Agreeing to Disagree

tug of war“Why can’t they all just get along?”  I heard this question from a colleague. She is working for a company where the leadership team does not play nice.  They fight among themselves and there are a few “leaders” (I use the word loosely) who have no compunction about publicly bad-mouthing others on their team and in different departments.

As a parent, I very quickly learned that my children needed a team working together on their behalf. That meant, that in some cases, meetings were held behind closed doors, differences of opinion discussed and decisions made. Sometimes, one team leader had to make concessions, sometimes it meant agreeing to disagree but once the doors opened, a consistent, unified message was needed.

This holds true in the workplace as well.  Opinions, insight and suggestions from a broad range of stakeholders are important, but just as important is a consistent, unified message once a decision has been made and everyone, regardless of their original viewpoint, needs to own their role in the organization’s success.

Conflicting ideas and opinions are natural and to be expected when a diverse group of people, with different backgrounds, experiences and personalities work together. Those differences have the potential to create strength and diversity, but in many cases, are instead used as weapons and end up building walls.  When people do not know how, or choose not, to disagree respectfully, ideas stagnate, factions form and opposing camps battle against each other instead of working together to achieve success.

That negative energy is a very real weight felt by everyone in the organization.  Some of the people relying on these managers for guidance, support and direction pick a camp and the battle gets bigger. Other duck and run for cover; they hold on to ideas that could potentially benefit the organization. And others just leave, choosing to work for an organization with less mess and dysfunction.

The variety of ideas and opinions brought to the table when people with different backgrounds, experiences and personalities work together, is a gift.  Treasure it. Respect it.  Nourish it.

(This is a modified repost of a blog originally shared way back in July 2012.  As I held my first team meeting yesterday, I got a better sense as to the range of experience and knowledge around the table. Better yet, I got a sense of how well they work together … that is a gift and one to be nurtured.)

The Four Rules of Customer Service

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, know I believe that great customer service, delivered consistently, doesn’t happen by chance.  Companies that consistently meet or exceed their customers’ expectations have taken the time to develop a service strategy that includes clearly outlined service expectations (based on well-understood customer expectations), training, measurement, reward and recognition tactics.

Below is an excerpt from my soon to be completed book ‘Customer Service from the Inside Out’ that outlines four rules to keep in mind when developing a customer service strategy for your company.

Rule Number 1:  Put the Customer First

You’ve seen the slogans.  Perhaps your company even has one.

  • We are number one in service.
  • Where the customer comes first.
  • Come for the price, stay for the service.

It’s not that service slogans are wrong; it’s just that very often the slogans are created as a marketing tool instead of an actual service promise.   A lot of companies focus on the product first instead of on the customer.  We go into business wanting (hoping?) to provide good service, but there is no concrete plan on how to deliver the implied promise.

Rule Number 2:  It’s the customer’s perception that matters

There is very often a huge disconnect between how often organizations believe they deliver good or great service and how often customers believe they receive it.

Some of that is simply because the people within those organizations are faced with the daunting and challenging task of hiring, training, scheduling, coaching, mentoring, ordering, reporting… the list goes on and on.  Supplies are late, weather is bad, someone calls in sick and yet, somehow, in spite of all the challenges, the business is open and customers are coming in the door.  We give ourselves a lot of credit for the challenges we overcome on a regular basis.

Go ahead, pat yourself on the back.  After all someone has to! Just don’t expect your customers to do so. They’ll pat you on the back, give you figurative high fives, maybe even the occasional real one, if and when their expectations are consistently met and even exceeded.

Rule Number 3:  Service teams provide the service they receive.

If you want your service team to provide great service, provide them with great service.  If you want them to value and respect their customers, value and respect them.  If you want your service team to acknowledge your customers, acknowledge your service team. Say good morning, good afternoon. Ask them about their day. Know their names!

Disgruntled service providers are usually disgruntled employees.  Don’t assume it’s their bad attitude.  Make sure you are not a contributing factor.

Rule Number 4:  Make This a Team Effort

Consistently delivering good to great service is not the responsibility of just one or two people.  It doesn’t matter if someone works front-of-house or back-of-house. It doesn’t matter if they answer phones at front reception or sit in a corner office.  Everyone plays a role in the overall customer service experience.

It takes a team to build a strong customer service strategy.  As the leader of a service team, if you want your team members to buy into the process, include them in it.   Identify key players on your team who can help you build your customer service strategy.  Who will talk to other team members to get ideas and input? Who has the trust of other team members? Who has great listening skills?  Those are the people you want to pull into this very important project.

Are there some other rules you can think of?  Please feel free to share them here.


The Turtle and the Rabbit

We all know the story. The rabbit loses to the turtle.  What if the story didn’t end there. What happened after the race?  Is it possible for the turtle and the rabbit to work together as a team?

Find the answer to those questions in this video.

Three Leadership Lessons from The Hobbit

Source: Wikipedia

Last night was date night with my daughter.  We finally went to see The Hobbit and thoroughly enjoyed our journey to Middle-earth.

In addition to amazing scenery, battles against evil and miraculous rescue from near death, the movie also included some interesting leadership lessons.

When Gandalf was asked why he included Bilbo Baggins, a rather unlikely member of a team facing perilous danger in their quest to reclaim the dwarves stolen home, he responded  ” Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? That’s because I am afraid and it gives me courage.”

Leadership lessons:

  1. Recognize you are not invincible and include people on your team that can help address your weakness.
  2. Look beyond the obvious solutions and be brave enough to make decisions others don’t understand and may not agree with.  Be prepared to answer the “why” when it comes, but don’t let the fear of the “why” stop you.

In another scene early on in the movie, Bilbo Baggins is decidedly reluctant to leave the comfort of his home, his books and his shire.  His youthful dreams of adventure have been replaced by a love of doilies, a stocked pantry and his mother’s good dishes.  Gandalf reminds Bilbo of his much younger self, a hobbit who raced through the shire in search of adventure, who was constantly late for dinner and wouldn’t have been able to tell a doily from a dish rag (Those of you that have seen the movie will recognize that reference!) and tells Bilbo “The world is not in your book and maps. It’s out there!”  And in the end, Bilbo decides to go on this unexpected journey and his world is changed.

Leadership lesson #3: Look for hidden potential.  Encourage, support and perhaps sometimes even push a little, to get team members outside of their comfort zone. Provide them opportunities to be better than they may believe they can be.

Fortunately, most of us do not need to ask our team members to take on challenges that will pull them away from family and friends for long periods of time.  The monsters we ask them to face are deadlines, new learning and personal fears and insecurities instead of orcs, goblins and trolls.   Whatever the quest, whatever the goal, as a leader it is our responsibility to help our team be successful.

Your thoughts?

Laughter is Seriously Good for Business

When your customers walk into your business, do they see genuine smiles and hear infectious laughter?  Or are the people you rely on to create memorable moments for your customers so focused on getting through their to-do list, they forget to smile and have fun?

There are some people who believe that work is serious business; that time spent having fun, sharing a laugh with a co-worker or going on a slurpee run is a waste of time.  And in our politically correct world, I think some people are a little scared that their laughter or their sense of humour will offend someone.

Here’s what I think. When work is fun:

  • Your team members will like coming to work more and their stress levels will be reduced, two factors which decrease absenteeism and turnover.
  • Creative solutions for challenges are easier to discover.  Being too serious limits creativity; playing with a problem invites creativity.
  • Team members laugh together and shared laughter strengthens relationships and helps promote group bonding.
  • Your customers benefit.  When the people you rely on to create memorable moments for your customers enjoy their work and like their co-workers, your customers receive genuine smiles, friendly greetings and perhaps share a moment of infectious laughter with their service provider.

So what can you do to make work a little more fun for you and your team?

  • It starts with you!  Get out of your office, smile and share a laugh with your team members.
  • Put “FUN” first on the agenda for all meetings.
  • Create a laughter bulletin board at work.  Encourage people to post jokes and cartoons. Yes, some guidelines will be required to ensure the jokes are not offensive to others.
  • Create fun events for your team, either in the workplace or off-site.  Plan a bowling night or if going out isn’t an option, purchase an inexpensive bowling toy set, set up a lane in a hallway and let the games begin!

Laughter is good for business!  What are some things you have done to make work fun?


Laughing babies make me laugh every time.  This one is a sure fire winner.  Perhaps you’ll like it too.  Enjoy!