IMAGINE: You’re at Disney and you spend $6 on an ice cream for your 6 year old.  Your six year old promptly drops it. Crying and upsetness (is that a word?) ensues.  Along comes a Disney cast member and says, “for a replacement charge of $3, I can get you a new one.”

REALITY: Out of nowhere a Disney cast member appears with a fresh ice cream, hands it to you, no charge.

IMAGINE: You’re walking through Disney World and you get stuck following a cast member dragging a smelly overfilled trash bag leaking some nondescript green liquid all over the pavement.

REALITY: You never see trash being moved at Disney. There is a hidden underground vacuum system where trash is dropped in and moved to a central trash management area outside the park.  The “magic” of the show is kept intact.

IMAGINE: You round the corner by the Magic Castle and see Cinderella sneaking a quick smoke while talking on her cell phone. Your kid Comments that Cinderella shouldn’t smoke and is disappointed.

REALITY: Cast members exit and enter the park at hidden doors where they can go to a break area under the park. They are never seen out of character.

QUESTION: Why is the reality at Disney so good and the imaginary stuff par for the course most everywhere else?

ANSWER: The first question Disney asks is, “is what we’re doing helping our guests succeed?” rather than “is what we’re doing helping Disney succeed?”

BIGGER QUESTION: Why aren’t all businesses making their first question, “is what we’re doing helping our guests succeed?”

ANSWER: Because most companies are more concerned with their success than their customers’ success.

QUESTION FOR YOU: What are you going to do about it in your business? Are you going to continue to ask the selfish question first or are you going to begin asking the customer-focused one?


Got Engagement?

I’ve been thinking about what engages employees because I’ve seen a lot of organizations with ass-dragging employees delivering ass-dragging service.  Now, I’ve recently read various articles, infographics and things and they all have the typical 25 things to engage employees or top 10 things to engage employees, etc.  It all looks complicated, and I hate complicated.  I live for distilling things down to something you (I) can remember.

But before we get into all of that, perhaps we should get to why I am asking this question first?

It’s simple, engaged (energetic, committed, passionate) people are critical to moving things, and moving things forward is what business leaders want and need.  Thus, a leader’s job is about engagement.  Leaders motivate the moving of the movement (or business or school or religious group or charity or whatever).

So, if you are the leader in a business and you want your business to be living and breathing and not stinking to high heaven of slow lingering death, you must ENGAGE your employees.  And when I say slow lingering death, you know what I mean, it’s when you see the employees going in on Monday morning looking like an episode of Walking Dead and leaving on Friday as if released from 20 years in prison.

Okay, before going any further, I know that some of you need hard numbers for proof of everything from the death of Elvis to the existence of God, so here are some stats about the need for employee engagement…according to research done by Dale Carnegie, $11B is lost annually to employee turnover, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%, and roughly 71% of employees are disengaged at work.  Simply distilled, businesses need engaged employees to reach great success, and employees need to get engaged or become brain dead, unhealthy or unhappy to say the least.

Okay, the question remains, what does a leader do to engage people?  Since a song and dance act is not really in most people’s bag of tricks, I needed some other uncomplicated action that would answer the question.  Here is where I did what most people seem to do when confronted with a difficult question, I googled it.  After some sifting through the 1,000s of results, I tripped over something simple from Tom Peters, that guru of no-BS-hit-you-in-the-head-no-nonsense leadership and management wisdom, MBWA, Managing By Wandering Around.  This is something I had read a hundred times but now it came clear, if managers would get up off their tails and get out there with their employees, they could connect more, and learn more.  This level of commitment should grow the level of employee commitment (engagement), right?  It makes perfect sense.

Thing is, I don’t like the idea of just wandering around.  I think leaders need to do more; they need to get their hands dirty.  I was recently presenting at a meeting in Atlanta and mentioned that managers would do well to get out and walk around to observe their employees and the difficulties they have when an attendee of the meeting said, “you mean MBWA” and I gave a resounding “YES!”  From there they went on to say that they thought wandering around wasn’t enough; they thought it would be better for managers to work with the team and that he had, for his own management effectiveness, changed the WA in the MBWA moniker to Working Alongside.  I have to say I loved it.  Just think, managers not just walking around but working alongside and really getting an understanding of their employees.

Then it struck me that this isn’t really management as much as it is leadership.  So here it is, my answer for engaging employees, LBWA, Lead By Working Alongside.  If you have a management title, get your hands dirty by helping your employees, do some work, turn a wrench, set a table, ring up a sale, answer a service call, etc.  You will not only learn, you will demonstrate that you too are an employee, a worker, part of the team.  You will help to develop commitment, you will lead, you will serve and help them to serve…and most of all, you will engage.


QUESTION:  Are you working alongside or do you camp in the office?  Do you know what your employees do every day?  Do you know their difficulties?  Do you know what tools they need?

Is your business human?


What do you do when you make a mistake? Do you ‘fess up and say you did it but will do your best to ensure it doesn’t happen again? Or do you try to make it appear as if it were some strange anomaly that is so rare that it doesn’t deserve comment?

We all make mistakes, and the greatest, most admired among us are regularly those that admit mistakes, apologize and move on.  The same is true for businesses yet so many try option 2 above by sweeping the truth under the rug in a “pay no attention to the man behind the screen” fashion.

What is the result of this behavior? Well, it’s no different in business than it is in our personal lives, it diminishes trust and respect.  What does that mean for business?  It means customers begin shopping around for someone who is trustworthy, in other words, loss of loyalty.  No business can afford too much of that despite the number of businesses who seem to act like they can (e.g. airlines and internet/cable TV providers to name a few).

Now you might ask, “what is a good strategy to make sure my business does this correctly?”  Good question.  It starts from the inside, as most things do in a business, where the leaders are clear that when mistakes are made, the company message will simply be, “we made a mistake, we’re sorry and we’re going to make things right for our customers.” From there they have to empower their employees to do the same in the mistakes they make too.  They must train their employees on what exactly to do and what solutions to employ.  This all takes courage, humility and trust.

If you’re game and want to build a culture focused on customers and one that grows trust and loyalty, be courageous and take a step to admitting mistakes and providing real solutions…and cascading that philosophy through everything that’s done in your operation.

QUESTION: What is your policy on mistakes, do you admit them clearly and provide solutions no matter how painful? Do you give your employees tools to do that too…on the spot?


shmupsi cola

Do you have a drink you really like?  Imagine buying a six pack of that drink and when you open one and take that first taste it is completely different from the drink you thought you loved.  Now you might think that perhaps that one was just off or a mistake so you open another to find that it tastes different than what you love and from the one you just opened.  Now what? Are you happy?  Are you curious, confused, or maybe even angry?

Why am I asking about this?   I want you to think about consistency.  I will bet your business’s product is very consistent.  You have probably spent many painstaking hours developing processes and systems to make sure your product is the same every time.  This is important, right?  You want your customers to know what they’re getting.  You want your customers to come back because they know the product is going to be consistent time after time.

Why then don’t more businesses take the same effort to make the rest of the experience uniform?  I think customers not only want products to be the same, they want the entire experience to be the same.  They want to know what they’re getting at each store, restaurant, hotel or whatever business they are working with.  However, time after time, they are confronted with variations of policies, different standards, and diverse processes that confuse the experience.

Customers want to know what they’re going to get, not only in the product but in the experience overall.  Do you want more loyal customers?  Get to work on making your customers’ experience consistent from place to place and day to day.  Is what customers see and feel the same?  Do employee behaviors reflect a uniform culture that customers can expect to experience time and time again?  These are all part of a consistent experience that your customers either want again and again or not.  Much like that favorite drink, your customers’ experience must be not only pleasing but consistent.

QUESTION:  Is your customers’ experience pleasing and consistent?  Is what they see, feel and encounter the same at each location and each interaction?  Are your policies and standards consistent everywhere and with every employee?