Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Halley Bock for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.
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Don’t just tell your employees they’re your most valuable asset — show them. And get your CEO involved in talent management efforts to drive home the message.
Most organizations widely publicize the fact that talent is their most valuable asset — and that’s often true. But when employees see a disconnect between such claims and what actually happens behind closed doors, there are bound to be repercussions in engagement and retention. To avoid this, organizations must show, not tell, their people how they’re valued — and this can start at the top with the CEO.
[Halley offers three specific suggestions. Here's the first.]
Create a people-first culture. While there are many responsibilities a CEO can delegate, setting and reinforcing the culture isn’t one of them. Herb Kelleher, famed former CEO and co-founder of Southwest Airlines, understood this to a degree that many leaders still struggle to comprehend. By placing utmost importance on defining the culture and ensuring it had everything to do with his employees, he created one of the most successful airlines in history. Kelleher’s motto was, and continues to be, “You have to treat your employees like customers.” By treating them right, he could be assured that they, in turn, would treat the customer right.
Creating a people-first culture has more to it than just coming up with a catchy motto. A CEO must be committed to the employees at the deepest level. This means addressing their needs through increased flexibility in corporate policies, caring for the employee’s family by extending inclusive benefits and investing in their future by prioritizing promoting from within.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Halley Bock is the CEO of Fierce Inc., a leadership development and training company that drives results for businesses by improving workplace communication. She can be reached at her firm.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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In a volatile world, anxiety and uncertainty make people a little testy.
Cranky people can drag everyone else down by spreading negativity and sowing seeds of doubt just when leaders need commitment. And when everyday crankiness is exacerbated by performance problems, then the merely grumpy can become disgruntled former employees out to do damage to the team.
Early in my career, when sharing a vacation house with a group of friends, I learned an important lesson from a classic book by anthropologist Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: It takes a lot of people cooperating to keep things neat, but it takes only one disgruntled dirt-monger to mess things up. The task for everyone else is not to let them.
This has become a favorite management insight as I advise bosses and boards. In one recent case, the chief financial officer of a small company was fired for possible expense account violations, and he was also seen as a poor strategist and weak team player. The former CFO did not go quietly. He consulted a lawyer, then went to a second and a third when the first one said he didn’t have a case. He rallied friends who sent emails to prominent customers about his grievance. Meanwhile, the CEO and new CFO had to raise capital and revenues to make up for the shortfall, which the disgruntled former CFO blamed on everyone else. His loud voice and tale of mistreatment threatened to topple the entire enterprise.
When faced with cranky, grumpy, or disgruntled people, these Do’s and Don’ts can be helpful.
[Here are five of the nine. To read the complete article, please click here.]
1. Don’t give them power. Don’t let their claims occupy disproportionate time and management attention. Have one person manage so that everyone else can continue the real work.
2. Do keep telling your positive story about the organization’s purpose, mission, goals, and accomplishments. Remind everyone about the big picture.
3. Don’t adopt an angry tone. Stay calm and professional. Don’t stoop to their level by telling juicy stories. Recent studies show that badmouthing makes the tale-teller look bad, in a boomerang effect.
4. Don’t tell their story for them. Don’t start meetings or conversations by rehashing the situation. Stick to a simple statement or two that acknowledges your sorrow that there are complaints. Don’t sound defensive. Don’t lend credibility by providing your answers to things that audiences might not know or care about.
5. Don’t assume that being right is enough. Having the facts on your side might be enough in a court of law, but it is not necessarily enough in the court of public opinion. Other people are convinced by your actions. They need to see that you operate by principles. They will judge your authenticity and consistency.
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Above all, do what’s right for the mission and stakeholders. Even in a volatile world that requires tough decisions, the best way to counter crankiness is through an inspiring, energizing purpose.
[Note: I cannot resist citing again what Herb Kelleher, former chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines, said when explaining the airline’s spectacular success: "We take great care of our people, our people take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our shareholders."]
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Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp. Connect with her on Facebook or at Twitter.com/RosabethKanter.
How to create a demand-creating culture
Many books published in recent years offer excellent advice on how to create and then sustain what I call a hyphenated culture: quality-driven, customer-driven, innovation-driven, results-driven, etc. The given objectives are eminently worthy and I have no quarrel with any of them, nor does Adrian Slywotzky. The fact remains, however, that an organization must have compelling appeal to those on whom it depends for success: employees at all levels and in all areas with talent and skills as well as character and commitment who create great value for customers. That’s precisely what Herb Kelleher always stressed when asked to explain the extraordinary success of Southwest Airlines: “We take great care of our people, our people take great care of our customers, and our customers then take great care of our shareholders.”
Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want Slywotzky’s latest book is a “must read” for business leaders in organizations that are struggling to answer any/all of questions such as these:
• “How can we get our customers to buy more of what we sell?”
• ”How can we convince more of our competition’s customers to buy from us?”
• “How can we convert fence-sitters into buyers of what we sell?”
• “How can we attract, hire, and then retain the people who will create the greatest value for our customers?”
• “Meanwhile, what must we do each day to improve the quality of life in our workplace and increase the appeal of what we produce there?”
In each instance, the challenge is to create and then sustain demand.
Whatever its size and nature may be, every organization must be led by what Slywotzky characterizes as “demand creators,” people who “spend all of their time trying to understand [begin italics] people [end italics]…They try to understand our aspirations, what we need, what we hate, what gives us emotional charge – and, most important, what we might really love…They seem to know what we want even before we do. They wind up creating things people can’t resist and competitors can’t copy. Yet they almost never succeed on the first try…These demand creators recognize the huge gaps between what people buy and what they really want – and they use those gaps as the springboard for a process of reimagination that you might call the demand way of thinking.”
There are hundreds (thousands?) of books now on sale that offer advice on how to increase sales, how to market with “a bigger bang for the buck,” how to improve customer relations, etc. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book – certainly one that is most cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective – to explain “how to create what people love before they know they want it.” Dozens of real-world examples are provided to illustrate key points. They also suggest all manner of practical applications. It should also be noted that the wealth of information, insights, and recommendations that Slywotzky provides are relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. Moreover, after reading and then (preferably) re-reading this book, almost anyone can become a highly effective demand creator.
As Slywotzky explains, “Demand creators have a hidden advantage. Many of their rivals are ‘anti-demand’ organizations – organized in disconnected silos. Focused on meeting yesterday’s demand, and often remarkably immune to the signals that customer behavior is trying to send us…Great demand creators are special, in part, because they understand that the things we buy and the things we actually want aren’t always the same…Great demand creators eliminate or reduce the hassles that make most products and services inconvenient, costly, unpleasant, and frustrating.” With relatively minor modifications, these attributes of demand thinking insofar as marketing and customer relationships are concerned could also be said of recruiting, hiring, and training the talent needed as well as of creating what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as “customer evangelists.” It is no coincidence that employees of the most highly admired organizations, “the best to work for,” are also their evangelists and refer to themselves as such.
Adrian Slywotzky has written a book in which all this is explained so well that the reader is well-prepared to become an effective demand creator. Then, after reading this book, I think that one of the first tasks at hand is to convince one’s associates to develop a sense of urgency about knowing whatever is required to help create “what people love before they know they want it.” Demand creators cannot do that alone. They build and excite great teams that effectively reach thousands or millions of customers. And by doing so, they seem to have a lot more fun in their business than many of their rivals do. Meanwhile, highly-valued workers do not leave; on the contrary, they are among the primary reasons why other peak performers and high potentials are eager to work with them.
Over the years, I have probably read and then reviewed about 65-70 books in which their authors discuss one or more aspects of organizational culture. A few address employee engagement. Hopefully, a high percentage of those who share a workplace — at all levels and in all areas of operation — are positively and productively engaged. In fact, according to recent research by firms such as Gallup and TowersWatson, the average percentage in U.S. workplaces is less than 30%.
In my opinion, Beryl Companies offers the single best example of a company that continues to possess, indeed celebrate its culture of engagement. To learn more about Beryl, I highly recommend a book written by its founder and CEO, Paul Spiegelman: Why is Everyone Smiling?: The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit.
What follows hardly qualifies as scientific research with definitive analysis. I have selected a baker’s dozen of what seem to be the essential elements, based on what I have learned from dozens of primary sources, including Paul and his company:
1. The power of one: Each person matters. Check that, each person really matters.
2. The power of team: “Together, we know much more and can do much more than any one of us can.”
3. Solution orientation: Each person is empowered to solve problems or obtain the help needed to solve problems.
4. Trust, honesty and transparency: These are the core values by which everyone lives and labors.
5. Celebration of learning: Each failure as well as each success is a precious learning opportunity, with lessons shared.
6. Development and training: These are twin processes by which to achieve personal growth and professional improvement.
7. Clarity of communication: Everyone knows what they need to know; also, the intended meaning of whatever is communicated is identical with what the recipient thinks has been communicated.
8. Embracing all kinds of diversity: The “melting pot” metaphor is all wrong. Think in terms of a salad or a symphony. Each single part is essential but no single part is sufficient.
9. Be customer-driven: Peter Drucker said it best, “Without customers, there is no business.” However, as Southwest Airlines’ retired chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, suggests, “If you take great care of your people, they will take great care of your customers, and your customers will then take great care of your shareholders.
10. Networking and connectivity initiatives: The primary objectives are sharing, helping, supporting, giving, encouraging, protecting, etc. those in need, both within and beyond the given enterprise.
11. Time to think, dream, and create: Time is the only resource that is not renewable. Ample time is set aside time to renew mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy, energy that should be committed only to what is most important.
12. Ownership empowerment: Those who have earned the respect and trust of their colleagues are expected to take ownership of questions to be answered, problems to be solved, opportunities to be seized, etc. Over time, others who provide the support needed will also earn the respect and trust of their colleagues. Ideally, all members of an organization are equal owners. In reality, that is a journey rather than a destination.
13. Physical space: Everything in a physical workplace has been eliminated that wastes human energy, discourages interaction between and among people, and creates discomfort and distraction. Here’s a key question: “What can we do to make our physical workplace more appealing in terms of the five senses: what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell?”
Here is an excerpt from an article featured in the July issue of Southwest Airlines’ Spirit magazine. These are the first five business lessons and the last two. To read the complete article, a “must read,” please click here.
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Whether you’re founding a company or just want to look brilliant, take some cues from this airline.
1. Keep the idea simple enough to draw on a napkin.
In 1966, Rollin W. King sat with his lawyer, Herb Kelleher, in San Antonio’s St. Anthony Club and drew a triangle on a cocktail napkin. And lo, the napkin begat an airline. Rollin, owner of a money-losing commuter airline, wanted to start an intrastate carrier so the airline wouldn’t fall under the aegis of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Hence the triangle. He labeled the corners “Dallas,” “Houston,” and “San Antonio”—The Golden Triangle of Texas.
2. A legend is an asset.
That cocktail napkin became a whiskey-stained version of the Magna Carta. It summed up the infant Company’s personality: informal, pragmatic, and a little bit naughty. Imagine if the airline had been formed by a dozen lawyers
in a Manhattan boardroom. Not the same thing. More important, Rollin and Herb recognized the drama. Here was the stuff of legend. Now all they had to do was form the most successful airline in history.
3. Hire a good lawyer.
The good news was, they already had a top-notch lawyer in Herb. A graduate of Wesleyan University and New York University Law School, he kept a law office in San Antonio. Herb was no stranger to litigation, which was a very good thing: he was about to face the litigation storm of his life.
4. Raise more money than you think you need. Now double it.
The partners—now four men, including Rollin’s brother-in-law and a businessman-politician named John Peace—figured they needed a quarter-million dollars just to start the Company. Herb decided to raise twice that amount. That was prescient; the lawsuits would ground the airline for another four years.
5. Crazy is no liability.
Not always, anyway. If an idea immediately sounds good, chances are someone—many people—thought of it already. Rollin had no idea how to raise the capital for his new airline. “Rollin,” Herb said, “you’re crazy. Let’s do it!”
39. Never rest on your laurels or you will get a thorn in your, um, butt.
We stole that almost verbatim from Herb. (Being Herb, he used spicier language.) Southwest continues to take that wisdom seriously. The just completed $1.4 billion purchase of AirTran gives the combined airline a powerful presence in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest. The acquisition also expands Southwest’s operations at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, New York’s LaGuardia, as well as in Charlotte and Memphis. Plus Miami, Des Moines, and Wichita. Southwest will enter 38 new airports, and is working to open AirTran’s international routes to its network.
The merger will fly more than 100 million Customers each year to more than 100 airports.
So much for resting on laurels.
40. It’s OK to be unprofitable for a year.
Just be sure to be profitable for at least the next 39.
Business begins with making people feel appreciated…and goes nowhere unless they do
In recent years, an avalanche of research data generated from marketplaces throughout the world reveals that when asked to identify what is most important to them, workers and customers identify “feeling appreciated” as being either #1 or #2.
Re-read that sentence and you will understand what Gary Vaynerchuk has in mind when observing “we have entered a new era in which developing strong consumer relationships is pivotal to a brand or company’s success.” The challenge is to create at points of contact with each consumer “an emotionally charged interaction” because the cultural changes social media have ushered in “are already having a big impact on marketing strategies, but eventually, companies that want to compete are going to have to change their approach to everything, from their hiring practices to their customer service to their budgets. Not all at once, mind you. But it will have to happen, because there is no slowing down the torpedo-like speed with which technology is propelling us into the Thank You Economy.”
Long ago, Southwest Airlines’ then chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, explained his company’s sustained success this way: “We take good care of our people, they take good care of our customers, and then our customers take good care of our shareholders.” In the “Thank You Economy,” appreciation is the coin of the realm. The aforementioned “emotionally charged interaction” involves two components: an employee who appreciates a customer or (yes) another employee and the person who feels appreciated.
Throughout his lively and eloquent narrative, Vaynerchuk inserts a number of insights that caught my eye. Here is a representative selection:
On his use of exaggeration: “I’d rather shock you into paying attention, and admit later that business rarely requires an all-or-nothing approach, than take the chance that you won’t take the situation seriously enough.” (Page 7)
“Right now, I’d say that social media is a bit like a kidney – you can survive with only one, but your chances of making it to old age are a lot better with two. Eventually, though, I think social media will be as important to a business as a strong heart.” (80)
“Creating a Thank You Economy culture will become easier and easier as you begin hiring people who share your commitment to caring. It will be easy to spot the people already on your staff who can’t adapt or just don’t get the concept, and as they leave you will replace them with those who share your DNA.” (102)
“Developing a powerful emotional connection could be all it takes to convince [consumers] to consolidate their spending with you. Plus, now that purchasing decisions are directly affected by consumers’ relationships to the people they communicate with on their social networking sites, staying aware of who your consumers know and who they talk to regularly [i.e. those by whom their preferences and purchase decisions are most influenced] will become increasingly important.” (196)
“Care – about your customers, about your employees, about your brand – with everything you’ve got.” (233)
I selected the title for this review (“Business begins with making people feel appreciated…and goes nowhere unless they do”) because I realized decades ago that I could not accomplish much of anything in my life unless I cared, really cared, about what I wanted to do and really cared about those on whom I depended for help to achieve my objectives. I also realized something else that proved to be even more important: Really caring about helping others to achieve their own objectives. It is easy enough to incorporate a company and obtain a license to do business. What happens next depends almost entirely on how much you care about who you are, how much you care about what you want to do, and how much you care about those with whom you will be associated. If you care enough about all three, you’ve got a shot. Otherwise, don’t bother.
In the Thank You Economy, the “winners” will be those who care the most…and are cared about the most. If you are determined to be among the “winners,” this is a must-read. In fact, it is a must re-read.
Think about it: If you don’t care, why should anyone else?