HOW TO ENGAGE REMOTE TEAMS & MORE FT. KRISTI HEROLD

BREAKING IT DOWN EPISODE 1 FT. Kristi Herold

On Breaking It Down, I sit down with entrepreneurs and business executives to help them solve company culture, employee engagement and customer experience challenges in their organization.

I HAVE NOT BEEN PREPPED. What does this mean? My answers and solutions are honest, authentic and TRUE.

On the premiere episode with CEO/Founder of Sport and Social Group Kristi Herold and I explore:

1. How To Engage Remote Employees

2. Tipping Culture In Non-Traditional Tipping Jobs

3. How To Inspire The 19-24 Years Old Demographic

I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I enjoyed filming this! Leave your comments, thoughts, opinions or questions below!

Interested in being a guest? Follow me on LinkedIn and shoot me a direct message!

CONNECT WITH KRISTI ON LINKEDIN HERE.

CONNECT WITH ME ON LINKEDIN HERE.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

Customer Service Skills, Strategies, and Mindset For 2020

Before the end of the year, we spend time building our marketing plans, setting our operating budgets and creating strategic plans to drive our business forward.

One thing that I believe our companies and the public are getting better at, is understanding the importance of customer experience. Just look at all the content that is being created for customer experience improvement after a simple Google search.

As leaders of our businesses we need to do the following habitually in order to improve our customer experiences:

  • Make improving customer experience a priority, instead of a thought or idea. This means that it needs to be a part of our quarterly strategic plans. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.
  • Invest in customer experience strategy just like we do in branding initiatives like marketing and PR.
  • Continuously provide superior customer service skills education/workshops to ALL employees.

In thinking about the year to come, I’ve identified three customer service skills that I believe your employees can learn from. These are the same three customer service skills that I will be sharing with my team in 2020.

Customer Service Skill #1

Adopt The “Everyone is a Customer” Mentality

Here’s something I like to do with my team. Walk around your place of business, visit different departments, speak to three different employees and ask them,

“Who is our customer?”

Make note of what responses you hear. I’m confident that you’re going to hear three different variations.

The answer I expect is, “Everyone who interacts with our brand is a customer.”

Being in hospitality, it’s easy for our team to consider the guest who orders the $300.00 bottle of wine to be our #1 priority. But, for me, that’s not an authentic People-First Culture business.

If we truly want to be People-First then everyone, literally everyone, who interacts with our business needs to be served like they just ordered a top-shelf bottle of wine.

Here are some individuals who interact with our brands, that sometimes are neglected:

  • Your future employees when you’re interviewing them.
  • Your business vendors like uniform and seafood suppliers and bank and insurance representatives.
  • Your investors
  • The media
  • The government

Now, consider who interacts with these individuals. Often, companies only provide customer service training for their frontline employees like customer care professionals and sales team members. 

However, doesn’t your Purchasing Manager manage the relationship with your suppliers? Doesn’t your Controller manage the relationship with your bank and investors?

They do!

With this in mind, every single person on your payroll must receive customer experience training to ensure that everyone that interacts with your brand is provided an exceptional experience.

Starting with the right mindset and mentality will propel the other two customer service skills forward.

Customer Service Skill #2

Defensive to Offensive Customer Service (Switching Gears According to Customer Personality Types)

In my 2019 customer service skills post, I outlined three customer personality types we need to train our teams on, in order to deliver personalized experiences based on their preferences.

When delivering experiences from customer to customer, you need to ensure you don’t deliver the same experience to everyone the exact same way. I call this “switching gears.”

We need to teach our team members how to switch gears and go from defensive to offensive customer service. Defensive customer service requires active listening to understand what the customer’s goals are. Once that’s understood, then we switch gears and move into offensive customer service and act on what it is our customer’s desires are.

Balancing the two can be challenging. I have found that when we are fatigued our defensive mindset can grow thin. We become too concentrated on offensive customer service and go through the motions of doing just the bare minimum. This paralyzes us from being able to deliver personalized experiences for each customer’s personality type.

Customer Service Skill #3

Role Reversal

“I really don’t have the time for that.”

This is what an entrepreneur said to me when I suggested that if he really wanted to build a People-First culture and get closer to his customers and employees, he needed to sit and listen to calls in his call center.

What I was recommending wasn’t an exorbitant amount of time. I said once every two weeks for an hour or two. 

I outlined that this was a small fraction of his time to which he continued to suggest he didn’t know how he’d “fit it in.”

You see, he did have the time, he was just choosing to spend it somewhere else. 

After all, entrepreneurs and leaders, I admire like Neil Blumenthal from Warby Parker make it a priority to do this. And, I’d suggest it’s working. Neil and his team are building a multi-billion-dollar brand in a very competitive market.

Co-Founder/Co-CEO, Neil Blumenthal from Warby Parker in one of his call centers taking the time to understand his employees and their roles in the organization.

There are only a few reasons why a leader wouldn’t do something like this to get closer to their customers and employees to better the experience for them:

  1. They’ve never spent the time to really get connected with their frontline employees. This might be a bit too much, too soon.
  2. They pay lip service to be a People-First Culture leader.
  3. They think they are above this (this is the worst category to fall into).

This isn’t just for senior leaders. I believe all leaders, across all departments, should spend time every month with their customer care and frontline employees. Not only will they gain valuable insights, you will notice a spike in morale and a deeper connection between “the higher-ups” (I despise this term but using it here because it’s what your frontlines may be calling you) and the frontlines.

Make 2020 a pivotal year for you and your company. Will it be the year that you invest more in customer experience to gain market share, increase sales and profit? Or, will it continue to get the smaller piece of your operating budget? Investing in your people is an investment in your business. Give them the tools, training and customer experience skills they need to thrive!

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

HOW TO FIRE AN EMPLOYEE (WITH INTEGRITY)

I didn’t finish post-secondary university to earn my business degree (BA) nor do I have an MBA.

I don’t believe either teach you how to properly fire someone. Whether they do or not, many people I know leading companies and teams haven’t properly been taught how to either.

When I read Bob Iger’s book he outlined his philosophy on how to fire someone. 

bob iger, ride of a lifetime, employee engagement, customer experience, company culture, disney, walt disney
Bob Iger’s Book: The Ride of a Lifetime

In his book, he says:

“There is no good playbook for how to fire someone, I have my own internal set of rules.”

This got me thinking about my own set of rules on how to offboard employees.

I like to follow five key steps:

1. This Shouldn’t Be a Surprise

When an employee is let go they shouldn’t be surprised by the decision. At this point, they should have already received verbal and written warnings of their poor performance. 

Having each infraction document is crucial, not only for employee legal reasons but also for the employee’s awareness that their employment with your company may soon be in question.

If the infraction is grave, such as sexual, physical or emotional abuse, then the termination should happen immediately after your investigation into the matter.

If your employee is genuinely surprised by your decision then I would argue that you have mismanaged this person.

2. Have A Sign-Off Sponsor For All Hires

I like to have another person within my team also sign off on the termination. More often than not, someone else on your team will also agree with your decision. However, if you can’t find someone to agree with you then perhaps the issue may be with you. Perhaps, you’ve mismanaged this person or you aren’t seeing something others are.

If you’re able to find another person to agree with you then this person should also be invited to the termination meeting. Hopefully, the termination will not lead to legal issues but, if it does, then this person will act as your support if it leads to a “he said, she said” scenario.

3. Say It Immediately

As soon as the door is closed to the meeting the person being terminated should know within ten seconds that the reason this meeting is happening is that they are being let go.

No chit chat. No extended pleasantries. Get to the point immediately with confidence.

If this is the first time you’ve let someone go you may be nervous. Don’t let your emotions or nerves get the best of you. More often than not, they will if you don’t get straight to the point.

4. Provide Examples

If the employee knows why they are being fired then it’s not likely that you will have to defend your decision with concrete examples.

However, it’s always a good idea to at least generally (not needing to get into fine details unless asked) speak to why they are being let go.

Some HR professionals may tell you that this is not a good idea because there can be legal ramifications used against you in court if you say the wrong thing. My opinion is that if you’re going to get sued for firing someone then you should be confident in your decision and be ready to defend your reasoning inside and outside of court.

I’m not scared to be sued by someone I let go because I know that we did it with integrity and followed the rules.

5. Be Fair and Compassionate

I wouldn’t suggest firing someone before a holiday or their birthday, it’s just not the right thing to do. However, there can be circumstances (they are seriously going against your company values, theft, and other serious misconducts) that you can’t work around and need to consider the business and your other employees.

If an employee is let go I do like to give them a very fair severance, not just the bare minimum. After all, you would want someone to do the same for you if you were in their position. At the end of the year, when you’re setting your operating budgets, you should have a GL code on your P&L for severance. After all, no company is perfect and you will have to let some team members go.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

THE SECRET TO CORPORATE GIFT-GIVING (AND LEAVING A LASTING IMPRESSION)

Watch this quick video to learn my two GOLDEN RULES on gift-giving. I guarantee you will learn how to WOW your friends, co-workers and team members this holiday season.

Follow me on LinkedIn for more tips like this.

Buy John Ruhlin’s Book HERE.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

Does Your Manager ENABLE or DISABLE Your Career?

I’d imagine that the person you settled down with in your personal life took the time to get to know you before making any jumps in your relationship such as moving in together or buying your first home.

You asked questions to understand if the person was right for you to determine if you had the same values and had a similar outlook for the future.

If this typically works to grow fruitful relationships in our personal life than why don’t we do it in our professional life?

To be successful in our roles and contribute to the success of our organizations, our team members need to be aligned with their managers.

Simple, right? Maybe not. Many people are still rushing to accept offers before truly evaluating the relationship.

In my career, I have been managed and have managed people over the past decade. I believe there are some questions that we should and shouldn’t ask our managers to learn about their management style before we start working together.

Create a Manager Muse Document

A few years ago I read a Business Insider article describing Lululemon’s customer muse. This tactic helps the organization understand who they are targeting and who they are building products for. As described in the article, Ocean is their female muse. She is a 32-year-old-professional woman who earns $100,0000 per year. She is engaged, has her own condo, travels, is fashionable and has an hour and a half to work out a day.

After reading this in 2015 I was inspired to do this for employees. I now have an employee muse that describes the type of employees I want to work with. 

Today, I am recommending that employees design a manager muse before they start interviewing with companies.

For example, a sample of your manager muse could read like this.

My ideal manager has 10+ years of experience in leading diverse teams. She has worked for a recognizable company that the market admires and has been voted as the best workplace. Because of this, she knows how company culture is the foundation of every great company.

While she is demanding, she is benevolent. I thrive when my manager is demanding of my work because it ensures that I put my best foot forward. Having her be benevolent gives me peace of mind that I will always be respected.

When putting a manager muse together start by writing down traits and behaviours you want in your manager then start crafting sentences together.

Build Your Interview Questions

Now that you have an outline for your ideal manager I’m recommending that you put together questions related to the behaviours you want your leader to exhibit.

If you care about their experience, benevolence and diversity experience you could ask the following questions:

  • Experience: “I see that you’ve worked at [name of company], what were three great lessons of leadership you learned?”
  • Benevolence: “What recognizable business leader would you compare your leadership style to?” It would be great if they said, Richard Branson or Oprah.
  • Diversity: “Can you describe the most diverse team you’ve led in your career?”

Do Reference Checks

If the company is going to do reference checks on you, shouldn’t you be allowed to do the same? I think so.

As you get further into the interview process I’d recommend asking the hiring manager to meet your future manager. Once you’ve built rapport and are considering taking the role, politely ask if you can speak to one person the manager has managed in the past and one person they are currently managing.

Position the request this way: “Hi Stephanie, may I ask to speak with someone you’ve managed in the past and one person on your team today? The reason I ask is that I want to ensure that we’re going to make a great team and I believe having this insight would be valuable for both of us.”

Some may not have the courage to ask but I believe it’s paramount in finding a great manager to help grow your career. I can tell you first hand as a manager of people, I would be impressed by the confidence and diligence if someone asked me to speak to past and current employees.

If you’re able to speak to members of their past and current team, I’d recommend asking the following questions:

  • Can you share three things that [name of manager] does well to motivate you to bring your whole self to work every day?
  • What new skill sets have you learned because of [name of manager] leadership?
  • What do you believe makes [name of manager] tick? What ticks them off?

I’d recommend putting together six questions to ensure that you’re gathering a vast amount of information not only from the hiring manager but also from past and current employees.

Ask Them Their Definition of Success

For me, the most important question to ask is,

“What’s your definition of success?”

You want to get very clear on how your manager is measuring success. This isn’t just for KPI’s but also for other intangible things. If I was hiring a marketing manager KPI’s like email collection and website traffic would be a measure of success. But, there would be some other things that make me happy as a leader, such as:

  • Be on time for meetings
  • One business day response time for emails
  • I don’t want to have to follow up with my team when we’ve already discussed what needs to be done and when

After the manager has described their measures of success it’s important to write them down and reflect on them regularly. After all, that’s the bullseye you need to review the key measures of success regularly.

I spend a considerable amount of time helping people find great managers so that they can have assistance in growing the career of their dreams. One thing that I’ve recognized is that they are spending too much time selling themselves and not enough time evaluating who they may be working with in the future.

The examples I’ve provided in this blog post are tried, tested and true. If you are a team member looking for your next great manager, try it out! If you’re a manager, prepare yourself to be asked questions similar to what I’ve outlined.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

You Can’t Forcefully Increase Employee Engagement (BONUS: 3 Interview Questions Included)

Employee engagement strategies are one way that I’ve built my business and career. It’s also one of the topics that I regularly keynote speak about.

My three core focuses are employee engagement, customer experience and company culture strategies to grow a business. Like, actually grow a business. None of this “nice to have” stuff.

But, guess what…

I’m going to suggest something that may contradict what you think my beliefs are in growing a successful business. Please know that our company has nearly 200 employees so I’ve seen this firsthand.

How to Identify and Hire Engaged Employees

Okay, here’s my suggestion…

If you want high employee engagement, you can’t hire employees and expect to launch initiatives or strategies to increase their engagement. 

Instead, you must hire engaged professionals and maintain their motivation throughout their tenure with your company.

In other words, you need to find people who are naturally engaged in nearly everything that they do in their professional and personal lives.

You see, some people are natural self-starters. It appears that they excel in everything that they commit to whether they are experienced in the topic or not. These same professionals apply and teach themselves to get better.

How To Maintain Employee Engagement

One of our core values as a company is “ownership.” We want all our team members to take ownership of the guest experience and their professional development. This helps us maintain high employee engagement.

Take Melissa Smilie as an example. 

people first culture employee, increase employee engagement, how to increase employee engagement, people first culture hiring strategy, people first culture strategy
Michel Falcon and Melissa Smilie, a People-First Culture hire.

Melissa joined our company as a server at one of our venues and today she is a key member of our marketing team. When I first met Melissa, when she was a part of our serving team, she said her goal was to pursue a career in marketing within our company. My business partner Brandon and I made a note of this and when an opportunity opened up, Melissa applied for the position and won us over.

But, Melissa didn’t simply get awarded the position because she showed interest and was already working for us. She earned it because I could see that while she was serving she was also investing time and energy into sharpening her marketing knowledge. Even today, after securing the position, she continues to invest in her education by reading marketing articles and listening to podcasts.

You see, I don’t need to increase her employee engagement. She is already engaged! My responsibility is to maintain it. I do this by frequently forwarding her interesting marketing knowledge that I read and touching base with her regularly to ensure that she has everything she needs to succeed.

Another one of our core values as a company is “foresight.” I need to have the foresight to continuously touch base with Melissa to measure her levels of engagement. I’m not going to suggest that Melissa will never become disengaged but I’m confident that I will know before it impacts her and our company.

Warning Signs of A Disengaged Employee

Some warning signs of employees who are beginning to become disengaged are:

  • Their participation in meetings
  • Their quality of work
  • Their response times to emails
  • Their temperament 
  • Their adherence to schedule and timelines

On the other hand, there are individuals who can have their employee engagement experience ebbs and flows. For example, if you manage a sales team, you can run sales contests and experience high levels of employee engagement because the team wants to win the prize.

But, what happens when the contest is over?

It’s likely that some individuals on your sales team will continue with high engagement (these are the Melissa’s of your organization) but it’s equally as likely that some, maybe most, of your team will experience a dip in their engagement.

Prizes, incentives, and contests can only increase employee engagement for short periods of time.

If you want to find professionals who naturally have high employee engagement, I would recommend evaluating your interview process. It’s likely that you’re not spending enough time probing for this habit.

The Interview Process

In our interview process, I like to probe for it during the phone interview (a time when we ask a handful of questions), culture and skillset interviews. 

These are three different interviews in our People-First Culture interview pyramid. Below is an image of our entire process that has helped us experience an employee retention rate 2.5x higher than the hospitality industry average.

increase employee engagement, increase employee retention, people first culture strategy, people first culture interview strategy, people first culture diagram
People First Culture Proven Hiring Strategy

By probing for it regularly, throughout the interview process, it’s very likely you’ll be able to understand if this individual will have high employee engagement because it’s hard to fake it over three consecutive interviews.

Ask interview questions not only related to their career but their personal lives too. Here are a few questions I like to ask to probe for potential high employee engagement:

  • In regards to the role you have applied for, what is going to motivate you to bring your whole self to work every day?
  • How did your last manager or coach motivate you best?
  • Can you tell me of a time in your personal life when you started something that was foreign to you which became a skill set you’re using today? 

These are a snapshot of questions I like to ask while probing for potential employee engagement with the candidate.

I’ve spoken to a countless amount of entrepreneurs and professionals, just like you. A common theme that I’m hearing is that they are trying to figure out their employee behaviours and motivations. 

As we bring 2019 to a close, now is a perfect time to reevaluate our approach to employee engagement.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

What is the 3P Strategy?

PURPOSE, PROCESS, AND PROFIT.

My 3-P strategy was developed to ensure businesses (including my own) are not just successful for a few weeks, months or years, but that they are successful for DECADES to come.

Watch this short video if you want to learn how your businesses can THRIVE for decades as well.

Want more tips like this?

Check out one of my other quick videos like What is People First Culture for tips on company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience or follow me on LinkedIn for exclusive business insights.

What is People-First Culture?

In this video, I describe my People-First Culture. I hope you enjoy and subscribe to my blog to stay up-to-date on company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience strategies!

Stay tuned for next week’s installment!

Eager to learn more? Follow me on LinkedIn and pick up a copy of my book!

BOOK — https://www.amazon.com/People-First-Culture-Lasting-Company-Shifting-ebook/dp/B07JBDBTZ8

LINKEDIN – www.linkedin.com/in/michelfalcon

How to Earn Customer Loyalty and Maximize Employee Retention With A Unique People-First Culture Strategy

Loyalty is hard to understand and even harder to achieve.

For me, I can only think of two brands I’m truly loyal to, Nike and SWAT Health (my gym). And, when I say loyal, I actually am. I don’t wear Adidas anymore. In fact, I gave away my Ultra Boosts because I only align myself with Nike. As for exercising, sure I go to the occasional Barry’s Bootcamp but I wouldn’t allow anyone else to train me other than the trainers at SWAT Health.

Other than these two brands, I can’t think of any brand I’m truly loyal to. Not my grocery store, not my dry cleaner…the only reason I’m loyal to my bank is because undoing that relationship seems too labour intensive for me. 

As for my employees, I would like to believe they know I’m loyal to them. I invest in our relationships and in their development just like I would invest in spending time with my mother or my girlfriend, Sophia. 

But, when and why does loyalty falter when doing business with our customers, employees, and suppliers?

I believe we have a mutually binding agreement when we go into business together:

Loyalty falters when one party isn’t meeting halfway. 

If our customers start behaving poorly then we may decline to service them. 

If our employees consistently call in sick to work when they aren’t, then we move to replace them.

If our suppliers start delivering their products, the same ones we use to operate our business, at a higher price, we shout “Bait and Switch!” and end our relationship.

I was recently listening to The Corp podcast which featured Mark Mastrov as their guest. 

Mark Mastrov (left) and Barstool Sport’s Dan Katz (right).

Mark built the globally recognized chain of gyms, 24 Hour Fitness. During the podcast, he mentioned something that made me go back and listen again. 

He said, “The purpose of loyalty is to earn and keep it. It’s not everlasting.”

I’ve seen companies front-load their loyalty efforts.

What I mean is that they will shower their new customers with attention and gifts. They will also onboard new employees exceptionally during the first few weeks of employment. But, then it ends…

Imagine if I courted Sophia, my girlfriend, secured the date, wooed her for weeks, won her over then everything stopped. I don’t need Sophia to tell you that I wouldn’t have her loyalty and our relationship would soon end.

This is exactly what’s happening in our businesses! We are treating them like transactions.

I want to erase the gap between how we behave in our personal lives and how we do in our professional lives to earn loyalty.

When our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, siblings, best friends, or extended family need something from us, we go out of our way to give it to them. 

We don’t hesitate. 

Whether that’s hiring a tutor for our kids or picking up our friends from the airport when they need a ride. 

We do it because it’s a natural reflex for us to help people close to us.

On the contrary. When our team members need something we ask ourselves: “What’s the ROI?”

Try this on for size…

What’s the ROI of giving a crap about doing something for the people who actually grow our businesses??!! 

My partners and I have nearly 200 employees and most customers don’t know who we are, nor do they care.

They care about the people with who they are interacting with. 

Our team members on the frontline of our business. 

With this in mind, we should be doing everything possible to give them what they need to win over customers and pave a path for them.

An investment in your people is an investment in loyalty.