To Win or not to Win?

Like many of you, I cheer when my country takes home another Olympic medal and I deeply admire the strength, courage, passion and absolute dedication of the athletes.

I love those moments when an athlete demonstrates strength of character that matches or exceeds their physical strength.   And I feel sad when an athlete’s desire for the gold is so strong that outright cheating or using a questionable loophole to win are considered viable strategies for success.

This zeal to win is not limited to Olympic athletes.  It happens in many different aspects of life and at many different competency levels throughout society.

And then I have to wonder where my responsibility and society’s responsibility lies within that ruthless quest for the win?   Has our celebration of winning made winning more important than winning with honor?

High achievers in school, in business, in community and in sport provide inspiration for many others.  I believe that excellence, and the hard work and dedication required to reach personal bests, should be celebrated in all aspects of life.

The question becomes what about those people who sacrifice a win in order to hold true to higher values such integrity and honesty; someone who didn’t use the questionable loophole; someone who chose not to get involved in a mud-slinging match?”  Some would say that person didn’t have what it took to win.  My two cents … I believe people who have the courage to lose with integrity, rather than win at any cost, are the real winners.

The Trust Factor

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the trust factor. There are lots of things that play into that sometimes elusive quality known as trust.  When it comes to building relationships at home or at work, honesty and transparency are necessary.

We’ve all heard the expression “talking out of both sides of his mouth.”  It could be telling someone in public how valuable their contribution is and then behind their back, putting them down or taking credit for their work.

Sometimes the motive may not be spiteful or self-serving; it may be due to fear or hesitancy about breaking bad or disappointing news.  While delivering bad news is never fun, hiding it is not the answer.  Not letting someone know that they are not performing to standard takes away their opportunity to grow.  Keeping important news away from your team because you don’t want to worry them is disrespectful and takes away their opportunity to help identify possible solutions.

No matter what the motive, when our message changes based on who we are talking to, we lose credibility.  We lose the respect of people around us. We lose their trust.

I’m learning to appreciate the wisdom of Dr. Seuss more and more.  Dr. Seuss really said it best.  “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”  While not always easy, when we are known for being honest and transparent, we earn the trust and respect of people around us.

Keep your Customers Coming Back

This weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with my daughter.  We did the typical girl stuff; a little bit of shopping therapy and then a nice lunch before I dropped her off at work.  During our girl time, we had two very different service experiences.

My daughter loves music from the 60’s and 70’s and when she saw the Jimi Hendrix t-shirt on a mannequin, she had to have it. She looked all over the store and when she couldn’t find it, asked a sales associate for assistance.  There was only one shirt left, it was in her size and it was on the mannequin.  That shouldn’t have been a problem, right?  Wrong! My daughter was told that store policy was not to take any clothes off mannequins and that she should come back in two to three weeks when the displays changed.  To say that she was stunned (and disappointed) is an understatement.  She could not understand why the store would turn down a sure sale.  My daughter also works retail. As we were driving to the lunch, she told me about one regular who comes in, points to a mannequin and says “I want that outfit” and if that’s the only one left, the customer gets it.  As my daughter said “There are lots of other clothes in the store to dress the naked mannequin.”

Our lunch experience was completely different.  We definitely got the best section at Applebee’s that day.  If our server didn’t absolutely love her job, we sure couldn’t tell.  My daughter is vegetarian and has some particular likes and dislikes. Each request was answered positively and with a smile.   Becca engaged with every person at every table in her section.   She made eye contact, she knew the menu, she was appropriately funny and she made everybody’s day just a little bit better with her fabulous attitude and big smile.

The negative shopping experience may really have been because of store policy and not just an excuse given by a sales associate who didn’t want to be bothered. I don’t know but in the end, what really counts is, will your customer’s come back or not?  When you set your policies, keep the customer (and the money in your till) in mind, and when you hire, don’t settle for anything less than Becca.

You’re Known by the Company You Keep

I heard this phrase from my mom and dad growing up and I’ve used it with my children. Fairly or unfairly, people form opinions about us based on who we choose to associate with.

This also holds true from a business perspective.  Regular readers know that my husband and I recently sold our home and moved into a condo.  I absolutely love loft warehouse condos with their high ceilings and exposed brick walls.  My husband … not so much!  So we compromised.  We found a wonderful condo, still within walking distance of all the many amenities downtown Winnipeg has to offer, and we decided to add a stone feature wall.

We shopped around until we found just the right look.  The entire experience was very positive until it was time for the install date to be confirmed.  After approving the quote and putting the deposit down, we had to wait almost three weeks for the contractor to call to arrange an install date.

The company we bought the stone from partners with contractors for install jobs.  The store did everything right. The sales person on the floor was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable, answering all of our questions. Nicole arranged for the installer to come by for the initial measure and she provided the quote within the promised time frame.  She then made several call and emails on our behalf when the installer was too busy for a five minute phone call to coordinate an install date.

Eventually we are going to upgrade the countertops in the two bathrooms and the kitchen and replace the tile backsplash in the kitchen. When we do, we will go elsewhere.  That store lost a return visitor, not because they did anything wrong, but because they associated their business with a contractor that doesn’t value the customer.

Partnering with other companies that provide complimentary services is a wonderful idea. It streamlines the process for your customers.  We liked the fact that we didn’t have to look for both the product and then the contractor separately.   Hotels create packages so that one transaction provides a hotel room, entrance passes to local attractions and perhaps even a meal or two.

These are time savers that busy consumers appreciate and I encourage you to explore ways to add value to your offering, but when you do, be sure that your partners are as committed to the customer service experience as you are.  If they fall down on the job, it reflects on you as well.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

My daughter is on the hunt for a full-time job.  Amy plans on exploring this wonderful world of ours and for that, needs money!  Her job search is still fairly new but in one week, she has encountered the following:

A job posting that was clearly designed to lure candidates in.   For those of us familiar with the job market, we can spot those false, whitewashed want ads and steer clear.  You’ve all seen them. The ads that state no experience required, paid weekly, bonus incentives, no cold calling and the chance to make between $45,000 and $65,000 in your first year.  False, false, false!  It’s all sales, it’s all cold calling and very, very few of the people hired end up making that kind of money.  These ads are designed to appeal to the young, the inexperienced or the desperate.

My question to these companies is “Why can’t you be up front and honest in your recruitment ads?”  Yes, it may reduce the number of applicants that you get, but at least the ones that you do get know what they are applying for.  In my mind, it’s a matter of respect and not wasting the valuable time of the potential candidate or the employee who has to do the interviewing.

An interview that started late because the manager could not get there in time.   I get it. Things happen.   As a potential employer, if you are running late, have the courtesy to let the candidate know ahead of time.  Being late for an interview demonstrates a lack of respect for the candidate and for the candidate’s time.  Plus, I would venture to guess that if it was my daughter who was late for the interview, she would immediately be taken of the “possible hire” list.

In both of these instances, the potential employer demonstrated a lack of integrity and a lack of respect for the potential candidate.   It makes one wonder if they are any different with the people already working for them?

There are lots of young people, just like my daughter, who want to find work so that they can finance their dream, whether that dream is travel or advanced education.  Many of these young people will stay at an organization only until they have fulfilled their initial objective, which is to get enough money to take on their next challenge.

But while they are with you, they are a reflection of your company, so if you want the best, even if only for a short time, make sure you are sending a message that attracts the best.  Remember, it’s not just the candidate who has to make a positive first impression at the interview … so do you!