What Networking is Teaching Me

Those that know me know that I enjoy connecting with others whether it is over coffee, a meal, or a chance meeting. I’ve been blessed to have had some quality networking meetings the past few weeks. In reflecting back on the people and these meetings, I’ve learned a few things:

  • People are generous with their time. That is so true of my community. I know the other person is sharing valuable time with me, so I invest some time before meeting preparing. I write out questions that I have for this person so I can get to know them better and learn about their journey thus far. I want to honor their time commitment with me by making the most of our time.
  • People have struggles just as I do. I have heard stories of jobs not going well and stories of heartache when someone has been fired. Listening and empathizing is a way to connect and encourage others. And they can do this for you, too.
  • People are passionate. I love seeing and hearing how the other person has found their niche and are running hard in that direction. I love hearing how they are impacting their world. I love hearing what they have learned along the way.
  • People share resources. I have learned that there can be a fair exchange of ideas and further connections that will benefit us both. I have heard about new books to explore, places to visit, and people to meet.

If you have yet to try something like this, give it a try. Who can you reach out to?

  • A senior manager at your workplace
  • An admired community leader
  • A business owner in your city

When you land the appointment and have the meeting, end by asking if they could connect you to someone who you can continue this networking time with. I don’t believe I’ve ever had anyone refuse to do this.

Give this a try and see what you’ll learn from networking. Meet someone new. Learn something new.

Coffee shop two business men Stock Photos - Page 1 : Masterfile

Connecting to Customers

Entrepreneurs on Fire with John Lee Dumas | Daily Business Podcast  Interviews

Earlier this morning, I was listening to John Lee Dumas’s podcast, Entrepreneurs on Fire. Do you know this one?

JLD offers up a new podcast EVERY SINGLE DAY where he interviews entrepreneurs around the world. And he’s been doing this for years!

The episode I listened to this morning featured Jeffrey Madoff. According to the podcast bio on Jeffrey, his “careers span fashion design, film production, teaching, author, and playwright. His book, Creative Careers, was an Amazon bestseller.”

This is a great conversation to listen to if you are in the business of attracting customers, retaining customers, and/or bringing ideas and innovation to market. What follows are some questions I heard on the podcast that I am asking myself as well as asking you as we grow our businesses.

When it comes to ideas that we are working with…

Are our customers (and potential customers) in love with your idea?

  • How can you “test” your idea with customers before a grand rollout?
  • How is the love you feel for your idea stuck in the vacuum of limited perspective exposure?

How can we innovate and bring ideas to the market that will make an impact? Here are some things that came up in this podcast:

Be sure your ideas are serving the interests of your customer/potential customer. Are you trying to sell your service/product from the perspective of your customer? Are you speaking their language during the promotion of your innovative idea?

Understand the customer’s needs/wants. Here is a point that Jeffrey made: how are we making ourselves necessary to our customers? You may sell them on an initial, gateway idea that gets them in your door. But how are you retaining this customer? How are you adding value beyond this initial offering? How are you making your company necessary so the customer is not tempted to look elsewhere for similar services?

Constantly build relationship bridges to your customer. Following up and following through with your customers will build loyalty. We all know that people buy from people they know and like. Building relationships goes far beyond the sale. This is the place where you truly understand what your customer wants and needs and then delivering on that. This is the place where your ideas can be tweaked to better serve your customers. This is the place where you can build a cadence of partnership, trust, and relevancy.

Take 24 minutes and listen to this podcast. You can find John’s podcast everywhere. You can also find it here: Jeffrey Madoff interview by John Lee Dumas.

Creating Meaningful Customer Experiences

What sets you and your team apart in your company? What sets your company apart when competing with the competition? I conducted a simple survey on LinkedIn the other day. The majority of the respondents said the primary differentiator was customer service.

I’m guessing you are not surprised by this. I would be willing to bet that your teams would not be surprised. But how do our teams create a meaningful customer experience that leads to results? Do they just know or should they be trained on how to do this?

Too often, our team members rush to resolve issues especially if the customer is “energized” (upset). “Stuff” is made up to quiet or calm the customer. And then the next person who encounters the customer is forced to address that “stuff” before even getting to the initial issue.

I have led teams that were customer-facing as well as “back office”. A few years ago, I crafted the following to create the most meaningful customer experiences that lead to results – customer satisfaction, sales and cross-sales, customer loyalty, customer referrals, etc. It is, in my opinion, a common sense approach. A seasoned team member will be able to navigate this process to build solid relationships with your customers. A new team member will be able to understand this and become a successful customer experience provider.

Here it is:

From my experience, many team members want to ACT first. They are anxious to take care of the customer, meet needs, etc. But when they jump to ACT too soon, they miss out on so much that the customer needs. The process above puts the customer first, leads the team member to connect with them, provides information for the team member to ACT in a way that makes sense to the customer, and then follow-up/follow-through to further connect with the customer.

This process has been used in a financial institution. It has been used at universities with college recruiters. It works. It must be managed, observed, and coached. But it works. Customers will feel this. They will respond. They will grow more loyal. You will see results.

Try it. Let me know how it goes. I love hearing stories of success! Share yours here.

5 Reasons Good People Become Bad Bosses (from Lighthouse)

Why are there so many bad bosses? 

Gallup research reveals that over 50% of Americans have quit a job to get away from their manager.  Meanwhile, overall employee engagement has been stuck for years around a meager 30%:

bad bosses likely contribute to the low employee engagement scores by gallup

Further, their research shows that managers, “account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement.”

This is a painful indictment of bosses everywhere.

Is there an evil gene creating bad bosses?

Of course not. But it begs the question:How is it that so many managers become bad bosses?

There are a number of factors that hurt even managers with the best intentions as they try to lead their teams. Today we’re looking at those factors that contribute to good people becoming bad bosses any what can be done about them.

Why Good People Become Bad Bosses

Read the rest here: https://getlighthouse.com/blog/bad-bosses-good-people-become/

Employee Engagement

How engaged are the employees at your organization?  In a Gallup survey for 2020, this is what they discovered:

Source:  https://www.gallup.com/workplace/313313/historic-drop-employee-engagement-follows-record-rise.aspx

This article makes great points.  From my experience and from talking with other leaders, employee engagement can be improved in multiple ways. 

Communication

Many surveys point to effective communication within organizations is lacking.  Top level leaders make decisions.  The expectation is that the next level down leaders will receive this communication and then share it down the line.  But that assumption is just that – an assumption.  Many times, the message is not shared with all employees.  Then a change takes place (that was to have been communicated) and the team at large ends up confused and frustrated.

Employees want to be in the know.  Communication helps connect employees to the mission.  And when that happens, engagement is more likely to happen. 

Training

Employees desire to be competent in their jobs.  Training and ongoing refresher training will help engage employees by giving them what they need – tools to do their jobs professionally and effectively.  Training should produce results to the company’s bottom line.

Training needs to be relevant.  Trainers, especially those outside of your department, need to know the current issues your team faces enabling training to become meaningful.  Trainers can and should partner with management to ensure job performance goals are in line with the training provided. Training is not an isolated event.  Training must lead to improved results.  Trainers train.  Managers measure the effectiveness of that training by observing their team executing what they learned.  Feedback should be sought out by the trainers and the managers should be providing relevant observations to make sure that the proper results are happening. 

Voice of the Employee

Employee engagement can rise when the team is given an opportunity to provide their voice within projects and company-wide initiatives. Ask for this.  Expect it.  Set the expectations on how their voices will be used.  The team can have a voice in a process even though the “vote” will be made by organization higher level leaders. 

Is a new vendor being vetted?  Involve key stakeholders in the process.  Allow them to “kick the tires”, ask questions, reach out to get references, sit in on RFP presentations.  Allow them to submit their feedback.  Then the C-suite execs can make a more informed decision.  And the team will know their voice was heard creating more engagement.

It is not realistic to think your organization will see 100% in employee engagement.  But how would your company function if you moved the engagement level from 30% to closer to 50%?   That exponential engagement will see new ideas, project involvement, diverse points of view all come to fruition.  Is there a downside to that? 

Taking a Moment to Connect

I am working near one of my groups this week. About 30 minutes ago, one of our newest team members walked up and asked if he could chat. He wanted to tell me what he was learning from a book I bought for him a month ago. He also asked what activities I had been involved with recently. I shared with him my experiences with our local Chamber of Commerce annual meeting as well as the leadership networking group I co-founded with my brother (www.firstfridaysfw.org). We talked of attending events together to get some networking experience under his belt.

Just a few moments, I was reminded of the power of staying close to your teams. I currently work in another building or at home most of the time. But this brief encounter reminded me how much touch points such as this one charges my batteries. Question: what do you do to connect with your teams?

Where Ideas Come From

Back in February, I challenged one of my teams with an initiative. I required each of them to share 1 idea or 1 area of improvement within our department and/or company. I created a OneNote folder where they would share these things every week. They had to include their name for accountability purposes.

Some took to the challenge immediately and some really great things are in motion today to bring their ideas to life. Some thought they really didn’t have any ideas. But through our 1-on-1 sessions when I got them thinking and talking, ideas flowed.

“But that’s a pretty small thing,” one team member told me after sharing an idea. And I reminded them I wasn’t looking for a cure for cancer. Just simple ideas that would help create less friction or would help others understand a necessary process better or that would create a better customer experience is what we were looking for. Small steps in the right direction compound to have a significant impact in the long run.

Do you know that your team has more to contribute? Do you know they have experiences that are extremely valuable and can be leveraged? Do you believe that ideas should come from all areas of your organization, not just the executive levels?

Give your team a challenge, encourage their participation, and watch them grow. You will see collaboration. You will see people stretching beyond their comfort zone. You will hear some pretty great ideas that you’ve never considered before.

And your team member, you, and your organization will become better as a result.

How to help a New Team Member | Team quotes, Business quotes, Leadership  quote