A Christmas Moment

It’s once again ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ (or at least I think that’s what the song says!).  Of course in reality we’re all rushing about; trying to get work wrapped up before the break, make sure we haven’t forgotten Auntie Gladys’ annual consignment of ‘Quality Streets’ and grotto-ify the house with tinsel, twigs and baubles.


But, in the midst of all of this we can hopefully look forward to one or two wonderful moments (maybe even three or four!) peculiar to this time of year.  And that got us thinking…



Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


And, of course, should you wish to send any festive greetings our way, we can be contacted at: info@paradigmantics.com

Nothing Fails like Success

I’ve just been searching through my old notebooks to find a list of addresses of family and friends to whom I want to send festive greetings. It’s in one of them. Somewhere! Predictably I go through this exercise every year.  When eventually the list is retrieved I make a solemn vow to either create a spreadsheet or at least to put it somewhere where I will find it next year.  As yet the addresses remain stubbornly elusive.
On the positive side, I’ve become reacquainted with pages of thoughts collected from conferences I’ve attended.  Ideas worthy of note but forgotten in this jumbled archive of assorted notebooks.  One set of pages was my record of a presentation by Stephen Covey.  The first line, and title for this blog, caught my eye.  Even though it was delivered before the Lehman crash 2008, in a time of plenty, the concept has resonance and is very much the subject of this site.
Covey’s primary message was that ‘successful practices no longer work today’. He used a wonderful metaphor to illustrate the point. 
If you are in London trying to navigate your way around the city with a map of Amsterdam to find your destination, it won’t be too surprising if you can’t find the place.  Your first inclination is to try harder.  After all, if we work harder success eventually arrives.  But you don’t arrive! The only thing that arrives is a sense of frustration.  Maybe you have an attitude problem.  Get this sorted, you need a PMA (positive mental attitude).  Get psyched up, come on you can do it!  Unfortunately, however positive you become, you will remain lost.
This has nothing to do with your behaviour or attitude, just a bad map. You have a map problem. 
Breakthroughs come from ‘breaking with’.  Changing what you are doing, finding a new accurate map is the key to making a difference. The map is the paradigm; the way we do things around here.  At one time the accepted paradigm was that the earth was at the centre of the Universe.  When a more accurate map showed this was not the case, unsurprisingly people wouldn’t accept it.  Changing a paradigm is really hard for people to even contemplate, let alone adopt. Maybe, the way we do business, the way we deal with our customers, how we work and the like might benefit from a new map.
Since I’ve already redoubled my effort, adopted a PMA and achieved frustration, maybe it’s the time to adopt a different approach towards finding this damned Christmas card list!

Customers as Partners

How often do we hear words like; ‘We work in partnership with our customers’. Welcome to yet more rhetoric. It’s as if we say it often enough, loud enough, to as many people as possible, it will become more than wishful thinking. Rarely is your customer relationship a partnership, mainly because of the contractual arrangements, self-preservation and ego that gets in the way of it becoming so. 
What sort of partnership do you have with your business to business customers?
Are you a supplier?  This means you have a contract to deliver services. When you re-tender, you and all your competitors will face the same level playing field.  You will compete on price.  They will all make extravagant claims about their excellent service.
Are you a supplier of choice?  In which case, you deliver everything in your contract, on time, on budget, to the accepted standard.  When the contract is re-tendered every competitor will claim they can deliver what you have done at roughly the same price.  The advantage you have is some evidence that you are up to the task.  Your customer hopefully thinks; ‘better the devil we know’.
Are you a partner?  You deliver everything that is expected. The difference is in the way you work together to deliver.  You make every effort to understand what success looks like for your partners and together to achieve this.  It’s as if you share the same goals.  You have become the partner of choice. How could they manage without you?
These principles apply to all types of customer relationship not just business to business.
  • Are you regarded simply as a supplier?
  • Are you a supplier of choice?
  • Do your customers engage with your business and choose to become involved?
If you want to make partnership the reality of your customer relationship, first, accept what sort of relationship your customers perceive they have with you. Don’t believe your own rhetoric. If you want to have something different, then, identify what behaviours you need to demonstrate in order for your customers to choose to join you in a relationship which can truly be defined as a partnership.
Remember if you don’t deliver to their expectations you will quickly find yourselves as ‘just another supplier’ accompanied by all of the uncertainty that comes with this status.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how Paradigmantics can help your organisation to develop more engaged partners, contact: andy@paradigmantics.com

Be Aware

The no-cost trick to gain more customers, more engaged colleagues and a more fulfilled life.
How often have you travelled an oft-used route in your car, or on the train, and arrived safely at the other end with no recollection of your journey?  It’s not that you were asleep; simply that nothing caught your attention.  Perhaps your mind was elsewhere, musing on the pressing issues of your day.
Have you ever been in a shop, selected a magazine or sandwich, and have no recollection of the experience you just had as a customer? Amazingly, you were willing and able to spend your hard earned cash in their shop, but they made no attempt to make a connection with you.
Would your colleagues ever say you had missed an opportunity to notice a great piece of work they had done for you?  Maybe they made a special effort to hit a deadline, or had to overcome complications to help you out. I know if I asked you, your response would be that you always praise people, at every opportunity. We always like to thinkwe do.
Now, let’s consider another perspective.
You completed a piece of work to the best of your ability; hit the deadline by some miracle, after having all sorts of problems.  Ticked that box, now move on.  Did anyone thank you to show they valued what you did for them? Has anyone recognised the effort you made?  Did you notice the acknowledgement and thanks your colleague lavished upon you for doing a great job and saving their day? Maybe it didn’t register.
Your customers came and went.  They seemed happy with the service you gave them.  Or at least didn’t say otherwise.  There were some regular faces, but many you might see only once or twice and then never again. They didn’t make any attempt to make a connection; they’re in a world of their own.  Never to be seen again.
Beware. There is a great deal to lose when we take awareness for granted.
Perhaps if we make a conscious effort to be more aware, we might connect with more customers turning them into regular visitors, engage with our colleagues more, and ourselves feel more valued.  All this at no cost… What more can there be?
See how we’ve helped other organisations to become more aware and build engagement with their customers by viewing the short case study links below:

Pandora’s Box – Creating new Opportunities

Pandora was given a box by the Greek God Zeus and forbidden from ever opening it.  Of course, curiosity eventually overcame her. As she prised off the lid, to her horror she released all the ‘evils’ into our world.  This means that while the root cause of our current economic and organisational dilemmas can therefore be attributed to Pandora, so can the cure. As Pandora stared into the vessel, luckily, at the very bottom, one thing remained.
At every meeting I attend, and training programme I deliver, the crowd without fail utter the mantra, ‘more for less, more for less, more for less’.  As if saying this over and over will somehow open up Elysium, the Greek land of plenty. It won’t. The predominant thinking I witness is; ‘preserve as much as we can, this is the way we do things, less is more!’
How can you unlock this mindset? The great breakthrough will come from thinking differently about what you are doing. Ask, ‘what more can there be?’ Better solutions with great possibilities do exist for those who look from a different perspective.
A technique to help realise possibilities and great opportunity is called ‘flip-flop’.  Start with a list of the characteristics of your business, your issue or service.  Then ‘flip’ your ‘flop’ to create a new perspective.  Let me help you with an example: let’s see how this thinking changed the air travel industry for ever:
Characteristics of 1970s air travel
·         National carriers
·         Expensive
·         Luxury travel available to a few
·         From major city airports
·         All the frills
·         Food and drink included
…. Now, Flip the flop

The Budget Airlines’ new thinking created in the 1990s

·         Small agile carriers
·         Inexpensive
·         Available to almost anyone
·         From regional airports
·         Pay for what you want
·         Buy a sandwich and coffee on board

A highly profitable new market was born.

Flip–Flop, try it. Unlock your thinking. Open minds to new opportunities.  Release the one thing left in Pandora’s box …

Hope.

How Do We Disengage People?

It’s great to visit an organisation and hear the leadership team express the desire to improve morale, to have everyone in the workforce engaged and to keep their people motivated during a time of uncertainty.  Why?  Simply because the answer to the question is so easy to find.

How quickly we forget those times when we were starting our careers, when we were on the front line, or in the back office, learning the ropes.  Did you ever gather around the water cooler with your work chums to practice low morale, disengagement and general can’t-be-botheredness?   How often were you lured from your positive state to joining in with your more disaffected colleagues?  What pushed you onto the slippery slope?

1.       The classic reason cited by nearly every piece of research into the matter is a lack of trust in leaders.  The problem here is that this means different things to different people. Is it determined by your actual or perceived experiences, or is it fuelled by the experience or perceived experiences of others?

2.       Not surprisingly a lack of communication will also be high on the list.  So often leaders report that ’we told them’.  Did you tell ‘them’ in the way they wanted to be told, so that they perceived they were being communicated with effectively?

3.       ‘We don’t feel valued’ ranks highly.  This is an emotional response. You may value your people very highly but what have you done that would reinforce this?

4.       Uncertainty is usually a root cause of people leaping onto the bandwagon of disquiet.  At least we can be certain that everyone we talk to on this vehicle to despair will share, or at least sympathise with our views.  When leaders tell us that the only thing we are sure about is that things are currently uncertain is hardly reassuring.

5.       Other stuff which seems trivial but isn’t.  My child has mumps, I’ve got a bad back, I’m going out tonight and I haven’t got enough money. These are all the things that leaders cannotcontrol yet they have great pertinence to the individual rehydrating for the third time this morning. 

This (more or less) means that the answer is very simple.

Go and stand by the water cooler.  Hear what ‘they’ hear, see what ‘they’ see, feel what ‘they’ feel.  Remember when you were standing here with your chums and what made you want to join in these conversations.  Now, ask what would I have wanted my leader at the time to say to me, to reassure me that everything will be ok?

To find out more about how Paradigmantics can help your UK organisation to engage with its workforce contact andy@paradigmantics.com for a brochure or further information.

The Bic Crystal ‘Biro’; The tool of the Paradigmeer

I recently discovered a bundle of old exercise books.  As I untied the string which bound the collection I noticed they were a relic of my schooldays.  What struck me as I thumbed these seminal tomes of my intellectual development, was the smudged handwriting.  Blotches of ink, inky fingerprints and other ink related schoolboy catastrophes highlighted each page.  I was the product of a schooling system which insisted that the ballpoint pen was bad for the development of fine calligraphy!
Luckily the invention of Laszlo Biro has prevailed.  His name is synonymous with the ballpoint pen even though this had been invented 50 years before Biro’s 1938 patent. Marcel Bich bought the patent in 1950 before spending two years perfecting his iconic Bic Crystal ballpoint pen.  So successful was his product that 57 Bic Biros are sold every second amounting to 100 billion since 1950. There can be hardly anyone on the planet that isn’t familiar with it.
1.       When we consider that for years the Bic Biro was the tool we used to express ourselves.  How many of the world’s great ideas started their lives as a line of blue or black ink scribed onto paper by the ball of a Bic Biro. 

2.       Did it challenge the rules?  I would argue it did.  Previously pens were relatively expensive and required skill to use.  The biro opened up the world as a cheap, reliable tool that anyone could use. 

3.       It has popular appeal. Even today as electronics usurp the written word we still carry a ballpoint pen to fill those gaps when only pen and paper can be useful.  

4.       We couldn’t imagine a world without the biro or its many spin offs.  Even, I would suggest in a hundred years time, there will still be biros in use. When your ‘i’ this that and the other, has become obsolete, still tucked away in your desk drawer will be a ubiquitous biro. I look at my desk now, as I type into my super clever computer, beside me are notes, diagrams, doodles and drawings made using a small army of biros.
My schoolbooks are testament to what life was like without the Bic biro. We can only speculate that given the ease with which words, thoughts and ideas could be generated it is possible that without the ballpoint pen we wouldn’t have made intellectual or technological progress as fast as we have, without it.

Why Change?

If I hear yet another speaker quote Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’, I shall scream.  Not because it’s a statement I disagree with, more because it is used ‘over and over again’.  
Interestingly Einstein assumed that the Universe was static!  The Expansion Paradigm developed by Edwin Hubble proved that the Universe is actually constantly expanding, which led Einstein to concede that assuming the Universe remained constant was perhaps his biggest blunder.  The only real constant is change itself.
Unfortunately people’s desire to maintain equilibrium and have a high degree of certainty is strong.  Listen to those sages in every organisation who, for as long as I’ve drawn a pay packet, have uttered; ‘It’s not as good as it used to be, we’re always changing things, we need a period of stability…’.  The second constant is that change is uncertain.
If change is inevitable but we naturally hang on to what we know because the alternative is ‘the unknown’, what will force us to move?  The Big Bang was the violent starting point (the singularity) for our constantly changing Universe, thus what is also certain is that any behavioural change also requires a trigger point.  That moment when we become ready to accept that maybe, just maybe, we could do something different. We’ve reached the point at which it will only take a ‘nudge’ to set us in motion.
So far, it seems, all beyond our control.  Change happens, there will be a trigger point and the results will be uncertain.  It is how we perceive this inevitability that makes the difference, which makes this a truly exciting time.  Everyone accepts that whatever our organisation, there will be change; the economy has provided the nudge.  Now leaders can design organisations, encourage mindsets and create processes which will embrace the sentiment behind Einstein’s oft plagiarised words.  But beware:

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”  Albert Einstein

Old habits die hard.

To receive a free copy of our new 24 page BlogBook in PDF format, comprising of a series of articles considering change from different perspectives; drop us an e-mail at info@paradigmantics.com 

Frontiers of Customer Experience – Part 3

The 3rd and final opportunity presents a far greater challenge. Once we have taken responsibility for the whole customer experience and educated our customers as to how they might benefit from the full potential of our service, we move into an area over which we might at first seem to be powerless. How can we get our customers to be good customers? How can we help them get the best out of us?

 
Anyone who has ever faced a customer will know how some of them manage to bring out the worst in even the most accommodating of colleagues. Let’s face facts, we have all done it; been rude, aggressive, ignorant, confused, distracted, disconnected, or considered the person serving us to be incompetent. We all know how to be ‘bad’ customers. So how can we help customers become better at being ‘good’ customers so the person serving has at least a sporting chance of giving them a great experience?
 
It can be done. When my son took to skateboarding I spent many hours as the taxi service to a local skate park. Housed in a converted warehouse and frequented by an eclectic mix of young people, it may have been draughty, apparently disorganised and mainly held together with gaffer tape, but once those customers walked through the doors their etiquette was a joy to behold. Small kids flattened or concussed would be dusted off by big kids, tricks were applauded and newbies always given a tour of the hallowed ramps and jumps. They all become great customers. So whose responsibility was it to make this happen? Most interestingly these young people had created the customer culture that they wanted, they used the facility to its fullest potential and they learned to skate in the way that suited them best. They even organised the taxi service!
 
Indeed more organisations are enabling their customers to personalise their experience; iGoogle and BBC homepage are good examples of web-based products where you can do this. The ‘virtual’ environment will lead the way because it is easier to deliver a personalised experience than in the infinite complexity of a ‘real’ customer interaction but this should not stop us being ambitious. What more can you do to:
 
  1. Influence those parts of your customer’s experience over which you have no influence?
  2. Help customers to take full benefit of your service by learning about your product in the way they prefer to learn?
  3. Help your customers become better at being ‘good’ customers?
 
These three frontiers represent a challenge for all organisations to explore if we are to achieve even greater levels of customer experience. Like all great pioneers, who are pushing at new frontiers, do you ask the question: ‘What more could there be?’
 
To find out how Paradigmantics can help you to explore these frontiers, contact Andy Summers for information on our Engaged Customer programme:

Absenteeism, Presenteeism & Stress… Taking its toll on the UK workforce

Here we go again. 

The headline screams: Absenteeism on the rise amongst British Workers.

Shock, horror, a news item that reveals short term unplanned absence due to ill health is rising.  What do we expect?
Uncertainty abounds.  Even if your organisation is secure, there is always an underlying threat of change.  The news reports problems in Greece, Italy and the Eurozone.  You are told prices are rising and your wages will remain the same.  You will be worse off.  So many issues that could affect you and your family are outside your control. You are helpless, your influence over your circumstances is getting weaker; your level of stress is rising.
Then you go to work.  Here you meet other people who are quick to add to your burden.  They reinforce the rumours.  Ask anyone in the organisation what the biggest issue is and they point the finger at a perceived lack of communication.  When your manager informs you that they have told you everything they know ‘at the present moment’, you want to know more.  What is it you are not being told? 
However hard you try the uncertainty grows.
Eventually this tips others over the edge.  They take time off.  This puts pressure on those that are working who have to cover; customers are met with stressed people or a less responsive service.  And through all this, managers become convinced that they are not being kept in the picture, the leadership team puts their collective heads in their hands and despair at why the level of trust is evaporating.
What do you expect?
How can you empathise with ‘John Smith’ whose call you are taking; one which is simply adding to your level of stress? It’s time to manage the situation.  Start with yourself.  What are you doing to take control over your level of stress? 
Too often we come across managers and leaders who keep taking other people’s stress on board and take no action to reduce their own levels.  Leaders in particular keep going until they suffer a catastrophic breakdown which will take months to recover from.  Leaders have to set an example to everyone else and show how individuals can look after their own wellbeing.  If we can get everyone in the organisation to recognise that they can take control and accept personal responsibility for their wellbeing, then any action taken by teams and the organisation to make this uncertain world more certain will have a far greater effect.
For further information on ‘Altogether Better’, Paradigmantics’ Attendence Management Portfolio, please don’t hesitate to contact: andy@paradigmantics.com