What We Can Learn About Leadership From Comcast’s Nightmare Customer Service Call

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Wow. Don’t get me started. My son has just spent the last 4 weeks trying to force Comcast to keep their promises to him. As a recent college grad, money really matters — and they really couldn’t care less. Getting his business was the only goal. Keeping him as a customer going forward — well that seems to be a message entirely lost on them. If he had another viable choice for high-speed internet (he’s a gamer), he we would take it. Immediately. He cannot stand them.

To tell you the truth I thought my family’s collective experiences with Comcast were simply random. (We recently discovered that we were being charged for a year’s worth of a router we did not have on premise.) However, after doing a bit of digging, I’m now convinced there may be serious problems lurking there. This week, Comcast’s darker side was fully exposed in a viral call center exchange that really is more than unbelievable — it’s ominous. Comcast, is now one of the two most hated companies in the country. As a leader, I would be very, very concerned.

We can learn from their uproarious blunder. In particular, quite a lot about leadership. Here we go:

  • Don’t close your doors. Ultimately, this rarely occurs within an organization where positive leadership has a strong, visible presence. This isn’t one incident, there is a pattern here. Yes, you may be an industry monolith. But that doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to be front and center — driving home key messages that will sustain your business long-term. Don’t lock yourselves in an office — light years away from your customers.
  • Talk is cheap, but your actions really speak. I don’t think the mission of Comcast is “Irritate Customers Beyond Belief”. However, the behavior of the company is certainly communicating that message to us. Communicate the mission/vision within your organization completely. If not well understood, everyone will have their own ideas. Leaving something so critical to chance is very, very unwise.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Then listen again. Do you recall when customers would be required to wait all day to have someone hook up their service? Comcast adjusted this policy (and even offered $20 if they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain). Talk to your customers often. Are service plans confusing? Is your pricing structure likened to hieroglyphics? Do you fail to reward long-term customers for their patronage? Be aware.
  • Your people are a reflection of your brand. How did that call center representative come to believe that he should never, ever allow a customer leave of their own free will? I’m sorry, your employees often reflect leadership’s take on customers. He thought that was OK. It wasn’t.
  • Your company is at risk. When leadership fails to communicate the very core of a service organization’s creed (which would include exhibiting basic respect toward customers), it shows something vital. That, at the end of the day, you may not really care. That undoubtedly spells trouble for your business when viable competition shows up…and of course, it undoubtedly will.

What advice can you offer Comcast? Sound off here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist, speaker and coach You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

Want to Launch Your Career? Try These Strategies

 

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With all that is written about how organizations should transform culture to engage today’s employees, I can’t help but think about the opportunities that we have as contributors to transform those very same organizations. Our own actions shape our careers, and the fact remains that workplaces are built upon a two-way partnership — where both employers and employees contribute to eventual success.

I would venture to say, that the dynamic between the two becomes more vital with each passing day. Yes, the door swings both ways.

To consider this, we should examine the unspoken “organizational contract” that we make with our employers. What should we (as employees) do to maximize our contribution? I’ve talked to supervising managers (from sales to consulting) to get a handle on the attributes they often see in their high potential contributors.

Here’s a list based upon that feedback:

  • Strive to be industry savvy. If your are not keeping up with the current  “hot buttons” in your industry, you are probably letting yourself and your employer down. The internet offers endless possibilities to tackle industry specific topics. (You can have a brief chat with an in-house expert as well.) Get up to speed as quickly as you can.
  • Bolster your level of business acumen. Not sure how your role affects the bottom line? What you boss really does? Do you understand exactly how your organization makes and loses money? Devote an hour a week to this key business “muscle”.
  • Take a broader view of your work. When completing an assigned project, try not to simply just check off tasks on your “to do” list.  Always focus on the end-user — whether it is an outside client or someone within the organization. How can you craft your work so it becomes more valuable to them?
  • Work with a sense of urgency. High potential employees see the necessity to build a clear road map and stay on task. As one Senior Vice President described, “They get up in the morning, have a plan, and want to accomplish their goals”.
  • Ask about company initiatives. Be as concerned about your organization as you would like them to be about you. Inquire about current challenges and initiatives. Offer help where appropriate — you’ll be the better for it.
  • Know your fellow team members. Are you assigned to a team? Being a team member is an art form — and an important part of work life today. So, do your research. You’ll be more invested in your team if you know the backgrounds of your fellow team members. If you have a tendency to “turn off” opposing opinions, you may look at things quite differently, when you know a little more about the source.
  • Don’t play the career comparison game. Career progress is an individual process. It may be frustrating when a fellow employee climbs the career ladder more quickly than you — but there may be a perfectly good reason. Don’t “abandon ship”. Trust in your value, and have confidence that you will also excel.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist, speaker and coach You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

Why K.I.S.S Doesn’t Always Work

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There is an iconic urban myth about interviewing for a role at IBM. The story goes something like this: You are taken to lunch. Present at this lunch are you — and of course a couple of powerful hiring managers. You all chat, you order lunch, it arrives. What are the managers attending to during this interview? Your skill set? Your previous experience? No. They are observing whether or not you salt your food before you take the first bite. What might this tell them about you and your future at their venerable organization? That you are open to experience? That you possess an “open-mind”? That you are a perfect fit for their team? Uh — not so fast.

I’m all in for an easily grasped explanation, but sometimes we go a bit too far. As a psychologist, my work focuses upon understanding workplace experiences — and I’m certain that the K.I.S.S. was originally coined to describe systems, not human behavior. However, there has always been a powerful “push-pull” operating. Human behavior is stubbornly complicated — but, we would like to make it appear simple. (As the legendary job interview illustrates.) Instead we might consider erring on the side of complexity, but concentrate on communicating the expanded theory effectively. We shouldn’t fear complexity. It doesn’t have to be viewed as the threshold of our “undoing”.

It is, in fact, the “secret sauce”.

There is no single behavior or question to accurately predict future workplace performance during an employment interview. (An “elevator pitch”, is a fantastic staple — yet it’s brevity does not always suffice.) As such, a reasonable balance of structured exploration is likely more preferable. Ultimately, we have to be willing to take that “deeper dive” into certain challenges — and look beyond the hype and “buzz words”.

Where human behavior is concerned — oversimplification can be dangerous. If you are solving a challenge (for example, high turnover in one job category, difficulty recruiting), be sure to embrace a broad perspective of the issue. Take the extra time to look beyond the obvious. Include those nuances, even if they slow you down temporarily.

However, here is the start of a brief guide. (Please share your thoughts, as well.):

  • Capture the relevant variables. When all is said and done, be sure that all of the important elements are at least considered. Workplace issues are often multifaceted. That’s OK. Treat them as such.
  • Consider what (and when) to share. Communicating a concept is critical step — and what you share can make or break its power to change opinion. Take note of what an audience is likely to absorb at one sitting, but push the envelope and keep the essence of the concept intact. Focus on inspiring both thought and action.
  • Indulge your curiosity. Taking a deeper look at an issue, is often worth the investment. If you have an indication that something is “off” or appears unexplained, take that side path to fully explore it. There is likely more under the surface.
  • Limit assumptions. We often view workplace behaviors with previous biases intact. I’ve made the mistake of jumping to a conclusion much too quickly. Try to avoid that scenario. Biases can mask complexity.

Do we over-simplify the workplace challenges we face? How does that affect our proposed solutions?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker.

Mastering the New “Normal”

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Our beloved Krups coffee machine decided it would brew its last wonderful cup of coffee this week. That might not sound like much to you — but, I assure you — to the finicky beings that are my taste buds, it is. I loved that coffeemaker. Each day it brewed the perfect cup of coffee, that would sustain me through many a morning meeting or assessment report.

However, I had no choice in the matter. Done. Kaput.

So — I reluctantly charged off in search of a replacement. The same machine was no longer available. (Why have you messed with success?) Change is hard. Even the small ones.

When change arrives in work environments, it can create all sorts of havoc. A little like my coffee machine dilemma, we’re not always fully consulted when changes are about to occur. Whether you are anticipating a new boss, a revised performance rating system or company-wide reorganization — change is challenging. It really is. I’ve been there. (I’ve lived through lay-offs, sudden resignations and client shake-ups. I’ve also helped teams move through those very same challenges.)

Embracing change is another story, and that is difficult for most of us.

How do we deal with change? I’d say, as best as we can — but I’m sure that is the last thing you’d like to hear. On some level, we simply have to somehow construct (or wait for) that “new normal” to arrive. In many cases, we do find a new path and adjust.

While you are waiting, here are a few things to consider:

  • Embrace the need. While uncomfortable, long careers demand that we appreciate and recognize the need for change. In some cases, the need to change course is inevitable.
  • You can maintain your identity. Remember, that the qualities you personally bring to the table will remain. Don’t assume that revisions to your work life will entirely derail you, or force you to become less of a contributor.
  • Learn more. With any change, learning more about what is about to happen can alleviate accompanying fear and anxiety. Do a “reference check” on your new supervisor. Ask for the “expanded” explanation as to why that new procedural change is necessary.
  • Ignore the “naysayers”. The last thing you need is someone who isn’t going to give the situation an iota of a chance to succeed. Inoculate yourself against the negativity that might be spreading. It’s really not wise to borrow any additional trouble.
  • Give it time. Once the changes occur, offer the situation time to settle. Some of the initial bumps that pop up, work themselves out. There is a period of “re-calibration” that must occur — once that is complete, a clearer picture may surface. You may actually like a bit of what you see.
  • Look for the up-side. Change often opens the door to more change — and there could be opportunities lurking. If you have a new supervisor, for example, they may just be the person willing to listen to those piles of ideas you’ve stored.

I hope you discover your “new normal” quickly. Meanwhile, our new Krups #KM7508 12-cup programmable coffee machine sits on our counter. It has big shoes to fill. But, I’ll have to admit — today it brewed a pretty mean cup of coffee.

Is change difficult for you? What are your strategies to deal with it.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker. The Office Blend, has been recognized by Forbes as one of their “Top 100 Websites for Your Career” in both 2012 and 2013.

How To Design A Kick A** Internship

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Have interns? I’m guessing that quite a few may have walked through your doors this month. Now, let me pose another vital question: Do you really know what to do with them? (If you’ve ever been stuck in an internship collating reports and getting coffee, you know to what I am referring.) We can do quite a bit to maximize the internship experience. So — let’s do everything we can to make this a positive, career-energizing stint.

Here are some pointers:

  • Keep things real. Ideally, the tasks that your interns complete should be similar to those that would be performed in a full-time entry-level capacity (think relevance and complexity). While there will be obvious differences in terms of level of required supervision — tasks should represent the type of work that would be experienced post-internship. Of course, this helps facilitate a smooth transition from academic life to career life.
  • Offer a broadened perspective of work. Assigning portions of a project piecemeal, with little information concerning how the work fits into the larger picture, does not a permanent employee make. Ensure that interns gain a realistic understanding of the all aspects of your work, including the inter-relationships of project components, client considerations and other business-side elements.
  • Discuss goals. Interns certainly offer a needed set of “helping hands” to your employee roster. However, don’t neglect to schedule that all-important meet-up to discuss their personal learning objectives. (Yes, interns do have opinions concerning why they are with you and what they would like to accomplish). Set the summer on the right foot — and let them know the working relationship is indeed a two-way street.
  • Pick their brains. How long have you been away from an academic setting? Your interns are a well-spring of information concerning new techniques, recent research, case studies and strategies. Inquire as to what caught their attention and have a discussion on how they might share their insights with the larger team. This process builds self-esteem and confidence.
  • Don’t underestimate them: Ramp up challenge. Ascribe to a “stair-step” strategy with regard to the assignment difficulty. Note how they handle autonomy and challenge, increasing these as time and ability allow. No intern dreams of being “stuck in neutral” — and truth be told, you’ll be wasting valuable manpower.
  • Teach networking as a defined skill. Not the easiest of skills to master in the real world — interns are in a great position to start a solid networking base. (Yes, your 20′s are important with regard to work and career. ) We know that students that complete internships are more likely to use informal job sources to find work and are more likely to be satisfied with extrinsic rewards, such as salary.

What strategies are you utilizing to to maximize the internship experience? Share them here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker. The Office Blend, has been recognized by Forbes as one of their “Top 100 Websites for Your Career” in both 2012 and 2013.

Why I’m Taking a Walk Every Day

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My mind seems full — and I’ve found this to be an issue lately. While I’m committing countless hours each day to absorbing ideas, facts and figures, my devotion to “down time” is, well, paltry. I’ve neglected that part of work life where you find the time to reflect and process information. Because of this, I’m certainly less productive. Things just seem to “hang out” in my mind, spinning, fermenting. Being busy is a great thing — overload another.

I’ve recently read a fascinating post (See it here. More on the book Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey, here.) about how some of the most incredible individuals of the last 400 years, spent their time. While their areas of expertise were varied (and remarkable), there was one link among many of them: From Milton to Tchaikovsky, many set aside time for a daily walk. A few ventured alone. One with family. Shame on me — I know better. Walks rock.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Digestion. I’m not referring to gastronomy — I’m referring to all of the information you’ve taken on-board today. It’s difficult to see patterns and develop linkages when your brain isn’t allowed the time to process effectively.
  • Fresh air. I love my office, but a change of scenery does help me to feel rested and refreshed. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to a beach or a handy mountain range to view, as some of my colleagues. But the breeze is just as refreshing here in the mid-west — the birds just as vocal.
  • Lowered anxiety. With our busy work lives comes our unshakable friend, anxiety. Physical exercise has great way of managing this nagging work life by-product.
  • Digital reprieve. Not sure how much time you must spend in front of a computer — but I do a lot of my work on-line. At times, I simply forget there is more to life than Power Point.

I’m going to commit 30 minutes each day this summer to get out and walk. Whether it’s a stroll around your office building, a nearby park or a quick trek to grab lunch and back, I challenge you to do the same.

Take a tip from Mozart and keep paper and pencil handy. Write me here and let me know what happens.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker. The Office Blend, has been recognized by Forbes as one of their “Top 100 Websites for Your Career” in both 2012 and 2013.

Considering Success

 

 

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Do you consider yourself to be successful? Yes — I’m aware that’s a loaded question. In this case, I’m speaking of workplace success. But I’m certain that by the end of this post, other elements of our lives will come into play. Work life success is a complicated construct. It has to be…simply because we’re people…and people are complicated. But, this query seems to come up quite a bit during the course of our career lives. As I coach clients (both individuals and teams), I’ve realized this question often looms central.

Unfortunately career growth is not always reflected in the numbers. When career growth doesn’t jibe with outside measures of success (such as money, power and title) — we have doubts and question our path. We tend to place great emphasis on metrics in business. What you’ve sold. What you’ve earned. How many employees you might supervise. On some level the numbers work on other levels, not nearly as well. Numbers don’t tell the entire story. They never have. Never will.

Sometimes the numbers lull us into a false sense of security. In other cases, they really don’t reflect or keep up with the progress we should really claim. I see this too. (I’ve left one or two “cushy” jobs with great salaries to pursue goals.) Think of all the organizations that have misread the cues. They may have thought they were at the top of their game — and for a time, the numbers stated that they were. However, the success was fleeting in some part, because their metrics were essentially flawed.

When we are in transition career-wise, the numbers almost never reflect the depth and breadth of what’s happening. (We may have changed paths in exchange for a lower title, for example. We may have opted to re-train. Our goals or focus may have evolved.) But, we still wait for that outside confirmation that we are doing the right thing. I’ve done this. I’m sure you have.

The important point here it to find the guideposts that work for you. These may not be anything like the metrics we are accustomed to — but will offer the information you require.

Here are a few alternative measures of success to consider:

  • You are developing a voice. We’ve all held roles where our expertise or opinions were lost or ignored. No amount of money can make up for this problem. A voice matters. Always. When you can operate at a level that let’s you know you’ve earned your turn to contribute in a meaningful way, that is priceless.
  • Mastering something new. You don’t need to leave your current work life to master something new. It’s a commitment, I know — but worth the trouble, as the rewards are certainly there.
  • You’ve found a challenge. There are “seasons” of our work life where a new challenge is the last thing that we need. But, when there isn’t enough challenge, this too, can be suffocating. With challenge comes hard work — but also a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.
  • The chance to create something. We’ve all held jobs where our role was to sustain something — a practice, a policy, a program. But, to have the opportunity to create something new (a post, a new product, a business), is an experience that cannot be measured with traditional metrics.

There are so many other elements success that I’m sure I’ve overlooked. Please share your story here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker. The Office Blend, has been recognized by Forbes as one of their “Top 100 Websites for Your Career” in both 2012 and 2013.