Tips From the Top

In September of 2004 Michael Feuer began writing a column for Smart Business magazine called Tips From the Top. Fred Koury, CEO of Smart Business, had invited Feuer to write the column after reading Feuer’s employee newsletter which he sent out to the staff at OfficeMax during his time as CEO of the company.

Feuer’s column includes his observations and lessons learned as the Founder and CEO of OfficeMax and covers a wide range of subjects over 10 years and more than 125 columns written. Recently, Feuer and Smart Business editor Dustin Klein collected these columns together as an e-book by the same name. The book is organized by subject and includes gems of wisdom on:

  • Managing People
  • Communication
  • Overcoming Challenges
  • Building Value
  • Innovation
  • Competition
  • Leadership
  • Customer Service
  • Evaluating Opportunities
  • Negotiating

We have invited Michael Feuer to join us on May 21st at our Soundview Live webinar entitled, of course, Tips From the Top. Join us to hear what Feuer has learned over the years as an entrepreneur, CEO, and through his more recent experiences with Max-Ventures and Max-Wellness.

Do You Think Triggers Will Change People’s Lives?

Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book, Triggers, will be released on May 19th. This blog is his answer to those with questions about the concept of behavioral triggers.

The sole purpose of this book (Triggers) is to help you become the person you want to be, to help you change your life. In Triggers, I won’t tell you who you should want to be. I won’t judge you or tell you who should become.

I will tell you why we don’t become the people we want to be. And, I do this for the sole purpose of helping you become the person you want to be. For instance, I explore the Two Immutable Truths of Behavioral Change. These will stop change in its tracks!

  • Meaningful change is very hard to do. It’s hard to initiate behavioral change, even harder to stay the course, hardest of all to make the change stick. Adult behavioral change is the most difficult thing for sentient human beings to accomplish.
  • No one can make us change unless we truly want to change. This should be self-evident. Change has to come from within. It can’t be dictated, demanded, or otherwise forced upon people. A man or woman who does not wholeheartedly commit to change will never change.

What makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging—and causes most of us to give up early in the game—is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course.

How do triggers work?

Belief triggers stop behavioral change in its tracks. Even when the individual and societal benefits of changing a specific behavior are indisputable, we are geniuses at inventing reasons to avoid change. It is much easier, and more fun, to attack the strategy of the person who’s trying to help than to try to solve the problem.

We fall back on a set of beliefs that trigger denial, resistance, and ultimately self-delusion. They sabotage lasting change by canceling its possibility. We employ these beliefs as articles of faith to justify our inaction and then wish away the result. These are called belief triggers and a few of them (there are many!) include:

  •  ‘I have willpower and won’t give in to temptation.’
  • ‘Today is a special day.’
  • ‘At least I’m better than…’

The environment also triggers us. Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behavior. When we experience “road rage” on a crowded freeway, it’s not because we’re sociopathic monsters. It’s because the temporary condition of being behind the wheel of a car, surrounded by rude, impatient drivers, triggers a change in our otherwise friendly demeanor. We’ve unwittingly placed ourselves in an environment of impatience, competitiveness, and hostility—and it alters us.

Some environments are designed precisely to lure us into acting against our interest. That’s what happens when we overspend at the high-end mall. Other environments are not as manipulative and predatory as a luxury store. But they’re still not working for us.

The environment that is most concerning is situational. It’s a hyperactive shape-shifter. Every time we enter a new situation, with its mutating who- what- when- where- and- why-specifics, we are surrendering ourselves to a new environment—and putting our goals, our plans, our behavioral integrity at risk. It’s a simple dynamic: a changing environment changes us.

The Solution

The solution I describe is to identify our behavioral triggers (any stimuli that impacts our behavior). These can be direct or indirect, internal or external, conscious or unconscious, etc.

The more aware we are, the less likely any trigger, even in the most mundane circumstances, will prompt hasty unthinking behavior that leads to undesirable consequences. Rather than operate on autopilot, we’ll slow down, take time to think it over, and make a more considered choice.

We already do this in the big moments. It’s the little moments that trigger some of our most outsized and unproductive responses. The slow line at the coffee shop, the second cousin who asks why you’re still single, the colleague who doesn’t remove his sunglasses indoors to talk to you.

Isn’t it time to learn how to be who we want to be in every moment possible? If your answer is “Yes!” then this book is for you.

To learn more about behavioral triggers directly from Marshall Goldsmith, join us for his book-launch webinar, exclusively with Soundview, entitled How to Create Behavior Change that Lasts.

The Power of Branding

Daymond John epitomizes the rags-to-riches, American-dream story.

An entrepreneur in every sense of the word, Daymond John has come a long way from taking out a $100,000 mortgage on his mother’s house and moving his operation into the basement. John is CEO and Founder of FUBU, a much-celebrated global lifestyle brand, and a pioneer in the fashion industry with over $6 billion in product sales. He is an award-winning entrepreneur, and he has received over 35 awards including the Brandweek Marketer of the Year, Advertising Age Marketing 1000 Award for Outstanding Ad Campaign, and Ernst & Young’s New York Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

John also provides the means for others to find success through the Shark Tank show, The Daymond John Center for Entrepreneurship and through his two best-selling books. And what is John’s message – that you are the brand you build.

Drawing on his own experiences on the cutting edge of the fashion business, as well as on his hard-won insights developed as a sought-after marketing consultant to global trendsetters and taste-makers, John maintains that branding relationships have now seeped into every aspect of our lives, and that in order to survive and thrive in the marketplace consumers and aspiring professionals need to understand and nurture those relationships.

But don’t take my word for it. Join us on May 14th for our Soundview Live webinar with Daymond John entitled The Power of Branding. At this event you will hear John’s story and the entrepreneurial principles he has learned and developed. And you’ll have the opportunity to ask him your questions during the webinar.

 

Creating Amazing Customer Experience – Excellence Or Consistency

Today’s guest blog is from Lior Arussy, president of Strativity Group, a customer experience transformation firm, and the author of 6 books including Exceptionalize It!.

We live in challenging times. Customers’ expectations are increasing exponentially. Their tolerance for anything less than amazing is diminishing. They demand excellence or they go elsewhere. Competitors are trying harder to delight customers constantly raising the customers’ expectation bar. On the other hand, cost reduction efforts are everywhere. We try to control costs by optimizing services. We do so by creating consistency everywhere. While striving to solve the excellence question, we end up with consistency as the answer.

We often make the mistake of confusing excellence and consistency. Consistency is about optimizing services and products to be without flaws. Delivering a “consistent” product or service focuses on removing elements of dissatisfaction and achieving parity.

At best, consistency meets customer expectations. Eliminating inaccurate invoices is an example of a consistency effort. Ensuring that all your products share the same level of quality is consistency. Responding to customer inquiries in a timely manner is consistency. Consistency is heavily dependent on processes, and these processes become the primary objective of the performance; employees are merely executers of carefully managed procedures. In a consistency-driven environment, employees themselves are secondary to the process. They are subservient to the roles dictated to them by the process definition. Consistency emphasizes optimized processes and de-emphasizes the role of employees. At best, consistency reaches parity but never exceeds expectations.

Consistency is basically just doing your job. Some companies do it well; others do it in a mediocre way. Delivering consistency is nice, but it is not excellence—unless the rest of your industry is consistently awful and you stand out for being able to meet basic customer expectations. In fact, the definition of consistency is being on par with customer expectations. It is a boring, uninteresting place to settle. No one will celebrate your consistent performance.

Excellence and superiority, on the other hand, are about going above and beyond. They are about pleasantly surprising the customer. Excellence is all about exceeding the expectations, not just meeting them. By definition, this type of performance requires human intervention to set higher goals, individualize and humanize the interaction, and be authentic throughout the whole experience. At the core of the contrast between consistency and excellence is the role of people and processes. With excellence, processes are merely a means to a goal. A tool to deliver a greater solution. Employees are in charge, and use of accepted processes are subject to their judgment. If a process assists them in achieving the goal, they will use it. Otherwise, they use their discretion to get the job done and exceed expectations. With excellence, the corporate culture permits such employee discretion and provides permission to perform, as well as permission to make mistakes.

Excellence requires an emotionally engaging performance that delivers an authentic and memorable caring touch. Processes are not able to do this, only people are. So, excellence is not a matter of a better process. To achieve excellence we need to place processes in their rightful place, as tools, and give people the freedom to perform.

In times of excellence or nothing, we must exceed the consistency paradigm and focus on reaching to the excellence standard. To do so we will need to rethink the tools, information and authority we provide our employees to deliver on the ever increasing customer expectation for excellence.

To hear more about meeting customer expectations, join us on May 12th for our Soundview Live webinar with Lior Arussy: Stop Boring & Start Exciting Your Customers.

Process versus the People

Today’s guest blogger is Linda Sharkey, author of Optimizing Talent. Dr. Sharkey is an HR Executive and Business Strategist with experience coaching and developing leaders and teams in Fortune 10 companies.

Is your Performance Evaluation System Helping or Getting in the Way of a Talent Rich Culture

Process versus the People

Are your year-end performance discussions more painful than they are worth and would most of your managers prefer to throw the system out?  Are you doing them merely to comply with legal requirements or to decide who gets paid what?  If so you are missing the mark on a very powerful system that can build your brand as a talent based culture and market leader.

We need to consider some key human resource systems to make sure that they are aligned with the culture you are creating and not working against it.

As we researched performance management systems in over 500 Fortune 1000 companies and talked with HR leaders in over 60 of them we discovered that the process was often more important than the outcome.  Checking the box once a year to make sure the employee and manager had at least one performance discussion seemed to be the prevailing outcome achieved.  Others focused on compensation alignment.  Few focused on creating a system where employees and their managers truly had a dialogue that actually helped employees understand how they could continue to grow and improve.  To quote several senior HR leaders “we are highly tactical in our approach and we don’t really use it to drive alignment to our culture and to our overall business strategy”.

Getting it Right

Here are ten proven steps that everyone can use to support a talent rich culture.

  1. Be crystal clear on the purpose of your performance management system.  What is the people philosophy that you are trying to promote through this system?
  2. Ensure that the system aligns with your values.   Make sure that these values are discussed so that everyone understands that what you do is as important as how you do it.
  3. Create a working profile of what the values look like in action.  State the values in terms of behaviors that everyone can recognize.  This way everyone in the organization understands the standard of the” best”.
  4. Train all you leaders and managers to recognize great behavior, assess talent and provide specific and actionable feedback.
  5. Teach managers and leaders how to effectively coach.  Agree on a coaching model and consistently apply it throughout the organization.
  6. Create peer coaching circles to help teams support each other in learning new skills and “grooving” new behaviors.  These circles enable employees to learn to ask each other for help when they need it and share suggestions and ideas.
  7. Create a simple form for year-end performance reviews that is 1 page – no more than 2 if you must.  Include specific business achievements, behaviors demonstrated, career goals and aspirations and finally what the employee needs to do to continue to grow in their current role or prepare for the next role.
  8. Don’t just reward for business outcomes; reward for expected behaviors as well.
  9. Measure and track the impact your system is having on the desired culture.  Examine your employee engagement scores to ensure feedback and coaching is happening through the year and measure your alignment to your culture so that you don’t lose sight of keeping your values on track.
  10. Link all your talent and performance discussions together to make sure you are sending consistent messages in the talent discussions as well as in performance calibration discussions.
  11. Communicate, communicate and communicate more about the impact of an effective system and how it is building a great place for shareholder value, customer loyalty and employee engagement!

If you follow these ten steps you will build a system that becomes part of your DNA, where people and leaders regularly help each other to succeed through effective feedback and coaching.  This was you will be providing performance feedback through the year and the end of the year “pain” goes away!  Try it you might like it.

You can hear more from Linda sharkey about optimizing talent at our Soundview Live webinar on May 7th: What Every Leader Needs to Know to Sustain the Ultimate Workforce.