A Lack of Value

When I see the word FREE, my attention is always diverted to the offer at hand.  Give me a coupon where I get something for free, and I see that little piece of paper as something of value.  When someone offers to help me with something and is not charging me, I see the value in that favor.

Yet, I have been testing that theory lately in a few ways when it comes to motivating clients to make purchases.  I recently offered up the chance to receive a Free Training Physical as a way to introduce my consulting services.  It is not like I’m giving away the store, I have made it a drawing and will do one a month.  The kicker is I have yet to get a single company to even fill out the entry form.

I asked one company why they had not entered the contest, and I was told that if I was doing it for free then they didn’t see the value.  I said I normally charge X dollars for a company their size and yet if they won, they would be saving that money.  It peaked their interest, so we shall see if it prompts action.

Another company that I just adore is a vendor partner that has fallen on hard times.  A couple of weeks ago I made an offer to do some free work for them as a way to keep things moving forward.  They have discussed it, in fact the term used was “mulling it over”, and yet a decision has not been made.  I am left to assume that they too see no value if it is Free.

Most companies that sell things have either reduced their prices, offered discounts or credits on future purchases.  Everyone seems to be trying to figure out what the magic formula is to prompting buying decisions.  It makes me wonder if I can’t give a service away for free and get a taker, what is going to prompt someone to purchase another product or service at a discount rate?  If two weeks can go by without a decision about something that is free, why should we expect companies paying for things to respond any sooner?

Maybe the solution is to increase the hourly rate, or item pricing to the shock level.  If we all start charging astronomically high for things, will companies start to see value?

For me, price is a consideration in determining value.  For instance, some brands to me are just not worth the extra money.  And yet if the price is reasonable I will look at the other factors to make a buying decision.  If it is Free, I will almost always take you up on the offer, because there has to be some value in exchange for zero dollars.

Getting Nothing For Something

I’m sure you have heard the phrase “Getting Something For Nothing” which is a good things, a perk, bonus or reward.  So it took me by surprise this week when I heard it turned around as a manager was describing another manager on her staff.  She said, “paying this person every week is like getting nothing for something.”

After I realized that I had not transposed the words in my mind, I asked what she meant.  I was told in more detail why this particular employee was such a disappointment, and that her productivity was so low it was hardly quantifiable.  “I pay her weekly, and get nothing in return!” 

Obviously we have a performance issue here, but I’ve recently become a fan of accountability and that all the blame cannot be heaped on the employee not performing.  So I dared to ask if this person was well aware of her performance goals.  How often was she coached, or given constructive feedback.  What do some of the action plans look like.  What I found surprising was that none of this was going on!

Here I was talking to someone who had not lifted a finger to set expectations, or coach and give constructive feedback.  I wonder if I met with her manager if I would get a similar response like “paying this person every week is like getting nothing for something.”

Because of the behaviors I witnessed with this manager, the performance problems are deeper than one employee on her staff.  I will need to talk with more people until I find out how widespread the problem is.  Although my initial reaction was one of surprise that someone was upset that they were paying an employee to be unproductive, my horror came when I realized these might be skills that are learned through active modeling.

Losing 30,000 Employees!

Having worked years ago for Bank of America, the headline in today’s paper that they had plans to let 30,000 employees go, to say the least, caught my eye.  I believe the article reported this number to be around 10% of their total workforce, but from any angle you look at this news it is astounding to me that this place will be able to run with 30,000 fewer people.

My mind starts to race around how this can work.  Do they really have 30,000 people so under performing that they will not be missed?  Will the remaining employees be able to pick up the slack, or will they land up burning out in a few months?

I realize that some of this number is made up of people who would have retired, or been terminated for cause, or resigned for a better job.  Yet, under normal circumstances each of those openings would have yielded a new hire.  Someone that needs training, and will bring fresh ideas to the table.  But this is not a matter of swapping out one body for another, as their plan is to keep on operating with 30,000 fewer bodies.

I work with primarily small to mid-sized organizations, and I can tell you first hand that there is a lot of unproductive employees scattered around taking up space and salaries from people who would like a job.  It makes me wonder if Bank of America has realized the same pattern, and that losing 30,000 people will mostly save them salary and benefits.  Maybe these individuals were not really pulling their weight, and their loss will not have much of an impact on other employees and client services.

Losing 30,000 employees should be a tragedy for all involved.  Yet when a company is faced with stock values and profits falling like they are at Bank of America, you have to wonder if this won’t be a good thing in the long run for the bank.  For those losing their jobs, the unemployment line is a long one!

Developing Self-Serving Leaders

Although I believe that all leaders should be “Servant Leaders”, those who see their role as removing obstacles so their teams and staff members can succeed, it has become all too apparent that many companies are striving to develop “Self-Serving Leaders” instead.

Self-Serving Leaders look for opportunities to make themselves the winners of any situation.  They create environments where others cannot compete with them, and take credit for the work of other team members and staff.  They love to blame others, and the whole idea of accountability is someone else’s responsibility!

The primary way we develop “Self-Serving Leaders” is by role modeling these bad behaviors.  Others see us serving our needs by walking over others to get what we want and since it works, we implement the same behaviors on our teams and staff.  Bodies are piling up along side the road, but no one is focused on the casualties.

The second way I see us developing “Self-Serving Leaders” is our continued avoidance of actually developing supervisors, managers and leaders in basic communication skills.  Oh, it is on everyone’s “To-Do List” but actual implementation comes after every other possible activity. 

I read an article about a CEO that told the Training Director that the way to improve the company was to build managers that could think better, communicate better, and inspire better.  The Training Director launched this all out “Team Building” program, avoiding the whole idea of management and leadership development.  They made the cover of a training magazine this month, and today they announced that the CEO was fired because the company didn’t turn around!  Duh! and who’s fault is that?

The CEO had the right vision, and yet she let the Training Director run amok creating her own empire.  Maybe things would have been different if  The CEO had been a stronger “Servant Leader” and the Training Director had been less of a “Self-Serving Leader!”