Posts Tagged ‘management’

Customer Service: Discretion is Trust

October 10th, 2011

A frequent frustration expressed by managers is that their staff, and especially Golds, often won’t exercise discretion. Part of the reason is that discretion can have a very different meaning to staff and managers.

Discretion is actually trust. A manager trusts their staff to do what needs to be done – and mostly, hopefully, in the area of customer service. But trust has to be a two-way relationship. Where things can go off the rails is when staff members don’t fully trust that they won’t be questioned or criticized after the fact. That applies to all Colors, but especially Golds, who often make lifetime decisions based on a single event. “I did that once and got crap for it so I’m never going to do that again,” is a frequent mindset, but something they’ll seldom verbalize.

In a Canadian Business article, Richard Branson related a story that makes the point for all Colors. A Virgin Atlantic Upper Class customer was to receive limo transportation from his New York hotel to the airport. It turned out that the customer had been waiting at the wrong entrance to the hotel, causing him to run out of time, and needing to take a taxi. Now caught in New York rush hour, he barely made it to the airport, and quite sure he’d now missed his flight.

The first Virgin Airlines staff he saw immediately took ownership of the situation. She apologized and assured him that he would catch his flight scheduled to depart in ten minutes. She also reimbursed him the $70 cab charge out of her own pocket. It’s a no brainer to know that she turned a nightmare into a great win, and built some huge loyalty with this customer.

Things didn’t go so well when she asked her manager to be reimbursed for the cab fare. No receipt, no money – even though it was obvious there wasn’t the time for the passenger to get a receipt, or her to deal with that detail. From an accounting perspective, the manager was right. From any other perspective, the decision was so wrong.

How likely would this staff member, anyone who overheard the conversation, or anyone she shared it with, be to do something so exemplary in the future? The happy ending was the airport manager stepped in and authorized the reimbursement, along with a long conversation with the manager to focus on catching staff “doing something right.”

Front-line customer service only works when the entire company supports their staff. As Branson describes it, this creates a chain reaction of teamwork, and the chain of customer service is only as strong as its weakest link.

In Management, One Size and Color Does Not Fit All

February 2nd, 2011

Last year, Michael Dell, the (Green/Orange or Orange/Green) founder of Dell Computers, stepped back into the role of CEO.

It’s not the first time, and won’t be the last time, that a founder builds the vision and huge success of his company, then steps aside when the company has grown, stabilized, and become successful. At that point, these founders often want to be able to go play, get some fun back into their lives, or find a new challenge or adventure. (Think Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, and a previous newsletter story on Starbuck’s founder Howard Schultz)

For Michael Dell, the original impetus for allowing someone else to manage the company was, by all accounts, to take the company to the next phase of maintenance, stability, cost controls, better systems, and an increased focus on the internal workings of the company. This “Gold-type” management was quite different than the more high-risk, innovative, and growth-oriented approach of Michael Dell.

The logic was sound enough. After all, Dell was founded on doing what others were doing, just cheaper, more efficiently, and more customized. So cost control obviously needed to be a major focus once a certain level of success had been reached.

Most experts agree that former CEO Kevin Rollins was an excellent manager, very tough, hardnosed, a good leader, and very cost focused. But was a Gold management team, or management style, the most effective in the technology field where everything new today is a doorstopper in a year or two? I don’t know. But ask most Greens for feedback on Dell, and they’ll readily share that the company went from THE go-to place for computers, to the number one company to avoid.

Dell had stopped growing, stopped innovating, and certainly stopped offering exceptional (or any?) customer service. As other companies caught on, and caught up, was Rollin’s leadership style still the most effective?

When Michael Dell stepped back into the role of CEO, his first plan of attack was to take some significant steps in reducing the bureaucracy. Did a high Gold create layers of extra management and controls? Or did a high Orange just think anything more than two layers of people before they reached a front-line salesperson, or someone on the production floor, were too many already?

Whether you’re the CEO, someone who leads a team, or a manager, there isn’t a good, better, or best way to manage your team. There is, however, a huge need to understand people, as well as the industry you’re working in. Sorry, one size – or one Color – doesn’t fit all.

An Internet Company with an Orange CEO?

January 4th, 2011

Yahoo has certainly had its share of problems over the past decade, especially in the intense competition from Google. After rejecting a buyout offer from Microsoft last year, high Green co-founder Jerry Yang needed a new approach, and a new CEO.

When Yang first talked to Carol Bartz (the retired CEO of software maker Autodesk) she really didn’t have any interest in the position. But she did agree to meet with Yang, and asked him to draw an organizational chart for Yahoo. When lines went in every direction, everywhere, even Bartz couldn’t visualize any of it, and told Yang: You need a manager!

But is a typical Green culture company like Yahoo ready for a huge shakeup from an Orange CEO? What are the Orange clues about Bartz?

-At a meeting with investors she bluntly stated that she uses Google maps, not her own Yahoo product, because it’s better

-She absolutely thrives under pressure

-Bartz took up the challenge of Yahoo CEO, as she was getting bored in retirement, and missed the thrill and stress of the job

-She is a self-admitted crisis junkie

-At her instance, new software and applications only get developed based on customer feedback

-Bartz told employees she would “drop-kick to f*&%% Mars” anyone who leaked information

-She personally goes out to solicit direct customer feedback

With her knowledge of the tech field, her love of science and math, her computer science degree, and her programming, sales, and marketing work at 3M, it would be a fair guess that Bartz is Orange/Green. It may be an uphill fight, but don’t bet against any Orange that wants his or her way, and to become successful. Right now, I would just love to be in on some of her management meetings with (likely) a ton of Greens. It’s the right now vs. right – period.

Working Hard or Working Smart?

July 12th, 2010

The training firm Leadership IQ did a study some years ago of more than 5,000 hiring managers from a wide variety of industries. Some of the findings are quite eye-opening.

The bottom line, according to Leadership IQ, is that most companies fixate on hiring criteria which is based on technical competence. Yet, it is one of the last reasons for anyone to actually lose their job. Here are the top five areas of failure, according to the study:

26% Coachability – our ability (and willingness) to accept and implement feedback

23% Emotional IQ – the ability to manage and understand our own emotions, or put another way: our interpersonal skills

17% Motivation – the drive and desire to reach our full potential

15% Temperament – the personality type and attitude suited to fit the job

11% Technical competence – the functional skills, training, experience, and education required for the job

Ironically, the first four areas outlined in the study are directly related to understanding Colors! If only companies knew the tools and insights, imagine how turnover would be reduced, employee satisfaction in their jobs would grow, and employees would be set up in a win-win situation from their first month on.

Advice For Your Color

April 1st, 2009

Fortune Magazine runs an annual “Best Advice I Ever Got” story and this past edition had some great feedback for all of our Colors. The advice isn’t necessarily about that person’s Colors, but it sure gives us all some great food for thought:

  • First, always ask for the order, and second, when the customer says yes, stop talking. Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor
  • Focus on the substance. There’s just no way to disguise poor performance. Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett-Packard
  • Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico
  • Some of the most effective leaders don’t make themselves the center of attention. Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM
  • Experiencing that not everyone saw the world the same way was good preparation. Gen. David Patraeus, US General
  • Don’t spend your time on things you can’t control. Instead, spend your time thinking about what you can. Thomas Murphy, former CEO of Capital Cities/ABC
  • I had a manager who told me that aside from my technical knowledge, my sense of humor was my saving grace. Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist
  • You have to be wary of emotion clouding your decision-making that you’ll regret later. Elon Musk, founder of Spacex
  • As much as it makes me super-sleepy, when my business manager talks about taxes, etc. I listen! Tina Fey, actress
  • My experience is that when people are trying ambitious things, they’re all worried about failing when they start. Larry Page, founder of Google

©George Boelcke, CCP

Where Are the Blues?

January 1st, 2009

According to well-known behavior psychologist Dr. David Keirsey, in his “Presidential Temperaments,” there has never been a primary Blue President of the United States. And the recent election didn’t change that. Are you surprised? With the awesome traits they would contribute, most wouldn’t be interested.  This ultimate position of leadership forces constant compromise and almost all decisions will offend and affect vast groups of people.

How sad, but these are two huge drawbacks for a group that readily admits one of their biggest stresses, even in management, is doing staff reviews. They’ll rarely even watch the news as most of it is negative or violent — two things to be avoided at all costs. But then, the Blues in the United States are also less than half of what they are in Canada or even the U.K. It does show – in many, many ways in society, charities and measurably in companies of all sizes.

The largest number of Presidents have been Gold. But in the interest of fairness, here are four from the other three Color groups:


George Washington, Jimmy Carter and outgoing President Bush, as well as his father (and Margaret Thatcher in the U.K.)


Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower


Theodore Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton