Everyone is talking about how frustrated they are with the economy and with this feeling of stagnation and sort of dead energy that’s settled over new business efforts. We all have to vent and get it out, but if you’re in a leadership position, the message you put out will have a huge impact, ramified by however many employees are in your company times 10. And then multiply that number by 10. OK, I’m making that up, but we all know it’s true. People are talking, in other words.
As companies work hard to make it to 2010 with the hope that something will give, they are stepping up their focus on the customer – what they say to the customer, what they do for the customer, how they appear to the customer. But no matter what picture you paint for the customer, your employees will take their cues from what you say to them behind closed doors. This is the message that will be broadcast out to their peers at work, colleagues in the industry, friends and family.
How do your employees feel? I don’t know – how do you feel?
Here. Circle the words that fit:
I think my company (will) (will not) (maybe) will get through the recession.
I (respect) (don’t know) (hate) my leadership.
I (work hard) (pretend I’m working) to move the company forward.
I (know what I’m supposed to do) (don’t know what I’m supposed to do).
I (care) (don’t care) about the customer.
My boss (likes) (doesn’t like) me.
I (feel) (don’t feel) a sense of urgency.
I (feel) (don’t feel) a sense of impending doom.
I (share) (don’t share) my feelings about my employer with my friends.
Companies and leadership who feel above asking and answering these questions probably have it all figured out, right? I bet that how you answer is how your employees will answer. Here are three thoughts about getting “unstuck” and engaging employees in the battle for new business and positive thinking.
1 Stop the trash talk. I’m not saying to be unrealistic about the state of the economy. That would be irresponsible. But garbage in, garbage out. That goes for what you say around the office as well as what you do – actions and words are both important. If you’re in a leadership position and all you do is talk about how tough it is and about how you’re fearful of the future and for your job, then your workforce is going to take a cue from you. When they talk to their network, they’ll be repeating what they’ve heard – which is probably you, bad-mouthing everything. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2 Stop doing less of the same thing. We’ve all made cuts. I don’t know a single company who hasn’t cut back somewhere. Even if a company is growing right now, they’ll make a change just to seem responsible. But if you’re truly struggling – and many are – then simply doing less of the same thing probably won’t have the impact you’re hoping for. So, if you cut your budget for customer acquisition, and you did this by cutting a number in half and not completely rethinking your strategy at the same time, then take another look at your plan. The good news is that if you’ve only been looking at numbers, there’s still a huge impact you can have when you widen your view.
3 Stop putting the customer first. Say what? I know, but it’s true. The biggest impact you can have on new business is through your employees. Usually the fastest and most profitable way to win new business is word of mouth. And there’s nothing better than a brand ambassador who loves their company. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than an employee who hates their company. I have a colleague who’s fond of saying that it doesn’t matter how much money a quick service restaurant puts into advertising, if the drive-through cashier is rude to the consumer, all that money is down the drain.
Yup, if your focus is strictly on relentlessly talking to customers to sign them up, then you’re putting the cart before the horse, and, actually, the horse might still be in the barn. (Go peek and see if your barn’s empty or not.)