I believe in you

These are very simple words, but they are extremely powerful when used. “I believe in you” can make a huge difference in performance, whether it is at work, at home or at play. A real life example may help, but I have changed the name of the individual to protect the identity of the person.

Sandy has worked in retail for many years at the same small store. She is a solid contributor, very pleasant to customers and quite loyal. While Sandy is not the best employee in the store, she is very reliable and is often called in when others cannot work their scheduled slot. Only rarely does she say no, as she needs the hours.

Like many retailers, this store is pushing cross-selling at the register. And, like many stores, they also have a phone application where customers can find answers to questions and guideposts on their own. Sandy, hates cross-selling as she knows many of their customers are return ones and don’t need to be invited to buy, but she is obligated to make offers.

Sandy was not performing well under stretch store measures, as the retailer was in financial trouble. The application sales were critical as they provided recurring revenue. The cross-sell push was strong and it made her feel quite uncomfortable. Her manager was stressed and made her stress known to Sandy and others. As a result, Sandy felt threatened and it affected her work, psyche, and health. Her scheduled hours suffered and her boss was hyper-critical of her. She considered other employment.

And, then the stress went away. An old boss who knew Sandy and what she was capable of, replaced the stress-causing boss who was asked to leave. Sandy was not the only one who felt the extra tension. The returning boss “believed in” Sandy and gave her room and opportunity. Sandy sold more of the applications and gained greater comfort in cross-selling without being too intrusive. And, her scheduled hours went up.

The boss who left openly and caustically shared her displeasure with others. Sandy is far from perfect, but the stress causing boss, created the circumstances for less fruitful performance. The returning boss knew how to lead and manage. She believed in her workers even while giving them high goals. This belief enabled Sandy to perform at a much higher level and the results showed.

“I believe in you.” Leaders can make a difference with these words. Not every employee is an “A” employee. Any team is a mixture of different skills and capabilities. A leader will provide the necessary amounts of management and encouragement. They will know when to step on the accelerator or ease off and tap the brakes. Good leaders are few and far between, but each manager can be a little better at leading. The results might be staggering, if they do.

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23 thoughts on “I believe in you

    • Indeed. As parents, it is easy to find things to be critical of, even when we are at our constructive best. Yet, these words of encouragement can make a greater difference.

      • I read an article years ago about John Wooden and it was noted that he never said a negative word to his team but always coached them in the most positive way. There are ways of telling people they are not doing the right thing without demeaning them or putting them down. “That’s pretty good, but you might try this; it may work even better” etc. etc.

      • Good example and he had a pretty successful track record. He had a belief that I remember vividly. He felt if his teams made more mistakes, they would win. This may sound contrary, but he felt if he had the better talent, by forcing the action they could impose their will, even if they made more mistakes. One need only think of NC State beating a much superior Houston team as Houston played not to lose.

  1. This is a great message. The power of a leader to either inspire & motivate the team, or absolutely destroy, demoralise and psychologically harm them is really underrated. Poor leadership will elevate stress levels and can really do serious damage to people and to a workplace – having been the unfortunate subject of really poor leadership, I couldn’t agree with this more 🙂

    • Many thanks. I think we all have had less than stellar leadership, so when we see someone who does it well, we should cherish it. Organizations take on the personality of its leaders, so if the leader is stressed, so will the team be. As you note, the converse is true. Thanks again, Keith

  2. Absolutely true, Keith! Many years in management taught me that people, whether consciously or not, respond much better and will help you as much as they possibly can with just some positive motivation. Threats and criticism are NOT people-motivators! Great post … I think I shall print it and give it to my daughter who, sadly, has just such a boss as Sandy’s.

    • Thanks Jill. As Hugh notes, one of the most successful college coaches ever, John Wooden, encouraged folks in his grandfatherly way. Tony Dungy is a terrific NFL coach who did the same, rarely raising his voice and calmly revealing his expectations and their responsibilities. I hope your daughter can benefit from a new manager soon, as it does add stress when a bad one is in charge.

  3. Brilliant. I had to remind a mom the other day that she did not understand that she (and most parents) have super powers. One word of support, one simple show of belief in a child as opposed to disparaging put-downs and constant comparisons to other people’s ‘better’ children can literally change a child’s life and re-direct how far they reach.

    • Thanks for stopping by. You are so right as we should not compare our kids to others. Yet, we parents are an imperfect lot. As I mentioned to Janis, it is easy for parents to find things to be critical of with our children and family, as they are imperfect as well. We parents should not sweat the small stuff, but do lay out expectations for certain behaviors. For example, my wife and I do not tolerate uncivil behavior toward each other in our house. As a result, our kids friends like to come over and our kids share their friends with their siblings. Yet, the key messages of support and love must be consistent. Kids that know this will thrive more. I will tell you we have made plenty of mistakes as parents, as it is hard, but we hopefully get the big things right.

  4. Dear Keith, This is so right on. Guess what, it is not the stars who are the engines that keep a company moving forward. But they show up everyday no matter what their home life is like.They want to do a good job. These loyal employees do not need to be brow beaten to do their jobs. They require positive feedback and encouragement, just like anyone else.

    Cross selling can be a useful tool. Here is one of the difficulties because it requires the ability to talk to customers. Through a conversation a good sales person can figure out what is important to their customer by listening so that the rep can make suggestions like a product that would be helpful. This cannot be done under a time clock. A lot of executives use the buzz word, relationship sales but if you asked for a definition, they would be clueless.

    Here I go on one of my tirades. Please forgive me for I tend to write forever.

    Call centers can be fun, positive places to work. My favorite company to use as an example is Zappos. (Source for below data is from Zappos website)

    “Zappos Insights is a department within the Zappos Family of Companies created simply to help share the Zappos Culture with the world. Yep, that means YOU! We are humbled by the attention Zappos has received and all the questions we get about our zany culture and business.

    We hope to see a day when all organizations realize you CAN have a successful and profitable business where your employees love coming to work, are happy and engaged, and your customers are raving fans. We want to share with YOU how we created our core values, built our culture, and run our business based on them. We want to share this with you so that you can translate it to YOUR unique and amazing company to create a happier and more productive culture and workplace. Whether your business has been around for 100 years, or you are an entrepreneur just starting out, we offer tours of the Zappos Headquarters, Q&A sessions with Zappos leaders, a Zappos Insights membership, and a full Zappos culture immersion with our 3-Day Boot Camp event. We can even create a custom event for YOU if you’d like. Just let us know. “ “At Zappos, we believe that work should be fun. Check us out and learn how we foster an employee-centric culture and have been named to the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 5 years in a row!”

    Could your call center imagine the following description of a job coach? Zappos has coaches that are life coaches. They brag about one favorite coach, Augusta. As per a Forbes article published on 2/4/2014 by John Greathouse, this is the Zappos specifications of their coaching practices:

    “While CEOs and other executives routinely have access to personal coaches, such coaching remains a rarity for the average worker in Corporate America. When such programs do exist, they often focus on making workers more productive, efficient and skilled in their job performance. These programs often indirectly benefit the workers, but their primary goal is the betterment of the company.”

    Zappos is renowned for its focus on its customers and employees. The company realizes that fostering personal growth is not only good for each employee, it benefits the entire company. As such, employees are encouraged to pursue goals, irrespective of whether they will have any impact on their ability to excel at their jobs.

    For instance, Zappos team members can support Augusta to lose weight, stop smoking or even get into college.

    At Zappos, the Coach’s primary responsibility is to make employees better people, not necessarily better workers. Augusta is rightfully proud of this emphasis, stressing that, “The program wasn’t designed around (job) performance or metrics. It was designed around our culture. How can we assist our employees with whatever it is they want to do. What’s going to make them happy? What are they passionate about? And a lot of times it is within their personal lives. We know that a happy employee in their personal life obviously is going to be a happy employee, even at work.”

    Aurelie Chaza in a 8/14/14 Business2consumer blog goes on to endow compliments to the company Zappos by stating: “I recently chatted with Zappos and it is clear that their customer service representatives are part of the family. The chat I had felt 100% genuine and it allowed me to connect with the person on the other side of the computer. But one thing that struck me with Zappos is that employees are encouraged to go “off-script” (not that they actually use scripts). What I mean is that the employee I spoke to started to tell me about her trip to Paris and we exhanged few thoughts about the city. This might seem highly unprofessional but it was the best customer experience I ever had. Why? Because Zappos gives their employees the opportunity to really connect with customers. In that particular case, the rep couldn’t solve my problem but I still left happier than ever, and I can promise you I will be a loyal Zappos customer if they ever start shipping to Europe.”

    She encourages companies to copy those practices exhibited by employees who work at Zappos:

    -” Customer service employees are an important part of the company and are treated as such. Zappos CEO even regularly answers the phones himself!

    – They are trained to be friendly and make the customer happy, not to read a script.

    – They are allowed to give their personal opinion and that’s how they connect with customers

    – They are regularly rewarded and are given lots of reasons to be proud of their job”

    She explains: “No one said it was easy to provide excellent customer service but it’s attainable. It just requires a big change in the way companies think. It’s time they see the value of good customer care and start building an organization.”

    This same author compared Zappos to Best Buy’s call centers which would be similar to Wells Fargo. “She writes the following: ” The number 1 reason why employees actually stick to nonsense scripts isn’t because they find them useful. It’s because it could get them fired if they didn’t! A Best Buy employee complained few years ago about the fact that failure to adhere to the script could result in termination of employment. Guess what Best Buy replied?

    “As is common with large corporations such as Best Buy, we do have guidelines for our customer support teams to follow to ensure that our customers receive the highest quality care,” „We have not heard from any of our customers (directly) on this topic and if we did we would of course address each concern individually.” This author continues: “No one wants to loose their job, especially when you need the money to survive. So employees just comply with the rules, complain about them during breaks and go on doing what they’re told because why would they fight the system anyway? I mean, no one makes them feel like their opinions matter. On the contrary, everything is made to make them feel like they DON’T matter and are not so hard to replace.”

    What this shows me is that the Wells Fargo call center can be a positive place to work but the top guys decided to follow the call center marketers paradigm without ever asking the question, “Is there a way to operate a call center to be cost effective while making sure that the customer is treated with courtesy, an exceptional level of service with top of the line products and that the front line agents are regarded as the professionals that they are with more control over their work product.

    As you stated, there is a better way, Gronda

    • Gronda, this is fascinating, but I think you wrote your next post here. People need to see this. The key to me is companies make more money listening to their customers and people who serve their customers. This is the Nordstrom model of the inverted pyramid where customers are at the new top and shareholders are at the bottom. If you serve the top well the shareholders make more money. Thanks for sharing this, Keith

  5. Note to Readers: I have written before about Paul O’Neill who turned around Alcoa. He did so by focusing on safety first, which union leadership and management could agree on. It also enabled dialogue from the manufacturing floor to management, as everyone had to be involved in the mission. So, floor employees felt empowered to share ideas and processes improved. This says I believe in you and your voice matters.

    • I am glad it is working well for you. I spoke with two old colleagues who are doing well working from home. One makes less money, but it works better with kids.

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