How old are your stories? Revitalize your relationships!

How would your customers and suppliers describe your conversations — and your business relationship?


Barely tolerable?


Ho Hum?

Is your business relationship tired and nondescript, with “duty meetings” as the norm?  Are your business contacts so bored with the same routine discussion that they can hardly wait to finish and escape the meeting?

In your personal life, are your friends and family seemingly distant and  showing little interest in conversations with you?

One of the best techniques to trigger new meaning and engagement in your life is to ask yourself the question,

“How old are my stories?”  

Think about your answer, and consider the improvements you could make in your business and personal life with new stories:

a) Grab your audience’s attention

Compare your last conversation with good old granny, who repeats the same stories over and over each time you see her (yawning already, right?), to conversation with a friend who travels to new international vacation places each year and adds at least one hobby or personal activity annually to their routine.  Which is more engaging and enjoyable?

Think back to a great speaking event you attended.  What were the elements that the speaker used to grab your attention?  I’ll bet good stories and examples was a key part of the presentation.

Now consider your own recent conversations.  Did you really get folks’ attention and stimulate their thinking?

b) Gain credibility with fresh information, data, impressions

Some of the best business functions I have attended included updates on fascinating trends in my industry or my profession.  When someone presents a topic of interest in a new way or from a unique viewpoint, they add value to my own thinking and gain credibility for adding that new viewpoint.

How can you refresh your data, information and approach to business topics in your own personal conversations?Is there an opportunity to catch the eye of a new customer and increase your own credibility by contributing innovative stories or trends in a conversation?

c) Refocus and revitalize your personal goals

How to break out of the boring stale old patterns?  Make a bucket list that will guarantee you bring some new ideas and stories to the table at your next meeting or event.  You can actually make TWO bucket lists:

 – one for personal objectives (to help revitalize your thinking and your personal life)

 – one for business objectives (to create a new focus on more innovative business goals)

Think outside the normal routine, and search for ways to build new stories – it will surely revitalize your personal and business life!


Bankers who make finance fun – wow your customers!

Do you go bowling at your bank?  
This is the story of Umpqua Holdings, based on a story by Bill Taylor in The Harvard Business Review.
Ray Davis, president and CEO, joined the Umpqua bank in 1994 and has transformed this small Oregon-based bank (6 branches and $150 million in assets) to a community-branded institution sporting 183 branches throughout the Pacific Northwest and $11 billion in assets.
How?  By thinking creatively and using disruptive innovation.

 Umpqua developed a very creative strategy to make its branches distinctive and unique from every other bank.  They designed an “experience” that would wow their customers by imagining, or more precisely, “reimagining” the customer experience at every level.

Davis puts it this way: “If you took a person, blindfolded them, sent them to a bank, and took the blindfold off, 99% percent of them would say, ‘I’m in some bank somewhere.’ We want our customers to say, ‘I’m in an Umpqua bank.’ We don’t want the experience of banking here to feel like banking anywhere else.”

Umpqua’s business model:   designed the branches to appeal to all five human senses:

What should a bank look like?      – Sleek, well-appointed, like a Starbucks or high end art gallery

What should a bank sound like?  – Music invites customers to interact.  Umpqua signs indie bands to its Discover Local Music project and invites customers to listen to songs on in-branch kiosks or download them from the Web. It even sells compilation CDs of the best songs.

What should a bank smell like?    – In the Pacific Northwest, the answer, of course, is coffee.  Branch employees are happy to brew customers a cup of the bank’s own Umpqua Blend (which it also sells by the pound).

What should a bank taste like?    – Every transaction ends at Umpqua with a piece of gold-wrapped chocolate served on a silver platter.

What should a bank feel like?        – Umpqua has branded their branches to elicit a community flavor.  Some events include hosting neighbourhood activities, book clubs, movie nights, and even a bowling league (using  Wii technology on large high-definition screens).

“People come to the South Portland store in the middle of the day with their bowling shirts on,” Davis marvels. “Some customers are waiting to see their banker, and others are bowling! It’s incredible. It creates an environment where people say, ‘That was fun, let’s go back.'”

Umpqua’s strategy:  ‘ We have a one-of-a-kind value proposition in our industry.”

How many of us can shift our thinking to this level of value proposition, and really “WOW” our customer?

Applying for a job? Clean up your facebook

Looking to impress someone in a job interview?

Many potential employees do not think about the type of impression they leave on their facebook account – I have seen several horror stories in the past few weeks.  Here are a few highlights  discussed within my circle of business peers:

1) A recent job candidate passed a telephone interview and two personal interviews.  During final negotiations on salary, he posted a comment on his facebook wall: “Going to start a new job at XYZ company.  Guess I’ll get my desk and then wait to see how long I’m in this crappy job before I get screwed”.   The HR manager read this facebook post as part of final due diligence – he didn’t get the job.

2) When recruiting for an executive assistant in a very conservative organization, 5 of the 12 shortlist candidates were immediately eliminated due to inappropriate pictures of partying/drinking on their open facebook pages.  Another candidate ranted about her ex-husband with foul and nasty comments.  Still another had wall posts with sexual play-by-play commentary (just google “embarassing facebook”  images for some hilarious facebook screenshots that would be unprintable in this blog).

3) After a job interview, a candidate posted comments on a friend’s facebook wall with derogatory (bigoted) impressions about the interviewer.  Guess who read the facebook post?

4) A young person needing rental accommodation applied for a roommate spot in a high end complex.  Her facebook page showed wild partying pictures and grunge preferences.  This turned off the prospective roommates, who backed out of the shared accommodation deal.

Remember:  your Facebook Posts, Photos and Wall are a permanent record. Your friends, your associations, your comments all contribute to your persona and reputation.  Make sure you always present at your best!

Potatoes, Eggs or Coffee? A great parable….

Once upon a time, there was a young woman. Her life was full of tribulations and complications. She wanted to give up this constant struggle and spend a serene life. It seemed as one problem solved a new one arose.

She went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed potatoes, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about 20 minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the potatoes out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

“Potatoes, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the potatoes. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. She asked her mother in puzzlement, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The potato went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg or a coffee bean?”


Now ask yourself:

Are you the potato that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do you become soft and lose your strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have you become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. Are you like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate yourself to another level?

— guest post (minor edits) from  Continue reading Potatoes, Eggs or Coffee? A great parable….