Business blog series…blog#4

Business blog series…blog#4

 

Prior to getting started tonight, take a moment to check out the previous business blogs.

Business blog #1

Business blog #2

Business blog #3

Leadership is difficult. The most important thing you can do on your journey to becoming a more well rounded leader is to reflect upon yourself and your own personal actions. There was a period of time in my management journey where I took cues and pages out of the book of people that “had done it before me”.

There was a mishmash of all types of leadership styles that I saw. Some of the leaders yelled. Some of the leaders might fire you before a dime hit the floor. Some leaders lead by example. Some leaders documented, documented, documented — because as this person stated “if you don’t document it, it never happened”. As you can guess, that last method created a tad bit of distrust between management and employee.

I realized my limitations very quickly as a leader. First, I lacked the knowledge of business language. And I set out on a journey reading books about business. Essentially, I kept gravitating towards the  pocket MBA type of  books. I looked at those books so much, that I decided to just try B-school for myself. This while helping to steer an organization that at the time was only 1 year old.

It was stressful process, working on the degree while managing the business;  but I quickly learned that I enjoyed my classes. And the classes where giving me foundational pieces of information that would help me lead a more efficient business.  Marketing strategy, operations management, accounting, finance to name a few were books I just kept reviewing.

B-school gave me a perspective on the science of business. At the same time, I was fulfilling a craving desire that I didn’t even realize that I had. Then, I would stumble upon those pesky management classes; that discussed managerial philosophy and the history of the industrial revolution and it’s impact on labor. How do you coach an employee to be productive? What workflows and processes do you need to have in place to effectively retain human beings? The science of business was great. While the sociology and humanism aspects of business were more difficult topics for me to decipher, because those concepts were not as  black and white.

I thought about the stressors I had been under. The stress to make things happen, create, and effectively budget while leading the ship. And I realized something…. I had these high expectations of others, and what their performance should look like. However, was I looking in the mirror and evaluating my own performance? I had employed some of the wrong cues in my leadership. The leaders before me meant well, but one size didn’t fit all. I was going to have to employ new tactics to reduce my employee turnover rate.

Was it everyone else’s fault? Did they not understand what I wanted — they just don’t see my vision? Or better yet, was it my fault and I needed to learn how to be a more effective communicator. A better leader?

The moral of this story is this…

1st — Understanding the history of human resource management is by far the chapter of any management book that you must read and re-read and study most closely. Can you hire well, and then after you hire well, can you retain quality people to help fulfill the vision that you see for your organization?

2nd — If you look up one day, and you realize that everyone is making the mistake and people just can’t understand your high standards. Take a moment, pause, and reflect and ask yourself, “are they the problem or am I the problem?” It’s funny how that can happen so quickly. Leaders tend to create a bubble for themselves. Before you know it, you’re living in a bubble where everyone else is wrong, and you’re the only one with all the answers. Remember, theres more than one way to get to a right answer in the “real world.” If you think everyone is crazy and you’re the only one that is right… or better yet, if you find yourself in a time of your life when everyone wants to run from you and you can’t figure it out… Realize that you… Yes, you the magical leader that can do no wrong, needs to reflect and look in the mirror. Take a close look and maybe find some friends and family in your life to remind you of all the times you’ve been wrong!

Two points that I hope you take a moment to consider. I hope that if leadership is the path that you’ve taken, you can always take a moment to re-evaluate yourself. Please make time to be around people that don’t think like you. It will push you to be better and do better. You need the perspective of a lot of people to truly impact the lives of millions.

Peace!

Business blog series… blog#3

Books are invaluable. Once again, I was listening to an audiobook on one of my favorite free apps the “Libby App“. The latest book on my audiobook shelf is The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. In one of the first chapters of the book, the author discusses the difference between a finite game and an infinite game.

Finite games the authors states are games that have an endpoint (sports); while infinite games (politics or business) do not have endpoints, the game continues to be played with or without your presence.

In business, we dub the “cream of the crop” as organizations that have solid foundations in which the structure of the business allows the company to be relevant through both transitions in leadership, times of adversity, and shifts in market supply and/or demand. These businesses remain solvent even during the lean years. Lastly, these organizations in my opinion display a confident “agility to adapt” to customer demand and market variances.

Ultimately the “cream of the crop” have many attributes, but for brevity, these are some of their characteristics:

  1. The end user receives a product free of defect
  2. The product is made with quality and the product is priced to sell
  3. Customers receive satisfactory customer service, that ensures their return and lifetime usage of the product.

The third point is the glue. You can make and/or create a great product, but if that product is on the backend of “shotty” customer service — the service will overshadow the product.

Could you imagine going to a restaurant with a great chef, that has a five star menu but once you get there — the hostess berates you prior to finding you a table to sit?

All great companies have workflow diagrams to maintain consistency in their products. Customer service should not be any different. demands a workflow

Example: Workflow diagram for customer service at Point of Sale

Greeting the customer (upon entry into your establishment)–> asking the customer how you may assist them –> understanding your products and their needs (cost of each product to quickly and effectively answer their questions)  –> completing the transaction in a timely manner –> making eye contact with the customer and thanking the customer for giving you the opportunity to serve their needs

As with all things, there are breakdowns in communication. There can be a misunderstanding or miscommunication with the customer on what is an appropriate expectation/outcome for the requested service. Many things go wrong in a given day, and sometimes these breakdowns lead to bad reviews, negative feedback, and customers that will berate you. But we must always remember that customer service is an “infinite game”. The bad reviews can be painful, but they can open the managers eyes to how to more effectively manage, lead, and understand organizational missteps & shortcomings.

We build trust daily with our clients. Each day, each month, each year you must continue to fight to earn your customers business. There will be times in which your service may be less than optimal, but during those moments — make sure that your customers know how to contact you, so that they can quickly inform you of the given issue. Hopefully you will be able to provide them with a reasonable resolution.

More often than not, I’ve found that many customers simply want to be heard. It is important during these tense moments that you listen with intent. Ultimately, the customer is helping you if the feedback is constructive. If you can take that feedback and change appropriately, you too can become the “cream of the crop”.

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

 

Business blog series… blog#2

A great book for business leaders is The CEO Next Door. In the book the author describes the characteristics of folks that have made it to the top of the corporate food chain as CEO of the company.

Of the many characteristics discussed the one that stuck with me the most, is that an effective leader helps people reach their full potential.

But first things first. My mind began to rumble with the following issues… When you’re hiring how do you even know if qualified candidates fit the energy of your company? And once you trust your gut to hire the candidate; how can you determine they’re a good fit to be groomed for mentorship to reach that “full potential.”

In my years of managing people, one of the things that you can do to set your search engine to filter, is by giving the potential candidates looking to move up within the hierarchy of the organization tasks to complete.

Time after time, if you give each person enough opportunities, the cream will certainly rise to the top. Do not give meaningless tasks. Everything should count fair and square. With your focus always being transfixed on bettering your customer service and reducing defects for the consumer of your product. Thus, give the employee a task and deadline to complete the project.

And of course simply completing a project is just the beginning.

Do they complete the project with purpose? Do they complete the task in a manner that makes the business better, and fulfills the customer’s need? Is the work sloppy or is the work timely and on point? Thus, as the leader — your job is constantly to be the teacher. Grading out their work. Asking yourself constantly is this bad work, good work, above average, or great? Is this a bad idea, good idea, above average idea, or great idea?

As a mentor and servant leader you hope that they take your knowledge and push forward with their own ideas and fight for the causes that make them wake up early in the morning. All the while, you keep feeding them with your history and understanding of how things work and operate in the marketplace. Understanding that as you help them, they help both you and the customer.

In summary, servant leaders pass on the knowledge to those that are able to retain the knowledge, work hard and complete tasks in a timely manner. These folks are the type of people that push the needle forward to create better products and customer satisfaction for the consumer of the goods that your business offers.

Thus, to keep your business thriving.. you must Keep fighting for your customers business , keep serving the customer as you best know how, and keep sharing the knowledge with your employees that have ears that listen!

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

Business blog series — blog #1

February 2016 I wrote an email to Tony Hsieh who at the time was the CEO of Zappos. I read articles and viewed videos where he discussed his philosophies on business and the management of people while completing my studies for my MBA.

Of the topics he discussed, The Quit Now Bonus fascinated me the most. The idea was that you would give employees an incentive to quit immediately if they felt as though they were trapped or in search of professional opportunities elsewhere.

From a business perspective this killed two birds with one stone. The business would relinquish an employee that no longer wanted to work at the company on good terms with a bonus payment to help them transition to the next phase of their professional life.

From the employees perspective, you couldn’t blame the employer for not giving you an out. And from the employer’s perspective — they couldn’t be seen as trapping you in a contract that you couldn’t get out of. In effect, employers would be helping the employee secure opportunities elsewhere — perhaps even in another state or country by giving you a “quit bonus”.

Thus, from the very beginning, if you took a job at Zappos, there was an unspoken understanding that the relationship was built on the terms of mutual benefit.

Employees would be compensated at a fair wage and benefits and the employer had expectations that you would provide excellent performance and service. If at any point there was a breakdown in trust, and the employee felt they needed to move on professionally, you would give them the incentive to leave immediately rather than languish on with poor performance.

I never expected an email back from Tony, but I wanted to leave him a note thanking him for his efforts. He was letting his ideas become openly shared for public consumption. Which isn’t the easiest thing to do. And because of his ideas and efforts, he was making the lives of business leaders that much more easy by rendering us pieces of his “playbook” on how to manage people.

The toughest thing that you can do in any business is the management of people. Building a motivated workforce that can meet the daily demands of customers while providing excellent communication and customer service is difficult. And, I felt that Tony was running a business in which he understood that building a happy workforce that did not feel trapped or constrained was a key ingredient in building a successful brand and therefore a successful business.

Two weeks later, Tony’s chief of communications emailed me back. He thanked me for my encouraging words and offered me Tony ‘s book for free. The book that he wrote is entitled Delivering Happiness: a path to profits, passion, and purpose.

Sadly, Tony Hsieh passed away November 27, 2020. However, his legacy and achievements in the business world live on. His business philosophies on how to effectively manage people will certainly be studied and mimicked by future business leaders.

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

How to determine if a candidate “cares”..

How to determine if a candidate “cares”..

The interview begins—and you have already reviewed the candidate’s resume’. They meet all the qualifications, and even have some excellent references. You hire the candidate, and around six months to one year later after their up and down performance you and the employee decide that it’s best to part ways.

So what happened? The interview went well…check. The references seemed to be great…check. Yet, once the candidate got the job — they had a fatal flaw that was impossible to overcome.

They just didn’t seem to care.

They didn’t care about the customers, didn’t care about their daily performance, didn’t even seem to care about their evaluations… Which ultimately meant that the product they were serving up to your loyal base was average at best. They had just enough good days to make you think maybe it would work out, interspersed with enough bad days to make you shake your head.

It’s pretty weird when you think about it. And naturally, you have to feel a bit disappointed. Typically, I’ll even replay their interview over in my mind; trying to figure out what I missed during my evaluation. Going through this process forces the manager to ask themselves what checkboxes are the most important to be checked before making a commitment to offer the candidate a position.

A few days ago, a colleague reminded me of her words on the hiring process prior to me taking on a management position. She’s held multiple management positions. And she said, “when you hire someone, find a person with good customer service…if the person has good customer service, you can typically work around some of their deficiencies…”

I would add to her statement — that the job candidate’s deficiencies can even be remedied with appropriate teaching and training. So, then the manager must ask themselves, “am I a good enough teacher/trainer to remedy the candidate’s deficiency or do I currently have someone on staff that can be an appropriate educator/mentor for the job candidate?”

I don’t know of any degrees/diplomas to my knowledge that are being conferred by colleges and universities in the field/study of CARING @ WORK. Thus, what questions could be asked to determine if a candidate meets your standards? I guess… you could simply just ask the magical question, “do you care… or will you care? But, unfortunately you will most likely just get a canned answer.

So I suggest going through what-if scenarios with your candidate using a diagram for what you consider to be right and wrong answers for each of your scenarios. This I believe is the best method for gaining a little more insight into determining if a candidate truly possesses the traits required to serve your customer base.

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

Writing in Plain English…

Learning how to write in plain English has been one of the most useful concepts I have learned. Effective written communication is a business litmus test. If done well, it can help the business professional build their personal brand.

Plain English is defined in Wikipedia as being…

A style of communication that uses easy to understand, plain language, with an emphasis on clarity, and avoidance of complex vocabulary.

Personally, this has been extremely important to me in the following areas:

  1. Writing business emails to convey a message the reader can easily understand.
  2. Writing incident reports to convey a message that anyone could understand.
  3. Designing business correspondence to customers regarding new services.
  4. Designing operations & workflow management forms to ensure quality employee performance that leads to better customer service.

Thus, out of respect to the the art of writing in Plain English this is the conclusion of this blog post.

For further information click this. And if you really get bored and want to read a book — I would suggest the following, Writing & Speaking at Work by Edward P. Bailey.

Regards, Sam

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

Managing conflict…

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You don’t have to be a manager to run into circumstances that make you want to claw your hair out. Managing conflicts in the retail market space is like pouring a cold cup of water in a glass during the summertime. What I’m trying to get at folks, is that you’re going to have to learn how to deal with the emotions of your staff, your customers, and your family, and most importantly yourself.

First, I would like to come clean… I can be the worse at dealing with conflict. I’ve yelled and kicked many garbage cans.

Any person that is passionate about their craft strives for excellence; and if excellence is not achieved there will be frustration.

Before we get into managing conflict…Let’s consider the following:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 5; how do you manage stress?
  2. Who do you talk to about your stress?
  3. What is your outlet for your stress?
  4. When was your last vacation from your work?
  5. Do you actively take time to de-stress during your workday?
  6. Have you considered quitting your job due to stress?
  7. How often do you raise your voice in a day, a week, a month?
  8. How is your family life; do you spend enough time with friends and family?
  9. How is your sleep? Have you been getting enough rest?

I bring up those questions to lead into how conflict arises. Conflicts arise with much more earnest and ease in times of stress and exhaustion. To ensure you’re at your best; make sure you at least attempt to take care of your daily needs. Eat lunch at an appropriate time, step away for a 15 minute break to clear your mind, or take a brief walk to get away from the office.

Back to conflict! Haha…

When facing conflict with customers, employees, peers, or even family— the first thing you should do is pause. The second step should be to gather your thoughts. The third step should be to listen before speaking. Pause, gather, listen. 

What does it mean to pause you ask? The pause should be intentional. It helps you to refocus your energy into not speaking. Oftentimes I’ve found that immediately speaking, only pours fuel on a “gasoline conflict”.

Gather… To gather means to collect your emotions, your feelings, your worries, your fears, your anxieties. Conflict is an adrenaline rush. Having someone out the blue, just begin yelling or cursing can be a shock to your nervous system. Thus, gather yourself and consider why you’re standing presently in conflict. The pause allows you to actively choose to gather your thoughts and emotions.

Lastly, listen with intent. Your mind will without a doubt be racing toward the hills. This person did me wrong. This person is not right. This person is crazy. Be an active listener in the process towards solving the underlying issues of both your customers and staff. I’ve found that 9 times out of 10 a customer or staff member just needed a moment to be heard. It’s easy to underestimate the value of listening. It’s very easy to want to solve a problem; oftentimes the problems are simple problems that can be solved in 30 minutes or by the end of the business day. The big problems that can lead to conflict often are the problems that have been festering for months.

Conflict is around the corner. But…

  • Reflect and honestly evaluate your personal stressors

Next, when presented with conflict: 

  1. Pause and breathe
  2. Gather your thoughts and emotions
  3. Listen with the intent to understand

 

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

 

 

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