Category Archives: Strategy

Leadership and Communication: The Details Matter

One of the challenges of leadership and, in fact, communication in general, is understanding the level of detail required relative to each situation.

Lead In, Lead On and CoachStation: Communication

Depending on the need, it can be necessary to discuss in-depth the content for a piece of work; what role someone else is to play in the task; seek input into potential solutions and other relevant details. Knowing when this detail is going to add value and not detract from the message or subsequent actions can be the difference between a successful outcome or not. One of the risks is that you as the leader, either do not seek enough input from others and/or confuse the situation as a result of too much information.

I was recently involved in a project that had many layers to it. There were various roles, as you would expect, however the Project Manager (PM) and Project Sponsor were unable to come to grips with their roles to achieve a successful outcome. The PM worked at an ‘arms-length’ with both critical project team members and contributors and the Sponsor was also quite removed as a result. The decision-making process was slow at best and often times non-existent. This flowed into other areas of the project including the testing team and vendor support. Ultimately the project missed several important deadlines over many months and was delayed.

On occasion, it is important to note when it comes to communication and an appropriate level of detail and engagement, less is more!

Without oversimplifying what was a complex project, much of this could have been resolved through clearer communication channels, better-defined roles and improved structure. All of this would have been improved through greater clarity regarding the detail at the beginning of and at various stages of the project. Being able to answer key questions and revisiting them throughout the project can assist in reducing the risk and meet the milestones along the way.

  • What role does each person play?
  • How are the stakeholders to be involved and kept up to date?
  • Has each expert been engaged at the right level and time?
  • Have the end-users and SME’s been involved?
  • How much jurisdiction does the PM have?
  • Who are the key vendor contacts?
  • Who is ultimately responsible for keeping the project on track?
  • What is the role of the Steering Committee and Working Group?

At face value the answer to these questions may seem relatively simple. In reality, the issues that occurred in this project are quite common throughout most organisations in my experience. Leading through a major project, with the right format and level of detail understood by all involved, is difficult. In fact, it can be quite daunting!

Much of this confusion, fear and doubt can be overcome by seeking clarity and involving the project team at the right level. Overlapping and ill-defined roles; political maneuvering; ineffective leadership; poor communication; poor role selection; limited capability of key personnel in key roles; and a loose project plan are all contributors to a reduced outcome. Clarity in tasks, a communication plan/strategy and ultimately a reduction of these issues overall provides a much stronger baseline to work from and minimises the risk of project over-runs and missed deadlines. Understanding the necessary details and seeking clarity early in the project is key. Maintaining an appropriate level of clarity and direction throughout the project timeline also matters.

In leadership generally, the same inputs and questions listed above can be applied to many situations and team cultures. Too much or too little detail and/or a resultant lack of clarity and understanding for each role, position and person within your team is unlikely to add value to meeting goals and objectives. The risk of employee dissatisfaction, turnover and a lack of engagement is also often the result. Enabling your team to provide input into their roles and that of their broader team is critical. As the leader, ensure that clarity exists to the most appropriate degree possible. This does not remove all risk, however is a key piece of the leadership puzzle and as in the example detailed, the alternative can be a very messy and expensive option otherwise.

2 Comments

Filed under Leadership, Strategy

360 View in 360 Words: Leadership and Influence

Influencing and Leadership: CoachStation

To be able to effectively influence others is a key leadership skill. However, like many skills, particularly those involving the art of working with people, influencing can be a challenge.

Situations, relationships, cultures and other variables impact your ability to influence. You do not have control over every one of these variables – but you do have control over developing a deeper set of skills in influencing others. Improve yourself through self-development and learn to influence others more effectively in practice.

  • Be aware of your own body language and that of others. The ability to ‘read’ others through what is unsaid can be a powerful input into influencing.
  • Take into account the other person’s perspective. The ultimate empathy position can be found when you step into the other person’s shoes – standing where they stand, seeing what they see and hearing what they hear. Understanding other people’s perspectives and points of view helps you to gain the support of them and reach mutually desirable outcomes.
  • Trust: being trusted and trusting others is a great base to work from. Those who influence most recognise the need for trust and understand the nuances that enable trust to be built. In a real relationship trust cannot be faked.
  • Communication: the ability to make your point clearly and listen effectively is understood by most but practiced by few. Depending on the situation and audience different skills need to be drawn upon, however deep and effective communication skills are essential in leadership.
  • Have a plan: know what you want to achieve and what the other person or group is seeking from the relationship. Influencing has a relationship to those techniques commonly found in service and sales techniques – learn them!
  • Negotiating: seek understanding of other people’s feelings and show a genuine interest in other people’s needs. Be prepared to give something up and know what you are not prepared to flex. Compromise but remain steadfast to what matters most in the situation.

Although not a definitive list, developing strength in these skills will assist you to influence others. Through greater awareness and practice you will also be exposed to the power of influence through your own experiences.

5 Comments

Filed under 360 Degree Leadership, Culture, Employee Engagement, Leadership, People Development, Strategy

Leadership, Employee Engagement and Customer Service

I attended last years IQPC Customer Experience Management Conference in Sydney and thoroughly enjoyed the content. I learned a lot.

There were many great speakers. Many of them focused on the what – meaning that I learned about tools, measurements, successes through data collection and customer platforms, amongst other aspects. I was invited to this year’s conference, including the opportunity to be a guest speaker during the opening day. I wanted to set a challenge to myself and the attendees with a pitch more aligned to the ‘how’:

• How do we achieve improved customer service results?
• How do we establish the right culture to balance employee, customer and business needs?
• How do we use the extensive quantities of data available to real advantage?
• How do we create employee engagement, empowerment and buy-in that means our customers feel the benefit?
============
My presentation was titled ‘Customer Experience Management from the Inside-Out‘ The core theme implies that if we want to genuinely positively impact customer experience and service standards, we must build a culture and understanding that the customer matters with all employees. We should view Customer Experience as a culture, not a tool. I imagine everyone in the room knew this. I also believe that most of the attendees, all specialists in their fields, actively focus on internal culture, employee engagement and the relationship to customer service and experience to some degree. Many of them may even measure this.
Ledaership, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience - How Do They See You?
===========
However, building a culture that is actively and meaningfully engaging both internal customers (your employees) and external customers is more easily said than done. I do not pretend to have all the answers and I recognise that inputs into Customer Experience Management (CEM) are many and varied. What I will say though is that in my experience there is a gap between intent and behaviour when it comes to leadership, development, employee engagement, empowerment and related beliefs and activities in many organisations. According to a report created by the Genesys group titled the Cost of Poor Customer Service, 73% of consumers end a relationship due to poor service. The report highlights various trends and many areas to focus on, along with details regarding statistics and verbatim comments related to CEM. At face value it should be easy to improve upon aspects such as these.
=============

Accessing more data or modernising software and systems can assist issues such as those highlighted, however it is only part of the story. I have made the mistake previously on trying to improve CEM through the front-line employees – those who have direct contact with our customers. Whereas it is possible to see success at individual employee level, the messages and learning must be reinforced by leaders and through what they were being measured on. I have learned that a bottom-up approach for providing great customer service only takes you so far.

Leadership, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience

Different departments are often siloed and have different leaders with varying skills and agendas along with competing objectives, metrics and motivations. In many organisations, departments do not work together naturally as a team to best serve the customer, yet such teamwork is essential to collaboratively deliver consistent customer experience. The 2011 Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report explores the relationship between consumers and brands. Based on a survey commissioned by RightNow and conducted by Harris Interactive, the report reveals:

• 86 percent will pay more for a better customer experience.

• 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.

===========

None of this would be a big surprise to many of you, I am sure. But, they are good reasons for us as business leaders to focus on improving our customer experience.

A genuinely effective customer experience approach requires a top-down strategy based on broad and extensive cultural change.

The CE IQ study found that the most successful companies are those who have senior leadership not only buying into but actively driving a customer centric culture and related set of actions. Intuitively this all makes sense. So, where are the gaps.
Part of the answer can be found through two questions, which when responded to provide insight for any business:
  • What makes a memorable experience that causes consumers to stick with a brand?
  • How do we make our customers feel?
Effective leadership and employee engagement are critical factors in providing a culture where people want to work…and to provide more of what our customers want. Foundation values such as empowerment and employee satisfaction cannot be given to an individual or employee-base, but creating an environment that has a higher propensity towards meeting these needs is possible.
Customers can tell within minutes—even seconds—whether they are dealing with an engaged and committed employee or a dissatisfied employee, which can greatly affect their willingness to engage in business, and ultimately impact a company’s profitability. Studies have shown that, great leaders are able to keep their highest performing employees and have four times the number of highly committed employees, which affects productivity.
===========
The lesson for any manager is clear: If you want to increase profits and have more satisfied customers, develop your teams, develop your own skills and concentrate on becoming a more effective leader.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, Employee Engagement, Leadership, People Development, Strategy