May 2nd, 2011
Having an effective reward program in place can help solve many of your HR issues.
Every compnay needs a strategic reward system for employees that addresses these four areas: compensation, benefits, recognition and appreciation. The problem with reward systems in many businesses today is twofold: They’re missing one or more of these elements (usually recognition and/or appreciation), and the elements that are addressed aren’t properly aligned with the company’s other corporate strategies.
A winning system should recognize and reward two types of employee activity-performance and behavior. Performance is the easiest to address because of the direct link between the initial goals you set for your employees and the final outcomes that result. For example, you could implement an incentive plan or recognize your top salespeople for attaining periodic goals.
Rewarding specific behaviors that made a difference to your company is more challenging than rewarding performance, but you can overcome that obstacle by asking, “What am I compensating my employees for?” and “What are the behaviors I want to reward?” For example, are you compensating employees for coming in as early as possible and staying late, or for coming up with new ideas on how to complete their work more efficiently and effectively? In other words, are you compensating someone for innovation or for the amount of time they’re sitting at a desk? There’s obviously a big difference between the two.
The first step, of course, is to identify the behaviors that are important to your company. Those activities might include enhancing customer relationships, fine-tuning critical processes or helping employees expand their managerial skills.
When business owners think of reward systems, they typically put compensation at the top of the list. There’s nothing wrong with that, since few people are willing or able to work for free. But the right strategy should also include an incentive compensation plan that’s directly linked to the goals of your company for that period. You might want to include some type of longer-term rewards for key individuals in your organization. Historically, this has often included some form of equity ownership.
Benefits are another type of reward in a strategic reward system, and your employees are definitely going to notice the types of benefits you provide. Companies that don’t match or exceed the benefit levels of their competitors will have difficulty attracting and retaining top workers. This is one reason an increasing number of businesses are turning to professional employer organizations like Administaff to gain access to a broader array of company benefits.
However, you can’t diminish the importance of recognition and appreciation as integral components of a winning strategic reward system. These two elements rarely receive the attention they deserve from business owners, which is amazing because they’re the low-cost/high-return ingredients. Employees like to know whether they’re doing good, bad or average, so it’s important that you tell them.
Recognition means acknowledging someone before their peers for specific accomplishments achieved, actions taken or attitudes exemplified through their behavior. Appreciation, meanwhile, centers on expressing gratitude to someone for his or her actions. Showing appreciation to your employees by acknowledging excellent performance and the kind of behavior you want to encourage is best done through simple expressions and statements. For example, you might send a personal note or stop by the employee’s desk to convey your appreciation. Another approach is to combine recognition and appreciation in the form of a public statement of thanks in front of the employee’s co-workers or team, citing specific examples of what they’ve done that has positively impacted the organization.
Now that you know what it should include, it’s time to review your strategic reward system. Does it address compensation, benefits, recognition and appreciation? Is it aligned with your remaining business strategies? Is it driving the right behaviors for your company, as well as your performance goals? If it needs fixing, don’t wait. It can mean the difference between your business’ success and failure.
April 14th, 2011
Treat returning customers right and they’ll return the favor.
Loyal customers can be an important driver of sustainable business growth. They’re usually much less price-sensitive, can be nearly immune to competitive entreaties, and can become a powerful marketing arm, going out of their way to promote and defend your company online and off — for free.
If you’re looking for ways to foster greater customer loyalty, consider these tips.
1. Anticipate customer wishes. When a customer’s need is met before it has been expressed, it sends the message that you care about the customer as an individual. It doesn’t require telepathic ability, just paying attention and knowing your customers.
It’s well worth the effort. The cared-for feeling a customer gets when her wishes are anticipated is where you can generate the fierce loyalty.
For example: Instead of putting up one of those generic signs saying “If our restrooms need attention, please notify the staff,” Charlie Trotter’s famed restaurant in Chicago long ago decided on a proactive system: They themselves discreetly check the towels and soaps after every use, thus never leaving the next guest’s experience at the whim of the last, nor ever putting a guest in the awkward position of having to ask for supplies or maintenance.
- Related: Building a Business in the “Thank You” Economy
2. Hire with patience. In an organization aiming for superb service, a single disagreeable or unresponsive team member can erode customer loyalty and team morale. That’s why it can be better to leave a position unfilled, rather than rushing to hire someone unsuitable. More broadly, customer service excellence is most fully achieved when a business owner becomes expert at recruiting and training service personnel.
3. Develop a customer-service vocabulary. Create and rehearse a list of vocabulary words and expressions that fit your brand perfectly. Cut out all off-brand language.
For example, the expression “no worries” may sound fine from a clerk at a Portland audio equipment store, but not from a salesperson at Cartier in Milan.
What’s more, search out and replace any vocabulary words that could bruise customer feelings. For instance, avoid telling a customer: “You owe us.” Try instead: “Our records seem to show a balance. . .” Employees of some successful companies carry pocket-sized cards with handy reminders of recommended and discouraged phrases to use in a variety of common scenarios.
- Related: Four Ways to Improve Customer Service
4. Dedicate yourself to acknowledging each returning customer. Whatever your business and its size, get to know each customer as well as a beloved bartender, doorman, or hairstylist would. For example, the kind who would know each customer’s preferences, the name of her pet, when she was in last and other details.
Computer-assisted client-tracking systems — and an attentive staff — can help create that same “at home” feeling in your customers — regardless of the size and price point of your business, and whether it’s an online or bricks-and-mortar operation.
5. Make every hello and goodbye perfect. Psychological studies demonstrate that customers remember the first and last minutes of a service encounter much more vividly — and for much longer — than all the rest. The first and final elements of your customer interactions should be particularly well-engineered, because they are going to stick in the customer’s memory.
- Related: Three Ways to Speak Engaging Social Conversations
6. Speed up your service. Modern customers expect speedier service than did any generation before them. Not only speedier than their parents expected, but even than they themselves expected last year. In the age of iPhones and Amazon.com, you may as well not deliver your product or service if you’re going to deliver it late.
7. Show your personality. When customers choose to interact with a person at your company, they want the transaction to be, well, human — even in an online interaction.
For example, why send emails to customers from a Please-do-not-reply-to-this address? Instead, if possible, invite recipients, even of your mass emails, to respond directly — and, of course, make sure someone answers those replies when they come.
- Related: Making Email Newsletter More Social
February 15th, 2011
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
It’s not what you have but what you do with what you have that will determine your success or failure. Abraham Maslow, the great psychologist said that the story of the human race is the story of people selling themselves short. He said people have a tendency to settle for far less from life than they are truly capable of. Many people are spinning their wheels in careers where they should be moving rapidly onward and upward. Here’s how you can put your career on the fast track.
Choose Your Parents Carefully
Someone once said that the key to success was to choose your parents carefully. That may be partially true but it is even more important to choose your job or career with great care. The choice of a job or occupation for which you are ideally suited comes before anything else. If you try to work at something you don’t enjoy or don’t believe in, you’ll never be happy, and you’ll never be successful.
Be the Best At What You Do
Which leads us to the next point. If you want to reach the stars in your career, you have to become excellent at what you do. You have to pay any price, go any distance, spend any amount of time necessary to “be the best.” Extraordinary rewards only go for extraordinary performance; average rewards for average performance; below average rewards, insecurity and failure for below average performance. And here’s a vital key, you are being paid today exactly what you’re worth – no more, no less. If you want to earn more, you must increase your worth, your value to others.
The Key to Motivation
The reason why choosing the right career, why doing what you love to do is so important, is because unless you really care about your work, you will never be motivated to persist at it until you become excellent. And until you become excellent at what you’re doing, you can’t move ahead.
The Key to Peak Performance
The antidote to these fears is the development of courage, character and self-esteem. The opposite of fear is actually love, self-love and self-respect. Acting with courage in a fearful situation is simply a technique that boosts our regard for ourselves to such a degree that our fears subside and lose their ability to effect our behavior and our decisions.
Here are two things you can do to be more successful in your career.
First, set high standards for yourself and recognize that anything that someone else has achieved, you can probably achieve as well. There are no limits.
Second, select one key skill area that is important in your job and resolve to become absolutely excellent in that area. Start today to get better and better.
February 14th, 2011
John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn’t, the girl with the rose. His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library. Taking a book off the shelf he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind.
In front of the book, he discovered the previous owner’s name, Miss Hollis Maynell. With time and effort he located her address. She lived in New York City. He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond. The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II
During the next year and one-month the two grew to know each other through the mail. Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart. A Romance was budding. Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn’t matter what she looked like.
When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting – 7:00 pm at Grand Central Station in New York.
“You’ll recognize me, ” she wrote, “by the red rose I’ll be wearing on my lapel.” So at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he’d never seen.
I’ll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened: A young women was coming toward me, her figure long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive. I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose. As I moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips. “Going my way, sailor?” she murmured. Almost uncontrollably I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Hollis Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the girl. A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes. The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. I felt as though I split in two, so keen was my desire to follow her, and yet so deep was my longing for the women whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own
And there she stood. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible; her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. I did not hesitate. My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever be grateful.
I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the women, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment. “I’m Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?”
The women’s face broadened into a tolerant smile. “I don’t know what this is about, son,” she answered, “but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!”
It’s not difficult to understand and admire Miss Maynell’s wisdom. The true nature of a heart is seen in its response to the unattractive. “Tell me whom you love,” Houssaye wrote, “And I will tell you who you are.”
October 21st, 2010
Richard Branson: The Importance of Not Being Earnest
The famous British billionaire says having fun should be an essential part of your business.
By Richard Branson | October 20, 2010
The four P’s — people, product, price and promotion — are often cited as the keys to a successful business. Yet this list omits a vital ingredient that has characterized Virgin companies throughout our 40 years: Fun, with a capital F.
When we started Virgin Atlantic in 1984, we had some great people and lots of good ideas about how to do things differently . Sadly, we did not have a lot of money to take it to the streets. Compared to the giant establishment players of the time — TWA, Pan-Am and British Airways — we had a tiny fleet, if one plane qualifies as a fleet, and a miniscule advertising budget.
We could not do much about the single plane — leased from a generous man at Boeing. We had to make the most of our meager marketing money. At the urging of the late Sir Freddie Laker, who made an art form of grabbing the limelight for his airline, I quickly became a willing victim in all kinds of wild and crazy adventures to promote the fledgling Virgin Atlantic. You couldn’t buy a quarter-page ad on the front of The New York Times, but when my sinking boat or crashing balloon just happened to feature the distinctive Virgin logo, there we were.
We also started to run some funny, pretty direct and usually highly topical advertisements to grab the public’s attention.
Such “in your face” ads were largely unknown in the stodgy world of airlines, so our approach quickly gained us notoriety, press coverage and, above all, visibility. The humor stood out against our moribund competitors, and soon Virgin Atlantic itself — not just the ads –became synonymous with a cheeky and upstart personality and, more importantly, a fresh, different approach to commercial aviation.
Marketing teams in London and New York frequently reacted quickly to the day’s news and, within 24 hours, placed tactical-response advertisements in key markets. The day after John Sununu, then White House chief of staff, was castigated for using public money for a limousine to take him on personal trips, Virgin ran a one-off ad saying if only he had booked Virgin Atlantic, he would have gotten the limo for free!
When Gen. Manuel Noriega, the former leader of Panama, was extradited to Miami for trial, we ran a big picture of him, with the caption, “Only one person has flown to Miami cheaper than on Virgin Atlantic!” Sometimes the ads were close to the bone, especially when tweaking the tail of our favorite adversaries, like British Airways. Always, they were irreverent and cheeky. The ads gave the airline a real personality in its early years, which was a key to its success and growth.
Our staff also liked the humor, and the sense of fun. They felt proud to be associated with a company that made people smile and that was seen as a good place to work. We made sure the same spirit ran through everything we did; it was not confined to the cute advertisements. It was crucial that we created an enjoyable atmosphere for crew and passengers alike, at 30,000 feet.
Little touches signified you were on a Virgin flight. Underneath the salt and pepper shakers, modeled on mini-airplanes, we stamped “Pinched from Virgin Atlantic.” The butter knife was engraved with the words “stainless steal.” We put a bar in the upper class cabin so people could chat and socialize – after all, travelling should be fun!
To entertain our passengers, we were the first to put in seat-back televisions. We served ice cream in the middle of the flights. We did everything we could to lighten the mood and the experience. Twenty-five years later, the airline retains that same sense of fun and the ability to surprise and make people smile.
When British Airways sponsored London’s Millennium Wheel in the late 1990s, they planned to make a big splash for the official opening. On the day the wheel was to be raised, the engineers had great trouble lifting it. We jumped at the chance to cause a stir. We scrambled a small airship to drag a banner across London’s skyline emblazoned with “BA can’t get it up.” It was cheeky, all right, and we – not BA – grabbed the headlines that night.
This sense of humor and risk-taking has infused many of our other businesses. Virgin Mobile Canada produced a series of memorable advertisements poking fun at famous people. When Elliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York, resigned over a sex scandal, where he was identified as “client No. 9,” our ads that week showed a picture of Spitzer with a thought bubble proclaiming: “I’m tired of being treated like a number.”
The ads were all about Virgin Mobile’s personalized service. They went on to say: “At Virgin Mobile, you’re more than just a number. When you call us, we’ll treat you like a person, not a client. Whether you’re No. 9 or No. 900, you’ll get hooked up with somebody who’ll finally treat you just how you want to be treated.”
Another ad in the series showed Hillary Clinton with a thought bubble saying, “I wish my bill wasn’t so out of control.”
These ads ran for only short periods of time, but they were picked up in the media and raised the profile of the company and the service.
My books’ titles continue the theme — “Losing My Virginity,” “Screw It, Let’s Do It” and “Business Stripped Bare.” Publishers, however, vetoed “Getting It Up” for my latest book on the history of flight and went for “Reach for the Skies.” We’ll see how it sells!
Over the years I have launched our companies while dressed costumes to amuse our staff, our partners and the press. I have thrown myself off tall buildings, hung off bridges, driven tanks into Times Square and plunged (usually involuntarily) into oceans — all to grab attention and reinforce a sense of fun.
All of it has definitely made an impression and infused that “Virgin feeling” into new ventures. While it is not enough just to be the joker in the pack, if your service and product excel, then making people smile will help you establish a place in their hearts as well as their minds.
Try taking yourself and your business less seriously. You may be surprised that many others will take you more seriously.
August 30th, 2009
Fortunately, problems are an everyday part of our life. Consider this: If there were no problems, most of us would be unemployed. Realistically, the more problems we have and the larger they are, the greater our value to our employer.
Of course, some problems are small, like opening a ketchup bottle. Others are monumental like a seriously ill or injured child or mate, which present ongoing, daily complications. Successful living comes when we learn to handle those business and personal problems with as little fanfare as possible. The successful business executive can handle challenges and solve problems at a remarkable clip. He/she makes quick and final decisions as a result of years of experience. The homemaker with small children at home handles many “catastrophes” each hour with the same dispatch.
Many people use counter-productive methods to deal with problems: They refuse to recognize them, deny responsibility for them, pretend they will go away if they ignore them, or are just flat insensitive to them. The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist. Next, we determine whether the problem is our responsibility. If the answer is yes, we must determine how serious and/or urgent it is. When that last determination is made, we either take immediate action if the problem is simple and quickly solvable or develop a plan of action and prioritize it if the solution is more difficult and time-consuming.
Problem-solving becomes a very important part of our makeup as we grow into maturity or move up the corporate ladder. I encourage you to take the time to define the problem correctly, learn the skill of quick analysis and remember, if it weren’t for problems in your life, your position might not be necessary in the first place. Ironing out the wrinkles and solving the problems is what most jobs are about. Think about it, and I’ll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!
July 7th, 2009
The Most Important Measure of Success
Being respected by others is very important to each of us. A survey done by the Gallup organization found that the most prominent living Americans rated the respect of others as the most important measure of success in life. They worked very hard to earn the respect of their parents, the respect of their spouses and children, the respect of their peers and colleagues, and the respect of mankind at large.
Why You Respect Yourself
It seems that we truly respect ourselves only when we feel that we are respected by others, and we will go to great lengths to earn and keep that respect. When we feel that someone respects us for who we are and what we have accomplished, we tend to be more open to that person’s influence.
Two Things You Can Do
We can do two things to put ourselves in a position to be respected by others. The first is to develop our knowledge of our field. The more people perceive you know about your subject, the more they will respect you. The highest-paid people in almost every field are those who know more than the average people. They are recognized as experts, and they develop what is called “expert power.” Because of their superior knowledge, they are looked up to and listened to, and they are much more capable of influencing others to act in a particular way than they would be if their knowledge level were just average.
Know Your Business Well
The best salespeople are those who know their products cold. They deeply understand every aspect of their products and the ways in which their products can be used to achieve the most important goals of their customers.
Develop Your Expertise
Another way to put ourselves in a position of being respected by others is to develop our expertise. Expertise is closely tied to knowledge, but it is a little different. Expertise is the ability to do, the ability to perform well in your chosen field. Men and women with expertise are those who practice over and over in whatever they do until they become known far and wide as the very best in their field.
Here are two things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action:
First, study your field in detail. Dedicate at least one hour per day to reading, listening to audio programs, studying to become more and more knowledgeable about what you do.
Second, continually upgrade your knowledge and skills in your field. Identify your weakest important skill and go to work on that.
Knowledge and know-how are the keys to the 21st century.
June 30th, 2009
As you begin to understand the four styles of communicators and how they act and respond to the world around them, you will be able to better understand your own style and identify the style of the people around you. To help you understand each style, here are a few key descriptions to help you picture each one.
- Moves, acts and speaks slowly
- Avoids risk
- Wants tranquility and peace
- Enjoys teamwork
- Good counseling skills
- Moves, acts and speaks quickly
- Wants excitement and change
- Enjoys the spotlight
- Good persuasive skills
- Moves, acts and speaks slowly
- Wants to be accurate
- Enjoys solitary, intellectual work
- Cautious decision-makers
- Good problem-solving skills
- Moves, acts and speaks quickly
- Wants to be in charge
- Gets results through others
- Makes decisions quickly
- Good administrative skills
© 2007 Tony Alessandra
Always hold your ground In January of 1945, on a French battlefield during World War II, United States 2nd Lieutenant Audie Murphy’s unit was attacked by six tanks and waves of enemy infantry.
What happened next is the stuff of legends.
In the face of a seemingly insurmountable enemy and against all odds, Audie Murphy grabbed a .50-caliber machine gun and, with bullets flying past him, held his ground.
His heroic actions saved the lives of the men in his unit and earned him recognition as a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.
What’s more, Murphy, as countless other Medal of Honor recipients before and after him, forged an epic legacy and left an indelible success lesson from which we can all learn and benefit: Always hold your ground.
June 16th, 2009
Managers every where are seeking the best ways to manage through transition. When a manager is presented with impending changes they must quickly set aside their own fears to carefully communicate and manage through turbulent times.
When you think about It all, it is really is a situation that is just an extension of the problems of managing your public persona as you go through transitions in your own life. You decide what personality traits will help you to find confidence defining your delivery style and how well information is received.
Our words have consequences, and so do the moments when we are silently communicating. We think of ourselves as being a particular type of person but from other’s points of view, we may be seen as a messenger without feelings for fears that may develop in others when they learn about upcoming transitions.
To fully comprehend how others may feel about your upcoming meeting announcing change in your company’s workforce or the company’s structure as they know it today, take quiet time to think about your staff. Who will be most affected? What was the reaction when other changes were previously communicated? What did you learn from those experiences? How did you feel? Review your points of communication but do not rehearse it because may run the risk of being viewed as cold and insensitive. Schedule follow up meetings with open communication. If necessary, invite those subject matter experts who are working on major pieces of the transitions that affect your department to provide your team with a fuller understanding.
Managing Transition Objectives
1) Be sensitive about the personal impact that an upcoming transition may present to others.
2) Ask for help from Human Resources, your peers and your boss when you need support.
3) Be a positive change agent and recruit others to help with the progression of change.
4) Hold meetings to recognize each success adoption of change that has worked.
5) Offer incentives to individuals to who have helped speed up acceptance and the implementation of change.
Studies have found that it takes 21 days to change a particular behavior. Review your action plan each day and record successes. Meet with your peers and learn how they are managing through transitions. Realize that changes is inevitable in life and how you manage it will reduce stress. Develop new skills and make learning your top priority. Ask questions and get involved, really understand the “why’s” and “how’s” of the transition.
The overwhelming majority of successful people we work with or know in our lives are generous with both their time and with their advice. Learn, share and grow. Successful people gain energy from each other and become more empowered by witnessing each other’s success. These people understand that whenever they see someone who demonstrates potential, it’s in their self-interest to help that person mature and grow. They don’t become jealous holding another individual down, they understand their successful friend will probably will be one of their best allies in the future. The incentive? Everyone wins!
Attitude has everything to do with our success. Yes, It is possible to win with limited resources, it’s even possible to be successful with limited talent. But it’s absolutely impossible to make it without the right attitude. If an individual is optimistic, confident and positive through their transition then their chances of succeeding are ten fold.
Embrace change, it is here to stay. Let it motivate you to stay on top of your game.
May 26th, 2009
A simple motto hung on the living room wall of my grandparents’ small frame house, where many seeds for my development were planted. My grandmother and grandfather didn’t talk about the lines; they lived them.
Life is like a field of newly fallen snow;
where I choose to walk, every step will show.
They believed you were either honest or you weren’t. There was nothing in between, no such thing as partial honesty. Integrity, a standard of personal morality and ethics, is not relative to the situation you happen to find yourself in and doesn’t sell out to expediency. Its short supply is getting even shorter — but without it, leadership is a facade.
Learning to see through exteriors is a critical development in the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Sadly, most people continue to be taken in by big talk and media popularity, flashy or bizarre looks, and expensive possessions. They move through most of their years convinced that the externals are what count, and are thus doomed to live shallow lives. Men and women who rely on their looks or status to feel good about themselves inevitably do everything they can to enhance the impression they make — and do correspondingly little to develop their inner value and personal growth. The paradox is that the people who try hardest to impress are often the least impressive. Devotion to image is often for the money it can reap. Puffing to appear powerful is an attempt to hide insecurity. If only we could see many of our celebrities when their guard and pretenses were down!
The myth that all that counts is bottom-line success often leads to fleeting stardom and ultimate defeat. Ask a thousand has-beens. There are no degrees of integrity. Just as you’re pregnant or you’re not, you have it or you don’t.
Integrity is 24/7 If you have real, internal value, you don’t need a loud, expensive imitation.
It is not what you get that makes you successful, it is what you are continuing to do with what you’ve got.
Identify with excellence, put your name on your work, and both your work and name will stand the test of time.
It is not so much what the job gives you, it’s what you give to the job.
Give your best effort, because you are worth your best effort.