Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big Brother Is Here

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, you are being watched. You are always being watched. I’m not talking about hidden cameras; I’m talking about real people – watching – watching you!

At my last job, the recruiter would ask the receptionist about the people who had come in for interviews. Everyone knows to be nice to the recruiter, but a lot of people were rude to the receptionist because they didn’t think that she mattered. She did.

The receptionist got a more accurate picture of the interviewee than the recruiter ever would and her opinion carried weight.

Your kids are watching you. They are looking at you for their cues on how to behave. They want to see if you do what you say you are going to do. “Do as I say, not as I do” never works. Kids will inevitably do what they see you doing.

Your co-workers are watching you. If you are coming in late or slacking off at work, they might feel justified in doing the same thing and use you as their example. Of course, your boss is watching you too. She’s looking for dependability and a strong work ethic. She's looking to see if you are doing the job and how you interact with your co-workers, customers and others.

Your friends are watching you. They want to see how trustworthy you are. They want to know that you can be counted on when it counts. Your in-laws are watching you. I don’t know why but they are!

People are observing your actions all of the time just as you are observing theirs.

What you do matters. And it matters much more than what you say. If what you say and what you do are not consistent, people will defer to your actions over your words every time.

Big brother, big sister and everybody else is watching you! So act accordingly!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Customer Service Training - for the Customer!

Right now, I’m working on a project that focuses on customer service. We all have customer service horror stories: surly customer service representatives, eternities spent on hold or being transferred a handful of times to people unable or unwilling to help. In that respect, we have all been there and we definitely know what kind of service we don’t want to receive. There is a clear need for customer service training.

But, I have to wonder, if sometimes, we could use customer service training for the customer. Customer service representatives have some pretty stressful jobs and if we are honest, we know that we don’t always make it any easier for them.

Just out of college, I worked briefly answering phones for a swanky hotel. I was routinely maligned and verbally abused. Of course, most guests were very nice but the ones who weren’t, left quite an impression! I never understood why someone would think that yelling at me would compel me to give better service. In fact, it was just the opposite. I went out of my way to help those customers who genuinely wanted my help and were respectful. Those who weren’t ran into a lot more obstacles. Being nasty normally doesn’t work. Respect is a two-way street. If we expect to receive it, we should also give it.

Then there are times when we call in a perfectly respectful manner and receive rude treatment. I remember calling about a credit card statement once and getting a woman who was rude. I know I didn’t do anything to her and I told a little joke and her mood changed. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. But either way, I try not to take their attitude personally, and I also try not to respond to rudeness with more rudeness. Sarcasm is an easy way to make a bad situation worse.

I was not surprised when I read that a person who receives poor service shares the experience with at least 11 people. However, when that same person receives superior service, they share that experience with just four people. We need to be more generous with our compliments. Offer a thank you to the person who retrieves your information quickly and courteously. Tip your server and tell him that he did a great job. A little courtesy goes a long way and who doesn't like it when their hard work and efforts are acknowledged?

Don’t keep great service a secret!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Criticism: Taking It With Class

In the last post, I talked about giving criticism. Now I want to tackle the other side, receiving criticism. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to give criticism which can make receiving criticism even more difficult. Criticism delivered in anger or with the intent to rattle you is absolutely no fun to receive.

Here are five tips for receiving criticism with class.

It Could Be Personal: A lot of people will tell you not to take things personally. However, there are times when it is personal… at least to the other person. When people take things personally, they often lash out – wanting you to take it personally too. Don’t take the bait. I know, much easier said than done. Half the battle is realizing what they are trying to do (even if they don’t recognize it themselves). It helps me, if I make it into a game. I call it The I-Know-You-Are-Trying-To-Get-To-Me-But-I-Won’t-Let-You Game. The object of the game is to remain calm. If I do, I win!

Listen for Lessons: Even when criticism is delivered badly, there is normally a nugget of truth you can take from it. Focus on listening for that lesson and less on the delivery. If you can get the lesson, you can keep from making the same mistakes in the future.

Speak Up: If you have a question, ask it. If you need clarification, get it. If you can offer an explanation, explain it. You are not a puppy who has no choice but to walk away with his tail between his legs. The trick to speaking up is to do it calmly and matter-of-factly. You don’t want to be sucked into an emotional sinkhole that will inevitably end up as an argument.

Don’t Let It Get You Down: It can be hard, especially if you are being criticized about something important to you, to not take it personally. Sometimes, we let the criticism define us and we extrapolate the situation and make it bigger, darker and meaner than it ever was. Contain it. The criticism was on one topic, don’t turn it into an indictment about your personality and character. “I’m so stupid.” “I always make dumb mistakes.” “I never get it right.” Keep your criticisms focused and small. “I need to make a little time for chores.” “I need to proofread better.”

Take Action: Once you find the lesson, what did you learn? What can you do better next time? How can you prevent this same criticism from happening again? “I need to leave 10 minutes earlier so I’m not late for work.” “I need to get a second set of eyes to read over my work.” “I need to get the chores done before I get involved in something else.”

Criticism becomes constructive when you know how to use it to improve.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Criticism - Giving It with Class

Criticism. It’s difficult to give and even harder to receive. So I’m going to do a short series (just two posts) on criticism. The first, this one, will cover giving criticism and the second receiving it. In coaching, we talk a lot about asserting yourself and setting boundaries. One critical component of standing up for yourself involves delivering information or opinions that might not be so nice. When we keep things to ourselves and pray that they ‘work themselves out’ we often make problems worse.

Here are five tips that will help you deliver criticism with class.

Praise in Public, Criticize in Private: When good things happen, acknowledge them. People want to hear when they are doing something right and it’s a good idea, in many cases, to make your satisfaction known. However, if you have something critical or challenging to say, pull someone aside and do it privately. This is true at work and at home. Share your successes, but take your problems up in private, in a one-on-one situation.

Own It: When you use ‘you statements’ they often come across as accusatory. It’s like a verbal finger pointing. “You should have …” “Why didn’t you…” ‘I statements’ don’t sound as harsh. “I wish you would have…” “I expected…” When people realize that a criticism is coming their defenses immediately go up. You statements force those defenses up even higher!

Calm, Cool and Collected: Do not deliver criticism when you are angry, annoyed or frustrated. Your tone of voice says more than your words ever will. If you must, wait until you’ve calmed down first. When you give criticism while angry almost guarantees an argument or conflict, making a bad situation even worse.

Get On the Good Foot: If at all possible, start the discussion with something positive and then go into the harder stuff. For example, “I loved the content of your presentation. I think your ideas were right on point however, I need you to be a little more diligent when it comes to proof-reading.”

Take Action: Don’t just say what is wrong or what you didn’t like. Offer suggestions on how the situation could be improved. “If you take 10 minutes when you get home from school to do your chores, you could get them out of the way in a snap.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Do What You Love?

I have a friend who we'll call Shelly. She and I met while we were fledgling writers in Los Angeles. I moved on several years ago and now she's getting ready to leave Los Angeles as well. Although Shelly's excited about her transition, she's also a little bit down. You see, she wasn't able to 'make it' as a writer in L.A. and she feels as though she let herself down.

Do what you love.

Shelly loved to write but she wasn't able to translate that into a career. So now what? Well, what I'm about to say might rub some people the wrong way, but I'll say it anyway. Maybe you shouldn't quit your day job.

Doing what you love doesn't have to mean doing it professionally. Doing what you love doesn't mean it has to be your career. There are a variety of ways to fuel your passions.

In talking to Shelly, she took the do what you love mantra literally. She loved to write. She felt should be writing all day and making a living from it. If she wasn't, she wasn't a success. Meanwhile, she's an award-winning property manager who enjoys her work. She is a success. Yet, that didn't even register for her because she was so consumed with her rigid definition of writing success.

Doing what you love can manifest itself in a number of ways. As a writer, Shelly can fuel her passions by writing a blog, keeping a journal, writing freelance articles, writing for her church magazine or bulletin, writing poetry or trying her hand at writing a novel. There are a number of viable outlets for her. Likewise, a singer doesn't have to be the next American Idol or a Platinum-selling artist. He can join the church choir or other choral group, become a regular at the local karoake club. If the passion is singing, then the goal should be to sing.

Now, your day job should be something you enjoy; it should be something you have an affinity for. You spend too many hours at work to hate it. Your 'day job' shouldn't be something you endure until you get your big break.

All of us have been blessed with gifts. Some of us can find ways to join our passions and purpose with our professions. For the rest of us, the challenge is to look more broadly and find other ways to satisfy our talents and creativity.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Win in 2010: It’s Not Too Late

This is the sixth in a six part series called Win in 2010 designed to help readers stick to their goals and make the most out of the New Year.

Maybe you didn’t set any goals for the year. Maybe you set some goals and fell off track. Whatever the case may be it’s not too late to start or start over!

As a society, it’s our tradition to make resolutions or set goals at the beginning of the year. New Year, new beginnings, new goals, it makes sense. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can decide to make a change at any time of the year. In fact, setting your goals or steeling your resolve may make even more sense when it’s not the beginning of the year. Setting your goals now, doesn’t have the same pressure as setting them on January 1st.

If it’s something you have been thinking about doing, why not get started? If you started and fell off course, replace that discouragement with a renewed desire. Falling off track isn’t the problem. Everyone falls off-track. It’s staying off-track where the problems start.

Set a goal. And remember…

1. Don’t set too many goals. To keep your focus, limit your goals to no more than three.
2. Set goals that you want to and are committed to achieving. Never set a goal just because you (society or someone else) think you should.
3. Pick the people who have the resources, the knowledge and desire to see you succeed.
4. Develop a Plan B (and C) that you can use to get you back on track when you get off course.

It’s never too late! Start now!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Coin

Heads and tails are inseparable. You can’t have a coin with just heads and you can’t have one with just tails. Heads and tails are a package deal. Everything in life is the same way. You can’t open yourself up to love without opening yourself up to the possibility for pain. When you take a risk, there is just as much potential for reward and success as there is for loss and failure.

Because of the potential for pain and disappointment, it is tempting to play it safe. We keep our guards up and don’t let anyone get close. We don’t take the risk and opt instead for the predictable and secure. When we live this way, we mitigate the amount of pain we might feel. We don’t face any big failures or disappointments.

We live lives of quiet desperation.

When we make decisions to try to live a life of just head or just tails, we sacrifice a lot, and deep inside of us, I think we know it. There is that whisper deep within our souls that tells us that there is more. We can do more. We can be more. We can experience more. The catch is that to have those high highs, we have to risk the low lows.

The lows: pain, frustration, disappointment, bitter defeats, can be almost unbearable. Of course, we humans, instinctively avoid those aching emotions. Yet, if we don’t have those ‘tail’ moments, we can’t have those heady heads either.

I don’t like to get really personal on this blog, though occasionally I do. This is one of those occasions. For the past five months, I’ve been going through some pretty low lows and it’s been hard. It’s been very hard. I’ve had some decidedly un-life coachy moments along the way. And I’m writing this today for me as much as for you.

As bad as things have been, I know two things.

1. I’ve had some incredibly high highs.
2. I’ll have some incredibly high highs again because in the cycle of life, you don’t just have tails.

Heads and tails are a package deal.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Win in 2010: The Importance of a Plan B (and C and D)!

This is the fifth in a six part series called Win in 2010 designed to help readers stick to their goals and make the most out of the New Year.

The first month has gone well. You have stuck to your guns. You are doing it! You have lost 10 pounds already. The patches and the gum have been working and you finally feel like this time you might be able to stop smoking for good. You have already managed to sock away over $200 and you have paid more than the minimum on all of your credit cards. You are already and are well on your way towards meeting your savings and debt reduction goals.

Then IT happens…

You go home for your parents’ anniversary and you fall way off the wagon, eating all of that good food all weekend long. Your boss drives you up the wall with her impossible demands and you go outside to ‘get some air’ before you even realized it, you had smoked several of your old smoking buddies cigarettes. Your car breaks down and it cleans out your savings.

Frustration, disappointment and maybe even anger set in, and with it, the negative thoughts and self-talk.
“I blew it. I can’t believe all that food I ate. I have no willpower,” you say to yourself while you wait for your turn at the drive-thru window.
“Kicking nicotine is too hard. I can’t do this. What’s the point in even trying?” you think to yourself as you take a long drag off your cigarette.
“What was I thinking? I’ll never be able to save any money, what’s the use?” as you pull out your credit card to buy those shoes.

We fall off the wagon once, and many times, we don’t even think about trying to get back on. We let one slip-up, one mishap, one unexpected occurrence throw us off-course … and keep us off-course.

I used to have to start a diet on Monday morning. By Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest, I’d slip up. Maybe I ate a big cheeseburger for lunch or ate one of the homemade cupcakes my coworker had brought in. Whether it was a big or small slip-up, it was enough to knock me off course. And I would stay off course to that next and the whole cycle would start again.

I didn’t start having real success until I developed a Plan B – something I could do to get myself back on track immediately. Instead of waiting until another week, I started at that next meal. I ate something lighter for dinner. I added some extra time on the treadmill. My plan also included some more forgiving self-talk. “You made a mistake, it happens. The important thing is that I’m not going to quit. I will do this.” “Sure I messed up but I can’t fail unless I quit.”

Have a plan to get you back on course. What will you do to get yourself back on track? What will you say to yourself? Who can you call? What will you do differently? Take your most common obstacles and set-backs and plan for them.

You can’t plan for everything but just having a plan in place will help you more often than not. Remember, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”