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As a kid I learned about balance.  I once made Kool-Aid without putting any sugar in it. Add the mix to water and stir. The results were not good.  The reason is the ingredients weren’t in the proper proportion or were missing altogether.  Companies without balance between autonomy and accountability have the same problem: bad results.

So what do we do?  First, let’s define the terms.  Accountability means being held responsible for results and actions while autonomy is having self-directing freedom or being self-governed. Leaders and managers want the former and employees the latter.  Below, you will see a high-functioning team requires both.

The Results
  • Disengagement – Employees with little control over how they do their job and a lack of clarity on the expected outcome won’t be highly engaged.
  • Chaos – Giving employees complete freedom with no guidelines or expectations results in results and processes that are all over the board.
  • Micromanagement – Employees feel they are being micromanaged when there are strict results expected but they have little say on how to do their job including making decisions and suggesting improvements.
  • High-performance – Employees who have reasonable discretion on reaching meaningful, realistic goals create the sweet spot for producing high-performing team.

As you can see, it is crucial that companies balance autonomy and accountability.  First, you must create accountability for people to know the desired outcome and how they will be measured.  And you can only give autonomy to employees who demonstrate they can handle it; this makes hiring the right people important.

Start your journey to high performing teams by first determining what success looks like for the company.  Next, do the same for individual departments and team members.  Then build on that by giving feedback on slowly giving people more freedom in their roles.

If you need help with accountability and autonomy, you can CONTACT US.  Also, you can connect with us on https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/.

Recently, I had two very different experiences with customer service that proved to be a master class in how to deal with customers.  Both situations concerned lost packages, and I spoke with the shipper rather than the company selling the product.  The difference was stark and provides insights on how a company views customer service.

Company A is a large well-known online store that uses its own delivery personnel as well as other carriers.  Company B is a quasi-governmental entity that delivers to every address the U.S.

Interacting with the companies

With Company A, I was able to chat, submit an inquiry online, or ask for a callback.  The response was prompt.  After explaining the situation (lost package), the company immediately sent me a replacement and extended my membership with them by two months for free for the inconvenience.  They took responsibility for contacting the seller and handling any transactions between them.

Company B only gave me the option of filling out an online inquiry and asked for information that I, as the recipient, did not have.  I received a call the next day and was told nothing could be done until the shipment had been delayed for 30 days.  The person I spoke with said she could help me if the package was lost in the city she was in but since it hadn’t been received from their initial shipping facility, she couldn’t help me.  She suggested that I should just have the originating company send me a replacement.

The results

The first company was quick to address the problem and make it easy on me, the customer.  The second suggested that someone else pay for their mistake by replacing the product, had rules that prevented them from helping me, and ultimately yielded the same result as if I never contacted them.  They checked the box and closed the issue without accomplishing anything.

Which company do you think improved my opinion of them and which one didn’t?  Easy call. I will go out of my way not to use Company B.

What does this mean for you?

As you think about your business and its interactions with clients, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do our processes and policies improve or damage our reputation?
  • Do we make it easy for customer to work with us?
  • Is our goal to check the box or resolve the problem for our customer?
  • Is a customer problem an annoyance or an opportunity to build a relationship?
  • If you were a customer of your own company, would your view of your customer service change?

You can improve or damage your reputation with every interaction with your existing customers.  Which are you doing?  Let OPG help you make improvements.  Connect with us at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/ or click here to CONTACT US.

Do you trust your employees?  A better question is whether they trust you.  High-performing teams require trust at all levels of the organization.

A lack of trust limits innovation and collaboration.  It keeps good ideas, good processes, and good people from becoming better. Without trust, people are unwilling to take risks.

Sadly, trust is often lacking, especially as you go down the organization.  A survey of 33,000 people in 28 countries found that 1/3 of employees didn’t trust their employer. Almost 2/3 of executives trust their organizations compared to less than half of staff-level people surveyed.  Workers said they trust their peers more than their executives.

When we talk about trust in the workplace, we normally think about employees or managers being reliable, doing what they said they would do, and being competent in their job.  Hannah Price, in her blog for Jostle.me, calls this “practical” trust.  An organization can’t run without it.

There is another level of trust.  Price calls is “emotional” trust. This is when people believe you are on the same team, support each other, and have some level of vulnerability.  You have each other’s backs.  Emotional trust is where performance kicks into another gear.  Performance requires belief that the leaders trust and support their teams.

With emotional trust, people are willing to take risks.  They feel safe to propose or try something new or different.  They are comfortable challenging how things are done. They know – they trust – that questioning or evening trying and failing, if done for the right reasons, won’t end their careers.  People are willing to step up and take on new responsibilities.

If your team isn’t performing at its potential or innovation is missing, a lack of trust may be the root cause.  Building trust starts with the leaders.  It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen unless you intentionally create it.  High-performing teams require trust.

CONTACT US  or connect at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/  if your team isn’t performing at its best.

A lack of organizational clarity may be the root of many of the issues you face.

Without organizational clarity, you have no accountability.  Team members don’t know what is expected. They don’t know how their performance will be judged. They don’t know what the standard is.

When employees aren’t clear on expectations and outcomes, they operate in the dark.  Fear rather than confidence affects their decisions.

The results are confusion and inefficiency.  Money isn’t spent wisely.  Employees don’t feel the freedom to take care of your customers.  People invest energy creating cover for themselves in the event they are questioned.  Trust is eroded.

Remove doubt and the problems it causes by providing clarity.  Your company will not operate at peak performance until you do.

The question then becomes “how do I create clarity?”

Creating organizational clarity starts with leadership.  Make sure your company vision and values are known.  Create a strategic plan, making sure there are goals and targets that everyone understands.  Every group or department should have known and published key performance indicators so they know if they are doing the right things and doing things right.  Make sure best practices and processes are documented, shared, and enforced.

Clarity doesn’t come without effort.  You may even need outside help to guide you on the journey.  But it is worth it to have a healthy business environment and engaged employees.

If you need help creating clarity in your organization, contact us.  https://opalpg.com/contact-us/

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Do you wish you had more accountability in your organization?  Business owners commonly express the need for more accountability when talking about their challenges.  I have found leaders actually mistake other issues for a lack of accountability.  Leaders build accountability over time using what I call the 4 C’s.

Clarity – Sometimes people mistake accountability for clarity.  People and teams can’t be held accountable if their goals and responsibilities aren’t clear.  You must provide clarity before you can have accountability.

Communication – Team members need to know they can have an open dialog with their manager to discuss issues and ideas.  Likewise, leaders must make themselves available to their teams on a regular basis in both group and one-on-one settings.  Lack of communication can lead to culture and accountability issues.

Coaching – Some managers and leaders struggle with having difficult conversations with team members who aren’t meeting expectations.  People can’t improve without knowing where they fall short.  It is the leader’s responsibility to identify inadequate performance or behavior early and help their team member correct it before it becomes a problem.

Consequences – Sometimes managers jump straight to applying consequences when they ask for accountability.  You have to check yourself on Clarity, Communication, and Coaching first; otherwise, you risk creating a culture of fear.  Fear is the result of people facing consequences without knowing why or being given the chance to improve.  If you have the other three C’s and have built a strong culture, positive peer pressure may address some issues organically on its own.

Accountability isn’t a system or an action.  It is a culture.  Leaders build accountability by consistently providing clarity, having meaningful communication, proactively providing coaching, and only then having consequences if the team isn’t self-correcting.

If you need help building accountability, let a fractional COO help you.  Contact us at https://opalpg.com/contact-us/ or https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/.

Growth: Can you afford it?

“Grow or die!” is a common, well-accepted business principal. Businesses must innovate, stay relevant, seek new customers, add locations, and offer new products.

But growth brings its own challenges. You have more products/services to support. You need more people. Rapid hiring makes maintaining culture harder. New tools and technology – and the time to integrate and use them – are expensive.

Your bottom line may suffer from your growth!

You may need to take steps to grow your bottom line instead of your top line. Eliminate products/services that aren’t profitable. Eliminate processes or activities that don’t add value. Don’t do things just because you’ve always done them. And, as hard as it may be, let go of employees who no longer fit culturally and don’t contribute to you vision.

Your bottom line profitability ultimately decides if you can afford top line growth and how long you can sustain it.

Read more about the good and bad of business growth here:  https://opalpg.com/2018/08/21/growth-good-bad-ugly/

 

Today I read an article that called HR the department responsible “for policing personnel actions and culture.” That struck me as odd.

Corporate culture shouldn’t be policed. Leaders model and nurture it; employees create it.

Culture is the environment and personality of a company. It is the result of thousands of interactions a day between employees in every group at every level.

If the actual culture doesn’t match the stated company culture or values, there is a disconnect that causes confusion – or worse – mistrust.  It is fine to aspire to a desired culture as long as you realize 1) the difference, and 2) that you aren’t there yet.  Mismatch between the stated and actual culture fools no one.

If no one takes ownership for building and managing culture, culture still happens by default.

HR may do things to encourage culture, but a single department can’t force a culture.  HR’s roles are to advise the leadership on issues of culture and to ensure rules and laws relating to personnel are applied correctly.

Some may argue there isn’t much difference between policing and building a culture.  I believe there is huge gulf between the two in terms of approach and attitude.  Do you want to work for a company where culture is policed or one where culture is intentionally created?

Contact us at https://opalpg.com/contact-us/  or http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt if you struggle with building corporate culture.