I recently received a copy of “The Pursuit of Something Better” to review. I have a fairly large queue of books to review, so this one sat on my shelf for about a month. Now I’m kicking myself for waiting. The company that the story’s centered around, U.S. Cellular, reminds me of my own organization in several ways. And seeing that company take the problems they faced and turn them around helped me to have hope.
A little bit of background: U.S. Cellular is a relatively small cell service provider. In 2000, the company was going down the tubes. In some parts of the company, the job abandonment/walk off rate was as high as 20%! It was then that a new leader took the helm. Jack Rooney held some beliefs that he knew could save this company if given the opportunity. Those beliefs include, but are not limited to, the following sections.
Employees treat customers like their leaders treat them.
Customer service should always be a priority, because customers are the lifeblood of a company. Treat them well, and they will forever remember who was there for them. They become champions. Treat them poorly, and word gets out very quickly about the type of service they received. The problem is that many people are shielded and don’t see how their efforts are tied into customer service. U.S. Cellular made the decision to filter every decision through the eyes of the customer. Customer-focused decision making became second nature, and their clients were transformed from merely being “customers” to being “champions” for the company.
Think about it. Ever had a horrible experience with a company who treated you poorly? You probably told someone (or a lot of someones!) about it. On the flip side, do you have a favorite restaurant where the service is always top-notch and impeccable? You probably tell people about that, too! Now, I do realize that we in HR don’t have to focus on customer service as hard as someone who’s selling a product or service, but shouldn’t we be doing it anyway? That leads me to the next item…
Where do you draw the line on what is or is not ethical?
Ethics is one of the words that corporate leaders love to talk about. But how many of them really go out of their way to make it a focus for their companies? Having a poster on the wall or a yearly meeting telling people to “be ethical” won’t work. It has to be ingrained.
Your employees come from dozens of different backgrounds and belief systems. Ask 10 people what’s ethical and you’ll get 10 different responses. So why not teach them the standards that we will hold them to and make it ubiquitous? A customer service rep in Buffalo should have the same expectations of ethical behavior as a sales associate in Denver.
And an interesting side benefit of this is that they will carry this outside the walls of the workplace. Whether they’re at home or at the grocery store, the ethical code that has been established will continue to guide their actions and behaviors. And to get those behaviors established firmly, it’s going to take…
Are you a leader or a manager? There is a difference.
Leadership at all levels is essential for a company to develop well. Just one person in the mix who prefers his/her own methods can ruin the efforts of positive leaders above or below in the chain of command. An interesting discussion about the differences between leaders and managers can be found here.
Some of the stories about U.S. Cellular’s leadership team are inspiring and amazing to behold. The company uses several methods for evaluating leader performance. Anyone who isn’t performing well in the leadership area gets one of two diagnoses: will or skill. If the leader is failing because of a lack of will, then they are given a short time to shape up or ship out. If the leader is failing because of a lack of skill, then they are given more leeway. It’s easier to train someone who is a good natural leader than to let a bad one pollute the workforce.
Sound like a book you would enjoy? Then I highly recommend that you check it out!
Reviewed by Ben Eubanks on
Leadership. Culture. Passion.
This book focuses on leadership, culture, and passion. I read it early in my career, and it forever shaped my perspective on the value of a strong, vibrant corporate culture to drive business results.