Blogs, Productive, Work-Life Balance

HBR: How Your Morning Mood Affects Your Whole Workday

How can you help your employees cope with stress and boost performance?  Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Nancy Rothbard.

How Your Morning Mood Affects Your Whole Workday

Have you ever thought about what happens to your employees right before they get to work? Sometimes we all wake up on the wrong side of the bed and just find it hard to get our bearings. At other times, we might start out fine, but have a horrible commute or a screaming match with a teenager just before going to work. Paying attention to the morning moods of your employees can pay dividends. In my research with Steffanie Wilk, an associate professor at the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, we found that this start-of-the-day mood can last longer than you might think—and have an important effect on job performance.

In our study, “Waking Up On The Right Or Wrong Side Of The Bed: Start-Of-Workday Mood, Work Events, Employee Affect, And Performance,” we examined customer service representatives (CSRs) in an insurance company’s call center over several weeks. We sent CSRs periodic short surveys throughout the day. We studied their mood as they started the day, how they viewed work events such as customer interactions throughout the day, and their mood during the day after these customer interactions. We used the company’s detailed performance metrics to investigate how their mood at work related to their performance.

We found that CSRs varied from day to day in their start-of-day mood, but that those who started out each day happy or calm usually stayed that way throughout the day, and interacting with customers tended to further enhance their mood. By contrast, for the most part, people who started the day in a terrible mood didn’t really climb out of it, and felt even worse by the end of the day — even after interacting with positive customers.

One interesting (and counterintuitive) finding was something we called “misery loves company.” Some CSRs who felt badly as they started the day actually felt less badly after interacting with customers who were themselves in a bad mood. Perhaps this was because, by taking their customers’ perspectives, these CSRs realized their own lives were not so terrible.

Most importantly, we discovered strong performance effects when it came to quality of work and productivity. Employees who were in a positive mood provided higher-quality service: they were more articulate on the phone with fewer “ums” and verbal tics, and used more proper grammar. Employees who were in a negative mood tended to take more frequent breaks from their duties to cope with the stress and get themselves through the day. These small breaks piled up, leading to a greater than 10% loss of productivity.

How can managers use these findings to help employees cope with stress and boost performance? While it can be difficult, it is not impossible to hit the reset button and try to help employees shake a negative morning mood. For example, managers might send out morale-boosting messages in the morning, or hold a regular team huddle to help people transition and experience positive mood as they start their workday. Feeding people and celebrating accomplishments is always a morale booster as well. Alternatively, managers can allow employees a little space first thing in the morning, for example to chat with colleagues before an early meeting. People also need time to “recover” from the night before so managers may want to think twice before launching a late-night barrage of emails as this might set employees up for a bad start to the next day. And if an employee arrives a few minutes late, confronting him or her about it later on instead of immediately may yield a more productive conversation and a more productive workday.

Employees, for their part, may want to take steps to lose their own negativity before arriving at work, creating their own “intentional transition”. This might involve taking a different route to work, giving themselves a pep talk, stopping for coffee, or listening to inspiring music. Finally, the best thing they can do is take a deep breath before walking in the door, to focus on making the most of the new day.

 

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Blogs, Personal, Productive

HBR: What Great Listeners Actually Do

Which level of listening would you like to aim for? Are you using all four qualities to listen? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman.

What Great Listeners Actually Do

Chances are you think you’re a good listener. People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average.

In our experience, most people think good listening comes down to doing three things:

  • Not talking when others are speaking
  • Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”)
  • Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word

In fact, much management advice on listening suggests doing these very things – encouraging listeners to remain quiet, nod and “mm-hmm” encouragingly, and then repeat back to the talker something like, “So, let me make sure I understand. What you’re saying is…” However, recent research that we conducted suggests that these behaviors fall far short of describing good listening skills.

We analyzed data describing the behavior of 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches. As part of this program, their coaching skills were assessed by others in 360-degree assessments. We identified those who were perceived as being the most effective listeners (the top 5%). We then compared the best listeners to the average of all other people in the data set and identified the 20 items showing the largest significant difference. With those results in hand we identified the differences between great and average listeners and analyzed the data to determine what characteristics their colleagues identified as the behaviors that made them outstanding listeners.

We found some surprising conclusions, along with some qualities we expected to hear. We grouped them into four main findings:

  • Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight. These questions gently challenge old assumptions, but do so in a constructive way. Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening, but asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehended it well enough to want additional information. Good listening was consistently seen as a two-way dialog, rather than a one-way “speaker versus hearer” interaction. The best conversations were active.
  • Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem. The best listeners made the conversation a positive experience for the other party, which doesn’t happen when the listener is passive (or, for that matter, critical!). Good listeners made the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them. Good listening was characterized by the creation of a safe environment in which issues and differences could be discussed openly.
  • Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation. In these interactions, feedback flowed smoothly in both directions with neither party becoming defensive about comments the other made. By contrast, poor listeners were seen as competitive — as listening only to identify errors in reasoning or logic, using their silence as a chance to prepare their next response. That might make you an excellent debater, but it doesn’t make you a good listener. Good listeners may challenge assumptions and disagree, but the person being listened to feels the listener is trying to help, not wanting to win an argument.
  • Good listeners tended to make suggestions. Good listening invariably included some feedback provided in a way others would accept and that opened up alternative paths to consider. This finding somewhat surprised us, since it’s not uncommon to hear complaints that “So-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.” Perhaps what the data is telling us is that making suggestions is not itself the problem; it may be the skill with which those suggestions are made. Another possibility is that we’re more likely to accept suggestions from people we already think are good listeners. (Someone who is silent for the whole conversation and then jumps in with a suggestion may not be seen as credible. Someone who seems combative or critical and then tries to give advice may not be seen as trustworthy.)

While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting. This lets you gain energy and height, just like someone jumping on a trampoline.

Of course, there are different levels of listening. Not every conversation requires the highest levels of listening, but many conversations would benefit from greater focus and listening skill. Consider which level of listening you’d like to aim for:

Level 1: The listener creates a safe environment in which difficult, complex, or emotional issues can be discussed.

Level 2: The listener clears away distractions like phones and laptops, focusing attention on the other person and making appropriate eye-contact. (This behavior not only affects how you are perceived as the listener; it immediately influences the listener’s own attitudes and inner feelings. Acting the part changes how you feel inside. This in turn makes you a better listener.)

Level 3: The listener seeks to understand the substance of what the other person is saying. They capture ideas, ask questions, and restate issues to confirm that their understanding is correct.

Level 4: The listener observes nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, perspiration, respiration rates, gestures, posture, and numerous other subtle body language signals. It is estimated that 80% of what we communicate comes from these signals. It sounds strange to some, but you listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

Level 5: The listener increasingly understands the other person’s emotions and feelings about the topic at hand, and identifies and acknowledges them. The listener empathizes with and validates those feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental way.

Level 6: The listener asks questions that clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new light. This could include the listener injecting some thoughts and ideas about the topic that could be useful to the other person. However, good listeners never highjack the conversation so that they or their issues become the subject of the discussion.

Each of the levels builds on the others; thus, if you’ve been criticized (for example) for offering solutions rather than listening, it may mean you need to attend to some of the other levels (such as clearing away distractions or empathizing) before your proffered suggestions can be appreciated.

We suspect that in being a good listener, most of us are more likely to stop short rather than go too far. Our hope is that this research will help by providing a new perspective on listening. We hope those who labor under an illusion of superiority about their listening skills will see where they really stand. We also hope the common perception that good listening is mainly about acting like an absorbent sponge will wane. Finally, we hope all will see that the highest and best form of listening comes in playing the same role for the other person that a trampoline plays for a child. It gives energy, acceleration, height and amplification. These are the hallmarks of great listening.

 

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Books, Personal

Plant A Tree

Hope Jahren  in Lab Girl  gives us an awesome challenge to plant a tree. She includes an exercise on how to measure and chart the growth of a tree. Below is an excerpt from the book:

EpilogueLab Girl.jpg

PLANTS ARE NOT LIKE US. They are different in critical and fundamental ways. As I catalog the differences between plants and animals, the horizon stretches out before me faster than I can travel and forces me to acknowledge that perhaps I was destined to study plants for decades only in order to more fully appreciate that they are beings we can never truly understand. Only when we begin to grasp this deep otherness can we be sure we are no longer projecting ourselves onto plants. Finally we can begin to recognize what is actually happening.

Our world is falling apart quietly. Human civilization has reduced the plant, a four-hundred-million-year-old life form, into three things: food, medicine, and wood. In our relentless and ever-intensifying obsession with obtaining a higher volume, potency, and variety of these three things, we have devastated plant ecology to an extent that millions of years of natural disaster could not. Roads have grown like a manic fungus, and the endless miles of ditches that bracket these roads serve as hasty graves for perhaps millions of plant species extinguished in the name of progress. Planet Earth is nearly a Dr. Seuss book made real: every year since 1990 we have created more than eight billion new stumps. If we continue to fell healthy trees at this rate, less than six hundred years from now, every tree on the planet will have been reduced to a stump. My job is about making sure there will be some evidence that someone cared about the great tragedy that unfolded during our age.

In languages across the globe, the adjective “green” is etymologically rooted in the verb “to grow.” In free-association studies, participants linked the word “green” to concepts of nature, restfulness, peace, and positivity. Research has shown how a brief glimpse of green significantly improved the creativity that people brought to bear on simple tasks. Viewed from space, our planet appears less green with each passing year. On my bad days, our global troubles seem only to have increased over my lifetime, and I can’t escape my greatest nagging fear: When we are gone, will we leave our heirs stranded in a pile of rubble, just as sick and hungry and war-exhausted as we ever were, bereft even of the homely comfort of the color green? But on my good days, I feel like I can do something about this.

Every single year, at least one tree is cut down in your name. Here’s my personal request to you: If you own any private land at all, plant one tree on it this year. If you are renting a place with a yard, plant a tree in it and see if your landlord notices. If he does, insist to him that it was always there. Throw in a bit about how exceptional he is for caring enough about the environment to have put it there. If he takes the bait, go plant another one. Baffle some chicken wire at its base and string a cheesy birdhouse around its tiny trunk to make it look permanent, then move out and hope for the best.

There are more than one thousand successful tree species for you to choose from, and that’s just for North America. You will be tempted to choose a fruit tree because they grow quickly and make beautiful flowers, but these species will break under moderate wind, even as adults. Shyster tree planting services will pressure you to buy a Bradford pear or two because they establish and flourish in one year; you’ll be happy with the result long enough for them to cash your check. Unfortunately, these trees are also notoriously weak in the crotch and will crack in half during the first big storm. You must choose with a clear head and open eyes. You are marrying this tree: choose a partner, not an ornament.

How about an oak? There are more than two hundred species and one is bound to be adapted to your specific corner of the planet. In New England, the pin oak thrives, its leaves tipping to a thorny point in a good-natured impression of its evergreen neighbor the holly bush. The turkey oak can grow practically submerged within the wet- lands of Mississippi, its leaves soft as a newborn’s skin. The live oak can grow sturdily on the hottest hills of central California, contrasting dark green against the golden grass. For my money, I’ll take the bur oak, the slowest-growing but the strongest of all; even its acorns are heavily armored, ready to do battle with the uninviting soil.

Speaking of money, you may not even need any: Several state and local agencies have embarked upon tree-planting programs, distributing seedlings for free or at a reduced cost. For example, the New York Restoration Project provides trees as part of its goal to help citizens plant and care for one million new trees across New York City’s five boroughs, while the Colorado State Forest Service provides access to its nurseries to any local landowner holding one or more acres. Every state university runs one or more large operations called Extension Units, full of experts qualified to give advice and encouragement to citizen gardeners, tree owners, and nature enthusiasts of all types. Call around: these researchers are obligated to provide free consultations to interested civilians regarding your trees, your compost heap, your out-of-control poison ivy.

Once your baby tree is in the ground, check it daily, because the first three years are critical. Remember that you are your tree’s only friend in a hostile world. If you do own the land that it is planted on, create a savings account and put five dollars in it every month, so that when your tree gets sick between ages twenty and thirty (and it will), you can have a tree doctor over to cure it, instead of just cutting it down. Each time you blow the account on tree surgery, put your head down and start over, knowing that your tree is doing the same. The first ten years will be the most dynamic of your tree’s life; what kind of overlap will it make with your own? Take your children to the tree every six months and cut a horizontal chink into the bark to mark their height. Once your little ones have grown up and moved out and into the world, taking parts of your heart with them, you will have this tree as a living reminder of how they grew, a sympathetic being who has also been deeply marked by their long, rich passage through childhood.

While you’re at it, would you carve Bill’s name into your tree as well? He’s told me a hundred times over that he’ll never read this book because it would be pointless. He says that if he ever gets at all interested in himself he can damn well sit down and remember the last twenty years without any help from me. I don’t have a good comeback for that one, but I’d like to think that the many parts of Bill that I’ve released to the wind belong somewhere, and over the years we’ve learned that the best way to give something a home is to make it part of a tree. My name is carved into a bunch of our lab equipment, so why shouldn’t Bill’s name be carved into a bunch of trees?

At the end of this exercise, you’ll have a tree and it will have you. You can measure it monthly and chart your own growth curve. Every day, you can look at your tree, watch what it does, and try to see the world from its perspective. Stretch your imagination until it hurts: What is your tree trying to do? What does it wish for? What does it care about? Make a guess. Say it out loud. Tell your friend about your tree; tell your neighbor. Wonder if you are right. Go back the next day and reconsider. Take a photograph. Count the leaves. Guess again. Say it out loud. Write it down. Tell the guy at the coffee shop; tell your boss.

Go back the next day, and the next, and so on. Keep talking about it; keep sharing its unfolding story. Once people begin to roll their eyes and gently tell you that you’re crazy, laugh with gratification. When you’re a scientist, it means that you’re doing it right.

 

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Blogs, Customer

HBR: Know the Job Your Product Was Hired for (with Help from Customer Selfies)

Are you focusing on the wrong thing? Are you creating customer stories from what your customers are designing and building? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Clayton M. Christensen and Bob Moesta.

Know the Job Your Product Was Hired for (with Help from Customer Selfies)


In what world is a Snickers bar competing with a kale salad?

When a healthy fast food chain recently asked customers to share selfies of them posing with healthy, on-the-go snacks, it received some unexpected pictures – including ones of customers holding Snickers bars. “We focus on organics and cool new macronutrients, and our consumers are into quinoa and kale and bean sprouts,” Alex Blair, who owns four franchises of Freshii, a Toronto-based chain of healthy fast-food outlets, told the New York Times. “But some of these photos were so far from that wavelength, it’s really helping us kind of realign with the mass market.”

True customer insights – the kind that can drive breakthrough innovations — come from these kinds of surprising individual stories. Classic market research would tell us that most of us aspire to make healthier eating choices – but the subtleties of when and why we actually do (or don’t) tell a far more important story to marketers. A Snickers bar might be a perfectly acceptable (even preferable) alternative to a kale salad when you’re running through the airport trying to catch your plane. Or you’re about to jump into a game of pickup basketball and your stomach is growling. Those kinds of use cases can even frustrate sophisticated data-mining techniques.

Over the past two decades, we’ve watched great companies fail time and again with innovation – and waste billions on go-nowhere R&D efforts — because they’re focusing on the wrong things. Rather than looking at specific customer use-cases, they chase the false sense of security offered sophisticated algorithms or market surveys, or they focus on technical improvements rather than customer needs.

Yet customers make the choices they make to bring a product or service into their lives not because they’re dying to purchase something, but because they have what we call a “Job to Be Done” that arises in their lives. They’re struggling to make progress with something – in particular circumstances.

Jobs to Be Done are, like customer stories, complex, and nuanced. To create products and services that customers want to pull into their lives, you have to identify not only the functional, but also the social and emotional dimensions of the progress your customers are trying to make. This means both drilling deep and looking wide; even the most experienced innovators can miss rich opportunities that are buried in the context of understanding a job if their focus is too narrow.

Great customer insights reveal the unexpected. Though it’s a nascent practice, the use of customer selfies is an attempt to get at the real “job” customers are hiring products to do. The idea is that selfies provide clues that bridge the gap between what customers say and what they actually do. Customers might unknowingly reveal something authentic and true about themselves through the simplicity of the choices they make in a selfie – and even provide insight into how they perceive the product and its potential competitors.

Of course, a selfie is far from a candid ethnographic moment. It’s a specific picture, with a specific composition, that the subject has chosen not only to take, but to share. By its very nature, it depicts how that person wants to be seen by others. But that, too, can provide valuable clues for piecing together a full picture of a customer’s Job to be Done. Both business strategies and academic theories are built – and made stronger – by our ability to recognize things that we cannot yet explain.

Many of these surprising or even anomalous use-cases can serve as a useful wake-up call — to an overlooked opportunity or a flawed assumption. When a consumer shows us an image of how they might hire kale in one circumstance and Snickers in another, it challenges us to think differently about how our products help customers make the progress they seek – not just what we expect them to seek — in their lives.

 

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Blogs, Productive, Sales

HBR: A Portrait of the Overperforming Salesperson

Is your Salesperson overperforming? There are six key attributes to influence their success. Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Steve W. Martin.

A Portrait of the Overperforming Salesperson

What are the personal attributes, attitudes, and actions that influence personal sales productivity? I recently conducted an extensive study of more than 1,000 salespeople and sales management leaders to determine the attributes of top sales professionals–those who achieved more than 125% of their assigned quota last year. This is a very select group as only 15% of the study participants met the criterion.

About one-third were field salespeople, one-third were inside salespeople, and the remainder were mid-level sales managers and top-level vice presidents of sales. They’ve been in sales an average of 16 years and have achieved the annual quota that was assigned to them 88% of the time over the course of their careers. This is 22% higher than the average of study participants who achieved less than 75% of their quota last year. Moreover, the study results help us understand the attributes in six key areas that influence their success.

Focus. It’s not surprising to find that top sales professionals are motivated by money. Sixty-six percent agreed with the statement “Money is extremely important to me and how I measure my personal success,” while only 10% disagreed. But they are also motivated by status and recognition. A staggering 84% of top sales professionals indicated that being respected and recognized as one of the best by peers at their company is very important to them.

When asked to select how they describe their personal focus, 42% believe they are a likable person who makes customers feel comfortable, and 32% consider themselves very dependable and good at prioritizing their time. Twenty-six percent believe that their knowledge is their most powerful attribute, and this group had the highest average quota attainment last year at 170%.

Career orientation. Top sales professionals think about work a lot. In fact, they find themselves thinking about their job over half of their free time on weeknights and weekends. In addition, they’re goal and outcome focused. Fifty percent said they were the type of person who keeps a written or mental list of goals they want to accomplish and 36% indicated they’re frequently thinking about what the future will be like in five, ten, or more years. Only 13% described themselves as the type of person who lives life one day at a time.

Their responses to the fundamental reason as to why they went into sales were fairly evenly split. Twenty-seven percent wanted to control their own destiny, and 27% indicated the harder they worked, the more money they could make. Twenty-six percent said sales suited their personality, and for 19%, a career in sales just happened naturally.

Personal attributes. Do childhood experiences influence sales success? The results indicate they do as 72% of top sales professionals remember their childhood fondly as a generally happy time while only 9% disagreed with that statement. When asked which school subject was their favorite, 29% selected history, 23% selected science, 23% selected math, 13% selected physical education, 9% selected language or composition, and only 3% selected art.

When asked how they make important decisions that impact their lives, 40% said their decisions are based on more logic than instinct, 30% use equal parts logic and instinct, and 30% use more instinct than logic. The average annual quota attainment for those who use more logic than instinct and those who use more instinct than logic was exactly the same, while quota attainment for those who use equal parts logic and instinct was 7% higher.

Seventy-two percent of top sales professionals prefer a wide variety of activities as opposed to daily routines. Only 8% prefer a daily routine, while 20% had no preference.

Customer interaction strategy. The top sales professionals ranked five different sales strategies based on their effectiveness. The top-ranked strategies were “Getting customers to emotionally connect with you” followed by “Tailoring your sales pitch to the customer’s needs” and then “Asking questions that show your expertise.” The two lowest ranked strategies were “Showing the value of your solution” and “Driving the topics of conversation.”

When surveyed about which customer interaction statement they agreed with most, 49% indicated that likability was an important differentiator between themselves and their competitors. Conversely, 45% agreed with the statement “Sometimes you have to point out that what customers are doing is wrong and proverbially tell them their baby is ugly.” In other words, sometimes you have to be provocative and confront the customer’s belief system. Only 6% concurred with the statement that challenging the customer’s point of view will make the customer feel too uncomfortable.

What type of relationship do they have with customers after the sale? Thirty-six percent responded they feel personally responsible and dedicate themselves to ensuring the client’s success, while 26% have less-personal but cordial relationships with their clients because they are both very busy. Twenty-two percent keep a general pulse on what’s happening with the customer after the sale. Contrary to what many people think of as a requirement for sales success, only 17% develop very close personal friendships with their clients.

Attitude. The study participants were also asked to complete word associations to allow a better understanding of their workplace attitudes. The written answers were then categorized as having a positive connotation, a negative connotation, or a neutral connotation, which was neither bad nor good. For example, 53% of the associations to the term “sales manager” were positive, and the top three answers were “coach,” “leader,” and “mentor.” Twenty-seven percent of the answers were negative, and the two most frequently mentioned were “pain” and “overhead.” Twenty-eight percent were neutral, and the most frequently cited words were “management” and “forecast.”

Forty-two percent of the answers for “sales process” were positive associations, with the most frequently mentioned term being “important.” Thirty-seven percent were neutral words, and the top answer was “methodology,” while 21% were negative, with the top-mentioned word being “long.”

Self-perception. When they selected from a list of qualities they thought prospective customers admired most about them, the top responses were trustworthiness, professionalism, follow-through, product knowledge, and enthusiasm. However, the definition of trustworthiness seems to be individually determined. For example, 7% agreed with the statement “If the customer’s best interest is served by slightly obscuring the facts that’s OK.” Twenty-one percent agreed with “Subtle manipulation is reasonable, so long as the truth is served.” Thirty-four percent agreed with “You don’t have to point out every blemish of your product” and 36% with “Nothing but the whole truth is acceptable.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of the study is the verbal perception of top sales professionals and how they described themselves when compared with those who achieved less than 75% of their quota. When presented with the same list of twenty choices, the most frequently selected answers for those under 75% of their quota were responsible, likable, confident, empathetic, smart, and humble. The answers for top sales professionals over 125% of their quota were confident, X-factor (a combination of all the traits listed), quick-witted, likable, responsible, and productive. Clearly, this shows that top sales professionals have a different level of self-confidence, personal certainty, and pride.

 

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Blogs, Customer, Sales

HBR: Getting More-Granular Data on Customer Journeys

Does your company have customer journey maps (CJM)? Are you following the Yellow Brick Road to the finish line?  Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Deren Baker.

Getting More-Granular Data on Customer Journeys

Dating site Zoosk boasts 35 million users, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story — its members are playing the field with Zoosk as much as they are with their suitors. My company analyzed the online habits of people on popular dating sites, and while Zoosk users tend to be younger and fitter, they’re also 11.4 times more likely to search for other dating sites.

For Zoosk, that’s not just trivia or fodder for ad placements. It’s crucial insight into who the site’s customers are, what they do on other sites, and — most importantly — the journey they’re taking to Zoosk’s front door.

Companies typically build customer journey maps (CJMs) based on surveys, in-store activity, and users’ interactions on the brand website and app. But if you’re only watching users reach the finish line, you’re missing most of the race. To effectively target customers, you need to know what they’re doing before, during, and after their interactions with you.

While brands’ CJMs rely heavily on customer satisfaction surveys, surveys are notoriously unreliable, skewed by low participation rates, biased questions, and unreliable responses. In fact, high customer satisfaction scores may be the proverbial calm before the storm: Research shows 60-80 percent of customers claim to be satisfied with their banks right before they defect — a trend that holds across industries.

Even if surveys were useful, they couldn’t help you create meaningful customer personas. Nor can traditional site analytics, the other tool in most brands’ CJM tool kits. And without a holistic view of customers’ activities, it’s easy to make embarrassing assumptions.

Take a 2014 faux pas committed by Pinterest. Based on users’ pins, it sent congratulatory emails to individuals who had recently gotten engaged. In reality, it turned out many weren’t even in relationships, and they blasted Pinterest’s presumptuousness on social media. It was a real pie- (or wedding cake) in-the-face moment for the social media brand.

Had Pinterest not relied exclusively on its own site data, it might have deduced that these weren’t brides-to-be. As it learned the hard way, fragmented snapshots of customers’ online activities are just that: snapshots.

Mapping a customer journey is much like storyboarding. No single frame can make characters come alive; only a deep understanding of your customers can lead you from board to board, sketching out the adventure they take to your brand.

But what happens when your characters jump out of the frame and into a competitor’s world? Studies show that brands’ best customers routinely flirt with competitors. Even in the DIY home improvement industry — a sector with outstanding loyalty rates — companies’ top customers spend nearly 25 percent of their budget with other DIY businesses.

Traditional approaches to CJM are too limited to be effective, but you can build more meaningful maps:

Reverse-engineer social media remarketing. Customer matching services, such as those offered by Twitter and Facebook, enable you to create lookalike audiences that tell ad platforms which customers to target. Use these to determine whether — and how — social media plays a part in customers’ journeys.

Perhaps you’ve defined “people who’ve visited my website via mobile” as a group that should receive remarketing ads from Facebook and Twitter. Let’s say mobile users continuously land on your product page from Facebook, but not from Twitter. Facebook is an essential stop along your customers’ journeys, but Twitter isn’t. As a result, you might scrap your Twitter campaign and focus on Facebook.

Recruit some brand detectives. Consumers’ trust in brands is at an all-time low, which is a big reason survey feedback isn’t useful. But there’s another tool at your disposal that makes the most of consumers’ trust in their peers: social media influencers. People let their guard down around personalities they trust, and tools such as BuzzSumo and Klout can identify bloggers who’ll go underground for your brand.

Choose influencers in spheres where followers are likely to be familiar with your company. If you’re a restaurant brand, for instance, look to food and beverage influencers. Ask followers’ opinions: Have they bought from you in the past? Did they order online or go to a physical store? What led them to choose you over a competitor?

Follow the Yellow Click Road. Clickstream analysis indicates where people were before they arrived on a site, what they did on that site, and where they’re headed after they leave. Some offer audience features that lend insight into site visitors’ geographic location, age, sex, and education level. Others get even more granular and offer entire path-to-purchase data and behavioral segmentation based on click activity.

Couple demographic insights with information gleaned from clickstreams — such as customers’ interests, social media habits, and purchase behavior — to create a truer “typical customer” persona. With a broad view of your customers’ lives, you can create more relevant messaging.

Hitch a ride with ad retargeting. When we analyzed back-to-school shopping activity, we learned that consumers click through an average of five websites per Google search before they buy. To determine which competitors your customers are befriending, integrate cookies or tracking pixels into your ads.

If Staples, for instance, wanted to know where its customers searched for laptops, so it could retarget laptop ads to follow customers elsewhere online. Some users — say, on Best Buy’s or Target’s site — will click, returning to Staples’ website from competitors’ pages. Taken in aggregate, this tells Staples which brands are its top competitors.

Customer journey mapping was once a simple endeavor — a customer might see your TV ad and drive to your store. Since e-commerce has reached its zenith, however, the customer journey is no longer a straight road: It’s a circuitous web, taking customers from social media to your site to competitors’ sites and back again.

To truly connect with customers, you can’t rely on survey data or back-end web analytics. If your brand wants to be their final destination, it needs a new storyboard that includes every part of the story.

 

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Blogs, Leadership, Management, Productive

HBR: 4 Ways to Be More Effective at Execution

Do you have an execution problem? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman.

4 Ways to Be More Effective at Execution

Most people recognize that execution is a critical skill and strive to perform it well, but they may a) underestimate how important it is to their career advancement or b) not realize that you can improve on execution without working longer hours.

On the first point, bosses place a premium on execution, which we define as the ability to achieve individual goals and objectives. In fact, when we asked senior managers to indicate the importance of this ability, they ranked it first on a list of 16 skills. Other raters in the organization ranked it fourth, behind inspiring and motivating, having integrity and honesty, and problem solving. We recognize that there are many parts of your job that are important, but if you want to move ahead in your career, it might be time to double down on simply getting more stuff done – it’s what your boss wants to see.

Which brings us to the second point. Many managers react with defensiveness or despair to this news; after all, most of the managers we know already feel like they’ve got too much to do. People who are lethargic, slow, or unfocused are rarely (at least in our experience) promoted to upper management positions. The leaders we know already work hard and long – and working harder and longer is not a viable option. In the short term this typically yields improved results, but in the long term leaders burn out. And if they’ve pushed their teams to do the same, team members quit.

But our data – gleaned from tens of thousands of 360-degree performance reviews — tells us that there are more sustainable methods of improving execution. We looked at thousands of leaders who were rated as being highly effective at execution and looked for the coinciding behaviors that enabled this skill. We found a set of behaviors that improve execution. Four behaviors in particular stood out:

Be clear and methodical

Many people who are energetic about execution tend to jump into activities and take action before they get organized, create a plan, or connect what they’re doing to the strategy of the organization. Having the discipline to organize people, assemble resources, and then generate a plan that others can commit to will collectively improve execution. So will making clear who is doing what; we have learned that when everyone is collectively responsible, that no one is responsible. Providing others with clear direction and a sense of connection to the strategy of the organization helps people understand how the work they are doing dovetails with the organization’s mission.

If you are quick to jump into action and tend to start project without a well-organized plan of attack, or if you get feedback on your lack of planning and organization, this suggestion might be one to focus on. An individual contributor might be able to get away with being disorganized, but it rarely works out well at the senior management level.

Set stretch goals and deadlines

Setting stretch goals helps the group achieve their objectives and generates greater engagement and satisfaction in team members. To push the group to achieve those goals, pair them with deadlines. While we may not like it, when someone gives us a deadline, our behavior changes. Simply setting deadlines for goals and objectives goes a long way toward achieving those goals and objectives! If you resist setting stretch goals for your team, start by asking your team questions like, “What would it take to accomplished this goal two weeks earlier?” We find that by challenging your team and supporting them in accomplishing a difficult goal, team members actually feel more engaged and satisfied with their jobs.

But don’t go overboard; we’ve also found that too much pushing can erode trust, which will hurt execution in the long run. When an untrusted leader asks for additional effort, people question their motives and resist their requests. Moreover, involving your team in the process of setting goals deadlines will increase their sense of commitment and autonomy.

Give more feedback, especially more positive feedback

This is all about improving execution through intrinsic motivation, rather than through goals and deadlines. Leaders who are great executors are skilled at giving feedback. Specifically, the leaders who rate most highly are those who deliver critical feedback by taking the time to listen to and understand their employees’ perspectives, rather than simply dropping a difficult message on someone and ending the conversation as quickly as possible.

But where we really saw a major difference was with positive feedback. Specifically, we found that leaders who are great at execution give a lot more positive recognition. Our research indicates that while giving a little more recognition did not affect execution, being above the 65th percentile on this skill had a major impact.

Resolve conflict and build team unity

Have you ever been part of a team so great that you love coming to work? Teams like this probably do all or most of the above – work assignments are clear and processes make sense, deadlines are ambitious but fair, and feedback is plentiful – but they also do something more. On these teams, it’s not just the boss motivating team members — the expectations of peer team members are powerful motivators, too. Creating this kind of team culture is an important element of good execution. While there’s a lot that goes into building high-performance teams, in our experience, perhaps the biggest single thing for leaders to focus on is resolving conflict. That’s because many of the problems within a team come from differences and conflict between team members; on high-performing teams, team members trust each other and conflict is constructive, not destructive or personal.

As you think about your ability to execute we feel that all three of these dimensions are critical. You may focus on one or two and find that one is lacking. But our research shows that balancing all four of these factors is the strategy that will improve execution most of all.

Finally, if you’ve made it this far and you really feel like you’re already doing all of these things, and yet somehow you’re still perceived as having an “execution problem,” consider this: in our research, we also found that there’s almost a one-to-one relationship between leaders who are seen as fast, and those who are seen as great executors. Previous work we’ve done has shown that some of the above things – setting stretch goals, having clear processes in place, and building trust, for example – will help you move faster. But you may also need to give your peers and bosses more evidence of your speed by, for example, being more transparent about how many projects you’re working on and where they are in your pipeline.

 

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