Service Management Excellence
September 8, 2008
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR...If you’re a service manager of just about any ilk, there’s a better-than-even chance that one of the reasons (there are many) that you are in that position is because you were good at something else. That something else could have been installing or servicing heating and air conditioning equipment or appliances, or perhaps you started your career as a plumber, an electrician, an automotive technician, or in another trade. Whatever skills you demonstrated in your trade or area of technical expertise, that’s what they were: trade or technical skills. And, that’s good. After all, everyone wants to advance in their career, and one way to do that is to assume a supervisory or management position.
There’s just one problem with this process. In the same way that it’s likely that you “moved up” to your present position because of your technical expertise, it’s also likely that you moved into that position without a great deal of opportunity for training and preparation in the areas of communication skills, customer service, dealing with different personalities, or managing people.
And sometimes, getting the information that you need in order to be as effective as possible at your new (or maybe even not-so-new) position, can be a difficult and time-consuming task. Even attending a one-day workshop on supervisory skills can be a major undertaking when you consider not only the up-front expense of attending the training, but also what it takes for you to take the time off (meaning “get away from the phone”) so you can concentrate on learning new skills, and then find the time to follow up so you can put what you learned to practical use.
Take heart. This excerpt from a new E-book called Service Management Excellence is for you. It provides a no-nonsense approach to being an effective supervisor, manager, department head, or small business owner. You’re sure to find something that will give you the tools you need to help get your job done.
We’re going to give you information and practical tools on how to be an effective manager. Some of what you’ll read here will be enjoyable, even a little fun, and simple common sense, subtle things that might make you think, “Hmmm… I’ll have to give that a try.” And some things will hit hard. So hard, that at first, you may be tempted to dismiss the idea altogether. That can be a normal response to new information that, on the surface, sounds either “too simple,” “too radical,” “too touchy-feely,” or looks as though it might “sound OK in theory, but in the real world won’t work.”
But we want to point out that everything we’re proposing has been put into practice by somebody, somewhere, and it has worked, not just in theory, but in practice.
Will you adopt every idea you read here… put everything into practice in every situation you deal with in exactly the way it’s described? That’s not likely. Nor is it likely that you’ll agree totally with everything we say or suggest. That’s OK. Just keep an open mind and take the time to pause when you need to and think about your specific situation, or a specific person in your organization, and how something we said can benefit you or provide you with some insight on what to do about a specific person or situation in your organization. And then take what you want and leave what you don’t want behind. That’s the way you’ll get the most out of these ideas.
TAKING OR STARTING OVERA defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating his guilt, but there was no corpse. In his closing statement, the defense attorney decided that he had a foolproof way to ensure a verdict in favor of his client. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” he said. “I have a surprise for you. Within one minute, the person that everyone thinks is dead will walk into this courtroom.”
He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors were all stunned, and they sat transfixed, staring at the door. After a long minute, nothing happened. Finally the lawyer said, “Actually, I made it all up about the dead man walking in. But you all looked at the door with anticipation. So, that means you had reasonable doubt about the victim being killed, and if there is reasonable doubt, then you have to come back with a verdict of ‘not guilty.’”
When the jury came back after a short deliberation, they said “guilty.”
“What!” exclaimed the lawyer. “You couldn’t arrive at that conclusion if you had any reasonable doubt, and I saw all of you stare at the door, which showed that you had reasonable doubt.”
“You’re right,” said the jury foreman. “You looked at the door, and we looked at the door, but your client didn’t.”
So here you are… Maybe your situation is that you’ve always kept a good work ethic, strived to keep learning, dedicated yourself to doing your job in the best way possible, and you’ve been promoted. You’ve made the decision to take on your new responsibilities because that’s the way you move up the income ladder, the way you keep moving ahead in your career. Or, maybe you’ve made the decision to leave an employer and get your own business started, and part of that is hiring, supervising, and managing employees. Or, maybe you’re not exactly brand new at this management thing and you’re looking for information on how to do your job or manage your business more effectively than you have in the past.
Whatever the case, you’re facing some challenges (among them being the person responsible for making sure that everybody you supervise knows what they’re supposed to do in any given situation) and you need to know how to meet them.
And sometimes there are things you need to know and consider that are, well, not exactly comforting to know or consider when it comes to supervision, but, as they sometimes say in Texas, “If you have to swallow a bucket of frogs, you might as well get the biggest one done first,” so we’ll start out with some of that less than comforting stuff.
Some Hard Facts About Supervision:
• Management is not a popularity contest.
• Management is not easy. That’s why many people either don’t do it well, or don’t do it at all.
• Often, the biggest personal challenge we face as supervisors is overcoming fears: the fear of change, the fear of failure, and the fear of not having complete control over our lives.
• The only real “job security” we have is our knowledge and skills.
• A supervisor’s best protection against lawsuits (yes, you hate the idea of having to deal with this issue, but you know you might have to sometime) is knowing the right thing to do and doing it consistently. Seventy-three percent of employee versus employer lawsuits are won by the employee and the amount awarded can often be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
• 15 percent of your success as a supervisor is related to your technical skills.
• 85 percent of your success as a supervisor is related to your people skills.
• People in a work environment don’t want to be managed. People want a leader, and a leader has to lead by example. (No, you won’t be perfect all the time and you can be sure you’ll be reminded when you’re not, so just accept that.)
• It takes more than a desire to make more money or advance in your career to be an effective supervisor. It takes dedication, hard work, being open to constant self-examination, and a willingness to consider what everyone, whether you report to them or whether they report to you, has to offer in the way of advice, suggestions, and criticisms.
And, the hardest fact of all…
• A supervisor has to be confident enough to gamble everything they own, and their future earnings, on their belief in their skills and abilities.
Think we went too far with that last statement? We don’t think so, at least from the pure perspective of an effective supervisor.
FACT: Supervisors are people who decide things. Sometimes they decide right, and sometimes they decide wrong, but they decide. And when you look at it from that simplistic perspective, it means that every time you decide, there’s risk involved. It might be a low-level risk with an easy fix, or it might be a high-level risk, which means that, at some point in your career, there might be a situation in which you have to be confident enough to gamble everything on your belief in yourself.
We don’t for a moment mean to insinuate that it’s like gambling in a casino where the odds of the success of the house are heavily weighed against your success. We mean calculated risks. And calculated risks, while still a risk, are undertaken with skills as a support system. And there are 10 skills that will allow you to deal effectively with the hard facts we mentioned, and allow you to take calculated risks. Here are those 10 skills:
2. Hiring wisely, retaining the best, and when necessary, sucking it up and firing the worst.
4. Time management.
5. Building effective teams.
6. Coaching effectively.
7. Dealing effectively with negativity.
8. Crisis management.
9. Setting goals.
10. Developing your career through lifelong learning.
You’ll likely agree that the skills we’ve listed (along with a few others you can probably think of) are necessary for effective supervision and service management, and while it’s easy to think “easier said than done” when considering a list like this at its face value, there’s a simple, yet important point we want to make about understanding the process of developing the above-mentioned skills. There’s an underlying philosophy to succeeding at it, and it’s simple. The underlying philosophy that will allow you to develop these 10 skills is the willingness to accept responsibility.
Some people may harbor the belief that it’s difficult accepting responsibility, that some people just “aren’t cut out” to take on the challenges of accepting responsibility. But, here’s a simple way to think about it. Anyone who thinks that accepting responsibility is difficult or complicated needs to consider how much responsibility they accept every time they get behind the wheel of a car. Everyone who drives a car accepts the responsibility to do several things simultaneously, and do them just right all the time. And the bottom line on driving is that if someone isn’t simultaneously doing all the things it takes to drive a car, and doing them just right consistently, the end result is disaster.
So, if you’re one of the approximately 95 percent of the population, who regularly engage in (or at one time accepted the responsibility of) driving an automobile, you’re already on your way to developing the necessary skills of effective supervision, so let’s get started with the one at the top of the list: practicing leadership. There’s a difference between being a leader and being a manager.
A quote for you to consider about this subject:
“If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 27 years in the service industry, it is this: 99 percent of all employees want to do a good job. How they perform is simply a reflection of the one for whom they work.”
- President of Hyatt Hotels
Well, we warned you that we might say some things that you’ll not just mildly, but vehemently disagree with, and if the above quote, for you, just might be one of those things, we want you to consider something. Are you of the opinion that “you can’t find good help anymore” or “these kids today don’t want to work, they’re just interested in how much money they’re being paid”? Or do you work in an environment where the culture of the organization is such that it fosters support of such a philosophy? If so, we invite you to consider this:
What you expect is exactly what you’re going to get.
And, no, we’re not talking about some space-cadet, new-age, touchy-feely, unrealistic, pop-psychology idea here. We’re talking about an honest-to-goodness, down-to-earth, matter-of-fact, realistic approach to understanding how the world works. It’s a fact. What you expect is exactly what you’re going to get. And the reason it’s a fact is due to something called your Reticular Activating System. Let’s call it your RAS.
What’s a RAS? It’s a system that works within the human brain to help us function by filtering out what is unimportant to us and allowing us to concentrate on things that are important to our success in accomplishing anything we set out to do. The key to understanding this segment of our brain is in the first word that describes it: Reticular. A Latin term, it translates simply to meaning “net-like.”
A net is designed to catch things. It also has openings that allow things that are not meant to be caught in the net to go on through. That’s how your Reticular Activating System works. It acts like a ‘thought-net’ to catch the things that are important to you, while at the same time allowing the things that are not important to you to pass by, for all intents and purposes, unnoticed. What this means from the ‘you-get-what-you-expect’ perspective is that you will, in fact, only be able to “see” the things that are important to you. And, like we said, this is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the human brain.
Consider this example: You’re standing on one corner of one of the busiest intersections in the world, Times Square in New York City. You’ve decided that your objective (what is important to you) is to get across the street. So, what you’re focused on is the Walk/Don’t Walk signal. There is a huge amount of activity going on all around you - noise, motion, lights, giant text crawling across a huge screen reporting the news at the moment, etc. - but you aren’t paying attention. You don’t really “see” all that going on. You’re focused on, concentrating on, and giving all your attention to, getting across the street. Your RAS is working overtime to make sure you’re focused on what’s important at the moment, while at the same time filtering out what isn’t important to you.
Well, in the same way that you’re not really going to notice all the things around you that are going on if you’re focused on nothing but the task of getting across the street, you’ll also miss out on an opportunity to recognize someone that can be “good help” or a “kid who actually wants to work” if you’re stuck on nothing but the factors of not being able to find good help or that it’s impossible to find someone under the age of 30 who wants to work. Your RAS simply does its job of allowing the things that are important to you (meaning, in this case, what you actually believe and want and need to be right about… another human condition we’ll talk about later) to get caught in your thought net, while at the same time allowing the things that are not important to you go by without your noticing them.
Not quite convinced that what we’re talking about here is real? Want another example of how your RAS works?
OK, do this: Go buy a new car. Then, notice as you’re driving it around town for the first time just how many cars you’ll “suddenly see” that are the same year, make, model, and color of your car. Odds are, those cars were always around you, but you didn’t notice them, not until you decided they were important to you because you just spent some of your hard-earned money for one just like them. So, the primary element of developing leadership skills is to be open to ideas such as it’s not as bad as some might believe when it comes to things like finding good help, as well as the other things you need to be able to do better than the average person can do them in order to be able to supervise effectively.
By the way, have you considered the idea that the term supervision itself simply means that you have to learn to develop super-vision?
We’re not talking about the kind of super-vision of a comic book, TV, and movie character in a red and blue suit with a cape, but simply the ability to develop the skill of having an above-average ability to see the big picture. When you develop that skill, you begin to learn the difference between supervising and managing tasks, systems, and people as opposed to practicing leadership while supervising and managing. John W. Gardner, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, directed a leadership study project in Washington, D.C., and identified five characteristics that defined the differences between “run of the mill” supervisors and supervisors who not only manage, but also lead their teams.
1. Long-term thinking beyond the day-to-day tasks that need to be handled.
2. Interest in all other departments within their organization, understanding how all departments affect one another in the function of the entire organization.
3. Operating according to a strict code of values, maintaining a long-term vision, and motivating others positively.
4. Always being willing to work cooperatively with other supervisors and departments.
5. Not accepting the status quo.
What goes along with these five factors is the simple fact that people don’t really respond well to just being managed or supervised, they prefer to work for (actually with) a leader. And being a leader means that you have to always, always, always be the one who is willing to accept responsibility. Not just the responsibility for things when they go wrong, but responsibility for the entire operation over, within, and related to your super-vision.
Taking responsibility can begin with three memos… three memos that take tremendous courage to write, and can be effective whether you’re taking over at the moment, or you’ve decided that it’s time to start over in your supervisory capacity.
The following will provide you with a format for these three memos. You can copy and print them out as they are, then fill in the necessary information into the blank areas if you’re of the opinion that that’s an effective method of communication, or you can adapt their format into a document that you’ll compose and print.
SUBJECT: What I Stand For
SUBJECT: What I Won’t Stand For
SUBJECT: What I Expect From You
You have been reading an excerpt from Jim Johnson’s new E-book, Service Management Excellence. Topics covered include:
1. Supervisory & Leadership Skills
2. Identifying Employee Personalities & Communication Skills
3. Customer Service
4. Mission Statements
5. Hiring The Right Person, Interviewing Skills
6. Coaching & Mentoring
7. Performance Reviews & Discipline Procedures
8. Terminating Employees
9. In-House Training Program Implementation & Management
10. Using Flat Rate Pricing In Your Service Business
For more information and to purchase Service Management Excellence, click here or call 520-625-6847.
Publication date: 09/08/2008