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For a better employee experience take interest in them

Years ago I supervised a guy named Adam. Adam frustrated the crap out of me. He just didn’t seem to pick things up as quickly as I had wished – or should I say as quickly as I seemed to pick up things. I would see Adam and my stomach got into knots. Simple tasks took him two and three times as long as I had expected. I slowly started to distance myself from Adam. When I looked at Adam I saw ineptness, incompetence and a big “L” on his forehead. I found myself doing Adam’s work in order to complete our one project every month – to issue the financial report/book for our division.

Yep, I was a horrible person. I was also young, needed to grow up and figure some things out. Notice I say “was.” I was 28 years old when I figured a lot of stuff out. How old are you? Have you invested in yourself, your crap and who you are? You’re worth it. Do it.

One morning I sat down with Adam in the cafeteria. He was eating breakfast alone. I asked him what he did the night before. His eyes lit up. We had a great conversation about the one thing that excited him….softball.

Seems that Adam was in a couple of softball leagues. He lived for softball. It was clear that getting out of work at the end of the day, on time, was critical as he had a one hour drive home. And so the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. It wasn’t that Adam wasn’t grasping things; Adam was getting frustrated as the end of the day drew closer. Handing him work at 3:00 PM just sent him into a downward spiral. As he rushed to get out of the office by 4:30 his work suffered (and my stomach knots got tighter). Mistakes and errors were abundant. Was his not being able to grasp simple things because of being distracted by the clock? 

So where possible I gave him a To-Do list every morning. I did my best to keep him from spiraling out of control with end of day requests and deadlines. I asked about softball on a regular basis. When things got a little crazy I let him know early in the day if I thought getting out on time was going to be a reality for the day. Did it work all of the time? Of course not. But for the most part it did. His work quality improved. His attitude improved. He was actually taking initiative and looking for improvements and efficiency opportunities in getting our work done. And believe it or not my attitude improved.

A better employee experience starts with each and every person taking some responsibility for moving the organization forward; reaching out and bringing people together and not further dividing groups, divisions, teams and individuals.

Are you taking an interest in your employees, co-workers, perhaps even your boss? Want a more engaged workforce? Improved morale? Increased productivity? Take an interest in the people you work with – TODAY!

Employees, Employment, and Customers. Things that make you go Hmmmm….

  • Why does the customer get mad at the employee who is following the company policy and not the people who came up with the policy?
  • Why does the waiter get stiffed/shorted on his or her tip, after giving you incredible service, just because the kitchen screwed up your meal?
  • How can a manager who ignores/breaks the rules on a regular basis talk poorly of/disqualify someone who ignores their rule of “no phone calls” when trying to fill an open position?
  • Why do people just quit a job versus going into the boss and saying I’m disengaged, miserable and looking at my options? Afraid they’re gonna fire you?? You were gonna quit!

I’m sure there are more. I’m sure you can add your own. These have been my observations and discussions with people over the last few days.

How to fix the Workplace and Congress

I just received one of those forwarded emails about how to fix the US Congress. In case you haven’t had the opportunity of seeing some version of it, good for you; but here is the version I received (skip down if you don’t need to be bored).

Congressional Reform Act of 2011
1. Term Limits.
12 years only, one of the possible options below..
A. Two Six-year Senate terms
B. Six Two-year House terms
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in
office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3.. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social
Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social
Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Members of Congress can purchase their own retirement plans, just as
all other Americans may do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional
pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in
the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American

8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective
1/1/2012. The American people did not make this contract with
Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.
Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s),
then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only
take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message.
Maybe it is time.

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it
on. If not, just delete

Now since the person who sent it to me decided not to BCC the list I sent back the following reply:

Wouldn’t this be the smarter thing to do: 

Send this to your local Congressmen (daily until they respond) and ask them to defend why they don’t agree with this?

I receive these types of emails all the time yet no one has the balls to spearhead the cause. So passing it around and doing nothing makes us all as lame as our Congress.

So maybe I’m not Mr. Popular this morning with a whole bunch of people, but that is the reality. It’s not only the reality about how we may or may not feel about our political system, but it also applies to organizations. Employees do this all the time. They talk around the problems and issues; not to the problems and issues (if they even are issues.) They talk about people; not to people.

A long, long time ago I worked for a Corporate Travel Service. Our Controller, to put it mildly, was clueless. I felt like he was the Pied Piper and I was one of the rats being led to my doom with each move he made. He gave us busy work; things to do that were in complete opposite of the direction the company was heading. He was trying to implement ideas that had seen their day. Employee morale was at an ultimate low. Employee Engagement? While not a buzzword at the time we were clearly disengaged. 

But we did the right thing and went to him first; expressed our concerns and gave him an option to defend/argue them and educate us on his decisions. Sometimes directions are changed and not communicated to the organization. Other times people are taking unconventional approaches to move the organization forward. He ignored us.

We ultimately did what needed to be done and went to his boss, with all of our concerns/facts/ideas to fix. Yes, we feared retaliation. Yes, we were worried how this might backfire. But we were UNITED; as a business unit. We recognized that talking to each other was unhealthy, unproductive and just plain stupid.

He “resigned to pursue other opportunities” 5 days later. We later found out that we did not open the floodgate; but I guess you could say we were the final nail in the coffin. Senior Execs were already on top of this. 

Talking to others does nothing. Talking to the cause of your pain and frustrations is a much smarter thing to do – for everyone. There is no loser; and then the right plan of attack can be assembled.

That’s how you fix any broken organization.

American Idol reminds us that being liked might be the BEST way to become CEO

I don’t watch American Idol. And from what I’ve seen on the Facebook threads and Twitter streams of friends and followers I am probably even less inclined to ever watch it.

From what I gather American Idol has become a Popularity Contest, not a Talent Contest. Even USA Today has a story about it this morning and how a guy was finally booted off the show. This should surprise anyone???? You’re letting the audience decide who stays; an audience of screaming young girls. Hello! Am I the only one getting this? I thought the judges who have/had musical talent (yes, people are still questioning Paula) were the experts?

Now granted to make it to the finals you need to have some talent; so I guess those who watch it can sit back and at least be entertained. The “real” winner may not emerge, but the show should be good. And who knows, maybe that winner will rise to the occasion when the final record deal is cut? Or maybe like some of the other contestants they will see the writing on the wall and get out of the Idol contract and write their own deal?

But there is a parallel here to organizations and the process taken to choose people to advance. Often times leaders pick the Golden Child, the Flavor of the Month, or the New Wind to be the future of the company. People are chosen not necessarily for skill set, but because they are liked. While that may make sense for some, it can easily destroy employee morale and the employee experience for those who feel they are giving their life to an organization. But maybe there is some logic here…….

After all you can teach people skill sets; it is much harder to teach them how to have a pleasant personality, not backstab, not be cut-throat, and be nice.


The Answer to High Employee Morale: Are You Kidding?

Once again reason to love Canadians……………

In a recent survey given to the Orangeville Ontario Police Service the answer choices were:

  • All the Time
  • Usually
  • Occasionally
  • Are You Kidding?

When it came to the question about employee morale being on the high side 47% chose ARE YOU KIDDING!

I love it! Love it. Love it. Love it.

I’ve seen surveys given by many an employer here in the US. Our version of Are You Kidding is Disagree, Strongly Disagree, No or some other boring, meaningless, overused, “safe” word that leaves those taking the survey with no clue as to the thoughts behind the choice.

Are You Kidding jumps out. Are You Kidding is a huge red flag. Are You Kidding says, “Crap, we better do something……and fast.” Are You Kidding says it is time for leaders/managers to get in touch. Are You Kidding is also an opportunity to build a stronger organization; to address what is really going on. Unless of course you really don’t want to know.

Now the article also states that the Police Service is putting a team together to “address the recommendations.” Let’s just hope they don’t do that US style; 6 months of meetings to come up with some some options to present to some VP/Director etc. that will lead to who knows what. Here are 10 ideas for any organization struggling with the morale issue to move the process forward now. And they’re pretty simple. They don’t need a committee and you can probably implement some of them as soon as you finish reading them. Really. I’m not kidding.  

And next time you send out an employee survey I challenge you to use ARE YOU KIDDING as one of the choices. Yes, it might feel like a dagger just went through your heart, bruise your ego or get you questioning your abilities; but you also have an opportunity to engage your employees, improve the employee experience and move your organization to a much better place.

 For more about the Orangeville Survey you can  read the original article here

Disengaging Customers. The Medical Community way.

When I make an appointment with a doctor I try to get the first appointment in the morning or the first appointment after lunch. I assume those are my best chances for not having to wait – something too many people experience when it comes to the medical community. Patience is also not, and never will be, one of my virtues. 

Yesterday I took my mom to the doctor. Sitting and waiting I noticed a sign above the receptionist’s window that stated they would cancel the appointment if the patient was more than 10 minutes late. I was going to take a picture of it but I’m afraid of the receptionist. She’s mean. Really.

As I looked at the sign I didn’t know whether to laugh or cause a rebellion right there in the waiting room.

How could an industry that is notorious for keeping people waiting; not apologizing for that wait, and not looking like they’re trying to fix things have the audacity to a hang a sign like this? To me this was the biggest slap in the face customer unfriendly lack of customer service policy I have seen in like…………… FOREVER!

If the sign had said something like “we’re doing our best to stay on time please do yours when arriving for appointment” or anything along those lines I would have been a little better with this. Very little.

At 1:55 we were still waiting. Mom had a 1:30 appointment. Siting there all I wanted to do was rip that sign off the wall and walk up to the receptionist and say “Seriously.” But I know it wasn’t her policy. I also am 100% certain she would have bit my head off. As an aside, your receptionist really should be a friendly person; after all he or she is the face of your business.

I read more and more how the medical community is trying to be more customer service friendly. I guess this office didn’t get the memo. Next month is another appointment. I’m trying to think of a sign to hang around my neck when we return. Something along the lines of paying the patient or canceling the charge if they’re late by more than 10 minutes. Any ideas?

But in the meantime, what signs/policies are hanging around your business locations that might lead a customer to question why they even do business with you.

Worse than becoming my mother, have I become the rude shopper?

On the FAQ page of my website is a section entitled:

How to easily annoy Rich.

I have no problem if you cannot afford me (although we might be able to get creative) or if you choose someone else over me. But I’ll tell you what annoys me…………it is when I spend time talking to you or visiting you and putting a quote/proposal together and then I never hear from you again. You ignore my emails and my calls. Listen, I’m a big boy; my self-esteem is high on most days; so if I’m not the one for you, just tell me; don’t avoid me. After all, it is the professional thing to do. Actually, the avoiding thing should make you realize you and your organization might need me more than you think. And yes, for some of you reading this saying I cannot believe someone would do that, they do.

This morning I realized I am guilty of doing the thing that annoys me most!

About a month ago I went into the Sleep Number Bed store to look at a bed. The salesperson spent about 45 minutes with me discussing the features/benefits/pricing etc. He did this cool image scan of how I sleep on a regular mattress and how I would sleep with the sleep number bed; suggesting how back pressure and pain could be alleviated.

The salesperson has contacted me four or five times since my visit – phone and mail. I have ignored him. I have not returned the calls. Now in all honesty I did walk in there on a whim. I wasn’t even exploring the Sleep Number option. I found myself in a mall and wandered in. I was even up front and honest about that.

What’s weird is that I’m not avoiding him. The bed just hasn’t been on the top of my priority list right now.

But in all seriousness…..

  • Are we all so busy that we cannot return a call when someone gives us their time? 
  • Or is it that we’re avoiding hurting someones feelings?
  • Is it uncomfortable to tell someone you don’t have or want to spend a certain amount of money?
  • Is it that difficult to confess that you’re really not the decision maker? 

We all joke about not wanting to become my mother. This to me is worse; becoming the rude (potential) customer that I encounter in my business. I know sales. I get sales. I understand that sales is a game of success and letdown. I even know that some salespeople are relentless so we’ve decided all salespeople are relentless and maybe that is why we don’t respond.

Guilty of the thing that irritates me most. Hmmm…………I bet a lot of people can relate.

And I think I need to go make a phone call.

Great employee experiences occur when you recognize and celebrate huge successes

What do you do after your team has spent months doing due diligence, working long hours, enhancing systems, compiling financial data, and running reports so that investors will not only fork gazillions of dollars of cash over to your organization to continue doing great work, but also set you up for a long successful future?

You celebrate!

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a large Assisted Living organization after they just came through the period I described above. Now having taken the accounting/CPA path early in life I know what those months of work looked like. I know the long hours. I know the frustrations; the heated moments. I know the meetings; the sweating it out as you wait for responses.

Apparently so did the CEO.

The work culminated in March. The transaction closed on a Monday. Three days later the CEO shut down HQ for a couple of hours and held a RECESSitation – a period of learning, recharging and celebrating. We, okay I, poked fun at the craziness of workplaces and showed them some things about their teammates/coworkers they didn’t know. The CEO said a few words about the future and thanked them over cocktails and appetizers. It was a totally feel good event.

But here are the things that I found remarkable:

  • The CEO recognized the hard work, the personal sacrifices that were made during this period, and the importance of doing something for his team
  • The CEO understood the importance of celebrating immediately; not months later when people would have forgotten how hard they worked as they plowed through the next project.
  • The CEO made it mandatory for everyone to come out and have a good time.

The UCONN men won the NCAA championship the other night. On Tuesday they arrived home to CT. Within a couple of hours of their return there was a pep rally and celebration at the school. 5,000 people showed up. Imagine if they had held that pep rally in two weeks? My gut is 5,000 people would not have shown up.

Are you celebrating your successes? Are you waiting for the right moment. The right moment is immediately after the success.