Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Would you work for you?

Today I asked my professional colleague and friend Ruby Newell-Legner, CSP, to guest on my blog and I was delighted when she agreed.  As the “Queen of Customer Service”, Ruby works with front-line employees to help them deliver great customer experiences.  Here, she  offers insights into what makes a great leader from the employee’s perspective.

Would you work for you? How does reporting to you feel? Do you show interest and concern for the employees who report to you? Does the work environment that you create inspire employees to eagerly come to work every day or dread every moment on the clock…or maybe somewhere in between. And most importantly, what can you do to make it better for the employees who report to you and make you look good?

  1. Thank staff for the work that they do. No matter how many times you think you say thank you, you need to say it more. People who work hard need recognition for what they do. In frequent programs I ask” How many of you feel too motivated on your job?” I have never had anyone raise their hand.
  2. Communicate in a professional manner. After a conversation with a staff member, reflect back on the circumstances. Did your words maintain respect for the employee as a human being? Was the tone considerate? Was the timing of the conversation appropriate? Was it in the right setting? Did you take the employee aside so their peers did not overhear the discussion? Remember, praise in public, share failure and counsel in private. Continue reading

Say thank you to your admin professional this week (and always)

If you’re in a position of leadership, then you know that it takes effort and support from others to get things accomplished.  And very often, the unsung heroes in our workplaces are administrative professionals, small, oft-silent armies of people, working behind the scenes to make things happen.  In years past, we called them secretaries, some are referred to as executive assistants, still others are labelled support staff.  Whatever the name, these are the people who keep all the moving parts oiled and the systems and procedures humming.  Since today kicks off Administrative Professionals Week, the question of the day is:

Have you thanked your administrative professionals lately?

Besides the verbal thanks, you may also want to consider something a little bit more special for this week (or perhaps save it for Wednesday which is Administrative Professionals Day).  Believe it or not, food or flowers is not the first choice.  According to a member survey conducted by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), an overwhelming majority of support employees much prefer opportunities for learning and growth.  Consider tuition reimbursement and/or a flexible schedule to work towards a degree.  Or paid membership and the option to participate in professional organizations.  If you must buy a “gift”, think about business-related items such as personalized business cards, desktop nameplates, computer hardware and software upgrades, or ergonomically correct accessories.

What are you doing to celebrate Administrative Professionals Week?  Please tell us by adding a Comment below!

P.S. Did you know that there are more than:

  • More than 4.1 million secretaries and administrative assistants and an additional 8.9 million people working in various administrative support roles in the United States
  • More than 475,000 administrative professionals are employed in Canada
  • Millions more administrative professionals working in offices all over the world

[Source: IAAP]

What do you want to know about emotional intelligence?

Unless you work in a vacuum, you have to count on others to get things done. Which means … that you have to work with a myriad of different personalities in the workplace. Let’s face it, some days that’s easier said than done!  Here’s where emotional intelligence (or EQ) really matters.  EQ  is your ability to understand your own emotions and those of others, and to act appropriately using these emotions. And it’s a fact – people with higher levels of EQ consistently have greater success in working with others.  Indeed, studies show that your EQ is a better predictor of your professional success than either your IQ or your technical skills.

On Wednesday May 11, I’m leading a live Audio Conference on the subject of EQ, and I’ll be opening the lines for questions.  What is one thing that you’d like to learn about emotional intelligence that will help you work more effectively with others in the workplace?  Go to www.AskMerge.com to ask your question and I’ll answer as many as I can on May 11.

And while you’re at www.AskMerge.com, be sure test your own EQ using our simple and free self-assessment.  Just click on the link on the bottom left of the screen.

Responding with composure when others get angry

There will be occasions when you will need to have difficult conversations with your employees and co-workers. And when conversations get heated, challenging circumstances can get worse. At times such as these, knowing how to de-escalate a situation so that you can redirect it towards a successful resolution is a skill that will stand you in good stead.

In the latest issue of CGA Magazine, I offer five techniques to respond with composure and equanimity when co-workers and employees get angry.  Read the entire article here: When Co-Workers Get Angry.

And be sure to come back to share your experiences and offer your suggestions by clicking on the Comment link below.

You’re not wrong, you’re increasingly right!

Last weekend I participated in a strategy discussion with several of my professional associates.  As we talked about the different initiatives that we have underway in our business, one colleague in particular expressed increasing frustration because of the challenges he has faced in achieving planned outcomes.  “I just seem to be getting it wrong,” he said.  Every time I take a step forward, it seems to be in the wrong direction.

At that moment, another person spoke up. “Don’t think of it as being wrong,” she said.  “Think of it as being increasingly right.  Every time you take a misstep, you gain valuable information about what not to do as you move forward.  Admit it,” she said, “you may not yet have achieved your objective, but you are getting closer.  Right?”

As he nodded his assent, I realized exactly how insightful my friend Shelle had been.  Our struggling colleague was looking at his situation as if he was balancing on a tightrope.  Instead, his journey was more akin to traveling in a concentric circle.  Making mistakes did not mean that he was falling into the abyss on either side; instead his errors were serving as small corrections as he moved towards his ultimate goal.  True, it might have been much easier (and faster) to get from A to B in a direct line, but traveling in a concentric circle towards the eventual target is also an acceptable and reasonable way to make the trip.

So what goal are you trying to achieve right now that is frustrating for you? Perhaps you need to change your perspective.  Look at it as an expedition that is a concentric circle rather than a balancing act on a tightrope. Does that paint a different picture?

What are others saying about your company or department?

As a leader, it’s important to find out what your customers and internal clients are saying about your company or department. Recently, I was very impressed with one CEO’s commitment to this essential leadership responsibility.

Last November, while on a short vacation in Hawaii, my husband and I took a helicopter tour of the island. Due to several problems the experience was very disappointing, and in many respects, the excursion was a total flop. When we asked for a refund, the staff declined. We objected, but to no avail. Rather than continue to argue, we chose instead to walk away and chalk it up to a bad experience; this despite the fact that the outing was not inexpensive. Before I closed the door on this incident though, I posted a detailed review (as I often do) of the trip on an online bulletin board. My hope was to help others avoid the same issues that we faced. Case closed. Imagine my surprise when I received an email in February from the CEO of the company asking me for further information about my situation. In fact, I was so taken aback that I initially thought it was spam, and deleted it. It was only a few days later that I reconsidered and wrote back. Over the next few weeks we dialogued via phone and email as the CEO sincerely tried to understand what went wrong. The ultimate outcome – he refunded our payment in full and asked for us to consider his company again when we visited the islands. Something that we most definitely plan to do on our next trip there!

By taking the trouble to find out what his customers were saying about his company, and then acting on what he found, this CEO created immense goodwill and set himself apart from his competition. All your stakeholders have valuable feedback to share with you about how your organization (or your department) is doing, and what you could be doing better. Are you finding a way to tap into this valuable mother lode of information?

How promptly do you respond to client and stakeholder queries?

So for the last week and a half, I have been blogging about how some people just don’t “get” that client focus and strategic thinking are important to the success and long-term health of their organizations.  Well, it’s a message that has resonated strongly with many of you.  In fact, it prompted one of you to send me a copy of a recent study published in the March 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review.  In this research, the authors looked specifically at how long it takes companies to follow up on business inquiries and sales leads that come to them over the Internet.  The results may flabbergast you.  The researchers queried 2,241 American companies through their websites and:

  • 37% responded within 1 hour
  • 16% responded within 1-24 hours
  • 24% took more than 24 hours
  • 23% never responded AT ALL!
  • Of those companies that responded within 30 days, the average response time was 42 hours

I too was initially bowled over by the results: almost half (47 percent) either took more than one day or never responded at all!  But then I remembered something that I mentioned in my last blog post.  When I was trying to find an ACT consultant to help us with a remote installation, I left messages for three different vendors.  One called me back within 2 hours, another took one week, and the third … well, it’s been 2-1/2 weeks and I’m still waiting!  So my small microcosm of experience exactly mirrors what the researchers found.  Not so surprising after all!

In today’s competitive world, one of your roles as a leader is to make sure that your organization succeeds in the long-term.  It doesn’t matter whether you lead a for-profit organization, government, or even a non-profit charity, responding to queries from your clients and stakeholders is critical to your continued success.  And I’m not just talking about queries from potential external clients who can create cash flow; I’m also talking about interaction with internal clients and stakeholders that may be reason for your department or division’s existence.  Are you creating an environment where responses are timely and helpful?  Do you have clear expectations of your employees that they will respond (even if they cannot resolve) to queries and concerns within 24 hours?  Why or why not?

Finally! It is possible to find a vendor who is responsive to the client!

Last week I told you about the difficulty I had trying to find an ACT consultant to help us set up a new remote location in our system.  You’ll remember the trouble I had back in September with Lester, and more recently with Colbert who left me in the lurch just one day before our planned ACT changeover.  Well, there I was, one day before the work was to be done and without any technical help!  So I started making some calls.  I phoned three ACT consultants and left short messages, expressing that there was some degree of urgency and I’d really appreciate having a conversation about how they could help us.  In less than two hours, one of them called me back.  Given my last two negative experiences with ACT consultants, not surprisingly my expectations were low, but they needn’t have been.  While I explained what I needed, Sukhi from the Belmar Consulting Group asked me several questions to better understand our issues.  I was comforted by his professionalism, but it was when I told him that this work had originally been planned for the next day that Sukhi really impressed me.

“Well let me talk to one of our technicians, perhaps we can get your changeover started this afternoon.”

“This afternoon?  Really?” I responded, just catching myself before I fell off my chair. Continue reading