Quality can distinguish your firm from your competitors
By Herbert M. Greenberg, Ph.D.
Herbert Greenberg is CEO of Caliper Inc., a team-building company based in Princeton, N.J.
Nearly every precaster is concerned with how to attain quality, how to keep it and how to be known for it.
This emphasis on quality is compelling. Quality is definitely seen as the factor that can distinguish your firm from your competitors.
While in many ways, quality might seem elusive, or, at best, hard to measure; it is easy to determine when quality is present and when it is missing.
And we are all drawn to people, companies, products and services that exude quality.
Whenever we speak about quality before a group of executives, a typical question is, “What qualities make up a perception of a quality company?” The top-of-mind responses we got included service, reputation, consistency, integrity, commitment enthusiasm, authenticity, reliability and availability.
When you review that list, the lion’s share of these qualities has to do with people – the people we select, develop and manage, with the ways in which we motivate our employees, the ways we work together, develop our priorities and accomplish corporate goals.
The irony is that management typically focuses the bulk of its resources on other strategies.
Finance, sales, marketing and investment strategies are usually thought of as the hard issues. So they are given much more prominence than the softer issue of human resources strategies. But better strategies for our people is precisely the area in which we can gain a meaningful, competitive edge.
Improving our people strategies starts by renewing the way in which we look at our people and the jobs that they fill. We can start out by taking a fresh view of our managers and of those whom we manage.
Along these lines, one of the questions we often pose at a convention is, “How many of you are managers?” To this, almost everybody immediately raises their hand. Then we ask, “How many of you have managers?” And again, not quite as enthusiastically, everyone indicates they also have a manager. Then as we discuss the differences between the way we manage and the way we are managed, an interesting point comes to the surface: Most of us know much more about the people who manage us than we know about the way we manage others.
And one of the most annoying qualities that is usually expressed about the people who manage us is that they often make us feel manipulated. There is an underlying, universally acknowledged feeling that our managers often try to get us to do things through a variety of formulas and half-truths, which in reality we can see right through – and which serve to undermine a collaborative, team-building approach to management. And yet we often try to use these very same approaches with those that we manage.
The lesson to take, in our roles as managers, is that we need to be more authentic. We need to better understand those we manage, including their strengths, motivations and limitations. Only then can we include them in our strategies and recognize how they can contribute, in very meaningful ways, to our corporate goals.
Of course, not all of the people we manage will respond to the same one uniform approach. Everyone is an individual, so each one will respond differently. But by better understanding, the most effective way to get them from Point A to Point B, by speaking their language in a way that communicates to each of them directly, we will be able to tap into their commitment, gain increased buy-in to corporate goals and, in so doing, increase their overall productivity.
This means becoming better strategists of the individuals who make up the staff so we can really match our management approaches to the individual goals and the corporate objectives and culture. While it might be more difficult than the approach we are used to, the end result will be greater productivity, increased performance and improved quality.
Improving our people strategies is the most direct way to improve service, reputation, consistency, enthusiasm, authenticity, reliability and availability – all of the quality issues that are top-of-mind concerns for managers today.