solutions

Turning “Yeah, buts…” into “A-ha’s!”

26 Jan
by Bridget DiCello

Does it drive you crazy when you have a good idea, an original approach or a unique solution and the first thing someone can say is, “Yeah, but…”?  It’s time to eliminate those words and turn them into “Yes, and…”

Before we jump ahead, those who routinely offer the, “Yeah, but…” are probably the individuals who ground those of us with wild, crazy and risky ideas.  So, it can be a good balance.  And their caution may be for good reason and may bring up a valid point of view.

First, open your mind to listen to the objection and ask a clarifying question or two.   They say, “Yeah, but what happens when the customer says no?”  You might respond, “Let’s look at that for a moment.  Which customers do you think would most likely respond that way?” and “What is it, do you think, that would make them feel that way?”

Then, address the elephant.  The elephant is the problem or roadblock that is preventing the conversation from continuing in a positive direction in order to explore possibilities.  “I hear your concern, and it’s good to hear why you feel that way.  Now, I’d like to continue exploring my idea a bit more.  Let’s start by looking at the benefits of what’s been suggested.”

Too often, a “Yeah, but…” ends productive discussion because the person who brought up the idea feels shot down, may not continue and may get defensive.  The “Yeah, but…” team member who brought up the objection gets defensive in return.  They get stuck defending themselves because they haven’t been given any credibility and have not been able to explore their concern at all.

When the clarifying questions are asked, the elephant addressed and the original idea explored, both people are more open to the discussion and good things happen.  With both team members engaged in productive conversation, you’re on your way to an “A-ha!”  such as, “A-ha!  I’ve never thought of it that way!  The idea may only apply to the top 20% of our customers, but those are the ones who we’d like to duplicate.  My concern was valid that we’d lose some customers, but if we lose some of the bottom 15%, that may be worth the trade off!  I’m glad we had this discussion.  Let’s do it!”

Plan for Consistency in 2012

04 Jan
by Bridget DiCello

When writing goals, the focus is on what we want to be different, how things will be improved and the areas we want to tackle in the upcoming quarter or year.  However, it’s important to not overlook what you really want to remain consistent.  Things that have enabled you to be successful this year and in the past might be taken for granted.

Doing the same things and expecting different results is the accepted business definition of insanity.  But more than that, doing the same things and expecting even the same acceptable results may be a lot to ask.  Things change.  People change.  Things do not stay the same.  People are not machines and consistency must be purposefully planned for.

What are the core components of your success that you need to remain consistent in 2012?  What is it about your approach, your systems, your customer service, your processes and your values that are the keys to your success?  Do you know?

When writing your goals for the upcoming month, quarter or year, take an inventory of what you consider to be your keys to success, identify the most important components, and determine what it is that will ensure continuity.

What is it that has brought you success?

  • If it is a single key employee that makes things happen, cross-train others.
  • If it is the way a process is running, document it, create checklists if necessary and ensure your team knows how important how they are doing things really is.
  • If it is the connections the owner, managers or key employees have nurtured, pinpoint the key activities that make those possible, should a key person take on a new role or need to leave, or you wish to increase the results you are achieving.
  • If it is your management team’s ability to make good strategic decisions, determine what makes that possible and expand the number of people with these capabilities.

If you want consistent success, the components that have made you successful need to be purposeful and routine.  If creating processes or systems is not in your nature, you need to task someone on your team with those skills with the role of pinpointing and systematizing those key components.  Otherwise, when a part of your success begins to slip, you try to play catch up, which may distract you from the new and exciting goals you have set for the future of your team.

The ‘Breaking Down Walls’ Conversation

26 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

The ‘Breaking Down Walls’ conversation is one that has the potential to take working relationships to the next level.  You may have been in a situation that is not great, but is not that bad either, it’s just tense.  This tension happens routinely as part of one person interacting with another.  It becomes a problem when it is not addressed and there is nothing to ease the tension.

With that said, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Is it important I break down this wall?  Or is it temporary and will go away on its own?
  • What created the wall in the first place?  Was it something I did?  Was it something they did?  Was it external to work?  Was it job pressure of some sort?
  • What is the opinion of someone I trust about the situation – do they think this is a real wall?
  • Where is this person coming from?

Walls can be a problem if they keep the work from being done and prevent positive results from being accomplished.  They can also be a problem if they cause an uncomfortable situation for those involved.  It is important to “clear the air” and often a manager can talk to each employee separately or the two together to mediate.  Talking to the two separately can put you in the position of each of them trying to win you over.  However, they may get very upset if confronted together.

The best way to deal with the situation is to first talk with each person involved and help them to understand their situation, assuring them you will not be the final judge, just the mentor and coach.  Help them to answer the questions above, keeping the conversation focused on them, how they see it, what they have done and what they can and will do differently.

Then, bring both the people together and set some clear ground rules to ensure they understand that this is not an opportunity to personally attack the other person, but a time to look at how the situation arose and what each person will do to diffuse it.  Keep the long term objective, company goals, customer service or similar end goal as the focus of why they need to work together better.

Laziness is often a Misnomer

22 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

Managers use laziness as a reason why employees don’t do a good job or complete tasks they are assigned.  Maybe you have uttered the accusation, “(S)he’s just lazy!”  Some believe that people in general are lazy

I couldn’t disagree more! People are passionate, driven and intelligent beings!  We even see those with great physical and mental limitations accomplish great things. (Like the world-renown pianist who has only four fingers total!)

 

That drive to contribute, accomplish and succeed is in every person – it may just be buried deeply behind a lifetime of bad experiences, of hearing words that beat up the self-confidence and a barrage of media messages that promulgate mediocrity.

Any employee who works for you has worked other places before, has interacted with friends and family, and has received messages about what they can accomplish and what is acceptable and expected – for years.

Laziness is defined as averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion and slow-moving and sluggish.  Why would someone act this way?

1. Failing to do the work in a previous job did not bring any negative results and they continued to get a paycheck.  They watched others work hard and get paid the same thing or be given more work to do.

2.  They’ve worked hard in the past to reach a particular goal and failed, received harsh criticism for doing so, and were not given any coaching or a second chance.

3.  They have grown up in a generation who believes they are entitled to a great life and it’s easy to get there – just watch TV and pay attention to the messages, and it’s no surprise.

4.  They have never found their passion, gotten really excited about the mission or goals of a company and have never had a leader that connected with them enough to ignite this excitement.

5.  No one has ever “forced” them to be successful, by pushing them out of their comfort zone and providing a safety net to assist in their success.

6.  They have never worked with a boss who took the time to get to know them, what is important to them and where they are coming from – in order to help them feel part of the team and work to their strengths.

I’m sure there are many reasons why someone would appear “Lazy,” and these are just a few.  Below are suggestions of how you, as the manager, might address an employee who acts lazy for these reasons.

 

1.  No negative results in the past. Ensure you are clearly setting expectations, explaining consequences and holding them accountable.  Take the time to provide the routine accountability, insist they report on their successes and failures and require they give you an idea of what they can do differently to continue to improve.

2.  Past failures. Celebrate success and hard work.  Even little bits of success and small steps in the right direction should be acknowledged by you – as should little failures and small steps in the wrong direction – receive coaching and redirection.

3.  Entitlement. Realize that your employees may have a different mindset, and may not have grown up in a strong environment to teach them otherwise.  Do you as the manager have to act like a parent?  In the role of imparting values, yes, sometimes you do.

4.  Lack of Passion. Share the mission and goals, get them talking about them (notice I did not say that you should talk about them), require they come up with good ideas and show them through leading by example what passion looks like (this means all your managers need to do so, not just you if you are the top dog).

5.  Force Success. No matter how small, require they do tasks and activities outside their comfort zone, check in with them before they have a chance to fail to redirect them if necessary, and help them to taste success!  Your involvement will become less as time goes on.

6.  Bad boss. The best bosses expect great things, demand excellence, impart passion and excitement and most importantly, connect with their people.  They realize that the best processes and systems in the world will have limitations if they cannot engage their people.  Engaging them means taking the time to build a relationship, but a relationship is a two way street – they also insist the employee does their part!

Have you had an experience where you thought an employee was lazy, but were able to uncover a great employee using techniques like those listed above?

 

Your Nemesis & the Battle Plan

08 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

Your Nemesis – that one thing in your business that continually haunts you and inhibits your success. Identify it and Battle it.

Maybe this situation describes where you are right now: You are experiencing success. You have a good team. You have a plan to get better, to grow, to expand and to reach 2011 goals. But something is holding you back from the greatness you could achieve. Although you can picture even more success, it seems to be just out of reach.

Maybe just when things are good, you have turnover in your team and that slows you down.  Maybe when sales are being closed left and right, you lose a large existing customer and the back door seems as open as the front door. Maybe although your employees do a good job, there are just enough errors to make the fire-fighting a significant part of your week. Maybe your employees do what you ask, but don’t seize opportunities they see and add to the potential of the team. Maybe everyone does a good job, but there is tension between key managers or key employees. Maybe… The list could go on.

What is it for you that keeps you from achieving an even greater level of success that you know you could or that your boss is demanding that you do?

What to do? Identify your Nemesis and Correct it.

Identify Your Nemesis. Finish this sentence: “In an ideal world, we would…” At some point we all let mediocrity take over. Even successful companies rest on their laurels in certain areas or at a certain point in their success. Reach back to what you really want to accomplish and determine what is in your way to achieving that.

Then summarize your quality issues, fires fought, frustrations for you as a leader, expectations not met and customer complaints in the first half of the year. Pinpoint common themes and the root causes behind them. What is the problem or challenge that repeatedly comes up? What is your Nemesis?

Correct it. If this problem or issue was easy to correct, you would have done it already, it wouldn’t be recurring and it wouldn’t be your Nemesis.

How to correct a Nemesis? You’ve got to come up with a battle plan. If you want to win against your enemy in battle, try these tactics:

Know your enemy better than they know themselves. A quick look at a recurring problem and an easy solution is not the answer to address something that recurs consistently. Your Nemesis will only be addressed if you really understand it. What is the problem? What is the root cause? How is it affecting us? When does it occur? What have we done to try to correct it? What are best practices in our industry? Why does it occur? How does each person contribute?

Arm yourself with the right weapons. When you know the enemy/problem well, you learn how it fights, what makes it occur and you must identify how to attack it with what it won’t expect. This may mean your managers need new and different tools in their leadership tool box, new technologies or software, or good old fashioned face time with customers, vendors, colleagues or employees.

Attack with the element of surprise and destroy the enemy’s will to fight. In business, this means that you can’t just try the same old approaches and expect they will fix a long term problem. You might need to do something a little crazy. Although it’s hard to “destroy the will” of a turnover problem, the other side of that is your team being committed enough to fixing the problem that they stay focused and committed. When you are successful, the risk is that your team will tell you, “We’re successful. We are doing great. Why upset the applecart by addressing this issue – it’s just part of doing business in our industry. It’s always been that way. Our competitors face the same issue.” And on and on. A true Nemesis takes a lot of courage to fight because it’s a long term problem that may be seen as acceptable.

Fight on the terrain where you are strongest. In the Bible, the Israelites win a battle with foot soldiers against chariots because they are in a valley deep with mud. Use your strengths and your team’s talents and abilities to engage the problem.

You and your team can accomplish greatness! What is standing in your way? Identify your Nemesis and work diligently to correct it.

Can you not see the forest for the trees? A true Nemesis in your business is not easily discovered or corrected. Sometimes it requires a set of eyes from the outside. Someone outside your company can often lead you through the analysis and resolution of a long term, recurring problem. Contact Bridget if you’d like to talk about setting up a company meeting or team retreat to take your company to the next level.

What does Top-of-the-Line Service Look Like in Your Industry?

01 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

In the May 2011 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine, The Best in Business Travel article compared different levels of hotel service, and the description of top-of-the-line Premium service was inspiring!

It described how the hotels in this class remembered a guest’s allergy to feathers and adjusted the bedding, remembered his favorite wine and provided it complimentary, provided an outdoor temperature reading in the room so the guest could dress appropriately, had an enormous fitness center with 30 complimentary classes per week, delivered comic books instead of a newspaper because of the guest’s offhanded remark, and made a special trip to purchase a case of a guest’s preferred type of bottled water.

While I have never held a job in this top of the line hospitality environment, I think it would be incredibly fulfilling.  Or can we provide this level of service in every one of our businesses? Logistically, it requires two things to excel in service – employee time and resources (labor costs) and money (to purchase preferred wine, bottled water outside of a purchase agreement, etc.).  Many businesses, if they don’t charge premium prices, don’t have the revenue or profit margin to add awesome customer service perks.

So, unless you are a 5-star hotel or a Nordstrom’s, are you out of luck?

Ask yourself, “What is it that the guests really like about this Premium service?”   In order to answer that question, we need to look at two types of premium service that I have experienced:  Perks Service and Custom Service.

Perks Service – This is where every amenity is present.  Anything that you think of is readily available at no additional charge.  From the example above, that would be the 30 complimentary fitness classes a week.  This level of service is expensive to provide because each of these perks cost the company money, but the return on investment can be significant depending on your product and your customers.

Custom Service – This is where the customer service is tailored to each customer’s needs and wants.  This requires that we listen to each customer to hear what they really want and what is important to them.  From the example above, this is delivering the guest’s favorite wine or comic books that they mentioned the last visit.

Both levels of service require that we listen to the customer.  The Perks Service requires we listen to them as a group and offer what is important to our customer base as a whole.  The Custom Service requires that we listen to an individual, remember what they’ve said and deliver that customized service next time we interact with them.  This is more difficult, more often overlooked, can have a tremendously powerful impact and has the potential to cost a lot less to implement than the Perks Service.  But, it requires that you hear and remember what the customer says.

Listening is like riding your bike next to someone who is walking.  You can think at 400 words per minute and most people speak about 100 words per minute.  The danger in listening is that your brain is thinking about something else with that excess capacity.

It doesn’t cost anything to listen to someone, and often it doesn’t cost much to customize the service they receive to some degree.  Where are those opportunities in your business and your industry?

Decision Making – On Autopilot or On the Case?

31 May
by Bridget DiCello
We’ve all seen the steps to decision making:
1.      Identify the objective
2.      Define the situation
3.      Generate alternatives
4.      Gather information
5.      Weigh the pros and cons of each
6.      Develop an action plan
7.      Implement
8.      Evaluate the results

How many decisions did you make in this way in the past week?  Who in the world has time to? But, if we don’t how can we get out of a routine that may be unproductive?

We run into two main types of decisions that I believe we solve with two distinct solutions:  Intuitive Solutions and Investigative Solutions

Intuitive Solutions: This is where experience counts, and a good memory, attention to detail and ability to pick up cues and logical patterns is important.  These are problems, issues and situations where we really want to call on the experts in the business, the key employees who have been through it all, and the person who loves their job and knows all the ins and outs.  These situations cause us to say, “We must have faced situations like this before, what have we done in the past?”

Those people who are valuable resources run through past situations in their heads, compare them to this present dilemma, choose the best course of action and share it with the team to implement.  The decision is made quickly about how to proceed.  If the proper people with experience are consulted, there is rarely an error in carrying out this decision.

Do you have these people in your organization? Those who have the experience to be a great resource and can be trusted without weighing all the alternatives in a lengthy process?

What do you do to develop more of this ability in your team? These people are developed when after decision is made, a problem is solved or a situation is handled, there is routinely a debrief, an autopsy if you will, to look at what happened, what was decided and the success or failure experienced.  The lessons learned will enable those with the ability to learn the patterns that work.  This ability must be practiced and consciously developed especially because you don’t want to wait years for someone to develop it, and often turnover rates are high enough that something takes a good employee away before they fully develop.

Investigative Solutions: This is where those decision-making steps above make sense.  This decision steps into unfamiliar territory, requires the input of many experts, and is complicated to the point that past experience is helpful but must be pieced together in order to be most useful.

Do you have people who are good at this process in your organization? These need to be individuals who have the patience to work through the process, yet not someone who gets so bogged down in detail that it takes forever to come to a decision.

What do you do to develop more of this ability in your team? Even though you won’t need them to use this long process every day or even every week, the ability to move through the process is a mental exercise that can be applied to overall logical thought processing.  So, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend some time next time you need an investigative solution to work through it as a team, and systematically map it out in order to help them to understand this process and make it second nature.

What occurs most often on your team?  What “type” of decision makers are in your organization?