Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

How much do we really want to change

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

I attended some Rotary leadership training yesterday and experienced a very powerful exercise relating to the difficulty of personal change.  In the photo it looks like a strange seance. Maybe it was!  It was so hard to do, I wondered if there were some some supernatural forces at work.      


  • You can see in the photo a long piece of dowel, flat on one side.
  • Each pair had to poke out their index fingers, shot gun style.  Then they had to align them with the opposite person’s index fingers, one inside the other.  The dowel was placed on top.
  • The rule: Everyone’s index fingers must have the dowel resting on them all the time.
  •  The task: Lower the dowel as a team. (Talk about easy!)
I took the photo while I was watching this other team fail completely at the task.  ‘Heavens’, I thought.  ‘What a bunch of klutzes!’
But when it came to my turn, we could not get that dowel to lower!
On the one hand the group knew we had to lower it, so we tried bending our knees. Unfortunately, each individual team member knew they had to keep their index fingers touching the dowel, so each of us must have lightly pressed up on the dowel to achieve that. That darn piece of dowel kept going up and up and up, no matter how hard we tried to lower it.
‘Leadership’, I thought. ‘Okay, on a count of three, we will all bend our knees and lower it that way! One, two, three, bend!’… Darn thing went up.
After multiple tries, the best we managed was that one end lurched way down and the other lifted way up!
Don’t you think change is like that? We  know we need to alter some habit, but we keep sliding back into touching the easy emotional dowel of our old behaviour.
We might be told that our team behaviour has to change and we know that.  But each one of us isn’t truly committed to that because we just relax back into our usual ways.  In umpteen small lapses the change becomes more and more remote.

How to stop pressing back up into past ways of doing things?  There are some good personal tips here at: 12 Tips for Creating Lasting Change and an interesting piece on reducing resistance to change  among your employees at: Change Management Coach

I still can’t believe how hard that exercise was!


Why isn’t work meaningful for all?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

A recent McKinsey report talks about MQ ( along the same lines as IQ and Goleman’s EQ).  The term stands for ‘meaning at work.

The report goes on to talk about how people who really understand how their work has meaning are able to be much more productive.  This feeling of ‘meaning’ is often described as a sense of being in ‘flow’ or being in the zone.

It isn’t difficult to see how some people in the workplace find it hard to reconcile their daily tasks with the organisation’s bigger goals. Some feel alienated and unhappy about not knowing what’s going on.  Often people are even more frustrated by having no control over what happens to them or their team mates.

The report talks about the importance of telling stories for adding meaning.  The best stories relate specifically to how each individual makes a difference to the outcomes of the work they are involved in.

This communications focus shouldn’t be on counting widgets or how many calls they manage in a short time frame, but instead on how their work makes a difference – to their customers, their workmates and their community, as well as to themselves.  The stories are even more effective if each person tells their own.

This is a salutary message to everyone involved in implementing change. Big picture images, statistics and logical messages might be fine for the already converted, but to the individual employees  need real stories that they can relate to.  Even better would be to get them to write their stories themselves.

How to inspire people by tapping into their dreams

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

This morning I had a stimulating conversation with a person who had led an award winning hospitality business.

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 I asked him what he believed was the key to excellent customer service. He replied that in NZ tourism, everyone has a dream they are trying to live – after all,  noone comes here by accident!  His approach is that if you can help that person fulfill that dream with your customer service, the rest will follow.

I went away thinking that the principle applies to more than customer service.

When I go into a dress shop, I  dream of buying an outfit that magically makes me look divine….well!

When I receive a business email, I have a small dream that the email  makes it clear what I have to do about it.

Take presentations for example: Your audience must have some sort of dream in relation to your topic, or they wouldn’t be there.  Figure out how you can help them with that dream and inspiration will follow.   I looked back over recent presentation rehearsals we had worked on. One was in telecommunications – the company presenting to health professionals in rural environments.   Presumably  her audience’s dream would be about how modern telecommunications could improve access to health for rural people, or overcome some barrier in running their medical service.  So the presentation could be about those possibilities.  Another was with an economics consultancy. The presenter could tap into an audience dream about understanding some important aspect of economics – now wouldn’t that be nice?  Or the dream might be about reaching a new understanding  about  an economics concept that sheds light on a key current event.

This form of inspiration means that you don’t have to ‘be inspiring’ yourself – all you have to do is to enable your audience to be inspired themselves. There’s lots more to it than that, but this seems like a very productive starting point. There are more tips on the attractive Seelemonslive blog

I suspect the concept applies to more than presenting.  How what ways does your role enable people to fulfill a dream or two?

The key to understanding social interaction?

Monday, March 5th, 2012

When we were kids, my uncle used to play a trick on us while we sat at a meal: He would start scratching his nose, gradually we kids would start scratching too. Suddenly he would shout: ‘Caught you!’ We’d look up and burst into giggles, realising we were all doing the same thing.

That was back a few years….well, a lot of years. It turns out that such imitation is the very essence of what makes us human. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, neurophysiologists found what could be a major way that the human brain creates this unconscious mimicry and called it the ‘mirror neuron’. If they are right, our rapidly expanding knowledge of mirror neurons has very wide implications for understanding how social interaction happens – how we develop into socialised humans, how we can improve our communication, even possibly an understanding of the basis of civilisation itself. So expect to hear the term used frequently in many fields.

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I am a little bit skeptical. In recent years, I’ve watched, at very close quarters, a relative make an exceptional recovery from a serious brain injury. A sample of one, I know, but it has left me in awe at the complexity, multi-layeredness and sheer unexpectedness of the connections in the human brain. The mirror neuron theory sounds almost too handy to be true – a bit similar to the gross over- simplification of the right brain/left brain dichotomy.

Still, who am I to know? Some scientists are expressing wariness. Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology at University of California, Berkley is one. She wrote the wonderful book, ‘The Philosophical Baby’, so she knows a lot about human social learning. On the other hand, the great V.S Ramachandran is a fan, so it can’t all be bad! The Integral Options Cafe has a good brief summary of some of the debate. Anyone have any thoughts on it?

“I’m just not getting that interview right”.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

How many people feel they are not managing to get past their first interview and make the short list of candidates for the role?

I was talking recently to a senior person who had been interviewing a young woman for a new position. Let’s call the candidate Liz.  She said that Liz’s CV looked excellent and she had made the cut from more than 40 applicants to 6 being interviewed.

“I was really looking forward to interviewing her” she said

However the interview did not go as well as hoped.

“What went wrong?” I asked

“Well” she said  “Liz came in and first impressions were good. But she continued to text during the whole interview. I just couldn’t put her forward for the role. Did I do the right thing?”

I asked if the candidate was going to have any customer contact and she replied “Yes, a lot of contact”

My reply was easy  “If Liz didn’t have the wit to pay attention in an interview her EQ skills were poor and she would be a liability not an asset with customers”

It does seem obvious to most of us that being prepared for an interview is important but don’t forget being totally in the zone during the interview is equally important if not more important as well.

Caring is not just for customers

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The recent earthquake in Christchurch  showed us that fundamental core value of caring is alive and well.  Neighbours rallied around to help each other setting up BBQs, sharing with each other and making the most of a very difficult  situation.  Organisations donated generously in both cash and goods

And yet we so often read ,or experience, situations when caring seems to have been forgotten.

Caring translates into all our dealings with people not just those closest to us.

  • When we deliver a presentation we should ‘care’ about our audience
  • When we work with clients and customers we should ‘care’ about them
  • As managers and leaders we should care about our staff.

 Yet unfortunatelyoften we get too busy ,or just plain forget to use that core value in almost all of us.

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Roger Steare recently spoke at a meeting  and he talked passionately about the need to get back to using our core values at work. We care about the things that matter close to us -our families (and/or animals!)  and yet so often at work the culture dulls what we know is intrinsically right -the universals that make us civilised.  The too tight job description so we don’t ‘go the extra mile’.  The rules that stifle common sense

Perhaps it’s time to take stock and not wait for a disaster to bring out the best in us .We all do care  it’s now time to show it

Change and choice the answer is in your hands

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Every Year around Christmas we start thinking about the new year and many of us make resolutions far too difficult to keep-especially if it is something that will break a long time habit e.g Not going to the gym ,or not eating sensibly!

Well its Matariki now the Maori New Year and as it is in the middle of our very long wet and cold winter maybe its time to make some resolutions and call them choices.

We all can make choices .Whether it is to take a breath and count to ten before we say things that are best not said. or perhaps its time to make the choice of saying what does need to be said -the courageous conversation. And we can always make the choice to enhance our skills and develop our potential -find out what we ‘can do’ rather than what we can’t.

It is a great time to change just think of it as your new New Year-Matariki.

Presenting to different types of people

Monday, May 11th, 2009

When planning a presentation, make sure you think about the mindset of the main group in your audience. Don’t present as you would be presented to; your audience might not like that!

A simple form of four quadrant behavioural style is a very practical way to look at four key different types of needs in an audience. There is a good summary of a four quadrant framework at: What planet is my audience from? .

1. Work out roughly which of the four types fits you. Whilst you no doubt have a wonderfully subtle personality, this main style is how you instinctively communicate – it is your default option. Unless you stop and think about it, you will use that main style.

So the solution is clear – stop and think about it!
2. Think about the most common type in your audience and prepare your presentation on the basis of their needs, not yours. Sometimes you will know the personalities of the key decision makers and can use the right approach for them. On other occasions, certain types dominate in particular jobs – IT attracts analysis driven people, social work attracts people who are very focused on how people feel and so on.

Some occupational groups attract certain types. If you are presenting to a group of farmers, many in the audience will be very task-focused and interested in the end point, not the journey along the way. Of course, not all of them will be like this, but this type will cover a fair proportion of the group. With such groups, give them the facts, get to the point quickly and give them room to make up their own minds.

Catering for some of the various types may require you to get creative. However, we can all communicate in a way that suits the other types, but for some of the styles we need to really consciously think about it.  The key is to present in the way the audience wants.
Try it out and enjoy the increase in audience engagement.