Friday, July 24, 2009


There is already a lot written about what will happen to the culture of Zappos. Will it remain separate, will it be integrated or will it be the ‘norm’ also for Amazon? I don’t know what will the plan.

From a services point of view, it is also very interesting to see what both companies can learn form each other.


They have a fantastic website and from a customers point of view it looks like everything is automated. That is fine, as long as you don’t encounter any problems. Recently I did buy a video camera from them with a tripod. It was until I get to the payment screen that it became clear that they would not ship the tripod overseas. I have no idea why that was the case. I went through a lot of hassle to disintegrate my order. Parts which were okay to be shipped to the Netherlands had to be separated from parts which were only shipped in the US. I really had a lot of problems with this order, so I wanted to call customer service for some help. There was no telephone number that I could find. I felt not being supported, I was only able to talk to my Apple and that didn’t work.

So, it would be great if Amazon adds a possibility to talk to a real human being. And it would be very nice to talk to a customer service representative who is trained in the Zappos tradition. That would really add a lot of value to my customer service experience.


Zappos just recently started to ship there products internationally. However the way they organized this is not attractive at all. They add a huge amount to the price for shipping internationally and the logistics are also a hassle.

What Zappos can learn from Amazon to really a worldwide delivery system in place. Maybe they can even use the Amazon facilities abroad. Zappos will then have the opportunity to become a real global phenomenon.

So, instead of looking at the downside of this acquisition it is much more stimulating to look at their respective strengths and what they can learn from each other. In that way the customers will be the real winners.


Please click here to follow me on Twitter

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It's a question that has been tackled by thousands. In fact, there are literally tens of thousands of leadership studies, theories, frameworks, models, and recommended best practices. But where are the clear, simple answers we need for our daily work lives? Are there any?

Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood, and Kate Sweetman set out to answer these questions to crack the code of leadership. Drawing on decades of research experience, the authors conducted extensive interviews with a variety of respected CEOs, academics, experienced executives, and seasoned consultants and heard the same five essentials repeated again and again. These five rules became The Leadership Code.

These five rules the book argues can be effectively used by all leaders, regardless of their context or organization. The five rules/leadership code are:

* Strategist - shape the future.
* Executor - make things happen.
* Talent manager - engage todays talent.
* Human capital developer - build the next generation.
* Personal proficiency - invest in yourself.

This gives you a platform/guidance for developing your leadership capability.

The authors say by following this code and 60% to 70% of the leadership challenge will be met. They accept that the remaining 30% of leadership effectiveness, will depend on how you deal with specific issues that will vary from organization to organization.

I do think that the first four are not really shocking. There are hundreds of books and resources, which describe these rules. The most interesting one is personal proficiency.
Personal proficiency has five sets of resources: physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spirituality.

This personal proficiency is the basis upon which the rest can be developed. If there is a lack, or not enough attention to any of these aspects, the other four rules will suffer. For sure!

The role of a leader puts great demands on the physical condition and stamina of the leader. Most hours are spend sitting down behind a desk, in the car, in meeting rooms. This is not healthy for the body. So, it is crucial to plan at least three times a week time for physical exercises, preferably outdoors. That activity has two benefits. During the physical exercises you can clear and clean your head, your thinking. When you are done, you will have a new and refreshing perspective on the challenges at hand. And you will be less tired from all the meetings and conversations, because you have a good physical state.

It is crucial to have a view and understanding of the world around you. If the leader is only focussed on the business, he or she misses a lot about what is happening in the world. This can be in his own family and community, but also in the wider perspective. One of the most fulfilling activities is to be a volunteer. This is beneficial for yourself and for the organization as well.

For your own physical and mental health, it is crucial to be aware of your own emotions. Are you often angry, impatient or disappointed? Any other emotion? If you hide those emotions for yourself, it will take a while to burst out of its cocoon, but then you are in trouble. So, it is better to be aware and to accept those emotions. Then you can examine what the cause is and address that cause. Even better is to have a personal coach who will be your confidential sparring partner and trustee.

Here we are talking about learning agility. The world moves so fast, that you can no longer rely on your previous experience or know-how. You have to keep up to date with the latest trends and developments. Not only in your area of expertise, but also in general. This can be done through reading, attending seminars, and listening to podcasts. A great way to learn is to meet regularly with people with different backgrounds. They will offer you new insights and perspectives. Everything in the world is so connected to each other that you need to learn to develop a holistic way of seeing. Only then you can see the problems and challenges, as well as the solutions and opportunities.

To keep your own flame burning, you need to make sure that you regularly add some fuel. This can be done through meditation, going to church, reading, or whatever suits you. You have to provide meaning to your own, personal life as well. Your values and beliefs have to be sustained continuously.

Most leaders do not give priority to this personal proficiency. The result is that they really exhaust themselves (and their teams). The current challenges require that you be energetic and enthusiastic and not deplete your own resources. So you have to make sure that you fuel them regularly and continuously!



Please click here to follow me on Twitter

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

14 ways to employee engagement & involvement

There are numerous studies which have shown the positive impact on the results
of employee engagement & involvement.

But what is employee engagement?
It is the extent to which people identify with, enjoy, are enthusiastic about, and are
willing to spend extra effort for the work that they do.

There are some basic rules which leaders and managers have to follow to stimulate
employee engagement:

1. Be honest
2. Practice what you preach
3. Give confidence
4. Create a secure environment for open communication.
5. Listen open-minded
6. Show interest in the human perspective
7. Walk on the shop floor
8. See to it that everyone applies the core values
9. Make sure that everyone knows the mission and vision
10. Ask your clients what goes well and what can be improved
11. Have crossfunctional/crosshierarchical teams
12. Have the guts to say it when you don’t understand something
13. Regularly give compliments
14. Have a learning attitude towards failure

This is also true for involvement, which is the day to day commitment to have real two way traffic in communications.

What is needed to INVOLVE your people?

I = ignite employees’ spirit
N = nurture their ideas
V = value their input
O = open all lines of communication
L = level with employees, tell the truth always
V = validate and acknowledge their concerns
E = encourage risk taking

What are you doing to stimulate employee engagement & involvement?


Please click here to follow me on Twitter

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

To ROI or not to ROI

The current structure and way of managing our companies is basically the same as when the first companies started in the beginning of the 1900’s.
Ford and mining companies are really good examples. The focus was on delivering the products as fast and as cheap as possible. People were just a tool to make this possible. A manager was someone who had done that particular job himself before, so he knew all the details. The employees were not supposed to come up with their own ideas, as that was the role of management. And when they encountered a problem, they asked the manager for help. As he knew the details he was able to support them.

The most important investment was the investment in machines. Hence, the metric of ROI (return on investment) became a driving factor in decision-making. The measurement of ROI spread into the Corporate environment like a contagious disease. Nothing can and will be done if there is no ROI projection available. Whether it is a project or a new IT system, or a new service or a change in the business model. They all ‘need’ a ROI projection. A lot of time is spend (‘wasted’) on creating business cases to support these new initiatives. Semi-scientifically people come up with favorable ROI projections, because if they are not, their project won’t be sponsored. In a lot of cases this creates a fake reality, because the numbers are made more favorable than reality permits. Sometimes it is even impossible to come up with adequate numbers, but if you don’t provide numbers, your idea won’t fly.
This way of organizing, managing and measuring a companies performance has become the norm. Even in today’s radically changed circumstances.

In Western countries more than 80% of GDP is related to services, so the services economy is dominant. So, it is no longer the machines which produce the results, but it is all about people who are the service and deliver the service themselves. The emotional value, which you deliver through your services, is becoming just as important as the economic value. A service company is nothing without its people. What remains is a building with a sign above the entrance with your name and that is it. Nothing comes out of this building without the people. So, we need a new definition of ROI, which is more in line with the actual state of the business.

It would be good to add the following definitions of ROI:

- Return On Involvement
- Return On Ideas
- Return On Intelligence
- Return On Integrity

These new definitions are more suited for service-environments were people are the dominant factor, and no longer machines.

However this new perspective on ROI requires a new way of thinking, a change of habits. This is not easy.
In The Age of the Unthinkable, Joshua Cooper Ramo says it as follows: “Unfortunately, whether they are running corporations or foreign ministries or central banks, some of the best minds of our era are still in thrall to an older way of seeing and thinking”.
Only when you have the real will and urgency to change your thinking, you are capable of doing it. The fortunate thing about the current crises is that more and more leaders are feeling stuck. They don’t know how to handle all these challenges. This could be the ideal time to help them with new perspectives and a new way of thinking. New times require new metrics.

Would you like to focus on the old ROI or (also) on the new ROI?


Please click here to follow me on Twitter