Promoting a consistent message and visual identity is critical to success


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Most companies simply will not allow haphazard uses of their logos or brands. Break those rules and you are in serious trouble.

Promoting a consistent message and visual identity is critical to “branding” and maintaining controls around variance of messages.In fact, once we have standardized our systems (think purchasing,hiring, interviewing, community outreach, media engagement, crisis and issues management, communications) we are able to be more efficient, effective and save time and money.

When variances show up on the bottom line, we can check them against our standardized processes.This is what our financial people do on a regular basis. This brings standardization to the organization.However, most companies still don’t standardize their leadership best practices.


They may have dozens of ways to interview and hire, solve the same problem in five different ways in various divisions, and simply spend a lot of time and energy needlessly identifying and solving the same problems repeatedly in many different ways.

Those companies who do standardize their leadership processes and training create a path forward map to help every leader in the company to be successful. In simple terms: Develop your road map and follow it, or as I tell clients who seek strategic planning assistance from me, “Write your plan based on best practices and work your plan.”

Why don’t companies do this?

Research shows that many companies don’t have a unified leadership process in place because:

  • The leaders don’t have the training they need to succeed.
  • There is no objective accountability system.
  • The “dots are not connected” for employees in respect to purpose, worthwhile work and making a difference.
  • The companies are not using a sequenced mapped approach.
  • There is no process for managing high- and middle-level managers.
  • There is no process in place to address the problems with low performers.

To determine if your company needs to standardize your leadership system, Quint Studer in his book, “Results That Last,” suggests we ask ourselves such questions as:

  • How many different ways do we have to interview a candidate?
  • How do we know that when our leaders have left a meeting we have accurately and completely conveyed the messages we want them to carry back to the employees?
  • When employees are asked tough questions, how do we know they are not giving us just the answers they think we want to hear?
  • How do we measure the performance of our employees in such a way as we can determine they are low, middle or high-level performers?
  • What process do we have in place to assess the performance of employees and their accountability against the overall organizational goals?

Six ways to improve our leadership programs

Leadership programs can be standardized and improved.

When we standardize our programs, we provide a path forward map for all our leadership, which saves time and money and makes organizations more successful.

How do we do this?

1. Use a common agenda. While Studer recommends that all agendas be organized around his “Five Pillars of Excellence,” (People, service, quality, finance and growth) even more important is that for every meeting there is a standardized agenda used by all leaders in the organization. By using such an approach, we can align all staff to our organizational goals, which then allows us to help them connect to the organization’s vision and mission. This approach also gives us the means to communicate to our team the critical success factors within the organization and in their individual work areas.

2. Align your evaluation process to Studer’s five pillars or the organization’s critical success factors. When developing goals for our organization, they must be objective, measurable, meaningful and aligned with the organization’s pillars or critical success factors. They must also be focused on results.

3. Provide consistent packets of information. When leaders leave meetings, they should have a prepared packet of information they can share with their employees so that everyone hears the same messages. Studer notes that many companies use “Flip and Tell” books to package the information.

4. Choose a single method of interviewing and hiring employees. All applicants should be asked the same three or four behavioral-based questions no matter what job they are applying for in the organization. It would be prudent to choose questions geared toward values and ownership.

5. Collect tough questions from leaders. Every leader should be asked on a regular basis to share with the team the tough questions they hear from their staff. Then work with your leaders to develop a consistent set of answers that will be used by all leaders. This develops a consistent message that can be communicated by everyone. Consistency builds confidence and provides employees evidence that the leaders have the information needed to answer their questions.

6. Make sure your leaders are trained in basic competencies to perform. Many leaders are not comfortable delivering messages without appropriate training.

Those companies who annually train their leaders in such competencies as meeting facilitation, negotiations, conflict prevent and resolution and presentations skills are more successful because they are providing the essential training all leaders need.

Research shows that repetition is essential to build integrity and credibility within an organization. Great leaders never tire of repetition. When leaders become better at using their skills, they become more efficient and effective at doing it. They will get better with practice.

Organizations that use this six step approach have longer lasting results, improved organizational efficiencies and greater innovation.Key points to remember:

  • Stop the variances. When an organization has variance in its leadership approach it produces inconsistencies within the organization making it more difficult to achieve excellence. Alignment among the managers and employees improves performance and enhances customer and employee satisfaction.
  • Standardize behavior. Leadership behavior is challenging to quantify and many organizations find it a challenge to standardize behavior. Many organizations fear that by doing so they will intrude on the leader’s autonomy and creativity. However, organizational goals come down from the top and include clear visions and missions. Any single leader’s independence is less important than the organization’s mission.
  • Eliminate barriers. Barriers that can get in the way of standardizing leadership behavior include: Lack of critical mass; lack of a balanced approach; insufficient training; no objective accountability; no path forward map which connects the dots; no process in place to manage middle and high level performers; no system to address quickly and efficiently low performers; an inability or unwillingness to standardize best practices across the organization. These barriers must be systematically eliminated.n Identify and eliminate inconsistent practices.

Carefully scrutinize all your practices in interviewing systems, messaging to employees, leader responses to crises, varying leadership performances and ineffective leadership evaluations.

Every organization should strive to create a self-sustaining culture with energy and vision to achieve excellence, Studer says. This can be accomplished by renovating your leadership evaluation system, applying key leadership behaviors, which will inspire self-motivation (the most powerful motivator of all), and developing standardized processes which will hardwire excellence into your organization.

Sources: “Results That Last” by Quint Studer

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at or 1-888-340-2006 or


Let’s give DELTA AIRLINES the opportunity to investigate this situation BUT IF it even remotely seems close to what happened according to this Lt. Col. let us as consumers remember that we have options and let us exercise our rights. Customer service is the only thing that can set aside in either a positive or negative way our experiences on an airline any more. We will keep you posted as this story develops.


I am really proud of the Ky Press Association and its leadership …

David Thompson at the Ky Press Association has just announced they now have an app – the cost $0.00 – want to know more?

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with the Ky Press Association on a strategic planning initiative.

We had worked with the Ky New Era for several years and KPA asked for our assistance. Anytime we engage a client in strategic planning I have my trepidations and concerns.

This uneasiness comes from the fact that we have a very engaging, collaborative and highly-intensive discovery and strategic planning process.

Our process requires front-end “therapy,” individual member and unanimous Board agreement to be actively engaged in each step to maximize the effort and it requires them to hear the good, the bad and the ugly that we find.

Then they must ensure us they didn’t just hear what we found but also are willing to work with us to correct the deficiencies, develop an agreed upon plan of action and then implement that plan while being held accountable to their membership and to themselves to excel at the implementation of their plan.

You can see where such an intensive and extensive process can be threatening and easily meet resistance at various steps. Many Boards and executives, we have found over the past 20-years simply “go-along” with such an effort with no real intention of doing much with the plan afterwards.

Not so for the Kentucky Press Association.

When David Thompson and his team and Board engaged with us we never expected them to have such great successes from their efforts.

Why did they have such success – they not only thought outside the box, they not only listened to the criticisms and suggestions of their members and the public, they not only engaged in alignment and brainstorming they also methodically set out to “brainstorm solutions”, then to  take action and to be held accountable for implementing the plan and continually revising it and updating it. That is quite the commitment!

The process re-energized the KPA staff and executives and their Board. Their latest app development demonstrates that once again planning your work, working your plan and engaging your team collaboratively to solve problems – not just pontificate and complain about them – can lead to great success.  This is where understanding the strategic planning process pays benefits for the long-term.

The KPA team and its Board has far exceeded what many clients can and will do with such a planning effort. They continue to break new ground, find new ways to solve problems and are not hesitant to travel different paths to get to their success.

Their latest achievement is an example of such a commitment to excel and be a model for their industry.

David Thompson at the Ky Press Association has just announced they now have an app – the cost $0.00 – want to know more?  Here goes from David at KPA:


We have our first KPA App, courtesy of New Media Director David Spencer. We had gotten proposals to spend $5000 to $8000 for a KPA App and David was able to design one that didn’t cost anything

It’s website-based but when you “Add to Home Screen” on your iPhone, it looks, feels and acts like an App. David has a friend with an Android and had him test it. He says it functions the same as the one on the iPhone though it’s slightly cosmetically different.

Our first one is the Reporter’s Guide to Open Meetings and Open Records. That’s the long piece, folded up that we’ve done for reporters to keep in their billfolds. Now they will have it on their phone.

To put it on your iPhone:

a. go to in your iPhone’s browser

b. when that shows up, save it as “Add to Home Screen”

c. then check where your other apps are located and you should see KPA/FOI. That’s it!!

Be sure to share this with all your reporters so they have everything they need to know about Open Meetings and Open Records on their cell phone.


Feel free to email David Spencer at or call him at 800-264-5721.


Davis says, I sent an email to editors yesterday and also shared the app with my NAM colleagues around the state and U.S.

Some comments:

That is fantastic.  I’m going to copy you.     Thanks, David.

Laurie Hieb – Executive Director
Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association

Wow – that is plain awesome!!!!

Beth Grace – North Carolina Press Association

CONGRATULATIONS to KPA, David T and David Spencer and most importantly to all your Board members who are continuing to pursue your strategic plan to accomplish these “out-of-the-box” ideas to benefit the association and its membership!!!

Until next time …

Set Fees Based in Value, Not Time Spent

Consider establishing fees based on value of the services you will provide and not on the time you spend on the project. Clients will judge the wisdom of your services based on their own agenda. They want to know if your services will help solve a problem, or if using your services will benefit them equal to or more than the cost of your services. Your fees must reflect value to the client.

You must be willing to estimate the total time needed to get the job done when you are quoting fee on a time and materials basis. Just telling the client you charge $200 an hour plus expenses is not always sufficient. Howard Shenson recommends you let the client know the number of hours you will take to produce the desired results. To properly estimate requires careful analysis and attention to details, says the late Shenson, the consultant’s consultant.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Charge for Travel Using a Per-Diem Basis

You may want to consider charging a per diem for your travel expenses (hotels, meals and incidentals) rather than direct reibursement. Most clients prefer the simplicity of per-diem expenses and this arrangement avoids any criticism about how you spend expense dollars.

Think about having multiple per-diem rates, the late Howard Shenson, the consultant’s consultant suggests. You would have one per-diem for expensive cities and another for smaller markets. Set per-diem rates and define the quality of your life on the road in a way that is consistent with the style and expense that your client feels is appropriate. People are more comfortable when you do things the way they do them.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Get something back when you giveaway a “freebie”

So now you are a successful consultant!

As a professional in the field of consulting, you will be frequently asked to give your clients “little favors” and since you can rarely collect a fee for them, the best term we can use is that these are “freebies.”

These “freebies” can include everything from answering a quick question by telephone to sending them copies of articles and documents. The list can be quite endless.

 However, these free services can be turned into a profit center for you with the “one-minute commercial.”

Here’s the secret.

When asked for a “freebie” or a favor, quickly respond with one of these answers:

  • “I will be glad to take care of that for you … if you will make a deal.”
  • “I’ll help if you make an agreement with me.”
  • “It’s free, no problem … but there is a catch.”
  • “Sure, I can help … but you must make me a promise.”

So, what is the deal? What is the Catch? What is the promise?

Well, it’s simple really … They simply promise, agree or make a deal to call you first when they need the services you provide. Add some spice to your one-minute commercial by also getting them to promise or agree to recommend you to others or to provide you a testimonial (which you can offer to draft for them).

This one-minute commercial can be fun for you both, and is a powerful sales tool for your firm.

However, we recommend you use this technique only when you have done something for free or extra for a prospect or client.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Don’t nickel and dime your clients

Don’t quote fees or invoice for services in any way that will communicate that you are petty or not delivering solid benefits for the services you provide.

Almost all clients would prefer to pay a little more per hour or per day than to be burdened with small charges for support services, activities, or costs that they feel should be included in the already high fee they are paying.

A feeling that fees are reasonable and predictable and that invoices are not filled with “nickel and dime penny ante stuff” will encourage referrals and future business with your client.

Until next time.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Starbucks is Getting Serious Again About Customer Service

Starbucks nationwide to close for emergency re-training Feb. 26

Sarah Gilbert hits the mark with her latest post. The issue of customer service is at the forefront of one of the nation’s biggest coffee bars. For a company that has been praised by Joseph A. Michelli in is book The Starkbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary the company is now hurting from its failure to follow-through and ensure exemplary training of all its employees. Two weeks ago I had my first unacceptable customer experience at a Starbucks near Tullahoma, Tenn. Sure enough the youngsters there were more interested in listening to their music than fixing a decent espresso. In fact, it was the worst cup of coffee I had had in a long time! Maybe the Feb. 26 shutdown for re-training will turn the company around. If not, like so many companies we may have to give them our “Stinking Fish Award” and that would truly be sad for a company we once thought set the standards for exceptional customer service.

Posted Feb 13th 2008 7:46PM by Sarah Gilbert
Filed under: Starbucks (SBUX), Employees

I know I’m not the only one who’s complained that Starbucks baristas don’t know how to make a decent latte any more. Far from its roots as the reliable place to get coffee made exactly right, the chain has lately become famous for its automatic machines and the hit-or-miss quality of its products.

Howard Schultz is here to change all that: by shutting down Every Last Storenationwide for three hours on Tuesday, February 26. Starting at 5:30 p.m., baristas in the coffee giant’s 7,100 stores will learn how to do things better. They’ll learn how to make a perfect shot, how to steam milk, and (if we have anything to say about it) how not to burn coffee, and how to wipe the milk steamer before switching from dairy to soy milk. (Vegans everywhere will say thank you.)

While it’s doubtful that three hours of training will reverse years of gathering mediocrity, it’s certainly a symbol of a company that cares about quality. If Howard is serious about this change stuff (and it’s obvious that he is), he’ll consider switching back to manual latte machines, at least in some stores located in serious coffee markets (like certain neighborhoods in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco). Speed and convenience is no price to pay for really good coffee. Some customers will agree; others will probably mutter swearwords under their breath as they pull up to their local Starbucks only to find it Closed For Training in a couple of weeks. Which customer are you?

Consider Charging Clients for their Initial Session

When dealing with small and sometimes more impoverished clients, it’s usually in your best interest to charge a fee (even if it is small) for that initial consultation.

This fee will rid your marketing hours from time wasters who are unable to afford your fee. For many clients, the advice they obtain during the first 30-minutes or hour meeting may be sufficient to meet their needs.

Such a strategy may not be a good idea when dealing with large, well-financed prospects, however. Most often, these clients are not in need or seeking free advice. Your larger clients will be interested in results over the long haul.

Don’t hesitate to charge for diagnostic and needs-analysis services. Determing  what the problem is may be the most valuable service you can provide. Giving the answers away for free in the hope of getting an opportunity to implement your solution is simply — poor marketing.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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