+Scott Watson

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Premier League Chairman Approach to Performance Management

Yesterday, the new owners of Blackburn Rovers Football Club decided that Sam Allardyce, the manager who last season saved the club from certain relegation, and this season has steadied what some commentators would term 'a sinking ship' was no longer the manager for them.

Stories of disagreements between Allardyce and the owners regarding the availability of cash to fund transfer purchases were initially reported, however, the club's chairperson stated that the somewhat unexpected sacking was due to Allardyce not being the right person to take the club where the new owners want it to be. and, the place they want to be is in one of the top 4 spots in the Premier League - spots virtually guaranteed to the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and erm...well, not Liverpool - for this season at least!

It's not always about the money

Manchester City's billionaire owners pumped several hundred million pounds into a transfer fund to maximise the possibility for them to be a top 6 club in the Premier League. Perhaps the eager investors and owners are quick to forget that former manager Sven Goren Erickson reached the dizzy heights of seventh in the Premier League before being sacked....because City wanted to be a 'top six' club! And Erickson spent very little on buying new players.
What are the lessons here for managers in your organisation?

  1. Just because you saved a team from failure in the past, doesn't automatically qualify you to lead a team to sustained success in the future.
  2. You (the manager) may not be the problem. Sometimes, it's the team (or several members of it) that need to play/work in a different role or, at worst, be moved on. Carrying dead weight doesn't help your team or organisation perform perform optimally.
  3. Manage 'poor' or 'inadequate' more effectively. OK, in the football arena, the owners can sack you on the spot, but you're likely to be paid off quite handsomely and not need to find alternative employment for a while. In business, it's very different. There's a process to be followed which is aimed at either improving performance or, getting rid of the manager whilst remaining within legal constraints so as to guard against an unfair dismissal hearing.
  4. When you inherit a team, find out specifics about performance history from the previous manager or, at the very least, performance appraisal records (but be careful, they can be very fluffy and inaccurate in detailing facts). Team building is key!
  5. Seek feedback from your boss. What are their most important goals? What are their top priorities in terms of results required? What reporting do they require from you? What are minimum performance standards? When you obtain this data, you have boundaries to work within and goals to work towards. There's no guessing.
Don't you find it a little strange that just last week, England football manager, Fabio Capello was tipping Allardyce as his potential successor in the most challenging job in English football...and just a few days later, Allardyce is looking for a new job?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Learn to See Situations Differently - A Lesson from Bernie

An integral part of our role as facilitators is to help delegates see a situation, however emotive, challenging or unattractive, from different angles. This skills is commonly termed 'reframing'.

We often share true stories with delegates on how creating (and maintaining) a strong emotional connection to a situation, or at least, a strong emotional connection to how we perceive it, can cause major problems if we allow it to. Take this recent example:

A Qantas A380 super jumbo flight makes emergency landing due to a component shearing off one of its engines. Not a significant problem perhaps. And if you're a passenger and the calm pilot has advised you that all is in order and that you remain safe, no problem at all perhaps? It's more likely to be a story for your family and pals to enjoy back home.

But, what was identified later by 'experts' was that the component became dislodged from the engine because of what is termed 'faulty manufacturing'. And remember, this is a Rolls Royce engine. The cream of the engineering crop! Experts have advised that the component falling from the engine mounting, whilst not good for PR, didn't actually cause a problem with flight safety. BUT, they did comment that the component smashed into a wing. What's the problem? The wings of a A380 store the kerosine which fuels the aircraft. They are packed with flammable liquid - liquid you really shouldn't consider lighting at 30,000 feet. If the fuel had lit, a fireball would have fallen from the sky. Rather like the ill-fated Space Shuttle incident from the 1990's. An incident which, if some people had done their jobs effectively, would not have happened.

So. You're a passenger on the Qantas A380 above. You disembark and what happens?

- Are you grateful that the incident was 'minor' and that you landed safely? After all, no harm done eh?

- Or, are you filled with panic, anger and resentment that 'I could have been killed because of these lazy, stupid engineers'? (Time to submit that claim for trauma...or insist on the Business Class upgrade).

There's always a different way to look at a situation, if we're willing to do so. Now on to Bernie Ecclestone and a rather creative piece of brand management and product marketing.

SKY News reported that Mr Ecclestone was the victim of a 'mugging' and that his rather exclusive HUBLOT watch was taken by the perpetrators of the crime. And this is when Mr Ecclestone decided that there was a marketing opportunity to be had. He allegedly contacted the watch manufacturer and, as SKY News quote an advertisement was launched showing Mr Ecclestone battered and bruised, accompanied by a tagline of 'See what people will do for a Hublot'.

Fantastic reframing and a lesson in self-promotion and marketing!

From Service to Satisfaction - What a Journey

The Christmas shopping madness has started. The spirit of goodwill doesn't appear to have kicked into place yet - at least it hadn't in the hectic Leeds city centre last Saturday.

The problem? Lots of people eager, perhaps a little too eager, to get their gift shopping completed before the streets and shops got too busy. Well, we're not really bothered about the streets being too busy are we? That we can handle. But queues? Oh no, not again. Waiting, waiting and more waiting. only to be served by a store assistant who doesn't smile (because they've seen the length of the queue they HAVE TO serve) and so in their own mind are planning just how stressful their day will be. Isn't it strange how some people plan their stress...in advance? Talk about an unproductive mindset that could ultimately ruin your day, week (or even life).

Thank you for your patience

I visited a beauty store in Leeds last Saturday to buy a few gifts for my wife. And yes, I'm rather good at forward-planning so set off from home at 9am in an effort to avoid the worst of the expected stampede of people who can sometimes forget their manners when 'enjoying' the Christmas shopping experience. And, it was this forward-planning and foresight that allowed me to witness a simply fantastic demonstration of turning a problem into a solution - a very creative solution too. Here's what happened.

Having been served by a very helpful female staff member at the store, I'd selected my purchases and walked to join the queue of around 20 shoppers who were waiting to be called to pay for their purchases. And that's where the problems started.

The two staff members behind the cash desk were fumbling around with a cash register, paying no attention to the queuing customers and talking to each other in shallow whispers. A full 60 seconds later, there was no communication forthcoming from behind the cash desk, or from anywhere else for that matter. And wouldn't you just know it. One of the employees behind the cash desk wore a badge stating 'MANAGER. But clearly, this 'MANAGER' was not 'managing' very well at all. She was so involved in the problem that she forgot that the people in the queue were not obligated to wait AND actually wanted to give her their hard-earned cash. And that ultimately means, the people who keep her, and her employees in jobs were not allowed to purchase their items, at least not for now.

As some members of the growing queue began to share their frustrations with each other, others chose to return their items to the shelves and simply leave the store. After all, these people are actually in the store and in the queue for the cash till BECAUSE THEY WANT TO GIVE THEIR MONEY TO THE STORE! It's quite a simple concept that some retailers should concentrate on. Accept money from those individuals who wish to give it to you.

A full 2 minutes following my noticing the initial fumbling behind the cash desk, still no communication from the Manager about what was happening, why it was happening or, how she would ensure that the now even longer queue of shoppers would be cared for. Now, I'm a patient guy and I am more understanding than many people that problems can arise. And that's ok with me. What I do appreciate knowing is how the problem (which is affecting my shopping experience) is to be resolved. I'm from the 'Just tell me and I'll understand' tribe of shoppers.

Saved by an Angel

With more staff gathering round the cash desk,the manager becoming even more frustrated and more would-be customers leaving the store - without spending any money, it became apparent that one of the cash tills was not operational. Yes, there's only so many times you can say 'Re-Boot' before even the queuing customers want to shout out 'Stop RE-BOOTING...Even we know it's not working'.

Now for the flip. And a fantastic flip at that. In a moment of pure inspiration (or perhaps, desperation), the young lady who had served me 5 minutes earlier takes a stand. Here she goes in a warm, genuine and very apologetic voice. And remember, at this point, the manager is still not speaking to customers in any way and not aware that a public demonstration of brilliance is about to take place - right in front of her.

'Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see the cash till isn't working.....and we continue to re-boot...even though that isn't working.' At this point, the shoppers focus is drawn to the solitary figure of a smiling store assistant attempting to help, and without her Managers' permission or knowledge.

At this point, the Manager, and crowd of followers look up and towards their renegade colleague. How could she break rank and dare to think for herself? She continued 'One of our two cash tills isn't working, BUT, the other one is and we can now serve you on this one.' Fantastic eh? Even the manager was so involved in the problem which was the faulty cash till that her awareness wasn't drawn to the fact that their other cash till was completely operational and waiting to start chomping cash and visa cards. Remember, would-be buyers are still leaving the queue and exiting the store without making their purchase/s.

And on she goes, 'Now, I just want to let you know that I can't sing...and I can't dance very well...' drawing smiles and giggles from her audience,...now for the dramatic pause and a bundle of shoppers wondering where this was leading.... 'BUT I AM THE BEST gift wrapper you'll meet in Leeds today, so please bear with us and we'll do our best to take good care of you

No applause from her audience, but she attracted lots of smiles, a few 'Thank You's and an abundance of goodwill. As her reactive colleagues got their brains in to gear, she politely asked the next in line how they would like their gifts wrapped - in a box? in a bag? Would you like a bow too? Even grumpy children got a treat as, after seeking parents permission, she asked if they would like a sweetie. All of these questions and a few polite and timely offers helped her to flip a problem with 'Customer Service' in to an experience of 'Customer Satisfaction', at least satisfaction with her contribution.

This is a true story about an experience I had last Saturday. Now for some questions for you about your organisation:

- Do you focus on delivering 'Customer Service' or 'Customer Satisfaction'? And do you actually understand just how your bottom-line financial performance is adversely impacted by your employees missing opportunities to satisfy would-be and actual customers?

- Do you train your employees, not just customer service staff, but, sales people, even your IT team to focus on delivering customer satisfaction? If not, you're very likely to be wasting your company money. Just because you don't see it go missing, doesn't mean it's not being wasted.

- How do you actually know when a customer of yours is genuinely 'satisfied' with your product or service? And beyond that, how do you know when they are genuinely 'satisfied' or 'dis-satified' with the quality of service/dis-service you delivered?

- Excellent customer satisfaction doesn't just save you money (fewer complaints, more efficient communication, right-first-time), it can actually make your company money too.

In short, forget about delivering excellent customer service. It's a worn out statement that whilst well-meaning, has become an empty platitude thrown around by some corporate bosses and many motivational (or as i term many of them 'Irritational') speakers that it's become virtually worthless. Focus on satisfaction and your financial performance could be boosted beyond your highest expectations.