Labels are for bins, not people – Repost

Labels let us know where the pens, paper or staples are in the supply room.  Labels save time.  Labels mean we don’t need to look in the bin, box or the jar.   Labels allow us to quickly scan and reject until we find the right label.  The label tells us everything we need to know.

That’s a great concept if the goal is to take a messy, unorganized desk or closet and turn it into a Martha Stewart approved oasis of calm organization.

Labels don’t work so well with people.

Slapping labels on customer or co-workers, based on external appearance or behaviours, does help us categorize them and our response to them.  Unfortunately, the problem with labelling people is we so very often get them wrong.

When we label the loud, angry man as aggressive and obnoxious, we don’t acknowledge the possibility that he may have just had a horrible, terrible day and that he’s reached the end of his rope. We resort to managing the label instead of seeing the person.

When we label young people as impatient and ‘wet behind the ears’, we don’t acknowledge their desire to help make positive change a reality.

When we label old people as stubborn and set in their ways, we lose the opportunity to learn from their experience.

When accountants become ‘number crunchers’ and sales professionals become ‘paid to golf’, the ability to connect and work together becomes exceedingly difficult.

When we label someone as strong and independent, we may assume they don’t need the same level of support as others.  We may miss the signs that show they are struggling and need some help.

Labeling employee as lazy or unmotivated takes away our responsibility to create a positive work environment, built on respect and recognition for their contribution.

Labeling managers or owners as demanding and uncaring takes away our responsibility to bring our A-game to work.

The one benefit to an unlabeled, unorganized closet is the sense of joy and satisfaction when a previously unknown or lost item is found.  I believe the same possibility holds true when we rip our labels off the people we interact with every day.

Ripping off the labels will make our life a little more chaotic and a little messier.  It means the easy answer or the neat solution may no longer work.  But I imagine that amongst the chaos, we may discover a treasure trove of undiscovered knowledge, possibilities and opportunities.

What do you think?

Are you too Smart for Your Own Good?

Young cute professor woman gesturing holding chalkA long time ago, people believed the sun revolved around the earth and that bloodletting was an effective way to treat a variety of ailments.  We now know none of those previous ‘truths’ are true.

Decisions are made based on what we know at the time.  Sometimes, poor decisions are made when all the facts or factors are not known. Sometimes, the opposite is true: For example:

  • When we know we’re not good enough or smart enough or rich enough or poor enough, we give up before we start.
  • Compassion dies and conflict flourishes when we use our knowledge to judge others who have chosen to live or act differently than what we know (believe) to be right.
  • When we know young people are lazy and old people have lost their usefulness, we lose the opportunity to see our world from a new perspective and perhaps, in the process, gain new insight and new ideas.

Many times, what we ‘know’ is nothing more than misconceptions, current societal expectations or even other’s truths we have taken on as our own. Just because something didn’t work once, doesn’t mean it will never work again. Just because it didn’t work for someone else, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. It takes courage to put aside what we know and ask:

  • Is that really true?
  • Is there a better way?

Knowledge is fluid.  Recognize, value and respect the knowledge, experience and wisdom you have, but don’t stop pushing against boundaries of that knowledge.

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This is a revised version of a blog posted way back in 2013.  I am working with a group of very dedicated people and as we continue to grow and improve, all of us have, at times, had to be reminded to open our minds and be willing to put aside what we know.

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.”

Taking Care of Unfinished Business

ChecklistHave you ever had one or two unchecked items on your “what I’m going to do some day” list?

And then everyone once in a while, the opportunity comes up to check off of as complete one of those items on the “unfinished business” list.

I have worked in the service position for over 25 years.  I started waiting on tables at a Boston Pizza, with the sole intent of being there only until I had put myself through university to get a real job.  It turned out, I loved the industry and have been there pretty much ever since, in a variety of roles. But the one role I hadn’t taken on before starting my own training business was general manager.

And then last month, the opportunity came up to manage a new, beautiful, trendy boutique hotel in Winnipeg and I knew that this was my chance to work with and lead a strong, committed service team. Today was day one and from the moment I walked into the Mere Hotel, I knew choosing to put my training and consulting business on hold was the right decision.

Therefore, Servicedge Training & Consulting is part of my past. However, I will be continuing to post on customer service, my book “Customer Service from the Inside Out” is going to print next week and I will still be taking on the occasional speaking opportunity.

Thank you for taking the journey with me so far.  I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

What’s your Leadership C.A.R.E. quotient?

The ability of service teams to consistently meet and exceed customer expectations is, in large part, dependent on the person leading the team. While each and every individual on the team is ultimately responsible for their personal commitment to ensuring they show up to work each and every day with a positive, customer focused “I am here for you” attitude, it’s the leader’s responsibility to create the climate that makes that attitude much easier to achieve.

When leaders have an “I am here for you” attitude for the people in their service teams, the likelihood of the people on their team owning their role in increases.  Productivity, efficiency and customer satisfaction rates all improve.  Leaders that C.A.RE. understand that leadership is not a right; it is a gift given freely when people believe they are valued for who they are, not just what they can accomplish.

Leaders that C.A.R.E.:

Create Connections: Most of us want to part of something bigger than just us. We want to believe we are a contributor.  As the leader of a service team, find ways to create connections, internally and externally. When every person on your team understands how the gifts, talents and experience they contribute helps their team and the company they work for achieve success, a community is formed.  When accounting, sales and marketing recognize and respect individual and team responsibilities, accountabilities and contribution, communication and perhaps even camaraderie result.

In addition to creating connections internally, identify ways to create connections with the community.  Are there local causes you can support?  How can the people on your team become involved with these causes and the people that benefit from them?  Creating connections outside of work, within the community, provides your team members the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of the community they live and work in and be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Are Authentic: People may obey a title, but they won’t become loyal to a title.  People don’t offer to stay a little later or take on another project because of a title.  People become loyal to and are willing to take on extra responsibilities (within reason, of course) for a person they like and trust.  Trust is based on authenticity. Leaders who refuse to admit weakness or uncertainty are not authentic.  Leaders who refuse to ask for help or for the opinion and input of others do not gain the same trust and loyalty as those who acknowledge they are not infallible.  Employees want to work for a human being, not a robot.

Recognize Relevance: Meaningful work and the recognition that what we do matters is important to most people.  The phrase “Because I told you so” does nothing to help understand why a role, task or responsibility matters.  When people understand why they are important and why what they do is important, a sense of purpose is created.  Every single person on your team is there for a reason.  Be sure they all know exactly what that reason is.

Exhibit Enthusiasm: Enthusiasm is contagious. So is lack of enthusiasm.  If you want your team members to show up excited about the day, you need to show up excited about the day. Enjoy what you do and share that with others.

How do you show you C.A.R.E.?