has personal coaching had on your management style?
is what I call a "wow" question. It is a "wow"
because of its importance, but more predominantly, because of
its enormity. As readily as I say this, and I fear oversimplification,
it became clear to me that I had to deal with my own "head,
heart and feet". My intellectual resolution to problems was
stronger than my emotional comprehension of compulsive repetition.
I always, or at least virtually always, have meant what I said,
and done what I've said (the head and feet part). I was not, however,
aware of some "blind spots" in my personal life that
affected all of my decisions.
through personal coaching that we all have four to five major
"themes" which are central to our life. This is definitely
true for me. To understand these, or at least to know these, enhances
my freedom to make life happen as opposed to the less favourably
disposed situation of having life simply "happen" on
its own. So, in a sense, personal coaching started me on a journey
of self discovery that collided with my life in an immense and
very positive way.
we keep employees?
is an excellent one and should be considered in a philosophical,
tactical and strategic manner.
and foremost, in the words of Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker, "KNOW
WHO YOU ARE". Then, know who you want to be.
Recognize your seminal moments. Finally, understand the barriers
to your goals. For me, these simple maxims were paradoxically
not that simple. They required significant effort of integrating
"head, heart and feet". But they were important to the
people in our organization and critical to our success, and hence,
very significant to me.
I believe it is imperative to understand that customers make markets
for our businesses. Although some of you may challenge this notion,
it is a very realistic one. This is a broad ranging subject that
I would be glad to discuss further, but for now, let's assume
this is a "truth".
In our organization,
we defined our business as "safe, secure and on time".
This easy-to-remember dictum with repeated verbalizations, became
a dogma for operations. It is, I would suggest, a very different
vision of customer needs than simply owning buses and employing
drivers. It is tantamount to having what the customer wants, as
opposed to persuading the customer to want what we have. There
is a very fundamental difference in these approaches to marketing.
So different, in fact, that I would call the second approach simply
sales. This marketing distinction pervaded all corporate planning.
A large part
of having what the customer wanted, was to operatively reinforce
the behaviour of drivers and mechanics. For example, we provided
substantial bonuses to drivers with accident free performance.
Similarly, we rewarded low absentee rates, and bonuses were offered
on a structured basis to long tenured employees. Our goal with
these last reinforcements, was to ensure that each employee was
familiar with their clients (their students), and even with some
of the life patterns relevant to the students' transportation
requirements. We needed to offer kids worry-free travel and security,
that is, to feel safe from criminally intended harm (abduction,
molestation and the like). These incentives, offered to our people,
were always designed with the idea of looking for the "win-win-win".
We wanted to ensure that:
it was respectful
to the needs of our people
it served students in a superior fashion
it was "having what the customer wanted"
the customer was truly "delighted" (more than satisfied)
we could measure, monitor and evaluate customer satisfaction
By now, you
probably realize that we inverted our priority thoughts in the
profit service chain. Customers were our first priority, but that
was inextricably linked to the actual service providers - our
real heroes - the drivers and mechanics. The last priority was
profit, really seen as a derivative, not as an objective of the
process. To bring home this point, budget meetings were redefined
as "effectiveness measurement meetings" which is very
distinct from cost control.
You may also
recall that I mentioned that some of the outcomes were predictable,
such as the higher wage rate costs as a percentage of revenue.
Insurance costs were, of course, extremely low (discounted below
the table of rates), which was unheard of in the bus industry.
Some outcomes were less predictable, such as ETIT's twice industry
averages at 22% vs 11%. This less clearly predictable outcome
was influenced by reduced fuel, maintenance and management costs.
It was interesting that even depreciation was affected because
our vehicles lasted longer, reminding me of Robert Anthony's writing,
"all costs are variable in the long run". The plan worked
as a "win-win-win" and both our customers and our people
once we knew that kids were "safe, secure and on time",
we set about developing a second level of strategic planning.
Bob Simons, an accounting and control specialist from the Harvard
Business School, had used recursive problem solving models to
set strategic objectives. I liked the approach because of its
compulsion to involve many people and because it forced a discipline
was to ask your people this question: "If, in five years,
we are doing a post mortem on our company, what went wrong?".
Once people moved past the superficial answers such as, "we
defaulted on the bank loan" and looked a little deeper, they
defined critical success factors. We could guide people through
different possibilities, even probabilities. They felt that critical
success was defined as:
Quality Improvement to Customer Needs
Deliver on Quality Improvement, so People are Important
- The Price
of Produce (Service) is Important to Value Creation
in hand, a committee of driver, mechanic, office and management
representatives defined the functions that would support the critical
success factors. I asked for a limited list (four to seven), because
these could easily be remembered in day-to-day operations. The
Committee (representative in numbers of persons consistent with
the size of their group), identified functional supports to critical
- inter and
intra group communications (particularly listening)
opportunities related to job specifics
We then asked
each group to discuss with their larger constituent body, five
or seven job specific factors that supported the functions. Finally,
we asked the representatives to speak to their constituents and
decide the method of measurement best suited for job factors.
In other words, to propose the "who, what, when, where, why,
how, and how much" of measurement. It was gratifying that
some measures were quite challenging and substantive. As an example,
a bus driver proposed that we ask kids and parents to score the
happiness of their experience on the bus. The driver knew, as
we all did, the breadth of this question. This was not a popularity
question, but an issue of students feeling safe, free from "bullying",
respected for their individuality and much more. It was evident
at this juncture, that we were moving ahead in quantum leaps regarding
"SAFE, SECURE, ON-TIME".
problem solving model was entrenched with an elected Committee
Chair and a loose set of By-Laws. Management were part of the
strategy team for four hours once every three months and they
did not direct the meetings.
one must ask if management will resist this model. The answer
is clearly, "They will". In my experience, management
will feel the most threatened. You will have to reassure your
managers that you will not change policy direction but paradoxically,
you will not abandon or disrespect any person. To call your front-line
customer representatives "heroes" relates more to the
importance of front-line delivery in the inverted profit-service
chain, than to your own insurgency. Your insurgency is that of
redefining your strategic operating model. Your managers will
need to have confidence in you and your directed, focussed actions.
You cannot overstate your own role as a revolutionary leader.
At the same time, if you are not sensitively working with your
managers, you will risk all. It is suggested that you read "Kotter
or Hamel" on these subjects.
we learned that we could play a much larger role in governmental
and industry affairs. These roles enhanced our business opportunities.
Our people not only encouraged us, but were very proud of their
"bosses". This admiration certainly made our leadership
roles much easier.
if things were going well, we learned that it was very pleasant
to be free of guilt related to work stress. We spent more time
with our families, played golf, skied, volunteered to work with
charities and balanced our lives with intrinsically valuable activities
(remember Barrie's seven L's of Legacy).