The Path to Excellence Via Commitment, Cohesion


What does a naval commander and waterfalls have in common as it relates to business and customer experience success?

Editor’s note: Brian O’Neill, CMSWire Contributor and former chief client officer for FIS, wrote for CX and other teams in his former organization a series of articles. Each were titled, “The Path … ” with each edition being a new take. For example, he would discuss culture, leadership, ownership, purpose, etc. In his six-plus years in his CX role, he sent out 286 notes with the intention to empower, reinforce and frame his company’s mission by sharing insights to help his team improve its game and increase its level of engagement in what it wanted to accomplish. He revives some of these notes and adds some current perspective in this Fall 2022 CMSWire series

The best dad jokes are the ones that play on repeat and often require some patience to get to the punchline. On July 9, 2016, we announced a new employee recognition program, and to ensure we got everyone’s attention we had a little fun with TLC and chasing waterfalls.

The joy of a dad joke.

So, while I’d like to tell you that this post is about T-Boz, Left-Eye, and Chilli and a deep dive into No Scrubs, Creep, and yes, Waterfalls . . . I thought I would share with you a modern-day CX view on TLC.

Modern-Day View on CX

Early on in The Path to Excellence journey, I had the opportunity to see Michael Abrashoff speak at two conferences in about three months’ time. For context, at 36, he was selected to be Commander of USS Benfold and was the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific fleet. 

The challenges of this underachieving destroyer were staggering, with low morale and the highest turnover rate in the Navy. Few thought the ship could improve. Yet 12 months later it was ranked #1 in performance — using the same crew. So, how did he do it?

His own website answers that question directly: “By replacing command and control leadership with commitment and cohesion. The lesson was clear: Leadership matters and culture is everything.”

Related Article: The Path to Excellence, Part 1: Guide for CX Leaders Begins Again

Culture Is Everything

Ah yes, culture.

That elusive goal of all great organizations — a high-performing, rewarding, client-focused, responsive, yada yada yada environment that consistently delivers. Or, as I shared in my last edition about culture, “how senior leaders act when everyone is watching.”

So, what does a Naval Commander and Waterfalls have in common?

Not only did Abrashoff replace command and control with commitment and cohesion, but he was also purposeful in recognizing behavior that would change the culture, a culture that yielded low performance to one that would ultimately become “the best damn ship in the Navy.”

He’d see something, he’d reward it. He’d announce it: literally to the entire ship. He’d provide the sailor with a pin that recognized their performance, fostered an opportunity for quicker promotion, and an increase in pay.

Prior to my role as head of client engagement/chief client officer for FIS, I had the privilege of running an exceptionally high-performing sales team. While we had quotas, new sales targets, renewals and retention goals, we took a very simple approach to what defined success in managing these relationships.



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