Archives For January 2012

This past week the World Economic Forum was held in Davos, Switzerland. The mood was somber, as it should be, given the current state of the global economy.

A recent USA Today article featured forum founder Klaus Schwab lamenting excesses resulting in economic turmoil and public unrest. He’s quoted as saying, “Free markets have to serve society,” and that a “lack of inclusiveness in the capitalist system” has generated these issues.

“We have sinned,” he declared, noting that this year’s forum would emphasize ethics and “resetting the moral compass of the world’s business and political community.” Hopefully the 45 world leaders in attendance will come away with “one heart, one mind, and one voice” with a plan to align economic policy and reality so service to society is the norm.

That is a longer term solution. In the short term, what can you do to ensure you behave ethically – in your own eyes and in those who observe your plans, decisions, and actions – each day?

Blanchard’s Ethics Check

In their book, The Power of Ethical Management, Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale propose a simple ethics check. Analyzing the answers to these three questions can help clarify whether your behavior is ethical, in your and others’ eyes.

  1. Is it legal?
    The first question in the Ethics Check is founded upon society’s “rules and regulations.” Most of the rules and regulations we live under are well-known; broadly held rules and regulations enable civility and forward-movement. A lack of broadly held rules creates chaos. An example? Driving rules. In the USA we drive in the right-hand lane in cars with driving controls on the left side front seat. Drop us in the UK, though, and our norms will be rattled! If an action is in accord with local, widely-held, community rules, the answer to this question must be “yes.”
  2. Is it fair?
    The second question includes others in the ethics equation. This avenue explores how well the action serves others. If an unfair advantage is gained, the answer to this question must be “no.” Note also that an action may be legal but, if it is unfair, it separates rather than aligns heads, hearts, and hands of those impacted by the plan, decision, or action.
  3. How does it make you feel about yourself?
    The last question in the Ethics Check invites public scrutiny, asking “How would you feel if your actions were published in the local newspaper or local news station?” If you or your family read about your actions and felt that you took advantage, were selfish, or won without honor, the answer to this question must be “no.”

Ethical Behavior Requires MORE Than Your Assessment

No matter your role (leader or follower) in your organization (be it a company or even a family), everything you do either helps, hinders, or hurts a positive, inspiring environment in which to operate. Your behavior will either serve society (your family or company) or it will not.

Realize that your plans, decisions, and actions will be observed by others and they will have an opinion about how ethically you’re behaving. Great leaders and great contributors create a safe environment for feedback. They seek others insights on how their behavior is perceived.

Asking is not risky. Asking is simply a means to learning how you are seen. To be seen as a highly ethical player in your environment, your actions may need refinement.

What is your experience with ethical (or not so) bosses or team members? Join in the conversation in the comments section below.

Chris’ new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, is set for release in February ’12.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Last month one of my blog posts discussed the impact of poor leadership on revenues. Today I’ll discuss the impact of poor leadership on the customer experience.

Each year since 2006, MSN Money (with the help of polling house IBOPE|Zogby) conduct customer service surveys to identify the 10 worst service providers as well as the 10 best.

You will not be surprised at the top 10 best service providers – nor at the worst 10. All of us are consumers who experience great service periodically, terrible service periodically, and mediocre service far too frequently. We see disengaged employees “going through the motions” more often than not.

In the complete listing of company rankings, Zogby identified which aspects of customer service were most important to respondents. Aspects and the percentage of respondents that ranked it as “most important” were:

  • Knowledgeable staff (47.0%)
  • Friendly staff (14.7%)
  • Readily available staff (12.5%)
  • Service after a sale (12.4%)
  • Flexible return/exchange policies (8.0%)
  • None; the product is all that matters (2.6%)
  • Not sure (2.6%)

The top four responses all relate to customer interactions with staff (over 86% of responses!). This data supports our experience and our research: the customer experience is entirely driven by how employees treat customers.

Effective Leadership Creates Inspired Employees

The Ken Blanchard Companies has been studying the impact of leadership on customer service for many years. This research, titled “The Leadership-Profit Chain,” links leadership to three positive outcomes desired by all companies: employee work passion, customer loyalty, and financial success.

This research identified two types of required leadership: strategic and operational. Strategic leadership is clarity of vision, values, culture, and opportunities the company chooses to pursue. Operational leadership is how day-to-day activities support company strategy. It includes policies and procedures, leadership behaviors, and perceptions of fairness and justice within the organization’s operation.

Every leader throughout the organization must provide the appropriate mix of strategic and operational leadership. A frontline supervisor must be able to answer questions about the current strategy; a senior leader must be able to speak intelligently about the fairness of policies and procedures.

The appropriate application of strategic and operational leadership is shown to increase employee discretionary effort, proactive problem-solving, and demonstrated care about customers.

Inspired Employees Create Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty is primarily impacted by their relationship with employees. Are employees knowledgable, friendly, available, and as responsive after the sale as before the sale? To a lesser extent, strategic and operational leadership can impact customer loyalty. If you have seamless, trusting return policies, loyalty grows. If you have unfair policies that demonstrate distrust of  customers and take too much time to exchange a product, loyalty erodes.

Leadership efforts alone do not create profits. Profits are the applause your company earns by creating inspired employees who “wow” their customers every day.

The research is clear. Inspire employees with the right mix of strategic and operational leadership. Those employees will create loyal customers that generate profits . . . which enable you to pay employees well, offer great benefits, celebrate employee efforts and accomplishment, etc. That’s a positive cycle every company desires.

What is your experience with the elements of the Leadership-Profit Chain? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT of Chris’ #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet book and enter our contest to win the whole ebook FREE!


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

In my work with senior executives, a key question that I ask is, “What are you trying to accomplish: success or significance?” It’s a more difficult question than it seems on the surface.

The “success to significance” journey originated with Bob Buford, founder of the Halftime organization.

Most leaders’ performance is measured on success metrics – net profits, market share, sales growth, etc. These tangible targets are important and desired outcomes for businesses and their leaders. Profits help their enterprise remain viable.

AND, what are the logical consequences of leaders being held accountable only for success metrics? The result is a leadership population (around the globe) that is exclusively focused on success; little else matters in their world.

Often leaders will respond to my question with, “What do you mean, significance?” I try to get them to tell me what significance is, to them. I facilitate a conversation about their personal purpose and about their values. I ask whether the work they do each day enables them to live that purpose & those values – or not.

I ask them to describe how they and their business contribute to the well-being of their company’s key players: employees, of stakeholders, of customers, and of the communities where they do business. I help leaders understand that profits are not “ends” in themselves; they are a “means” to make a positive difference to their key players.

I ask leaders if they’d be satisfied, today, with their current legacy: “Would you rather to be known for the profits you create or the social good you generate?”

Many – not all – of the leaders I coach make this shift to significance.

Significance Requires Thinking “Outside The Lines”

Managing for significance means leaders must buck established trends. They must accept that standard practices hold them to success metrics, so, in addition to their success expectations, they create significance metrics.

There are three key steps to creating an organization that equally values & delivers success and significance. Your organization likely already has success metrics in place; we’ll focus on creating significance metrics.

  1. Define a Significance Vision
    You must first create a clearly defined vision for significance. A vision statement is a description of your organization’s desired future state. Your vision sets a target for how your company will operate when the desired state is fully acted upon. A sample significance vision might be “our company is the leader in creating social benefit in our county.”
  2. Create Significance Metrics
    With your vision in place, set specific goals and standards that, when accomplished, will create observable traction towards increasing significance. Sample metrics might include volunteering at least 1,000 person-hours to three specific non-profit organizations in your community, building at least two homes for Habitat for Humanity, or granting five $2,000 college scholarships to needy and deserving students.
  3. Celebrate Significance Accomplishments
    Once metrics are in place, regularly celebrate both effort towards goals AND goal accomplishment. Leaders must make a BIG DEAL out of this new significance emphasis. Share success stories in both town hall meetings and in newsletters. Look at celebrating these accomplishments as a proactive campaign for significance.

Significance metrics must be held as equally valuable to success metrics. The most effective leaders hold all staff accountable for both.

What does significance mean to you? Does your company have “significance metrics”? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Get your FREE excerpt of Chris’ #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet book and enter the contest for the entire ebook!


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

In my work with Blanchard clients, one of the most frequently mentioned challenges in client organizations is “communication.” It’s a broad term – too broad to understand exactly what the issues are. When I ask for specifics, I typically hear things like, “I don’t understand what our strategy is,” and “I have no idea why my boss made decision ‘X’,” and “Our work has changed immensely; how do we know if we’re headed down the right path today or not?”

When staff do not understand your company strategy, struggle to make sense of decisions, or don’t understand where they fit in the scheme of things, they worry. They gossip. They may even invent plausible “stories” to make sense of the plans, decisions, and actions they see leaders make. Time spent on these worries erodes employee productivity and employee passion for their work and their customers.

Every company faces these same communications challenges. In the Ken Blanchard Companies, we have over 350 employees in offices across the globe (San Diego; Toronto; London; Singapore) and in home offices in these and many other countries. Some of us can work independently for months without engaging with any other Blanchard colleagues face to face.

Given our global workforce, it is tough to ensure that every Blanchard associate knows what they need to know about the company’s strategy, key goals, department objectives, client needs, colleague needs, and more. I know I get completely focused on what’s on my to do list (“What’s the dress code for this week’s client engagement? What time is my flight tomorrow?”) and not pay attention to what colleagues are doing or facing.

Keep People Informed, Proactively

Our chief spiritual officer (yes, that’s his actual title), Ken Blanchard, has a unique way of keeping all staff, around the globe, informed about what’s happening in our company. Ken leaves a voicemail to every employee, each Monday through Friday morning.

Ken lets us know where he’s at (often with clients), what he’s doing, and even “what’s come clear to him” in the last 24 hours. As one of the planet’s most brilliant minds, lots of cool stuff comes clear to him regularly.

Ken also informs us about structural changes, players in new roles, great work by Blanchard associates, and sometimes asks for prayers/positive vibes if associates (or their family members) are challenged by health issues.

It’s quite a discipline for Ken, given his travels and commitments, but he makes it a priority to leave us his morning messages. (Periodically when he’s out of the country he asks for volunteers to cover for him!)

Create Many Communications Channels

Besides Ken’s daily messages, our company has multiple other communications avenues in place. They include:

  • Quarterly all-company meetings that are broadcast (audio/video) from our Escondido, CA, USA headquarters.
  • Regular 1:1 meetings between leaders and followers. These meetings are follower-driven to ensure that direct reports get their questions answered, immediately.
  • An online website where associates can review recorded all-company meetings, review team performance, learn about client successes, or even dive into new products that are in the pipeline.

Ours is not  a perfect system but it works well in our culture. The trick is for you to find mechanisms like these that proactively and effectively educate staff about strategy, goals, opportunities, celebrations, and more. When complaints about communications issues are less frequent, you’re on the right track.

What communications mechanisms work well for you and your company? Share them in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT of Chris’ book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet, and enter our monthly contest to win the entire ebook.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

It’s time to draft your New Year’s Resolutions for 2012. What goals will you set for yourself in your professional life for the next twelve months?

Most of us have a hard time keeping our New Year’s Resolutions. Slashdot did an informal poll of readers a year ago and discovered 67% of respondents kept less than HALF their resolutions. Our tendency is to set New Year’s Resolutions but not change our behavior to accommodate desired outcomes.

You’re reading a blog on leadership and corporate culture, so I will suggest a leadership resolution for your list. If embraced, it will enable a workplace of better relationships, higher performance, positive customer experiences, and higher profits.

The resolution is “I will demonstrate effective leadership, every day.”

Monitor The Effectiveness of Your Leadership Efforts

Every person in an organization provides leadership. Some are formal leaders; all are informal leaders. Only when every player, every influencer, demonstrates these best practices can organizations reap the highest rewards.

There are three keys to increasing your leadership effectiveness. Each of the three best practices are vitally important and must be acted upon daily.

  • Clear Expectations – First, set and communicate your team’s strategy for the performance period (typically for your organization’s fiscal year). Once your strategy has been formalized, align team goals and team member goals to that strategy. Ensure that team member goals are aligned to team goals. Finally, set values expectations in the form of defined valued behaviors. These clarify how good corporate citizens treat employees, customers, and stakeholders.
    Monitor the clarity of these expectations often (at least monthly).
  • Total Accountability – With expectations clear, hold yourself and others accountable for their agreed-to goals. Practice consistent and proactive consequence management: praise goal effort and accomplishment as well as good citizenship (positive consequences), and redirect activities and behaviors that do not align with performance or values expectations (negative consequences).
    Monitor consistent accountability for expectations regularly (at least monthly).
  • Positive Relationships – Great relationships between peers and between bosses and followers do not happen naturally. Competition, pride, and ego can create a work environment where lousy relationships are the norm. Great relationships require listening, honesty, celebration, and validation of effort, contribution, and citizenship.
    Monitor your progress in regular one-on-one meetings. Schedule (and HOLD) one-on-one meetings (twice a month or more) with your boss and, if you are a formal leader, with each follower. Make it a point to discuss not only progress towards goals but progress towards a respectful, positive relationship.

Manage this resolution like you would any other desired outcome. Allocate formal time each week (1-2 hours) for specific activities that will increase your influencing effectiveness. Set goals for each of the areas above and regularly monitor your progress, as suggested in the bullets above.

One additional mechanism might keep you on track: share your “effective leadership” plan and goals with a trusted peer or boss. Ask them to help you monitor your progress and help hold you accountable.

Have I forgotten another critical area for effective leadership? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Look for Chris’ upcoming #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet book, to be released by THiNKaha books this month.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”