Are You Really as Good as You Think You Are?

Man talking to himselfDo you use yourself as an example of what everyone on your team should be like? When hiring, are you trying to find more of you?  If so, stop it!

Chances are, there are some things you are pretty good at, perhaps even a whole lot of things. There may even be one or two things you are really good at. While there are some people who have been promoted past their level of competence or people skills, most people are in a supervisory or management role because they demonstrated capability. Awesome. That very probably applies to you as well.

Now for the reality check. Just because you are good in some key areas, does not mean you are good in all of them.  Just because you think and believe one way, does not make it the only right  way.

Hiring a bunch of mini-me’s serves only two purposes.

  1. It feeds your ego.
  2. It stops meaningful conversation. After all, a group of people agreeing on everything, including how amazing they are and how everyone else needs to be like them, does nothing to take your business to the next level.

If you are brave enough, identify your areas of weakness.  (Really brave supervisors and managers will ask the people around them to identify their weaknesses.)Then go and find people who are strong in those areas. Next … let them shine.  Don’t take credit for their good work by telling everyone how amazingly smart you were to have hired them. All you’re doing then is turning the spotlight back on you. (See point 1 above)

Find people brave enough to let you know when they don’t agree. Wait … let me rephrase. Create an environment where people don’t need to be brave to let you know when they disagree with you. Quite frankly, if this isn’t in place, there is no point in asking others to share their insight on areas of weakness as per the previous paragraph.  That will be an exercise in futility, unless the intent was to feed your ego and hear things like “I can’t think of a thing” or “Oh no, you are amazing.  Nothing wrong with you.”

An effective, engaged team is made up of individuals who recognize and acknowledge individual strengths and weaknesses. They are strong enough to ask for, accept and offer help when needed.  Individuals on a team agree on and work towards a common vision, but their perception of how to achieve the vision may differ greatly. Wonderful. Group think kills creativity.

Go ahead … acknowledge your areas of strength.  Then go and find people who aren’t like you, people who are good or great where you are not, people who bring new ideas to the table, who look at situations from a different perspective and who make you stop and think … “I wish I’d thought of that.”

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice …

同僚にうわさ話されるビジネスマンYears ago, I was facilitating a customer service training session in North Dakota.  One of the service providers said to me, a Canadian, “I hate Canadians. They are cheap and always demand a discount.”  To say I was a little flabbergasted is an understatement.   Hating a large percentage of your customer base is not a good thing.

The one thing I will give her is that she didn’t talk smack about the citizens of my country behind my back … she told me straight up, to my face. There are a whole lot of service providers who have no problem labelling or mocking their customers behind their back.

I’ve heard and read comments, in log books and social media, that mock a customer’s intelligence.  I’ve heard and read comments, in log books and social media, that describe a customer as high maintenance, demanding and rude.

Yes, some customers are more difficult to serve than others, but laughing at a customer because they asked a “stupid” question (stupid in your mind, not theirs) is unkind and a true customer focused person is not unkind.

Labelling a customer as high maintenance, rude or obnoxious is assuming that your perception of their behaviour at one moment in time is exactly what everyone else would perceive as well.  It also assumes that what perhaps is a moment of rudeness is indicative of the way that person behaves all the time.

A moment that still causes me to blush with shame involved me, a plane and a mom with a young baby.  I’d been away on business for almost a week.  I was tired. I wanted to get home and I HATE the middle seat.  When I boarded, in my window seat was a young mom with her very young baby.  She explained that she did have the middle seat but with the baby, the window seat was a better option.  Did I demand my window seat back?  No, but I sure was grumpy and begrudging about sitting in the middle seat. There were huffs, puffs, eye rolls and  muttering involved. My ungracious behaviour caught the attention of the flight attendant. There was an empty seat on the plane so she asked the person in the aisle seat if she would be willing to move so I could move over one seat.  She did and I moved over.  The thing is, the entire time I was acting all high-maintenance and princessy, I knew I was acting badly and before the plane landed, I was having a lovely conversation with the young mom.  That initial bad behaviour did not reflect who I am 98% of the time.  But nobody on that plane knew that. The thing is, they also couldn’t say with an certainty that I was always like that.

When we mock our customers or start labelling them and warning other co-workers about them, we lose our focus on the customer and their experience.  Perhaps instead of leaving notes like “This customer is high maintenance … watch out” we can make an extra effort to be kind, to turn their day around and then leave a note that says “Seems like she had a tough day today … let’s all try to make her stay extra special.”

Thumper’s statement “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is especially important for customer service providers. When you have a challenging customer, don’t complain about it to your friends and colleagues, don’t put a warning note in a log book or a customer’s file and for heaven’s sake, don’t post it on social media!

Good habits, bad habits, old habits and new habits

personal development word cloudHave you noticed how much easier it is to fall back into old habits than it is to maintain new, positive habits?

So often, we know exactly what it is we need to do in order to be stronger and healthier, physically and financially, personally and professionally and yet .. we either don’t make the changes necessary or we don’t maintain positive, new direction.

Why is that? Personally, I think it’s because a lot of times, we don’t really buy into, believe or want the results the change in behaviour or attitude will bring. Other times, quite frankly, we get a rush or a kick out of the results our “negative” behaviour provides.

For example:

Unless you truly believe that taking (making?) the time to connect with your team in the morning is more important than checking emails, that change in behaviour won’t last more than six weeks.

Unless you truly believe that taking a break and stepping away from your computer screen and going for a walk or joining the table in the lunch room is going to improve relationships and productivity, that change in behaviour won’t last for more than six weeks. The same applies if working through lunch feeds your ego and makes you feel indispensable.

We make a lot of promises to ourselves and those around us because we’ve read blog posts, research paper, or participated in workshops, etc but unless we believe that the change will provide a personal benefit (yes .. sometimes, being selfish and looking after YOU is absolutely the right thing to do) … we quickly fall back into old habits.

Or perhaps we’ve just decided to make too many changes all at once. Outside of one person I know (whose New Year’s Resolution list generally tops 20 bullet points!) most of us need to focus on change in one, two or maybe three areas at at time.

Whatever the reason … if you’re finding yourself falling back into old habits, ask yourself why and refocus. Find YOUR reason, not anyone else’s or, take your list, prioritize and focus on one, two or three at at time. The others aren’t lost .. they are just on hold.

How Can I Make Your Day Just a Little Bit Better?

Childlike drawing of the sun and sky with crayonsA simple question that can turn someone’s ho-hum or lousy day around …

“How can I make your day just a little bit better?”

This question doesn’t have to be spoken out loud, but can instead be the quiet voice inside that turns the focus off of ourselves and onto the other person. When we ask that question, we can’t help but take notice of the person in front of us as someone more than a co-worker, a customer or whatever label we associate them with. When we notice the person behind the label, it is easier to see past the tiredness, perhaps the crankiness. We may even see the tiredness and sadness behind the smile.

Very often the answer to that question is as simple as a smile, a warm welcome, some undivided attention, or a listening ear. It may be an offer of assistance, a cup of tea, a gentle touch. Children seem to have this naturally. They offer hugs, dandelions, a crayon drawing … simple treasures. As adults, many of us have complicated the simple act of caring about someone else, or we look for others to recognize our hurt first, or we focus on the solution instead of the emotion.

We all have the unique opportunity to make someone’s day just a bit better.

Whose day will you make brighter today?

(This is a slightly revised version of a December 2013 post. With this busy season upon us, it’s easy to focus on our to-do list and lose focus of the person in front of us.)

Core Values, Sustaining Beliefs and Supporting Actions

core valuesI was involved in a rather interesting philosophical Facebook discussion this last week. My question was, “When a person chooses to change their action or reactions or if they experience minute or radical shifts in beliefs, does it change who they are at their core?”

My take on this was … no, in many cases, who we are at our core doesn’t change even though our beliefs, what or who we value or how we act or react, changes.

People who believe, at their very core, that continued personal growth is a necessary part of their life, reinforce that core value each and every time they adapt or adopt a belief that moves them towards a better version of themselves.

I recently read an open letter written by a pastor of a fundamental, Anabaptist church ( As with many fundamentalist, Anabaptist believers, for years he believed and preached that homosexuality was a sin. Then one of his sons came out and he was forced to re-examine this belief. After much searching, discussion and reflection, he radically shifted his belief from one of exclusion to one of inclusion and then acted on this new belief by officiating at his son’s wedding to a male partner.

Some people define that type of radical shift as a shift in core values. I see it another way. This man considered himself a man of God, put here on this earth to share God’s word. His radical shift in a sustaining belief did not change that.  His view of God’s love and how to share that love changed. The people he believes should be included in the make up his churches’ flock has changed, but his core value, or definition of himself and his life purpose, did not change.

To me, core values are how we describe ourselves or our purpose here on earth. Sustaining beliefs and supporting actions fulfill those values. As we grow, as we learn and experience new things, our beliefs on how we fulfill that purpose and our corresponding actions, very often do change.

I believe I have a responsibility to make the world around me a better place. Over my lifetime, the size of the world around me has at times shrunk or expanded. I have examined and rejected some previously held beliefs as to what is good or what is in need of change. Other beliefs were reinforced upon deeper examination. But even though my beliefs and actions have changed, my core value remains intact.

So what does this have to do with business?

Too many businesses, just like too many individuals, are unable to answer the question “What do we/I hold dear? Why are we here? What makes us unique?”

Without core values, we tend to drift rudderless, we shift direction without purpose or understanding. Sometimes core values are established when we take time to examine beliefs and consciously chose which ones to let go of or hold on to. It’s important though, not to become so attached to beliefs that we stop examining, questioning and searching and then adapting or adopting actions to support new or revised beliefs. Without change, we become stagnant and could lose our purpose.

What are your core values? What beliefs do you or your business hold that support those values? Are your beliefs and actions congruent with your core values?