Shifting the Paradigms: A Hybrid Leadership Theory Plan – Allowing One’s Self to Create a Leadership Theory Template

Man, as defined as a species, learns by doing; this principle of learning is best showcased by the poem “What man may learn, What man may do” penned by Robert Louis Stevenson.  First, we see, and then we do; if “Imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery,” as proclaimed, then leaders are neither born nor made; thus, leaders are formed through the flattery of perception and emulation (Martin, 2012) [Emphasis Mine].  For example, a new recruit in the military, any military, learns how to be a leader by following, perceiving, and copying those placed above them.  The same pattern is copied time and time again until the top of the leadership pile is obtained or until something drastic happens to the top rung, i.e., premature death, elections, and other influences. This theory of leadership evolution places the training of the leader squarely upon the individual aspiring to lead.  The aspiring leader must choose whom to emulate, and in choosing, form decisions about why he chose that leader over another of equal or greater rank to emulate.

Emulation as a leadership theory places personality, emotional intelligence, preferred organizational culture and environment, and every other aspect of the leadership environment into the hands of the person aspiring to lead as choices of preference, while also removing excuses and leaving the leader fully responsible, accountable, and liable for the consequences.  As a species, we not only mimic those we hold in esteem, we magnify them.  Thus, a learner emulates certain behaviors and increases those behaviors (Coloroso, 2008).  Just as a child is taught to hit by watching his parents beat each other and the child, the child will not only hit but also will not understand hitting is unacceptable and will increase violence past hitting to using weapons other than fists.  The third generation of being taught hitting is acceptable generally moves to murder and incarceration.  Upon emulation, magnification occurs, and patterns will continue until stopped.

More often than not, leadership through emulation theory is interconnected to spiritual leadership theory. Fry (2005) claims spiritual leadership theory “… was developed within an intrinsic motivation model that incorporates vision, hope/faith, and altruistic love, theories of workplace spirituality, and spiritual survival through calling and membership.”  While Fry (2005) continues to justify this position, leadership through emulation remains a great-uncharted unknown or only researched through the bias of religious lenses and discounted.  Yet, the great truth remains; humans learn through seeing and doing, and thus, leadership occurs through emulation and agency.

Religion is merely a set of beliefs and practices people adhere to voluntarily.  The term spiritual discusses closely related character interests, attitudes, and outlooks.  While not devoid of religion, spiritual leadership theory does not entirely apply to the reality of life with enough applicable strength to overcome individual zealots or the anti-religious zealotry found in many organizations.  Many people do not realize that allowing religious freedom means accepting the term religion without feeling encumbered to onboard a religious theory.  Fry (2003) expounds upon the spiritual leadership theory, and while this theory includes many aspects of corporate responsibility personally held dear, the reliance upon religion can be a hindrance for those followers who might choose to lead but remain anti-religious.  Wren (1995) discusses leadership theories but focuses too much on a few while denigrating those not mentioned.  By relying too heavily upon charismatic, transactional, and transformational leadership, Wren (1995) loses the forest grandeur by focusing on seeds, not that this diminishes seeds, but there is so much more to see and experience.  The following leadership plan relies heavily upon what works and includes pieces of spiritual leadership for the active moral and ethical code, emulation leadership theory, and flexible thinking in organizational structure design.  The result is a highly trained, experienced, effective leader, capable of creating success in many different industries, environments, and situations.

All successful leaders like Presidents Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, among others emulate moral fortitude and character as well as personal integrity to leadership principles and existence in productive work efforts.  These leaders stood firm for core beliefs including truth, justice, mercy in the face of war, and built followers, who could then lead in difficult times and lead well.  The primary chain linking all these leaders remains a single item: when faced with a decision, they acted with no hesitation, no spinelessness, and no hypocrisy.  By choosing whom to emulate, in emulation leadership theory, the best can be onboared, magnified, and broadcast back into the organization forming a bulwark anchoring other people aspiring to become leaders.  Brady (2005) discusses levels of influence in launching a leadership revolution.  Part of the first level requires the aspiring leader to know the environment, history, basics of the organizational culture, and much more.  The main point in the plan is to emulate the best, choose new principles to include, discover new ideas that work, and employ this knowledge in direct personalized solution.  Due to the high amount of emotional intelligence inherent in the current employer organization, transactional and charismatic leadership are of limited functionality.  Transformational leadership theory has more application but does not include many elements needed to enforce the plan or to achieve success.  Leadership requires follow-on levels of influence that include preparation, desire, understanding the role of learning and adversaries, loving people, and developing people, who will choose to develop others.  Of particular importance is the principle of loyal opposition, also known as a courageous follower.  Building upon Chaleff’s (1995) discussion about the “Courageous follower” becoming a courageous leader, who can influence change, lead-in difficulty, and conquer, it remains imperative for followers to become those they emulate or the entire period of training is not valued by followers (Yukl, 2006, p. 134-139).

Personal strengths include a vast repertoire of benchmarks, successes and failures, working knowledge of psychology, depth as being a follower in stressful situations, and the drive of a bloodhound to find and fix.  Skills and talents under constant construction include communication, manners, modesty, and developing interpersonal skills between peers and current leaders without causing insult.  Personal weaknesses include a distrust of followers leading to problems with the delegation of authority, a reluctance to allow failure in followers, and an own abhorrence to perform tasks a second time after a failure.

The leader currently in existence needs experience to improve as described by Brady (2005), Jossey-Bass (2003), and others.  The leader imagined and envisioned for the future needs seasoning to become a reality; thus, allow yourself or your followers time to build into the leadership plan outlined.  The gaps are minor, and the weaknesses cannot improve without more experience in handling complicated situations.  In vague terms, the timeline might look something like this.  Within the next year, advancement would be from customer care professional in fraud to a curriculum designer or teacher/trainer/coach of adults for the current employer.  Within the next three years, or by the conclusion of an academic degree program, advancement would be from designer/coach/trainer into leading other coaches/designers. Within the next eight years, progress would be to a service delivery leader guiding leaders of other coaches/designers/trainers and eventually be advanced to a director of corporate training or vice president of training delivery and human resources.  Keeping this euphemistic plan on track requires sticking with a single employer, building a solid personal brand based upon successes, leveraging educational degrees while maximizing the previous experience and new experiences into solutions for the employer.

Recognizing that attitude, failures, and other people acting as variables on this plan requires communicating intent, working with people to convince them that end goals are attainable and the change needed to realize the end result.  Until this plan launches, it remains imperative to exemplify Chaleff’s (1995) descriptions of a “Courageous follower.”  This type of follower can emulate those in leadership positions while supporting the good and learning from current leadership mistakes.  In a seamless transition, the “courageous follower” employs emulation theories of leadership and gains the advantage while building the needed personal brand and accomplishments and preparing for future leadership (Yukl, 2006, p. 134-139).

Avolio (2008), Brady (2005). Paine (1995), and Wren (1995) among others, discuss another aspect of being a good follower and future leader, liberty.  America throughout history has provided excellent examples of what occurs when free people band into a society dedicated to liberty, freedom, and individuals empowered to choose their destiny.  Being a courageous follower requires freedom of choice, and all future leaders, regardless of theories espoused, need to remember the power of freedom when leading.  While some leadership writers discuss empowerment as a panacea term for everything from agency to low-level decision making, empowerment merely is freedom by a different name.  Free followers are naturally empowered to choose, and with training, proper guidance, and organizational support choose with confidence.  This is known as agency or the power to choose with responsibility and accountability for the consequences.  Honing this power to choose wisely, while protecting the opportunity to succeed and fail, promotes a level of trust and commitment to current leaders that improve morale, lifts people, and builds robust organizations.

While less than bare bones in many aspects, the leadership plan described remains flexible enough for significant changes in future prospects while being detailed enough to fit into the current lifestyle of potential interested leaders.  Experience has taught that detailed plans tend to force a locked down mentality in thinking, creating a box that hinders, hampers, and delays.  While some details must be included, a delicate balance is preferred when dealing with the vicissitudes of life.  Staying on track with this plan requires courage, fortitude, and emulation of the best and brightest to become a reality.

References

Avolio, B. J., & Yammarino, F. J. (2008). Transformational and charismatic leadership: The road ahead. Vol 2. Bingley, United Kingdom: JAI Press – Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Brady, C., & Woodward, O. (2005). Launching a leadership revolution: Mastering the five levels of influence. New York, NY: Business Plus – Hachette Book Group.

Coloroso, B. (2008). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander. (Living ed.) New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Fry, L. W. (2005). Positive psychology in business ethics and corporate responsibility. (pp. 47-83). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.iispiritualleadership.com/resources/publications.php

Jossey-Bass, R. (2003). Business leadership: A jossey-bass reader. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Martin, G. (2012). The phrase finder: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Retrieved from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery.html

Stevenson, R. L. (n.d.). What man may learn, what man may do. Retrieved from http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/stevenson/what_man_may_learn.html

Wren, J. T. (1995). The leader’s companion: Insights on leadership through the ages. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in Organizations. 6th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

© 2018 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

The Johari Window: A Tool of Incredible Proportion – Understanding a Key Psychology Tool in Call Center Relations

The Interest GridTo understand a principle takes time; to apply that principle involves experience; but to indeed change a person, the principle must be absorbed into the very fiber or essence of an individual, reaching comprehension through mental, physical, and spiritual understanding, some might even say the soul of the individual.  Freedom is one such principle; the tool for remaining free is the ability to choose, or agency.  When applied to organizations, the same path to success must be tread, but with many individuals onboarding the principles is a challenge.  Many people believing the same way is often described as a culture (Greenwald, 2008, p 192-195), or society, and when belief turns into dedicated and repetitive action, a paradigm is created (Kuhn, 1996), also called business processes and procedures.

Agency theory is a tool for understanding how organizational cultures become cultures.  Individuals apply agency, and when many make the same choices, the creation of an organizational culture occurs.  Emirbayer & Mische (1998) expand the term agency that gives reason why Tosi (2009) and Ekanayake (2004) both classify agency theory as an “economic theory” and how agency theory “… shapes social action [p 963].”  If Emirbayer and Mische (1998) are correct, placing more emphasis upon individual agency opens doors into re-shaping controls, control mechanisms, and affects the entire organization.  The power of agency to change people, organizations, and societies is immense.  Recognizing that people will always exercise agency, guiding that agency exercise is not so much a discussion of control, but of harnessing energy and momentum to develop individuals into a cohesive whole.

Johari WindowThe Johari Window is a tool for quickly assessing a situation before making a choice.  Consider the job of a call center agent; they must be technically savvy, adept at handling multiple tasks while engaging in productive conversation, and must be able to keep a caller enthusiastically engaged in reaching a solution quickly so that the agent ay meet business set metrics and production goals.  The Johari Window is suggested as a desktop guide in promoting self-knowledge in the call center agent to improve performance.  Having personally employed the Johari Window as part of logical thinking, I explicitly recommend, that before handing an agent this tool, training must be accomplished to help allow for clearer thinking that often leads to more speedy action.  The first Johari Window represented links to a .pdf that contains additional specific information for improving training in the Johari Window principles.

Open Area

Of all the locations in the window, the open area position is where the majority of people want to stay; wherein everybody and everything knows and is known. The unknown is frightening, and change in this location comes the slowest, if at all.  Each call center agent wants to, and needs to, feel confident in what is known and where they go when they do not know; hence, training as a continual process remains the catchword in this location, even though it might not be well received.

While the location is desirable, rarely will customers call in because they already know something.  Agents in a call center should leave new hire and continual employment training and start every working day from this location where they are known and know.  The open area could also be referred to as the preparation location.

Hidden Area

The hidden area is where business in a call center will occur most effectively.  The customer knows what they want, and the call center agent knows how to deliver what is wanted and through reflective communication mutual understanding is achieved to make the hidden area become known.  Imperative to understanding in this area is the power of choice, agency, to choose to reveal only pieces of what is wanted.  If the customer chooses not to disclose what is wanted, it is not poor service when the customer’s wants are not fulfilled. This point is especially important in understanding the voice of the customer (VOC) survey results and quality call review.  The only time the agent is in the wrong, in this location, is when the agent cannot choose and thereby communicates less effectively to the customer, delivering a poor performance in need of remediation.  Both the agent and the customer have something hidden and something known.  The importance of clear communication remains pre-eminent in this location.

For instance, two top call center agents were continally competing with each other for first place evaluation. The agent who routinely came in second asked why. The answer to improving performance is found in the hidden area, opportunities that guided the agent to drop AHT/ACW and increase VOC into productive communication towards a solution.  There is power in the hidden area to capture and employ. Train agents to be alert for hidden areas to gain improved performance, not through active listening, but through reflective listening where mutual understanding between the customer and the agent is reached.

Blind Area

Of all the locations in the Johari Window, the blind area is the most dangerous for call center agents.  When the customer has information the agent does not know, the result is lost resources, productivity, and customers.  Of course, the reverse is also true.  When the agent has information about the customer and does not voluntarily devolve the information, the customer is surprised upon becoming aware and is lost because of this blind area.  Then organizational reputation damage is complete.

For example, I was working in a credit card call center and regularly saw agents not bother to bring up account issues to save AHT/VOC and other metrics.  Hence, the customer upon learning of the negative actions would call back because opportunity in the blind area was sacrificed for potential short-term gains.  Operating blind means the agent and the customer are in danger.

Unknown Area

Chinese CrisisOf all the locations in the Johari Window, the unknown area possesses the most opportunity for delivering upon a service commitment.  Consider the Chinese character for a crisis that includes danger and opportunity as equals.  The unknown always combines danger and opportunity.  Danger is risk, risk of losing a customer, risk of saying the wrong thing and insulting, etc.  Opportunity lies in making the unknown known.  In the Johari Window, when the unknown becomes known, the unknown quadrant shrinks and the known quadrant grows.  The unknown quadrant could be considered the crisis quadrant.  Good skills in mastering the unknown to thwart a crisis, eliminate danger, and win the opportunity to create a powerful customer interaction.  The unknown area is where confidence in training overlaps with the customer’s crisis to maximize opportunities for service excellence.  If there is a single shred of doubt communicated to the customer in crisis, the opportunity is lost forever because the danger was not ameliorated. The unknown has many hidden dangers to be wary, but fear is not one of them because of excellence in training.

Working as an agent in customer retention was very lucrative.  When we could probe, dig, and investigate, generally we could save a customer and generate new business.  While the company spoke about, preached around, and dictated the use of active listening, the retention department was using reflective listening to glean details and save customers through reaching mutual understanding. In the unknown area, both parties struggle with not knowing and being unknown. Therein lies the opportunity for increasing business by becoming known and learning knowledge that is not currently possessed.

While the current Johari Window reflects proportional space for each location, reality rarely allows for such clarity.  Many times, an agent’s Johari Window will look like any one of the following, none of the following, or a mixture of all:

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The key for call center leaders is to train the call center representatives to first understand themselves and then to visualize who they are in the Johari Window in each call.  The more familiar the agent is with data gleaned from knowing themselves and the business, the more power each agent will have to handle the calls more effectively and efficiently.  In teaching the Johari Window, one of the many lessons I have learned is that people do not understand and second guess their limitations.  If a person has, or considers having, a small blind area, do they know their equally important unknown or open areas.  More than likely the answer is no; why, because of the need to invest time and other resources into improving themselves and their approach to others.

When discussing the agents understanding themselves, the call center trainer, first line supervisor, and managers will employ the eleven principles of change as discussed by Luft.  The agent will need to understand the energy lost in hiding, deceiving themselves, and the problems this causes them.  Cause and effect play a significant role in visually attuning the Johari Window to daily work activities.  The call center trainer, first line supervisors, and managers will need to be able to answer clearly and effectively “why” based questions about processes and procedures, while exemplifying the Johari Window principles.  Luft’s Point No. 5point number five is critical in this process, “Interpersonal learning means a change [is taking] place so that Quadrant 1 is larger, and one or more of the other quadrants has grown smaller.”  Do we understand what this means; as leaders, we exemplify making Quadrant 1 (Open Area) larger by learning.  Leaders are teachers, teachers are leaders, but both teachers and leaders must remain loyal to learning.

Consider Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter.  Gilderoy Lockhart considered himself highly capable, gifted, and talented, but reality proved his ineffectiveness and limitations.  His example opens a second issue when using the Johari Window tool in a call center:  personal perception versus reality.  Gilderoy Lockhart would see his Johari Window as thus:

Johari Window - GL 1

Reality would suggest the following might be truer:

Johari Window - GL 2

The disparity between a person’s perceived understanding and reality causes significant problems in interactions in all types of societies.  In the call center, the agent will interact with various kinds of personalities; hence, the need to train agents in this tool and to understand themselves, including their likes, dislikes, triggers, emotional hooks, and talents brought to each call.  For the best opportunities for your agents to interact successfully, training them in understanding themselves is just as important as training the agent in organizational policies, business products, services, and sales techniques.

Ongoing, regular training remains a key component to highly effective call centers and capable workforces.  Without refresher training, regular training for new products, and annual training, the capable employee gets into a rut, the rut becomes a paradigm, and the employee becomes lost to attrition and slower productivity; but most especially, lost customer interactions hamper all levels of business performance.  One employee working slow can ruin a business, and the first indicator something is wrong is the higher cost of doing business.  Win the employee through training and then treat them respectfully to reduce operational costs and increase sales through training.

In conclusion, never stop asking why, encourage learning, and never fear using the answer, “At this time, I do not know, but I will find out and report back.”  When the discovery loop is closed with the individual, everyone learns, Quadrant 1 grows, and other quadrants reduce perceptibly.  Proving once again the veracity of the axiom, “Train people well enough to leave; treat people well enough to stay; and grow together as an act of personal commitment to the team.”

References

Ekanayake, S. (2004). Agency theory, national culture, and management control systems. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 4(1), 49-54. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/222857814?accountid=35812

Emirbayer, M., & Mische, A. (1998). What is agency? The American Journal of Sociology, 103(4), 962-1023. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2782934

Greenwald, H. P. (2008). Organizations: Management without control. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. (Third ed., Vol. VIII). Chicago, ILL: The University of Chicago Press.

Tosi, H. L. (2009), Theories of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein, obtained from the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Shifting the Employment Paradigm: Stigmas and Leadership

The traditional employee/employer relationship excludes more than it includes. One of the reasons for exclusion lies in risk avoidance of populations of workers. These avoided populations include the disabled, those with mental health diagnoses, and veterans, to name a few. While laws have worked to diversify the workforce, a lack of understanding of value and understanding of personal stigmas continues to perpetuate even though the actions taken remain at best unethical and at worst illegal.

Consider a recent example: a disabled veteran was hired and provided an ADA work accommodation. The lack of understanding of the ADA law, coupled with the personal stigmas of the mid-level managers and the director, constantly jeopardized the veteran’s employment. The veteran’s director claimed, “Since you have received an accommodation, you do not need another accommodation, ever.” Then the director, refusing to become ADA compliant, proceeded to pressure the veteran to terminate employment. The legal technicalities were satisfied since there had already been an accommodation. The written ADA guidelines reflect that ADA compliance is an ongoing and adaptive process as the needs of the employee changes from the disability suffered. Hence, the personal stigmas of the director, coupled with a lack of understanding, closed out a potentially lucrative employee/employer relationship. Although the director’s actions are technically legal, they are certainly unethical and problematic for the veteran and the veteran’s family, along with setting a negative tone for current and future employee relationships and the business’ culture and reputation.

Corrigan (2007) wrote an exciting article on stigma, what stigma does, and the impact of stigma on society. Employees in a particular business organization form a society where the impact of a single stigma, especially from a leader, produces dramatic negative results creating a biased culture and a hostile work environment. Corrigan (2007) cited other professionals in discussing the problems of stigmas, and the results track national research studies that lead to the conclusion that beliefs produce stigmas, stigmas produce opportunities of change, and the smart business leader will use the power of change to effectively manage personal stigmas while combatting stigma breeding grounds in closed-minded individuals.

Actions indicated for overcoming the stigma problem includes opening new opportunities for classes of people through knowledge vending opportunities, not traditional employee/employer employment. Consider the veteran mentioned above. The veteran has value, has needs, and has a disability. If the risk for continued employment reflects too much risk, why not shift the pattern of thinking, or paradigm, and consider options.

  1. Knowledge vending places the impetus upon the vendor to produce results. Dictation of contractual relationship relates to both accommodation and dictation of productivity while leaving freedom to accommodate in the hands of the vendor.
  2. Knowledge vending places the costs for accommodations upon the vendor, not the employer, and removes both an excuse for not hiring and the inherent risks of workstation adaptability costs from the employment paradigm.
  3. Knowledge vending promotes the person to a position of action outside the normal hierarchy, and the outside/inside influence spurs innovative and entrepreneurial thinking throughout all the remaining employees.
  4. Knowledge vending removes the risk for continuing employment, thus spurring opportunities for the vendor to manage and grow alongside the business organization.

Leading to the question, “Why do American business leaders remain reluctant to employ a vendor relationship model for day-to-day services instead of employment in the traditional employee/employer model?” America lags the rest of the industrialized world in offering variety to the traditional employer/employee model. Entire classifications of people are untapped due to the internal stigmas of the intermediate business leaders, mid-level managers, and hiring decision-makers. Risk avoidance is crippling the disabled and veteran communities like no other plague (Haipeter, 2011; Husted, 2002; and Stone, 2012).

Suggested actions to reverse this trend include:

  1. Open the possibility to current ADA qualified staff members to become a knowledge vendor contracted to your branded organization. Contact your best workers. Offer the opportunity to them to become a knowledge vendor contracted for services to your branded organization. This promotes the entrepreneurial spirit in long-term employees that can change the morale, thinking, and more importantly, the attitude of those with genetic organizational knowledge.
  2. Train interested staff members in operating his or her own business or engage a third-party trainer to aid in the transition. In fact, many in the ADA community already have the resources to obtain training to become their own small business. Advise and support in the transition only if the person is open to transitioning. Do not force adapting to vendor knowledge worker as this creates more detrimental problems for the all parties involved.
  3. Change the organizational structure from one of direct reports to one of sharing information. Think horizontal linear instead of vertical linear organizational charts.
  4. Your vendors, especially the current vendors, have a unique perspective on your organization. Tap the vendors regularly as a valuable resource and use the information gleaned to empower organizational change.
  5. Promote leadership and internal customer service over all other business standards and “flavor-of-the-month” quick-fix ideas. Using knowledge vendors taps into additional potential in all employees, and knowledge vendors’ innovating ideas on processes, procedures, and the daily “how” of work is valuable to the business overall. Be willing to change the organization to meet the demands of vendors and you will be surprised at the results.

As education, experience, and genetic knowledge harbored by older, disabled, or veteran employees increases, so too does the pressure to find and use an alternative solution to tap into these resources. Knowledge vendors as independent contractors remain a viable and cost effective solution to current problems and future needs. Innovative thinking on meeting needs generates opportunities, and the leader, who will succeed in the current business environment, will consider knowledge workers an asset to the current problems thus positioning the business for future growth.

References

Corrigan, P. W. (2007). How clinical diagnosis might exacerbate the stigma of mental illness. Social Work, 52(1), 31-9. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215269747?accountid=458

Haipeter, T. (2011). ‘Unbound’ employers’ associations and derogations: Erosion and renewal of collective bargaining in the German metalworking industry. Industrial Relations Journal, 42(2), 174-194. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2338.2011.00615.x

Husted, K., & Michailova, S. (2002). Diagnosing and Fighting Knowledge-Sharing Hostility. Organizational Dynamics, 31(1), 60-73.

Stone, K. (2012). The Decline in the Standard Employment Contract: Evidence from Ten Advanced Industrial Countries. UCLA: The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Retrieved from: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/1wj7c2tb

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

 

Leadership: Winning the External Customer Through Improving Internal Customer Development

Internal-CS-Attitude-Low-ResThe following situation drives home the need for every employee to become more cognizant of the power of internal customer service. A nurse approached an internal business unit officer. The internal business unit officer provided access so the nurse is more able to do his/her job effectively, timely, and serve external customers efficiently in the performance of nursing duties. The internal business unit’s sole customer base is the internal customer, especially other nurses and medical staff members. The nurse received half of the access he/she needed to perform his/her functions and told the simple process needed to finish granting access must wait for some amorphous time in the future. Finally, the nurse received instruction to chase down business unit representatives, who will ultimately visit the work environment to complete the process; the final action from the business unit to complete granting access, while simple, was not going to occur at that moment in time, the nurse’s sixth visit for access.

This is a perfect storm of internal customer service affecting external customers and potentially could be life threatening for the external customer, all because the business unit officer’s convenience was more important than internal customer service. Granting access occurs often enough that specific processes and procedures should be in place to make the granting of access smooth and efficient. The nurse had made five previous visits to this business unit before finally obtaining half of the access needed. The example provided proves both a lackadaisical attitude to internal customers and an organizational culture of failing external customers.

Here is another recent example displaying internal customer service destroying external customer relations. To obtain a credit for a customer deserving a credit, a front-line employee approached a supervisor for authorization. The front-line supervisor reviewed the problem, granted the needed approval, and both completed the business-mandated process to officially request the credit issued to the external customer. The granting authority, whose position is to support internal customers as a backroom office aiding internal customers, refused the request, multiple times, across several months. Higher and higher, the request for the credit moved through the organization’s monolithic leadership structure to no avail. The leaders could see the needed credit, see how the organization was at fault, and agreed to the credit approval. However, forcing action from the back-office support team to act was “too politically expensive,” which resulted in the company changing the official position so that the customer was at fault. The credit was ultimately denied since the external customer failed to follow the company’s rules.

At each stage of the request, to obtain relief for the customer throughout the lengthy process, the front-line employee informed the customer the service being provided was an outreach for customer satisfaction. With the final request for reprieve denied, who is to shoulder the customer anger, frustration, and hurt feelings; not the back office causing the problem, but the front-line customer support representative. The final nail in this horrible customer service example was the back office person refusing the request did so because he/she personally did not like the manager making the request and made this known to the business leaders approaching the back office for assistance. In fact, every time this back office representative could make life hard for that manager, he/she actively choose to impede, distract, deny, and hamper external customer service, through internal politicking. The manager, blamed for not being “polite enough” to the needs of the back office personnel, received a reprimand from the business leaders for causing hurt feelings. The internal investigation proved the manager and the back-office personnel never met, had never interacted outside of the business process requesting service, and the back office personnel simply expressed an opinion of dislike for this single manager.

It is time and past time for internal functionaries to realize this truth: if all your customers are internal, without the external customer, the first job cut or lost is yours. Without external customers, business fails. The daily actions supporting internal customers decide the war for external customers. This is a cold hard truth. Internal customers, e.g. fellow employees, not properly serviced, supported, and respected, directly cause external customers suffering exponentially. Regarding the nurse example, how many times will this nurse need access, not have it, and patients suffer needlessly? If the nurse has to ask another nurse for their time to grant access, more patients will suffer needlessly, all because an internal business unit failed internal customer support. If the manager in the second example is directly in charge of twenty service representatives, and those twenty service representatives write tickets requesting support through the business unit manned by the unprofessional staff member 300-times in a month, how fast has a simple unprofessional act snowballed into disaster for the external customers?

Leading to the question, “how does an organization begin to change internal customer support to win external customers?” Shown below are the five first steps:

  1. Start today, start with you, and start by changing how you see your fellow employees. When asked a question from a fellow employee, consider whether the question is an “interruption” or an “opportunity?” This simple choice powers the internal customer service culture and attitude.
  2. While reports and statistics are important, has the voice of the internal customer become lost in those reports and statistics? When was the last time a report included actual internal customer voices, not a survey with a sampling of voices specially selected, groomed, and cleansed to support a point, but actual voices from internal customers? VITarSS powered communication is the phenomenon of voices echoing in the halls of decision-making.
  3. When conflicts between processes or procedures and internal customers arise, who wins and why? If a process, a method of working, trumps an internal customer, this is going to reflect in how that person treats the next internal customer onto the destruction of external customers. If a procedure, even if the procedure speaks to compliance issues, trumps people, the external customer will suffer greatly. If the worst thing an external customer can hear from a company representative is, “This is policy,” how much more damaging is this to internal customers to hear and suffer? Why is it not company policy to find every option to say, “Yes,” before saying, “No” at every level of internal customer support, from the boardroom to the grounds keeping staff?
  4. It is okay to say, “I don’t know,” provided the next statement becomes, “Let me find out and get back to you by the close of business tomorrow.” This is good policy for external customer service. Why does internal customer service not use this more?
  5. “I am sorry.” This simple phrase carries power, provides respect, and opens opportunities. Yet, how often is power stripped from this phrase and the apology is left a vacuous non-entity, because action failed to follow the phrase? If a situation warrants an apology, apologize, discuss actions needed to rectify the situation, and then perform the actions.

Winning the internal customer is easier than winning external customers. Keeping internal customers is easier by magnitudes than keeping external customers. The power in achieving excellence in internal customers is that external customers notice and desire to remain customers to continue to experience great customer service.

Human Resource (HR) people talk of winning the “Talent Battle” to find and keep the best workers; yet, HR does not fight this battle; nor does HR have any power in the battle for talent; this battle is in the daily actions of internal customer service. The single most powerful action a business leader can take is to change how they approach internal customer loyalty building. Want more market share, a larger bottom-line, and promotions, win internal customer loyalty. Not psychopathic followership and not cult worship, but active internal customers working diligently to be the best worker they can be solely because you provide them the best service you can.

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

 

A Contradiction – ‘Or, An Exercise in Restoration.’

Shifting the business paradigm is comparable to shifting the December-placed holiday of Christmas to its rightful place in April.  The enlightenment is a bit distorted at first because of tradition, familial activities, and misguided Christian beliefs.  The enlightenment of shifting the business paradigm is a bit distorted at first because of similar reasons of tradition, company decisions and procedures, Federal and State Government intervention, the de-humanization of business organizations, and misguided employer/employee beliefs.

The history of Christmas is a complex accumulation of events over time originally precipitated by early religious leaders to direct the energies of early Christians away from holidays previously celebrated, specifically, the Roman Holiday of Saturnalia and the Scandinavian holiday, Yuletide.  Thus, a new holiday was created.  The history of business is a complex accumulation of events over time originally precipitated by financial leaders to direct individual craftsmen into organized activities for power with government and other business organizations.  Thus, modern business organizations were created.  Just as the symbols of Christmas stem from the holidays mentioned and were given an acceptable ‘Christ-like’ connection, so did business practices stem from corrupt political practices and were given an acceptable name of democratic enterprise.

Just as Christmas has become a secular as well as Christian potpourri of love, family, religion, greed, frustration, envy, strife, even violence, and other desirable and undesirable characteristics, business practices have evolved into similar characteristics.  Just as craftsmen worked initially because of their love of family, to provide for them in adequate provision, and for their love for their craft, business organizations have morphed into a desire for gain and greed and control.  While de-humanizing, this morph is not bad, simply misguided and easily corrected by returning the ‘Right to Control’ back to the individual employee.

Through the charitable feelings of a person’s heart to “Give good gifts,” the current celebration of Christmas often loses the main component of the professed holiday, Christ.  Well-intentioned people have vainly fought for the rights of the worker with the energies of their hearts only to result in further captivity, the fundamental flaw in the unrecognized logic being not ‘rights’ but individual freedom.  Rights cannot be given by man to man; rights come from a supreme being to man.  Individual freedom can be given from man to man, from business to man, and from government to man.  Since the mid-1600’s, professors of religion and well-intentioned people have been trying to “Put Christ in Christmas” or “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  The problem is a fundamental flaw in the logic of the holiday; Christ does not belong in Christmas.  By celebrating Christmas in a time and season where Christ does not belong, we perpetuate a myth, a sham, and a lie.  Does this mean we should not celebrate Christ’s birth date?  The answer is unequivocally NO!  Labor unions are a lot like Christmas celebrations.  Should we abolish labor unions?  The answer is NO!  Should we condone the violence unleashed when unions are angry, the constant theft of resources, the preparations for something good which ends with legal battles?  NO!  Mixed logic, moral decay, and those who preach ‘Power to the worker,’ and steal that power for personal gain are enemies of individual freedom.

I am not proposing the elimination of Christmas but rather for placing it where it belongs in the month of April when Christ was born, just as I am not proposing the elimination of correct and right business practices but placing it where it belongs in the negotiable hands of free individuals to negotiate a win-win scenario where work is concerned. Moving Christmas does not destroy Christmas, but places the celebration into its proper place and leaves December open for a different holiday.  Mainly, we must choose to celebrate Santa Claus or Jesus Christ.  These are not one and the same; these two people are not and cannot exist in the same holiday without creating confusion, perpetuating lies and deceit.  Power for personal gain and individual freedom cannot exist at the same time without creating captivity, confusion, and the perpetuation of lies and deceit.  An old mentor constantly quoted this axiom, “If the solution is not ‘Win-Win,’ it is a straight loss.”

While St. Nicholas is reported to have been a person or monk who traveled around doing good, he never had a sleigh, reindeer, and magical abilities.  The man celebrated at Christmas as Santa Claus is a myth, and in the same breath as singing ‘Here Comes Santa Claus,’ we want to honor Jesus Christ as the “Reason for the Season.”  The duplicity is a struggle for the conscience and the heart. Just as we inherited and sustained this struggle from the captivity of our fathers, we inherited and sustain a mode of earning a living from our fathers that tries our conscience, our hearts, and wallets.  Consider the problems with being a customer, the dehumanizing influence of the business organization, labor unions, etc.  Many of the problems in business stem from inherited tradition that did not work in times past and continue to not work now, but remain supported simply due to fear of change or because, “That’s now how it is done.”  Holiday celebration and employment conditions are linked in a myopic cycle that is anathema to anything different.  Dauten (2003) talks about this problem extensively and his suggestion of “Killing the status Quo” is excellent.

Tolkien offers wisdom very applicable to our modern world.  “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” Along with, “It’s no bad thing to celebrate a simple Life.”  Ask yourself some questions such as “Do I honor a “Simple Life?”  “Has my holiday celebrations become more about outdoing last year’s celebrations and gift giving for personal achievement?”  “What is the aim of my holidays?”  “Why am I celebrating, what am I celebrating, and/or do I enjoy celebrating?”  If you do not like these answers, change.  Shift the paradigm where holidays are concerned.  The same argument holds for working, ask, “Do I enjoy what I do?”  If yes, “Do I enjoy those I work for?”  If the answer remains yes, consider job security, personal/professional growth, and long-term prospects.  Yet, if at anytime the answer is no, shift the paradigm, consider becoming an independent contractor selling your knowledge and experience.

Just as the Roman calendar and Jewish calendar place the actual birth of Christ in April, the same calendars place the death of Christ in April.  The bible records Christ’s celebrating the Passover before His death.  The Passover was also recorded as occurring during His birth. We can certainly celebrate Christ on His actual birthday, celebrate His death and resurrection more circumspectly, and change how we worship the Savior of the world.  Just as these facts substantiate the birth of Christ, facts of business corruption and coercion substantiate the plight of the individual worker as a craftsman.  We can change that just as we can change when we celebrate the birth of Christ.

With the bustle of Christmas 2012 in the rear-view mirror, with 2013 fast approaching and before the “bills of Christmas” come due, consider the holiday paradigm.  Ponder the feelings of joy, life renewal, and hope that fills the breast in the early days of April.  With the bustle of day-to-day stress, tax seasons approaching, and bills for overextending finances, consider shifting the business paradigm.  Ponder the freedom of negotiating your business life and regaining the control that has been relinquished.

References

Dauten, D. (2003). The laughing warriors: How to enjoy killing the status quo. Richmond, CA: Lumina Media.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved