The Secret Discipline of Great Leaders

Great leaders make deep, daily thinking a cultural norm.

Great leaders make deep, daily thinking a cultural norm.

Thinking is the most difficult action of leadership. A lack of deep thinking is the reason so many organizations falter and so many people in leadership positions fail to lead well. Deep thinking is the hardest responsibility a leader has.

When people follow people, they are in effect saying, “I trust your thinking and that it will work out the best for me.” Sure, they are saying, “I trust your experience, I trust your vision, I trust your skills”, etc., but all of those are rooted in thinking. Heck, all of us think. It’s not the thinking that’s the problem, rather the lack of thorough, deep thinking.

Having worked in and with many organizations around the world, I am convinced that people don’t really like to think very hard at all. At first I thought it was cultural, but as I worked outside of North America more and more, with more than 60 different nationalities around the world, I have begun to find that for various reasons, thinking seems to stall at a certain, superficial level, globally.  Continue reading

Miserable at Work?

Recently, while reviewing some landmark research on what motivates human beings (Deci, 2000), I was surprised with one of the points that the researchers discovered: We don’t naturally pursue the things that are best for us. Basically, humans have some basic psychological needs that are just part of who we are, and when our environment supports those basic needs, it promotes psychological well-being. And when our environment doesn’t support those basic needs (and it must be all 3), then it promotes just the opposite: psychological ill-health. So you would think that when our environment isn’t supporting our well-being, we would naturally change the environment or go somewhere else in order to meet our needs. But what we’ve found out is that we don’t usually do that. Continue reading

T-Mobile Customer Service Tax: Ray Legere – This one’s for you

We all know that the wireless / mobile phone (or if you are like me and still caught in the early days: “cell phone”) carriers have really poor customer service. That’s simply a fact. But we try them out anyways, hoping to delay the day when we need to spend our valuable time and energy to dispute something that is important to us and frankly, not important to them.

And while we seek benefits, dividends really, for using the service, we really end up getting taxed at a very high rate; emotionally, hourly and financially.

I’m at that point now. I have been on the phone with T-Mobile for 2:20:37 and still have not been able to resolve my issue. Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s even better when its the middle of their day and the middle of my night and I have been funneled through the same channels over and over again. I am kind of enjoying it, because I will be using T-Mobile extensively as a case study in all my upcoming organizational leadership workshops across the globe.

And finally, I am back to a “payment supervisor”, for the second time, and I think that she has just disconnected me. I told my wife that I am going to pull an all-nighter (She groaned and went to bed, being all too familiar with my organizational nut-case antics). This is just one of those things where the more I try to get my needs met from T-Mobile, the more they end up looking absolutely ridiculous.

You’ve got to understand, at this point, I am not even in the country, and haven’t been for a while, and they’ve been charging me for a service that I never intended to be charged for (nor would it benefit me outside of the U.S.).

They’ve told me about their “strict policies” a couple of times. I think you only need to have one strict policy, Ray: Make the customer feel like the most valuable person on the planet. That’s what your industry fails to do. In fact, I would say that your industry may be more about customer demoralization than it is wireless communication services.

Now, I get that there are always two sides to a story. But really, this is the side paying for it, and in more than one way. So I thought that I might share the love, and the great service.

To be fair, they have 80% resolved the issue that they created when they set up their system to be difficult to understand and a bit manipulative in their favor to get you to use, but 80% is not why I become a customer of a company – I pay them for 100%. And that’s what I want back: 100%.

Ray Legere went public last summer and said that his industry is filled with, well, to put it lightly, “garbage” (only his word sounded more French than “garbage”, and had four letters). And Ray Legere has seemingly done a good job on the numbers for T-Mobile, but right now, I am feeling like I am one of the numbers that they are doing “one” on.

The tough part is that this issue is in most ways, not the fault of the hourly-wage folks on the phones, filing through the queues and following the call scripts and empathic listening responses. They are simply working within the confines of a system that has been set-up to perform a service, and ultimately creates a host of servants that obey its every constraint and ineffectual gate. Both employee and customer become a slave to a system that was intended to serve us, not the other way around!

And so yes, this sort of situation really does lie at the feet of senior managers within an organization, because its their system. If they claim not to know about it, then that shows you how well they are paying attention to how their company works with you and me – the customer.

Who do you want to do business with: someone focused on extracting money and market-share grabs, or someone who is sincerely showing you that they want to have a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with you?

How hard is it, to set-up a system to simply let the customer win in such a way that they absolutely love you, engage you beyond need, advocate you to others, tattoo T-Mobile on their bodies?

It’s not that hard. Right now I would give them a Net Promoter Score of about -30. And a customer effort score (how much effort the customer has to exert in order to get their needs met) of… well, let’s just say that it’s now been 2:31:45 since I began my call. And that is after several weeks of trying to get in the system.

By the way, their customer care team seems to not be operating 24/7. I’m not saying they should. I am just pointing out how much effort they are going to in order to make the customer feel good.

So, what’s the point? Well, if you want a carrier with good coverage, then we all know that it depends on where we live. But if you want to find a carrier that is working FOR YOU, then T-Mobile is simply not it. Not yet, anyways. Ray Legere seems to have set out to turn the industry on its head, but plans and coverage are not where you win in this industry. It’s with people. Make your systems as simple and as painless for customers to deal with, and you just made yourself the undisputed industry leader, entrenched, and protected by the market.

How about you – are your customers, be they business, colleagues, family or friends, paying a tax for interacting with you and trying to utilize whatever value it is you have to offer?

Are you simply following a system and wondering in frustrated circles, never really able to escape the cycle of results that you have been spinning for years?

Or have you turned everything on its head, put those that vote with their wallets in the driver seat and sought for true, long-term success and not merely short-term shareholder value?

Oh yeah, it’s now been 3:17:23. It’s time to go to bed. I’ll call back tomorrow and collect more material from T-Mobile so that MY customers will know what NOT to do.



Alignment, Inclusion and High Performance at

One of the great keys to alignment is knowing how your work and the work of others fit together in the bigger picture to drive the organization in a common direction. Its not enough just to know your own goals, but know the goals of the teams and workgroups around you. I rarely find that in organizations, and I have traveled all over the world looking into organizations and their inner workings. Continue reading

You Think You’re So Smart: Theories of Hierarchical Competence

I have a few key assumptions and theories that I have used in my work and research, and I just realized that I need to get some of them public, for various reasons.  This is one of those:

Imagine you have just stepped off the plane into a country where everyone and everything looks different than you look and the place you call home.  You’re used to clean; This place is dirty. You are used to prosperity; this place is poor and struggling.  You begin walking across town looking for a bite to eat. As you stroll down the streets, you notice that people tend to be staring at you a little longer than you are comfortable with.  How do you view yourself compared to them? Your abilities, your thinking, your understanding of the world? Continue reading

A Business Is Not What You Think It Is

Do you ever wonder how it is that work can be both fulfilling, and at the same instant be a source of stress, frustration and disappointment? Have you ever assumed an increase in responsibilities, thinking that you’re moving forward, only to find out that those responsibilities brought more difficulty than prestige and progression? What if I told you that it was your own fault, and you have been setting yourself up for that kind of experience for quite some time? Would you still talk to me? Well, it may be true. Continue reading