Dallas Business Consultant Elijah ClarkDallas Business Consultant Elijah Clark

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership was first written about within the writings of Robert K. Geenleaf (Northouse, 2013, p. 219). According to Avolio, Walumbwa, and Weber (2009), the characteristics of a servant leader including: the ability to listen to the needs of others, having empathy, awareness, persuasion, stewardship, and building community (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009). Like authentic leadership, servant leadership includes either implicit or explicit identification of the role of leader self-awareness (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). A servant leader is considered a leader who behaves ethically and will motivate followers without having ulterior motives to first satisfy their personal desires. This type of leader prioritizes the needs of their followers and is more concerned about the success and wellbeing of others. Servant leaders are humble leaders who desire to stimulate strong relationships with their followers by encouragement. This servant approach creates a positive work environment and value for the organization (Sendjaya, & Sarros, 2002; Liden, Wayne, Liao, & Meuser, 2014; Northouse, 2013, p. 248). Leaders who provide emotional support to followers that desire to reach their full potential, can be seen as role models. Servant leaders are linked to followers’ outcomes including organizational attitudes, and performance. Servant leaders are respected and admired for their integrity, trust, and concern for others. Core requirements of a servant leader are empathy and behaving ethically (Liden, Wayne, Liao, & Meuser, 2014).

The desire of a servant leader is not only to take on the role of a servant, but to also take on the nature of a servant. A servant leader will seek to grow and transform their followers (Sendjaya, & Sarros, 2002). As a servant leader provides guidance and direction for their followers, they create what is known as a serving culture. A serving culture can be defined as a group that focuses on behaviors that produce benefits for others. A store manager that engages in being a servant leader is an example of a serving culture. As a servant leader, the manager promotes a culture that inspires to help members and learn the behavioral expectations. The store manager will be an example for the employees, and the employees will learn how to serve others as they follow and admire the manager’s leadership. An employee, follower, or member of the serving culture, must feel cared for, respected, trusted, and supported by the leader. If the leadership is effective, it will enhance the follower’s identification. As employees identify with their store managers leadership, they will identify with the store. If the identification with the store is high, the employees will value the organization and feel a sense of unity with their coworkers. This bond will inspire strong work ethics and better performance (Liden, Wayne, Liao, & Meuser, 2014).

Organization Change in Business

Drivers of organizational change. 

When trying to influence organizational change, you have to first understand why you are trying to influence it. Some good reasons are social influence or responding to an action (Marsden and Friedkin, 1993), sustaining a healthy environment (Newman, 2012), improving understanding, or simply trying to remain relevant to the industry or consumer.

As an entrepreneur, I always find myself having to create organizational change every few years. As technology advances, so must I and my business. In determining whether or not it is time for a change, we look at factors such as a drop in sales, website traffic, or lack of consumer interest. Even without those negative impacts, we must still create change so that we can remain above change. A majority of the changes we make consist around guesswork and market predictions. Sometimes it plays out well and we remain on top or within the industry’s new standards, or we make the wrong decision and are stuck trying to catch-up with the market.

What I have found to be my most effective reason for change is listening to the consumer. We must make it a priority to hear their desires, compliments and complaints. Focus on what they like, what they want more of, and what they want less of. Even if the industry is headed in one direct and the consumer in another, I have found that following the consumer’s change request is more beneficial to the organization. 

Fortunately, most of my business is done online and through websites. Technology has easily allowed my company the opportunity to test the reactions of the customers toward the changes. Because of a majority of the business being done online, there are a multitude of tools that we use to track their reactions as they navigate throughout the web pages. Positive reactions create positive sales, and negative reactions create negative sales.

Organizational change should always be driving in a forward direction, else it’s going backward or is standing still. Neither or which is good for long-term business success.

The keys to successful organizational change. 

Successful organizational change begins with making sure that change is a priority. Being able to implement and continually set goals will prepare for course correction. These goals should include strategic planning along with setting deadlines and leadership roles (Newman, 2012).

My most successful changes have come from simply asking the consumer what they thought of the changes and whether or not they were needed. Survey’s, rewards, and discounts are a great incentive for the consumer and an opportunity for me to hear directly from the persons who the changes are being made for. In the beginning of my career, I would spend weeks or months trying to guess what the consumer wanted and it wasn’t until I decided to ask them, that I was able to implement the most affective changes. 

In order to get to that point of being able to listen to the consumer, I had to research, study, test, analyze and be open to understanding their wants. What I concluded was that organizational change is never going to satisfy everyone. If I tested too much, I would only get more confused by the multitude of reactions and suggestions. Change is only a piece of the solution. What’s equally as important is persuasion of public convincing (Battliana and Casciaro, 2012).

If the leader successfully sustains and oversees the process, the result will be a functional and sustainable transformation of the organization.

Credits

Battliana, J., & Casciaro, T. (2012). Change agents, networks, and institutions: A contingency theory of organizational change. Academy of Management Journal, 55(2), 381-398.

Marsden, P. V., & Friedkin, N. E. 1993. Network studies of social influence. Sociological Methods and Research, 22: 127–151.

Newman, J. (2012). An organizationally change management framework for sustainability.Greener Management International, 57, 65-75.

Branding Benefits

To say that you need a brand to be successful is inaccurate. The laundry mat or embroidery shop up the street do not have a brand and they are doing very well. Whether you need a brand is dependent on the goal of your business. For example, if you are a service based business, or simply have a business that is in demand, then having a strong brand is not needed considering customers will seek you out and already know what they want, how they want it, and at what speed and price they want it. Think, where does the local school purchase its school buses? Have you ever seen a school bus manufacturer advertise their brand on television or at local events?

You do, however, need to have a brand if you have significant competition and if you have a niche product which requires educating customers. The goal of a brand is to provide customers with reasons to purchase your product or service over the competition. Without a solid brand, it makes marketing and customer acquisition expensive and time consuming. A brand gives your business its unique character – its look and feel, voice, and identity. Without its image, Nike is just one more shoemaker, and Macy’s is simply another retailer. A good brand should have a foundation based on value and customer engagement. The brand should represent the mission of your business and hold relevancy to your customers.

Perceived Value. Your brand should reflect the goal of your business by highlighting your strengths and encouraging a positive perception. Perceived value influences the amount of money your customer believes your product or service is worth. Whether marketing a service or a product, the results are similar in that both rely on the customer’s perception of your business’s expertise, quality, and reputation.

If your business and your competitors sell the exact same item, built the same way, and from the same materials, it is likely that the business with the better brand value reputation will sell the item at a higher rate because of the perceived value by the customer. If your customer perceives the value of your brand as high, they will likely make assumptions that the products you promote are of high-quality as well.

Building your perceived value

Perceived value is based on how much money the consumer or business believes the product is worth. It is the marketer’s responsibility to generate a positive perceived value of the company’s products. Whether marketing a service or a product, the results are similar in that both rely on the consumers’ perception of the company’s or individual’s expertise, quality, and reputation.

If your business and your competitors are to sell the exact same item, built exactly the same way, and from the same materials, it is likely that the business with the better brand value reputation can sell the item at a higher price because of the perceived value by the consumer.

If your customer perceives the value of your product high, the customer will likely show more interest and loyalty. The customers’ perception of your company’s customer support, trust, loyalty, and product quality determine the products value.

Be a Partner to customers

The customer doesn’t always know best – even if they think they do. If you truly want to be a partner (not simply an order taker), you need to understand if what the customer wants will get them the results they need. These are obviously two very different things. As a partner, you need to challenge the customer by letting them know when there are better products or more efficient and effective ways to be productive. This is also how your business can stand out in competitive situations.

In marketing, if the potential customer wants SEO and social media services, and you simply send marketing outlining why you are the best agency for providing SEO and social media, your marketing material will be similar to every other business’s marketing – except for that one agency that considers why the customer believes they need SEO and social media and what actually makes sense for the customer’s goal, budget, and timeline.

You can stand out by taking this different approach through questioning your customers’ actual needs and goals which would allow you to offer them the optimal product or service solution for their needs.

— For more lessons like this, purchase your copy of Act Like a Business: Think Like a Customer by Dr. Elijah Clark from all major bookstores. —

Tracking KPI’s

After reviewing your analytics report, you can confidently make a conclusion about your website’s performance and identify actionable items that will help improve the key performance indicators (KPI) going forward. You can start by looking at the average time a user spends on your website. This report will be able to help measure how visitors interact with the website’s content. If you dig deeper, you should be able to see which pages create the longest stay and conversions, and which pages users are not finding to be relevant toward their search. Digging even further, you can begin to see which pages users last visited before abandoning the website. If you see a common trend of user activity, you will be able to make the corrections as needed. The other two metrics, unique visitors and ratio of local audience to national audience, will be important in helping you understand how engaging your website content is to customers. These two metrics may also be useful in helping with future marketing. By having a true understanding of what your visitors are looking for, it will help you develop effective campaigns to accumulate more leads, which will lead to an increased ROI.

Productivity

The productivity of both you and your business are important. The ethics of your business has a tremendous effect on the morale of the employees. If morale is down, work productivity may also slack. As a leader, you are responsible for creating a healthy environment by supporting your employees. How you lead is crucial in developing productive employees and influencing employee morale and satisfaction. To implement and maintain morale, you should place importance on stress prevention programs and develop effective communication methods with employees to discover and address issues regarding dissatisfaction and potential ethical dilemmas.

Don’t Do Too Much

One of the biggest business mistakes I have ever made was trying to do everything myself. I wore the hats of the marketing department, sales, customer service, collections, technical support, developer, graphic artist, etc. I understand that you may want to save money or may simply not have the financial support to hire someone to complete additional tasks, however, do what you need to do until you can get help, but get help quickly. If you must take a cut in pay temporarily to hire a project manager while you handle sales, you will be grateful in the end. Otherwise, you will drain yourself dry and never have the time to do what you love. Do yourself a favor and focus on what made you love the idea of being a business owner in the first place.

Applying Ethical Frameworks: The Concerns With Being Ethical.

When making an ethical decision or coming forth in someone’s defense, consider the scenario and whether or not it leaves room for reasonable doubt or fails to provide necessary information to make the ethical decision. As a professional, I would need to convince those charging the individual that my words are reliable. In this scenario, I would need solid proof versus simply stating that I believe or I think the defendant is the wrong person. Without solid proof and evidence, I don’t have confidence that my words would hold up to whatever evidence was already presented. In addition, if an employee member came to me as a leader to express their concern on someone’s innocence, I would require evidence from them and could not base a decision off of an opinion without facts. If I were able to present a solid argument backed by evidence, then I would speak-up on the matter, considering it could be justified.

My response is dependent upon my position within the company and whether or not the company has a code of ethics system in place, which the scenario fails to present. As a respected leader, I would come forward considering my title and position would likely be respected and reliable. Reasons that I would be skeptical to come forward as an employee, laborer, or volunteer, are: no physical evidence, would not want to cause unjustifiable conflict, would hate to be wrong, I would not want to sour relationships, and there are no penalties for saying nothing.

No physical evidence to support me. I wouldn’t feel comfortable or feel that my words would be enough proof to cause a change. Without evidence, I wouldn’t feel optimistic. If I don’t feel optimistic about the outcome, or believe that my words are relevant, then I would have a hard time convincing others.

Would not want to cause conflict unjustifiably. If I create trouble by coming forward without evidence, I could cause even more conflict that creates more questions. Creating questions doesn’t solve problems. Unless I have answers or facts, I would not speak up.

Afraid to be wrong. I wouldn’t want to come forward just to find out that I was wrong. Being wrong will waste everyone’s time, and cause me to be a potential troublemaker.

I may lose relationships and trust. Being wrong will cause me to lose relationships with the friends I plan to get in trouble by my speaking up. Considering those relationships are important to me on a business and personal level, I would not want to ruin them unless I was certain and could prove my stance.

It will cost me nothing to say nothing. If I don’t speak up, I lose nothing personally outside of ethics. If I speak up, I may lose many more things including relationships and trust that are important to me on a business and personal level.

The reason for my not coming forward has nothing to do with whether or not I believe I should come forward. Ethically, I would love to come forward and assist in producing justice for someone and something that I believe in. My responses for not coming forward are based on what proof I can present, as well as my position within the company. In my career and life I have been right and wrong about many different situations. I have learned that if I want to present a plan of action to leaders of a company, I must present them with either facts or my professional opinion. Without proof or authority of power within my opinion, my action plan will not be justified as being a solid plan. The winning argument is oftentimes the one with the most power and not necessarily the best argument (Ivaniš, 2012).

The concern that would be preventing me from instantly making an ethical decision is the fact that this is a business setting. In such a setting, there are rules and conducts that I must adhere to. As a business employee, it is my responsibility to serve my leaders. By going outside of their request, it could be viewed as misconduct or unethical behavior if I have not properly disclosed my reasoning and evidence to support such act (Boatright, 2013). An ethical dilemma is a situation that has the potential to result in a breach of acceptable behavior (White, & Wooten, 1983).

Doing business ethically means to do business rationally (Ivaniš, 2012). Organizational ethics exists to prevent damages from lack of ethics (Ivaniš, 2012). Organizational ethics isn’t simply doing what’s right in an organization, it is doing what’s professional. Ethically, as a business professional, it would be unprofessional of me to come forward with a lack of information to support my cause. In order to be ethical in such a complex situation, I would have to act on my own consciousness as it is the most useful and reliable tool that I have (Ivaniš, 2012). Though the case would be coming to a close, I would not allow the pressure to cause me to come forward until I’m ready and with proof. Without properly understanding the code of ethics within the organization, questions would arise, such as, is the person acting in accordance to the legal regulations, is the person being responsible, and what is the potential positive and negative cost of being ethical (Ivaniš, 2012). With proper law and regulations in place, the ethical decision would be much easier to make.

If my coming forward could be done anonymously, I could remove a few of my reasons for not coming forward. I would like to be able to make the ethical decision. However, the scenario had many missing answers that could help me justify my reasoning. Without fully understanding the situation, I cannot say that I fully support coming forward with an assumption and without evidence.

To resolve my ethical dilemma within my organization in the future, the business that I work for must have proper business ethics and moral guidelines in place that would allow me to safely and anonymously report my peers and leaders. To prevent ignorance, the business should converse about ethics often, educate employees, monitor ethical behavior, and have documentation within the office that is available for all members of the organization (Ivaniš, 2012).
Credits

Bagozzi, R., Sekerka, L., & Hill, V. (2009). Hierarchial motive structures and their role in moral choices. Journal of Business Ethics, 90¸461-486.

Boatright, J. R. (2013). Confronting Ethical Dilemmas in the Workplace. Financial Analysts Journal. pp. 6-9.

Ivaniš, M. (2012). BUSINESS ETHICS – MORAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE MODERN COMPANY. Conference Proceedings: International Conference Of The Faculty Of Economics Sarajevo (ICES), 507-525.

White, L. P., & Wooten, K. C. (1983). Ethical Dilemmas in Various Stages of Organizational Development. Academy Of Management Review, 8(4), 690-697. doi:10.5465/AMR.1983.4284684

Emotional Connection

Customers want to do business with businesses they like. It’s that simple. While we shouldn’t have to emphasize this fact, we sometimes forget that emotions often drive our purchasing decisions, not logic.

When sending marketing material to customers, you have to first develop rapport with those customers, or else your marketing will simply become another “to review” item on customers’ lists. Start with a call or a coffee meeting.

Find commonalities. Listen to the customer’s challenges. Show them appreciation and gain their trust. Then, send the marketing material with a personal note and a reminder of some shared moment.

— For more lessons like this, purchase your copy of Act Like a Business: Think Like a Customer by Dr. Elijah Clark from all major bookstores. —

Customer Perception

Customer perception is a significant predictor of customer purchasing outcomes. The customer’s perception of your purchasing processes can influence your business’s reputation and sales. Customers with a positive perception of your business will likely react differently to reviews posted by previous customers compared to customers that do not have a positive perception.

Value Perception. As a business, you should seek to position positive product knowledge at the beginning of your customers’ journey. While attempting to examine the relationship between customer uncertainty reduction and value perception, I found that customer uncertainty about a business influenced the overall value perception of the selected businesses. To reduce the concern of potential customer uncertainty, your business should publicly display reviews and testimonials to assist in improving the value perception of your business.

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