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?