Volume 1, No. 2  
                                          October 2002

 

Contents

Message from NMA Chairman of the Board...Don J. Hart

Turning Techies Into Project Managers...Bob Tyler

Are You An Innovator Or An Implementer?   Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D

Why Don't You Want What I Want?...Rick Maurer

Money Sense...Using Philanthropy....Doris Meister

Five Tips For Tact...Marlene Chism

Erroneous Assumptions...Linda Larson

Margaritas or Lemonade?  Great Customers Service...Gregory P. Smith

Message from NMA Chairman of the Board

The Challenge of Tomorrow

by Don Hart

Another year is wrapping up for NMA with the completion of the national conference in San Francisco.  By all reports this was one of the best conferences we had.  The new item this year was the Silent Auction and was a marvelous success.  Of course there were great items, I still can’t believe I lost out on the Steeler football!  The association made some much-needed extra funds.  But more important it demonstrated what NMA is all about – the willingness to take an idea, put a team together and drives the project to completion.  Congratulations to Steve McDougle, Mary Walsh, Janet Brittain and their whole team for demonstrating first hand what NMA’s leadership laboratory is all about.

The conference team also made continuing improvements in the Recognition luncheon with the recognition of team representatives from each chapter for the awards they received.  The Hall of Fame was truly memorable with the variety people painting the picture of   Dick Thomas our latest recipient.  The member of the year, Michelle Lewis, will be remembered for her drive for lifelong learning and contribution.  The conference-ending Executive of the Year banquet with Dr. Vance Coffman, Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin was an event beyond compare.  Dr. Coffman not only gave a strong endorsement to NMA but also showed how approachable he is in his interactions with everyone at the conference.  Thank you Doug Shaw, Sue Kappeler, Martha Bear and Steve Bailey for working so hard to lead the entire NMA staff in making this a wonderful event.

As those at the conference heard, we are continuing to work through difficult times financially and with our membership.  We need the help of every member and every chapter to become the recognized leadership development organization that we all know it is.  What can you do?  First use the trial membership program to recruit new members and give them a taste of what we are. Remember this is “Each member get a new one this year”!  Second, find out what your company or community leadership needs and use that as a leadership laboratory for some of your newer members to execute.  I am willing to bet that one of these areas will be “how to form and make teams work”.  NMA has the best new product on the market for that in FaciliskillsTM that has emerged from our market tests as a super product.  Need it for your chapter or council – contact Karen Tobias – do it today and you won’t go wrong!

NMA offers a huge untapped resource to each of us.  To make sure we keep it we need to grow additional members and chapters and use the benefits for those chapters.  If in doubt, contact your National Director for help.  Have a great 2003 with your chapter!

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Turning techies into project managers

 by Bob Tyler, technical instructor, CCTI 

Reorganization.  Retrenching.  Refocusing.  Shuffling the deck.  Whatever your company calls it, CEOs and presidents are looking for ways to get the most bang for their buck.  Especially when times are tight, as they are at so many high tech companies today. 

If you are being faced with the difficult decision of doing more with fewer people, there may be an easy answer.  Many companies are getting their technical people – the ones researching and developing the latest gizmos and gadgets – to learn a new field:  project management.  During better times, companies could afford to staff an R&D team as well as a project management team.  With that luxury no longer an option, these same companies now realize that they can provide training to their tech specialists to manage a project from beginning to end. 

It might sound easy enough, but as is the case with any profession, we all have different things we are good at.  And while tech specialists know the ins and outs of your company’s product, they may not have management skills.  If your company is considering ways to get the tech department to “wear two hats” and actually manage a project, here are some of the skills they should learn before they are given that responsibility: 

Basic communication

People skills, leadership skills, and communication skills are keys to success in a management position.  However, many technical people would rather spend hours at their computer than tell a cohort what to do.  But if they are going to succeed as managers, they must overcome this communication gap and learn, for example, the reasons why a conflict may arise during the course of a project, what a project manager can do to resolve a conflict, how to form teams and influence group dynamics.  They also need to learn how to communicate effectively, when to use management skills and when to use leadership skills, as well as what are the various rules and regulations that may affect the project team. 

Learning client needs

While finishing a project on time and within budget is usually the main concern to the R&D department, a project manager must make sure the end product truly meets the client’s needs.  Meeting the client’s expectations is the true measure of project success.  This requires that they have the ability to meet with the client, ask the proper questions, listen to what the client is saying, and interpret that information effectively to the technical specialists. 

Build a project management foundation

There are five key components of a project plan that are the foundation of project management: 

1.    Project charter – a tech specialist who wants to become a project manager must learn about this document: this is the origination of many projects and actually gets them off the ground. 

2.    Project scope document – learning how to create this document will enable a new project manager to describe the reason for the project, what it intends to accomplish and how it will be done. 

3.    Project plan – this is the most involved step prior to beginning a project, and requires that a project manager create and use a work breakdown structure, develop a resource management plan, develop a vendor management plan, develop a budget, develop a communication plan, develop a risk management plan, develop a quality management plan, in addition to developing a project schedule.  These steps will become the road map for completing a project successfully. 

4.   Managing the plan – with all the details out of the way, truly managing the project becomes a key step.  Techies who are now serving as project managers will need to know how to control and address changes in the project, as well as respond to risks, as they implement the project plan. 

5.    Closing the project – once the project is over, the techie turned project manager will have to do more than let accounting know that the project is complete.  Preparing a summary report, performing project review, recognizing the team and, most importantly, celebrating a successful outcome, will all help to make the next project a successful one as well. 

Training to become a project manager might seem like a lot of additional work.  But companies are realizing this option exists, and a smart tech specialist will realize this “extra work” will make them more indispensable to their company and might save their job. 

Bob Tyler, PMP, GCA-ITPM, is a technical instructor specializing in providing project management skills training at CCTI in Greenwood Village.

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ARE YOU AN INNOVATOR OR AN IMPLEMENTER?

                                                     by  Barton Goldsmith Ph.D.

Innovation is necessary to solve problems, create new products and services, to use our time more effectively and most importantly, to grow.

We often confuse creative ability with artistic ability. We believe truly creative people are those we see on the big screen, singers on the radio, or those on stage. This is a serious misconception.

We each have creative ability. Have you enjoyed the experience of witnessing an auto mechanic who makes your car sing? Or the surgeon who operates with the intuitive ability of a Michelangelo? We have the ability to take our work, our companies and lift them to new levels, those of an art form. We have all seen the most creative geniuses as work - they are creative investors, marketing gurus, R & D specialists; have you ever needed an extremely creative accountant?

Creativity involves the ability of our brain to change, renew and recombine aspects of our lives. Creativity involves using our sixth sense, or intuition, to perceive the world and make use of our discoveries.

We are often afraid to try new ideas, as we develop attitudes about creativity that can keep us stuck in our world of safety. Attitudes like: It's not important. I don't have time. I already have the answer. I'm not creative. These cause us to miss opportunities that we find in an ever-changing world. When we become stuck, we run the risk of being quickly left behind.

What are we to do if we are not naturally gifted with creativity and intuitive ability? I believe that intuition comes from a part of the mind that brings ideas to consciousness. When we are in touch with our intuition, we are given a gift in being able to sense trends, danger and potential problems. It's an unspoken dialogue within ourselves that serves us well, when we learn to trust it. Most of us have had the experience of "not listening to our gut". We would have been better off if we had. Intuition points us in the direction we need to follow. Our intuition takes place when we are in touch with ourselves, we know it is working when things make sense all of a sudden - memories, fantasies and the sixth sense we pick up from other people.

The issue with creativity is not always knowing the right answers, but knowing the right questions. As a leader, it is not our job to have the answers. It is our job to question the answers. This is tough for most entrepreneurs to accept. Because of our personalities we rarely display the patience to coach our people. It is far easier and quicker to give them the answers.

The Goldsmith Innovation/Implementation Index (G3I) determines how innovative we are and how well we implement. The personalities with the strongest levels of creativity are often those who are inflexible and do not deal with others very well. Ludwig von Beethoven, Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill are all examples of those who have tremendous creativity; just don't expect them to be warm, friendly, accommodating and cooperative. Creative people have a vision in mind, their difficulty is expressing it to others. They frustrate themselves, as well as others, with their inability to effectively communicate. If you would like to find out if you are an "Innovator" or an "Implementer," the G3I is available for free on my web site at www.BartonGoldsmith.com.

The advantages and disadvantages of both "Innovators" and "Implementers" are equally weighted. Each is capable of running a business and creating wealth, but those with higher scores tend to be less able to work for someone else. What we have seen with the 10,000 business owners who have taken this survey is that those with higher scores tend to be in start up and riskier businesses or investments. Those with lower scores tend to be in second and third generation family businesses and are more conservative investors. The entrepreneur tends to be more innovative than a corporate CEO, these results could be a predisposition (nature) or a result of personal experiences (nurture). The ability to learn and apply new thinking is more of an innovative process while the ability to learn and apply new tasks is more of an "Implementer." High "Innovators" tend to have more disadvantages and advantages than high "Implementers" do -- this means that "Innovators" have a more complex personality than "Implementers" do, they tend to have more traits, both better and worse. Other notable differences are that "Implementers" have the ability to attend to detail in ways that Innovators sometimes find impossible. Also the incidence of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is much higher in "Innovators" than "Implementers", at a ratio of eight to one. This sub group also tended to be the most successful Entrepreneurs, as most had two or more income streams or businesses. The "Innovators" also confessed to being C/B students, where the "Implementers" were B/A students, most likely because of their ability to deal with detail. If you would like more information on how to utilize the G3I for your company, please contact Dr. Goldsmith directly toll-free at (866) 5-BARTON.

About the Author:
For more than two decades Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and government organizations worldwide have relied on Dr. Barton Goldsmith to help them develop creative and balanced leadership. He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, business consultant and author. His column Passionate Leadership appears in over 80 newspapers, magazines and trade publications, including the Los Angeles Business Journal. Dr. Goldsmith works regularly with The Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and The Executive Committee (TEC). Considered an expert on business, he has given over 2,000 professional presentations and has spoken to audiences worldwide. He may be contacted through his web site BartonGoldsmith.com or at (818) 879-9996.

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Why Don’t You Want What I Want?

The three faces of resistance

by Rick Maurer

There’s a one-word reason most ideas never see the light of day: Resistance.  Resistance is often behind the glassy-eyed stares you get following a presentation, the sarcastic put-downs you have to put up with when you describe your vision for a new product or service, and people’s abrupt departures from the watercooler when you approach, enthusiastic and ready to share an idea. What people are saying to you, either directly or indirectly, is I’ve heard your idea and I don’t get it, I don’t like it, or I don’t like you.

By understanding the resistance that is getting in the way of your ideas, you can turn opposition into support. How can you do it? Use clear language and good listening skills to head off resistance before it takes on a life of its own. When you can’t avoid it, learn how to recognize and address the three most common types of resistance so you can keep conversations moving forward and bring ideas closer to implementation.

Here are the three primary forms resistance takes and what you can do to make them work for you instead of against you.

Level 1 resistance—“I don’t get it.”

When you see a person’s eyes glaze over, eyebrows furrow, or head tip slightly to one side or the other, he is sending you an unspoken message: “I don’t get what you’re saying.” That’s your cue to slow down and touch base with the person before he gets so confused or lost in the morass of your idea that he loses interest altogether. After all, if he doesn’t get your idea, there’s no chance he’ll support it.

Level 1 resistance involves the world of facts, figures, and data. It crops up often when people in highly technical fields, like computer science, try to share their brainchildren with others. They go to great lengths to explain how a software package or new hardware configuration can solve problems—and even generate profit over the long-term—and somewhere between the bits and bytes, underlying the multi-acronym sentences featuring POSIX, WYSIWYG, XT/AT, and UNIX, is a brilliant idea. It’s just that, alas, it can only be understood and appreciated by other high-tech experts.

If you find yourself in this position, step back from your idea and consider your audience. How can you communicate the idea to them in a language—minus all traces of jargon—they can understand? Will pictures, models, slides, or an on-site walk-through help? Clear, thoughtful, two-way communication is the key to overcoming Level 1 resistance.

Level 2 resistance—“I don’t like it.”

Sometimes your idea can trigger an emotional response, typically rooted in fear, that causes another person to hem and haw about the idea or actively oppose it. Some of the fears underlying these Level 2 responses include:

> Concern that something about your idea will make the other person look bad or lose status in the eyes of others

> Worry that your idea will cost the person his job or endanger his financial security

> Nervousness that your idea will cause the person to fail, perhaps as a result of—and in the wake of—your success

The emotions behind Level 2 responses get in the way of productive communication. If they’re never aired, these fears fester until what was once a tiny bump on the road to implementation is now an enormous boulder blocking your way. Recognize and address the fears underlying Level 2 resistance and your idea is more likely to continue moving forward.

Level 3 resistance—“I don’t like you.”

Picture this: You’re in a meeting with your accountant when she says, “I’ve got good news for you. I’ve found some loopholes that will significantly reduce your taxes.” A year ago—prior to the Enron debacle—you might have welcomed both the accountant and her ideas with open arms. Now, however, the system of checks and balances she represents is tainted by what you’ve read and seen on television, and every idea she proposes gets run through a filter of suspicion in your mind. That’s Level 3 resistance.

While the other two types of resistance have to do with your ideas, Level 3 resistance is about you—ouch. When you’re the one doing the proposing, your history with others, as well as their bias, prejudice, or mistrust, influence how your idea is heard and received.

Level 3 resistance is the toughest to deal with because it’s so hard to believe—and accept—that there are people in the world who don’t like or trust you and everything you stand for. However, if you choose to deny or ignore it, your ideas will never get off the drawing board.

The key to dealing effectively with Level 3 resistance is to step outside yourself and see what others see when they look at you—and what they hear when they listen to you.  Once you’ve made an effort to see yourself and your idea through another’s eyes, try these techniques for working through and moving beyond all three levels of resistance—“I don’t get it,” “I don’t like it,” and “I don’t like you”:

> Focus on conversation, not presentation. Ask questions to find out what’s going on in the other person’s mind and why she opposes your idea.

> Listen carefully to what others say in response to your idea—both verbally and through their body language and behaviors.

> Avoid knee-jerk reactions, like defensiveness, sarcasm, and deference.

> Find ways to connect with others. Paraphrase their concerns to show that you’re listening, embrace suggestions that piggy-back on your idea, and make it clear that there’s room—and opportunity—for others to join you as you move forward to implement the idea.

Resistance at any level is good because it demonstrates that others hear you and are intrigued enough about your ideas to oppose them. That may sound like cold comfort, but it’s not. Figure out what’s behind resistance and you’ll be well on your way to turning opposition into support.

Rick Maurer is an Arlington, Virginia-based advisor to individuals and organizations on building support for change. He is author of Why Don’t You Want What I Want? How to Win Support for Your Ideas Without Hard Sell, Manipulation, or Power Plays.

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Using Philanthropy to Manage Concentrated Holdings

By Doris Meister of Merrill Lynch

Managing a concentrated stock position is a crucial part of wealth management, but also a complex one. If you have a concentrated wealth position, you may want to consider several philanthropic strategies that can address concentration issues, provide you with an additional payment stream and reduce your tax liability while benefiting the charities of your choice.

It often makes sense to diversify when the opportunity arises. However, an outright sale of stock can be costly from a tax perspective. To diversify, you would have to sell some or all of your highly appreciated stock, pay 20% long-term capital gains tax and reinvest what's left. Any subsequent appreciation in the new investment would result in additional capital gains taxes once that investment was sold. This is in addition to the ordinary income tax rate — which could be as high as 38.6%, depending on your tax bracket — which you continue to pay on any income generated from this portfolio.

There are several strategies to help you reduce or avoid these multiple-taxes. Among them are some that allow you to use the wealth you have accumulated to live comfortably and, at the same time, benefit philanthropic causes that are important to you.

Using a Charitable Remainder Trust

A charitable remainder trust (CRT), can be an excellent vehicle for reducing or eliminating a concentrated stock position without triggering a capital gains tax on the sale. Because the trust is a tax-exempt entity, it can sell your stock tax-free and diversify the assets into an income-generating portfolio.

It also accomplishes other important financial-planning goals. It can provide you or another beneficiary with a payment stream for your lifetime or for a set period of time (up to 20 years). You specify the annual percentage payout; however, it must meet the IRS minimum requirement of 5%. The payout may be 5% of the initial value of the trust if it is a charitable remainder annuity trust (CRAT). In the case of a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT), the payout may be 5% of the current value of the trust, determined annually. The trust does not pay taxes, so the trust's undistributed assets continue to grow tax-free. The assets remaining in the trust when its term expires are then distributed to the charities of your choice.

Keep in mind that if you and your spouse choose another beneficiary to receive some or all of the payment stream, transfer taxes (such as gift, estate or generation-skipping taxes) may be due.

Minimizing Estate Taxes

A charitable lead trust (CLT) is useful for minimizing estate taxes on the assets you leave to your children or grandchildren, especially if you expect those assets to appreciate. Essentially the mirror image of a CRT, a CLT makes an annual payment to a charity for a period of years or for the lifetime of one or more individuals. CLTs also come in two forms: the charitable lead annuity trust (CLAT) and the charitable lead unitrust (CLUT).  The CLAT pays a percent of the trust’s initial value to charity each year while the CLUT pays a percent of the trust, valued annually, to charity. At the end of the period, the assets in the trust pass to your children or other beneficiaries. A grantor CLT can result in immediate income-tax benefits, although you will be responsible for paying the trust’s income taxes throughout its term. Also, the discounted value of the assets placed in the trust is frozen for gift- and estate- tax purposes on the transfer date. Therefore, any future appreciation of the assets is free of gift and estate taxes. While a CLUT can also be used to minimize generation-skipping taxes, a CLAT cannot be used for this purpose.

Leaving a Legacy

A third way to use your concentrated stock position to benefit your favorite charities is to establish a private family foundation that will make grants to charitable organizations. If you transfer your highly appreciated, publicly traded stock to a private foundation, you will receive a tax deduction for the fair market value of the stock and, again, you will avoid paying long-term capital gains on the sale of the stock because it is sold within the foundation. You will also receive valuable estate-tax benefits. Also, your CRT and CLT can pay into your family foundation so that the foundation can continue your legacy.

Private family foundations are strictly regulated and require a greater time commitment than other strategies. They can also give you greater control over how your charitable dollars are distributed and used. Private family foundations are one of the best ways to continue supporting charities in perpetuity.

The decision to use any of these philanthropic strategies should be made as part of a comprehensive financial plan. Before implementing a strategy, it is crucial to analyze your financial situation and your charitable goals with a financial advisor, as well as your legal and tax advisors.

Doris Meister is the head of Private Wealth Management and Chairman of Merrill Lynch Trust Company.

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Five Tips for Tact

By  Marlene Chism

Managers face the difficult task of giving advice and criticism. Both of these tasks threaten to damage professional relationships if not handled properly.  While giving critical feedback is a necessary evil, there are those who, as one philosopher said,  “find fault as if it were buried treasure.”  Using the appropriate words, watching the order and placement of your language as well as increasing your own self-awareness will help you strike a balance in your leadership. Here are five tips for tact:

Criticize in private

Don’t criticize in public or in front of anyone other than the person you are addressing. This sounds simple enough, but private means no one else but you and the person you are critiquing.   I once heard someone say to another person, “There are several broken links on your web page.”  The problem was that they said this in front of three of this person’s business associates.  While it wasn’t in front of a crowd it was still embarrassing for everyone at the table.  There are instances where it’s important to give immediate feedback. For example at a company awards banquet several years ago I noticed an associate with a price tag hanging from her new sweater.  I passed her a handwritten note telling her I would meet her in the restroom to cut the tag.

Use Evaluation Language

If you are challenged and need some coaching a good idea is to join Toastmasters.  As you learn how to critique by using ‘evaluation language’ you become skilled at how to ‘take evaluation’ as well.  Some examples of evaluation language is:

·                                “The report just needs a little tweaking…”

·                                “Here are some opportunities for growth…”

·                                “Some future suggestions are…”

·                                I’ve made a few observations that I have some questions about…

As the leader, it’s your job to critique and it’s a good idea to offer part of the solution or to support them in their improvement.  However if this is a business associate it’s best to use wisdom when offering free advice. Be sure to ask if they want feedback or suggestions rather than making the assumption that they want your advice.  Notice what is already excellent and comment on past improvements. It helps soften the criticism. 

Use pronouns effectively

Use the pronoun ‘you’ when complimenting and avoid using ‘you’ when you are giving critical review.   Which sounds better:  “I enjoyed reading your report,” or “you wrote a great report.”  The pronoun ‘you’ gives a sense of ownership, therefore it is harsh when used prior to criticism.  Which sounds worse: “I observed a few grammatical errors on the report.”  Or, “You made several grammatical errors on the report.” 

Make observations not judgments

If you must criticize, your statements should be based on facts and observations instead of judgments.  A judgment indicates there is something moral or immoral and it speaks more about your own perception of what you believe to be the other person’s intentions. Consider the difference in these two statements said to a person who continually interrupts:

“You think what you say is more important than what I have to say.” (Judgment) Or,

“I’ve noticed that when I start to speak, I am not allowed to finish my sentence.” (Observation.)

Observations are based on evidence or facts and judgments are based on internal values, beliefs and morals.  To paraphrase famous author Wayne Dyer, “your judgments do not define anyone else but you.”

Avoid “if I were you” statements

The most absurd statement that often precedes advice giving is “If I were you.”  It should be avoided. One of my favorite statements: “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas!”  If you “were they,” you would think, act and behave exactly as they have, because you would be them!  A better statement is, “considering the information you have given me, my suggestion would be to…” 

Go from negative to positive

Ask for what you want instead of what you don’t want.  If you observe the language of other managers, you will find that most talk in the negative by expressing what they don’t want instead of what they do want. Using the same example from “making observations instead of judgments” consider the following statements.

“I don’t want to be interrupted.” (Negative)

“I would like to finish what I was saying.”(Positive)

Even though the meaning is basically the same, the second statement is more tactful; more carefully placed and is just as direct without lacking diplomacy.

Marlene Chism works with companies that want to build strong business relationships and with people who want to be better communicators. She lives in Springfield, Missouri and can be reached by web at www.icareconsult.com.

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Erroneous Assumptions:  The Stuff of High Drama

by Linda Larsen

Juliet assumed that Romeo would get the message that she was going to drink a potion that would make it appear as if she were dead.  He didn't.

Romeo assumed that Juliet was dead.  She wasn't.

Romeo then killed himself.  Juliet woke up moments later and found him dead next to her.  Stricken with grief-she then killed herself.

Oh, the tragedy of wrong assumptions.

And unfortunately, incorrect assumptions are not simply reserved for literature.  They are occurring around us all the time!  And because of them, conflicts occur, relationships are strained and actions are taken that may actually create a problem that wasn't ever there!   Consider the following:

Example one:  Jill walks by Mark.  He says "hi" and she doesn't respond.  He assumes, "Well, what's her problem?"  He treats her a little coldly the rest of the day.  Reality:  Someone a few feet away coughed at the exact moment he spoke and she didn't hear him.

Example two:  A judge in the courtroom keeps frowning at one of the attorneys.  She assumes, "He obviously doesn't like me, or my case, or my client.  I just know he's going to rule against me."  She starts getting nervous.  Reality:  He has just put in new contacts that are uncomfortable and the only way he can see her when he speaks to her is to squint.

Example three:  I walk in to the phone store to purchase a new cell phone.  The man behind the counter does not smile, does not say, "I'll be with you in a moment," and doesn't appear interested in taking my money.  I assume, "He's certainly not a very good customer service provider.  Maybe I should just take my business elsewhere."  Reality:  He just had a disturbing phone call about his son and he's trying to figure out what to do.

Do you see the trap here?  And do you see how, in each one of these situations, an erroneous assumption could actually create a problem?  And why do we make all these negative assumptions?  For one thing, it is estimated that the average person has about 40,000 thoughts per day and that about 80 to 90 percent of them are negative.  Well, there's part of the problem right there.

Another contributing factor may be our tendency to take things so personally!  Most of the time, and certainly in each one of the examples above, it isn't about us!  We are simply not the center of everybody else's world!

But the bottom line is this:  we don't have to make these negative assumptions!  We can make different, more empowering, and much wiser choices.

We could simply ask for clarification.  In the first example, Mark could have said, "Jill, I noticed this morning when I said 'hi'  to you, you didn't respond.  That's not like you.  Is something wrong?"  That could clear things up right there.  And if there really was a problem, that door has not been opened for discussion.

Here's another possibility.  When something happens and you find yourself starting to assume the worst, stop.  Take a breath and ask yourself, "What other possible, logical, positive reason could there be for this to have happened?"  Keep asking the question until you find a reason that would make sense.  Then, simply behave as if that explanation were true.  You'll notice when you do this that there's no negative energy around the event.  You feel good, you are more pleasant to be around, people like you, and life is just a little easier.

And we could use a little less high drama, don't you think?

Linda Larsen is an award winning, international speaker and the author of the best selling audio program, 12 Secrets to High Self-Esteem.  She can be reached a www.lindalarsen.com or 1(800)355-4420.

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Margaritas or Lemonade?
Great Customer Service is About Small Details

 by Gregory P. Smith

My family and I recently returned from a vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Traveling outside the United States gives reason for apprehension something might go wrong.  Whether it is security delays, customs, the threat of terrorism, or just the inconvenience of traveling, it makes vacationing more difficult than ever before. Many times what could have been a great vacation gets ruined by small details.

My wife handles all my travel and our family vacation arrangements.  In this case, she used the Internet to plan our entire vacation, causing me greater apprehension something would go wrong.

As our plane circled the airport in Los Cabo, all I could see was one small landing strip among the cactus, sand, and desert.  My brain kicked into gear and began to analyze all the mistakes, bad service, or disasters awaiting us. 

To my surprise, transportation was standing by for us at the airport. The 45-minute trip to the resort was uneventful. The air-conditioning in the van worked perfectly. The driver was courteous and helpful. I was beside myself.

The arched gateway of La Hacienda Del Mar Beach Resort greeted our arrival. The doorman took our baggage and asked one profound question:  "Would you like margaritas or lemonade?"  After traveling on a plane for eight hours and 45 minutes, small details become magical.

If you own or manage a customer service business, the recipe for exceptional service boils down to the small details. Some of those details may be as simple as friendly employees, clean bathrooms, or something that adds value to the customer experience. When designing your customer service plan, consider what small details you can provide making your place of business stand out in the hearts and minds of your customers. Consider the following.

I rarely visit art museums and galleries, but I was attracted to a small one near my hotel in San Francisco. This place was a treasure trove of paintings from both the living and the dead. There were actual originals by many of the masters, including my personal favorite--Normal Rockwell. In fact, one of my best loved works was right there in front of my eyes. It was his picture with the Boy Scout.  I was overwhelmed with this place, and so impressed I gave my business card to one of the people working there. As a result, I now get e-mails from this gallery every time they have a showing. Most businesses lose 15-20% of their customers each year because they do not keep in touch.  This gallery's e-mail marketing strategy provides an easy and inexpensive way to keep itself memorable. I only wish I had the money to purchase one of those pieces of art.

The Lost Sock, a laundromat in Richmond, VA, has added a totally new dimension to the soapy floors and broken washers normally found in most Laundromats.  Every Thursday night they have an open mike event.  About 100 guests come to wash their laundry, have a few beers, and watch their friends perform.

A unique store located in Stone Mountain, GA, specializes only in hot sauces and spices. They include a $2.00 bill with a little red pepper-shaped sticker applied to the back of the bill with the customer's change.  The sticker has their store name and phone number.  Since most people don't give out $2 bills, customers usually carry them in their wallets for a long time, and show them to their friends. This bill and its accompanying sticker become a marketing campaign for the business.

The Jordan Furniture stores, located in Massachusetts, sell more furniture per square foot than any other furniture store in the country.   Everything from their zany television commercials, purple painted parking lots and the Multi-media Motion Odyssey Movie ride, commonly known as MOM, helped to build a million-dollar industry. Loading dock employees occasionally dress in tuxedos.  When shoppers drive around the back to pick up their furniture, they surprise them by washing their car windows, car tires and provide free hot dogs. 

One hardware store dramatically increased its sales and improved its level of customer service by allowing employees to design their customer service strategy. The store owners wanted to design a more customer focused and bottom-up, employee-driven store, where everyone could take ownership. The end result was a task force consisting of supervisors, managers, and front-line employees who designed a pocket card with the 20 Commandments of Customer Service.  Now each manager and employee carries this card with them at all times. The store is enjoying improved employee attitudes, reduced turnover, and a rising level of customer service in the store.

Early in the 90's, the Ritz-Carton hotels increased sales by $75 million using 500,000 less man-hours by eliminating small defects and recurring problems affecting their guests. They created a form called the Internal Defect Form (IDF).  Any employee noticing a deficiency or defect during the workday completes an IDF. All forms were forwarded to the hotel Quality Office for consolidation.  The Quality Office tracks them and sent them to the appropriate department for action.  Department managers and Quality Coaches took action to improve, repair or replace the defect. 

The important thing to remember is the small, seemingly insignificant details have a major impact on good service.  Average organizations ignore or overlook minor customer inconveniences. Excellent organizations focus on the details.

Free by  e-mail/fax: If you would like a free fact sheet on how to grow your customer service business, please fax us your name on your letterhead to 770-760-0581or E-mail us at newsletter@chartcourse.com.

Gregory P. Smith shows businesses how to build productive and profitable work environments that attract, keep and motivate their workforce.  He is the author of the book, Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High-Turnover to High-Retention. He speaks at conferences, conducts management training and is the president of a management consulting firm Chart Your Course International located in Atlanta, Georgia. Phone him at 770-860-9464. More articles are available at http://www.chartcourse.com

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