Be of good cheer!

So how are you rating on the “cheer” meter right now? Are you feeling like a holiday cheermeister yet? (I love that part in the Grinch movie!)

The holidays are a great source of joy and cheer for many, but for others they are very stressful and can bring on anxiety related to shopping, cooking, gifting and visiting. For some people, this can be a very lonely time of year, especially for those who have experienced a significant loss. So how can you be of good cheer?  Actually, watching or reading “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas!” offers a good reminder to change our attitude.

I love this part from the story:

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”
― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

In a culture that drives you to do more, I challenge you to do more meaningful things this year. Spending quality time with loved ones is far more valuable than gifts. A kind word and sincere company is an immeasurable blessing to the lonely. Determine to be of good cheer and spread cheer, even with just your smile. Seek a simpler approach to the season and see what a difference it can make.  So consider the real meaning of the season and Be of Good Cheer!  Merry Christmas, everyone!

We should honor the Savior’s declaration to “Be of Good Cheer.” Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than any other. – Jeffrey R. Holland

Beyond Appreciation – Acknowledging Gratitude!

I’ve always said Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Why? It’s one of the few holidays not based on giving or receiving anything, but based on being grateful for what you already gratefulhave. An attitude of gratitude is extremely powerful, in our personal lives as well as our business lives. Gratitude goes beyond just appreciating something to acknowledging the many things around you that are worthy of your recognition.

The power of acknowledging what we are thankful for is incredible and helps reduce stress, enables us to face challenges better, and improves our relationships with others. If you pay attention, there are numerous opportunities to acknowledge your gratitude every day. All over Facebook, many people are making a specific comment of thankfulness each day throughout November. This is an important activity, not only for their own well being, but for those around them. But the acknowledgement doesn’t have to be public. Some people keep a gratitude journal, or routinely write notes of appreciation. A quick and easy way to acknowledge gratitude is to speak it sincerely, to those who should be hearing it, or even to yourself!

Though not everyone will admit to wanting recognition, most people truly like it. Employee satisfaction surveys indicate that American workers crave recognition in the workplace. A sense of being appreciated helps employees be more productive, improves performance, and even encourages better service to customers. Organizations with effective reward and recognition programs report increased retention, job satisfaction, and overall performance. It’s important to encourage a culture of recognition that is not only manager to employee, but peer to peer, employee to customer, and customer to employee. It doesn’t matter what direction the gratitude is coming from, the important thing is that it’s flowing!

So express your gratitude today! Ponder it, speak it, write it, or display it…the important thing is that you acknowledge it.  Happy Thanksgiving!

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” — William Arthur Ward

Do you know someone who acts like a horse’s…

…leader? If so, then you know an excellent communicator with true leadership qualities!

LeadershipCommunicationStraightfromtheHorsesMouth-3D (2)What can you learn about leadership and communication from a horse? More than you think! We know that communication is far more than talking and listening, words and gestures. Genuine communication requires a sincere understanding of another person’s (or being’s) perspective… “communication language” if you will.

What if I told you that the horse’s unique communication language could give you amazing insight into communicating more effectively with humans? Learn how horses perceive leadership and apply the “lessons from the horse” to your own leadership communication style and find out how to really gain the respect of the herd!

My new e-book, “Leadership Communication: Straight from the Horse’s Mouth” is available now at a special introductory price on  Click here to order now at this special price!

“Chemistry” at work? Ways to ensure the spark doesn’t become a FLAME!

chemheartvalentineBelieve it not, the vast majority of us deal with chemistry in the workplace.  No, I’m not talking about the romantic type of “chemistry”,  I’m talking about actual chemicals in the workplace.  (Just because it’s February, doesn’t mean everything is about love!)

OSHA’s hazard communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) regarding chemicals in the workplace applies to any business where workers may be exposed to hazardous chemicals. The standard requires:

  • a written program (businesses often refer to this as a Haz Com policy);
  • appropriate labeling;
  • employee access to current Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), formerly called material safety data sheets (MSDSs);
  •  employee training on the Haz Com policy;
  • compliance with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for the classification and labeling of chemicals.

We are currently near the end of a 4-year phase-in period for compliance with GHS, with full implementation required by June 1, 2016.  Don’t delay!

OSHA inspectors frequently cite the following Haz Com violations:

  • failure to have a written program;
  • inadequate or undocumented employee training;
  • improper labeling on chemical containers; and
  • missing, or lack of access to, SDSs.

Are you sure you’re in compliance?  If not, consult for more information or seek professional services.  OSHA inspectors can visit your business at any time.  Be ready!

How Your Business Can Be “Knowledge Rich” in Lean Times

Think of someone you know who is an expert is his/her field or profession!

Has that person ever tried to convey information to you?  How did that work out? Can the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in your organization effectively transfer their knowledge?

Valuable expertise can forever walk out the door at any moment, so we need to constantly harvest our organization’s knowledge base and spread it around. 

Here are the qualities to look for in SMEs who will be able to build the knowledge base in your organization.

Desire to share knowledge:  WANTING to help others and share knowledge is THE single most important quality.  Ask the SME how important training is to the organization.  Ultimately, a good SME is passionate about both his/her subject AND overall organization performance.  Passionate people have stories to tell, examples to share, and a desire to do so.

Competence:   The SME should be someone who has demonstrated competence and is respected by others as a SME (not just a self- proclaimed SME).  The right person has credibility with peers and the reputation as the “go to” person … the person who knows the process, the history behind the process, and how to troubleshoot the process.

Communication skills: Desire to share and competence in the subject matter are of little value if that knowledge can’t be effectively shared.  Ask the SME to explain something to you.  Evaluate how he/she explains it, and note if you are asked questions to see if you understand.  Evaluate how the person makes you feel.  Patronized?   Ignorant? …or Valued, nurtured, and helped?  Essentially, be the first student and evaluate teaching potential!

There’s no doubt that a SME can be a great training resource; and with proper preparation, management and transition, an internal subject matter expert can become a subject matter educator!


Don’t let “backstage” come “onstage”!

With dance recital season in full swing, there has been much activity “onstage” and even more “backstage”.   However, this concept doesn’t just exist in the world of dance and theater, it’s in every business.

I first read about this concept in the book “Lessons from the Mouse” by Dennis Snow.  It’s about the secrets of success at Disney World.  Disney has a concept called “behind the magic”.  Guests are never to see or hear what goes on behind the magic.  You don’t see Snow White taking a smoke break or hear Mickey Mouse complaining about how hot it is and how he hasn’t had his break yet.  Guests are entitled to the “onstage” experience.  Disney looks great onstage because of what is kept behind the curtain … the stuff customers don’t want to know about.  Seeing or hearing backstage activity spoils the onstage experience for customers.

This happens in lots of customer service situations.  Have you ever approached a cash register or service counter only to feel like you were imposing on someone?  Have you had a service provider focus more on a task he or she was completing than acknowledging your presence as a “valued” customer?  Then there are co-worker interactions that happen at the expense of customer interactions.  We’ve all experienced this many times in the check-out line, handing over hard-earned money to a cashier who is completely engaged in conversation with a co-worker while ignoring us as customers.

Here are a few more examples of backstage invasions:

  • Employees eating in front of customers
  • Employees messing with cell phones
  • Employees complaining to a customer about another department or employee
  • Employees who have their two-way radios turned up so high that everyone in the store is exposed to their backstage business
  • Employees allowing filing or other work to take precedence over acknowledging customers
  • Closet doors or store rooms left open, or customer areas crowded with boxes
  • Overhearing negative employee comments about the company, eagerness to take a break or get off work, or annoyance with a previous customer

Every industry can benefit from a discussion of onstage vs. backstage behavior.  Determine how the onstage show should look, sound and feel for your business, and then train employees to keep backstage operations behind the curtain!


Perfect or Done?

There are two kinds of people….those who get things perfect, and those who get things done.  Are you a Perfectionist or a “Get ‘R Done” person?

Perfection is difficult to achieve and often isn’t 100% necessary. 

For example:  Two students have been assigned a project to produce a solar system replica along with a report on the subject.  The due date is tomorrow. 

The Perfectionist student may get caught up in ensuring that the replica is of the finest materials, accurate colors, most realistic surface, exactly to scale, etc.  This can often happen to the detriment of the report, and the due date!

The “Get ‘R Done” student will analyze the grading rubric and determine the replica is only worth 5 points and the must-have elements of the report will carry the most weight.  This student will focus on ensuring the report meets the specified criteria and then produce a replica not nearly as perfect, but satisfactory.

The lesson here is that we face these decisions every day in our tasks.  Sometimes a task must be perfect, for example brain surgery!  However, most of our tasks have the latitude described above.

 It’s important to evaluate a task and determine the appropriate amount of effort, double-checking, etc. needed to accomplish the task to the highest quality necessary, within the allotted time frame.  Note:  “highest quality necessary“, not “highest quality possible”.

Sometimes perfection is more critical than timeliness, and it’s important to know when this condition exists.  More often, however, getting the job done is more critical than having it reach an unnecessary level of perfection.

Prioritization and effective time management are dependent upon making these decisions well. Ultimately, weigh the use of your time and energy carefully, and allocate them with proper focus.  You’ll accomplish more, and what you accomplish will be done more consistently

Quote:  Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

–Lin Yutang,
Chinese writer, translator, linguist and inventor


Where is your weak link?

3 steps to weeding them out!

Every business has one (or more).  Sometimes it’s a process, sometimes a product, but more often than not, it’s a PERSON

How should you address weak links?  These three steps are necessary, if you’re interested in strengthening your business.

Identify:  First, you must clearly identify the weak links.  You can do this by asking for, and paying attention to, customer feedback.  Ask about processes, products and people.  Do not be offended by what you hear.  Customers will tell you their perceptions and, you can either choose to believe them and build your business or ignore them and watch it fail.  Inform your employees that you are asking for specific feedback.  Meanwhile, look around, watch people work, and examine data regarding output/efficiency.  Look in the places your customers might not see.

Intervene: A weak link left unchecked will eventually break your business.  Share the results of your “Identification” step.  Again, this is no time for people to get offended.  This is business.  If a person is one of your problems, it’s time to make it public.  The rest of your employees know who the weak link is and will appreciate the fact that you’re finally addressing the situation.  Determine what it will take to strengthen the weak link.  The answer may be awareness, training, process changes, or reorganization.  Be strong enough to take the actions needed, or your employees will lose faith in your leadership.

Institute:  Institute a measurement process for important business metrics so that weak links are identified quickly and you can determine whether or not interventions are effective.  Share metrics with employees so that the quality and efficiency of your business is known and improvements can be celebrated.  You may also want to institute a reward and recognition program so that continuous improvement is encouraged and reinforced.

Weeding out weak links not only strengthens your business but also improves employee morale.  Here’s your reality check for the day:  Don’t wait for weak links to fix themselves … that just never happens.

Three Secrets to Providing Customer Service the “Old Fashioned” Way!

It’s getting harder these days to find good old fashioned customer service.  Not only are service providers apparently less motivated to deliver good service, but a lot of customers are making it harder for them to do so!

On a recent trip to The Homestead, founded in 1766, in Hot Springs,VA, I experienced old fashioned service at its best.  Three positive things they did made a big impression!

Work like a team – The reservationist assured me over the phone that she would select a “preferred” room for my husband and me, since we are frequent guests.  Upon check in, the front desk clerk picked up on the reservation file notation and assured us with a smile that we were being “well taken care of”.  Although Frank the bellman was called over to usher us and our luggage to our room, we spotted our favorite bellman Keswick walking over to greet us.  As we stopped to speak to Keswick, Frank was perceptive and generous enough to hand us over to his teammate.  A brief but respectful exchange between teammates resulted in Frank remaining behind to help the next guest while Keswick helped us to our room.  It was so refreshing to have our customer experience elevated above some ritualistic employee procedure.

Pay attention to individual customer tastes – As my husband selected his second cup of tea during afternoon tea in the Great Hall on day one of our stay, tea server Ashley pointed out that his first cup had been decaf and that he had just selected regular for his second.  Although my husband intended to switch, we were impressed that Ashley had noticed and felt compelled to check.  The next afternoon at tea, Ashley prepared a cup of Earl Grey tea as I approached from across the room.  Somehow, with close to a hundred people taking tea that afternoon, Ashley remembered my preference from the previous day.  Kudos to Ashley for paying close attention to her guests and making them feel special!

Handle difficult customers with grace –  At breakfast in the dining room one morning, the omelet chef was making pleasant conversation with four of us while we waited for made-to-order omelets.  Another guest who had abandoned the omelet station suddenly reappeared and immediately received her waiting omelet.  This guest then rudely snipped, “It’s cold.  I don’t want a cold omelet!”  Without hesitation or change of facial expression, the chef pleasantly offered to either place the omelet back on the griddle or immediately make a fresh one.  The rude guest conceded that it would be ok and disappeared.  While the rest of us were mortified by the unjustified rude behavior, Chef Cathy handled it with a grace that further endeared her to the four appreciative “customers” in front of her.

Though old fashioned customer service is becoming less common, it’s still every bit as satisfying as it was in the days of old!  Think back to the higher standards we enjoyed not that long ago, and then find ways to incorporate those timeless behaviors into YOUR customer service today.

That’s a “good answer”!

Do you remember watching the game show “Family Feud”?  Whenever a family member gave an answer, no matter how ridiculous, the rest of the family would clap and cheer: “Good answer! Good answer!”

Did you know there’s actually a recipe for a “good answer”?  Just remember “ABC”!  I teach this “ABC” technique to speakers and presenters, but it can be used by most of us every day!  Do this when asked a question:

AAnswer the question!  That sounds simple, but it means give the direct answer without hedging, sidestepping or adding any preliminary background first.  The questioner is listening for the answer, not for background information, so give the answer first.

BBackground can be provided to support the answer.  This may be in the form of reasons, examples, and explanations, if necessary.

CConnect to a key idea you want to get across.  A talented speaker can find ways to relate the answer back to one or more key concepts of the presentation.

Here’s an example:

Question:  “Should a speaker close every professional presentation with Q&A?”

nswer:  “
No, he or she should not.” 

Background:  “Q&A can be difficult to manage and might actually end your presentation on a flat note, especially if the questions being asked aren’t of interest to the entire group.  It’s actually better to weave question and answer opportunities into the presentation, ending with an offer to entertain additional questions after dismissal by standing near the front of the room for those with “bonus questions”.  If it is important to open the floor for questions, do so BEFORE your closing remarks!”

Connect:  “A speaker’s opening and closing are two of the most important moments in the presentation.  Ensure that your presentation ends strongly by holding Q&A before you deliver your closing remarks.” 

You may not always hear cheers and clapping following your answers, but you can control the mood and pace of Q&A successfully by employing the ABCs of question answering.