Last month, I went on my annual weekend golf outing with my high school buddies. We go somewhere new every year and play four rounds of golf, eat too much food, and generally pretend we are still in high school. At our final course this year, I went to pay for my green fees with my American Express card and the employee behind the counter said, “Sorry, you’ll have to pay with Visa or MasterCard.”
I found it odd that a golf course the caliber of this one didn’t take every single credit card on the face of the earth! I shrugged and changed cards and went to the first tee. After our round, we had our final lunch together, and as is the case with all our meals, we draw two credit cards from a hat and those two “losers” get to pay the check for the group. Unfortunately for me, this time I was one of the “losers.” When I received my check, I noticed that imprinted on the leather-bound cover was the American Express logo as the desired method of payment. This made me chuckle. Either the employee at the golf shop didn’t get the memo or they had two sets of rules for the same place.
Regardless of the reason, one thing was certain. The golf course and restaurant were sending a mixed message. One side of the company accepted a form of payment, and the other side didn’t. Is your company inadvertently sending mixed messages both internally and externally?
It’s not uncommon for companies to send out mixed messages to employees. Notwithstanding a company’s size or industry, humans are susceptible to such errors. For example:
• Inconsistent treatment of employees when it comes to promotions, pay increases, and time off
• Inconsistency regarding discipline and reasons for termination
• Inconsistent hiring practices and training
• Lack of follow-through on new procedures and practices
• Failing to properly communicate changes
• Failure to set adequate contingencies, leading to confusion and frustration in time of crisis
• Saying one thing and doing another
Don’t tell me this only happens at other companies; that you’re immune to it. I have yet to observe a company that doesn’t have at least a few inconsistencies that lead to internal strife. To fix these issues, allow me to offer some internal best practices and suggestions:
1. Don’t worry about being perfect. I talk to business owners that aspire to have a perfect culture, perfect employees, and perfect harmony. There is perfection in imperfection as long as it’s part of the humanness of a company. Take perfect out of the equation and strive for exceptional. There’s a big difference.
2. Be consistent. Just like one organization should accept the same credit cards, you should be consistent with how you treat employees when it comes to benefits, pay increase opportunities, and advancement guidelines.
3. Become fluent in speaking their language. Make sure you’re clear in how you communicate your message, your priorities, changes in procedures, or anything else that requires education. It’s your message, yet you need to deliver it in way that is understood and implemented.
4. Get help. Subscribe and join associations and groups that provide information and education on human resources. Hire experts to help you navigate challenges and find solutions. Be vulnerable enough to admit that investing in help will ultimately make you a better company.
It’s also a reality that messages can get mixed up externally, just like my story depicts.
• Is your sales team making promises it can’t keep?
• Is your brand clear to your target market, or are you trying to be everything to everyone?
• Is your website current? The worst thing you can do in 21st-century marketing is becoming obsolete in a post-Yellow Pages world.
• Does your customer service team treat customers as you wish they would? How do you know?
• Are you accessible to people you most value as customers and clients?
To fix these issues, allow me to offer some external best practices and suggestions:
1. Invest time, money and resources into assuring your sales message and vision resonates with the entire operation. Sales must know what is practical for steady growth without becoming a burden to operations.
2. Create a plan to monitor your cyber presence. That includes your website and social media platforms. Respond to concerns and stay current.
3. Hire and train customer service people that like talking to people. I’m not kidding. Have you ever had a conversation with a customer service person that was surly, uninterested, or even just rude? You know what I mean then!
4. Engage your employees. Ask them for help and suggestions for improvement when it comes to your external message.
If you want to truly be significant and successful in business, you must communicate your message both internally and externally. Your employees must understand and exemplify your mission and vision. Your clients and customers need to know what you do and how you’ll help them.
It’s pretty basic, but important. Sort of like knowing which credit cards to accept, right? Make sure you keep your message clear and concise, so that your company can be Unleashed.
© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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