The Message Matters
The first 45 days of 2017 have been active. Who is going to do what and by when are the main topics. Our work had us either facilitating for a team, engaging in dialog with an individual, or observing a company in action. In all three of these settings we became aware of a key differentiator in performance tied to a specific moment, and hope by sharing it with you that it might stimulate a discussion with your team.
The moment of influence is when your product offering or service comes in contact with the customer, and things are not going as scripted. What gets said and how both sides are left feeling appears to have a large impact on customer satisfaction and employee engagement. We also noticed that when a leader sits down with their team and helps them jointly craft what to say at these moments, and ties them back into the teams internal values, you have the potential to tap a powder keg of productivity. These have been 'aha' moments for us, and we are excited to share more detail on this below.
Flying the Friendly Skies Vs. the Feeling of Love
A recent business trip had us back on United Airlines instead of Southwest, and we noticed a great example of how the flight attendants on Southwest have just the right language to handle a frequent conflict point, and the team at United does not. On the evening United flight home there were 10 bags that had to be checked at the gateway. This changes the duration of the flight by an average of 30 minutes for the person who now has to go to baggage claim. United had increased the flight time of the passengers on that flight by 300 minutes. As I put my sport coat into the bins that must have been packed I was dismayed at how much room there was. In one striking example a ladies white handbag was all by itself.
Compare this to the flight on Southwest the next week -which was just as full - and there were no bags checked. I witnessed a similar hand bag being pulled out by the flight attendant, and then with the tone of grace and the firmness that comes with her uniform she asked the owner to place it in the seat in front of her so other travelers could get their luggage up in the bins.
Our perspective is that the training Southwest puts their team through to handle the common conflict points is not just good for the customer, it really empowers the employee as well. The crew at United were very friendly, they were hustling, and they have a long list of things to get accomplished. Yet it was clear dealing with the issue of how people shirk when in groups, and not having bags checked was not something they had prioritized or practiced. When you have a team member in a position to work with a customer of any kind consider carefully the language you have empowered them to use. If it isn’t practiced you are leaving up to chance the satisfaction of both the customer and your employee.
The Three Leader Laments That Are Killing Your Culture
It may not be a welcome point of view, but a haunting reality started to appear to us about what happens when a leader laments, or complains. It guts the commitment of almost everyone on your team. We identified three of these culture killers and share them in the hopes that you may check yourself in your efforts to improve. The first lament comes in the form of getting off focus. This occurs when you take different courses of action that are in your head, and start to leak them to your task-oriented team. Your team wants to know what you need and what is the plan? If you are winging it or juggling multiple strategies, and thinking it doesn’t matter because they don’t tell you about it, think again. They are not going to tell you, almost instinctively they will cut their commitment by 30% immediately.
The second lament comes in a moment of frustration when small items are brought back to you by the team. The questions are low level, off topic, and drive you nuts. Your response appears to be a clarifying statement, but it also stops your team in their tracks. “I Don’t Care” about this or that the leader says and admonishes the person for bringing them something small or trivial. But wait, if your direct report cares about it, and you the leader say you don’t care, then why should they care? These are just the wrong words. Leaders can’t say them. They are a sign that the team is struggling solving a problem and they don’t have the language or the latitude to resolve an issue. This is a teaching point for the leader and the team at the right time. We all have said, “I don’t care” at one time or another and we meant no harm, but harm is done right down to the very core of your teams engagement. The leader has to care.
The third lament of a leader that guts the engagement levels of your team is allowing people to share the stories of how people have lost their jobs. Myth and story are life staples for humans and it is only natural for bad news to be shared inside human systems. Yet some companies don’t realize how much damage a culture of fear can have to employee engagement. Leaders can’t dictate what is and isn’t said on every topic, but they can model the right behavior by not joining in the stories and by sharing with the story tellers what the consequences are on both sides of the telling the “people get fired around here” stories. If you are looking for your front line to think and move with purpose you want them to feel empowered to make decisions and communicate. They need to be able to make mistakes of commission while moving towards the goal. When a leader allows the fear to reign, they cannot then expect people to think for themselves. It is just a bad bet for the employee and leads to the worst kind of person, the one who quits but keeps showing up to work.
What A Trip to Mt. Vernon Can Teach Anyone About the Pace of Sales Dialog
We recently observed a sales meeting for a software company and were asked to listen to a new inside sales rep role play to learn what to say to a prospect. The tone and confidence were there, but we didn’t get the sense that the conversation was going anywhere. When asked for feedback I wanted to come up with an image that wasn’t tied to sports, so asked the new employee if they had ever been on a house tour like Mt. Vernon where George Washington lived. She replied in the affirmative and so I asked, do you think the tour guide is in sales? From this question a nice dialog ensued where I was able to get my point across that different types of dialog have different pace to them almost like a music score. In the case of Mt. Vernon, the tour guide needs to keep us moving on the treadmill so the group behind us can view the room, and they want us to connect with the house so we spend money at the book store.
The image of the house tour resonated and so we broke out the stages of a sale into different rooms of the house and started sharing it with other companies. We have been calling it “House Tour Theory” and are enjoying how it applies to a range of institutions. Non-profits, professional services, and software companies have all been able to tweak the conversations in the different rooms, yet they agree that the conveyor belt should always be moving forward. Feel free to use the image below for your customer acquisition and success processes. Please share with us how it works or needs tweaking for you.
The three moments of maximum influence: a customer service conflict point, a leader lamenting, and the salesperson keeping the deal on the conveyor belt. In all three, The Message Matters!
Have a great next 45 days and see you on or around April fools day!
Complete Annual Newsletter Volumes