Leadership that Excelerates Performance
LEADERSHIP THAT EXCELERATES PERFORMANCE focuses on the critical relationship between leadership, employee engagement and delivering an exceptional customer experience as a competitive advantage.
Bill is recognized as the Performance Excelerator™ because of
his uncanny ability to create profound change and deliver extraordinary results
with the most demanding organizations.
As a senior executive with over 25 years experience, he works with senior leaders to navigate change and influence and inspire higher performing, customer-focused cultures that create long-term, profitable relationships with your customers and excelerate performance and productivity with leaders and employees.
In my experience as a leadership consultant, I have had the privilege to work with a wide variety of organizations of all sizes and from different industries. However, one thing I have observed that has gotten many organizations in trouble and has caused issues within the leadership ranks is relaxing too quickly when things are going well. Even though strong performance is a positive thing, it does not mean that performance will remain this way into the future.
The truth is strong performance can actually mask issues if you are not careful, which can come back and bite you in the future. This is why leaders need to stay sharp and keep their foot on the gas to ensure that today’s good performance leads to tomorrow’s exceptional performance.
Good Performance does not always Equate to Good Business Practices <Click to Tweet>
Having a great product or service does not always mean that your business has effective business practices in place. When you rely too heavily on positive performance as a measure of success, without having the proper structure in place, you could be setting your organization up for failure down the road.
What happens when performance slumps and the competitive edge of a new or unique product is lost? Million dollar companies have been built on a great concept but run aground because they lacked the best practices to support strong business operations and sustain growth and development over time.
Good performance can hide sustainability issues and leaders need to ensure that proper protocols and business practices are in place. This means having the foresight to see the need for new and improved processes and getting to the root of potential issues. It is vital that leaders identify potential issues today before they hamper company performance in the future.
Warning Signs that Indicate Issues could be Developing
There are many warning signs to indicate that a dip in corporate performance could be on the way, and it doesn’t just have to do with sales. Here are some of the telltale signs that suggest issues may be present:
- Lower employee engagement: Disengaged employees can lead to a variety of internal issues, each of which can negatively impact performance going forward.
- People leaving: An increase in people leaving could signify that there are issues with organizational culture that need to be addressed.
- Reduction in performance: If your teams are consistently missing targets, it could be a sign that internal protocols need to be revised or revamped. Adding training and coaching may also be required.
- A rise in customer service complaints: An increase in complaints could mean there is a disconnect between your customers expectations and the customer experience being created. There may be a need for customer service training and a review of the customer experience map – check out Customer Service That Rocks for some tips.
Leaders need to have a plan for each of these issues before they arise. The quicker these issues are identified and addressed, the less impact they will have on future performance.
Don’t be Lulled into Complacency
Relying on current sales and performance can mask potential issues that put your organization’s future in jeopardy. A proactive approach is a must. Don’t wait for an issue to develop before you take action. Address potential issues now, before they become real issues in the future. This will help your organization sustain strong performance for the long term.
Often when speaking about delivering exceptional customer experiences, I, like most speakers, tell stories. Often our signature story is about some remarkable customer experience where someone has gone above and beyond to create a memorable experience and everyone is left feeling like that is the pinnacle of success.
This of course makes for an interesting speech but doesn’t convey the full story.
When discussing the art of creating exceptional customer experiences we often focus on the feelings and relationship we create with our customer. Did we smile, were our answers helpful, did we show genuine concern and empathy for their situation? Did we create a personal connection and adjust our interaction to meet their needs? Did we go above and beyond to create a memorable moment? These are all examples of the language that is often heard in speeches, seminars and workshops.
These are also all characteristics often referred to as being right brain functions; creative, imaginative, emotions, empathy, feelings. And they are certainly essential to the successful delivery of an exceptional customer experience. They are the sexy bits that make for great stories.
They are also elements of the customer experience that are very dependent on the person and the situation. In other words, they are not consistent for all customers and therefore less likely to be repeatable and scalable.
However, there is another side of customer service that is less often the focus of discussions — yet equally important. That is the behind the scenes, left brain function activities; analytical, logical, precise, organized, repetitive, detailed, sequential. The elements that are part of the customer experience mapping we often do.
In truth, these are the foundation of any successful customer experience. Without a well thought through, repeatable, efficient customer experience process — the person delivering it will have to deal with a poor customer experience baseline and will constantly have to go above and beyond to make up for the inevitable disappointment that customers have.
It is like bailing out a boat with holes in it. Lots of work, but no prospects of long term success until the holes are patched.
My Perspective: Don’t focus your efforts on the people, emotional side of the equation, without also investing equally to ensure that your processes are as efficient, reliable and repeatable as possible. Use both sides of the brain and look for opportunities to build processes that build a positive experience of every customer, every time.
Then you have the opportunity to create one of those sexy, signature stories speakers love to use — because you are building on a strong foundation of a customer experience that works — and your people then have the opportunity to take that experience to the next level.
This is the second article in our leadership consulting series of articles that looks at creating transformative change in your organization. The full series will be available for download as a white paper once it is completed.
In our last article, we discussed Transformative Leadership and Change Realization. Now let’s discuss the importance for leaders to understand their own need to change first before an organization can change.
Leaders Need to Evolve in Order for the Organization to Follow Suit
A common theme that has emerged throughout my years of experience as a leadership expert is that creating change within an organization starts with leadership. Leaders first need to realize the need for change, not only within their organization, but also within themselves for real transformative change to occur. Understand that current culture is tied to your own existing leadership style. That’s why the culture is what it is in the first place.
How and what you change will be dependent on evaluation of your own personal strengths and weaknesses and those of your organization in order to stay competitive and maximize growth within your industry.
How you approach change will be very different if you are an existing leader at the organization compared to a new leader who has been hired to bring about change.
A leader’s realization for the need for change starts with leadership self-assessment and self-awareness. Change realization is the first major step in the change process and is a key factor for adoption internally.
Performing a Self-Assessment as a Leader
While identifying the need for change is important, taking actionable steps to make change and evolve as a leader is what will really drive change internally and affect organizational culture. You cannot transform your organization if you first do not transform your own leadership style and methods.
Performing self-assessment as a leader is a valuable tool to identify and make changes that will stick. Self-assessment allows leaders take a look at their leadership skills and abilities and reflect upon the areas they need to improve or change. This change realization must be internalized first before it can be applied to the organization.
Start your leadership self-assessment by reflecting upon these questions:
Personal leadership qualities
- Are you self-aware? Do you have clarity of your own personal values and principles? Do you act in alignment with your stated values? Do you understand how they impact your behaviours and the way in which you approach leadership?
- What do you do for personal development? Do you actively engage in new learning opportunities? How do you apply what you learn to your role as a leader?
Direction and Vision
- Do you have a clear vision? What is it?
- Are you effective at identifying the key drivers of change? Do you anticipate potential roadblocks to adoption of proposed changes? What challenges do you foresee that will require change?
- How do you personally back up your vision? What actions do you take? Do you hold people accountable who are not aligned with your vision?
- How do you evaluate the impact of change?
Collaboration and working with others
- Do you respect others’ opinions, beliefs and values?
- Do you actively engage with others to determine the direction of the organization? Do you take a collaborative approach to leading the organization? Do you have a leadership team?
- Are you an open and honest communicator?
- Do you encourage others to contribute? Are you a good listener? Are you willing to objectively listen to others’ thoughts and opinions? Are you open to changing your opinion based on new information?
- Do you seek out feedback from others? Do you act unilaterally?
- Are you skilled at conflict management?
- Do you clearly communicate your vision? How do you build internal support for your vision?
- Are you an effective planner? Do you incorporate feedback when developing plans? Do you assess the benefits and risks associated with your planned strategies?
- Do you efficiently manage and utilize the resources that are available?
- Are you good at managing people? Do you communicate a clear purpose, direction and expectations of your leadership team and team members?
- How do you frame new strategic objectives?
- When developing strategies, do you engage with a wide range of stakeholders?
- How do you mitigate risk?
- Do you ensure that strategies are broken down into realistic and implementable plans that can be carried out by team members?
- How do you manage performance? Do you hold others accountable? How do you hold yourself accountable? What actions do you take to improve performance?
- Do you work with others to overcome barriers to adoption and challenges in implementing strategies?
Send me an email if you would like a copy of my Simple Leadership Self-assessment to help you identify where you have the opportunity to improve and grow.
Discuss these questions with a trusted colleague, coach, mentor, leadership consultant, or a key advisor in your organization. Use this information to develop an action plan that outlines your strengths, and more importantly, the areas where change is required for you to become a more effective leader. It is only when you make transformative changes as a leader that you can apply that knowledge to your organization and transform the way your organization does business.
The next article in our leadership consulting series will examine how to alter your approach as a leader.
You are damn right it is. Language has the ability to offend or create an unexpected impression. For example, did I offend someone with my use of damn versus darn.
I had the occasion to call a hotel to book a meeting room and accommodation for a 2 day client off-site. I had spoken to a Sales Associate a couple weeks earlier who had provided all the appropriate information and been very helpful. However, when I called back to book the event, I was informed my contact was on vacation for 2 weeks — but the person on the phone would be pleased to help me.
I provided information on dates and requirements to help them find original documentation so we wouldn’t have to repeat the entire discussion. However, I discovered that when planning for vacations, the turn-over to a back-up person was only for executed contracts — not ones that were still in the consideration phase. Fair enough. I actually sent the original email back to the hotel so the new person could have a copy of the interaction thus far.
When I mentioned that it was too bad there wasn’t a process in place to avoid this situation — requiring me to effectively begin the entire transaction again — rather than a response that suggested some empathy to the situation, instead I was told that people had a right to go on vacation.
My Perspective: Wow, that one comment changed my opinion about the customer focus of this particular hotel. In fact, that one comment made me reconsider my decision to book the hotel.
What would happen if another issue arose at the event. Would they be equally defensive about the situation or would they immediately look for ways to address the situation. My reputation is at risk when I work with a hotel on an event and I want to know they are my partners, not looking to cover their backs.
This is what I call an iceberg comment. A comment that gives you insight into the attitude or behaviours that lurk beneath the surface. It may seem like a small comment, but it can often be the first hint of a much bigger issue below the waterline.
Thinking about your own response to customer issues — do you have any language in your vocabulary that hints to a bigger issue under the surface?
You can read about another poor use of language in my post Did I say “no problem”?
The final kicker was the email I received after hanging up the phone — the person I was speaking with was the Director of Sales.
In my experience as a leadership expert and consultant, change is never easy. It is not easy for leaders, managers, or employees. Change poses a threat for most people, especially when it comes to their career or position within their organization.
Even if change is positive and will benefit the organization, it is difficult for people to accept because it represents a disruption to the status quo. People like consistency, and change creates uncertainty that makes people uneasy. Transformative leaders understand how to frame organizational change effectively.
A Leader’s Attitude About Change Sets the Tone
Your attitude as a leader and how you approach change will set the tone of how change will be viewed and accepted internally. Even though there will likely be some resistance from people in your organization, this is lowered when leaders set the tone. It is no secret that employee engagement is an issue in most companies, and setting a positive tone can have an impact on how change is perceived.
For example, if your approach is to mandate change from a position of fear, using it as a way to get people to conform, you can expect a negative reaction. This will make employee engagement and buy-in less likely. On the other hand, approaching change positively and with enthusiasm for the future re-affirms that change is good, which helps to initially engage people when it is announced.
Understanding the Employee Perspective
Even if you know that making change is best for the organization and is beneficial for future success, it needs to be handled carefully and framed properly to get your team to buy in. One of the most important things that leaders need to understand is that other people may not see change in the same way or from the same perspective. Certain benefits of change may be obvious to leaders, but not necessarily to others in the company.
Leaders need to be able to answer “What is in it for me” from the perspective of different people within the organization to properly frame change. As discussed in How Transformational Leaders Make Organizational Change Stick, how you frame change makes a significant difference. When framing change, it is important to understand your teams’ perspective, how they view change, and the emotional factors that are at play. Tapping into people’s emotions and framing change in terms of inspiration, opportunity, while giving people the ability to voice their opinion allows transformational leaders to frame change correctly, and communicate the need for change in a way that can make it stick and become part of your company’s culture.
Communicate and Create Incentives and Motivation
For change to be accepted, leaders need to clearly communicate the purpose of change and outline incentives and motivations for people if you want them to accept it. Outline:
- Company growth, goals, and objectives
- How change ties into organizational vision and values
- New opportunities internally
- The training and coaching that will support change
- Short term and long term benefits
- How change directly affects people at all levels of the company
- How people will be held accountable
The key is for leadership to regularly and openly communicate with people across the organization. Organizational change must be handled with care so that people do not become fearful of the future. Failure to communicate why change is needed, how it will impact people individually, and when it will occur will negatively impact buy-in.