Clients Do Not Come First

dreamstime_m_49136428By Jason Questor
Managing Partner, Programs and Practices

Organizational executives have been doggedly repeating the mantra for decades – “The customer comes first”. And what has been the result? Far too often and in far too many organizations large and small, it means that those who directly serve the client / customer are seen by management as mere means to an end – not much more than meat machines.

Year after year, the studies pile up and are duly reported on by business publications. With the exception of a few bright star organizations, employee morale and engagement scores continue to be weak across all private and public sectors globally. The standard shopping list of recommendations of what leaders and managers must do to fix the situation gets trotted out, again and again. Social media fills up with memes about the “boss from hell”. Company reviews on sites like Glass Door sometimes give pause to job seekers, and you lose that key talent before you even meet them.

Obvious Fact: disengaged, unhappy, unappreciated people are unlikely to be ideal ambassadors and advocates for your products and services, and unlikely to be motivated, other than by fear or deeply held personal integrity and values, to be providing your clients and customers with outstanding service.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first.
If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”
Richard Branson

Richard Branson’s business acumen and insight is legendary, and his belief that it is the employees who must come first sounds at first, to many ears, like heresy. And yet his wisdom immediately rings as truth. What does this actually mean in terms of action items for you as a business leader, manager, champion, mentor and coach?

  1. Find out what those words up there mean insofar as how they integrate with your ideal you: leader, manager, champion, mentor, coach. How much of each of these are you being and doing on a day to day business? How much should you be doing to create and sustain people engagement and passion? This ties directly into how much discretionary effort your people are willing to provide. Do they do only the bare minimum to not get into trouble or do they bring everything they’ve got to their work? This links directly to your ability to attract and retain key talent. And oh, it also reflects directly on you, your personal and professional reputation, and your own future prospects.
  2. Find out what kind of a culture you are creating and reinforcing every single day, in every meeting, communication or other interaction with your people. While everyone owns culture, it is your decisions, expressed attitudes and behaviour that have, by far, the greatest impact on culture. Sit down and have a think about this. Discuss it with your peers.  Figure out what you and they need to be and do to close the gap between what your culture looks like and what you want it to be.
  3. Find out what those very impressive Vision, Mission and Values statements mean in terms of strategy execution, all the way down through programs, projects and everyday work. Make the links. Work with your people so that they know how these grand thoughts translate to what they do on the job every day.
  4. Delegate effectively and well. Develop your people through ever higher levels of involvement with initiatives of strategic value, not just tactical or operational Inbox tasks. Know the differences among delegating, assigning, giving orders and dumping.
  5. Coach, mentor and train your people every day with every means at your disposal. Invest in them and make your investment very visible. Respect, recognize and reward growth, not just goal achievement. Again, as Richard Branson said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
  6. If you are doing it right, you see yourself and you are seen as a member of the team, not someone outside of it.
  7. Stop saying “I” when you talk about organizational achievements. No matter how awesome you are or think you are, you did not do it all by yourself. Start saying “We”.
  8. Stop saying “You” when things don’t work out as planned. Your people received their initial and ongoing direction from you. Start saying “We”.

And if I may be allowed one more quote to wrap all this up, let’s hear from Mahatma Gandi:

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

From Alpha Guerilla:The Leadership Lessons ©2015 Jason Questor

ACHIEVEBLUE’s Culture, Leadership and Management Development practices merge the world’s most powerful and widely used culture assessments with in-depth analysis, debriefing, action planning and training services to enable you to create and sustain the organizational culture that creates success. Click here for more information, or call Mona Mitchell or Jason Questor at 416-236-3005.

Five Reasons You Need to Invest in Your Organizational Culture

dreamstime_9985169 modified sqby Jason Questor
Managing Partner, Programs and Practices

No matter what the initial topic of conversation, be it leadership / management development, project management, business analysis or sales / marketing, clients frequently ask how they can make real, lasting changes that will boost their business performance, from the top of the house to the bottom line and everywhere in between. And the answer is always “pay attention to the culture you are creating and sustaining every day, in everything you do and say”.

You cannot not have a culture. People working and just being together inevitably create one. Over time, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours gel into patterns and set into the concrete of what it takes to fit in and be successful in your organization. The set of expectations that others have of you, reward and punishment structures, the approach taken to address challenges and opportunities, who gets promoted, how groups large and small work together, how you service your customers, all of these contribute to the self-defined identity of the group. And it is you and your peers, as business leaders and managers, who have the greatest influence on how that culture is structured and how it operates, for good or for not so great.

Your culture will take on a life of its own, persisting and evolving as individuals and teams come and go, and actively changing anyone who must work within it.  This is what cultures inevitably do. The culture immediately identifies the group, internally and in the eyes of others: the culture of religions, national cultures, military cultures, police cultures, sports cultures, organizational cultures, your culture.

Look around at your people. The way they, as a group, are behaving, is a mirror being held up for you to learn from. Are they motivated, engaged, collaborative, achievement driven, customer and quality focused? Good for them. Good on you. If not, here are five reasons you need to take charge of your culture – understanding what your ideal culture would look like, measuring and acknowledging what it actually is today, and working strategically, tactically and operationally to close the gap.

  1. Talent Retention: People rarely quit their jobs. Primarily they quit their managers. Study after study has shown this to the extent that the saying has become an “old chestnut”. What are you doing about it? Gallup’s employee engagement study, released in April 2015, determined that managers account for up to 70% of variance in employee engagement. In the United States, less than one third of employees are engaged in any given year since Gallup started measuring in 2000.
  2. Talent Attraction: Your company has a reputation, you know. It is being shared in conversations, in social media and on “working there” websites. People who have the talent and skills your organization needs to succeed usually have a choice of where they work. And they are talking.
  3. Leaders and Managers: It is challenging to attract true people leaders and people managers. It is even harder to keep them when the culture they work in does not put a priority on their unique abilities to identify and harness the performance potential of their teams. Cultures that say the words around people being their most valuable resource but then treat those same people as commodities or machines hobble any efforts by true people leaders and managers. And so they leave. And their people follow them.
  4. Discretionary Effort and Productivity: Employee engagement and discretionary effort are inextricably linked. Are your people doing just enough to get by and not get into trouble? Do they comply grudgingly when an emergency situation demands extra work? Or do they actively engage in their work, enthusiastically bringing all their talents and skills to bear on every situation or task? Do they actively participate in growing your business, well beyond the official duty roster of their job functions? Cultures that demonstrate a genuine, caring commitment to “whole person” development for their staff, providing learning and growth opportunities as a component of everything people do every day reap the rewards. Those that don’t, don’t.
  5. Your Bottom Line: Individually and collectively, the items above will drive directly to your bottom line. Your customers will be served better. Your products and services will be of consistently high quality. Your brand and your reputation among customers will be enhanced. They will recommend you to their friends and colleagues. You will get more business. You will be able to attract and retain the best talent, and your people will actually look forward to coming to work, knowing that they are truly valued in an environment designed to bring out their very best.

From Alpha Guerilla:The Leadership Lessons ©2015 Jason Questor

ACHIEVEBLUE’s Culture Practice merges the world’s most powerful and widely used culture assessments with in-depth analysis, debriefing and action planning services to enable you to create and sustain the organizational culture that creates success. Click here for more information, or call Mona Mitchell or Jason Questor at 416-236-3005.