Monday, March 18, 2013

Education on Good Management Practices - Why Doesn't It Stick?

A short video featuring Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn makes the point that in the past, entrepreneurs were driven by their own personal philosophy of doing good for people and helping to make their customers successful. But it wasn't until the '60s that modern management science began to teach students in universities that same philosophy. Today, there is excellent data, both qualitative and quantitative, indicating that a company's successful relationships with people is positively related to its financial performance.

Maslow, Drucker, McGregor and Nash overwhelmed the academics with evidence that relationships are critical to success. Peter Drucker said in 1998, "But to this date, very few other people have paid much attention."

McGregor's book The Human Side of Enterprise had a profound influence on education practices.   According to McGregor, "Any attempt by management to enforce behaviour that is contrary to human nature is pre-ordained to fail. Conversely, management methods that compliment human nature are sure to provide wealth and well being for all concerned."

After all his experiments and research, Nash summarized his important lessons as follows: "1) more profit is created through cooperation than through competition," and "2) people who care about others get cooperation and finish first."

Despite the fact that these ideas were slow to catch on - even though Dale Carnegie wrote about them in the '30s - today's modern, upper-echelon management professionals strive to find creative applications for these principles.  I (along with many others in our world-wide organization) was tutored by Whit Whitlow and Luvane (Boo) Bue from California - our organization's masters as far back as the sixties - on how to coach and train managers about these insights and their applications.  Our trainers were marvellous at helping us to motivate, engage, and support the managers of our client organizations in applying and reporting on their application of these principles as well as the results they produced.

Because we are not an academic organization, we focused on outcomes, changed habits, and results. These are the effects that our clients wanted then, and still want and pay for today. One way to distill the essence of all this research is by saying: If you want to earn more, become a better leader.    


If you want to develop habits, not just knowledge, register for a program that includes practice, coaching, job application projects, and reporting on results with feedback, all in an open, engaged group.  People don't change because they intend to. They do what less successful people never get around to doing such as improving their leadership habits. You know the difference between habits and information.   Today, we can Google information. Don't confuse information with skills or habits. We call that the "knowledge trap."  Under fire, it's your training and habits that will show up, and that you will depend on.

Across the years we've come to realize that quite a number of managers, including those who studied management principles at good schools, had a difficult time making theory practical to their work.  Most of their courses didn't fully impact their behaviour and they really didn't get the fact that profits are maximized when the human side of enterprise is applied.

Why wouldn't they be able to grasp such straightforward ideas? Do you remember your experience in school? Too many of us just tried to pass a test rather than learn, and treated the content as information never to be used again. Some of us were jaded then, and some of us are jaded now. Maybe because we are inundated with politics, bureaucracy, greed, and ego at the places where we begin our work lives, we may actually lose our belief that the principles of people-focused management styles can work.  Instead, the drive for new technology is paramount, as if people and customers have dropped in priority.  In general, too many managers aren't as good as they think they are, and their people see it and enterprises pay for it. This can change.    

You and I can maximize profits and create a great future for ourselves by working on the application of these principles. We can turn them into habits that we practice and find success with, every day.    

MMM Action
  1. Think about your blueprint for building your leadership skills and habits. Make some notes about what you can do.    
  2. Consider attending our short workshop on leadership strategies. It's a start to set you in the right direction! You can enrol here.   
  3. What else can you do? 
Have a great week.

kdc sign
Kevin D. Crone
Dale Carnegie Business Group
(905)826-7300 ext. 223
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why No Action??

Improving a business sometimes feels like an impossible task.  Why don’t some groups take  the actions necessary that will improve the business?  I remember working with a team that was trying to increase their revenues and it became clear that the management and individuals involved had designed the business to fit their personal lives.  No matter how I tried to get them to understand their market place, their customer’s needs/wants/motives and how to reach them with a powerful offering and compelling messaging, they weren’t into it.  Their basic thinking was, with my busy schedule I’m not getting what I want right now from the business and my life.  I’m just not that interested.
When I asked them to tell me what they wanted and how they are going to get there, it was usually about how the company should be doing something for them.  Their short term, personal needs were always more important than long term goals and the needs of the business.   No wonder their strategies and plans to move forward were fuzzy.  Their lives and the business seemed to go forward and back in a reactionary and survival way.  In reality, they were getting nowhere.
guy at flipchart
So, individuals unable to create the life they want for themselves are the same individuals trying to make a business work.  Let’s get back to the original statement, “Why don’t groups act on what needs to be done?”  Generally, many people don’t realize that they don’t.  They think they act from the business but in reality they act for themselves.  It's invisible to them and it is contagious.  Workplaces become a trap for this ‘individual’ orientation. This causes the business to become secondary, less of a priority, and it shows up in results.

Secondly, if individuals do act on behalf of what is good for the business they don’t always stop their reactionary world long enough to create a picture of what is required for it to thrive.
You might be thinking “That’s not the way it is around here.  We are worked to death.  We put in a lot of effort.”  I am not talking about work or effort but rather taking actions that genuinely improve the business for now and in the future.  The design of any business, the systems installed, and the decisions made, create its future success. 

Thirdly, too often teams try some stuff, never finish it, always expecting something to be perfect and when it fails everything automatically goes back to the way it was.  This produces risk-adverse people.  Hope becomes the only strategy. (good luck with that)

Nothing is ever perfect.  If it looks perfect, it’s probably not real.  Usually what looks good is fake - for show.  The truth is we either help clients in a big way or we don’t.  We either tell a compelling, down to earth story to the market or we don’t.  We are either engaged in improving the business or we are not.  All of us can get into truth telling about the business for its own sake without harming our teams’ personal lives or without blaming and name calling.  That’s just effective human relations.  We can certainly create a picture of what the business needs to be.  We need to fight the competition…not each other over our personal needs.  As a team, we need to design the business to win and to take the necessary steps that change it so it will win.  For all of us to get ahead, we need an ‘organization’ orientation and get engaged to produce better results.
Once you have decided to go a certain way then go there fast.  If something gets in your way, turn.  “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough,” famous words from race car driver Mario Andretti.  Being laid back is great for the cottage but for business we need to push our start button every day and just flat out go for it.  It can be fun!
I believe we all have the guts, the where-with-all to do what is required and to act.  With every action comes learning, and you will know what to do next for the business.  It’s simple….. Act….Learn…. Act… we can do that.

Questions this week:
  • Do I act from a personal orientation rather than a business one?
  • What does the business require?  What is it like now?
  • What are the first actions to go from where we are now to where we want to go?
 Have a great week.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Fundamentals to Grow Your Sales Team and Results

Last week while out for my walk on Fort Myers Beach, I stopped to look at a picture of a house for sale in the window of a real estate office.  After a couple of minutes a friendly, burly guy named Marty popped out of the front door and asked if I was dreaming, looking or comparing houses.  I said I was looking for a friend who was staying with us. He then asked me if I was thirsty and because I had been walking I said yes.  He jokingly called out to someone, “There is a homeless, thirsty guy out here.  Can you please get him something to drink?”

He quickly educated me about the market, explained which areas were good investments and those that weren’t.  We jumped in his car to see three of the areas, and went through one of the houses……all within an hour.  We went back and got my friend and proceeded to show him the home that was listed.  He really liked it.

WOW!  Marty went from asking someone just walking by his office “What’s up?” to finding a strong prospect.  Incidentally, I found out that he is the #1 broker on the island….you can guess why????

In the past and in the future, our business, as in all businesses, is about sales.  It is about finding and seizing sales opportunities. It doesn’t matter if we are using LinkedIn, networking at community meetings, searching old accounts or old prospects who didn’t buy, our job is to find and cultivate opportunities.  If you are a manager, you need to put in the systems, protocols, and accountabilities that cause the team to do the things that uncover those opportunities.  On their own, most salespeople won’t do those things. Yet the top producers will.

Whether it is attending sales training, going to sales meetings, using market access or marketing nurturing systems, salespeople, generally, will not initiate these things.  Sometimes they think if they just show up, maybe something good will happen.  And generally, it won’t without a lot of organization and work. 
handshakeSelling is about failing until you succeed. This is what I read in Frank Bettger’s book, “How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success.”  I suggest all your salespeople read this classic masterpiece. 
Here are some of the fundamentals to grow your sales team and sales results we've gathered from our experience in helping companies grow.
1. Coach people to find opportunities, in a non-cheesy way.  Opportunities are everywhere and those that don’t go after them are usually so frustrated, negative and down they can’t see them.  Many of them aren’t interested in being coached.  Coach them anyway, especially your top producers who seem to be ignored.

2. Figure out the best way to educate, engage and sell your services to today’s market. Don’t believe for a minute that making more calls is the only answer. Markets change. Thinking things through should come before action every now and then. For example, create a system on a white board that spells out how you can access existing clients with new, attention getting, personalized offers and a follow up system. Hire people to follow it and give them the opportunity to be creative. Map out a way to know every targeted client and a way to keep prospects engaged for at least a year until they are ready to talk with you or buy.

3. Realize that your salespeople need inspiration everyday. They need a structured way to flush out their frustrations, worries, rationalizations and cynical excuses.  Their attitude and lack of organization is what generally kills them.

4. Hold effective meetings that inspire, teach, coach and connect people to new goals.  Do this in groups and one-on-one.  It is up to managers to stimulate the inspiration that causes action.

Using the technical tools to support your goals is definitely important but don’t believe that they are the number one answer to growth.  Your people are emotional beings and actions will follow inspiration.  I encourage you not to loose sight of these three fundamentals.

1. Coach people to find opportunities.

2. Think about how to access the market and keep customers and prospects engaged.  Turn it all into a system that causes the behaviors you need.

3. Structure your time and attention to inspiring your people.
What occurs to you right now?  What is the best action you can take to build your sales and your team?  Now act.
 Have a great week.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

An Important Letter to Leaders

If you lead, you probably have a picture of the future you want and how to get there.  It is usually what's in our head and our heart, and shows up in continual conversations with our team.  Planning is the key.  While necessary, budgeting is the least important in building the future.  Those who don't have belief or are not excited about the future depend too much on budgets.  This explains why these people always need everything proven before they act. They have concluded that they can't have what they want and have a logical story to back up their opinion. 

05_when_client_is_wrongIn our world, there is evidence that can convince us in the present to follow a lackadaisical approach and require proof before we act.  You create future business and your team’s success by getting your team to do things that seem impossible, only because they haven’t yet been done. How do you do that?  It’s easy.  When it occurs to you "we should do that”, get into action immediately.  One action will lead to the next and, before you know it, you will be telling everyone involved of your successes. Before too long your belief and expectations of what is possible changes and leads to more and bigger action and results people didn't believe could happen.

You’ll find that what seemed impossible is now normal and your team searches for “what else could we do"?   They keys are the action and celebrating all minor victories. This doesn’t sound like monotonous work, does it?

When we began our business, our new team used to get together Fridays in a Burlington restaurant for a beer and a special meal the owner made for us each week. We would laugh about all the things we tried and I remember constantly hearing “that’s another thing we did that we couldn’t do…. But we did it.”  It was fun.

Too often we think we are lacking in skill or knowledge when in reality nothing is missing. Depend on your common sense intuition and get started. There is nothing stopping you or your team from creating the world you envision. Start the conversation with them about the future.  Involve them in planning and tell them you want everyone to lead the action. Most people have never experienced that.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Creating and Building a Life and/or Business

It seems my whole life has been about building something. In the beginning the greatest force was my experience taking the Dale Carnegie Course at the age of 21.  It gave me the confidence to dream about what was possible; learn how to control my attitude; and rely on my interest in others to get me through people problems. I must have read How To Win Friends and Influence People five or six times in six months. The best of Dale Carnegie’s books for me was How To Stop Worrying and Start Living. It’s a masterpiece on attitude control and the discipline of making decisions and moving on. The Dale Carnegie Course is still the most beautiful experience someone could benefit from.    
Those early Dale Carnegie days stayed with me even though I know many business friends might think they don't need to take the course and probably ‘poo-poo’ the principles.  I struggled at the beginning of my career because I had little experience in business, selling and management. But somehow I influenced some great people around me to believe in Carnegie like I did and to believe that we could influence the marketplace in a big way and in so doing build a good life for ourselves. It really helped to have Bud Hogberg as a great mentor in my early life.  Bud pretty much believed I could do anything and went out of his way to prove it to me. “Arouse enthusiasm in others and treat people as if they are special everyday.”  I remember walking down the street with Bud. He stopped walking, grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into Woolworth's Department Store and bought me an umbrella because it might rain and I didn't have one.  No one acts like that.  Bud did. I desperately wanted to be like him - a walking, talking Dale Carnegie master.  I imitated him.  As ridiculous as that sounds today, it kept me going until I produced, survived, and my skills caught up to my enthusiasm.
Applauding achievmentsBy the time I was 28, I was the youngest sponsor (owner) in the Dale Carnegie world-wide network.  My managers Dave, Cyril, Fred, Norm, Herb, Ray, Vic, and Kathie, who eventually took over the entire operation, led my flourishing organization. I would have accomplished little without their spirit and hard work. At an international convention I was asked to give a speech on how we did it. I wasn't sure how, but it caused me to think that commitment comes first, and answers comes second. To this day people use that quote. What does it mean to you?
To me, everything is an illusion.  A story in our head.  A belief. We are a collection of aspirations, goals, values and most importantly, commitments. Once we intuitively know who we are, what we want, and what we believe in, we can create the life we want regardless of all the twists and turns life seems to give us. Then just live that life everyday with all the gusto you can muster. It is amazing how answers appear.  When we make commitments we learn to succeed. Commitments aren't intentions. They are real. 

Lee Straughan, who is the best leader I've ever hung around with, taught me more about living commitments than anything I have ever read or realized on my own. Here are some of the things Lee taught me.
  1. When you can't fulfill a commitment, go to the person you made it to and talk it out.  Typically people talk to everyone but the person they made the commitment to and then they blame, complain, and give a pretty good story as to why they can't live up to it.

  2. Always support the people you make commitments to. Never let them down. Never let people talk badly about the people you are committed to.  Stop them cold - nicely. I always wished I were more like Lee but I do try to demonstrate his behavior to anyone who supports us, helps us, or buys from us. With this approach people trust you and are more apt to join you, follow you, and do business with you. 
As I delved into creating as an art and science, I learned how commitment is the source of action. People only do what they want to do and believe is possible.  If someone knows that, they begin to listen differently. They listen for what people are committed to. It is not always obvious and you have to hear what's behind the words they are saying. This skill can help you when alignment is important for action. Like you, I have spent a lot of time in meetings, and alignment is illusive. When you can hear commitments you can bring them out and then point out the common commitments in the room.  Then ask for alignment on them before you get into detailed action. It works. There is nothing worse than realizing you are all alone on the plans in motion.

Leaders bring people to places they would never go on their own but how do they do it?  I hope my conversation today starts a reflection for you. You are what you are committed to. If you are not sure of your future, or worried, or are coasting a bit, or wondering what it’s all about, then I suggest you slow down, digest my message and see what occurs to you.Trust your intuition and get into action. Action is all there is.  (More on that later).

Have a great week.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

There are only three things to focus on in business:

  1. Finding customers.
  2. Keeping them happy.
  3. Making money from the good value of your offer
These last few weeks have been hectic ones.  Lots of big decisions, traveling….you know… busy.  I needed some outside services to get through it all and some of them have been quite frustrating. 
  1. A travel agent poking around and then not booking the trip fast enough so it ended up costing me another 30%.  (Obviously I won’t be using them anymore)

  2. A car rental company trying to charge more than the original quote.  (I’m done there as well)

  3. A real estate agent who was always going to call back with information but never did.  I had to call them constantly.  (I confronted this issue and will give them another chance but would use someone else next time)
And on the home front:
  1. A bank who made me wait another day to buy a money order for another modest amount because I wasn’t dealing with my own branch and no one knew me.  (A senior person called me on a Saturday morning to apologize – that was good.)  I have done many deals with this company over thirty five years and someone realized it.

  2. A mechanic who was too busy to communicate how long I had to wait and then complained about how tough it is to make money.  (Good heavens!)

  3. The largest TV/phone monopoly continued to bill me for a summer service at my cottage even though the service was suspended like it normally is.  (what an incredible waste of time but again, I am stuck with this overpriced monopoly for now.
Hey, I’ll bet you could make your own list if you thought about it.  How difficult it is to book airline tickets on-line, etc.?

Keeping customers happy, even in today’s very competitive, fragile, and tight markets is very difficult to do.  All the costly spin from the marketing and sales departments can’t keep us coming back if the service sucks. You and I have to constantly re-commit to making customers happy or our cost of sale will go up and our margins will go down. 

people-marching-for-MMMThe commitment to making customers happy does not make it to the top of the priority list in many companies. Most are busy trying to increase sales and reducing costs.  If customer satisfaction is important at your company, here are some tips that will help you live your commitment to your customers.
  • Building customer loyalty with gimmicks and come-ons isn’t as important as giving exceptional service, regardless of the economic downturns and the constant technological advances.

  • Rather than surveying what customers liked or didn’t like after the fact, it is better to implement systems that track the customer's buying habits and be proactive about creating offerings that genuinely help the customer as much as they do you.

  • Put the Blackberry down for a while and experience your own services.  Use your own products. See the reality from a customer’s perspective. As a friend and successful business owner once told me, “Never believe your own Kool-aid.”  Try being on hold for a long time or bounced around from department to department.  How’s the Kool-aid now??

  • Quick, friendly, genuine responses to service failures and the opening and closing of transactions are the most critical. These are emotional times in customer service.  If your team gets these right, you can beat the competition.  Service is part of your total offering.  For example, direct flights from Buffalo or Niagara Falls to Florida can be cheap, but just try figuring out their website or calling them to book a flight.

  • Build websites that give valuable information rather than simply a continual sales pitch about how great you are. You can build in features such as chat buttons, toll free numbers with quick response, e-mail buttons for a more personalized experience and give information without demanding visitors sign up on the site. As more and more business is done on the internet, don’t get lost in or over excited about technical advances. Use them, but put more emphasis on how to be more personal. What else can I do for you ‘Jerry?’ Send a note of appreciation or gift.  Always use a customer’s name, give them your, friendliness, and full attention. (put down that Blackberry again)  This is what really matters.

  • Work on improving your offering.  Is it speed, price, personalized attention and relationship, or guaranteed return on investment?  Look at Amazon.  Basic services are offered repeatedly to eliminate frustrations in customer experience.  (One click purchasing, direct link to UPS, recommendation of other similar products, customer info and credit card is stored.)

  • Regardless of your offering, make sure you put in place operational tools to support it. For example, someone to handle complaints well, follow up after the complaint, and ensuring that you have staff capacity.  Doesn’t it drive you crazy when you hear, “I’m the only here, can I get back to you?”  Have a problem-solving complaint resolution system in place.
  • Hire and develop caring people who provide quick service and who do what they say they will do. Develop service standards, (never let the phone ring more than three times) spend 2% – 3% of your budget on training and development;  practicing clear communication; handling the emotional part of a complaint; (you can handle the complaint well and still turn off the complainer) and how not to be condescending and arrogant; (“Did you plug it in?” said the service rep from a large Hamilton electronic store after I gave them lots of money to install everything in my home) Record all problems and complaints into a file that can be reviewed and shared quarterly. We are supposed to learn from reality, so we can be inspired by our vision. And lastly, put in a ‘non-cheesy’ reward and recognition system for your people. Genuinely support your people for supporting and taking care of your customers.

You may have heard all of this before, but that really doesn’t matter.  We are not in school.  In our real world, we generally judge ourselves on our intentions and others by their actions. Our customers just experience our actions.  What is the most important action you can take this week to advance your customer service competitive advantage? Now schedule it and do it!