“Organisations need fewer and fewer of better and better people.”
– Michael Hammer, reengineering expert

Alan: “Hey, Mark, how goes it?”
Mark: “Oh, man! I just got laid off. Twenty-two years with the company and I’m out.”
Alan: “So, how’s everything else?”

Okay, how are things going at work? I can hear the groans from here – and no wonder. You’ve been downsized, reengineered, outsourced, delayered, right-sized, empowered, one-minute-managed, and customer-focused. What now?

You are smack in the middle of the fastest changing work environment since Henry Ford cranked up the assembly line. Employers that used to welcome you into their family now boot you out the door. Promotional ladders have turned into footstools. Bosses who used to guide your career are working full-time saving their own. That annual
increase now comes around with the frequency of Halley’s comet, and you’re doing the work of two or three people because there’s nobody else left to do it.

Welcome to the
‘anxious class’ – all of us who can’t count on having a job next year and who see our income losing ground to inflation.

What you think about my thoughts is important. I value your input. So please email me: I look forward to hearing from you.

Professional managers, middle management, call them what you will, are a dying breed. Young Turks are moving in and getting the job done right, first time. The difference is they are doing the whole job, from start to finish, from beginning to end. Gone are the days of division of labour. Anyone who dares utter the words “THAT’S NOT MY JOB” should be fired.

Companies with top-heavy superstructures will founder, taking those who remain on board with them. The good old days of multi-layered management have had their day. And they’ll be gone forever.

So what lies in the immediate future? Streamlined, low-profile companies where work revolves around flexible, self-managed project teams that focus exclusively on meeting market and customer needs.

As a member of a project team, the company will expect you to provide creative input, even if it means that you have to acquire additional skills. You’ll also be expected to respond rapidly to customer demands, making on-the-spot decisions without reference to the top office. You can expect other differences to confront you. For example, you won’t have security of job tenure. You’ll only be employed for as long as it takes to complete a project. Your next job will depend on the quality of your current performance. You may even find yourself working on a project for a rival company.

In effect, you’ll be an independent contractor. As such, you’ll have to acquire skills and knowledge that you’ll need to survive on your own: not only technical skills, but also finance, marketing and people skills.

If you’re a manager now, you’re going to find the going tough. The new business order is going to wreck your comfort zone, which involves loyalty to your employer and your need to be part of a large, protective organisation.

Those managers who succeed will adapt quickly to the changes. They’ll swing their unquestioning allegiance from a company, to loyalty to the team and its project for the duration that they’re involved. In essence, companies will provide money, opportunities and challenges in exchange for the limited period hire of managers’ intellect and expertise. The new order also means that you have to take responsibility for the development of your own career. You’ll have to acquire and develop a broad range of skills and update them continuously in line with fluctuating demands in the job market.

Since you won’t be spoon-fed in terms of job opportunities, you will have to spend time developing a network of reliable, well-placed contacts to keep you in mind when new projects are launched.

You’ll also have to hone your personal budgetary skills. Those rainy financial days, which never seemed to come around when you were securely employed by an old-style corporation, will become prevalent. Because you’ll be paid only for what you do, you could find yourself spending long penniless periods between pay days.

In this presentation I detail specific challenges that you’ll encounter as the business of management drastically transforms itself. In addition, I suggest ways and means of coping with the challenges and beating them.

Stay successful: Successful people are being transformed out of necessity. They are re-inventing themselves, flying in the face of tradition, rejecting rules that have paved the way to success in the past. Successful people are re-focusing their mindsets, redefining the nature of their business, and flattening corporate structures.

You are in a new world of work – rules have changed and answers are not always clear. But you can count on this: You need to be more highly skilled today than ever before if you want to find personal fulfilment in the new workplace – and as importantly – if you are to find, and keep your customers.

In this seminar, I will help you take charge of your own career and your life. I will assist you in developing the skills you need to survive and to succeed on the job and to get on with your life, because that’s what our customers want.

Maybe at this point you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to do everything I have to do now, how am I going to learn all this stuff?” Here’s how.

Have the will to improve. There are always lots of reasons why you can’t do something – and many people who are anxious to remind you of them. But today you have to learn; there is no other option.
Make a plan of specific actions you will take. “Improve customer service” is a nice thought, but it isn’t specific enough to guide you. List actual steps you will take, using action verbs. Put in completion dates. For example:
  1. Meet with four customers in the next month to get their views on how to improve service.
  2. Practice listening skills with customers. In the next month, get customers to talk for five minutes before making a sales pitch.
  3. Meet with your most difficult customer next week.
  4. When customers call with complaints or problems, practice saying, “I’m glad you brought that to my attention.”
Discipline yourself. Stick to your plan, even when you don’t feel like it, which will be most of the time.
Learn by doing. Using the skill in a live situation is the best way to learn.
Reward yourself for $mall $ucce$$e$. Break out a bottle of your favourite designer water and toast your success.
Get feedback. To let you know candidly how you are doing.

You’re about to set sail on a voyage of discovery into a new world … a world of adventure and excitement where anything can happen.

Rudyard Kipling had some good advice;

I keep six honest serving men;
They taught me all I knew:
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

Leave space for new thoughts and ideas.

Don’t allow past expertise to crowd out new input.

So if you get a business idea – no matter how outlandish – play with it, toss it around in your mind. It could prove to be a winner. IDEAS ARE VALUABLE CURRENCY.

Even if your idea is wildly offbeat, ignore criticism, no matter how well-intentioned. Critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They reckon they know how it’s done because they’ve seen it done every day. But they’re totally incapable of doing it themselves.

So have heart. Persevere. You may not get it right the first time. But you’ll get there in the end.

Just do it

We grow by dreams. All great people are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day, or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them, nurse them through bad days till they bring them to light which comes to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.
Those who do the most, dream the most.

The key to happiness is having dreams. The key to success is making dreams come true. Dare to dream.


What does your future look like? Chances are you don’t have too much confidence in the years ahead, and no clue as to what will happen to you. You may not feel the same loyalty to your employer you did years ago, and you may be on the alert for the worst. Lifetime employment went out with the Brady Bunch – even the big old paternalistic companies are terminating people by the thousands.

Every day there are new reports of downsizings and layoffs. Nearly 7 million people have lost permanent jobs in the last five years. Recently, speaking to a group of 200 young professionals, I asked the group how many of them expected to be with their present employers twenty-five years from now. Not a single hand went up.

A few years ago, if you lost a job, you would just go out and get another. Maybe it paid a little less, but in a year or two merit increases would get you right back to where you had been. No more. Half of those who find new employment today settle for jobs at lower pay and responsibility.

This if a new era of lowered expectations.

It might surprise you, but this is not all bad. You can make up your own mind and take charge of your own career.

This means:


You have more options.
Today, you may be forced to do something new even if that’s not your dream.
Your loyalty will be first to yourself, second to a team or project, next to your profession, and last to your place of work.
Boss-subordinate relationships are changing. Traditionally, the boss had most of the power, but no more. Now, power is shifting to subordinates. They participate in decision making or make decisions themselves. They take more control over their work, their careers, and their lives. They initiate rather than wait for orders, need to be problem solvers, communicators, team players. Follower skills are becoming as important as leadership skills. For bosses, the commander style of management is out, and there is more delegation and more teamwork. Top-down just doesn’t work very well today. It slows decision making, new product development, and action of all sorts, making it difficult for companies to satisfy customer needs and compete effectively. It kills candour and creativity and weakens commitment. The new relationship is less structured.
Traditional rewards will be fewer. Promotions and salary increases are becoming as scarce as chicken molars. First-class travel, and big expense accounts are disappearing.
– If you are a manager, you need to find new ways to recognise good work and to motivate people. As a subordinate, you have to learn to reward yourself rather than depend on hand outs from your employer.
– You will find yourself working harder and longer for fewer rewards (pay, advancement) than your predecessors did.
Career planning is becoming an oxymoron. When you think about the word career, you think about moving up. But that is not the way it works today.
You will have new career patterns. Research from Generation X indicates that many young people aren’t sitting still for the old tired corporate ways. They want to be recognised for good performance on the job. They want to jump around. They want praise and recognition and want to get rid of dress codes and other stuffy traditions.
You will have more responsibility. You are in charge of you. You need to decide for yourself.
Layoffs will continue. Experts tell us that – even with all that has happened – organisations are still fat by a third and that downsizings and reorganisations will be with us till well after the turn of the century.
You have more incentive to learn new skills. Your very survival depends on learning and growing. Your energies have to be directed toward adding value to your present employer and upgrading your skills and abilities so that lifelong learning is your ticket to future success, and you have to take charge of your own development.
Become an Entrepreneur. Prepare to love your job. Make sure your reputation remains intact. People tend to slack off when threatened with retrenchment.

To begin with, let’s look at what you have now. How well does your present job stack up? Are you secure? Are you satisfied? Do you see opportunity? Or are you struggling to hold on, apprehensive about the future, working harder and harder for less and less?

The Present Situation Analysis (Chart 1) will help you see a little more clearly where you stand today. Start with the “Love of Job” section. Take each factor in the left-hand column and scan across till you find something that most closely describes your situation. Circle it and enter the numerical value from the top line. Do this for each of the factors; then add up your total “Love of Job” score and enter it at the bottom. Do the same with the “Confidence in the Future” section.

If you hate your job and have little confidence that it holds any kind of decent future for you (lower left-hand corner), you should be planning your escape.

If you don’t like your job, but you feel there could be a relatively decent future with your present company (lower right), you ought to try to change the scope of your job within the company. If you love your job but don’t think there’s a future with the company (upper left), you have to decide. Want to stick it out, have fun, and take your chances, or explore other employers now? If you love your job and have a great future (upper right), you are indeed a lucky dog.

Three of the four quadrants call for some kind of change. Even if you are in the “Lucky dog” quadrant you should be getting ready – because you never know.



(score 3)
(score 2)
(score 0)
The work itself Stimulating; I can’t wait to get to work More great than not Ups and downs Would bore a robot
Communication and feedback Always tuned in; open and free, up and down Mostly know what’s going on, how I’m going More from the grapevine than the boss There isn’t even a water cooler in this place
Make important decisions on my own Make many decisions, not all Half and half Need permission to use the john
Recognition Plenty of it; satisfying and motivating Get some, not as often as I’d like Hear more about the screw-ups than the good work Does anyone know I’m here?
The people Love them all, even the boss Like most of them; we have a pretty good time Some are great, others not Nightmare creatures
Pay and benefits Generous Pretty good; fair Could be better Looking the minimum wage straight in the eye


(score 3)
(score 2)
(score 0)
Training and development Learning all the time; company is aggressive about training Take some courses, have grown in this job Occasionally learn something Head full of mush
Advancement Good opportunities here; on a fast track As good as can be expected Some chance to move higher Nobody gets promoted here
Company stability Stable, solid outfit Some upheaval not much Have been recent management changes, reengineering Working in a mess
Company direction On target; management knows what it is doing Seem to be ok Fair, but too many false starts, not changing fast enough Lost and wandering
Company industry growth Growth industry; expanding rapidly Better than most Barely holding our own Sinking fast
Gut feeling Confident, looking to the future; right place at the right time Not particularly worried Concerned about the future Continual anxiety attack



Warning Signs That Change Is Coming

Company situation

_ We can run anything. Your company has gone way into debt buying other companies in fields not related to the company’s core business. That is, your company has gone into hock to buy businesses it doesn’t know how to run.
_ The fad of the month. In an attempt to make things right again, your company starts implementing programs for reengineering, Total Quality Management (TQM), empowerment, and more. Maybe all at once.
_ Stubbornly low tech. Your employer is not investing in technology. If you are dazzled at what your competitors can do with technology when you’re still doing those things by hand, then you’d better watch out. The costs of trying to catch up all at once are prohibitive, and the catch-up will have to come sometime.
_ Management is committed to 1954. Management insists on staying with methods and philosophies that worked well forty or fifty years ago. Or even ten years ago. Puffed up with past success, it is determined not to change.
_ We know what’s best. Your company is working hard to sell products and services it produces without finding out what customers want.
_ We know what’s best 2. Nobody listens to anyone below them in the organisation. Subordinates are afraid to be critical and have given up trying to convince anyone of new ideas and suggestions.
_ There are persistent rumours of a major organisation change. Or change is actually happening: reengineering, plant or office closing, outsourcing, department elimination.
_ There are hiring freezes or pay increase freezes for long stretches.
_ Consultants are hovering around.
_ What are you worth? You are asked where you and your department added value this past year.

Personal situation

_ You are a middle manager.
_ You are a middle-aged middle manager.
_ You are a highly paid middle-aged middle manager.
_ You are a highly paid middle-aged middle manager in a staff department.
_ Your work is being automated or outsourced.
_ Your performance appraisals are average or only slightly above.
_ Your staff and budget are being cut.
_ Your boss looks the other way when you go by.

Tie your work to the business. The more you are seen as adding value to the business, the safer you are. And the best way to do that is to connect your work more closely to getting sales, serving the customer, cutting costs, or advancing technology.

Get to know the business. At the very least, you should know company sales, profits, earnings per share, return on investment, and other important financial measures. Keep up with company goals and major efforts, competition, and customers.



Benchmark yourself. Even if you’re the boss, your job isn’t secure. A lifelong job with one company has become history. But you can enhance your value in the marketplace.

Change your mindset. Cultivate a new mental outlook. Take responsibility for your career development. Become a student of change: ensure that you know which way the wind is blowing.

Make change work for you: be prepared to exploit opportunities as soon as they emerge. Prepare yourself now for a change in career.

Learn to market yourself. Determine your worth “out there”.

When James graduated from U.C.T., he applied for a position in the S.A.A.
At his selection interview he was asked: “What can you do well?”
“Good!” cried the selection panel in unison. “You’re just the sort of chap we want – and we won’t even have to break you in!”

Think of yourself as self-employed.

Jot down anything that enhances your chance of getting a job: qualifications, experience, special expertise, etc.

Scan “situation vacant” ads for job vacancies in your area of expertise. Note what they’re paying for people like you and the qualifications demanded. This will give you a panoramic view of what you’re worth in the job market.

Get a more detailed view from Human Resources consultants who specialise in
your area of expertise.

Increase your value. Build up your intellectual capital. Become a lifelong learner. Perpetual homework. Acquire skills that will increase your value. Upgrade your qualifications continuously. Learn your living. Don’t earn your living. Constantly improve your marketable skills.

Become a generalist, not a specialist. A specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less!! Constantly upgrade your knowledge across the board so that you can do anything that gives you the desired result.

Enhance your worth by collecting letters of Customer delight. Hordes of delighted customers who testify to the excellence of your service are more valuable than certificates and diplomas that attest to your professional competence.

Send your CV out. Apply for jobs; attend interviews.

You won’t really know what you’re worth “out there” until you test the market.

Circulate your CV to let potential employers know that you’re still around and keep them informed about what you’ve been doing since you were last in contact. View CV circulation as an insurance policy that could stand you in good stead if you’re wrong sized out of your present job.

Draw up a strategic employment plan for yourself to cover, say, the next three years. Decide what new skills you intend to acquire during this period. And, in the light of your job market intelligence gathering, which of your existing skills you need to upgrade.

Cross train yourself.

Build up your intellectual capital.


Knowledge is the new capital of the working world. In the US, despite the downsizing epidemic, the numbers of managerial and professional workers have increased by 37 percent since the beginning of the 1980’s. And by the year 2000, it is estimated that the UK will have 10 million knowledge workers compared with 7 million manual workers. The Swedish company, Skandia, even has a “director of intellectual capital”.

_ A shallow thinker seldom makes a deep impression.
_ Some students drink deeply from the fountain of knowledge, others only gargle.
_ Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week. George Bernard Shaw.
_ It’s a nuisance that knowledge can only be acquired by hard work. Somerset Maughan.
_ 90% of inspiration is perspiration.
_ A genius! For 37 years I’ve practised 14 hours a day, and now they call me a genius!
Pablo Sarasate – Spanish Violinist.
_ Once I met someone so dumb – the only thing she ever read was an eye-chart. In fact she used to look for a wishbone in a soft-boiled egg.
_ Learning is a treasure which accompanies its owner everywhere.

_ List the names of 3 competitors, and next to each name, job down their strengths.
How can you achieve the strengths listed of your competitors?
What courses/skills could you acquire in order to supersede your competitors?
List the names of 5 customers who will testify to the excellence of your service.



What are you doing about the stress in your life? The impossible workload, the uncertainties, the difficult people you deal with, the lack of recognition?

You have a headache, no appetite, an upset stomach; you can’t concentrate; you’re tired and depressed. Maybe you drink too much, take drugs, start smoking again, gobble junk food, fight with your spouse. Meanwhile, you feel sorry for yourself at having been singled out to be put in this tough situation.

But everyone has stress and always has had it. Think how Adam and Eve felt when they got kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Think of all the wars and plagues and recessions and depressions since then. Company failures, takeovers, and reorganisations that people have suffered through over the years.

As competition gets tougher, and companies introduce new products and services faster, everyone is struggling to lower costs, get everything done more quickly, improve quality, and become more customer oriented. All that keeps everyone on the edge of their ergonomic chairs. Tension? Stress? Just walk into a meeting, shout “Reengineering,” and watch people dive under the table.

Where does all this stress come from?
Everything causes stress! “It’s always something.”


   Cope with stress.

Using the Stress Rating chart, rate each of the thirteen factors below from 1 to 5 (with 5 being highest) on each of two dimensions: intensity of stress (that is, how much stress the factor causes when it is present); and frequency/duration (how often it occurs and how long it lasts). You may get very nervous giving a speech, but if you do it only once a year, it can’t count as a major stressor in your life – unless you spend all year worrying about it.



Rating Definition
5 Extremely intense stress; debilitating out-of-your-skin panic reaction
4 High stress; makes it difficult to concentrate; shake and sweat, heart pounding fear
3 Enough to cause headache, fidgeting, anxiety
2 Some stress, distracting
1 Not much stress, everyday stuff


Rating Definition
5 Ongoing, constant, never lets up
4 Almost every day, all day; occasional letup
3 About half the time
2 Once a month or so
1 Almost never


When you have rated each factor on intensity and frequency/duration, click on “calculate rank” and your stress factors will be rated from highest to lowest.


No   Factor Intensity Frequency/Duration Total Rank
1. Change, or threat of change: altered responsibilities, reduced budget or staff, new reporting relationship, demotion, transfer, or unemployment    
2. Lack of input: major decisions about your work, your status, your department are made without your ideas and suggestions and handed down from above    
3. Unclear goals (or conflicting goals): not knowing quite what is expected of you    
4. Conflict and difficult personal relationships on the job    
5. Too much work: there’s just plain too much to do    
6. Personal habits: things you do to escape from it all (drinking, drugs, sugar highs, smoking, overeating) can come back to actually increase your stress levels later on    
7. Lack of balance between work and home: the work is everything, and anything that goes wrong at work seems much more important than it really is    
8. Being plateaued: you’ve been there, done that; you are ready to move to bigger responsibilities, but there isn’t anything in sight    
9. Lack of recognition: you are working harder than ever before, and you have accomplished some great things for the company; no one ever says “Thanks” or “Good job”    
10. Travel: you spend more time in row 16 seat A than any other single place, week after week on the road, and your kids are growing up without your being around    
11. Giving people bad news, firing someone    
12. Onstage stress: making a stand-up presentation, running a tough meeting, giving a report to the CEO, making a sales pitch to a big account    
13. Money: not enough of it    


Now you know where your major stresses are and you’re ready to work your way through them in priority order, taking on the worst areas first.

Stress starts adrenaline flowing, gets your heart rate and blood pressure up. It heightens your alertness and can help you perform better. That is, it prepares you for fight or flight. We inherit this from prehistoric people, who had stress reactions when they peeked around a rock and found themselves face-to-face with a grinning Tyrannosaurus rex.

Your tyrannosaurs in the workplace won’t do you physical harm, but can hurt you mentally and emotionally. You don’t have to choose the flight alternative (avoiding or reducing stress). You can use your increased tension to mount a fight to COMBAT stresses and deal with them in a positive way.

Get a life. Put your work in life perspective. Think of this: You are one of nearly 6 billion people on earth, most of whom live in poverty. Our planet is a tiny speck in the universe, which is 8 to 12 billion years old. The nearest star is the sun, which is 93 million miles away. The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted M100, a galaxy in the Virgo cluster, that is 56 million light-years away.

How big are your problems anyway?

Empower Yourself.

Empowerment can be a major competitive advantage. If the standards of performance are clear, if people are trained and qualified to handle the increased authority, and if management can hold back a little on hammering people for mistakes, empowerment can improve performance and build customer loyalty beyond anything known before.

If you work for an organisation that has mostly a topdown control culture, empowerment will have a more difficult time taking hold.

Make sure you are qualified to be empowered.

If you can honestly say you can take on additional problem solving and decision making, it’s time to talk with your boss.

Have a plan first. Fill out a chart like the one below and take it with you as a guide for your discussion.


Types of Decisions/Approvals I could Make

Benefits to the Company


If you feel you need training or coaching to do this successfully, make that part of your discussion list.

Don’t eat the whole pie at once. Start with a slice.

If your people don’t want to be empowered: If you have been making most of the decisions for your people, they probably won’t feel comfortable doing it themselves, at least at first. Identify decision areas they should handle. Better yet, let them identify those decisions, or do it together. Start with simple ones. Provide training in problem solving and decision making. Then gradually turn them loose. Provide positive recognition, and be tolerant of mistakes, looking at them as learning experiences.



Here’s an approach that works for me. You can use it if you supervise only a small group or if you manage hundreds. You can also use it with your team.

Recently, a client company asked me to work with factory foremen to get them to “take charge” and not run to the plant manager with every little decision or problem. The company culture, very conservative and careful, had not supported that in the past, and foremen did not believe the company really meant it.

The first thing I did was get together informally with a number of foremen to talk about their jobs. From these discussions we came up with a list of responsibilities. (You can get these from job descriptions, too, but be careful. Most job descriptions were last updated when unicycles were popular. And, too, there are real benefits in involving the people themselves in this process.)

We came up with sixteen responsibilities, such as:

_ Assure that all materials, equipment, and tools are on hand and in order.
Find ways to motivate people doing routine jobs.
Keep subordinates fully informed as to what they need to do. Keep your manager or supervisor informed of what is happening in your area, and keep subordinates informed about what management expects of your area.
Set high standards of job performance and quality for subordinates, and be sure they understand those standards. Discuss job performance with each subordinate on a regular basis – both strengths and areas for improvement. Discuss problems ….. and so on.

Then, in workshops I ran for the foremen, I had them work in small groups and gave each group four or five responsibilities to work on. I asked them to come up with an action plan for each responsibility covering exactly what they had to do to carry it out and what decisions – now made by the plant manager – they could and should be making.

When they were done, we got the groups back together and called in the plant manager and several people from corporate. Each group reported on its work.

This was followed by discussions, sometimes spirited, and participants hammered out a course of action. It is not working perfectly, but foremen are making a lot more decisions than they did in the past, and productivity in the factories has improved.

Find out what kinds of decisions you can make and what the limits are. “If the customer has a defective R2.00 part, can I replace it with out approval?” “Of course!” “If the customer has a defective R20 000.00 machine, and needs it to keep his business open, can I replace it without approval?” “Hell, no!” Somewhere in between is your limit. Pin it down.

Find out what will happen if you make a mistake. Not that you intend to, but just in case.

Find out if the company is going to give you problem-solving and decision-making training, and if not, will the company pay for you to attend outside cour$e$.

Do you need other resources to do this? Budget money? (Forget it.) Access to information, files, duplicate keys, a cellular phone? Lap-top computer? Whatever it is, now is the time to discuss it with the boss.

If at first you are uncertain about a decision, check with your boss. But don’t go in and ask, “What shall I do?” Go in with what you think should be done and say, “What do you think of my approach?”

Go ahead and use your new power, and take over the decision areas you and your boss identified. Don’t wait six months; it will all be forgotten.

Tend to your Networks

Update your contact list. Think of all the people you know who have good jobs and enter them in your database. They can include your family, friends, neighbours, business associates, customers, suppliers. Keep going until you have about a hundred names.

But don’t stop there – expand your networks. You can meet people by becoming active in trade and professional societies, community activities, clubs, and sports. Besides personal growth and doing good work, these activities build relationships.

Set up a network. What you know is important. Who you know is more important. Surround yourself with on-tap expertise: keep an up-to-date contact book of Guys Who Really know (GWRK). Set aside time to purge your contact book at least one a month. Use the phone, send faxes or post letters to keep your list current. Don’t ignore any opportunity to add to your list of potentially useful people. Spend at least 10% of your time making new contacts. Look for them everywhere you go: conferences, conventions, social functions and sports events, etc. Don’t overlook secretaries and assistants.

“Charlie, why don’t you play gold with Ted anymore?” asked the wife.
“Would you play golf with a chap who moved the ball with his foot
when you weren’t watching?” he said.
“Well, no,” admitted the wife.
“And neither will Ted,” replied the dejected husband.

Classify your contacts under six main headings:


potential employers;
_ customers;
_ potential customers;
_ suppliers and
_ potential suppliers.

Get networking and keep networking. It’s an informal way to reach knowledgeable people.

  Learn Something New

You must keep up with your profession. Whatever field of work you are in, it keeps changing, and you have to stay on top of that. You have to know your company and your industry. Beyond that, there are a number of skills you should have that will increase your value to your employer.

Keep current on the world of work. Things change fast, even in six months. Even as you were reading this sentence some consultant thought up a new fad that will take business by storm, and you’d better know about it. Read Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, or the Wall Street Journal.

Plan to spend a portion of each day doing something that you have wanted to do but haven’t had time to. Reading the classics, painting or sketching, woodworking, embroidering, redecorating, Keep to the actives, away from the passives.

Nourish yourself

“A bow kept forever taut will break

Make your diary into a scrapbook of fun. Write down in detail exactly how you’re going to nourish yourself with enjoyment over the next month. Take time off to unwind and do the non-business related things you want to do. Don’t do anything if that’s what it takes to recharge your batteries.



“What we value most in this company is creativity. I want each of you to find new ways
to manage your departments more efficiently without reorganising them. I want creative ways to run the business that build on what we have done in the past. I want bold new ways to serve customers, at the same time maintaining our conservative image.
In short, I want you to find ways to change while staying the same.”
– Mark Zeman, in an address to the Management Committee

We have a lovehate relationship with creativity. We all want it, but when it produces new ideas (!), we’re not so sure. We like the idea of new ideas, but when they appear, they threaten.

Executives and managers talk about the need to be innovative, then put up so many roadblocks and punishments for actually doing something new, most people retreat pretty quickly and go back to doing the same comfortable old thing. It is just safer and doesn’t hurt as much.

Companies like to see themselves as creative even if they are not. Just think about how popular the term “brainstorming is. Usually when people do get together to “brainstorm,” they energetically and enthusiastically do everything possible to see that no creative ideas sneak in.

Why Bother with Creativity in the First Place?

Because there’s no other answer today. You and your organisation are dealing with problems that have no precedent: How do you produce more with half the people and budget? How can you motivate people who are feeling rotten because all their friends got fired and they now have impossible workloads? How do you keep up with competition that is bringing out fantastic new products and services with the speed of light? How do you meet customer demands when customers themselves keep changing and sometimes don’t even know what they want? How do you use technology to stay competitive?

There is no established way to deal with these challenges. You can’t look in a book and see what someone did twenty years ago, because it isn’t there – the issues are new and demand new ideas and approaches.

Understanding creativity is especially important for organisations that are relying more and more on teams. Creativity helps teams do exceptionally good work rather than just everyday work – without it, teams spend hours coming up with plans anyone on the team could have developed in fifteen minutes alone.

Normal Problem Solving

Creative Solving Problem

State the problem

Go for solutions
Kill off ideas
Some talk, some don’t
Ordinary solutions
Explore the problem
Think of beginning ideas
Build on ideas
Combine, modify, enhance

Everyone contributes
New solutions
Here is a checklist you can give to team members to help them open up their own personal creativity. If each team member follows the checklist, the creativity of the team will increase dramatically .



Team Members’ Guide for Contributing to the Creativity of the Group

We are trying to find innovative new solutions. This checklist outlines your role as a team member in the creative problem-solving process.

Expect to be creative: Before the session begins, tell yourself, “I will find new solutions.” Make a commitment to thinking creatively. If you start out thinking you will be creative, you will have a much better chance of finding new ideas.

Help explore the problem. When you see the problem, you may be tempted to go for solutions right away, but in this process you should hold off until the session leader tells you, so you and the team can learn more about the problem and come up with ideas.

Join in generating beginning ideas. When you understand the problem, join your team-mates in coming up with beginning ideas.

  • Come out with any ideas that POP into your head at this point. They won’t be perfect, but that doesn’t matter.

  • Still don’t go for solutions. Have fun coming up with weird ideas.

  • Go for quantity. Linus Pauling said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” The more the better.

  • Respect all your team-mates’ ideas: Don’t evaluate any of them now. New ideas are flawed, but leave them alone. They will lead to better ideas as you go along. Ideas are only ideas, and you don’t have to deal with each one as it comes up.

  • Go for the outrageous. Wacko ideas are good because they stimulate energy and laughter in the group.

  • Don’t be limited by the present order of things. Think outside the box. Deliberately look for the unconventional and the untried.

  • Expect uncertainty. New ideas create anxiety at first. “Suppose the boss walks in and sees these flip charts. He’d think we’re nuts.” As you become used to the process, your anxiety will disappear.

Play with ideas: build, combine, modify, enhance. After the team has come up with a wide range of ideas, help the group pick the most exciting ones, then play with them to get more ideas and to make them stronger.

Find a solution. End up with an idea that:

Is new.
Is workable.
Solves the problem.
Management will buy into.


“The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.” – Albert Einstein



Plot where you’re going. For your business, for your department

Develop a guiding vision so that you can define exactly what you want to achieve. When you work towards a precisely defined target, you work smarter … and you work more productively. By creating a vivid vision of where you want to go, you create an all-important sense of purpose. Without it you won’t see the marketplace potential or its opportunities.

“My vision is to have a personal computer on every desk in the world,” said Bill Gates in 1975.

A vision isn’t about predicting the future. It’s about creating the future by taking action now. It translates your strategies into a way of business life.

The sense of purpose projected by your vision will guide you steadfastly towards a profitable marketplace niche. To create a vision you need:

_ the ability to maintain focus despite fierce competition in the marketplace;
_ the courage to take risks;
_ analytical skills, and
_ intuition.

Intuition gives you the ability to peer into the future marketplace and predict trends.

Visionary planning gives you the ability to see a need in the marketplace, and take the action to satisfy it … it provides a mental framework that gives form to the future. It paints a clear picture of where you want to go.

Don’t allow traditional planning based on the past to lead you and your business into the future. “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”. Sharpen your visionary planning skills by finding a quiet place to dream … to unlock your creative potential, which requires rethinking the way you think.

Visions that allow you to transform today’s reality won’t come to you in a flash. Practical visions are born from an intensity of preoccupation. However, not all your visions will strike gold. You’ll only get where you want to go by taking risks, making mistakes and getting things wrong.

The quickest way to get someone’s undivided attention is to make a mI$takE. Architects cover their mistakes with ivy. Lawyers visit theirs in jail. Ad. execs put theirs on TV. Cooks cover theirs with sauce. Doctors bury theirs.

The biggest mistake is the fear that you will make one. He who never fails will never grow rich.

Don’t let failure faze you. Keep going until you get it right.

To get it right:

_ persevere
_ reject conventional wisdom;
_ think differently, and commit yourself to achieving your vision.

Your vision should express optimism. In visionary planning, there’s no place for caution.

Replicate and share your vision. There’s nothing more useless than a vision that you keep to yourself. Sell your ideas to the people who matter by every possible method. Remember that the effectiveness of a decision is the quality of that decision multiplied by its acceptance.

Open yourself to new information …. to the element of surprise. Play with perception and context.

To get ahead and stay ahead, you’ve got to think revolution not evolution. Aim to make things 100% different. Ten or 20% better just isn’t good enough.

If you improve whatever you offer in small, i n c r e m e n t a l steps, the world won’t race to get to your doorstep. It’ll yawn. To overcome the ho-hum mindset of those around you, jolt them into action by revolutionising what you do. Make the changes radical.

You’ll know you have successfully replicated and shared your vision when the people who matter know where you want to go, how you plan to get there and when you want to get there.

Sit around. Bring in a few customers. Focus groups, what do they want from you? Be specific.

Imagine it as you would like it to be when it is finally finished – that becomes your vision.

Write it down. what do you want to achieve?


You are the most critical component in the system.

Establish a perfect little turnkey operation that goes to work every single time. Own the job. Own the way you do something. Build a system that works. Build it as though you were going to franchise it.

Establish a perfect little turnkey operation that goes to work every single time. Own the job. Own the way you do something. Build a system that works. Build it as though you were going to franchise it.

Provide a consistent level of service that imparts to the customer a sense of security and integrity … an assurance that problems will be handled promptly at no extra cost.

Dress the same, behave the same, offer the same. Many top companies rely on uniforms to project an image of consistent quality, good service and uniqueness. Also aim for consistency in behaviour and speech. The way you answer the phone, greet customers and serve them will influence their perceptions of the service quality you provide. Make the experience of doing business with you sparkle with life. Own and duplicate the experience. Provide a level of service that can be depended on, come what may.

Deliver the same result every time. If you own the experience, you must be able to replicate it. Deliver the same result in an absolutely predictable fashion, time after time. Create a systematic way of producing a result. To keep your customers, be consistent … be predictable.

Give your customers control. Design your systems so that your customers control their experience rather than allowing the systems to control their experience.

Manage your customers’ expectations. Tell your customers exactly what they can expect from your business, when they can expect it and periodically update them on the status of the work in progress.

Don’t work on a process. Work to produce a result. To produce the result you and your customers want:

_ Determine the results you aim to achieve, start with the result.
_ Projects are about outcomes – about getting things done.
_ Get things done. Think customers. Develop knowledge. Turn every job into a project.
_ Divide the project into steps that can be seen and understood.
_ Work your way sdrawkcab.
_ Create a checklist with your customers so that you use common methods of evaluating performance.
_ Determine how often you want to communicate with your customers.
Diarise the dates and times.
_ Insert self-imposed penalties in the project’s specs. Make them meaningful.
Be specific.

Empower your customers.


It’s amazing how many corporate people I come across who tell me how they wish they could leave their companies and work for themselves. Yet they can’t run an operation for the company they work for.

Become an entrepreneur. Take risks, use your initiative.

“Yes, son I’m a self-made man.”
“That’s what I like about you, Dad. You take the blame for everything.”

Make things happen. Get personally involved in the action. If you’re an employer, encourage employee initiative.

Lacerate red tape. Red tape is symbolic of the worst type of bureaucracy in both the private and public sectors. Nothing strangles initiative, creativity and innovation more effectively.

Heard about the man who had an addiction to red tape?
He joined the civil service.

Implement an open door policy. Invite all employees at all levels to pop in and kick new ideas around.

You know why civil servants never talk about their work?
Because they never do any.

If you think you have influence, just try ordering somebody else’s dog around.

Keep your employees aware of the risks, of what they can gain and of how they can make the difference. Businesses – even big businesses – now want people with entrepreneurial flair. You need to acquire at least four skills before you can consider yourself a business leader in the mould of an entrepreneur…

become business literate. Get to know everything there is to know about the
business you’re in;

develop conceptual skills that allow you to think systematically and creatively.

cultivate decision-making skills that allow you to resolve problems quickly, often with access to only incomplete information, and

develop people skills so that you can recruit and motivate the right type of people for your type of business.

No business can survive without making profits. So become a self-contained profit centre. Watch your bottom line. Nurture the desire to make money. Think and earn profits.

Keep pushing the profit button. Draw up a budget. Take into account every factor that impinges on the cost of your product or service.

Calculate exactly how much each person costs the company in terms of wages and salaries, office or factory rental, medical aid, pension, stationery, telephones, etc. Then ask them to calculate the profit on their jobs. A minimum of three times cost is an acceptable norm. For example, if a secretary costs you R10 000 a month in total – including 13th cheque, office space, salary, etc – she should be providing you with value worth R30 000 a month.

Smash the logistics jam. Let’s face it, there will never be an organisation that is completely without boundaries. You can’t eliminate all boundaries. But you can make them permeable so that they allow information, ideas, resources and energy to flow freely throughout your company. To make the boundaries in your company more porous, set each of your employees the task of redefining his or her role in producing a result.

Work on results. Replace the titles on everyone’s business cards with a description of what each individual does in customers’ terms. Change from descriptive titles to prescriptive statements.

And don’t stop there.

Produce a measurable result – make everyone in your organisation responsible for producing a measurable result, whether he’s the office cleaner who has undertaken to keep the premises clean, or the managing director who’s responsible for producing long-term profits.

Get each person to define their result. Then ask them to write down exactly what functions they should perform to produce that result.

Outsource. Buy in high levels of specialist expertise. Save on the cost of ownership. Outsourcing certain functions costs you less and gives you more.

“An economy built around lots and lots of minnows rather than a few dinosaurs is infinitely better,” says Frankfurt-based Max Worcester. In fact, 96 percent of German GDP comes from small and medium-sized companies.

Outsource as much as possible. Farm out tasks to save on the costs of ownership and the substantial costs related to the employment of people required to do the work. Outsourcing gives you access to specialist expertise while containing costs, improving quality and enhancing efficiency.

Surround yourself with experts.

“Yes, I’ll give you a job. You can start by cleaning the floor.”
“But I’m a university graduate.”
“Get a broom and I’ll show you how then.”

Use beginners as experts. Use break-it thinking.

Beware of the typical expert of yesteryear. They can hinder more than help. They have tendency to fit a NEW IDEA into an existing model or framework. They put new problems into the same old context in order to understand them. They tend to define what is unknown in terms of what is known.


_ List 5 macro trends you predict over the next 5 years that will impact on your business.
How will these trends affect your business ?
What will you need to do in order to stay ahead ?
My vision for my company/division is to
In order to achieve this vision, I will
Define the result that you are responsible for achieving for your customers.
What limitations/drawbacks/disappointments could customers encounter when they receive the defined results?
What steps can you take to eliminate the abovementioned drawbacks?



Teams are a way of bringing parts of the organisation together to solve quality, customer, marketing, or other problems. Teams, if they function right, can come up with creative new approaches, solve problems, streamline operations, and be great learning experiences for their members. Being part of a team can help offset lack of promotions and fears about being downsized. Good teams can help an organisation meet its goals. They should be a very civilised way of doing business.

Self-managed teams get people involved, push decision making down, and give people freedom to innovate and run their own jobs.

Cross-functional teams (with members from several departments) can get things done faster, solve complex problems, focus the organisation’s resources on the customer, and help members understand other departments better.

Teams are a way of life today in many organisations and can accomplish amazing things. Whether you are team leader or a team member, you should know what makes a great team.

Think of a team you were on (a committee, task force, or – okay – a sports team) that worked exceptionally well. What made that team great? List what the members did, or other factors that made that team effective.

To ensure the wealth of expertise that already exists in your company permeates throughout the organisation.

Assign new employees to project teams for between six and twelve months.
Encourage them to come up with new ideas or better production processes.

Link training to the job. Don’t train your employees in a vacuum. Human Resources professionals sometimes consider the act of training more important than the results achieved. They demand costly and complex out-training courses. They deem attendance as vital. They’re more concerned with the activity than the result.

Create a training roster to break through function barriers. Train each member of the team to work at each function necessary to produce the required result. Insist that each team member attends a 30-minute “class” each week so that he can familiarise himself with what other members do.

For example, if I’m a sales rep, get your receptionist to train me for an hour on the finer points of switchboard operation.

And let your receptionist accompany me and your other sales reps on at least one call a week.

Get the folks in credit control to teach me their functions in the overall scheme of things. Insist that I attend a 30-minute “class” each week until I know how to do what they do.

Don’t use outside experts or the people in your in-house training department to teach us. Rather use the people in different departments themselves to give us hands-on training.

Also get each department to draw up a schedule detailing exactly the steps involved in their functions and how to do them. Ensure that all members of other departments go through the programme from beginning to end.

Encourage your employees to spend more time talking to each other. Promote corporate “rituals” that lead to social interaction and bring people closer together.
This bonding process promotes trust and, ultimately, idea sharing.

Like marriage: Although when I got married, it wasn’t by the Justice of Peace, it was by the Secretary of War.
People said to me, “Are you married?”
I replied, “No, I was hit by a car.”

Gather team members’ ideas and experiences into a corporate “knowledge bank”
on the successful completion of a project.

Set key objectives. Concentrate your fire-power on the goals that matter.
Too many targets will dissipate the strength of your attack.

Management by objectives works if you know the objectives. 90% of the time you don’t.

Throw informal, spontaneous fun parties in recognition of achievements by you or those who work for you. Dish out plenty of awards and slaps on the back. Inject yourself and those around you with a daily dose of happiness.

Create a sense of urgency.

You have to face facts: without any sense of urgency, people won’t put in that extra effort that is often essential. They won’t make needed sacrifices. Instead, they’ll resist initiatives from above and cling to the status quo.

At least six reasons help explain this sort of complacency:

No highly visible crisis exists. The company isn’t losing money. There’s no threat
of a big lay-off.

You hold that meeting in a room that screams success. the subliminal message is
clear: “We’re rich, we’re winners. We must be doing something right. So relax. Have lunch.” Nothing fails like success.

The managers measure themselves against low standards. Wondering around
companies, I hear: “Profits are up 10 % on last year.” What I don’t hear is “Profits are down 30% from five years ago, while industry-wide profits were up nearly 20% over the last 12 months.”

Staff focuses attention on narrow functional goals instead of broad business performance. When the most basic measures of corporate performance are sinking, virtually no-one feels responsible.

Management rigs the various internal planning and control systems to make it easy for everyone to meet their functional goals. A typical goal: “Launch a new ad campaign by June 15”. They don’t deem increasing market share to be an appropriate target.

Whatever feedback employees receive comes almost entirely from these faulty internal systems. An employee can work for months and never be confronted by a dissatisfied customer or a frustrated supplier.

Turn up the heat in your company. Eliminate such symbols of excess as a big corporate airforce. Set higher standards, both formally in the planning process and informally in day-to-day interaction. Change internal measurement systems that focus on the wrong indices. Vastly increase the amount of external exposure that each of your employees get. Reward both honest talk in meetings and people who are willing to confront problems.

Organise monthly bright ideas sessions to brainstorm ideas. Summon all the members of your team. Get into a huddle. Examine ways in which you can add value to the experience of doing business with you. Brainstorm at least 10 ideas at each meeting. Reward employees who come up with ideas that add value to the customers’ experience. Generate enthusiasm. Avoid outright put-downs.

Reward long-term customer delight. Give worthwhile rewards to employees who keep customers happy.

Regularly delight your staff by making worthwhile rewards for extra-special customer service.
Write them into your budget.

Dish out rewards to deserving employees once-a-month. Then select an overall winner for the year and shower that member of staff with accolades. It does wonders for their self-image. As consultant and author Edward de Bono says in his book Tactics: “I would name self-image as the prime motivator.”

The key benefit of high-level employee loyalty: customer retention. The benefits of customer loyalty increase with each passing year. So think long and hard before rightsizing, downsizing or re-engineering your business.

Re-engineer with a purpose.

In the nanosecond 90’s, speed is of the essence. Look at each employee’s self-stated result and determine how long their functions take to produce it. Then insist that the length of time be halved within four weeks.

Sure, you may have to update and upgrade your existing technology and implement streamlined new systems. But if it makes you more competitive, do it.

Employees are often rewarded more for their position on the hierarchical ladder than for their performance. If this is the system you have adopted, you’re rewarding people for their past achievements. Eliminate rewards based on length of service.

Reward performance and skill, not seniority or position. One way of accomplishing this is performance-based pay. The better they do, the more they get.

In this competitive age, people like you who lead companies, departments and divisions, need to know how to blow up self-satisfied corporate cultures … how to sabotage “we do it this way because it’s the way it’s always been done.”

Create a sense of urgency … do something … before a real disaster strikes.


1. How clear is the mission of the team – why the team exists?
Very Clear
4 3
Fairly Clear
2 1
2. How well do members of the team agree on goals – what the team is suppose to do?
Very Well
4 3
Fairly Well
2 1
Didn’t Bother to discuss Goals
3. How well does your team focus its time and energy on meeting its goals?
4 3
Fairly Well
2 1
Unfocused, Wanders
4. How well does your team decide who does what?
Very Well
4 3
Fairly Well
2 1
Keystone Kops
5. How good are team members at disagreeing openly and constructively
Very Good
4 3
Fairly Good
2 1
A Brawl
6. How well does the team get everyone involved?
Everyone Contributes
4 3
Some Talk More Than Others
2 1
A Few Dominate, Others Say Nothing
7. How well does the team protect new ideas?
Very Well
4 3
Pretty Well
2 1
Kill Them Off Promptly
8. To what extent do team members have the information they need?
Have it All
4 3
Have Most
2 1
In the Dark
9. How good is the spirit of cooperation?
Very Good
4 3
Pretty Good
2 1
10. How good is the team at getting things done?
Very Good
4 3
Pretty Good
2 1
Does Nothing



10-20 This may be a collection of people, but it’s not a team.
21-30 Pretty weak, The group may get some things done, but with a great struggle
31-40 Your are approaching team hood. With a little effort, the team could be great.
41-50 Gold Medal winner.

What is the team’s greatest strength?

What does the team need to work on? What is the biggest opportunity for making the team function better?


You’ve been asked to lead a team to work on a company project such as “improving customer service.” This is a nice juicy assignment – it is highly visible work, a prestige area to work in, and something that can make a difference. It can also be a way to screw up big-time.

Your Responsibilities as a Team Leader

Define the charter.

Before you begin celebrating your new team assignment, determine what latitude your team has.

What is the exact nature of the assignment? That is, what will constitute successful completion of the project?

To whom does the team report?

What freedom do you and the team members have in carrying out the assignment? Can you visit company facilities and talk with managers and employees? Can you talk with customers? What restrictions, if any, are there on your work?

Who will pick the team members? Do you have any say in that?

What resources will be available to the team? Will you have budget dollar$? Can you use the company plane? (Oh, well, no harm in asking.)

Will the team have access to information it needs – for example, financial plan$, profit goal$, production figure$, and strategic plan$?

What about functional bosses of team members? Will the team operate on its own, or do team members have to run back to their bosses for approval?

Will team members be appraised on the results of their work? Will there be some recognition for them?

Wrong assumptions about any of these may derail your team. You may have to have a team meeting or two to write proposed answers to these questions if management doesn’t have them for you. Get every-one’s agreement, and you are off to a solid start – but do it at the outset, not after the team has been struggling for two months.

Build on strengths.

Team members are selected for various reasons: a particular skill, interest in the project, experience in the area, general wisdom and creativity, and for political purposes. You may be given a team and have no say in who is on it, or you may be able to select your own team members. In any case, as the leader of the team, you must determine the strengths of each player, what he or she can contribute to the team, and how to best use that strength. Ask individual members for their views on how they can best serve the team.

Set ground rules.

The team should decide at the start how it is going to operate, and you as the leader should get that process going. Here is a list of ground rules set by a team I was on recently.


We agree that we will:

Stay focused on our objective. Other agendas may be important, but we have only a limited amount of time. No war stories. We will stay on the subject, follow the agenda.

Get even input. Everyone has something to contribute, but some by nature talk less than others. We will encourage everyone to contribute and discourage anyone from dominating.

Respect ideas. We know new ideas may have things wrong with them, but we also know that flawed ideas are the basis for creativity and can lead to great new directions.

We will not kill off ideas.

Operate informally and have fun. We will celebrate successes.

Encourage honest disagreement and conflict. But we will keep it confined to the issues and not extend it to a personal level.

Decide by consensus.

Be results-oriented and get things done.

Make the work fun. Team participation should be the most fun anyone has at work. Give yourselves lots of recognition, and throw a party when you accomplish something.

Assess performance. Periodically, you should ask the team to step back and rate its performance. Use the How Well Does Our Team Work? questionnaire. Have all members fill it out, summarise the results, then discuss ways to improve, especially in areas with lower ratings.


_ Write down the names of 3 of colleagues. What are their hobbies? What unique attributes do they possess that can impact on the success of the business?
Identify 3 “corporate rituals” which are held on a regular basis for the staff.
Organise a system whereby each player in your team can be confronted by a dissatisfied customer or a frustrated supplier on a regular basis.
Turn up the heat. List 5 higher standards that you can set that will improve the performance of those around you.


Everybody is nuts about customers today, but it wasn’t always that way. For most of our business history, customers were seen as minor annoyances who had to be persuaded to buy what the company was producing.

But in the 1970’s and 1980’s global competition heated up at the same time customers were becoming more sophisticated and demanding, and suddenly everyone discovered customers. It’s as if one day an executive came out of an office, looked around and ran back in shouting, “There are customers out there! There are customers out there!” Word got around pretty fast, and people began to think that if there are customers, they must be important to business. Consultants made millions telling companies to pay attention to customers, and the money is still rolling in because even after all the books, the speeches, and the training programs – companies are still struggling to get it right.

The problem is, even with all the honest efforts to improve service, many companies are neglecting key actions necessary to make customer service work, and worse yet, are unwittingly doing other things that actually prevent them from giving top-notch service. They are committing the Seven Deadly Sins of Customer Service:

Putting customer-contact people in the cellar. Paying them the lowest rate and putting them at the lowest level in the organisation.

Not having standards for customer-contact people. (“Oh, you want me to get off the phone and wait on the customers?”)

Not empowering them to make decisions for customers, and not training them in problem solving and other customer service skills.

Not insisting that management gets involved with customers and leads by example.

Not asking customers what they want.

Allowing company procedures to get in the way of good service.

Measuring service levels against competitors rather than against what they could be, there by settling for “good enough.”

How many of these is your company guilty of? Maybe a lot of them; most companies are.
Not too long ago I was working with a customer service team charged with corporate-wide service improvement. At our first meeting we decided the best way to start was to list those companies that give great service, then go out and visit them to find out what they do. Everyone thought that was a great idea. Then we sat and stared at each other.

No one could think of any!


1. Overall, how well do you understand each other’s business?
Very Well
4 3
Fairly Well
2 1
Not Well
2. How openly can you discuss problems together
Very Openly
4 3
Fairly Openly
2 1
Not Openly
3. How well do you work together to find solutions to problems?
Very Well
4 3
Fairly Well
2 1
Not Well
4. To what extent do you feel a spirit of cooperation and teamwork in working together?
To a great extent
4 3
2 1
Not much at all
5. How good are you at bringing disagreement out in the open and discussing it together constructively?
Very Good
4 3
Fairly Good
2 1
Not Good
6. How well do you listen to each other
4 3
Pretty Well
2 1
Don’t Listen
7. What is your attitude towards each other?
Like working together
4 3
2 1
Hard to do business with
8. How well do you exchange product information?
Very well
4 3
Fairly Well
2 1
Not Very Well
9. How much empathy do you feel toward each other?
A Great Deal
4 3
2 1
Not Much
10. How well do you solve problems together?
Very Well
4 3
Reasonably Well
2 1
We Don’t
11. How well do you come up with new ideas together?
Come Up with May
4 3
Find Some
2 1
Kill Ideas Off Fast
12. How often do you find ways to improve teamwork
Very Often
4 3
Fairly Often
2 1
Not Often
13. How well does the company satisfy needs for quality?
Very Well
4 3
Pretty Well
2 1
Could be a Lot Better
14. How well does the company satisfy needs for service?
Very Well
4 3
Reasonably Well
2 1
Not Well
15. How well does the company satisfy needs for value?
Very Well
4 3
Fairly Well
2 1
A Long Way to Go
16. Overall, how well do you work together as a team
Very Well
4 3
Fairly Well
2 1
Not Well



16-32 Mud wrestling.
33-38 You’ll have to struggle to become a team.
49-64 On the right track. Chance to become a great team.
65-80 Model of great customer teamwork.

Questions to answer together:

Where do we work together the best? What is our greatest strength as a team?

What is our greatest opportunity to improve our teamwork?

What specifically should we do?

Here’s an exercise that will help you and your people decide what the standards should be. Get them together and ask them to answer the questions below.

Describe a good customer service experience you had recently.

Now, list those things you liked about the experience. What made it a good customer service experience for you?

Ask your people to tell about their good customer service experiences and what they liked. Make a list of what they tell you. You should be able to come up with standards right from that list.

As a guide for you, here’s a list that I complied from participants who did the above exercise in dozens of customer service workshops.

I was greeted in a friendly way.
The salesperson smiled. I felt welcome.
They tried to solve my problem.
I returned merchandise with no hassle.
They seemed interested.
I felt they respected me.
They asked questions and listened.
They went the extra mile to do something for me.
I was surprised by getting much better service than I thought I would.
They couldn’t help me, but actually found someone in another company who could!
They followed up a couple of days later to see if everything was all right.
They tried to help, even though I knew it wasn’t their job.
They dropped what they were doing to help me.
They knew their products and could answer my questions.

One people agree on what customer service should be, and are trained in the skills needed to provide it, you can turn them loose to remedy customer problems and handle special requests on their own, without the delay of going up the line to get approval.

As you work on continuous improvement, measure progress. Not in terms of number of hours of training provided, or number of new service ideas implemented, but in terms of results: customer retention loyalty, increase in sales per customer, and decrease in complaints.


Cultivate your customers. Delight them with dazzling service so that they keep coming back for more. Give them a little more than they expect: under-promise, over-deliver.

If you want me as your customer, delight me. I want to be wowed by your remarkable service. I want to be dazzled.

Don’t for one moment think that we’re still in the era of customer satisfaction. We’re not.
We’re now in the era of customer delight.

So how can you delight me? Get to know me on my turf. Invite me to your premises and introduce me around within seven days of our first contact. And insist that your personnel visit me at my premises within the first 30 days of our initial interaction. Don’t stop the visits. Make sure I have face-to-face contact with your team at least once every three months.

Invest time in your customers. Make them feel at home … make them feel special. Work to retain their loyalty.

Become performers. Today there should be no such thing as “I’m not a people person. I’m just a backroom boy”. You need people-orientated people. It doesn’t matter what position they hold in your company, they must give customers a performance.
A consistent, delightful performance.

Make your work entertaining. Turn your business into a theatre. Your customers and those who work with you will love you for it. Stay loose and laugh a lot.

Cultivate a sense of fun.

Personal recommendations influence 80% of all consumer buying decisions. Existing and former customers can be a gold mine. Keep a comprehensive database of your current and past customers. Create a Customer Contact Programme: a computerised customer data-base in which you store the names of all your customers, their pertinent details and an inventory of their purchases. Update this database every six months. Use the data to communicate with your customers on a regular basis. Keep them in the picture. Send out a mail shot at least four times a year.

Follow up on lost sales. View customer defections as a key measure of your company’s performance. It costs about 15 times more to find new customers than it does to retain existing customers. Work out the value of a loyal customer to your business over the next 10 years.

Determine why defections occur and how they influence profits. When an aircraft crashes, airline investigators search until they find the “black box” so that they can establish the cause of the disaster. When a customer defects, develop a “black box” mentality. Find out why he’s abandoning you.

Earn customer loyalty. Create customer value. It’s the core business activity from which sales, profits and long-term success flow. Do something a little extra for your customers. Identify what results your customers expect by doing business with you.

Segment your customers in terms of profitability and audit them in terms of loyalty:

_ How long have your different customers been with you?
_ How much money do they spend with you as opposed with your competitors?
_ What made them leave your competitors to come to you?
_ Update your findings every six months.

Give your customers an interest in your business. Communicate with them constantly in a language they understand. Keep them abreast of all changes in your business. Ask them for input.

Involve your customers. Make them members of your club whatever you sell. Invite your customers to seminars every six months. Get in guest speakers, provide transcripts of their addresses for your customers who are unable to attend.

And above all, make the whole buying experience fun.

In a nutshell, offer knowledge.

Because knowledge is power, go out of your way to ensure that you become your customers’ fountain of valid information. When you give your customers access to knowledge, their loyalty to you grows.

Knowledge is the only instrument of production that is not subject to diminishing

Customer retention rates and employee productivity are directly correlated. The
higher the customer retention rate, the higher the level of productivity.

That’s what customer loyalty can do for you.

Penalise yourself. Penalise yourself or your company every time you don’t keep your service promise. Give your customers a pledge such as: “If I don’t deliver it within 30 minutes, you get it for free.” Be specific.

Consign to the scrap heap phrases like “as soon as possible”.

What about this one?

“If you have to stand in a queue for longer than three minutes, we’ll pay you R20.” Come up with concrete suggestions for penalising yourself if your service doesn’t meet expectations. Reject out-of-hand any proposals that include “cheat” numbers like “100%” or “24-hours-a-day.” They mean zip. Pretentious statements like “I will provide you with 100% service 24-hours-a-day” don’t work.

Customer loyalty isn’t dished up on a plate. You have to earn it.


_ How can you make your work environment more fun?
How can you make yourself more fun to be around?
List 3 ways of penalising yourself if you don’t keep your service promise. Remember, use tangible, specific rewards that your customers will cherish.
Write down the names of 5 customers, and next to each name, list the results that they expect by doing business with you.
Imagine for a moment that you have been made chairman/lady of your business club. Think of 5 innovative ideas that would encourage your customers (members) to feel as if they belong to your club.