5 Keys to Protect Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset: Its People

Providing Your Teams the C.A.R.G.O. to Succeed

By: Jason O. Harris

Jason Harris_team memberes

Your company’s most precious cargo is its people.  Each day that you walk into your office, establishment, and organization, you are responsible for cultivating the culture. You are responsible for fostering a workplace culture that is one based on commitment and trust. As you nurture and grow the culture of your workplace, it is imperative that you realize that your most valuable resource—your most precious cargo, as they say in the aviation business—are your people. 

As you look to understand what you can do each and every day to impact your company culture, you need to look at the ways you can best take care of your teams. The foundation of taking care of our people is creating and cultivating a culture of trust. It is only when you cultivate cultures of trust and commitment that you can truly begin to support your company’s most valuable resource: the people within it.

When you provide your people with the right C.A.R.G.O., you will create, promote and cultivate a workplace culture of trust that is bound for success! Click To Tweet

A simple way that you can create the professional environment that you want is to implement a model, the C.A.R.G.O. model, designed to create and nurture the workplace ecosystem that thrives on commitment and trust.

C: Creativity to address challenges

As you look to take care of your people, it is essential that opportunities are provided that allow for creativity. This creativity is useful for many things—primarily in addressing the many challenges that present themselves constantly in the workplace. When you trust and empower your people to harness their creativity to address and solve problems it does many things across the many levels of your organization. Freedom to be creative instills a sense of intrinsic trust and helps to reinforce an employee’s innate abilities and talents. Creativity to address challenges strengthens the case as to why you hired them to work in your organization in the first place. 

A: Access to tools and resources

When the right tools and resources are provided, people know that they have all that they need to succeed. Too often there is an expectation of the people in an organization that cannot be fulfilled due to a lack of resources or support. Effective leaders must be prepared to properly equip their teams with the right people in addition to the right tools and resources to set them up for success. Access to the appropriate tools and assets is imperative to creating and building a company culture that is rooted in trust. 

R: Responsibilities

It is essential that team members are empowered to own their unique responsibilities in an organization. When team members truly own their piece of the daily duties, tasks, and projects, it reinforces the reality that their work really matters.  When your team is aware of their value to the entire operation and that others are counting on them, like a combat aircrew, they will step up and perform to their best abilities. Empowerment of staff, ensuring that the training and processes clearly define and delineate their responsibilities, will lead to an empowered organization. This empowered organization will be full of team members that know what they are responsible for and ready to tackle the tasks at hand. 

G: Goals & Objectives

Goals and objectives of your team(s) and organization have to be plain, clear, and articulated in a way that the team members can understand and appreciate. The best leaders must share the goals and objectives with the team. Your team needs to know that its leaders are fully invested. In turn, it’s necessary for members of your team to share their individual goals and objectives with each other and the leadership. This ensures that everyone holds each other accountable. Beyond holding one another accountable, knowing the goals and objectives of each other allows you to know that everyone is committed, in some shape, form and fashion, for the greater good of the organization and each other.

O: Opportunities for success

As a leader, you must provide the opportunities for your people to succeed. These successes exist as large and small opportunities. When provided with incremental chances to succeed and win, team members will stay engaged and continue to be committed to the organization and the team. Consider opportunities for team members to succeed in the simplest ways, that lead to team wins, that lead to organizational wins. Everyone loves to win. Everyone loves to be on a winning team!

The most precious resource in your organization, the most precious cargo in your aircraft, is your people. As you conduct business each and every day, are you and the leadership team equipping your people to sustain themselves and your organization through the inevitable turbulence that they will encounter en route to accomplish their mission?  When you provide your people with the right C.A.R.G.O., you will create, promote and cultivate a workplace culture of trust that is bound for success!

Jason O. Harris is a leadership and trust speaker, consultant, and certified character coach. As a decorated combat veteran, Jason brings unique perspectives gained from his battlefield experience to your organization. Jason’s No-Fail Trust™ methodology was crafted from his own harrowing, life-altering experiences, and conveys the importance of cross-generational communication and mutual trust. Jason enjoys working with organizations and leaders that are no longer willing to settle for cultures of compliance and are ready to build and cultivate cultures of commitment.  For more information on Jason O. Harris, please visit www.jasonOharris.com.

The 5 Myths of Business Strategy

By Rich Horwath

strategy myth

Consider some of the most popular myths: Lightning never strikes the same place twice—it does. There is no gravity in space—there is, just less. Humans only use 10 percent of their brains—actually, a lot more—yes, even men. Pigeons blow up if fed uncooked rice—they don’t.

Which myths or half-truths have permeated your organization and what effect have they had on your business? Running a business on myths, flawed business principles, and baseless assumptions creates needless confusion and a lack of strategic direction. A study of 10,000 senior executives showed that the most important leadership behavior critical to company success is strategic thinking at 97 percent. As a good strategy is at the core of any organization’s success, it’s important to understand the strategy myths that may be holding back your team from reaching greater levels of success.

Arm your team with the strategy myth busters and your business will soar higher. Click To Tweet

Strategy Myth 1: Strategy comes from somebody else.

“We get our strategy from the brand team/upper management.” This is a common refrain when managers in other functional areas are asked who develops a strategy. It’s also wrong. The strategy that you execute should be your own strategy. Why? Because each group’s resources are going to be different. For instance, the sales team has different resources—time, talent, and budget—than the marketing team or the IT team or the HR team. How they allocate those resources determines their real-world strategy. It’s important to understand the company, product and other functional group strategies to ensure that your strategies are in alignment. However, their strategies are not a replacement for your strategies.

Myth Buster: Identify the corporate strategies, product strategies, functional group strategies and your strategies and seek alignment.

Strategy Myth 2: Strategy is a once-a-year process.

In a recent webinar presented to more than 300 CEOs entitled, “Is Your Organization Strategic?,” the question was posed: “How often do you and your team meet to update your strategies?” The percentage of CEOs that meet with their teams to assess and calibrate strategies more frequently than four times a year is only 16.9 percent, with nearly 50 percent saying once-a-year or “we don’t meet at all to discuss strategy.”

A study of more than 200 large companies showed that the number one driver of revenue growth is the reallocation of resources throughout the year from underperforming areas to areas with greater potential. Strategy is the primary vehicle for making these vital resource reallocation decisions, but as the survey showed, most leaders aren’t putting themselves or their teams in a position to succeed. If strategy in your organization is an annual event, you will not achieve sustained success.

Myth Buster: Conduct a monthly strategy tune-up where groups at all levels meet for 1-2 hours to review and calibrate their strategies.

Strategy Myth 3: Execution of strategy is more important than the strategy itself.

A landmark twenty-five years study of 750 bankruptcies showed that the number one cause of bankruptcy was flawed strategy, not poor execution. You can have the most skilled driver and highest performance Ferrari in the world (great execution) but if you’re driving that Ferrari on a road headed over a cliff (poor strategic direction)—you’re finished.

A sure sign of a needlessly myopic view is that everything is an “either or,” rather than allowing for “and.” Strategy and execution are both important, but make no mistake that all great businesses begin with an insightful strategy. 

Myth Buster: Take time to create differentiated strategy built on insights that lead to unique customer value and then shape an execution plan that includes roles, responsibilities, communication vehicles, time frames and metrics.

Strategy Myth 4: Strategy is about being better than the competition.

Your products and services are not better than your competitors. Why? Because “better” is subjective. Is blueberry pie better than banana cream pie? It depends who you ask. “Is our product better than the competitor’s product?” is the wrong question. The real question is, “How is our product different than the competitor’s product in ways that customers value?”

Attempting to be better than the competition leads to a race of “best practices,” which results in competitive convergence. Doing the same things in the same ways as competitors, only trying to do them a little faster or better, blurs the line of value between your company and competitors. Remember that competitive advantage is defined as “providing superior value to customers”—it’s not “beating the competition by being better.”

Myth Buster: Identify your differentiated value to specific customer groups by writing out your value proposition in one sentence.

Strategy Myth 5: Strategy is the same as mission, vision, or goals.

Since strategy is an abstract concept, it is often interchanged with the terms vision, mission and goals. How many times have you seen or heard a strategy that is “to be no. 1,” “to be the market leader,” or “to become the premier provider of…?” Mission is your current purpose and vision is your future purpose, or aspirational end game. Goals are what you are trying to achieve and strategy is how you will allocate resources to achieve your goals.

Misusing business terms on a regular basis is like a physicist randomly interchanging element’s chemical structures from the Periodic Table. You can say that the chemical structure of hydrogen is the chemical structure for gold, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct. Starting with an inexact statement of strategy will derail all of the other aspects of your planning and turn your business into the equivalent of the grammar school volcano science project with red-dyed vinegar and too much baking soda.

Myth Buster: Clearly distinguish your goals, strategies, mission and vision from one another.

If left unchecked, strategy myths can cause you and your business to fail. A ten years study of 103 companies showed that the number one cause of business failure is bad strategy. Arm your team with the strategy myth busters and your business will soar higher than a pigeon with a belly full of uncooked rice.

Rich Horwath is a New York Times bestselling author on strategy, including his most recent book, StrategyMan vs. The Anti-Strategy Squad: Using Strategic Thinking to Defeat Bad Strategy and Save Your Plan. As CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute, he has helped more than 100,000 managers develop their strategy skills through live workshops and virtual training programs. Rich is a strategy facilitator, keynote speaker, and creator of more than 200 resources on strategic thinking. To sign up for the free monthly newsletter Strategic Thinker, visit: www.StrategySkills.com.

Let’s Watch a Movie

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

When someone says, “Let’s watch a movie,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you immediately think of a group outing to go watch the latest flick? Perhaps your preferred viewing venue is the more cozy environment of your living room couch. Could it be that watching a movie is a solitary experience for you, one you enjoy parked in front of your laptop computer?

Whatever it may be, there are a multitude of options for watching a movie—and a diverse list of business enterprises that support those variations.

Consider the following options for watching a movie:

  • Drive-in Movie Theaters: This is not likely where you would start your list, but, yes, drive-in movie theaters still exist—and there is resurgence of interest. According to drive-ins.com, there are 520 drive-ins operating in the United States today.
  • Single-Screen Theaters: The traditional theater with a solitary screen is also waning in popularity and in numbers, but it is not a thing of the past either. Close to where I live is a one-screen theater that has been making a go of it—and attendance is increasing.
  • Multiplex Theaters: The multiscreen theater is the premier venue for the off-site (that is, away from home) movie-viewing experience. These theaters offer multiple titles and varied viewing times. For major openings, they can show films simultaneously on multiple screens and with staggered starting times.
  • Network TV: This is the least costly option for those willing to wait to watch a particular movie. With an antenna, viewing is essentially free, sans the electricity to operate the TV. If you have cable or satellite, the effective cost goes up, but still there is no incremental per movie charge.
  • Movie Channels: Some movie channels are included as part of a cable/satellite subscriber package, whereas others require a monthly subscription. These are great ways to watch current and classic movies—and everything in between—providing you are willing to scrutinize the programming schedule for desired titles.
  • Pay-per-View: This is generally available on cable/satellite systems, allowing for the viewing of movies (limited to what is offered and when it is showing); there is a charge for each viewing. Essentially this model combines the scheduling and admission elements of a theater with the comfort of home viewing.
  • Video-on-Demand: On-demand is pay-per-view without the schedule. Start a movie at any time, on any day.
  • Local Video Rental Store: Video rental stores function like a library for movies—except that there is a cost for each rental. Most stores are fairly limited in their titles and may stock few copies.
  • Mail Rental: Netflix (90,000 titles) led the way with this option, with Blockbuster (80,000 titles) and others following. This service allows customers to order a movie online and have it mailed to their home, often by the next day. Watch the movie and mail it back – with free mailing. Although advance planning is required, it is less hassle than driving to a video rental – twice – and there are many more titles and copies available.
  • Download Rental and Streaming Video: This is much like the video-on-demand option, but it utilizes the Internet for distribution (think YouTube, with high quality, for movies). Currently Netflix and Movielink (acquired by Blockbuster).

What does all this mean? Plenty—and it can apply to any industry or business.

The movie distribution business is highly fragmented with many competing variations. Each of the options listed has a threatened existence. Some of them are arguably obsolete, requiring innovation and determination to remain viable. Many are feeling competitive pressures that endanger their existence. For those on the leading edge, technological advances could render them obsolete in an incredibly short time.

Let’s revisit the list again, with these issues in mind:

  • Drive-in Movie Theaters: This is an obsolete option. Those that have survived have adjusted their business model and reinvented themselves to make it work. Over 500 have done just that.
  • Single-Screen Theater: This option is one step removed from the drive-in. Those that have stayed open have figured out how to market themselves and fit into a desirable, sustainable niche.
  • Multiplex Theater: The leader among off-site movie viewing, and the conventional business model, the multiplex is facing increased and intense pressure from the remaining options on the list (except for network TV).
  • Network TV: This is the last distribution node to obtain a movie after its release; therefore, it is typically the last option we consider. How would you like to be least preferred option and garnering decreased interest? Enough said.
  • Movie Channels: An option for many, but increasingly viewed as limited in comparison to the next five options.
  • Pay-per-View: You get to see movies closer to their release date then the preceding options, but the titles are quite limited in selection and somewhat restricted by schedule.
  • Video-on-Demand: This solves the scheduling restriction of pay-per-view, but still suffers from limited titles.
  • Local Video Rental Store: Who wants the hassle of going to a video store to rent a movie, especially without knowing if your title will be available? Succinctly put, this model is rapidly approaching obsolesce. This is precisely why Blockbuster ventured into rental via mail.
  • Mail Rental: Netflix changed how we rent movies, but this model will quickly fade. Downloading movies will soon make this option passé.
  • Download Rental and Streaming Video: This remaining option seemingly has no immediate threats, but it is a technology-based solution and technology changes rapidly. As such, a pervasive threat to this business model could erupt at any moment and with little or no warning.

Fragmented Industries

Many industries are likewise fragmented. Some businesses are stuck in the past. These companies, mired in obsolescence, are still in business because they have done what the drive-ins and single-screen theaters have done: somehow they reinvented themselves, found a niche, and marketed effectively.

Then there are organizations that are trapped in their business plan, traveling down a narrowing road. Perhaps their distinctive advantage is their staff, but they can’t hire enough qualified employees. Maybe they have staked their future on an uncertain and questionable strategy. Others are loaded with technology, but the next competitive technological innovation could render all that they have as something that no one wants.

This analysis is not unique to movie distribution. It exists in every business, in every industry, and in every economy. Some will survive and some won’t.

The key is taking what you have and using it to your advantage, perhaps in a way that no one else has thought of. It could be your location, your staff, your technology, your niche, your management team, your leadership, or something else. If you have none of these options, then perhaps it’s time to morph into another line of business, be it within or apart from the industry in which you are currently a part of.

Regardless of your situation, with determination and innovation there’s always the opportunity to reinvent your business. Click To Tweet

Regardless of your situation, with determination and innovation, there’s always the opportunity to reinvent your business. The one solution that won’t work is to do nothing at all.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

How to Win at Customer Service

3 Strategies for Converting Customers into Brand Devotees

By Emily Safrin

Emily Safrin-customer service

When Scarlett hung up the phone, she was close to tears. Even more unexpectedly, so was the customer service representative on the other end. How did a seemingly simple inquiry end in two people so frustrated they were on the verge of a breakdown?

Scarlett had called to resolve a mistaken charge on her phone bill, but what she thought was a straightforward question turned into a snafu with no solution in sight. Try as she might to explain the situation, she and the customer service representative couldn’t get on the same page. The two went in fruitless circles for half an hour before the agent finally announced starkly that she was applying a discount to Scarlett’s next three bills.

The problem is, Scarlett wasn’t looking for money; she was looking for an answer. Although the discount amounted to more than the erroneous charge she had called to dispute, she was not only dissatisfied, but hurt. Instead of feeling that her problem had been resolved, she felt that she had troubled the poor agent to the point that the agent felt forced to get rid of her.

It goes without saying that no customer should ever be made to feel this way. So how do you make sure they don’t?

1. Be human

Even in business contexts, we’re all human, and a human touch can go a long way to fostering a pleasant experience for all. That starts with empathy, or simply acknowledging the customer’s dilemma. The golden rule of “Listen first” works wonders to set the tone. Most customers just want to feel heard and validated.

Many companies use scripts to streamline processes and stay on brand. Yet, while scripts can be helpful training tools, research has shown that they often fall flat with customers, who perceive scripted interactions as disingenuous and even impolite.

That’s why many companies are instead hiring capable, empathetic, and trustworthy staff and empowering them to make decisions that leave customers feeling understood and tended to. Certainly, to attract this type of capable staff, the job has to be desirable. That means, for starters, offering competitive pay, attractive benefits, and a pleasant work environment.

Ultimately, a human representative with the right tact and training will be able to transform a difficult situation into a positive one by demonstrating a common humanity. Done properly, customer service can even turn a complaint into an opportunity to impress.

If done properly, customer service can even turn a complaint into an opportunity to impress. Click To Tweet

2. Take a cue from your own experiences as a customer

Theory and research have their place, but another powerful way to create or refine your business processes is to take heed of your own reaction when you’re the customer.

When you find yourself especially impressed by an interaction, whether in your personal or business life, make notes about what went well. There’s no better way to know what works than by seeing it in action. The same goes for situations that go awry: What went wrong? How could things have been handled differently?

Make time to review your notes and design a plan for how you can implement similar practices in your own business. What can you do to leave your customers glowing? This exercise may also reveal some fall-flat tactics in your customer service processes and help you replace them with more effective ones.

3. Speak their language

Language barriers are a serious source of customer frustration. As you might expect, consumers are unlikely to engage with a brand they can’t understand or communicate with. For that reason, it’s helpful to hire staff who speak your customers’ language(s).

Consider audiences you may be missing out on due to a language gap. For example, you could be meeting the needs of the “untapped” market of the more than 41 million US residents who speak Spanish at home. A 2014 study by Common Sense Advisory found that even among those who also spoke English, most consumers preferred to buy exclusively in their native language.

But how can you reach these non-English-speaking markets? Many US companies translate their websites and other marketing materials into Spanish and hire Spanish-speaking staff, for example, given the ubiquity of the language. If you follow suit (whatever the language), just be sure that you have an infrastructure in place to serve these customers when it comes to interacting with them beyond your website. The first step is to make sure staff are prepared to assist these clients, whether in person, over the phone, or online (email, chat, etc.).

If you don’t have a large enough non-English-speaking customer base to justify hiring multilingual staff, you might consider using translation (written language) and interpreting (spoken language) services to help you and your team to attract and interact with customers in their own language. Determine which channels these buyers are most likely to use to interact with your brand and start there. But be wary of free translation services: as with scripts, when it comes to customer service, a human touch is best.

Final thoughts

A different customer service representative from a major technology company recently told Scarlett over the phone, “I’ll solve that for you today.” Given the frustrating experience Scarlett had had with her phone service provider shortly before, she took it as an overzealous promise. But by the end of the call, she was left astounded. Despite significant hurdles, he solved her problem. What’s more, he treated her like a peer from start to finish. She was quickly reminded of why she’s been a loyal customer of this particular brand for decades.

Consistently stellar service begets customer loyalty. That feeling of security, trust, and plain old satisfaction is hard to beat. Treat your customers the way you want to be treated and speak to them in a language they can understand and they’ll become your most compelling, authentic, and effective form of advertising.

Emily Safrin is a certified Spanish-to-English translator and editor specializing in the medical and culinary sectors. She is also an active member of the American Translators Association (ATA), which represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries. For more information on ATA and to hire a translation or interpreting professional, please visit www.atanet.org.

How to Simplify and Maximize Your Video Interviews

By Jeremy Eskenazi

Jeremy Eskenazi-video interview

Interview practices have come a long way over the last few years. With it has come to some huge benefits like video interviews! It has saved candidates hours in anxious commuting time as one standout benefit. The flip side is that video interviews that are not well set up can create even more anxiety and a poor candidate experience.

A simple way to mitigate this risk is to put some guard-rails around your video (and phone) interviewing practices. This will improve the experience and make sure you’re not missing out on great talent for your organization. Many of the higher cost platforms now include some of these practices, but it doesn’t mean you can’t build your own success practices with a lower cost option. The key is keeping the candidate experience front and center.

Most people now carry a mobile phone with a decent camera. Many will also have access to a laptop or tablet with a camera embedded, so this takes care of the hardware portion of the equation. When approaching video interviews, there are two main methods, and both require the proper set up and expectation setting for the candidate. One way to maximize what you’ll get out of both approaches is to share a checklist to help candidates prepare and know exactly what to expect. It could include the following:

  1. The type of questions you’ll ask 
  2. The process they can expect as they move through the questions
  3. The follow-up practices they can expect after the interview

With these expectations set, candidates will not be surprised, and this helps most people prepare to focus on the questions, not the medium of the interview. The two methods to consider as you think about video interviewing are:

Regardless of which type of video interview you choose, remember that you have a have a responsibility to respond after the interview! Click To Tweet

The two-way live video interview

This method is more approachable and more accepted by most people. It involves the recruiter or hiring manager joining a live video session at the same time as the candidate. The interaction is in real-time making it feel very similar to an in-person interview. Some tips that help set candidates up for success for this specific type of interview include:

  • Make sure you’re in spot with good lighting and minimal background noise
  • Test your audio and video before the interview
  • Coach the candidate to think about their answers, even if it creates a pause. Let them know it will not be awkward at all! 
  • Let the candidate know if you have multiple people joining the call (yes, you can do online panel-style interviews!)

We’ve all been on personal and professional video calls that waste the first few minutes with “I can’t hear you”, “What is that in the background?”, and “Are you wearing pants?” With proper expectation setting, your video interviews can be very productive, and quite smooth. Having someone to interact with live allows non-verbal communication to take place. Real-time feedback and the opportunity to ask questions have been staples of interviews for a long time and it is a comfortable approach for most candidates, even if they are not used to being on video. 

Using this type of video interview is helpful as an initial screen to get a better sense of a candidate or through first-round interviews. 

The second more common type of video interviews can produce a very polarizing reaction for candidates. 

Pre-recorded video interviews

This type of interview is newer and rapidly growing in popularity. There are many vendors to choose from at various price points and tiered offerings worth exploring. This type of interview is not as popular with candidates because you are not offering an engaging conversation, but rather the candidate sees a question within the portal and then their responses are recorded (and sometimes timed!). The video is then sent back to the recruiter for review and assessment. While the tips offered above to set up for two-way live interviews still apply, there are some additional tips and expectations that should be set with candidates in advance of you sharing this pre-recorded video interview style. 

  • Set the stage to make it clear that there is no live interaction and that the questions will be provided during the interview and cannot be re-recorded
  • Keep the questions specific so clarification is not likely needed 
  • Be clear about the timelines and don’t expect candidates to record in the same day you reach out to them, nor should they expect your follow up the day they submit their video 
  • Send your own video message to kick things off so there is a real person explaining that the recording is timed, but is not a test

This type of video interview is helpful for a role that produces a lot of candidates, for example, hiring for a call center role or home-based roles. It will give you a faster way to select the candidates you want to move ahead because you don’t need to watch all the questions. 

Regardless of which type of video interview you choose, remember that you have a responsibility to respond after the interview! A personalized email, phone call, or video message sent via weblink are all ways to accomplish this. You appreciate their effort and interest in your company and don’t want them walking away feeling that they jumped through hoops and got no response. This can impact your employer brand that is so important to your ability to attract top talent.

Jeremy Eskenazi is an internationally recognized speaker, author of RecruitConsult! Leadership, and founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique Recruitment/Talent Acquisition Management and Optimization Consulting Firm. Jeremy is not a headhunter, but a specialized training and consulting professional, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent at some of the world’s most recognized companies. For more information on Jeremy Eskenazi, please visit: www.RivieraAdvisors.com.