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.
Recently I was in Banff Alberta for a client conference. As part of the programming there was a golf excursion planned to the Banff Springs Golf Resort. This was an exceptional opportunity to play on one of Canada’s most picturesque courses — and it was included in the invitation to the conference.
The day was warm and dry and the views on every hole were spectacular. Surely, this was going to be a day to remember. No matter how badly I golfed, what could possibly ruin a day like that?
At 11:40 am we approached the pro shop/restaurant before staring the back nine. We were greeted by the sight and smell of hamburgers grilling on the outdoor barbecue. Just enough time to stop for a quick bite before heading off to play the back nine. Could it get any better?
When our foursome approached the counter, I asked for a hamburger. However, I was told there were no hamburgers — just hot dogs and sandwiches. When I mentioned that not more than 20 feet away was an outdoor barbecue grilling up hamburgers, the response was “sorry, those are for staff.”
Incredulously, I asked to clarify; the hamburgers were staff only, but customers couldn’t have any.
At that point, the person behind the counter indicated that if I wanted a hamburger, it would be a 15 minute wait while the kitchen prepared some. Not to be dissuaded, I asked if I couldn’t just have one of the ones off the grill 20 feet away.
The Manager was consulted and I was told it would be about 3 minutes for my hamburger. However, it turned out to be the 15 minutes initially promised — and it was a kitchen grilled burger on a cold bun versus one from a barbecue.
My Perspective: So what was one of our memories from the round of golf?
I am totally in favour of treating your team well — in fact, I encourage it. If you are not treating your team well, how can you reasonably expect that they will treat your customers well. But as a customer at one of Canada’s premier golf courses — at a cost of $225 person — I can’t forget being told I couldn’t get a hamburger while staff was lining up in plain sight to get fresh burgers off the barbecue.
As luck would have it I was golfing with the founder of the organization and the head of the UK group — and the key focal point for their conference was building an engaged team that delivered an exceptional customer experience. There were representatives attending from the USA and New Zealand as well.
I couldn’t have asked for a better demonstration on just how critical the front line people are in the organization.
Not only did this experience demonstrate to my fellow golfers the impact of a poor customer experience — but it was subsequently used as a story by the founder in his opening remarks later that night. At least 2 other speakers referred to it and it was discussed throughout the conference as an example of what not to do.
How would someone on your team have handled a similar situation? Would they have rejected the customer request outright — or would they have looked for a way to create a memorable situation.
Does your leadership encourage initiative — or must everyone follow the rules?
Does your team demonstrate a customer focus or do they simply do the least possible?
Was this poor leadership or poor staff initiative? We’ll probably never know — but it’s amazing how a hamburger experience left a bad taste in our mouth about the entire experience. And how that experience can spread around the world in a matter of minutes — even without the aid of social media.
If you are like many businesses, you may have a couple poor employees — consistently under-performing.
Some would suggest that they need to be pruned in order for the business to remain healthy and grow. Philosophically I agree — however, before pruning ask yourself why they are under-performing. Here are a couple thoughts for consideration.
Is it because they are a round peg in a square hole. Do they have all the character elements but yet still aren’t successful in their role. Maybe you need to consider a change in role to one where some of their strengths may have the opportunity to shine.
I once had a team member who had all the character elements but just wasn’t succeeding in the marketing area. His attention to detail wasn’t strong, which was fundamental when proofing ads and hitting deadlines. So we moved him into a sales role where he had administrative support. Because of his character and personality, he quickly rose to become one of the top performers in that new role. If we had pruned too early, we would have lost a valuable asset and who knows what we would have gotten in return. If they have the right character — look for a win. Remember, most skills can be taught.
Or perhaps they made an error at a critical time. Maybe they failed to hit a deadline or blew a key initiative — resulting in a loss of confidence. The residual effect over time, is that fellow employees will see them as a weak link. Possibly you will too.
Ask yourself what it would take to rehabilitate that team member. Remember, at one time they were considered a valuable member of the team, but once they have fallen from grace, it may be too much for them to get back on track on their own.
What can you do as a leader to help lift them up? If they are worth saving, how could you help them become successful again. Maybe a special assignment that leverages their strengths. Maybe they just need a show of confidence from the key leader to help them over the hump and let others take notice of your faith. This doesn’t mean you lower your standards or expectations — maybe just a little personal coaching to get them over the rough spot.
My Perspective: Before you prune, make sure that is the best step.
The key thing to remember is that at one time virtually every employee was deemed to be a good fit — that’s why they were hired in the first place. So before you take the harsh step of pruning — look for the upside.
After all, if you spent time working to improve a high performer, you might get a little incremental improvement. However, if you can help a poor performer become a high performer — think of the positive impact on the organization and the time saved to find a new person to replace them.
Then if it still doesn’t work, when you prune you will know you have given them the best of yourself personally — and that is a sign of a great leader.
I read a post by Dumb Little Man that encourages people to focus on their strengths versus their weaknesses. This advice seems counter-intuitive, since we all should be striving for improvement in our lives — and our businesses.
Their point is “you’ve got the potential to go further with your natural strengths than you do with your weaknesses.”
When we build on our strengths, we continue to set ourselves apart from others who do not share the same strengths. It contributes to our uniqueness that makes us memorable — either as a person or a business.
If we spend too much time trying to shore up our weaknesses, then we become exceptional at nothing — a “Jack of all trades, master of none”.
I agree, with a minor adjustment.
Where I think this statement needs further clarification is in the area of Character. Where we have weakness in our character, we need to work on that immediately. Character issues like integrity, trustworthiness, dependability etc. must all be aligned with our personal values and if we have identified any area where we need work — it should be a critical priority.
My Perspective: Strength of character must come first. Whether, personally, in business or when hiring — strong character is essential for success.
But once those essentials are in place, then work on your strengths in your areas of competence or skills. Make sure that you are leveraging these to create an unbeatable advantage over the competition and you will become known as the person or business who is the unrivaled expert in that area. A description that is never used to describe a Jack of All Trades.
Recently we had a very poor experience with our local dry cleaners — poor enough that we have stopped using them after years of patronage.
My wife took my daughter to have a dress altered for her Grade 8 graduation formal. A little tuck on each side.
When my wife picked up the dress she was told this small alteration was $50.00 — much higher than she was led to believe when she dropped it off. The owner indicated that he would adjust the price accordingly. However, the entire time my wife was in the shop, no explanation for the increase was offered — in fact, the seamstress didn’t even acknowledge her.
When my daughter tried on the dress we discovered it was significantly too small. The zipper would no longer close by approx 4 inches.
At this point, my wife was very upset and my daughter almost in tears because she thought the dress which we had purchased in Florida during March Break for her special evening was ruined.
After my wife’s poor experience, I decided to take my daughter and the dress back to the Dry Cleaners to address the situation. When we arrived the seamstress had left for the day, but we were able to speak to the owner who apologized and assured my daughter that she would have her dress for the evening — even if it meant they had to purchase another one. He readily agreed that the alterations were incorrect and he requested that I bring my daughter back with the dress when the seamstress was there and he would personally see that the appropriate alterations would be made.
When we returned, we had the dress marked and altered by the seamstress and my daughter was able to wear the dress to her formal — however, the seams down the side were now off-centre because the material that was cut from the initial alterations needed to be “found” by pulling some of the pleating from the front of the dress.
In the end my daughter’s dress was saved, but my wife and I were not interested in returning because of the poor treatment by the seamstress and we have never been back to the Dry Cleaners.
Some key elements were;
- the owner immediately apologised and assured us that the situation would be resolved
- the seamstress did not offer a sincere apology
- there was no offer to compensate us for our inconvenience (5 visits vs. 2)
- the Owner admitted that the seamstress was not an employee (I assume she rented space) and therefore there wasn’t much he could do about her attitude
- every employee or contractor counts towards your impression
My Perspective: Because “everything counts” you must be careful about your associations. In this case the Dry Cleaner had allowed someone who didn’t share their values to impact on their customers. Resultant, her poor attitude ended a relationship the owners had worked hard to nurture. When we had such a bad experience — even when it wasn’t their core business — we never returned.
Hiring properly is one of the keys to engaged employees — making sure that the people you hire are the kind of people you want as part of your team.
I recently went to the hardware store looking for a part for a door. The first person pointed me in the right direction – no luck. I asked a second person who directed me to a third person who directed me to a fourth person.
Finally the fourth person took me directly to the appropriate section and then when they were also unable to find the correct part, looked on the computer to find it.
Everyone one in this chain had the “competence” of knowing where to look, but only 1 person had the “character” to make the time to take me there.
At Pret a Manger, they hire happy people and teach them how to make sandwiches versus trying to teach people who know how to make sandwiches how to be happy.
Be clear on the character you want and then make sure your hiring practices build in the behavioural requirements.