Hey Culture Cast fans! On Season 2, Episode 6, Lorne and Lynette discuss and analyze recognition, acknowledgment and the reward system. It’s not just about “what you did,” it’s about “how you did it.” Join the discussion about the value of giving and receiving genuine recognition from you, your peers and employees.
If listeners have any questions or thoughts, feel free to email the podcast at CultureCastPodcast@gmail.com. As you can see, we’ve started a Q/A series that will be posted every other Wednesday, and will likely be addressed in future podcasts as well. Please feel free to contribute.
Key Point: Why would I waste my many failures by keeping them to myself? Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my work and many accomplishments over the span of a 40+ year career. I will leave the evaluation of my success to the judgment of others, and the archives of history, if anyone is really interested. My failures, however, are mostly mine to share and expose. I wish my working career was a big “Facebook fairy tale” filled with one perfect picture after another, but you and I know that would be an incomplete description. I won’t bore you with my mundane failures. Instead, I will stick to several of my “epic” goof-ups, what I’ve learned from them, and what I might encourage you to do to avoid repeating. I must note that I hope you get the chance to create your own big screw ups. Like the phrase goes, “you only trip when you’re moving.”
Frankly, I may have been one of the fastest rising executives in a Fortune 50 company, ever. I started as a 38-year-old director in a division, and less than three years later, I was one of seven execs reporting directly to the CEO and Chairman. During my first career planning session with the CEO, he said to me, “it may be a little early to talk about you rising to my job, but we want to make sure you have all the right steps to get there.” I was head of World Wide Quality, lead facilitator of the global strategy, and coordinated all of my bosses meetings. I was “golden.” Four years later, I left the company, burnt out and confused as to what the hell happened.
Of course, my view and assessment is only one perspective, and I’m sure other characters in this “play” might see otherwise. The punchline is that I believe I lost my way on the personal value I was providing my boss, and political naivety put me at odds with leaders who were much more powerful and skilled than I was. Because I had risen so quickly, I hadn’t established a loyal tribe and ended up being too dependent on my own insights to navigate. As the corporate leader of quality in the company, our biggest domestic division suffered material deterioration to customer service. While I wasn’t responsible for the action that caused it, I lacked the political strength and/or skills to countermeasure it. And my boss, the CEO, became disenchanted that people weren’t listening to my advice. The problem became bigger than me. The Japanese have a wonderful saying that in loose translation states, “better to button the shirt from the bottom up. If you start too close to the top, you might miss a button hole and have to start over again.” Hmm.
Personal Leadership Moves:
1. Remember that potential and past work means very little going forward. You have to constantly be reassessing the value you bring. Your boss has one vote and usually gets input from others. However, that’s a giant vote and if you aren’t helping your boss big time, loyalty will diminish. It can happen over night. Don’t be paranoid, and don’t be naive.
2. When you find yourself faced with one tough, big ass problem, don’t go at it alone. Do not act helpless either, and never point your finger elsewhere. Bring the stakeholders together as effectively and quickly as you can to move things forward. Don’t wait!
3. Remember that your career will have ups and downs. Very few of us get a free ride or catch the perfect wave time after time. Accepting this precept means that when things change, we put ourselves in a position to say: “Thank you… I can hardly wait to see what fate has in store for me next.”
Failing up in Personal Leadership,
One Millennial View: This is a great idea for a series. This reminds me of the Jocko Willink clip, “Good.” I’m not sure if I’ve shared this on the blog before, but, it’s always “good” for a refresher. This is a very eye-opening look at failure, and quite a kick-in-the-pants if you haven’t seen it yet:
Hey Culture Cast fans! In Season 2, Episode 3, Lorne and Lynette unpack and discuss 4 of the 8 ingredients to help build a great culture in an organization through personal leadership values at the workplace. 1. Look at your organization from the “People First” lens. 2. Do people connect with your purpose on a personal level? 3. Build standardization and commitment on values. 4. Be clear about what your expectations as a leader are.
Key Point: Well intended leaders may have unwittingly confused the heck out of many employees, and degraded customer experience with so called “empowerment.” Huh? Let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s say you want a certain standard of behavior in providing your customers a “WOW” experience. So, after eating all the leadership development “candy,” you decide to “EMPOWER” your team members to use their good judgment and just “WOW” the customer. Sounds good in theory. After all, you want to be a Level 5 service leader (or whatever). Ironically, what you will likely get is a “dog’s breakfast” of behavior from good intentions all around. Let me give you some mundane examples:
As the big boss, you want a “WOW” greeting for every customer that enters your retail stores. Your empowered guidance to store managers is; “use your head and give a great greeting.” At one store, every customer is met with eye contact and a warm welcome when they enter. Individuals make a personal connection. At another store, they do the same AND have a small, fun greeting gift for each customer. At the next store, staff interprets greeting differently because the empowered store manager believes customers should be left alone and not badgered. Etc etc. Empowerment results in mixed, varied experiences by well meaning, “engaged” employees, committed to the customer service ethos and a great customer experience. To make matters possibly worse, a customer complains about being ignored at the store where there is no greeting. So what does the top brass default to? The explanation is that the store manager doesn’t have the “DNA;” let’s replace the person with “someone who gets it.” It’s actually the top leadership that needs a shake.
Another example might be in a financial institution where expert credit adjudication scores allow for customers to receive loans or credit up to $x limit. Yet, when the data is reviewed, top leaders find out that time and again, well intended, highly engaged, “empowered” team members continuously turn down “approved” customer loans and/or underfund well below guidance. Why? Well one explanation is that empowered employees feel very protective of the institution and become very risk averse, even though experts and guidance tells them otherwise. Top leaders, while very well meaning and “evolved,” exhort loan officers and tell them they are fully empowered to make loan/credit decisions. But that “empowerment” results in consistently under performing loan portfolios and disappointed customers. Subsequently, with best intentions all around, everyone loses. The root cause is likely faulty thinking and guidance at the top.
Leaders need to be absolutely clear and definitive on minimum acceptable experience/performance standards. There should be little if any discretion on the minimum. Inviting employees to be empowered is most effective when people are able to use judgment exceeding minimum thresholds. In that case variation can be (although not always) very constructive. In the situation above involving the financial institution, minimum loan limits ideally would be set by artificial intelligence, ever learning algorithms. NO discretion below the minimum would be allowed. It is more than ok to tell loan officers that they are NOT empowered to adjust down. Empowerment should be granted in other areas where judgment and human intervention upgrades rather than diminishes the customer experience.
Be absolutely clear where you “empower” and provide meaningful autonomy. Do not burden your employees with “empowered” license when in reality you want something very specific. That’s when “empowerment” becomes an excuse for lazy leadership that has NOT done the hard work to be clear connecting purpose with very defined expectations. Do not hope empowered employees will deliver the experience you want when you primarily lead and give feedback on what you “don’t” want.
Right Empowerment in Personal Leadership,
One Millennial View: This reminds me of the popular fast food franchise, Chick-fil-A, and something I’ve noticed as a patron at their restaurants. All employees are empowered to have a minimum requirement for politeness. You’ll hear “please” and “thank you” from employees, but most notably: Instead of saying “you’re welcome,” you’ll always hear a Chick-fil-A employee say “my pleasure.” It’s very subtle, but this extra courtesy absolutely stands out. And this simple (and free) customer service upgrade is why Business Insider and other publications have written articles about how the average annual sales per restaurant reach $4 million, compared to the $1 million average their competitor KFC brings in.