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Considering “workplace levers” in managing office politics…

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Management can be difficult. As you have read from my previous posts the most important resource of any business is its employees. If a manager is unable to effectively communicate and utilize their employees, he or she will not be managing for very long.

Leverage is a principle often utilized to discuss financial debt in the world of business. Financial institutions and businesses can utilize debt to take on more risks in the hopes of increasing revenue and profit margin. In that same respect the employee and manager utilize forms of “workplace leverage” to ensure status and influence within the organization. Both the manager and employee use various levers to elicit a response.

The manager’s “work place levers” 

  1. Hire versus Fire to influence employee behavior and decisions
  2. Praise versus Write Ups to influence employee behavior and decisions
  3. The power to increase salary and dole out bonuses to influence employee behavior and decisions
  4. Positive evaluation versus Negative Evaluations of employees to influence employee behavior and decisions
  5. Internal politics with ownership and co-workers to maintain status and position while influencing employee behavior and decisions

The employee’s “work place levers”   

  1. Underutilization versus over-utilization of sick and paid days off to effect management behavior
  2. Gifts and Praise of management/co-workers to effect management behavior
  3. Positive versus Negative Evaluations of management/co-workers to effect management behavior and decisions
  4. Habitually early to work versus habitually tardy to work to effect management behavior and decisions
  5. Internal politics with ownership and co-workers to maintain status and position to effect management behavior and decisions

I won’t delve to deep into the details of how these actions can be utilized by both the manager and employee; but briefly review each point. Consider the names and or faces of the people that you can associate with each variable. In short, both the manager and employee utilize forms of leverage to elicit responses.

As I’ve mentioned previously, people are as important as financial capital in maintaining a functional organization. For those in management; please take the time to consider these 10 key points to ensure a functional work environment.

  1. Be upfront and honest about the role each person plays in maintaining a functional business.
  2. Value the opinion of every member of the team, and actively demonstrate this by listening to their opinions and actively considering these opinions when creating changes within the organization.
  3. Even in times of disagreement; work diligently to maintain a level of respect for that person
  4. Focus on the value created for the shareholders when trying to create a unified vision between management and employee.
  5. Focus on the quality of the product created for the consumption of your customer when trying to create a unified vision between management and employee.
  6. At a minimum evaluate employees biannually; when evaluating always have a third person involved to witness. This reduces the possibility of arguments and misunderstandings.
  7. Be respectful of the goals your employees have; most likely they do not want to be employees for life. And that is fine. Work with them on creating a 1 year, 5 year, and 10 year plan so that they don’t feel stuck in a rut.
  8. Create rubrics to grade yourself and employees; this shows thoughtfulness and reduces bias when grading employees on their abilities.
  9. During reviews, offer each employee a time to have a moment of reflection. Ask them, “do you have an issue with management, a co-worker, or the organization that needs to be resolved?”
  10. Practice being able to discipline without bias; this practice helps maintain uniformity in the organization, and builds a level of trust for the employee in relation to management.

You will never be able to keep people completely happy. And following this plan will not eliminate every employee’s discontent. I still implore each manager to have a plan, and  stick with that plan during both the good and bad times. Work with diligence to ensure the employees you manage have enough space to consider their place and role in the organization.

We work and work till we are tired. The days and months will pass us by, and before we realize it our most important employees are desiring to leave the organization and often we don’t even see it coming.

Please review my 10 key points; by reviewing these points I hope that you’re able to improve employee satisfaction. It is important that managers ensure that an employee’s concerns are heard. There should be open lines of communication in all phases of hierarchy; ownership–>management—>employee. Communication is paramount to ensuring business success.

A company can quickly collapse under the duress of organizational stress. To prevent this collapse managers must pride themselves on using “workplace levers” in an appropriate manner to maintain balanced scales of power in these “workplace courtrooms” that house office politics in every business and industry.

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Sam Blakemore is the Pharmacy Manager of Peds Rx Pharmacy Solutions. Connect with him via: LinkedIn

 

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Customer service — Alert Active Engagement vs. Distracted Passive Engagement…

A worker with voice low, eyes down, distracted by smartphone in their hand, “welcome to _______ how may we assist you?”

Distracted Passive Engagement is a buzz kill.

Customer service in it’s simplest form is an opportunity to tell the story of your business.

When a customer steps into your business, on the surface they’re looking for a product to purchase. However, consider that the shopper has an ability to purchase a given product in a variety of other ways besides coming to your business.

How many places can you buy coffee?
How many places can you rent cars?
How many pharmacies are there in a five mile radius? 

Managers should treat their customers as smart and knowledgable.  Typically at their disposal is a smartphone that can answer most of their general questions.

It’s easy to run a business as an accumulation of transactions; you sell and they buy. But if you manage a business in this manner you’re losing an opportunity to convey that theres meaning and substance in the what, why, and how you provide the product and/or service.

When a customer visits your business, visualize them screaming at the top of their lungs,  “Gimme a reason to shop here!”

Are you adequately providing the foundations of customer service?

Clean—there’s no bigger turnoff for the shopper than to walk into a business that’s unclean and unorganized.

Time—in providing your service you respect your customer’s time and if there’s a delay in providing the the service or product you apologize and/or inform the customer as to why there is a delay.

Care—the employees care about what they do. They’re engaged fully to the mission of the business and want to be of service to the customer.


The focus on the remaining sections of this article is to discuss how to find those that care. I often tell new applicants the following;

” I can teach them how to perform their job, but I can’t teach them how to care about their job.”

When an employee is simply going through the motions of performing his or her job this can be detrimental for both the customer and business.  Poor customer engagement will lead to a decline in generating revenue.

 In my own experience as a manager there are two options in how your employees provide customer service.  

  1. Distracted Passive Engagement (DPE) 
  2. Alert Active Engagement (AAE) 

Both AAE and DPE can induce the sell of a given product. However, only AAE can induce the sell of a product while also increasing the potential of retaining customers. This customer retention induces customer loyalty and creates the businesses “brand”. Think about it from this perspective…

How does a business create a brand from one-time shoppers of their service?

DPE equals going through the motions. The employee shows up to work on time, the employee says all the right things, and they make adequate sells of your product line. The manager should ask themselves the following regarding employees that may be distracted and passive in their engagement with customers:

  1.  Do they know the details of the products they sell?
  2. Do they know the attributes of your traditional shoppers?
  3. Are they able to quickly deduce what the buyers want and need?

Employees that perform AAE  don’t just go through the motions.  General statements about employees that are actively engaged with the needs of the customer are as follows:

  1.  Typically these employees are in tune with the needs of the customer.
  2. Employees that actively listen to the needs of the shopper and make appropriate recommendations to meet customer need and satisfaction.
  3. Employees that strive to find new ways to provide quality service.

Remember the difference between AAE and DPE lays in the foundation that active engagement with the customer leads to greater success in retaining customers over a lifetime as opposed to simply making a one time sell.


Qualities…

In regards to a job applicant; reflect on the following questions regarding the person’s interview:

  1. Do they have a passion for the service your business provides?
  2. Are they equipped to serve the public in this capacity?
  3. If they’ve never been in customer service;  can they adapt to a service oriented work culture?
  4. Are they curious? Good questions during the interview process can mean that they will be equally active and engaged with customers.
  5. Problem solvers? Do they like to help folks solve their problems. This can be of value to both the customer and the business.

Educate…

Once they’ve become a member of your staff; harness the potential that you saw both in their application and during the interview process by educating employees on these key points:

  1. A focus on the long term instead of short term—be willing to lose a sell on a product if it’s in the best interest of the customer to get a given product elsewhere. In being up front and honest regarding the customer’s needs you will build trust. Trust will build customer retention.
  2. Awareness—be aware of customer body language. An awareness in how customers are feeling provides direction in how to engage with them to meet their needs. This awareness shows the customer that you understand what they want from the service or product that you provide.
  3. Listen—actively listen. Only by listening can your employees make appropriate recommendations.
  4. It’s okay—-it’s okay if you don’t know the answer. It’s better to state that you don’t know up front with customers. This builds trust with the customer. Be up front with customers and state, “I’m not sure, but I may be able to find the answer to your question if you give me a moment to research it.”
  5. Expert—your employees won’t know it all, but go over with them some key topics. Of those topics, find out which topic they feel most knowledgable about. Harness this knowledge and teach them to be experts in this area. Their expertise in a given area can be the difference in making the “sell”.

The goal…

Good customer service is one step in forming a relationship of trust. It demonstrates that your business can provide the customer with what they need. Once that relationship is built, continue to add layers of trust by maintaining outstanding customer service.

On the surface, customer service seems simple. Be nice, be courteous, and say thank you.

But it takes more to retain customers in this marketplace.  The owner/manager that doesn’t consider customer service to be a differentiator does not fully consider the threat of decreased  revenue from a decline in customer retention. In the retail space there’s an old saying…

“The customers you really like and want to keep don’t tell you they’re leaving…they just leave.”


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Sam Blakemore is the Pharmacy Manager of Peds Rx Pharmacy Solutions. Connect with him via: LinkedIn

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The manager’s to-do list

What is the life of a manager…

  1. Reconciliation of payments
  2. Price strategy
  3. Cash flow statements
  4. Profit and loss statements
  5. Operations management
  6. Maintenance of facilities
  7. Human Resources

What a to-do list…

Suffice to say, that list could keep going. Out of all of those ingredients that define the “life of a manger” which ingredient means the most?

Pondering….pondering…ponder some more.

  • So.. it’s easy to say “no money no business.” So making money is most important…Very true and you wouldn’t be wrong!
  • It’s easy to say “if we can’t figure out our pricing strategy there’s not enough gross margin will lead to no business.” Very true very true and you wouldn’t be wrong!
  • It’s even easier to say…well “if you don’t have good operations management, then you can’t ensure a quality product that the customer will enjoy.” So true!!!!!

So… no money no business, no strategy no business, and no operations management no business.

But before all of that the most important ingredient in my opinion is the word “PEOPLE”.

Without good people a manager can scream about strategy until they’re RED in the face. Strategies can’t be implemented without quality people that are passionate about the task at hand.

Human resources in business school to me seemed to be this shadowy figure in the back of the room. It seemed to be too distant and cold. It felt too gray when what I wanted was black and white facts!

We go to business school to learn profit margin calculations. Those formulas are easier to calculate than an employees formula to how to have happiness at work. Reconciling accounts receivables and payables is easier than talking with an employee about their two week notice.

So what are some principles too consider when it comes to the topic of human resource management? These are broad topics on some things I’ve learned over the years…and maybe you can consider these points of discussion in your own manager’s playbook.

  1. Communicate—it’s easy to tell people what time to come to work. It’s not so easy taking the time to delve deeper and forming a true line of communication with your staff. Take the time to learn about their lives. Communicate with them about the things they’re doing well and the things that they can work on.
  2. Interview—always take new applications. Interview candidates even when all the positions are filled. By taking the time to interview, you will already have a short list of potential candidates when a position opens.
  3. Evaluate—hold evaluations twice a year if possible. Mid year and annual evaluations give both you and your staff an opportunity to reflect and recharge.
  4. Designate—find a leader within your staff and begin to develop their abilities to lead small groups. In doing so, you will help the employee develop leadership and become less of a micro-manager.
  5. Listen—be open to your staffs opinion. You will learn more about your business in 30 minutes by listening than you will by talking.
  6. Define a process—don’t rush the process. Take your time when making a hiring decision or worse a firing decision. Be methodical in your rationale and create a template that will help you define your current and future decisions.
  7. Understand roles—how can you understand your staff if you’ve never completed their daily tasks? Take the time to learn and perform the tasks of a staff employee. This will go a long way in helping to communicate expectations.
  8. Observe—don’t immediately jump in to save the day. You have to let people learn by at times allowing them to make mistakes. Observe the mistakes that were made and then take the appropriate steps to correct.
  9. Boundaries—there are boundaries that can be crossed. Define to your employees that work can be fun but that professionalism must be maintained.
  10. Teach—a managers teaching never ceases. Take joy in teaching your staff new ideas and ways to consider various topics. Stay informed and read about the latest ideas. Remain committed to your core foundational principles and reaffirm these principles by reviewing your company’s literature.

Nothing in this article included a discussion of how paid days accrue, or how to complete background check documentation. Thats the paper side of human resource management. This article is about being a manager that can help create an atmosphere conducive for success. Stay committed to your company’s foundation. A manager’s life is full of to-do lists but remember that without people those to-do lists never get completed!

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Sam Blakemore is a graduate of the McWhorter School of Pharmacy. Sam is the Pharmacy Manager of Peds Rx Pharmacy Solutions.  Feel free to connect with him via LinkedIn