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Paula Marshall's Blog

The musings of a female CEO, trying to change the way business is done.

Tag Archives: Business

Stay tuned for more Vlogs about de-linking Pay and Performance.

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I am experimenting with a new format today. I received this question from one of my friends on Facebook. I would like to address it as well as I can using the principles laid out in my book.

“Hi I have read alot of your materials, but have you written any thing I can use for my staff? Especially in regards to eliminating poor customer service and building employee morale. I would like to use it as a tool for my first meeting with new staff. Thanks”

–Racquel G.

Racquel–

First, I want to thank you for thinking of me to answer your questions. I am going to try to address Customer Service and Employee Morale as best as I can here, but remember this is a blog. I could write another book on just these subjects alone, but this will get you started.

Improving Customer Service

9 times out of 10 bad customer service is  linked to a lack of training. Especially in small businesses, when all the essential functions are handled in one office. In big corporations, bad customer service has to do with outsourcing, language barriers and a lack of valuing employees. However, in a small office, we often don’t have the resources  or the time to train new employees as much as they should be trained. Much of the time, we just throw them in for OTJ (On The Job) training and assume they will pick it up. This is a grave mistake. If you expect all your employees to create a unified effort to ensure your customers are happy, you must train them on what that unified effort is. If you don’t have any idea what you want that to look like, study some cases of companies that have great customer service. It can be a local small business with whom you had a great experience, or a large corporation. Apple is one company who sets the bar in customer service. Even if you just go into the Apple Store, and study how the employees relate to the customers. Take notes. From your notes you should have some idea what you want your Customer Service plan to look like. Even if its as simple as “The customer is always right,” or “Always smile, be cheerful, and be as helpful as possible.” The next step is enacting it. Train your employees from the moment they walk in the door, let them know what is expected of them. This way, when an expectation is met, there can be a reward and when an expectation is not met, there can be punishment or grounds for termination. I can’t stress enough how important training is. Training will help you showcase your brand and what type of company you are.

Employee Morale

Raising employee morale, or increasing Employee Engagement, is one of the topics I get asked about the most. Happy, dedicated employees are the holy grail, some would tell you. Well I don’t think it’s that hard to develop better morale, but it does take some time. People thrive on relationships. Feeling as though we belong and that people care about us is the center of our core being. If your employees don’t feel cared for, or valued then they will start to detach. They will begin working as robots, without really investing themselves. This is when errors and bad customer service start to become a problem. Building trust and relationships takes time, and understanding. Your employees have to understand that you wont just fire them at the drop of a hat, that you want them to succeed. This means having the courage to confront people when there’s a problem, but doing so because you are concerned about the person as well as your business. If you don’t know where to begin, I have some suggested reading material that will help you find your way into a more caring and soulful business environment.

The Seven Acts of Courage: Bold Leadership for a Wholehearted Life by Dusty Staub

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

I hope this has helped and good luck with your business!

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Have a problem with competing egos?

To know how to eliminate the Corporate Ego, we must understand what Ego is, both personally and within a corporate culture. According to Freud, the Ego is the part of our brain that is constructed from external feedback. What the world tells us about ourselves, we internalize and this information thus becomes part of who we are–for good or for ill.

In more modern terms, the ego is our pride. Our pride can grow or be diminished by feedback from others, especially those close to us such as our spouses and bosses. The ego is the most fragile part of our personalities because it can be so easily damaged by hearing negative things about ourselves, whether these things are true or not. When the ego rules our actions, things can get out of control very quickly. The ego is fueled and reassured by material goods; salaries, cars and houses are examples.

In the sense of a corporation, a collective ego can exist within a corporation and its members. The ego becomes a part of the corporate culture and this can be very dangerous to the employees and the bottom line. When the ego seeps into corporate culture, people in all parts of the structure begin to fear honest feedback. Honest feedback is the ego’s enemy, because it can be damaging to how we see ourselves. The ego only likes positive, over-inflated feedback, so that it can continue in its original direction–towards acquiring more stuff.

The purest cure for eliminating Corporate Ego is honesty and listening. But the key is, everyone in the structure, no matter their position must be allowed to contribute their honest opinion of what the organization, and its members, could improve on. In contrast, everyone must be listened to in the organization. When suggestions are made, they must be taken seriously no matter who makes them. If you feel your business or the company you work for may be Ego-Infused, the best way to eliminate it is to institute a system for giving and receiving honest feedback.

Sometimes this means hiring a Human Relations specialist, or counselor for your organization. There must be some system of support to build you, your managers, and employees back up after you are all are knocked down and humbled by the first round of feedback. To deflate the ego of a corporation can be scary, and without support people may lose faith in their ability to do a good job.  The goal is to have people believe that they can do their jobs well, but for them to be open to receive feedback and new learning about how to do their jobs better. Ego clouds one’s ability to learn and improve. Eliminating Corporate Ego is one of the most important steps to rebuilding American businesses.

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Here’s my second vlog. I know some of you are missing the more text-heavy blogs. More are coming very soon. They are just time consuming to write. I am working on more about Deming, and EQ! Look for those soon!

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Carl Jung presented the idea of a “Collective Unconscious,” which is the idea that people in a society share a part of their unconscious mind. This unconscious holds the memories of how our society, and how humanity, came to be. A popular example is that every major tribal culture, and every major religion has a flood myth. Is this because they all came up with the same idea independently, or because early man experienced a flood and this experience permeated itself into the collective unconscious? Jung suggests the latter.

He also suggests that we inherit Archetypes, or patterns recognized in human behavior, from the collective unconscious. Jung’s idea basically suggests that we perform certain behaviors and harbor certain ideas because they follow the pattern of early man.

Every society around today has descended from a tribal, nomadic culture. When our societies were small groups of people wandering the harsh terrain, there was little or no protection from the elements or from wildlife. The best way to be protected was to amass the largest number of protectors for the tribe. Male warrior types were able to protect the tribe, and thus the tribe’s ability to procreate.

Many times, although there were enough things to worry about, tribes were at war with each other. Competing for food and resources led to an all out need for dominance. Once a tribe was bested, it was absorbed by the winning tribe, adding warriors and more eligible women to the existing lot. This only made the tribe more powerful, and more able to best anyone who came along.

Today, the wars have moved from the savanna to the Board Room. The wars are usually sans-spear, and the participants wear ties and jackets in lieu of loincloths. However, I am struggling to find many more differences than these. We’ve applied the terms “Mergers and Acquisitions,” but the premise is the same. The stronger companies taking over weaker companies in order to increase their influence, and to better be able to fight off the next competitor. Instead of fighting for food and resources, we are now fighting for the bottom line.

My red-blooded, capitalist readers are asking “What’s wrong with that?”

There is nothing wrong with fueling the bottom line, but doing it in a combative, head butting way only poisons our corporate culture. It pits company against company and employee against employee instead of promoting team work and customer focus. When we put our focus on “winning” and “growth” and “profits” it takes our focus off the most important thing, and the thing that will most likely help make us money: keeping the customer happy.

Refusing to participate in these corporate war games will allow everyone in an organization to work together toward a common goal. Instead of plotting and scheming behind each other’s backs, employees will be working for the common good.

As far as mergers go, two companies joining together may not be a bad idea. Are their cultures similar? Do they have similar goals? Can joining the two be mutually advantageous for both parties and contribute something genuine to the culture? If so, I think merging can be a positive step.

However, we must constantly self-examine, and understand our desires to conquer others. If we just want to fuel our own power and position, then we have advanced no further than our tribal ancestors.

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Watch this video…

“A goal centered organization is focused on continuous improvement rather than individual credit or blame.” In this clip from NBC’s The Office, Michael a.k.a. “Willy Wonka” is searching for individual credit for his marketing idea, and chastising his team for not matching his initiative. This is an example of an Ego-Based Culture. Blame and criticism abound when people don’t live up to the standards set for them by others.

An Ego-centered culture is the one that most American businesses have adopted, not through negligence, but through lack of another alternative. When compensation and bonuses are the highest form of flattery, people begin to think that verbal commendation and praise do not exist. So they base their success and happiness off of bonuses and raises, which they think reflect that they’ve done an admirable job. 

By taking the compensation as a form of flattery, we ignore our inner need to be recognized and praised by a person, and by our community. This forces our compassionate, human voice to bow to our greedy and materialistic voice. In other words, our ego takes hold, and everything in the corporation becomes about individual egos, who is right and who is wrong, instead of what’s right for the customer, and for the consumer.

To move away from this we must institute a “Listening Culture,” where every idea is listened to and heard. When every idea is listened to it strengthens the marketplace of ideas, and produces a better product. Every one in the organization feels valued and that they have contributed to the organization’s future success. Everyone is respected, not just the top managers, or the engineers.

“Corporate performance is not a singular event. Employees, customers and consumers must remain engaged day after day, week after week and year after year. The key is to keep participants from becoming apathetic or dispirited while keeping morale high. This is accomplished by being goal oriented rather than ego oriented.” Finding the Soul of Big Business pp.56

 

These are Bama’s Core Principles for maintaining a Goal Centered Culture:

 

1. Respect. Our community encourages an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect for every member of the organization, regardless of their role.

 

2. Building up. Our community motivates and strives for improvement by providing positive input and feedback. Managers and coworkers are expected to build people up, not tear them down.

 

3. Value of purpose. Everyone at every level in our community knows they are of value to us. Confidence in their abilities is expressed and they are appreciated for their efforts.

 

4. Optimism. Our community expects members to take chances and face challenges realistically. Everyone is encouraged to honor their better selves by using the unlimited potential of their creative minds to solve problems and continuously improve.

 

5. Involvement. Our community expects everyone to participate. Cooperation is emphasized over competition.

 

6. Commitment. Continuous improvement is a continuous commitment to developing the skills, attitudes, pride, productivity, creativity and involvement of everyone in the community.

 

Implementing these principles, and standing by them to make sure they are put into action and eventually internalized by the culture, is the best road map to becoming a Goal-Centered Organization.

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Here’s an excerpt from my new book, this section deals with Pride and Ego, what they are and how they are different:

 

“We want our employees, suppliers, customers and consumers to feel pride in our organization. Pride is the happy,satisfied feeling we experience when having achieved something special. That something deserves admiration and respect.

 

Pride is satisfaction with no need to brag. However, ego is a more primordial thought process, impulsive and self-focused with a sense of superiority to others. Pride can be shared while ego is selfish and is often abusive.

A company that has a big ego doesn’t like to admit failure. Executives in such a company will frequently go to great lengths so save face. The result: continuing programs and initiatives that aren’t effective. The investment of energy and ideas that go into these programs creates an atmosphere that becomes self-protective. Accordingly, the program or initiative takes on a life of its own.” pp. 36

 

As Dr. Deming Said, “All anyone asks for is a chance to work with pride” But there is a very fine line between Pride and Ego. Can we allow ourselves to be proud of our work and yet not let ourselves become braggers? Everyone know’s a bragger, its not pretty. 

 

As an exercise in pride, you can do the following. This is a form of meditation, so you’ll need a quiet place alone for at least 5 minutes. 

  • Close your eyes. Concentrate on your biggest accomplishments in life. These don’t have to be work related, they can be family related or related to personal growth.
  • When you concentrate on those things, allow yourself to feel happiness and be grateful that they happened, while also accepting the knowledge that those things wouldn’t have happened without you and your hard work.
  • Also acknowledge the other people in your life that allowed those accomplishments to happen. Silently thank them and appreciate them in this moment.
  • Be in the moment with the pride and acknowledgment. However, don’t allow yourself to think selfishly. Even if you were the only person to work on this project, for example, other people in your life made sacrifices to allow you to realize your goals. Don’t let yourself get lost in the accomplishment, and the praise that comes along with it. Praise is nice, but it is external, and will take over your life if you do not allow yourself to feel praise for yourself, and thankfulness to those around you.

Until next time,

Paula

 

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