...and the Importance of Employee Commitment
In the process of moving homes after 20 years, I’ve learned two very important lessons. First, the amount of stuff you keep is directly proportional to the space you have. My advice is, if you want to avoid some pain, start purging and organizing early. Second, no matter how hard cable companies try to provide good customer service they just don’t seem to get the little things right.
Last week I returned our cable equipment back to one of our cable company’s locations. I was greeted by a pleasant young woman who introduced herself as Beth. She scanned in my cable equipment, handed me a piece of paper and told me I would be called by the next service representative. My first impression was very good. I settled into a comfortable chair convinced I’d be done in record time. Not the case. The longer I watched the service representatives’ snail pace, the faster my patience faded.
Eventually I asked Beth if I could just leave and then call customer service later on. The response was “no.” I thought to myself, they have the equipment… what else do they need??? I rarely take “no” for an answer, so I pressed. When we got to the “can I speak to your manager” part, her response was “LOOK, I am just a temp worker. You have to wait for the service representative. There is nothing I can do for you!” I relented and decided to wait.
Although my impatience was certainly a factor, this is prime example of a disengaged employee. In the role of greeter, Beth has the opportunity to make or break the customer experience simply by how she handles difficult interactions. In my case, she clearly did not feel empowered by her training nor was she armed with how to address the situation. There was almost a sense of helplessness, which could have been avoided easily.
Temp worker or full-time, it is the leader’s responsibility to create an environment where employees are not only well trained, but also feel that they belong, making them want to go the extra mile. Employee engagement is all about people; people who fulfill their workplace contract by fueling an organization’s successful operations.
Decades ago, when employees were often considered part of a workplace “family,” an employee would find a position within a company and remain at that company throughout their entire career. The employee may have been secure and settled within his or her position, but a company rarely would put much effort into determining what made any of their workplace family happy and productive. Performance was simply expected from every employee and was, therefore, freely given without question.
In today’s environment where lifelong commitment to an employee is more rare, employees might not consider the gold watch and retirement dinner an ideal reward for service well rendered. Loyalty now has to be earned by an employer rather than assumed, yet organizations often still anticipate that committed and engaged employees will remain an integral part of the workplace family indefinitely.
Understandably, the most productive employees are those that are committed and loyal; those that are engaged. Leaders who own their role in fostering employee engagement tend to generate loyal employees.
Prioritizing Change & Making It Happen
Last Tuesday morning I was in the kitchen with my wife. It was the morning after we signed the offer letter to sell our home where we have lived for the last 20 years. The house where our son has grown up (his is 20 now) and we've had great memories. Neither one of us was very talkative, but I sensed she was thinking about something important.
I turned to my wife (who was the driver behind the sale) and asked, "are you okay with all of this?" She said, "I didn't sleep last night - are we making a mistake?" I realized right then that it’s not the house we are attached to so much as the “home,” the place where we feel comfortable.
I see this type of thing happen all the time with my clients. Making the decision to change and improve is not the difficult part; it’s the psychological acceptance to make a change followed by the discipline to make it happen.
But why is that? A perfect example of this is a client I started working with about 3 years ago on strategic focus and leadership execution. A solid company, but they were stuck in the world of “what got you to this point is not good enough to get you to where you want to be.”
I facilitated a series of discussions and meetings to help the leadership team build a clear plan for operational improvement and business success. That was the easy part…executing on the plan proved to be the hard part. It was “comfortable” for them to operate the way they had been for so many years. Moving in a new direction was hampered by old ineffective habits and beliefs.
Their desire to move ahead on their own without my involvement was a typical reaction to the very thoughtful strategic planning effort they had just completed. I provided my advice to ensure a successful outcome, as I always do, and scheduled a 90-day follow-up to assess progress.
The progress meeting produced mediocre results, accompanied by a series of common excuses like… “We’re so busy,” “I don’t have enough time,” and “I have too many other priorities.” Nothing legitimate and they knew it. The discussion that followed produced an autopsy on why they failed to execute and boiled down to two key root causes...
Prioritizing Change. First, we learned that most of the team members did not make the planned changes a priority even though they agreed they were very important for sustainable success. Business goals and supporting tactics were grasped easily intellectually, but not emotionally. They didn’t ask themselves how their own behaviors needed to change and what thinking needed to shift.
They didn’t “buy-in” enough themselves initially, which then made it almost impossible to get other employees on board.
Follow-Through Discipline. The second key issue was the lack of follow-through. Although some changes were initiated we didn’t see any notable improvements in business measures and outcomes. On further analysis, we learned that the leadership team members ran into resistance to change in the organization and did not exercise the discipline to push through to a meaningful outcome.
I’ve never heard anybody say that being a leader is easy because it’s not. When things are going well nobody notices because things are supposed to go well – it is expected of you as a leader. The true test is when things aren’t going well and need to change.
The secret is to start with yourself – get your head right, and if you make a decision to take action, then do it 100%. This concept is not complicated, but the most important step toward success.
SKYE Business Solutions helps leaders discover their purpose: the driving force behind your organization’s ability to achieve. Purpose empowers leaders to recognize value; creating a culture of engagement, contribution, and trust. SKYE propels your leadership to the next level: pushing through the ordinary to unlock the full potential throughout all levels of your organization.