Monday, November 26, 2012

The Certainty of... Uncertainty

When you don't know what to do... what do you do?
Do you dig in... or do you fold?
Do you seek out the answer... or do you determine there isn't one?
Do you step up... or step back?
Do you take a risk on something... or seek safety by doing nothing?
Do you create a new path... or do you settle for the ground most travelled?

It is in your moments of uncertainty that we get the opportunity to see who you really are.  Your choices define you, determine your brand and let us know - CLEARLY - who you 'really' are... not who you tell us you are.

What do your past choices, in those moments of uncertainty, say about you? 
What do you want them to say?
What do you need to do differently?
What step can you take NOW to make a start?

Not knowing what to do is a common occurrence.  It is your common response to it that defines you.  Create your desired definition and make choices that support it, to create a strong brand message for others to read.  This... is certain.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Purpose of Customer Service

I'm in the midst of moving.  The house, the businesses... it's chaotic and never as straight forward as it should be.  Issues arise concerning repairs that need to be made, furniture that no longer works in the new place, appliances that don't fit, services that can't (or won't) transfer to the new 'geographic' location which is only 5 minutes away.  I am frustrated, looking for help, seeking answers.

And then... I enter your store.  I have a question about whether you have a specific product that you can sell me.  It is not on your shelves.  I have looked.  I need to know if you can get it for me, I am willing to pay.  I need a yes/no answer to make me happy.  Should be simple... right?

There is a store full of associates, all of whom approach me asking if they can help.  The downside though?  They can't.  No one knows the answer and, apparently, no one can find the answer except the 'one guy' in a department they don't work in.  They quietly drift off, pulling out their cells, leaning against display cases, texting.  I am still without an answer because the 'one-guy' is busy chatting with another customer.

I get that.  He's busy.  If I were that customer I would want him to focus on me and not waste my time answering questions for everyone else but me.  Except...  he does nothing to acknowledge me in any way.  No eye contact to say 'hey, I know you're waiting, bear with me I will be there as soon as I can'... no raised hand to indicate 'give me 5 minutes and I'm all yours'...  nothing.

I continue to wait.  10 minutes and... nothing.  Nothing but a studious intent to not make eye contact or acknowledge me in any way.  20 minutes... 30.  40 minutes and... I'm gone.  I go home, go online, find my answer, make my purchase... from a competitor.

That associate went home feeling like he had done his job.  He likely made comments about the 'woman' who was in the store but walked out before he could get to her but, hey... not his fault!  He's only one guy and he was busy serving a customer...  that's his job.

In a very small-view way he is right.  However, in the bigger picture he doesn't even come close.  Customer service isn't about the 'one,' it's about the many.  Your business isn't and can't survive by only servicing the few.  You have to be more inclusive of others and find ways to make them feel that you care, you're interested and you're there to help.  At the end of the day, customer service is simply about how you make your customers feel.  Your product offerings, deals, prices, points rewards and return policy are all nice but they don't ensure future sales.  How you make the customer feel about doing business with you will.

That store has lost any future business from me on the basis of that one interaction (or lack of interaction more specifically).  A quick glance my way to acknowledge me, a slight apologetic grin, would have made all the difference.  Instead, I won't be back.  Perhaps not a big deal for them in the long term, I am only one customer.  However, if this is the way they train their staff, if this is representative of how they view customers, then I am likely one of many potential customers that will find what they need elsewhere.

Delivering great Customer Service isn't all that difficult and it doesn't take big money programs.  Think about how you want your customer to feel and then make it happen.  It isn't any more complicated then that.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Power Posing

I love quick fixes.  I have nothing against spending the time needed to truly understand the source of problems, working to eliminate the root of the issue once and for all, but sometimes we just need an answer now.  Sometimes we just need to make our present better, while we do the background work.

When working with busy executives it definitely becomes all about the quick fix.  They need something they can act on right now that will help them in their next meeting, presentation or negotiation.  It needs to be effective and it needs to work fast.  The most popular 'quick fix' addresses the need to appear more confident and powerful.

In order to help with this instantaneous transformation, it is important to understand that the body helps shape the mind.  This means that you can drive your thoughts about yourself and how you interpret the world based solely on how you 'move' through life.  Therefore, if we want to shift how you are feeling about yourself and how you appear to others, we shift the way you hold and carry yourself.  You adopt a Power Pose.

Research addressing this very issue* has found that getting participants to adopt a power pose for as little as two minutes made them...

  • more willing to take risks
  • present their ideas with greater enthusiasm and confidence
  • perform better in demanding situations
  • experience an increase in testosterone, a hormone linked to assertiveness
  • experience a decrease in cortisol, a hormone linked to stress
The findings clearly supported the fact that adopting a Power Pose makes you feel more powerful and therefore results in your acting more powerful.  Just two minutes of Preparatory Power Posing, prior to engaging in a task, optimizes the brain to function better during those challenges.

In any Power Pose the main goal is to open your body up to take up more space.  In essence, you want to make yourself look as 'big' as you can.  I remember camping one year at Algonquin Park when my youngest son was maybe about 5.  My husband, son and I were sitting around the campfire one evening when a wolf came walking through the campsite, pausing just on the other side of the fire.  This was not a normal occurrence by any stretch, but what was unnerving was having that wolf pause and stare straight at my young son.  

I followed the wolf's gaze and saw that my son was tucked into a small ball, curled up in his camp chair.  I immediately told him quietly to slowly put his feet on the ground and to extend his arms out toward his father and me... effectively making him appear much larger.  The wolf stood watching closely as my son, in essence, grew larger.  He moved on.  The next morning we learned that the wolf had 'stolen' a small dog from a campsite down the path from us, shortly after leaving our site.  Perceived size and power mattered a great deal that day.

In business you want to recognise that taking up space equates with power as much as it does in the wild.  Powerless people contract their bodies inward, hunching in on themselves, making themselves appear smaller.  Powerful people expand out, opening themselves physically up to the world.

To practice your Power Posing, adopt one of the following power poses...
  1. Stand with an open stance, feet one to one and half shoulder widths apart.  Distribute your weight evenly between your feet so you are centered and firmly planted.  Extend your spine upward so that you are fully erect, your head is up and your eyes are looking directly ahead.  Place your hands on your hips or above your head in a wide 'V' position
  2. In a seated position stretch your legs out fully in front of you, propping them up on a desk or table.  Lean back in your chair and place your hands behind your head, lacing the fingers and angling your elbows out and away from your head.
Consider engaging in a couple of minutes of Preparatory Power Posing just before heading off to your next important meeting to ensure that you enter that room with a heightened level of confidence and power.  How you interact with others during those first opening moments serves to set the tone for what follows.  Let them see your confidence right from the start.  Remember... although you may feel that you are merely 'posing', your brain doesn't know the difference.  If you carry yourself confidently and powerfully, your brain will assume you must BE confident and powerful and will therefore ensure that you FEEL confident and powerful.  Give it a try.  It could just prove to be two of the most effective minutes you've ever spent.

*see work by Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Problem with Problem-Seeking

You know them... those people that seem to move from one issue to another, one crisis after another.  We are astounded at just how much life seems to toss at them since they are always facing a new problem, a new issue, a new barrier.

We all run into unexpected and unanticipated problems from time to time.  Nothing tests our resilience like some of the curve balls that life manages to throw our way.  However, there are those that are not content to wait for those infrequent pitches, they actively seek out new problems themselves.

They may hide behind the belief that they are merely being proactive in dealing with the issue now, but make no mistake...
If you go looking for problems, you will always find them
Sometimes the problems we face are those of our own creation.

I don't want to minimize real issues and problems that you are facing.  Know that you can count on me to be there to support and help you through the problem in whatever way I can.  But I do want to acknowledge the small contingent of drama queens out there that get a 'rush' being on the short end of the stick, that craft their problems with a deft hand, ensuring that they are regularly in crisis.  They are addicted to the high that comes from dealing with problems.  They love the adrenaline rush, the attention and 'poor you's' they receive, the false belief that they are 'strong' for having to cope with so much, so often.

To these people specifically I say... No More!
An emergency and crisis on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.
No more will I put my life on pause to hold your hand through a crisis of your making
No more will I listen to your tirades, your tears, rants and raves
No more will I sacrifice hours of my time and life to support yours
No more will I allow myself to be drawn into your tragedies and dramas

I prefer my life to run more as a  romantic comedy, less as a tragedy.  I'm not saying you can't enjoy your drama and play it out on the big screen in surround sound... just don't invite me to attend the viewing.  I'm sure I'm busy that night!