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Duct Tape and Customer Trust

After a customer service presentation I recently conducted, an attendee wrote to me about a situation that reminded her of my comments regarding attention to detail – “Everything Speaks,” – and how details can either build or erode customer trust. Here’s some of what she shared:

“I thought you would be interested in seeing the attached picture that I took on my flight home. As I was getting on the plane, my colleague had a hilarious/concerned look on her face (she had boarded a little earlier than me and was one seat ahead of mine) – she said as I was passing her ‘All I can say is … duct tape …’ (she had attended your presentation as well and had heard your talk). As I proceeded to my seat, I saw that my airplane window literally had duct tape all around it – luckily I was seated in the aisle. I immediately summoned the flight attendant; he had a very aloof personality and said that I shouldn’t worry, that the tape was only holding the window against the inner part of the plane wall and that the ‘outer part’ was fine. (You should have seen the look on the woman’s face who was sitting in the window seat). At one point during the flight the attendant walked past us and said sarcastically, ‘Oh good, you’re still here!'”

I love it when program attendees share stories like this!

Now, I’m no aviation engineer, but I’m sure the plane was indeed safe. In this type of situation, however, I’d recommend the airline should’ve gone to great lengths to either repair the window before boarding that group of passengers, or find a replacement plane. Yes, delays would’ve been involved; but I’d argue that passengers are much more familiar with delayed flights than they are with duct taped planes. My guess is that this story will be shared many, many times, and the airline won’t be credited for taking off on time, it will be ridiculed for causing passenger alarm.

Question to consider: What are your “duct tape solutions” that erode customer trust?

Who Should Get Promoted?

Due to the recession, employee promotions have been few and far between for most organizations. But as things begin to turn, promotions will likely start making a comeback. And now is the time to be thinking about your company/division/department promotion strategy.

Nothing communicates more quickly what an organization truly values than the decision on who gets promoted.

While all promotion decisions are important, the first promotion to a position of leadership is arguably the most important. The frontline supervisor has more power regarding the day-to-day customer experience than most executives do. And, as Gallup research clearly shows, an employee’s immediate supervisor plays a vital role in the level of that employee’s engagement on the job – “The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he is while he is there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor.” (First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham).

As you look at individuals for possible promotions, what criteria are you looking for? We know that just because someone is an excellent salesperson or technician, for example, doesn’t mean that he or she will make an effective leader. I do, however, believe that excellence in an employee’s current position is at least an indicator of potential excellence as a leader. But it’s only one indicator, and unfortunately is often the only indicator considered.

Here is a list of ten questions to keep in mind as you consider various employees for promotion. I’m sure you can come up with others, but these questions should be part of the mix. As you think about individual employees you’re considering for a leadership position, first give your gut yes or no response to the question. Then consider your answer further and provide a rating of 1-5; 1 being along the lines of disagree, never, etc; and 5 being completely agree, always, etc.

1. Is the person a problem solver rather than a problem dumper?

While pointing out problems or issues is okay, most companies need leaders who are prepared to solve those problems, not just whine about them.

2. Does the person volunteer for additional responsibility?

Steady performers who do what they’re paid to do and then go home are valued employees. If they’re to be leaders, however, they need to be willing to stretch and do things that might be out of their comfort zones.

3. Is the person passionate about their work?

If this employee becomes a leader, he or she is going to be a key factor in the engagement of direct reports. If the passion isn’t there now, it’s not likely to be there in a leadership position.

4. Is the person focused on continuous learning?

Complacency is a job-killer. Someone taking advantage of educational opportunities within the organization as well as from outside resources indicates a willingness to learn and also demonstrates that they don’t see the time clock as the driver of their career.

5. Does the person forge strong relationships with other departments and entities?

The higher a person moves in the organization, the more their success depends on the cooperation of others. Someone who builds strong relationships with other departments and shows a willingness to set other entities up for success is demonstrating a key leadership attribute.

6. Does the person treat others with dignity and respect?

Most people either treat others with dignity and respect or they don’t, regardless of their position. If the person you’re considering for promotion doesn’t treat others well now, you can be sure that this behavior will be magnified in a leadership position.

7. Does the person perform effectively under stress?

A leader’s employees take their cue from the leader. A leader who is always stressed out creates a team that is always stressed out. Someone who operates effectively even under times of extreme stress is demonstrating an ability to navigate through rough waters.

8. Does the person model the values of the organization?

If someone watched a video of this employee in action, would they see the organization’s values in action?

9. When the person screws up (and everyone does) does he or she accept responsibility?

Finger pointing and playing the blame game are poisonous in organizations. Our culture is more and more becoming one of not accepting responsibility. Those who are willing to accept responsibility for the mistakes they make and do what it takes to make things right, are likely to do the same with their department, division, company.

10. Does the person share the glory when there is glory to be had?

Few things are more demotivating to a group than a leader who claims sole credit for any success. A leader can’t be successful unless his or her team is successful. An employee who demonstrates gratitude early in his career is likely to demonstrate gratitude as a leader.

As I said earlier, I’m sure you can expand this list with your own benchmarks. But I find these items to be highly indicative of future success as a leader. It’s never too early to start looking for promotable employees, and I hope these questions help you in your decision.

Question to consider: Based on the criteria outlined in this article, what individuals on your team would be effective leaders?

Time Management Technique and Resource

If time management is a challenge for you (as it often is for me), this video post shares an effective technique.

If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video.

I Don’t Understand Wall Street

I guess I’ll never be known as the “Wizard of Wall Street,” because for the life of me, I can’t figure out how Wall Street works. I try, but I just can’t get it.

Latest example: Amazon.com’s stock price tumbled 13% yesterday because second quarter profit missed analysts’ projections. If the news stopped there, I’d understand.

But the news didn’t stop there. Amazon.com’s earnings are UP 45% and revenue is UP 41% from a year ago. Keep in mind that the Dow is up “only” 13.8% and S&P 500 is up “only” 12% during the same period. But missing analyst projections apparently trumps what seems to be strong performance.

Amazon is investing in infrastructure because, according to chief financial officer Tom Szkutak, “growth has been so fast the company needs to add capacity.” And the company expects third quarter sales to grow between 27-40% over the same period last year with earnings growth of 24%. I’m not sure anymore if that’s good or bad.

I thought Amazon’s numbers looked impressive. But apparently they’re disappointing. As I say, I don’t get it. Which clearly means you shouldn’t come to me for investment advice.

Storytelling and Leadership – Part 2

In one of last week’s blog posts, I discussed the important role storytelling plays in effective leadership (“Leadership and Storytelling”). I emphasized that stories provide the links that connect an organization’s employees to its history, its purpose, and its values. And that purposeful, well-told stories can stir the emotions of team members and make leaders more real.

At the end of the post I promised I’d recommend some resources that can help you develop and refine stories. The most important component of any meaningful story you share, of course, is its authenticity. I direct you to the following resources simply to help add polish to your stories.

Book Recommendations

Story Theater Method: Strategic Storytelling in Business, by Doug Stevenson. While the book focuses on crafting speeches, it provides excellent guidance for crafting stories for any purpose.

Managing by Storying Around: A New Method of Leadership, by David Armstrong, specifically addresses using stories as a leadership tool. The book shares many, many stories along with their application to the business world. Armstrong doesn’t intend the reader to actually use his stories, he provides them as examples of how effective stories are structured for business and, most importantly, how stories can make a point better than any other method.

Other Resources

“The Nine Steps of Story Structure” is a post from Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater blog. This brief post provides an outstanding blueprint for taking any story to a higher level. You can also navigate around the site for more of Doug’s resources.

“Business Storytelling” is an article from the Mind Tools Website. The article highlights the various types of stories and provides tips for effective storytelling.

I hope you find these resources to be helpful as you develop and share your stories!