It’s acceptable to disagree, but it’s never acceptable to be rude. As a leader, you will often be faced with new business strategies, tactics, and opinions about your organization. Some of those you will embrace with open arms and others will sound like the worst ideas you’ve ever heard. You are always allowed (and hopefully, encouraged) to courageously embrace your own opinion and make your case. Please just remember to keep your discourse civil.
Not being civil will hurt your argument, and potentially your relationship.
I remember explaining to my children, when they were younger, that throwing a tantrum because they wanted something would ensure they definitely did not get it. The same is true in the adult world, particularly the business world: “losing your cool” and becoming angry because you don’t agree with something will definitely ensure you do not get it. And, unlike children, whose behavior we’ll forgive because of their extreme youth, not acting civil with another adult may harm your professional and personal relationships. Said a different way: not acting civil only makes you lose twice and never helps you win. You will lose the short-term discussion at hand and you will do longer-term damage to your relationships and reputation.
Body language counts.
Even if your words are civil and generous, it does not mean that you can ignore your tone or your body language. While the often-repeated “93% of communication is non-verbal” has now been debunked by numerous sources, it is true that non-verbal communication reveals your underlying emotions and motivations. Poor body language, such as agreeing that something is a good idea with a very sarcastic tone, while rolling your your eyes, will completely overshadow the fact that you agreed to the idea. While you still must be cognizant of your word choices, be aware of your body language: keep your tone neutral, don’t roll your eyes, and try not to cross your arms or put your hands on your hips.
If the other party is frustrated, practice empathy.
The other party in your discussion may be frustrated with how the conversation is going. And sometimes (perhaps if they didn’t read this column), they might not even be acting civilly. Tempting as it may be to also take the low road, remember to maintain your civil discourse and body language and to instead be empathetic to your discussion partner. Maybe you think they’re overreacting (and they might be!), but perhaps there’s another reason why, and it has nothing do with this discussion. They might just be stressed, tired, sick, or worried about something else. And if you felt that way, wouldn’t you want someone to show you some empathy? Keep calm, don’t take their anger or overreaction personally, and show them some kindness. It will likely diffuse any mounting anger they have, will get your discussion back on a professional track, and it may even make their day a bit better.
Join us The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center at one of our upcoming Enrichment Courses to learn more about the best practices of service, civility, and problem resolution.
The “John’s Perspective” posts on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Marriott International.
Even if unpleasant to do, giving constructive feedback is necessary. Being a leader and effective manager means you will have many opportunities to give out both praise and constructive feedback. While both require skill, practice, and thought to deliver well, the latter is often more intimidating.
Negative feedback elicits a stronger response.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m advocating for messaging to be overly critical or negative: I just want you to be aware of this point. Past research has shown that employees can react to a negative interaction with their boss six times more strongly than a positive interaction. While all those interactions may not have been feedback-giving instances, this suggests that negative feedback affects both an employee’s mood, productivity, and engagement.
Thus, even when you plan on delicately and cautiously delivering constructive feedback, you should be very deliberate in ensuring it is not overly critical. If it is, you run the risk of your message being lost while also lowering your employee’s engagement and wellbeing. You have to consider how important it is that you deliver the corrective message: do you need to give the feedback to avoid business disruption or was your employee’s misstep simply a small, likely one-time occurrence? If it is a small infraction and unlikely to occur again, it might be better for the employee’s mood and productivity if you don’t provide the feedback.
Always ensure you are delivering your feedback in private.
When your employee truly does need constructive feedback, because their actions are disrupting or potentially harming the business, then you must ensure you are always delivering the message in private. Try to keep your tone collaborative and deliver the theme that the feedback is being provided to help your employee’s performance in the future.After all, while the message of your feedback is vital to the employee, so is ensuring that you haven’t made the employee feel defeated in the process. By helping them understand that you value them, their progress, and their future with the organization, you’ll be best setting them up to best understand and want to apply your advice.
Join us The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center at one of our upcoming Enrichment Courses to learn more about the best practices of giving feedback and rewarding and recognizing your employees.
The “John’s Perspective” posts on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Marriott International.
LUXURY SHOPPERS EXPECT A PERSONALIZED, ELEVATED RETAIL EXPERIENCE
A busy executive decided she was going to invest some of her precious leisure time (and a sizable financial investment) in a lovely new French designer purse. As she was looking forward to enjoying the thrill of the shopping experience, she decided to head to her favorite designer’s retail boutique.
Upon arriving inside the boutique, she was completely ignored by all the sales associates. While she had an idea of what kind of handbag she wanted to buy, she still required some assistance in viewing multiple styles, so initiated a conversation with one associate. Though the boutique was not crowded, the associate’s body language demonstrated annoyance that the executive was attempting to engage with her. The executive then tried to catch the attention of another sales associate. The second sales associate was slightly more helpful, but acted very arrogantly and clearly was not listening to the questions being asked, which dismayed the executive.
Despite having committed the time to drive to the boutique, and though she had entered the retail shop with the strong intent to purchase, the executive left empty-handed and very disappointed. Weeks later, when browsing on the internet at night, she found a beautiful purse by a famed Italian fashion house. She immediately purchased it.
CUSTOMER SERVICE TAKEAWAYS
Based on the product price point, the executive had the expectation that the retail shopping experience would include high-touch, elegant service.
The retail boutique (and subsequently the brand) lost credibility and loyalty when the shopping experience expectation collided with disengaged and lackluster sales associates.
Even though the executive wanted to buy a purse and had the means to do so, the poor customer experience pushed her to not purchase during her boutique visit.
As the desire for the luxury product did not subside, but the memory of the dismal experience remained, the executive simply purchased through a different channel and from a competitor.
Learn how The Ritz-Carlton has created a culture of exceptional customer experience and how to apply it to your organization at one of our upcoming enrichment courses.
Courage is the common trait in leaders who are considered visionary disrupters.
Being a leader, unlike being a manager, requires a lot of characteristics. Empathy, passion, accountability, and mindfulness are all important. And many leaders, even great ones, don’t all have the exact same set of traits. However, for leaders who are truly visionaries, the ones who innovate and challenge the status quo, the common trait is courage.
Courage is a trait from which all leaders can benefit.
Even if you’re not naturally suited to visionary leadership, developing and demonstrating courage can be helpful to driving passion on your team. There are obvious situations when you’d need to demonstrate courage, such as if you’re asked to do something unethical or illegal. It’s the smaller, every day situations that require more work to show courage, because the stakes are presumed to be lower. If you really believe in an idea or process, are you (professionally and politely) continuing to champion it, or are you giving up when you receive pushback? If you hear someone making an unprofessional comment, are you letting them know those comments aren’t appreciated or accepted in your organization? There are so many instances when we just “let it go” because we think it’s not worth getting involved, pushing back, or making anyone not like us. But, these are all small instances of how we can develop and demonstrate courage.
Whenever you are supporting your team, it’s vital you show them you have the courage to carry through with your intentions. It might be explaining to your CFO why you need to invest more in one of their projects or it might be putting them up for promotion with your boss. Even if your best intentions don’t come to fruition, your team will respect you for having the courage and tenacity to follow-through. This is true if you’re a visionary or not.
And don’t worry if you’re not naturally a visionary. You can still be a great leader.
While we may speak about disruptive leaders and visionaries with reverence, there are scores of amazing leaders (perhaps even you!) who don’t have the traits more common in visionary leaders. This doesn’t mean that these leaders aren’t courageous or don’t have the tenacity to stick with an idea, nor does it make them ineffective leaders. Particularly if you’re working in close proximity to a visionary leader, not being a visionary can provide a helpful counterbalance for your organization’s future. You have to be true to your own natural style.
That being said, we can all demonstrate more courage. Provide justification for your status-quo defying idea when it gets initially shot down, and let your voice be politely heard if you see behavior or actions that are inconsistent with your organization’s values. Courage is contagious, and the more you demonstrate, the more your organization will demonstrate it, too.
We talk a lot about creating productivity on our teams. But let’s not forget about important qualities such as compassion and gratitude.
While successful teams need to willingly overcome challenges and commit to lateral service and hard work, we should also spend time focusing on emotional qualities. These qualities, including demonstrating genuine gratitude and compassion, are ones that will make others want to work with us and which will drive team loyalty.
In the long run, character qualities will beat technical expertise.
In the results of Google’s Project Oxygen, research designed to pinpoint the manager qualities that contributed to team success, character qualities outranked technical expertise and horsepower. These included qualities such as taking an interest in their direct reports’ social lives and prioritizing time for one-on-one meetings. Showing your teammates and direct reports that they matter to you as people, and not just assets, goes a long way in helping a team bond, creating a culture of lateral service, and helping your team tackle challenges with gusto.
Cultivating these emotional qualities can combat workplace loneliness.
A somber reality is that feeling lonely is a growing epidemic in America. This problem, which affects reportedly over half of the U.S. workforce, is damaging for emotional, physical, and mental health. As a leader, practicing gratitude and compassion (and instilling these practices in your team) will help you and your Ladies & Gentlemen feel more socially-connected and supported. This will increase the overall wellbeing, engagement, and productivity of your team.
You can make a difference on your team.
Having leaders express gratitude towards their team is vital. But even if you are not in a leadership position, you’re still able to set the tone on your team by actively and openly showing gratitude and compassion towards others. Make the choice to show and tell someone how much you appreciate their lateral service and their contributions to the team. And if someone on your team is struggling, for personal or professional reasons (or both), ask them how you can help and listen empathetically, if they want to share about their challenges. It sounds like something my wife would say to my kids, but “put yourself in their shoes.” How would you want to be treated if you were facing challenges? How would you like to have gratitude shown for your work? The investment will be worth it, I promise.
Empowerment will make your organization more efficient and customer-focused.
Almost everyone familiar with The Ritz-Carlton knows a little bit about how we believe in using empowerment to support (and well, empower) our Ladies & Gentlemen. Each Lady & Gentleman at The Ritz-Carlton, at all levels, are empowered to spend up to $2000 per guest, per incident.
Empowerment is less expensive than you think.
Whenever one of my clients learns The Ritz-Carlton empowerment amount, their reaction is usually, “Well, that’s fantastic you can do that, but my organization can’t afford to do the same.” But the interesting thing about our empowerment is that while the full $2000 (or more, with the general manager’s permission) could be used, it rarely is. In fact, the average actual amount used on an incident is often much, much lower. The power of all our Ladies & Gentlemen knowing that we truly trust them with an amount that large, per incident, is that they are able to make decisions in the moment to quickly resolve a guest issue or to make an experience beautiful and memorable (or both). And our Ladies & Gentlemen know they can do this on their own, regardless of their level, without having to go through levels of leadership for approval.
The amount matters less than you showing you trust your employees.
The $2000 amount is worth a lot, both financially and symbolically. And the symbolic part is what’s truly important: it shows how much we trust our Ladies & Gentlemen. It’s how much we trust them to do the right thing, how much we trust them to resolve a guest issue well, and how much we trust them to always think of creative and memorable ways to elevate the experience. There are ways you can create empowerment in your organization that aren’t necessarily a $2000 per incident policy, that will show you trust all your employees. And if you trust your employees to care for your clients, guests, and patients, they really will.
Some of us may feel at the mercy of our leaders or the larger organization, when it comes to driving our own engagement. And there are some factors, such as organizational design and culture, which we may not entirely control. But, here’s some advice on how you can make a simple change that can increase your productivity and subsequently, your engagement.
Make the right kind of plan for your day.
A lot of us already plan for our day, living by our calendar invites and reminders, and prioritizing our tasks. This is known as time-management planning and typically involves making (and checking items off) To Do lists, rank ordering tasks in importance, etc. While this may be what past managers have encouraged us to do, there is not much research to validate that this makes workers more productive.
Try contingent planning to better focus your time, attention, and to enhance your engagement.
Contingent planning encourages you to consider, upfront, the possible disruptions that may occur in your work day. This will allow you to make a more realistic plan of your daily work and what you can accomplish and will help you increase your sense of progress and accomplishment. It will also help you more accurately plan how long it will really take to finish a task, which people tend to underestimate when they use time-management planning.
Having a daily plan is better than no plan.
If you’re lucky enough to have a role that rarely has unforeseen interruptions, time-management planning may still work well (and increase your engagement). And likewise, whichever type of plan makes you accomplish the most (and feel the most accomplished!) is the right one for you. But if you’re constantly frustrated, disengaged, and feeling a little down about your To Do list, try adding contingent planning to your life to see if it can make a difference for you.
Good luck taking back your day and increasing your engagement!
If you’d like to learn more about both types of planning, why contingent planning could be worthwhile for you, and how to get started, we recommend this article, which includes a step-by-step guide.
Even in a highly-engaged organization, customer problems will always occur. Sometimes we may have control over preventing these problems but oftentimes, they happen outside our control. What we can control, is our service recovery strategy. And the good news is that we can increase customer engagement, even when problems do occur.
Looking at a problem as a business opportunity isn’t just being optimistic – it’s the truth.
When an organization handles a customer problem effectively, customer engagement can actually increase and become higher than it was before the problem occurred. Thus, a customer with medium engagement could become highly-engaged if your organization was able to provide excellent service recovery. Of course, the converse is true: poor service recovery and problem resolution are much more damaging to customer engagement than the actual customer problem. Customers understand that problems will occur, but they are less understanding when your organization struggles to resolve the problem.
Problem resolution and service recovery are strategies best planned in advance.
Planning and sharing your organization’s strategies to handle customer problems will ensure that every problem then becomes an opportunity to increase engagement. One important component of your strategy must include minimizing the number of employees with which a customer must interact while on the problem resolution journey.
Talent selection is about impressing both sides. Always ensure that all candidates think highly of your organization.
I’m one of the very lucky few: I get to work my dream job every single day (is it even work if you love what you do?). But some of us aren’t so lucky. And many of us have a number of reasons for wanting to change to a new role or a different organization.
Talent selection is difficult (hint: don’t discount cultural fit…you might be able to teach someone how to use a new software, but you can’t teach them to fit into a culture that’s just not who they are), particularly when there are so many good job candidates and so few roles. And if we’re on the employer-side, sometimes we can feel as though we hold all the power, particularly if we have a number of qualified candidates. However, even with hordes of amazing potential hires in the lobby, you should never forget that talent selection should involve both sides impressing each other.
All those candidates are also potential guests, clients, fans, or patients! While these candidates may desperately want to work for your brand or organization, they will understand if you extend an offer to another candidate (it is the disappointing reality of recruiting, after all). But, what they won’t understand (and what they’ll tell anyone who will listen) is if you don’t treat them like a Lady or Gentleman during the entire interview process. They may be the one vying for the role, but you should also be trying to impress and ‘wow’ them. And this isn’t advice only for the one or two ‘top choice’ candidates whom you want to accept your offer…this is for all of your job candidates! They are investing time with you, and they’re experiencing your brand and culture first-hand. Even if you don’t extend them an offer, you want them to have a very positive association with your organization, as they (or their family or friends) may be a customer of yours in the future.
A young woman moved to a new house, several miles from her old apartment. This move meant her current doctor’s office was no longer a convenient drive from her house. She was not dissatisfied with her current doctor, but decided to try a doctor closer to her new home, simply to reduce her driving time to appointments.
When she visited the new doctor, she complained about getting migraine headaches, and was promptly prescribed a new medication to help with her headaches. After her visit, she went directly to the pharmacy to fill her new prescription. Filling this new prescription sent an alert to her previous doctor, making him aware that she was seeing a new physician and that she had been prescribed a new medication.
To the patient’s surprise, her previous doctor called her. He expressed that he cared about her health and wellbeing and that he wanted her to know that the new migraine medication could potentially cause complications with her existing medication. The former patient was shocked that her previous doctor had taken the time research her new medication (and how it would react with her existing medications), and that he cared enough to tell alert her of its dangers, even though she had changed to a new doctor. Despite the longer drive, the patient decided to no longer see her new doctor and to return to her old one.
CUSTOMER SERVICE TAKEAWAYS
The patient felt as though her previous doctor truly cared for her, even outside of their formal business relationship.
The new doctor lost credibility in the patient’s eyes for not properly researching the migraine medication.
The patient decided it was worth driving longer to a doctor who provided good, trustworthy, and caring service.