Category Archives: Social
Allow me to introduce you to a little know business gem: Timpson. It is a family business operating 1000+ stores, annual turnover in the region of £200m, and annual profits of £10m+. Today, this organisation (and its leadership) is on my mind again. Why? Because of what I saw and read on LinkedIn.
This is the photo that captured my attention:
The last time I looked there were 240+ likes. Here are some of the comments that caught my attention:
- “Leadership at its best”;
- “Hats off to CEO James Timpson”;
- “Very thoughtful and caring”;
- “Pay it forward”;
- “Brilliant. More selfless acts needed”;
- “If another company did this it would probably seem like a publicity stunt, but Timson’s record speaks for itself..”; and
- “How many Advocates and how much good feeling does that create for Timpsons who are already an exceptionally socially responsible company…Great win win!”
Why did these comments catch my attention? Because these comments provider a pointer towards the following:
- The shape-look-feel-character of humanistic leadership: authentic as opposed to faking it in order to manipulate others (publicity stunt); thoughtful and caring as opposed to thoughtlessness and indifference to our shared humanity – where humanity is hidden under the labels of customer, employee, supplier; and selflessness leading to paying it forward as recognition of one’s good fortune and shared humanity as opposed to unlimited greed dressed up in fine sounding words like maximising revenues and profits.
The impact human-centred leaders make on us: we tend to think of this kind of leadership as “leadership at its best”; and those who exercise this kind of leadership call forth respect – when we are authentic we take our hats off only to those whom we genuinely admire, esteem, respect in terms of their virtues and/or skills.
The benefits that tend to show up as result of exercising humanistic leadership: the good feelingthat this kind of leadership calls forth in just about everyone except sociopaths and those professionally trained as economists and MBAs; and the advocacy-loyalty that is automatically brought into play as a result of evoking this good feeling.
I am clear that we (those of us living in the UK and USA) live in transactional, individualistic, non-humanistic, competitive cultures. So those of us, who are ‘smart’, are likely to be tempted to fake humanistic leadership to get the benefits (respect, status, increased profits, wealth) without paying the necessary ‘price’. So here’s the paradox. The exercise of humanistic leadership does generate advocacy, loyalty, revenues, and higher profits. However, this is not the case when humanistic leadership is exercised for the sake of harvesting these benefits. Why? Because, one can only fake it so long before true intentions leak out and are detected by those who are being manipulated.
Is Timpson faking it? Is this offer of free outfit cleaning for the unemployed merely a publicity stunt? This is what Justin Parkinson of the BBC says on this blogpost:
The problem is that getting suits dry cleaned usually costs in the vicinity of £10, which can be prohibitive for unemployed people looking to return to work.
The offer, in place since 1 January, has been taken up by hundreds of people, Timpson chief executive James Timpson says. “When people are going for interview it’s important to look and feel smart and getting their suit dry cleaned is part of that,” he adds. “It makes people more confident and gives them that 2% extra chance of getting a job. We just thought it was a really good idea.”
In my experience, one of the core challenges of taking a humanistic approach to doing business (including the exercise of human-centred leadership) is that we have a dim view of human nature. Our actions show that we are convinced that if we appear ‘soft’ then we will be taken. So how has this offer turned out for Timpson? Here is more from that BBC blog:
“We just trust customers,” says Timpson. “We had one lady who came in with a cocktail dress and we told her to hold on. But that’s the only instance of a customer taking advantage.”
What is going on here? How to make sense of this? It occurs to me that somewhere deep down in us, our human decency is intact. Put differently, for most of us, there is something deep in our being that makes us think twice and usually prevents us from taking advantage of those who show concern for us, our fellow human beings, and our shared humanity. Where we transgress and do take advantage of the kindness of others, guilt comes into play. That is the price we pay for not honouring the best of our humanity.
Now you may be wondering what this has to do with Customer. I say take a look at what has been done in the name of customer service. Take a look at CRM. Take a look at customer loyalty programmes. Take a look at Customer Experience. Take a look at all that has happened and all the money-effort that has been expended in the name of the Customer. Now ask yourself how it is that despite all of this customer loyalty and employee engagement are stagnant – at best. There is your answer: humanistic leadership (and management practices) are the access to calling forth the good feeling that in turn leads to engagement-loyalty-advocacy: from your people, from your suppliers/partners, and from your customers.
If you are interested in learning more about Timpson then check out this piece that I wrote some time ago as it continues to be relevant and instructive: Timpson: Shifting-Transforming Culture Through Language and Practices.
Note: At the invitation of Bob Thompson, I write the Human-Centred Leadership column on CustomerThink.com. This conversation was published there last month.
You may have noticed I have not been conversing much recently here on this Blog. I have been dealing with back pain for the last six weeks. This has limited by ability to do that which it takes to create-share conversations. I hope to back in action soon. If you missed me then I thank you for your patience. If you didn’t, excellent: now you know that you are wasting your time-life listening to me, please go and do something that lights you up!
The Human Something That Makes All The Difference In Human Relationships
“I remember how one day a foreman secretly gave me a piece of bread which I knew he must have saved from his breakfast ration. It was far more than a small piece of bread which moved me to tears at the time. It was the “human” something which this man gave me – the word and the look which accompanied the gift.”
—Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Here is a man existing in a concentration camp. He is aware that he is being worked towards death. He finds himself starving – day after day. Yet, when he receives a small piece of bread what moves him is not the bread itself. What moves him, what leaves him grateful, is that “human” something which is brought forth and given life in the ‘word and the look’ which accompanies the gift of bread. The human something which transforms Viktor Frankl’s being from that of a thing to that of a human being.
Have we created a space for this human something to show up and dwell in the world of business?
You may be tempted to think so given all the talk of relationship, of service, of engagement, of collaboration, of partnering, of loyalty. And I am confident that many in the business world actually believe so. Yet, Look beyond this veil and you are likely to see a desert of genuine-meaningful-cooperative relating: within the organisation, and between the organisation and its customers, suppliers and partners. Behind the veil of words lies a transactional context where just about everybody finds that the most functional behaviour is to look after oneself. Where does the problem lie? Who is responsible for not putting this human something into the game of business?
Let’s listen to what Susan Scott says on the matter (bolding mine):
“The problem isn’t out there. It’s in here. We want employees to be engaged and feel included, while we ourselves are detached, distracted, disengaged, focused on our to-do-lists. We want others to bring that elusive, coveted “discretionary effort” in the door with them every day, but we don’t have the time to engage in conversations that enrich our relationships with them. We are busy, not to be found. And even when we are willing to spend more time with people, we don’t want to get to close to them. After all, there’s professional distance to maintain. Conversations and meetings that create actual intimacy make us nervous and uncomfortable. Besides, intimacy requires too much upkeep on an emotional level, and conversations and meetings that really engage and include take too much time…. When you disengage from the world, fail to include it, the world disengages too, in equal measure. It’s a two-step process, you and the world, you and your organisation. Your colleagues, associates, employees lost interest in you because you’ve lost interest in them. Calling them associates isn’t enough. If you want to engage and include the people who surround you at work, then gain the capacity to connect with them at a deep level – or lower your aim.”
– Susan Scott, Fierce Leadership
What Can We Learn From the Events That Occurred At Market Basket?
It occurs to me that when it comes to the human something and the exercise of human-centred leadership (which embodies that human something) we can learn something from the events that have occurred at Market Basket. What happened? According to the Boston Globe (27th August article):
“For six weeks, we were mesmerized by the sight of thousands of grocery clerks, cashiers, and other workers protesting at stores, on Facebook, and on the front pages of this paper. They did so at great risk, without the protection of a union, not because they wanted higher wages, but merely the return of their beloved boss, Arthur T. Demoulas.”
The CEO of Tesco was ousted in July 2014 due to poor performance. Not a single employee turned up at company headquarters to demand his return to the CEO role. So why is it that thousands of employees did turn up at headquarters and demand Arthur T’s return? What makes him beloved – so highly loved? I share with you some quotes that I have come across on the net, from the likes of the Boston Globe and the LA Times (bolding mine):
“He’s a tremendous human being that puts people above profits. He can walk through a store, and if he’s met you once, he knows your name, he knows your wife, your husband, your kids, where they are going to school.”
– Tom Trainor, District Supervisor
“He’ll walk into a warehouse and will stop and talk to everyone because he’s genuinely concerned about them. He cares about families, he asks about your career goals, he will walk up to part-timers and ask about them about themselves. To him, that cashier and that bagger are just as important as the supervisors and the store management team.”
– Joe Schmidt, Store Operation Supervisor
“Artie is a people person, who places people before profits; he cares about you as an individual. There’s good pay, good working conditions, good benefits. That’s why people people don’t leave.”
– Joe Garon, Buyer
Leading From Any Chair: Acknowledging The Acknowledged Leaders
One can ‘lead from any chair’ according to Benjamin Zander the conductor. Put differently, any one of us can exercise leadership no matter which position (chair) we occupy in the organisation. That is what the folks at Market Basket have shown. I wish to acknowledge those who show up for me as the unacknowledged leaders. The supervisors who took a stand and risked all to getting “Artie” reinstated, knowing that they were likely to be dismissed. And found themselves dismissed:
- Tom Gordon, grocery supervisor;
- Jim Lacourse, buyer;
- Joe Garon, buyer;
- Steve Paulenka, facilities and operation supervisor;
- Tom Trainor, distribution supervisor;
- Joe Schmidt, operations supervisor; and
- Dean Joyce, warehouse supervisor.
How to end this conversation?
What is a fitting end to this conversation? I share these quotes with you:
“Every man has to obey the voice of his own conscience, and be his own master and seek the Kingdom of God from within. For him there is no government that can control him …”
“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
– Jesus (John 15:12-13)
The voice of my conscience calls me to work with you to co-create a world that works for all, none excluded. My conscience calls me to show up and travel in a manner that elevates my fellow human beings: to put into the game of life that “human” something that left Viktor Frankl touched, elevated. It occurs to me that this is the true meaning of Social not the watered down selfish twittering that passes for social.
What about you? What does the voice of your conscience call you to? What is the possibility that it speaks and are you listening to it?
Please note that a somewhat modified version of this conversation was first published on CustomerThink in October 2014.
Are you looking for a definitive answer to sales ineffectiveness? The kind that identifies the ‘top 10 reasons’ and then recommends great sounding actions. If you are then you have come to the wrong place. I don’t position myself as a sales guru. And experience has taught me to distrust the one definitive answer. Sales advice form sales gurus, for the most part, strikes me as being similar to religion: pure ideology with bits of truth thrown in the mix.
I don’t have a definitive answer for you. What I wish to do, in this conversation, is to explore the question through my own lived experience: being on the receiving end of sales pitches as the author of this blog. Let’s start with advertising.
Sales Pitches From ‘Advertisers’
From time to time someone will contact me to sell me on the idea of accepting advertising (of one kind or another) and making some money. Nobody has as yet succeeded in persuading me to put ads on this blog. Why not?
When I started sharing that which I share here I made a commitment to myself. What commitment? To share my authentic voice uncorrupted by the profit motive. As such I ruled out accepting standard adverts or paid for placement masquerading as my thinking, my voice on some matter or other.
The folks who pitch me to ‘accept advertising and make money’ do not get that I relate to myself, on this blog, as giver not a taker, as thinker not a publisher. And for me, money is not the be all end all of a worthy life.
Sales Pitches from Search Engine Optimisation Folks
I regularly get sales pitches from SEO folks. Some of them have even taken on the best practice advice of sales gurus. They have done an analysis of this blog. As such they have identified the weaknesses and the impact of these weaknesses. Furthermore, they come up with sensible recommendations for improving the visibility and traffic to this site.
As yet I have not purchased. Why not? The fundamental fact is that this blog is a platform for me to share my authentic voice and contribute to those who find that which I share a source of contribution. As such, I prefer for a niche set of people to find me rather than take on some form of mass marketing. Put differently and equally true, this blog is a form of self-expression rather than a money making venture. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for this blog to be at the top of Google rankings. But only on merit, not on search engine wizardry. Yes, I am old fashioned. I might even lack ambition to make it to the top.
Sales Pitches From ‘Writers’
From time to time, and sometimes regularly, people offer to write / supply content for me. Most offer to do it for free. Why is it that I decline the offers of free content?
Firstly, why would I deprive myself of the satisfaction of self-expression and contribution? That which I share here with you is a valuable form of self-expression for me. I enjoy grappling with, thinking through, and finally sharing that which I share. This process leaves me feeling creative. And to some extent of service, of contribution, to my fellow human beings – at least some of them.
Secondly, I insist that those who offer to write, contribute something original, something authentic, something that provokes thought, something worth reading. This is far too demanding for those who offer to write for this me/this blog. Mostly their pieces are marketing pedaled as an original ‘thought piece’. Or I find no thought in the so called ‘thought piece’. I am delighted to say that one person accepted the challenge and ended up publishing his post here on this blog.
Sales Pitches From Conference Organisers and/or PR Folks
From time to time conference / seminar organisers pitch me the idea of turning up at their event and speaking. They do not offer payment for my time or service. They assure me that my presence will be good for my reputation – building my brand. For the most part, I decline these offers. Why? My time is valuable: it is the source of my income, source of relating and relationships, source of thinking through and sharing that which I share….. Furthermore, I have always felt rather uncomfortable at being positioned as a guru. And I have no desire to be branded. I value my freedom of thought and self-expression unconstrained by existing filters / expectations.
PR folks reach out to me and invite me to attend a particular company event and write about it. What is the trade being made here? It occurs to me that it goes something like this: you are privileged to be invited, we will cover your expenses, and you will have a great time. All in return for writing a favourable post on your blog. I have never accepted such an invitation. Why? It occurs to me that this is peculiar form of advertising: I advertise a particular company and pay (time, lost earnings) for the privilege of doing so.
Who Has Succeeded In Selling To Me?
Has anyone succeeded in selling to me as the author of this blog? Yes, a few people have. For the purposes of this conversation, I wish to highlight Bob Thompson. Recently, Bob Thompson sold me on writing original content for his venture: CustomerThink. How did he do it?
Did he offer to pay me? No. Did he offer to build my brand? No. Did he offer to fly me to one or more exotic places? No. He offered me nothing along these lines. So how is it that I took up his invitation to write original content for the idea he has in mind?
Bob shared his idea and invited me to step into it with him and a few others. Why did I accept?
One, Bob told me that he finds that which I share thought provoking. In particular, he likes the leadership / human side of things that I bring up and talk about. He presented me with an avenue to express the stand that I am: a stand for humanity (the best of our humanity) in business and the workplace.
Two, Bob reached out and validated me when I most open to that validation. When did this occur? When at the suggestion of friends-colleagues-family members I started this blog some four years ago. At that time it did not occur to me that I could write. Nor that I had anything valuable to share. After three months or so of sharing my take on things Bob noticed my voice which was mostly unheard. He told me that he liked that which I shared. And invited me to contribute to CustomerThink. I continue to be grateful to Bob.
Three, Bob and I have met in person when he was stopping over in London. People do ask to meet me and mostly they do so because they want something from me e.g. to publicise their company. Bob’s invitation showed up for me as an invitation to meet me to meet me. Which is to say, it struck me that Bob wanted to learn about me. To spend some time with me. And I gladly took up the offer.
What conclusion do I draw from this? It occurs to me that Bob Thompson has been effective and efficient in selling to me because he gets me: what my world is, what I am about in this world, what matters to me, what possibilities leave me moved-touched-inspired. And he has connected with me as I wish to be connected with: one human being to another sitting at a cafe talking about that which is worth talking about and sharing that which makes each of us genuinely human. Put differently and using the words of Martin Heidegger, I say that Bob Thompson has good enough understanding of the ‘world hood of my world’. And this enables him to be effective in pitching what is most likely to speak to me.
I leave you to draw your conclusions. And I thank your for your listening – it is that which continues to bring forth my speaking through this blog.
In light of the Comcast call that went viral I invite you to listen to these wise words (bolding is my work).
There is no question that acquiring and retaining customers is vital to every company, but it’s the way companies are going about it that’s dead wrong…..
Charles Green, coauthor of the Trusted Advisor, points out that many companies have the client focus of a vulture – the pay close attention to what clients are up to, but only in order to figure out the right time to pounce and tear at their flesh….
Sales plans, computerised data sharing, and advertising strategies are not relationship-building vehicles. While an automated phone system may improve an organisation’s operational efficiencies, it rarely improves the customer experience. In fact, most have the opposite effect…..
The point is, though we can learn the language of our industry, sit up straight, dress appropriately, and speak knowledgeably about product, when the conversation doesn’t feel natural, doesn’t respond precisely to the customer’s questions, doesn’t engage the customer in an authentic way, there will ultimately be no sale. And no matter how many time we hear the same feedback ……., we struggle to behave differently because we don’t know how to get beyond our customer facing “script”. Besides, we aren’t particularly interested in, much less skilled at “seeing” and responding to, each customer as a one-of-a-kind human being….
Today, more than ever, consumers are seeking to be acknowledged as unique individuals with lives, needs, tastes, and desires that differ widely from those around them….
So, assuming your products or services are of good quality and competitively priced, one of the most powerful differentiators has to do with conversations you have with customers. The conversation is the relationship ….
No matter what your job is …… the key is your context, your beliefs about your responsibility to customers and the relationships you intend to enjoy or endure with them … if I’m in the checkout line at my grocery store (or any checkout counter anywhere in the world) it would be easy for you to think that you are doing your job if you ring up the sale and hand me my purchases, the correct change, and a receipt. That you get points for using my name …. That if you have a customer loyalty program, you get more points for asking me for my membership card so you can check to see if I can get a discount….
But, I’ll tell you what makes the real difference. That you look into my eyes and connect with me, even if only for a seconds. Human to human. A real smile suggests, “I see you”. This seems like such a small thing, perhaps foolish to some, yet it’s what we all want, deep down where it counts. To be seen.
I’m reminded of the African greeting sawu bona, which means “I see you.” The response is sikhona, which means “I am here.” The order is important. It’s as if until you see me, I don’t exist. Raking your eyes quickly over someone’s face is not seeing them. So if you want to see your customers, really look at them. What takes mere seconds can make people return again and again.
– Susan Scott, Fierce Leadership
If insanity is doing the same stuff over and over and expecting a different result then it occurs to me that many of us who are working on the Customer stuff can be labelled insane. Relationship is not merely the sum of a series of interactions. Relationships do not reside in CRM databases. Communication is more than bombarding customers with sales messages across any number of channels. Personal is more than sending the customer emails and addressing her by using her name. Engagement is more than a customer opening up your email and clicking your offer. Customer Experience is more than a new name for the Customer Services function.
I dedicate this to conversation to a fellow human being (and friend) who gets and lives that which Susan Scott is communicating: Lonnie Mayne, President of InMoment.
The Interplay Between Communicating & Relating
The relating that occurs between human beings is a function of the communicating that is occurring between these human beings; the communicating that is occurring between human beings is function of the relating that is occurring. Which is to say that the communicating and relating are essentially in a dynamic dance with one another.
Which is primary? It occurs to me that communicating is primary: as linguistic beings we cannot help but communicate and this communicating influences/shapes relating. It is through your communicating with me that I get access to your relating to me: how you see me, how you are positioning yourself in relation to me, how you are likely to treat me, whether I can trust you or not, whether you are ‘giver’, a ‘matcher’, or a ‘taker’.
If you get this then you get the critical importance of the communicating that occurs between the people in an organisation and the customers of the organisation. How the people in your organisation communicate with customers will impact the customer experience – sometime dramatically. Let’s take a look at two examples and listen to their impact.
The Marketer’s Way Of Communicating With Customers
Take a look at this email from ILX . Pretty graphics aside, this is what the email says:
Let us pay your exam fee!
WE’VE MISSED YOU
As a previous ILX customer we just wanted to touch base with you and see how your training went and more importantly find out if your career has benefited from gaining new qualifications with us!
We have included a free Best practice map PDF for you which may help you work out what your next step could be. Download PDF >
Is there anything we can help you with in furthering your qualifications? We are here and ready to give you any assistance that you may require.
Maybe you’re considering another course with ILX?
We are constantly developing our e-learning to ensure it’s the best in the industry so you get the highest quality learning that we can provide.
We hope to hear from you soon!
Quote MISSYOUEMAIL when contacting us
If you have more than five people who wants to take part in our e-learning please contact one of our dedicated team for the best offers at email@example.com or call us on +44 (0)1270 611 600
What was my experience on opening-reading this email communication? This communication showed for me as inauthentic: false. How can ILX miss me? The people in this organisation do not know me! And if they genuinely wanted to touch base with me and find out how my training went then why did they not call me a year ago when I actually took the training? And what do they mean by “Is there anything we can help you with in furthering your qualifications?” They certainly don’t mean help as in help of the everyday human kind. What they mean is, what can we persuade you to buy from us in the guise of helping you.
So how am I left feeling about ILX? I am left feeling that ILX is just another ‘taker’ organisation looking to extract as much money as they can from me. Especially now that summer is here and people will be taking holidays rather than taking courses. So their offer to pay my exam fee is no act of generosity.
The Human Way To Communicate With Your Customers
Take a look at the following email and ask yourselves how you would be left feeling on opening-receiving this email:
We just received your order and will process it within 48 hours.
Your order # 204-0742925-4073103 shows the following items:
Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership
If you have any questions or issues with this order please email us by replying to this message or email us at [email removed].
If you have any concerns at any time about this order, please email us right away with your Order ID#.
I found myself surprised and delighted. Why? Because this email speaks to me as I wish to be spoken with: it is everyday communication between two human beings. It oozes the kind of humanity that speaks to me: friendliness, warmth, caring. I find myself wanting to know more about this organisation (Slategrey Books UK) and about Melissa.
Why Have I Shared This With You?
If you are serious about showing up and competing on the basis of the Customer Experience then you need to pay attention to the quality of your communicating with your customers. Take a good look at your communications across the customer journey ask yourself if your communications are generating the kind of customer experience that builds connection. If they are not then you are likely to be better off using the services of good copywriters than spending a fortune on marketing automation systems that ultimately will enable you to deliver ‘junk’ to your customers at scale. And in the process annoy customers like me who then end up sharing their experience on social media – just like I am doing now.