Monthly Archives: September 2016

Avoid the Whiplash Crash

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What is it? A Whiplash Crash happens when leadership jumps around trying the latest fads in marketing, leadership or customer interaction. It is exhausting and numbing to everyone impacted by this.

Anyone remember Foursquare, where a customer checked into the businesses she visited and the person who checked in the most was the mayor? This was going to be a great way to track customer data and reward frequent guests.

Anyone over Pokemon Go yet?

Anyone try to duplicate the Ice Bucket Challenge sensation with similar success? That happened years ago, by the way.

A Whiplash Crash can send departments into panic mode to capture on the latest and greatest, and frequently, by the time they have the new product or campaign to roll out, the fad is already waning. Frustration ensues and resources are wasted.

Leaders causing a Whiplash Crash will also feel the impact of less respect and willingness to chase the next thing from critical employees. It can become the new version of playing Wolf. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice…

Leadership must realize that chasing fads are not effective in gaining sustained success.

As technology gets faster so do fads. Some fads seem to be gone before they actually arrive! Yes, I talk about how businesses must be agile, but there is a difference.

Agility isn’t chaos.

Being agile is critical in this business climate but that doesn’t mean try everything under the sun to see what sticks. It means once a well-thought out decision is made, implementation is efficient and timely. Seamless transitions are important to growth and success for your business.

Sustained growth is much easier on your staff and more successful than chasing the next best thing. Remember, transitions happen all the time in business, and that’s a good thing. Just be careful to know the difference between an agile shift and a Whiplash Crash.

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The Vanillains, Who Are They?

What or who are Vanillains? You probably work with one close by.

A Vanillain is a boss or fellow employee who just sits there taking up space and barely demonstrates they have a pulse. They do the bare minimum, are loaded with excuses, and shy away from taking any responsibility for anything.

They aren’t bad people, they are just vanilla villains who can completely sap an organization of energy and wreck an organization’s productivity. Vanilla because they aren’t aggressively destructive or abusive toward others, and villains because of how they can rob an organization of performance while being quite stealthy about it.

The Vanillain Boss

Get a mental image of the boss from the movie Office Space. This is the boss who wanders around trying to be engaged and take shallow interest in the employees who report to him. When this boss is asked questions by employees or even his own boss, he will respond with such answers as, “I’ll get back to you, I need to think on that a bit, wow, I never thought about that, let me consider that” and then they never get back to you. When there is a disruption between employees or with an upset customer, this boss never engages to solve the problem.
Imagine the destruction that can be done by this “nice guy” who shows no drive, no inspiration for employees, and no interest in making any changes or improvements.

The Vanillain Employee

Get the mental image of the bespeckled, bald character in the Dilbert cartoon, Wally. This is the employee who refuses to interact with, well, anyone. They don’t like talking to customers, avoid the boss, and usually offer one-word answers to fellow employees. This employee’s desire is to drift into the woodwork and be the invisible paycheck recipient. They are late with tasks; people do their work for them in order to keep a boss off their own back. This employee is the master of upward delegation. They seem so calm and disinterested, you wonder if they even have a pulse.

Wanna name names of those you work with that fit this description? I’m sure you can.

Look, if you want to create a vibrant business culture of excitement and success, the Vanillains need to be shown the door. These folks are beyond rehabilitation and will drain your department without you even knowing how destructive they are until they are let go. Stop accepting Vanillain behavior, for the sake of your team, your customer and the bottom line.

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Seek and Destroy

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When the anticipated grocery store finally opened in town, it was a breath of fresh air. Staff was very well trained on product knowledge and customer service. Employees went out of the way to help customers, and every bagging person offered to take your cart to your car for you.

Fast forward two years. Cashier conversations are more about wanting to go home, complaining about sore feet, and asking for donations to the charity of choice with a frown following your polite denial of that request.

What happened? Turnover and microwave speed of training for the replacements.

What is this going to look like in two more years? Exactly.

It’s high time managers decide to seek and destroy the bad behaviors than can creep into a well-trained staff every time turnover happens.

Train, train, train

What is the difference between the training for opening the location versus the training for replacement employees? First, the commitment. Everyone wants to put their best foot forward with the opening of a new location. The focus on training is better and the training is more consistent.

Second, the original employees are being trained “offline.” The customer (and labor cost) pressure isn’t there. Ask yourself when you are training a replacement employee: Where is your focus? What does your training program look like? Who are your instructors? Here lie the answers to your bad habit creation.

Correct behavior immediately

Bad behaviors are like weeds: Catch them early and they are easy to control, but once they set down roots, the effort to remove them is extensive.

I hear from clients about employees asking for multiple days off during their initial probationary period. My first question is: How did we get here? Taking action on the fourth day off request is four days too late. The first day off request during this initial employment evaluation time is the time to take action to stop bad behaviors.

Hold the bar high

It’s a common tale. Short staffed, difficulty finding qualified applicants, and pressure from employees doing extra duties covering for the open position. At this point, so many managers lower the bar of expectations in order to just fill the position. Don’t look now, but this is the first bad behavior that needs to be destroyed. Once the boss lowers the bar of expectations, everyone else will follow suit.

What bad behaviors do you need to seek and destroy first?

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3 Ways to Become the Curious Leader

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Isn’t technology great? You can watch security cameras from your phone to see how your employees are doing, you can get a computer report on almost every measurement you want to analyze, and you can almost lead from your office. Too many managers are falling into this technology trap. Get out, get involved, and get curious.

Innovation comes from curiosity.

When was the last time you thought about better ways to increase revenue? Better ways to solve problems? Spent time watching employees perform their tasks and thought, “What should we be trying?” Leaders, especially in small businesses, are overwhelmed with the work on their plate and fail to take the time to exercise their curiosity. Get away from the desk and the technology, and walk around with the curious eyes of a newcomer. What answers are you missing because you aren’t curious enough?

Little problems can be the tip of bigger problems.

Investigate. I can’t count the number of times my clients have fired a problem only to realize what they knew was only the tip of the iceberg of problems this employee was causing. When you see a problem, don’t wait for it to go away. Investigate immediately. It is probably an indicator of bigger issues yet to come to the surface. Deal with them now before they become a big hairy issue.

Get to know your employees better while trying to understand what motivates them.

I’d love to tell you what motivates your employees, but the fact is that every employee has a different motivational makeup. Sure, some are similar, but we are in the age of individuality. The more you know about the individual, the more you know what makes them tick, what makes their world important, and what makes them drive just a bit harder. By asking learning questions, your curiosity will unlock and explore opportunities to improve your business through many different ways.

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