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Lucky's Blog

This blog has been created to keep our customers, partners and friends up to date with pertinent information relating to our industry, technical or otherwise. It will also keep everyone up to date with M.C. Dean's ever expanding capabilities. Thanks to all my followers and I hope you find this blog both helpfull and informative. Best Regards: Lucky Drake

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stage Right?

One thing that all people in the service industry must remember is that you are on stage. I just finished reading a book by Lee Cockrell called Creating Magic. It is an outstanding book that I recommend to anyone who is in the service industry or has any interest in building a successful team. In this book he quotes his wife as saying that “Everyone is watching and judging you”. This parallels the same guidelines I have expressed to my team; that you are always on stage so you better get it right.

In a previous blog post “First impressions” I speak about a company that got it wrong when they were on stage. I expressed the importance of making sure that all team members understand that they are representing the company’s brand every minute that they ‘fly the company’s banner’, through a shirt logo, truck signage, or just plain conversation. If you are connected to the company in any way, either at work, or on your own personal time, you are representing the company brand and people are watching.

I have shared a story with my team members over the years that will demonstrate this better than I could ever explain it: There was a young man, we will call him Bob, who had started his own electrical company at the very young age of 19. Bob had struggled for the first year trying to break into the construction world and make relationships with contractors in the area. He had done everything right. He spent time on branding and marketing to make sure his name was out there and that everyone knew what his company was all about. He spent time at the local associations getting to know everyone and waiting for the chance to bid the right project that would catapult his company into the big leagues. You see Bob wasn’t looking to just put numbers on the street. He was looking for partners in the industry.

Finally he got his chance. A local company that had a reputation for only hiring quality contractors had contacted Bob about getting together a price for an upcoming project. They sent him a huge pre-qualification package to fill out prior to receiving the plans to make sure that Bob’s company fit into the mold of the type of contractors this GC dealt with. This company had a great reputation for never using low bid contractors, and was focused on building long term business partners to work together building quality high value projects, the exact customer Bob had been searching for. Bob spent quite a bit of money putting together the perfect prequalification package that would illustrate his commitment to quality and value. The company was impressed and signed Bob on to the bid list.

Bob spent nearly three weeks putting together this bid. He build this job several times over in his head to make sure that every value was considered and had pages of notes on ways to improve the efficiency of the project as well as many ‘value engineered’ portions to get better performance out of the overall design. Bob knew this was his shot to not only impress the client, but also to become a real player in the industry. This was a high level, well known project that many long-time contractors wanted, and only the best would have a chance at getting.

Once Bob completed his entire proposal package he made the call and to his delight, the customer told him to come in on Tuesday for a meeting and a short presentation of Bob’s vision for this project.

Bob was nervous. The gravity of this presentation would set forth the entire future of his company and would set Bob up for many more opportunities with this client. On Tuesday morning Bob got up early, put on his best suit, and spent time rehearsing his pitch in front of the mirror. Bob looked at the time and realized he needed to get going so he wouldn’t want to be late.

As Bob headed out he hit the usual traffic on the expressway. Today seemed more congested than usual and Bob was stressing out. As Bob headed up to a toll plaza he waited in line like everyone else. As he approached the toll booth another car came flying up next to him and cut him off. Bob blew his horn and the other driver made an obscene hand gesture. Being that Bob was already stressed out this set him over the edge, and Road Rage set in. He rolled down his window and started yelling profanities at the driver. As the driver pulled through the toll Bob paid his toll and raced up to the other driver. Bob rolled down his window side by side with the other driver, and was still screaming and swerving at the man who cut him off. Finally, the other driver, realizing that Bob had lost it, made a quick exit and left the highway.

Bob was furious and seething he was so upset. He turned on the radio and tried to cool down. Bob arrived at the client’s office about an hour early and decided to go get a cup of coffee and finish calming down and preparing. After recomposing himself he went into the office and told the receptionist he was there for a meeting and she asked him to take a seat and someone would be right with him. After waiting a few minutes a man came out to meet with Bob. To Bob’s utter horror, it was the same man that had cut him off at the toll booth. The man took one look at Bob, and said I have decided that you are not the type of person my company would like to do business with, “Good Day!” And he turned around and walked away.

Put yourself in Bob’s position. Did he need to act that way? He had left in plenty of time to get to his appointment.

The fallout from Bob’s actions were even worse than just not getting this job, he had destroyed everything he had worked so hard to build, in one moment of rage. And the person he lashed out at was a person of great influence in the industry which would have long lasting effects.

Always remember that you never know who your next customer is, or where they might come from. You are always on stage and should act accordingly. While we can all agree that Bob’s actions are wrong in any walk of life, sadly for him, his story quite clearly illustrates the point that you are always on stage, and you are always being watched, so you better get it right!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Process versus Persecution

Throughout some recent experiences I have had, I am seeing a disturbing trend in the way managers are implementing rules in their organizations. Fear seems to be more the norm in today’s market for enforcing company policies. The idea being that if someone is afraid of losing their job, they will be more apt to follow directions to the letter. In my opinion, all this does is instill a profile of an abused personality.

If we stop to think about it for a minute you will begin to understand my view on this type of philosophy. I can remember a long time ago a friend of mine had a small Dalmatian dog. The dog was not very well behaved and my friend was not a very patient person. Every time the dog would go to the bathroom in the house he would hit the dog with a rolled up paper and scream at him, “Stupid dog”! Eventually it got to the point that when my friend would come home, the dog would run from him urinating across the floor as he retreated in fear. A perfect example of how fear and negative re-enforcement doesn’t work on animals.

People will respond in the same way if you use fear in an attempt to control them. If you constantly degrade your team and keep them in fear for their jobs, there is a limited amount of possible outcomes: One, the team member will look for a new place to work where their talents are appreciated. Two, the team member will try and hide or cover up mistakes, to avoid reprisal. Or three, the team member will seek out the negative attention, since that is the only acknowledgement they receive, similar to the behavior of a long abused person.

You should never attempt to control people. The best way to get results is to catch them doing something right and reward them for this behavior. The reward doesn’t have to be money, or anything that costs the company money. Most people would rather have their leader say “good job” than receive a small token of monetary compensation. Be clear on your expectations, hold them accountable for their performance, and give as much positive re-enforcement as possible. You will end up with a much more efficient team who understands the importance of following company policies and procedures. Support and training will always have better results than fear; and a ‘team’ culture will always be more effective than a boss /employee relationship.

If you continue to have issues with policies being followed you need to analyze the process. More than likely there is a breakdown in the process itself. Ask yourself; are there steps that can be implemented to insure proper procedure is followed? Many times, if you reach out to your team they can help you develop the steps to mitigate the exposure of a process that is not being followed. Asking them for help will have a profound effect on your team. It shows them that you don’t have all the answers and that you need their help. It also lets your team know that this is important to you and not just another policy or procedure. It reinforces the team mentality overall.

There may be circumstances, when policies are not being followed, where you just have a rogue team member. In those cases you have to take the time to analyze the situation and make sure that this is an employee issue and not a process issue. Otherwise, you may make the wrong decision, and that could have adverse affects to your entire team. However, once a rogue employee is identified, you need to remove them from your team as quickly as possible. Once you have removed that employee make sure that you take the time to explain the circumstances to your entire team. Rumors fly fast and furious when someone loses their job in any company. You do not want your team thinking that this employee was removed due to a mistake or a hole in the system. You do not want your team to start being afraid for their jobs. They need to understand exactly what that team member did wrong and why that person was removed.

In the end you want your team to feel comfortable coming to you with issues and making suggestions to improve processes. If you use ‘the fear factor’, all that will happen is that your team will become introverted and start trying to hide, both literally and figuratively, and the last thing you want is to have things being hidden from you. As I always say to my team “I can’t fight what I can’t see”. So make sure that a culture is set forth to encourage unity and collaboration and you will never have to resort to using fear. If your team understands the expectations and processes, has a culture where they can question without reprisals, and believes that you are committed to their success, you should have a team that is dedicated to following the company policies and processes, which leads to everyone’s success.