Tag Archives: leadership

Happiest of birthdays, Mr. Marriott!

Happiest of birthdays to the greatest of the great hospitality leaders!

I agree with Marriott International when they say that Mr. Marriott’s “impact on the hospitality industry is only exceeded by his kindness”. On his birthday, I wanted to express my admiration and appreciation for the example Mr. Marriott gave me as a leader and how it has formed my management style.

While still in college, I joined Marriott in 1976 as a charter member of Marriott’s Great America in Santa Clara. On opening day, Mr. Marriott welcomed all of us. And just 5 years later, I was fortunate to serve as the opening director of services for Marriott’s 100th property, the Maui Marriott Resort, the first in the state of Hawaii. What I remember to this day was how Mr. Marriott would walk the backstage areas and greet everyone with a smile and a handshake. He didn’t wait for someone to approach him. He initiated the interaction. “Take good care of your employees and they’ll take good care of the customers.” And in the gesture of Mr. Marriott walking around to introduce himself to all of us, it was obvious the mantra wasn’t simply a slogan, but really something that drove the leadership philosophy of the company. While I left Marriott shortly thereafter I always remembered that example.

Thirty-five years after my first day at Great America, I was the charter general manager of The Henry – Autograph Collection which for 21 years stood as the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn. Mr. Marriott came through on a tour of the property. Since The Henry was a franchise, he did not have to do that during his two-day tour as there are many Marriott-managed properties in Detroit. But he did. Serving many years as a Board member of General Motors, he had visited often when it was a Ritz-Carlton. Many of the same associates were there to greet him on his first visit to The Henry. We had the line of associates upon his arrival and he took the time to shake everyone’s hand. But what I remember was that on our tour of the property, he made it a point to acknowledge every associate as he had done in Maui.

I can tell you that the genuine appreciation that Mr. Marriott shows on every visit to every associate just doesn’t happen in other hotel companies. The lesson here: It all starts at the top. A handshake and a smile from the Executive Chairman may seem to him like a very small thing, but it certainly made an impact on all of us. From day one, I understood you simply can’t lead from the corner office.

Happiest of birthdays, Mr. Marriott!

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When It All Comes Down to Business, It’s “People First”

For many years, there has been a stranglehold of the “Profits over People” mentality in business. Senior executives care about top-line revenue, product and labor costs, market share, the stock price, bottom-line profits, and even their competitors, more than their people. Listening to the sweet cha-ching sound of profits, these bad bosses do not hear their grumbling employees and complaining customers many hierarchical rungs below. Even if bosses could hear, they would wear noise-canceling headphones, oblivious to the employees’ concerns and customer complaints. And “Profits over People” bad bosses would demand “My way or the highway” to the employees. Bad bosses didn’t care much about employees and employees could care less about their bosses or customers. 

Today, instead of focusing on “Profits over People”, envision “People First” as the solid foundation for everlasting business success. One caveat is “Employees First”. Managers will always see people as “employees”. Despite preaching “Employees First”, senior leaders would always have the rank and file employees “first”, on the bottom of the ladder, well below the leaders.

Recognizing “People First”, leaders will CARE for their people.

  • COMMUNICATE openly, transparently, interactively, and frequently any information that their people need and want to know. Listen empathetically to the people’s suggestions, concerns, and complaints. Express compassion with their recommendations and encouragement.
  • APPRECIATE the important roles, responsibilities, and efforts of their people.
  • RECOGNIZE, honor, and offer accolades for individual and team achievements, accomplishments, and acts of service to colleagues or customers.
  • EMPOWER people to make the right decisions for themselves, their colleagues, customers, and their business.

Whether it’s the turmoil of the pandemic, Skimpflation, or The Great Resignation, businesses will invigorate the New Normal with the “People First” culture. No longer are people taking second or third seats to customers or profits.

This cultural transformation of “People First” and the leadership commitment to CARE will enthuse and energize people to be engaged with their colleagues, customers, and the business.

When we create a great experience for people as much as we do for customers, we will earn the loyalty of both. And soon, without our focus on profits, profits will grow.

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It’s time for a Customer Service Culture Transformation to Customer CARE

Is customer service the frontline? Really? Are we called to duty on the frontline battling customers? Doctors and nurses don’t serve their ailing patients. They care. So shouldn’t customer service be customer care? Or even better …

We are the Customer CARE team.

We CARE for each member of our team:

  • COMMUNICATE openly, transparently, interactively, and frequently any information that their people need to know. We will listen empathetically to the people’s suggestions, concerns, and complaints.
  • APPRECIATE our team’s role, responsibilities, and actions, and their suggestions and recommendations.
  • RECOGNIZE, honor, and offer accolades for our team’s acts of service.
  • EMPOWER our people to act on their own to do what is right for our team and our customers.

We CARE for each customer:

  • COMMUNICATE with each customer with a smile, eye contact, and polite interaction. We inform each customer transparently and interactively of the product’s or service’s function, liabilities, and advantages to them.
  • ACKNOWLEDGE each customer’s presence and value to us.
  • RESPOND empathetically and compassionately to each customer’s questions, concerns, and complaints.
  • ENRICH the experiences of every customer.

And when we CARE, each customer is wowed and happy, intent on returning again and again, raving to others along the way.

Customer service is for a job. If all a person did was for a job, then it would be to satisfy a customer. Satisfied customers feel that customer service is good, but not more than was expected, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers may leave when they find something better or less expensive. So don’t have a job that satisfies customers.

Instead, invest in Customer CARE to develop your people to wow your customers. And when your people are energized and engaged to enthuse your customers, everyone’s lives will be enriched.

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Leadership Mantra for New Managers: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

Leader and teamwork“How long employees stay at a company, and how productive they are there, is determined by the relationship they have with their immediate supervisor.” Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge

When I served as a hotel GM, I had the opportunity to promote many front-line employees to their first management position. My commitment to them did not end at giving them a new title. That’s the easy part. More importantly, I needed to make sure they succeeded in their first leadership role. According to Kouzes and Posner, these managers supervising the staff who were directly interacting with our guests had as much, if not more, impact than I did on employee engagement and subsequent customer satisfaction. And while each new manager displayed strong interpersonal skills that served them well to earn the promotion, managing people requires a different set of skills. We all know of an all-star employee who failed as a manager. So my advice to any first-time manager is to live this leadership mantra: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

Connect.

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” John C. Maxwell

Before making any major changes as a new manager, take the time to get to know your direct reports. Find out their personal and career aspirations. Then work hard to help them achieve their goals.  Talk to each member every day. Visit the break area regularly just to chat. Get to know what they like to do outside of work. Given the opportunity, meet their significant others and family. Celebrate your employees’ birthdays and anniversaries. They know when they are scheduled on their birthdays and the date they started working at your business. You should, too. Remember that without involvement there is no commitment. If you are not involved with them, then they simply won’t be committed to you.

Inspire.

“Yesterday’s idea of the boss, who became the boss because he or she knew more than the person working for them, is yesterday’s manager. Tomorrow’s person leads through a vision, a shared set of values, a shared objective.” Jack Welch

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather give them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Communicate everything you can to your associates. The more they know, the more they care. Once they care, there is no stopping them.”  Sam Walton

Your business has a mission statement. As a leader, you should have a passion statement. The best managers are passionate about what they do. Frankly, if you are not passionate about what you do, you have no right to manage others. That said, be sure to express your passion to your people. What do you envision for the business? The owner or senior manager has a vision for the business. What is yours? Let your people know. Once they see and share your “big picture”, then every step your people take will be in that direction.

Keep your passion statement short. Say it often. Make it stick. Your message cannot be mentioned only at new hire orientation. You must continually and consistently express your vision.

Empower

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Create a work environment where everyone has the necessary tools and are encouraged to take care of the customer. Ritz-Carlton permits every employee to spend up to $2000 making any single guest satisfied. It is no wonder that the brand is perceived by its guests as simply one of the best. For your team to embrace the idea that you are empowering them to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer, you must establish and explain any guidelines. It could be as simple as the Nordstrom Rules:

Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Most likely your guidelines will be a little more conditional, but whatever you decide, make sure you define and cite examples for your team. And continue to monitor, recognize and reward those employees who do take action.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Connect with your people. Inspire them. Then empower them.  This is not a one-time thing. It is an everyday thing. And when you live this mantra, you will be an involved leader with an engaged team, all intent on delivering the very best experience for your customer.

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Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.

“Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.”  – G.B.Stern


Since this is the week we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, I want to take this opportunity to wish those who celebrate this holiday a very Happy Thanksgiving.

I also want to express my thanks to all of you everywhere for following me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or right here on WordPress. I certainly have enjoyed and appreciated connecting with hundreds of people throughout the world via these social media platforms, something that wasn’t even possible just a few years ago.  And while I enjoy blogging about my passion for great customer service, I certainly have enjoyed as much the dialog I have had with many of you. So thank you to all.

While the above quote about giving thanks is one of my favorites, here are several more about gratitude that I hope you enjoy as much as I do. And for leaders, while all of these quotes are common sense advice to build employee engagement and customer loyalty, we have to commit to making this common sense advice truly common practice in our day-to-day efforts.

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; To the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.  – E. S. Martin 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. – John F. Kennedy

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say “thank you?”  – William Arthur Ward

Appreciation is like an insurance policy. It has to be renewed every now and then. – Dave McIntyre

Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless. – Mother Teresa

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The M&M of Employee Engagement

colorful candy background closeup detail
Management is no longer merely a task-oriented discipline. To be a successful manager, not only do you need to effectively direct your employees, you need to have them understand their role in the bigger picture of the company’s image to your customers. Your customers are not a captive audience. They do not need to do business with you. You have to create a reason why they want to do business with only you. The only tangible difference between you and your competitor is not your product or service you sell, but rather the service that your employees provide your customers during their interaction. The success of your business rests on your staff’s ability to encourage return business as a result of superior customer service.

Ultimately customer satisfaction begins with employee satisfaction. Yet, too often, management overlooks the day-to-day contributions employees make to the business. Some business leaders will claim, “We have the best wages and benefits among our competitors. Isn’t that good enough? And I’d say, “If the only thing your people get out of their job is a paycheck, you, as a leader, have failed.” One of the top reasons why employees leave a company is not because of the rate of pay or benefits. It is because they felt they did not get recognized for their efforts. At the same time, your employees will only deliver the level of service that they have experienced within your business. With that in mind, you must ensure that your employees understand their key role in the success of your business and are recognized for their efforts. In order to accomplish this, incorporate in your management style these two M’s – Motivation and Maintenance.

Motivation

Motivation begins with the selection (You don’t hire. You select) process and continues through onboarding. During the interview, you should explain to the prospective employee the critical “key role” in maintaining the highest level of customer courtesy. Thereafter, ensure that each new employee goes through an extensive orientation program that not only includes the tasks of their job, but also the vision and specific proven performance tips to deliver your expectation of customer service.

This orientation sets the tone of your company’s commitment to the customer and reinforces the “key role” concept you discussed in the selection interview. Continue on-the-job instruction with a designated coach. The key criterion for the selection of your coach should be an outgoing, friendly character which captures what you want to project as your company’s personality. Be sure that the coach is aware of your expectations of the delivery of the customer service performance standards.

Keep your employees informed. The #1 complaint employees have of their company is the lack of communication. They want to feel that they are “in the know”. Conduct regular meetings to inform the staff of the status of the business and its forecasted future. Be honest with them. To create a customer focused culture, distribute and post thank you letters or testimonials received from customers. Consider maintaining a Facebook page specifically for your employees that would periodically remind them of their focus on customer service. That page can serve as an advertisement of the company culture for prospective employees. Your employees will be more concerned about their job performance if they are more aware of their business.

Acknowledge your employees as members of your professional family. Recognize special dates or occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, family births, or illnesses. Birthdays are very important as your employees know that they are working on their birthday and expect their manager to know, as well. Announce these so everyone knows and send the appropriate cards or flowers. Organize pot luck luncheons or picnics, holiday dinners, or even baby showers. Remember that if you show special consideration for your employees, they, in turn, will take better care of your customers and your business.

Create recognition programs. Special appreciation such as Random Acts of Kindness Awards, given to employees who are named by your customers as offering stellar service instill in the recipients a sense of pride that their contributions have been recognized by you. A commendation letter delivered via mail to an employee’s home or a gift card for dinner with their family serve to have the employee’s family understand and appreciate the employee’s commitment to your business.

Utilize inexpensive motivational tools. Hang a mirror in the office with a sign above it that says; “Smile, You Are (Your Company’s Name.) This conveys that each employee’s appearance is a reflection of your business. Stamp paychecks with morale boosters. Put up posters that depict themes of success and teamwork. Successories and Baudville are two companies that offer such products to deliver great motivational messages.

Maintenance.

Maintenance, in this sense, is synonymous with consistency. The continuation of any of the programs you start is essential. Do not begin a special program only to drop it soon after your employees come to appreciate it and look forward to it. If you begin a newsletter bulletin board, posting the names of new employees, employee birthdays and anniversaries, promotions, customer appreciation letters, and in-house activities then you must maintain it monthly with current topics.

Visible management is essential. Practice the “Inspect What You Expect” and CBWA  or “Caring by Walking About” credos. Follow up on your training programs. Remind your employees with any updated techniques, as well as a refresher course on customer service. Conduct employee surveys or better yet, hold regular group discussions with a small number of your staff, to get maximum input and participation from each employee. Be visible and be available to your employees.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Ultimately, your employees drive customer satisfaction. Do not take for granted the immense impact a concerned, vital group of employees can do to enhance the image and success of your business. Whether it is through recognition programs or your visible management, your employees must sense and believe in your conviction that they are your competitive edge – the reason why customers will return to your business.

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When It Comes to Service Training, Once Is Never Enough

A wife sits on the sofa next to her husband who is reading his laptop. She says, “I love you.” No response. She says a little louder, “I love you.” Complete silence. She then questions directly, “You know, I say ‘I love you’ a lot to you, but you never say it back to me. Why is that?”  The husband looks up from his computer and declares “Look, I said I loved you when we got married. If that should change, I’ll let you know.”

Now, really, do you think that is enough to sustain the love? Of course not. If you want to be recognized for your commitment to personal values like trust, honesty, or respect, you must practice, not simply preach. It is no different for your business values when you are leading others. Too often, the value of service excellence is communicated only at new employee orientation and the on-the-job training during the first week with no reinforcement thereafter. That is simply not enough to drive consistent customer care performance. And while I enjoy presenting my customer experience seminars to clients, I always let them know that learning about customer service cannot be seen as an event, but must be seen as a process. If your intent is to drive customer service excellence, you need to say it and your team needs to hear it more than just one time.

One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” You must continually remind your team that when it comes to customer service, being consistently good is better than being occasionally great. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make sure customer service values and skills are included in the job description and reviewed at each performance evaluation.
  • Check out Successories.com, Baudville.com or SimpleTruths.com for ideas on creating and reinforcing a sustained customer focused message.
  • If your company has an intranet, use the screensaver feature to remind your team of your customer service values.
  • Post thank you letters from customers in a prominent area where your team can read them.
  • If you receive a compliment from a customer on your voice mail, broadcast it to the others on your team.
  • Write a letter of commendation recognizing a specific customer service act that can be placed in the associate’s personnel file. Send the letter to the associate’s home. What is your ratio of written thank you notes or commendations versus written corrective action notices? In order to create a culture of customer care, the ratio should be 3 to 1, and better still 5 to 1.
  • Review social media sites to recognize any employee who has been mentioned positively by customers. 
  • Recognize an individual’s act of kindness that was appreciated by a customer with a small token of acknowledgement. (movie tickets, free dry cleaning, a  day off with pay)
  • Start every meeting with an opportunity for attendees to thank someone in the group for their actions in support of internal or external customer care.
  • Periodically send out reminder messages via email, paycheck stuffer or company newsletter on the importance of the customer. If you are short of ideas, take a look at my Facebook page that offers customer service tips, quotes and insight from various sources.
  • Always serve as a role model by interacting and responding to each individual on your team with the intent to live the credo first used by Jan Carlzon, president of SAS Airlines, “If you’re not taking care of the customer, you better be taking care of the person who is.”

QUI TAKEAWAY: Commit to periodically reminding your team of the value of customer service excellence. Otherwise their delivery of exceptional service will be inconsistent. It’s up to you to commit to their lifelong learning because once is never enough.

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