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To build a better team, cite what’s going right

Posted by on Mar 20, 2013 in Change Management, Communication, Teamwork | 0 comments

It’s the quickest and easiest way to improve your team.

At the end of a meeting, when the group is still together and you have everyone’s attention, cite one thing that went very well.

Take just 20 or so seconds for this. Be casual, but be specific. Here’s an example:

“It was great how everyone weighed in with their ideas. We made incredible progress in just an hour.”

Over the next few days, during a few of your conversations with team members, make the same observation. Phrase it a bit differently, but maintain the core message.

“That last meeting was our best in a long time. With all of us adding in ideas, we got more done in an hour than a lot of groups get done in a whole week.”

After you do this a few times, one or two people will be saying the same thing, guaranteed. And the words will become a new understanding shared by team members: When all of us participate, we get better results.

At the next team meeting, if the opportunity presents itself early in the session, convey the same message once more. “That last session was fantastic. No one held back, and that made a huge difference. Here’s a handout with all the ideas we generated.”

You can see what’s happening here. By reflecting back on one specific thing the group has done extremely well, the person is making it visible for all to see — and establishing it as a new team benchmark.

The reflection technique doesn’t require special skill. It doesn’t take a lot of time. And you don’t need high-level authority.

Anyone can do it — as long as they’re observant enough to see that one action, behavior, or quality that’s emerging as a team strength.

Every team has at least one. So stay alert, call it out, and make it your team’s new norm.

The inefficient extra that’s entirely worth it

Posted by on Mar 18, 2013 in Customer Service, Organizational Culture, Workplace Improvement | 2 comments

Thank You

When you break your wrist and have to undergo surgery to get it fixed, the last thing you want is another surprise — unless it’s overwhelmingly positive.

That’s what happened to my sister. Three days after her surgery, she received a hand-addressed envelope from the outpatient group that fixed her wrist. Surprise! Inside was a “thank you for selecting us” card signed by six staff members.

Is it a big deal? It was to my sister. After the pain of a broken bone, compounded by all the worry that precedes and follows surgery, the card and those first-name signatures provided just the right personal touch.

There’s no rule that says an organization has to send thank-you cards to its customers. There’s no compelling financial reason. There’s no likely therapeutic benefit. You could even argue that it’s an inefficient way to use time and resources.

Perhaps that’s why cards like these are so rare — and so appreciated.

Be on the path that leads to awesome

Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Leadership, Self-Improvement | 1 comment

If you haven’t gotten the talk from Kid President, now’s the time.

And if you’ve seen the video already, it’s worth seeing again.

Because we all need a good pep talk sometimes.

Getting your ideas (finally) implemented

Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Change Management, Communication, Self-Improvement, Workplace Improvement | 1 comment

Coming up with ideas for improving the workplace should be a good thing. So why can it be so frustrating?

“Few of my ideas are ever implemented,” one person told me recently. “It’s getting to the point where I rarely bother to suggest anything anymore.”

If you can relate, don’t give up. There are specific ways to move more of your good ideas from drawing board to reality.

• For starters, make sure your ideas aren’t all about things that other people should do. Come up with improvements you can implement on your own — and get them done.

• With an idea where you don’t have the authority or ability to implement, take a second look. Perhaps you can narrow the concept to something smaller that you can do. Let’s say you’ve pitched an idea for having your organization survey its customers, but senior leadership is unresponsive. No problem. Just scope down your idea to something you can do: Conduct your own survey of your own customers. Others will take notice, some will follow suit, and your idea for an all-company survey is likely to get attention.

• When communicating your ideas, speak to people in their preferred language. If you’re presenting to someone who’s obsessed with financials, lead off by explaining how the idea will benefit the bottom line. With someone who’s planning-oriented, show how the idea will help the organization achieve a goal. With someone who’s competitive, demonstrate how the idea will give the organization a significant edge.

• If none of the above seems doable, engage in a little guerilla marketing of your idea. Start talking it up, especially with individuals who wield influence and shape opinions. Growing chatter among the right people will give your idea added credibility.

The next time you come up with a great improvement idea for your workplace, you might be tempted to rush forward and tell everyone right away. Or you might be inclined to keep quiet because previous ideas went nowhere.

Avoid both of these extremes. Instead, advance your idea with the more nuanced approaches described above. It will take more time, more thought, and more patience – but you’ll achieve much more success.

Humanizing the workplace can be this easy

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in Customer Service, Engagement, Organizational Culture | 3 comments

Can customer engagement be as simple as a few lines on a piece of paper?

In the case of a branch office where I do my banking, the answer is a big yes.

Positioned at each teller station is the associate’s photo — and below that are a few lines of personal bio information.

So when I stepped up to Michael Day’s station one day, I learned from the sign beneath his photo that he has two dogs. I asked about them, since I’m a devoted dog owner. “They’re spaniels,” he said.

That caught my attention, because our mixed-breed dog is mostly spaniel. Michael and I spent the next couple minutes talking about dogs while he processed my transaction. He was as professional as can be, but the dog talk somehow made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.

On another visit to the same branch, I was served by a different teller. Her bio mentioned that she wanted to visit Ireland. That sparked a quick conversation about Dublin.

I asked Michael how the bio idea came about. It wasn’t a big deal, he said. Someone at the branch suggested it and they gave it a try.

Some customers don’t notice, or they notice but don’t comment. Many others (like me) get curious, ask, and enjoy the resulting conversation.

It’s a great reminder that humanizing the workplace can be this easy.