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Deconstructing Company Culture: Q&A with CSP’s Brittni Redding

December 20, 2016

Meet Brittni Redding, CSP's Director of Client Education.

Meet Brittni Redding, CSP’s Director of Client Education.

With her background in both financial services and managerial/professional development, Brittni Redding was a natural fit to join CSP in 2016. As our Director of Client Education, Brittni has been instrumental in developing and supporting CSP’s Manager Development and Training solutions.

Brittni’s hands-on role with our clients, and her previous experience in a variety of training and coaching capacities, give her a unique edge. She’s keenly tuned in to what makes managers and their employees gel – and what doesn’t. Rather than keep her behind the scenes, we’ve invited her to share some of her insights as a facilitator and educator on all things company culture, here on this blog. 

How have businesses’ (and specifically, banks’) expectations of their managers and internal leaders changed?

In banking, there are typically clear measurements for what is being accomplished — e.g., loan and deposit volume, services per household, or the controversial cross-sell.  We’ve all worked with the “top performer” who rocks at results but leaves a trail of dead bodies in their wake to get there.  This sends the message that the organization accepts, even condones, a “win at all costs” mentality, which in turn affects culture and climate.

Most organizations are learning that beyond bottom line results, it’s important for Managers and Leaders to be held accountable for how they are getting there.  They should ask themselves: Am I inspiring my team to deliver exceptional customer experiences, or are they encouraged to chase a score?  Do I utilize customer feedback as a development tool to ignite coaching conversations, or is it a punitive measure? 

In your observation, does the topic of company culture get as much attention as it should?

Company culture is always a hot topic, but it’s hard to move beyond the rhetoric to action.  So much of it is founded in “unspoken rules” that developed over a significant amount of time.  Changing those requires a long, uphill battle of resetting expectations, maintaining consistency (even behind the scenes) and establishing buy-in from the top down.  To succeed nowadays, organizations must be prepared to act not only on the measurable performance of people and processes, but on cultural misalignment. 

I bring this into focus for CSP’s clients by helping them develop a unique “service climate” at the branch or department level.  Managers play a key role in fostering a service climate geared toward service through consistent communication, coaching, peer to peer feedback, and best practice sharing. That service climate is then owned at the employee level, based on their perception of what behavior is expected, supported and rewarded. 

What is the role of managers in facilitating changes and making training stick?

Front line managers are the most critical players in holding employees accountable for training concepts – but that training must also be aligned with organizational goals. I once facilitated a training session for a group of contact center representatives, on the topic of recommending additional products and services.  I employed all the adult learning must-haves: interactivity, robust discussion, activities, handouts, job applicability, what’s in it for them – everything!  During a call listening session after the training, I desperately waited to hear the reps utilizing concepts from the class…but it didn’t happen. 

Why? The front line managers’ objectives weren’t actually about customer relationship expansion at all, but reducing hold times through effective and efficient service.  I had missed the critical step of communicating with the most important link to employee accountability – the managers.  Now, before considering learning and development objectives, I like to run pilots or special manager sessions to make sure we are on the same page.  The combination of alignment and post-training accountability is a must-have for any change to stick.

Is there a common theme, idea, or truth about manager development that you think companies tend to miss or undervalue?

Too often, managers tend to focus on identifying and improving employees’ weaknesses, rather than investing in their talents.  What they don’t realize is that they can achieve the same desired outcomes (or better) with a positive, strength-based approach rather than the more conventional weakness-eliminating model. My belief in this mentality is what led me to become a certified Strengths Coach through Gallup.

Empower your employees to play to their strengths and affect the company culture.

Your company culture should empower your employees to play to their strengths.

This is something that has played out for me personally.  Discipline, execution, and all the dirty details have never come naturally to me, whether at work or after hours. I had a personal goal to get healthy and work out more, but none of the strict master plans putting me at the gym or on the treadmill seemed to stick. Meanwhile, what I am good at is the big picture view, coming up with ideas, and collaborating with others.  My friend encouraged me to join a tennis team, which incorporated more of how I’m naturally inclinedand that worked! I continue to do that for exercise to this day.  I’m accomplishing the same outcome of exercise but doing it in a way that I enjoy and that comes more naturally to me. 

Now apply this logic to a coaching scenario:  when faced with Bankers and Tellers who are more analytical than socially driven, some managers might try to correct this “weakness” and get these employees to be bubblier.  But a strength-based approach would have them instead apply their eye for detail to drive customer service – going into more detail about products, following up meticulously, etc. 


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15 Qualities of a Good Coach in the Workplace

August 26, 2015

Think back to the people in your life who have recognized your potential and used their talents to help you discover and shape your own. When a coach like this is present in the workplace, his or her influence can have a profound impact on the professional development of the entire team as well as the individuals within it. Most people would rather work under a manager who behaves as a coach than one who dictates and directs from above.

Coaching your employees is an important step in developing an internal culture that supports the customer experience. Sometimes coaching can happen “on the fly” when learning opportunities present themselves, but formal coaching sessions provide a great benefit to employees, who get the chance to ask questions, practice skills, and set goals against which they can measure their progress over time.

CSP believes strongly in the power of a good coach, so we’re here to offer you a little coaching ourselves on how to effectively guide the development of your team.

The Measurements of a Good Coach

coach

There is no exact blueprint for a good coach, as each coach will have their own strengths and weaknesses. However, there are some distinct qualities that good coaches have in common.

As you read this list, ask yourself how you measure up against each of these qualities and identify which areas could use more of your attention. If you have been receiving coaching yourself and feel like it could be more effective, this list might give you a window to a constructive conversation with your mentor to improve the relationship.

1. A good coach is self-aware.
To understand oneself, one’s coaching style, and how it is perceived and received by employees, is a critical first step to becoming a valuable and effective coach. Self-awareness is a journey unto itself, so we’ll be writing more about that in the coming weeks.

2. A good coach brings specific and well-defined issues to the attention of others.
Being unspecific about problem areas, or failing to bring them up with the appropriate parties, suggests a reluctance to affect positive change and a lack of leadership.

3. A good coach prepares for each session with information, examples, ideas, etc., and is ready for discussion.
Coaching sessions should be scheduled in advance, and the coach should have a solid agenda for each session that lays out the mission for the day. Without structure, the coaching session can devolve into a casual conversation with no real substance or direction.

4. A good coach treats individuals as partners in the organization, encouraging their input and trusting them to carry out assignments.
Some coaches are fans of “tough love,” while others are more lenient, but what all good coaches have in common is respect for their mentees. Contempt and resentment have no place in an effective coaching relationship, and only breed further conflict.

5. A good coach knows the strengths and weaknesses of his or her employees.
Much like the coach of a sports team, he or she knows how to tap into the individual strengths of employees to get the most out of them and to get the greatest amount of productivity from the team, collectively and individually.

6. A good coach makes expectations clear at the beginning of the coaching session.
Both the coach and the employee must have a sense that this meeting has a distinct purpose, and must agree on what that purpose is, for the session to proceed smoothly.

7. A good coach allows enough time to adequately discuss issues and concerns.
Blocking out enough time for a solid session, rather than squeezing it in and rushing through, shows respect for the employee’s time and allows them to participate more thoughtfully.

8. A good coach seeks out ideas and makes those ideas part of the solution.
Take it as a red flag if a coach is not willing to hear ideas, suggestions, or thoughts from other members of the team. A coach is there to serve the employees, not for the employees to serve his or her ego.

9. A good coach listens to others and tries to understand their points of view.
Rather than assigning blame or delivering unhelpful criticism, he or she allows the employee to explain things from the other side, which can often uncover the root of a misunderstanding or miscommunication.

10. A good coach expresses encouragement and optimism when both easy and difficult issues are discussed.
Sometimes an issue can be the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. It’s the coach’s job to make this issue less intimidating by modeling a constructive attitude that brings the team together to address it.

11. A good coach directly asks for a commitment to solutions that have been agreed upon.
Coaches can’t be wishy-washy about their expectations. If the employee isn’t held accountable for improving, it becomes a waste of everyone’s time to continue coaching.

12. A good coach provides the resources, authority, training and support necessary for others to carry out solutions.
Coaching doesn’t end when the session ends. It is up to the coach to follow through with any additional guidance the employee might need to move forward.

13. A good coach offers support and assistance to those he or she is coaching to help them implement change and achieve desired goals.
Professional development is a team effort. It’s usually not wise to simply cut the employee free after a session and expect him or her to achieve everything on their own.

14. A good coach follows up on coaching sessions in a timely manner.
It’s all too easy for coaching to fall down the priority ladder among all the other demands of a manager’s day-to-day job duties. At the end of each coaching session, it’s a good idea to go ahead and schedule the next one, and to hold to that commitment when the time comes around.

15. When solutions do not turn out as expected, a good coach proactively helps to define alternative actions.
If at first the employee does not succeed, it could be that there was a misunderstanding, or it could be that the original solution was a mismatch for that particular employee. A good coach is open to having a backup plan (or two).

The theme running beneath many of these qualities is this: When coaching is done in the spirit of mutual respect, the rewards and benefits for your employees and your customers are endless. What is important is to establish a positive coaching relationship between the coach and the employees that incorporates all parties’ strengths.

Read more: What are the differences between training and coaching?

More articles like this one can be found in our STARS library, available to current CSP clients as part of our full-service delivery. Contact us to find out how we support effective coaching and training in pursuit of the optimal customer experience.

Know the Differences between Employee Training and Coaching

March 25, 2015

Training and coaching sound like they could refer to the same thing: imparting information that someone else—in this case, your employees—can learn from.

In fact, training and coaching each serve a distinct purpose to your organization and can’t be interchanged. Knowing the differences between the two, and how and when to deploy them, is the key to affecting employee performance and satisfaction.

Training

training
Goals
  • Orient new employees to workplace standards and practices
  • Impart a specific new skill (e.g., using new software)
  • Instruct many employees at once with the same level of information
Setting
  • Often offered as a group lesson or course, sometimes digitally
  • May be a one-time session or a series of sessions
  • Few opportunities for one-on-one attention
Content
  • Standardized lessons delivered to all employees the same way
  • Content may be proprietary, owned by either the company or a third-party vendor brought in for training
Methods
  • Top-down, classroom-style teaching from one or more instructors
  • Worksheets, workbooks, handouts, or required reading
  • Activities, presentations, or projects, individual or grouped
  • May culminate with a test and/or certificate of completion

Training is best suited to new material or with new employees. Its purpose is to introduce a concept or skill and give the employee a basic proficiency with that topic, which they will then take into practice on the job. Training is often a one-time commitment per topic, rather than an ongoing process.

Coaching

coaching
Goals
  • Encourage employee development and improved performance
  • Address specific problem areas with specific employees (vs. a group)
  • Less about “how to” and more about “how well”
Setting
  • Most often occurs one-on-one, though one coach may manage more than one employee
  • Less structured than training; scheduled and delivered as needed
  • ·An ongoing process that follows the employee’s own progress
Content
  • Customized to the employee’s needs and learning curve
  • Hands-on opportunities to learn and practice, sometimes on the job
  • Worksheets and handouts less common, but coach may recommend additional material for continued learning
  • May be tied to employee performance reviews
Methods
  • Bottom-up approach built on the employee’s needs and questions
  • Encourages employee to examine and reflect on his/her own development and take constructive critique
  • Deliberate focus on specific areas of improvement, with benchmarks and goals for measuring progress

While training is skills-oriented, the purpose of coaching is to develop talent. We’ve written before that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all training; coaching allows instructors and employees to identify and address the specific issues that training may have missed. It’s also easier to accommodate different learning styles with a more personalized approach.

Why Training & Coaching Are Essential

Training aims to establish a well-informed, high-performing workforce. Coaching works to maintain it. If employees are recurrently falling below expectations, stagnating in their progress towards their goals, or failing to grasp the skills and talents you’re trying to impart on them, the problem might lie in how they are being trained, and what kind of coaching they are (or aren’t) receiving to reinforce that training.

Together, training and coaching benefit both employees and customers. Solid training and coaching support a smooth, stable working environment and improve morale and overall performance. That trickles down to the customer experience – customers know they can rely on the quality of service they’ll get from anyone they may talk to at the company.

Customer feedback also trickles back up into educational efforts, revealing any problem areas in service that need to be addressed on an institutional level.

That’s why CSP builds in plenty of overlap between the customer research and training/coaching components of our customer experience management programs. A superior experience depends on consistent alignment at every level of the organization. If you could use a fresh perspective on effective employee education, we welcome your questions.

For more information about how CSP supports employee & customer engagement, contact us today by phone at (402) 399-8790 ext:101, via our website, or on Twitter @csprofiles

Use Learning Styles to Customize Your Employee Training

January 28, 2015

As we’ve stated in a previous post, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all employee training.

There are actually two layers of truth to that assertion. Not only should each business customize its training program to best meet the expectations and needs of its customers, each employee has distinct learning preferences. These preferences will affect the employees’ ability to absorb the material.

Understanding learning styles will help you conduct the most effective training that gets through to each individual and sticks. Each learning style has its own strengths and weaknesses.

visual learning stylesVisual

Visual learners want to see the information or idea that’s being conveyed to them. They like graphs and diagrams and may color-code their notes and materials. They can learn a new task by watching someone else do it.

Strengths

  • Can visualize ideas in detail
  • Does well in face-to-face environments
  • Learns well from descriptive examples and demonstrations, pictures, or diagrams
  • Good note-takers and list-makers

Challenges

  • Can get distracted by clutter, movement, or crowds
  • Might struggle to listen for long periods of time
  • Less likely to retain what they hear

auditory learning stylesAuditory

Auditory learners want to hear the information. Mnemonic devices and rhymes make intuitive sense to these students, and they have no problem paying attention to a long presentation – they may even quote the speaker later on from memory. They can learn a new task if it’s described well to them.

Strengths:

  • Attentive listeners and communicators with a good memory for what is said, with or without note-taking
  • Does well on the phone
  • Absorbs verbal/written instructions

Challenges:

  • Sensitive to a noisy or loud environment
  • May find handouts during presentations to be more distracting than helpful
  • May need to hear instructions repeatedly to fully grasp them

kinesthetic learning stylesKinesthetic

Kinesthetic learners want to do it themselves. They are hands-on students who often rely on muscle memory and “feeling” their way through things. If teaching others, they’d rather demonstrate than explain.

Strengths:

  • Learns well with plenty of practice
  • Can figure things out as they go along
  • Thrives in in-person learning environments

Challenges:

  • Prefers a peaceful learning environment without a lot of active movement around them
  • Less likely to pay attention to verbal or written instructions
  • Unlikely to study from notes
  • Can feel trapped or restless in a classroom or at a desk for prolonged periods

Most adults won’t fall 100% into one box, but could have a secondary learning style that compliments their dominant preference. There are simple activities you can have your team complete to identify their learning styles.

Training for the Different Learning Styles

A slideshow presentation delivered by a single speaker may engage the visual and auditory learners, but leave the kinesthetic learners bored. They’d prefer a class with lots of activities and opportunities to practice, but the visual and auditory learners may then fall behind without as much verbal information.

When designing your training curriculum, make it a priority to include activities and methods that engage all three styles. Show, tell, and do. Pay attention to what seems to be working for your own group – after all, if the team skews towards visual learners, the learning materials might as well follow suit.

Effective employee training can have an indirect impact on the customer experience. You want skilled representatives on the front lines of customer service – and you get skilled representatives by taking their learning styles into consideration.

Want to know more about customized training solutions designed with the customer experience in mind? Contact CSP today.