Thursday, July 2, 2015

8 CEO Actions to Ensure Chief Customer Officer Success

Guest post from Jeanne Bliss:
More than ever, customer experience is a priority for CEOs in nearly every industry. With the ability to spur customer-driven growth and business transformation, Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) have become embraced as the go-to role for customer experience. However, senior executives should know before they decide on a CCO, that this position requires a personal commitment from them. There are eight major actions the CEO should do to ensure CCO success.

1. Take Personal Ownership
The CEO should position the work of the CCO as a priority of their agenda. People must understand that they will be delivering directly to the CEO by working with the CCO.

Commitment Questions:
  • Does your CEO clearly articulate what he/she wants the company to become for customers and constantly reinforce and drive the company in that direction?
  • Is there a commitment for organizational transformation, not some one-off tactics and silver bullets?
2. Make the Customer Leadership Executive an Officer of the Company
Ensure that the CCO is at a peer level of the leaders of the organization.  This role will be involved in facilitating change to how the business operates and requires the ability to function, ability to establish and build relationships and ability to enable others to be successful equal to an executive level position.

Commitment Questions:
  • Has the CEO ensured that the role is positioned as an officer of the company with the full support and engagement of the CEO, leaders and the organization?
3. Establish Acceptance/Role Clarity/Suspend Cynicism.
After initiating the CCO role, it’s important to establish the working relationship between the company leadership and the CCO. Agree with the other leaders how they will personally engage with the CCO and how their organizations will participate with you.

Commitment Questions:
  • Is the leadership team in alignment about the role and how they interact as a team?
  • Is there clarity across the organization that this role is to enable and establish a one-company approach and discipline to customer experience, not to take over their work?
4. Accelerate CCO Value Right Away
Put the CCO in the position of doing specific and tangible work within the first month of the job.  Engage the leadership team to be personally involved in guiding version 1 of the five competencies. Make it the first order of business to drive the metrics of customer loyalty and customer profitability.  This type of tactical kick-start will help you gain the momentum you need for the long-term success of the CCO.

Commitment Questions:
  • Are tactical projects put in motion so that people understand the role and its value?
  • Are early-adapters and enthusiast leaders identified to work with first to prove role value?
5. Drive Regular Accountability
Don’t make your CCO expend energy and cycles lobbying to get a place on the corporate agenda. Instead, establish a set of meetings with the specific agenda of discussing and advancing the customer experience work, such as a customer room. Create continued clarity by having the CCO drive these meetings and steer the process.

Commitment Questions:
  • Will your CEO unite the leadership team to establish one-company accountability to priority customer experiences?
  • Are forums for accountability regularly scheduled and enforced as a key strategic meeting for the success of the company?
6. Provide Political Air Cover
A CCO who is forced to navigate this work alone will wear out over time as the isolation of the job mounts. An absent executive team who commits to the work but does not actively engage, turns the CCO into a beggar, constantly asking for people to give the work the time required to embed it into the organization.
Commitment Questions:
  • Does your CEO commit time and resources to ensure that the C-Suite will unite in customer experience improvement and culture?
  • Does your CEO play an active role in understanding and participating in the rigor of aligning the company when necessary?
7. Insist on Corporate Patience
The CEO must set realistic expectations that this is at minimum a three- to five-year path. The customer experience work is not for the mild-mannered or for the quarterly inclined. People are going to need to understand that this is a multiyear endeavor. They can’t bail in the first year. That would be a huge waste of human and financial capital. It will be the executive sponsor’s job to get everyone to stay the course.

Commitment Questions:
  • Is your CEO committed to the timeline required and are they willing to suspend the usual short-term expectations of immediate results and have the patience for the customer work to take hold and yield results?
  • Will they sustain the patience inside the corporation and with the board to stay the course so that results can be achieved?
8. Demystify the Road Map
To create the shift for an organization to cohesively deliver customer experiences is a huge undertaking. Yet it’s quickly agreed to when that charge comes from the president: “We must improve customer relationships and profitability.” Who wouldn’t salute that flag? But what flag did the company salute? What did they agree to accomplish? Therein lies the problem: the CEO’s request for customer commitment contains no direction.

The organization doesn’t know what they’ve agreed to do or how they’ll get it done. The CCO can provide significant value to the CEO and company leadership by framing the scale of the undertaking and establishing a road map for getting the work accomplished over time.

Commitment Questions:
  • Are expectations and processes to drive the work identified realistically and planned so that people understand the road map, where it is leading and why it is set forth?
  • Have the resources been applied so that the road map is grounded in the reality of what the company can achieve and fund?
Jeanne Bliss pioneered the Customer Leadership Executive position, holding the role for over twenty years at Lands’ End, Allstate, Coldwell Banker, Mazda and Microsoft Corporations. She is the best-selling author of the new Chief Customer Officer 2.0, Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action (2006), and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions to Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad (2011).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

You Onboard Your New Employees, So Why Aren’t You Onboarding New Managers?

“Most every business leader knows that onboarding is essential for employees, but somehow managers often don’t get the same treatment. Take time to develop a strong onboarding program to help both new professionals and new managers get acclimated quickly, and improve the chances that they will make your company their professional home for years to come.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A “Survival of the Fittest” Approach to Leadership Development Produces Cockroach Leaders

Read my latest post about the dangers of using a survival of the fittest approach to grooming emerging leaders over at Management and Leadership:

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Marathon Effect of Leading Change

When senior managers announce a significant change, their goal is to get employees on board in the hope that they will embrace and support the change. When employees react with confusion, fear, uncertainty, or question the change, managers mistakenly see this behavior as “resisting change”.  They forget that they went through the exact same process. They had more time to deal with it and are now ready to move on.

This “lagging effect” of how people respond or organizational change is called “The Marathon Effect”. It’s an important change model for leaders to understand when planning and leading change.

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to learn more.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Power of One Minute Goal Setting

You learned it in Leadership 101: goal setting is the most powerful motivational tool in a leader’s toolkit. But is your goal setting up-to-date?

Read a guest post from management and leadership guru Ken Blanchard, author of the One Minute Manager over at Management and Leadership:


Monday, June 22, 2015

How to Make Better, Faster Decisions

Bad decisions can ruin an organization and kill careers. Have you been given feedback that you need to improve your decision making? If so, you are not alone. Managers often get poor grades from 360 degree feedback assessments in the areas of quality and timeliness of decisions.

Decision making, like any other managerial or leadership skill, can be improved.

Read more for tips and techniques on how to make better, faster decisions.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to Build a Better Meeting: Part Two

More on running better meetings, from the Great Leadership archives:

The burden of running better meetings don’t just fall on the meeting leader’s shoulder – we all have a responsible for better meetings. Read 8 Meeting Commandments that we all Need to Follow to learn how.

There’s nothing like a meeting with a CEO to raise your anxiety level! See How to Survive a Meeting with the CEO.

Your first department meeting? No worries, read 7 Tips for Department Meeting Rookies for a survival guide.

Meetings don’t have to be so painful! Read How to Make Team Meetings Less Painful Than a Root Canal.

Finally, for a more humorous look at meetings, take a look at 30 Thoughts We All Have in Staff Meetings.
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You can follow me on Twitter: @greatleadership or email me with suggestions for articles at:

Monday, June 15, 2015

How to Build a Better Meeting: Part One

This week’s posts are all about running better meetings!

We start with a new article over at on how to run better team meetings. Follow these 10 tips and you’ll  have more productive team meetings where your employees walk away feeling engaged and valued.

One-on-one meetings are another way for managers to demonstrate leadership. Follow these 12 tips to learn how.

To create a shared vision, you need to get others involved in creating the vision. Read more to find out how.

Are you using your meetings to cultivate the talent on your team? If not, then learn how to  Incorporate Learning into Weekly Meetings.

When you get a group of people together in a room, conflict is inevitable. Learn to resolve small group conflict in a productive way.

Please retweet the articles, share them on Google Plus, like them on Facebook, or forward the newsletter.

You can follow me on Twitter: @greatleadership or email me with suggestions for articles at:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

5 Ways Leaders Can Be Prepared for Ongoing Change

Guest post from Nancy Falls:

I was a girl scout.  My brothers were boy scouts.  Naturally, we used to argue about which had better programs, handshakes, rules, etc. One thing we didn’t have to argue about was mottos, because they were the same: “Be Prepared”.

Leaders today, former scouts or not, would do well to heed the scout motto, especially when it comes to change.  Last time I checked, the inevitability of change was one of the few things we could count on not changing.  Given that, it is remarkable how many people and organizations are ill prepared for it.  Here are 5 ways in which you can Be Prepared for change. 

1. Know Your Culture, and Take Responsibility for It
Change is hard, for people and for organizations.  People and companies that get good at it are intentional about creating a culture that embraces constructive change.  They have what I call Organizational Readiness: The condition of being prepared, culturally and structurally, for significant change, or having in place the foundations for accepting and participating in constructive transitions.  What is the culture of your organization?  As a leader not only should you know, but you should be part of the force creates conditions for change readiness.  As Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  The best laid plans and strategy will fail when confronted with a culture that resists what needs to happen to execute on them.  But as Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Culture is one thing and varnish is another”.  Be prepared for employees and departments that give the impression of change readiness, but who in fact are adding a varnish to send you looking another way.

2. Practice Change Resistance Awareness
One of the most common organizational roadblocks to change is the well-known NIH (not invented here).  You may hear it as “We don’t do it that way.”  When you hear this it is a cultural roadblock you need to work to clear.  If you have been with the organization for a long time, you are no doubt aware of historical ways of doing things, and in some ways have a leg up on helping people being understand why the old ways must change.  But as often as not you are a newer player seeking, or even brought in, to change the old ways of doing things.  Clearing this attitudinal roadblock requires listening intently and generously to understand what did work about the old way, and why individuals reject newer ways.  Taking the time to understand those who have to change will increase the odds of getting by in for the new way.  First cousin to NIH is the “We Are Not Broken” attitude.  This attitude can be a more powerful argument for not changing than NIH because on the surface things often do not seem broken.

3. Embrace the Power of Interim Leadership
When there is a change in leadership, a period of interim leadership with a skilled interim leader from the outside can facilitate organizational readiness for change. Organizations often appoint the closest available inside person to be interim. These folks have great institutional knowledge and can keep current projects on track, but they are not as well positioned to evaluate organizational readiness for change as is an outsider, especially one skilled at interim work.  It takes a special skillset to move into an organization, without the presumed authority of position, know where to go to “find the buried bodies,” and work independently as needed. And interims that have no interest in the permanent position can be more objective in their evaluations.

4. Remember that Personnel Is Personal
I remember a case study from my MBA studies, which laid out a situation where a manager had to choose one of two candidates for a promotion and overseas assignment.  The candidate who was more qualified had tremendous personal challenges to relocation, including resident invalid parents.  Many students thought the obvious choice was the guy who was most able to make the move, given he did have the basic skills needed. The right answer was to pick the absolute best candidate without second guessing the personal because you can never know all of the facts.  In fact, the candidate with the elderly parents had recently decided to move the parents to a facility, making a move possible.  Likewise, I know a leadership team that was working on succession planning and failed to plan for departures among those execs with certain long-term incentives.  They figured they were locked in and wouldn’t leave.  In fact, for personal reasons, one of the most valuable of these team members did in fact leave early.  It turns out money was not the driver.  Personal issues were.  The point is it’s always personal for your employees when it comes to change.  And while you need to remember that and anticipate personal change and preferences, it is critical to appreciate that you can never know all of the facts.  Plan for personal factors to contribute to change, and in ways you don’t expect.  When planning on the people side of change, have alternative plans prepared.

5. Know What the Organization Can Handle
Different industries have different requirements for change. A tech firm not expecting to move at a rapid pace can expect to be eclipsed.  Also, different employee bases have different appetites for change. Planning for change at a big bureaucracy that is dependent on large staffs of long-time workers requires deliberation and a slower pace.  Different owner structures also have different change values. Family-owned companies can often follow a path of change that brings results more slowly than can publicly traded companies. As a leader you need to understand these differences and drive change at a pace that is right for your company.

When it comes to building a culture of change, leaders would be well served to channel their inner scouts, boy or girl.  Follow these 5 tips and Be Prepared for ongoing change.

Author Bio:
Nancy Falls is a founder and CEO of The Concinnity Company, a boutique advisory that transforms the way boards and leadership teams work together. With more than thirty years of experience in and around the C-suite and the boardroom, Falls is a leadership and governance expert who understands what it takes to drive authentic success. Falls is a Governance Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. She is the author of Corporate Concinnity in the Boardroom: 10 Imperatives to Drive High Performing Companies.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Take the Mentoring Test!

How much do you think you know about mentoring?

Take the Mentoring Myths and Realities quiz to find out.

The quiz was designed as a tool to facilitate dialog between a mentor and mentee in order to clarify and align expectations.

Then check your answers here. You might be surprised!