Vol. XCI

Dear Manager,

As we continue to evaluate the talent of our collective staff, and the talent currently available in the marketplace, we can’t help but debate whether there’s been an appreciable shift in the “talent pool” in recent years. The best seller, “In Search of Excellence”, was published nearly 20 years ago. How has this search progressed?

Clearly, excellence can be found in all areas of business. But are the examples as apparent as they once were? In the last decade, we’ve also seen dramatic socio-economic changes dictate the dynamics of many business sectors, including both the retail and service economies. We need look no further than the corner drug store (if you can still find one), the “service” counter at the local fast food restaurant, the travel industry, or the challenges facing field sales representatives. Certainly how society operates its service structures has changed.

Yes, there’ve been significant changes in my forty-year professional career. While I believe many, if not most, have been beneficial, others find me longing for former ideals. If, in fact, there are lost priorities, how has their absence transformed the landscape of American business?

Some of these transitions are no longer relevant in this new economy; others will find rebirth in “retro cycles” as brand new concepts (reincarnated from a Business 101 text!). Here’s what I believe deserves further consideration – a “blast from the past”- and a response from management. This is one view from the outside looking in.

Personal Accountability, as a day-to-day standard, seems to have fallen off the top of today’s priority list. Today’s managers are often finding themselves thrust into the role of filling in the gaps of “basic training” that were once taught and reinforced at the family dinner table. Current times now suggest that we enhance our translation skills, provide more clear expectations, and establish a single benchmark for each member of our team. Once this barometer has been formalized, and consistently monitored, much of our responsibility relating to establishing personal accountability can be sustained.

Training and Education has lost some its luster in most service industries; few pursue a four-year degree to prepare themselves for this sector of our economy (this statement offered up by an author with less than two years of college). As managers, we must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our staff fully assimilates, and can orchestrate, the required elements of their position. Whether at the starting gate, or with tenured employees, we must remain diligent in the practice of training and full reinforcement of the fundamentals. The fundamentals are what made us great, and what will always save our bacon in the end result!

The go-go days of the 90’s have long passed. Those days provided significant and sustained growth in the service economy. Expansion came at a time of great velocity; a time when, very simply, less excellence was required. The internal structures historically required to shore up this level of growth of human resources were often abandoned during these freewheeling times. Lack of management structures created a corresponding expansion of individual and field level “freelancing.” This false foundation will eventually show an inevitable vulnerability: weakness due to lowered standards and expectations. A bedrock foundation, with consistent and clear professional standards, is essential to meeting long term, sustainable excellence in the marketplace.

Weakness in mid-level management has provided limited quantifiable rewards for many organizations. While a good number of these individuals wanted to become “a manager,” too often they hadn’t developed the people skills, hadn’t the proper training, or hadn’t enough experience under their belt to fulfill the objectives. Without realizing it, upper management may have inadvertently set them up to collectively fail. These individuals were often sent into battle with no basic training. Mid-level management absolutely has the potential to excel in the areas referenced above, but only if they are first properly mentored to provide the best possible example to those they are being asked to manage.

A mixed bag of economic and motivational priorities within our staff has, in some cases, diminished the potential of the workforce in the service/retail sector. Employees are generally expected to be both loyal and devoted to their profession and employer. For various reasons, including the predominance of second incomes, this is not always true. While many employees continue to exhibit this devotion, it’s also likely that one’s priority has shifted to meeting ones personal needs first.

This is the culture in which we live. Individuals are looking for a full-time job with a full-time salary and increased flexibility. This has certainly become a difficult issue for many industries. As the financial requirements to support “excellence” continues to escalate, the retail and service sectors no longer have the ability to thrive because the competitive margins simply don’t exist. As managers, we must better quantify the “devotion factor” in the outline of job descriptions and in evaluating talent. An all-star can always be found; the best managers “hunt them down” without compromise.

The dynamics of how and who provides goods and services in this economy has been set on its proverbial ear! Think of it in terms of the changes in your industry and your organization, both anticipated and unforeseen, over the past decade. Where does your office buy its supplies, where do you buy your son’s bike, where do you buy your favorite ice cream? The independents in these and hundreds of other service/retail sectors have vanished. Management must now assume its own position of excellence.

Excellence in management will accept, adapt, and flourish in managing and maximizing the potential within these new standards and guidelines

This month’s issue was not intended to be an indictment of the business world we live in. It’s more a reflection of societal pressures and corresponding changes in ideals that I believe have totally and irreversibly changed the retail and service sectors. In the end, excellence will prevail.

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2012. Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL/INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM