Be Happy

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Two simple words to say, but not always something so simple to do. My 4 year old has been known to blurt this out after he has done something wrong and knows he is in trouble. Like if he just says this, it will automatically make his poor choice go away and instantly I will be happy!

Throughout our leadership journey, how many times have we said to a peer or team member something along these lines? “Let it go,” or “Get over it,” were my two personal favorites. Yes, if someone just tells me this, I will magically move past something that has annoyed or upset me. And of course I have said these very words to others, so I am just as guilty.

I believe that we often try to fix a situation just by saying something. While this might help a little, it will not address the issue at hand. We are conditioned as leaders to deal out advice because we have been led to believe this is what our team members want. And, in many cases they do want our advice, but sometimes we need to dig a little deeper and listen more than we speak. In many cases I have often found that a team member will come to you when they are unhappy and in need of a sounding board – someone who can listen and help them work through something that might be bothering them. Guiding the conversation and probing a little further can sometimes aid a team member in finding their own solution without some cliché saying being tossed around.

Do we all need to let it go or get over it sometimes? Yes we do, however simply saying the words doesn’t make it happen. Sometimes as a leader just listening will go much further than offering your words of wisdom!

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Give Them What They Need

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As the saying goes, I get by with a little help from my friends…..or my husband!  Insightful thoughts on needs vs. wants by EJ Widun.

While you are at work, do you try to give people what they want? If you are, you are probably not meeting their needs to the max. People will often struggle to verbalize what they actually need. They will explain what they are looking for or what they may want, but it is up to you to apply the “magic” to this list of requirements. The “magic” comes from you taking a step back, thinking like your customer, applying your special skills and techniques to deliver an excellent service or solution. If you do this, the client will be happy because they got what they needed not just what they want.

Let’s look at a simple example of getting what you need mattering more than what you want. I am sure that all of us have gone through a drive-thru and placed an order. Of course, you expect the order to be correct and that you received what you ordered. How much better is your experience when you go into the bag and find all the added amenities that you forgot to request? It could be condiments, extra napkins, a wet napkin. It makes your experience so much better, and you may not even realize it. This is a result of the people behind the counter hearing your order, giving you what you asked for and adding what you need to the equation. This may not seem like a big deal until you need those little extras. The little things matter too, so next time make sure you take the time to apply yourself to the customer’s situation and make their experience extraordinary.

You Don’t Make Decisions Unless You Ask Me!

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I would like to share this post from a guest blogger, EJ Widun.  Besides sharing my passion for Servant Leadership and customer service, he is also my better half!

On a recent family vacation, we were commuting to Naples from Orlando. After an early start from Orlando, we decided to make a rest stop and get some food at a fast food restaurant off the highway. It was 10:20 AM. According to the sign, the breakfast menu does not stop until 10:30 but our children prefer lunch instead of breakfast. I figured I would ask the young lady at the counter if it was possible to get a hamburger instead of breakfast. She looked at what was prepared behind her and noticed some burgers were up. She said sure no problem with a huge smile. I finished paying the bill and stepped to the side to wait for my order. While there, the store manager confronted the young lady. I don’t know if she realized it was my order or not, but the manager said to the young woman: “Who told you we could serve burgers now? Did you ask me? I don’t think so. You never serve anything off of menu without asking me!” The young woman replied with a sheepish response of: “I saw burgers up already and wrapped so I thought it was ok.” The manager snapped back: “You don’t think. You ask me and I will let you know. Is that clear?”

I was amazed and stunned by the reaction of a “customer-friendly” fast food establishment. The young lady at the counter did everything possible to make the visit as satisfying as possible; while the manager did not care and berated the poor customer focused team member.

This manager is clearly not a leader. She had no clue of what it takes to make a successful customer experience or making a team member feel good about taking initiative. As a leader, you should never publicly berate a team member over a customer’s order. So many missteps in what should have been a simple transaction. My experience at this restaurant not only impacted this trip but my opinion of the brand. So sad that a manager could not foster a positive experience, she not only damaged her own identity but the identity of the brand as well.

All Things to All People

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Do people-pleasers make good leaders? Pleasing others can create a nice, happy environment, but in an organization, can being a people pleaser lead to big problems?

You know the old saying about not being able to please 100% of the people 100% of the time. If you have figured it out, please let me know your secret! When you are tasked with creating a positive work environment for numerous people, it is simply not possible to be all things to all people. Everyone looks at the world in a different way, and have different perspectives, which can bring conflict. If you spend all of your time trying to please every single person all of the time, you are not leading – you are just reacting to those around you.

There are times when a leader needs to make a difficult decision, and it is not necessarily a popular decision. While it is important to take the opinions and feelings of your team members under consideration, there are times when tough decisions must be made and there will be unhappy people. Trying to be a people pleaser doesn’t help out; it can make an already difficult situation even worse. For example, if you have to make a difficult decision and you attempt to make everyone happy, there will be some who are satisfied with your decision and others who believe that you are just accommodating others and do not care about them. This can create division and animosity between your team members.

I worked for a leader one time who led with the idea that you could not make everyone happy, but as long as you treated everyone in a consistent, fair manner, people may not be happy with your decisions, but they could at least respect you.

Are you all things to all people?

Cynical – Who Me?

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What happens when you show appreciation by making a good will gesture to your team members and they dismiss it, or worse express their displeasure with your grand gesture? Do you go tell them to pound sand? Or do you just let it go and move on with your life, wondering why you even bother?

I personally experienced this a couple of times with a group of people I was supervising. I thought it would be nice if I bought everyone lunch as a surprise. Thinking this might be a positive morale-boosting event, I brought in what I perceived to be a nice lunch only to have some of my team members complain about the choice of food, and point blank ask me why I opted for one type of food over another. My first instinct was to ask why they were complaining about something free which was definitely better than what was being served in the employee cafeteria! Fortunately, I was able to hold my tongue and not say what I was thinking. I answered their questions politely and asked what type of food they really liked (so if I chose to ever do this again, I certainly would not get it wrong!) This scenario really angered me, as I was brought up old-school where you thanked the person for their thoughtfulness, took what was given to you and kept your mouth shut. This definitely made me think twice about doing something nice for my staff, which I considered to be sad.

How do you keep from becoming jaded by your team members? There is that old saying about one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch. What happens when you have a couple of bad apples that just are not satisfied with anything that you do for them?

Who Are You?

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As I look to make changes to my current website, it has become an interesting exercise in identifying who I am and what do I want to accomplish?

So many times an organization will write a business plan based on a life-long dream, create all of their content, start to sell their product and then forget what motivated them in the first place. Or better yet, what happens when things change and the dream evolves into something completely different than what they originally started with?

Would you consider this an identity crisis? An organization thinks they know what direction they want to move, but after a bit they start moving in a different direction. A case of a short attention span – possibly? I believe it can become an identity issue when you attempt to continue with your initial plan while dabbling in something new, and not doing either especially well. It becomes confusing to the public, let alone your team members. What do your customers expect when they walk through the door? Are your team members able to clearly communicate what it is you do?

For example, think about what every major fast food chain has tried to morph into. For many consumers it has become confusing. Most chains had their specialty and they did it well. Now, when you hit the drive-thru at any major chain, the menu is so expansive and diverse, you wonder what exactly do they specialize in? I realize the public gets bored, but it seems to me that most of the fast food chains have lost their identity as they try to appease absolutely everyone. And, it appears many of them are not doing well financially. A correlation? Maybe.

I am going through the same identity crisis as I have started to move down a different path than the one I originally thought I would travel. I don’t see it as a bad thing, just something new that I need to explore and figure out. We should consistently revisit who we are and what motivates us. If it is the initial idea, then great! If it is not, that is okay too.   That gives you an opportunity to explore your passion and figure out the best path to take.

Yes Captain

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The other night I was watching the show “Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel.  (For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a fascinating look at those who fish for Alaskan King Crab.)  I began to think about how leadership exists in professions such as fishing.  It is clearly a top-down leadership hierarchy – one person in charge and the others follow orders. It is pretty obvious that the captain is in charge, and no one questions the decisions made (or if they choose to do so, it makes for interesting television!)

I have written before about leadership and title. I do have a strong belief that anyone has the potential to become a leader, regardless of his or her title. What about professions such as the military or operating a ship? A single person gives orders and the others are responsible for carrying them out, no questions asked. Does this leadership style impact the way in which a leader thinks about motivation? If someone knows that their orders will be followed regardless how they interact with their crew, does motivation really matter?  What do you think?