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Champion Leadership Blog

Champion Leadership Tip #3 – To Become a Better Leader, Lead Yourself First

I was attending a regular weekly employee meeting of a new client my first day on the project when the entire group of 15, including the company’s owner, recited in unison the company values. Within 10-minutes of that exercise the company owner, in responding to an issue brought up by a team member, violated about three of the values just proclaimed as being important to the organization.

It was a perfect example of why low employee morale was rampant throughout the organization, and a great thing for me to witness to start my coaching and consulting intervention.

In the realm of leadership and developing an organization with high morale and motivation the strategy of “do as I say, not as I do” is a loser.

The highest value a leader can bring to an organization is “congruency.” Congruency is “walking the talk,” “doing what is expected of others,” and being an examplary role model for the espoused values and behaviors that build the foundation of championship organizations.

One of my business mentors, Alan Weiss, The Million Dollar Consultant, said in a workshop once that people “follow what they see in the halls, not what is written on the walls.”

People follow people they respect. People respect people with integrity. Leaders gain integrity by being the role model and modelling the behavior they expect from those they lead. Its virtually impossible for leaders to hold others accountable to expected values and behaviors when they themselves blatantly violate those values.

Therefore, its time to do a self-assessment. As a leader are you showing up consistently as you expect others to show up? Are you fulfilling the values and behaviors t which the organization proclaims its commitment?

How could you be better at leading yourself first? If you were, what message would it send to the rest of your team?

One area I’ve found in which leaders fall short of leading themselves first is procrastination. Two of my present clients came to me to help them fix the challenges they were facing in their business because they themselves had procrastinated on key issues. Their inability to stop procrastinating caused low morale, and low employee engagement throughout their organizations. As simple as it sounds they needed help to end procrastination.

If this is a challenge for you and others in your company, you may want to download a couple of free chapters and an exercise from my End Procrastination NOW! System, available free at this link.

Panera Bread vs. Starbucks? A Contrast In Customer Experiences!

As has probably been apparent in my recent posts I’ve been focusing on the little things in customer service lately (e.g., recent posts such as “It’s the Little Things That Count in Customer Service” and “An Now for a Story About Very Poor Customer Service”).

Last week I found another noteworthy distinctive contrast.

I had the opportunity to meet with a couple of business colleagues to build a deeper relationship on two separate occasions. One I met at a Starbucks and another at Panera Bread in our local area.

Not being a coffee drinker I have no particular affinity for Starbucks other than its a nice casual public place to meet to have a light business discussion and there are enough locations around that its usually a mutually convenient place to meet.

Panera Bread is similar to Starbuck’s in the context of being a nice, clean, comfortable place for a light business meeting with two important contrasts.

One is obvious. Panera is a more comprehensive restaurant with soups and sandwiches, breakfast danish, etc. whereas Starbucks offers coffee and other related beverages and isn’t particularly known for its food options.

The other important distinction between the two is that Panera Bread offers unlimited free, no questions asked, WiFi internet connection. Theoretically one could set up camp in a booth at Panera Bread with a laptop and mobile phone creating a pseudo virtual office. Some of my colleagues have done this, and some do this regularly. A colleague of mine who works in human resources for the Panera Bread tells me that unless the restaurant is extremely busy during standard meal times, no one would think twice of allowing a person, who has not purchased even a soft drink to stay and operate a virtual booth office all day long.

I presume the same could be done at a Starbucks but the biggest difference is Starbucks requires registration through an AT&T mobile account to get an internet connection. Registering a Starbucks card gets you two-free hours of internet time and using the card to purchase something at least once every 30-days gives you another two-free hours. AT&T does offer an unlimited option for a fee.

I understand Starbucks position that it wants to be able to comfortably accommodate customers consistently throughout the day and not have seats taken up by non-paying customers. I would probably feel the same way. I also know that most Starbucks seating areas are significantly smaller and more limited in the number of patrons they can accommodate than Panera Bread.

Panera Bread, on the other hand, has made a corporate decision to build a deep relationship with its potential customers providing them with a perk that has the opportunity to build long-term loyalty. The thought process here is that if the patron is in the restaurant for a long period they have to eat or drink something eventually. Plus they will hold meetings with colleagues who will buy foot and drinks as well.

I am trying not to make a value judgment on either approach as I understand the business model, marketing strategies and limitations of each. I just think its important to point out the distinctions between the two approaches and use it as a point of discussion regarding the pros and cons of each to learn how we can apply the lessons to our own businesses.

What are your thoughts? (If you needed a virtual office with internet access outside of your main office are you a big enough coffee drinker and a fan of Starbucks to go through the card registration process at a Starbucks? Or, would you be more like me to want the simplicity of Panera Bread’s approach to be able to just sit down, open the laptop, connect and get to work?)

Please leave a comment if you are inspired to do so.

And Now for a Story of Very Poor Customer Service

My previous post discussed an outstanding customer service, first impression experience I had recently. Today I write about the opposite.

I was facilitating a training program for a client, a regional non-profit, that was using the conference room at a regional business services organization. After our session we needed to schedule a couple of follow up dates so I went to the front counter to inquire as to availability.

poor_customer_serviceThe middle-aged woman at the front counter who knows me from my regular networking events in the area greeted my request with what I would call “less than welcoming enthusiasm.”

Immediately upon pulling out the facility’s conference room scheduling book, a disco music tone begins to emanate from a purse under the desk. With a grumble the woman moves quickly for her cell phone, looks diligently at the caller ID and decides to answer the phone with absolutely no acknowledgement that she is inconveniencing the person she is serving standing in front of her.

It was difficult for me to discern if the call was personal or business, but my sense was that it was personal. The call and the distraction took only about 30- seconds and wasn’t a major inconvenience, but I felt ignored and unimportant through the entire transaction, even after she came to focus on my request. There was no apology upon returning from the phone call, through which I had just stood witnessing wondering how long it would be ’til I confirmed my conference room dates.

I’m not sure what she would have done in that instance if the main phone to the office rang while I was there and she was juggling her cell phone. It would have been interesting to witness, though I’m sure.

I’m wondering if my familiarity with the woman impacted her actions and poor choice of behavior, or if this is the norm and would have been the same if it were a new prospective customer was standing in front of her.

This is the type of poor customer service I may have expected from a teenager behind the counter of a movie theater or a retail store, but not a middle-aged woman behind the desk of a large regional business service organization.

Hmm, what to do, what to do? Any suggestions?

Champion Leadership Tip #2 – Even an 8-Year-Old Knows It’s About “Belief”

James, an 8-year-old boy, was sitting in the front row of a small class room in which he and 15 other Martial Arts students were listening to my workshop on becoming a Champion Leader.

A few minutes into an estudents as leadersxercise in which I asked the students to list people whom they knew that they believed were great leaders, James raised his hand to ask a question. When I recognized him, he asked, “can I put ‘me’?kids as champion leaders

To which I said, “James, that is an outstanding question and one I’m glad you asked because that may be the most important lesson I am going to teach tonight. Yes, you should put ‘me’ on your list because if you want to be a great leader you must believe you are a great leader.”

As the old saying goes, “from the mouths of babes…”

Do you believe you are a great leader?

You may feel uncomfortable proclaiming yourself a great leader as being braggadocious, or feel you just don’t have the experience to make such a claim.

Get over it!

To become a great leader you must believe you have great leadership tendencies within you, and you do. Own it, take responsibility for it, and look for ways to develop the outstanding leader within.

Believing you are an emerging great leader will give you the empetus to take the steps necessary to develop the skills necessary.

Champion Leadership Tip #2 – Exercise:

Before you move on to the next task of the day upon completing reading this post, write down three experiences you have had in your life that are positive references that you either, a) are a great leader, or b) have the potential to be a great leader.

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Little Things Make a Big Impression When It Comes to Customer Service at Vanacore, Debenecticus, et. al.

Often times when I walk into a company for a meeting, whether it be a marketing call on my behalf or a client consulting session I am usually offered a beverage by someone in the company. Sometimes the offer doesn’t come until I meet with my party, other times it comes when I am greeted by reception and I am waiting for my party to arrive.

Today, with regards to customer service I experienced something completely new, different and most importantly – exceptional and memorable

The company is one of the largest and most prestigious CPA firms in the Hudson Valley Region of New York – Vanacore, DeBenedictus, DiGovanni and Weddell.

After the “Director of First Impressions” greeted me from behind her open window at the reception counter, she promptly called my party to let him know I had arrived, she handed me a menu of beverages. This menu was presented to me as if it were a wine list at a fine restaurant. The options included soft drinks, coffee, tea, sparkling water, and regular water. I chose plain water.

A few moments later she walked out to the waiting area and handed me a real glass full of water. Usually I am proffered a paper or plastic cup, or a coffee mug with water. This was an impressive drinking glass.

In my business consulting I encourage my clients to focus on the “fundamentals” to achieve market differentiation. In football they call it “blocking and tackling,” in ice hockey its skating and stick handling, in basketball its the free-throws and blocking out under the basket. Every sport has them and all businesses have them.

My musical hero Bruce Springsteen wrote a song a long time ago which is rarely, if ever played, called “It’s the Little Things That Count.” It relates to personal relationships but is just as pertinent in the business setting.

So, today, my vote for a “Champion Business” goes to Vanacore, DeBenedictus, DiGovanni and Weddell based in Newburgh, NY for the presentation of a beverage “menu” to its guests, offered by their “Director of First Impressions.” Great job!

Another simple example is something I encourage one of my clients to do just a few weeks ago. They had a very impersonal way of answering the phone and I encouraged them to change it so that the greeting included:

  1. “Thank You for Calling xxxxxx company”
  2. This is (Insert First Name)
  3. How may I help you today…

Within one week the positive feedback they received was tremendous. Approximately seven people who called in to the company made comments about how pleasant and welcoming the new greeting made them feel.

So, what are the “little things” in your business that for little or no cost and little additional effort, you could easily raise the bar on the impression you make on your clients, prospects and competitors? Pick one today and start working on it.

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