Getting Back to Behavioral Core Competencies
by Dick Olenych

Recent surveys conducted have reported that an overwhelming majority of CEO's deem customer service as an essential key to the growth of their business. Businesses have spent billions of dollars on Customer Relationship Management software programs that are suppose to be the guardians of customer satisfaction. Yet most companies across the country have done little to improve the business behaviors of their employees, such as empathy, commitment, passion, and unity. These elements are vital in the business world today. As companies take an introspective look, they are realizing that behavioral core competencies are crucial in obtaining success in business and in life.

Hey Buddy can you spare some change?

How do you address apathy in the work place? Can you dictate that individuals change? If you have to manage to that level then you are not leading your organization, but rather managing a lost cause.

Think about all of the business behaviors that are essential - empathy, commitment, ownership, consideration, pride etc. Please don't misconstrue that some of these elements are not being audited within an employee's job related functions. They probably are. I'm addressing the employees' fundamental business decorum toward the customers, the company and the fellow employees.

Employees' core competencies are waning in business today. We are so busy managing for results that we are overlooking the fundamentals in our organizations. Bosses are task managing or quantifying activities. That may be appropriate in some aspects of business, but to a great extent it misses the mark. The old adage comes to mind, "practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect."

In order to truly effect change in an organization you must find the best method to inspire and pilot your group. Employees are feeling isolated and fearful waiting for the next shoe to drop. Now is NOT the time to be Spartan with unifying themes or compassionate speeches. Leaders must take these difficult times and leverage them into something positive for their organization, imprinting on each employee the fundamental essence of the business. Instilling in them the passion and the desire to do what's right, essentially raising their core competencies. They will then carry the banner and cause to others. Another quality improvement exercise will fall short. Individual improvement of each employee at a root level is what is needed. You must find that catalyst to exponentially elevate every member of the group to truly see a cultural change.


I recently surprised a friend of my mine at his business. We'll call it Great Foods. I don't want to make this an ad for my buddy because he still owes me $5 for the bet he lost about who would loose their hair first.

This guy has known me for close to 25 years, so he wasn't surprised when I blew into his office like a tornado. If the truth be known I brought him lunch and I was still wearing the souvenir crown. We're catching up on our families and talking about our vacation together this summer etc. and everything is going great when an emergency comes up, so he gets back to business in a hurry. I on the other hand have time to walk around his office. I see several people pushing paper while answering their phones. Some have even mastered the ability to talk, type and file all at once. The one thing that struck me though is that they all answered the phone the same way, "Great".

Being the marketing person that I am, I wanted to make-up a slogan, so I came up with, "Great - it's not just in our name it's how we think of ourselves." No one liked any of my ideas, so I tossed my crown and left dejected.

My question to you is simple, "Have you, as the leader of your company, division, or group instilled a great attitude in your people?" It can start with a slogan and progress to a theme, but ultimately it must be adopted by every individual in your organization to be a true cultural change. Having the attitude that they are the best and that everyone is important can be extremely powerful. It is directly correlated to employee's actions and interactions within their group and with customers.

Every day you should be promoting the right attitude in every action you do. The problem is that sometime we just don't want to because business is too damn difficult! Let's face it, there are always going to be employee issues, supply chain challenges, administrative nightmares and competitive pressures. So, what are you going to do? Just be another clog in the process and complain about everything and put your head down in defeat. Your employees and peers will see that and act similarly. Business will not always be fun. It will be difficult, but it does NOT have to be constant drudgery.

Now is the time to decide how you affect others. This will not be an easy road. It can't be done quickly or sporadically. The results may take months or years to see. It must be a continuous, true and genuine effort from the top down. One thing is for sure though, you will like the results.

Make today your first day for positive change.

CRM software programs are a good start, but starting with a strong foundation is better

So what's it going to come to, managing your employees' breaks in thirty second increments? Come on let's be honest. CRM programs are great tools, but only in the hands of skilled professionals. If you gave me a chisel and hammer, and sat me in front of a boulder, all I could create is a bunch of gravel.

Do the CRM programs do what they advertise? Yes, they help manage and track customer centric activities. They also help align touch points. Great stuff. Most organizations would be remiss if they didn't have such programs. So everything is wonderful because now we can track and support our customers better than ever before. Wrong, we're trying to run before we can crawl. We have to get to the back to the basics first.

When was the last time that you got really great service? Even good service is a thing of the past. I see several fallacies with the view that Customer Relationship Management software programs are the end all to save all for companies who want to maintain their customers. Activity management alone will not win a company a strong loyal base of clients. I understand that CRM programs can streamline billing and supply chain issues and that's great, but it's only the minimum standard in this highly competitive world.

First are the employees' demonstrating good core business behaviors? You know what I mean empathy, commitment, passion, unity etc. All the CRM programs in the world can't achieve what a warm smile and a sincere thank-you can. I'm not talking about establishing a rapport with the customer (internal and external). I'm talking about something even more basic. Where doing your job is not an obligation or burden, but rather a chance to overachieve. Where encouragement is a given and where employees know that their actions are important. We would never eliminate manufacturing's quality controls. Why have we lost sight of our employees' quality behaviors? These are the behaviors that are seldom part of any evaluation. These are their core competencies. And we need to get back to basics. A CRM program cannot change an employee's core business behavior. As mangers and leaders we must guide each employee to their highest potential.

Leadership is not only the delegation of responsibility. It is inspiring by example. Employees need to see it in action first. Where follow-up is not a chain and anchor, but a chance to shine. Where coming to work is not a yoke around our necks, but a positive part of our lives. Remember as leaders our subordinates look to us and mirror our actions and behaviors. Don't try to manage to employee core competencies. Instead exhibit the right behaviors in yourself. This will showcase the traits and values that your employees should emulate.

The second fallacy that I see is that customer relations are thought to be only the responsibility of the sales organization. I believe strongly that all employees are sales people or ambassadors for their company. Positive employees will create goodwill that affects a company more than any CRM program. Why? Because people talk about their jobs while at work and while at home. Every last person in an organization is creating the image of the company. This is not the marketing hyped image, but the true reflection that effects how work gets done. This internal view is extremely important and very difficult to direct. On the contrary, it can't be managed, and there's no software program around that can change it. Without a good image, CRM programs will never be maximized. It would be like sailing on a windless day.

Next time you want a CRM program, think first about, "Competencies Really Matter".

Dick Olenych is the author of Joe Sails. It's a book about effecting cultural change through elevating employees' core business behaviors. Contact Dick by e-mail: .

Many more articles in Performance Improvement in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2004 by Dick Olenych. All rights reserved.

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