“What Inspiring Leaders Do ?” |by: Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman |HBR

What do top executives want from their leaders ? IBM recently asked this question of 1,700 CEOs in 64 countries.

The THREE Leadership traits that most mattered were: ” the ability to focus intensely on customer needs”, “the ability to collaborate with colleagues” — and “the ability to inspire”.

Our own extensive 360° feedback data, which we’ve gathered from just under 50,000 leaders who have been assessed by approximately a half-million colleagues, strongly confirms the importance of inspiring leadership.

Of the 16 leadership competencies we most frequently measure, it is clearly the one that stands out. In our data, the ability to inspire creates the highest levels of employee engagement and commitment.

It is what most powerfully separates the most effective leaders from the average and least-effective leaders. And it is the factor most subordinates identify when asked what they would most like to have in their leader.

Yet, when you talk with leaders who want to be more inspiring, you often get a deer-in-the-headlights reaction. They simply do not know what to do ??

What inspiring leaders do ? : 

To address this question we engaged in what some might refer to as a reverse-engineering exercise. We went into our database and looked for those leaders who received the highest scores on the competency of “inspires and motivates to high performance.” We found 1,000 such leaders and then analyzed what they did that separated them from their less-inspiring counterparts.

Some of what they did was specific and tangible. For example, they set stretch goals with their team. They spent time developing their subordinates. They engaged in highly collaborative behavior. They encouraged those about them to be more innovative.

Other things we identified were somewhat less specific and less tangible. These inspirational leaders were more adept at making emotional connections with their subordinates, for instance. They were better at establishing a clear vision. They were more effective in their communication and willing to spend more time communicating. They were ardent champions of change. They were perceived as effective role models within the organization.

Our data send a clear message : In this case, more is more. That is, the more of these behaviors a leader exhibited, the more inspirational that leader is perceived to be.

How they go about it ? : 

We next turned our attention from what these inspiring leaders did to the manner in which they did it. We’ve found that many leaders equate being inspirational with being enthusiastic and outgoing, and that can be so, but we also found that leaders could take any number of other approaches that didn’t necessarily require them to be extraverted.

That is, a leader could be inspirational in setting a stretch goal, say, in a number of different ways. She could, for instance, do it by creating a compelling vision (which we dubbed, unsurprisingly, as the “visionary” approach). Alternatively, she could meet with team members and have them, collectively, set the goal (taking what we call an “enhancing” approach.). Another inspiring leader might set stretch goals by tossing out a challenge to the group and setting a specific deadline by which to make it (taking a “driver” approach). Or maybe he encouraged the team to find an ethical goal that focused on the organization’s mission (in which case he took the “principled” route). Yet another of the inspiring leaders might have convened a meeting and delivered a classic half-time locker room speech to set the goal (which we think of as the classical “enthusiast” style) , or finally, he might take the “expert” route and interview team members to determine what skills each might best contribute to the effort.

Inspirational leaders might apply these different approaches to any of their leadership responsibilities, taking, for instance, a visionary approach to championing change by painting a compelling vision of a future in which the company was implementing a new strategy or taking an enhancing approach by encouraging team members to develop an innovative strategy together. Similarly, a leader could go about producing peak results by painting an exciting vision of the future or by marshaling the enthusiasm of the team to aspire to a higher goal.

Although merely 3% took the expert approach, perhaps more surprising is that only 12% went the enthusiast route. Each approach was equally effective, our data indicate, but leaders who were able to master multiple approaches did significantly increase their effectiveness.

Learning to be Inspirational : 

Finally, we turned our attention to the question of whether leaders could learn to become more inspiring. To find out we did another study of 882 executives from data collected over the last three years, who were measured on the 16 different competencies and encouraged to focus efforts on improving one of them. Focusing on the 310 who chose to improve their ability to inspire others we found that as a group they made impressive strides — moving from the 42nd percentile (that is, below average) to the 70th percentile. This is a statistically significant positive gain, and compelling evidence that when leaders use the right approach they can learn to become more inspiring.

In other words, with awareness, good feedback, and a plan of development, leaders are able to improve this most important of all leadership competencies.

How to Avoid the “7 Sins of Customer Experience” |by: Sharon Daniels | Chief Executive

Today’s business environment is one of heightened competition, and customer experiences are part of a complex matrix that determines customer loyalty. Customer experience can ultimately be an organization’s primary competitive advantage, if it is managed correctly.

Exceptional customer service produces loyal customers who buy more, refer friends, resist special offers from competitors and forgive the occasional mistake. Our newest research report on customer experience sheds new light on the “seven sins” of customer experience – key missteps that make organizations stumble when it comes to customer interaction.

The study surveyed 5,500 consumers and conducted in-depth interviews with outstanding customer service employees in 7 countries.

Among its significant findings: 

– Customers are sharing their rants and raves about their service experiences around the clock and around the globe. Almost 40% reported they posted complaints about a company or brand after a bad service experience.

– Negative experiences have a bottom-line impact. Half of those surveyed said they would defect to a competitor after only one bad service experience.

– Consumers give low ratings to customer service. Only 25% of survey respondents said that service employees “make me feel they are on my side.”

– Service employees’ interpersonal skills are what makes or breaks the customer experience. One third of survey respondents believe it’s more important to be “listened to and shown respect” than to have their issue resolved.

– Reinforcing the need for human contact, most survey respondents prefer communicating with service employees by telephone (43 percent) or personally (37 percent), compared with email (18 percent) or text (2 percent.) Though they’re quick to make complaints online, they want real-person interaction.

As the survey data indicates, the “customer experience counts mightily in organizational performance”. Recognizing this imperative, CEO, Kevin Peters of Office Depot, invites customers to a prototype store near company headquarters so they can help design a superior customer experience. Their input affects factors like the shelves on which products appear and even where employees stand as they stock the shelves.

These are the ” 7 sins” of customer experience :- 

1. Not Minding Your Metrics: 

Company leaders are failing to take full advantage of new tools that make it easier than ever to monitor customers’ experiences. The tools include a wide variety of CRM systems, voice-of-the-customer software, customer-interface technology and predictive analytics. Data on customer retention and the results of cross-selling by service reps can be especially valuable.

Obtain a comprehensive review of your customer’s opinions and actions through quantifiable metrics. Regularly survey them on key pints – whether they would recommend your company, what specifically is influencing their buying behavior, and what ideas they have for improving the customer experience.

Among the businesses that use highly sophisticated measurement frameworks is EMC, the IT storage cloud computing company. It identifies the aspects of the customer experience that have the biggest impact on loyalty. It then determines which ones require immediate changes, which to improve over time and which to promote as its strengths.

2. Underestimating the Power of Emotion: 

Even when the service provider can’t immediately fix the problem, customers can be satisfied if the employee connects with them on a human level. The service employee has to walk in the customers’ shoes.

Employees must listen actively so they can communicate sincere understanding, using a voice tone and/or body language that shows empathy with the customers’ emotions — even when the customer caused the problem. An angry customer may expect urgent concern, while a confused one may be satisfied simply with kindness. When it’s appropriate, an apology can work wonders and service employees shouldn’t hesitate to provide one.

3 Fumbling Defining Moments: 

Every customer interaction has defining moments that must be handled carefully. One of the first defining moments occurs when the customer is greeted, and it sets the tone for the entire interaction. A drive-through customer at a fast food outlet wants speedy service, as does the chain itself. KFC drive-through employees are required to greet the customer no more than five seconds after the customer reaches the intercom.

Another defining moment presents itself when the customer has a complaint. The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, which prides itself on maintaining an excellent customer experience, allows every staff member, regardless of position, to spend as much as $2,000 to resolve a guest’s problem without seeking approval.

A customer who must return a product faces another defining moment. Customers often complain about return policies. Zappos, which has a 100% satisfaction guaranteed return policy, actually encourages customers to order several sizes of a clothing line and return what’s not wanted.

Another defining moment crops up when an employee answers a customer’s questions. The employee has to answer directly, without evasiveness or circumlocutions. Another is when asking questions. The employee has to clarify the customer’s concern without putting the customer on the defensive. Finally, the customer shouldn’t be put on hold for a prolonged period.

3. Employees on Autopilot: 

Service people must stay engaged. They should do it by asking a blend of open questions, which keep customers explaining, and closed questions, which help confirm facts and isolate the customer’s needs.

Employees should explain what happened in terms the customer understands. They should be clear about what they know and don’t know about the situation. They must avoid blaming anyone for the problem — the organization, another employee, and certainly not the customer.

Most importantly, they should provide the particular kind of service each customer needs. Geek Squad, which provides support for technology product users, trains its employees to understand that customers have radically different levels of knowledge about the products and to serve them accordingly.

4. Focusing on Features: 

Some well-meaning service providers, hoping to give their customers insights about the product, talk too much about its features rather than the customers’ problems. This can make the customers feel their concerns aren’t being addressed. This is no time to try to up-sell or cross- sell.

More than 40% of survey respondents worldwide said they get annoyed when an employee “talks to me about things other than the problem I am trying to resolve.” Customers dislike complex processes and generally want to be spared the details of internal activities and issues.

5. Getting Negative: 

It’s not what the employees say but how they say it that leaves a lasting impression on the customer. The interaction must be positive throughout its duration. Words like “can’t” or “won’t” can quickly send the conversation spiraling downward. It would be wise to give service employees lists of words to use and words to avoid as they communicate with customers. Verint Systems, a consulting and research firm, identifies some of the words and phrases that can antagonize customers. They include “you people,” “let me speak,” and “you promised.”

6. Escalating Anger: 

Angry customers sometimes express their feelings by verbally assaulting service providers. Employees must avoid responding with anger. Help them understand that customers aren’t attacking them personally. Teach them how to ease tension and clear a path to address the customer’s problems.

7. Customer-Loyalty is built one successful interaction at a time :

Customer-facing associates are likely the most critical link between the customer and your brand. Indifferent or unhappy buyers among your customer base can be converted into brand promoters by taking a holistic view of the customer’s experience and determining how employee skills and behaviors fit into it.

Why Does “every Gym / Health-Club, have a unique Equipment Requirement ? ” |by Rory McGown |GYMetrix

One of the early, surprising, discoveries that GYMetrix made, was that each gym we measured the equipment usage, the customers demand pattern was different, and therefore the equipment requirement was different.
We did not expect this, and it was particularly surprising with gyms that had identical demographics and were geographically very close to each other. We expected these gyms to have very similar demand patterns, but in fact each gym we measured was different.
This disproved 2 common industry assumptions:- 
WARNING: Demographics of neither existing members nor those of the surrounding population determine a gyms equipment requirement! 
WARNING: There is NOT a single “golden”, one size fits all equipment ratio model, each gym has an individual equipment requirement! 
Often we say the equipment usage information we provide operators is not the answer sheet but the question sheet. The answer is not ‘ This is what equipment usage is!’ rather the questions is ‘Why is equipment usage like this?’ and ‘What can we do about it? ‘ 
So when we were measuring different demand patterns at every gym we had to ask ourselves the question,“What causes each gym to have a unique demand pattern?” 
Viewing Each Gym Floor As an Ecosystem- 
We began by viewing a gym floor as an Ecosystem that has four components that interact with each other in a way that determines the overall demand pattern.
Gym Ecosystem
Then we looked at each individual element within the Ecosystem and asked what influences each element of the Ecosystem, starting with what has influenced Customers Equipment Choices.

Some of the Factors Determining Customers Equipment Choices:- 

Customer Equipment Choices

When we surveyed gym customers for one project we asked what had determined their equipment choices. 40% of customers responded that they were doing either what their original induction had taught them to do or what a past PT had taught them to do.

Induction programs and PTs play a hugely important role in determining the customers equipment choices, this role is far larger than what the demographics of the members is.  

Some of the Factors that have determined the Types, Quantities and locations of Gym equipment:-  

Influenced Types of Gym Equipment

Until GYMetrix started trading the sad truth for gym customers is that what their demand actually was for equipment was not a factor in determining what equipment, and in what quantities operators bought !! 
In the main operator were using the 7 deadly assumption when refurbing gyms – we now have hard data proving these to not work.
Some of the Factors that determine the influence Gym Instructors will have on Customer Demand Choices:- 
Instructors Influence
The influence that Instructors can have over gym customers equipment choices should never be underestimated: 

A single proactive, enthusiastic, persuasive instructor who is inducting customers thoroughly on equipment they think customers should be using, will have far more of an impact on the customers equipment choices than any demographic data of the surrounding population.

GYMetrix information on equipment usage is not just used to help operators match their equipment supply with existing customer demand, but in every project we look at where ‘Demand Side Management’ can benefit the gym and its customers through instructors changing the customers equipment choices through induction programs and education.

Examples would be: 

1) Where functional training equipment usage is low the answer is not to remove it to a level that matches customer demand, but rather the instructors educate customers more about how to use it, and its benefits, to increase customer demand.

2) Where (commonly) ab machines have high usage and therefore low ‘availability’ and this is creating customer dissatisfaction  don’t get another ab machine, but get instructors to teach customers alternative ab exercises with swiss balls etc or do ‘Ab Floor Classes’ in peak to reduce the demand on the ab machine.

This provides ” value add” staff interactions with customers educating them with better methods of working Abs. 


Once we look at all the different combinations and permutations of the influences on each element of the Ecosystem, and then realise that each element will be interacting with the other elements, we begin to understand why each gym has a unique demand pattern.

Indeed we can see how improbable two gyms having the same demand pattern are, and therefore the same equipment requirement ratio. The larger the gyms get the larger the variance there is.

From its inception GYMetrix has been getting asked what the ‘Golden equipment ratio’ is that is best for all gyms. What our research has proved is that there isn’t  a Golden ratio. One size fits all ratios will produce a sub optimal customer experience and a sub optimal return on operators equipment investment. 

To get the best customer experience and return on equipment investment the answer is to measure each gyms unique demand pattern and then accurately cater to it, otherwise there will be equipment shortages leading to customer frustration and equipment excess which is waste for the operator.

When buying gym equipment small mistakes cost a lot of money !! ” Lots of small mistakes cost huge sums of money !!! ” 

“Obesity is a disease”, doctors’ group says |by: Maggie Fox |NBC News

A new decision by the American Medical Association (AMA) to classify obesity as a disease could change the way doctors and insurance companies treat and cover obese patients. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman discusses what it could mean for people who struggle with their weight.

The American Medical Association officially designated “obesity as a disease” on Tuesday – a disease that requires medical treatment and prevention.

The organization doesn’t have any kind of official say in the matter, but it’s influential nonetheless, and the vote of the AMA’s policy-making House of Delegates is one more step in the evolution of social attitudes towards obesity.

“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” AMA board member Dr. Patrice Harris said in a statement.

One third of Americans are obese – and that’s on top of the one-third who are overweight. Obesity is more than just a matter of carrying around too much fat, says Dr. Michael Joyner, an exercise physiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“The fat cells themselves we thought of for a long time as just warehouses for energy,” Joyner said in a telephone interview. But they also secrete chemicals, including chemicals that can cause inflammation, raise blood pressure and that down the road help harden the arteries.

“More widespread recognition of obesity as a disease could result in greater investments by government and the private sector to develop and reimburse obesity treatments,” the AMA said in one statement on the issue.

“Employers may be required to cover obesity treatments for their employees and may be less able to discriminate on the basis of body weight.”

The downside, the AMA says, is that people may expect that should be able to take a pill and “cure” obesity.

That clearly isn’t going to happen, Joyner says. Pharmaceutical companies have tried and tried, but just a very few drugs are approved for weight loss and even they don’t produce spectacular results.

“It is very, very difficult, once people get fat, to lose fat and keep it off,” Joyner says. “We live in a low-physical-activity, high-calorie, high-food-variety environment,” he added. “We are bombarded with images of food.”

But designating obesity as a disease could make it easier for policymakers to make changes. This has happened before with public health – once with smoking, and again with driving safety.

With smoking, first the U.S. Surgeon-General declared that smoking could cause disease, then gradually workplaces and then public places began banning smoking. Taxes on tobacco and restrictions on who could buy tobacco products helped – and smoking rates plummeted from above 40 percent in the 1960s to 18 percent now.

With traffic safety, first speed laws, then requirements for vehicles to have seat belts and air bags helped reduce deaths, Joyner said.

Now something policy measures are needed for obesity, the AMA says.

“It changes the ways society looks at things. It gives people maybe a new set of tools,” Joyner says.

On “GPA’s & Brainteasers”: New “Insights from Google On Recruiting & Hiring” |by: Adam Bryant,Columnist @ The New York Times

“ We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane ? How many gas stations in Manhattan ? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

That was just one of the many fascinating revelations that Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people operations, shared with me in an interview that was part of the New York Times’ special section on Big Data published Thursday.

Bock’s insights are particularly valuable because Google focuses its data-centric approach internally, not just on the outside world. It collects and analyzes a tremendous amount of information from employees (people generally participate anonymously OR confidentially), and often tackles big questions such as, “ What are the qualities of an effective manager ? ” That was question at the core of its Project Oxygen, which I wrote about for the Times in 2011.

I asked Bock in our recent conversation about other revelations about leadership and management that had emerged from its research.






1.The ability to hire well is random: “Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring,” Bock said. “We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.”

2.Forget brain-teasers. Focus on behavioral questions in interviews, rather than hypotheticals: Bock said it’s better to use questions like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” He added: “The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

3.Consistency matters for leaders: “It’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.

4. GPAs don’t predict anything about who is going to be a successful employee: “One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation,” Bock said. “Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. 

We found that they don’t predict anything. “What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.” 

That was a pretty remarkable insight, and I asked Bock to elaborate…

“After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different,” he said. “You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.

Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”