People Management

Managing people is a very critical and difficult task. Not anyone can become a manager. If you do not have the right skills, you can cause a lot of problems and you can drive away your finest employees.

Here are some hints and tips on how to be a successful manager:

1- If you want to be heard and if you want your descendents to follow your instructions and finish their work correctly and on time, INSTRUCT do not ORDER. Some managers go around the office giving orders with an angry tone. This never works. Befriend your employees and give them instructions and you will find that they will cooperate much better.
2- DELEGATE, do not DUMP. Some managers do not know how and what to delegate. They just keep dumping loads of work on their employees. Some others keep doing things they are supposed to delegate. To know the difference and do it right is the key to a successful manager.
3- INSPIRE. Be a leader not a manager (there is a big difference). You should be a figure your employees are looking up to. If you want them to come to work on time, you should be an early comer yourself. If you want them to perfect their work, you should be a perfectionist yourself. If you want them to love to come to work and finish their work on time, you should create a good spirit around the office that makes them love working with you.
4- Be FIRM but GENTLE. BE FAIR. FOLLOW YOUR OWN RULES. You have to have a clear policy and set of rules to follow around the office. And you have to apply the policy not just have it or else it is meaningless. You have to punish whoever deserves to be punished and reward whoever deserves the reward. Reward and punishment is a very important motivational tool. When employees who work hard find that they are treated exactly the same as the ones who do not, they simply stop working. And when you do not punish, mistakes keep increasing and you create chaos around the office. You have to be fair in your judgments. Reward or punish based on the quality of work and the behavior around the office and NOTHING else. Do not open the door for employees to feed your ego and make you give them more than they really deserve.
5- CREATE a balanced work load. Leaving your employees too much free time will create laziness and will make them use the company resources for fun. On the other hand overloading them constantly will wear them out and will make you gradually lose them. You have to balance. Never accept unreasonable deadlines, just because the customer wants the project to be done in two months when it really needs six months. YES, the customer is king and is always right. But to to make your customer happy you have to be honest. Do not promise a deadline that you know you can not keep even by wearing out and squeezing your team. If you do so, your customer will be angry because his work will be delayed. And your employees will be frustrated and will loose their momentum. Be smart enough to convince your customer of the realistic time plan. Think of both sides and meet them both half ways. (lean more on your employees of course)
6- ADMIRE. Give encouraging comments to those who produce quality work and those who excel. Admiring your employees’ work and making them know that you do, is a very important motivational tool.
7- Make sure all necessary office resources and tools are available. You can not ask your employees to do their work and excel when for example: The Net is always down or too slow (if needed at work), or the office is not clean, the toilets are not proper for human use!, the printer never prints, the air conditioner is always down, needed stationary is always late,…….or whatever other office needs.
8- Be HUMAN….But a smart one. You have to accept excuses but be smart enough to know when your employee is honest and when he is making up excuses. It is acceptable that sometimes an employee is tired, sick, his father or a relative died, he had a family emergency, had to run an errand…. You have to accept in a balanced manner some of those excuses, as long as the work is not delayed or harmed. Be human and remember that you yourself are subjected to such issues. But do not be too loose to the extent that your employees are constantly not showing up or coming late for one reason or another.
9- Understand people differences. Yes, you have to be fair and treat everyone according to your policy the same way. But remember that people are different and that everyone responds to a different way of treatment. Some employees for instance do not work except when they know that you are monitoring closely and that you are ready to punish. Others can not work at all when they feel that they are closely monitored as such. On the contrary when you give them space, they excel. You have to be smart to know your employees and treat everyone the way that brings the best out of him.
10- A successful manager creates leaders not followers. You have to be able to create leaders, ones who can figure out what to do and manage situations on their own. Do not be happy that your employees are always waiting for your instructions. This creates a load on your shoulders. Setting an example and making them able to stand up on their own feet is what makes you a good manager. Leave room for your employees to innovate and come to you with suggestions for improving the wok quality.
11-MAKE THEM RESPECT YOU. If they do not love you, they at least have to respect you. If you follow all the above points, they will respect you and love working with you.

I was lucky enough to have a manager with all the above qualities. He was my very first boss when I started working just after I acquired my masters. His name was Hakam Kanafani and to him I owe my success as a manager later on in my career. He taught me how to become a leader and how to create leaders, how to concentrate on the finest details and be a perfectionist. Also, how to be a source of inspiration around the office and how to be able to understand people differences and treat everyone the way that suits his character best . He was a character you respect and love working with. Everyone around the office was so keen to make him proud and happy of his work. I take this chance to thank him and to tell him that if I am a successful leader today and if I was able to create leaders it is because he inspired me.

Further on Customer Support

One of the highly irritating things that most customer support representatives tend to do is try to convince you that you are wrong. For example: I purchase a roasted turkey sandwich from a restaurant and I get it smoked and when I complain they try to convince me that it is roasted not smoked!!! (bas 2ana ely mesh wakhda baly!!!!!!!!!) . I ordered once a Toffee tart and they got me fruit tart instead and the waiter kept trying to convince me that it is the Toffee tart.

When you call your DSL customer support to complain that the speed of your connection is too slow, you get the frustrating answer: “No it is not…it is perfectly well”. Or they try to convince you that you did something wrong on your side or you have a virus that is causing this speed issue, without even trying to troubleshoot with you.

NEVER try to convince your customer that he is wrong or that he does not understand. If your customer is complaining try to resolve the issue. Try to know what is bothering him and solve the problem. Even if the customer is really confused or complaining of something that you know 100% is not right, do not tell him straight away that he is wrong. Keep doing some troubleshooting steps with him and take it step by step to make him feel that you are helping him resolve the issue and then in the end convince him in an intelligent way that there is no problem. He will appreciate it and might even apologize. But the main point is you never tell your customer that he is wrong. Do not ever frustrate your customer by telling him that he does not understand or that he is complaining of something that does not exist. After all it is your job as a customer representative to make the customer happy.

Also admitting your mistake, fixing it and apologizing for it (you might even need to make up for it by giving something extra or for free) is much much much better than denying it. Sometimes you complain from something and all you get is denial and then you find out that it has been fixed. This is more annoying than admitting the problem because you feel that that the company does not respect you. They are willing to lie and they underestimate you to the extent that they think you will not understand what they did.

Such issues relate also to bad management. If the customer support department is managed by a competent manager, such mistakes will never occur. A good manager will know how to monitor the performance of his employees and control their behavior and attitudes. A good manager will set the rules from the beginning and will tell his employees how to handle all types of customers.

The link below is an interesting article that talks about the same issue…Importance of customer service:
http://buzz.greatfxbusinesscards.com/what-ever-happened-to-customer-service.htm

Customer Support

In Egypt we have a BIG problem in customer support. We do not understand what it means to begin with. It means that “The customer is always right”. Even that customer who does not understand how to use the product and did not read the manual and caused a damage or problem in the product because of misuse. Even that customer who is so angry and calls to yell over the phone. Once the customer starts yelling, we yell back at him or we speak in a tone that shows that we cannot stand his yelling.

Unfortunately, companies in Egypt do not understand that a good customer support service is a more important selling department than your sales department itself. Any company can have the best sales department and customers know that before they purchase anything they are dealt with as kings. Once the sale is closed, and once the customer needs post-sales service all the problems come up. Either the customer cannot reach you by phone or if he does, he finds incompetent and unfriendly people answering the phone.

If you really want to boost your sales and engrave your name in the market, invest in your customer support department. Hire highly qualified people, invest in continuous training programs for them, monitor their performance closely, overhear their calls with customers, provide for them the best working environment to make sure they are happy and in good mood because it reflects in how they deal with their customers.

I worked in a company once that stacked their customer support team in the dirtiest room in the company. They did not have a single working air-conditioner in office. One of the air-conditioners, before it went down, used to leak water which completely damaged the walls and changed its color to black spots. The room was dark; lighting was not enough for the number of people in it. Chairs were in terrible shape (not comfortable, broken backs, employees can not adjust them to their desired position). Add to all the above that the company did not have proper communication channel with their customer support department. They used to launch new services and products without informing the customer support department early enough. Customer support representatives used to receive customer calls asking about the service and how to use before the representatives knew anything about it. Also when the company faced any problems that affected the quality of service they provide to their customers, the support representatives were the last to know. They used to come up with any stories over the phone with customers and try to make the customer believe that there is no problem and it is from his side not the company’s until they knew about the problem. Not to mention of course that the company policy was always to hide the real problem and lie to the customers. The support representatives did not have any form of motivation. No clear career path, No respect from their colleagues in other departments (they were looked down to – seen as the least qualified in the company….after all their job is to answer the phone!!), did not receive any training courses and not enough financial packages.

All the above is a recipe for catastrophe. Your customer support employees should be pampered so that in return they can pamper your customers. At the same time they should be monitored closely and the smallest mistake should be harshly penalized. They should know that the customer is King. They should know that their job is to go beyond pleasing the customer to gaining his loyalty. A loyal customer will never switch to another company, will give a good word about the company everywhere and will recommend the company to everyone he knows.

Companies must continuously collect feedback from their customers about the quality of the service and their support. This can be done by random over the phone calls, customer support questionnaires and surveys to be put online or distributed in outlets or any other appropriate form. This makes customers feel that you care and that you are keen on improving your service to their satisfaction. And it also helps you know your weak points and improve them. Companies also should offer several ways for support. Do not rely only on phone calls. Offer online services. Make a knowledgebase from the cases that you come across on put it online for customers to browse through and resolve their case without having to contact you over the phone and wait on queues. Think of all possible alternatives to make your customers’ lives easier.

You cannot imagine the boost that happened in the service when I tackled and resolved the problems above. The support department used to answer only a maximum of 50% of incoming customer calls, after the changes they answered 90% of incoming calls. The average number of cases that used to be resolved in the same day they were opened did not exceed 50%, after the changes it reached 65% and were still improving. The support department used to resolve 35% only of the received cases without routing them to other techincal departments internally and wait for their feedback. After the changes they used to resolve 57% of the cases without routing. And there are many other factors that showed that once you CARE for your support employees, they will CARE for your customers and in turn customers will be happy and loyal.

The company with the best customer support service is the company that will dominate the market. Customers know that once they buy the service they will suffer whenever they need support. So now they try to buy from the company that offers great post-sales services.

What if your manager is a psycho!

Some managers go beyond being dictators to becoming real psychos. They treat their employees as their slaves. Whatever you do is not good enough, they keep criticizing and under-estimating your work. They always think that whatever they do and say is brilliant and whatever you do is disappointing. They interfere in your daily work to the extent that they paralyze you.

I came across one of those once. The ironic thing is I was an Organization Development manager with 11 years of working experience. So I was on a strategic managerial post and I was supposed to have responsibilities and authority to manage my projects. The healthy way to deal with me was to evaluate my work based on results. But instead see what she used to do:
1- Insist that I CC: her on every email I send.
2- Read every email and find something one way or another to criticize in the email. (Something like the tone of the email might annoy the audience, not clear enough….. )
3- Insist on attending most if not all the meetings I conduct.
4- Criticize me in front of the audience sometimes.
5- Criticize my work all the time especially if my customers praise it.
6- Continuously add new projects to my schedule (overloading me to the max.) and still request very tight and unreasonable deadlines. This of course is to give herself the pleasure of criticizing me for being late.
7- When the time for the quarterly evaluation comes, she gives me a completely unfair evaluation. And when I ask for logical explanation, she is unable to give me one. She starts saying stupid things like: “Everyone thinks your work is not good enough”. Of course without saying WHO “everyone” is and WHY it is not good enough and WHAT exactly is not good enough about it.
8- She wants to be treated as GOD. Whatever she says I should agree with. Whatever she wants she gets anytime.
9- Start all her meetings after 6:00p.m. and if I start complaining and asking not to be forced to stay late every day then it becomes a big issue. And suddenly I get comments like “It is not professional to refuse staying late”.
10- Go to the CEO (her boss) and show-off her work and exaggerate its impact and results. And when it comes to my work that she is supposed to report to him, she either undermines or does not mention at all as if I am not doing anything.

The funny thing is the projects she was responsible of did not deliver outstanding results as mine did. As a matter of fact I am convinced that she used to treat me in such a way because she was jealous that everyone is praising my work and not hers. Also because her way of dealing with people was extremely repulsive, (arrogant, bossy and aggressive), people preferred dealing with me. I think that made her jealous too.

WELL, how to deal with such psychos?
1-Resign to get rid of the headache.
2-Be his/her slave as he pleases. And of course praise him all the time, befriend him and feed his ego.
3-Go behind his back and befriend his boss, praise him and feed his ego. Then use your relation with his boss as your boss’s whip.

As for me, my choice is 1- all the time as I can not do, neither 2- nor 3-. It is not just me to be a slave or hypocrite. As a matter of fact I feel sorry for such people that they have to live with themselves. They are really sick and they definitely need help.What would you do?