Friday, January 29, 2010

How goals, structure and patience combine to create the results you desire

Gary uses the experience of his five year old son learning how to ride a bicycle as a metaphor for leaders. Goals, strcutures and patience can combine to create the success that you desire.


Learning to ride a bicycle acts as a metaphor for leaders
“You’re doing it, you’re doing it! Well done son, you can ride your two-wheel bike. Woo hoo!”, I called with delight.

“Yeah! I can go for a run with you now Dad!”, called back my five year old son.

My son has had a goal to ride his bike without its training wheels so that he would be able to go on a run with me. For nearly his entire life his older brother and then his older sister have been going for a run with me (they ride their bikes while I run). Since he was three my five year old son has asked, “Can I come too?”. “Yes, when you can ride on two wheels” has been my response.

Achieving this goal has required re-enforcement, a clear structure and patience. The re-enforcement of the goal has occurred everytime my son asked if he could come on the run with me. The structure has been the rule that in order to ride his bike while I go running, he must be able to ride on two wheels.

Patience has been present while I have waited for him to want to practice riding on two wheels.
After he would ask if he could come on a run with me I would ask, “Would you like to practice now? I’m happy to practice with you before I go on my run.”

Honestly, I don’t know how many times I asked that question over the past two years only to hear, “Hmmm, not really. Maybe another day.”

I would always respond with a re-enforcement of his goal. “That’s okay. Just remember that if you want to come on a run with Daddy, then you have to be able to ride your bike without your training wheels.”

I had learnt with his two older siblings that as soon as they were the ones motivated to want to practice, then five days in a row of practice would guarantee success. I regularly reminded my son about this structure as well. “When you decide that you are ready, we just need five days in a row of practice and you’ll be able to ride your bike!”

As it happened he only needed three days! He was the one who said to me, “Come on Dad, I want to be able to ride my bike. I really want to go on a run with you!”. Broom stick in hand (which is a tool that I jam in behind the bike seat so that I can walk behind the bicycle and assist with balance), pedals off (turning the bicycle into a scooter which makes it easier and safer to learn how to balance) we went out into our street to practice. About 15 minutes each day was all that was required.

The goal and structures were easy to create. Maintaining patience was the most challenging part of this process. Not from his perspective, but from mine!

Relating this experience to leadership in the workplace
This is very similar to what often occurs in the workplace. Many leaders expect that the new structures that they implement will produce immediate results. Time delays are inevitable when change takes place. Performance may not improve, yet ‘time is ticking’. Unfortunately this results in many leaders not persisting with good programs and structures. Instead, they declare that the current structure ‘obviously doesn’t work’, so they switch to something else. This creates a cycle of changing structures that produce no measurable performance improvements over time.

A simple example of this relates to the concept of using conversation starters (see How to stimulate conversations that matter) to create ‘conversations that matter’. The goal may be to create a strong sense of the organisation’s values on a day to day level at work. The structure may be that the leader provides an example of the values in action as a hand-out to read before a team meeting. The meeting agenda may also include a section on ‘Our values’.

When the first meeting is held the leader asks, “What were your responses to the story in the hand-out?”. Silence. The leader shifts uncomfortably in their seat. The silence continues. So the leader quickly moves on to another agenda item.

After the meeting the leader declares, “Well, that conversation starter stuff certainly didn’t work! I’ll never do that again.” Leaders often do the same thing when it comes to creating team ground rules for the first time. Sound familiar?

Just because a new structure doesn’t produce immediate results when you try it, doesn’t mean that it won’t work. The important aspects to consider are:
1) Does the structure align with the goals that you are trying to create?
2) What leadership skills are necessary to support the structure?
3) How will those skills be developed?
4) What was learned each time the structure was practiced?

As you develop your leadership skills and learn which structures are most likely to produce the results that you desire, it is amazing how you can also learn how to combine goals, structures and patience to maintain focus even when performance doesn’t appear to be improving. But when it all comes together, the performance improvement can be exponential, just like the seemingly fast performance improvement that my son displayed when he finally started to ride his two-wheel bike. While it seemed fast, the final performance improvement occurred as a result of patience over a long period of time, a clear goal and structures to support that goal becoming a reality.

When you understand the interplay between these variables you discover that, ‘slower is faster’. Maintaining patience in the face of zero performance improvement can eventually create a performance improvement that otherwise is unlikely to occur. Many leaders can become seduced by the ‘sense of speed’ that often comes with trying something new, which is why they keep changing structures without giving them the proper time to be successful. Your challenge is to be clear about what you want to create, to develop structures to support your goals, to be patient and to never stop learning.While it may seem slow, this process is often a faster way to achieve performance improvement.

What are your examples where goals, structures and patience have combined to create the results that you desire?

Please feel free to ask questions and to make comments on this article.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Discover the secret to motivating your team members

Over many years of facilitating leadership development programs I have been continually asked, "What is the secret to motivating my team members?".

I have been taking the participants of our programs through a simple three step process to find the answer to this question. You might like to treat this process as an activity, so why not pull out some paper and pen and see what answers emerge for you.

Step One
Rather than focusing upon the factors that will enable you, as a leader, to motivate your team members, let's consider your thoughts about the factors that enable you to be the best that you can be at work. Take out your pen and paper and jot down some points that, for you, enable you to be highly motivated at work.

Once you have completed your answer, look at the typical responses that I have received over many years of collecting participant responses to this question.

The following are the Top 10 typical responses that are listed in no particular order of importance.
• Recognition for the work that has been done
• Opportunities to be creative
• A sense of contributing to the company
• A sense that what I do has value
• A fair wage for my contribution, all things considered
• Being treated fairly and trusted to do my job
• Being given appropriate feedback on my performance
• Having work that is interesting and that uses my skills
• Having opportunities to develop and grow in the business
• Having opportunities for promotion

Step Two
Now place yourself into your leadership role. What factors do you think will enable your team members to perform to the best of their ability? Once again take out your pen and paper and write down your answer to this question.

Once you have completed your answer, look at the typical responses that I have received over many years of collecting participant responses to this question.

The following are the Top 10 typical responses that I have received over many years of asking this question.
• Being given compliments and recognition for doing good work
• Having appropriate work delegated to them
• Having opportunities to progress their career
• Having training and development opportunities
• Having work that uses their skills
• Being paid appropriately for their work, all things considered
• Having leadership opportunities
• Being shown that management actually cares about them as a person
• Being trusted to do their job
• Being consulted about changes before they happen

Step Three
Look at both lists of responses. What do you notice? What stands out to you?
Many people have responded that they are surprised at the similarities between the two lists. When I have asked why they are surprised about the similarities between the two lists, people have responded that they somehow thought that the motivators for leaders and everyone else would be different. In reality it seems that most people’s motivations are fairly similar.

In summary, people want:
• To be paid fairly for what they do
• To be provided work that uses their skills
• To be provided training and development opportunities
• To be recognised for the work that they do
• To be trusted to do their job properly
• To be provided with opportunities for advancement or promotion
• To be included in making decisions about changes that will affect them
• To be treated fairly including being given feedback on their performance
• To be shown that people in the organisation actually care about them as a person
• To have work that has some value

How to use this information
As a leader the easiest way to use this information is to look at the three lists and ask yourself, “How am I and my organisation performing with each of these motivating factors?”. Neither leaders nor organisations are perfect, so you are unlikely to have a positive tick against each item. However, if your team members are lacking motivation then I guarantee that the underlying reason will lie in what you and your organisation are not doing to help them to maintain their motivation.

The beauty about this simple exercise is that it can quickly highlight what you can do to increase motivation. If you discover that you aren’t properly recognising your team members for the work that they are doing, then start doing this behaviour. If you recognise that you aren’t providing appropriate development opportunities for your team members, then consult with your People & Culture department and discover how they might be able to help you. If you discover that some of your team members aren’t being paid properly, all things considered, why not commence whatever processes that you can to increase their pay to a more appropriate level? These actions and others can be taken to quickly enhance the motivation of your team members.

Motivating team members is not as difficult as many leaders think. Follow the three steps above and take action based on your results. You will be pleasantly surprised by the increase in motivation that your team members display..

Please feel free to comment or to ask questions about this article.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What Really Matters! Book Cover Design Feedback

Hi folks!

Many of you are aware that I am currently writing a series of four books. The first, What Really Matters for Young Professionals - How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career! is nearing completion. As such I have some book cover designs that I would like to share with you.

The other three books in the series are:

  1. What Really Matters for Undergraduate Students - How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career

  2. What Really Matters for Postgraduate Students - How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career

  3. What Really Matters for Aspiring Leaders - How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career



My intention is for the "What Really Matters for" part of the title to be consistent, with the specific focus and image on the book cover to vary from book to book. In this way the series will look consistent, with each book maintaining a distinct look about itself.

Please click on this link to view a short video on the book cover designs. (Remember to click your 'back' button once you have completed viewing the short video)

1) Note which book cover designs that you like
2) Note if you don't like any of them!
3) Take the survey to vote on your preferred book cover designs and to provide some additional comments to help to improve them
Click here to take survey
4) If you don't like any of the designs or you would like to make a general comment, simply post a comment to this article.

I have already had wonderful support from many people who have provided invaluable feedback regarding the content of the book. Once again I appreciate your time and thank you for helping me out.

Cheers,

Gary

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Really Matters! Volume 1, No 3, 2009 Free ebook


Our first ebook for 2010! Please enjoy this ebook which has been created specifically for the members of The Organisations That Matter Learning Network and readers of my blog. This issue includes selected articles from October 1st through to December 31st 2009.

Enjoy!

Please feel free to provide us with comments and/or feeback about the ebook.

Download the ebook here

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Plan for personal success



Do you plan for personal success, or do you make half serious New Year resolutions, only to forget them three weeks into the New Year? This time of the year is always very interesting when speaking with people who have made New Year resolutions. Many have either not taken any action regarding their resolution, or have already started to 'drop off' their activity. Does this sound familiar to you?

There are a number of important reasons why New Year resolutions tend not to work.

1. Clarity of purpose for the resolution is missing
2. The timeframe for the resolution is too short
3. There is a disconnection between how a person's resolution is to be achieved and its impact upon the rest of their life.

Let's consider a typical New Year resolution. "This year I will get fit!" Gym owners love this resolution because it drives a lot of people through their doors. They sign up, pay their money, come along for the first couple of weeks and then...disappear! Yet they keep paying for their membership!

1. The clarity of purpose of the resolution is missing
My first career involved managing fitness centres so i used to see this example all the time. Getting fit is a terrific goal and I highly recommend and encourage people to become fitter. However, what happens when you 'get fit'? What then? In other words, what is the purpose of getting fit in the first place? Many people respond to this question by saying, “To lose a few kilos".

Losing a few kilos is a goal, not a purpose. A purpose is supported by goals. So instead of having a purpose to lose a few kilos, a different purpose may be to increase your health and capacity to be active so that you can physically do whatever you want, both now and into the future. For example, maybe you would really love to be able to go hiking, maybe even on an adventurous hike like the Kokoda Trail one day. Deep down you may really like to be able to achieve such a goal, but then you look in the mirror and say to yourself, "Oh, I can't do that. I'm too unfit and old. It's beyond me." How sad! I mean it, statements like this are sad, they really are. Why live a life where there are things that you know that you really would like to achieve, but then not achieve them because of your current situation. So many people do this! They let their current situation stop them from doing what they really want to be doing. Clarify what you want, be honest about your current situation, but then create plans and take action to take you toward what you want. Personal planning for success helps to solve this problem.

Hiking the Kokoda Trail is a Big Goal. Big Goals, when supporting our purpose are fantastic because they usually involve long time frames. It took me two years of training before I ran my first marathon and, at the point in time when I made the decision to run my first one I had never run further than 10 kilometres. For 18 months, each time I went out to run a little voice in my head said, “What are you doing Gary? This is crazy. Your body hurts. Your muscles keep tearing. Your back hurts. You don't even like running!"

Fortunately I had a greater purpose that kept driving me to go out each time. I wanted to be fit and healthy so that I could be a good example to my children and be able to play games with them. As you can see, having a purpose does not have to be rocket science! But having a purpose is powerful. It is so powerful that before I ran my first marathon, I had already booked in my next marathon. I didn't want to stop what I was doing just because I had achieved my goal. Goals must support a purpose which therefore means that you must always have a goal that you are trying to achieve, but that goal will always be about 'serving' your higher purpose. Personally I have created a structure where I have to identify and book my next marathon no later than the day before the marathon that I am about to run. This ensures that I continue to have a goal to work towards that will enable me to live my purpose.

2. The timeframe for the resolution is too short
Often people don't realise the real time frame for the achievement of their resolutions. If you haven't been fit for a long time, getting fit is going to take three to six months. Immediate results will be noticed in the first few weeks of training but depending on your starting point, significant results can take quite a lot of time. When I used to manage fitness centre I used to encourage people not to train every day. Yes that's right. I used to encourage people not to train! I had noticed people coming in wanting to get fit early in the New Year. They would be on holidays from work and would come every day. It was great. As soon as they went back to work, what do you think happened? They stopped coming in to the gym. All of a sudden they were too tired to come in before or after work everyday. This gym stuff simply had become too hard. But a lot of that had to do with their thinking. They hadn't realised that they had been setting themselves up to fail by not structuring their training in the context of how they would be able to sustain it when they went back to work. Usually they weren't clear about their purpose for training either which also made it easier to stop once a ‘roadblock’ got in their way. In this case the ‘roadblock’ was work..

3. There is a disconnection between how a person's resolution is to be achieved and the rest of their life
The gym example above highlights this issue. Training five days a week when you are on holidays is great and achievable. Doing it when you have a very busy job plus family commitments suddenly becomes a lot more difficult. When creating New Year resolutions, many people forget to consider a range of strategies that could enable them to achieve their goal and support their purpose. There are many ways to get fit, to increase your health and to lose a few kilos. Another issue to consider is the goal in the first place. Maybe losing weight is an incorrect goal to have. Maybe establishing a healthy weight (as advised by a doctor) in the context of appropriate lean (muscle) body weight is more appropriate. Many people don't realise that muscle weighs more (per kilogram) than fat. If you haven't trained for some time it is possible that your lean body weight is lower than it should be. Exercise may increase your lean body weight, decrease your fat body weight, your measurements (where they matter!) might have significantly improved but you may have gained weight, or not lost very much.

When trying to achieve a healthy weight many people forget to consider how their health and fitness will affect the rest of their life. What are they going to stop doing to make time available to start doing what they should be doing? It could be as simple as "I'm going to stop watching television as much as I do, and I'm going to go to bed one hour earlier so that I can wake up one hour earlier to allow me to go for a walk/run/swim/ride/gym session", or whatever it is that works for you.

The positive effects of increasing your health can be enormous. Sleep can be improved which then provides more energy for work, family, study etc. Being healthier results in people people having more energy that enhances clarity of thought and performance at work. Who wouldn't want that? In Australia, increasing your health and fitness will also decrease your risk of heart disease, a condition that kills 128 Australian everyday! Very quickly living the purpose for becoming more healthy and fit can have a positive effect on all other aspects of your life!

Planning for personal success
So how do you ensure that your New Year resolutions are achieved? Planning for personal success is the solution. In its most simple form, planning for personal success requires the following seven elements.

1. Identifying what you want to achieve
What do you want to achieve? Don't limit yourself to just this year, think of the things that you'd like to achieve at any stage in your life.

2. Understanding vision, strategy, goals and action
As I have outlined above, clarity of purpose is critical for personal success. Purpose is a part of vision which is not only about achieving what you want, but also includes how you behave while you are achieving what you want. Strategies are your high level plans about how you will move from your current reality toward your desired future, and your actions are the things that you actually have to do now in order to successfully achieve your strategies.

3. Identify your vision
This is more than just identifying what you want to achieve. It is about identifying how you want to live while you are travelling your journey toward your vision. It also involves understanding why you want what you want. Often the process of clarifying their vision results in people becoming clearer about what they really want, so much so that they change the achievements they identified in element 1 above. This is a positive aspect of personal planning for success.

4. Assess your current reality
Whenever we wish to go somewhere, we must always clarify our starting position. Being honest about our current reality in the context of our vision is critical if we are to have any chance of establishing effective strategies that will take us from where we are to where we want to be.

5. Develop strategies
Once the structure of your vision and current reality is established, it is amazing how you can begin to see what needs to be done to enable your current reality to move toward your desired future or vision.

6. Clarify your actions
Ultimately taking action is what brings your vision into reality. Strategies have to be broken down into clear time chunks so that your immediate and short term actions are clear. Once identified, place your actions into your calendar and commence doing them!

7. Review
The world is constantly changing. In addition, most people find that once they commence the personal planning journey, their clarity about their vision becomes more and more clear. Don’t be surprised if this happens to you. Reviewing your plan is critical to ensure that you really do create the future that you desire.

A new Planning for Personal Success email program to get you started
In the next few weeks Organisations That Matter will be launching a new seven week program for those of you who would like to complete an Introductory Personal Plan for Success. Each week you will receive an email which explains a key Personal Planning for Success Concept and then sets out a number of activities for you to complete. At the end of the program you will have developed your first Personal Plan for Success. If you are interested in this program and would like to learn more about the details and costs of the program, please express your interest to me via email at Gary.Ryan@orgsthatmatter.com .

Please feel free to ask questions and to comment on this article.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lessons From Backyard Cricket

A friend of mine Darren Hill recently posted this article. I liked it so much that I asked him if I could share it with you and he has agreed to let me do so. If you would like to find out more about Darren please visit http://www.darrenhill.tv/ or www.changeworksnt.com.

One of the great Aussie/NZ pastimes in summer is partaking in a few sessions of backyard cricket. As I sit here, my shoulder sore and tired after a few too many overs with the tennis ball, I reflected upon the similarities backyard cricket share with our workdays as we re-enter the workplace after the New Years/ Christmas break. I decided 3 things were worth considering…

New rules are interesting
I love that you invent an array of new rules to make the game of backyard cricket more interesting. One-hand-one-bounce, the car is out, and four runs for hitting the white bucket; these are new rules adopted to make it fun and interesting. What new rules could your team at work adopt to make the playing field more interesting?

Uneven pitches are fun
My backyard has lumps and bumps on the pitch that make a well aimed tennis ball dance all over the place. Depending upon your outlook, this can be frustrating or it can be fun. I for one love the challenge and uncertainty of not knowing where the ball is going to go. If 2010 is a ‘bumpy pitch’ for you, revel in the challenge rather than complain about the groundskeeper.

Celebrate success
After a hard session in the sun, there is nothing better than a cool drink in the pool. Relaxed conversation about the game just played is always enjoyable, and the respite from previous exertion in the hot sun is appreciated by all. When do you take time to have a relaxed conversation at work? Do you allow yourself or your team respite after a project and express gratitude towards each other? If these things aren’t present, then why would you put in your best next time around?

So as you return to work after your breaks, come in off the long run, keep your bat and pad together, but most of all, enjoy playing for your team. With 52 overs (weeks) to face, 2010 will be a great session!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to leverage part time and volunteer work

Holiday seasons are terrific for many reasons. None the least is the opportunity to catch up with friends and family as well as the opportunity to relax. For many people, especially students, holiday season means that you have the chance to earn some money. If you aren’t taking extra classes over your break, then the opportunity to work and earn some extra dollars is huge. Many students relish in the opportunity to work not only because of the money but because of the social side of work life too, depending of course on the industry that you are working in.

Unfortunately, many students don’t take full advantage of their holiday work. Oh, by the way, when I say work, I also mean volunteer work. Of course this means that no extra money will be earnt, but something far more valuable than money (unless you are starving!) can be learnt! Yes, that’s right, learnt!

Too often I hear students say that they are ‘just a check-out chick’, or “I just work at a cafe”, or “I just provide meals to homeless people.”. There is no such thing as “Just a part time job”! Not if you are prepared to consider the employability skills that you are developing while doing your work. Below is a short list of ten skills that part time / volunteer work develops:

1. Communication skills
2. Problem solving skills
3. Initiative
4. Teamwork
5. Using various forms of technology
6. Planning and organising skills
7. Service excellence skills
8. Leadership skills
9. Learning skills
10. Self management skills

Let’s look briefly at some examples of how you might develop these skills in practice:

1. Communication skills
If you have to communicate with your boss, other team members and/or the general public, then you have the opportunity to develop communication skills. It doesn’t matter whether the predominant form of communication is via a telephone (as in a contact centre) or face to face (as in a cafe). You still have the opportunity to test whether you are communicating effectively. Here’s a tip – good communicators are good listeners, which also means that you are good at asking questions. So, develop your questioning skills and your communication skills will skyrocket!

2. Problem solving skills
Problems occur all the time. In every job. A computer won’t work. The electric doors are stuck shut. Another staff member didn’t turn up for their shift. The delivery that was meant to come in hasn’t arrived yet and customers are waiting for their orders. The list goes on. Each of these examples is a wonderful opportunity for you to consciously practice your problem solving skills. Not only that, you have a wonderful opportunity to create a bank of stories about how you solve problems. Can you imagine any of your future employers not wanting a problem solver? Neither can I!

3. Initiative skills
Showing initiative is when you do something that is helpful without having been asked to do it. Every time a problem arises at work you have an opportunity to show initiative. Every time you see that something could go wrong (like someone slipping on a banana peel) and you take action to stop that from happening (like picking up the banana peel) you are showing initiative. Opportunities to demonstrate initiative are everywhere. Keep your eye out for them and grasp them with both hands when they pop up. They also create great stories that can be used in interviews.

4. Teamwork
There is hardly a job that exists that does not involve teamwork. Even if you work alone, you are probably still part of a team. A night shift worker at a convenience store is part of a team with their manager and other staff, even if they rarely see each other. How? What is your response when another team member rings you and asks you to cover their shift? One of the reasons why you might say yes is because you are in a team and when you are in a team sometimes you have to cover for each other. Imagine the interview when you are asked about your experience of working in teams. It may be your stories that relate to covering for teammates (notice the deliberate use of language!) that you use to answer such a question. The beauty is that your answer would be both true and genuine. Perfect!

5. Using technology
Technology is everywhere, but it isn’t just using electronic devices such as computers, scanners, point-of-sale and other devices. It can be writing on whiteboards, driving forklifts (providing you have a license) and whatever else you have to use to do your job. You may be a volunteer who plants trees along freeways or in parks. The shovels, picks and other tools that you use are all forms of technology. The purpose of having a range of stories about your capacity to use different types of technology is to demonstrate that you are a fast learner and can quickly adapt to a range of technologies. Most students don’t even think about these things as being relevant to their future. But, they are!

6. Planning and organising skills
In whatever work you are doing be on time. Full stop. Employers like it and they expect it. Full stop. Practice it and practice it now. Full stop. Get it?

7. Leadership skills
For those of you who have responsibility for a team or other staff, then you have the opportunity to develop your leadership skills. How do you treat the people who you lead? What are your mental models about leadership? How are your personal values reflected in how you treat the people you are leading? Conscious thought about these questions can create wonderful leadership experiences for you as well as the opportunity to make relatively ‘safe’ mistakes. Think about your personal theory about formal leadership. Try it out. See if it works. Most of all, learn how to lead by doing it when the opportunity arises.

8. Learning skills
Part time and volunteer work always involves learning some of the following:
• a new set of technical skills
• policies and procedures
• cash management processes
• customer service procedures
• people’s names
• how to work in a team
• how to communicate the ‘company way’ (e.g. contact centres often have their ‘formula’ that you are expected to follow)
• how to make food and drinks (e.g. cafes and fast food outlets)

This list could go on and on but I think you get the picture. The point is, notice what you have to learn to do your job. Imagine if you were ever asked (in an interview), “How do you learn outside of university?”. You’ll have a mountain of examples from which to draw your answer!

9. Service excellence skills
No job is worth its salt if you aren’t able to practice developing your service excellence skills. Quite simply service excellence is like oxygen. While we don’t exist for it, we can’t live without it. It is a basic requirement for any job. So, you must understand it and consciously practice it. The simplest and best practice to adopt is, “Everyone is my customer; my boss, my colleagues and my customers” (and if you don’t have ‘customers’ just insert whatever word works for you). If you wouldn’t choose to be a customer of yourself, then you need to improve whatever it is that you are doing. It’s a smart practice to develop this skill because while it is like oxygen it is surprising just how many people are ‘suffocating’ themselves (in a career sense!) because they haven’t developed it.

10. Self management skills
In order to consciously practice the above skills you have to practice self-management skills. For example, you will have all had a ‘first day on the job’ experience. How did you handle it? What happened? How did you overcome any ‘bad’ experiences? A ‘first day on the job’ can also mean performing a new role at work. Often these types of days require a significant amount of positive self-talk, time management, problem solving and communication skills. Self-management is, in many ways, a reflection of all the skills above. Oh, by the way, self-management skills in this context can also considered self-leadership skills. So, if you don’t have a job where you formally ‘lead’ other people, your self-management skills can provide examples of self-leadership, which is critical for building the capacity to lead others.

Part time and volunteer work are goldfields as far as developing your employability skills are concerned. However, just like walking through a goldfield and not stopping to ‘mine for gold’ will produce nothing of any great value, not consciously developing your employability skills while working part time or volunteering is crazy! Don’t be crazy. Take full advantage of your opportunities. The gold in this sense will come in the future when you get the job that you really want. So, enjoy your holiday season and enjoy developing yourself even more!

Please feel free to make a comment or to ask a question about this article.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Why local store cultures matter!

It is only fair that I declare that from 1983 to 1986 I worked part time at McDonald's on Dandenong Road in Clayton North, Melbourne Australia. That store was the first metropolitan store for McDonald's in Australia, so we always had a sense of pride in our work. As a young teenager I learnt a lot about teamwork, service excellence, the importance of speed and attention to detail, as well as the importance of staff appearance, manners and the appearance of the store. No matter how busy we were, we had certain standards that simply had to be maintained.

The store has undergone a relocation over the past couple of years and has moved 500 metres east from its original position.
This evening my brother and I went to the store to pick up a treat for our children. The quality of the service that we experienced was so poor that we left the store and drove seven kilometres to a different McDonald's store.

Let me explain our experience. Upon our arrival into the restaurant we lined up behind one person. He appeared to be waiting for his order as he had a drink already in his hand. Another small queue had formed at the other end of the counter and another two people had also created a third queue in the middle of the counter. Given it was 7pm the queues seemed rather small.

As my younger brother had also worked at McDonald's as a teenager we were both amazed at the state of the restaurant. Tables were dirty. The staff appeared disheveled in their uniforms, we did not see a single staff member smile, and after the gentleman before us in the queue left after a brief argument with one of the staff we waited ten minutes without being served nor having any staff member acknowledge our presence. Each of the three queues started to get longer and the people in each of the queues started looking at each other, wondering what was going on.

After a little longer my brother suggested that we leave. I agreed. It was clear that the service standards at this store were not up to our expectations (and I would suggest that they probably weren't up to the standards expected by McDonald's either.). My brother then drove seven kilometres to the North Road store in Murrumbeena South. Our experience could not have been more different at that store.

As we entered the store was clean. A young staff member greeted us with a smile. Both my brother and I had 'special orders' and the young man could not have been more pleasant as he processed our orders. The staff were clean and dressed in the same, clean uniforms. The staff were engaging with each other and the customers and our orders were filled quickly and we were on our way. Exactly as we had expected.

For me an experience such as this highlights the power of a local store culture. While we were waiting for our orders to be processed one of the young female counter staff immediately went out into the restaurant to clean some tables. As soon as some new customers entered the store she immediately went to the service counter to serve them. Everything about the two stores could not have been more different. There literally was a different 'feel' about them.

My assumption is that each franchised McDonald's store is expected to operate according to the same standards created and expected by McDonald's Corporate. So how could our experience at the two stores be so different. I should also note that my brother has had several poor experiences at the Clayton North store, so our experience was not a single event.

The owners and management of the Clayton North store really have a local cultural issue on their hands. The service standards at the store are not up to standard. Full stop. Our expectations were not met, and this is where service excellence starts. Organisations have to understand the expectations of the people they serve and then do everything possible to meet or exceed those expectations. I doubt that McDonald's Corporate would be proud of what is happening to their brand at that store. Improvements are possible. In fact I'd enjoy the opportunity to help the store owners and management to once again achieve the high standards of service excellence that were once the trademark of the Clayton North store. Maybe they could even visit their 'cousins' at the Murrumbeena store a little over seven kilometres away to see what they are doing. After all I suspect that both stores are operating from the same set of service standards. The difference may lie in how the owners, management and staff at each store understand the expectations of their customers. Differences in that level of understanding are often reflected in the local culture of a store and affect how the service standards are implemented. Ultimately the local culture of a store is represented in the quality of the customer experience.