How Trust Drives Results

What do high-performing organizations focus on as opposed from low-performing organizations, and what differentiates how they do it?

Businesses are under pressure, there is no doubt about that – but what are businesses focusing on and why in these difficult times?  A recent report from Interaction Associates (Building Trust in 2012) found the top 3 priorities for business to be:

  1. Top line/revenue growth
  2. Profit growth
  3. Improvements to Productivity and Efficiency

No surprise here – but what is interesting is the way in which high performing organizations (those whose net profit grew more than 5% over the last year) and low-performing organizations (those under 5% over the last year or shrank) approached this.

High performing organizations focused on achieving this by focusing on the people aspects of the business, these include:

  • Customer loyalty and retention
  • Attraction, deployment, and development of talent
  • Business agility (speed, flexibility, adaptability to change)

Low-performing organizations focused on:

  • Improvements to productivity & efficiency
  • Cost reduction/becoming more efficient
  • Business agility (speed, flexibility, adaptability to change)

The focus here is more on the systems and processes to drive results and create agility, rather than having the right customers and right people to drive both revenue and profit growth (as with high performers).

So what does this mean?  Greater growth and profitability is driven by people. Systems, process improvements, and cost reductions can contribute towards growth – the only problem is that there is only so many times that you can cut the lawn before it starts to die off.  Conversely, focusing your attention on business and resources on the right customers and talent, rather than squandering it in a shotgun approach, enables you to grow the business with no limit on the upside.  For this, you need to inspire trust.

The key question then is this: are you trustworthy?  More to the point do your customers and staff think you are trustworthy?  What do you think you are – honestly?  And how would you assess how trustworthy you are? Share your thoughts here.

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How to Bait Your Hook

What do good anglers know which we can use in driving stronger business growth and results?

Fishing is one of the most popular leisure time pursuits in the world.  There is something about going out there, rod in hand, to capture that ever elusive fish.  This takes time, patience, skill and – let’s be honest – a bit of luck.

One thing that experienced anglers do is that they don’t waste time in an unproductive location.  You can try a few casts, change the bait, but if the fish are not biting then it is time to move on to a new spot.

We need to be like good anglers – if the fish do not bite quickly, then be prepared to move on and try elsewhere.  You might try for the same fish in another location, or using different bait or lures, or even go after another type of fish.  You want to be in a market where you will get a positive reaction as early as possible.

Doing this will save you time, money and embarrassment – it will also allow you to learn from the experience, and to apply it in future fishing spots.  What we do or how good we think something is not important.  There is only one judge out there and that is the market, and the market only cares if what you’ve done meets its needs.

The lesson here is that business is not about us, it is about our customers.  The question I like to ask to illustrate is this: “Why do people buy a quarter-inch drill?

I get a lot of answers – to hang a picture, for home improvements, to replace my old hand-drill etcetera.  They are all wrong.

The answer is simple: “To drill a quarter-inch hole!”

Customers are not interested in the features of the drill – such as its colour, whether it is turbo-charged, the special safety grip it has etcetera – they are only interested in the outcome from using it.

So if your product or service is not getting traction or garnering the sales you want then you need to do three things:

  1. Check that your product or service provides the outcomes that the customers/market need (have your hook properly baited);
  2. Be prepared to change fishing holes if the fish aren’t biting
  3. Continually learn from your experience so that you can:
  • produce a product/service that better meets the needs of the market (don’t confuse this with a better product which has more features but still fails to address the needs) and;
  • find and locate better fishing holes more quickly.

What do you do to find the right fishing holes?  How long do you wait before you move to a different location?  Are you really focused on delivering the outcomes a customer needs or delivering the product or service itself?

Share your ideas, insights and experience!  Share the knowledge, share the wealth!

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How Learning Drives Performance

High performance is not just about achieving, but learning!

In the current environment we can no longer depend on what we have always done to achieve what we have always got. In short, we have to shift from focusing on what we achieve to focusing on how we achieve it. If you depend on behaving in the same way to get the results you want you will be sorely disappointed.  You may sustain results in the short-term, but not in the long-term.

How would it be for you if you organized your time, energy, and resources primarily around the objective of learning, instead of around performance? How would your day be different? For many people, their daily activities – what they do and how they go about doing it – would be dramatically changed.

In an environment of accelerating change we can no longer view ourselves as experts – our knowledge, experience and insights have an increasingly short shelf-life.  Rather we have to learn and challenge ourselves on an on-going basis.  Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, viewed himself not as a definitive expert on retailing but as a lifelong student of his craft, always asking questions and taking every opportunity to learn. We need to do the same

Becoming a learning person certainly involves responding to every situation with learning in mind. But it involves more than that; it requires that we set ourselves explicit learning objectives. Look at your personal list of long-term objectives, your midterm objectives, and your current to-do list. How many items fall into the performance genre and how many fall into the learning genre? How many begin with the structure “My objective is to learn X,” rather than “My objective is to accomplish Y”? Most people operate off of to-do lists. They’re a useful mechanism for getting things done. A true learning person also has a “to-learn” list, and the items on that list carry at least as much weight in how one organizes his or her time as the to-do list.

There is a company in California called Granite Rock, a stone, concrete, and asphalt supplier which has institutionalized the idea of having learning goals.  Rather than having performance goals each employee is asked to set his or her annual objectives in the format:

Learn __________ so that I can __________.”

By doing this people looking to not only improve themselves in what they learn, but in how they apply it.  This is key.  If you cannot use what you have learnt then it will not help you perform. Similarly, if all you do is focus on performing then you will never learn, and if you never learn you will be unable to adapt, and if you cannot adapt you will become irrelevant and obsolete.

It is not a matter of performance or learning, it is about learning and performance where learning is the oil which, when applied, improves the performance engine. If you let the performance engine run at full throttle with no oil you will end up with a broken engine, a broken business and broken people.

My question to you is this: what are you going to do to build learning and its application into the core of your business?

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Creating KPIs that drive engagement & performance

How to create KPIs that drive engagement and performance

Setting KPIs

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. 

Although this is true many companies don’t know what to measure or, if they do, they don’t know how to establish KPIs.

Why is this so important?

KPIs drive behaviour – if you know you are being evaluated against certain metrics then you will adapt how you work and how you perform.  This sounds good, but it can also be highly counter-productive, especially if you don’t know what to measure or measure the wrong thin. The result: bad management, mixed messages, confusion and employees focusing on the wrong thing.

You need to establish and develop your KPIs with care. Have too few and you may have an unbalanced “portfolio” of KPIs, have too many and it becomes a case of “everything is a priority, nothing is a priority”.

KPIs vary for different areas and different roles – but they are all underpinned by one factor: the company’s strategy and operations.  As such your KPIs are the indicator of where the company is headed. But it is also the one area that many companies mismanage as they are not thinking about how a KPI is helping the company to meet its targets.

Goals are not KPIs

A common mistake is to confuse KPIs with goals. The two are not the same.

For example, a company wants to achieve a $100 million of sales – this is often assumed to be the KPI when it is not.  In this example the KPIs there should be about the sales process. The KPIs might be about how many new customers, how many customers visited gave a repeat visitation, how many of those visits ended up in a presentation and how many of those were closed as deals. The KPI has to measure the process. You want the KPI linked to the corporate goal but it is not the goal itself.

When looking at the process you are measuring make sure that the KPIs relate to the corporate goals.  For example, having a KPI of sales reports in time does not drive sales – it only supports the process.  Furthermore every industry has formal KPIs (often found in the job description) and informal KPIs that are not written down. Like incongruent KPIs pulling in different directions, they can leave employees confused and disenchanted.

KPI is about Performance, Not People

KPIs are not about measuring people, they are about the process.  The KPIs are there to measure the performance of the organisation and KPIs are tools that people can use so that they can work not just in the business but also on the business, in other words improve the way the business works and improve its performance. They track the strategically important goals and objectives of the business.

Developing KPIs

It is absolutely critical for managers to develop the KPIs in consultation with the employee.  Developing them in isolation and imposing them on high creates, at best, a lack of buy-in and at worst total disengagement.  People want to succeed, and they want to be involved in how they succeed.

When discussing this you need to talk about three things:

  • What the person is employed for, and
  • What is going to give them satisfaction that will ensure they stay loyal and motivated; and
  • How this relates to the company’s main goals

Once there is a shared and common understanding you need to discuss the KPIs that are most effective and relevant to the processes that affect how they work and perform.  This is not to say that each individual has their own unique set of KPIs, rather that there is an agreed and understood portfolio of KPIs that complement and reinforce each other, whilst aligning the individual and team(s).

Monitoring KPIs

KPIs need constant monitoring to have relevance.  If they are measured, for example, only on a quarterly basis then it becomes like an exam.  It is viewed as being extraneous their job, rather than intrinsic. This creates a feeling of irrelevance, a lack of commitment to the KPIs and people having to be forced to comply – creating ineffective KPIs and reduced performance.

So what have you done and what are you going to do with your KPIs?  Talk to your people. Be clear on your goals, understand the key processes to be measured, and make the KPIs relevant, meaningful, measurable and review.

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

90% Rule for Better Decisions

Too often we make a decision which, at best, is marginal.  How many times have you made a decision that you have regretted?  That involved more work than expected? Which impacted other work that was more important? That lead you to spread yourself too thin?

Why does this always seem to happen?  In short, we are not selective enough in the choices we make. There is a simple and effective way to so this – it is called the 90 Per Cent Rule.

The 90 Per Cent Rule

You can apply the 90 Per Cent Rule to just about every decision or dilemma. As you evaluate your decision or dilemma, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 per cent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it. This way you avoid getting caught up in indecision, or worse, getting stuck with the 60s or 70s.

In doing this we put the decision to an extreme test: if we feel the total and utter conviction to do something, then we say yes. Anything less gets thumbs down!

Applying highly selective criteria is a trade-off; sometimes you will have to turn down a seemingly very good option and have faith that the perfect option will soon come along. Sometimes it will, and sometimes it won’t, but by of applying selective criteria forces you to choose which perfect option to wait for, rather than letting other people, or the universe, choose for you.

When our selection criteria are too broad, we will find ourselves committing to too many options. What’s more, assigning simple numerical values to our options forces us to make decisions consciously, logically, and rationally, rather than impulsively or emotionally. Making our criteria both selective and explicit affords us a systematic tool for discerning what is essential and filtering out the things that are not.

Yes, it takes discipline to apply tough criteria. But failing to do so carries a high cost.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

9 Ways to Accelerate Customer Loyalty

9 questions to ask to help you keep clients loyal – now and in the future.

 

Customer LoyaltyLast week we looked at the difference between client satisfaction and client loyalty, and the mistake commonly made by leaders in the belief that client satisfaction and client loyalty are positively correlated i.e. that higher the level of client satisfaction the higher the level of client loyalty.

Research has shown that the more value you deliver, the more satisfied your clients will be. The more satisfied they are, the more likely they will be to stay loyal to your firm and refer other clients to you.  There is good logic here, but it makes an assumption which is often not explicit or valid in most instances.

Have you ever had a client for whom you have delivered value, for which they are highly satisfied – and who have then awarded a deal to someone else for any reason?  Most people have had this experience.  We have found that there is a disconnect between our delivering value and our realising client loyalty.

The fault is ours, not theirs.

If we are to keep our clients’ loyalty we need to focus on our clients’ perception of your value and our clients’ perception of your differentiation.  The flawed assumption that is often made is that we look at the value delivered, and how we differentiate ourselves, from our perspective not that of the client.

If you want to keep your clients loyal, you need the answers to nine questions—some of which are focused on the clients’ perception of your value, and others on the clients’ perception of your differentiation.

Five Questions for Valuevalue men

Question #1: What value do clients perceive regarding our general category of company and services?

Perhaps your clients value that you are a diversified marketing company, not just a website firm. Or, that you are a specialist in XYZ, not a generalist. Perhaps they value that you are a family business versus a corporation. How clients perceive your type and category of company will resonate with many buyers.

Question #2: What is the value clients perceive regarding us as a firm?

You might find that clients value your innovation and don’t care as much that you’re periodically unresponsive. Or, that they value your client service excellence, but your technical reputation doesn’t matter quite as much. Maybe there are areas they don’t value or where you are falling down in your delivery.  Clients are not interested in what you do, rather they are interested in the value that you can help them realise.  Be clear on what value they see from your business, and where this value is created, and when, and for how long it lasts.

Question #3: What value do clients perceive regarding the specific services we offer?

This allows you to know what’s working for clients, which services you offer that are the strongest, and where you deliver the best value.

You might also learn that your clients don’t even know you offer particular services. Familiarity, in this case, breeds contempt – one side assuming the other knows, and the other not knowing because they’ve never been told.

Question #4: What value do clients perceive in solving the specific problems they currently have?

We all have problems, but not all problems are created equally. If you know the key priorities for a client, then you can help the client tackle them.  Don’t assume that the client always knows what the problem is – by framing the problem appropriately you can help them to see problems clearly, or to see problems that they never realised they had, or that they had failed to anticipate.  This can be exceptionally valuable to a client.

Question #5: What value do clients perceive they might get if they could solve certain problems or accomplish certain things that they aren’t focusing on right now or might not see as priorities?

In doing this we help clients to create a better future or one that they may not have even known was possible. By helping clients solve problems they didn’t know they could solve, and making improvements they didn’t know they could make, service providers score higher on satisfaction (that, as we mentioned, is an indicator of future loyalty).

differentiationFour Questions on Differentiation

Question #6: What different options do the clients perceive they have regarding different categories of companies that can help solve problems or achieve goals?

Sometimes it doesn’t matter as much which specific companies your client might view as what the other options are that they might be considering.  As such you need to know the types and categories of companies offering services in your region. For example, as a management training company, with a core set of services in classroom training, you need to know if your buyers are considering e‐learning providers—and how to position yourself against them

Question #7: What different options do clients perceive they have regarding specific companies that can help them solve problems?

You need to know your distinctions, advantages, and disadvantages when compared with them. This is from the client’s perspective – not yours.

Question #8: What different options do clients perceive they have regarding specific services available to help them solve problems?

How do clients perceive they can solve their problems?  Can you create options around what they need, rather than what you, to help them think about how they could use you – rather than should they use you!

Question #9: What different options do clients perceive they have regarding other ways to solve problems, such as internal staff?

Competitors are not always the biggest source of competition.  Competition also comes from the option of the client doing it themselves, not doing it at all, changing the scope and extent of the project, or giving preference (and thus some or the entire allocated budget) to other internally competing projects and priorities.

Next Steps

Go through these questions with your clients.  Get it from the horse’s mouth.  Compare this with how you see it, where are the biggest gaps, and which areas are the priority for addressing.

Thanks to Mike Schultz of Wellesley Hills Group whose work provided the basis for much of this article.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Engaging & Retaining Staff – Part 5

12 Ways to Engage & Retain Staff, Image (c) People Insight

In the first blog in this series we looked at why employee engagement is so important and provided an overview of Gallup’s findings from its extensive research.  This was summarised in the following 12 ways to engage employees.

In the second blog we examined the first 3 elements in further detail.  This included:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the right materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

In the third blog we continued looking at the second triad of elements including:

4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

In the fourth blog we looked at the next 3 elements:

7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

In this blog we look at the final 3 elements:

10. I have a best friend at work.
11. In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress.
12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Tenth Element – A Best Friend at Work

What does it mean?

This element is a strong predictor of performance, describing friendships which are supportive. With people it is human nature that will always win over company policy – so it is important to create, capture and leverage the power of friendships.

What is the evidence?

People look out for their friends; tolerate disagreements better, and are more likely to invite and share candid information, suggestions, and opinions, and to accept them without being threatened.  Gallup research indicates that as trust between employees increases, employee engagement increases, employee performance increases, camaraderie between employees increases, and employee happiness increases when workers report having a best friend on the job.

What should we do?

Best managers encourage friendships in the workplace by creating the conditions under which such relationships thrive.  As such managers need to get to know people in their team both individually and in terms of the dynamics that exist between them.  This then allows managers to put together people who probably could communicate, first of all, but secondly be or become friends.  To achieve this there needs to be good communication between all people, and objective criteria for the team.

Eleventh Element – Talking About Progress               

What does it mean?

Here the manager provides regular, insightful, and personal feedback to staff on both a formal and informal basis.

What is the evidence?

Staff need a clear picture or mirror of how they are performing to avoid the “Double Curse” where people ether over- or under-estimate their abilities in the following ways:

  • Self-analysis on performance is poor – people to tend to overestimate how they have done.  They lack the skill or knowledge to estimate properly – a form of unconscious incompetence.
  • Also undue modesty – people who do well know they have done well, but do not know their accomplishment is unique.  They tend to err in their estimates of others – consistently overestimating how well people do on the same test etc.

Gallup research indicates employees are more likely to believe they are compensated fairly when their manager gives them regular performance reviews. Additionally, employees who receive regular performance reviews tend to stay with the company longer and are twice as likely to tell others that their company is a great place to work.

What should we do?

Firstly, understand that the type of information that motivates a given employee, and realise that it may be different from the types that motivate others or the way that you yourself prefer.  When appraising performance for it to be effective it must be tailored for specific tasks, occupations and even personalities.

Focus on people’s strengths to stop them becoming actively disengaged, but provide constructive feedback on their weaknesses.  The appraisals are more meaningful, and perceived as more objective by staff, if they are held on a regular basis and the feedback is about relatively recent things.

Informal and on-going feedback is also important.  When discussing things with people get them to think what the options might be, don’t give them the answer right away.

A key question to ask yourself as a manager is “What can I do to improve, to coach, the person, to help him, to teach him?

Twelfth Element – Opportunities to Learn & Grow

What does it mean?

When employees feel they are learning and growing they work harder and more efficiently – this has a particular strong connection to customer engagement and profitability.

The importance of learning and growing is best appreciated when they are not there.  A lack causes frustration, and dissatisfaction as their enjoyment of work is lessened with no meaningful new challenges causes them to languish professionally and personally.

What is the evidence?

People perform when they are working toward specific difficult-to-attain targets rather than told to “do your best”.  These stretch goals are psychologically invigorating and good for business.  We need to look at the accomplishment not just in absolute terms, but also relative to what might have been and how people construe the results – especially the individual himself.

What should we do?

To match a worker with the right opportunities you need to have a deep understanding of the individual’s strengths and hopes for the future.  You need to have regular and meaningful conversations with them to develop this.

Summary
Employee engagement is crucial to retain key employees, to raising productivity and enabling the business to grow profitably.  If you don’t engage employees the best will leave, and those who are disengaged will quit and stay!
How good are you at using these 12 ways in an effective way:
Which of these 3 elements have you used and to what effect?  If you were to rank them which would you use first?  Would you use them with everyone, some of them or with no-one? What are you favourite ways or preferred ways to engage employees?
Until then share your thoughts and ideas here, and feel free to share this blog and articles with any colleagues, clients or friends you feel may find this of value. If you have any particular areas of interest you would like article on then please let me know.
Share your ideas, and share the wealth!
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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.