October 21, 2009

Jolt Challenge: The Self Intelligence Experience

I have just read the most amazing book - and I have read A LOT of books over the last ten years. It is called Jolt Challenge - the self intelligence experience. As it turned out I knew one of the authors more than ten years ago so its a small world! Jolt is like every self growth/development/excellence book you've ever read cooked up in ONE book. The ideas in it are ESSENTIAL to anyone wanting an amazing life. They are the kinds of ideas you need to keep in the front of your mind constantly. I intend on adding it to my 'read constantly' pile - a pile which I just keep re-reading slowly to keep me on track. It is a NZ written book and gaining HUGE recognition internationally. Check out the endorsements here (brace yourself) http://www.joltchallenge.com/endorsements/ they've got Stephen Covey and Edward De Bono!!!! The full Jolt Challenge is actually a nine week program, I just read the book so don't know about the course, but imagine its even more incredible! Sorry for sounding so over the top excited about this book BUT it is one of those classics that you will keep forever. It will get you thinking about the right things, in the right way to achieve what ever it is you want in your life. It has soooo many key ideas condensed into this one book. Please please please get your hands on a copy - even if you just get it from the library I guarantee you will be out buying a copy before you are even a quarter through!

Learn more and download a sample of the book here http://www.joltchallenge.com/book/

September 24, 2009

Fresh air in your workplace

We have just had our daughter baptised (shes now nearly 4mths old). The priest that did the baptism was the same one who married us. We adore this priest. He is young (mid forties) and understands todays world. He is a breath of fresh air to the Catholic church whose reputation is sometimes not that flash. He speaks in english, explains things well and is an all round awesome, normal bloke. I'm not implying other priests aren't normal - just not the way this one is! He is so easy to relate to and so funny. The sermon he gave at the baptism clearly illustrates this..... He and some other priests had met with a bunch of nuns for the first time and they were all staying at the same place (on retreat or something I think). It was his job to go off to the video shop to get some entertainment for the evening. He picked a movie by a famous Catholic novelist. He felt quite pleased with his (seeminly wise and thoughtful) choice. When it was time to put the DVD on he realised perhaps it wasnt the best choice.....given that the first forty minutes of the DVD was shot IN THE BEDROOM!!!! He said the akwardness in the room got even MORE akward! He went on to explain how the movie redeemed itself (it related to baptism). We were all laughing so hard - he is so human, and speaks so naturally which is a gift not all priests have. Our wonderful priest is going to overhaul the church (I'm sure of it!) as he is a breath of (overdue) fresh air. I'm sure he is the reason many people have grown in their faith after shying away due to the non-human-ness other priests can show. Anyway.... the reason I tell you all this is to get you thinking where and how your workplace needs fresh air. Are you chewing on an old message all the time? Do you need new blood that is positive, enthusiastic and LIFE CHANGING (or in this case business/workplace changing?).

September 7, 2009

Bring spring fever to your workplace

I read a thing in the paper about how spring can make people go a bit loopy. People start to exercise more, decide to quit smoking or similar. Definitely works on me! I llllove this change of seasons, in spring I start to bounce off the walls – longer days, flowers that smell awesome and the promise of summer to come. How can this spring fever be transferred into workplaces? Well, as a boss you could spring clean yourself. Change behaviours/policys that aren’t working or are negative and freshen up the workplace in any way you can. Change the day core, bring in some flowers, do something to excite the team. Life has seasons and so too should workplaces if you want to keep the energy of the team up. Time to lose the ‘recession’ mindset and ‘sort your sh*t out’ for want of a more polite term! If there is stuff lying around everywhere in your workplace (tut tut) clear that out too (yes a spring clean – does wonders for the soul). ‘Stuff’ you don’t need drains the energy of the place and the people. Be ruthless and sell/throw/donate what you don’t need.

How are you bringing spring to yourself and to your workplace?

September 2, 2009

How ONE staff member can save your bacon

I had a courier parcel of mine end up at my neighbours place. They kindly brought it over. The next month when this item arrived again it was taken to my other neighbours place. They kindly brought it over. Our street number is very clearly stated - I don't see how the courier driver could get it wrong TWICE! It's not rocket science! The item is also worth about $300 so is 'signature required'. Both times it was taken to the wrong addresses no signature was sought. It was left on its lonesome at the door. I emailed the courier company asking what the rules are about 'sig required' packages and if it goes astray would they replace the item. I also told them it had been delivered to two different wrong places WITHOUT a signature. I waited two weeks and nothing. I emailed again, still nothing. I called - they said they'd find the email and respond. Finally I got an email from a lady at the company. She said she'd look into it (didn't answer my questions yet). I waited and nothing. I emailed her 3x asking her to attend to the email. I then emailed the customer feedback email address to complain about this staff members lack of follow up. I waited a week and still nothing. I found another contact in my citys office - forwarded her the whole chain of emails which showed how many times I'd made contact to no avail. Within two hours she had answered all my questions, apoligized, and sent two lots of feedback to separate departments. I had previously been so so annoyed at this (what I was calling stupid) company, but with by finding one staff member with a brain I was happy again. I was amazed at how many things can go wrong, how many different avenues and contact attempts can be unsuccessful, yet with one awesome person a customer can be made happy again - within two hours. Nothing like a staff member who actually gets things done. How many like this do you have?

August 26, 2009

Book Review: How To Keep Your Cool If You Lose Your Job

I finished "How To Keep Your Cool If You Lose Your Job" by Kathryn Jackson really quickly as I found it hard to put down. It is a book full of lots of tips, info, insight and advice AND it is also a workbook. As you read it you do the exercises and come out the other end with new direction, enthusiasm and clarity about your future work. It has lots of great real life stories from people that have been made redundant - how they felt, what they had to deal with and how they made it into an amazing opportunity. Many said they are glad they got made redundant as it totally changed their life for the better. As a career coach, Kathryn knows all the right questions to ask and these are included in tonnes of exercises in the book. This book very very clearly answers the "what next" those made redundant often feel. It includes everything you could, should and can do to ensure you end up in a role you adore. Kathryn outlines everything relevant in todays job market - including the recession (she even highlights which industries always survive during such a time). She talks about 'self talk' - keeping your head and being positive as redundancy can be really tough on your self esteem, family and lifestyle. There are also heaps of CV and interview tips. I really liked the exercise that gets you to look at the personal qualities a job requires then gets you to list your 'evidence' of having this quality. It will give any job applicant huge confidence. I'd say this book is a must read for people that have been made redundant, people in jobs they dont like, people that have no idea what they want for their career and of course other career coaches. You can buy it here http://www.homebizbuzz.co.nz/shop/product_info.php?products_id=530 or at Paper Plus.

August 20, 2009

Redundancy: 'How To Keep Your Cool If You Lose Your Job'

I am lucky in my work to be surrounded by some absolute geniuses....and lovely ones at that. A friend of mine, Kathryn Jackson has just had her first book published. It is for people that are being/have been made redundant and its called "How To Keep Your Cool If You Lose Your Job" (more details here http://www.careerbalance.co.nz/Books/How-To-Keep-Your-Cool-If-You-Lose-Your-Job/flypage-ask.tpl.html ). She has had some awesome reviews and tonnes of media coverage (I turned the TV on the other day to see her on the screen on 'Good Morning'). Highly recommend it for people that are thinking 'what next?' in their career. Watch out for my offical 'review' one day soon :)

August 12, 2009

Has your workplace got cancer?

The workplace can be a place of friendship, support, fun and laughter. I was thinking recently about fun things that used to happen when I worked in a bank. We would:
*play cricket after work
*do a Starbucks run to get away for a bit and come back with our huge venti lattes with almond biscotti (turned into an expensive habit!)
*take turns at bringing in lollies we could all scoff (I would deliver some to our mates upstairs)
*go to the big department store sale in our lunch break and rummage through quality discounted lingerie looking for bargains
*send the email jokes around or play practical jokes on each other
*we organized a game of ‘Where’s Wally’ using this huge poster that was part of some training thing. I drew the wee cardboard ‘Where’s Wally’ and he was awesome! The funniest part of this game was the arguing "your cheating" "no I'm not" "stop peeking"!!

On the other side, also during this time there was also:
*Two diagnosis’s of breast cancer
*A suicide
*Marriage splits
*Relationship problems
*Addiction problems
*Huge trouble conceiving a child

So while the first list looks as though no work ever got done (!) the truth was we were spending time together living life as best we could to keep positive, have fun and make sure everyone was smiling regardless of everything going on. It’s great for people to get ‘mental space’ at work if they are having trouble at home, or just have something they need to take their minds off. While there may be personality clashes and other ‘difficulties’ in workplaces, when something like cancer hits, it’s amazing how people can pull together to support each other and the other politics no longer matter. Workplaces can become family, and can be a ‘refuge’ from the sometimes harsh reality of the world. Let’s not take for granted the support our workmates can give us. Let’s also remember to notice how much other stuff is going on in workmates lives. Actually doing work is important but so is the fun and the support – we are human before we are anything else.

August 6, 2009

7 questions you need to answer about your businesses compliments

1. What does your business do to actively seek compliments?
2. Do you have a compliment box for your customers in store?
3. Do you also have such a button on your website?
4. Do you reply to customers and ask more questions/clarify what they mean (if necessary) once they’ve given you a compliment?
5. Do you then use the compliment on your website/in your shop/in your communications?
6. Are you regularly telling your database and fans about compliments in your newsletters?
7. Are you sharing your fan mail with the team – putting it somewhere they’ll see it often?

I once came across a business that had boxes full of (unsolicited) mail. They were all thank you’s and compliments about their service and products. They had probably about 3000 such letters. Unfortunately this business never actually did anything with these words. They read them, thought they were nice, then put them in the box – without even showing the team. At the time they were struggling to pay the bills and really needed more business. If they had of utilised this huge resource a lot earlier, they could have had lots more business without the down patch.

Don’t let thank you’s pass your business by – seek them, clarify them, publicise them and use them as the basis of your marketing. If you aren’t getting any it may not be because no one likes your product or service, but because you never asked. Get asking and use the results.

July 30, 2009

10 questions to ask during exit interviews

1. What has working here taught you? (professionally/personally/about life and work?)
2. What things/issues/problems are you thrilled to be leaving behind?
3. If you were the boss here what would you change?
4. How do you see morale amongst the team? Do people like working here?
5. What has been the best thing that has happened to you in your time here?
6. What has been the worst thing that has happened to you in your time here?
7. How would you describe your immediate manager?
8. How would you describe the senior management team?
9. How would you describe the workplace culture here?
10. If a close friend asked you to describe your time here, what would you say?

July 23, 2009

10 (not so normal) questions to ask new staff

1. What things do you like to do to ensure you have fun at work?
2. Can you give an example of a time you have felt most connected to your team mates?
3. Can you tell me about the best boss you’ve ever had and what made them so?
4. What good stuff have you heard about working here?
5. What bad stuff have you heard about working here?
6. What crazy things can you do that you could teach the team (Juggle? Do headstands? Swear in French?)
7. How do you love to be thanked for extra hard work? (Bottle of wine? Lotto ticket? Chocolates? Boss shouting coffee?)
8. If you are having a flat/tired/off day at work, what do you do to get yourself on track? How can I help?
9. What is your bliss? (Mountain biking? Holidaying somewhere exotic? Reading? Sitting in your fave café?)
10. Who do you most admire and why?

July 16, 2009

Why you should eat lollypops at work

I often wonder a lot of weird ...I mean interesting things. Like why do you never see an adult eating a lollypop? Or a priest? Or a man in a suit? Don’t they like lollies?

I bet you know exactly what I mean – if you picture a well dressed business man walking through the CBD eating a lollypop I bet you would definitely notice him. You would be thinking “gosh look, that man is eating a lollypop”. It’s not that weird you know!

I saw a bizarre ...I mean interesting thing recently. It was a high school teacher on a skateboard. It was his lunch break and he was skateboarding to his home nearby for lunch. He looked every bit the sensible 30 something teacher, with glasses and some very good fashion sense (great shirt and tie). He stood out a mile off though, because he was riding a skateboard – not something I remember any of my teachers doing. I bet the students think he is awesome.

Sometimes in life we get too sensible. Somewhere along the line we unconsciously decide that it is not appropriate for adults to eat lollypops or ride skateboards. So we stop doing such things. The workplace is the same – sometimes it can have every inch of fun sucked out of it. That is why I love the below blog entry about eating ice creams at work.


What similar fun things could you do to bring lollypops and skateboards into your workplace and keep them there?

July 9, 2009

Show your customer complaints off!!!

Like this Richard Branson story, don’t be shy about letting your customer’s complaints be seen or heard about. They are not something that should be hidden or dealt with quietly. When I received a complaint about my book The Boss Benchmark not being a "proper book" I shared it with my database and blog readers. I have nothing to hide and wanted to tell them what was happening in the world of my book. Sharing meant I got to hear people’s thoughts on what a "proper book" really is, receive support and openly discuss the positives and negatives of my book. I was actually thrilled to receive the complaint as sometimes it can be hard to get honest feedback out of people! Some people would rather say nothing that risk offending someone.

When you share your complaints you also get to share how you remedied the situation – which is what really counts. I offered my unhappy reader a refund... but they couldn’t part with the book (they must have connected with the content!). If that isn’t a powerful testimony of my books content then I don’t know what is!

Hearing about customer complaints makes me personally trust brands more (unless of course they run from it, deny it or get all defensive). I love seeing a human, imperfect side to business. Also, being accountable to customers is a very important part of being in business. When I see complaints that are not hidden or swept under the carpet I think “hmm how cool of that business for handling that the way they have” and I want to shop with them more. The opposite is true of course. If they handle it badly, I can’t run fast enough away – it’s not the complaint that is important but its resolution.

Being in business is about letting customers get to know your business. Letting them see what is happening in your world. By sharing my complaint with my database my readers saw more of me and many emailed to say they adored the honesty. They see I’m human and not hiding anything.

July 2, 2009

What life is like for the workplace ‘junior’

I was a 'junior' once. It was in a hair salon (back in the days when I thought I wanted to work in the beauty industry) and I was 16. I have terrible memories of being treated like absolute crap just because I was the ‘junior’. For some reason that title magically took away any human right I had to respect. It mean I had to put myself ‘below’ everyone else and know I was ‘less than’ them. It meant I was unimportant, available to be walked over and any needs I had were disregarded.

Some of the real workplace stories in my book The Boss Benchmark are mine from this period:
*I was not welcome to attend the team meeting. I had to stay away from the staff room during this time as I was of such little importance, my attendance was of no consequence. I was also unwelcome because the meeting gave the staff a chance to talk about me. One time the boss came out afterwards and gave me a big telling off about something that was absolutely untrue which had been brought up in the meeting. I of course (head bowed low) was not allowed to talk, correct my boss or state my case.
*Another staff member gave me the silent treatment for a full 6 days. At the time she was 33 and I was 16, hindsight now shows me how silly this woman is – but at the time I thought it must have been due to me/my fault/how the workforce is. I was so new to the working world and it was quite upsetting that someone that much older was treating me that way.
*The business was in a real slump so 80% of the day the hair stylists just sat around (3 full timers). Though I was never ever allowed to sit – that privilege was only for them. One day I got the job of dusting a million products on these huge metal shelves (sounds reasonable). I did a magnificent job. Though the next day when there was nothing to do again, a hair stylist assigned me the same task to redo. It was ‘busy work’ not required work, just so I never became equal and received the privilege of 'sitting'.

I am very keen to hear any other stories people have about ‘being the junior’. I’d love to know if and in what ways this kind of treatment still goes on. I know some industries are worse than others are in this regard. I don’t see why being the apprentice is a license to be disrespectful and treat people as though they don’t matter as much. I had nothing against the cruddy, boring and grubby jobs I had to do – I wasn’t scared of the work, I just hated being treated as if I was worthless. It was my age and inexperience in the workforce that meant I knew no better way to deal with it or get myself heard. Being young is also not an excuse for bosses or co-workers to treat you as less. Entering the workforce can be a scary time (especially when the workplace you are in is absolutely dysfunctional). What is your two cents on this subject?

June 25, 2009

LOOK EVERYWHERE for “better boss” inspiration

You can learn how to be a better boss from all kinds of life experiences. You don’t just learn it on the job, managing staff. If you are a cyclist you are bound to see parallels and lessons you can use as a boss while on a weekend ride. If you do lots of baking perhaps you can find parallels in that which will make you a better boss. Listening to your kids and the questions they ask can sometimes bring huge ‘aha’ moments. If you keep your eyes open, you will find better boss inspiration everywhere….
* TV shows
* French fries and soap
* High school teachers
* Things your kids say
* Traffic courtesy or rudeness
* Ads on TV
* Weather

In what unlikely circumstance have you found better boss inspiration?

June 18, 2009

Is ‘shut door’ the new 'open door' policy?

Having a shut door policy means your staff have limited access to you. How could this be a good thing after all the talk of how ‘open door’ is the way to go? The answer is to make it work you have to give staff more authority. This means you can afford to have that door closed. Giving staff more authority can be hugely transformational and positive for a business. At the Ritz Carlton (one of the world’s most amazing hotel chains) each staff member has authority to spend $2000 without any form of manager approval to fix a problem for a customer. This policy has allowed the hotel chain to become world renowned as the place to stay – they have millions and millions of fans. In any other business such decisions would often have to go through many levels of managerial approval – taking longer and being a pain.

Some businesses fear giving staff too much (or any) authority. They don’t see just how much that fear is holding them back. An over the top approach of requiring manager’s approval can make exceptional customer service difficult, frustrate your staff and take up your time (the book “The one minute manager meets the monkey” is great for freeing up managers time).

*What fears are holding you back from giving staff more authority?
*How can you address these fears?
*In what areas could you let staff have more authority?
*What effect will that have on you, your team, customers and service?

June 11, 2009

What ‘x factor’ do you need in your staff

I read somewhere about the differences in nurses that had 'the x factor' and those that didn’t. It turned out the difference was a very simple one. X factor nurses had empathy. The study discovered that an ‘average nurse’ would say "this won't hurt a bit" when they gave an injection. An x factor nurse on the other hand, would say something like "this will hurt a little bit, but I'll be as gentle as I can". Patients reported feeling less pain while receiving the needle from the nurse that admitted it may hurt a bit and more pain from the one that said it wouldn’t hurt at all. So it seems empathy can make a nurse an ‘x factor’ one.

*What does ‘x factor’ look like in your industry or workplace?
*What qualities do you need your staff to have to achieve x factor?

Share your answers (and the nurse story) with your team and let them brainstorm their ideas on it. Come up with a list and examples of what x factor in your business and industry looks like and work out how you can all put it into practice.

June 4, 2009

Fabulous 'ground rules' for meetings

Further to the blog entry about effective meetings, check out what Kelly from http://www.humansatwork.com/ has added to that about 'ground rules' in meetings. It covers things like noise and privacy, communication, decision making and team work.

This blog entry really gives managers some great things to think about - especially if they've been overlooked in the past. Implimenting Kellys tips could totally overhaul your team and how they work together.

Read it here: http://www.humansatwork.com/more-on-ground-rules/

May 28, 2009

Fantastic rules for effective meetings

Check out the below link from Bob Suttons awesome blog (http://bobsutton.typepad.com/) about Kelly from http://www.humansatwork.com/ - she shares some awesome tips about running effective meetings.

The only thing I'd add to it, if you want a really effective meeting, is to ensure the room is freezing cold and there are no chairs. Some businesses use this tatic and they get all their work done in record time and have more time to do what is really important rather than sitting in meetings talking about it.


May 21, 2009

Silverware, tattoos and your bosses shoes: how and why you should read between the lines

Here is a random blog entry of a few great stories I want to share (and a joke at the end).

Good and bad ways to start a word-of-mouth frenzy:

What your bosses shoes can teach you: http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/03/interesting-shoes.html

Signs you should hide the good silverware:

And now for a leadership joke…

“There are four keys to leadership:
1. Confidence
2. A folder
3. A pencil with a rubber on the end
4 The ability to say "ok guys" after a single hand clap”

May 14, 2009

The effect beauty has on hiring staff

Check out the below great blog post about 'Hiring and Promoting Good-Looking People' by the magnificent James Adonis (www.jamesadonis.com) who is a leading expert on employee engagement and the author of ‘Employee Enragement: Why people hate working for you’.

Even if we don't think we are being swayed by someones good looks, it seems at some 'science-y' level we can't help it. Feel free to share your thoughts, stories or questions about this in the comments below :)


May 8, 2009

8 ways the workplace has changed

1. There seems to be an increased interest in career breaks as no one knows when they'll retire anymore.

2. Workers are having career ‘turning points’ at ages like 25, 40, 50 or 65.

3. Values driven work (i.e. with charities) is being mixed in to their career portfolio.

4. The demands of top talent are:

- to be treated like a member not an employee
- to have values lived not laminated
- that there is direction beyond the top end of a learning curve
- that the employer brand promises are fulfilled

5. There is a lot of talk about the differences between the generations. Some people believe that it is a case of a new ‘career mindset’ rather than it being a generation thing. The argument is that people of all ages have worked in companies that don’t understand them. The new career mindset involves a belief that the past generations paid too high a price for success. Lots of workers these days, regardless of generation are trying to work smarter not harder.

6. Years ago people were quite passive about career planning. They would trust their employer to manage their career and just work hard keeping their head down. They would take opportunities as they presented themselves without a real plan. When such people get made redundant, it is often the first time they've had to think about what they love and what they want in a career.

7. Job sculpting is important. People need to change their thinking from 'I hate my job' into 'this is how I want my job to be' – then get fixing it.

8. Bosses need to focus on different things. Rather than watching people who leave, bosses should watch high performers who are still motivated after a long time, if they start to lose motivation, bosses should focus on fixing whatever changed.

April 30, 2009

Read my first serious complaint about The Boss Benchmark

I received my first serious complaint about my book. The reader was not happy with it at all.

“I have received your book but am disappointed as it is pretty obvious that it is a colour copy with a spiral bind and not a book as you have advertised and or what any buyer would expect. The colour is also of a very poor quality and hard to read and the spiral bind is tight and very difficult to turn the pages. I hope you have a proper book to replace the one I have.”

My response was this:

“I am sorry that you feel disappointed with my book and that you think it is not a real or proper one. It is spiral bound so it is an easy tool for bosses to use, refer back to often and work through gradually. In the copies I have the pages turn with ease on the large 20mm spiral. I am happy to refund your purchase price, minus postage if you send the book back to me as I don’t have any other versions or copies to send to you – they are all spiral bound.”

She decided not to take me up on my offer (maybe that means the content isn’t half bad?)

“I have decided to keep the book since you don't have a "book" version for exchange.”

I don’t have any problems with the print or colour quality – in fact I thought it was great. There was of course (in my first edition only) the problem with the font in the true story sections being really hard to read (naughty design oversight on my part), but that was changed significantly for the second edition which she received.

I was excited to get this feedback. I take my own advice and don’t “avoid the yuck” – yuck is transformational and super powerful. If you thought The Boss Benchmark absolutely sucked then I want to hear all about it – in detail! That’s gold! Often readers are very shy about coming forward and you hear nothing. The majority of feedback I’ve had I’ve had to squeeze out of people! It’s also hard to know if the feedback you do get is how the person really feels as they may think it’s a waste of time and money but not want to say so. Everyone takes on info so differently and everyone finds such different info useful – so there are probably tonnes of people who read my book and thought it was a waste of time – every person doesn’t click with every tool and that’s fine. The other factor is when ordering online, you don’t get to hold the book like you would in a bookstore. So you just have to trust that whatever content/solutions/information the book promo text promises is in there and will help you.

It seems the definition of a book is very subjective. According to this customer, The Boss Benchmark is not a book because:
* It is printed in colour
* It has a spiral bind

I kinda know what she means. I’ve been given something someone referred to as a “book they’ve written”. It didn’t have an ISBN, wasn’t available in libraries, it measured about 5cms by 7cms, only had about 150 words and weighted about as much as a sneeze. I remember thinking “that’s not a book!” – HOWEVER it sold in the likes of Whitcoulls – so maybe that was enough for the person to consider it a book.

With self publishing becoming easier and a lot more common, every man and his dog are writing a book. I can name about 15 people in my close network that are doing or have done so. Each of these people will have their own interpretation of what a book is and how they will present theirs.

Anyway, I’m full of energy and excitement now. It’s exciting to hear brutal honesty! I am pondering whether or not my website should say “this book is spiral bound” (or something similar) as until now I hadn’t realised I needed to. Any thoughts on this very welcome. I still believe my book is a "proper one" even thought it doesnt weight 3 kilos and have a cover so hard it could stop a bullet.

Companies need to change how they listen to customers

HSBC learnt a new way to listen to their customers when they tried to bring in overdraft fees on previously free student accounts. They set the new rules then told everyone it affected. HSBC thought that was that – task complete. They didn’t take into account though the power of social media. All the students started a group on Facebook which got thousands of members. The campaign was called "Stop the Great HSBC Graduate Rip-Off!" Long story short, HSBC decided to reinstate the free overdraft. The term “power to the people” springs to mind (yay!). I’ve been awaiting a huge surge in consumer power for years and it seems social media is our means to have it.

It also seems that HSBC didn’t reverse their decision because customers were unhappy. The reversed it because they were unhappy AND coordinated – that is where the power lay. If they weren’t coordinated, HSBC would easily have been able to ignore them and the media would never have known about the overdraft fees. Good on HSBC for addressing the Facebook group, as many companies have in the past been silly enough to ignore social media storms, remain quiet and hope it goes away (FYI it doesn’t – and the company ends up looking ridiculous). Cases like this are further proof of how the business world is changing. Companies now have to listen in totally different ways as consumers now ‘speak’ to them in totally different ways.

There are benefits for the company too (social media doesn’t make you powerless). You can now reach your customers using these new platforms and become closer to them than ever before. Even better, you can reach your non customers and see why they choose someone else. Companies now have a huge and reliable source of information and interaction. Make sure you use it rather than just be a victim of it.

April 27, 2009

Who is 'man enough' to overhaul NZ's health system?

The healthcare industry in New Zealand is far from perfect. It’s a bit of a sore spot for lots of different groups – medical professionals who have to tolerate terrible working conditions, patients that have been on waiting lists forever and families that have lost loved ones due to very tragic oversights by staff. There is also a lot of issues around being short staffed – particularly nurses.

Many health workers are scared to speak up about issues in case they lose their job. I know of a pregnant nurse who asked her patient if they would mind if she sat down in their room (after checking them over) to eat her apple as if she didn’t do it there, she wouldn’t be able to at all (for some reason in this hospital they were working with no breaks – not so easy when pregnant, hungry, tired and on your feet all day). The patient of course said yes and sympathised.

There has long been controversy in the media about all the downfalls of our medical care. Many mistakes have been made with patients, there have been plenty of worker strikes (the little fellows are paid peanuts and receive no pay rise (“there is no money”), while hotshot top doctors get a gazillion percent pay rise (“how much would you like?”). Our healthcare has been under scrutiny for years, yet no boss, no newly elected board member nor the government has been able to overhaul it and fix any of its problems in all that time. Our waiting lists are out of control – people are living hellish existences waiting forever for surgery that keeps getting delayed (some 15 year old drunk and drugged up driver needed urgent surgery after he crashed and killed 5 others) there goes a weeks worth of other waiting list surgeries (maybe we should redefine ‘emergency’ and 'priority'?).

At our last election I wanted a guy whose son died as a result of severe medical neglect to be voted in – as I knew he would make a huge difference and shake it up. Sadly he didn’t get the seat. I am amazed and guttered that still no one has been able to seriously overhaul our health system. Our rest homes seem to be falling short of expectations too – there are many cases of neglect, short staffing and mistreatment within them.

I feel sorry for those workers that are stuck in the middle of these badly managed industries. They must feel helpless, trapped and just bloody frustrated. It seems there is a real vibe of old fashioned hierarchy within them also – not cool at all. But what can we do! **sigh** It seems all we can do is sit back and wait for a real change agent boss within these industries to grow a brain, wake up and start creating amazing workplaces, amazing service and incredible culture. It seems no amount of media coverage or new leadership within has been capable of doing that thus far. Where are all the dynamic (preferably non-blind) leaders hiding!?

April 22, 2009

A lesson that high school can teach bosses

I had a teacher in high school called Mrs Usher. She was really cool – I had a lot of respect for her, I think everyone (even the bratty students in my class) did. Here is why. She treated us like humans first and students second. She gave us respect, so we gave it back – when she spoke we were all ears. My ‘turning point’ with Mrs Usher (when I saw how fab she was) was when she gave us a huge break between classes (always welcome!). She taught our third form class two sessions in a row – English in one classroom then music in another across the way straight after. One day she arrived quite a few minutes after the music lesson was supposed to start. She fluffed with her books for a while at the front and wrote some stuff on the board while we continued (probably very meaningful) teenage conversations. Eventually she started the class and said “now I know Tuesday morning is a funny morning because we see each other two classes in a row. I don’t want you to get sick of me and I don’t want to get sick of you – so that’s why I’m a bit late, I thought we could take a few minutes break before we start music”. I remember being really impressed with her. Some teachers are so by the book – boring and rigid. Any other teacher would have probably stormed into the room told us off for being so loud and set straight to work. I loved the fact that Mrs Usher recognised that it was a good idea for us to have a break from her and her to have a break from us. It was cool to see a teacher who knew it was quality not quantity that was important in the lesson – so she wasn’t afraid to lose a few minutes. Every week on Tuesday morning we enjoyed a few extra minutes of chatter, getting a drink, loo visits and probably very important reapplying of lip-gloss. When she started the lesson we were totally focused and ready to go. We all hated it when she got sick and had a few months off – relief teachers were always on time… and normally boring and rigid! We sincerely missed her, cared about her and were thrilled when she came back.

It’s the same with bosses – it’s amazing how something so minor as seeing the need for something (like a few extra minutes) can change everything – focus, commitment and respect. Treating people as people – recognising their human needs first, rather than seeing them just as employees can be the most powerful thing you do for your workplace. We knew Mrs Usher respected us and our needs – that to us was priceless. She also showed her human side by stating she didn't want to get sick of us either! That honesty was awesome - many teachers wouldn't be so open. I’m not sure if she realised how much of a big favour she did herself that day – such a simple way to gain instant respect!

In what areas are you being a boring and rigid teacher instead of a cool one like Mrs Usher?

April 15, 2009

Don’t tolerate assholes in your workplace

If you haven’t yet read the book “The No Asshole Rule” (by Bob Sutton) then you are very naughty. It is an amazing book that anyone who has a job needs to read. Bob’s blog http://bobsutton.typepad.com/ is also essential reading – it is always full of great info and insight (which is why I mention it so often on mine!). Bob has started a real tidal wave with his work of eradicating assholes in workplaces. He gets sent stories from all over the place that illustrate his points perfectly. My absolute favourite is this one where a police officer pulls over an ‘AH’ yet manages to handle himself perfectly without being an AH back. I think it is the most wonderful (and hilarious) story.

Read it and ponder AH’s in our world and workplaces – what can we do to eradicate them? In what ways does your workplace actually tolerate them?

If you’ve got any experiences with AH’s or thoughts on “The No Asshole Rule” please share them below.

April 13, 2009

Why you shouldn’t waste exit interviews

I’ve had five instances in my working life when an exit interview would have been appropriate. I have however only ever had one exit interview. At the time I had no idea what they actually were so asked my team leader. She told me it was to find out any ideas or suggestions I had to make the workplace better. It was also to discuss any issues or problems I saw - and what thoughts I had about them. Anyway, my time came and off I went to the big boss for my exit interview (I was excited about the info I wanted to share). I sat down; she looked at me, then said "So you’re leaving? We wish you all the best" with that, I was welcomed to stand and leave….that was my whole exit interview! I should probably still have no idea what they are given that was my experience of them! So just like that I left a company with 6000 staff who obviously didn’t have a standard exit interview procedure. I was thoroughly disappointed; I had also seemingly wasted a lot of thought on what I'd like to share. **sigh**!

An exit interview should definitley be a time to probe and ask and address everything. It’s a time for talking, pondering, (nicely) grilling and listening to soon-to-be-ex staff members. They have the info you should want.

Looking back, I am hugely, drastically and shockingly amazed that this huge company did not have a procedure for this. They had a procedure for EVERYTHING ELSE (including monitoring toilet breaks – everyone had to note the time they left their desk and the time they got back…) yet somehow exit interviews were overlooked.

I think exit interviews can be more powerful than the digging staff surveys do. Because they are leaving they may feel more comfortable being brutally honest. In an ideal world all staff should always felt comfortable saying what they like when they like to make the business better, though few workplaces manage this type of culture.

So does your business (whether you have 3 staff or 300,000) have a standard exit interview procedure? Do the interviews get done even when the staff member is leaving due to things like pregnancy, illness or moving town (instead of leaving due to some kind of dissatisfaction)? Whatever the circumstances don’t let the employee leave without allowing them their two cents worth about what could be better or changed at your workplace. Sure they can also tell you what is working, which is great to know, but the ‘what isn’t’ working is much more powerful. Do a google search to find out how to do an exit interview – there is tonnes of resources about it on there.

What experiences or knowledge would you like to share about exit interviews?

April 9, 2009

How soap and french fries can help you become an amazing boss

I never thought that coming across a bathroom with no soap would make a great topic for a blog about how to be an amazing boss! It however, does!

Two restaurants I’ve eaten at recently (within a fortnight of each other) have had empty soap dispensers in the ladies toilets. Firstly let me assure you that I don’t eat at scummy restaurants, both were middle of the range and reputable places. Secondly let me tell you my genius plan I hatched to ensure I could still wash my hands with soap. It didn’t even take me one tenth of a second to think “ahh I’ll pop into the men’s – they’ll definitely have soap”. I was right, they did and I had clean hands in a flash (told you it was genius). Lucky for me in both cases the men’s were totally vacant – so I could do so stealthily.

This raises a few questions…. Do men not wash their hands? Or do they just not use soap? Also how did I instinctively and instantly know there would definitely be some in there? Well the answers to these questions are not my problem (I’d also rather avoid any mathematical debates about the percentage of female patrons vs. male, the number of visits ladies make to the loo vs. men and the possibility of the soaps being topped up on different days). So let me continue my insightful rant.

Another week and a third restaurant…… a French fry ‘issue’ came to my attention. I ordered the fish of the day which came with salad and chips. However… it did not specify the chips were FRENCH fries. This thoroughly annoyed me (as a woman who tries to not eat unending amounts of deep fried stuff) I know how much fattier they are than normal chips - to me French fries are a greasy treat that don’t actually fill you up. Normal chips on the other hand do actually resemble a bit of potato and you don’t feel as naughty eating them.

So how do these (thoroughly interesting) incidents relate to your workplace? Well, firstly are your soap dispensers full? Secondly in what ways are you “not filling up the soap”? Also, are there ways you are surprising (and annoying) your customers by not being clear about exactly what they are getting (what is your businesses French fry)?

The grossest part about the soap incidents is that the staff used those same loo’s. I wonder how many staff members did and how many times? I wonder why they didn’t think “Crikey! Yuck! Better get some more soap” or did they think “boy someone should really fill up this dispenser”? Are your staff proactive enough to a) think and b) care? I just wish I’d know about the empty soap before I used the glass the female waitress touched the rim of as she placed it on the table….

As a boss, you need to awaken a certain attitude of ownership within your staff – full responsibility for everything that happens and an attention to detail. You need to show staff you want them to speak up about ANYTHING and allow them to take control where necessary. You should let them be real stakeholders, knowing they’ll be heard, and that their actions (i.e. filling up the soap) really really really do matter.

Feel free to share below any ‘french fry’ or ‘soap’ instances you’ve uncovered in your workplace. Also, what random experiences have you had that taught you a lesson useful in your work life?

April 3, 2009

What does an ideal organisation look like?

A blog post I read recently that asked “what does your ideal organisation look like?” got me thinking. If we don’t know what our answer to that question is we will never reach it! Not surprisingly, most of the answers in the comments of the above blog post were people focused. None said “one that makes X billion dollars a year” or “delivers maximum shareholder value” they said things about:
*No lies or BS
*Commitment to fun
*Acknowledging staff as humans
*Constantly seeking input from staff and customers
*Positively impacting the world
*Leaving egos at the door

I’m sure the ladies that wrote “Why Work Sucks And How To Fix It” would say their ideal organisation is one where “they accept the radical idea that staff should be treated like adults”. Taking every opportunity to plug my book I would of course say that my ideal organisation is one where “every boss reaches The Boss Benchmark”. If I had to delve deeper though I’d say a combination of all of the above things: no egos, listening to staff and customers relentlessly, having fun and treating staff as humans and as adults. Blah blah blah I’ve said it all before.

It pays for organisations to answer this question, bosses to answer this question and for individual staff members to answer this question. Everybody needs to meet somewhere in the middle and be aiming at the same goalpost. Maybe this is the ‘new vision statement’. Perhaps instead of stating where the organisation would like to go it will become “who we want to be”. Once defined, any decisions are easily made – if it fits within your definition of the ideal organisation go for it, if it doesn’t – flush it.

So… what’s your answer to that question?

March 31, 2009

How to handle sensitive issues in the workplace

A blog post about telling someone they need to look more professional at work got me thinking about the best way to handle sensitive issues in the workplace. A while back there was a company that got lots of media coverage about a service they provided. You called them if you had a workmate or friend with body odour, bad breath or dandruff and they would anonymously call the person and tell them. I’m not sure if the service ever took off or not, but there is probably still such services around.

I think I’d prefer someone to just tell me rather than hire an anon service. I suppose if an anon service called me I’d be paranoid that there was a group of 100 people that were horrified about my problem and got together to hire the service.

An example of a sensitive issue not handled well I’ve seen is that of an untidy, unpolished business owner telling a staff member that they desperately need a haircut. They were instructed to get one ASAP “because they are making the place look scruffy”. The staff member was really mad because this woman’s appearance was very scruffy and un-manicured. If she was well dressed and presented, he figured he would have got a haircut no problem and not been offended and annoyed. Instead it made his blood boil that she had the nerve to criticise his appearance when hers was so much more undesirable. (FYI his hair wasn’t the long messy look guys do these days – it was a normal ‘man cut’ that was obviously half a centimetre too long for her liking).

When I worked for a bank, there was a very regular customer whose body odour was so intense it smelt like pizza and would linger for hours after she left. It was truly, truly eye watering sitting with her. I can’t imagine how it could be addressed if she had of worked with us. It was obviously something medical and I don’t know if anything could have been done about it anyway.

Perhaps you have a problem you’ve identified with a staff member (or another member of the team brought it to your attention) that you need to address. If it’s a personal thing, you need to tread carefully. Plenty of bosses in this position before you have tried so hard to be tactful but instead really put their foot in it! Maybe make google your friend – it may offer some advice. Also, perhaps when mentioning the issue do so very casually.

I think this topic needs further exploration. Please share any experience you have of handling sensitive issues in the workplace – done well, done badly or just ignored. What tactics do you think bosses in this position should use?

March 27, 2009

Can a magic chair solve your workplace problems?

I can’t sing my “listen to your staff” song any louder if I tried, so lucky for me someone else has joined in. I’ve always said that it doesn’t really matter what method you choose to listen to your staff so long as you just make sure you do it!

A communications worker in a Fortune 500 company is changing the way it communicates with employees and customers…simply by using a chair. Her idea came up against opposition at first, but she eventually won over management. So she trotted off to the middle of the corporate campus dragging along two chairs. She put up a sign that had a topic for the day on it, then sat and waited. Soon people starting sitting to talk. She now has lines form as people wait their turn to have a say. You can read about this initiative in more detail here.

The reason this case is so interesting is because it could be considered old fashioned – two people, two chairs and pure communication. No intranets or technology or fancy forms. I have written many pieces about how our workplaces need to be modernized, move with the times and continually learn and embrace new technologies. But there are some things that need to stay ‘real’ and ‘pure’. The problem with communication was not that it got swept away with new technology and lost, but that it just stopped happening – bosses forgot they had ears and how to use them.

Another example of plain and simple talking to staff is the team building day. Some people cringe when they hear that term – they brace themselves for wearing blindfolds and falling back into the arms of team mates. They need to no longer because simple ‘talking team days’ can have a much bigger impact. Staff will probably prepare themselves for being talked at about what they should be focusing on and what they need to achieve. But as a staff member explains in this blog post senior managers talking openly and honestly to employees made a normally cringe worthy day an eye opening one instead.

It can be concluded that there is no need for fancy team days - just talk instead! Communication is so important to culture and business success. Unluckily for it though, it can sometimes wear the blame for things it shouldn’t. “It’s a communication problem” can cover a multitude of sins. Often with probing it turns out it wasn’t a communication problem at all. Make sure if you label something a communication problem, it really is. Probe a bit deeper and you should receive clarity about where the real problem lies.

March 24, 2009

Why you need a ‘banned customer’ list

I am a big fan of ‘banned customer lists’. Mainly because I believe staff should be put before customers. If your staff have customers that are disrespectful and more trouble than they are worth they should be banned. Free your staff up to deal with customers that do act like decent human beings. Some people have a problem with the concept of banning customers – they think it will kill their business. I’d say the opposite is true. If you ban nasty customers, not only to your nice customers benefit by not having to see them have tantrums in your store or office your staff will have more positive energy to share with those that really deserve it. Having customers is just like any other relationship – if it becomes abusive, end it. If you decide to just put up with the abuse, you are saying “it is ok for you to treat me like this”. Lots of businesses have ‘banned customer’ lists – they are people that are not worth the trouble, and are not welcome as customers. It is an awesome way to keep your staff protected and #1.

You should be in business to serve great people – not everyone and anyone who shows interest in your product. My favourite example of a banned customer is this story (yes I’ve told it a thousand times!):
Then CEO of Continental Airlines Gordon Bethune was chatting to staff. He left them so they could finish getting ready for the flight. As he was taking his seat on the plane he saw a passenger making a scene. The passenger had seen empty seats in first class and wondered why (with his elite member card) he wasn’t upgraded. The flight attendant said she'd contact a gate attendant to see what they could do. Before she could do that, the passenger started swearing and yelling at her. Gordon approached and said to the man "can I help somehow?"
The passenger said "who the **** are you"
Gordon responded "I’m the CEO of this company. May I see your ticket sir?"
The passenger handed it over to him. Gordon saw the price, pulled some notes from his pocket and handed him the cash, ripped the ticket then said "now, you get the **** off my airplane” the flight attendant could hardly keep a straight face. This story was circulated by email and fast became well loved. Gordon had a reputation as a leader who really respected his people. He gave out a great message to the team that day – he will back them, and protect them no matter what. The customers also saw that there was no room on the plane for a**holes (I imagine they applauded). Gordon would not tolerate his staff being disrespected. An example in a different company is written about in this blog post. The company added a new item to their terms of service that says “Are you cranky? This may not be the company for you." They did so because they didn’t want to expose the talented staff they’d worked so hard to find to rude people.

This attitude is quite different from businesses that always put customers first “the customer is always right” and encourage staff to do whatever it takes to please them…no matter what. There are some customers that are just not worth it.

Don’t be afraid of creating boundaries in your business. Your customers have expectations about you (what you will provide and by when) and so you should have expectations of them also (their behaviour and attitude). The more places that refuse to tolerate bad customer behaviour, the more polite our society will HAVE to become. Tantrums no longer tolerated! Your staff will have more energy to put into lovely customers that are worth going the extra mile for – they won’t be drained by tense customer interactions.

March 20, 2009

What colour is your workplace environment?

The red zone/green zone idea is a simple way to understand the ‘vibe’ and culture of a workplace. Even just reading the red zone characteristics is enough to you’re your stomach churn – it’s so sad and soul destroying. The green zone is awesome though. They are like two different people – the red person is immature with zero self esteem, and the green person is secure and mature. Here are the descriptions:

Red zone environment:

Low trust and high suspicion
High blame
Risk avoidance
Cheating and greed
Threats and fear
Guardedness and withholding info (see ‘Audit your secrets’)
Denial (see ‘Don’t avoid the yuck’)
Sarcasm (which can be a form of bullying)
Tendency for people to hide mistakes

Green zone environment:
High trust
Friendship and laughter
Optimism and excitement
Broad perspectives
Shared vision
Open to feedback
Risk taking
Tendency to learn from mistakes
Facing difficult truths
Sense of contribution
Ethical behaviour
Friendly competition
Mutual support

It is pretty obvious what kind of environment you should be building in your workplace. Perhaps the red zone characteristics are hard to pinpoint as they may be a bit more subtle than the blunt words above – so think very carefully. Identify any behaviours, attitudes, actions or ‘norms’ within your workplace that fit any of the things on these lists. Give your staff a copy of the lists and ask them to do the same. In a green zone people can thrive, they will be healthier in body and mind and capable of achieving higher levels of success. Any red zone behaviours (no matter how well hidden) need to be weeded out honestly and addressed – go green instead.

March 17, 2009

The ‘Boss Exam’ - will you pass?

Questions to ask yourself when getting real about whether or not you are a fantastic boss.

Do you willingly and proactively lend a hand during busy or stressful periods without hesitation or drama?
Do you display any form of favoritism among individuals or teams?
Do you give regular and sincere verbal recognition?
Are you a genius at spotting things that deserve verbal recognition?
Do you back your staff and their decisions no matter what?
Do you show them how much you value them with rewards when they deserve a special thank you?
Are you more likely to do a messy/dirty job yourself or delegate it to someone else?
Are you totally free of B*llsh*t?
Do you have a positive contagious energy that brings fun to the workplace?
Do you always share credit with the team?
Are you understanding about the need to do some personal tasks during work time?
Are you willing to explore flexible options (i.e. hours, R+R, benefits, study) without freaking out and being rigid?
Do you make decisions with confidence and vision (without ‘dilly dallying’)?
Do you keep everyone constantly in the know about 'what’s going on around here'?
Do you keep everyone constantly informed about mission, strategy and goals?
Do you make efforts to fully utilize the skills each individual has accumulated over their lifetime?
Are you great at keeping the vision alive in a memorable way daily?
Have you got a fine tuned personal understanding of what leadership and management is and requires?
Are all meetings on task and worthwhile?
Do you have a servant’s heart (knowing that the boss is there to serve the staff not vice versa)?
Are you doing all you can to break 'stress habits' and not just accepting it as the 'norm' of how things are done in your work/industry?
Do you sweat the small stuff and nip tension in the bud?
Do you have zero tolerance for senseless moaning and complaining (and encourage powerful solutions thinking instead)?
Are you guilty of grounding workers (withholding praise for fear they will get too big for their boots)?
Do you frequently seek staff ideas i.e. meetings, surveys, 1x1s and use the ideas not just pay lip service?
Do you have an attitude of 'I know best' over staff or do you know that team opinion matters?
Do you hold back any secrets that staff find out about via gossip at water cooler?
Are you drunk on authority - frequently reminding everyone who is boss?
Are you fast to sort out any bullying? You aren’t the bully are you?
Do you have a 'no asshole rule'?
Are you keen to dish out responsibility, develop the team and show you trust your team?
Are you not scared to see ‘the yuck’ and address the weakest parts of the business?
Do you always put workers first (even before customers)?
Are you unafraid of facing your own faults and addressing them?
Are you secure enough to get your staff to answer this boss quiz anonymously to hear their thoughts on you (and not be defensive when reading the results)?

Give your staff this quiz – I dare you! You will learn a lot about yourself.

FYI: The Boss Benchmark is now also available in an e-version for $30NZD – purchase at http://www.thebossbenchmark.com/

March 13, 2009

How to survey your staff successfully

If you want to listen to your staff but you have no idea where to start, take a look at my article "How to survey your staff successfully". It gives you tips about what to do and why. If things are a bit quiet at your work currently then use your time wisely and do a staff survey.

The full link is: http://www.thebossbenchmark.com/How%20to%20survey%20your%20staff%20successfully.doc

Thanks to Kelley at www.HumansAtWork.com who loved my 'audit your secrets' article so much she used it as a guest blog here http://www.humansatwork.com/audit-your-secrets/

March 10, 2009

Why you should audit the secrets you keep from your staff

In the 'old days' there were plenty of things that management kept secret from staff. These days, any business that wants to really excel cannot afford to have that still be the case in their workplaces. In my book The Boss Benchmark I talk about doing a 'secrets audit'. I decided to write an article about how exactly one should go about doing just that. Check it out here.

March 6, 2009

What staff loathe in a boss...

Hierarchy is old fashioned and based on fear. It doesn’t serve people, the business or profits. Weak leaders hide in hierarchies. Just like the previous example of yelling to try and gain respect, if you rely on hierarchy to make yourself feel good, take a look at your self esteem. If its low you won’t be capable of inspiring your team.

Power trips
Similar to hierarchy, some weak bosses get off on assigning gross tasks to staff – just to remind them who ‘holds the power’. If there is a blocked toilet in your workplace, are you humble enough to don the rubber gloves, grab the plunger and get to work? Or would you much rather take pleasure in asking a ‘jerk from accounting’ to attend to the loo problems? Don’t think the whole team doesn’t notice you not being willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Bosses are there to serve the staff NOT vice versa remember.

I know of a business that listed itself for sale without telling its staff. A couple of workers were having a cuppa relaxing with the Saturday paper and read the listing. Instead of enjoying their weekend they were wondering if their job would still exist on Monday. The boss was embarrassed about selling the business, so didn’t tell them anything. The lost trust and anger from staff on Monday was a lot worse than a tiny dose of embarrassment. Secrets that management know and workers don’t are energy drainers. Team means team. Put all cards on the table – you can trust your workers with ‘inside’ info. Do a secrets audit in your business to see what you keep from staff and why - at what cost?

Bullying can take many forms – even a dirty look or being intentionally left out of a meeting can be a form of bullying. It doesn’t just affect the person being picked on, but also anyone who witnesses the cruelness. Even small bullying behaviours drags the whole workplace culture down a mile. If it is the boss using bully tactics it is a hundred times worse. The boss is supposed to be the one protecting and nurturing the workplace culture. There are loads of resources on the internet for people suffering bullying.

There is a great book by Bob Sutton called “The No Asshole Rule” – it’s a great read. It is about businesses that will NOT tolerate any assholes in their workplace. Some even have “don’t be a jerk” in their company policies. Also important to be free of are ‘asshole lovers’ – people that allow assholes to behave as they do.

Low energy thinking
The opposite of the high energy staff love is low energy thinking. If you get hit with a problem and you go into ‘high stress’ mode staff will not be impressed. If you frequently utter words such as “why does this always happen to me” “it’s not my fault” or “we’ll never be able to…” these are powerless statements. They show weakness and peg you as a ‘victim’. If you were thinking at a higher level you would handle any issues in an upbeat way, be strong and find a clever solution (instead of being blinded only by the problem).

As a boss, do what the staff love and avoid what staff loathe. If you don’t know what that is in your workplace – get busy asking.

March 4, 2009

What staff love in a boss…

Big Ears
Bosses need seriously big ears. There was once a politician that had really big ears, so he decided to use it in his campaigning. He had billboards with his hands behind his ears and the caption “I’m all ears” – priceless! Great bosses listen to their staff publicly, privately and officially (through staff surveys).

High energy thinking
I don’t mean the kind coffee gives you, I mean a mental and spiritual energy. You should know that your thoughts create your reality through the law of attraction. If your thinking is unhealthy then so to will your results be. Instead think big, think positive and think with high energy. Make sure you have high levels of self awareness. Learn all you can about yourself, your habits (good and bad), your downfalls and what you need for your mental and spiritual wellbeing. Use empowering language and always see the bright side – think solutions not problems.

Craziness (the great kind!)
Be fun and flexible. Remember your team are human’s first workers second. Do impulsive coffee runs for the team; remember to put fun into the working day. Don’t be strict, boring and stern. Be playful, happy and understanding.

Focus on results not hours
Give your staff trust and freedom. Don’t micromanage – checking they adhere to break times, monitoring the number and duration of personal calls. When staff have control over their work circumstances they become engaged. The authors of the book “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” educate businesses about ‘Results Only Work Environments’ (ROWE). Their systems are based on “the radical idea that staff are adults”. It is a shame the majority of businesses don’t already realise this!

Self discipline
A boss that has strong self discipline is more likeable and effective than one that is lazy and full of excuses. Self discipline shows in your attitudes to work but also in things like what you eat and if you exercise. If your staff see you stuffing a donut in your face every morning tea, KFC at every lunch and 16 coffees during the other working hours they probably won’t think you are a genius. Geniuses don’t feed themselves like that. People that are full of energy also adore the feeling of exercise - blood surging, muscles being pushed and lungs begging for mercy! Exercise and diet say a lot about a person. What you do (or don’t do) in your personal life has an affect on your working life.

Authentic authority
I once met a boss who when he wanted to be taken seriously would raise his voice and yell at his staff. He thought this showed authority and ‘who was boss’. He didn’t realise however that this behaviour made staff lose the little respect they had left for him. They thought it was pathetic and a terrible tactic. On the other end of the scale, a boss from another department whom the team had a lot of respect for would speak with lowered volume when he wanted attention. He didn’t need to use scare or stand over tactics. He didn’t need volume to assert his authority. Staff can see right through ‘power seeking’ behaviours. You need to earn staff respect before they will take what you say seriously. If you are a yeller, maybe your self esteem needs attention.

Learning addiction
With all the crazy new technologies like twitter, blogging, wikis, YouTube etc it is important to have a very open mind. There are also a gazillion management books around all promising something fabulous (The Boss Benchmark is of course magnificent!). Just like trees, we humans are either growing or dieing. Get yourself a healthy addiction to learning, it will be inspiring, keep you on the edge and give you a wide perspective. Maybe your team could try to learn something new each week – with a different person ‘coaching’ each time.

FYI: you can now download the first few chapters of my book for free from http://www.thebossbenchmark.com/ - have a nosy then share the link with other bosses!

February 27, 2009

Unique people bosses can learn great lessons from - Part Two

David Brent
David is the boss from the TV show “The Office” (non USA version). One thing you could learn from him is to constantly ponder your management style. On the show, David spends endless hours at his desk chewing on and on to the camera about the ‘how and why’s’ of his management style. Some bosses land in management and never once ponder their style or philosophy – they just do the job. I believe a constant pondering and questioning is necessary to keep growing and improving. Spend at least an hour a week pondering your decisions, your interactions and responses and how you could do better. Make sure you are regularly reading magazines and books that extend your thinking. A very high level of self awareness is needed if you want to become exceptional.

Santa Claus
Santa listens to what his ‘customer’ wants and he delivers it. In a managers case your customer is your staff. They should come before the actual customers. Like Santa you should take lots of time to regularly listen to your ‘customers’, and do your darnedest to deliver. Santa also has a big imagination – nothing is impossible in his world. How can you positively apply ‘Santa type thinking’ in your daily work?

The movie Borat was just madness! Something positive to learn from him is the fact he is not scared of sticky situations (he created hundreds of them in the film). He was bold not afraid – he faced the most uncomfortable situations! As a boss you also need to be unafraid to tackle the big issues. Ask the scary questions and dig where you’d prefer not to – but should.

Flight of the Concords

The world’s first comedy duo band, there is no one else like them – they created their own niche! They call themselves "Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a capella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo". These guys are committed to their craft. They are not afraid to zig while others zag. They found huge success in America after New Zealand TV producers turned them down and now have a cult like following. Bosses can learn outside the box thinking from Bret and Jemaine. Don’t be afraid to make decisions and take actions that really separate you from those in your industry. Such a strategy is called “Blue Ocean Strategy” (there is a great book by this title about it).

Check out my article at USA website Slow Leadership (its on one of my fave topics: "Never avoid the yuck")

February 24, 2009

Unique people bosses can learn great lessons from - Part One

Steve Irwin
I could write three million reasons why we should all be like Steve. The most important one is probably his energy and passion. If we lived life how he did – with that much joy and excitement this would be a very different world. Steve is real, he is so authentic. He has a love of everything. If you launch into Steve mode in your office all of a sudden you’ll probably scare the heck out of your staff (or they’d think you’ve finally lost your marbles!). You should ponder areas you need more Steve in your management style and gradually let him shine through. You may even end up quitting coffee! An interviewer once asked Steve if he drank coffee. He responded “nah mate the top of my head would blow off” and it probably would have! Imagine having that kind of energy and excitement in your life everyday. Create it within yourself!

Gordon Bethune
There is a well known story about then CEO of Continental Airlines Gordon Bethune. Before a flight, he was chatting to staff. He then left them so they could get ready for the flight. As he was taking his seat on the plane he saw a passenger making a scene. The passenger had seen empty seats in first class and wondered why (with his elite member card) he wasn’t up graded. The flight attendant said she'd contact a gate attendant to see what they could do. The passenger started swearing. Gordon approached and said to the man "can I help somehow?"
The passenger said "who the **** are you"
Gordon responded "I’m the CEO of this company. May I see your ticket sir?"
The passenger handed it over to him. Gordon saw the price, pulled some notes from his pocket and handed him the cash, ripped the ticket then said "now, you get the **** off my airplane” the flight attendant could hardly keep a straight face.

This story was circulated by email and fast became well loved. Gordon had a reputation as a leader who really respected his people. He gave out a great message to the team that day – he will back them, and protect them no matter what. He will not tolerate his staff being disrespected. This is quite different from some businesses that always put customers first “the customer is always right” and encourage staff to do whatever it takes to please them. There are some customers that are just not worth it. Lots of businesses have ‘banned customer’ lists – they are people that are not worth the trouble, and are not welcome as customers. It is an awesome way to keep your staff #1.

Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen has an almost cult following all around the world. Her talk show is like NO other. I always say “that could only ever happen on Ellen.” Like Steve Irwin, it is her energy and attitude that makes her amazing also. Her show has won so many awards and gives people a daily dose of happiness and positivity. I am not going overboard when I say she is changing the world. She helps loads of great causes and people in need everyday – that’s right – through a talk show! The best lesson to learn from Ellen would probably be the craziness. Applied to your business it would mean thinking from a unique perspective and coming up with solutions that are a bit wild. Having no boundaries and being prepared to do things differently. By watching her show you will also learn how humour can fit into a workplace and engage a team.

Richard Branson
Richard has always been known as a bit different. He is the king of PR stunts and is an all round fun and crazy guy. It’s his approach to life that has made Virgin so unique. My favourite incident is definitely the ‘river’ incident. When visiting my home town of Christchurch in New Zealand, he was in a small punting boat with two of his airline staff launching some new initiative. He jumped out of the boat into the river and pulled the two ladies that were with him in as well! Perhaps don’t throw your staff in the river, but consider where you could apply such an impulsive attitude. Are you being too serious and scared of the water? Do you have an over the top adult attitude of “oh but we’ll get wet”?

I'll profile four more people to learn from in Part Two of this article. Check out another of my articles in USA website 'Winning Workplaces' newsletter here. The direct article link is here.

February 19, 2009

How should you deal with complaints?

Recently I wrote about Ex-Virgin Blue employee Torsten Koerting who designed a board game using Virgin Blue branding that criticises his former employer’s decision-making process. Well now Virgin Atlantic is in the spotlight. Passenger Oliver Beale found the inflight food bizarre and gross so wrote a letter to Richard Branson about it (complete with photos) and it is hilarous!

“I know it looks like a baaji but it's in custard Richard, custard.”

“ I'll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it's Christmas morning and you're sat their with your final present to open. It's a big one, and you know what it is. It's that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about. Only you open the present and it's not in there. It's your hamster Richard. It's your hamster in the box and it's not breathing.”

“Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it's more of that Baaji custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It's mustard Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any man could consume in a month.”

You can read the letter in full here. It, like the board game turned into a big media circus. When the media asked Richard Branson about it he said “I read it and laughed my head off.” He had a great chat with Oliver Beale about it and asked him to help improve their food presentation.

Complaints to your business may not be as epic as these two Virgin stories, but they are just as important. What mechanisims do you have in place to deal with complaints (big and small)? It is something you need to seriously consider before it happens not when it happens. Some companies have fantastic, fast systems and really really go all out for the customer, while others show a really rubbish attitude and try and argue with the customer telling them why they are wrong. It is these places that don’t feel the need to compensate the customer in some way. That attitude makes the complaint even more serious and annoying for the complainer – a defensive attitude from the company is a terrible way to react, and speaks volumes about their business. Think carefully about how your company deals with complaints at every level.

*Do you treat written ones different to verbal?
*Do you react faster when the customer has smoke coming out their ears (and drag your feet when it’s a softly spoken old woman complaining)?
*Is your whole team up with how to handle any complaint?
*Who has authority to compensate the customer?
*How will you deal with future complaints? What actions are you going to take/policies will you change?

I find it very necessary to end with a priceless quote which I shall now use whenever I’m short of something to say…. “Everyone likes a bit of mustard Richard”.

February 16, 2009

How to do a skill stocktake in your workplace

Number 16 in The Boss Benchmark is about staffs unutilsed skills. It talks about doing a skill stocktake in your workplace. I've recently written an article about how exactly you can go about this. You can read it here (full link is http://www.thebossbenchmark.com/How%20to%20do%20a%20skill%20stocktake.doc ). Please send it on to any people you know that are trying to:
* gain a deeper understanding of their staff
* increase staff happiness and engagement
* identify ways to increase productivity


February 10, 2009

How to use the collective wisdom of staff

There is a great book called “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki. It basically says if you ask enough people a question you will end up with the correct answer. If you ask just one or two people you’ll most likely get a wrong answer, but if you ask 20 people it will most likely be right. Ask 100 people and it’s even more likely to be right.

An example James uses in his book is when the Challenger blew up. It could have been the fault of a handful of companies and would take a while to figure out which one. After the accident many shares in the companies involved were sold. It turned out that the company that had the highest number of shares sold was the one who caused the problem! The wisdom of the shareholder crowd was right – they didn’t even need to wait to hear the official cause, the crowd knew.

4 things that make crowds wise
1. Diversity of opinion (private info, interpretation of known facts)
2. Independence (peoples opinions aren’t determined by those around them)
3. Decentralization (people are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge)
4. Aggregation (private judgments into collective decisions)

There was a test done to see if people care about ‘the wisdom of crowds’. They made one person stand on the corner of a busy street looking curiously up at the sky. Loads of people passed and nobody else looked up. They then got 10 people to stand there looking up and some passersby did look up. However when they made 50 people stand on the corner looking up everyone passing stopped to look up. The conclusion was the more people doing it the stronger the ‘social proof’ that something was happening - lots of people doing it means there must be a reason.

There were lots of other cool examples of the wisdom of crowds in the book such as to decide if you’ll need an umbrella check if everyone passing your house is carrying one, if not it probably wont rain – apparently this rarely fails. The same goes for moving your car off the street for cleaning in London – if others haven’t moved theirs it’s probably been cancelled this week.

So are businesses engaging the wisdom of crowds? Are they asking their staff loads of questions about things like new product innovations, marketing ideas, solutions to problems or customer relations? The answer is NO. Businesses still seem to be indifferent to the wisdom of crowds – they aren’t actively, constantly and frantically asking their employees anything! The staff surveying I did in the past convinced me of the power in the voice of the employee. But the wisdom of crowds goes even deeper than that. I highly recommend reading the book and figuring out exactly how to make it a way of life at your company – you will stand out a mile.

February 5, 2009

Are you a hypocrite boss?

Should this letter be addressed to you? Bosses may have it a bit tough sometimes – always being the ‘bad guy’, the one that needs to change. Staff aren’t perfect of course, but they are a reflection of their boss in many ways.

I think the main problem with bosses is that they are oblivious (or in denial) about their management and leadership abilities and performance. They judge their performance by their intentions, not by their actions.

A fan of The Boss Benchmark told me recently that when reading the book he kept thinking “gee my boss needs to take notice of that” yet the list he had for himself to improve on was suspiciously short. This guy had enough insight to know that something was not quite right about that! He realised he was probably seeing his skills through rose tinted glasses. So… he gave the book to a couple of his direct reports so THEY could tell him areas they wish he’d improve on. GENIUS! I hadn’t even thought of that myself! (This tip will be added to the intro for The Boss Benchmark second edition which should be ready about the end of March).

Number 35 in the book is ‘Don’t Be Soft On Yourself’ which is about getting real and being your harshest critic. Don’t take things personally; instead ask tough questions of yourself such as:
When am I a hypocrite?
When do I practise what I preach?
When don’t I practise what I preach?
Where am I showing a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude?

When you become awesome, so should your staff as they are a reflection of the attitude, skills and expectations of the boss. Before you criticize them, search yourself.

February 2, 2009

You can’t control your staffs every word, glance and decision

I was charged twice for an item at the fruit and vege shop so I took my receipt back with me next time. When I showed the checkout lady she rolled her eyes and pulled a face…. I wondered if that look was directed at me for 'being such a pain' or if it was a 'sympathy look' apologising for the error. I was going to ask, as it seemed quite rude, but then I decided it didn’t matter. I chose to believe (in good faith!) it was a ‘sorry about that’ type eye roll, but if it was meant for me instead – sheesh!! It got me thinking about how things can be misinterpreted.

A boss was giving a power point presentation to a boardroom chocka with people and a slide was a bit jumbled. The boss said “Amy it’s broken AGAIN”. The people thought the boss was berating the assistant in front of everyone and were embarrassed for Amy, they thought they were seeing a new, mean side to this boss. What they didn’t know was that the boss and Amy had worked together all morning on this crazy slide that refused to behave – she actually meant the comment as “I can’t believe it – how funny”. The boss had no idea she had been misinterpreted as a dragon boss.

You can train your staff till the cows come home, but it doesn’t mean they won’t sometimes give the wrong impression to a customer, say something dumb or make a silly decision. I read somewhere that the only thing worse that spending a fortune training your staff then having them leave is not training them and having them stay! So true.

Impressions last. Facial expressions, comments and body language – even the most discrete things can be picked up on. Empathy and fast thinking are not always something you can ‘train’ into staff. Maybe mystery shopping is a great idea to ensure the staff are making the right decisions. As for you the boss, so many things you say and do can be misinterpreted. Most of the time you may have NO idea, but it may cause your staff to fret for days and days – telling the rest of the team “can you believe what he said…” instant workplace fire! If you are the kind of boss staff are totally comfortable with and not afraid to say “what the heck does that mean!!??” it will help you avoid many misinterpretations. If you don’t like being painted as the big meanie (especially by mistake) it pays to be very approachable!

Check out another very simple, very very silly mistake a staff member made, purely because the boss probably hadn’t told them any better:

What can you do in your business – with yourself, the culture and the team to ensure these type of incidents don’t happen in your business? Talk these stories over with your team so they can understand how little things have a huge impact. They would be mighty peeved if such things happened to them as customers.

January 28, 2009

“Don’t Tell Tales” especially at work

When I was about eight years old the girl that sat next to me at school was a cheat. When working I’d look over to see her writing out the questions, then flicking to a page at the back of the book (it was bookmarked with a pencil) and copying out the answer! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was a bit of a goody good and would never have done that – mainly because I’d be so scared of being told off, but also because I knew the difference between right and wrong. Not one to miss a beat, I immediately stood up, grabbed the book and went to line up at the teacher’s desk to tell her this girl was cheating. Upon telling the teacher she shouted “ALLISON DON’T YOU TELL TALES”. Her reaction pretty much said she’d prefer people to cheat than to ‘tell tales’ – never mind the fact that what I was saying was 100% true. I still think cheating is much worse than ‘telling tales’! I embarrassedly walked back to my desk and wondered what the hell I’d done wrong! Anyway, this girl carried on her ‘work’ and that was that.

Telling tales happens in the workplace too. I recall one case where Katrina* wanted Rebecca’s* hours. Katrina had only worked there a few weeks and Rebecca had worked there for three years. Katrina decided to tell the boss that Rebecca was slacking off, breaking rules and stealing. The boss responded by making sure he was there to oversee Rebecca’s entire shifts to make sure she was actually working. Rebecca scratched her head thinking “hmmm he hasn’t had a problem with me until now” and she quit. She was mighty peeved that the boss took some newbies word over hers after all she’d done for the place. The boss wasn’t insightful enough to see the situation for what it was – deceitful and fabricated; Katrina was trying to get what she wanted with dirty tactics.

Before supervising a previously wonderful staff member get your facts straight. Katrina had no proof anyway! What telling tales situations have you experienced in your time as the boss? How did you deal with them and how would you deal differently with them in the future? Ponder a way to make telling tales obsolete – either don’t hire liars or ensure the culture is open enough to withstand intense team discussions when issues arise.

*not their real names.