by Patricia Wheeler
Have you ever wondered why your team isn’t moving faster? One of my clients, a senior vice president, was at her wit’s end trying to get more speed of execution. In fact, she was at a crossroads; the reorganization she had spearheaded was three months post-rollout, and she was expected by her president to deliver results.
The team , all capable and skilled individuals themselves, was moving cautiously. At times they seemed to be drifting, though they clearly had been given their marching orders. She was worried.
While interviewing her team members, I asked the question, “How do you know when you’re going in the right direction?” “That’s the problem,” her direct reports said. “We always know when we’re going in the wrong direction. She tells us that immediately. But too often when we’re forced to make critical course changes, we don’t get the specific guidance and support we need.”
Her 360 feedback results confirmed this; she was given low marks from stakeholders on measures that reflected her skill in developing employee talents and setting a positive example.
When she received this feedback, she was astonished. She knew she was tough, but she thought her management style was well balanced between critical and encouraging comments. What she didn’t know is that balance in the traditional sense just isn’t good enough.
Research shows that we’re hard-wired to absorb criticism at a much higher internal decibel level than we absorb compliments. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. But for most of us, it takes the impact of three to five positive comments to equal the impact of one negative comment. As we make deposits to and withdrawals from our employees’ “motivational bank account,” consider whether you are ever overdrawn from their perspective. If your positive and negative comments occur at an even rate, you are likely to be operating in the red.
And if so, what’s the cost to performance? Are “attaboys” and encouragement just fluff or do they produce measurable business results?
Think for a moment: if your employees spend fifteen minutes per day fuming, complaining or feeling demoralized about your management style, how much time does that take away from activities that are mission-critical? How much time does that amount to each quarter? What are the direct and indirect costs of this to your organization? What if you could harness all that energy in the direction of your goals?
Does this mean becoming a Pollyanna, saying nothing at all that’s not positive? Of course not.
Leadership requires setting the vision, charting the course and correcting off-course actions. It’s not an all-or-none situation, though, and the fact is, most of us think we’re more encouraging than our employees perceive us to be.
Our senior vice president tried it out for a quarter. To her delight, she noticed that not only did performance measures improve, she noticed something else: more smiling employees with more energy and innovation on the job. The cost of this: extra time each day noticing successes and good efforts. Was the effort worthwhile? She thought so.
Coach’s tip: Think about your own leadership style. What balance of encouragement to criticism do you aspire to? What is the value of noticing successes and good efforts to your team? Consider keeping track of the deposits and withdrawals you make to the Motivational Bank Accounts of your direct reports.
Patricia Wheeler, Ph.D. is an executive and team coach who helps smart people become more effective leaders. She is Marshall Goldsmith’s partner in Leading News (www.LeadingNews.org ) an online executive resource which features leadership development articles and events.
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by Pam Gilberd
Your best career choice may be found in the make-do job you’re doing while you’re waiting and waiting for your dream career to get in gear. “My advice for people in transition is to go to the door that’s opening.” Gale Ricketts, President, Ready to Roll Limousine Service, Inc., NYC and LA.
Gale Ricketts expected to enter her career through the stage door, but found that a side door opened wider.Gale grew up in southern California, studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena as a member of the founding class, and graduated from the University of Southern California. Like many young people who want to be actors, she moved to New York City to seek more opportunity. And like many young actors she found that it was challenging to keep going to acting classes, auditioning, and just plain surviving, even with occasional work.
But Gale had plenty of ingenuity. She and a friend started a Greenwich Village roller skating rental service called Ready to Roll with a hundred pairs of skates and a leased van. With her roller skating business on the side and roles in plays, a few in films, and a soap opera, she says, “We starved, but we made enough money not to starve too badly.” As it turned out, however, roller skating was a trend that abruptly came to an end. “One day everybody in New York decided not to roller skate anymore. We went out of business. I realized that I still had no skills. I didn’t even know how to wait tables like my other actor friends.”
Not one to give up easily, Gale had another brainstorm. “I realized that since I grew up in southern California, I did know how to drive. I took a job as a chauffeur for a limousine company, which afforded me the time off to go on auditions and do summer stock.” For Gale, driving a limo continued to be just a way to make some money, nothing more. She still saw herself as an actor, but another opportunity kept knocking at her door.
When Liza Minnelli started requesting Gale as her driver on a consistent basis, Gale began to think about what she was doing in a different way. “One day,” Gale explains, “Liza said to me, ‘Why don’t you buy a limousine and I’ll be your client.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you buy a limousine and I’ll be your driver.’” Gale eventually decided to take the chance. She says, “I didn’t have any money, but I had Liza as a client. I knew another chauffeur who had started his own business, so I subcontracted a car from him every day on an hourly basis.”
Liza kept Gale busy. “I didn’t have time to spend my money, so everything I made I put toward a down payment on a used limo with some very high financing—worse than credit cards.” Even after Gale incorporated Ready to Roll, her limousine service, she still considered herself an actor who drove limousines. After a few years “it clicked that the bigger the limo business got, the more it was a serious thing. I could hire someone to answer the phone 24 hours a day, instead of me. I could hire drivers, instead of me. Since the business was taking off, it became something that I really had to pay attention to and manage, or not do it at all.”
With that realization, Gale finally understood that the opportunity she had seen as a sideline was actually more satisfying than the acting career she had been pursuing with little success for years. “The combination of interests has made Ready to Roll more than a business to me because many of my clients are in the entertainment business,” Gale says. “I feel like I’m still in the entertainment business, and my clients know that I understand them.” Gale acknowledged that owning a limousine company gave her a better return for her time, energy, and emotions than being a struggling actor.
What was the key to Gale’s finding satisfying success in a business she’s now owned for 25 years? She’ll tell you, “If what you want is full of disappointment and not working out, and something else seems more effortless, I say, go for what presents itself.” Gale adds, “I would bang my head and struggle, but full-time acting wasn’t going to happen. I’m more aware now of the importance of staying flexible.”
To act on unexpected career opportunities do the following:
1. Pay attention to what is or isn’t working in your dream career.
2. Analyze what brings you more satisfaction and money than your dream job does.
3. Stay flexible with your vision of what a successful career looks like for you.
4. Combine the best of your paying career with the essence of what you like about your dream career.
5. Give yourself permission to change your mind and shift gears.
Pam Gilberd, www.pamgilberd.net, wirtes and speaks on career, life, and success issues. Her books include: The Eleven Commandments of Wildly Successful Women., The Twelfth Commandment of Wildly Successful Women, and Leadership Secrets of Elizabeth I.
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by Michelle Casto
For a few years, I desperately tried to fit a square peg in a round hole in the corporate environment. And guess what, it was not pretty. During that time, I thought there was something wrong with me because I had all the worldly success symbols--- college degrees, a good job with a big name company, benefits, etc, and yet; was miserable.
In fact, the whole situation was making me sick.
The culture was toxic---politics and favorites reigned supreme. I am sure you know what I am talking about.
I just about burned myself out in my twenties, just going to work, coming home, falling into bed, and doing it all again day after day. I especially resented how my time was dictated, especially my days off.
I found out later that many organizations, just like families, are highly dysfunctional and those who know how to play the game get rewarded, while those with integrity and heart, are seen as threats to the system (aka status quo).
I once got reprimanded for being too passionate!
I told the supervisor, “I thought I was supposed to care about my job and those that I serve!”
I knew I was in trouble when I kept having dreams about work that would wake me in the middle of the night!
The real deal breaker, though, was when my personal values conflicted with the organization’s values---they seemed willing to do just about anything to make a buck.
For me, the typical 9-5 work situation felt more like a self-created prison.
I held the belief then and certainly do now, that work not only could be fun, it was supposed to be fun. I knew I had to find something else or I was going to be unhappy for a really long time---like my whole life.
I decided very early on in my career that I was not going to find what I was looking for in a traditional work environment.
One day, I woke up and just said, Today I choose to be happy. I Quit my job and have not looked back since.
Gratefully, I followed my inner guidance and was led to Life Coaching. Over the course of these years, I have had many wonderful mentors and coaches, and all have helped me grow in different ways. That was over 15 years ago, and Coaching is the best job on the planet for me because I get to help people clarify and claim their dreams. And then we work together in partnership as those dreams become their new reality.
Of course, being self-employed also has its good days and bad days, positives and negatives. However, I would not my freedom for any amount of money in the world.
Everyday I wake up and thank God for the work that I do, the people I work with, and the lifestyle it affords me. You can have the same experience just by being willing to learn a new way of life.
Michelle L. Casto is known as the Soul Diva Coach (Diva is Sanskrit for shining light of the divine) Speaker, and Author of the Get Smart! LearningBook Series. Her coaching practice is Brightlight Coaching; she helps people come up with bright ideas for their life and empowers them to freely shine their bright light to the world. She loves working with women to discover their inner Business Goddess.
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Robin Williams, the single mother of three who made a small fortune writing and publishing computer books in her home, not only managed to keep her children out of the way without making them feel rejected but also avoided the stress of feeling guilty at the same time.
"My house was a mess," she says. "I gave up on housework and concentrated on desktop design jobs and writing my books. I did what women have been doing for ages. But instead of taking in sewing, I took in graphics jobs and did them at home in the wee hours after the kids were asleep."
Robin made sure she had a normal daily life with her children. She worked at several different part-time jobs so she'd be there when her kids came home from school. Then the four of them would shop, cook dinner and eat together. After dinner, the kids read and Robin worked.
School-age children are one thing, but a baby in the house is something else entirely. "The biggest mistake I made at first," says Elaine de Man, an independent writer and editor, "was assuming that I could make the baby fit into my schedule. When it works, when the baby is quietly sitting in her swing next to my desk, I have to admit it's wonderful and very fulfilling. But when it doesn't work, when she's fussing and crying, it's incredibly frustrating."
So do yourself a favor if there's a baby on the way: Make arrangements for an in-home babysitter so you can be free to work and to take breaks conveniently with the little one.
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How did the Apple iPod become a runaway bestseller out of the dozens of digital music players on the market? What made Proctor & Gamble’s Prilosec stand out on a crowded shelf of heartburn remedies? Why was a sleepy little Seattle savings and loan able to run roughshod over huge rivals to become a financial services powerhouse?
In a word, design.
It’s not just the design of the product itself that’s important, but the design of the entire customer experience — from the first time a customer handles, buys, or uses a company’s product or service through every direct interaction with the people and systems at the organization itself. These interactions are what I call Product, System, and Human TouchPoints. Their design and alignment are critical to the success of your brand.
Every level of the customer experience must be carefully aligned — and built on a foundation of detailed research. If each level is not aligned, the entire experience can collapse like a house of cards.
Think like consumers.
Apple dominates digital music today not because they manufactured a digital player, nor because they had an online music site. They are the leader because they thought like consumers and solved music fans’ biggest problems by integrating players, software, and licensing agreements in a way that finally made it safe, legal, and easy to download music from the Internet.
You need to think like your customers or members — and only pointed, comprehensive research will give you the required deep understanding of their emotional needs. With research in hand, you can creatively design your Product, System, and Human TouchPoints in ways that will differentiate you from your competitors.
Indeed, the CEO of one of the world’s most valuable brands is intensely focused on design. Proctor & Gamble’s A.G. Lafley once told Fast Company that he wants “P&G to become the number-one consumer design company in the world.” Under Lafley’s guidance, P&G had a parade of hits, ranging from Prilosec (which P&G differentiated by making it “The Purple Pill”) to perfume carrying the name of fashion icon Valentino, to the Crest Spin Brush. The latter, a $3 electric toothbrush that entices kids to brush longer, quickly captured a 20 percent market share. It starts with articulating a brand promise, based on research into customer expectations. Your brand promise must differentiate your products and services from the competition’s in ways that are relevant to your customers. After articulating a unique brand promise — an overpromise — you must then design your TouchPoints to overdeliver.
Product TouchPoints include everything from availability, ease of access, and discounts to brochures, advertising, and reviews from customers and independent third parties.
System TouchPoints include your telephone, fax, and Web interfaces, customer-facing software, information-gathering forms and invoices, telephone-greeting and voice-mail messages — even your queue management systems. In short, any and all systems and processes that touch the customer.
The customer experience starts well before customers enter your bank or credit union. It may begin with a conversation about finances at the office or a poker party. It may start when a young woman is contemplating buying a car and asks around for the best place to get a loan. It may start when a first-time homebuyer is researching mortgage rates on the Web. Or it may begin whensomeone wishing to open a checking account is circling your bank, unable to find a parking place.
I phoned my credit card company recently and was told by an automated voice to punch in my card number, my zip code, and my Social Security Number. Then the associate came on and asked for the same information all over again.
Late one evening, I made a deposit at an ATM. When I phoned the bank the next morning, I learned that the deposit would not be transferred from the ATM location until 4 p.m. that day, and would not be credited to my account until the day after that.
What emotions do you think these experiences evoked?
In my book, Overpromise And Overdeliver, I describe a process for thinking about your brand and your TouchPoints that will help you create an overall design that delivers a superior customer experience.
Provide more than just service.
The customer experience starts well before customers enter your bank or credit union. It may begin with a conversation about finances at the office or a poker party. It may start when a young woman is contemplating buying a car and asks around for the best place to get a loan. It may start when a first-time homebuyer is researching mortgage rates on the Web. Or it may begin when someone wishing to open a checking account is circling your bank, unable to find a parking place.
Design with different audiences in mind.
Remember that “design” means to create for a particular purpose.” All customer experiences in your branches should not be the same. A business checking account must be designed differently from an account intended for a senior citizen. Needs differ — and so should the design of Product, System, and Human TouchPoints. They must reflect account holder differences and the brand differences you want to project.
Your TouchPoints must also reflect the true philosophy and personality of your institution or they will ring hollow with account holders — who will rapidly reject them as fake.
To demonstrate the proper alignment of Product, System and Human TouchPoints around a particular customer set, let’s look at two hypothetical designs for a checking account:
I’m sure you noticed how all TouchPoints change to reflect the needs of the customer being served. It is this alignment that makes each experience valuable to each type of customer.
It’s this alignment that makes customers say, “Wow, they really get it! They understand me!” Loyalty and profitability are sure to follow when you have aligned the design of your TouchPoints. Success will be in your cards, too.
Rick Barrera is a nationally acclaimed author, marketing consultant, and speaker known throughout the Fortune 500 for his unique approach to brand building. He has helped hundreds of companies re-design their systems and implement a holistic approach to customer service. His client list includes Abbott Labs, AutoZone, Bayer, Caterpillar, IBM, Intel, Merrill Lynch, and Verizon. His latest book Overpromise and Overdeliver: Secrets of Unshakable Customer Loyalty, recently debuted at number 10 on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list.
©2005 Deluxe Financial Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
©2005 Rick Barrera. All Rights Reserved.
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by Michelle Casto
In this time of accelerated pacing of online business, with all the tools, techniques, and technology we can use to “automate and monetize our businesses,” we can often get overwhelmed and not know what to do.
When this happens to you, and you need to see more money flowing into your account, it pays to return to the old-fashioned human touch approaches. Here are some ideas to get you going:
Give, Give, Give. Be like bakers of old times who would throw in an extra loaf of bread.
Add true value What can you add to the conversation in the form of information, education, or promotion that will help someone else?
Have a well developed set of scruples Know who you are, what you value, & what you are willing to do. Stand strong in this place and resist getting pulled into the HYPE.
Express appreciation and gratitude Say “Thank you, I appreciate you” to those you serve and who support you.
Work on your inner game Deal with gremlins, ghosts, and goblins of past and become as clear, clean, and pure of heart as you can. Develop a toolkit of mental and emotional processes that you can do when you get triggered.
Learn that skill that you have been putting off Now is the time to learn something new , learn it.
Join a targeted social networking group Start making friends and influencing people because this helps you to know them and them to know you, which is mutually beneficial.
Express yourself To be seen as an expert, you must voice your opinion about your area of expertise. Write an article, be interviewed, or give a speech on your favorite topic.
Write out a 90 Day Plan and execute it. This keeps your plan focused, fluid and flexible, as things are ever-changing online.
Get the help you need when you need it Being self-employed means being willing to reach out for help? Read that book, hire a coach, invest in training, etc.
Offer a special promotion. When you give people a good why, they will often buy.
Know your WHY Why are you in business , why do you do what you do, the way you do it?
Master-Mind Connect with a group of people and watch the magic happen.
Michelle L. Casto is known as The Soul Alignment Life/Business Coach, because she delves deep into the client’s heart to see what wants to be seen and expressed. Michelle’s coaching practice is Brightlight Coaching. http:/
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by Dan Skeen
Dennis Conner's philosophy for success is simple - find one thing you're good at, devote yourself to it and become great. It may sound easy, but as the 4-time America's Cup-winning skipper concedes, most people spread themselves thin among a variety of commitments.
Known as "Mr. America's Cup", for his long and often controversial involvement in sailing's most coveted trophy, Conner says, "I think it comes down to attitude and it's hard to perform at the top level of your ability if you're not committed to that. If you want to be the best father and best husband and best community leader, how can you be the best golfer in the world, because the best golfer is out there playing golf every single day? And that's where most people are, they're somewhere in the middle. There's very few people that really know what an all-out effort at one thing is."
"I wasn't the smartest guy and I wasn't the best-looking guy, and I was batting seventh on the baseball team. The one thing I could do a little better than anybody else was sail. So I liked the positive rewards that I got by doing something better than the other people. And the more positive rewards I got, the more I gravitated towards it."
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by Michael Katz
"I have no idea," I said. "I don't have my glasses on, and I can't see through the tinted windshield anyway. I wave at everyone who drives by."
Evan gave this some thought, and then, with the precise blending of disdain and amusement that teenagers reserve exclusively for their parents, said, "So, are you getting to be an old guy now?"
The answer, of course, is yes, but that's not really the point. I wave at passing neighbors because while I can't usually tell who they are as they drive by, they always know who I am, as I stand there in front of my house. The way I look at it, I'd rather wave to a stranger than ignore a friend.
When it comes to my business, I apply this very same "old guy waving to the neighbors" approach.
What I mean, is that if you call or e-mail me, and you can successfully string together a couple of friendly sentences, I'm happy to interact. I don't need to know much about who you are, or whether you might one day become a paying client. Drive by, and I'll wave to you.
Not everyone agrees with this approach. Some of my professional service colleagues consider this kind of behavior an enormous waste of time; time that could be better spent with paying clients, or at the very least, with qualified prospects.
Many (I won't name names) even take explicit steps to "discourage the freeloaders." Things like screening all inbound calls (and only returning the "important ones"), not replying to emails, and posting rules on their web sites about how long they'll chat before the door slams shut and the meter starts.
Not me. I just wave to everyone.
The funny thing is (and I have to confess that I came upon this insight accidentally, since I just happen to like chatting with people), many of those who initially get in touch with a question or problem end up hiring me months – or even years – later.
What I've discovered is that "waving to people" (i.e. answering a few questions and/or pointing people in the right direction, with no attempt to sell them anything), is actually an incredibly effective way to acquire new clients. They get a free sample, and I, simply by picking up the phone or dashing off a quick e-mail, grow my business.
But what about the guy who keeps calling… burning your time, bending your ear, expecting to get something for nothing? You know what, I've heard about that guy, but I don't think I've ever actually met him. Most people are unbelievably respectful and courteous.
Here's the bottom line: It's true that if you stand at the front door, only letting in those who are ready to write a check, you won't "waste much time." What you will do, however, is cut off lots of future revenue generating opportunities in the process. A better approach, I think, is to invite everybody in, answer a few questions, and send them happily on their way, secure in the knowledge that some of them (or their friends) will be back.
With the end of the year soon upon us, and as you no doubt take time to think about how you'll improve revenue, cut costs and apply other tactical improvements to your business in the new year, I encourage you to also consider a philosophical enhancement: Spend more time "waving" to people and less time watching the meter.
If your experience is anything like mine, not only will you have more business , you just might end up with more friends too.
Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development, Inc., a Hopkinton, MA firm that specializes in the development of electronic newsletters. Download the first four chapters of Michael’s book, “It Sure Beats Working: 29 Quirky Stories and Practical Business Lessons for the First-time, Mid-life, Solo Professional,” for free.
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