Have you ever had to work with a moody boss or a moody colleague? Consider yourself lucky if you haven’t – I know I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve been snapped at for no good reason – or at least not one that I knew of at the time!
How does that make you feel?
If you are inconsistent in the way you respond to your colleagues or lead your team you are sending mixed messages, and the real meaning of your messages may get lost in the noise generated by your moods.
At the very best it will probably mean that your colleagues will wait until you are in a good mood – just so they can spoil it with the bad news they’ve been saving up!
At the worst, you don’t get to hear about the problem until it is a disaster – when you might have dealt with it early on, when it was just a small problem.
If you have a team member who is sometimes in a bad mood, they can put the rest of the team off their stride.
The mixed messaging, whether from the top down of from peer to peer, destroys trust and creates barriers.
If your mood is changeable – if you are having a bad day – this first step is to tell people. They know already, so it is not a secret, and by opening up you make yourself appear honest and therefore more trustworthy. You’ll also find that telling people (you don’t whine about the reason, just say that you are a bit grumpy today) takes the pressure off you because you don’t have to pretend. That alone will make you feel a bit better!
If it is a team member who is having a bad day, telling them that you have noticed has much the same effect. Don’t get dragged into a long discussion about their woes – for some people the glass is always half-empty and they will drag you down with them – but you can show that you are paying attention. You also show the rest of the team that you are aware and watching. The grumpy one is on notice – being grumpy with your peers is one thing, being grumpy to the boss is something else!
For me, cross training in a gym is a distant memory but I am sure some of my readers may still indulge. In a business sense, cross training is a great way to improve the business.
In a well-designed induction program a new team member may experience several different departments over a number of days or weeks. That allows them to start on the job with a wider understanding of how their work impacts upon the rest of the business. It’s a really good way to bring someone into the team and make sure they have a decent understanding of how the business as a whole gets things done.
It’s not often that you see the same principles being applied to established team members, but it can be a great way of making sure that departments work together, rather than forming silos where information is retained within the department and competition with other departments rather than cooperation is the order of the day.
Tesco used to require the senior team (from directors down) to spend some time on the shop floor every year. I wonder if that no longer happens, and some of their problems can be related to the disconnection between the leaders of the business and its customers.
When you acquire a business you should have a plan to integrate the two businesses and a very powerful way to blend the cultures is to have an exchange of staff.
I’ve used cross training with the credit and collections teams, working with the sales team. The credit team can be very dismissive of the sales team – I’m sure you have heard phrases like “Those lazy sales folk, they can’t even get the credit application form completed” but get the credit team into the meetings and they’ll realise (a) how much else is going on to secure the customer and (b) how clumsy the credit application form is. In one case I remember the credit application form was reduced from 8 pages to 2.
Cross training really can keep (your business) fit
There is s a great American saying used to describe a failure. It’s often used to describe how an individual performs, as in “He is a day late and a dollar short”.
The English equivalent is “Too little, too late”
The business lesson is directly connected to expectations.
If your customer expects a delivery on Wednesday and you don’t deliver until Thursday, in your customers’ eyes you are a day late, even if you always planned to deliver on Thursday.
In the same way, if your customer thinks that you will do more than you think you are going to do you will come up a dollar short!
I am sure you don’t set out to be a day late and a dollar short – who would?
You can avoid that by making sure you have a solid grasp of your customer expectations at the start of the relationship. If it is a complex service or project, map out the steps of the project and assign responsibilities. Often, with complex projects, you as the supplier cannot make progress until the customer has completed a task, but if that dependency is not clearly stated guess who will get the blame!
If it is a customer complaint, time is of the essence. If you can get back to your customer quickly – even if it is just to say “we’re working on it” – that can alleviate some of the perception.
The other side of the coin is how you can turn your customers into raving fans.
Under promise and over deliver is a frequently heard truism, but the over-delivery has to be managed. There’s no point over delivering if what you are adding are things the customer does not want / need or value.
The crucial steps are to understand (and manage) your customers’ expectations, work out what is really important to them and then over-deliver in that area.
I’ve been asked to help with a group of three dentists, where one wants to retire and have the other two buy him out. The remaining partners are in no hurry to help him exit, there is no agreement in place and they have a complex set of legal structures. Feelings are running high, no one is happy and the business is suffering.
I’m also helping another business owner – a husband and wife team – who raised some money through crowd funding last year, but before the deal could complete their fellow directors entered into an agreement with a couple of the investors and they went into competition. My client is suing the competitors, and has secured the patent on the product and the heart of the business, They just need lots of money to continue to fight their corner!
It doesn’t matter how well you get on with your partners, your suppliers or even your customers right now, it is a good idea to have some way of resolving issues before they become too serious.
Every business should have a procedure for resolving customer complaints – and ideally one that gives the customer a very quick resolution. That usually means empowering those on the front line to deal with the challenge.
Every supplier should have a set of conditions, or terms with sanctions that apply if the terms aren’t met.
Every group of shareholders – especially in private companies – should have a shareholders agreement, so that when the time comes you know what will happen next.
It’s a much better idea to agree a process and procedure before you disagree