Category Archives: communication

12 Questions to Inspire your Business

Think of the best place you’ve ever worked in your career, or the most highly reputable business with whom you have been involved — what was the magic formula that made the workplace so special?

One of my favorite business books,  First Break All the Rules, offers the closest formula of 12 business attributes that have been distilled from thousands of interviews with the world’s most successful managers and organizations.  The book frames business wisdom in the form of 12 questions that are easily asked by any manager in any organization.  If your business answers these 12 questions with a strong positive correlation, you likely run a top notch group or organization that is inspired, motivated and achieving consistent business results.

Without giving away all of the secrets of this book, the 12 questions provide common sense clues to building an inspired team or organization.

For example, rank your department between 1 and 5 (1=never, 5=always):

“I have clear expectations of my job”

“I have all the resources I need to do my job”

“I have been given feedback (positive or constructive) within the last 7 days by my supervisor”  …..and so on

Those questions where your team answers in the lower quartile?   you probably need some work in that area.  I have used this 12 question template several times to create a baseline of morale and capability when joining a new department.  It’s a great tool to define opportunities for business change, inspire new business capability and build improved results within a team.

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3 Signals Your Boss Might View You as “High Maintenance”

In the past two weeks, I have run into numerous conversations with bosses and subordinates dealing with emotional issues.    The common theme:  supervisor feels he/she deserves a promotion/sabbatical/special recognition and boss doesn’t believe the supervisor has earned it.   In all of those cases, the supervisor was significantly annoying the boss and didn’t even realize it.

Signal #1  –  I have approached my boss twice in the past year to discuss promotion / recognition and what I deserve

   –  I have approached other senior managers to state my case in the past year

–  I approached my boss first

–  I have interrupted my boss more than once for these discussions

Signal #2  –  I spent at least 3 hours this week, and more than one meeting,  arguing my case with the boss.

–  We talked about my career and I presented my arguments for why I deserve a promotion/ sabbatical/ special recognition.

–  I stated the same reasons more than once, in more than one meeting

–  I spent way more time talking about my career/ issue than I usually spend with my boss

Signal #3 – My boss repeated the same message to me in each meeting (the message didn’t change)

– My boss told me I wasn’t ready for what I requested, and gave me examples

– Other managers answered me in the same theme, similar message as my boss did.

–  Others have stopped approaching me about my concerns;  I always approach them.

If more than half of these signals could apply to you, then your boss possibly views you as a “high maintenance” employee who needs calming down or recognition periodically in order to keep you motivated.  Repeated conversations with senior managers on the same theme will not convince your bosses that you are more capable or more deserving.

Remember that bosses look at RESULTS.

– What have you delivered in your role?

– What new skills and deliverables have you provided in the past 2 years?

– Compared to others in the roles / situations that you aspire to, do you have the same years of experience?

– Do you have the same track record of delivery (volume/size, dollar value, project or technical complexity, political,team-building experience, people-handling)?

– Try to be honest with yourself.

– If you do have a solid history of delivering results at the same level of complexity, size, risk and strategic level as your benchmark competitors, you may have to leave your current company to be recognized.   If so, good luck!

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Create a Family Vision – Strengthen your Family Unit

This is a guest post by Jesse Lynn Stoner

Today’s children live in a world where stress and pressure comes at them from countless sources – from peers, teachers, and coaches to the media that paints a picture of unattainable perfection, parents who want the best but sometimes push too hard, and a world that that can seem painfully harsh.

In their own homes, children can watch a war in another country in real-time. And it is difficult to tell the difference between what is real and the simulated violence in movies and electronic games.

Statistics in the United States are alarming. According to SADD, nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teenage marijuana and other drug use is on the rise for the first time in ten years. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, over 40% of all teenagers with Internet access report being bullied online.

How can we protect our children?

Clearly there are no easy answers. However, parents are not helpless in the face of these challenges.  There are some things you can do to create a strong foundation for your children as they experience the pressures of their world.

One of the best places to start is to create a family vision.

Athletes and great leaders understand the power of vision. Vision means knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey. Families can also harness the power of vision.

Business executive Jack Bates and his wife created a family vision with their daughters when they were 7 and 9 years old.

They sat at the kitchen table with the girls. They each talked about what the family meant to them, what they wanted it to be and what they needed from each other. They then wrote a family vision, which they taped to the refrigerator.

Over the years, they used the vision to make decisions and to explain actions. As a family they revisited the vision regularly, updating it as the girls got older.  According to Jack,

If you read our family vision, it might not sound like much to you, but it means very real things to each of us because we discussed it at length before we wrote. We remember the meaning behind the words.  It provided guidance when I had to make tough decisions.  And it helped the children understand the reason for these decisions. We used the vision to help determine specific household chores, allowance, and privileges. When our older daughter was in high school, she used our vision to help me see that I was lecturing her too much and not listening enough.  The vision helped our younger daughter once in a very tough situation to resist peer pressure and make a good decision.

How can a vision equip your children face the demands, stress and challenges of today’s world?

Vision provides children with a strong foundation.  It helps them know who they are.  It gives them a base to test their decisions against.

Having a vision is not just a picture of the destination.  It also means having clear values that guide your journey.  When someone is off-base, your vision can be used to hold each other accountable (both children and parents) and to get back on track.

Use these guidelines to create and live your family vision.

Create the vision together.  Listen to each other’s hopes and dreams.  Create shared pictures of what it would look like if you were living your purpose and values consistently.  Talk until everyone has agreed and is committed to the vision.

  1. Maintain the vision.  As a parent, hold yourself, your spouse and your children accountable to the vision.  If it looks like someone has behaved inconsistently with the vision, it is time to sit down and discuss what happened in terms of the vision.  Set household rules and limits that are consistent with the vision.
  2. Model the vision.  The adults in the house must act as role models that demonstrate the behaviors consistent with the vision.
  3. When you encounter tough times, revisit the vision.  The vision provides a great frame of reference to have discussions without blame or finger pointing.  It allows you to focus on what you need to do, rather than making people defensive.

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Invest in Customer Service – it’s just like a bank account

CUSTOMER SERVICE – everyone uses the buzzword these days.  So WHY is servicing the customer such a big deal?

Think of your customer relationship as a bank account.

Everything you do for the customer will impact your business, either positively (like a “deposit”) or negatively (like a “withdrawal”)

a)  How do you INVEST in your customer?

– get to know their likes and dislikes

– anticipate their needs ahead of time

– follow up on queries or complaints

– go the extra mile to exceed their expectations

b) What are the benefits of investing? 

– Increased revenue opportunities

– Increased competitive edge

– Stellar reputation

“I’ll buy more accessories or added services”

“I’ll buy from you again next time I need something!”

“I’ll recommend you to my friends and associates”

“I’ll ask you to provide other, new services if I trust you”

                                        $   $   $   $   $   $   $   $

c) What are the negatives, or WITHDRAWALS on customer goodwill?

– Be sloppy, late, and deliver low quality in your product/service

– Ignore the customer’s complaints

– Don’t provide warranty or “fix” your mistakes

c) What is the negative impact to you?

– Corporate revenues will decline

– Your reputation will be tarnished

– your competitive edge will erode

“I’ll tell everyone about the bad service I received”

“I’ll never come back again”

Remember that every negative event can have up to nine times the impact as a positive event — investing constantly in customer service is essential to maintain your business.

Pay constant attention:  you can go from “hero” to “zero” by one bad episode that sticks in a customer’s memory. 

Bottom Line:  Invest in great moments for your customer, and watch your business take off!

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