Everyone’s in the Hospitality Business, Every Day

In today’s competitive market, the customer experience is everything — and not just in the hospitality industry. From the very first impression until the customer walks out the door, there are countless opportunities for making their experience memorable.  As part of eCornell’s Keynote webcast series, customer service expert Elizabeth Martyn from Cornell Hotel School joined eCornell’s Chris Wofford for an interactive discussion on understanding the customer mindset, how to exceed expectations — and even when offering guests a warm cookie might backfire.

What follows is an abridged version of that conversation. Watch the full keynote here.

Martyn: I feel like I always have to tell people that I’ve never actually worked in a hotel, which throws people off a little bit when we start talking about hospitality. But I take a broader view and believe that hospitality is really everywhere. If you have clients, or customers, or patients, or anyone who buys anything from you, you’re really in the business of providing a service and therefore you’re in the business of hospitality.

Wofford: The two of us were talking a little bit about the modern tech-savvy consumer and their expectations.

Martyn: I think whenever I start to talk about these things, I ask people to think about themselves. Because I know I’m one of these people. I’ve got my phone attached, I’ve got my computer ready. And whether you’ve thought about it or not, we’re all becoming really highly trained by our devices and by technology to have information at our fingertips. You expect that you’re going to be able to get everything done on your phone. Now, not everyone prefers to do it on their phone, don’t get me wrong. Some people are more traditional. They want that phone call or they want to do it on their computer.

But that’s where we’re moving to, because we’ve been trained that we’re always going to get exactly what we want, and there’s so much on our phones that we can use to make it exactly how we want it. But it’s not like we’re all issued the same phone with the same apps or the same email provider. Everybody can pick and choose what’s going to work for them and to create a digital experience that reflects who they are as a person. But now that we’re so used to having this thing that’s like attached to our bodies all day, every day, these ideas, preferences and expectations start to come out of the digital experience and into everything else that we participate in.

The second that your organization or your business doesn’t have a digital experience that allows people to get at those commonly asked questions with key information, or your digital information is out of date, that starts creating some conflict really quickly because now people feel disappointed. Because if other companies can do it, why can’t yours?

Wofford: As service providers, the next question that comes up is: well, what can we do about that? How do we manage these expectations?

Martyn: Start by paying attention to the questions people are asking. If you’re hearing the same question over and over, you should be thinking, “Whoa, this is a trend. We have an opportunity here.”

Wofford: If something comes up time and time again, it should really be searchable information on your website, right?

Martyn: Exactly. You should be thinking about how to make it more present on our homepage, whether that’s in the FAQs or the About section. You want to have that information available. I think a lot of service organizations tend to make the mistake of thinking that high-quality service is high-touch service. The second that you make the mistake of thinking that the only way to provide high-quality service is to force me to interact with someone on your team, you’re missing the mark because that might not be my preference.

You want to offer a choice by putting things online for the people who are going to go to your website and navigate there. It should also be easy to get ahold of someone who’s going to talk to me and engage with me maybe over the phone or in person, if that’s my preference. But you don’t want to choose for your consumers what’s going to be best for them. No one likes being told what they like.

Wofford: I really relate to that. Sometimes when you’re out to dinner and the server has come to you twenty times unnecessarily, it gets to be a little bit much. I understand that it comes from a genuine place of wanting to help, but it can be a little much. Now, let’s take on the idea of establishing operational systems. When you come to an organization and start working with a hospitality group, how do you get everybody up to speed and on the same page?

Martyn: You cannot climb the mountain the first time you ever go on a hike. It’s really important to identify your core problems and tackle those first. What can you put in place right away that will impact at least some guests?

Oftentimes, it’s an issue of bandwidth. You can’t see really great solutions if you’re behind the curve all the time. So start with a triage approach and identify the fast and easy things that will impact some folks and give you a little more space to start to then tackle the next, maybe more sophisticated, version of this solution. Don’t feel like you have to solve everything perfectly right away.

Wofford: What are the greatest opportunities that you can see with technology being able to help?

Martyn: I think it’s so easy to think that technology is going to solve it. That’s really not the right viewpoint. The viewpoint should be about how it supports us and supports anyone who’s interacting with our clients, our customers or our guests.
We talked about getting information up on your website, making your FAQs more available. What are those common questions that you’re hearing several times a day on the phone or over email? You need to get that information more quickly into the hands of your consumer so they can find it and move on with their day. That way, your frontline teams have more time and space to provide really meaningful interactions to the guests who really need it rather than anxiously trying to rush them through the conversation because there are ten people in line or the email inbox is filling up. You want your workers to feel like it’s acceptable and appropriate to take more time to work through those more complicated solutions. So it’s not only solving problems, but also making those investments to grow the relationship between your organization and your consumers.

Wofford: How do you see big data and analytics helping face-to-face interactions?

Martyn: You have to understand who the person is you are interacting with. Can you get a jump on some of that through the use of profile information? Does this person have a family? Are they a single business person? Where are they based? The faster I can get at that, the more sophisticated my engagement with them is going to be.

But there’s one thing I want to caution everyone against – and I feel very strongly about this – and that is that I’m a different person every time I interact with your brand. I am not the same person from my first purchase to my last. Travel’s a really great way to illustrate this. I’m a very different person with different needs and different expectations when I’m traveling alone for business than when I’m traveling with my husband for a getaway. It’s still me, so my profile’s going to say all the same things, but what I’m looking to get out of the service interaction really shifts depending on the context of my trip.

Wofford: What’s the takeaway on that?

Martyn: I think that’s one of the values of human interaction. The thing that’s emerging out of all the technology advancements is that there is still a very, very important place in the world for the human-to-human component of service delivery. And that’s true regardless of what industry you’re in. So, how do you take out all the perfunctory pieces?

Checking in or checking out of a hotel is a classic example. The process can be very perfunctory, focused only on the room number, the key, getting the customer to sign the waiver. But what if that interaction could be about something else entirely, and the room key and the waiver signature and the credit card are more like afterthoughts? What would be most helpful for the guest to have a wonderful stay? If there’s one thing the property could do for them over the next two days, what would it be? In my case, when I’m a business traveler, I might say that it’s providing bottled water. When I’m with my husband, I might say it’s letting us decide when housekeeping should come.

Wofford: Let’s say you’ve inherited staff who have worked for twenty plus years under one brand and they now find it difficult to follow a new training plan under a rebranded hotel. What do you do?

Martyn: Change is so hard for everyone. I think with all things, everybody wants to be a little bit in control. As an employee that means they want to know what their job is, how to do it well and how to do it in a way that is well respected. What’s really hard about what you’re going through is you have new expectations that maybe haven’t been completely explained to your team. And you’re probably sitting there going, “But I’ve said it ten times.” But that doesn’t mean that they’ve understood it or that they’ve bought in.

Companies have things like mission, vision, and values that help explain why they are doing the things that they are. In your re-flag situation, the answer can’t just be because the new brand says: “This is what we do.” If that’s the answer, or if that’s how it’s presented, there’s no incentive for employees to make an emotional investment into that adjustment.

Hypothetically, let’s say you re-flagged because the hotel wasn’t performing financially under the old brand. It’s important to explain that you were at risk of closing and ended up moving brands to better align with where you’re located, what your amenities are or whatever, so that you can keep the hotel financially viable and keep everyone employed. That’s a level of trust and transparency that also helps people understand why are they being subjected to this change. But how do you gain an emotional buy-in? And how do you work toward understanding what’s important to people in terms of what they’re really looking to get out of their job? Those are really two critical components in driving any change.

Wofford: What do you feel is more important, recruiting new employees or continuing to train existing ones?

Martyn: People say that you can’t train attitude. I actually don’t believe that. I believe training is incredibly valuable. I think that so often folks get written off as not caring or having a bad attitude, but I feel like you cannot say that that’s the case if you haven’t talked to them about the issue. I like to say “No one’s trying to be the worst.” It’s a bit sarcastic, but it means that until you feel 100 percent confident that you’ve sat this person down and explained what they’re doing, how it impacts other people, or how it’s being perceived, you can’t know that they are aware the problem exists. Until you’ve told them what they’re doing is wrong, you can’t assume that they know it.

My experience with a lot of training is that there are some people who are terrific with guests. I’m sure you have your rock stars and your people are amazing and everyone feels the love when they work with them. But if you ask them, “What did you do with Mr and Mrs So-and-So to make them so happy?” They’re going to give you a really bland answer because they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re just being themselves and fortunately for them it is perceived really well by the people to whom they’re providing service. But for people who don’t have that innate ability and want to do their job well, someone has to tell them. And some of the things that I think often go untrained are the things that don’t fall into the book of standards.

I’m sure at your property you have standards or guidelines about how you do certain things, what the rules are, how often you reach out to guests, how you communicate with them, or how many rings are allowed before you pick up the phone. All of that stuff oftentimes is documented. That’s like the ‘what’, the technical aspects of delivering your service. But the part that’s a lot harder is the ‘how’, which is actually what service excellence training is all about.

Wofford: What are your thoughts on maintaining an appropriate level of guest service when much of your staff is provided by third-party employment agencies? There are conflicting loyalties in terms of employment and focus.

Martyn: A lot of people have this, and if you have any kind of third-party contracts, or you have a management group interacting with an ownership group, it can be very, very complicated. But it goes back to what we were talking about before: getting people to understand the ‘why’.

Now, there could be a situation in which you are giving one set of directions and then the other manager that the employees technically report to is directly contradicting you, and that’s tricky. But that’s a technical piece that you have to work out between the two managers to make sure that the messaging is really consistent.

What is helpful is to make it less subjective and not about one person’s opinion versus another’s, because there’s not one person on this planet who isn’t going to say that their opinion is better. That’s just human nature. So you need to make it more objective by creating a rather vanilla, opinion-free approach to the decision-making process.

So with your different stakeholder groups, I would encourage you to go back and figure out those things that everyone is in alignment on. Maybe it’s financial incentives, maybe it is about guest experience. Once you figure out what the common point of departure is, you start to look at every situation and scenario through that common lens.

Wofford: How do you communicate metrics to frontline staff and turn it into something actionable?

Martyn: First off, hopefully everyone out there is measuring their guest experience. If you’re not, make sure you’re collecting those post-experience surveys. Consumers around the world are well trained, so there are pretty reasonably high response rates. So if you’re not yet doing a post experience survey, that’s a huge opportunity for you.

So, how do you take that information and make it into something real? Something I’ve seen done really effectively is figuring out a way to provide accolades to the people who are your stars. You might have to write questions into your survey like, “Was there any member of our staff who was particularly helpful to you?” Once you start getting that information, make a point of celebrating that Anna got three comments this last month or Sean was mentioned five times. So first off, make it personal. The scores themselves are hard to connect with and quite frankly, they’re really arbitrary benchmarks. We can’t even be sure they’re interpreting our questions correctly. But if you start to look at your qualitative data, your open-ended questions, then you have this opportunity to really raise up employees that are doing well.

Wofford: Do you have an example of a recent service interaction that really blew you away, that we could sort of look to as an example to follow?

Martyn: You know, I really see a lot of examples of great customer service, but for me I’m not really looking for some sort of special gesture. I don’t want anything comped. I don’t want a complimentary dessert. I really don’t want any of those things because so often they are a sign that the basics were not well executed. The best experience for me is when everything just happens. I don’t need anything special. I just want to pay for the thing or service that I wanted, and it all just happens smoothly so that I can pay my bill and leave. That is truly the best experience. As soon as you get into talking about ‘surprise and delight’, which is a common industry term, or these ‘above and beyond’ gestures, they actually don’t hold a lot of value for me.

So often, these gestures are nice and thoughtful, but they’re not really what I want. As an example, let’s say I’m unexpectedly delivered a cheese tray. Well, okay, that’s nice, but I’m not hungry now and I’m checking out at six am tomorrow, so I’m not going to eat it. I think it’s so hard to get gestures right in a way that’s actually very meaningful and relevant to the individual because what they need at any given time is constantly shifting. For me, I’d really rather have that energy and time invested in just doing what I originally asked for extremely well.

Wofford: Do you have any thoughts and strategies on first impressions?

Martyn: Picture this. You’ve just driven eight hours with your children and they were crying for the last hour of the journey. How do you feel when you get to that hotel? Do you feel great? No, you feel exhausted and at the end of your rope. The same could be said after a day of air travel or even a long day of work. So you’ve got a guest who is coming into what’s supposed to be this restful thing or happy thing. But so often we as guests are carrying our own baggage, or maybe we really need to use the restroom because we haven’t stopped for hours. Whatever. Then you arrive and you’re given the check-in information, the Wi-Fi password, and all that. So the guest is already feeling tired and overwhelmed and the warm cookie just isn’t going to be as effective as it would be when the guest is relaxed, isn’t lugging around their 50-pound bags and so on. Then all of a sudden the cookie would create a much larger impression because the guest has more bandwidth to absorb it.

So I would say that it’s important to really think about those first impressions. There is so much already going on during that arrival experience, so how can you take the non-necessary things out of the experience so it feels less overwhelming?

Wofford: Has your research revealed any meaningful generational differences when it comes to employees delivering amazing guest experiences?

Martyn: The research I’ve done hasn’t focused on that directly, but I can offer some of my impressions. I think generationally, what is different, goes back to the beginning of our conversation, when we talked about identifying ‘the why’. Why should I care? What’s in it for me? That’s what’s really different generationally.

Your oldest group and cohort in the workforce might not be super comfortable with tech but they have a ton of experience. They used to think customer service just meant smiling, and now you’re trying to tell them it’s all these other more sophisticated things. You have to be able to really help them understand how the changes that you’re recommending are actually going to impact the guests. Oftentimes that group in particular is so emotionally invested in the guests. They just want them to have the best time. They are so committed to that, so you have to be able to connect the dots for why that’s important.

The younger employees are going to find the tech part so easy. They’re really flexible and nimble and they want to learn. They have a different ‘what’s in it for me’ reason to adjust what they’ve already been told. On the other hand, the younger employees might need help making better connections with the guest base, who might not be just like them. Trying to better communicate with 40, 50 or 60-year-olds can be a struggle because those people aren’t like them. So although I don’t have formal research on this, what I would recommend is kind of stepping back and thinking about the different groups in your workforce and what’s important to them in terms of feeling satisfied with their job and like they’re doing the right thing and then helping to connect the dots between what you’re asking of them and the values that they hold, because they could be very different based on generation.

Wofford: Beautiful advice. A big thanks to Elizabeth for joining us today.

eCornell Student Leads Change at the United Nations

Dr. Adam Simpson, a recent alumni of eCornell’s Change Leadership certificate program, is the Manager of Global Programmes for UN Women in New York 

I recently completed the Change Leadership certificate program, developed by faculty at Cornell University, delivered through the SC Johnson College of Business. The program consists of four core courses and two leadership electives that have enabled me to address specific development goals within my organization.

As a leader and manager in United Nations Women, my organization always needs to be prepared for change. UN Women is the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. As a global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established in 2010 to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. Whether we are working on planned initiatives, or addressing the impacts of global volatility and unexpected situations, change is constant and inevitable in our field of work. In this program, I was able to identify and clarify my position in the power hierarchy of both my organization as well as across the broader United Nations system. Through this, I was able to better understand how the fluctuating power dynamics play into my role in the organization and how this affects organizational and system-wide decision making. Ultimately, this knowledge will help UN Women continue supporting Member States of the UN as they set global standards for achieving gender equality, and strengthen our work with governments and civil society to design the laws, policies, programs and services required to ensure that the standards are effectively implemented and truly benefit women and girls worldwide.

In addressing the changes I am involved with in my organization both corporately and on behalf of our global offices, the program has equipped me to better understand where and how large-scale change management initiatives are moving, and how I must implement the changes needed to sustain the momentum of these initiatives to advance our organizational mandate and maximize impacts. Specifically, the program helped me to analyze my organization and its tendencies toward change, to build approaches for identifying and influencing key stakeholders and overcome resistance, and explore critical decisions around negotiations and power dynamics.

I highly recommend this program for leaders, managers, and practitioners involved in addressing or leading large-scale, high-impact change management initiatives.

Cornell’s New Certificate Program Boosts Presentation Skills to Further Career Growth

The ability to present on any subject, in any place, to any audience is an invaluable asset for every professional. According a Forbes report on a new survey, seventy percent of Americans who give presentations agree that strong presentation skills are critical to their success at work. Yet twenty percent of survey respondents said they would do almost anything to avoid giving a presentation.

Today’s accomplished working professionals lead through their ability to communicate information and emotion effectively, even in the most intimidating circumstances. Cornell’s new Executive Presence certificate program will help learners conquer performance anxiety, refine public speaking skills, and build confidence, with the end goal of maximizing speaker-listener connection and furthering career growth.

“Executive Presence is not magic,” says faculty author David Feldshuh, Professor of Performing and Media Arts, Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s a skillset that learners can master with practice and experience.”

The course teaches the learner how to use breathing, visual focus, voice, and gesture to deliver authentic and engaging presentations in a wide variety of settings, from formal speeches to personal interviews. Through the use of video feedback, self-coaching questions, rubric self-analysis, and expert real-time coaching, students learn to diminish restrictive presentation habits, including performance anxiety and mannerisms, and work to become more responsive and expressive. They gain increased insight by watching others present, and understand more fully the importance of effective body language and vocal variety.

“It’s not about achieving perfection or competing with someone else,” says Dr. Feldshuh. “In this class, you compete with yourself. The core skills, analytical tools, and transformative training exercises are intended to position the learner for a lifetime of development. A fundamental learning goal is for learners to know themselves as presenters, and become experts in self-coaching to ensure continued improvement after the course is completed.”

Aspiring leaders, managers, senior leaders and executives, CEOs, actors and performers, and anyone who wants to strengthen his or her ability to connect with others while speaking will find value in this certificate program, which is available online through eCornell.

Upon successful completion of the Executive Presence certificate program, which consists of a single, 15-week course, learners earn an Executive Presence Certificate from Cornell College of Arts and Sciences, and 60 professional development hours.

Cornell’s New Certificate Program Develops Skills to Lead with Character

Servant leadership, a leadership philosophy where an individual shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform at a high level, has several distinct advantages over traditional leadership models. The University of Illinois at Chicago Business School recently conducted a study at national food chain Jason’s Deli. Among the surveyed restaurants, stores with servant leaders showed a 6 percent higher job performance, an 8 percent increase in positive customer service ratings, and a 50 percent higher staff retention rate.

Recognizing the powerful professional benefits servant leaders and their organizations experience, Cornell announces the new Servant Leadership certificate program to help learners develop into effective, successful leaders who demonstrate courage, humility, and compassion.

“Character is not something we have or don’t have,” says Amy Newman, faculty co-author and Senior Lecturer, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. “Leaders can develop character over time. This certificate provides you with skills needed to improve judgement and demonstrate character to develop a culture of servant leadership.”

Informal or formal leaders at any level in a for-profit or not-for-profit organization, as well as anyone who exacts influence at work will find value in this certificate program, which is available online through eCornell.

Using case studies and examples, learners will explore seven dimensions of leadership associated with strong character. Through self-reflection exercises, assessments, and activities, they will begin the work of developing these character dimensions.

“Servant leaders genuinely listen to their employees and focus on their development,” says faculty co-author Judi Brownell, Professor, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. “It’s truly a lifelong journey toward becoming the best leader you can be by fostering a culture of collaboration and service.”

Upon completion of the Servant Leadership certificate program, learners will understand how to develop trusting relationships through authenticity, integrity, and accountability, as well as how to implement performance management practices that reinforce service leadership.

Courses include:

  • Building Leadership Character
  • Authenticity, Integrity, and Accountability
  • Courage, Humility, and Compassion
  • Developing a Culture of Empowerment
  • Leading with Credibility

“Some incredibly successful companies, including Whole Foods, UPS, and Ritz Carlton, have implemented servant leadership,” says faculty co-author Tony Simons, Professor, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. “The benefits of a service leadership culture are undeniable. It is critical, though, that the implementing company take the care and time to consistently align policies, practices, and leader behaviors with the new direction. Half measures do not work.”

Upon successful completion of all five courses, learners earn a Servant Leadership Certificate from Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, 40 professional development hours, and 4 Continuing Education Units.

Cultivate Strategic Approach to Organizational Management

Learners gain the leadership agility skills needed to operate in complex environments

Great leaders are always looking ahead. They embrace change instead of resisting it, recognizing that the world’s landscape in the 21st century is vastly different from that of previous generations. In order for organizations to thrive, leaders must see the way forward and point the way ahead.

To prepare yourself to effectively lead through volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) and improve your organizations, Cornell has announced the launch of the new VUCA Leadership certificate program. Available online through eCornell, this certificate program will help leaders develop internal strengths and strategic skills, and improve their ability to influence people both within their organization and outside of it to accomplish their vision.

“When organizational leaders are able to identify and reduce the impact of VUCA in the workplace, their teams and organizations thrive,” says General George W. Casey, Jr., Faculty Author and Distinguished Senior Lecturer at Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. “This certificate program equips you with the tools to lead more effectively in a VUCA world.”

Leaders and executives at all levels will find this certificate program valuable. Learners will match their strengths and weaknesses with the leadership characteristics that are vital for success in today’s fluid world, and be able to formulate action plans to increase their opportunities for success.

Upon completion of the VUCA leadership certificate program, learners can immediately begin applying their new skills in the workplace. Whether it’s developing a clear and succinct communications plan to implement your vision and strategy, constructing an effective vision statement, or identifying the antidotes for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, learners can address today’s challenges with the viable solutions learned through the program.

Courses include:

  • Leading in a VUCA World
  • Developing and Communicating Vision and Strategy
  • Building Great Teams
  • Setting Internal and External Conditions for Success
  • Preparing for the Future

Upon successful completion of all five courses, learners earn a VUCA Leadership Certificate from Cornell SC Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Empower Your Team Through Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership is fast-becoming a prominent leadership style, and for good reason: It tends to increase trust and collaboration among team members, helps to build coalitions and community, and promotes ethical business practices.

While many leaders use the power of their position to direct and control employees, the servant leader listens; her focus is on understanding employees to develop and support them. Servant leaders flip the traditional relationship between the employee and the leader, fostering a strong service culture by empowering and involving workers.

As part of the eCornell Entrepreneurship webinar series, Judi Brownell from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration joined Chris Wofford for a interactive discussion on how servant leadership can transform your organization to one that is service-centered and culturally inclusive.

An abridged version of their conversation follows.

Wofford: Judi, we previously had a great conversation about the art of listening as it relates to leadership (((link to previous transcript))). Today we’re going to be covering the concept of servant leadership. What is that? It sounds like a response to a top-down leadership style.

Brownell: Well, servant leadership is relatively recent. The term was coined at some point in the early 1970s, but it was only recently that it became a truly prominent leadership style. What happens in servant leadership is that the follower experience really changes. Instead of followers taking a backseat and looking to a leader as the one who knows everything, servant leadership really puts the power front and center.

A servant leader follows a philosophy of service. A servant leader needs to believe that his or her role is really to serve, and they get satisfaction and gratification out of that type of behavior.

Wofford: I don’t want to preempt something you plan to talk about later, but does gender figure into this?

Brownell: It’s fine to talk about it now. I’ve done a lot of work with women’s career development and I do believe that men and women have different sets of competencies that come naturally to them. There are some people who would disagree, but men tend to be more assertive and more readily authoritative. Women tend to be better listeners. Women tend to be more emphatic.

The servant leader has a lot of characteristics that have always been associated with women’s leadership style. The wonderful thing is that, where in the past these characteristics may have been associated with weakness or pointed to as reasons why women are less effective, now the pendulum has swung and these same characteristics fit perfectly with the philosophy of servant leadership.

Wofford: And what’s at the heart of that philosophy?

Brownell: Servant leadership empowers followers. Rather than telling them what to do, and giving them a little bit of training here and there, servant leadership is about really developing your employees, really sitting down with them and asking, “What is it that you need to do your job better?”

It’s about looking at each employee as individually as possible. I believe that the opportunity to do this exists in most organizations. It could be as simply as just sitting down with people and asking, “Are you happy at your job? What is it that I can do as a leader to help?”

A leader presumably has more access to more resources and can perhaps shift an employee to a better position or cross-train them or whatever it is that they need to be happier and more effective in their work.

Wofford: We’ve got a good question here from Karen. She writes: “Yes, the servant leadership style may be more like a ‘woman’s style’ but in my experience (and I think research backs this up) men’s style of leadership includes a mentoring skill, whereas it is harder to find women leaders who mentor other females up the ranks.” Judi, any thoughts on that?

Brownell: Yeah, I’ve got lot of thoughts on that. I did a lot of work on that particular problem, in fact. This is really digressing from our main topic, but it’s interesting. I did a study asking women coming out of an MBA program whether they thought they would be as effective as men in a leadership role. They all said yes.

Then I asked them if they would rather work for men or women, and almost 90 percent of the women said they would rather work for a man than work for a woman. When it comes to mentoring, women either are the very best team ever or they are in conflict with one another, particularly when they are in an organization with very few women and a lot of men.

We need women mentoring women and we need women being advocates for women. And I think there are a lot of women out there who are great mentors – we just need to expand that pool. I think if organizations can build women’s confidence, then they will do a lot more to mentor other women.

Wofford: You said that was a bit of a digression. Where were you planning to go?

Brownell: I wanted to talk about the importance of compassion in the workplace. If you’re a servant leader and you really listen well to your employees and to your colleagues, it really does start a very positive chain reaction. People will see you as a role model and then they too will begin to also listen and be more compassionate in the workplace. Satisfaction at work really escalates when people feel like they are friends. There was a time when employers didn’t want their workers to be their friends because they thought the employees wouldn’t be as productive, but actually we’re finding that almost the opposite is true. The feeling that you’re surrounded by people who care about you makes a huge difference in how we feel about the workplace.

Wofford: Still, from an employer’s standpoint it’s a lot harder to fire someone you’ve become friends with.

Brownell: Yeah, well that’s true. It is harder to fire a friend, for sure. But I’m not talking about friends in the sense that you go bowling together after work. I mean a friend more in the sense of caring about someone because you know a little about them and they know a little about you. But your point is really well taken because that leads to another really interesting area, which is how close can you be with people that work for you without creating perceptions of preferential treatment or favoritism.

Nevertheless, compassion, empathy and caring is really important for a leader. The servant leader feels that the organization is in their care, so they care about its people and everything in it in a way that’s somewhat different than a leader who feels like they own the organization and that they’re driving it in whatever direction they want.

Another thing that I think is really interesting that characterizes the servant leader is self knowledge. I think often we’re so caught up in the actual doing – do this, do that, have this meeting, manage that project – that to have someone who is able to sit back and be introspective is a real treat.

You know, people are taught to talk, talk, talk but no one ever teaches anyone to really listen. Yet, to make good decisions you really need to gather information. Listening is really important to servant leaders. Not only that they’re listening but that people are able to see that they’re listening. Empowering employees and caring about them means paying attention to them.

I think the things that the servant leader focuses on are a little bit different. It’s more people-centric. It’s not that servant leaders are weak. They’re not weak at all. They’re very courageous in how they are honest and caring in the organization.

Wofford: It’s much more about making the best decisions even when they very well might be unpopular, right? Ultimately, the idea is to serve your vocation, right?

Brownell: Right, and being forthright with the information – some good, some bad – about what was done and what decisions were made. I think the whole transparency theme in organizations is important, and I think the servant leader facilitates that.

Wofford: We’ve got another great question from Karen here: “What about when servant leadership bites you in the butt? I tried to practice servant leadership but it comes back to bite me sometimes. Too much empathy, in particular, bites me.” What do you say to that?

Brownell: Empathy should be about recognizing someone else’s position and feeling how it affects them, but the consequences still need to be there. You know, if a student comes to me and says, “Oh I was trying to print and my printer broke down and that is why I’m a day late.” That’s when I say, “I understand that this happened and I’m sorry, but I’m still not giving you credit.”

Empathy is just indicating to the individual that you have in fact heard them, you understand how it could happen and you appreciate that they came to you and explained. But you still have a goal to reach. You still have a policy to meet. So empathy does not mean allowing people to slack off.

Rather than telling people what to do, servant leaders use persuasion whenever possible. This gets people sincerely on board and fosters ethical practices. Ethics have been a real big concern of mine. Sometimes we assume that someone is unethical when actually they haven’t even recognized that there was an ethical issue or an ethical component to what they were doing. They haven’t necessarily considered how their decision affects other people. So modeling ethical practices and being vocal about them are other important aspects of servant leadership.

Wofford: This also ties in to the self-reflection you mentioned earlier, right?

Brownell: That’s right and I think that self-reflection is actually a neglected leadership behavior and yet, if you read about really powerful leaders in various types of industries, almost without exception they mention how important it is to just sit back and kind of think about yourself and your own goals and what’s important to you, what you value, your strengths and weaknesses.

One of the things that a leader needs to do is to have what we call behavioral integrity, which means behaving in a way that corresponds with what they say. If I say I value being healthy but the bowl of M&Ms on my desk is the only thing I have for lunch, that is not displaying behavioral integrity. I think leaders should reflect on whether their actions back up their words.

Another thing to explore is who you become as a leader. One of the transformative things that I’ve been taking a look at is what being a leader does to one’s sense of self. There is this view that power corrupts, and I think servant leadership really helps prevent that.

I think self-reflection, no matter what position you’re in, is really important in the end. Sometimes it may have been so long since you last gave yourself the freedom to really think in these terms that it can be hard to know where to begin. One way to begin is to take some key themes and write down your own self-perceptions and then have someone else tell you what they think about you in those areas.

Wofford: And the servant leader is not only providing this sort of self feedback, they are also providing supportive feedback to their employees, right?

Brownell: It’s really about empowerment. As you empower someone, it implies that you trust them because you’re taking the time to coach them and mentor them. You’re giving them feedback, which is a sign that you care about them and how they are doing. You’re observing and helping them perform even better.

That then increases trust because as a leader you are basically saying, “I’m sure you’re not going to do it exactly the way that I would do it, but I trust that you understand the values and the goals and I trust that you are doing the best you can on behalf of the organization.”

Employees really take off when they feel like someone’s supporting them and that they can be instrumental in the organization’s success.

Wofford: Judi, thank you so much for this introduction to servant leadership.

Brownell: Thank you, Chris. It was nice to join you again.

Want to hear more? This interview is based on Judi Brownell’s live eCornell WebSeries event, Empower Your Team Through Servant Leadership. Subscribe now to gain access to a recording of this event and other Hospitality topics.

Cornell’s New Certificate Program Equips Learners with Essential Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

Participants learn strategies for effective decision-making and influencing in their organizations

 

July, 2018 (Ithaca NY) –

Strong critical thinking skills consistently rank high on employers’ lists of must-have qualifications for hires. Yet a recent study revealed that nearly half rated their employees’ critical thinking skills as only average or below average. In today’s fast-paced business climate, careful and sound thought around decisions has never been a more essential mindset to adopt at every level of a company.

Recognizing the desirability of a workforce that possesses a disciplined, systematic approach to problem solving, Cornell has announced the launch of a new certificate program in Critical Thinking. Available 100% online through eCornell, this certificate program will help learners develop the skills needed to deeply analyze a problem, assess possible solutions and understand associated risks. Learners will hone their strategic decision-making skills following a methodology based on tested actions and sound approaches.

“Critically thoughtful problem-solving is both a discipline and a skill — one that helps teams and organizations thrive,” said Cornell Johnson School professor Risa Mish, who designed the program’s core course in Critical and Strategic Thinking. “The Critical Thinking certificate program is designed to better align learners’ skills with those desired by their current and future employers.”

Whether learners are interested in preparing for a management role or already lead in an executive capacity, the Critical Thinking certificate program will equip them to confidently tackle any decision large or small, make compelling business cases, and apply influence in their organization in a way that creates optimal conditions for success.

Learners enrolled in the certificate program can contribute to the success of their organization by understanding how to respond decisively and consistently when faced with situations requiring a decision, analyzing potential solutions from multiple perspectives, and establishing responsibilities and accountabilities to ensure effective follow-through once decisions are made. Courses include:

  • Solving Problems Using Evidence and Critical Thinking
  • Making a Convincing Case for Your Solution
  • Strategic Decision-Making
  • Navigating Power Relationships
  • Interpreting the Behavior of Others
  • Applying Strategic Influence

Upon successful completion of all six courses, learners earn a Critical Thinking Certificate from Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business.

Cornell’s New Project Management Certificate Program Prepares Professionals for a Project-Driven Future

According to Deloitte, the successful organizations of the future will likely be those that can “move faster, adapt more quickly, and learn more rapidly.” Between 2010 and 2020, 15.7 million new project management jobs are expected to be created in the global job market as organizations position themselves to create the rapid velocity and agility today’s digital world demands. Now, professionals can build skills for the project-driven future with Cornell’s new Project Management online certificate program while accumulating 50 education hours toward their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

 

“This program is for anyone who works in a project environment, regardless of function or industry. Professionals gain a concise understanding of today’s project management space, learn practical skills and tools, and address crucial behavioral issues affecting project success,” said faculty author Linda Nozick, Ph.D., professor and director of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University.

 

Available through eCornell, the Project Management program includes five online courses that can be completed over three months in three to five hours per week. Students will learn and practice how to:

 

    • Get Organized: Schedule, track, and control projects using work breakdown structures, project networks, Gantt charts, and PERT calculations.

 

  • Plan and Manage Resources: Combat the “creeps”—in scope, budget, effort, and time—by identifying critical project resources, resource leveling, “crashing” or “fast tracking” certain tasks, and understanding behavioral dynamics.
  • Manage Risk: Understand types of project risk and use tools to assess the probability of project completion, make decisions, and mitigate risk.
  • Track Performance: Use earned value management (EVM) to summarize project performance across budget, deliverables, and schedule as work unfolds.
  • Think Agile: Learn the agile project management mindset, where best to use it, and how it differs from traditional waterfall and LEAN methodologies.

 

 

The Project Management certificate does not require formal project management training, is relevant for project team leaders, managers, and members, and is especially helpful for experienced project managers who seek a practical framework for project success.

Cornell’s New Programs Equip Managers and HR Leaders to Build an Aware Organizational Culture

Participants learn critical strategies for creating a supportive and engaging workplace

As today’s headlines prove, an inclusive work environment is not just a nice-to-have, it can make or break a company. Engaged employees, a diverse workforce, and an inclusive climate provide organizations with a competitive advantage. Recognizing the need for companies to understand the complex dynamics underlying diversity challenges and opportunities within their organizations, Cornell has now announced the launch of two new online Diversity and Inclusion certificate programs.

Available 100% online through eCornell, learners can choose from a program designed expressly for HR professionals and a track for managers in any part of the organization. The programs teach learners critical strategies to help their teams increase employee engagement, counter unconscious bias, and build a more inclusive work environment.

“An organization is only as good as its culture—and every manager and HR leader is responsible for culture,” said Cornell ILR professor Lisa H. Nishii, who authored the program. “It goes without saying that organizations today must move beyond mere compliance and focus on constructing a work culture that promotes inclusion. The problem is, despite the ubiquity of the term inclusion, its definition and implementation often remain murky. This set of courses is designed to train workplace professionals to decode unconscious bias and how it affects employees, and to design work practices and norms that more effectively leverage the potential among all employees.”

Learners enrolled in the certificate programs can help make their organization a more inclusive and engaging place to work by understanding the perceptual, institutional, and psychological processes that impact the ways people interact with each other. Courses include:

  • Improving Engagement
  • Counteracting Unconscious Bias
  • Diversity and Inclusion in Practice
  • Fostering an Inclusive Climate

Upon successful completion of all four courses, learners earn a Diversity and Inclusion Certificate from Cornell University’s ILR School.