Much as I love the words ‘please', ‘thankyou’ and ‘sorry’, there’s another word out there that can make a big difference.
It’s a principle of human behaviour that if you’re asking for a favour, you’ll be more successful if you give the reason why. If you’re asking people to do something they like to know why they should.
A psychologist Ellen Langer carried out a simple experiment on the power of ‘because’, back in the day. She asked if she could go ahead of a large queue of students waiting to use the xerox machine (before the digital age) to make 5 copies. When she offered no reason, 60% let her cut in. When she explained, “because I’m in a rush” people letting her cut in significantly increased to 94%
Now you could think that people had done her the favour since “being in a rush” was a valid reason but she tried a third time using ‘because’ but with a feeble reason: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” Once again 93% complied.
The researchers surmised it was not the reason as a whole, but the word ‘because’ that made the difference. This was true even when the reason was not very compelling. They theorised that people go on automatic behaviour as a form of short-cut, and that hearing the word “because” followed by a reason, no matter how feeble, increased the likelihood of compliance.
They repeated the experiment for a request to copy 20 pages rather than 5. In that case, only the “because I’m in a rush” reason resulted in a heightened figure.
So they summarised: “When the stakes are low people will engage in automatic behaviour. If your request is small, follow your request with the word "because" and give a reason - any reason. If the stakes are high, then there could be more resistance, but still not too much.”
This has got application for management, sales, trying to get your kids off their phones or trying to queue jump when you’re in a rush. (I wonder if “Now wash your hands” followed with “because x y z..” would work!)
This is the reason why we advocate developing ‘how to’s’ which not only explain or demonstrate the ‘one right way’ to do the task but also explain the reasons behind that process. So useful too when you're training new people in that task that they understand the 'because'. People respond much better knowing the reasons and benefits rather than just being told what to do. (And of course being involved in establishing the ‘one right way’ increases buy in even more.)
Now the question is, "Is ‘because’ still as powerful today; after all, the research was from 1978?"
Do one thing: Try the power of ‘because’ and see if it works either in a ‘safe’ environment or, if you’re feeling brave, try it next time you’re in the queue at a coffee shop….
I would love to hear how you get on. I’m going to experiment too just not sure how brave I’ll be!
Thanks for reading.
‘Do this and your people will fly!’
Feedback! The key to improving performance. And yet so many people feel awkward about giving it or shy away from it altogether. So why do people find it so difficult? Perhaps you’re one of them. You may be the person who makes a joke of everything or someone who says, ‘Well, they know what I think from my body language.’
We all approach feedback differently. To those of us who have a British upbringing, feedback can often be seen as awkward, negative & confrontational. We see giving feedback as daunting. For me, the only reason to give feedback is to inspire improved performance. ‘Inspire’ is the key word. You want people to be walking away thinking, ‘I know how I’m going to do it better next time now,’ and wanting to do just that.
So how do we deliver that? Let’s take a look at ways of giving feedback which will remove the angst. There are two methods. There’s informal feedback – the ongoing, day to day feedback, and then there is the formal performance management to back that up.
Find someone doing something good everyday!
Ongoing, day to day, when someone in your team is doing really well, you want to showcase and highlight that to the rest of the team. Have a philosophy of ‘trying to acknowledge someone doing something good, each day.’ Publicly acknowledge the event and explain why you’re pleased – perhaps it positively impacts a customer or the rest of the team and so forth. It’s all about positive reinforcement – you want more of this.
Spot learning opportunities everyday!
Don’t just walk past the bad stuff. Don’t allow it to happen without addressing it – nip it in the bud. Inaction does nothing to sort the problem and worse still, erodes the trust and respect of the other team members if they think you’ve let it slide. This, if you like, is ‘just in time’ coaching where you again, on a daily basis, seek out learning opportunities. In these circumstances just have a quiet word, there is no need for public humiliation. This time ask the person ‘why’,‘Why is this not acceptable?’ Give them the opportunity to work it out for themselves and see the effects of their behaviour. ‘When you said that to John, how do you think it made him feel?’ If they can work it out for themselves they will take it onboard more than if you simply lecture them. Make it a genuine learning experience.
The EEC Model
Here at MPL we talk about the EEC model:
What’s caused me to comment on the way you’re working? Maybe the way you answer the phone, maybe the way you spoke to a client, maybe the way you completed a piece of work. What is the reason I’m talking to you?
What effect has it had on me, on the client, on the business, the team? Is it a good effect or not so good? Did you forget to smile when you answered the phone, making your voice sound sombre and moody? Did you complete this piece of work, but it wasn’t absolutely spot on in terms of accuracy? Did you get a great customer review?
and then either Continue
‘Thanks so much. You did a great job. Loved the way you’ve got absolutely every detail correct, keep going with that. Customer x was thrilled with that.’ Do more; continue.
When it’s something that you want to correct, then you’re talking about how you want somebody to change their performance. What can they do differently? What do they need to do to be up to standard? Give people the chance to get things right next time.
When it comes to formal feedback, remember that nothing should ever be a surprise. All of the informal feedback that you’ve given feeds into your formal, sit down performance review. We recommend that you do formal performance reviews at the end of each quarter. That you make it routine. It’s a chance to sit down with your team member to talk to them about the great things they’re doing, and to inspire them to do even better.
Many people shy away from that whole idea of sitting down with each team member. Either that, or they only sit down with them when something bad has happened and they want to tell them off. No wonder their team members dread the call, it’s like when I was little, our dogs hated the car because the only time they got in it was to go to the vets! When you make delivering feedback routine, it becomes a more positive interaction between you and your team. It becomes a conversation, a discussion. ‘How can I do this better? How can I improve? I really want to improve, how can I do it?’
Encourage your people to keep their own development journals
This will become a useful tool for development because it will help to highlight where each team member would like to go, how they want to improve, and what they need from you in order to achieve this.
Encourage them to jot down the things they did really well, their ‘Proud Page’.
To note when things didn’t go to plan; what were their learning points. If they had some training or coaching, what three things would they do differently next time as a result, their ‘Learning Page’.
Their ‘Aspirations Page’; what challenges would they like, what training/development would help them get there.
The formal appraisal should be their story; you just need to listen. Then ask these question:
That is how to build trust.
People are more likely to ask for support if you’ve made this whole performance management system part of ‘the way we do things around here’. The way we do things round here is we give honest and open feedback, whether something is good, or needs to be improved. We are always honest and open; though honest doesn’t mean brutal! Make that part of your culture, and you have a real picture of continuous improvement. Everybody always looking to do that little bit better to make that marginal gain.
Do this and your people will fly. Do this and your business will fly.
Do two things:
Thanks for reading
Photography credit: Owen Kemp on Unsplash
A while ago, we mapped out a customer journey for one of our clients. (We map it out on a roll of brown paper, looking at all of the touch-points that the customer has with the team, and who is involved at each point.) Their journey was about twenty-five feet of brown paper long, and so confusing that my head hurt when we’d finished.
The sales team were involved from start to finish of this journey; I’m surprised they ever had time to sell! The customer had to speak to four different people in order to do business with the team. Supporting the journey there were four teams, all over-lapping in terms of the roles they were performing, and all doing things in a very different way.
What had happened was what happens a lot in successful small businesses. Maybe it’s happening to you. They had started small; the owner and three trusted team members all of whom were very clear about their role and very focused on it. Communication was tight, everyone knew what everyone else was doing and the larger business picture. They quickly became successful and with the success came a bigger team, and an even bigger team, until very soon they were a team of thirty.
With such rapid growth ‘the way we do things around here’ had become confused, as each of the four original team members gave new people their version of what the operating processes were. Then those people trained others their way and so on until chaos reigned. As a consequence, their service and delivery times were poor, they’d lost consistency and they were losing staff almost as quickly as they could hire them.
Our job was to work with the team to unravel the Customer Journey (always easier when you’re not in the thick of it), to look for the simplest route for the customer, and the most logical way to support their journey. And then with them, to develop the ‘one right way’ to do everything. To regain consistency from the chaos and to restore the company as ‘easy to do business with’ and a great place to work.
It’s easy over time particularly when you’re growing quickly to lose the one right way and that tight system of communication. Having those things in place at the beginning of your business, having the one right way, the ‘How To’ for each task and solid lines of communication embedded in your business gives you reliable foundations for growth. And the one right way isn’t stagnant. If someone comes up with a better way of doing things or technology allows an improvement then that becomes the new one right way and gets trained in using a new How To.
Regularly reviewing your Customer Journey will ensure you’ve not added hoops for your customer to jump through as your business has evolved.
Do two things:
1. Think about your Customer Journey; view it through your Customers’ eyes through each tiny step right from:
- How many feet of brown paper will you need?
2. Take your daily routines and start to develop ‘the one right way’ (your How Tos) with your team. Start laying those solid foundations for consistency and growth.
Thanks for reading :)
Did you know that around 95% of everything you think, feel, do and achieve is the result of habit?
So the habits that are making you productive or unproductive, keeping you stuck or making you successful, right now, have almost certainly been with you since your youth.
Unsuccessful people have a number of common habits, habits that revolve around the words ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘have to’; habits that feed their inner procrastinator; habits that keep them stuck. Successful people have habits in common too, habits that keep them focused, keep them prosperous, keep them making great decisions and enjoying life.
And the great news? New habits can be learned. You can develop new patterns of behaviour by modelling the habits of successful people and making them part of your personal management system. Success habits like:
Even better news – there’s a proven seven-step formula for embedding a new habit into your psyche:
Step 1: Decide what habit you want to install
Step 2: Tell people what you’re doing – make it public
Step 3: For at least twenty-one days, stick religiously to the habit – no exceptions, no excuses
Step 4: ‘Act as if’ - visualise yourself doing it - use the power of muscle memory
Step 5: Develop an affirmation you repeat over and over. ‘I get up and get going immediately at 6:00am’, ‘I arrive five minutes early for everything’
Step 6: Show resolve and commitment – persist until it’s second nature – a hard habit to break
Step 7: Reward yourself to reinforce and reaffirm.
The Henry Habit
Take Henry, for example. Henry was tasked by his school to read more, and challenged by his dad Peter, to read for thirty minutes every day. Both Henry and his dad told friends about the challenge (Step 2) and then for one month, every single day, Henry would announce both when his half hour started, when it had finished, and how many pages he’d read (Step 3).
With this habit, Henry had to act as if he was enjoying it, to talk about it as something he looked forward to every day (Steps 4 and 5). He stayed the course, completed his month, and was suitably rewarded for his perseverance (Steps 6 and 7).
Did the habit stick?
Of course not – he’s a thirteen-year-old boy! But, as a result of supporting Henry in his habit-forming activity, his dad has developed The Henry Habit, and now reads one business book a month, for thirty minutes every day!
This formula really does work. Give it a try!
Good luck and thanks for reading :)
‘The one right way gives your customers the consistency they love and increases profit, which you’ll love.’
For years, I labelled myself as a ‘process’ person when really I’m a ‘making life easier’ person. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’d use the word ‘process’ at network meetings, and see the shutters go down. I’d try ‘systems’ and they’d think I was a techie, into software and IT. I’d used language that put me in a box that no-one wanted to open ‘except in emergency!’
You know what I mean. You’re a ‘get on and do it’ person, and the people who love process are the ‘Rule-Bound Reggies’ of this world, paralysed by the need to analyse, lacking creativity, shackled by the need to ‘follow the system’ – right? Well, sometimes! The truth is, we all need to get past the language.
The only reason a process or a system exists is to make life easier for you, your managers, your team, your customers. There is no other reason for them. But if like many people ‘a process’ brings you out in a rash then try replacing it with ‘a how to’.
At McDonald’s there is a system, a ‘one right way’ a ‘how to’ for everything, from toasting buns to taking on a new supplier; from mopping the floor to assessing franchisee performance. Yet I don’t remember ever really talking about having systems. They weren’t something we did in addition to the day job; we worked with them every single day, unconsciously. It was just the way things got done.
So I want you to stop thinking about process; I want you to stop fretting about developing systems; and I want you to focus on making ‘the way we do things round here’
SIMPLE LOGICAL REPEATABLE.
At Macs, these were three key ingredients of each and every system that are imprinted on my mind. Three words that encapsulate why McDonald’s systems work:
That’s what makes business systems effective.
The other block I find some people have is that somehow the ‘one right way’ is not for creatives. So I’d like you to think about Masterchef. You’ll recall the episodes when the creative contestants have to go into Michelin star restaurants and cook the chef’s dishes to exactly the same demanding standards of content, taste and presentation. I’ve never heard those chefs go, ‘Oh I’m gonna do it my way’ or ‘I feel hidebound by having to produce this in exactly the same way’. No, they use their skills to deliver the same excellent standards and consistency and take pride in achieving them.
If you don’t watch Masterchef what about Bakeoff. A baker will follow tried and tested methodology, the one right way, for baking the cake to free up their time to try new flavours or to focus on decorating their showstopper. It just makes sense.
Think about an author who has a system for plot outline and development, research, character development, and a schedule to work on certain aspects of the story. A disciplined approach to the basics creates time for the creative story-telling.
And so in business, systems keep the nuts and bolts of your business; your invoicing, purchasing, marketing, recruiting etc in motion, and form a platform for the creative people to ‘do their stuff’. The one right way gives your customers the consistency they love and increases profit, which you’ll love.
And the one right way is always evolving as part of your improvement cycle. So your team come up with a better way as circumstances change and that becomes your new ‘one right way’. So you establish the ‘one right way’, the ‘how to’ with the people doing the work then you regularly review it together, improve it, train it in and off you go again. Your team can then work independently, taking ownership of the task and pride in what they do. And you have the trust in them to get on with driving your business(es) forward or spending more time with your family.
‘Systems are not chains to tie you down, they are wings to help you fly’.
Do one thing: Our Business Efficiency Test will give you an insight into how each of the key systems in your business is operating, and will give you strategies for improving them in a .pdf report. Take the test now, to see how you measure up: https://scorecard.mariannepage.co.uk
Do you feel like you’re drowning? Drowning in paperwork, in problems, in people stuff? And all because of your success!
When you were starting out you had a handle on everything. Now that you’ve grown you’ve had to take on more people and it’s just not the same. You feel like you’ve lost control. And like any new parent you’re finding it hard to trust anyone with your ‘baby’ - to do things your way.
If it helps, you’re not alone. There are lots of successful small business owners out there who have fallen out of love with their business. What used to be fun, exciting and rewarding is doing great financially, but not giving you the same pleasure or sense of adventure.
Of course you've always worked hard, but in the early days that hard work was interesting and added real value to the business. Now you’re working even harder and it doesn’t ever seem to move things on.
7 Clear Signs Your Business Needs Simplifying
So…are you stuck? Or are you drowning?
I hope you’re neither, but if you are, let me throw you a lifebelt.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can have time freedom and a business that runs like a well-oiled machine, manned by a high-performing team. You just need to systemise in every area of your business and develop a strong second line of management. That’s not as daunting as it sounds.
In fact, there are only 10 steps to your Freedom - that freedom to scale, grow or sell your business, or run it from a beach somewhere if that's what you really want.
Fancy a bit of that?
Do one thing: Our Systems Mastery Programme works around you and your life, giving you the freedom to work ON your business, not IN it. Read more here: Systems Mastery Programme
Life is awash with rhythms. The sun rises and sets, the tides ebb and flow, the seasons come and go, even if not as consistently of late! My business now enjoys a lovely rhythm too and the beat is set by 90 day cycles. I read a great blog the other day on a site called Asian Efficiency (all about time management and productivity) where they were talking about the 90 day timeframe as ‘the range where ambition and planning actually fall reasonably close together’. I like that.
I’m a big fan of 90 day planning. I do appreciate not everyone is keen on planning particularly when it’s something that takes time to do then is filed away and forgotten about. I get that, even if you don’t create an action plan for each goal and work your plan, there is a huge amount of power in thinking about what you want, where you want to get to, and getting the outcome you want down on paper.
I think planning too much detail too far ahead can be a waste of time. Have a great vision, of course, but three years of fine detail is too much since so much can change in that time. Planning too far ahead can result in overestimating what can be done too. That’s why I love the 90 day planning cycle. Starting with the end of that period in mind you can work back till you have a week’s action plan. It’s amazing how the closer you get to the actions needed, the greater the reality check! Of course you should be pushing the boundaries but too much, as it can become a demoralising wish-list. And no one in your team will buy into that. It reminds me of a great cartoon showing a line of productivity on a board with a gap in the middle. ‘What happens here’ says the boss. ‘Ah, that’s where a small miracle happens!’ comes the reply.
We all have a really good feel for what we can get done in 90 days – how far we can move towards a big goal, and plan the steps that we need to take to get there. Our longer term plans, even though it’s valuable to have them, can’t be planned right down to concrete steps; the goals are too big, there’s too much to get done, and if we try to plan the detail we just get overwhelmed, which in turn leads to inaction.
Working with 90 day goals:
Do one thing: Resolve to try out the 90 day planning cycle. I’d love to hear how you get on.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
A skunk as you know is something that stinks, and nearly all businesses have them. No, I’m not talking about issues with personal hygiene - your skunks are in your operation, your customer journey, your hiring.
So what does a skunk look like?
It looks like something that isn’t adding value to your business and may be actively detracting from it:
Imagine that you’ve only got one person trained on an aspect of your business and you haven’t got what they do recorded, as a How To, a system which anyone could follow. What happens when this person is sick or on holiday? Things don’t get done or not done to the standard you expect. Often it’s the business owner who has struggled to delegate, not willing to give up ‘their’ tasks for fear of losing control.
I smell a skunk!
Say for example you had a problem with quality, so you added a layer of checking and that’s continued for several years. But you’ve never reviewed it since, to see if it’s still necessary. Quality has improved so you’ve left well alone. But what if the problem was fixed at source through recruitment, training or development and the checker has not found a problem in twelve months? It’s wasting time and money and robbing people of taking pride in their work. It’s a skunk.
Waste really stinks and it’s the little things that collectively can reek. When was the last time you found yourself asking, ‘Has anyone seen the xxx?’ Who was last to use the xxx I can’t find it anywhere?’ Or think of a time you couldn’t go straight to a file you were after online.
‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’
I love the factory idea of a place for everything and a picture of what should be there. (I imagine its what a Japanese garage looks like rather than my own!)
Waste also occurs when we reinvent the wheel; I know I’ve been guilty of it. You know those tasks you do infrequently where you think, ‘How the devil did I do this last time?’ And you waste time going round the houses to get it done. And you’re saying to yourself I really must make a note of this for next time but then you’re so relieved it’s done and your to do list is so long…. so it’s left till next time and round you go again.
How often have you added a step in a procedure without really getting down to the root cause of the problem. That sort of analysis and investigation takes a bit of time and you’re after a quick fix so you just throw money at it. But unless you’re lucky, meddling isn’t fixing. Similarly automating a process without first streamlining it can simply automate inefficiency.
Have you ever recruited someone because they weren’t exactly who you were after but they were the best of the bunch and it was an expensive process? How has that worked out? They might have worked out well but if not, how expensive has that been to your business?
As a customer just think of the last time you were infuriated by the hoops you had to jump through to get service. My pet one is telling someone your tale of woe having queued for twenty minutes on the phone only to be told that someone else has to help you and you’re back in the queue again and then having to re-tell the story… You feel yourself losing the will to live and, unless it’s a service or product you really want, you just walk away.
Solutions for skunks
I know it’s tempting to just kill a skunk when you spot one, and a quick fix will work for some skunks. But if you route one out at the beginning of a process it may have a knock on effect down the line.
What you need is that helicopter view of your whole business, starting with a ‘warts and all’ look at your Customer Journey. Working through the journey from start to end, ideally with your team, will show you the inefficiencies, the blocks and the weaknesses; you’ll be able to see how something at the beginning of the journey is causing a problem further down the line; or how you are a block at a crucial point.
With the whole picture in front of you, you can then make a plan to kill off your skunks, one by one.
Your business will never have smelled so good!
Do one thing: Take the Systems Scorecard and find out where the skunks may be lurking in your business.
I’ve always loved team sports, whether I’m playing them or watching them. Watching them always incurs listening to the pundits and of course with the football season underway we’re awash with analysis. I have to admit that I do enjoy it; I love the insight and the banter. Sometimes, worryingly, I find myself joining in, particularly when I disagree. Anyway, moving swiftly on!
Something that resonated with me recently was the pundits’ view that a winning team needs a strong spine. The idea is that if you have a strong spine from goalkeeper, through centre back, centre midfield and up to your centre forward it will:
And it struck me that in business that strong spine is your process. Having a strong spine of simple, logical, repeatable systems and procedures that everyone in your team follows, allows the whole team to be creative, to stamp their personality on your operation, within a structure. It means that every team member knows what to do when problems arise, they trust in the system. It gives you that agility too to take advantage of sudden opportunities.
It’s about being able to do things on auto pilot because you know the system; you’ve been drilled in it, you know that your team mates know it too, so you trust that they will be where they should be when you need them. Great systems can give great results even when you haven’t got the top superstars.
Of course who you have in each position in your business is still important. You want to recruit to your Vision and Values, team players, people passionate about the customer experience. But it’s the systems that run your business, your people who run the systems. That’s how it should be in business, your systems so well entrenched that when you lose someone to holiday, sickness, maternity leave, your well-oiled machine just keeps on moving forward.
If you’re not into football analogies then think about what Pilates or Yoga does for your body. It gives you a strong core which gives you strength, balance and agility. Continuing to develop great systems in your business is like your weekly Pilates class. Both need you to commit the time and money to their development. The rewards are worth every second of the time you put in.
Do One Thing: Download this free chapter (below) from Marianne’s Amazon bestseller, ‘Simple Logical Repeatable’ to discover more.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
You must have seen the arcade game Whack A Mole* which is all about smacking cute little moles on the head as they peep out of their holes. Fun game! Just as you knock one back another appears and another, and another… until your time, or your money, runs out. Fun, but infuriating!
Do you ever feel like that game mirrors your work - maybe your whole life?
Always fixing the latest problem, always dealing with mini or sometimes major crises?
Of course, for those of you in love with the struggle this is all part of the game, part of what you love about being in business. Fire-fighting can be fun!
A crisis occurs and we rush in and save the day. It’s high-octane, high-energy and a great adrenaline rush. As Deming said,
‘One gets a good rating for fighting a fire; the result is visible; can be quantified. If you do it right the first time, you are invisible. You satisfied the requirements. That is your job. Mess it up, and correct it later, you become a hero.’
I'm sure you're not old enough to remember public service broadcasts! They were like adverts only non-commercial, aimed purely at educating and informing the apparently 'not too bright' population of Britain at the time.
Anyway, there was one about a family whose water pipes had burst. It showed how the father had all the family trained to go through a well-rehearsed, well-drilled process of dealing with it - turn off stop cock, get buckets under leak, mop up water with old towels...
At the end of the ad a smug father and his family stand there proudly, crisis overcome. And just as you’re thinking that it's their well-drilled 'crisis management' that's being recommended, an even smugger voiceover pipes up, ‘Well done Mr Mole, but what a pity you let it happen in the first place!’
Fire-fighting can be fun. But! What if our time or money runs out?
It isn't sustainable, it's a waste of our resources, and it's certainly not good for our reputation - with our team or our customers.
Yes, some fire-fighting is inevitable; there will always be the knowns and the unknowable, the controllable and the uncontrollable. No matter how much we plan or anticipate the future there will always be a certain level of uncertainty.
But - if you're constantly fire-fighting, if every business day is a game of Whack A Mole, then maybe it's time to call in MPL pest control* and get some preventative systems in place.
We don’t kill moles, but we do prevent them from digging up your business.
Do one thing: Look back over the last couple of months and check out how much mole-whacking you’ve done. Think about how having systems in place for each area of your business could have prevented this and saved you and your business time and money.
If you need help, our intensive two-day Systems4Scale Bootcamp is for you! To find out more information you can download our brochure here.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
*no moles were harmed in the writing of this article.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)