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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

How to build scalability into any organization

In a January 23rd post earlier this year, I briefly mentioned the Horizon 1-2-3 framework originally developed by Mehrdad Baghai, Stephen Coley, and David White, who authored The Alchemy of Growth: Practical Insights for Building the Enduring Enterprise. In it they established a view that companies that are successful in the long term have growth initiatives in three stages. Subsequently, many consulting organizations worldwide have used dozens of frameworks over the years to analyze the trends which impede their clients’ ability to grow.

Allow me to summarize for you what I’ve been seeing as the #1 culprit for limiting the growth of organizations worldwide.

Premise; The H1-2-3 framework is built around the point of view that to sustain growth, a company must maintain a continuous pipeline of business-building initiatives. Companies considered sustainable & scalable are characterized by their ability to create new business opportunities by innovating from within their core business ares whilst building new off-shoots at the same time.

Challenge; With the limited resources that the majority of modern-day companies face today, where can you find the time, resources & funding to innovate?

Solution; Identify within your organization who’s ready to operate at each Horizon, and then stimulate their development by holding them accountable.

  • (H1) is the work resulting in more consistently effecting change through improving and extending present operations (routines and habits)
    • Who in your organization is working at this day-to-day level?
      • Are they the right people / profile?
    • What monthly gatherings are you promoting to review & improve on the recently past activities?
      • How do (what proof are you collecting) these gatherings benefit your future activities, both immediate & mid-term?
  • (H2) is empowering the team to ask themselves how their daily/weekly activities & focus facilitate the creation of new opportunities
    • Who in your team is ready to step-up to the next level?
    • What weekly questioning and periodic structured pulse checks are you committed to?
    • How are you fostering increased risk taking & the capability of the team in dealing with a greater degree of uncertainty & adversity?
  • (H3) is where futures must be imagined, researched and developed.
    • Who in your organization is passionate & skilled at seeding options today for the future?
    • What is the required business acumen for understanding the related research, pilot projects, proof of concepts, etc you’ll need to succeed & innovate?
    • How are you going to measure the practical implementation of the same, both immediately & on a continual basis?

Results; A client of mine is currently putting this model into effective use. The Managing Director is a visionary and he needed to break himself away from the daily routines that were keeping him from affecting the broader & longer term results of his organization. Last year he asked one of his next-line management to step-up & shadow his responsibilities. After one quarter, this 1st line executive had gained deeper knowledge & understanding of what it took to “play at the next level”.

Having also experienced professional growth & personal development, he was tasked to find someone one level down & do the same exercise. At the same time he was sharing with his immediate management colleagues the direct & indirect benefits of this experience. Each quarter the Managing Director rotated his direct reports through this process. Whilst he gradually freed himself to a level at which he significantly impacted the broader scope he desired, this exercise permeated throughout the organization giving more voice to many more layers of management & personnel in general.

Whether you’re staffing levels are 5, 10, 50, 100 or 1,000, what can you learn from this exercise? What are you holding onto that you should let go of? Who’s growth are you debilitating by continuing to carry on the way you do today?

Reducing your Employee Churn/Burn Rate & Getting Results

What is the most value asset you have in your company? You shouldn’t have to think too hard! It’s the people that execute on your strategy.

So why do you always seem to be “the last man left standing” in your organization?

I’ll share with you the answer, followed by two key lessons & one practical example/result as to the “why” of so many company’s having challenges in retaining staff these days. An especially complex issue to understand, given the current economical crisis, is the unemployment rates around the world are still incredibly high.

The Answer is that we, as leaders, typically do a very poor job of recruitment, induction, ongoing management & assessment of our most valuable assets. And the general root cause is through poor communication and lack of courage!

Personally, even though sometimes hard to swallow, I firmly believe in the 90/10 rule, which states that if one of your staff isn’t working out, it’s 90% YOUR fault.. & only 10% theirs!

Do you think I’m being harsh, unfair & unrealistic? Well, consider this.. who’s in the drivers seat?

  • Who (ultimately) did, or approved the hiring?
  • How clear were you in defining and communicating the Mission & Vision of the company?
    • Did you receive acknowledgment, or other form of undeniable proof that you were clearly understood?
  • How clear were you in defining the role to be fulfilled & the specific outcomes to be expected of the role?
    • Key words being “role & specific outcome”.. forget job description!
  • How clear were you in communicating the behaviors you expected whilst your team executed on your plan?
    • How did you manage the first signs of lack in performance or alignment with your vision, message and/or expectations?
  • How often did you sit down to agree S.M.A.R.T. objectives/goals?
    • How frequently did you follow-up to make necessary adjustments?
    • How quickly did you put someone on a performance plan when they didn’t deliver on what was agreed?
  • How much planning & thought went into the induction, education/training, mentoring or skills acquisition process the individual needed to succeed?
    • How much coaching or mentoring did you consider to be required from yourself, or senior/more experienced staff?
  • How quickly, and how brave were YOU in having “the difficult & uncomfortable conversations”?
    • Are you paying & rewarding your staff to perform?
      • Are you doing the opposite?
      • How are you motivating/encouraging non-performance/conformance?

I could go on & on.. but I think you get the point! It’s YOUR company, YOUR department or YOUR team, and therefore YOU are the ultimate responsible person for the outcome/output of everyone’s role. If things aren’t working out then look inward before you look outward, and once you’ve completed this assignment take responsibility to make the immediate & necessary adjustments.

Lesson #1

  • Be crystal clear on Your Vision & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Who needs to do What, How & by When?
      • This requires acknowledgment & buy-in, however remember you’re the boss (90% responsibility), so make sure that “your team” buys into “your plan”, even if you need their help in constructing it, and not the opposite!
    • Where do you want your company, area or department to be?
    • When do you expect specific results?
      • When do you expect escalations when things are in danger, or aren’t going according to plan?
    • How do you want (expect) your employees to behave, handle themselves and handle adversity (which is sure to come)?
      • What are the rules of engagement?
    • What are the boundaries & non-boundaries that you expect people to respect & understand?
      • What are the focus areas they’re supposed to be focused on in order to achieve success?
  • Be crystal clear on Your Mission… & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Why do you want your people to behave in a certain manner?
    • Why do you need your people to achieve certain results?
    • Why do you require specific results within specific time frames?
    • Why is the company in business to begin with?

I’ve embedded the Core Values, which are the “behaviors” or “rules for the road” within the context of the Who, What, Where, When, Why & How above. That, in short, is your Core Ideology!

Lesson #2

The next biggest lesson you might have to learn, is regarding COURAGE. Courage to stand-up to the “know-it all’s” who’ve never run an enterprise but have every theory in the book as to how your organization should run! I find these days far too many companies have “grayed the line” between “boss & employee” and between responsible for direction & responsible for execution. If you’re going to take 90% responsibility for the failure of an organization, you need to get straight, and clearly understand, who’s “experienced” and better still “paid to run the show”.

In order to deliver on the above, you need the right skill-set that’s for sure, and you also need to have the backbone to “listen first” and “act accordingly second”. Acknowledging someone’s perspective and giving them voice doesn’t mean that you have to take their advice or recommendations over your own experienced opinion or gut instinct/intuition. It only makes you more responsible and accountable to the eventual decisions you make.

Once you’ve guaranteed success, then you can stand back, be humble and allow your team to bask in the glory of having executed excellently on a plan. Take 90% of the responsibility, give 90% of the credit and you’ll have an effective & motivated team!

I’ve spent hours-upon-hours giving practical workshops to MBA students who have paid a pretty penny to gain a highly valuable education, just like I’ve spent hours-upon-hours with both managers and employees who’ve read the latest books containing magical and earth moving experiences. What I always share with them is that “now you have the logic, it’s time to go out into the real world to implement and execute”.

The execution of an idea is always more important than the brilliance of a thought, or even a strategy. A brilliant thought without effective execution is merely an illusion. A brilliant strategy, without effective execution, is merely a waste of everyone’s energy & time.

Practical Example/Result

I recently walked into an assignment that demanded many changes in a short period of time. Multiple colleagues had just been fired for non performance and conformance. I was walking into an understandably hostile environment!

I stood in front of a room and shared my “what” followed by my “why”. Then came my “how”, where I told them that I only expected  1/2 (!?!?) of the output, dedication and commitment that I was willing to put in myself! However, I also advised them that I typically give 300% to every assignment!!

I explained that I would give them 48 hours to go through the grieving process of having lost their colleagues, followed by 15 days to be at 80% or better, and showing signs they would be at 150% by day 30.

I committed myself to complete transparency & communication, just as I would to holding them as accountable (where & when) as I would hold myself. I shared with them that there would be 2 day, 15 day & 30 day milestones, at which time I would have conversations with non-performers & either implement a performance plan or retire them. I would also make it a regular habit to commend the good performances along the way.

I shared with them that in a 24 hour weekday, I’m hoping you have 8 hours of sleep, and I’ll guarantee you that more than 50% of the remaining 16h will be based on, or thinking about, “work”. Therefore, if you’re going to dedicate more than 50% of your “awake” time to “work” during a 5 day work week rather than to your loved ones & special interests, it’s absolute lunacy to work in a place where you’re not motivated and inspired. As a consequence, if I ask you or if you decide to leave, then we’re only doing each other a favor based on a general concern & well-being for all.

Result

One person left within 48 hours, a few more within the first 15 days, then a few more within the next 15 days. Along the way change happened, a pride which previously didn’t exist filled the department! Results, followed by customer satisfaction, started to sparkle where it didn’t exist before. THEY, the last ones standing, did all of the work. I merely gave them direction and the opportunity to be everything I already knew they could be.

Top 3 things to focus on when fixing what’s broken

Having just finished up another successful assignment at a hyper growth enterprise, and noting that the core principles of success were again very similar to many other situations faced over the past +25 years, I thought I’d share my 3 areas of focus.

I should add to this that two days before I departed, an interested 2nd line manager/team leader asked if I could share with him some insights. He had witnessed remarkable changes in a very short period of time, and whilst I had been very busy with first line management, he recognized the possibility to learn some very practical & valuable lessons directly himself.

It inspired me that again we had been able to affect collateral interest, as well as a desire for change deeper within the organization, so I rallied the entire 2nd line leadership team and spent the next 2 hours giving them some day-to-day examples of the following:

  • Customer Centricity – Focus on the Customer
    • We have Internal Customers
      1. Every person in every department, in one way or another, facilitates the servicing of External Customers
      2. By serving the needs of our Internal Customers, we are either directly or indirectly addressing the needs of our External Customers
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, bi-lateral Service Level Agreements
    • We have External Customers
      1. Shift from a systems interoperability focus to a successful customer purchasing focus
      2. Now start to look for opportunities to enrich & enhance the customer purchasing experience
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, Service Level Agreements
  • Ownership – Never let go until you’re satisfied
    • Ownership is a like a hungry dog with a bone.. you never let go until you’re satisfied the hunger is quenched
      1. You can never assume the client, internal or external, is satisfied with a solution until you have direct confirmation/validation from/of the same
      2. Every obstacle is merely an opportunity for you to find another alternative path to a solution
      3. Don’t accept that a problem can’t be fixed until you’ve exhausted every means, including escalated your concern to the highest level within your organization
    • Ownership is like a football team moving forward to score a goal, just because you’ve passed the ball forward, your contribution to the goal isn’t over until the ball is in the net & you’re embracing your colleagues in celebration
      1. Just because you’ve forwarded a need or requirement, your job isn’t done until you’ve confirmed/validated that the next person is carrying out the necessary task(s) until the “client” is satisfied
      2. Trust is good..  but verification is proof.. & much.. much better!
      3. Confirm the goal! Confirm with the “client” that they’ve gotten the result they expected, and then celebrate the WIN/GOAL/SCORE & never just the great pass
  • Communication – “Engage with..” instead of “talking to..”
    • Communication is a bi-directional inter-activity & never a uni-lateral conversation
      1. Effective communication requires active empathetic listening
      2. Effective communication is never assuming that you know what the other person has just said, but repeating it for acknowledgment & confirmation of detail
      3. In effective communication, there is no such thing as “common sense”.. common sense is merely an accumulation of related experiences, and we all have different filters (interpretations & perceptions) based on our past influences
    • More than talking to someone, effective communication is when you confirm that an intention is understood, and the expected outcome has been agreed to by the “actioning party”
      1. To borrow from Engineering terms, effective communications requires an active & affective acknowledgment process (ACK/NAK or checksum), which is an infallible confirmation that what has been requested, has been acknowledge and understood
      2. Effective communications requires a S.M.A.R.T. conversation, with specific confirmation by all parties as to what has been requested vs. what will be delivered by when by whom to where & how

These might sound simple enough that you would actually overlook or underestimate the impact that they are already having on your organization, but the fact is, and I’m willing to be openly challenged on this, you show me a problem in your organization, and I’ll show you where one, if not all of the above are responsible for the lack of results that you know your enterprise is capable of.

How to fix your company in 30 days

Whether you’re a “hired” senior executive or an entrepreneur leading your enterprise to greatness, you’ve probably raised your head from the table more than once and questioned yourself as to “how am I going to fix what’s broken(?)”. And regardless of whether you already have a plan to action on this thought, or not, checking over the following points can only help you fix it faster, better, cheaper.. and maybe even keep you out of bigger trouble than you are already in!

  1. Gut Check Time – How committed are you to affect change in your organization?
    • Are you willing to embrace this opportunity for self reflection & personal awareness/growth?
    • Are you committed to taking the necessary action steps required to fix the situation first, and the root cause second?
  2. Core Ideology Clarity – Do you have, and have you communicated, your organizations Mission, Vision & Core Values?
    • Mission = The Purpose for being (The WHY for your organizations existence)
    • Vision = The Dream you want to manifest (The WHAT of the outcome you want to achieve)
    • Core Values = The Rules for the Road (The HOW you & your team will behave whilst executing your strategy)
  3. Gut Check Time – Do you have proof that your staff/Team have bought into and fully understand your Core Ideology?
    • Do they understand the “why” things need to change?
    • Have you looked them “in the white of their eyes” & confirmed they’re on-board?
      • How are they “living” your Core Ideology day-in / day-out?
  4. Seek “outside & unbiased” contribution from nothing less than a non-consultant consultant
    • As the “owner of your own experience”, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by getting someone who is too close to the business to be objective as to what the true cause for the issues are
    • In fact, the root of the problem might be yourself.. are you ready to admit that?
  5. Validate you have an “Engagement Model” that works
    • Are you communicating “at/to”, or “with” your team?
      • “Communication is a bi-directional activity, and it requires active & empathetic listening
    • Do you have a One-Page Plan, or similar framework to ensure that you and your team are literally on the same page in what concerns your goals & objectives
    • Do you have regular review/Pulse Check cycles? – “People don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect
      • 15m Daily Huddles?
      • 1h Weekly Strategic Meetings?
      • 2h Monthly Sanity Check & Planning Meetings?
      • Half Day Quarterly Strategic Review & Adjustment Sessions?
      • Semi-Annual Full-Day Strategic Alignment & Planning Workshops Off-Site?
      • Annual Full-Day/Two-Day Strategic Alignment, Planning & Executing Your Strategy?
    • Do you have Periodic Performance Review Cycles with your Team?
    • What’s your feedback loop to track & measure progress along the way?
      • How do you ensure you’re hitting your milestones in a timely manner?
      • What’s your escalation process to avoid surprises & keep you in the drivers seat?
  6. Gut Check TimeAre you Strategy or Execution focused?
    • The execution of an idea is ALWAYS more important than the brilliance of the thought!
      • Don’t get hung-up on a beautiful strategy if you’re not going to be able to execute on it
        • Do you have the proper (and proven) skill-set on-board to execute?
  7. Communicate, Communicate & Communicate again
    • Don’t take anything for granted!
    • Keep up the communication with your team, and those you need support from to keep everyone motivated
    • Circulate results & celebrate wins!
    • Look / seek out “quick wins” to boost confidence & motivation
      • Get some air beneath your wings
    • Praise the great work!
    • Address set-backs as opportunities for learning & growth!
    • Give your plan “teeth”!!
      • Make sure there are consequences for non conformance!
  8. Celebrate as a TEAM, so that you can repeat success as, and when needed, to overcome any challenge

It really is that simple! The complexity comes when you have to judge how bad things have gotten and for how long. How corrupt or rotten has your company culture become? This is the difference between a 30 day, 3 month, or a 3 year fix. This will be the significant reason why your employee churn will be single or double digits. The deeper the already ingrained bad habits, the longer it will take to build new & healthy habits! Remember, you don’t stop doing things wrong, you learn how to start doing things right! You don’t stop practicing bad habits, you learn & practice new healthy & productive habits! It takes up to 21 consecutive days of practicing a new healthy habit before it becomes ingrained in your DNA, so you have to be persistent & diligent.

Finally, if you can find a way to make it fun & rewarding, then you’re going to increase the probability & speed of your success.

11 Quick Secrets for winning – What’s your Super Bowl?

February 8, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been an avid American Football fan ever since I can remember, and so I’m obviously one of the many who eagerly await the crowning of the National Football League Super Bowl Champions each year. I also love “sentimental favorites”, and so this year we hit the jackpot! After Hurricane Katrina 4,5 years ago, everyone on the planet had to have been cheering for the New Orleans Saints to upset the favorite Indianapolis (formerly Baltimore) Colts.

Drew Brees, the undersized and unlikely hero in a land of giants was voted the Most Valuable Player, and I just finished watching a pre-Super Bowl interview with Katie Couric which will give you 11 key secrets for a formula of success necessary for you to lead your team to your own Super Bowl victory.

These 11 gems, or pearls of practical wisdom that you can implement immediately, are all contained within the first 5 minutes. Here are the highlights, accompanied with my own questions to you:

  • @ 40s; I’m excited.. 4 years ago we had a dream, we had a goal that we would be here at some point, fighting through some ups & downs & adversity to get here
    • It’s never an easy road to victory, so..
      • What’s your plan?
      • How well is it articulated?
      • How prepared are you & your team to deal with adversity along the way?
  • @ 1m10s; I’m always going to be nervous.. feeling those butterflies.. the minute you loose that nervousness it’s time to get out because with that nervousness comes the edge, that edge keeps you locked in, keeps you focused, it’s that will to win..
    • It’s all about Passion, so..
      • What’s your WHY?
      • How Passionate & Focused are you about what you’re doing?
      • How Passionate & Focused are your team?
      • How “bad” does everyone want to win & what are the sacrifices that you’re all willing to make?
  • @ 1m36s; I have so many mentors in my life, coaches, teachers, people that I’ve worked with in my past, that I continue to talk to today. People that give me the best advice at the best time, and then I’m able to relay that to my teammates, or guys who need it, who may be going through the same thing that I went through at some point
    • You can’t do it on your own, so..
      • Who are you surrounding yourself with that’s going to give you the right answers at the right time for the right situation?
      • How are you going to engage & relay that information to your team, and with what frequency & intensity?
      • Are you surrounding yourself with practical people that have been there, “done that” before, or theorists that have studied it? What’s the right blend?
  • @ 2m03s; so much about being a Quarterback is that there are 10 other guys in that huddle, each one is motivated at times in different ways. Some guys.. all you have to is give them a look, other guys you might have to yell at them a little bit, each guy had a different trigger or button that you need to push in order to get their best
    • You have to know your team (Leadership part 1), so..
      • Are you prepared to give that stern look, or have that “hard conversation”, yet be empowering in the way that you do it?
      • Are you communicating, engaging & enrolling your player? Do you know their “triggers” and treating your team as a motivated group of individual performers?
      • Are you willing to follow-up on lack of performance & “bench”/sideline your players when they don’t perform? In a worst case scenario are you ready to let go & trade them to another team, or even league?
  • @ 2m35s; when you let people know how much you care, how much you care about them ,or in our case, how much you care about the game & winning the game, and being at my best, & that I’m going to lay it on the line for them.. they play for you
    • You have to set the example (Leadership part 2), so..
      • How much are you rallying around you own “WHY”, and are you communicating with passion?
      • How are you showing that you care? As much for the team as eh victory itself?
      • How are you striving to “be the best”, be your best?
      • How are you “laying it on the line” for your team? (walking your talk)
  • @ 3m16s; (Katie) A teacher told us that you’ve been teaching kids in New Orleans that anything is possible , and therefore you’re becoming responsible for the hopes & dreams of all these children looking to you for courage & inspiration.. do you some times feel like that’s too much pressure?  (Drew) It’s a source of strength for me.. a responsibility just knowing that as a quarterback of this football team, and a member of this community, I have the platform that I do to influence so many people in such a positive way, and in the end, I’m only being myself, I just embrace the opportunity & do as much as I can and give back as much as I can
    • Take responsibility for your team’s hopes & dreams (Leadership part 3), so..
      • Are you shying away from responsibility, or rather rising up to it & embracing it?
      • Are you leading a team, but still part of a community?
      • Are you leveraging the platform you have in order to positively influence your team’s performance?
      • Are you being yourself, allowing your true self to shine through?
      • How are you giving back?
  • @ 3m50s; the number one piece of advice I give to kids is that they can accomplish anything they want in life, don’t allow anyone else to tell you otherwise if you’re willing to work for it! That’s the truth, we can all be whoever we want to be as long as we’re willing to work for it. There’s no mountain that too high or task that’s too great!
    • If you can can dream it you can achieve it, so..
      • What’s your dream? Personal, Professional, and team?
      • How have you communicated it & how do you remind yourself & the team on a daily basis?
      • Is everyone putting in “the hard yards”? Is it a true team effort?
      • How hungry are you? How hungry is your team?
  • @ 4m25s; no Quarterback that’s too short.. impossible.. I’ll never let those people get the best of me.. they’ve been telling me that all my life!
    • It’s all about belief, so..
      • How much do you & your team believe in your dream or vision?
      • What are the reaffirming tools that are in place to make sure that the belief stays strong?
  • @ 5m00s; I’m supposed to be the calm, cool & collected one.. but that’s what I like about it.. going outside the norm, outside the box and something I started two years ago.. a special rally cry that get’s you going..
    • It’s all about communication & innovation (Leadership part 4), so..
      • When things aren’t working, how are you stepping outside the box to find new solutions?
      • How are you rallying your team?
      • What is your own unique & secret “rallying cry”?
  • @ 5m45s; that once you’re in that huddle, you’re part of a brother hood, now we’re going to go out onto that field & we have to play together, trust each other and win together
    • It’s all about teamwork, unity & trust, so..
      • What’s your “huddle” routine? How often & when do you look each other in the eyes & set the course of the next play that’s going to score you a touchdown?
      • What’s your pulse check to make sure everyone senses the responsibility of a “brotherhood” and steps up their game?
      • What’s your method of creating transparency that has everyone “play together” & trust one another enough to “pick-up the ball & run with it” when your teammate has fallen or faltered?

At the 13m50s mark, Drew talks about the perspective that an injury brought him early in his career. A downward cycle in his life that became a moment of reflection and gave him heightened perspective. A “time-out” of sorts, that possibly allowed him to gather his thoughts, strengthen his conviction and put together a master plan built on the sweat & tears of good old hard & honest work. A moment of reflection, that led him to stand on top of the biggest stage of his life only a few shorts hours ago.

What are the simple lessons you can learn from this interview, and from his story?

Customer Service Do’s & Don’ts

February 1, 2010 3 comments

This past weekend I blogged about my poor customer service experience with Vueling, a Spanish low-cost airline who up until recently, based on personal experience, had been a shining example of innovation & customer service. Having completed the weekend experience on last night’s 21h45 flight back to Barcelona, allow me to recap where they went wrong & what they could have done better..

  • Initial Booking & On-line Check-in
    • What didn’t work
      • Joint booking assigned seats in different rows when plane seats are 80% unassigned
    • How it could be improved
      • Reservation engine that assigns seats considering joint bookings when seats are free
      • * side-note; the flight ended up being only at 70% capacity when it took off, which made matters worse.. obviously we then moved to adjoining seats
  • Response to Customer Complaint
    • What didn’t work
      • Getting a response (to my blog) in the name of the Vueling CEO telling me to look at their Cost Savings Policy as a justification.. totally irrelevant (I hope!!) to the topic at hand..
    • How it could be improved
      • I wrote the complaint in English & therefore being responded to in English would have helped.. fortunately I’m fluent in Spanish as well
      • A Customer Service representative that actually read my complaint and responded with an appropriate/relevant solution or explanation, instead of just treating me “like another complaint” that they’re obviously not going to action or follow-up
      • A response directly to me via my twitter post, as EasyJet did, instead of a broadcast message
      • Sign as “Customer Service Representative” instead of “Vueling CEO”
  • Return flight experience
    • What didn’t work
      • Again sitting in seats which weren’t adjoined.. seated across the isle this time, and again, as flight was 90% full, we switched to adjoined seats after take-off
      • ** Interestingly enough, by my wife giving up her seat, we were able to reunite another family who had been broken up by the same irrational policy
      • During one of the worst turbulent flights I’ve ever experienced, there was (1) no warning, (2) no acknowledgment or (3) any information about how much longer the turbulence might last.. I guess our safety & well being are also part of their Cost Saving measures (?!?!)
      • ** Compare this to an Iberia flight from São Paulo earlier this month when before embarking on a +9h flight.. still on the tarmac, the pilot advised that there would be turbulence at about the 6h30 mark into the flight.. ironically enough, Iberia now has a majority shareholding in Vueling through their initial low-fare interest Clickair
    • How it could be improved
      • Same as above in what concerns seating reservation engine.. it’s a simple few lines of code in their booking engine software that automatically allocate the next two available adjoining seats within a policy of rear to front seating assignment policy to try & persuade passengers to buy their seating arrangement
      • The plane had just crossed the same flight path within the last 45 to 60 minutes as the same crew that landed in Ibiza at 21h00 took us back at 21h45.. therefore.. (1) a small warning before taken-off about the violent turbulence ahead that might have saved a few very frightened passengers the shock of their lives.. (2) a warning just before we hit the violent turbulence as unfortunately these days people don’t take much notice of “only” lighting up the seat-belt signs.. (3) an acknowledgment that this turbulence is going to last another 20 minutes, which at least reassures me that it’s “under control” instead of allowing my creative imagination to start thinking about my will which I haven’t updated!

I can’t accept the argument that just because it’s a low-fare airline nothing can be done about it! Back in October of last year I had an issue with EasyJet and they went about it in a completely different fashion.

What did they do right?

  • Acknowledged my complaint
  • Followed-up when I wasn’t satisfied with their first attempt
  • Did something (corrective action) about it
  • Subsequently followed up to keep me informed as to their continuing efforts to improve customer service

It’s not really all that hard folks! It’s just a matter of listening 1st, engaging 2nd & taking corrective action 3rd.. the follow-up (4th) is a nice “icing on the cake”, or “the cherry on top” depending on how you prefer your cake 😉

This was an obvious Customer Service Experience gone wrong, and a lost opportunity to set the record straight. I’m actually a very forgiving customer, unless I feel that I’ve been totally disrespected. For those of you out there with company’s of your own, how effective is your customer service? Don’t just assume & be happy when you’re not receiving complaints, silence is not necessarily a good sign! (see below)

Can you afford the non returning customers? Is it really more cost effective to pay 4 times more (common industry bench-mark) for new customer acquisition than customer retention?

How an “Elevator Pitch” & is like Public Speaking

January 28, 2010 1 comment

A good mate of mine Conor Neill recently “enrolled” me to help him facilitate his Persuasive Speaking workshops, with which he’s very successfully engaged by the likes of big corporations & leading Executive MBA programs such as those at IESE.

Is he good at what he does? Well let’s just say that

  1. I chose the word “enroll” because that’s just what he does
  2. If you don’t believe me have a glimpse at his blog & get a taste for yourself
  3. This blog article is actually a part of a “homework assignment”

In a nutshell, what I’ve taken away from our frequent conversations is that Persuasive Speaking is all about getting people to do things that they wouldn’t typically do. And writing about Elevator Pitches & Public Speaking is not something I commonly do, so I guess you get my point 😉

Further on this topic, I want to leverage an HBR article I read this weekend on “The Elevator Pitch”, as I believe it bridges perfectly onto the topic of Pubic Speaking, and I would even dare say Persuasive Speaking itself.

The article starts off with the accounts of a famous casual encounter between an entrepreneur & Warren Buffet outside The Plaza Hotel in NYC, and how with one short sentence, he kicked the door of opportunity wide open! It goes on to describe the Elevator Pitch as “the ability to successfully deliver a quick and concise explanation of your case”. Now that sounds like the strong basis for a public speech, or even a persuasive conversation!

As I read further, I picked up the following points:

  • Grab the attention of listeners, convincing them with the promise of mutual benefit, and setting the stage for follow-up
  • Speak in terms your audience can relate to
  • And communicate with the passion that comes from knowing that this opportunity may never come again

How am I doing so far? Do you know of anyone who would sit through 90 minutes of chatter that didn’t fulfill on at least the above? Now allow me to continue with the following key tips of a successful elevator pitch as presented in the article:

  • Know the goal
  • Know the subject
  • Know the audience
  • Organize the pitch (a.k.a. speech)
  • Hook them from the opening
  • Plug into the connection
  • Presentation matters
  • Incorporate feedback

Again, sounds like the routine I often go through, tick-off & rehearse before I get up in front of any audience, even when it’s an audience of ONE.

Further supporting my rational, Milo O. Frank, author of How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, suggests looking at each of the points in an extended presentation as individual 30-second messages. “During the two, three, five, or ten minutes that your speech lasts, you’ll have an opportunity to ask—and answer—several provocative questions, paint more than one picture, use more than one personal anecdote or experience”.

Now I’ll be the first one to admit that public speaking hasn’t come easily for me. A naturally introverted personality, as much as that may surprise the majority of the people I’ve engaged in the past, it’s taken me allot of hard work, discipline, practice & allot of receptiveness to constructive criticism to get me to where I am. Over the course of time, and many mistakes along the way, I will be the first one to admit that anytime I didn’t tick-off each of the above bullets, I walked away from my engagement very disappointed with m performance.

So what do you think? Have I made my case? It was allot longer than a 30 second elevator pitch, but then again I’m still working at getting better at it! 😉