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Do You Chase Customers Away Without Realising It?

I view life through the prism of behaviour and almost every day presents another chance to witness the results of the wrong person in the right job. It’s so amazingly common.

We enjoyed a cooking course a while back. We prepared the food and then enjoyed the fruit of our labour on the stoep outside with a few glasses of wine.

One of our party hadn’t booked on time but decided to come along for the ride anyway. So when we arrived, we started with drinks and snacks. Our table could comfortably seat 10 but we were only 9. Dave joined the table and, as informal extroverts often do, quickly found himself in conversation with a few people (He was careful not to eat the snacks or drink the sparkling wine!)

But our teacher for the day found out there was an ‘extra’ at our table. In true formal, rule-bound introvert style, he suggested Dave leave and go down the road to a café.

Technically, he was right. Dave was an unpaid ‘extra’ hanging around. But given the venue was not over-full, how much easier to say: “If your table doesn’t mind, would you like to join us, it’s R500 for the day?” Dave would happily have paid and, knowing Dave, he would have sung the praises of the school across Joburg! That’s what informal extroverts do.

This stuff is really simple, but if you leave your customers in the hands of (what looked like) assertive, by-the-book, introverts, you’re going to find yourselves with customers who say “Whatever!” and don’t come back.

The good news, of course, is that we can measure these things quickly.

Let me know if you’d like to find out more. For just R4,950 (USD495)* per applicant or potential promotee (Ed – no such word!), you can save hundreds of thousands in wasted salaries, training, institutional costs, management time and lost business.

* Prices subject to change and currency fluctuations. Correct as at 19 Feb 2018.
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Should You Employ Confident People?

It’s appropriate today to talk about ego.

Our President, finally, unwillingly, painfully, resigned last night, still unashamedly suggesting that he has done nothing wrong.

What drives our politicians and leaders, in general, is twofold:

  • an unblinking belief in self and
  • a lack of concern for rules, detail, structure, process and risk

These 2 traits are not bad per se.

We want our leaders to be strong in the face of adversity, to make brave, risky decisions that successfully propel our organisations or countries in new and exciting directions.

It was this bravery that led Cyril Ramaphosa to establish the National Union of Mine-workers (NUM) in 1982 and gain bargaining recognition from the Chamber of Mines in 1983. No mean feat in 1983! His confidence in himself and his preparedness to challenge the rules of those in power were exactly the traits needed to get the job done. Regardless of the risk to himself.

But in the case of our ex-president, the Guptas and the leaders of so many reputable companies that have been named in multiple scandals recently, another ingredient is key:


When we recruit people who are confident, assertive, driven, impatient, fearless, prepared to challenge existing rules/norms AND they lack integrity, our organisations (countries) are at risk.

If you plan to recruit, transfer or promote people into key roles in your organisation, a thorough vetting of their credentials is key, especially when they are ego-centred and have less regard for risk, structure, rules and policies.

The good news, of course, is that we can measure these traits and understand them before we recruit, promote and transfer the wrong people into the right jobs.

Let me know if you’d like to find out more.

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Who Do You Hire To Serve Your Customers?

We celebrated our friends’ daughter’s 19th birthday last night at a local restaurant. Yet again the service was ordinary and slow. The traditional birthday song and gift arrived after the bill had been paid which itself took 30 mins to arrive.

A while back, we popped into an Italian restaurant in Kyalami, close to where we live and the waiter arrived, slapped the menus onto the table, simultaneously barking “What do you want?”. He over-estimated our extrasensory perception and speed as the slapping and question followed each other in quick succession.

Last Friday, we went to an Asian restaurant in Montecasino. We ordered from a disinterested waitress, the food arrived, we enjoyed the meal (nothing else) and asked for the bill. Then, unbelievably! The waitress started to pull the tablecloth and motioned for us to lift our arms up so that she could remove it – they were closing!

It seems that many restaurant managers and their staff miss the entire point of a restaurant. Yes, the food must be good but I can cook good food at home (well, think I can!). The whole point of a restaurant is to enjoy good food, great ambience, excellent service, entertaining company and … no dishwashing!
But restaurant owners mostly put the wrong people into the right jobs. People who think that their job is to serve food and clear dishes miss the essential point of Serving the Customer. Serving the Customer implies being:

  • other centred, not ego centred.
  • people positive: enjoying building relationships with people
  • altruistic: looking to give to others without an expectation of anything in return
  • able to handle conflict and frustration: when things go wrong or customers are difficult, people with this talent handle and resolve the resulting conflict without losing the plot
  • patient: restaurant work is repetitive. You need patience and to be happy with routine work to thrive house worker/manager
  • attentive to detail/respectful: remembering a customer’s name and that they love a whisky to start means you’re one up on people who can’t do that

The good news, of course, is that we can easily measure all of these things.

Contact me if you’d like to find out more about the people who serve your customers. It’s a killer advantage over competitors when you get it right.



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What Are Your REAL Recruiting Costs?

When you make a recruitment mistake, what does it cost you? Well, let’s not guess. Google it. Take a look at this calculator.

I put in salaries at R400k, suggested 3 people had left and the turnover cost was calculated at R978k.

Can we afford to blow nearly R1m on turnover?

One hopes not unless you work for government and R1m is smallanyana1 change.

The simple way to prevent a chunk of your staff turnover cost is to spend more time at the front end.

I find that my clients are generally in a rush to fill a position. In the rush, we overlook little things that indicate bigger problems. By slowing down at the recruitment step, we save a lot of money, stress and time down the road.

I don’t offer traditional recruitment services but I do provide my clients with a simple 5-step method to reduce the chances of a bad hire. If ever you have candidates and you want to make sure that you have the right people, let me know and I’ll walk you through my process. It can be done entirely online for anyone anywhere in the world.

1 An expression used by a South African politician to suggest we all have small skeletons in our cupboards. In the case of our politicians, some big ones too!

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Are You Boring, Lazy Or Stupid?

Impatient people tend to be critical of patient people.

Instead of adjectives like steady, calm, relaxed, stable and consistent, they might use words like slow, stupid, lazy, dull or boring.

This is patently unfair.

The world revolves around the successful operation of millions of systems. These systems are developed, perfected, operated and improved by patient people who take the time to think things through.

Without patient people, a lot of the systems and services we rely on would break.

How about the paramedic, fireman, doctor, nurse, teacher, ambulance driver (any driver for that matter), lifeguard, security guard, policeman, bookkeeper, accountant, pilot, air traffic controller, air steward, professional sportsman and woman, psychologist, counsellor, help desk operator, ICT programmer, tool and die maker, machinist, machine minder, dietician, pharmacist, shop assistant, receptionist, waiter, cleaner, plumber, electrician, gardener, PA, researcher, miner, data analyst …

There are thousands of jobs that require patience and/or attention to detail and/or a preparedness to work for the team or the greater good.

Business owners, leaders, managers and supervisors need to understand the requirements of the work they manage in order to understand how to manage the people who excel in these jobs.

Failure to do this results in poor performance and staff turnover unnoticed at the top. 


Because these same people expect leadership and they don’t see it as their place to question its absence. They lose interest and then one day they leave for reasons unrelated to the truth.


Featured image courtesy of Mark Lord Photography
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Podcast: How to Reset Your Sales Force to Deliver This Year

Steve Rogers Podcast

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Schadenfreude, the Kardashians, and The Real Life

As 2017 prepares to welcome 2018 in 4 days’ time, we have time to reflect on the own goals scored by Jacob Zuma, Steinhoff, Donald Trump, SAP, Helen Zille, McKinsey, Bathabile Dlamini, KPMG, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Bell Pottinger, Theresa May and so many more.

These people, companies and governments provide holiday entertainment and some form of schadenfreude around millions of braais, picnics, restaurants, bars and homes.

I remember being an avid Sunday Times reader when the National Party was showing the ANC how to do it in the future. For those of you old enough, you may remember the Information Scandal when the leader of South Africa was playing the same kind of games that today’s leaders play: propaganda, dis-information, lying, stealing … the usual.

Which got me thinking. Nothing changes. The Nats were corrupt. The ANC’s corrupt. If the DA wins in 2019 and they get drunk on power too, then they’ll become corrupt. Power and access to resources attracts power hungry people. The more things change … you know the saying.

So …

Why do we pay so much attention to politicians, music and sports stars, actors and the Days of the Lives of the rich and/or shallow?

Are our lives so meaningless that we have to live our lives vicariously?

I hope not.

So, what to do.

Well, let’s assume that the choice between vicarious and real is obvious.

What is real?

Real is our family. Real is current nett worth. Real is the neighbour we haven’t spoken to for two months. Real is our verge. I live down the road from a larney estate. But if you drove past and looked at the state of the verge, the huge wall and the gutter, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s a municipal dump behind the 3m wall. So, real is our verge too.

Real is the friend in need. Real is the community 2 km away with a fraction of our resources. Real is a short conversation with the waiter, security guard, receptionist, shopkeeper, store assistant, car guard, cleaner, Mr Delivery Guy, Uber driver or policeman. Real people doing real work, not syphoning off billions to build a massive patronage network to sabotage the Rainbow Nation.

I’m always so impressed by the recycling guys who dodge the traffic each day on a quest to collect recyclable stuff and drag it for miles to get what seems like a tiny pittance (R30-R70) considering the effort. I sometimes stop and give them a little cash as a weak (and patronising?) salute to their daily grind.

What’s the key difference between real and vicarious?

I thought about this and it’s actually easy. It’s about geography. It’s pointless for South Africans to worry about polar bears, volcanoes in Bali, starving kids in China, earthquakes in Mexico, Donald Trump’s latest tweet, North Korea’s latest outrage …

We should worry about our local community. Local is lekker.

We should concern ourselves with things or people we can change, improve, care for, build, love, like, praise, teach, counsel, support …

Reading about a crisis 11,000 kms away is ridiculous when we have crises just a few kilometres away.

With over 100,000 NGOs operating in South Africa, there’s no shortage of opportunity to offer your time, money or in-kind donations.

But here’s the thing: don’t waste it.

I think it’s pointless to put R10 in a jar. You have no idea where the money’s going to. You have no power over its application. For all you know, it’s being used by fraudsters of whom there are many.

We need to focus our efforts and money, time and resources.

If you care about education, find out what you can do within 10 kms of your home. Saves time and petrol and you can keep an eye on your ‘investment’.

It’s too easy to rock up at a school in a company sponsored bus to hand out stuff to excited kids who sing songs, give you tea and thank you for coming. And then?

An NGO which really seems to be going places is Partners for Possibility. It’s a wonderful organisation that partners business leaders with headmasters from under resourced schools. Their vision: Quality Education for all children by 2025. Now that’s real. It makes watching the Kardashians an embarrassing waste of time. It’s certainly better than listening to SADTU or the Minister of Edukashin.

I have a soft spot for education because I think it provides the platform to fix so many other problems. Would people pour oil down the drain if they understood the consequences? Would people vote for corrupt politicians if they understood the issues and could identify populism when they saw it? Would people gamble their wages away if they clearly understood the casino ultimately controls the game?

So, my goal for 2018: less media, more real, more local action.

Happy New Year!

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Staff Performance Management: The Embarrassing Truth And The Simple Fix

Performance versus Person. Doing versus Being.

Over the last 5 weeks, I’ve written about Capability.

When I started my first consulting project in 1990, the emphasis of the work was on performance. We didn’t question the capability of the staff to perform. We simply asked the question: “How well should you perform?” Then we calculated workforce size based on scientific management principles.

The emphasis was on workforce efficiency with a view to cutting the size of the workforce. While this is sadly necessary when businesses are struggling to survive, what strikes me today is that the work focused on what people were doing, not on who they were themselves.

staff performanceIt’s embarrassing to reflect that we never asked these simple questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you know?
  3. How experienced are you?
  4. What can you do?
  5. And can you show us your track record in this work?

The analysis was simply about how many people had a particular job title.

There was some training but mostly focused on general management principles and exciting things like Maslow’s Hierarchy.

But even today, I get calls or emails from organisations wanting performance management, never capability management.

We can argue about which is more important but let’s go with a tie on that one.

Is it Just About Staff Performance Management?

Isn’t it obvious that each staff member should have:

  1. A personal capability score
  2. A personal performance score
  3. A personal development plan to improve both scores?

While you’re lying on the beach, trekking through the bush, hiking a trail, reflecting on how much you’ve eaten so far, putting on jersey #6 in Europe/US/Canada or simply while you enjoy Johburg’s perfect Christmas weather and empty roads; think that simple concept through.

Then call me in January to implement it!

And at this time of year, following Divali a few weeks ago: Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or simply have a great holiday if none of the above apply!


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Behavioural Competency: HOW We Do What We Do

We’re into Week 4, the penultimate week of the 5 part capability series in which we challenge ourselves to become more capable. This week:

Behavioural Competency

This is the most underrated and most impactful category of capability!

Behavioural competency is about how we do our work.

Last week, I said it’s crucial that we understand whether or not people can do their work, can do what their CV says they can do.

But if they do their work in such a way that frustrates everyone around them because of the way they behave, then the do talent can be completely overshadowed by the how or behavioural execution.

Case Study

For example, I worked with a successful multi-disciplinary team of people. But there was one person who consistently seemed to be obstructive. Initially, I thought he had an odd sense of humour but over time, I could see that his colleagues would glance at one another during a meeting: anything from eyes to heaven or a quick raised eyebrow.

Technically, no problem, he was well qualified. He had been with the firm for a long time and he occupied an important role. I used the same two behavioural assessment tools that I’ve used for nearly 20 years for the entire team.

The tools suggested that a majority of the management team had a generalist approach to work: i.e. they were confident in themselves, were task efficient, conceptually fit and didn’t really want to know too much about the detail. They were comfortable with some risk, they weren’t sensitive to criticism and preferred the big picture. If they could delegate the detail, they would.

But this same manager had a specialist profile which meant that he was more of a co-operative person who wasn’t comfortable with excessive risk and prided himself on knowing the detail and making fact-based decisions. He was also not as conceptually fit and task-efficient as the rest of the team. He was less people positive and more task focused.

Nothing wrong with any of that.

But when you’re surrounded by generalists, it’s possible that specialists can feel as if they’re surrounded by a bunch of crazy risk takers who ignore important facts and figures key to quality decision making!

And this is the thing about our personalities: we see the world through our own eyes, biased by our own personalities and experience. The assertive and confident person can’t understand why the less confident and more co-operative colleague won’t consider what they see as legitimate opportunities, not ridiculous risks!

Likewise, the extroverted maverick finds it simple to jump on a stage and make an impromptu speech while the shy and reserved specialist (risk averse) hides away from the same microphone.

So back to our manager: over time, the specialist took it upon himself to study the detail, do the research and he took this very seriously. He was also shy and reserved so when it came to presentations, he wasn’t the most entertaining speaker and his slides were hectic with tons of sentences in a relatively small font so that people experienced death by powerpoint.

Also, his research became a personal passion, so much so in fact, that he would deviate from the mission at hand to investigate anything related to the main topic. And when the company started improvement initiatives, he’d dive in with both feet (Ed – can one dive in with both feet?)

Over time, he became known as slightly ‘eccentric’, hence the rolling eyes and raising of eyebrows. But eccentric was an unfair exaggeration. He was just a different person compared to his colleagues.

So, what did he do wrong?

Well. Nothing!

He was:

  1. educated,
  2. experienced and
  3. technically competent (remember the last 3 episodes of this current series).

But his behaviour drove him in a certain direction, a direction which at his level of management, wasn’t 100% appropriate. Not his fault, just his way of working based on his perception of the world.

But that way of working moved him off the main management road onto the eccentric side path and from there, any thoughts he had of becoming a senior leader disappeared.

Funnily enough, that was a good thing.

Choosing The Right Path

Why? Because a shy specialist is going to hit two important non-work obstacles at higher levels of leadership:

  1. Politics: As people rise in an organisation, their ability to negotiate their way around the organisation and its stakeholders becomes much more important, while their technical speciality should be delegated to others. But as he rises, he begins to detest the politicking and social manoeuvring that happens as talented and confident people jostle for position, power and reward, especially in larger companies. Exactly what is happening in my beloved country right now as the good and the bad jostle to gain / keep control of our beautiful country and its wonderful resources.
  2. Risk: At higher levels of leadership, the variables that affect success become less tangible, less obvious and less predictable. For the risk-averse specialist, this isn’t fun. His way of dealing with risk then is to investigate, to check and re-check. If the company, the market and the competitors give him time, fine. But naturally, in the real world outside of NGOs, government, SOEs (state-owned enterprises) and monopolies, your competitor wants your lunch. So, pressure builds and the potential for burn out is high.

So, am I saying, tough Mr Specialist, your career stops here?

No, I’m saying, choose the right path. The management path to the top is not the right one for our specialist. The path to the summit of his career is via the domain specialist route: further academic study, further specialisation and the building of deep experience and knowledge to become a sought-after expert/advisor, paper/book writer, conference speaker, lecturer. Plenty of success to be had from that career path.

Next week, we’ll talk about the last capability category: Track Record.

If you’re going away, please pay extra attention to the safety of your families and yourselves. It’s horrific that 1700 people died in December last year! Drive defensively and have a wonderful holiday!

Thank you too for reading my blogs this year, much appreciated. All best.

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Technical Competency: A Badly Executed But Essential Capability

We’re into week 3 of the 5-part capability series in which we challenge ourselves to become more capable. This week:

Technical Competency

Technical competency is the most badly executed and most important category of capability!

Technical competency covers what we can do.

That’s why it’s the most important category. It’s all very well to have a degree or a diploma or 10 postgraduate short courses under your belt. It’s all very well to have 10 years of experience. But the core issue is what you can do.

Amazingly, many organisations don’t check that people can do what they say they can do.

The conversation goes like this: “I see you worked for X company for 5 years, so you must be familiar with Y technology / processing / philosophy / practices?”

The candidate has two choices.

Choice 1: “Actually, although I worked there for five years, I never really worked with Y technology / processing / philosophy / practices.”

Choice 2: “Yes”.

Which do most people choose in the interview situation when you want the job? Obviously, the yes answer can be followed by a more in-depth conversation about Y technology / processing / philosophy / practices. But how do we score it?

Typically, if it’s scored at all it’ll be Management Opinion: 3 out of 5.

What does that mean? It means that the manager is satisfied. But what if that manager is incompetent? Problem. What if he leaves and a new manager reckons it’s 2 or 4?

Replacing Subjective Assessments

So instead of wasting our time with subjective assessments of technical competency, shouldn’t we focus on objective measurement for jobs that matter?

  • Shouldn’t the bus or truck driver demonstrate his driving skills?
  • Shouldn’t the Microsoft Excel user who rated himself as intermediate, show us her technical competencies?
  • Shouldn’t the salesperson be given an opportunity to do a presentation demonstrating her technical competencies?
  • Shouldn’t the individual who has to use VIP Payroll, Qlikview, SAP, Lotus, Abacus, QuickBooks, Oracle, Corel Draw, Flex Cube etc demonstrate his skills?


Creating Capability Scorecards

But whenever I work with a client to compile a capability scorecard, the client has no measurement method for the technical competencies. Most clients tell me they can create one: a simulation, an in-basket, a written test, a scenario, a case study. But we’re all too busy to get it done.

It’s a big hole in our recruitment, development, performance management and succession planning strategies.

We assume competence until it’s too late and the person is in the job.

The work to build a technical competency assessment is once off. Either we can choose an online test or an assessment provider or we can develop our own internal assessment which is likely to be much more relevant to our business environment and industry.

Here’s an example: Microsoft Office is probably the world’s most ubiquitous piece of software (Why can’t they improve Outlook to be a real mail, contact, task and calendar system? Odd!).

And yet, very few people have ever been on a formal Microsoft Office training programme. The investment has to be worth the cost and time. I can only talk for myself and my own incompetence with Excel, Word and PowerPoint. I am completely self-taught and now and again, I will struggle for 30 minutes to find a way to do something probably quite basic. If my experience is representative of most people, that means billions of hours are lost around the world every day because people simply don’t know how to use Microsoft Office properly.

HR and training departments should have a deliberate strategy to build the competency of their staff to use the basic software tools that drive their functional and organisational effectiveness and efficiency.

If an applicant or a staff member fails a technical competency test, it’s not a deal breaker. It simply means that the company knows that that particular competency must be developed for that individual, failing which, we set ourselves up for hundreds if not thousands of lost hours at work.

This should be a no-brainer for any organisation that values and measures productivity.

Next week, we’ll talk about behavioural competency. Until then, be happy for the multiple rain showers if you live in Johburg, spare a thought for our friends in Cape Town. I had dinner in Cape Town recently and part of the discussion was about water tanks and pool covers. Not even the pretty mountain that Capetonians love so much can assist with that problem! It’s OK Cape Town if you pass the medical this time, we’ll invite you to Jo’burg!

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