Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

customer-serviceWhy is it that we never speak of customer service in our nonprofit work? Be honest, when was the last time you heard someone refer to increasing customer service, or customer satisfaction? I can’t remember one time.

What does this say about how we view our clients, particularly for organizations that don’t sell a service like hospitals, arts and cultural nonprofits.

The Ritz-Carlton has made a brand out of exceptional customer service. Matter-of-fact, they won the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award twice (I am a Baldrige examiner). They have something to teach every organization about customer service.

Diana Oreck, vice-president of The Leadership Center for the Ritz-Carlton shared some of the company policies in employment and customer. Listen to what she said, how can you apply it to your organization? If you charged for your client services, would you have any buyers?

  • Good customer service is like poetry in motion, Oreck said.
  • And customer service starts with proper training for all employees.
  • The service philosophy is so simple, but many companies are giving it lip service, she said.
  • It all starts with hiring the right people. The Ritz has an elaborate interview-testing method that was developed specifically to identify personalities that are “customer-focused.”
  • Communication with customers is a necessity, she said.
  • Happy people spend more money, Oreck said. Verbiage is important. We use customers’ names. It’s important. And we want them back. How many companies blow it in the last second when dealing with customers?
  • Perhaps listening to customers is the most useful tool.
  • If you receive a complaint, own it, she said. Then resolve it to the guest’s satisfaction. While service is declining in other industries, we have continued to increase business and offer guests unparalleled customer service. This can only be done through highly trained and motivated employees.

Let you organization’s ego “hold it’s breath.” What can you learn from her comments?

Source: Shottenkik, J. (2005, April 6). VP of Ritz-Carlton speaks at Oklahoma City leadership program, says success hinges on good customer service. Journal Record, 1.

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Nonprofits have organizational missions, and their boards have fiduciary responsibilities to contributors, employees, customers, members, and the environment in which they operate. The most egregiously overlooked problem with nonprofit organizations is that their boards don’t seem to realize that the organization exists for a reason that lies outside of the board meeting room.

Get in the game and fix what’s not working; nonprofit doesn’t mean nonperformance!

Ignorance of Governance
The board is too often a tool for the CEO or executive director, rather than a governor and overseer. Nonprofit boards should do three basic things:

  • Establish the mission of the organization.
  • Determine what measures will determine success in that mission.
  • Select, evaluate, and develop officers and senior managers.

Poor Choices for Board Membership
The most common criterion I’ve heard for prospective nonprofit board members is: Can they raise money? Fund-raising and governance are two separate requirements, and one individual rarely possesses both sets of skills at equal levels.

Board members should, amongst them, represent experience and expertise across the following gamut: business management, public relations, finances, law, human resources, volunteerism, and nonprofit experience.

Inappropriate Size
Virtually every nonprofit in the land errs on the side of too many board members. This is because board members are chosen not only for governance (which is, in fact, the least of it), but also for name recognition, reward, potential donations, contacts, cachet, and personal friendship.

Poor Self-Regulation and Discipline
Nonprofits need board terms even more than for-profits, because there is less external incentive and internal upheaval likely to cause turnover in the former.

Lack of Interim Actions and Poor Committee Work
No one can provide governance by working only once a month, much less once a quarter. Committees and subcommittees need to be active in the interim.

Insufficient Distance From the Organization Leadership
Too often the executive director or president is a close friend of the board chair and/or key board members. Sometimes this coziness grows to the extent that the board chair and CEO often change places, or one is seen as a stepping-stone to the other.

Ignorance of the Bylaws
Boards need a parliamentarian to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Bylaws should be required reading for all new members, need to be taken up in review form at least annually by the full board, and should be updated and revised as current conditions warrant. The best boards assign a person as the watchdog to make sure these requirements are met. The worst can’t even find their copies.

Nonprofit boards act, most of the time, as if they were the senior management team. Their job is not to implement, not to execute, not to oversee daily operations. Their job is to set long-term goals and evaluate progress toward those goals.

The Great “Campaign” Debacle
The most legitimate gripe I’ve encountered from nonprofit staffs is the annual change in “theme.”

Strategy should never be solely a twelve-month affair, and constant theme changes can easily disrupt long-term strategy, making a mockery of any attempts to achieve longitudinal objectives. While bylaws often require a change of elected officers each year, they certainly don’t require a change in direction that is not dictated by strategic need or environmental events.

Misunderstanding the Value of Volunteers
The most waste to be found in any nonprofit is in the squandering of volunteer resources. Boards tend to look at volunteers as so much cannon fodder, not comprehending the tremendous asset they represent, the fact that the resource is not nonrenewable, and the financial fact that there is a return on investment equation that applies to volunteers.

Source: Good Enough . . . Isn’t Enough, by Alan Weiss. Amacom, 1999.

The Independent Sector is an excellent resource for help with board development and training.

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I ran across the following comment on diversity by Dr. Leonard Berry from Texas A&M University, and wanted to share it with you:

Strong values-driven leadership enables organizations to achieve what John Gardner calls wholeness incorporating diversity.

Speaking to a Stanford University graduating class, Gardner told them their goal was “not to achieve wholeness by suppressing diversity, nor to make wholeness impossible by enthroning diversity, but to preserve both.”

Source: Berry, L. (1999). Discovering the soul of service: The nine drivers of sustainable business success. New York: The Free Press.

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Most of us have had the unpleasant experience of working for a manager who just “didn’t get it.” These insecure bullies live by private dictums and closed doors. And those who call up the most cynicism can parrot the pabulum of the latest business book, but are as motivating as a skunk at a garden party. Their real management model is that of the 400-year-old command and control. Henry Ford would be so proud!

I worked for just this sort of organization – a Washington, DC beltway bandit — privately held (read, the personal play thing of an ego-driven owner, and lock-stepped managers) which was actually paid to provide management assistance to national and regional nonprofit organizations for a government agency! Physician heal thyself?

For all these organizations and their brain-dead bosses, I offer the following notes on areas that result in real-world management motivation. The most consistently proven method is to fulfill personal needs that motivate — not yours, but those of who elect to work for you.

  • Belonging: Being a part of a group provides us with a sense of comfort, security, and partnership.
  • Achievement. To achieve gives our lives purpose, and it reinforces our self-esteem because it demonstrates our competence.
  • Advancement. To feel successful, we need to continually expand our personal and professional skills, knowledge, and abilities.
  • Power. An advance in a career usually means more power or increase authority.
  • Responsibility. With responsibility comes respect, both for the person given responsibly and for the person who delegated it.
  • Challenge. Feeling challenged to grow mentally and emotionally provides a strong incentive for many people.
  • Recognition. Having others know of our achievements is essential. A letter or memo, an award, a gift, or a bonus is all forms of recognition that motivate future actions.
  • Excellence. Doing an excellent job is often a reward in itself. This explains why millions of workers can find joy and meaning in their work even when it’s routine.

Let those with eyes see, and those with ears hear. –Matthew 13:15,16

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The task of leadership

Peter Drucker, arguable the management guru of the 20th century often spoke of effective leadership. Here is one of my most favorite quotes:

The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths . . . making our weaknesses irrelevant.

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What are the attributes of today’s ideal leader? Marshall Goldsmith, one of our the country’s premier management coaches, put this question to 200 high-potential leaders. The results were clear. The ideal leader is a person who builds internal and external partnerships.

Leaders must also partner with customers, suppliers, and competitors.

1. Partnering with customers. As companies have become larger and more global, there has been a shift from buying stand-alone products to buying integrated solutions. One reason for this shift is economy of scale. Huge retail corporations, like Home Depot or Wal-Mart, do not want to deal with thousands of vendors. They would prefer to work with fewer vendors who can deliver not only products, but systems for delivery that are customized to meet their needs. Also, many customers now want “network solutions,” not just hardware and software.

As the supplier’s relationship with their customers continues to change, leaders from supply organizations will need to become more like partners and less like salespeople. This trend toward building long-term customer relationships, not just achieving short-term sales, means that suppliers need to develop a much deeper understanding of the customer’s total business. They will need to make many small sacrifices to achieve a large gain. In short, they will need to act like partners.

2. Partnering with suppliers. As the shift toward integrated solutions advances, leaders will have to change their relationship with suppliers. For example, more of IBM’s business now involves customized solutions incorporating non-IBM products and services. While the idea of IBM selling non-IBM products was almost unheard of in the past, it is now common—to the benefit of customers and, to IBM itself. The same trend is occurring in pharmaceuticals and telecommunications.

In a world where a company sold stand-alone products, partnering with suppliers was not only seen as unnecessary, but unethical! The company’s job was to “get the supplier down” to the lowest possible price to increase margins and profitability. Today many leaders realize that their success is directly related to their supplier’s success. In fact, some include commitment to suppliers as one of their core values. They seek to transcend differences and focus on a common good—serving the end user of the product or service.

3. Partnering with competitors. The most radical change in the role of leader as partner has come in partnering with competitors. Most high-potential leaders see competitors as potential customers, suppliers, and partners. Most organizations that rely on knowledge workers have varied and complex relationships with competitors. When today’s competitors may become tomorrow’s customers, the definition of “winning” changes. People have memories. Unfairly “bashing” competitors to ruin their business could have harsh consequences. While competitors should not expect collusion or unfair practices, they should expect integrity and fair dealing.

The leader of the future will need to be skilled at managing these relationships. In many ways, telling direct reports (who know less than we do) what to do is a lot simpler than developing relationships with partners (who know more than we do). Working in a “silo” is simpler than having to build partnerships with peers. “Taking orders” from managers is simpler than having to challenge ideas that don’t meet customer needs. Selling a product to customers is simpler than providing an integrated solution. Getting the lowest price from suppliers is simpler than understanding their complex business needs. Competing with competitors is simpler than having to develop a complex customer-supplier-competitor relationship.

The challenge of leadership is growing. Many traditional qualities like integrity, vision, and self-confidence are still needed. But, building partnerships is becoming a requirement, not an option, for future leaders.

Marshall Goldsmith is the founding director of the Alliance for Strategic Leadership, and authority on helping leaders achieve positive change. marshall@gcnet.com. www.marshallgoldsmith.com.

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What are the attributes of today’s ideal leader? Marshall Goldsmith, one of our the country’s premier management coaches, put this question to 200 high-potential leaders. The results were clear. The ideal leader is a person who builds internal and external partnerships.

Internal partnerships include direct reports, co-workers and managers.

1. Partnering with direct reports. Traditional “bonds” between employees and organizations have changed. Employees no longer expect that their organizations will provide them with job security. As security has diminished, so has blind loyalty. Most high-potential leaders see themselves as “free agents,” not traditional “employees.” Their ideal leader is a person who develops “win-win” relationships and is sensitive to their needs for personal growth and development. In return, they feel a responsibility to deliver value back. They see the leader of the future as their partner, not their boss!

Managers of knowledge workers—people who know more about what they are doing than their mangers must be good partners. They won’t have a choice! If they are not great partners, they won’t have great people.

2. Partnering with co-workers. Successful leaders will share people, capital, and ideas to break down boundaries. Since the CEO is rewarded by the success of the organization, the CEO knows that people need to be shared so that they can develop the expertise and breadth needed to manage; capital needs to be shared so that mature business can transfer funds to high-growth business; and ideas need to be shared so that people can learn from both successes and mistakes.

While these advantages are easy to see from the vantage point of the CEO, they can be difficult to execute. Leaders will need to develop skills in negotiation and “win-win” relationships. They have to learn to share people, capital, and ideas. In some cases, they may choose to experience a short-term loss, so that the organization can achieve a long-term gain. In the past, many leaders have competed with colleagues for people, resources, and ideas—and been rewarded for “winning” this competition. In the future, leaders will need to collaborate as partners with co-workers.

3. Partnering with managers. The changing role of leadership will mean that the relationship between managers and direct reports will have to change in both directions. Many leaders will be operating more like the managing director of a consulting firm. They will be partners leading in a network, not managers leading in a hierarchy. At the consulting firm McKinsey and Company, a Director may often have less detailed knowledge about a client than a more junior partner. Leaders are trained to challenge their managers when they believe that the direction they are being given is not in the best interest of the client. This philosophy teaches leaders to have very responsible relationships with their managers.

Future leaders will work with their managers in a team approach that combines the leader’s knowledge of unit operations with the manager’s understanding of larger needs. Such a relationship requires taking responsibility, sharing information, and striving to see both the micro and macro perspective. When direct reports know more than their managers, they have to learn how to “influence up.”

Marshall Goldsmith is the founding director of the Alliance for Strategic Leadership, and authority on helping leaders achieve positive change. marshall@gcnet.com. www.marshallgoldsmith.com.

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