Customer Service Defines Brands

Are you sabotaging your identity and reputation?

Abhorring! This is the one word that describes United Airlines’ treatment of a paying customer. Shocking is the only way to describe video of a traveler being dragged off a flight. His crime? He has refused to give up his seat on an overbooked flight.

Customer Service

As horrid as this was, it brought back a pleasant memory from a podcast on Creating World Class Service. Horst Schulze, Chairman & CEO of Capella Hotel Group, talks of what it takes to empower teams. In his previous stint as CEO of the Ritz-Carlton, Mr. Schulze notes that every employee could spend up to $2,000 to fix anything in the hotel that would jeopardize customer experience and loyalty.

Customers want people to be nice to them and provide caring service. This is the strongest, most important expectation driving customer satisfaction,” says Horst Schulze.

In essence, keeping a valuable customer is more important than making profit in the short-term. This is a business that not only embraces customer service.

Back to United Airlines.

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Building A Team That Matters – Part 2

10 Critical Principles For Successful Teams

Imagine a restaurant in crisis. Team members are on each others’ nerves. The customers can see the cracks and as a result, revenue has tanked!

Team That Matters – Part 2

This was the scene a new restaurant manager in his 20’s found himself in. Just two years after joining a restaurant chain as a management trainee, Michael found himself in the eye of a storm.

And a what a storm it was! Despite being in a prime location, this particular restaurant was notorious for the lowest revenue across the whole chain. The previous management had created a rift within the team. All departments were operating in separate silos stoked by a spirit of revenge.

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Building A Team That Matters – Part 1

10 Critical Principles For Successful Teams

Team-building is a disruptive process for everyone involved. However, this does not mean that it should be a painful experience.

Building A Team That Matters - Part 1

Over the last few months, I have agonized over why I can’t seem to get up to speed with growing my business. Despite some good business prospects, growth feels stifled. The more I think about it, I realize that it is time to build a team. To grow, something has to shift.

I read this from a friend’s story: “Two guys were walking from the farm and one of them fell into a deep pit. His friend tried to help him to come out but he failed. ‘Let me quickly go and look for a rope,’ the friend said. As he was coming back, he saw his friend already out of the pit and staring into the pit. He asked him how he managed to come out. ‘A snake fell into the pit!’ he replied.”

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Top 3 Attitudes To Win At Leadership

Why leading isn’t as complicated as we think it is

There it was glowing in splendor. It was like gazing at a sailing ship riding from a starry, jet-black night sky!

Top 3 Attitudes To Win At Leadership

This was my first reaction when I saw the Burj Al Arab, a luxury hotel in Dubai. It’s sail-like silhouette was like nothing I had seen on any building before.

Access to the hotel was over a private, 280-meter long curving bridge. However, there is a dedicated helicopter transfer service if that’s your fancy.

Thinking back to my brief experience on the 27th Floor, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What kept this hotel repeatedly voted the world’s most luxurious hotel?” I believe it was the action of the people who work in the background.

It made me think of how easy it is to miss out on leadership opportunities. The vanity of position, possessions or power can obscured our focus.

We cling to hierarchies because our place in a hierarchy is, rightly or wrongly, a major indicator of our social worth.” ~ Harold J. Leavitt

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Leadership Embraces Invitation

It was the end of a ten-week parenting coaching that my wife and I are involved in. I was busy preparing for my talk for the final-day retreat when our seven-year old son came to me and asked, “Daddy, when you are done, could you come and play football with me?”

The immediate answer on my mind was, “Son, I am busy preparing for this parenting retreat. Could we play another day?” Instantly, I felt that my RSVP was brash and totally unwarranted.

I turned to him and said, “Son, let’s go kick some ball!” I accepted his invitation and play we did for about 20 minutes. Then I took some little extra time and taught him a new ball dribbling skill.

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Grab their Ideas or Lose Employees

IdeaDrivenOrg_share11-300x300I am honored to host this Guest blog by award-winning author Dean M. Schroeder. Together with his co-author Alan G. Robinson, who I got the privilege to interview over my scratchy internet connection, they have written an awesome book, The Idea-Driven Organization…




Not long ago, the owner of a medium sized software development firm asked me a very good question. “How does a high performance idea system work in a project environment where every project is different?” We discussed that in a project-based company like his there were lots of processes that could be improved, but his question made a good point.

A project environment does have unique challenges for a high performance idea system, and there are several different tactics that can be used to integrate ideas more fully into the natural flow of projects.

Historically, high performance idea systems developed in process-based environments – think Toyota for example – where the goal is to repeatedly and consistently duplicate the same outcome. Employee ideas focus on streamlining and continuously improving the procedures, technologies, standard work, and other elements that make up relatively stable processes [TweetMe]. But a project dominated environment is often more dynamic, with each project potentially having unique elements. At the same time, projects have a natural “pulse” – a defined beginning, regular reviews, and clear ending – that can be used advantageously in idea management.

One of our favorite ways to start a project is to conduct a “pre-mortem” by asking the members of the project team the following question: “If you could get in a time machine and travel forward to a date six months after the scheduled completion of the project and found that it had been unsuccessful, what would you see as the primary causes for its failure?” The resulting discuss is often spirited and comes up with responses such as:

  • “Poor communication lead to confusion and misunderstanding,”
  • “Passive resistance from key constituents undermined the project’s effectiveness,”
  • “Supporting functions and suppliers missed deadlines and we ended up going over budget.”

Often relatively minor ideas for tweaks in the project management process or that can be easily incorporated into the project’s plan can mitigate most of the sources of failure that were identified. A good pre-mortem also starts the team off by confirming that they are responsible for the success of the project and their ideas are important to achieve that success.

Well managed projects have regular meetings to review progress, identify delays or concerns, discuss ways to deal with them, decide what actions are to be taken by whom, and generally keep everyone up to date on the progress of the project. In a number of ways these meetings are similar to idea meetings. Problems are identified, ideas for solving them are discussed, and action steps are assigned.

But there is a subtle but important difference in the goals of two types of meetings. Project meetings focus on addressing issues related to a specific project; whereas idea meetings focus on capturing ideas to help the organization continually improve [TweetMe]. At a project meeting it would be perfectly appropriate to suggest a one-time “patch” on a problem to keep everything on time or overcome a barrier; however such an action would be considered inappropriate at idea meetings with its goal of identifying and eliminating the root cause of the problem.

Regular project meetings can double as idea meetings, but in order to do so team members need to be willing to analyze issues with an eye toward identifying their causes and developing ideas that assure that the problems do not reappear with future projects. If the root cause cannot be identified and eliminated immediately, the issue should be captured and documented for further action later, often during the project close out.

Before the celebration of the completion of a project, it must be properly closed out. It is surprising how often this logical and vital step is given short shrift as team members are anxious to move on to new assignments. From an idea perspective the critical elements of a close are a thorough post-mortem that captures improvement ideas, documentation of the lessons learn throughout the project, revisiting the problems encountered along to way to see if there are any opportunities for ideas on improving the project management process, and make certain that all ideas for process changes that were decided upon are made and fully documented.

One of the more interesting challenges when putting a high-powered idea system in a project environment is that project team members are often people who already consider coming up with ideas as a major part of their jobs – engineers, designers, marketers, etc. Initially they often don’t see the need for a formal idea system. The key to implementing a system in such situations is to make as few changes as possible. Simply change the existing project management process to incorporate idea management into every step [TweetMe]. These subtle changes will usually be seen as nothing more than logical improvements that make their jobs easier in the long run.

About the Authors

Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder are award-winning authors, consultants, and educators. They are the co-authors of the bestseller Ideas Are Free: How the Idea Revolution is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations. Between them, they have advised hundreds of organizations in more than twenty-five countries around the world on how to improve their creativity, innovativeness and overall performance. Their first book, Ideas Are Free, was voted the Reader’s Choice by Fast Company magazine and selected as one of the 30 best business books of the year by Soundview Executive Books. On March 31, 2014, Robinson and Schroeder will release their second book together, The Idea-Driven Organization (available on Amazon). Follow them on Twitter – @alangrobinson and  @deanmschroeder and visit their website – .

Crush Leadership Blind Spots

medium_3855181622(Guest Post by Canute Waswa)

Succulent, tangy and sweet, loquat fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. This unique fruit originated in the mountainous, evergreen rain forests of southeastern China, from where it spread all across the world, including Kenya.

Growing up in Kibera, a low-income suburb of Nairobi Kenya, you can bet that many a fight broke out among young boys over this yellow treasure. To date, my brothers and I can barely stifle our laughs whenever we are having a good time. We have adopted our childhood saying kukula luguu (eating loquats) and given it a literal translation to English. It has become our colloquialism to express that “we’re having a great time”.

That is why the use of the same tree as a metaphor in Leadership Termites made my ears ‘twitch’. How could those termites dare take on my favorite fruit tree? But truth is that they just did it! They made me think hard about how I can improve my leadership ability.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” ~Mark Twain

Vulnerability: In order to stay on top of my leadership mettle, I need to continually think of how to maintain trust with my team [TweetMe]. This can only be done through being vulnerable to them. You see, when I am at my highest point, coasting will only bring me down.

Leadership, like the loquat tree with the green bark, is one of the truest ideals of the dream world. It is a joy and a privilege not to be taken for granted. Yet many have it and become satiated and that may lead to internal death. Without life under the bark that drove them to productivity. Your followers are part of your core. Your relationship with them can only be maintained if you remain vulnerable to your team. Past accomplishment guarantees nothing about future success. Just ask the loquat tree.

Positive conflict: Newton’s first law of physics states that it is generally the change that requires energy and effort, not the continuation of something we are used to. The best way I keep an eye on the overall pace of change is to engage in positive conflict [TweetMe]. I do not necessarily match it, but I aim to understand the implications of my own choices.

There is a need for feedback for both individuals and organizations. We need to adapt to feedback from our teams if we want to avoid becoming redundant. Positive conflict would have enabled the loquat tree to understand that it needed fumigation. By knowing what needs to change, we by definition also know what to keep. That is why Muhammad Ali called feedback ‘the breakfast of champions’. World champions also need feedback.

Attention to Results: As a leader, I often keep my eye on the big picture, and I should. But I must never forget to focus on the little things [TweetMe]. This could be taking the time to talk with a co-worker about their kids or giving a new employee constructive feedback. Ignoring them can lead to big problems.

The modern senior executive tends to be a strategic thinker, one who is effective at delegating tasks to more detail-oriented team members and rallying those team members towards a common objective. He or she is the face of a corporation’s management. However, the leader is judged on the results of their influence. My mother loved to remind us to ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’. Take a co-worker to lunch. It’s amazing what you might learn from them.

And by busting these little, feisty termites, you can create a big thing… progressive and continuous success.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Take action: How will you blast those termites that eat up your leadership?

Canute Wasawa is the Founder and Managing Director of Outdoors Africa. He has over 9 years of work experience and is a member of the Association of Experiential Educators, a joint venture of the Association of Experiential Educators and the University of Dalhousie-Canada. Waswa has worked extensively in the area of Management Psychology, senior executive selection, and held the position of Organizational Development Specialist for several corporate entities.
photo credit: nimishgogri via photopin cc

Leadership Termites

For the first six years after we moved into our current residence, my family enjoyed juicy, yellow loquat fruits from the tree that grew with abundance in our backyard.

We would patiently anticipate the tree to come into flower; this was a signal for our taste buds to brace themselves for the tangy-sweet flavored fruit. However, something strange began to happen to the tree.

On the seventh year, some of the branches started to dry off. When the flowers began to blossom, they looked emaciated and unattractive. The fruit that developed that year were tiny, tasteless and fibrous. The following year, the tree was dead!

After a period of heavy rains, it finally keeled over and fell, taking down our cloth-lines along with it. On closer inspection, we realized that it had been hit by the curse of the termites. Termites are small, resilient yet mortally destructive insects.

They had stifled the growth of a living tree by eating the dead bark of the tree when it was alive. In so doing, they had affected normal growth and slowly suffocated the tree to death. The final stroke was to attack the base of the tree trunk from the inside that brought it down with a crush.

As I recollected on the life of the tree, I couldn’t help but draw some parallels on how fragile and vulnerable leadership can become. There are three leadership termites that all leaders need to look out for and urgently remedy.

These termites have sent even the mightiest of leaders crashing into oblivion; mistrust, lack of integrity and disrespect for others.

Termite #1: Mistrust

You think that what you have – mind and body – is the most important since canned Coke. You forget that to lead effectively, your leadership has to have soul to get its groove to work magic.

If you don’t lead from the heart, people will have a hard time trusting your intentions. They will always be second-guessing you, as they don’t feel comfortable enough to entitle you with their trust.

Termite #2: Lack of integrity

Due to our positions, it is very easy to become intoxicated with the power that we wield. We have assets and people at our disposal and the boundary-lines on how to deploy them can become very thin and fuzzy.

We can easily justify our actions by a misconceived notion that it’s a perk that comes with the position. However, it’s even more important to ask yourself the following: As a leader, do I epitomize ‘Do as I say, not as I do’?

Termite #3: Disrespect of people’s inner being

When a leader doesn’t appreciate the living beings that look up to them to be led, then lack of respect checks in. We are all created uniquely different. There is no one-size-fits-it-all strategy to working with people.

The highest level of disrespect of any human being is to box them into a mold you deem fit for them. Instead, a great leader will inspire the awesomeness in every individual knowing that in them lie passion, creativity, and beauty untapped.

Q: Are you walking with your people or working the termites? Have your say by clicking here.

 photo credit: Darmflora von Termiten für Bioenergie via photopin (license)

Hacking Leadership

Hacking-Leadership-Book-Cover-678x1024“Nothing impacts our world like leadership,” says internationally acclaimed author Mike Myatt in his latest book, HACKING LEADERSHIP: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and The Secrets to Closing Them Quickly. Poor leadership cripples businesses, ruins economies, destroys families, loses wars and can bring the demise of nations. Unfortunately, today’s leadership practices are too often inadequate to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  What must leaders do today to be successful tomorrow?

HACKING LEADERSHIP shows leaders how to bring their leadership skills up to speed to meet those challenges by helping them identify weaknesses or gaps in their leadership skills and thereby empowering them to achieve their true leadership potential.

Core leadership principles need not be abandoned. They are still as valid as ever. But they must be transformed to close the gap between perception and reality, between intentions and outcomes. Myatt gives readers the tools—the hacks—to do just that.

“Hacking Leadership is a thought-provoking, shattering jolt of leadership wisdom that can propel anyone in the direction of their full leadership potential,” General John E. Michel, Commanding General, NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan.

Myatt sets forth eleven leadership gaps, which if not properly identified, understood and addressed can be fatal not only to leaders but to those whom they lead. Among them are:

  • The Leadership Gap: Leadership isn’t just a role or a title. It’s a choice [TweetMe]. With principled effective leadership, all things are possible. The best leaders understand leadership is the key to unlocking and realizing limitless potential. The only limits are the ones you submit to. Discover the three critical leadership gaps you must be aware of and how to remedy them.
  • The Purpose Gap: Great leaders have a clearly defined purpose, while average leaders just show up for work [TweetMe]. Purpose fuels passion, which creates focus and in turn fuels high performance. The secret sauce to purpose is found in a leader’s ability to scale personal and professional purpose into a cause embraced and evangelized by others.
  • The Mediocrity Gap: The best leaders don’t play it safe they don’t look the other way when something is wrong, and they don’t compromise on values. They do the right thing. Doing the right thing means never settling for mediocrity [TweetMe].
  • The Culture Gap: A company’s corporate culture is its heart and soul [TweetMe]. It must be part of the ethos that describes why the enterprise exists, what and who it values, and how it will behave.
  • The Knowledge Gap: When it comes to leadership, knowledge isn’t about being right. It’s about achieving the right outcomes. Great leaders keep their egos in check  and do whatever they must to ensure that their organization has ability to access information and convert that information into successful outcomes [TweetMe].
  • The Talent Gap: Recruiting talent is one thing, strategically deploying talent is quite another. If leaders spent less time trying to retain people, and more time trying to understand them, care for them, invest in them, and lead them well, the retention problem would take care of itself [TweetMe].
  • The Innovation Gap: If your organization doesn’t innovate in response to market-driven needs and demands, it will fail. It’s just that simple. Leaders who don’t know how to hack the innovation gap put their organizations on the fast track to obsolescence [TweetMe].

HACKING LEADERSHIP will help leaders understand how to hack not only these gaps but also other blind spots such as dealing with organizational complexity, fear of failure, and making sure expectations are understood and met. Myatt also devotes a chapter on the importance of hacking your family life. Career successes you have, while nice, are fleeting and don’t even begin to compare to the significance of those who build into your life on a regular and consistent basis. If you cheat your family to invest in your career, your loved ones will pay a very heavy price.

***About the Author: Mike Myatt is the CEO at N2growth, a global leader in providing leadership development services to Fortune 500 companies. He is widely regarded as America’s Top CEO Coach. The author of Leadership Matters, he is also a Forbes Leadership Columnist, and a senior fellow at the Gordian Institute. His website is***