Friday, December 14, 2018

Tips for Leaders to Inspire and Empower

One of the amazing things about social media is that we get to meet people all over the world. My social media activities have led me to meet people on all continents and in a variety of industries. One friend I made hails from the country of South Africa – half a world away from California. Chantaul Jordan and I connected thanks to Twitter, when her leadership account shared many of my leadership Tweets.

Recently, Chantaul Jordan and I had a discussion about international leadership, and highlights follow an introduction. Chantaul inspires personal development within individuals and for teams at seminars and at team-building retreats. Her mission as Principal of Expressions, a training consultancy, is to inspire, empower, and transform. She is dedicated to holistic wellness and passionate about philosophy, meditation, and yoga. Her other positions include: Facilitator of Mastermind for Speakers; Past Chairman of EXAS (Executive Association of South Africa); Honorary member of KZN Women in Business; Founder member of PSASA, KZN; and Immediate Past President of the PSASA (Professional Speakers Association of SA, KZN). Follow Chantaul on Twitter @ChantaulJordan, @LeaderRepeater, and @SpeakerRepeater; and check out her website at

You lead a Twitter account @LeaderRepeater, whose description is: "For leaders, by leaders. We promote success and strive to add value to the lives and careers of others." How did this get started, and where do you find your inspiration for Tweets? On a side note, I've been honored when you've shared some of my Tweets – many thanks!
CHANTAUL JORDAN: A global communications platform, like Twitter, is astounding. I wanted an easy way to see what individuals all over the world were saying about enhancing emotional quotient in real time. So, I was inspired to create a Twitter account focused on EQ*, especially for leaders. After experimenting with Twitter's versatile search feature, adding my own search filters for quality control, and writing an app for my phone, @LeaderRepeater was born.

What are three things a President/CEO can do to establish a corporate culture that all employees will enthusiastically follow?
CHANTAUL JORDAN: Here are my three recommendations:
[1] To create a positive and uplifting working environment, where employees can learn, grow, and thrive.
[2] To encourage open and honest communication, especially in times of stress. The connection between staff can dissolve in a brief aggressive outburst. Although regrettable, these encounters stain relationships and leave waves of negativity in their wake.
[3] To inspire meaningful expression and contribution within an organization, by developing each individual's personal strengths and/or special talents. A company’s success relies on employees who enjoy their work and feel fulfilled.

A company’s success relies on employees who enjoy their work and feel fulfilled. –@ChantaulJordan #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBrand

How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
CHANTAUL JORDAN: I am of the opinion that a President/CEO should NOT be an organization’s number one brand ambassador, as it can be dangerous for the brand to be linked too closely to a fallible (and, indeed, mortal) human being. The CEO should adopt a lifestyle and morality that’s congruent with the values of the organization and should be seen as a competent and effective leader and manager – nothing more.

What are some traits to be a good leader, and why?
CHANTAUL JORDAN: The ongoing responsibility to do better and achieve more is hugely stressful, and the pressure is exhausting, and ironically leads to sub-standard work and ineffective relationships. A leader who practices self-mastery and demonstrates continued learning and personal well-being, is by far the better leader. If the leader’s mind is disturbed by worries and anxieties, not only is his efficiency and productivity affected, but the majority of his time is spent in crisis management, setting the tone throughout the business. So, it’s important that the CEO is a role model for equanimity, in good times and bad times. Also, effective communication of a clear vision and inspiration. How to achieve this? Deliberate engagement will result in better collaboration within teams, and therefore a more profitable business! (And a healthier option for all concerned.)

TWEET THIS: A leader who demonstrates continued learning is by far the better leader. –@ChantaulJordan #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBrand

One of your recent Tweets featured a quote from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to summit Mt. Everest: "You don't have to be a hero to accomplish great things. You can just be an ordinary chap sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals." How does this apply to the office environment whereby one doesn't need a title to be a leader?
CHANTAUL JORDAN: People who are popular for their talent, their expertise, fashion sense, charisma, to name but a few, can be natural pacesetters and visionaries who others naturally want to follow. This is true, and let’s not forget that some of the greatest influencers aren’t in the office, but rather, at home. Family can be empowering catalysts! Why? We’re hugely inspired by love and care, and a sense of belonging – where there are mutual interests to work on and achieve together. Perhaps that’s what we need in the workplace, just a little more heart connection. A good healthy environment that’s conducive to thrive in!

My gratitude and appreciation to Chantaul for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring leadership insights!

Image Credit: Chantaul Jordan.

*Emotional Quotient is different from Intelligence Quotient because instead of measuring your general intelligence, it measures your emotional intelligence. Emotional Quotient is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions to facilitate high levels of collaboration and productivity. In the business environment, Emotional Quotient is important because it helps you leverage your awareness of emotions for effectiveness in the workplace.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Why Do Customer Experiences Have to Be So Different?

Just like you, I interact with a variety of brands on a daily basis. From the moment I wake up to a radio alarm, there’s my preferred radio station. Then, there’s the waffle and orange juice I choose for breakfast. There are the news sites I read on my smartphone and tablet and the TV news channels I watch. And there are the two virtual assistants I speak to in order to learn the outside temperature. And there are the clothing items I choose and the shampoo, soap, and toothpaste I use. With only an hour of my day gone, that’s at least 20 brands before I start my work day. I cannot imagine how many brands I will interact with before the end of the day!

So, with this large brand number in mind, why do customer experiences have to be so different? Two recent customer experiences stand out because they were so different.

I visited a store that sells boxes – you would immediately recognize the national brand name because it is known as a moving equipment and storage rental company. Once I had selected the boxes I wished to purchase, I saw a sign that read:
“$6.99 for one box, but as low as $4.99 with a 10 percent discount. When I questioned the salesperson as to how many boxes I had to purchase to pay the lower price, she told me that I had to buy 10 boxes. So, I placed 10 boxes on the counter expecting to pay the $4.99 price.

Once I saw my total, I was surprised. The total for the 10 boxes was $69.99 with a single discount of $6.99. When I asked for clarification, the salesperson explained that only one box could get a discount and she did not know how to actually charge $4.99.

Wait a minute! If the signage above the boxes read “$6.99 for one box, but as low as $4.99 with a 10 percent discount,” where was the discount? In addition, how can a cashier complete transactions if he or she cannot implement discounts that are advertised less than ten feet from where they are standing? As you can imagine, I only bought five of the boxes.

Contrast that experience with this one. I was at a national pet store and saw a cat scratching post that was the right height for my two cats. However, the protective wrap around the post was open and might have slightly damaged the post – it would be impossible to tell until I got it home and completely unwrapped it. So, at the check-out counter, I showed the cashier about the wrapping and asked if I could get a discount. She didn't bat an eyelash and immediately offered a 20 percent discount while simultaneously asking, “Will that be good enough?”

These experiences reminded me of Bill Quiseng’s (@BillQuiseng on Twitter) quote:

“Businesses need to understand and educate their employees that there is a difference between taking care of a customer and caring for the customer. For example, taking care of a hotel guest is checking him quickly, giving him a key to a room that is clean and problem-free. Caring for a guest is recognizing that the guest was obviously under the weather and sending up a cup of chicken soup with a note, “Hope you are feeling better soon.” Taking care of a customer is a transaction. Genuinely caring for a customer generates an emotional connection. And emotionally engaged customers are much more loyal than merely satisfied ones.”

These two experiences left me with some important questions:
* Why are some employees empowered to create memorable and positive customer experiences for their brands and others are not?
* What causes leadership teams to train their employees to care about their customers?
* How can brands endure if they don’t create a customer-focused culture?

How would your brand have handled these different customer experiences? 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Leadership + Strategy = Amazing Employee Experience

In 2013, I shared tips about employee engagement on my Blog. The following quote stood out by Erika Andersen.

“If a company’s focus is ‘How can we give our customers what they want,’ then that company needs great employees. To come up with the ideas, to make the great products, to interact with the customers. Employees aren’t a begrudged necessity in that kind of company – they’re what makes it possible. And if my company feels like that about me, and treats me that way, then I’m most likely to feel that way about my company and treat my company that way. VoilĂ : engagement. AND productivity, reduced turnover, attracting top talent. AND delighted customers, great products and services, big profits.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Erika Andersen and her work, then this post is for you. Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a coaching, consulting, and training firm that focuses on leader readiness. Over the past 30 years, she has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are tailored to the challenges, goals, and cultures of her clients. She and her colleagues at Proteus focus uniquely on helping leaders at all levels get ready and stay ready to meet whatever the future might bring. In addition, Erika is the author of many books as well as the author and host of the Proteus Leader Show, a regular podcast that offers quick, practical support for leaders and managers. Follow on Twitter @erikaandersen and @ProteusLeader – and also on the web at Erika and I recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: You appeared on my Blog in 2011 when I shared a review of your book, BEING STRATEGIC. (Link to this post is included at the end of this Q&A.) Can you provide a brief recap of the four parts of strategy for readers who may be unfamiliar with your work?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: Of course! Being Strategic offers a model for thinking and acting in a way that will allow you to create your best life, career, or business: to consistently make the core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.

Here’s how it works:

Define the Challenge:
We’ve found this “pre-step” is key: first you need to get clear about the problem you’re trying to solve or the challenge you’re trying to address. This is especially important when you’re using this process with a group of people – otherwise you may find they’re all trying to solve different problems!

Clarify What Is: In this step, you get clear about where you’re starting from relative to your challenge. You note strengths or assets you now have that might help you solve the problem or address the challenge, then any weaknesses you have that might get in the way. You also look at external factors that might support you or get in your way. Getting as clear as possible about where you’re starting from grounds your visioning, in the next step.

Envision What’s the Hope: This is where you envision a future that would address the challenge as you’ve defined it, given your current reality. By creating your vision based on your actual current state and a real challenge, you can create a three-dimensional picture of a successful future that’s both practical and inspiring: a reasonable aspiration.

Face What’s in the Way:
At this point, you know where you’re starting from and where you want to go, so now you can look at what’s in the way: the obstacles that might arise between your “what is” and the future you envision. By defining the key obstacles, you’ll be able to factor overcoming them into your plan – the final step. 

Determine What’s the Path: In this last part of the process, you decide first on your strategies – those core directional choices or efforts you’ll need to make in order to achieve your hoped-for future. Once you’ve selected those strategies, you’ll craft the specific tactics that will best implement them. 

We love the almost infinite adaptability of this approach: it works for envisioning the future of your company and building a plan to achieve it; for planning a family vacation; or for creating a map of the work life you most want.

QUESTION: You appeared on my Blog in 2014 because one of your leadership lessons for a post on Forbes was timeless: Be the manager or leader you’d like to have. (Link to this post is included at the end of this Q&A.) Can you share a few highlights from your Forbes post?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: In the Forbes post you and I discussed in 2014, I noted that one of the most constructive ways to deal with having a really bad boss was to use the person as a model for what not to do.

But let’s talk more broadly about being the boss – the manager and leader – you’d like to have. Most human beings want the same things from leaders (this is the basic premise of my book Leading So People Will Follow). We look for leaders who are far-sighted – who share a compelling and inclusive view of a future that we can achieve together, and who model and move toward the vision daily with us. We want passionate leaders who remain committed to that vision, to us and the enterprise through adversity and challenge – and at the same time, who are open to input and to new ideas. It’s also important to us that our leaders be courageous: that they make difficult decisions with limited information, even when that’s uncomfortable for them – and that they take full responsibility for those decisions.

We also want wise leaders who reflect on and learn from their experience, and then think deeply about how to incorporate their understanding into making good choices. We love having generous leaders who share what they have – knowledge, power, authority, and resources – and perhaps most important, belief in our capability and our good intentions. And finally, we want trustworthy leaders who can be relied upon to keep their word and deliver on their promises – to do what they say they will do.

Think about it – you’d like to have this kind of a leader, right? So, would everyone who works for you. If you’re a leader, I would encourage you to reflect carefully and honestly on whether and to what extent you demonstrate these attributes – and if you’re not sure, ask someone who you believe sees you clearly, wants the best for you, and is willing to tell you the truth. And then do everything you can to become this kind of leader.

QUESTION: How do you explain the following statement: Your culture is your brand?

ERIKA ANDERSEN: Let me start by offering a definition of company culture: A pattern of accepted behavior and the beliefs and values that underlie and reinforce it. A pattern of accepted behavior means “how it’s OK to act” in your company – and that is most often based on the values and beliefs of the CEO and his or her team.

For instance, if leaders in Company A value profit by any means, that will drive behaviors that could create a culture that’s cut-throat, doesn’t invest much in people, maybe even crosses the line of integrity in the service of making money. If Company B’s leaders value creating benefit for all their stakeholders – customers, employees and investors – that will drive behaviors that would likely yield a culture that supports employees to reach their potential, focuses on excellent customer service, and targets profitable growth without sacrificing those things.  

If you define brand as the promise of an experience, it’s pretty clear in the examples above that those two very different cultures would create two very different brand experiences. And it wouldn’t matter what Company A says its brand is – their customers would have an experience very much determined by the profit-at-all-costs values and behaviors accepted within that company. So, in my mind, the statement ‘Your culture is your brand’ is perfectly true…even if leaders don’t realize it’s true!

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization’s number one brand ambassador?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: By getting really clear about what the brand is and making sure it arises from and is aligned with his or her values. Then by clearly defining the behaviors that embody that brand. And then – and this is the single most important thing – by living the brand daily. We practice this at Proteus. Our brand attributes (and our core values) are Illuminating, Strengthening and Trustworthy. That’s the experience we want our clients to have when they deal with us, and it’s how we want to interact with each other. My business partners and I take our responsibility to live these values very seriously, and we invite anyone in the company to tell us (in an illuminating and strengthening way!) if we’re not delivering on that commitment.

QUESTION: You say that “being able to learn new skills well and quickly is the key to success in the 21st century. Can you explain why?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: Absolutely! Unless you’re living somewhere deep in the equatorial rain forest, or on top of a mountain, you know that we’re living in an era of unprecedented change, driven largely by the enormous, daily proliferation of new knowledge. But what does that mean for us, day-to-day? This explosion of knowledge, and the technological, scientific and cultural advances that have resulted, have dramatically changed how we learn and how we work – and what it takes to succeed at work and in our lives.

For someone growing up a hundred years ago, in the early part of the 20th century, the expectations around learning were fairly clear: you would go to school to learn the basics, then land a job and learn what you needed in order to do that job reasonably well. You would go on to work in some version of that job until you retired. This was true whether you were a doctor or a pipe-fitter: the vast majority of people learned a trade or profession and practiced it throughout their entire working life. 

Fast forward to today, when most people entering the workforce expect that they will have a variety of jobs and work at a number of companies – perhaps with a stint or two of working free-lance mixed in, or even spending part of their career creating and working in their own company. It’s extremely unlikely that anyone working today will have the same job for their entire career: even for someone who is part of the ever-smaller minority of workers who stay at one company or in one field for their entire work life, that company and that field will certainly change dramatically over the course of that person’s career.

Given all this, it seems clear that those who succeed in today’s world will be those who can acquire and apply new knowledge, new skills, and new ways of operating quickly and continuously. That’s really the premise of my book, Be Bad First: that at this point in history, where knowledge is increasing exponentially, where work is changing daily, where advancements in every area of discipline nearly outpace our ability to communicate them, the ability to learn well and quickly is the most important skill we can have.


My gratitude and appreciation to Erika for once again appearing on my Blog and for sharing her amazing insights about leadership.

Are You the Type of Manager or Leader YOU Would Follow? – from 2014

Want to be Nicknamed Strategy Guru – from 2011

Monday, November 12, 2018

Two Opposite Sides of the Customer Experience Spectrum

Recently, I had two different and, as a result, unforgettable customer experiences. The reason is, they represent the complete opposite sides of the customer experience spectrum. To quote customer service expert Bill Quiseng, "Customer service is all about what you do for a customer. But customer experience is all about how the customer feels about your company." Details of the experiences follow - and please note, neither company was Amazon.

I found an online shoe company that specialized in comfortable shoes for airline personnel - since they are on their feet while they do their jobs. This company had a nice-looking boot that I was interested in purchasing, however, the online reviews indicated that a larger size might be necessary. I called the toll-free number provided on the website. The woman who answered said she had no knowledge about the shoes because she worked in the travel agency associated with the shoe company. Wait a minute, I called the number that the website provided if there were questions about the shoes. While I was scratching my head, the lady gave me an email address for further inquiries. Even more odd, the email address had nothing to do with the shoe company, i.e., the part of the email address after the @ was for a travel agency. How many touchpoints was I, the customer, supposed to have before I found the correct person who had knowledge about the shoes that the company sold?

On the opposite side of the customer experience spectrum, I was again online looking through an eCommerce site where I am a repeat customer. While I have purchased several items from this site in the past, I did not purchase anything on this particular visit. I left the site and didn't think about any of the items I had seen until I received an email from the company about an hour later.

The subject line read: "Oops, forget something?" And the email read as follows:
We noticed something caught your eye. There's still time to add it to your cart.

What a difference! The first company did not care about me as a customer, while the second company clearly valued me, had noticed I had visited its website, and wanted my business.

Here are some key take-aways from my two experiences: How does your brand show that you value your customers? Do you communicate with your customers regularly so that they feel valued? And above all, are your employees educated on company details outside of their area of expertise so that they are able to answer basic customer questions? If not, it's definitely time for some re-training.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Sharing Timeless Leadership Lessons

Over the years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet and interact with a variety of leadership experts. These leadership experts travel the world sharing their expertise to create better leaders and, as a result, more engaged workforces. One of these experts is James Strock, an independent entrepreneur and reformer in business, government, and politics. His most recent book is a must-read, Serve to Lead 2.0: 21st Century Leaders Manual. Follow James on Twitter @jamesstrock and visit his website at We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: What defines a great leader that others want to follow?

JAMES STROCK: The ultimate test for leadership is: Would history have been different BUT FOR their service? Few leaders can credibly be accorded this accolade. One thinks of Winston Churchill. His determination to fight Hitler at the height of Nazi power—against the better judgment of many experts and the initial inclination of a large part of the English public—changed the course of history. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Charles De Gaulle also pass the “but for” test. On the other hand, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, and Mao fail. Any argument for the effect on history is compromised by their reliance on coercion to achieve and maintain power. As such, they’re best seen not as leaders per se, but as criminals.

QUESTION: You often write about Theodore Roosevelt. Which three of his leadership lessons do you consider to be timeless?
JAMES STROCK: TR applied determined intentionality to render his life a leadership lesson for young Americans of his time and into the future. If leadership is performance art, he was writer, actor, director, producer and impresario—as well as his own most demanding critic and appreciative audience. This points to his overriding lesson: if a leader can be seen as personifying his vision, his or her influence can be profound. This most gifted and privileged figure strove to be worthy of the support of what were then called “ordinary Americans,” or the “plain people.” Then and now, we sense that commitment to service.

Second, TR strove to achieve integrity. Amid the kaleidoscopic changes of politics at the turn of the twentieth century, Roosevelt attempted to meet the high but “realizable” ideals he urged for the nation. He would inevitably fall short, but the valiance of the attempt was and is evident and inspiring.

Third, Roosevelt never ceased in his project of self-creation. He embraced change and sought to stretch his capacities, to challenge himself, through the final hours of his life. For such reasons, TR continues to fascinate and inspire people everywhere almost a century after his death in January 1919. In common with his role models, such as, Lincoln and Washington, he was a memorable combination of personal detachment and historical familiarity. Alone among our greatest presidents, many people feel that TR, born in 1858, could walk onto the stage and take charge today. He remains an enduring touchstone for leadership.

QUESTION: How can leaders (Presidents/CEO’s) explain their vision to employees so that they also embrace it?
JAMES STROCK: There are doubtless as many ways to convey a compelling vision to employees and citizens as there are circumstances. What is effective in all times and places is PERSONIFYING THE VISION one would present. That requires a level of commitment to those one is serving, a level of integrity, that is uniquely persuasive.

QUESTION: You appeared on my Blog in 2014, when I interviewed you about leadership, and also in 2011, when I reviewed your inspiring book, SERVE TO LEAD. (Links to the two posts are provided at the end of this Q&A.) Recently, you released a second version of your book. What’s new?
JAMES STROCK: The book includes updates, as well as new information and elaboration gleaned from readers. In addition, the presentation has been redesigned, to render it accessible to readers of all ages. It’s intended as a manual, a book that one can mark up and truly make one’s own. I’m delighted that there has been much positive feedback on the new edition.

QUESTION: Since you last appeared on my Blog, social media has become an important marketing and customer engagement tool. However, how can leaders use social media effectively? Which five leaders do you follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?
JAMES STROCK: Leaders can use social media most effectively with two injunctions in the front of mind. 

First, don’t forget the “social” aspect. It’s meant for sharing, for serving others. Those who use it primarily to broadcast their own news and views, who aren’t using it to listen and learn, are foregoing much of the value. They’re confined by the limitations of serving oneself. 

Second, social media is a powerful tool for accountability. At the higher levels of leadership, the lives and treasure of many people may be at stake. If one is not leading one’s own life and work consistently with one’s expressed values, social media may bring accountability. It’s no accident that social media has resulted in a number of CEO’s being sanctioned for private activities inconsistent with their responsibilities. The entire #MeToo movement could not have become a social change milestone other than in the social media era. How this sorts out will be important, particularly as rising generations of digital natives move into increasing responsibility.

I follow many leaders, in various fields on social media—notably including Debbie Laskey! I strive to receive a range of perspectives. This results not only in learning from experts in expected ways, but, at least as important, from the serendipity of insights and references abounding among curious, engaged, leaders in all walks of life, in the USA and around the world.

Image Credit: James Strock.

My gratitude and appreciation to James for appearing on my Blog a third time and for sharing his inspiring leadership insights!

Leadership Is All About Serving Others - from 2014:

Serve to Lead - What a Visionary Concept - from 2011:

Monday, October 29, 2018

Everything Is Marketing - Especially During the World Series!

No matter what team you rooted for in this year's World Series which resulted in the Boston Red Sox defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers (by winning four games except for the 18-inning record-setting contest), you have to give credit to a quick-serve restaurant, Boston Market.

But before we share the applause for Boston Market, let's take a step back to June of this year when IHOP, famous for pancakes, changed its name to IHOB in a surprise move. Many on social media complimented IHOP for the surprise, which directed attention away from pancakes and breakfasts to burgers and lunch and dinner meals. Admit it, who thinks of IHOP for lunch and dinner? Yes, that WAS a clever marketing move.

Another food brand that changed its name this year is Dunkin' Donuts, which, in September, dropped the word donuts in an effort to be known as Dunkin'. The impetus behind this move was also to direct attention away from a specific food, in this case, doughnuts, so that the brand could evolve and represent a variety of beverages and other items.

Now, we return to Boston Market. As I was driving around Los Angeles this past weekend during the World Series, I drove by a Boston Market. I had to look twice, because there was a banner covering the word BOSTON, so that the sign read: LOS ANGELES MARKET. Talk about changing a brand's name to support the local team!

According to the Los Angeles Times: “The restaurant that proudly bears its name in red, white and black letters is going BLUE for the World Series — at least in Los Angeles. Ten Boston Market restaurants have hung banners with the words “Los Angeles” covering “Boston” in the restaurant’s name, an idea spurred by local managers as excitement over the World Series (grew)," explained Tim Hartmann, the restaurant’s vice president of marketing.

This was an incredibly clever brand name change, even if only temporary, and only in Los Angeles. It makes me wonder if the next brand that changes its name will be able to rival the creativity of Boston, aka Los Angeles, Market. If Boston had been in your brand's name, would you have changed it during the World Series? What's your call?

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Check out my posts about the other name changes earlier this year:

At IHOB, It’s Now All About the Burgers!

Less Means More with This Brand's New Name

Friday, October 12, 2018

Fall Reading Recap: Leadership, Branding, and Voice of the Customer Marketing

Have you assembled a stack of “must-read books” left over from your summer vacation? With summer over and the winter holidays quickly approaching, it’s time to catch up on some fall reading. I highly recommend that you add these five leadership, branding, and customer marketing books to your reading list.

Author and business analyst Charlene Li defines an engaged leader “as someone who uses digital, mobile, and social tools strategically to achieve established goals as they relate to leading people and managing organizations…The openness required is unprecedented, and the trust and transparency are mind numbing for many top leaders who are accustomed to maintaining control and proceeding in an orderly and predictable fashion.”

According to Li, there are three actions necessary for leaders to become engaged: listen, share, and engage. “Listening is the way leaders determine what individuals need from them to enhance the relationship and deepen the connection. Sharing is how leaders use stories and other tools to develop mutual understanding and share people’s mind-sets and thus the actions they take. And engagement is a two-way dialogue that motivates and mobilizes followers to act in concert toward a common purpose.”

Consider using Li’s digital leadership development worksheet from the book:

This book written by Ernan Roman has been called “the definitive playbook for the new customer-driven era.” Roman defines Voice of the Customer (VOC) as the term “to describe the process of capturing critical details regarding the desires, needs and requirements of a given prospect, customer, or target group…VOC yields an in-depth understanding of customer and prospect preferences and actions…and is what allows us to give customers what they really want most from us – and avoid the annoyance and alienation that results from offering them what they don’t want.”

Customers want to know that their voices are heard. Once this happens, according to Roman, they look forward to engaging with and doing business with brands. Here are the five steps that all brands should follow:

[1] Conduct and apply VOC relationship research – achieve greater Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), which is a prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer – the most straightforward way to calculate CLV is to take the revenue you earn from a customer and subtract the money spent on acquiring and serving him/her.

[2] Create VOC-driven opt-in relationship strategies – focus on the relationship rather than the first contact or first sale. [To see some innovative business-to-customer opt-in strategies, check out what Disney Vacations does:]

[3] Create a VOC-driven multichannel mix – your brand’s messaging might include search engine optimization/online advertising, email, print catalog, billboard advertising, in-store advertising, social media, and word-of-mouth marketing.

[4] Create a VOC-driven social media presence – create a presence on the social platforms where your audiences assemble and engage with them with compelling content (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram/IGTV, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, etc.).

[5] Invest in an excellent customer service experience – reduce complaints and increase number of repeat customers.

Perhaps, the best way to define voice of the customer marketing in a nutshell: when a business is proactive in its interactions or touch points with a customer.

In the words of author Brian Smith, the founder of casual comfort brand UGG, “Building a brand, like any natural process, is a gradual, organic, and wildly unpredictable experience.” While many of us have ideas that we think may have the potential to become a national or international brand, the reality is, we don’t. But Smith did, and it’s hard to walk on any street without seeing someone walking in an UGG sheepskin boot. The book shares a myriad of entrepreneurial tips with Smith’s story of bringing UGG footwear to life.

Leadership author, coach, and trainer Erika Andersen challenges readers to become significantly better learners by the end of the book. Based on her research in writing the book, most people don’t like to look dumb if they ask questions or demonstrate a lack of knowledge or understanding. However, “it’s okay to be bad at those parts of your job that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to learn.”

Here was a great example of being bad: “The first time you’re running a meeting and someone who works for you says something you don’t understand, and you take a deep breath and say, “I’m not sure I’m following you – could you explain that in a different way?” it’s going to feel awkward and even a little scary. But then the person will stop and say, “Oh sure…” You’ll listen and understand; the other person will feel important and helpful; and the trust and openness on your team will tick up a few micro-points. In other words, nothing bad will happen…This will make it much easier to “be bad” the next time. Word will get around that you’re really interested in your folks and good to work for, better conversations will happen, and your employees will start to ask curious questions of their own in meetings.”

Be sure to check out the self-talk about “being bad” and the supportive (and more accurate) alternatives on page 172 of the book.

Author Cassandra Frangos has been called “the executive whisperer” by Diversity Women magazine, and her consulting expertise focuses on succession planning, leadership development, and team effectiveness. Her book answers the question, “How can I reach the C-Suite?” by providing an array of insights about the four core paths to the C-Suite:

[1] The tenured executive: internal appointment
Questions to ask: Am I a fit with the culture? Am I passionate about the purpose? Can I change with the organization? Can I create my own opportunities?

[2] The free agent: externally recruited
Questions to ask: Am I a good fit in my present company? What will I do if I am passed over? How fast is my career clock ticking? What is my strategic career plan? Where is my next growth opportunity?

[3] The leapfrog leader: internal or external candidate
Questions to ask: Can I fill a gap in the leadership pipeline? Is the culture stuck, and can I help get it unstuck? Is my functional area of expertise in flux? Are the hiring managers open-minded? Is organizational change imminent?

[4] The founder: new venture creator
Questions to ask: Am I having the impact I want? What problem will I solve? Who are my co-founders? Am I staked financially? Do I have the personal support I need? What will I do if I fail?

In addition to these traditional pathways, there are also the nontraditional pathways: going from consulting to the C-Suite, going to the C-Suite following a merger or acquisition, going from a spinoff to the C-Suite, going from a Board position to CEO, going from COO/CFO/CMO/CSO to CEO, and going from founder/CEO to C-Suite of a different organization.

Bottom line, no two pathways to the C-Suite are the same – they are as different as the leaders who travel them.

What business book is a must-read on your end-of-the-year list? Please chime in and share.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey’s library.

Follow these accounts on Twitter:
Charlene Li: @charleneli with hashtag #EngagedLeader
Ernan Roman: @ernanroman
Brian Smith: @briansmithugg
Erika Andersen: @erikaandersen
Cassandra Frangos: @c_frangos
Wharton Digital Press: @WhartonDigital

Monday, October 1, 2018

Want Some Customer Satisfaction Secrets?

I’ve met many people on social media, but one that stands out in the customer satisfaction arena is Bill Quiseng. On TweetChats, in my Twitter stream, on GooglePlus, on Facebook, and many more social networks, Bill always shares valuable tips and information. Recently, we discussed customer service and customer experience, and highlights follow below a brief introduction. Bill Quiseng is an
award-winning customer service speaker, blogger and writer. He has been recognized for his customer service and customer experience insight on social media with many accolades, most recently as one of the Top Customer Service Influencers of 2018 by Fit Small Business. Subscribe to Bill's Blog at and join him on Facebook at and Twitter at

QUESTION: How do you explain the difference between customer service and customer experience?
BILL QUISENG: Customer service is all about what you do for a customer. But, customer experience is all about how the customer feels about your company. It’s not only how the customer feels about your service, but also how he feels about every aspect of your company, from the ease of navigation on your website to the simplicity of understanding the final invoice, and literally every sensory touchpoint in between. In today’s very competitive marketplace, great customer service merely gets you into the game. Great customer experience makes you a winner.

QUESTION: Your pinned Tweet on Twitter says, “To earn new customers, don’t try to get inside their heads. Get inside their hearts. Create an emotional connection.” Can you please elaborate?
BILL QUISENG: Companies brainstorm elaborate journey maps to ensure that, at every touchpoint, the customer experience is consistent and effortless. They believe that, with expectations met, the customer will be satisfied. But satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal customers. If the product and services are similar between several competitors, customers will be more loyal to the company that makes them feel important and special. 

Businesses need to understand and educate their employees that there is a difference between taking care of a customer and caring for the customer. For example, taking care of a hotel guest is checking him quickly, giving him a key to a room that is clean and problem-free. Caring for a guest is recognizing that the guest was obviously under the weather and sending up a cup of chicken soup with a note, “Hope you are feeling better soon.” Taking care of a customer is a transaction. Genuinely caring for a customer generates an emotional connection. And emotionally engaged customers are much more loyal than merely satisfied ones.

QUESTION: What customer experience metric should every brand use, and why?
BILL QUISENG: It seems there is an infinite number of ways to measure customer experience, whether it is NPS, CSAT, FCR, AHT, etc. But if your business is truly customer-centric, then you should come to terms with the fact that customers don’t care about your metrics. They only care about this metric: 1 to 1. No one customer cares about any of the other customers. That one customer only cares about himself. And when that customer interacts with your one employee in front of him, he wants to know what that one employee can do for him at that moment. So, there are only two survey questions needed to measure customer experience:

[1] “Did you feel that the Associate cared about you?” Yes or no. 

[2] Why?

But how will you know if you are being successful? Just read the comments to survey question #2 and you’ll know. Then work hard to eliminate the complaints. And when you earn a lot more yes’s than no’s, you will have vastly improved the only metric that matters to any business: PROFIT.

QUESTION: There is a mindset that a focus on employees, rather than on customers, is the best way to improve service. Can you please elaborate?
BILL QUISENG: If you want to win the hearts of your customers, you must first win the hearts of your employees. And as one of their needs, your employees are looking for opportunities for continuous learning and development. Spend as much money training your people to keep a customer as you spend on marketing campaigns to find a new customer. 

If you want to improve the customer experience and drive employee engagement, you should be actively listening to your employees. Every day, every manager should be asking two questions of at least one employee.

[1] “What are you hearing?” 

Listen to what your employees tell you that customers are complaining about and then do whatever it takes to fix it. And remember, if you want your employees to deliver outstanding customer service, you need to make it a habit to recognize them when they do. 

[2] “Is there anything I can do for you?” 

Anything your employees mention is a hindrance or would be a help to doing their job better. Own the feedback and act on any promise made to them. With the intent to deliver exceptional customer service, remember this mantra: Happy Employees = Happy Customers.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite customer service story?
BILL QUISENG: My favorite story is about Joshie the Giraffe. A young boy lost Joshie, his plush giraffe (stuffed animal toy) while vacationing at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in Florida. When the Loss Prevention team found the stuffed animal, the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton created a scrapbook of Joshie’s extended vacation sunbathing in a chaise lounge, getting a massage in the spa, driving a golf cart, and even working a shift in the Loss Prevention department. That was back in 2012, and now as a legendary customer service story, it resonates long after the actual event has passed.

To read the full story about Joshie the Giraffe by the stuffed animal’s owner’s father, @TheChrisHurn on Twitter, here
s the link:

And to read Part Two – an even better story – by Chris Hurn, here
s the link:

Image Credit: Bill Quiseng.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Less Means More with This Brand's New Name

It's taken a few days for the latest marketing announcement to sink in. In case you're not a doughnut fan, or in this case, a donut fan, you may not have heard the news: After nearly 70 years, Dunkin' Donuts has undergone a rebranding and will now be known simply as DUNKIN'.

According to the company's press release:

Our new name is simpler, shorter and more modern, while still embracing our rich heritage by retaining the familiar pink and orange colors and iconic font that were introduced in 1973. It also speaks to the breadth of our product offerings. We’re all about serving great coffee fast. But we’re also about donuts and baked goods and breakfast sandwiches. All delivered at the speed of Dunkin’.

We are excited to bring the iconic name Dunkin’ to the forefront in a bold way that brings to life how we refill optimism with each cup and bring fun, joy and delight to our guests each and every day. But we’re not changing who we are at the core. We’ve always been, and always will be, a brand that is for on-the-go people, who depend on us to keep running.

And while donuts may no longer appear in our logo, we remain committed to serving our signature donuts and will continue to offer new and seasonal varieties to delight donut lovers everywhere. There is no Dunkin’ without donuts!

You will start to see the new branding on packaging, as well as our advertising, website and social channels beginning in January 2019. The new Dunkin’ logo will also be featured on exterior and interior signage on all new and remodeled locations in the U.S. and, eventually, internationally.

According to Dunkin’ Brands’ CEO and Dunkin’ U.S. President David Hoffmann, “Our new branding is one of many things we are doing as part of our blueprint for growth to modernize the Dunkin’ experience for our customers. From our next generation restaurants, to our menu innovation, on-the-go ordering and value offerings, all delivered at the speed of Dunkin’, we are working to provide our guests with great beverages, delicious food and unparalleled convenience. We believe our efforts to transform Dunkin’, while still embracing our incredible heritage, will keep our brand relevant for generations to come.”

According to Tony Weisman, Chief Marketing Officer, Dunkin' U.S., “By simplifying and modernizing our name, while still paying homage to our heritage, we have an opportunity to create an incredible new energy for Dunkin’, both in and outside our stores. We are bringing the iconic name Dunkin’ to the forefront in a bold way that brings to life how we refill optimism with each cup and bring fun, joy and delight to our customers each and every day.”

What are some key take-aways of this brand transformation? First, if you're a Dunkin' fan, you may be both happy and sad. The name emphasis on donuts may be gone, but the possibility for new products looms on the horizon. And it is clear from everything the top leadership team has said that the brand values its fan base and understands its passion for its products. But a name change is still a name change - just think back to the surprise name change by IHOP earlier this year, when it changed its name to IHOB to shift its emphasis from pancakes to hamburgers.

So, what branding lesson can your brand learn from the Dunkin' name change?

Image Credit: Dunkin'.

Monday, September 24, 2018

5 Tips for Brand Survival in Today's Social Climate

This post originally appeared on Eric Jacobson’s Blog in August. The link can be found by clicking here. Eric and I met in 2009, when we worked together virtually for MicroMentor – Eric in Kansas, and me in California. Since then, Eric has appeared on my Blog four times as a featured guest and countless times with memorable quotes. Eric has more than a quarter-century of experience in both leadership and product development, and I’m honored that he asked me to share my perspective on this important branding and social media topic.

Image Credit: Twitter.

There is no denying that social media has changed how brands communicate. All aspects of business have been affected from technology to human resources to marketing. Even more important, all employees have become their own personal brands – some even major influencers – with their own fans and followers. Therefore, in today’s social climate, who owns a brand’s messaging?

Employees can post content to damage an employer’s brand, and customers can post content to damage a brand. This has dramatically changed how brands interact with and respond to their customers, prospective customers, fans, media, and other stakeholders.

So, while many of your employees may understand social media, does your brand understand its nuances? How well does your brand navigate among the myriad of social platforms? How do you choose which platforms to allocate time and money? Do you know where the majority of your audiences congregate? And most importantly, do your stakeholders engage with YOU on social media?

While you may have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, if you’re not posting regularly and conversing with fans and followers, you’re wasting your time. So, in order for your brand to survive for the long haul in today’s social climate, here are five tips.

If you’re launching a new product or service, make an announcement and let your customers and fans know. If there is a delay, be up front and also make that announcement. If there is a problem, make that announcement. Don’t wait for a member of the media or, even worse, the competition to discover the delay or problem. Their announcement will not be kind. Own the news – that way, you craft your brand messaging and narrative.

Maintain a consistent name for all social media platforms. If a brand name is not available, use a familiar tagline. If “Nike” had been unavailable, the company could have used “JustDoIt,” and everyone would immediately have recognized that any account with that name belonged to Nike. With all the social sites available to your brand, take time to conduct a social media audit and re-evaluate the names of all your accounts.

Create and use hashtags with your brand name, your company name, key employees if they are industry influencers, and more. And use these hashtags on all your social platforms. You may even use them on traditional marketing collateral, such as, business cards, letterhead, brochures, etc. Hashtags are a way to stand out and introduce your brand to more audiences. Currently on Instagram, you’re able to add 30 hashtags to a single post.

If you only want certain feedback, otherwise known as five stars, don’t ask for it. Some customers will be long-winded, others will be positive, and some will be negative. To quote Bill Gates, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” So, as with the rest of your social media strategy, which must be aligned with your overall annual marketing plan, have a feedback plan. Instead of drafting a simple survey, think of why questions and responses would benefit your leadership team. In addition, you may decide to use a number of customer satisfaction tools to gauge customer loyalty, company health, or brand health (for example, Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction Score, or Customer Lifetime Value) – if you do, understand the value they can provide.


Set up alerts for your brand, company name, industry, and more. This will let you know when others are talking about your brand or brands and allow you to chime in when appropriate. You will also be quickly informed if someone says something negative or untrue about your brand so you can comment or chose to remain silent. You may also wish to set up alerts about your competition and key influencers in your industry. The sites to use are Google Alerts ( and Talkwalker (

There are a few important things to remember in social media. First, there are so many Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, etc., that the likelihood of one of your posts going viral is slim-to-none. But then again, you never know. With that in mind, second, make sure that whatever you post would not embarrass your brand. There are too many stories about brands losing spokespeople and market share due to a single tweet. And third, keep in mind that once content has been posted, it will assume a life of its own. You never know who might see it.

In 2009, soon after I joined Twitter, I shared a blog post, and shortly thereafter, Maxine Clark, Founder and then-President of Build-A-Bear, retweeted my tweet. We corresponded a bit on Twitter and then via email, and soon afterward, we spoke about branding, marketing, and plush animals by phone – truly, a Twitter success story!

Lastly, memorize my favorite tweet from customer experience expert Vala Afshar and practice it every day. If you do, your brand will be a memorable social media survivor! 

TWEET THIS: Don't do social, be SOCIAL: Sincere, Open, Collaborative, Interested, Authentic and Likeable. –@ValaAfshar

For more about Instagram hashtags:

For more about NPS:

For details about 9 Customer Success Metrics to Boost Business Growth:

Monday, September 17, 2018

Does Your Brand Pop on Instagram? 5 Branding Tips from Beverage Brands

Twitter is the social network known for brevity and sometimes pithy thoughts. Facebook is the network for connecting and sharing updates and photos with family and friends. LinkedIn is known for professional networking. And Instagram is known as the social platform where visual posts make the most impact.

You’ve heard the saying that, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, in today’s social era, most people look at photos, illustrations, and videos more than they read 1,000-word blog posts, newspaper articles, or white papers. Who reads white papers anymore? But back on point, many industries use Instagram successfully to promote their products or services, but one industry in particular is a good fit for this platform, the beverage industry. The following five beverage brands can teach all industries how to be Instagram experts. Check out their five branding tips.

While initially known for warm drinks, such as, lattes and cappuccinos, Starbucks created cold coffee and non-coffee drinks to expand its product line and increase its market share. A typical post shared by a fan with the caption, “Sandy beaches and strawberry sunsets,” demonstrates the brand’s fun and colorful spirit.

Color is the name of the game on Instagram – especially with beverage brands. How does your brand integrate color and colorful settings? Are your products naturally colorful? If not, strategically integrate colorful settings that serve as visual contrast. Yellow, blue, and pink are good background colors – and don’t ever forget the power of white space. Lastly, an image with just a brand name and tagline can speak volumes.

While initially known for its high-end home-brewing coffee machines, Nespresso created boutiques, sit-down cafes that serve food to accompany its delicious coffee. Visitors can sample the products in real time while receiving excellent service. In this sample post, Nespresso showed one of its drinks as it would be served in a Nespresso boutique. You can almost taste the coffee from the photo and imagine sitting in the boutique checking out all the high-end coffee brewers.

Does your brand showcase how it operates? Does it showcase its product line in a variety of settings and situations? Do you showcase customers simply enjoying your products? And, if you have a new delivery mode for your products, make sure to also promote it.

Known initially for its 100 percent orange juice, Minute Maid showcases its other products to introduce customers and fans to its many drinks. In this sample post, the Berry Punch was featured with strawberries to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Do you add holidays to your marketing strategy? While some holidays are celebrated in the USA, such as, the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, there are countless other special days that may be appropriate for your brand to recognize and celebrate. For example, if you are a cosmetics brand, you may want to celebrate National Lipstick Day (July 29) with a free lipstick give-away discount – think of the many images of lipstick and lips you could post. If you are an ice cream brand, you may want to celebrate National Ice Cream Day (July 15) – think of the many images of ice cream in cones, waffle cups, or pies that you could post with happy faces. And if you’re a lawyer or law firm, you may want to recognize National Be Kind to Lawyers Day (April 10) – there are too many images that you could post for this special day.

Known as a French brand of carbonated water, Perrier is more well-known throughout Europe. But for those who drink carbonated water, the brand is second-to-none. This post celebrated America’s Fourth of July.

Does your brand celebrate global events? Did your brand celebrate or promote Prince Harry’s Royal Wedding in England in May? Did your brand celebrate or promote the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016? How about the last French Open tennis tournament? Of course, if you make tennis rackets, you may have created a contest for two lucky fans to win a trip to Paris to attend the French Open. I’m sure you could have designed a great image for Instagram including all the details in your description.

Known as the light beer “born in the Rockies,” Coors Lite often posts on Instagram with its characteristic Colorado mountains and highlights mountain climbing in some manner. In this post, hashtags #MondayMotivation and #ClimbOn are featured with a caption, “Try something so new it doesn’t even have a hashtag,” and then it invites a fill-in-the-blank for fans.

Do you invite your customers and fans to engage in conversations in social media? Do you ask questions that entice fans to share a comment? Do you include a fill-in-the-blank in your questions? Do you invite fans to add their own hashtags? If yes, do you read and respond to all the comments, and in a timely manner? If you answered no to all these questions, you are either not asking the right questions, or you’re not asking at all.

As you work to expand your brand’s digital footprint in Instagram, remember that your social media marketing must be aligned with your overall marketing strategy for brand consistency. And lastly, don’t forget the purpose of social media. In the words of customer experience expert Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar on Twitter), “Don’t do social, Be SOCIAL: sincere, open, collaborative, interested, authentic, and likeable.”

Image Credits: Collage made with Layout app. Thanks to these Instagrammers:
@Starbucks, @Doctor_K_2017, @Perrier, @CoorsLight, @MInuteMaid_US, @Nespresso, and

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Employee Engagement's Link to Leadership

It’s a fact that if one is active in social media, one can build an amazing and inspiring network. Recently, I “met” Shea Heaver through my activity on Instagram and Twitter because we share an interest in employee engagement, and I invited him to appear on my Blog. Highlights from our Q&A appear below Shea's introduction.

Shea Heaver grew up, was educated, and started his career in Northern Ireland before moving to South Florida in the mid-late 1990s. Drawing on his years of management experience in the global IT field, he became a passionate promoter of a people-centric culture to improve organizational performance. Through his work in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, etc., he increasingly realized that individuals who feel valued lead to teams that are motivated, innovative, and highly productive. Shea founded Satisfaction At Work, with a focus on helping organizations achieve higher Employee Engagement, improve Leadership, increase Job Satisfaction, and become a Better Place to Work. Connect with Shea on LinkedIn (, Instagram (@SheaHeaver), Twitter (@SheaHeaver), and on his websites ( and

QUESTION: Your pinned tweet on Twitter says "A person who feels appreciated will do more than is expected." Can you elaborate with some examples?
SHEA HEAVER: When significant people in our lives listen, value our contribution, and reward us appropriately, we feel valued. For example, we feel happy and smile when a family member or friend gives us a gift, invites us to dinner, sends us a greeting, or simply says something nice to us or about us. That feel good sensation is a result of our brains releasing four main chemicals - Endorphin, Dopamine, Oxytocin and Serotonin. When these chemicals are present, our trust is heightened, we have more energy, and we feel valued.

This directly impacts on our senses of self-worth and confidence, allowing us to work to our full potential. At work, when employees feel highly regarded by their peers and management, their self-esteem rises, and they become happier, motivated, and much more productive.

TWEET THIS: A person who feels appreciated will do more than is expected. ~@SheaHeaver #EmployeeEngagement #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: How do you define onboarding? How do you define employee engagement? How can onboarding help with employee engagement?
SHEA HEAVER: Onboarding is a key element of introducing a new employee to their team and the overall organization – and should start prior to their first day on the job via ongoing communication soon after the employee has accepted a position.

Employee Engagement has a myriad of definitions and there’s a plethora of experts, authors, and consultants willing to bend your ear on the subject. My personal interpretation (that I’ve stuck to for a while) is that “Employee Engagement is the demonstrative passion, loyalty, and effort the workforce gives to their job, their team, and the organization.”

To assist with engagement, the onboarding process must go beyond HR forms and orientation by helping the new employee get to know the people they will be working with, encourage them to share expectations, and talk openly about the current culture (the good and not so good).

Their manager must take time to get to know the person beyond the resume and interviews they have already looked at. They need to make an early, personal connection with the individual and understand what is needed to get the best out of them.

QUESTION: What are a few ways to empower employees to build a culture that results in success?
SHEA HEAVER: First, we must take the burden of building a winning culture out of the hands of Human Resources and Management. A productive culture is built at the local level with the 3, 7, 9 or whatever smaller number of people we work with day in and day out. The idea of surveying employees once a year and then having others decide universally what to do is antiquated and irrelevant today.

A successful company culture is achieved when workplace relationships are strong, and to that end, the focus must be on items such as Openness, Motivation, and Feedback.

Openness is the ability to talk freely (yet respectively and constructively) about needs, feelings, and concerns. It is about a transparent dialogue with our peers where we neither hide nor sugar coat what we are thinking. It is also about being receptive to new ideas, questions, and feedback.

There is no universal source of Motivation, and financial reward may not be the big motivator that many think it is. Some people prefer the opportunity of bigger, newer tasks if they complete what they are currently working on while others don’t want change. It’s all about determining individual needs and wants.

Feedback is about sharing your reactions to another person’s ideas and/or behaviors. It is a way of letting them know to what extent he or she is furthering the objectives of the business. Feedback is not about assigning blame, criticism, or passing judgment. It is a conversation about your needs whilst respecting the needs of the other person. This leads to collaborative problem-solving on both sets of needs.

QUESTION: You share an Employee Engagement Calculator online. Can you explain it and why all leaders should take the time to use it? Here's the URL:
SHEA HEAVER: The Employee Engagement calculator lets the user update a few parameters such as number of employees, average salary, turnover percentage, time lost to conflict, etc., and it immediately shows how much THEY may be losing due to employee dysfunction, poor workplace relationships, and misguided leadership. Reading that the overall economy is losing $450 Billion (1) annually makes a nice headline - but realizing YOUR 500-employee company may be (needlessly) losing almost $4,000,000 from its bottom line each year due to disengagement is much more important to the CFO, CIO and other leaders.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
SHEA HEAVER: While we look at Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and others as Brand Ambassadors at huge multinational companies, that’s not the norm. I think the best way for most CEO’s to be brand ambassadors is to believe in, trust, and empower their workforce to help build employee engagement and develop a culture that everyone is excited to be a part of. This in turn will boost motivation, productivity, and loyalty to the company. And when employees are delivering quality services/products while also openly talking positively about the organization, you then have a holistic approach to promoting the brand.

TWEET THIS: The best way for most CEO’s to be brand ambassadors is to believe in, trust, and empower their workforce to help build employee engagement and develop a culture that everyone is excited to be a part of. ~@SheaHeaver #BrandAmbassadors

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that mean to you?
SHEA HEAVER: I believe leadership generally has two functions in any organization: (1) Advance and nurture the business and (2) Advance and nurture the people in the business. Advancing the people in the business is the more complex and important of the two, and in this context, it is about getting the best from your people by helping them be the best they can be.

A good leader realizes that they must empower the employee to do the best they can by giving them direction and ongoing feedback - and then letting them get on with it. When needed, the leader acts as a facilitator or mentor to help get things done while assisting in the navigation around barriers or obstacles that may crop up.

TWEET THIS: A good leader realizes that they must empower the employee to do the best they can by giving them direction and ongoing feedback - and then letting them get on with it. ~@SheaHeaver #EmployeeEngagement #LeadershipTip

My gratitude and appreciation to Shea for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his insights about employee engagement and its link to leadership.

Image Credit: Shea Heaver.

Source from question 4: (1)

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Where Does #BrandStorytelling Fit in Your Marketing Strategy?

How do you cause disruption in your segment? You may alter your pricing, so that customers notice your brand when compared to your competitors. You may alter your product offering by adding some appropriately aligned items. And you may offer discounts to entice buyers to visit your retail stores on holiday weekends. But, do you feature brand storytelling in your marketing? The easiest way to appeal to your customers is to create memorable stories.

Dave Sutton (@TopRightPartner on Twitter), author of MARKETING, INTERRUPTED, wrote, "The power and impact of your brand, your product, your services and your story comes from making the customer the hero, and you, the marketer, serving as the guide on their buying journey."

Consider two famous icons in the automotive industry and their personal stories: Henry Ford and Elon Musk. According to Sutton, "Ford aspired to transform the marketing for automobiles, which at the time were expensive toys for the wealthiest few, into a mass marketed vehicle for the many…He was an industrialist and the father of the modern assembly line mode of production." Musk wants his Tesla "to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible…He is known as an explorer, inventor, and engineer."

Sutton used these examples to explain that everyone has a personal brand story – more than what you do for a living. "It speaks to who you are and what you represent – it speaks to the core of why you do what you do." Personal brand stories are key to understand the importance of brand storytelling.

"The most remarkable personal stories are generally about a transformational journey. What traditions and norms must be challenged? What are the treacherous obstacles to overcome and pitfalls to avoid? What overwhelming odds must be beat? Who are the villains that must be conquered? Who are the dragons that must be slayed along the way? By bringing this level of clarity of action, you can create a more compelling and emotive story for yourself and the journey you want your audience to accompany you on."

Despite all the messages that bombard us all day long – whether in emails, texts, pop-up ads, TV ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, etc. – no one wants to be interrupted. Everyone wants their time to be valued and respected. As Sutton wrote, "This calls for marketing to make a change: a change in how customers understand you, engage with you and experience you."

So, will you alter your marketing before it’s too late? 

TWEET THIS: No one wants to be interrupted. This calls for marketing to make a change: a change in how customers understand you, engage with you and experience you. ~Dave Sutton @TopRightPartner

Image Credit:

Friday, August 24, 2018

Who Owns the Customer Journey?

Who plans a customer journey, touchpoints, or customer experience? Is it an organization's President or CEO? Is it an entire customer service department? Or, is this essential competitive advantage defined by a single marketing or technology employee? Whoever is responsible in your business, make sure that all employees - no matter what their role is - understands the importance of satisfied customers.

According to Wikipedia, "In commerce, customer experience (CX) is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. This interaction is made up of three parts: the customer journey, the brand touchpoints the customer interacts with, and the environments the customer experiences (including digital environment) during their experience. A good customer experience means that the individual's experience during all points of contact matches the individual's expectations."

Recently, I visited a car dealership in California that sells and services new and used luxury vehicles. While I don't have a brand new vehicle with a six-figure price-tag, I have a 10-year-old luxury vehicle with less than 50,000 miles that, according to Kelley Blue Book, is in excellent condition.

However, I experienced a strange issue with the car. One day, the windshield wipers stopped working. After adding an entire container of windshield wiper fluid and discovering that the wipers still didn't work, I took the car into my dealer. I was told that some engine components would need to be removed in order to access and fix the problem. I made an appointment a month ago and recently took the car in for the scheduled service.

When I dropped the car off at the dealer, I spoke with the check-in technician (who was also my regular service rep). He asked me, "Did you order the parts?" I nearly fainted with surprise. Had I just been hired as the newest mechanic? Or was I the customer? I made the appointment, so the dealer should have expected me and, therefore, should have ordered the required parts to handle my service request. I was the one giving my business to the dealership - and my money! Naturally, the parts had to be ordered after I arrived with my car, so my service would have to wait at least 24 hours to begin.

As a result of this experience, I wonder if the owners of the dealership (the dealership has been in business since 1948!) conduct regular customer experience training. You would think that a business with that amazing longevity would understand the importance of happy customers - but sadly, they do not.

Had I been the check-in technician, I would have said to the customer, “Wow, crazy thing, it looks like we did not order the necessary part or parts. We’ll take care of that immediately. In the meantime, we value your business and your time, so could I interest you in a coupon for lunch in our lobby cafe, or maybe a coupon for coffee and a snack at a nearby Starbucks?”

What does your brand do to show gratitude for customers when errors happen?

Monday, August 20, 2018

How Can Leaders Help Employees Exceed Expectations? It’s All About the Culture!

Recently, I saw a memorable tweet in my Twitter stream which read: “The answer to employee happiness is not in the form of bean bags and ping-pong tables…it is the company’s culture and career opportunities.” The name behind the tweet was Katherine Spinney, and upon reading the article associated with the tweet, I began a conversation with Katherine. She and her company provide coaching, mentoring, training, and team building in the Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Baltimore metro areas, and her company tagline is “Manage. Lead. Succeed.” Highlights of our conversation follow below a brief introduction.

To quote Katherine, “From my first job delivering newspapers to my current role as business owner, I have worked in a variety of organizations, roles, and sectors. Despite differences in culture, responsibility, and function, I have learned a very simple lesson: strong leadership creates positive work environments; poor leadership destroys them. It is my mission to help support leaders better support those they lead in order to maximize the value, contribution, and joy in work. We all should have the opportunity to do what we do best and be appreciated for it.” Check out Katherine’s website at, connect on LinkedIn at, and follow on Twitter and Instagram @CoachKat2017 and on Facebook /CoachKat2017.

QUESTION: What are three things a President/CEO can do to establish a corporate culture that all employees will enthusiastically follow?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: There are many components to successful leadership, and different individuals will attribute different levels of importance to each. Generally, though, there are guidelines that all leaders should follow.

For starters, staff want to be led by those who possess the highest levels of integrity and honesty. Trust is essential and the absolute foundation of leadership, and there is no stronger way to lead than through example.

Secondly, today's workforce does not simply want to be told what to do. They want to be included and involved in the process. They want to feel that they are authentically contributing to the company's goals and vision.

Finally, leaders must recognize that there is no organization without their staff and that staff must come first. This entails praise and recognition along with adequate compensation, benefits, and opportunities for growth.

TWEET THIS: Leaders must recognize that there is no organization without their staff and that staff must come first. —@CoachKat2017

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: Leaders must be able to articulate and demonstrate why their businesses are deserving of your patronage. Most organizations provide products and services that many other organizations also provide. There must be a reason for consumers to choose you. Often, this reason has more to do with your organization than what it is selling. What are your values? How are you demonstrating corporate responsibility? How are you giving back to the community? How are you embracing diversity? Increasingly, consumers want to feel that the companies they support share similar values and beliefs. This holds true for organizational leaders as well. What values are you demonstrating?

QUESTION: What three traits are most important to be a good leader, and why?

KATHERINE SPINNEY: There are so many components that comprise strong leadership. Some are more important than others, and many will depend on a person’s natural gifts and personality. I often break down these components into three main categories: skills, traits, and values. I ask those I work with to come up with as many items under each category as they possibly can. They generally do so with ease as there are many. I then ask them to choose which ones they deem most important, which ones they are already strong in, and which ones they need to work on. This exercise serves as a reminder of all that goes into strong leadership and begins the planning process of getting there.

As far as traits go, honesty, humility and commitment are among the most important. Honesty is necessary to ensure ethical and effective leadership. Humility is required for personal growth as well as appreciation of those you lead. Commitment encompasses commitment to the vision of the organization as well as the staff who comprise it. 

QUESTION: On your Blog, you write about something you called “Manager's Amnesia.” What are some of the symptoms, and what are some treatment options?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: Manager’s Amnesia is a term I use for a phenomenon that is all too common. It happens when someone begins managing others and seems to completely forget what it is like being managed. All the things that drove her crazy about her manager, she suddenly starts doing. All the things she wishes her manager had done, she doesn’t do. She makes being a manager all about her and not those she leads.

The symptoms show up in a number of ways: enforcing policies that don’t make any sense, being inflexible about situations that hurt staff, taking all of the credit and none of the blame, micromanaging, not involving staff in decision making, not investing time into supporting and developing staff. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.

Treatment options are to reflect and remember about what it is like to be managed. Listen to your staff. Involve them. Recognize them. Don’t just be open to feedback, seek it. Keep growing and learning. Admit your mistakes. Invest in your staff. Advocate for them. Believe in them. Serve them.

TWEET THIS: There is no one right way to lead effectively, but there are a lot of wrong ways. –@CoachKat2017 

QUESTION: In one of your publications, BEYOND THE TOOLS, A Workbook for Self-Reflection on the Mindset and Values that Affect the Way You Lead, you wrote about something called leadership shields. This is timely and intriguing due to the new coat of arms created by and for the new Duchess of Sussex. Anyhow, you explained that this exercise is an effective way to see a visual representation of a personal leadership journey. Can you explain this further as well as the four quadrants?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: Shield exercises are great because they provide a way to reflect and visually capture whatever it is you hope to reflect and capture. You can design the quadrants in any way that best serves your goal.

In the leadership shield in Beyond the Tools, the four quadrants are:
1)    An accomplishment you are proud of as a leader.
2)    The values that inform the way you lead.
3)    The leader you most admire and model yourself after.
4)    The type of leader you strive to be.

These four areas help provide an overview of what informs your role as a leader. The exercise, like all those in the book, highlights the foundational importance of values and how they affect the way you lead. There is no one right way to lead effectively, but there are a lot of wrong ways. If integrity is not at the center of the work you do, there is no way to be a true leader.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that mean to you?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: As a leader, it is your great privilege and responsibility to support and develop your team. That is your number one priority. In order to do that, you must invest in them through both time and money. You must develop them, advocate for them, recognize them, and provide opportunities for them.

One of the first things I ask leaders is what their staff’s long-term professional goals are. Very few of them know. How can you support and develop your team members if you don’t even know what motivates them and what they’re working toward?

Investing in your team’s growth includes helping them develop in ways that may not directly connect with their current position. This is still an investment worth making. Staff who feel valued and supported are far more likely to stick around and exceed expectations. Their level of investment in you is directly related to your investment in them.

TWEET THIS: Staff who feel valued and supported are far more likely to stick around and exceed expectations. –@CoachKat2017

My gratitude and appreciation to Katherine for appearing on my Blog and sharing her insights. Check out the interesting links below relating to this Q&A.

Check out the article on Fast Company that resulted in my conversation with Katherine:
“Employers, Your Idea about Employee Happiness Is All Wrong”

Read Katherine’s post about Manager’s Amnesia on her Blog:

Check out Katherine’s workbook, BEYOND THE TOOLS:

Image Credit: Feedback quote thanks to Katherine Spinney with graphic by Debbie Laskey.