Archive for July, 2011

Six Lessons from Alan Mulally, CEO of the Year

Posted on July 19, 2011. Filed under: Good Habits, Management Concepts |

Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company is Chief Executive’s CEO of the Year. Congratulations Mr. Mulally!  Having navigated a pretty steathy turnaround of the company during the recession – without any TARP bailouts, mind you – he is now poised to grow the company in the better times we hope to see in the future. As I was reading Chief Executive’s article on Mr. Mulally, I came across six lessons that I think everyone in business can learn from him, regardless of your role in your company. Following are the six lessons, with my take on them.

Display courage in the face of adversity –  Each person has challenges in their jobs. Meeting those challenges with courage exemplifies not only the type of person you are, but your outlook and perspective, which become important factors in not only overcoming the challenges, but in overall career success. No one gets too excited about pessimism, but most people will choose to work with (or advance) someone who faces adversity directly and optimistically.

Focus is everything – Understand your priorities and get rid of anything that’s diluting those priorities. Focus your ideas, time, talent, and energy to those things that significantly matter in your business. You’ll see results faster.

Simplify – Messages can become too complex. Information overload does not make decisions easier; stating the bottom-line value does. Work to  make your message, your vision, your mission simple. The more you simplify, the bigger impact you’ll have.

Use the Outsider Advantage – When you’re deep into a project or business, you can lose sight of the forest for the trees. Ask an outsider to come in and provide a different perspective. That perspective might change what you’re doing, or it might validate your direction; regardless, it will definitely add value and dimension to your view and help you see things you may not have seen before.

Reward transparency and collaboration – Why are people so often afraid to say what’s really going on with the business or with their project? Being transparent demonstrates integrity; asking for help (or giving it) through collaboration spurs new ideas and a positive environment for teamwork. Let’s stop being scared to admit less-than-stellar situations and start seeking solutions.

Stay inventive during tough times – While most companies hunker down in the tough times, those savvy enough to take that opportunity to reinvent their products or businesses not only typically find better ways to do things, but also stay top of mind with their clients. Studies have shown over and over again that those companies that stay in front of clients during the tough times are more successful – more quickly – when the economy improves.

Though written for CEOs, you can apply these ideas to any position in any company. But don’t stop there, think about how these six lessons can be applied to your life – I think they work perfectly!

Here’s to better business and richer lives. Thanks Mr. Mulally!





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Business Etiquette in the Age of Texting

Posted on July 8, 2011. Filed under: Brand Promise, Customer Experience, Practical Branding |

I’m giving a presentation on business etiquette to a professional society in a couple of weeks. I think I have a decent handle on business etiquette, but did some research to get the latest and greatest. There are some pretty interesting pieces of information out there, things like, “You can talk about politics, as long as you don’t attack a particular side, but you should never, ever swear.” I don’t know about you, but I think we’re better off if both are off limits!

One piece of advice I really like, though, is that true business etiquette isn’t a bunch of rules, but rather a genuine regard for those around us, be they prospects, customers, or colleagues. Don’t you hate it when a provider’s employee bashes another employee or group of employees? I’m thinking about our cable provider at home…when we had a technical problem and had to call someone out multiple times to fix it. Inevitably the person working on the issue would tell us that the previous repair people didn’t know what they were doing. That frustrated me on a multitude of levels! Or how about this one? I read about a guy who had called his bank and asked too many questions; the bank had a policy that a maximum of three questions could be asked per phone call. When he went to the bank and complained, he was told that all could be resolved if he just understood the rules. Apparently it was his fault, not the bank’s. (I wonder whose fault it was when he moved his accounts to a different bank?)

It’s pretty obvious when there’s a genuine regard for someone else…and when there isn’t. For those of us responsible for sales and the customer experience, it could look something like this. Once the agreement is drawn up and sent over, the offering bears no resemblance to what was presented by the salesperson due to a desire to “just get a sale.” Or it could look more like this. The account manager has no idea what the customer purchased because there’s been no handoff of information. Just two scenarios, and there could be many others, but you get the picture. It’s still pretty obvious when there’s a genuine regard for someone else…and when there isn’t.

So in this age of texting, when addressing an envelope is nearly a lost art, when email is often misunderstood as communication, and when automated prompts answer our phone calls more often than people, dare your brand to be different. Dare to have a genuine regard for those around you. Let’s all show a little love to our prospects, customers, and colleagues. Let’s stop worrying so much about business etiquette rules and simply care…a lot!


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