Transforming Customer Experiences: Driving Performance and Profitability in the Service Sector – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM HBS EXECUTIVE EDUCATION


The service sector is a large and growing part of our economy. But a lot of service businesses are managed according to old ideas imported from more traditional industries, says Ryan Buell, UPS Foundation Associate Professor of Service Management at Harvard Business School (HBS).

In today’s rapidly changing service sector, a new set of frameworks is required to build a robust and competitive service business, says Buell.

“Service jobs have a reputation for not being great jobs—and in many cases, I think it’s a well-earned reputation. But it shouldn’t be that way,” says Buell. “Service is the business of people helping people, and when employees lack the capability, motivation, and license to perform, there’s no hope they’ll deliver excellent service to customers.”

Better Ways to Communicate Hospital Data to Physicians

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We recently conducted an in-depth study at Lumere to gain insight into physicians’ perceptions of clinical variation and the factors influencing their choices of drugs and devices. Based on a survey of 276 physicians, our study results show that it’s necessary to consistently and frequently share cost data and clinical evidence with physicians, regardless of whether they’re affiliated with or directly employed by a hospital. This empowers physicians to support the quality and cost goals inherent in a health system’s value-based care model. Below, we offer three recommendations for health systems looking to do this.

Assess how data is shared with physicians. The reality is that in most health systems, data sharing occurs in irregular intervals and inconsistent formats. Ninety-one percent of respondents to our survey reported that increasing physician access to cost

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When Companies Should Invest in Training Their Employees — and When They Shouldn’t

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According to one industry report, U.S. companies spent over $90 billion dollars on training and development activities in 2017, a year-over-year increase of 32.5 %. While many experts emphasize the importance and benefits of employee development — a more competitive workforce, increased employee retention, and higher employee engagement — critics point to a painful lack of results from these investments. Ultimately, there is truth in both perspectives. Training is useful at times but often fails, especially  when it is used to address problems that it can’t actually solve.

Many well-intended leaders view training as a panacea to obvious learning opportunities or behavioral problems. For example, several months ago, a global financial services company asked me to design a workshop to help their employees be less bureaucratic and more entrepreneurial. Their goal was to train people to stop waiting around for their bosses’ approval, and instead,

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The Motivating (and Demotivating) Effects of Learning Others’ Salaries

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Pay inequality is common in most workplaces. You get paid significantly more than your subordinates, your boss gets paid more than you, and your boss’s boss gets even more. In many large organizations, some employees can take home paychecks tens or hundreds of times more than others.

Whether you like it or not, your employees have wondered at some point about your salary — and their peers’. Should you be worried about that? Our recent research sheds light on this question, and our findings may surprise you.

We conducted an experiment with a sample of 2,060 employees from all rungs of a large commercial bank in Asia. The firm is quite representative of most companies around the world across some key dimensions, including its degree of pay inequality and non-disclosure policy around salary.

The first thing we looked at was manager salary. Through an online survey, employees

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How to Stop Delegating and Start Teaching

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As a college professor, I regularly train PhD students. In psychology and most fields of science, students are assigned to a project early on in their studies and learn key skills through an apprenticeship model. Many go onto to take on projects related to more specific research goals, and are eventually taught to design their own studies — a slow and painstaking process. Each step, from idea development and design to data analysis and reporting, requires a lot of supervision. It would generally be faster for lab directors to hire employees to carry out these studies instead, or to do all the heavy lifting themselves.

But, then, who would train the next generation of scientists?

Managers who have difficulty delegating tasks can learn from this process — particularly if your workload has become overwhelming, or you need someone to pick up the slack when you are

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If Humility Is So Important, Why Are Leaders So Arrogant?

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A recent management column in the Wall Street Journal appeared under the appealing headline, “The Best Bosses Are Humble Bosses.” The article reported that humble leaders “inspire close teamwork, rapid learning and high performance in their teams.” It even reported that one HR consulting firm is planning to introduce an assessment to identify personality traits that include “sincerity, modesty, fairness, truthfulness, and unpretentiousness,” inspired in part by what two psychology professors call the H Factor (“a combination of honesty and humility.”)

This celebration of humility sounds great, and it is, but it flies in the face of daily headlines in the Journal and the realities of our business and political cultures. Exactly no one would use the word “humble” to describe the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Tesla CEO Elon Musk may be the most visible, influential, high-impact leader in Silicon Valley, yet

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The Power of Curiosity

Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, shares a compelling business case for curiosity. Her research shows allowing employees to exercise their curiosity can lead to fewer conflicts and better outcomes. However, even managers who value inquisitive thinking often discourage curiosity in the workplace because they fear it’s inefficient and unproductive. Gino offers several ways that leaders can instead model, cultivate, and even recruit for curiosity. Gino is the author of the HBR article “The Business Case for Curiosity.”

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Two Powerful Ways Managers Can Curb Implicit Biases

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Many managers want to be more inclusive.  They recognize the value of inclusion and diversity and believe it’s the right thing to aspire to. But they don’t know how to get there.

For the most part, managers are not given the right tools to overcome the challenges posed by implicit biases. The workshops companies invest in typically teach them to constantly check their thoughts for bias. But this demands a lot of cognitive energy, so over time, managers go back to their old habits.

Based on our work at the Stanford Women’s Leadership Lab, helping organizations across many industries become more diverse and inclusive, our research shows there are two, small — but more powerful — ways managers can block bias: First, by closely examining and broadening their definitions of success, and second, by asking what each person adds to their teams, what we call their

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Make Sure Everyone on Your Team Sees Learning as Part of Their Job

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As an executive coach, I speak regularly at corporate leadership development programs. During discussions, participants often confess the real reason they’re in the room, and it’s rarely “to grow and learn.” Time and again, the reasons include: they are checking a box on their development plan, their manager told them to come, or they’ve been told that their participation will increase the chance of a promotion.

The reality is that most people are not set up to take advantage of development opportunities. Many organizations view learning as something extra, something to fit in on top of the regular work. But to create a culture that encourages employee growth, managers need to make learning an expectation — not an option.

Learning helps people keep a broad perspective. When we feel expert at something, sociologists have shown, the earned dogmatism effect sets in, causing us to be more

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Give Your Team the Freedom to Do the Work They Think Matters Most

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Since at least the time of Frederick Taylor, the father of “scientific management,” control has been central to corporate organization: Control of costs, of prices, of investment and—not least—of people.

Control, even a perception of it, can be comforting. Moreover, it feels like what a manager should be doing: Setting targets, monitoring adherence to procedures, directing, shaping the future of the business. Control feels essential—especially if you are the boss.

Except it turns out that far from being vital, top-down control carries serious costs, many of which have been hiding in plain sight. What is more, there is an alternative. And not a pie-in-the-sky fantasy conjured up on a whiteboard, but a real, working alternative. It has been practiced to varying degrees in companies around the world for decades. And in France in particular, it is taking on the character of a movement. Companies as

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Why Bcc-ing the Boss Is a Bad Practice

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Imagine you’re drafting an email about a sensitive project when you realize you need to keep your supervisor in the loop. You decide to Bcc her on the email. Later, the rest of the team finds out. How does this make them feel?

Email continues to be one of the most common ways people communicate at work — and one of the most common ways people miscommunicate at work. The Cc and Bcc functions can corrode trust and cloud intentions. To explore how senders and recipients interpret the use of these tools, we conducted a series of five experimental studies in which a total of 694 working adults participated.

In our first study, we wanted to explore how people perceive the use of Bcc relative to the use of Cc. We invited working adults (75 females and 41 males; average work experience of 10.75 years) via

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Managing Someone Who’s Too Collaborative

Rebecca Shambaugh, a leadership coach, says being too collaborative can actually hold you back at work. Instead of showing how well you build consensus and work with others, it can look like indecision or failure to prioritize. She explains what to do if you over-collaborate, how to manage someone who does, and offers some advice for women — whose bosses are more likely to see them as overly consensus-driven. Shambaugh is the author of the books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor and Make Room For Her.

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How to Earn a Reputation as a Fair Manager

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At some point in your career, you likely encountered a manager you believed was unfair. You probably thought to yourself, “When I’m a manager, I’m never going to be like that!” Now that you’ve been promoted to a management position, you’re probably dedicating significant amounts of time and energy to making unbiased decisions, but no doubt finding that the right balance is elusive. Sadly, there is no objective measure of fairness. Instead, each time you attempt to level the playing field on one dimension, you throw it off balance on another. The best, if imperfect, approach is to understand the different forms of fairness and to be thoughtful about when and how you apply them.

You can start with the most standard measure of fairness, which focuses on the outcomes of your decisions. Did your decision-making process lead to a fair distribution (of inputs and outputs)

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In Collaborative Work Cultures, Women Carry More of the Weight

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In any organization, people apply unspoken rules and understood norms to get collective work done — in other words, they collaborate. Over the past 15 years, my team and I have observed and facilitated thousands of meetings and helped hundreds of teams come together to do work, and we have found that collaboration looks different depending on a variety of factors.

The value people place on relationships is a strong influencing factor on whether and how they collaborate. Relationship-heavy cultures are marked by inclusion, personal connection, and relationship-based decision making. They tend to be friendly, warm places to work. Another factor is how strongly the people in an organization value rapid progress. People in organizations with an execution orientation thrive on urgency and take quick steps toward an end goal, rarely missing a deadline.

In our experience, organizations that have a relationship bias combined with an execution orientation

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The 2 Types of Respect Leaders Must Show

Kristie Rogers, an assistant professor of management at Marquette University, has identified a free and abundant resource most leaders aren’t giving employees enough of: respect. She explains the two types of workplace respect, how to communicate them, and what happens when you don’t foster both. Rogers is the author of the article “Do Your Employees Feel Respected?” in the July–August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.

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What Not to Do When You’re Trying to Motivate Your Team

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When I speak to large groups about leadership, one question I often ask is, “How many of you have ever received a compliment from your boss that actually offended you?” Without exception, more than two-thirds of the people in the room raise their hands. When I probe further on what people found offensive about their boss’s praise, the most common responses I hear are “It wasn’t sincere” and “They didn’t know what they were talking about.”

When leaders look like they are just applying some “motivational technique” they read about, people see right through the superficial, obligatory effort. It looks like they are checking off the “I motivated someone today” box. Motivation is not something you do to people. People ultimately choose to be motivated — when to give their best, go the extra mile, and offer radical ideas. The only thing leaders can

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Why Do Toxic People Get Promoted? For the Same Reason Humble People Do: Political Skill

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Sometimes the wrong people get promoted. They might be deceitful and unscrupulously manipulative (what psychologists call “Machiavellian”); or impulsive and thrill-seeking without any sense of guilt (psychopathic); or egotistically preoccupied with themselves, having a sense of grandiosity, entitlement, and superiority (narcissistic). Employees with one or more of these three personality traits, known as the “dark triad,” are more likely to cheat, engage in fraudulent or exploitive workplace behavior, and make unethical decisions. It can be frustrating for honest and humble people to watch these employees get ahead. Why, given their toxicity, do they rise through the ranks? How do such people manage to succeed?

In a recent research study published in Personality and Individual Differences, I looked at the influence of political skill among employees. Political skill is defined as a positive social competence that helps people network, influence others, demonstrate social astuteness, and appear sincere in their dealings with others.

I surveyed

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How to Manage an Employee Who’s Having a Personal Crisis

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We all have life events that distract us from work from time to time — an ailing family member, a divorce, the death of a friend. You can’t expect someone to be at their best at such times. But as a manager what can you expect? How can you support the person to take care of themselves emotionally while also making sure they are doing their work (or as much of it as they are able to)?

What the Experts Say
Managing an employee who is going through a stressful period is “one of the real challenges all bosses face,” says Linda Hill, professor at Harvard Business School and author of Being the Boss. Most of us try to keep work and home separate, but “we all have situations in which our personal and professional lives collide,” and how you handle these situations with your employees is often

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Architect Daniel Libeskind on Working Unconventionally

Daniel Libeskind, a former academic turned architect and urban designer, discusses his unorthodox career path and repeat success at high-profile, emotionally charged projects. He also talks about his unusual creative process and shares tips for collaborating and managing emotions and expectations of multiple stakeholders. Libeskind was interviewed for the July-August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.

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Feeling Ambivalent About Your Boss Hurts Your Performance Even More Than Disliking Them

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Developing good relationships is a crucial aspect of leadership. Research shows that when people have a good relationship with their leaders, they’re more motivated, they perform better, and they’re more likely to go the extra mile to support their team. These positive effects have appeared across a wide range of jobs and cultures. Conversely, we know that when people don’t get along with their leaders, they tend to retaliate against them and the organization.

The majority of this research, however, considers these leader-follower relationships as either good or bad, positive or negative — which creates a false dichotomy. In reality, many relationships are both. Think about your love-hate relationships and your frenemies. Employees also have ambivalent relationships with their leaders, characterized by both positive and negative feelings toward them. For instance, we may think our leaders are both supportive and unsupportive, that they sometimes understand our problems, but at

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