Issue 28 | January/February 2019

Dave Koz, the recognized jazz saxophonist and composer, has received nine GRAMMY nominations and has had nine No. 1 albums on Billboard's Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. He's played for several presidents, hosts two popular radio shows, and is a successful entrepreneur.

Most impressive to me—even beyond his musical talent—is his ability to bring out the best in those he works with. This involves extensive tours, numerous artists who take part in albums, and the work he does with organizations that help children facing illnesses.

What's the secret? Those he's worked with say things like, he sweats the details, removes the hassles, makes work fun. "He lets us focus on what we do best," said a band member during a recent concert.

It was a simple comment that could have slipped right by me. But it caught my attention because I so often hear the same thing from members of successful teams in the business world. "We're free to do our best work."

Yep. That's the secret.

I hope you enjoy this issue.

Warm Regards,

Brad Cleveland

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As a leader, you have to be able to motivate your team members. In fact, you probably need to be able to motivate others well beyond those who formally report to you. There may be no responsibility that's more important to getting great results.

We don't all view work the same way. In his book Why We Work, Barry Schwartz summarizes three ways we can relate to work:

Work as a job
Work as a career
Work as a calling

Those who view work as a job mainly see it as a paycheck. They don't receive any kind of reward or fulfillment beyond salary and benefits.

Those who view work as a career want to get better at what they do and maybe take on new responsibilities and move up in the organization. As you can guess, they have a higher level of motivation.

Those who view work as a calling understand how the work they do makes a positive difference for others. Their work is fulfilling because they understand its importance and feel they're doing the right thing. This is intrinsic motivation—it comes from within.

I've found that one of the most important enablers to intrinsic motivation is identifying and removing the barriers—getting the dumb stuff out of the way!

Kirsten and Brad Cleveland, with Dave Koz, December.

Incentives, rewards, and other motivational tactics rarely work for long. But you can implement strategies that knock down barriers to great work and significantly improve your team's performance.

Here are seven common demotivators in customer service settings:

Lack of needed training. There's nothing more stressful and frustrating than not knowing what to do in real, live customer service situations. And, no, a lot of customers aren't very patient. This is something you can fix! When I asked an employee about her company's improved training program, she put it this way: "I went from dreading my day to looking forward to it; I love being a problem solver!"

Lack of appreciation. When a large organization recently transitioned to a new health care provider, thousands of employees were incorrectly denied access. An internal service team worked night and day for weeks to fix the problems. In a focus group afterwards, they said "We just wanted a thank you." Don't make that mistake. Show your appreciation; it costs nothing and means the world to your team.

Being unnecessarily overwhelmed. Without good resource management, work backlogs lengthen, customers get unhappy, and things fall through the cracks. And, your employees may lose motivation if they're feeling overworked. The solution? Revisit forecasts and schedules to make sure they're reasonably accurate and working well.

Not being equipped to deal with difficult customers or situations. Yes, in customer service, we tend to see and hear it all, and some customers can be very difficult. But knowing how to approach any situation makes all the difference! Be sure to provide the specific training and coaching your team needs, and include practicing tough scenarios to build confidence.

Being afraid of making a mistake. Make sure that employees feel prepared and comfortable to make good decisions and take action. Mistakes will happen, and that's okay as long as we're learning from them.

Conflicting objectives. Ask your team if there's ever a time they feel they have to choose between acting in the best interest of a customer and hitting a performance target. If so, revisit and revise your objectives so that they complement each other.

Lack of development opportunities. This is especially true for younger generations who want to learn and grow. And it's an unnecessary problem, because customer service requires such diverse skills and knowledge. Think about it; there are the products and services we support, customer needs, communication, technology, processes, reports and so much more. Don't let your best employees get bored! Find ways to develop their skills and expand their responsibilities.

There may be other demotivators in your environment. I've seen inconsistent feedback, unwieldy tools, and bosses who show favoritism as examples. My recommendation: Have candid conversations with members of your team and work hard to identify and address any demotivators.

Take a cue from the most successful leaders—get the impediments, the dumb stuff, out of the way. Then watch the level of motivation and engagement take off!

Recent Issues

51% of US workers are not engaged, while 17.5% are actively disengaged. (Source: Gallup)

Compared with disengaged employees, highly engaged employees are 4.7x more likely to do something good for the company even if it is not expected of them. (Source: Temkin Group)

Customer service employees are among the least engaged at work, falling behind human resources, sales, marketing, engineering, R&D, operations, finance and IT, in that order. (Source: Quantum Workplace)

There is a 55% difference in NPS scoring for highly engaged employees vs. actively disengaged employees. (Source: Aon Hewitt)

Brad will deliver a keynote at ICMI's Contact Center Expo, which will feature Henry Winkler ("the Fonz"), Ginger Hardage, and dozens of other speakers.

Brad recently appeared in Convo, with an interview on bots, human agents and the future of customer service.

LinkedIn Learning recently released the course, "Managing Customer Feedback," a new online course by Brad. For these and other courses, go here.

See the frequently updated statistics page at, with sections on customer expectations, contact centers, and social/mobile/tech.

Brad's TEDx talk, "Thriving in an Always-On World" is available here.

*Brad delivers private keynotes, workshops, and executive briefings to organizations and associations. For more information, contact

Brad has devoted his career to maximizing the value of customer-facing services. As a speaker, consultant, entrepreneur, executive, and president/CEO, he has seen change from many perspectives and has a deep understanding of the critical importance of customer service delivery to an organization's success. He has worked across 45 states and in 60 countries, and has been privileged to assist in the evolution of service delivery for clients such as American Express, Apple, Coca-Cola, USAA, and others, as well as for governments across the globe. Brad serves as a senior advisor to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), and is an in-demand speaker and consultant.

To inquire about consulting or speaking, connect through any of the channels below.

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