Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: May 2010

Leadership in customer service – going beyond the ordinary

Wow!  I just love a good customer service experience!

We contract out all our graphic design requirements, and today’s Internet world means that we can do it all virtually.  Recently I had one of our virtual designers do several small jobs for us – one of which was to create a “Merge’s blog” button for my primary website.  He delivered promptly, we approved the work and paid him, and all was done … or so I thought.  Two weeks later I received an email.

I went to your website and noticed that the image I created for you doesn’t have a shadow like the others above it.  I have attached a revised image with a shadow so that it looks as close as possible to the others.

Wow!  This is pride in quality of workmanship.  This is willingness to go the extra mile for your customer.  This is focusing on building long-term business relationships instead of just trying to make the sale.  This was not a big job, in fact probably just one minor task in a long list of others.  Yet, he took the time to do it right.  I was impressed.  I am now a loyal customer.  And I have no reservations about recommending his work to others.  His name is Anoop and you can reach him at bamboocake[at]gmail.com.

Can you see the difference? I certainly can’t, but eagle-eyed Anoop could!

Are you and your staff giving this kind of customer service experience to your clients and customers? What are you doing to create this kind of a Wow! culture in your workplace?

Giving constructive feedback to employees – one powerful tip

If you’re a supervisor, manager or team leader, then there will be times when you will have to give feedback to employees about things they haven’t done well, or could have done better.   And it’s not an easy task!  In fact, you’ve probably read or heard, or even been taught, that this type of feedback is better received if it’s prefaced first by something nice.  So you might say something like:

You did a really good job of organizing the meeting but the agendas were not distributed early enough.

The feedback you wanted to give was that the agendas were not distributed early enough; and you attempted to soften the message by saying “you did a really good job of organizing the meeting” first.  Unfortunately, if your goal was to get your employee to listen and act on the feedback, you probably failed.  You were unsuccessful because the word “but” is the equivalent of a verbal eraser.  Anything you said prior to the “but” was erased in the mind of the listener.  So you started off well when you said “you did a really good job of organizing the meeting”; but it was never heard because you followed it with the word “but”.  Instead, try:

You did a really good job of organizing the meeting.  Unfortunately the agendas were not distributed early enough”.

Butt out the BUT

Do you see the difference?  Period.  No “but”, no “however” (“however” = “but”).  Butt out the “butt”.

What other classic mistakes have to you encountered in giving (or receiving) negative feedback?

Resolving workplace issues – one thing you’ve GOT to do

Some conversations with employees are not easy!  Either the topic is sensitive or controversial, or the person you have to talk to has a reputation of getting prickly and defensive, or even worse, both!  Either way, it’s a difficult dialogue, and if there was any way you could possibly get out of it, you would no doubt find it!  Yet, if you want to create and maintain a positive and productive workplace, then you have to speak up to resolve workplace issues.  This short video tells you the one thing you absolutely HAVE to do if you’re going to have any hope of achieving success in your goal.

If you’d like the Top Ten report I refer to in this video, either click this link: http://www.turningmanagersintoleaders.com/difficult-conversations-free-report/ or go to the URL on the screen at the end of the video.  And, let me know if the topic of your uncomfortable discussion made it to our Top Ten List.  And if it didn’t I’d love to hear about it!

Why is negativity so widespread?

Why is negativity so widespread in organizations today?  In my opinion, there are several reasons, but here are two of most common ones I’ve come across in my dialogues with managers and supervisors who are struggling with this very problem.

The first is that it gets attention.  It’s a lot like children “acting out”.  If you have children, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Many times children “act out” because that’s how they get attention.  In their childish minds they figure that any attention is a good thing even if it’s negative.  And unfortunately in many ways negative people can be like that.

The second most common reason negativity is so prevalent is because it elevates some people self-esteem to point out problems.  And think about this for a moment, people who are chronically negative suffer from low self-esteem.   So, the reason negative people behave the way they behave is because they seek to raise their self-esteem!  By the way, I’m not saying this makes their behaviour acceptable, but if you have an understanding of where this all starts, you will be able to deal with it more effectively

These are two reasons why negativity is so prevalent in organizations today, but what are some others?  What have you observed in your workplace?  Do share.

Difficult conversations – how to make your message stick

Whether it’s addressing an employee’s tardiness, confronting a backstabbing peer, breaking bad news to the boss, or even having the dreaded “body odour” chat, these conversations are anything but easy.  In fact, if you’re like most people, you probably lose sleep for several nights just thinking about it, and the very notion of having these discussions causes you to break out in a cold sweat!  Difficult conversations are just that – difficult – yet if you want to maintain a positive and productive workplace (and your sanity), then you must find a direct and respectful way to bring up these issues so that they result in the desired outcome, and don’t deteriorate into anger, resentment or hard feelings.  This short video offers one powerful tip to make the process more successful.

If you’d like the Top Ten report I refer to in this video, either click this link: http://www.turningmanagersintoleaders.com/difficult-conversations-free-report/ or go to the URL on the screen at the end of the video.  Plus, let me know if your difficult conversation subject was on the Top Ten List, or did you have a doozy that is different?

Long-distance leadership? Make it easier with office hours

Effective communication, motivating exceptional performance, resolving conflicts in a positive and productive way – these are all important parts of leadership, and if you’re a manager or supervisor, you know that each comes with its own set of challenges.  But what if you also have the added complexity called “remote employees”?  Does anything change if your staff are in a different office building across town?  What if your people work from home offices or out of their vehicles while on the road?  What about if they operate in a different time zone?  Suddenly, the challenges multiply and compound.  Because of the physical distance between you and your people, they will feel increasingly isolated UNLESS you take steps to provide a greater degree of support and feedback to them.

There are several things you can do to overcome this physical distance problem, but here’s an easy one.  Set office hours.  Remember when you went to university or college and your professors would set office hours – specific times during the week when you would be guaranteed to find the professor in his/her office and available to talk to you.  Same idea.  Set office hours – specific times during the week when your employees know they can call and that they will get you “live” in your office.  Even if the phone switches over to voice mail, they’ll know it’s because you’re talking to another employee, and so they can count on you calling them back fairly soon.  Block this off on your schedule so that no one else schedules meetings during this time, and treat this blocked time like gold.  This simple step of setting office hours can make you significantly more accessible to your off-site employees and make huge inroads toward decreasing their feelings of isolation.  Heck, this is a good leadership practice even if  you don’t have off-site employees; it works just as well with on-site employees!

For those of you who have long-distance employee relationships (or if you ARE the “remote employee”), what else works to provide enhanced support and feedback?

Three lessons in teamwork from the world of dolphins

Dolphins feeding
Dolphins feeding

Dolphins usually live and travel in pods, in groups of up to a dozen individuals.  This social behaviour serves many purposes, not the least of which is foraging for food.  Dolphins employ techniques called herding and corralling to be more effective and efficient in their hunting.  Behaving much like sheepdogs, a pod of dolphins will circle and herd a school of fish into a tightly-packed “bait ball”, and if possible, even corral them into shallow water.  Once there, the dolphins then take turns plowing through the bait ball, gorging on the fish as they sweep through.  Scientists have observed that the dolphins have such control of this method that it is almost impossible for the fish to escape until all the dolphins have had their fill.  Working as a team, the dolphins are much more successful (and skillful) than if they worked alone.

What can we learn about teamwork and collaboration from dolphins? Three things.  Continue reading

What would you do if faced with this leadership dilemma?

Last month I was asked for my opinion on a difficult decision facing the leadership of a residential boarding school in India.  I’ve already offered my perspective to the people who asked, but as I watched them struggle through their decision-making process, it occurred to me that leaders everywhere could learn from this situation.  True, many of you who subscribe to my blog do not work in educational institutions (yes, I know, some of you do!), but no matter what type of an organization you guide, you face leadership dilemmas, and they’re never easy!  So tell me what you think.  How would you handle this situation?

The dilemma: Should the school’s leadership cancel or go ahead with its planned Grand Reunion this June?

Background: This residential boarding school in India holds its Grand Reunion every five years, with the next one scheduled for this June.  Approximately 150 alumni from all over the world are planning to attend this year’s event.  The majority of alumni are located in India, but approximately 10% will be visiting from overseas (Europe, North America, Australia and other parts of Asia).  In early April this year, tragedy struck.  While on a school trip to a national park in the area, two 12-year old students were killed and 22 others injured when the tractor-trolley they were riding in overturned.  As a result of this event, two distinct sets of opinions have emerged.  Many people believe that the Reunion should be canceled.  Just as many believe that the show must go on.

The case for canceling: Because of the nature of boarding schools, students develop a very strong sense of kinship, and a very significant percentage of alumni go on to form lifelong personal and professional relationships.  If you’ve ever spoken to people who have attended a residential boarding school, most of them will tell you that there truly is a sense of family (much more substantial than in ordinary day schools), and for many, the deaths of the two children are felt similarly to the loss of one’s own child or sibling.  Those who believe that the Reunion should be canceled see it as a way to show their solidarity to the two families who lost their youngsters in this tragic accident.  Besides, who wants to celebrate when you feel like you’ve lost a member of your family?

The case for continuing: The other camp believes that life must go on.  While they don’t wish to minimize the seriousness of this accident, they also feel that resiliency is important.  Terrible things happen in life, and it’s important for those left behind to not only mourn but to also shoulder and carry on.  In addition, this group feels that in an attempt to respect the two families who have lost young ones, they would in fact be disrespecting a whole host of other people.  Many alumni, and not just those traveling from overseas, have scheduled vacation time, arranged for childcare, purchased airline tickets, and made hotel and other travel arrangements.  In some cases, this planning has been underfoot for over a year.  To cancel the Reunion at this late date would create financial and other implications for these people.

So you have it.  No matter which option is selected, a large number of people will be upset and angry.  You no doubt have faced situations in your workplace where the alternatives were just as unappealing.   But good leadership means that sometimes you have to make tough decisions. What would you do?

Motivating Employees – Live audio event on May 12

If you’re a manager or supervisor, then you know that reward and recognition matters! The problem is that your good intentions don’t always translate into action. Motivating employees can be a challenging task, and believe it or not, increasing their salary is not the solution! If you continually struggle with acknowledging and recognizing those who deserve it AND shortage of money and time are your primary reasons, then you ABSOLUTELY MUST join me at my next live audio event on May 12.  In one jam-packed session, I’ll give you specific and practical tips that you can use right away to fire up your employees so that they are willing to go the extra mile!  You’ve put it off long enough, so don’t put it off any more!

Click here to register now.

In one power-packed hour, right from the comfort of your office, I’ll give you specific, practical, and useful tools to motivate employees without spending a fortune! You’ll learn:

  • The single most important thing you should do to create a motivated workforce
  • At last, the ultimate answer to the question: is money a motivator?
  • Realistic and specific zero- and low-cost ways to motivate the troops
  • The cookie jar principle and how to use it with your employees
  • Current up-to-date information about what motivates employees, including how employee motivation research from the 1930s and 1960s is still applicable in today’s modern workplace

Join me on May 12, 2010 at 11 AM MDT. Early bird pricing in effect ONLY until this Wednesday May 5!

Click here to register, or for more information.