14 Rules on Leadership – Gen. George Washington: Shifting the Leadership Paradigm

General George Washington wrote “Rules on Civility” (1887) and helped to mold and model a growing social environment in America.  These 110 rules for civility also encapsulate good advice to leaders applicable still today and fourteen of them are discussed below as they bear direct application to the current societal ills.  The hope remains that in pointing out these rules leaders may become more of an example, business improves, and American Society as a whole begins to lift itself up to a higher level of performance.

Rule 19:

Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

I worked with a manager who made the following statement about the director we both answered to, “I never know whether he is joking, jesting, or simply being serious.”  This is a failure of leadership and can cause disharmony, chaos, and no end to trouble.  Model and exemplify pleasant emotions.  Never try to confuse your audience, never adopt an emotion without a purpose, and never make your audience to think or wonder about your emotional state or demeanor.  More importantly, looking pleasant builds confidence in those around you to act with pleasantness and harmony; so smile, speak softly, and generate pleasantness.

Rule 25:

Superfluous compliments and all affectation[s] of ceremonies are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be neglected.

This speaks to offering sincere praise, showing gratitude, and returning credit to the source for things that are progressing well and accepting failure when poorly.  I had the displeasure of working with an officer who gave insincere praise making a great ceremony out of giving that insincere praise and then laughing at the person being singled out for the praise for not knowing how to proceed correctly.  The morale of the unit was disastrous and deadly.  Several members of that group held a deep desire for a “friendly fire incident” involving this officer as the victim.  The same problems arise in business and if left to fester potential is wasted, and money follows lost potential.

Don’t forget to limit ceremony, pomp, and procession to the level needed to honor the awardee without allowing the ceremony, pomp, or procession to exceed the degree of the award or the awardee’s comfort level.  Know the audience and limit the service to the comfort of the audience.  Thus allowing those being awarded and those in attendance to celebrate in a manner conducive to the award and their individual comfort level.

Rule 35:

Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.

We have all heard, and many live by the axiom, “Time is money.”  This rule from Gen. Washington speaks to the need for comprehension, timeliness, and specificity.  Limit the words, tone down the tone, restrict the emotional content, and get to the point; thus saving the audience’s attention and exemplifying respect for the other person in the communication.

Rule 39:

In writing or speaking, give to every person his due title according to his degree and the customs of the place.

Did you work hard for your title, yes; thus, reflect the respect for your title to others.  I met two different people in authority, 180-degrees apart from each other that saw this principle from opposing extremes.  One manager refused to use titles calling the whole thing meaningless while demanding respect for their personal rank and title.  20-year employees who had obtained great honor and respect amongst their peers received no respect from the leader who demanded respect.  The other leader cared a great deal for their title because of those who had held that title before them and respected others who had earned titles for the same reason.  The second leader had higher morale, less behavioral problems, and loyal people who achieved greatness.  The first leader had nothing but trouble, never could reach goals and objectives, and passed the failures to produce onto others.

In our global working environment, knowing the culture where titles and showing respect is critical to creating success.  More importantly, if you as a leader have not already cultivated respect for titles, the ability to show genuine respect for those of titles will place you at a disadvantage and harm the businesses you represent.  Make time to learn and practice showing proper respect for those with titles.

Rule 44:

When a man does all he can, though it succeed[s] not well, blame not him that did it.

How many times has success been snatched from the hands of those trying and the leader then berates, castigates, and derides those who tried?  Since measuring individual effort is not possible, first presume everyone did their best, then promote a spirit of learning from failure and build people.  Even if the actions were thought to be malicious and vengeful, praise and support people, you never know and in not knowing, do not assume!  I would also interject the following thought, Juran’s Rule details that when problems arise, 90% of the time the process is failing and only 10% of the time are people failing.  Thus, look to the processes, the procedures, the methods of work for answers, employ training, and only blame people as the ultimate last resort; this includes blaming yourself.

Rule 45:

Being to advise or reprehend anyone, consider whether it ought to be done in public or in private, and presently or at some other time; in what terms to do it; and in reproving show no signs of cholar but do it with all sweetness and mildness.

(Please note, the term “cholar” has had a spelling update and is now spelled “choler” and is defined as showing irascibility, anger, wrath, or irritability.  From Latin is the origin cholera.)

There is great truth hidden here; this rule mimics another axiom, “Praise in public and reprimand in private.”  While speaking to timeliness, this rule allows the leader to select when and where praise and reprimand occurs.  Do not forget Rule 19 emotion is a leadership tool, not a weapon; tools guide and instruct, weapons destroy and demoralize.  Use emotion wisely or choose to not use emotion at all per the rule above, but make emotion a conscious choice!

Rule 48:

Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself, — for example is more prevalent than precepts.

During my military service, I had a mid-level officer that hated and punished severely those who slept on watch, for a good reason.  The problem, the officer regularly slept on watch.  The example was more prevalent than the precepts taught and destroyed morale.  Rules 19, 45, and 48, all discuss powerful leadership principles along with a general theme and should be considered both individually and collectively to make the lessons more powerful.  First, know yourself, then know those you aspire to lead, and finally lead well.

Rule 49:

Use no reproachful language against anyone; neither curse nor revile.

In the world today, many confuse reprimand (rebuke or admonition) with reproach (finding fault, upbraiding, blaming, censure, disgrace or discredit) and this has led to a lot of confusion in communication.  More to the point, the language of leaders has coarsened, hardened, and plasticized or transitioned into bluster and buffoonery instead of calm and controlled.  I know a brilliant person, photographic memory, incredible mental ability, no people skills, no technical expertise, and there is great pride in not having these skills.  This person was promoted to the level of senior officer in the US military.  Who, during an inspection, wept uncontrollably when the plan went to pieces, machinery broke down, and the inspection failed.  This brilliant person could not speak to inferiors without an attitude of superiority cursing and reproach everyone and anyone.  Leaders, especially those placed in command through rank, must understand this communication principle and the power of this principle for good and ill.  Failure to communicate remains the sole variable upon which organizational cancer metastasizes into a full-blown case of organizational chaos leading to destruction (Dandira, 2012).

Rule 58:

Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for ‘tis a sign of tractable and commendable nature, and in all causes of passion permit reason to govern.

The above “rule” is a choice, rather two options.  The first choice is choosing to speak without malice and envy as a sign of your personal nature.  The second choice is to restrict passion.  Leaders only show emotion as a tool, not a weapon.  Conversation requires restricted passion to convey to the audience logic and confidence in the leader.

Rule 59:

Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against the rules before your inferiors.

I used to think this was common sense, and then I met two Chief Petty Officers (CPO’s) in the US Navy and discovered that common sense is not very common.  These two CPO’s remarked upon everything they saw, verbally spewing whatever occurred between their two ears, and were always examples of what not to do and how not to act.  Feeling their rank and position secure, these CPO’s then punished those who did not act in their manner severely and those who replicated their actions were rewarded and protected from the consequences.  With the result being that the followers exceeded the examples displayed by the CPO’s with noticeable results for morale, good order, and discipline.

Rule 65:

Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor in earnest; scoff at none although they give occasion.

I worked with a brilliant and incredible person who took a little time to learn and was very clumsy.  Once the topic being taught was then known, this individual knew that task and performed it in an exemplary manner.  Because of the clumsiness and time, it took to learn, this person was always the butt of his command’s jokes, jibes, insults, and was on every single petty detail possible, and performed those tasks poorly.  When respected, honest and sincerely praised, this person performed incredible feats.  The difference amazed and shocked his command and division, but did not silence these voices of derision to the detriment of the quality of work performed.  Did my friend give occasion to be laughed at, certainly!  Did he deserve to be laughed at, certainly not!  Leaders need to be doing better at controlling themselves and exemplifying the behaviors they desire to see in others.

Rule 67:

Detract not from others, neither be excessive in commanding.

While much of this rule can be considered to be part of Rule 65, detracting from others goes beyond verbal haranguing of Rule 65.  Detract is to reduce in value usually with the intent of making yourself larger.  Managers detract from their workers by taking credit for all the good and passing off all the blame.  Leaders attract the blame and detract the praise to the source.

The final aspect of this rule is necessary to understand, excessive commanding.  Commanding with excessive commands is nothing more than dominating in an authoritarian manner to the destruction of others.  Even commanding without excessive commands but with an attitude of domination can destroy.  Commanding well is an attitude of servitude coupled with a desire to build, grow, and develop people to meet their individual potential and doesn’t generally need commands, but always needs guidance or if you prefer, coaching.  Consider the life of a tree planted in good level ground.  The tree spends the first 10-15 years of life with a guide wire to help the tree grow straight.  Not a command and forced growth, but a guided growth into growing straight and true.  People are like the tree; the leader is like the guide wire, build people through guidance or coaching, not commands.

Rule 73:

Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.

I was raised in a home where pronunciation and annunciation were as critical to speaking as spelling, grammar is to writing well, and the rules included proper and logical thinking, before speaking.  The process of communication is aided and abetted by properly pronouncing and announcing your words when speaking, after carefully thinking and crafting your desires into coherent thoughts.  In the US Army, I did not have trouble with my upbringing interfering with communication.  In the US Navy, I had nothing but problems with how I was raised interfering with communications.  One day, I spent 45-minutes being verbally upbraided by a second-class petty officer that choose to speak with no regard for the rules of the English Language, no understanding of grammar, and no logic, where Ebonics were displayed as a symbol of pride intended to confuse the receiver.  I was then referred to the CPO for not listening and being disrespectful.  I explained I could not understand what was being said and was told that my understanding of language is not his understanding of language and that I am in the wrong for not working harder to show empathy to a higher-ranking person.  Remember, the second-class petty officer chose, while on duty, to speak in a manner that intentionally could not be understood and always spoke in an understandable style when off duty.  If placed into a position of authority, managerial or leadership, that role comes the expectation of communication using logic, common rules of English pronunciation and annunciation, and proper grammar to ensure mutual understanding has the potential to be achieved.  When confusion in language occurs, it is the leaders, or managers, job to then rephrase and change language to meet the understanding of the listener.

These rules as mentioned form the bedrock upon which long and fruitful careers of leadership are built upon.  If weak in a particular rule, choose to obtain training and counsel in how to improve.  Find people exemplifying these rules and support them in their good works.  Train and develop those not employing these rules into better people, and our entire society improves.

References

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

Washington, G. (2009). George Washington’s Rules of Civility (and decent behavior in company and conversation). Retrieved December 30, 2016, from http://www.digireads.com

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Psychology and Freud’s Fraud – Shifting the Paradigms on Freudian Value

As part of some recreational reading and additional inquiry for educational purposes, it has come to my attention there are some significant issues with Sigmund Freud, considered the father of modern psychology.  From the cocaine use to his deplorable methods of recording observations, from the religious cultism developed around Freudian thoughts to the lack of morals and responsibility inherent in Freud’s theories, Freud appears to me as a fraud.  I firmly believe that when psychology and all the attached sciences to psychology drop Freud into the dustbin of history, the science may finally advance.  Freud used solid marketing techniques to charm and bewilder the populations into accepting his ideals; but, as detailed by Kline (1984) due to a lack of viable alternatives, Freud became the default position to treat mental illness.

Psychotherapy, or for that matter any of the sciences of psychology, is dependent upon three key principles, the theories adopted by the therapist (Corbett, 2013), the intent of the patient/customer including the desire and the knowledge of the patient (American Psychological Association, 2012), and finally the relationship between the patient and the therapist (American Psychological Association, 2012).  Thus, trying to quantify or qualify psychotherapy remains amorphous due to the variables found in the foundational knowledge of the therapist, the human variable which remains volatile (Corbett, 2013), and the patient/therapist relationship. Two people can talk and never help each other; two people can talk and one can be manipulated by the other resulting in neither receiving advancement; and two people can talk and great strides in communication can achieve greatness, all depending upon the variables mentioned.

The American Psychoanalytic Association (2017) discusses how to manipulate the patient and influence the patient’s behavior stating categorically that manipulating the patient is “not necessarily negative (American Psychoanalytic Association, 2017).”  The following statistics are prevalent in the industry Freud built:

  • 40-50% of the patients seeking psychotherapy or psychological assistance receive no help by the therapy (Lilienfeld, 2007).
  • 10% of patients who sought psychological assistance were harmed, regardless of theories and theorists employed (Lilienfeld, 2007).
  • Smith (2012) suggests as many as 1/3 of the patients choosing or using pharmacological solutions to mental illness are improperly prescribed the medication and receive harm.
  • The rates of those harmed or who receive no help from psychology/psychotherapy has remained unchanged since tracking began.

Hossain and Karim (2013) provide another major aspect for consideration in understanding the confusion in psychosexuality and dysfunctional behavior, the plasticity of words employed by researchers and theorists.  Aleshire (2016) mentions this same problem, calling the problem one of “fluidity in terminology.”  For example, communication became ambiguous when the terms sex and gender became sufficiently muddled by community redefinition.  Words have meanings, and words should not be mutated, spindled, and torn from the bedrock foundation of their definitions.  Diamond (2002) provides simple definitions and reasoning for this discussion and a careful, and thorough understanding of the terminology is critical to communication.

Kline (1984) sets the stage for understanding psychoanalysis by defining psychoanalysis as, “… essentially the invention of Freud [pg. 1],” and Kline (1984) adds that psychoanalysis refers to a theoretical system of imagining the mind, recalling memories created through experience, and replaying those memories.  Conant (1947) stated conclusively the only reason Freud has not been rejected was because there was no viable alternative to Freudian theories (Kline, 1984, pg. 5).  Thus, concluding psychoanalytical perspective is left to the imagination of someone to create; more specifically, the industry Freud built was built upon Freud’s imagination, not actual science.

As an example of Freud’s fraudulent behavior, consider the following; from reading Hothersall (2015), it appears Freud is the first to confuse gender and sex, to make sex the ultimate pleasure, and project adult understandings of sex onto innocent children.  Diamond (2002) offers several definitions to aid the uninitiated in understanding sex, gender, and the current mess we are in with our current worldwide society and claims.  Sex is determined by either having gametes or receiving the same and is biologically tied.  Gender is the choice one makes to live as one determines in a socially diverse society, and this choice might or might not be tied to the traditional roles assigned by biology.  Hence, the stages of psychosexual development from Freud (Hothersall, 2015) are nullified by agency of the individual to progress, not a biological clock moving the individual through various ambiguous stages or levels of sexual identification.

Since gender depends upon societal roles and sex upon biology, I firmly disagree with Freud as applied to gender identity issues.  First and foremost, it appears that Freud was sexually frustrated and projected his adult views of behavior onto children and then tied pleasure to sex and perverted all types of thinking where child/adult relationships occur.  Second, gender identity is the choice of the individual in a society, if the society accepts multiple gender based roles.  That society then will deal with all the imaginations of the mind where gender choice is allowed and supported by legislation and social norms.

Finally, freedom to choose does not mean freedom from consequences, which cannot be chosen.  For example, I can choose to touch something hot, but cannot choose not to be burned.  How long I hold that hot item identifies how deeply the burn will be; thus, how long the hot item is held is a choice, but I cannot escape being burned by holding something hot.  There are always consequences for the choices made.

The significance of Freud on anything depends completely upon whether one believes Freud right or wrong.  Those, who consciously consider Freud to have value, will attempt to measure the content of cognitive thoughts, considered as remembrances from the world of illusion sometimes called dreams, apply a thin veneer of conscious thinking to the illusion, and attempt to draw out meaning.  For those who consider Freud a fraud, the entire discussion remains valueless and dreams are simply brain trash, images to entertain during rest, or some other fantasy to be disregarded by the conscious mind when awake.  This is a very real distinction as it forms the bias behind the conscious and subconscious value placed upon the argument.  Delanty & Strydom (2003) consider this argument crucial enough to include it in their discussion.  Freud (1920) realized his discussion regarding dreams and dream interpretation would not be valued by all, and in presenting this statement, Freud is prescient.

If dreams are pent up subconscious emotions (Freud, 1920, Chapter 1), one might try to increase one’s emotional intelligence to provide meaning and value.  Herein, Locke (2005) provides guidance on both the value of emotional intelligence and discusses mental processes in a manner worth understanding.  If Locke (2005) is correct, discussing these images, or pent up subconscious emotions, with another person (therapist, counselor, etc.), validates the other person’s emotional intelligence becoming a contributing factor in the valuation cycle of the dream, thus opening the door for misinterpretation due to the therapists personal bias’s and desire to make money.

Columbia College (2013), offers one final aspect to the fraudulent nature of Freud, namely, the removal of morals in decision-making and the inclusion of Darwin’s Theory.  Essentially, Freud claims that the mind holds ideas from the Stone Age, past lives, and aggressive and sexual desires are inherited traits that allowed man to move from the Stone Age to the Modern Age.  Hence, sexual behavior is nothing more than taking the God-like desires to lift and edify from man through procreation, replacing them with instinctual desires of a hunter/gatherer, and saying go forth without consequences, because your behaviors are not your own, but your distant relatives; to which I cannot help but proclaim, bunk!

I find myself wondering whether Freud required psychotherapy because he lacked the ability to tolerate disagreement with his theories and felt secure in creating religious cultism with his adherents, among many other traits and attributes arousing suspicion about his sanity and ability to think coherently.  Leading to a question regarding the religious and cult-like dogma of Freud, why is he still popular in the world of psychology?  Since Freud’s theories continue to be discounted as invalid, why is Freud taught in schools or referenced as a scientific thinker?  Freud is a fraud; it is time for him to be relegated to the trash heap of history!

References

Aleshire, M. E. (2016). Sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression: What are they? The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 12(7), 329-330. doi: 10.1016/j.nurpra.2016.03.016

American Psychoanalytic Association. (2017). Psychoanalytic Theory & Approaches. Retrieved from http://www.apsa.org/content/psychoanalytic-theory-approaches

American Psychological Association. (2012, August). Recognition of psychotherapy effectiveness. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/policy/resolution-psychotherapy.aspx

Columbia College. (2013). Historical Context for the Writings of Sigmund Freud. Retrieved from https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/content/writings-sigmund-freud/context

Corbett, L. (2013, December 17). Psychotherapy based on depth psychology is a superior approach [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/e4JQamcq24c

Delanty, G., & Strydom, P. (Eds.). (2003). Philosophies of social science: The classic and contemporary readings. Philadelphia, PA: McGraw-Hill.

Diamond, M. (2002). Sex and gender are different: Sexual identity and gender identity are different. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 7(3), 320-334. doi:10.1177/1359104502007003031

Freud, S. (1920). Dream psychology. New York, New York: The James a McCann Company.

Hossain, D. M., & Karim, M. M. S. (2013). Postmodernism: Issues and problems. Asian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 2(2), 173-181. Retrieved from http://www.ajssh.leena-luna.co.jp/AJSSHPDFs/Vol.2(2)/AJSSH2013(2.2-19).pdf

Hothersall, D. (2015). The history of clinical psychology and the development of psychoanalysis. In J. Hadley (Ed.), Psychoanalysis (pp. 2-53). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Available fromhttp://gcumedia.com/digital-resources/mcgraw-hill/2015/psychoanalysis-custom_ebook_1e.php

Kline, P. (1984).  Psychology and Freudian theory:  An introduction.  Routledge:  New Jersey.  (Kindle edition)

Lilienfeld, S. (2007). Psychological Treatments That Cause Harm. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(1), 53-70. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40212335

Locke, E. A. (2005). Why emotional intelligence is an invalid concept. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 425-431. doi: 10.1002/job.318

Smith, B. L. (2012). Inappropriate prescribing. Monitor on Psychology, 43(6), 36. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/prescribing.aspx

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

 

SMART Training –Shifting the Paradigm on Corporate Training

GearsCorporate training continues to be a difficult topic to describe, mainly because everyone seems to “know” what training is, but cannot understand what it is not, even when receiving inferior corporate training. As an adult educator, schooled and experienced in corporate training, let’s discuss corporate training, the principles, the need, and the student.

One aspect of organizational development needs to be considered at the outset, the difference between active and reflective listening. In active listening, the person not currently speaking pays attention to content and intent, engages in emotional meaning, focuses on removing barriers, and remains non-judgmental and empathetic. In reflective listening, the speaker and the listener take active listening and employ two-directional messaging to ensure mutual understanding. The central aim in reflective listening will always be the desire to achieve mutual understanding in communication.

The importance of understanding listening in training remains the utmost concern as the process of engaged, reflective listening producing the environment for the most potential positive training results. The needed 360-degree or two-directional communication to safely and more efficiently operate is critical in training and necessary in communication. Trainers must be able to gather anecdotal evidence and hard data to check for validity and veracity in training operations. Without a quality control mechanism that includes open and honest feedback, the trainer is operating in a vacuum and wasting corporate resources.

The majority of adult educators in the US today, and possibly much of the world, have become convinced of several untruths because the colleges teaching adult education seem fixated on teaching misleading concepts that ultimately do more harm than good. For example, ADDIE, as a methodology tool used to govern training, is useless without a quality control and a return and report function, both of which must be added to the basic ADDIE model; thus changing the design and interposing more personal opinion and bias into what became, with the addition of quality control and two-directional communication, an untested model. Colleges continue to press the ADDIE methodology as the only proper method for instructing adults, without changing or testing the basic ADDIE model. Other untruths include Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” which has been researched and found not entirely accurate, nor does it explain the natural needs and the current model of the world; thus, remaining just Maslow’s opinion.

By teaching untruths to the soon-to-be-adult educators, the adult educators go forth professionally to train other adults, using the same untruths. Thus fulfilling the axiom of GIGO, programmer’s aphorism meaning, “Garbage In results in Garbage Out.” Hence, the untruths are disseminated into future classrooms, and the company and the adult students lack proper training, resources are wasted, and the potential in training is lost.

Putting the value of training in dollars and cents is difficult, but the following will give an idea of the problem. Two kinds of money govern business, blue and green. Blue money is all about the potentblue-moneyial for good or ill to the bottom line of an action, process, tool, employee, etc. Green money is cold, hard, cash, and the food of bottom line health. What is the potential of cross-training employees? If done properly, incalculable positive results and consequences are forthcoming. If done incorrectly, immeasurable adverse effects and consequences will abound. Leading to a stunning observation; if enough blue money is burned, green money evaporates, and the business leaders have no idea how or why the bottom line is vanishing, and market share is shrinking. Since training is all about increasing an employee’s potential and runs the risk of the employee leaving the company, the potential costs and benefits remain difficult to quantify in dollars and cents.

As a newly hired operations manager, I made three expensive presumptions: 1. All the production employees were cross-trained. 2. The machine maintenance had been done properly, and the production machines were in top order. 3. The production employees knew the jobs they were being paid to accomplish. The presumptions cost a lot of blue and green money until rectified, which cost the plant valuable production time, temporary staff increased costs, and the need to perform the production floor manager’s position as well as the operations manager’s role until these three presumptions were corrected. Total cost from my hire date until resolved, 3-months of 50-hour weeks, and more than triple my annual salary in green money. With the total savings from higher potential after addressing the deficiencies, the annual salary of every employee in the plant multiplied by five.

Leading to how to increase potential, decrease blue money evaporation, and develop SMART Training, I have found the following ideas helpful to consider in creating hybrid solutions:

  1. Quantify and Qualify blue money loss. This sounds technical but is quite easy to implement.   I suggest the following principles for review and application:
    1. Respect those around you as potential superstars. Respecting includes employees or customers, vendors or shareholders, deemed less useful. Respect first, last, and always. People will always rise to the level of respect shown.
    2. Change your perception. How valuable or costly is a hammer when directly proportionate to the amount of training in the hands of the operator? If you, as the business leader, are not willing to change how you see the hammer, then it will be impossible to see the worker differently.
    3. Focus on people. Processes are how work is accomplished. Products and services support the company, but the people remain the variable requiring attention. Get out of the office, get onto the production floor, interact, ask questions, and know people.
    4. Freedom to act is a blue money saving principle. If the actions taken by individuals are rigidly controlled, the customer is not served, the problems multiply, and the result is wasted potential. Remember, for every dollar in potential money spent, five dollars in cash evaporates.
  2. Believe in cross training. It is said that Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines love to train. They might grumble, moan, and complain, but the training helps lift the morale, empowers the individual, and enhances the individual self-image and self-worth. The same is true in business and every other human endeavor; embrace a love for training.
  3. In accordance with item two above, make sure that the training is valuable and SMART. Relevant training is a knowledge object that can be used immediately, often, and is easily recognized by other employees as something to aspire to obtain.
    1. SMART training is specific; if the employee is to be a cashier, do not include forklift training with cashier training.
    2. Measurable, can the employee feel they learned a job-ready skill. Attainable training is training that can be achieved. For example, not everyone needs to be a nuclear physicist to perform well in customer interactions. Scale the training to meet the tasks at hand. Yes, training should be tough, but attainable.
    3. Realistic training is directly applicable to daily tasks, not trying to cover 20-years of hypothetical nuance, but realistic to daily production goals.
    4. Timely training means to train the employee to the job standard, as it is designed currently, not 5-10 months down the road.
  4. Training has a shelf life; thus training must adapt and change as the business changes. Allow training to live and die as needed to meet the business needs. This also requires cognizant and purposeful planning for strategic and tactical goal realization. Nothing is worse than receiving training in a classroom, then needing to receive different training on the floor because the trainers do not know current operations.
  5. Organizational design. This topic seems peculiar to mention in an article regarding training, but please note, many times, the disconnect between training and operations is not the training or operations, but how the organization is designed. An example, during a project recently concluded, I saw this principle first hand; a common theme on the production floor was a feeling of disconnect between higher levels, e.g. director level and up leadership and senior manager level direction and down. Because of the perceived disconnect, e.g. front-line employees thinking and feeling the higher level leaders are not interested and engaged, and the real disconnect, e.g. the leaders changing methods of work without understanding the processes, procedures, and technology in the work performed, many problems on the floor were never discussed and resolved, simply Band-Aid solutions applied with the hope the core problem goes away, while complaining that the leaders did not have a clue. Use the following to improve organizational design concerns:
    1. Problems in organizational design are easy to spot and discern during process reviews; this is a valuable time; use it well. Thus, never let a process age beyond 18-months and always ensure each process has a single individual responsible for the shelf life of the process.
    2. Use the quarterly, semi-annual, and annual employee events to listen to employees, talk with staff, and take these thoughts back to strategic and tactical planning meetings to direct resources to qualify and quantify the comments from employees, then act promptly, and keep the employees in the communication loop.
    3. Stop the Band-Aid solutions. If the problem needs a Band-Aid, the problem is bad enough to invest actual time and resources in fixing properly. Communicate using reflective listening to achieve two-directional communication with mutual understanding.blue-money-burning
  6. The student in corporate training can be the customer, a shareholder, a vendor, another employee, etc. Training should be an ongoing topic looked forward to as an enabling event. Want to quickly see if the training is SMART? Listen to the comments made by employees when annual compliance training is announced. If there remains a monumental lack of enthusiasm, training is not SMART, not valuable, and blue money fire pits are raging, burning potential directly and green money by remote. Hence, the following tips should help in understanding the student more completely:
    1. Regardless of mode, make sure the student is known before training occurs. Knowing the student ensures the proper language is employed in offering training, and the trainer and the student can relate to each other and the topic under discussion.
    2. Know what the student expects to receive from the training and then adapt the training to meet the expectation. Even if the student does not know what they desire in post training, allow the student to vocalize and establish expectations.
    3. Confidence in training comes from trainers knowing who they are and what they offer. If teachers are not confident, students will never be confident and will have been taught how not to be confident in acting upon the training principles.
    4. “Enthusiasm,” per Henry Chester, “is the greatest asset in the world. Enthusiasm “beats money, power, and influence.” Enthusiasm is sourced in confidence and trust. Faith in the topic is acquired by being trained and trusting in the application and organizational design to support the issue being taught. Enthusiasm is easily taught; teach by example and others will follow!

Employ voice-of-the-customer (VoC) surveys more completely. Make a team of highly professional, and soon to be promoted to team leader, employees and have them administer the VoC program. Employ the VoC as a tool to improve the business processes, procedures, and organizational design. Possessing inputs for training topics, directing customer interaction resources for marketing, and understanding the role of potential (blue money) inherent in the business products and services, as well as the employees delivering on the company promise for customer interaction, improves the business processes, procedures, and organizational design. By employing seasoned employees, the VoC becomes an organizational tool worthy of the customer and the cost of collecting the customer’s input.

There remains a great need in business for SMART training, which includes realizing the potential in people and processes to influence for good or ill. Tooblue-money-burning-2 often the problem in lost bottom-line or dropping market share is not found in green money costs but in blue money waste. When costs need cutting, always look first for lost potential and save the potential first. If the potential waste is not stopped first, the blue money will continue to burn and will morph into different budget areas because the potential lost is a raging forest fire untended and burning green money.

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
Copyright for images used is retained by the original creator and used under fair use.

Man’s Inhumanity Towards Man: Shifting the Leadership and Customer Service Paradigm

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Recently, I was asked, “What does customer service mean to you?” The question continues to reverberate in my mind. Drawing upon several recent experiences, let’s discuss why customer service continues to be useless, debilitating, and demeaning. Finally, let’s imagine a way forward, a new paradigm for understanding the relationship between people as human beings, customers, and employees, who all deserve the best customer experience we, the professional customer-facers, can provide.

For the record, my wife considers the first example a genuine customer service success and remains a pleased customer. Since the first example concerns both of us, I see the customer service provided as a fail and will explain in greater detail below. According to my wife, this example is a win because of the treatment and ease of concluding her part in the customer service example. This separation of beliefs highlights another reason why voice-of-the-customer surveys (VoC) should not be a knowledge performance indicator (KPI) for service professionals. Service delivery is ambiguous, and as the disconnection between my wife and I represents, service value is in the eye of the beholder.

The first example begins with Amazon.com. The end user received their order for a product (the customer was served), which also contained two items not requested, not ordered, and not paid for (an additional hassle for the customer). The customer service department, at Amazon.com, was consulted and the agent informed the customer, “Since the cost to return the products did not justify shipping the products back to Amazon, the customer could keep the products” with Amazon’s blessing. This is not a good customer service experience for several reasons:

  1. The customer now has to dispose of new products not needed or wanted.
  2. The only justification for not returning the products was the cost, e.g. inconvenience, to Amazon.
  3. The underlying problem, receiving parts not requested, did not come with a solution that served the customer; nor, did the option to keep the parts improve the customer experience.

While the customer-facing agent was kind, considerate, and per the company guidelines acting in all good faith to the customer, in the interests of the company the customer was not served even though a solution was generated and the customer went away. Consider the person who was supposed to receive these parts. They will have to call and either receive a bill credit or the parts need to be shipped, thus delaying the other customer as well as not serving that customer by respecting their time, resources, and honoring the customer’s commitment to using the retailer Amazon.com. With both customers not being served, how can Amazon.com, or any business organization, dare refer to these customer interactions as “service.”

Regarding the next two examples, I am purposefully vague about the entities committing the customer “dis-service” at this moment, for a reason. I do not want distractions, e.g. reader bias, to interrupt or interfere with the focus upon the incidents by naming the organizations. The second example comes from an infamously poor government office that has a reputation for providing poor service to their customer base. The third example comes from a truly infamous retailer who is already struggling but generally has much better customer interactions. The second and third examples’ names will be provided later in this article.

While dealing with a large government entity, both in person and over the phone, three separate and divergent answers to the same problem were received over the period of five different opportunities to assist the customer. By stating this experience happened with a government entity, many people already are presuming the experience was bad. It was, and this is an acceptable and reasonable policy for bureaucrats to exemplify. I disagree most heartily that any government office can produce poor customer interactions and skate by blithely. Since all governments cannot operate without forced taxation, the government entity should be providing better, not worse, customer interactions than those found in the private sector and the need to hold the government to a higher standard is sorely lacking. More to the point, the original problem remains unresolved more than 15-days after the problem was promised a solution within 5-business days. What amazes me the most in this affair is the nonchalance, non-interest, and forthright noncommittal that government employees are allowed, nay encouraged, to get away with in customer interactions with those same taxpayers, who both need help and pay the taxes to keep the government employee employed.

Third, a recent example occurred during this now past holiday season; a customer approached a company representative for directions; the company representative did not have any pressing duties to occupy his/her time and can leave his/her assigned post to aid customers in improving the customer experience. I know this, as I checked with the manager and witnessed the customer service provider playing on a cell phone moments before being asked a question. The company representative gave a broad hand, and arm gestures yelled at the customer and appeared in all appearances to be inconvenienced by the customer’s request for directions. The company’s policy states the company representative is to walk the customer directly to their desired destination and await the customer’s pleasure to return to their original post as the only method to handle this type of service request. When this was brought to the manager’s attention, the manager acted shocked in front of the customer raising the complaint, and then took no action, as the additional action was deemed “not warranted” per the manager’s murmured comments to other employee’s in the vicinity. More to the point, the manager took the opportunity to bad mouth the customer raising the complaint and presented the complaint to other employees, who “snickered” at the language the manager used to describe those making complaints, while falsely thinking the customer who is raising the concerns was not paying attention.

Finally, a recent example from a major fast food franchise, while Burger King as a corporation should not be held accountable for the work the franchise performed, the customer service example remains priceless in showcasing the uselessness of serving the customer and the need for training customer interaction professionals. While using coupons, the customer became confused in the “legal print, ” and the order took longer to place and pay for than normal. The cashier at this point does three things: 1. Assumes the confused customer cannot hear; 2. Bad mouth the confused customer to the next three customers who were waiting patiently; and 3. Blames the customer for taking too long to order their food. Later, the cashier approached the confused customer, blamed the incident on him, offered a faux apology, and walked off muttering about stupid customers not understanding the reality of fast food restaurants.

In the third example, do not be distracted by the poor leadership being presented by the manager. Focus instead on the customer interactions: two different customer experiences, both deemed “acceptable customer service” by the powers that control the experiences. Neither customer was served nor was the problems solved. The first customer found a more helpful company representative who followed the company policy, and the second customer interaction with the manager only strengthened the customer’s resolve to continue to avoid the retailer. Two opportunities to grow a new relationship, enhance a new paradigm upon the customer, and promote goodwill and loyalty with the local customer base were missed. Customer interactions can and should be held to a higher standard, and the following defines my position that focusing solely on customer service is useless along with steps to improve.

Focusing solely on “serving the customer” is useless as all the customer receives is a meeting of their stated needs. In the third example, the customer received directions; thus, the customer’s need was met, and service was provided. In the first and second examples, the customer needed information and a plan of action to overcome the situation experienced. Even if the work resulted in the customer needing to take more action, the customer was “technically” served. In the fourth example, the confused customer received his food, was able to use a coupon, and was thus “served.” Is it apparent that merely serving the customer is useless?

The service to the customer, while technically meeting the customer’s needs, remains not just poor but pointless; all because the focus of the organization is honed to simply provide “service” or meet the customer’s stated need at the lowest cost, the fastest interaction, and the least amount of effort for the company and those employed to provide customer service. Sometimes all that is wanted by the customer is to resolve the problem quickly and efficiently and courteously and move forward with their lives. This is yet another reason why freedom is needed in customer interactions to serve as needed for each customer making contact. Customer facing professionals deserve better from their leadership than simply “providing service to customers.” Customer facing professionals need leadership, guidance, and freedom to develop the rapport necessary to shine their personal, professional pride into the customer interaction, all with the intent of not merely “serving a customer’s needs,” but providing opportunities for the customer to be motivated to brag about their unique customer experience.

In practice, the following steps should be the underlying governing principles to move from service to professional pride.

  1. No matter the method for customer interaction, make the time to show genuine interest in the customer. This will require making conversation, employing reflective listening techniques to ensure mutual understanding of the customer’s position, and representing the company with professional pride. For the customer-facing employees to show pride in the company the company leaders need to ensure the “What” and the “Why” is known to the employees’ so the employee can exemplify the “What” and the “Why” to customers. Leadership is key to communicating with a purpose and promoting the spirit of reflective listening in an organization. Make the connection of mutual understanding and most of the customer problems shrink in size.
    1. Active listening is good, but it doesn’t make the grade anymore.
    2. Reflective listening is all about making sure mutual understanding has been achieved.
    3. Mutual understanding provides one interaction resolution, goes beyond simple servicing needs, and displays the pride and professionalism of the company’s commitment to customer interactions.
    4. Reflective listening can be employed in voice, email, instant message, and face-to-face customer interactions and reflects an easily attained step up from only actively listening.
  2. Promote the customer experience by not differentiating between external and internal customers, treat them all as valuable customers deserving attention, focus, eye contact, and validation that their concern is justified and worthy of attention. Act in a manner that the customer deserves the best, and the spirit of customer interactions will infuse all the customers with a commonality of desire, hope, and professionalism. As a customer interaction professional, how much better do you offer superior interactions with customers when you, receive excellent customer interactions from the company you spend time representing?
  3. Remember to make the human connection in human interactions. Using reflective listening, focus on the clues, the body language, the tone of voice, and acknowledge these communication streams through competent action. For example, if the customer is perceived as stressed and is speaking in a clipped and hurried manner, respond kindly, but through accurate and speedy action acknowledging the customer’s stress and meeting the customer’s need by respecting their time. Human interactions are improved through human connections that reflect respect and that embody this principle in every human interaction, and the customer-facing employee becomes a customer’s hero. Using the information above, are we not all customer-facing employees; yes, we certainly are!
  4. Freedom to think and act in the interest of the customer, based upon sound critical thinking skills, is exemplified at the time of the interaction without second-guessing after the interaction. This happens more often in call centers, but every customer-facing employee has had this occur to them. At the moment, the decision appeared the best course of action, but after the interaction/interference of a manager or a quality assurance (QA) employee has second-guessed and provided “advice” that does not provide value to future customer interactions, doubt is planted removing confidence in acting appropriately in the future. Does this mean allowing poor judgment to survive? Absolutely not; it does mean that the “advice” needs to model and reflect value for future decisions, not cast aspersions upon the previous decisions.
  5. SMART Training. Everyone knows the axiom for SMART Goals; training should also embody the principles of and reflect SMART, “Specific, Measurable, Applicable, Realistic, and Timely.” If the training does not meet SMART levels, the training is not valuable to the persons receiving the training. Make the training SMART, and the potential for improving professionalism in customer interactions grows exponentially.
  6. Never stop learning, never stop reaching, and never stop growing. How often does training cease for employees after the new hire training concludes? How is a new employee supposed to meet the demands of a constantly changing customer population without ongoing training? More specifically, should managers, team leaders, directors, VP’s, and the C-Level leaders also continue to learn and receive training in their positions, roles, and company? If the front-line customer-facing employees need constant refresher training, then every customer-facing employee needs constant refresher training that meets the SMART training guidelines and provides value to the individual using that training.
  7. Stop wasting resources on unproductive goals, e.g., serving customers with excellence. Serving customers, even with “excellence,” remains a useless and wasteful activity; eradicate the term “customer service” from the company vernacular and memory. Begin by realizing the opportunity provided in customer interactions to grow the business, supporting customer interactions through reflective listening where mutual understanding is the goal, and by acting upon the mutual understanding achieved.

We, the professional customer-facing providers, can and should be able to onboard these principles and lead the eradication efforts to remove customer service from our focus and professional labels. The importance of not serving the customer, but elevating the customer interaction, cannot be understated. The customer experience needs to be elevated with reflective listening and prompt action to mutual understanding and a sense of mutual growth as partners in using the company’s products and services. The customer is too important to continue to waste resources only to serve. Make the opportunity to deliver and elevate, and the bottom-line will take care of itself abundantly. The organization in the second example is the Department of Veteran Affairs. The organization in the third example is Target.

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© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved – Image Copyrights used under Fair Use and are not included in the authors copyrighted materials.  AZ Quotes retains image copyrights.

Fundamentals of Customer Interaction: A Leadership Primer

Gitomer (1998) was very specific about why customer satisfaction is worthless and provided keen insights into how to build loyalty.  While many businesses value and find the “voice of the customer” desirable to the organization, the focus is on satisfying the customer and not interacting with the customer.  Sinek (2009) adds the variable needed, why, as in why are businesses still trying to satisfy when loyalty is needeAre we in trouble?  We didn't do it!!!d?  Why are customers still being taken advantage of when logic claims the long-term relationship is more critical than short-term gains; thus, making the need for loyalty that much more valuable in dollars to the business.  Why serve the customer when the customer needs more than simple “service?”

Customer service is simply geared to expeditiously interacting with the customer in a mass environment.  For example, a recent call to a cell phone provider remains an excellent illustration of mass service hysteria.  During this call, a simple question was asked, why is my statement so high?  The representative placed the caller on hold four separate times, never answered the customer’s question, and because the customer changed their plan, the call was considered a success.  The customer then went online, spent an additional hour in Instant Message (IM) with a second customer service rep, and finally was given less of an answer before quitting in exasperation.  Foolishly, the call center sends an automatic survey to the customer asking for his or her opinion.  The customer is going to express his or her dissatisfaction in the “customer satisfaction survey.  Why was it sent?  Why place the financial future of a low-paid customer service rep in jeopardy simply because the customer remains upset, and the managers deem that information valuable?

The customer call center remains the epitome of the carrot and stick approach to customers with the customer and the front-line customer-facing representatives squeezed into numbered boxes, small cubicles, and an individuality draining environment making the customer and the customer representative soulless zombies held captive in an endless cycle of frustration.  Offer a carrot to a customer to go away, threaten the customer representative with a stick if they do not fit squarely into the business environment and achieve all the key-performance indicators (KPI’s) demanded by the business, although the KPI is in direct opposition to serving the customer.  The above incident is a perfect example of KPI’s being anti-customer.  The representative needs to make a quota for call plan changes and sales, the customer needs serviced, but to actually answer the question means that the time the representative spent on the phone would have surpassed a KPI.  The carrot and stick approach is to offer the customer bill credits to go away quickly so the representative can move onto the next call, a KPI mindset causing frustration for the representative and the customer.

Let’s use one more recent example as a comparison.  The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has been in the news a great deal recently.  Veterans remain the forced customer trapped in an endless cycle of bureaucratic red tape.  The result is that veterans are now being called for a customer service survey to determine how veterans feel they were served.  Why would this information be valuable with all the customer hostility in the veteran population?  Why waste taxpayer dollars to obtain veteran “customer” insight when the bureaucracy has not changed, the red tape remains stifling, and the officers enforcing the bureaucracy continue to kill and harm veterans as the captive customer?  Veterans are reporting that after every interaction with the various VA bureaucrats a customer satisfaction survey is thrust upon them and sold to them as an improvement tool.   Doubt remains as to the value to the veteran, and to the VA as a whole, and provides more KPI’s harming the customer, eliminating service to the customer, and destroying any hope of correcting the actual problems; but the VA is gathering a ton of additional information for office clerks to sort through and make reports upon.

With these thoughts in mind, what do we do and where do we go from here?  Better yet, why are these the preferred actions when logic relates there is a better path forward?  Finally, since KPI’s are needed, how should KPI’s be adjusted to provide more actionable data personalized to the individual employee while remaining valuable to the entire business?

On the subject of KPI’s, when was the last time that each KPI was evaluated and the questions “Why” and “What” were asked to justify that specific item on a list of measurable actions in a KPI process review?  If the answer is “I don’t know” or longer than 18-months, there is a significant problem with the KPI’s reporting obsolete data and doing more harm than good.  As a consultant in a call center, I walked item-by-item through the KPI matrix my first day on the job and successfully concluded a project shortly thereafter by simply moving the KPI matrix back into providing actionable and non-obsolete data.  If each piece of data cannot be explained and justified by the newest member on the floor receiving scores on performance, the KPI matrix is obsolete, confusing, and ineffective in driving actions that actually benefit the employee and those the employee contacts.  Ask the managers to define what the KPI’s are, what is being measured, and detail specific actions an employee should be coached in to improve a specific indicator.  If the answers are not clear and easy to understand, the KPI is ineffective and doing more harm than good.

Juran’s rule that the KPI is expected to form a pathway to progression as a business process remains powerful.  When problems arise in KPI data and employee adherence, the problem is 90% of the time not the employee, but the KPI in question.  Is Juran’s rule being applied consistently, effectively, and powerfully to drive understanding and communication in the organization or is the answer to “blame the employee?”  Dandira (2009) remains powerfully applied here: ineffective KPI’s can be, and many times are, a dynamic source of organizational cancer because of employee confusion about what to do to improve, resulting in employee morale problems.

Moving forward, the way remains clear:

  1. Never allow a business process or procedure to be older than 12-months without a full and comprehensive review justifying that process and every step in that process.

I was called in to discuss a customer influencing process.  The process had more than 30 steps involved and 12 separate employees to accomplish the task.  The process could not be described in 30 minutes, and customers were upset from experiencing this process, adding to the already upset nature of the involved customers and the frustration in the front-line employees assisting them.  Technology improved this process by a third, but the company could not determine how to improve the process.  I asked why on each step and employee involved.  Four hours of discussion resulted in cutting 8 of the involved employees from the process.  Asking “what” resulted in further steps cut in the process.  At the conclusion of the contract, the complicated process was described in a single elevator ride, which simplified the results for the customer and set the business on the road to continuous improvement of business processes.  Pick a process, look at the age, and ask in an elevator ride for the process to be described.  Keep riding the elevator until the entire process from beginning to end is detailed.  How many elevator trips were needed?  Never create a process or a measurement that cannot be explained in a single elevator ride.

  1. Who is catching the blame on recorded calls: technology, the customer, or the customer service rep? The problem is not with any of these parties, and properly naming the problem remains the first step in solving the problem.

For example, on a contract for a manufacturing company, a problem existed that could not be explained causing issues in quality control and proper billing to customers.  The problem observed was not the problem; the process and actionable data capture were the problems.  Until the company could properly identify and act on the real problem, they continued to blame the employee and burned through several highly talented employees in the process.  The action taken began with identification of the real problem and the underlying processes.  Then, we began working out the actual solution.  The first and second actions projected and beta-tested were abject failures.  Once the full measure of the problem was identified in a series of continuous events, the third proposed solution worked, not great, but worked.  The fourth and fifth solutions worked better.  Finally the sixth review fixed the problem.  Identify the problem, and then make the resolution an intuitive process of learning and developing.  Failure is okay provided the current failure is moving the problem forward towards solutions and new thinking.

  1. Who is the customer? Are we wasting time on separating internal and external customers when that time would be better spent treating them both equally?  Rarely should the internal customer be treated better than an external customer, but many times resources are limited and external customers must come first.  Do internal customers know why this decision is being made and when the experience is projected to end?

During a merger, I was contracted as a W-2 employee on start of contract.  At the conclusion of the merger, employees were told external customer resources were being moved back to support internal customers, and benefits and resources would flow back to the employees.  Upon the successful completion of the merger, this policy was not honored, and the mass of employees leaving the company was monumental, as employees felt betrayed.  Knowing the “why” and the “what” behind organizational decisions by all customers is important.  If this company had been more forthcoming about the “why” and the “what,” the loss of so many employees would not have been so great.  More to the point, the loss of employees created post-merger problems resulting in “right-sizing efforts,” “down-sizing,” and finally “post-merger consolidation of facilities,” all of which are euphemisms hiding the real problem, failure to treat all customers with respect and valuing the customers.

  1. The “Why” and the “What.” While the “Why” is critical, both remain powerful, and communicating these simply, effectively, and persuasively remains the role of leadership.  Ask yourself, can employees define “what” we do?  Can employees define “why” we do the things we do?  Do employees know “why” we compete in our marketplace the way we do?  What are the answers and why are the answers coming in with the trends?  Can you answer this, and what is the action to move forward?

I had the pleasure of working as a W-2 employee for a company that did this right.  On the first day of training, the employee learned the “Why” and the “What.”  Then, everyday the employee learned how each process, procedure, and daily task fed into the “What” and the “Why.”  This promoted the employee to understanding and becoming an agent for action in the business.  This pattern is replicable, but employees must know the “why” and the “what” and business leaders must know the “Why” and the “What” and disclose this information to the full organization?

  1. Stop only “serving” the customer. “Serving” the customer is useless, wasteful, and ruins the power of customer interactions reducing these opportunities to filling needs, not building relationships.  If your customer-facing employees are only providing “service,” the business has settled for failure and has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is not a subject of semantics, word plasticity, and mind games.  This is a fundamental mindset of the power possessed by loyal customers acting as marketing tools to drive profitability.  If the customer only receives “service,” the customer is not satisfied, the customer-facing employee is not satisfied, and precious resources are wasted on fruitless gimmicks and useless action.  Worse, the ROI is zero at best, but usually negative.  If internal and external customers are simply treated as customers, how can a business leader expect to build customer and employee loyalty or experience bottom-line growth?  Make time to build customer-reaffirming experiences and the bottom-line will grow.  Stop serving the customers, stop blaming the employees, stop looking for solutions in technology without knowing the business and identifying the problems.  If not, Dandira’s (2012) counsel will be the reward, organizational cancer, and organizational death.

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.

 © 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved

Shifting the Leadership Paradigm – Escalation of Commitment

The question exists; does “rational escalation” exist? How does a leader capture the power of commitment without inducing irrational escalation issues in team actions? Rational escalation remains a fallacy in decision-making and remains an excuse to create illogical paradigms for business processes and pretend non-rational escalation does not exist. If a decision begins as irrational, or an escalation of previous decisions without conscious need and new logic, denying the rational does not change the problems created.

Non-Rational Escalation of Commitment is best defined as, “the tendency to base new decisions on previous decisions.” This quote sums it up well: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.” W.C. Fields. (ThinkExist.com, 2009) In the most simple terms, people make a decision, get used to the consequences of the decision, become complacent in the known outcomes of the decision, base more decisions off the current model, and then repeat ad nauseam. Political decisions regarding the Federal Medicare Program are perfect examples of non-rational escalation of commitment. Politicians know there is waste, abuse, and issues within the system; but because it looks good to support Medicare, no one wants to begin to question the problems, advance solutions, or threaten withholding funding until the problems are fixed.

Since the problems with Medicare touch sensitive nerves with voters, politicians prefer a favorable electorate. Each year waste and abuse reaffirm the theory of non-rational escalation of commitment. “… Medicare’s administrative costs are shockingly low, below 2 percent of costs, because Medicare is shockingly unsupervised. The amount of fraud and waste is huge, and supervision of the quality of medical care provided recipients is largely nonexistent (NY Times, 1997, para 1).”

The emotions surrounding many decisions lead people or decision makers into trouble. Pride, confidence, fear, greed, a desire to do good, etc., are emotions that provide the impetus for making a particular decision. Continuing on the same path of that decision, whether right or wrong, leads to an escalation of the decision; thus, ensuring the risks of failure becoming larger as time passes. We see this currently on the ObamaCare Health Debate in Washington. Politicians have invested a lot of time and energy into the President’s “signature issue” and refuse against all logic to stop, examine the needs of the people, and accept it might be better to start over again. “… [A]sk people with direct ties to healthcare negotiations, who have put their lives on hold to get a bill passed, and they have no idea how to move forward (FoxNews.com, 2010, para 2).” The same problem exists today in 2015 as in this 2010 proclamation simply due to emotional investment and irrationally escalating poor decisions.

Escalation is non-rational for one reason: it always leads to trouble. Going back to Medicare waste, leaders recognize the problem, realize there is tremendous abuses of the system occurring, but refuse to stop escalating the amount of money to spend and force change due to fear. As shown with both ObamaCare and Medicare, when fear is the motivating factor for a decision, basic human emotions are the only force and the most difficult force to overcome. Logic has fled, reason is hiding, and chaos is gaining speed. Consequently, in the Medicare system the American people have tremendous unfunded liabilities with no possible method for making good on the commitments. Since there is momentum in sustaining the poor decision, momentum in continuing to escalate the non-rational decision-making process, and momentum to perpetuate abuse and fraud without recourse, the cycle of escalation and abuse will continue, thus fulfilling W.C. Fields quote from above, “If a first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it (ThinkExist.com, 2009).” The “quitting” part of the decision paradigm needs attention. Einstein adds a special note here on non-rational decision making practices, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results (Brainy Quote, 2008).”

            Understanding the irrationality in the escalated decision making process provides the impetus to leaders to begin changing the process of gathering data to improve decisions. The smart leader would halt the current decision-making process, ask probing questions about performance, customer service, and sustainability, then proceed to either justify continuing to make the decisions to engage without change or change the decision track to achieve different outcomes. I have heard the following too many times, “Taxpayers would be scared if the government was efficient, not wasteful and productive.” I disagree; elected leaders must on-board basic leadership principles, shun management philosophy, and then communicate in a two-directional manner their ideas, their reasoning, and logic. The expectation is for business leaders to act in this manner; why do elected officials get a pass on leadership?

The engaged leader will take the decision-making process and implement the following steps to improve decision-making performance as a step to improving organizational outcomes:

  1. Ask “Why.” This is a basic and simple step to take that possesses great potential to improve organizations. Asking “Why” leads to other basic questions arising, namely, “How,” “Who,” “What,” etc. Follow the string of logic and an irrational and escalated decision will be forthcoming.
  2. “Be strong and of a good courage,” remains a passage from the Christian Bible, repeated several times, that holds the key to improving decision-making, regardless of religious flavor. Think about the question asked. The leader is asked to stand for principled action and then boldly move forward in the direction chosen.
  3. Practice being aware. Being aware calls for the leader to be and remain engaged in the people, not the business, of the decision-making process. Tom Clancy, in the “Jack Ryan Novels,” made clear that the problem in Washington D.C. is not the politicians who change but the staff of the politicians and the special interest groups pushing a narrow agenda. The same process occurs in business organizations. People carve out a niche, develop power, gather those like themselves into a micro-network, and then influence organizational change and non-rational decision-making as a means to continuing in power.
  4. Make a decision, Act, Measure, Correct if necessary, Repeat (MADAM-CR) remains an acronym to remember and follow. Leaders make timely decisions, act, and then review for potential course correction changes or hold the course. MADAM-CR remains the pattern for making logical decisions, provided the first three steps discussed have been included.
  5. GIGO (Garbage In equals Garbage Out). GIGO remains the umbrella principle in decision-making. GIGO with non-rational escalation provides the input and product from the decision-making process. GIGO stands as the ultimate caution, not to halt action but to improve measuring for success and properly preparing.

Reference

Brainy Quote, (2008). Albert Einstein Quotes. Retrieved December 5, 2008, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins148814.html

FoxNews.com, Initials. (2010, January 22). Congress contemplates scaled back healthcare; obama slams door. Retrieved from http://congress.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/01/22/congress-contemplates-scaled-back-healthcare-obama-slams-door/

NY Times.com, Initials. (1997, August 01). Fraud and waste in medicare. New York Times, A-30.

ThinkExist.com, Initials. (2009). W.C. fields: quotes. Retrieved from http://thinkexist.com/quotation/if_at_first_you_don-t_succeed-try-try_again-then/227395.html

© 2015 M. Dave Salisbury

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Shifting the Leadership Paradigm – Two Principles for Leadership

Recently a question arose regarding leading small group team processes being different from managing large-scale change and how to identify leadership traits common and separate to leading small and large change. It is my position that no leadership principle or style requires changing simply because of the team size. The principles remain the same, the application remains the same, and the leader who is most effective at understanding this dynamic in leadership will survive and thrive during organizational change.

The most glaring difference between small and large teams, remains collaboration as detailed by Mueller (2012). In large groups, Mueller (2012) contends that productive relationships are not created and collaboration suffers. In smaller groups, the reverse is found and the productivity of each member increases substantially. Leading small or large groups hinge upon this principle that individual productivity increases as team size shrinks. With more production coming from every member, the quality and quantity of work, theoretically, should increase. Mueller’s (2012) research bears an important note here:

“… [C]oordination losses and motivation losses provide an incomplete story in explaining why individuals in larger teams perform worse. … relational losses play an important role in explaining why individuals experience performance losses in larger teams. … the optimal team size may be completely dependent upon the exact nature of the group task which may have as many variations as there are teams [p 122].”

Mueller (2012) concludes with a call to improve management as the deciding factor over team size. This conclusion confirms that size does not matter, leadership does.

A VP of Development for a wood manufacturing organization provided some concrete examples of the principle of leadership overcoming team demographics, size, and geographic disparity. Part of the leadership tools exemplified was the principle of One. The principle of One is defined as helping those you come in contact with feel as if they are the single most important factor in your success. As a leader, helping those on the team feel their importance to the team is crucial and makes the difference in team dynamics. Regardless of the size of the team, taskings or assignments for the team, or geographic distance in the team, being able to see big picture, but aid in the development of One, spells success. The VP of Development practiced this principle, trained others in this principle, and shared success with others. When failures occurred, singling out individual team members did not occur, and the VP never let corporate politics interfere with team dynamics.

The second crucial tool in a leadership toolbox is the Umbrella principle. A leader’s job is to help their team understand what occurs outside the umbrella and protect them from the consequences. Those under the leader’s umbrella can and should depend upon their leader’s protection and remain shielded, and free from distractions that hamper productivity. With these two principles of leadership, the One principle and the Umbrella principle, the leader can successfully lead teams of any size, shape, and geographic combination.

Important to note, size of the team does not change the impact or reduce the need for both the Umbrella Principle and the Principle of One in leadership. These two common and related principles distinguish the teams that succeed almost naturally from the teams that seem doomed to fail regardless of resource expenditure. Case in point, during a contract assignment in a call center, two teams of customer service reps exemplified the need for these two principles. Team A had a new leader, young, newly promoted, and full of fire to gain another promotion. Team B had a team leader, who had held the position for a long time, was well seasoned in leadership, and employed these two principles to the disgust of the higher call center leaders. Without being a team member of each team, one would never have known or understood the core underlying principles driving each team leader. Team A’s leader was a manager first, last, and foremost micromanaging each person, every task, and killing team member morale with too many reports, too much to take in, and hovering at every possible turn. Team B’s leader knew how hard the job was, employed the Umbrella and One principles, encouraged focus upon the singular task at hand, not multi-tasking, and delivered upon the customer service promise of the organization. Team B enjoyed immense success in meeting every single matrix measured in the call center. Team A enjoyed employee churn three times that of the entire call center. In fact new team members were told, “This is the team you get sent to, to kill your career,” and the unofficial motto of the team was “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” In fact, Dante had another reference as well; assigned as a member of the team meant being assigned into the “13th circle of hell.” Team B was more prepared to handle the constant organizational change of merging, performing during change, and remaining emotionally content during organizational upheaval.  Team A, failed miserably to perform and still the manager eventually was promoted, after laying the blame fully upon the shoulders of the team members.

Both teams in this discussion went from 7 team members to 20 team members, and back to 12 team members, while I was consulting. Both teams had team members with ADA and FMLA concerns. Both teams were in an organization undergoing a merger, dramatic shift in organizational culture, and had to meet the same measurement goals. It is my opinion, based upon experience, that leading small (7-15 people) teams through change employs the same leadership skills and traits as leading large (16-100 people) teams. Leadership principles remain adaptable to the needs of those being led. The adaptability of leadership principles remains the keystone that builds, uplifts, and launches people upon their own journey for success.

Reference

Mueller, J. S. (2012). Why individuals in larger teams perform worse. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 117(1), 111-124. doi: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.08.004

© 2015 M. Dave Salisbury

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