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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Dealing With Poor Performance: Lack of Ability, or Low Motivation?

Poor performance could be down to low motivation, not just a lack of ability.

For every hundred men hacking away at the branches of a diseased tree, only one will stoop to inspect the roots.                                                     – Chinese proverb.

Are individual members of your team performing less well than you'd hoped? If so, this proverb can take on great significance. To figure out what's causing the performance issue, you have to get to the root of the problem.

But because employee performance affects organizational performance, we tend to want to look for a quick fix. Would a training course help Ted? Or should you move him into a different role?

These types of solutions focus largely on the ability of the person performing the job. Performance, though, is a function of both ability and motivation.

  • Ability is the person's aptitude, as well as the training and resources supplied by the organization.
  • Motivation is the product of desire and commitment.
  • Someone with 100 percent motivation and 75 performance ability can often achieve above-average performance. But a worker with only 25 percent ability won't be able to achieve the type of performance you expect, regardless of his or her level of motivation.

This is why recruitment and job matching are such critical parts of performance management. Be sure to assess ability properly during the selection process. Minor deficiencies can certainly be improved through training – however, most organizations don't have the time or resources needed to remedy significant gaps.

Diagnosing Poor Performance

So, before you can fix poor performance, you have to understand its cause. Does it come from lack of ability or low motivation?

Incorrect diagnoses can lead to lots of problems later on. If you believe an employee is not making enough of an effort, you'll likely put increased pressure on him or her to perform. But if the real issue is ability, then increased pressure may only make the problem worse.
  • Low ability may be associated with the following:
  • Over-difficult tasks.
  • Low individual aptitude, skill, and knowledge.
  • Evidence of strong effort, despite poor performance.
  • Lack of improvement over time.
  • People with low ability may have been poorly matched with jobs in the first place. They may have been promoted to a position that's too demanding for them. Or maybe they no longer have the support that previously helped them to perform well.
Enhancing Ability

There are five main ways to overcome performance problems associated with a lack of ability. Consider using them in this sequence, which starts with the least intrusive:
  • Resupply.
  • Retrain.
  • Refit.
  • Reassign.
  • Release.
Be sure to address each of these interventions in one-on-one performance interviews with employees.

1. Resupply

Focus on the resources provided to do the job. Do employees have what they need to perform well and meet expectations?

  • Ask them about additional resources they think they need.
  • Listen for points of frustration.
  • Note where employees report that support is inadequate.
  • Verify the claims with your own investigation. People will often blame external sources for their poor performance before admitting their own fault.
  • This is a very effective first step in addressing performance. It signals to members of your team that you're interested in their perspective and are willing to make the required changes.

2. Retrain

Provide additional training to team members. Explore with them whether they have the actual skills required to do what's expected. Given the pace of change of technology, it's easy for people's skills to become outdated.

This option recognizes the need to retain employees and keep their skills current. There are various types of retraining you can provide:
  • Training seminars with in-house or external providers.
  • Computer-based training (CBT).
  • Simulation exercises.
  • Subsidized college or university courses.
  • Resupplying and retraining will often cure poor performance. People and organizations may get into ruts, and fail to recognize these issues until poor performance finally highlights them.
3. Refit

When these first two measures aren't sufficient, consider refitting the job to the person. Are there parts of the job that can be reassigned?

Analyze the individual components of the work, and try out different combinations of tasks and abilities. This may involve rearranging the jobs of other people as well. Your goal is to retain the employee, meet operational needs, and provide meaningful and rewarding work to everyone involved. 

4. Reassign

When revising or refitting the job doesn't turn the situation around, look at reassigning the poor performer. Typical job reassignments may decrease the demands of the role by reducing the need for the following:
  • Responsibility.
  • Technical knowledge.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • If you use this option, make sure that the reassigned job is still challenging and stimulating. To ensure that this strategy is successful, never use demotion as a punishment tactic within your organization. Remember, the employee's performance is not intentionally poor – he or she simply lacked the skills for the position.
5. Release

As a final option for lack of ability, you may need to let the employee go. Sometimes there are no opportunities for reassignment, and refitting isn't appropriate for the organization. In these cases, the best solution for everyone involved is for the employee to find other work. You may need to consider contractual terms and restrictions; however, in the long run, this may be the best decision for your whole team.

Remember, there are potential negative consequences of retaining a poor performer after you've exhausted all the options available:
  • You'll annoy other members of your team, who may have to work harder to "carry" the poor performer.
  • You may promote a belief in others that you're prepared to accept mediocrity – or, worse, underperformance.
  • You may waste precious time and resources that could be better used elsewhere.
  • You may signal that some employees deserve preferential treatment.
  • You may undermine the whole idea of finding the best person for the job.
Improving Motivation

Sometimes poor performance has its roots in low motivation. When this is the case, you need to work closely with the employee to create a motivating environment in which to work. There are three key interventions that may improve people's motivation:
  • Setting of performance goals.
  • Provision of performance assistance.
  • Provision of performance feedback.
1. Performance Goals

Goal setting is a well-recognized aspect of performance improvement. Employees must understand what's expected of them and agree on what they need to do to improve.

2. Performance Assistance

Once you've set appropriate goals, help your team member succeed by doing the following:
  • Regularly assessing the employee's ability, and take action if it's deficient.
  • Providing the necessary training.
  • Securing the resources needed.
  • Encouraging cooperation and assistance from coworkers.
3. Performance Feedback

People need feedback on their efforts. They have to know where they stand in terms of current performance and long-term expectations. When providing feedback, keep in mind the importance of the following:

  • Timeliness – Provide feedback as soon as possible. This links the behavior with the evaluation.
  • Openness and Honesty – Make sure that the feedback is accurate. Avoid mixed messages or talking about the person rather than the performance. That said, provide both positive and negative feedback so that employees can begin to truly understand their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Personalized Rewards – A large part of feedback involves rewards and recognition. Make sure that your company has a system that acknowledges the successes of employees.
  • Supporting this, ensure that you meet regularly with the employee, so that you can review progress and provide regular feedback.

Creating a Performance Improvement Plan

So how do you do this in practice? This is where you need to develop a performance improvement plan. Armed with the strategies we've looked at, you first need to evaluate the performance issue that you're facing:
  • Have you discussed with the person what he or she feels the problem is?
  • Have you evaluated your organization's motivation system? Are you doing everything you can to recognize and reward people's contributions?
  • Are you rewarding the things that you actually want done?
  • Do you have regular goal setting and development meetings with members of your team?
  • Do you help your people keep their skills current?
  • From there, it's important that you and the employee discuss and agree upon a plan for improving performance. Write down what you've agreed, along with dates by which goals should be achieved. Then monitor progress with the team member, and use the techniques we've discussed above for increasing motivation and dealing with ability-related issues.
Recognize that the actions needed to close ability gaps need high motivation on the employee's part to be successful. The two causes of poor performance – lack of ability and low motivation – are inextricably intertwined, and goal setting, feedback, and a supportive work environment are necessary conditions for improving both.

Key Points

You need to understand the root of a performance problem before you can fully address it. Ability and motivation go together to impact performance, and the most successful performance improvement efforts combine strategies for improving each. This creates a positive environment where people feel supported to reach their performance potential; and feel valued, knowing that the organization wants to find a good fit for their abilities.

At times, your interventions may not be enough to salvage the situation. As long as you've given performance enhancement your best effort, and you've reasonably exhausted all your options, then you can feel confident that you're making the right decision if you do need to let someone go.

Before going down that route, however, try the strategies discussed here and create a great work environment for your employees – one where their abilities are used to their full potential, and where good motivational techniques are used on a regular basis.

All the success,

Peter Mclees, Leadership Trainer and Coach
Mobile: 323-854-1713

P. S. Smart Development  has an exceptional track record helping ports, restaurants, stores, branches, distribution centers,  sales teams, food production facilities, nonprofits, government agencies, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.

AMP UP Sales for the Rest of 2017

As we are close to entering Q3, it's time for rigorous reflection... and it's time to get super-charged for the rest of 2017 
Here are a few questions to ask yourself and your sales team:

+ What did you learn so far 2017 that helped you acquire new accounts? Retain accounts? Penetrate accounts?
+ What did you do that wasn't so successful? 
+ What are you going to do better or differently in the rest of 2017 to acquire new accounts and retain/penetrate existing accounts? 
+ How much commissions are you going to make in 2017 and what are you committed to doing to achieve that? 

One of our favorite books to help us answer some of the questions above at this time of year is: "Your Best Year Yet" by Jenny Ditzler .

In this edition, we share a set of proven best practices that will help your sales team achieve its robust sales goals. 

Take these tips, share them with your sales force (during a sales meetings and/or 1:1s) and apply them in daily selling efforts--you'll find that even just using a few of these tips will help you and your people reach your goals and put more money in all of your pockets

The Single Most Critical Instruction in Closing

You are now going to receive the eight most important words in the art of closing. These are the most powerful words spoken on the complex, demanding, and well-paid art of closing. Here they are: 

Whenever you ask a closing question, zip it! 

Why is it so important to keep quiet? 

The first person who speaks after the closing question has been posed owns the product. If you speak first, you (or your company) still own the product. If the clients speak, they’re either going to say “yes” or “no.” 

If they say “yes,” whoopee! 
If they say “no,” they’ll likely say something you can grab hold of...another talking point that, once covered, allows you to try another closing attempt. 

So, keep quiet and don’t risk destroying the buying emotions you’ve worked so hard to build during your presentation. That is one area where average salespeople lose and winners win. 

The average salesperson can't wait more than ten seconds after asking a closing question to say something else. 

How NOT to Close a Sale

I recently heard a story about a salesperson trying to close a sale. He tried the old “IQ close.” He said, “This option makes the most sense; in fact, this is the option my smart customers chose.” So… I guess they are idiots if they don’t choose that option. No wonder salespeople get a bad rep. 

Some salespeople place too much pressure on the customer at this stage. Other salespeople spend too much time trying to find the magic pill for closing. Customers are turned off by gimmicky closing techniques. Customers are turned off by overbearing salespeople who treat the interaction as a win-loss scenario. If they close the sale, they win. If they don’t close the sale, they lose. 

Salespeople will also put too much pressure on themselves at this stage. They have a now-or-never approach to closing the sale. Even the term “closing the sale” sounds like a power-trip statement. In this scenario, the focus is on the salesperson, not the customer. 

Professional salespeople focus on understanding the customer’s business, needs, and problems

PLEASE COMMIT THIS TO MEMORY: The more time spent understanding the customer, the less effort it takes to move the sale forward. A clear understanding of the customer’s needs earns you the right to ask for their business.

Professional salespeople simplify the process. Closing the sale is not arm-twisting pressure. It’s about moving the sale forward. It’s not about finding a hundred different ways to close every sale, it’s about progressing this sale forward. 

In your next sales presentation try this simple two-question approach. 

Ask the customer for their thoughts. For example, 

“What do you think of my recommendations?” or “Am I on the right track?” 

If the customer gives you a buying signal, then ask for the business. For example, “How would you like to proceed today?” “How would you like to move forward today?” 

It’s not complex, it’s not about pressure, it’s not gimmicky, and it certainly isn’t about IQ; it’s about the customer’s needs. Once you understand the customer’s needs, progress the sale forward by asking them two questions. 

5 New Ways to Handle the Objection: “The Price is Too High”

The price is too high is an objection that is as old has humanity itself. If you think hard enough, I’m sure you can see the ancient Egyptians walking around an outdoor marketplace haggling with sellers using this very objection. And if you think even harder, you can probably envision weak sellers dropping their prices to make a sale. Things haven’t changed much in four thousand years, have they? 

The good news is that today there are a variety of proven ways to handle this age old objection. The most obvious way is to see it for it often is: a smokescreen hiding either a real objection or an attempt to haggle and have you to cave in and give a better price. In either of these situations the technique is to isolate the objection first and see what other stalls they come up with are before you negotiate price. You’ll see examples of these below. 

Below are five new ways to handle both types of price/budget objections. Pick the ones you’re most comfortable with, then make them your own and practice them until they become automatic. Given the frequency of this objection, you’ll be much more confident once you know how to handle it: 
“The price is too high – We don’t have the budget for it” 

Response One: 
“You’re right, and I know we’re not the cheapest out there – and it’s important that you heard that right – we’re not the “cheapest” service on the market. And there’s a very important reason for that: The quality that you get with us goes far beyond the few extra dollars you’ll invest today, and let me tell you the top three reasons why….” 

Response Two: 
“And that’s exactly why we offer our introductory program. Here’s the thing: we’re so convinced that you’ll come to appreciate the added services and value we offer that as soon as you begin using our service, you’ll forget all about the small initial cost. 

In fact, you’ll find that in the long run our (product or service) is not only affordable, but it saves you time AND makes you money. And that’s something you’re interested in doing, isn’t it?” 

Response Three: 
“_________, if you really think about this from a business perspective, you’ll soon see that this is actually something that you can’t afford NOT to do, and let me tell you why: If you don’t put this (product or service) to work for you, while you may save a bit of money today, you’ll be losing money tomorrow in terms of (lost revenues, extra work, lost sales and opportunities, etc.). As a operator, you just can’t afford to keep doing that. 

Response Four: 
“You know, a lot of business owners (V.P.’s, etc.) at first think this is an expense, but think again: if it helps to bring you more business, and/or helps you keep the clients and customers you already have, then it becomes an investment in your success, doesn’t it? And that’s how all successful companies grow – they invest in their business. 
And that’s what you have the opportunity to do right now. So let’s get you started…” 

Response Five: 
“I hear you _________, and let’s just say that I could wave a magic wand and get you the money (or reduce the price to where it would fit within your budget). Level with me: what other reasons would you have for not at least considering putting this to work for you today?”
[Now listen for the real objection and deal with it appropriately]

So now you have five new ways of handling the price objection. Make sure and listen for what the real objection is and then use the right script to overcome it.

The Number One Cause of Price Objections

Fairness is how you hope the other person will treat you. 

Last year, a survey of 500 people identified the causes of price resistance. Limited resources, fear, and lack of differentiation ranked toward the top, but they were not number one. The top driver of price resistance was a perceived lack of equity. They said things like, “I want a fair deal” or “I don’t want to feel I’ve been taken advantage of.” Buyers wanted to feel that they are getting at least as good as they are giving. Most defined value as a return greater than the investment. 

The equity theory of motivation proposes that humans compare outcomes to inputs. If the payoff is equal to or greater than the investment, the buyer perceives equity and is motivated to buy. Perception plays an important role in the appraisal of value. It is always the buyer’s perception that counts. Perceived inequity results in no purchase. 

As a salesperson, you can demonstrate the equity of your solution by demonstrating the short and long-term gains of your solution. Discuss the full value of your end-to-end customer experience. They must enjoy a return on their investment over time. Price is a one-time thing. Customers must perceive your value as an annuity. This way, they experience a return on the investment long after they pay the price to acquire it. 

The Root Cause of Many Lost Sales Opportunities

I was visiting an old friend not long ago and he reminded me of the great ping pong tournaments we used to have when we were in college. He also told me he had just purchased a ping pong table and it was “waiting” for us in his game room. My buddy quickly grabbed one paddle; I picked up the other. It's been decades since we last faced off against each other. We were never very good, but we were always competitive. 

After a brief warm-up period, I felt the old rivalry re-emerging. 

My friend had moved too far to the right side of the table. With a nice hit to the left corner, I could score an easy point. Maybe even a bragging point. 
Eagerly, I whacked the ball into just the right spot -- or so I thought. Instead, it sailed six feet beyond the table into a potted plant. (Too much adrenaline!) 

Moments later, another opportunity presented itself. My pal was playing too close to the table, making it difficult for him to hit a long ball placed directly in front of him. 

I swung hard and fast. It hit him in the chest. Another big miss for me. 

The Problem 
After a few more lost points, the root cause of the problem became glaringly obvious. My eagerness to score big was causing me to make rookie mistakes. 
To win, I needed to control my emotions -- which, as you might imagine, is easier said than done. 
We have to do that in sales too. Good sales opportunities get my adrenaline flowing. We can see how we can help. We know we can make a difference. We want to pounce on our prospect. 
It doesn't work. Instead, it creates serious, sales-ending obstacles. Prospects don't want to play with you anymore. They think you're only out for yourself. It's probably not true, although I have to admit that early in my career it was. 

The Solution 
If you really want to win at the game of sales, it's crucial to control your emotions. Sometimes the first step is hardest -- recognizing your own actions are causing the problems. 
Then you have to figure out new ways to respond and even learn new skills. It's hard work, but it's worth it. 

As for my ping pong game, I realized that mastering the skills I needed to beat my friend would take longer than my weekend visit. I decided to focus on having fun instead -- and keeping the ball in play. 

Sell Value Not Price

Selling value is the number-one obstacle that salespeople face. It is challenging but not impossible. Big box superstores, category killers, and discounters of every stripe are attempting to re-define the concept of value by using the word value as a euphemism for cheap. A solution that fails to perform for a customer is lousy value, regardless of the price. To sell value, let’s begin with an understanding of value—what it is not and what it is. 

Value is not bloated, feature-rich products. Value is not layers of services that a company offers. Value is not a cheap price. Price is a product feature—like size, color, packaging options, etc. Why allow yourself to have a sale derailed over a product feature when the real issue is value? This reminds us of the famous Mark Twain quote, “Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” Salespeople that allow themselves to be sucked into a price debate think no differently from the person who raises the price issue. 

Value is an outcome, the result of your solution. Value is return on investment, yield, or the impact of your solution on the customer’s world. Price affects this outcome no more or less than any other product feature. Salespeople lose the value argument when they get lost in the weeds of price justification. Like price-shoppers, they lose sight of the real purpose of a solution—to create something of value for the customer. 

The value of something is determined by what customers sacrifice measured against the outcome of the solution. Sacrifice includes price and ownership costs. Outcome includes what the solution does and how it affects the customer. If the outcome of the decision is greater than the sacrifice, it is great value. If the sacrifice is greater than the outcome, it is lousy value. Price is a piece of the sacrifice, not the whole of it. At the heart of buying decisions, customers want great value, not just cheap prices. Salespeople, who find themselves arguing over price versus selling their value, must heed the advice in Proverbs: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” 


“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” Georgia O’Keeffe, 20th-century American Artist and Painter 

You may not feel what Georgia O’Keeffe is describing here, but if you are like many salespeople, you probably experience varying degrees of cold call reluctance. 

Cold call reluctance is the fear, unwillingness, or hesitancy salespeople experience when they think about reaching out to customers whether they are cold calls or repeat calls. This can range from mild to severe. It includes prospecting by phone, in-person canvassing, networking, or asking for referrals. 

Call reluctance is either a problem of will or skill. If it is a problem of will, it includes the fear of rejection, the belief that cold calling takes too much effort, or the attitude that it is not a viable way to build your business. If it is a problem of skill, it means that you have never been taught an effective way of cold calling. Simply, you lack the necessary skills to make this a viable business-building strategy. 

If it is a problem of will, consider the possibility that you can build your business by reaching out to prospects. Rejection is highly overrated. How can anyone reject you personally when they really don’t know you? All they are rejecting is your messaging. Do some serious soul-searching, and ask yourself why you do not like reaching out to prospects. 

If it is a problem of skill, you can reread and PRACTICE the SMART training module entitled, 

"Turning Cold Calling in to Gold Calling. "

Reaching out to prospects is still a viable way to build your business. A study of calling habits found that 80% of salespeople still cold call as a way to fill their pipelines. A successful cold-calling campaign requires planning, practice, and persistence. 

The Power of Surprise in Customer Service


Saban is referring to his surprise loss to Auburn in the 2013 Iron Bowl. With one second left, Alabama attempted a 50+ yard field goal. The ball soared through the air, on target, but it didn’t have the distance. The ball fell eight yards short into the arms of Chris Davis, an Auburn receiver. Davis ran it back for a touchdown to win the game. The Auburn nation was in a euphoric state while Alabama was devastated. Although the game was just another win and loss, there was one element that made this game larger-than-life, surprise. Surprise can have the same effect in customer service. 

Surprise has the ability to make every service experience that much better, or make everything worse. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review article mentions that surprise can amplify whatever emotion you are experiencing. The article also argues that surprise is one of our most powerful marketing tools. Surprise can make or break your customer experience. 

However, surprise is becoming more and more difficult. Companies benchmark themselves against their competitors. Companies are too quick to say “me too” instead of “Surprise! We’re different.” Companies are changing to become the same, rather than changing to surprise their customers. 

Given, the ubiquitous nature of products and services, it shouldn’t surprise you that only 7% of customers are delighted. In a recent customer service survey sponsored by American Express, customer experiences are average or below average 93% of the time. 

To surprise customers, we must look for opportunities. Customers will give us hints, but we need to recognize these hints as opportunities. If the customer shows the slightest hint of dissatisfaction, it is an opportunity. The slightest hint of satisfaction is also an opportunity to heighten the experience. 

To surprise customers, we must also find a way to say yes. When a customer needs our help, we say yes. When a customer needs more information, we say yes. When a customer asks “can you do this,” we say yes. There are several ways we can say yes. For example, if you don’t know the answer, find out who does. If the customer problem is unique, research a solution. If they need to vent, then listen. I recently met a business owner who understands the importance of saying “yes” to customers. Surprisingly, the name of his company is Yes Cleaners. 

The next time you are presented with an opportunity to surprise a customer, say yes. They will remember the experience. Think of the last time you received surprise service. 

If you'd like to become a better sales coach (or help your managers to be effective coaches) call me at 323-854-1713 or email me at

To your greater success,

Peter C. Mclees, Principal
Smart Development

We help sales reps and sales organizations accelerate their sales. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Finding and Developing Employees with Ownership

Ownership vs. Rentership
Ownership is something that is easily recognized, but not easily defined. An obvious illustration of ownership can be found in real estate. Generally when you own a property, you treat it with respect, keep it in good repair, and make improvements to protect your investment and increase its value. When you’re just the renter in a property, you don’t have much motivation to care about the spills, the holes, the burns, or how your daily activities affect anything beyond your security deposit.
A sense of ownership is activated naturally in people when they have a financial or emotional stake in something. When something can be described as “mine,” it triggers feelings of possessiveness and accountability that are not present from a position of “yours.”
Employee Ownership
Ownership in most any business or organization is not much different from the real estate industry in that there are those with an “owner” mentality and those with a “renter” mentality in each. In any retail business you can usually identify the owner or manager just by observation. It’s not just that they’re wearing better clothes or walking around with an air of authority. You can point out the head honchos because you can see that they are operating from that position of “mine-ness.” They notice more, engage more, and care more because they have a greater financial and emotional stake in what they’re doing every day.
Occasionally you will encounter a non-managerial employee who possesses that elusive quality of ownership. This is the employee who treats the company they work for and the customers they serve as their own. To the employee with ownership, every success, big or small, is something to celebrate. Every failure, big or small, is something to worry about. This rare and wonderful employee takes every aspect of their job personally and is internally driven towards excellence because that’s the way they like to show up in the world
Finding Employees with Ownership
Many managers don’t know there is such a thing as ownership until they accidentally hire someone with it. Suddenly the sharp contrast between the employees with the owner mentality and the employees with the renter mentality becomes apparent. The newly awakened manager can now see that the quality of ownership brings with it the kind of proactive and productive behaviors that get things done and get them done well. Since employees with ownership are usually self-directed and low maintenance, managers find that they have few time-consuming supervisory hassles with them. Liking what they see, managers instantly want more of this ownership stuff, but since they’re not sure how they got it in the first place, they’re not sure how to go about getting more employees with it for the future.
It’s not as mysterious as it may seem. Understanding what ownership is, deciding that you want it, and recognizing it when you see it brings it closer. A manager who wants to establish a strong sense of ownership as the standard operating attitude with an employee team just needs to ask for it, support it, and positively reinforce it in order to get it and keep it alive.
Hire for Ownership
Perhaps a candidate seems qualified in every way but seems to lack that elusive quality of ownership. Should you hire that person anyway? It’s important to consider the value of ownership in this job position for the organization. Ask yourself these questions:
+ Will the employee be working without supervision?
+ Is there a large amount of direct customer contact that the employee will have as a regular part of their job?
+ Is this a unique position with unique responsibilities as opposed to a duplicate position on a large team?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, then it would serve you and your organization best for you to hold out for ownership. In an unsupervised position, a person with ownership will be productive and motivated without any external source of inspiration or direction. In a customer contact position, a person with ownership will take charge of the interactions and ensure that they are led to their best possible conclusions. In a position that is not duplicated anywhere else, a person with ownership will know that others are depending on their contribution, and will thrive in that position of key responsibility.
There are some job positions in which ownership would be nice, but it’s not necessary. But if you’re hiring for a position in which ownership is key factor for success, then it is a quality worth waiting for.
If you think that anyone can be taught ownership behaviors, then you might want to think again. You can encourage an ownership tendency and watch it grow, but if the seed isn’t there, you can dig all you want and you’ll never find that proactive, responsible employee that you really desire. Skills can be taught. Personality and internal qualities cannot. In the hiring process, it’s important to get clear about the intangible qualities that the candidate is bringing to your party before you decide to invite them in.
Train for Ownership
If you can’t teach the quality of ownership to someone who doesn’t inherently possess it, is there any point in thinking about how ownership fits into the training process? The short answer is “Absolutely!” Training will not magically insert the quality of ownership into every employee who walks in the door. But any person who does walk in with an ownership attitude can easily have it sucked out of them quickly, starting with the training process.
When conducting employee training, it’s important to differentiate between teaching skills and conditioning behavior because each aspect demands a different strategy. Specific skills like running a cash register, using the computer, completing reports, etc. need to be taught with specific how-to steps. These are the robotic parts of the job in which creativity and deviation are not acceptable.
However, any other aspect of the job, like courtesy, efficiency, cleanliness, teamwork, safety, etc. should not be taught in a robotic how-to way. These are the aspects of the job in which you want employees to be express their creativity, insert their personality, and make an emotional investment. You encourage ownership when you use an outcomes-based coaching strategy whenever possible. By clearly establishing a desired outcome, giving performance guidelines, and then allowing employees to put their personal spin on achieving the outcome, you will give the seed of ownership room to grow.
As an example, the employees at the Walt Disney theme parks are world-renown for their proactive courtesy. These employees are not taught a series of how-to behaviors that will produce courteous interactions. Instead, they are told that the desired outcome of every interaction is to delight the guest, and whenever possible, exceed the guest’s expectations. They are given guidelines about safety, efficiency, cultural diversity, and cost control, but they are never told exactly what to do or when to do it. They are allowed to devise their own creative solutions based on the unique situation that is in front of them.
As a result of this outcomes-based coaching, the Disney employees are encouraged to take ownership for each and every guest (customer) transaction, and they remain mentally and emotionally engaged in their work. This is how Disney employees are “trained” to make magic. Employees in any business or organization can be encouraged to take ownership and add their own “magic” to their work during the training process. The coaching and feedback they receive on a daily basis will then determine if they actually do it.
Coach for Ownership
If you find yourself constantly having to stay on top of people in order to get things done, then one or more of these statements is probably true:
+ You’ve hired people with renter mentality
+ Your stifling management style has caused people’s ownership qualities to become dormant
+ The owner mentality people have left to work somewhere that supports and appreciates them more
Outcomes-based training can activate the quality of ownership, but only outcomes-based coaching can keep it alive. Instead of focusing on telling employees what to do and how to do it all day, managers who coach ownership spend their day reminding employees about desired outcomes and offering support as the employees work their own strategies to achieve those outcomes.
This release of control is difficult for many managers because they think the reason they were chosen to be a manager is so that they could boss people around. Employees with ownership won’t work for bosses with a controlling style of leadership for very long. And those employees who are comfortable being told what to do will never have a sense of ownership.
In an environment of ownership, the expertise and authority of the manager is best used to eliminate the barriers that make taking ownership difficult or impossible for the employees. For instance, employees who don’t have the magical cash register code can’t take ownership for a return transaction. Employees who have never seen or don’t know how to read the plan-o-gram can’t take full ownership for their stocking responsibilities. Employees who don’t have the authority to make decisions to remedy a customer complaint will never take ownership for service recovery. By removing these barriers, the manager makes ownership possible and keeps the owner mentality alive.
Nobody can eliminate barriers to success more quickly or more easily than a supportive manager who understands the value of ownership. Using your time to eliminate the barriers to taking ownership is time well spent because at the end of the day you will be encouraging employees to rise to a new level of responsibility in their daily activities.
Reward Ownership
What you give your attention to is what your employees will give their attention to as well. When you “catch” employees demonstrating ownership, make sure they receive recognition in a way that is visible to their teammates. When employees observe their teammates being rewarded for certain behaviors, they are likely to adopt those behaviors as well.
When choosing the most appropriate reward for ownership behaviors, remember that people with ownership are emotionally invested in their work. The recognition that will have the most impact is the kind that is customized and personal because it will connect with the employee on an emotional level. Just like with any special occasion, the nice present is appreciated, but a sincere and genuine message in the card is treasured.
Leading for Ownership
Many managers say they want more ownership, but secretly fear the chaos that might come with the loss of control. The goal of ownership is not to have everybody running around “doing their own thing,” but rather to allow everybody to do their job and still be their own person. Control (or the illusion of it) can still be maintained with clearly established goals, performance levels, and accountabilities.
Those who exert their managerial powers by telling people what to do, what to think, and how to behave, have unconsciously confused managing with parenting. The kind of adults who will allow themselves to be treated like children are not the same people who will be the proactive, self-motivated employees with ownership that most managers desire. Managers can have total control or they can have ownership, but they can’t have both. The key is to choose consciously which you want, and then focus on your own behaviors so that you can get what you've chosen. 

To your greater success,

Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach, Trainer and Organizational Facilitator
Mobile: 323-854-1713

P. S. Smart Development  has an exceptional track record helping ports, restaurants, stores, branches, distribution centers,  sales teams, food production facilities, nonprofits, government agencies, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Unplug, Really Connect and Make A Difference

I typically shop at the grocery store in the early morning. At 7:00 am there’s not many shoppers so usually it’s just one of several cashiers who handle that shift.

Katrina is a lovely, 50-ish Eastern European woman with a bright smile and bubbly personality. We usually engage in some small talk about food, birds, dogs and other critters. I hadn't seen her for awhile.

This particular morning (The Tuesday after Memorial Day), something seemed a bit off. I asked her if she had a great, long weekend. She just shrugged and said it was OK. I paused, then asked if she had to work all weekend.

“No, actually I had my regular days off.”

So, I just paused again, seeing if she would continue. She then added somberly,

“My husband died last month.”

I’m usually not at a loss for words. But it’s hard to speak when the wind is knocked out of you. “Oh my gosh, I am so sorry,” was the best I could muster.

Then she just kind of frowned. I’ve never felt so awkward at a grocery store checkout. Sure, I’ve said really stupid things there before, and I was really trying to avoid doing it here. “I can tell how much he meant to you.”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Had he been sick?”

Then she opened up and spoke for about a minute, explaining that he had some breathing issues. Katrina has a beautiful accent, but often I’m only able to understand about two-thirds of what she says. It didn’t matter. I smiled, nodded my head and listened. (There was no one else in line.)

At that moment I’m also trying to think of how to close it with her on a positive. And I’m also attempting to remember the list of stupid things people say when someone dies, that actually makes the person feel worse. (Like "She’s/he’s in a better place.” “Cheer up. Your [loved one who died] wouldn’t want you to be sad.")

So I said, “You have this incredible gift of brightening people’s day, please keep doing it. You are making a difference.”

Then I noticed her name tag had “Employee of the Month.” I pointed to it. “You have that for a reason, keep it up.” She smiled proudly.

I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, but I was thinking about writing a blog post about attitude, and how every day is a gift.

And how by having feelings of gratitude, and a genuine interest in others we will enrich the lives of everyone around us, and ours as a fringe benefit.

Everyone has something going on in their world. Sometimes we need to slow down, pull our head out of our devices, take interest, listen, and connect human-to human.

Everyone benefits.

Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach and Trainer

Mobile: 323-854-1713

P. S. Smart Development  has an exceptional track record helping ports, restaurants, stores, branches, distribution centers,  sales teams, food production facilities, nonprofits, government agencies, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.