CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 23, 4th August 2003

Brought to you by the Brefi Group: "Helping you get from where you are to where you need to be."

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    1. Editorial: Listening beats mediation beats litigation
    2. Coaching notes: Bringing out the best in people
    3. Event review: Buying Facilitation

1.     Editorial: Listening beats mediation beats litigation

When I walk home from the train I pass the offices of a litigation lawyer. There is a large notice outside listing all the ways in which they can take money off organisations. I am not keen on the compensation culture and as I pass I mutter to myself "Bloody ambulance chasers" and "Trouble makers".

But I have recently experienced the other side of the coin. I have been employing professional services that I have felt have been of poor quality and that have cost me money. There is a temptation to sue. My concern is not to punish, or even to get compensation – though I would like that. My concern is that my complaints were not accepted. What I seek is recognition.

A growing compensation culture in the UK is costing our National Health Service a considerable sum. And yet I often read in the newspaper that litigants are not after money. They say "I only wanted someone to take my complaints seriously. An apology would have been enough."

Any feedback from customers, clients or patients is a gift – and complaints are really valuable, because they signal processes or attitudes that could be improved.

I am starting a vacation today. When I was booking my flight, I had to wait while the manager spent a great deal of time and effort attempting to find an alternative holiday for a family that had booked into a hotel that had been closed down because of an infection in the swimming pool. The holiday company was going to particular trouble to protect next week's holidaymakers. When he finally was able to serve me, I congratulated him on his concern and commitment, and the trouble he was taking.

Less than a week later there was headline news about a large number of people who had been staying at the same hotel and were already starting a legal action because they had had their holiday spoilt. I don't know how the holiday company had treated these holidaymakers, but it did seem to me that its customers had decided to sue before it had had time to make any amends to them.

Customer relationship management is major theme these days. Perhaps it begins with a willingness to listen, to accept that things do sometimes go wrong and, if necessary, to seek help through mediation. Costs a lot less than litigation.


NEXT ISSUE: Since August is a major holiday month in the northern hemisphere and we encourage clients and associates to take time for their own rest and recreation, we shall not be publishing any more issues of CorporateCoach this month. May we wish all our readers an enjoyable break.

The next issue of CorporateCoach will be published on Monday 1st September 2003

2.     Coaching notes: Bringing Out the Best in People by Veronica Lim

W L Gore & Associates earns over $1 billion in global sales. It is one of the*#34;100 Best Companies to Work for in America" for the fifth time. It has approximately 6,000 associates in 45 locations around the world, none of whom have job titles. There are no organisational charts, budgets or elaborate strategic plans. It has a rate of employee turnover of about a third of the industry average. At Gore, they deliberately keep the size of their sites down to 150 people, so they don?t need formal management structures and to harness shared knowledge most effectively.

At Ricardo Semler's manufacturing company in Sao Paulo, financial data are shared with all employees, 30% of employees determine their own salaries, and self-managed teams replace hierarchy. His company has grown 24% annually since his book first got business people asking who he is. He eliminated nearly all job titles. Like Gore, there are no organisational charts. Semler believes in giving up control, and sees the purpose of work as making the workers feel good about life. At Semco, the company was split into smaller autonomous business units. Semler says that people usually perform at their potential when they know everyone around them, which is generally when there are no more than 150 people.

Meanwhile, St. Luke's Communications Limited is one of the top ten advertising agencies in the UK. St Luke?s is wholly owned by its employees. Fixed detailed job descriptions are nearly dead. About 25% of their people shift into a different role to the one they were hired for – for example, one employee who was struggling in client service became a copywriter. There is no hierarchy and no bonus structure based on grade. The company has a low turnover of staff. This also enables them to learn from any mistakes, because they retain the knowledge in the company and issues are openly discussed. St. Luke's is held together by values, freedom of expression and the desire to make work fun. Andy Law, co-founder of St Luke?s said, "Human capital appreciates in value; humans are more effective learning animals and break down less often, if looked after properly."

What Do These Companies Have in Common?

All three companies mentioned above honour the individual strengths and talents of their people. What does this mean for the company itself, apart from low turnover in staff levels and increasing profits?

  1. "Transactive memory" is retained (as taken from The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell). For example, in a family, it may be the son who has responsibility for storing technology-related information, because he has the greatest aptitude for electronic equipment or because he uses computers the most. When new information arises, he is automatically (and implicitly) the one assigned to remember the information. Our mental energy is limited, and so it makes sense to concentrate on what we do best. If the family purchases a new DVD machine, say, the son will usually be the one to set it up for the rest of the family. In an organisation, this means taking advantage of understanding people?s strengths. Where the size of the company is small, people within the organisation know one another well enough to know what they know, and are therefore able to store and exchange knowledge effectively.
  2. Remuneration is based on strengths and contribution to the company rather than hierarchy. All members of staff are actively involved in decision-making, including their own salary levels. There is transparency in financial data. Individuals monitor their own performance based on their own integrity and professionalism. Each person is encouraged to harness their own strengths and to be a leader in their own right.
  3. Each person is treated as an equal individual, with a right to their own opinion. They are individually valued for their contribution, and there is a high level of mutual trust within the organisation. The company becomes a hive of inspired individuals who love to come in to work each day.

Are There Any Downsides?

In the short-term, there will probably be issues to handle. It isn?t easy to implement change of this kind without going through a sense of chaos and break down. However it is the breakdown of the old that makes room for the new. Some people will leave, as they find themselves unable to fit into the new culture. It takes courage to change, particularly when organisations operating like Gore, Semco and St Luke?s are still in the minority.

In the long-term, I believe that it is the way that organisations must go. More and more people want to be recognised for their value and to enjoy their work in a way that harnesses their natural strengths. From the company?s perspective, there is a need to encourage knowledge sharing and retention, and encourage creativity and innovation. Not to mention, improving staff retention.

  • What changes can you begin to make, even if just in your division or department, to model the successes of the companies mentioned above?
  • What steps can you take to give the people with whom you work more responsibility in a way which allows them to use their natural strengths?
  • How can you bring more transparency with regard to information to your area?


Veronica Lim is an executive coach and director of Inner Thinking UK Limited. She coaches leaders and managers to create a freer, easier and richer life at work. In the Inner Thinking Way: 7 Strategies to the Next Level, Step 3 is about Harnessing Strengths and Talents.

3.     Event review: Buying Facilitation, reviewed by Andrew Halfacre

I recently (24 July 2003) met Sharon Drew Morgen, author of Sales on the Line and Selling with Integrity at a presentation organised by Brefi Group. Sharon Drew was in London introduce a new way of selling to a British audience. She calls this "Buying Facilitation®" and maintains that it is a 180 degree reversal on what most sales people actually do with a customer.

I was curious to see whether, in fact, she had anything different or was just presenting some old material with a new name. Back in 1984 when I was selling washing machines, I remember being taught to Approach, Find Needs, Match Needs To Product, and Close. Sharon Drew maintains, somewhat controversially, that not much has changed in the world of sales since then despite such developments as SPIN selling, Consultative Selling and others. Her argument is that most sales models are about taking the client through a Product Decision Funnel where the salesperson sees their role as guiding the customer towards the product as the best solution for their needs.

So, what is different about Buying Facilitation®? Well, there are three main starting points. Firstly, people buy using their own buying patterns not the sellers, secondly all the seller has is questions and it is up to the seller to help the buyer discover their own answers. Lastly, recognition that people only buy when they cannot find their own solution to the problem. In fact, according the Sharon Drew, a buyer will not buy until they have navigated their own unique buying environment and decision making process – one which the seller will never be able to appreciate. A buyer will only buy if they discover a solution based on their own values.

All of this means that it makes most sense for a seller to adopt a facilitative position and enable the buyer to discover their own answers to the many questions that need to be covered before a buying decision can be made. Buying Facilitation® is a structured process for guiding the buyer through these questions before you even get to considering the product features and benefits.

All in all, it was a stimulating and thought provoking afternoon, one which sparked my curiosity to find out more. There is a lot more information and some free material on Sharon Drew's web site. The e-book Buying Facilitation: The New Way to Sell that Influences & Expands Decisions is relatively inexpensive and would make a good investment for anyone curious about improving sales performance. You can download three sample chapters of the book.

Sharon Drew intends to return to the UK to run two training courses in September.

It struck me that this approach is ideal for selling services like insurance, utilities and training because it takes the consultative sales model even further. I shall be trying in out over the next few weeks and will report back on how I get on...

Andrew Halfacre


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We hope you enjoyed this issue of CorporateCoach. If you would like to learn more about how we can work together, then please contact me, Richard Winfield