Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Refocus your attention

Do you find yourself...
  • exasperated
  • short fused
  • jumpy
  • snapping at the slightest irritation

Take some steps to refocus your attention so that you can respond in a more productive way.

Someone's point of view is causing you to fantasize your hands around their neck: Usually you should walk away from confrontation. Getting away from the source of the frustration normally results in cooler heads prevailing. In work scenarios, this may not be an option.

To unblock the road to compromise:
  • Listen to the other side. Don't focus on their obvious stupidity, but their point. What in the crux of their argument?
  • Devils advocate: take their point and pit it against yours. Would it last a round or be KO'd in seconds. Does their idea have the substance to go a few rounds?
  • Focus on what you have in common. Do you agree the sun rises in the east? point it in writing. Verbally going over and/or writing down similar stances saves time and provides a firm jumping off point to resolution

Bad day began with bad hair... and is only getting worse: Everywhere you look you see potential issues and new worries. Our brains are wired to look for relationships among our individual worlds. As a species, it's how we figured out innovations like farming and rocket science. Unfortunately it is also the catalyst that drives UFO and other conspiracy theories. Your brain is going to make connections between events in the day and it is up to you to be make sure that your bad morning doesnt turn into a bad day.

  • Take a step back and breath: Serenity now, serenity now
  • Get a new perspective: Look at things in their real-world context. A red light stopping you on the way to work that is normally green is not a sign that your promotion was denied.
  • Take ownership of your problems: Don't let your brain trick you into thinking everything was the result of a bad day. Coffee gets spilled because of gravity and carelessness. Accpet issues for what the are, solve if possible, but always move on.

Sooooo much to do!:
Your full plate of to-dos has three courses behind it and you can't take another bite. Putting your head down and working hard worked a for few exams in college when you had to cram, so you usually try that. Unfortunately for you, that was when you didn't have kids, a real job, or other responsibilities. Real life is hard.

Prioritize: Take a minute (or two or hours) and get a firm grip on what NEEDS to be done. It isn't always that apparent and is usually time sensitive. T - 48 hours and you can fret over slide layout for the big presentation. At 3 am the morning of an 8 am product pitch, you should be less inclined to go over the aesthetics of individual slides. Need some help? Plot your todos along this matrix and accomplish the quadrant one first, making sure everything is accounted for.

Get help: Don't be the guy that shows up unprepared only to gloriously fail, embarrassing your boss and everyone associated with you . If a project is getting too big and time is slipping away, ask for help. The "Doug Flutie" approach to work is great for not bruising your ego when you find yourself in a pinch. If successful, you, your only fan, is elated.

The key is to win the game before the 4th quarter. Keep in mind that Boston College has played thousands of football games, and won by hail mary maybe twice. Prepare, plan for the game, and call in reinforcements when needed so that you can be just another person who gets to put that mark in the "w" column.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Read like a Ninja!

Slogging through email or large word documents is necessary sometimes. When big pieces of reading trap you and stop you from doing something else, use that as an opportunity to train yourself.

Spreeder will help read like a Ninja!

Spreeder, at the beginning, displays only one word at a time at a very fast clip. It is enough for you to understand but faster than you would read normally. It trains your brain to process words faster.

It is awesome. I have used it for a few days and it is addicting. Just follow their instructions in this link to get it working in your browser. Highlight the text you need to read, drag, drop, and hold on. Soon you will be able to up the ante and get more words on the screen, reading faster than before.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Give Productivity the power of Friendship!

A new book, Vital Friends from Tom Rath touts the power of friendship in producing an office full of engaged, producitive employees.

I imagined some kind of Care Bear stare to turn the staff into bubbly. whistling cogs seamless integrated into the corporate machine. But as it turns out, the book turns some of the industry rational on its head with old fashioned logic.

Some bosses would consider an abundance of friendships on the job a drain on company time. The difference is that the added camaraderie has positive influences on communication and overall good feelings. Gallup, whom Tom Rath worked for, places a lot on emphasis on engagement as a goal for managers seeking extra productivity.

Gallup has surveyed companies for years and has shown that people with friends on the job are 7 times more likely to be engaged. That is big considering that "engaged employees" are:
  • 44% more profitable
  • 50% more profitable
  • demonstrate 50% higher degree of customer loyalty

Friday, July 11, 2008

Think of your Employees as Dirt

Nice, soft dirt. Your customer service team and forward facing departments are beds where ideas could grow like a well-cultivated garden. Or, like a haven of weeds and insects, you can let your attention and investment lapse until you have a larger problem. Dirt can yield weeds or something useful; the important thing to note is that it needs attention.
  • Fertilizer: Adding resources like dual-monitors or knowledge management systems gives productivity a boost.
  • Sunlight/ Water: Like plants who grow taller or bigger to reap a larger haul of resources, giving out more authority to high-performers or just generally rewarding those who show engagement is a great way to reap benefits of on the job training.
  • Vegetables and Fruit: New products, internal promotions, and better service are things you can look forward to after a good harvest.
  • Weeds and Bugs: Little attention and poor or unsupervised application of additional resources will result in lackluster/ inedible results.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hire Creative People for the Win

Ask yourself a question. What will the world look like in 5 years? What will your market look like in 5 years? 10 years?
If you think you have a good idea then great. You are ahead of the curve. But what about the things you don’t know or aren’t aware of? In 2005, how much did you think your house was going to be worth in 2008?
Creative employees are better able to handle issues and changing environments than employees who show up for their paycheck. Their natural curiosity often leads to better service and new solutions to nagging problems.
Here are some ways you can bring out latent creativity in your current workforce or attract the Picasso of customer service.
  1. Show appreciation for a job well done. They will be more willing to share additional ideas or accomplishments.
  2. Give them the opportunity to do more. Creative people often get bored quickly. The chance to tackle new issues or learn something new will be attractive to them.
  3. More responsibility. By limiting the scope of responsibility, you often hamper an individuals chance to affect positive change. Sure you mitigate risk this way, but a wider set of parameters empowers your team.
  4. Room to fail. There is always a downside. Sometimes, these creative people get dumb ideas. But by fostering a forgiving/ learning atmosphere, you create an environment that will nurture your company’s future.
  5. Hire freelancers for projects. They are creative and self-dependent enough to go it alone, making them great candidates for your most important projects. Plus job stability in enticing and you have the chance with what amounts to a long interview over the course of a project to think about hiring them full-time.

Ken Robinson on Creativity

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How do you treat New Customers?

See Like An Outsider In 3 Not-So-Easy (But Worth It) Steps
If you’re already an insider, this won’t be easy. Once you’re “inside the bottle,” reading the label on the outside requires serious mental contortions

Angled towards copywriters, this article contains valuable insight into methods for looking at your business as a new customer. The ability to see your customer service through this lens can be an eye opener.
I particularly liked the the last two suggestions:
Frame ideas like Martin Scorsese
Movie directors frame their shots in order to force viewers to focus on the intended point of action, while live stage theaters literally spotlight performers. They both make it easy for the casual observer to know exactly what to focus on, to know what’s important at that moment.
Picture yourself as a man from Mars, with no background information whatsoever, who just landed at your website for the first time.

Don't assume that your customers know what you are talking about. Make sure that your CSR team focuses on building the relationship and establishing credibility. The sales will come.
Do the “which means ” exercise, then ask “Why?”
Copywriters frequently do the “which means” exercise to draw out the benefits from features and to understand the customer’s real motivations.

Along the same idea as before. By clearly defining the benefit, the feature is explained. Make sure that jargon or shop talk is reserved for inter-office communication. Keep it away from your customer

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bad customer service getting more expensive

“A customer who gets good service will tell one person yet a
customer who gets bad service will tell 10 people”

How true is that today? Does that include conversations held in person? What about emails, instant messaging, twitter, blogs, forums. Etc? With newer forms of communication, the complaints or issues become indexed, searchable, and stored for others to find or receive at the time they are thinking about your business.

Websites like,, and drive their traffic and ad revenue from complaints. Making issues searchable by of type service, date, and company ensures that they will receive the attention of an increasing population that researches their purchases.

Re-investing in your customer facing operations is a great way to inoculate yourself against these trends. Focus on what your employees need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Empower them with responsibilities anchored in a strong company ethos.