Friday, June 24, 2011

Celebrate!! Celebrate!! Dance to the Music!

When planning a project, do you include time to celebrate?

The completion?
Overcoming that thorny problem to get things moving again?
Figuring a way to still stay in budget?

At the Leadership Breakfast - Reston today, we discussed leadership and teams, and of course communications came up as a problem and solution to several performance issues...not an unusual finding.

A significant dissatisfying factor for team members is the feeling that they are not appreciated -
'busting butt and no one notices'. Team leaders are confident that they are communicating and offering positive input – speaking about meeting goals, project progress, and staying in budget for routine operations; acknowledging the 'hero' who pulls it out of the fire on the others.

What is often missing is a celebration at completion and at major junctures during the project. A strategic pizza goes a long way to say I appreciate you! Or skipping the 'first thing Monday' meeting as a reward for the contributions from the team is pretty hard to forget. The point is celebrating the successes is a strong way to communicate several things, including appreciation and closure.

Simple concept – add celebrations to your planning.

Best thing I got from this meeting: Checking the project off a completion list is not a celebration.

[title is from a Three Dog Night tune]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Leadership or Management? Who Cares?

Recently I participated in a session about leadership experiences which drew from the rich experience of the people in the room, not merely a lecture by the person in front of the room.

The facilitator would set up a business situation and asked the audience of executives to share their experiences. I have found that listening to what others have faced and overcome is quite instructive and real.

A colleague sitting beside me grumbled at the conclusion of each topic - “that's not leadership – it's management.” In his eyes, none of the eight topics discussed that day passed muster as addressing leadership.

Although it was distracting to hear his continuing negative comments, I came to realize a couple of enlightening elements about leadership.

  • There is a very fine line separating a management action and a leadership action when trying to catalog the act. But this is like trying to determine how many angels can fit on the head of a pin – who knows and does it matter? Was the solution successful? Did it advance the organization toward the vision (goals); did it create results? If so, Great! Next time the situation comes up, let's consider using it again. Adding a name-tag to the action adds no value whatsoever.
  • My grumbling colleague spent much energy in slotting the activities, but took nothing useful away from the meeting. I heard about experiences and related results and took away many nuggets of useful information about better leadership practices. Two people, sitting side by side with vastly different outcomes.

Following the meeting, my business partner asked me – 'what was the best thing you got from this meeting?'

After a moment's thought, I summed it up as follows: leadership can be learned, but it can't be taught.

Do you find that thin line between what's leadership and what's management important? How so?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Customer Service?

The best customer service is not to have any incidents with your products or services requiring customer service.

When needed, however, customer service is about solving a problem or answering a concern – promptly and completely. Here's two approaches.

My smartphone has numerous apps and it gets a notice when apps are updated. Recently when clicking on an app update button, I got a message that it was not available from the app store (even though they sent the update notice). I sent an email to get help and got a prompt 'personal' response from Justin – an automated help desk response to gather more information.

When I sent back the information, Justin came back asking for more. Took 4 times and I got a link for the app update – but it did not work. I deleted the app – too much work for too little results.

At Zappo Shoes, the staff answers the emails, immediately dispatches replacement shoes if there's a problem, and openly solicit & display compliments or complaints - they learn from both. Growth in sales and customer satisfaction hits the top of the charts. It's easy and almost fun to get help here.

As more business is done remotely, it may be easy to rely on automation to handle routine or simple problems, but the high cost of this approach is losing contact with the customer. One of the most effective ways of knowing about your customers' experience is to use your product or service – the next best is to hear where they have problems or concerns.

Always wise to keep in mind that the customer is not a problem or a distraction. Perhaps doubly true if you don't see them face-to-face.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Speak Your Vision

Leaders are visionaries. They paint a picture of the way things will be.

How to go from vision to reality.

Share the vision often.

As President of NCI, my staff suggested that we communicate the vision more. Before hearing this, I felt that I had been speaking about the vision all the time – maybe even too often.

I talked more about the vision – in person, in writing, and through senior staff, managers, and supervisors. The outcome – NCI moved toward the vision faster. More sharing is strategically better to inform and stimulate creativity, innovation, and progress toward results.

Be concise and specific about the goal.

Just over 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy shared with Congress the vision of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade (i.e., the 1960's). The vision was realized by Apollo 11 in July 1969 as Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man & giant leap for mankind.”

Kennedy was very clear on the what and when of the vision.

Be vivid.

Use vivid terms to create an image for the listener – keep it 'visual'; avoid painting a map showing the path to the vision – a map can stifle creativity and innovation.

Declare victory.

Celebrate victory when achieving the vision or when reaching a crossroads which calls for new or updated vision. Give closure to your supporters – in a novel, when the writer skips to new scene without completing the current one, it is disappointing to the reader and often confusing as well.

Take it seriously.

A vision needs to be challenging but possible – if it's difficult that's OK. Imagine the outcome if Kennedy had chosen time travel as the target for the '60s.

Once committed, ride it out – don't let the flame die from inattention or the press of other business.

A leader who communicates a powerful vision can move an organization to achieve great results. Almost like predicting the future.

Please share your experience with the effect of a strong vision by the leader.

Come to the Capital Technology Management Hub, June 14th, for Sales Lab Rainmaker #6: ‘Networking - Are You Being Served?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Networking is NOT Just Talking About the Weather

When you attend events to meet new people, what's your goal?

After your Who, What, Who, What intro (name, title, organization, what you do) and they have done the same, what's next?

You are both going through a ritual to identify common ground – looking for something in which you share an interest.

One topic you share in common is the other person's business – find out what keeps them up at night.

Then you can see how to be of help – your services or products, a trusted referral, similar personal experience and results, or staying alert for a solution to the problem.

Going to an event without thinking of what you want to get out of it, you may come away with several opinions about the weather.

With a goal, you may come away with a sale, or at least the beginning of a new relationship.

Which is a better ROI for your time?

Your thoughts?

Come to the Capital Technology Management Hub, June 14th, for Sales Lab Rainmaker #6: ‘Networking - Are You Being Served?’