Initiative, Customer Service, and Your Browser Choice (NOT Election Results)

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Change, Customer Service, Innovation |

We’ve heard enough about about selecting a president, so I’m writing about selecting a new employee. Have you ever thought of asking what internet browser they use at home?  I wouldn’t have.  But now I might. What is it we want in employees?  We want people who are productive, loyal, satisfied in their role, can take initiative, right?  I just read an interesting study investigating what might be correlated with all those qualities, and therefore what would be a predictor of the right applicant. I remember reading about a Met Life survey years ago looking at predictors of success in their agents that found optimism to be a key factor.  But a browser choice??? This research was on over 50,000 customer service and sales agents from many companies, all of whom had taken an online assessment as part of their application process, investigating why some agents stayed in their jobs longer than others.  The research  compared the applicants’ characteristics against data on the subsequent hires, trying to find a pattern for who ended up staying in their jobs the longest. They looked at expected factors such as a previous history of job hopping, which did not turn out to correlate with staying in the job longer.  They ran the question of internet browser sort of on a whim, since they happened to have had the data.  Paydirt! It turned out that those who had used Firefox or Chrome to fill out the online assessment stayed in their jobs 15% longer than those who used Safari or Internet Explorer.  Wondering if it was coincidence, they also looked at performance on sales, customer satisfaction and average call length.  The Firefox and Chrome users again surpassed the others.  They were even 19% less likely to be absent from work. Why?  Michael Housman, the head of the research team, surmised it might suggest the ability to take initiative.  Safari and Internet Explorer come loaded as the default when you buy your computer.  You have to be an informed consumer and take an extra step to switch to Firefox or Chrome. So maybe people who will take initiative in one area of their lives will also take initiative in other areas. For example, in the way they help their customers.  Or the way they configure their job or their perspective on their job so that they are more satisfied, rather than accepting the “default.” It makes me wonder how can we hire for initiative, and also cultivate initiative in our teams. Adam Grant in his book Originals describes his effort in helping Google design a brief class to teach their non-tech employees strategies to make their jobs better – ways they could take small or larger steps to make their jobs more interesting to them.  This 90 minute class turned out to make a huge difference in both their performance and their satisfaction.  Seems to me, they taught them how to take initiative. Change rarely happens in huge leaps, it happens in small steps.  Those small steps together become new patterns of behavior, especially when reinforced by leaders and by peers....

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The Horse Who Wouldn’t Change Direction: Can You?

Posted by on Oct 3, 2016 in Change |

The story goes that the filmmakers of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil wanted a horse and buggy in a scene.  They were filming at one of the many wonderful squares in Savannah that are ringed by one way traffic.  For some creative agenda they rerouted traffic to come the other way for the shot.  But the horse would have none of it.  They tried all kinds of ways to get the horse to travel the opposite direction, but with no success. He (or she) knew which way was the “right” way. I heard that story in Savannah last week while on a horse and buggy tour with my husband – since he can’t walk very far anymore we knew one of the highly recommended walking tours of the city was out. So we chose another way.  Unlike the horse. Turns out the horse in the story was, in fact, in the movie.  He was just standing still in the background. How often does the same thing happen to all of us?  We get used to doing something a certain way and get a fixed pattern in our minds that that is the “right” way.  We may even lose the ability to perceive other ways.  We may resist when someone creative comes along with new ideas that wants us to go a different way.   Or we’re the creative one with the new idea and someone else is resisting. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had over the last several months about driverless cars, with people telling me how it won’t happen.  How they wouldn’t want to be in a car without a driver.  How if they’re going to be hit by a car, they want to be hit by a car with a driver, not a driverless car.    Really? It is certainly more comfortable to keep doing things the same way.  My husband and I have been traveling the last few months, for work, for family and friend visits, etc.  We’ve had to adjust to lots of different beds and bathrooms.  Without even thinking we take the same side of the bed that we’d have at home, even though there is no reason for it except the familiar is more comfortable. I’ve decided that I want to see where I might be stuck going one way, missing out on opportunities, efficiencies, possibilities. Where I might believe I can’t go another way. Maybe if I start little, like wearing my watch on the opposite hand, or taking different roads to work, or asking different questions, perhaps I can build up a skill set around seeing other ways to do things. How about you?  Are you stuck going in one direction? What can you do about it?  Or will you be like the horse in the movie, and end up just standing still....

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Supersuasion: The Curry and Thyme of Persuasion Techniques

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in Change, Presentations, Sales | 0 comments

Persuasion is a topic that most of my clients are interested in.  “How can I get my people to just get on board?” I get asked a lot.  They would love if I could teach them something called “supersuasion” and today I found a way to do just that in an article I read by Kevin Dutton in the Scientific American Mind March/April 2010, The Power to Persuade. He simplified it with an acronym “SPICE”:  Simplicity, Perceived self-interest, Incongruity, Confidence and Empathy.  So clearly he used the SPICE acronym to make it simple for us – helping us to buy in.  I’m just surprised he didn’t use a three letter acronym because he emphasized the tricolon – the magic of three, a well known speakers device:  think “I came, I saw, I conquered”.    What was fascinating was his reference to the research on predicting the complexity of a recipe and willingness to cook it by just the typeface it was printed in – easier to read signaled the minds of readers that the recipe was easier to cook, and therefore increased their likelihood of trying it, even when it had the exact same ingredients and directions as one is a fancier typeface! Self interest helps persuade us, not surprisingly.  I like things that benefit me.  But his reference to a marketing technique of an illusion of you helping me out was fascinating.  If I had a coffee shop, I’d start giving out loyalty coupons for a free cup of coffee after 6 cups with the first one already filled in before you even buy one.  You think I did something for you.  Then after your first purchase you are already one-third of the way, needing 4 more cups to get your free cup.  But if I give you a loyalty coupon where you need just 5 cups to get a free one but I don’t give you that first one until after you buy, you are only one-fifth of the way there, even though you still need 4 cups to get your free cup, and you didn’t get anything upfront except a lousy cup of coffee (well, hopefully it was good coffee).  You perceive that the first deal is more in your self-interest to follow up on! Incongruity is mostly about humor  – and the unexpected, since humor is best when you don’t see the punch line coming.  This actually fits also with the Heath brothers surprise element of making a sticky message – one people will remember – that they wrote about in their first book Made to Stick.  I loved the gimmick of making the cover look as if a piece of duck tape was across it.  It seemed incongruous on a shiny new book, and encouraged me to buy it at the bookstore! The unexpected isn’t just about humor, though.  It’s also about getting a nice surprise.  People tipped more to waiters who gave them one piece of candy with their bill, walked away, then turned...

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Organizational Tangles: Use a SCARF to untangle them

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Change, Conflict, Self-awareness, Teams | 0 comments

I have a client in an  “organizational tangle,” as Dr. Marcia Ruben titles a business challenge with multiple causes, diverse stakeholders, conflicting agendas, and charged emotions.  We’ve been using a the SCARF model of understanding five motivators to find a way to untangle the situation. SCARF is an acronym for a relatively new model of human needs developed by David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute (where I’m pursuing certification in NeuroLeadership) based on the last ten years of neuroscience.  It is based in part on the research that the brain feels social pain as intensely as physical pain, and we have more memory of our social pain than physical pain.   Research has also shown that our brains are primed to move away from threat or pain and toward reward or pleasure.   So at work, we are motivated to join in or avoid situations based on five domains that our brains have evolved to value for survival purposes. These five social drivers described by SCARF are S:  status (our social standing compared to others) C:  certainty (our ability to anticipate, predict, and prepare) A:  autonomy (our sense of control) R:  relatedness (our connection to others – be they friend or foe) F:  fairness (our perception of the equity of a situation) We’re all different so we have individual SCARF profiles.  There is even an initial assessment so you can discover your rating of the five (although the assessment has yet to be validated.)   Click here if you want to try it.  About 46% of the thousands of people taking the assessment have rated Certainty as their dominant domain, so see how you compare. My client’s role gives him high status in the organization, which can blind him to the impact of his decisions on the status of others in the organization.  Similarly he has a low need for certainty, having lived an entrepreneurial life with a high tolerance for risk and change, so he didn’t foresee how the uncertainty of the change he implemented would impact his staff. Furthermore, since the change was initiated as a top down process, the staff is struggling with a lack of perceived autonomy. The research on the SCARF model shows that the domains interact and  improvement in one domain can offset another.  My client has made use of this as a strategy.  He’s been spending a lot more time walking around his facility, talking with people, jumping in to help with even mundane tasks such as emptying recycling bins holding town hall lunches – building an increased sense of relatedness and reducing the status differential.  He’s created a temporary team of volunteers from each department to bring forward everyone’s ideas about how to implement the details of the change – building an increased perception of autonomy.  (And it’s the perception, not the actual control, that is what matters to the brain.) Using the SCARF model is helping him untangle the tangle.  In the future he will be able to use it in...

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Balance – Chaos Versus Structure

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Change, Innovation, Leadership | 0 comments

  Too much chaos and nothing gets done, people lose faith and ultimately become apathetic.  Too much control and they feel stifled and want to revolt, or leave.  Where’s the sweet spot?  I was introduced to a concept called the Chaordic Model, which immediately resonated as a useful description of  many circumstances. The term was coined in the late 90’s by the former CEO of Visa, Dee Hock.  The idea is based on combining characteristics of chaos and characteristics of order, with neither dominating.  It applies to an organization, a team, a meeting, or even a relationship, and was said to have evolved from Hock’s fascination with the study of organic systems.  He described their dynamic state: “Life is eternal, perpetual becoming, or it is nothing.  Becoming is not a thing to be know, or controlled.  It is a magnificent, mysterious odyssey to be experienced.” This diagram explains the various system states and identifies the place where the system has enough strength to tolerate risk, and enough openness to respond to change.  The circle on the right is the old command and control, ask no questions type of leadership that creates an organization that can’t respond to change.  It’s useful in very specific situations, but not as a steady diet.  The circle on the left is the complete anarchy that occurs when there’s no leadership, either formal or informal. Instinctively, I gravitate toward that overlap in the middle of chaos and order, as a leader of an organization, as a facilitator of a meeting, and in the way I lead my life.  When I was younger, though, I needed more order, more control. Take a look at the way you lead – do you tend to lean one way or the other?  Is it right for your team, and for your...

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My Obituary Photo and Leadership Growth

Posted by on Jul 11, 2014 in Change, Competence, Self-awareness, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I’ve noticed that my local paper often contains obituary photos of young people… who have died in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Why use a photo so separate from today’s reality?  That got me thinking about who I am today versus the person I was in my twenties, when I first became a leader. Please don’t put her photo on my obituary. She is not me, anymore. Coincidentally, this week I ran into a person I knew some years ago, when I owned my real estate brokerage business called The Property Shop, and a land development business called Sterling Tern Realty Trust. She asked me if I am still with the builders association. I have remained that person to her, for my changes are more visible to me and not, perhaps, so visible to others.  And yet, that is not me, anymore, though she is still a part of me. I have saved my old business cards over the years.  The ones from my real estate days all have photos.  Over the course of a decade, I started out working for others and then for myself.  These cards and their photos provide me a physical representation of my growth in competency and maturity.  I treasure them for that.  But I am not those people anymore, though they are a part of me. The learning came with bumps and bruises – both my own and others.  I was not a good leader at first, although certainly I tried. Last week someone said to me that leadership cannot be taught.  The situation did not allow for a rebuttal but oh how I disagreed, and how well I articulated why in my head.   I know clearly what I have learned, and how hard won those learnings were. I finished a coaching engagement with a C-suite executive client this week and during our closing assessment together when I asked him what he wished I had done differently.  He said “I wish you had come into my career twenty years ago.”  He had learned an enormous amount about himself as a leader and about leadership in general in the time we worked together.  Will his bosses be open to seeing that growth?  Or are the changes more visible to him and in spite of how he interacts with the organization and his staff will his bosses have a fixed view and see him as he was?  Does he need to tell them?  He is not that man, anymore. In another instance this week, a client who has been in her role less than a year was frustrated with her lack of clarity about the large organization she had joined, part of an industry that was new for her.  But after she shared the reactions of others to her vision and her plan for the future, I was certain she had great clarity.  She could articulate her vision clearly, and everyone with whom she had communicated had agreed with it.  She had clarity, but...

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