Own the Email

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One of the most frustrating experiences at work is when you send a routine email or request for support and it comes back to you as “that’s not my job” or even worse, no response after several follow-ups.  Finally, when you get a hold of them on the phone or track them down face to face, they state that it wasn’t they weren’t responsible for that, so didn’t bother to respond.   This lack of ownership and teamwork is a culture killer.  It should be everybody’s job in the organization to help get things done and it often takes longer to type an email saying it’s not your job than to forward it on to the correct person for help.

Countless times when I get these kinds of responses from people, it turns out it actually was their job or that the person they thought was in charge of it was not.  Not only are they wasting your time, but they are depriving themselves of finding out the real answer.

Helping a person solve a problem not only creates goodwill in the organization, but it creates organizational learning.  Something as simple as forwarding the email onto the correct person and ccing the original sender both lets the sender know who to go to and both people will be part of the response so they can assist further should the same situation arise again.


High Commission, Low Return

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Fact:  I once worked as a telemarketer.  Related fact:  I used to know a lot of shady people.

Telemarketing is the epitome of a sales job.  With no pictures, no demonstrations, no relationship, you make your pitch.  Like so many of these types of sales jobs, you work on pure commission.

Pure commission usually attracts a certain kind of person, a person interested in making the most money in the least amount of time.  Short-term gain is the name of the game.  It doesn’t matter how you make the buck, just that you make it.  This is one reason why so many people hate telemarketers.  Much like the stereotypical used-car salesman, they’ll say anything to get your money.

I had been working there for about a year when the company did something utterly surprising.  Overnight, they scrapped commission and put everyone on a salary of 9 dollars an hour with opportunities for raises based on performance.  Everything changed.

Over the next few months, the “scam and make a quick buck” employees started to disappear.  In their place came a lot of high school and college kids who needed a job with a flexible schedule.  Even better for the company, profits went up by 30% in 6 months across the board.  This was despite the fact that only half as many pledge packets were being mailed (my firm raised donations for police organizations, so we needed the donor to mail the money in before we could take the fee for providing the infrastructure and call service).

What was happening?  We were mailing out far fewer pledges and were paying sales reps regardless of whether or not they closed.  How did profits increase?  Well, before, sales reps would lie, guilt, or badger people into making a pledge.  Once the pledge went out, they got commission on it regardless of whether or not it was returned.  However, once the commission was gone, the people interested in doing anything to make a quick buck disappeared.  In addition, there was no motivation to close as many pledges as possible.

Instead, the people taking their place were sincerely interested in raising donations for a good cause.  They actually connected with the people they called and made people feel good about donating.  This resulted in less pledges being sent to people who didn’t really want to mail them back and more people happy about the pledge they were making.

Bottom line:  if you want a team that truly cares about your customers and is more focused on doing the job right rather than just getting it done, put them on a salary. Forget the commission, incentives, and bonuses.  Instead, find the people that care about your mission and show them how they are making a difference.  Your customers will see the difference immediately.

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Are You Letting Your Best Performer Kill Your Team?

Blog - Team Member on FireYears ago, I worked for a telemarketing company that specialized in raising donations for police organizations.  Most of us would raise about 1000 dollar’s worth of pledges on a normal day.  But there was this one guy that would pull in 3000 or more every single day.  Management loved him because he made the numbers look great.  Here’s the thing though – the guy was a hard-core alcoholic.  He would usually come in drunk and continue to drink throughout his shift.  Many nights he would have to be sent home early because he was no longer intelligible on the phone.  Even worse, the return rate for pledges that were sent out to people he talked to was less than 10% (normal return rates were between 30-50%).  The reason was that he usually guilted people into pledging and, once they got off the phone with him, they felt so bad about the call that they decided not to send the pledge in after all.  Yet, management kept him around because the numbers looked good on paper at the end of the day.  You can guess what message this sent to the team.

Well hopefully not as bad as the example above, letting the star performers get away with cutting corners is a common occurrence in today’s work place.   This kind of blatant favoritism and lack of accountability absolutely kills morale and sends a number of terrible messages, not least of which is that, “as long as you bring in the numbers, it doesn’t matter what you do.”  This generally creates a culture where every employee is out for themselves, gaming is rampant, and the only loyalty an employee shows is to their next paycheck.

High performing teams require high accountability from everyone.  The feelings of unfairness that arise when different employees are held to different standards kills far more productivity than the extra (often dubious) results driven by one star performer.  Great leaders know that it’s not what results you get, but how you get those results.  The how is what builds customer & employee loyalty and delivers consistent, long-term results for a sustainable business.  That’s on top of the fact that it’s simply the right thing to do.  Teams respect leaders who hold everyone to the same standard and don’t see the numbers as more valuable than the team.

The Difference is in the Culture

Tokyo Metro

I just got back from a recent trip to Japan with my family, our first time there. Having lived and traveled all over Eastern Asia, I was amazed at the difference. In Japan, people formed nice lines and politely waited for each other to cross the street. Metro rides were peaceful as mobile phones were turned off and nobody was talking on them. There was not a spot of trash on the street even though garbage bins were almost impossible to find.

This is very much the opposite of the experience you will find in many other areas of Eastern Asia. Where is the difference? It’s in the culture. It’s not about the laws or policies that are in place, it’s the beliefs people hold and how they act on them. The same goes for your organization and leaders set that tone for their teams and, in turn, for their customers. Over the years, I have visited many branches within the same organization and the difference can sometimes be night and day. This difference is usually a direct reflection of the leader at the different locations.

In Japan, people don’t keep the streets clean because they’ll get a fine for littering, they do it out of respect for the environment and others who use the same space. It’s a respect that their elders and their teachers have instilled from an early age. In the same way, highly engaged, high-performing teams do so because they find value in what they do, not because of a policy in place or a reward they’ll receive. That value is communicated by their leaders and their leaders live that message every day.

Creating an environment where people enjoy coming to work and where customers return to again and again is about building a culture defined by values. It’s done by inspiring your team to make a difference that has meaning to them and their world. Hitting KPIs, achieving sales targets, increasing quarterly earnings – these things are no more than indicators of what your team can achieve when they truly believe in what they are doing. It comes from knowing that their organization and the people that lead it always act with integrity and create a value-based company whose true purpose goes far beyond profit.

What culture exists in your workplace and how does it reflects the values held by yourself and your organization?

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