes.  But start with praise, honestly provided and employing the 3-E’s.

Case in point, I have worked with a VP of Customer Service Operations who carries with them yellow and purple post-it notes.  The purple are for catching people in the act of good.  From simple actions to amazing calls, they all get recognition on purple post-it notes as a very noticeable action the business leader can take to catch and praise the good.  The yellow post-it notes go to the team leader when training is needed.  Consistent action over the years has developed a spirit of competition to earn and be caught doing an act of good.  The yellow notes are not remembered at bonus time; more serious infractions have a set process to follow, and the less serious yellow post-it notes are simply a means of providing timely feedback employing the spirit of the 3-E’s.  Upon starting this program, almost a full year passed before the employees caught on and the word of this action spread.  Let consistent action be seen, not marketed, and let the word spread by enthused employees.

The best part of the program from an employee perspective is the highest earners of purple post-it notes eventually began earning additional non-cash rewards also presented in a quiet manner.  The rewards ranged from leaving an hour early with pay, longer lunches or breaks with pay, to movie tickets and dinner cards.  These extra steps were implemented when trends reflected some employees were taking extra efforts to be caught thus necessitating a need for other levels of reward to keep the interest of the employees in acting and performing to a higher level.  Never are these employees recognized openly, e.g., at a company meeting, marketed to other employees, e.g., in a company newsletter, and receiving the purple notes is not a competition.

These purple post-it notes are an expression of gratitude from a person in leadership to an employee working hard.  Quiet, consistent, application of the 3-E’s provided a failing business unit new life in employee interactions with each other and the external customers.  The actions taken here should not be rare or the exception in employee/employer relationships, but the standard and personalized to each business and business leader.  What can we learn here to apply to all business units and organizations?

  1. Whatever is done consistent action remains critical.
  2. Simple, quiet, and direct remain key to affecting positive results on a personal level. Be brave!  Be honest!  Be courageous!  Be seen acting as you would see all employees act.  These will provide an impetus for others to emulate actions taken and good will develop.
  3. Know the 3-E’s, whether you are currently an employee or a business leader of hundreds or thousands. The 3-E’s are a two-directional action possessing power for positive results.  Use this power to drive a solution that can be consistently applied.
  4. If what is being tried is not working, do not act abruptly. Quietly adjust until positive actions can be seen and verified through trend lines.  What is being done currently might simply need more time or more quiet publicity to be discussed by the employees.  Make small adjustments and act for the interest of individuals; the whole population will catch on.
  5. A word of caution. Never use this program for self-aggrandizement; this will kill the program faster than a bullet to the 10-ring.  Do not enter into this program and offer non-genuine praise or false and ambiguous words and canned phrases.  Be specific and capture the incidents exactly, ask questions if needed, but be genuine and specific.

 

References

Dandira, M. (2012). Dysfunctional leadership: Organizational cancer. Business Strategy Series, 13(4), 187-192. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17515631211246267

Gitomer, J. (1998). Customer satisfaction is worthless – Customer loyalty is priceless. Atlanta, GA: Bard Press.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Steenhuysen, J.  Praise as good as cash to brain: study. (2009, February 26). Reuters. Science. Accessed from: http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSN2343219520080424?feedType=RSS&feedName=scienceNews

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Assimilation: A Plea to All Immigrants and Americans!

America has recently opened its doors to large groups of people from countries around the globe, but especially from war-torn and ravaged lands.  Welcome, I am glad you are here!  The Mayor of London recently came to America and derided, denigrated, and demeaned America for asking immigrants to assimilate.  Yes, America will ask you to assimilate; yes, this request includes those legal and illegal immigrants and refugees; yes, assimilation is hard but worth it.

Assimilation is simply taking the best of your native culture, ideals, values, and beliefs, and adding them to the best America has to offer.  America is not a perfect country; we are asking for your help to improve our country by adding the best of your experiences to our best experiences and build America into a greater nation with greater opportunities for freedom.  Why does America ask you to assimilate, even though it is hard; the answer lies in the principles of unity, responsibility, and achieving the “American Dream.”

What is the “American Dream?”  Simply put, the “American Dream” is to realize freedom, all the benefits of freedom, shouldering all the responsibilities of freedom, and achieving these freedoms through work, education, and self-discovery.  A lesson many Americans need to be reminded of is that the “American Dream” has nothing to do with acquiring stuff.  The “American Dream” has nothing to do with spending money, although great freedoms are found in earning money and spending that money according to our own desires.  The “American Dream” has nothing to do with purchasing a home, even though owning property is a cherished freedom.  The “American Dream” is realizing freedom in all its glory and all of its reality.

The “American Dream” means failure, struggle, hard work, loss, gain, understanding value, and so much more.  The “American Dream” has tragedy and heartache, misery, and the ultimate joy of achievement.  Some of the hardest struggles in understanding the “American Dream” are found in sending loved ones marching to war and not seeing those same loved ones marching back home.  The “American Dream” is to understand and embrace freedom, to see the best and worst of humanity and realize that freedom is still the best form of government available, notwithstanding all the imperfections.  The “American Dream” means unifying around a single standard.

What is the single standard to rally around?  That single standard is the US Constitution and the American Flag.  Does rallying around this standard mean suddenly easy street, riches, and smooth sailing; absolutely not!  Rallying around this standard simply means unifying, dropping the labels, the hyphenations, the separations, and realizing that together we are better than we are separate.  Again, the “American Dream” is all about understanding freedom in all its glory, majesty, and terribleness.

The principles of unity are many, but also very few.  Unity is all about choice, choice is all about freedom, and freedom is all about shouldering the consequences of making choices to either become more unified or less unified.  Simple and complex, easy and difficult, unity is not a paradox; unity is a learned principle.  Consider the young child. Being a child is hard, learning the language, culture, basic standards of education, and growing.  The same is true for immigrants.  Many come here and are overwhelmed.  Like children, simply asking for help becomes a great challenge, and many times that challenge is because immigrants do not realize that help is available and simply requires asking.  Hence, the responsibility is on you, not everyone else; this means the consequences for asking or not asking are also on you; this is freedom.

The principles of unity are found in a common language.  America is the only country on earth where you can keep your language, and the national language, American English, can be a second or non-primary language.  Yet, the choice to learn American English has consequences, and those consequences come with a cost.  Learning American English is hard, requires work, and many times will not make sense until time and experience are added to learning.  Not learning American English is harder, restricts freedoms and the ability to enjoy all America has to offer, and forces you to forever remain outside America’s embrace.

The principles of unity include understanding, learning, and choosing to plot your own path.  No one is going to run your life for you.  Choosing to run your own life requires learning, understanding value, and shouldering the consequences of choices for good or ill.  In America, you can choose to be homeless, and this is perfectly acceptable.  You can choose to chase money; acquiring great riches is possible and completely acceptable in America.  Acquire those funds legally and America rewards greatly.  Acquire those funds illegally, and eventually, American justice will prevail, and those funds will be lost in a very public trial.  Again, we see unity combined with choices leading to coming together under the same standard and enjoying positive consequences or refusing to come together under the standard and enjoying negative consequences.

The principles of responsibility go hand in hand with the principles of unity.  In fact, many of the principles of unity overlap with the principles of responsibility.  For example, failure to rally under the standard of the US Constitution by breaking a law will reveal how quickly the consequence leads to being forced to shoulder the responsibility of failing to unify and how it affects you personally with the full weight and scorn of the American people.  Do illegal actions sometimes not get caught and punished; yes, but eventually society will know and act scornfully.  Justice gets served in myriad different ways.

Consider dishonest politicians.  Sometimes, dishonest politicians are not apprehended and exposed to the harsh reality of the American justice system, but they lose the respect of voters, lose their title, and remain outcasts and pariahs in American society through the media retelling their stories, through a loss of income, and through American society continually chastising them for their misdeeds.  American society can be very harsh for those choosing to not assimilate because the refusal to assimilate means a refusal to unify under a single standard, which requires everyone to do their part to make America better.

Making America better is not a job that can be shirked, forgotten, ignored, or refused.  America is all about working together.  Work requires sacrifice, learning, and properly using freedoms to achieve more freedoms.  Working together requires a common language; the common language signifies a common bond amongst those striving to achieve freedoms as a symbol of desiring more freedoms.  Please, take the best you have, add it to the best America offers, and assimilate into America.  Unify with us in a beautiful patchwork quilt of diversity and togetherness.

Diversity should never be sacrificed for unity, and unity must never be sacrificed for diversity and individuality.  It takes both diversity and unity to make America.  It requires sacrifice and responsibility to make America.  It requires a willing mind and open heart to achieve freedom and to understand more freedom is possible with assimilation than without assimilation.  The choice is yours; the consequences are yours; choose carefully.

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Confirm thy soul in self-control – Thy liberty in law!

From “America, the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates (1913) comes the principles of this post and its title. This phrase comes from the second verse of the song after requesting “God” to “mend thine every flaw.” While many will consider this either religious or political, the principles being discussed transcend labels and form the bedrock of good followership, which is simply being a good leader without the title and responsibility.

The principles of self-control are paramount to living in any society, but especially in the American Society consisting of a Constitutional Republic. For example, rules and laws exist in a society as they do throughout the universe because there is no right or wrong without them, and tumult, discord, terror, and chaos in the absence of rules and laws result. The principles of self-control will prevent those laws from ever needing to be enforced provided control of selfish desires are properly employed. According to Webster, self-control is all about controlling one’s own emotions and desires or the expression of those desires in one’s behavior.

Self-control is the foundation to freedom. There cannot be any society without self-control of the individual members and that requires a sense of morality. Lack of self-control forms barbaric societies where the biggest/strongest get their needs and appetites fed and everyone else can suffer. We see this style of thinking with President Bill Clinton and the long list of sexual appetites displayed, and President Obama through his long list of vacations, foods, and family trips, along with many other federal, state, and local politicians; lack of self-control leads to barbaric actions, feeds one’s own appetites to the detriment of all other societal members, and ultimately concludes with the frustration and destruction of society as a whole. Rome was a nation that tried to curb appetites using law not moral action, refusing to stress the need for individual self-control in all citizens as a paramount virtue, including its politicians, and fell gloriously. To avoid falling, America needs to remember self-control and the liberty created through proper self-control.

The concept of law being liberating is as foreign to many as saying, “War is kind,” a concept from the poet Stephen Crane. The concept of law as being liberating stems from the foundational principles of self-control and the lessons of Alexis de Tocqueville, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” John Adams said something very similar, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other;” thus, driving home the point that self-control is the first foundational building block of a moral society, the chief cornerstone, and the mortar upon which laws are cemented into the resulting society. If the mortar of self-control becomes cracked and splintered, the entire construction of society crumbles.

Consider ENRON and the debacle that occurred with this organization, which began with flaming success and crashed and burned into abject horror and misery. The business was originally built upon self-control, good leadership, and correct principles. Then, a new leader came into power who lacked self-control, refusing to follow established accounting principles, preferred to be a barbarian feeding individual appetites and lining his own pocket, and launched a meteoric rise in ENRON while also launching the demise and destruction of the same. When leaders lack self-control, followers will abandon self-control and follow the leader into destruction.

Self-control is difficult, but liberating. Self-control is a challenging taskmaster, and choosing to exercise self-control remains the chief lessons of childhood. Consider the story of the “Affluenza Teen;” because the parents did not teach self-control, self-restraint, and consequences for poor behavior, the child abandoned any sense of wrongdoing, and society now must take responsibility to teach the child how to behave. The “Affluenza Teen” learned that a lack of self-control is a good thing from the only teachers available, his parents. This is a replicating story in millions and millions of lives every single day in America currently. Lack of parental involvement advocating a lack of being held accountable and the only lesson learned being feed your appetite without restriction caused the “Affluenza Teen” less liberty, less freedom, and less ability to thrive. Appetites, desires, and passions must be controlled to enjoy liberty and freedom and discover other life enjoyments.

There remains a strong connection between self-control and liberty, so before God “may mend thine every flaw,” we must learn and teach self-control as the true path to freedom, as the only path to liberty, and as the main responsibility of societal members to other members in the same society. This means a return to morals and ethics as taught by religion; no, this does not advocate one religious belief system over another, as freedom of religion is a right. This means advocating for a return to religion from the wastes of “free love,” popularized in the 1960’s flower power generation, that has stripped America of much of her beauty. Those lacking self-control created multiple generations of Americans, who prefer to speak about “Rights” without shouldering any of the “Responsibilities.” Hence, self-control was the first victim of the 1960’s “Hippie Movement,” and self-control remains in the hospital on life support while society has crumbled, wilted, and died in the ensuing period of time.

In short, the chains of not possessing self-control are strong and choking the life out of American Society. We have lost liberty to government and bureaucrats of government. Those lacking self-control are honored and immortalized, e.g., “Kardashian’s,” “Clinton’s,” “Pelosi,” “Obama’s,” and so forth, while those with honor and integrity are scandalized and harangued, e.g., “Ronald Reagan,” “Benjamin Franklin,” “Robert E. Lee,” “Margaret Thatcher,” and so forth. Leaving politics and political affiliation out of the discussion, those with the most self-control enjoy the most liberty and those with the least self-control enjoy less liberty.

Some erroneously make the argument that they are freer for having less self-control except that the items being pointed to reflecting liberty are nothing more than selfish desires of the individual wanting the same appetite fulfillment. For example, according to tabloids and media, the “Kardashian’s” are symbols of sexual immorality and are filling this appetite. Sexual immorality is the epitome of enslavement and remains highly addictive. Sexual impropriety is life threatening. Sexual impropriety is an insatiable appetite, consuming everything good unless bridled, and controlled; but worst of all, sexual impropriety is mind altering leading from one perversion to another until the person is left an empty shell, damaged goods, unable to distinguish between right and wrong.

Where is liberty to be found? Control of appetites and passions has been handed down from the 1960’s as immoral, immaterial, old-fashioned, and out dated. Engaging in immoral, uncontrolled sexual permissiveness often leads to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood’s success rates are an indicator. How often does lack of sexual self-control lead to sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a special website just for STD’s. The symptoms of no sexual self-control are all around us. Media companies advertise alcohol and sex with no control or limitations as a good thing and warn in the same commercial break of rampant problems from the lifestyle lacking self-control.

There is no freedom without sacrifice, no self-control without making decisions, no liberty without moral convictions tried and tested in the fires of unpopularity. The freedom and liberty found in self-control are not boring or uneventful, simply different from those lacking self-control. Those lacking self-control might find pleasure in the moment, but how pleasurable are hangovers from too much alcohol? How happy is an unwanted pregnancy? How happy are those with STD’s whose lives are permanently changed, affected, or outright destroyed? Let us take the words of this beautiful piece of music to heart, “… confirm thy soul with self-control” and find “… liberty in law” then we can rely upon “… God to mend thine every flaw.”

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved

Organizational Diversity: Is Your Business Diversity Commitment Only Skin Deep?

I absolutely agree diversification of people improves organizations, communities, and society. I agree that including many minds makes a better professional and personal environment, organizations can become more flexible in thought and action, and ultimately better members in a society are trained and built. Increasing diversity, improving inclusion, and inspiring multiculturalism all wrap around the same three principles, trust, agency, and freedom. Inherent to agency is the ability to choose, the freedom to choose, and the responsibility for the consequences of the choice validated or judged by societies, even when choosing wrong according to one person or another. People must be able to choose wrong and suffer the consequences demanded by society without government insistence to build diversification programs that possess intrinsic value to a business.

Having seen organizations that pride themselves on being culturally diverse and skin-tone accepting, the management more often than not tend to be very exclusive of new thinking, new ideas, and loyal opposition. I have experience with several organizations that claim inclusion, and practice exclusion at every opportunity while preaching, marketing, and advertising their diversity. Thus, the question remains, “Is your business diversity commitment only skin deep?” An example of “skin-deep diversity” is on display when reading Bruno’s (2008) article on bias covering The Chicago Tribune. Labor unions pride themselves on marketing their inclusivity and diversity; The Chicago Tribune also prides itself on being multicultural, but both organizations represent the worst kind of exclusion while promoting in word a spirit of inclusion. This is witnessed and exemplified by Bruno (2008); the claims made towards The Chicago Tribune and many Labor Unions remains justified and applicable as learning opportunities.

The first question regarding deeper diversity a company should ask is, “Why the reliance upon legal requirements to force multiculturalism and diversity if diversity and multiculturalism are so good for the organization (Greenberg, 2004)?” People, all people, regardless of age despise being told what to do; but advocating the removal of laws specifically designed to force judicial and legislative fiat in diversifying an organization encourages rejection, scorn, and disparagement towards the advocate. The two sides of the same coin are the legal demand to diversify while being told it will make your organization stronger and a refusal to diversify beyond skin pigmentation and personal lifestyle choices. A sealed and closed mind is more damaging than an undiversified organization; surface level commitment to diversity embodies a sealed and closed mind.

Legal or governmental fiat of forcing people to work together is most detrimental to the morale, confidence, and disposition of the workforce; yet, governing bodies all insist upon using force to achieve that which logic and free markets can regulate but have not been tried. Nowhere, in any country, where free market principles attempted to change the hearts and minds of companies to embrace diversity. The power of judicial action and legislated demands forced diversity as “… yet another program to add to hiring agendas for businesses forced upon business decisions.” While I believe and support the power of organizational conflict as a means to improving engagement, I also realize that good organizations must be honest and forthright in addressing concerns and eliminating conflict among stakeholders, including employees. Like rampant undirected change, conflict, has the power to overpower and destroy because of a lack of self-control. The same is true for rampant diversification programs that scratch the surface, e.g., pay lip service to diversity but never actually diversify minds and thinking.

The second question a company seeking deeper diversity should ask is, “Why are governments and judges not good at diversifying businesses?” Boler (1968) provides wise counsel on the application of individual and personal agency and the power of agency in organizational design and leadership. When people choose to embrace diversification as a personal commitment, instead of being forced to embrace diversity required by a judge or legislator, the personal investment and individual interest increases the likelihood that the change in thinking will be more than surface deep. By being more than surface deep, a diversified workforce can then unleash the powerful effects of diversification as promoted by Greenberg (2004).

Agency alone is not enough; trust becomes the next greatest factor an organization can embrace (Stawiski, Deal, and Ruderman, 2010; & Tan and Liddle, 2011). Trusting first in the self to act ethically and for reasons beyond the individual desires and personal values, Bjorn (2011) provides guidance on building the moral courage as a foundation to trust by trusting in the persons dealt with on a regular basis to do their job to the best of their ability (Bjorn, 2011). To reciprocate trust within the organization, empower people to build relationships built upon trust and drive that trust relationship into time. Finally, trust the competition to compete fairly, including honorable action, to build a better future. Agency and trust go hand in hand in this endeavor, and through agency and trust, the freedom to act does not have to be litigated, legislated, or lost for the forced acceptance of obscure principles or to honor legislated diversity programs.

Freedom to choose embodies the accountability and responsibility to act, building upon the moral fiber of the individual to be seen and doing that which society claims is “right and proper.” People, all people, regardless of culture and country, want to be seen by their peers and fellow professionals as acting appropriately. The shift from barbarism to civilized society means force is not needed to ensure compliance, and the individual being left to act will naturally act in a manner that will be recognized by free market principles and rewarded. Hence, government fiat and judicial action were not only erroneous but continue to impede diversity programs. Unleashing the power of diversity releases the individual and the organization from acting out of fear and acting for honor and respect from society; through trust, the power of agency and freedom to choose determine a prevalent and cohesive workplace environment.

Taking the prescribed action does presume people are honest and free of prejudice or are willing to release themselves of fear and prejudice out of a desire to be seen as honorable. Although that is an ideal presumption, reality proves it can be problematic from top-down mandates in organizations. Assuming the ideal, the principle of hiring only those, who are qualified by education, experience, character, and ability to work with others at any level, settles the issue whatever diversity the applicant represents. It will automatically happen from top down. Respect shown for others should be included, however, and respect must be earned from top-down with leaders engaging in exemplifying the desire to diversify thinking through action, not simply words printed on a diversity mandate.

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved

References

Bjorn, K. (2011, March 03). Moral courage: Building ethical strength in the workplace. Character First: The Magazine, Retrieved from http://cfthemagazine.com/2011-03/moral-courage-building-ethical-strength-in-the-workplace/

Greenberg, J. (2004). Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges and Solutions. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/diversity/diversity-in-the-workplace-benefits-challenges-solutions.asp

Stawiski, S., Deal, J., & Ruderman, M. (2010, April 1). Building trust in the workplace: A key to retaining women. QuickView Leadership Series – Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

Tan, J., & Liddle, T. (2011, March 31). Board diversity the key to rebuilding trust and improving governance: Women Corporate Directors. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.kpmg.com/sg/en/pressroom/pages/pr20110331.aspx

 

Organizational Culture: A Leadership Opportunity and Responsibility

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been employed by both organizations mentioned. Both employment situations have ended, and I currently have no further business with either organization. I do continue to develop relationships inside these organizations and have great hope for both businesses to further succeed. It is hoped that the commentary here promotes and helps, as nothing said here should be taken as derogatory. The comments come from research of more than a decade in both organizations, long discussions with employees, vendors, stakeholders, and other customers of both organizations. If either organization would like to comment, their full and unedited commentary will be posted in following discussions.

Creating a culture follows a basic set of principles, namely the example of the leaders, including their words and actions, followed by repetition and the passage of time (Tribus, n.d.). Tribus (n.d.) specifically places the core and creation of organizational culture in the example of the leaders regardless of whether the leader is a leader or a manager by action and word. Hence, the example of the leaders and managers remains more potent to organizational culture than any other single item. As an example of this, Quicken Loans has “ISM’s” which the entire organization is expected to live creating the culture of the business. These Quicken Loans “ISM’s” are exemplified first by the leaders, supervisors, directors, managers, to front-line and new hires from the first interaction with Quicken Loans.

We need clarity here: a leader is never a manager and a manager never leads. While a leader might have duties similar in nature to a manager, the point of focus in the leader is to build others, while the manager’s focus will be to protect and defend their own patch of ego. A leader welcomes inputs, allows freedom, and generates followers. A manager throttles all organizational communication, refuses to accept responsibility or accountability, and destroys any who might be perceived as a threat. An overabundance and overreliance upon managers has been the major cause of problems in business for 40+ years. The dearth of leaders and leadership remains a core organizational cancer for many businesses, to the detriment of all societies, associations, and environments.

To create a culture specific to adaptability, several additional key components are required, namely, written instructions, freedom, and two-directional communication in the hierarchy (Aboelmaged, 2012; Bethencourt, 2012; Deci and Ryan, 2000; and Kuczmarski, 1996 & 2003). Again, the example of Quicken Loans “ISM’s” remains important and applicable. Quicken Loans has an “ISM’s” book available for free to any visitor and any office. This printed material forms a contract with the vendors, customers, visitors, etc., who desire a copy to judge the organization on each of the “ISM’s” printed. The same information is part of the Quicken Loans website. ISM’s remain subject to change to improve the entire organization. Ability to change is a key quality required for all organizations and cultures.

Alvesson and Willmott (2002) add another component to this discussion. As the organizational culture takes hold of an individual employee, the employee begins to embody the culture, for good or ill, in their daily interactions both personally and professionally. This hold develops into an identity adding another level of control from the organization over the employee binding them to the organization. The identity control becomes a two-edged sword, as the employee will form loyal opposition that can be misinterpreted to be intransigence, and the loss of that employee causes other employees to question their identity and the organizational culture. Or the opposite, the cultural hold is one that breeds desire to not only onboard the culture but personally invest in the organizational culture, and the employee experiences a positive feedback loop building trust in the organization.

Two examples, two separate cultures, two distinct differences in employee attitudes and behaviors are as follows. University of Phoenix has a problem with organizational culture being mentioned from the first day of training, such as employees discussing “how things used to be” and “desiring a return to previous cultures and leaders.” This attitude forms its own culture, creating distrust, and invalidating organizational change. Other attitudes and managerial expressions reinforce this negativity to the detriment of all employees, customers, vendors, and stakeholders. Regardless of the printed statements to the contrary, changes have not become embodied in the organization and the example is telling.

The second example is Quicken Loans. Talking with previous employees reveals a favorable rating of the organization. Talking with current employees on any level reveals a personal favorite “ISM” that speaks to them as a motivating influence for improving daily. The same holds true for decision-makers; many of the vendors and most of the longer-term customers all share a similar “ISM” experience. Example makes the difference!

Quicken Loans and University of Phoenix are creating a culture attuned to the kind of organization they desire, what the organizational leaders communicate, how leaders are seen exemplifying the organizational culture, and building that culture one employee at a time until that employee then begins to sponsor other employees into the organization’s culture. For good or ill, the same process of example propels the organization towards growth and development or trouble and market share loss. The organizational leader must set clear goals, define the vision, and obtain employee buy-in prior to enacting change, then exemplify that vision after the change (Deci and Ryan, 1980, 1985, & 2000). To change an organizational culture, this process must be followed.

Key to this process is Tribus’ (n.d.) [p. 3-4] “Learning Society” vs. “Knowing Society.” The distinction is crucial and the organizational culture must be learned and the process for continually learning honed and promoted to protect the culture from variables both internal and external. A “Learning Society” adapts, builds, grows, and is continually flexing in change akin to a finely crafted sword. A “Knowing Society” is overrun with bureaucracy and managers, fails to grow, cannot flex in change, and remains brittle under a polished exterior, which consequently stresses that exterior causing problems to erupt in a multitude of different areas taxing already tight resources and impacting future ability to adapt to change.

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved

References

Aboelmaged, M. (2012). Harvesting organizational knowledge and innovation practices: An empirical examination of their effects on operations strategy. Business Process Management Journal, 18(5), 712-734.

Alvesson M, & Willmott H. (2002, July) Identity regulation as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual. Journal Of Management Studies 39(5): 619-644. Available from: Business Source Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 27, 2014.

Bethencourt, L. A. (2012). Employee engagement and self-determination theory. (Order No. 3552273, Northern Illinois University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 121. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1294580434?accountid=458. (prod.academic_MSTAR_1294580434).

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1980). The empirical exploration of intrinsic motivational processes. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 13, pp. 39–80). New York: Academic Press.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227–268.

Kuczmarski, T. (1996). What is innovation? The art of welcoming risk. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 13(5), 7-11.

Kuczmarski, T. (2003). What is innovation? And why aren’t companies doing more of it? What Is Innovation? And Why Aren’t Companies Doing More of It?” 20(6), 536-541.

Tribus, M. (n.d.). Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools. Retrieved from: Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools Web site: http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/den/change_cult.pdf

Hopelessly Confused: “Peace Be Still.”

I was casting around for a topic to write about and came across regarding leadership and decision-making when two topics, combined into the same single strand, thought, came into focus. Addressing the question, “how does one change their mind?” From one of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum, author of “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten, Uh-Oh, and several other books” comes a thought, “Hopelessly Confused.” This was a sign a woman was holding in Mr. Fulghum’s neighborhood witnessed by the author several times over a period of days/weeks and discussed the book referenced.

The other topic comes from the final phrase in James Allen’s “As a Man Thinketh” (1903) treatise on the mind, how the mind matters, and philosophy of thinking. Mr. Allen discussed the “tempest-tossed souls,” “whose thoughts are controlled” by the winds and storms of life instead of the other way round where control of thinking improves the steadiness and serenity of the individual. The idea is that one’s thoughts influence outcomes and becomes reality.

For many months, I have had as a status on my student profile at the University of Phoenix, the following, “Thoughts become things. QED how we think determines success.” I taught a class where we discussed this exact topic. Thoughts leading to words, words becoming actions, actions producing a product, and that product in turn, generating more thinking, thus fulfilling the cycle and moving the soul further down a path, regardless of whether that path is valued as good.

James Allen adds another interesting aspect to this puzzle, “Serenity is the last lesson of culture; it is the flowering of life, the fruitage of the soul.” “Peace be still!” Bringing to point the idea, choices and thinking remain relevant to the one who would enjoy serenity. Peace is a choice; thoughts, properly controlled, are choices; developing that choice, protecting, harboring, and controlling the ability to choose drives the choice and the result is serenity.

If the thoughts driving action are based upon choice, then “hopelessly confused” was a choice. The woman holding the sign chose to be confused, and the endless running of that thought placed her in a position to become “hopeless.” Let us take a moment to explore these two words for a moment. “Hopeless” as defined by Webster includes the terms “inadequate; incompetent; feeling despair.” Confusion as defined by Webster, contains the following: “the state of being unclear in one’s mind, lacking understanding, and embodying uncertainty.” Hence, the reader is left with a state of mind regarding personal inadequacies or incompetence leading to despair.

Since confusion is a state of mind, correcting thinking on the individual’s part remains a concrete action to be personally undertaken to end the current state of mind and discover a new state of thinking and acting. Yet, what would be the impetus for beginning this process of mental change, choice. Some religions would call this agency or the individual’s personal ability to choose. Many choices remain transactional in nature; we as individuals see value in a different track or course of action, and from that desire for increased value comes the motivation to exercise agency and choose.

At this moment in the choice cycle, the individual does not know that value will come and improve the current situation. The individual has simply completed a mathematical formula and discovered potential for a higher value in a different course of action. The next step moves from inaction to action, from thinking to doing, taking the information gleaned and applying it in a fundamentally different way to realize the desired, but still elusive, potential. By taking action, the individual has shifted slightly and this shift, while ever so slight, over time has energy to achieve greatness.

A religious leader, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (2008), himself a pilot, described the change as “a matter of a few degrees.” Using an airplane analogy, the young pilot is only off a minor tenth of a degree, then corrects the course, then drifts ever so slightly to a new heading. Over time, the plane is now several hundred miles off course and the young pilot in serious trouble. The same can be said for the confused person, the slight change in position, over time, brings innumerable changes in thinking, understanding, and action into a life. While failure to change, drives the same individual further and further down the path of “hopelessly confused.”

Regarding highways, the degrees needed to change from one highway to another without a cloverleaf is generally 10-15 degrees. Starting small, tenths of a degree, time and distance become the variables of great change. Provided proper planning for the lane changes are made, the movement from one highway to another can be done quickly, easily, and safely, without undue wear and tear on the vehicle at highway speeds, which places the next step firmly into the thinking process, planning. Proper prior planning of thoughts takes understanding the variables, naming the problems, and plotting change.

Planning new thinking entails knowing what the end goal should look like. For example, if the starting point is “hopelessly confused” and serenity is desired, then serenity is the end goal or state of mind. This holds true for all desired end states; to plot and plan effectively, one must first know where to go. The second step in planning is knowing that which motivates the change. For example, what condition is driving a desired change in thinking; name the variables or individual desires feeding the change. Planning requires understanding these motivators on a level deeper than intimacy. Finally, the best plans remain flexible but fixed. While this might sound like a paradox, it is not.

Fixed but flexible speaks to the desired end state, not the journey to that end state. While the desired end goal remains serenity, understanding that the journey will involve and necessarily require setbacks, reroutes, and difficulties. The end desired goal thus remains fixed, and the journey to that end desire will fluctuate. This is the same thinking military commanders use when attempting to overcome obstacles. Fluidity in planning and flexibility in application provides for making mistakes, for opposition, and is a learned thinking trait that must be trained into operational thinking.

Finally, James Allen provides the concluding actions in changing mental states. “Self-control is strength; right thought is mastery [of self]; calmness is power [to break the mental chains which bind]. Say unto your heart, “Peace be still.” The mental change does not happen overnight, rarely occurs with the first attempt, and will always resemble the pattern of an hourglass, but like the hourglass, moving between areas is possible, requiring both effort and time. As the narrow neck that limits change becomes closer, understand this constriction, sometimes experienced as restriction of choice, and lack of growth is only temporary. Change is coming and with change comes freedom. This hope for additional freedom is required to maintain that effort to change. Agency starts the adventure of change, hope sustains the journey, motivation and desire feed the fires of hope, and the power generated by hope’s fuel propels the change. To thy heart, “Peace be still.”

 © 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

 

References

Allen, J. (1903). As a man thinketh. New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap.

Fulghum, R. (2007). What on earth have I done? Stories, observations, and affirmations. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Uchtdorf, D. F. (2008, April). A Matter of a Few Degrees. Retrieved June 20, 2016, from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/a-matter-of-a-few-degrees?lang=eng&_r=1

 

Leadership and Kipling: 7-Kipling Quotes to Consider

This following is a reflection on life lessons learned at the feet of a great writer, Rudyard Kipling. Below is the quote; then the life lesson. While not a post intended to be read alone or all at once, this message is designed for pondering, thinking about how these words impact your current life, how they echo deep in your mind, and relate to others the personal meaning. Consider this a weeklong journey of thinking and pondering, a mental exercise and imaginative journey.

 1.  Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. – Kipling

  • I first came across this quote during a difficult period where my choices and reliance upon words and phrases was creating the problems experienced. Long had the lessons of my youth regarding proper English, pronunciation, annunciation, and word choice been giving me problems socially, but I could not understand why. The words we choose become addictive. The experience of using those words to achieve provides a positive feedback loop sustaining word choice, and very carefully the mind closes, the heart congeals, and we begin to attract those just like us. Breaking the cycle requires choosing different words, expressions, and raising our consciousness to the power of expression. Make the choice to choose words more carefully and specifically, and then see where that choice takes you.

2.  We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse. – Kipling

  • I had a football coach in Altamont, UT who said something very similar. When I discovered this quote several years later, I remembered that coach. More importantly, the lessons of working, striving, achieving, and failure came to mind as well. Failure is to be expected, anticipated, and even appreciated. Not for the excuses, but for the lessons, failure can either be a teacher and builder or ultimate destroyer. The choice to build or destroy remains lodged in the one person who can choose; you. Choose wisely!

3.  For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. – Kipling

  • This could be the ultimate team quote, but I refuse to think of this quote that way. This is the ultimate society quote, as society must always remain cognizant of the power of the individual and the collective fit that individual has in society. As my injury and disability has grown year-over-year, the realization of this statement from Kipling drives ever more powerfully home. I have had the pleasure of working with some amazingly talented disabled people, who have been shunted to the side, abandoned, forgotten, but their power to impact lives was not diminished. I firmly belief our society or “wolf pack” is stronger for those struggling with disabilities. Embracing the philosophy that all can contribute empowers, supports, strengthens, and builds the wolf pack.

4.  Fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. – Kipling

  • The best leaders I have ever been privileged to know never inspire people to engage in long tasks, but short bursts of power. Consider the movie “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson. In this movie is a scene where he asks the militia forces under his command not to fight for the whole day or even fire three shots, but simply fire two shots, implying the need to stand and act just long enough. This is the essence of the action discussed by Kipling. Large events hinge upon small acts, small efforts that were made by people filling 60-seconds of life with full effort and purpose. Leaders must remember to only ask enough and no more; enough is most often simply filling 60-seconds of life full to the brim.

5.  Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade. – Kipling

  • Acknowledging the “Power of Work” and the “Law of the Harvest,” which are two powers that change the world one engaged person at a time. Hard work is the investment upon which harvest is born. How often does a person refuse to do the work and then cries about harvesting bitter and useless fields? We see this in a lot of different places, people engaged in sowing hate, envy, strife, and discontent, then complaining that their harvest of bitter crops is too great to bear and wants a new harvest of honey and milk. Leaders must exemplify the need for hard work and the patience required to harvest fields of good crops to their followers. In training, the answer to understanding work comes and delivers its own lessons to be appreciated.

6.  I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble. – Kipling

  • Do we understand the power and conviction of this choice? Choosing to believe the best in another requires preparation and a desire to have the best in us be trusted, believed, and seen. Leaders, who personify the quote as internal characteristics, form the backbone of change, the foundation of good society, and reflect the courage needed in difficult times to thrive and build. The time for choosing is today, the need for choosing apparent, and with this single choice, America will never be stronger.

7.  If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. – Kipling

  • The human condition is a condition of storytellers. Through stories, we teach, learn, and relate. The choice of words we use in telling the stories teaches values, ideals, and heritage in a most influential way, and most importantly our culture is relayed. Historical events are stories, Hollywood tells stories, books tell stories. Through these stories memories are kept, attraction to or detraction from the storyteller occurs, and language is preserved. James Allen reports in “As a Man Thinketh” (1903) about thought and purpose claiming, “Until thought is linked with purpose there is no intelligent accomplishment.” Continuing to further claim, “They who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pitying’s.” History provides the link between thought and purpose; stories of history are the mold the character of a person is poured into. Hence, both the need to learn history and the requirement to tell history as a story for others to learn requires serious consideration.

Why undertake a weeklong mental exercise, the answer lies in the words of James Allen:

“Mind is the master power that moulds and makes,
And man is mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: –
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking glass.”

Contained in these words is understanding, leadership in the current world requires both understanding thought and a commitment to preserving thought in those who follow. Consider and ponder upon these gems of intelligence. The power of these words from Kipling to guide, mentor, and build others cannot be understated. There is great need for leaders in America; leadership continues to be a choice. If we keep this in mind, the world would be a much better place!

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved

 

OPM and VA Data Hacks: Where is the Accountability?

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is a taxpayer-funded branch of the Federal Government. OPM is overseen by Congress, run by political appointees, and has maliciously and irresponsibly allowed 22 million Americans’ lives and identities to be stolen from them in a data breach. The Department of Veteran Affairs continues to suffer from data breaches and HIPPA violations for not securing data, and identities of veterans are stolen regularly, current numbers are unknown, as these numbers are not reported anymore. A good timeline of the OPM event summarizing this fiasco can be viewed here to fact check and remain current on the OPM disaster!

Last Friday, I received the dreaded and expected news; my personal data was involved in the OPM breach; no explanation, no clarifying information about what was stolen, e.g. SF-60 information and fingerprints, just personal name and social security number, etc. As I have completed multiple SF-60’s for the Federal Government, had my fingerprints and my cheek swab completed, and my direct family members and friends listed, I remain very concerned for my family and friends as well as myself. Yet, what do we hear from the media on this information breach; nothing! Three class action lawsuits were filed to protect government union members, current federal employees, and past federal employees caught in the OPM data breach. Since I do not fit any of these categories, I am not included. Still, what do we hear from Capitol Hill; nothing! Where is the blue ribbon investigating panels, special prosecutors, and inspector generals? When will the OPM political appointee be “perp walked” from her retirement and led to jail in handcuffs for her felonious and reprehensible actions?

The VA and OPM data breaches are criminal negligence at the most egregious. They possess the ability to allow China, America’s enemy in all but name, to spy, sell identities, and ruin America’s citizens. Multiple online sources have spelled out the OPM hack disaster and used terms like “Cyber War,” prelude to future “War,” and my personal favorite “Cyber Face-Plant.” With this type of regular hacking of US Federal and State Government data centers currently underway and knowing that future attacks are ongoing or imminent, how can we trust the government with protecting American privacy? The simple answer is: we cannot. Yet, we, the citizenry, are compelled to remain in the “data give-away game” through hiring practices, laws, rules, and regulations, and the government agencies are convoluted enough to escape any type of accountability and responsibility.

I monitor the news from multiple sources, and the American Main Stream Media (MSM) remains fixated upon an election in November 2016 while Americans are having their lives stolen right now. Where is the MSM? Where are the investigative journalists; are they still trying to discredit the makers of the Planned Parenthood videos? Do they think we care about some Hollywood actor/actress acting stupid while an American enemy is interdicting our livelihoods? Does the MSM think we enjoy seeing them running smoke and mirrors for a president who knew, and knows, about the data breaches and refuses to act? Where are the protectors of American interests, who were elected to keep America safe from, “…ALL ENEMIES, foreign and domestic” [emphasis mine]? Where is the Senate holding public hearings and recommending charges for the inept and licentious actions taken by political appointees charged with protecting the public trust? Keeping America safe includes protecting the data you, the government, insist and claim you must have and have created laws to force compliance for us citizenry to provide. OPM, Department of Veteran Affairs, you have failed America.

My identity was first stolen by government negligence, and was used feloniously, due to the VA lost computer incident. The loss from this incident was more than $1,000, which would have cost considerably more had I not been able to close my bank account in a less timely manner. The day after closing my account in AZ, I realized I was right about my ID being stolen. After 6 months of complaining, the thief arrived in a local WI branch and asked for a $500.00 check to be cashed. The thief had my Social Security number and full identification papers; the bank refused to cash the check, called me, and yet did nothing to stop the thief or reimburse my lost funds and the many overdrawn bank fees under discussion caused by this ID theft incident. Since this incident, I have received three additional letters from the VA alerting me that my ID had been stolen and could be used. VA data breaches remain an ongoing problem for the Department of Veteran Affairs to this day.

I wonder how one says “Inexcusable” in Chinese and Russian. I wonder when the OPM and VA data security teams will be held accountable for the tremendous costs they are incurring for American Citizens. I am past annoyed at being “… offer[ed] 3 years of credit monitoring” by the lowest bidder, by federal agencies that are still losing my data. The loss of identities by the Federal Government remains an ongoing disaster for every veteran, active and reserve service member, and future military members. The data breach at OPM has the potential to create espionage and blackmail problems for current, past, and future Federal Employees.

Ronald Reagan said in the 1980’s, “…Government IS the Problem [emphasis mine].” Since this was true in the 1980’s, how much more true are these words today? As Americans, we need answers, we need flexible and responsive government, and we desperately need accountability and responsibility to the Rule of Law. We must have the Rule of Law reestablished as the ultimate rule all people serve under including government employees at all levels of government from the school board and dogcatcher to the president and all the little special interest groups in-between. America, we deserve better from our elected officials and those they appoint. It is past time we, the American Citizenry, elected better, demanded accountability and responsiveness from our elected officials, and held these officials legally liable for breaching the public trust when they fail. If we hold those elected to a higher standard, they will hold those they appoint to a higher standard as a shield from public ridicule, legal culpability, and voter angst. Our elected officials need to stop prostituting themselves on the altar of political ease and do the job elected to perform.

© 2015 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

A Poor Customer Service Example: How NOT To Treat Your Customers

I experienced a wretched example of a series of poor customer service incidents from an organization I trusted, honored, respected, and invested time and money that will forever leave a scar from their betrayal, their false accusations, their belittlement, and their deception. This example is the ultimate prototype of poor customer service. I am not the only person to suffer at their hands.

Almost from the beginning of more than 10-year association as a customer with this organization and having worked with this organization in several different capacities in multiple states, I have had to fight for the most elementary customer service. Poor service representatives, leaders, directors, and managers evaded their responsibilities by refusing to answer questions, by not performing critical timely actions that were detrimental to accomplishing needful procedures, by not engaging in proactive communication, and by causing additional expense because of their negligence. Sometimes resolutions would be forthcoming, but most of the time the struggle was unending and their lack of responsibility and proper engagement have cost my family needless, excessive money.

The events occurring in June of this year (2015) began a personal exodus from this organization. My support team changed from one group of disinterested people to a new group of disinterested people. I use the word “disinterested” because I initiated all the contacts to these support personnel since I was not hearing from them and was not able to ascertain critical timely information they were to provide to me or perform necessary procedures only they could perform. Proactive customer communication is their only job. Their only job is building customer relations, supporting customers in long-term relationships, and building the brand with loyal customers. Their only mission is customer contact, proactive, engaged, value added, customer contact, and not performing their jobs is customer service suicide. Good customer service representatives find reasons to contact the customer and check-in, check up, and set expectations for the next contact. In our current day, email and Instant Messaging have added less time intrusive communication tools than the phone. Successful customer service employs the customer’s desired mode of communication so the customer may communicate on their preferred time and using their preferred method. When I did hear from my previous or current support teams, they disregarded my preferences and held me responsible for their errors. This is customer service suicide.

In July, the organization initiated a minor change to my account that forced massive revisions to my account. No proactive communication occurred; all reactive responses, similar to a “knee-jerk,” happened after I initiated communication asking for an explanation and assistance. From the middle to the end of July, these “knee-jerk” auto-responses of simple platitudes and organizationally mandated verbiage continued. I hoped a manager would see the mounting customer frustration, proactively audit the account, and passionately take-charge and communicate with the customer. This could have been an opportunity to stop the customer service suicide, rectify a situation, and begin building trust in the organization again. This did not happen and an opportunity was lost due to personal managerially driven choices.

In August, managers, finally, became involved beginning with praising team members for handling difficult clients like me. All my communications, professionally written, occurred in email fashion and are available for perusal. In addition, this month (September 2015), I initiated contacting directors, leaders who are vested in the health of the organization. Not once did they respond. The organization does have a group specializing in dispute management. When I contacted Dispute Management the first time, I deliberately discussed the possibility of finding solutions without pursuing an official charge. I simply wanted to resolve these core customer service issues. However, nothing resulted, no responses, no opening in the organizational communication chains, only silence; more customer service suicide.

In September, outside agencies contacted me soliciting for money still in dispute with the organization because of the events that occurred on my account in June and July. I called the office handling dispute management and was sent the proper email form to fill out. I listed in an email my concerns, which were ten individual points and problems that created the current issue. After eight successive email messages restating, re-explaining, and re-detailing my position, the end communication from the organization comes: “Thank you for contacting our department. We find you as the customer was not diligent enough in proactively communicating, and we will hold training for the issues discussed. Your situation is now concluded.” When did I receive the information and service requested? Where is the remuneration for the organization driven costs to third parties I now have to pay? Where is a sincere apology, followed with an action plan, to prevent this situation from happening again? Yet, the dispute team has concluded their investigation, found the customer was to blame, and have closed the case. Customer service suicide is not descriptive enough when an organization blames the customer for the problem, in writing, and acts with such impunity.

This entire story illustrates customer service suicide. Leadership driven suicide occurred from managerial loyalty to those who can secure their positions, rather than loyalty to securing a successful customer service resolution. Discontinuity suicide comes from having one customer facing department following one set of guidelines, processes, and procedures, whilst another customer facing department follows a different set of rules, guidelines, processes, and procedures, and a third customer facing department follows a completely different set of rules, processes, procedures, and guidelines.

From a plethora of organizational evidence, the organization knows they have these problems, is aware of potential solutions to these problems, provides lip service to fixing the problems, but has no plan, no leader, and no organizational will to change. Although the organization makes every other change imaginable, based on the current “flavor of the month” quick-fix antidote, the business is committing inertia suicide. From all evidence, without appropriate intervention, this organization will eventually implode. The time has come to end this relationship worth more than a $100,000 USD, a lost goal, a failed relationship, and an unfathomable amount of work hours that will never come to fruition. Our time together has come to an abrupt and pitiable end. I will not laugh as this organization slides into the wastes of infamy. I will weep for you because you pioneered something special and then betrayed your legacy, thwarted all attempts to change, and sacrificed yourself in such a contemptible manner. I would like to wish you well; in fact, I wish you nothing.

© 2015 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Shifting the Paradigms – A Fouled Anchor is your business with old processes.

In the US Navy, a fouled anchor chain symbolizes the rank of a Chief Petty Officer.  An anchor, including the attached chain, provides stability to the ship and is a useful tool when not holding the ship at anchorage.  A fouled anchor chain is usually deemed not repairable and is cut loose and replaced.  The anchor chain becomes fouled through ocean debris, twists in the chain, marine life, etc.  Inherent in every business is a “steady as she goes” mentality, a “don’t rock the boat” culture, compounded by an “if it works, don’t fix it” managerial belief.  These beliefs are the fouled anchor chain in your business and can be fixed for increased success and improvement.

If your business has not and is not doing an 18-month periodicity review of all business processes, a fouled anchor chain is dragging your business.  If you have a process review, does it automatically launch upon new technology adoption?  If not, a fouled anchor chain is dragging your business.  If your managers are comfortable with the status quo a fouled anchor chain is dragging your business.  If your front office is frustrated and disconnected from the back office, a fouled anchor chain is dragging your business.  Dare I go on?

The future is very hopeful and the anchor chain does not need to be abandoned and can be fixed with these five easy suggestions, following the KISS Principles (Keeping It Supremely Simple), to unfoul that anchor chain.

  1.  Before improving external customer focus, be sure your internal customers, e.g., employees, are enthused, communicating, and thinking.  This means the leadership team needs to listen.  Sit down with a new person for a few minutes each day, listen to what works and what doesn’t work, act, then follow-up.
  2.  Select a manager. Put that one manager in charge of one process, provide that manager with proper resources, and hold him or her accountable for that process.  Repeat until all your managers have a process assignment for which they are directly accountable and responsible.  Processes and work procedures cannot be generated in a vacuum nor can they be improved in a committee.
  3.  Internal customers, e.g., employees, are the main source for success or failure for your organization. Address the ‘FUN’ feature. FUN means allowing creativity in workspaces, flexibility in completing work, and promoting ingenuity.  I cannot tell you, nor would I dare try, what FUN means for your organization, but your internal customers can.  Remember to listen, ask, listen, act, listen, follow-up, and listen some more.
  4.  Accept change, promote change, but keep a thought in mind; change just to change is not effective.  This means very simply that change must have a purpose, which can be easily and efficiently communicated.  Change on the organizational scale should include everyone.  When only one business unit changes and the business leaders “hope” the change will “catch on” for the rest of the organization, a fouled anchor chain develops, and useless, mind-numbing, resource-sucking change initiatives that go nowhere fast occur!
  5.  Stop “servicing” customers! Earn their loyalty and trust. Cars are mechanical and therefore serviced; people are human and therefore respond.  Cars have interchangeable parts and anyone can “service” them.  People are not interchangeable, and if they are to be accommodated, the emotional connection must be made to win their loyalty and trust. Many authors have discussed this principle since mid-1990.  Internal customers are your first focus; external customers will be attainable only if internal customers are assisted to be proficient and effective in their jobs.

Often managers use linguistic gymnastics to avoid change that drains intellectual improvement from your organization.  That must be addressed and stopped. Managers are not leaders; leaders never manage but are innovative problem solvers; therefore managers must become leaders as referenced in (2) above or eliminated.  The bureaucracy of administration at every level can and should to be eliminated or transformed into working accountability, responsibility, and innovation, and your anchor chain will continue to be useful and your organization will be better.

© 2015 M. Dave Salisbury

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