I Hire People For Two Reasons

“I hire people for two reasons — and this is true– I hire people if they’re enthusiastic and if they’re nice. And to me nothing else matters… If they have those two things, we can teach ’em.”

Bobby Flay, at Learning2007 Conference.

From: http://www.learning2008.com/Learning-2008-content/voices.htm

More Goodies:

Ten Questions to Ask Every New Employee

Originally Published at Library Garden

Kate Sheehan had a wonderful post a week or so ago, Customer Service Mind, Beginner Mind, in which she writes about the value of looking at things with a fresh eye. It reminded me that every time I ever started a new job, I was hyper-aware of all the wacky things about my new organization; the signs that had been taped to the door since 1973: the restrictive (or just plain arbitrary and weird) policies that seemed to have no rhyme nor reason; the lack of basic equipment available for staff (no sliderules or abaci, but close.)

These awarenesses weren’t always negative. Sometimes I was aware of the amazing benefit package that everyone else seemed to take for granted (or even grumble about) ; or an incredibly efficient work flow or communication mechanism — like a wall in the staff room with everyone’s picture (Facebook 1.0), or a Director that was actually available to speak with employees.

But no matter how strong or strange these awarenesses were, they always faded away within the first few weeks on the job. It didn’t take long before my new environment would simply register as “normal.” Seriously, there could have been a chimpanzee in a tuxedo singing the star-spangled banner in the lobby; but if he was there on day 1 and day 2, by day 3, I’d be nodding and saying, “morning George, you sound good today. Nice job on the bowtie…” In other words, I can’t underestimate the power of our brains to adapt and reset the benchmark for normal experience.

I always thought that those first few weeks as a new employee, when everyone told me everything and more, but no one asked me for MY thoughts or impressions, were a wasted opportunity. So when I became a department manager I made it part of the orientation process to squeeze these observations out of all new employees. I would literally take new employees to lunch and tell them that for the next few weeks, their perceptions were extremely valuable and encourage them to share with me if there was ANYTHING that we did that seemed odd, inefficient, wasteful, or stupid. Or amazing, creative, and blazingly brilliant.

If you can manage to get this data — heck, even one tiny piece of datum — from your new employees (give them a break now and then from reading the 250 page employee manual), you’ll have gotten some very useful information. So. Submitted for your approval, here are my Top Ten Questions To Ask Every New Employee. [drumroll please…]

  1. What was your first impression when you walked into the library?
  2. What are your impressions of the aesthetic environment inside the building? What could we do to improve it?
  3. What are your impressions of the aesthetic environment outside the building? What could we do to improve it?
  4. What are we doing that strikes you as wasteful — of time or money?
  5. What services are you surprised to learn that we are offering, for better or worse?
  6. What services are you surprised to learn that we are NOT offering, for better or worse?
  7. Are there any policies that you don’t understand the rationale for? Are there any policies that strike you as just plain nuts?
  8. What are your impressions of our website?
  9. What was your experience like when you called the library? What are your impressions of our phone system?
  10. What are your impressions of our customer service orientation? Are we customer-focused? What could we do to be more so?

 

BONUS QUESTIONS (for the brave ones out there)

  1. How friendly (or unfriendly) did the staff seem when you first walked in the door?
  2. What are we doing that strikes you as straight-up bat sh*t crazy?

 

If you consistently ask these questions of your new employees, you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to recapture the newness of seeing, if only briefly, through borrowed, “beginner mind” eyes.

Five Questions that will improve your effectiveness

I recently stumbled across a wonderful little book called Leadership Simple: Leading People to Lead Themselves, by Steve and Jill Morris. It’s based on Dr. William Glasser’s “Choice Theory” (which suggests, among other things, that the only person whose behavior we control is our own) and Glasser’s “Reality Therapy” (which suggests that we choose our actions and we are responsible for our choices.)

The authors use a fictional case study written in narrative format to illustrate the process of “Lead Management”, or “self-evaluating, and leading other to do the same.” The principles are also presented in bullet-point format in an appendix, which makes it very easy to quickly review the main points.

The Lead Management process involves walking oneself (and later others) through five basic questions:

  1. What do you want?
  2. What are you doing to get it?
  3. Is it working?
  4. What else can you do?
    (I like to throw in an extra one here: “What am I willing to do”)
  5. What WILL you do?

The authors suggest that when using the process, we spend the majority of our time on steps 1-4, thinking, talking, analyzing, generating options and generating more options. Finally, we decide what we WILL do and commit to an action.

I’ve realized that in the past I’ve sometimes rushed through steps 1-4, failing to think deeply enough and generate enough options. But more often I’ve spent too much time on steps 1-4, enjoying the process of exploration and never getting to a commitment to action.

What appeals to me about this process, and the underlying philosophy, is that it is deeply grounded in personal responsibility. Consider this quote from the book:

“You are accountable for the meaning you place on the information you receive, for what you want, and the behaviors you choose to get what you want.”

And this one:

“People are going to do things. Events will occur. In essence, whatever happens outside your mind is information. You get to choose what that information means, what importance you place on your perceptions of that information, and how it fits with what you already know.”

One value in adopting this perspective is that it takes us out of victimhood. We can’t simultaneously take responsibility for the meaning we ascribe to events and to the behavior of others AND feel like a victim. This is highly empowering. Victimhood, whether experienced individually or as an organizational or professional culture or belief system, gets us nowhere. When we perceive ourselves as victims we are less likely to invest our energy in trying to change or influence events. However, when we take responsibility for our perceptions and the meanings we ascribe to them, we become grounded in a place of power, and we are more likely to make conscious choices regarding our behavior. We are more likely to take concrete steps and try to exert our influence on outcomes.

The commitment to action (the “what we WILL do”) is the final step in the Lead Management model. The process, however, is circular. This means we can choose to go back to earlier steps and re-evaluate what’s working, what’s not, and generate more options. We may even decide to re-evaluate at step 1, and look at whether or not we still want what we originally wanted. We may discover that our original goals have shifted over time in the light of new experience and knowledge.

The Lead Management process is designed to be used for self-coaching and the coaching of others. But I think the process of working through the five questions could also be effectively used to guide decision-making for departments and organizations by re-phrasing the questions:

  1. What do we want to achieve? (What is our mission? What is our goal?)
  2. What are we doing to get achieve our mission/goals?
  3. Is it working?
  4. What else can we do to achieve our mission/goals?
    (“What are we willing to do”)
  5. What WILL we do?

Over the past year I’ve been acting as a personal coach to a friend/colleague (and as I move into 2008 I will be doing more, and will begin receiving formal training from a professional coach.) Coaching, as opposed to mentoring, is about asking questions, not giving advice. So far my experience with coaching (both as a coach and coachee) has been very positive, and I can see how the five questions of the Lead Management process could be integrated into an effective coaching session.

Now maybe it’s a bit early to be making New Year’s resolutions (although tech support people are already wishing me a “Merry Christmas”) but maybe I can set a New Year’s Intention:

  1. What do I intend?  I intend to learn to effectively coach myself and others.
  2. What am I doing to get it? Setting up agreement to be coached by (and trained by) an experienced professional coach; Setting up agreement to coach a colleague.
  3. Is it working? TBD…
  4. What else can I do? Read books listed on coaching bibliography provided to me by an experienced coach.
  5. What WILL I do? TBD… Share my coaching experiences on Library Garden!

Tip #4: Keep a "No" log. (aka Steal this post)

Practical Tip #4: Keep a “No” log. (Steal this post)

OK, I’ve been meaning to post this idea for over a week, so it serves me right that I got beaten to the proverbial punch by Stephen Abram, who appropriately titled his post, “an idea worth stealing.”

The idea? Keep a log at every service desk and note every time a customer is told “no”, or “we can’t do X”, or any other variation on the theme of denying the customer what they want or need.

Look at the logs on a regular basis and evaluate whether those ‘nos’ can be turned to ‘yesses’. I recommend reviewing the nos while keeping in mind Michael Stephens’ “Five Factors for User Centered Services

  1. Does it place a barrier between the user and the service?
  2. Is it librarian-centered or user-centered in conception, i.e. is it born from complaints from librarians about users?
  3. Does it add more rules to your bulging book of library rules, procedures and guidelines? The more rules you make the more quickly library users will turn you off.
  4. Does it make more work for the user or the librarian?
  5. Does it involve having to damage control before you even begin the service?

I’m not suggesting that every no be turned to a yes. But I am suggesting that your customer service will improve if you every ‘no’ is critically evaluated.

Dump the rules

Maybe it was the new moon on the 29th, but at the same time I was writing about Nordstrom’s one-rule employee handbook, Sophie Brookover was eloquently expressing her frustration with all the rules and red tape that libraries inflict on their customers. (see: Pop Goes the Library: Red Tape = Patron Kryptonite)

In Robert Spector’s book “Lessons from the Nordstrom Way” he devotes a whole chapter to “dumping the rules”. Spector suggests, rightly so methinks, that every rule — EVERY rule — is a barrier between the library and the customer. If you feel resistance to this idea and start thinking about all of the reasons you need the rules, I ask you to ponder: Do the rules make things easier/better for your customer?

It amazes me that Nordstrom is still one of the few stores out there to have a true no-questions-asked return policy. Most stores think that a return policy that liberal is a recipe for customer abuse. And you know what, some customers DO abuse it. But Nordstrom’s philosophy is to focus their attention and energy on giving great service to their great customers–the ones who never abuse the policy and greatly appreciate being able to return something 3 months later without getting a dirty look. What Nordstrom gets in return (seriously, no pun intended) is an extremely loyal and vocal customer base. Do they lose a little money when they take returns on items that other retailers wouldn’t even give store credit for? Sure, they lose a little. But they gain so much more. Do they “reward bad behavior” when they take a return on a leather jacket with the elbows worn away? Nordstrom (wisely) doesn’t look at it that way.

So are your rules designed to prevent the worst customers from taking advantage? Does someone on your staff suggest that dumping a rule is equivalent to “rewarding bad behavior?” Have you considered the price you are paying by punishing the majority of your good customers to deal with a few of the bad?

Suffice to say, I empathize with Sophie B’s frustration, and agree that we need to seriously evaluate the rules in our rule books and question the value of every one of them – from the customer’s perspective.