You will be fine (and other advice for graduates)

Posted by Richard Moran.

(An excerpt from my commencement address of May 2017)

Commencement is my favorite day of the year. Everyone is happy!

Each year I exercise the Presidential Prerogative to give important parting advice. Although aimed at the graduating class, everyone can listen and take heed. Past advice has included never tie a mattress to the roof of your car and quit as many jobs as you can.

My advice this year is gleaned from a body of work that is timely and inspirational. It is a body of work rarely studied by scholars. I am referring to country-western songs. The best advice is often the simplest, here goes:

My first piece of advice comes from Carrie Underwood, “Sometimes life leads you down a different road. Someday you’ll see the reason why there’s good in goodbye.” The message is DO NOT LOOK BACK and DO NOT WAIT. If you want to start a business, do it. If you want to travel, go ahead. If you want to be a musician, be one. Too often I see people wait for that next promotion or until I’m thirty or some artificial threshold. Time is not on your side.

The next pearl of wisdom from the country song world is about getting responses, hearing back from others. It’s about the rudeness of unresponsive people and organizations. The sentiment is best captured in the old Randy Travis song, “Since my phone still ain’t ringing, I assume it still ain’t you.”

You will be applying for jobs. You will be applying to graduate school. And it will be frustrating because you never hear back. I don’t know why responses don’t come. It seems to me that when you pour yourself into something, the least you deserve is a response – even if the response is NO. When you don’t hear, don’t give up. Eventually you will hear and it will be good. The phone will ring or the text will buzz with a positive message.

Great advice can sometimes be captured right in the title of a country song like, “God is great, beer is good, people are crazy” recorded by Billy Currington.

I find this one to be more true than not. Keep your priorities straight. Keep your faith and keep your friends. Drink the beer if you want but don’t drive. And recognize people can be crazy. Someone I love reminded me recently that what is in your heart is what matters. Keep your priorities straight.

The great song by Miranda is also appropriate. The song is “Hide your crazy… even when you fall apart.”

The transition out of college can be brutal. All transitions can be difficult. You will stumble. Your hearts will be broke. You will wonder what’s important. You will have failures. You just need to pick yourself up and try again and hide your crazy.

And lastly, you have heard lots of things that can induce stress and be just worrisome. Among the things that you’ve hear are:

  • Fix your resume
  • Don’t ever get caught on inappropriate videos
  • Change your hair
  • Hide your tattoos
  • Don’t post on social media
  • Take coding classes
  • Learn spreadsheets
  • Don’t put your phone on the dinner table
  • Practice presentation skills
  • Get that internship
  • Your first job is important
  • Your first job isn’t important
  • You won’t find a job
  • Network, network, network
  • Beware the reply button
  • Never be late
  • Don’t eat sugar

The list goes on and on and on but here is my take away for the day:

It will be fine. You will be fine. I have confidence in each and every one of you that you have learned life lessons and skills that will enable you to be who you want to be. In those moments when you are worried, remember my parting piece of advice; IT WILL BE FINE.

The Customers are Angry and Armed with Phones

Posted by Richard Moran.

Remember when companies had slogans like “the customer always come first”? Or, “It takes months to find a customer and only seconds to lose one.” Something changed and we don’t hear that phrases like those much any more unless the slogan is embedded in a letter of apology to customers. Instead, the phrase of the day could be, Customers Are Pissed Off and Armed with Cell Phones.

Usually when one thinks of airline disasters the thought of crashes and life or death situations come to mind. But there were two recent airline disasters, both involved customers and are the best examples of what many believe to be the current state of customer service. Videos of the incidents went viral because we can all imagine ourselves being in the same customer service crisis.  But enough about the airlines, when it comes to customer service, they are easy targets. Something more pernicious has had an impact on customer relations.

Somewhere along the line the concept of judgment fell out of the customer service manual. It is the lack of judgment that is killing customer service and being caught on those videos. When it comes to customers, sometimes a little common sense and taking a real assessment of what is happening is more important than the rule. Employee manuals and policies are missing the mark when it comes to dealing with customers because the word judgment is missing.  The best employee manual I’ve ever seen is from Nordstrom. The rule is: “Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.” In the case of the airline fiascos, the policy was being followed but a little judgment on the part of the airlines would have made a world of difference.

Now we are all armed. We want to catch an employee following a rule that flaunts good judgment.  Go ahead we dare you. We know the damage that one cell phone video can do to a large organization   Every organization take heed. The real lesson in all the customer relationship issues today seems to be the lack of judgment exercised by employees. Lots of viral videos can be avoided if only judgment would interact with policy and rules.

Here are some examples of what the new customer service slogans could be:

  • Please Don’t Take a Video, I Am Following Company Policy
  • Customers Deserve Good Judgment, Not A Bad Policy
  • I May Get Fired, But the Customer is Right
  • Superior Customer Service Means We Break the Rules
  • Discretion and Dedication For Customers

What’s your customer service slogan?

Does Management Training Still Exist?

Posted by Richard Moran.

Once upon a time large corporations visited college campuses to recruit seniors for “management training” programs. For some seniors, the training program solved the problem of “I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but this will be a way to get me started in the real world.” Companies like IBM, Procter & Gamble, Accenture and many others were leaders in management training. At the end of the program the trainees had a good grasp of what it took to be successful and were on their respective ways. The management training programs took ambitious people, regardless of their majors.

In those same times, ads were plentiful in classified sections seeking management trainees. If you missed the on campus recruiters you could look in the classifieds of the New York Times and declare how eager you were to learn and land a spot in the management trainee program at an advertising firm or PR agency.

Companies would not only hire accountants to be accountants; these companies would hire English majors and marketing majors as well as most other majors to learn their business from the ground up. It was a place to jump in the water over your head to see what you can do and what you like. Those days are mostly over.

But there are still companies who believe in “the best available athlete” mentality and management training.   That is, some companies will take someone with the right attitude and a willingness to learn can develop into a leader and make the business better. There are just not as many.

The biggest entry-level employer for 2017 is Enterprise Rent-A-Car  This year alone, the company plans to hire 9,500 college graduates into its management training program.

Any college president wants the graduates to grow professionally, find a rewarding career and be personally satisfied regardless of the employer. Most importantly, for graduates to have a smooth transition from the brutal transition from college to the real world. Management training programs can do just that.

Here are a few things I know about the best management trainee programs:

  1. They’re not elitist – Enthusiasm, performance and motivation are valued more than where you went to college. You don’t have to have an MBA or a computer science degree to excel. The best ones and the big ones hire students from all majors. (English majors of the world rejoice!)
  2. They offer the chance to go from entry-level to CEO – They give people a chance to prove themselves and grow their careers without leaving.  If he CEO started out as a management trainee, that’s a good program.
  3. They allow risk taking accountability. – The best ones give the trainees real responsibility from day one, and the freedom to show what they can do.
  4. They provide a clear path forward – Every trainee is given a “roadmap” – a set of skills they’re expected to master within a certain timeframe. Not only does it help promote accountability, it also helps trainees continue to meet new career goals.
  5. They show a team matters – When coworkers are invested in helping each other succeed, everyone succeeds. If a manager is measured on his or her ability to retain and develop employees, that’s a good training program.
  6. They measure progress and reward it fast – Promotions should be based on performance, not tenure.

One of the most heavily searched words on all the career and job sites is “management trainee”.  If you go that route, look at the actual program and path forward.