The Key to Building Customer Loyalty
Posted on Monday, Dec 15, 2014 by Michael Canic

As someone who flies well over 100,000 miles per year, it was refreshing to read the comments of Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Airlines, my preferred carrier.

Air Travel is an experience. Our job is to make sure our customers have the best experience possible. Ultimately, physical assets like planes or facilities or clubs can get competed away. Loyalty, however, is much harder to compete against.

The battle is for hearts, the hearts of your customers. How they feel when they engage you. The feelings you evoke by showing you care, by going above and beyond, by improvising to find a solution. By creating an experience.

All of us are heartened when a service employee truly cares and takes pride in helping us. And we become more loyal if we consistently have that experience.

Yes, shiny new planes may impress in the short term. But for the long term, it’s the experience.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How Thinking of Failure Helps Lead to Success
Posted on Monday, Dec 8, 2014 by Michael Canic

Jake Burton Carpenter founded Burton snowboards in 1977. In his first year he sold 300 snowboards. Today his company has five international offices, employs almost a thousand people, and snowboarding has grown from a fringe activity to an Olympic sport.

You don’t become the industry leader and maintain that position without having great products. So what one assumption does Burton feel is safe to make about his products?

“I learned the hard way that you cannot presume anything is going to work well. You have to think through every possible failure and test the hell out of products. Our mantra is to assume the product will fail – and then make sure it doesn’t.”

Assume it will fail. Then make sure it doesn’t. Good is never good enough. Institute the ongoing drive for better.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How to Create a Positive Work Environment (part 2)
Posted on Monday, Dec 1, 2014 by Michael Canic

Last week I touched on how to create a positive work environment when setting goals, discussing ideas, and motivating people. This week:

Responding to Outcomes
1)     Celebrate more than you think you should. Don’t wait for the year-end holiday party to recognize people. Punctuate all their hard work and effort throughout the year with brief celebrations for legitimate progress and success.
2)     Find a positive in the negative. For every negative outcome there is something positive to take away, even it’s simply a painful lesson. Starting with the positives gives people hope.
3)     Promote learning, not judgment. Always ask two questions in the wake of a negative outcome: What have we learned? What would we do differently next time?
4)     Improvement starts in the mirror. The need to improve is non-negotiable. Start by rigorously assessing what you should do to better focus, equip and support your people to succeed in the future.
5)     Cut off a finger to save a hand. Inevitably, there will come a time when an employee is simply unable to perform at the standard required. The most positive thing you can do for your team is to take decisive action and remove that person from the work environment.

There are countless things you as a leader can do to create a positive work environment. Implementing those I’ve spotlighted over the past two weeks is a solid start.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How to Create a Positive Work Environment (part 1)
Posted on Monday, Nov 24, 2014 by Michael Canic

Each of us is energized in a positive work environment. So how can you as a leader create and sustain such an environment? This week and next I’ll spotlight ten ways.

Setting Goals
1)     Set challenging, achievable goals, not big, hairy, audacious goals. People are more likely to believe in them and more likely to reach them. They won’t feel set up to fail.

Discussing Ideas
2)     Ask before you judge. Don’t reflexively shoot down ideas. Ask explanatory questions starting with ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ It shows respect, and you just might learn something.
3)     Disagree with the idea, respect the person. If you do disagree, be sure to do it as respectfully as possible. As a result you’ll be less likely to create a battle of wills.
4)     Change your views enthusiastically, not begrudgingly. It sends a powerful message that it’s okay to change one’s views and that ego should not stand in the way of learning.

Motivating People
5)     Remove the de-motivators. Doing things to motivate people has little impact unless you first identify and remove the things that irritate and de-motivate them. The inconsistencies. The mixed messages.

Next week: Creating a positive environment by how you respond to outcomes.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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The Financial Case for Employee Engagement
Posted on Monday, Nov 17, 2014 by Michael Canic

It amazes me that some managers still question the benefits of promoting employee engagement. That, “How will this improve the bottom line?” is still being asked.

So in case you’re one of the remaining few who thinks all of this engagement stuff is just a bunch of fluffy pop-psychology that distracts from the real business, consider this:

A 2013 report by Gartner, the I.T. research and advisory firm, summarized studies from Gallup, Hay Group, and Towers Watson showing that employee engagement has a quantifiable impact on business performance:

Companies with top-quartile engagement scores grew revenues at 2.5 times the rate of bottom-quartile companies

A one-year study showed high-engagement companies grew operating income by 19% and earnings per share by 28%, compared to -32% and -11% for low-engagement companies

Those with engagement scores in the top-quartile showed 12% higher customer advocacy, 18% higher productivity and 12% higher profitability

Of course you can always find counter-examples. Company A treats it’s employees well but performs poorly; Company B treats its employees poorly but performs well. There are many critical factors that drive business results. Yet the correlation between employee engagement and financial performance is (rationally) undeniable.

Can we finally move on?

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How to Be Number One
Posted on Monday, Nov 10, 2014 by Michael Canic

How do you differentiate your organization? How can you stand out as unique? You want to be number one yet there’s only one who can be number one.

Consider this: Only one person was the first person to climb Mt. Everest – Sir Edmund Hillary. No one knows, for example, who was the 40th person, the 64th person or the 1490th person to climb Everest.

However the first woman to climb Everest was Junko Tabei (#40 overall). The first to summit without supplemental oxygen were Peter Habeler and Reinhold Messner (#64, #65). And the first blind climber to climb Mt. Everest was Erik Weihenmayer (#1490).

The lesson: There can only be one number one in any category. Yet there are an infinite number of categories. Your challenge is to define the customer-relevant category in which you are or can be number one. And then fight to sustain it.

Yes, you can be number one.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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Be a Cannibal
Posted on Monday, Nov 3, 2014 by Michael Canic

It’s tough to knowingly put your revenues at risk. To release a product you know will cut into the sales of an existing product. Why would anyone do that?

Because if you don’t someone else will. Apple CEO Tim Cook loves cannibalization — as long as it’s self-inflicted.

“We know iPad is cannibalizing the Mac, but that doesn’t worry us. On iPad in particular, we have the mother of all opportunities because the Windows market is much larger than the Mac market. It’s clear it’s already cannibalizing some. I’ve said for years now that I believe the tablet market will be larger than the PC market at some point, and I still believe that.”

Of course it’s a gamble. That’s business. But cannibalization isn’t wrong, simply because competitive advantages don't last forever. In fact the only safe assumption to make in business is that any competitive advantage you have will be copied, leap-frogged or made obsolete. Cannibalization may be what keeps you ahead of the curve.

Bon appétit!

Your thoughts?

Michael

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A Universal Truth in Business
Posted on Monday, Oct 27, 2014 by Michael Canic

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a number of executive groups in London and Belfast. Given that most of my consulting and speaking is in North America, I was interested in learning what cultural differences there might be regarding how they engage people at work.

Instead, what stood out was strikingly similar. Namely, that when people feel they are respected, trusted and cared about as individuals, they are more connected to their coworkers, their managers and their work. As a result, they give discretionary effort. And they perform better.

My experience is this is equally true of desert guides in Jordan, hotel staff in Peru, mountain porters in Pakistan, and personal drivers in Zimbabwe. This may be as close as it comes to a universal truth in business:

Connect with the heart, and the head will follow.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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So What Exactly is Strategy?
Posted on Monday, Oct 20, 2014 by Michael Canic

For all that is said and written about strategy, it’s surprising how little agreement there is about what strategy actually is. Since the focus of my business is working with organizations to institute the structure and discipline of strategic management, I have some strong thoughts about this.

Some would say that strategy refers to the longer term intentions of an organization. Others emphasize that it must involve the organization as a whole, not merely a department, function or location. Still others maintain that the overarching goal is what is strategic, while executing towards it is tactical.

Yet imagine a small business on the brink, whose survival depends on the manufacturing department fulfilling a major order in the next 10 days. In such a case it’s hard to imagine anything more strategic. This, despite the fact that it isn’t long term and doesn’t involve the company as a whole. And the execution is very much strategic.

So what is strategy?

Strategy is a discipline, a structured and dynamic process that establishes why an organization must change, what it must achieve or become, how it intends to do it, and then acts to ensure that those intentions become reality.

That’s strategy.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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What to Expect of Your People
Posted on Monday, Oct 13, 2014 by Michael Canic

There are two things you should expect of your people: performance and conduct. Performance refers to how well they meet job expectations – what they do and what results. Conduct refers to how well they interact with others and the integrity with which they act.

Importantly, the two do not average out. Conducting one’s self impeccably does not excuse poor performance. And exceptional performance does not excuse toxic conduct.

Yet too often organizations rationalize the poor conduct of an employee who happens to be a top performer. The cost? It erodes management credibility and demotivates employees.

So what happens when a top performing, poisonous employee is held accountable for his actions? Morale jumps up. People regain faith in management. And organizational performance improves.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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