Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Dangers of “I”

Human behavior is one of the most enthralling facets to observe, study, comprehend… in organizations. Observation of human behavior has lead us to the perception that although many organizations are strong in developing and maintaining technical skill sets, they struggle with understanding and addressing human behavior.  And not only struggle, but at times dismiss or reduce its value and impact on the organization.  It has also been observed that some organizations are faced with a particular behavior that causes significant impact both internally and externally – what we will call the “I” syndrome for our discussion today.

Past research and our mental models drive us toward the perceived need for teamwork in an organization and the demonstration of “we” behaviors and “we” speak.  Even with all of the efforts expended by organizations to produce “we” cultures, there are some individuals who see themselves as the “I” of the organization.  It is our hypothesis that the “I” syndrome leads to degradation of the stability or the organization.  When we say degradation, we mean the following:

The “I” syndrome can lead to:

  • Reduced loyalty by those who interact with the “I” possibly leading to turnover
  • Reduced communication with the “I” possibly leading to missed opportunities and rework
  • Reduced team work possibly leading to reduced participation, idea generation, and impact; and poor results
  • Increased frustration with the “I” by the internal customer, employee or co-worker possibly leading to refusal to work together and breakdown of teams
  • Increased frustration with the “I” by the external customers possibly leading to lost sales and refusal to work together
  • Decreased trust in the “I” possibly leading to rework and refusal to work together
  • Passover of the “I” for promotions and job enhancement opportunities possibly leading to missed growth opportunities and turnover
  • Credit taken where credit is not due possibly leading to misdirection of efforts/reward; and all bullets above

While we need to understand the potential impact of the “I” syndrome, we also need to understand what the “I” may be feeling/perceiving and what is driving this behavior?  Is the driver related to the actions of the organization or someone/some group, or related to an internal driver?  Let’s think about the possibilities for a minute.  The “I” might think or feel/perceive:

  • No one respects me
  • Someone is trying to take my job/credit for my work
  • I need to be recognized
  • I’m the leader
  • They can’t do it without me
  • I carry everyone
  • I’m the boss
  • This is my company
  • I’m the only one here who cares
  • I’m the only one here who does anything or knows how to do anything
  • I’m going to make myself look good no matter how my company looks
  • I need to showcase to ensure I have career security
  • I’ll show them
  • I’m proud
  • They work for me, so essentially, I did the work, so I’ll take credit for the work

What the “I” person is feeling/perceiving is a factor that should be considered in the determination of the root cause and the approach to address and remove the behavior.  Our premise is that no matter what the “I” person is feeling/perceiving, a need exists to thoroughly investigate to identify the driver of the behavior to ensure the “I” syndrome does not lead to degradation of the organization and become a systemic issue.

Our recommendation is it that is best to not assume that this is just that person’s personality, and to not assume this is an isolated incident that will have no impact beyond that person and ourselves at this point in time.  We recommend identifying the root cause(s) of the behavior by investigating both quantitative and qualitative data – asking questions to identify the what, when, where, how, why, who; while maintaining sensitivity.  We also recommend creating an action plan once identification of the root cause(s) has occurred.  An action plan should at least include the following components: conversation/discussion with everyone involved in the situation; revision/creation of new procedures, processes, and/or systems if necessary; reinforcement of desired behavior; evaluation; and assignment of consequences applicable to those involved for cases of non-alignment by employees; and documentation.

Addressing such a behavioral issue is sometimes difficult, but we’ve seen (with much diligence and wiliness of the “I” to improve) abolishment of the “I” syndrome.  We’ve also seen plans fail mainly due to poor approach by leadership,  improper identification of the root cause, lack of desire to work together to improve from the “I,” or lack of desire of other employees to accept the changed behavior of the “I.”  Remember, Lewin said we need to “unfreeze, change, and re-freeze.”  In these situations, the leadership, the “I” employee, and the co-workers/team members all need to participate in the behavioral change effort and contribute to the “unfreezing, changing, and refreezing.”

Where do we go from here?

We understand the impact of the “I” syndrome to our organization’s success. We keep an eye out for the “I” syndrome, and we recognize the importance of removing this behavior immediately.  We develop a plan to address the cause(s) of the behavior, and to evaluate the impact of our actions.

© 2013 Heather Williams-Cavaretta

Customer Conundrums

Day in and day out every business – large or small – ponders how to improve their customer service and customer relations.  Successful businesses are efficacious at maintaining customer service and relations.  They understand that their window to sell and promote their goods and services in the present, and in the future, depends on the service they provide to their customers and the relationships they build with their customers.  There are two pieces to customer service and customer relations however – one is the external customer; the second is the internal customer.  There is a significant body of research and practical applications on external customers; but not as much on internal customers.  My hypothesis is that businesses will not reach their full potential without focusing on internal customer service and customer relations; in additional to their focus on the external customer.


What is an “internal customer?”

An internal customer is any person/group/team/division who is the recipient of another person/group/team/division’s work product and/or service.  For example, in a manufacturing organization, the packing department is an internal customer of the process department who processes the product to be packed; in a financial institution, the customer service manager is an internal customer of the human resource department who hires the employees of the customer service manager; in a hospital, the billing department is an internal customer of the physician who documents the orders from which the billing department must code and invoice…


How do we focus our efforts on our “internal customer?”

To begin, we must identify all of our relationships within our organization where one person/group/team/division provides a product or service to another (all of our internally dependent relationships).  This will identify our internal customers and the internal service/product providers.  Once we have identified these relationships, we must develop an understanding of these.  We need to ask questions to identify the challenges, needs and values of each group – the internal customers and internal service/product providers.  Next, we need to work to resolve the challenges, and align the needs and values of each.  We need to stop along the way and evaluate our work to ensure we are staying the course.  We should regroup if needed and then go back to our task at hand.  Along the way, we need to ensure those involved understand the relationship between an internal service/product provider and internal customer.  We also need to ensure that their values align with our organization’s values.  All of the paths need to lead in the same direction.


What are the dangers of not focusing on our “internal customers?”

Businesses who do not focus on their internal customer service and internal customer relations experience:

  • Rework
  • Frustration
  • Disengagement by internal service/product provider and internal customer
  • Turnover by internal service/product provider and internal customer
  • Missed opportunities
  • Increased risk
  • Reduced efficiency
  • Reduced effectiveness
  • Increased expenses
  • Reduced profit


What are the benefits of focusing on our “internal customers?”

Businesses who focus on their internal customer service and internal customer relations experience:

  • Engagement
  • Teamwork
  • Recognized opportunities for improvement
  • Ability to implement improvements
  • Job satisfaction for internal service/product provider and internal customer
  • Better resource planning and resource allocation
  • Increased effectiveness
  • Increased efficiency
  • Focus on the big picture
  • Reduced turnover
  • Better time management
  • Improved cooperation
  • Improved communication
  • Healthy negotiation


Where do we go from here?

We need to recognize that our internal customers are just as valuable (if not more valuable) than our external customers.  If our internal needs and values are not aligned and met, we will not be able to service/provide for our external customers to our full potential.  We need to work to identify and understand the challenges, needs and values of our internal customers and internal service/product providers.  We then need to remove the challenges, and develop and implement strategies to align values, and meet needs to improve both internal customer service and internal customer relations.


© 2013 Heather Williams-Cavaretta

Shoulder Up

People watching is one of my favorite activities whether sitting in the airport, walking through the store, participating in a meeting, or walking a job site.  There is just so much to observe and wonder about – not to mention, to try to make sense of.  For example, what does that person do for a living, how did he or she end up in that position, why does he walk so slow, why does she walk so fast, where are they going, where are they coming from, do they have a full length mirror, …?

Through observation, some commonalities arise including: selection of approach; tone of voice; hand motions/gestures; complexity of verbal skills/selection of terminology; posture while seated, standing and walking; and selection of attire.  All of which give rise to questions regarding the presence of a correlation between others’ perception of how a person carries and present’s themselves, and their success at work and in life.  I would assume that if I’m noticing these attributes of individuals, others must be too.

This isn’t just what our parents taught us – don’t judge a book by its cover; or what HR taught us in interviewing courses – don’t make judgments based on appearance or select people who we think are like us.  This is more than appearance.  This is everything about how a person carries and presents him or herself.  The question is, do people ever think about how they carry and present themselves, and how other’s perceive how they carry and present themselves?  Should anyone think about this?  Does it matter?

My perception is that it does matter, and we should think about this.  My hypothesis is that there is a correlation.  Why, you ask?  Several past experiences come to mind:

  • While walking many construction job sites, I have yet to find a successful supervisor/foreman who slouches or is nonchalant in his/her actions.  He or she is always aware of their surroundings, holding their head high, properly attired, and walking and talking with a purpose.
  • While working on an organizational development project, everyone in the office told me they feared talking one-to-one with the leader – this caused many issues in the company.  After having one-to-one conversations with the leader, I noticed why.  When the leader would ponder a suggestion, a certain “look” came over the leader’s face that was rather intimidating.  After gentle advisement of the presence of the “look,” the leader worked to change the “look.”  Follow-up conversations with employees ensured the leader that the “look” was gone resulting in open and frequent communication.
  • While working with a person in an organizational restructuring event, it was noticed that this person always talked at a level significantly higher than those around.  People did not understand what this person was saying a lot of times and felt belittled.  This caused the employees to lose respect for the leader, disabling the leader’s ability to make progress.  The leader refused to adjust their presentation, and eventually moved on to a more fitting workplace.
  • While working in a manufacturing plant, a young and attractive engineer would walk through with tight jeans and low cut shirts (left over college clothing).  The operators perceived the young lady in an inappropriate manner, and would not take her serious.  After advisement, she changed her attire to khakis and a nice polo top.  This led to a change in the perception of her by the operators, and was later followed with the completion of many successful projects.

Each of these examples illustrate the point at hand – other’s perception of how a person carries and presents him/herself impacts that person’s success. Successful people walk and/or talk with a purpose and with meaning; they stand and sit up straight (they are aware of their body language).  Successful people pay attention to their actions and their words, and understand the impact of their actions and words.  Successful people are constantly aware of their presence, and consider how others perceive their presentation of themselves.

Where do we go from here?

Recognize that others are processing everything about how you carry and present yourself.  Check yourself.  Pay attention to not just what you say, but how you say it from both the actual selection of words and the body language/non-verbal cues used.  Pay attention to your approach – stop and think a minute about what approach is best in what situation (remember that one approach will not likely work with every situation). Observe others and learn what not to do in certain situations.  Pay attention to how you dress – always dress the part.  Walk with a purpose, talk with a purpose and keep those shoulders up.


© 2013 Heather Williams-Cavaretta