Keys to Achieving Excellence in Customer Service

May 16, 2018 by  

Customer satisfaction is essential to the building of a successful, growing, and long-lasting business, so what can you do to ensure that your company is providing good customer service?

Here are 4 elements to consider when establishing or improving the customer service within your business:
1) the Customer Desires & Needs
Everyone makes daily purchasing decisions, therefore, everyone is actually a potential customer. Understanding the desires, concerns, and needs of your customers prepares your customer service representatives with the necessary information to assist in the most effective manner. In fact, this knowledge gives them the ability to provide whatever your customer needs to be a happy, contented and then a returning customer.  In order to learn those important issues you mush train your employees to practice Active Listening.

2) Your Service Culture
Customer service is an important aspect of every employee’s job. Each and every customer service contact has the potential to gain repeat business or drive it away. Therefore, selecting the best people to deal with your customers is extremely important. Every organization wants to avoid negative publicity, especially today with social media able to make issues go viral in a matter of minutes! If that happens, it can easily and quickly damage your business reputation. Being cognizant of this issue can help you to avoid this issue as it can be difficult to recover from that sort of attack.

3) Trust & Loyalty
Your biggest source of business is repeat customers and it costs much more to acquire a new one. So, it is essential to institute practices that help to maintain your existing ones. Customers like to feel special and can be easily lost if they sense that you don’t care much about them. A single negative experience can cost you a customer. In both good times and bad, the long-term value of a customer is much greater than a series of single transactions from one-time customers. Here is one other important thing to remember…..if something does go wrong, that is when you have to do something outstanding to fix it so that the customer will be more likely to remember how you fixed the problem rather than the problem itself. In addition, if what happened was something that you were not aware of, such as a failure of a product, you should also thank the customer for bringing this issue to your attention.

4) Customer Service Employees
Frontline employees are the ones who portray the image of your company in the eyes of the consumer. Not all employees necessarily value the importance of excellent and consistent customer service. Therefore, it is extremely important to evaluate the behaviors, attitudes, and skills of the individuals who work for you to determine who is the most capable of holding a customer-facing position and then invest in appropriate training for those people. A single customer poor encounter with an employee can make or break a sale. In addition, if your culture is one that appreciates, supports and encourages your employees, they will be more likely to treat your customers with the same respect and courtesy.

In the end, meeting your customers’ expectations can lead to customer satisfaction; however, in today’s competitive marketplace going above and beyond expectations will ensure customer satisfaction. Companies with poor customer service risk losing current and potential customers. However, acknowledging and focusing on the key elements described above will enable your business to develop a good plan that will provide your business with excellent, consistent, and memorable customer service.

Tips for Stress Deflection

April 30, 2018 by  

Stress is mental or physical tension that results from physical, emotional, or chemical causes. In today’s ever-changing world of technology and strife, stress seems to increase and decrease in waves but never ceases. Changes in our world due to technology, the expectation of multi-tasking, the breakdown of the traditional family and other issues have shifted the nature and pattern of stress-inducing events.
Having said that, when stressors are relatively acute but infrequent, our bodies can recover. In fact, small doses of stress are actually beneficial to humans as they serve as a catalyst propelling us to higher achievement. However, prolonged exposure to stress does not give our bodies a chance to recover so we cannot fight or flee! In addition, that prolonged stress can cause irreversible physiological damage to our bodies and affect our cognitive abilities as well.
All these factors indicate that today we must have strategies to deflect and reduce our stress so that we can function effectively and stay healthy. In addition, we must find the fortitude to actually employ those strategies when necessary.

So what are some stress-busting ideas?
Here are some approaches you may wish to consider:
1. Breathe! Usually, the first thing that happens when we are stressed out, is we quit breathing appropriately thus reducing the oxygen levels to our brains which lowers our problem-solving abilities and rational thought.

2. Practice Active Listening……why? Because, just giving instructions or directions to someone does not guarantee that you will get what you expect unless you get some concrete feedback from the listener which proves that they received your message as sent, processed the information as necessary and so concluded what you expect to have happen. If you do not get this feedback, unless you are a mind reader, you actually have no idea what this person heard, how they computed the information and what they will actually do with that message. When we do not get what we expect we experience disappointment, resentment, complaining, confusion and of course, misinformation…….all of which cause stress!

3. Be Accountable…….that means taking responsibility for what you do and the mistakes that you make. If you do that you will learn from those errors and become a better problem solver.

4. Do not delay Problem Solving Techniques……… here is why, most problems will not disappear by themselves, in other words, you need to resolve issues and problems before they get worse and ignoring them or hoping they will fix themselves will not work!

5. Be Assertive……..if you have an issue with someone or a situation, it is best to address it but in an honest, calm and respectful manner. Allowing behavior that is inappropriate, disrespectful or even harassing, you enable it because we get the behavior we tolerate. Yes, it is often difficult to confront someone in such situations, however, if you don’t the problem will not go away by itself.

6. Get Regular Exercise……. Exercise helps to change your brain chemistry so that it releases more endorphins which give a feeling of wellbeing. In addition, you will have more energy to cope with your daily challenges if you are fit. This does not mean you need to run a marathon or develop the muscles of a weightlifter. Rather you can do whatever you enjoy that will get you moving. Take a dance or pilates class, take a drumming class, walk your dog a couple of times a day, do yoga, even learn to meditate. Whatever interests you and moves you will be good.

7. Eat Healthfully……..that means employing balance, moderation, and variety in your meals by eating from the four basic food groups, controlling your portions and enjoying a variety of different foods and styles of preparation. Your body needs proper nourishment to function well and you will feel better and stay healthier if you practice healthy eating. If you do not know how to do that, consider consulting a registered dietitian for some tips.

8. Get Adequate Rest…….most people today get less than 6 hours of sleep/night and that is truly not enough rest. Your body rejuvenates when you sleep and your memories become better embedded when you sleep. So, if you are not getting ample sleep neither of those functions is going to be happening, meaning you will likely not function effectively, make more mistakes and that will increase your stress.

9. Think Positively………..the only thing in your life that you have total control over is your attitude. One who thinks negatively, always sees the glass as half full and the bad in all situations is certainly not going to be a very happy person and will likely experience much more stress than a positive person. The positive attitude will bring solutions to challenges, find the good in any situation and will also experience far less stress because they will be too busy being happy!

10.Be Flexible…..in other words, go with the flow in any situation as some things you just cannot control and maybe you don’t have to control everything.

11.Laugh……..laughter is another thing that changes our brain chemistry and releases endorphins for a feeling of wellbeing. In fact, laughter helps us to heal so be sure to have some fun in your life on a very regular basis!

12.Believe in Yourself……self confidence and good self-esteem can help us to achieve more and at a higher level of performance. It does not mean that you need to become an egotist, it just means that you can believe that you can deal with pretty much whatever gets thrown at you.

13. List 5 Things that Make You Happy…….make that list and put in somewhere that you can see it often to remind yourself that your life is good!

14. Take a Vacation…..getting away from time to time is a great way to destress and it does not need to be anything exotic or far away. It can be just making sure you have some occasional “me time”. However, it can also add some fun to your life and your relationships.

15. Be sure you have a Good Life/Work Balance…..be sure to schedule in some time to spend with your loved ones and friends as that is just as important as being effective, efficient and creative and work.

In the end, remember that first of all, stress is different things to different people and that depends on their coping abilities, lifestyle, situation and even personality type.

However, for all of us, stress is rather like a violin…..

  • If you bow too hard on the strings the sound is very screechy.
  • If you do bow hard enough, very little sound comes out at all.
  • So your bowing technique needs to have just the right amount of pressure in order for the sound to be lovely.

So it is with stress……if you have no stress in your life, you likely do not have much of a life as stress is partly what makes us grow and change. However, too much stress is very harmful. So one must find a nice balance of occasional bouts of short stress and the ability to deflect enough stress so that it does not get out of hand and become harmful to our bodies, our minds, and our immune systems.

Seven Strategies for Keeping Angry Customers

April 4, 2018 by  

I believe you can salvage a relationship with an angry customer and turn them into a happy one depending on how you handle the situation.  Probably the most important key here is to practice Active Listening so that you can be sure that you clearly understand what the problem is before trying to make them happy.

Here are 7 ways to keep angry customers from storming out of your business and never returning:

1. Realize the customer’s time is valuable. If you put the customer on hold and transfer them three different times, you are going to make them angrier with each transfer. If that is what happens often you need to fix this system. It is better to solve the problem quickly and efficiently or direct the customer to someone who can. This can only be done if all your employees understand the chain of command and are empowered to solve problems. Employees should also know exactly who to refer problem customers to if it is beyond their scope and abilities.

2. Never outsource your customer service. Your customers want to be helped by people with good language skills so that they feel understood and that their issue will be handled effectively and efficiently. This, unfortunately, is not likely if the person is not even in the country and if English is not their first language.

3. Show empathy. Of course you must stay calm, however, you must sincerely show empathy for their situation and be ready and able to assist them quickly and effectively because they feel that they are in crisis and you need to fix it! In addition, never tell the customer to calm down as that will only escalate the exchange. Remember, this is not about you, it is about them!

4. Be Present on Social Media. Today, you must monitor your business on social media or you could be missing a big opportunity. Most people today find everything on the internet and consult social media for many of their needs. In addition, if they are unhappy about something they can also state that on social media. You need to have someone in your company actively updating your company profiles, website, and the information you post there. You should also be watching for comments good and bad about your business to see if you need to emphasize or change anything and then post that on the sites.

5. Over deliver, if possible. Once you have angered a customer, you need to do something outstanding in order to fix the relationship. You want the customer to remember how you fixed the problem rather than the problem itself. However, do not promise something you cannot deliver!

6. Don’t just say you will get back to the customer. Broken promises will only make the customer angrier. If you say you will get back to them this afternoon or tomorrow morning, make sure that you or whoever can fix the situation, does so. There is nothing worse than an unfulfilled expectation, especially after there has been some sort of issue that needed to be resolved.

7. Fix unreasonable policies. You can avoid angry customers in the first place if you figure out what is wrong with your process. Every organization needs to have policies and procedures, however, in some situations, the customer service people need to be given some flexibility with those policies, especially if they do not make sense in a particular situation. You, of course, cannot keep giving away the store, however, you do want to ask what will make them happy and try your best to deliver as much of what they are seeking as is reasonably possible.

So, you have an angry customer you might want to consider the above-described approaches to make sure that you can resolve their issue in a way that will allow you to keep them as a customer rather than chase them away. In today’s very competitive business world you want to make sure that your organization has the skills and strategies to deal effectively with problems of any sort with a win/win outcome.

Is Sales Training Important for an Organization?

March 13, 2018 by  

Here are some questions you might want to consider:
– Why should an organization implement a sales training program?
– What role does it play in an organization?
– Is it just a “nice-to-have” option or a “must have” option?
– Is it a part of a conscious strategy to achieve organizational goals?

In the end, just how a sales training program is perceived really depends on the specific organization. Some may think that it is a complete waste of time and that a sales team learns best while on the job. While other organizations may realize that investing in that training is likely to result in better outcomes.

So let’s explore the elements that could be gained from a good sales training program.

I Produces Increased Revenue: The sales department in any organization is the main revenue-generating component of that company. Other departments usually provide support functions. In our current very highly competitive environment, where there is so much competition for customers’ attention, the onus is therefore put on the salespeople to offer the most appropriate product to the right customer at the best time. By providing sales training to the staff, an organization can ensure that no time will be wasted in trial and error methods and instead the sales team will know exactly how to go about their job and do it more successfully.

II Provides Procedural Consistency: Excellent sales training offers knowledge on the fundamentals of good sales practices. The program would include the basics of sales procedure such as prospecting for your market, the means to determine needs identification, as well as strategies for closing the sale. In addition, in many industries, organizations need to follow certain rules and regulations while selling a product or a service and that information also needs to be shared. This is particularly true in the industries where employees have to adhere to the norms set by the local regulatory bodies. We certainly do not want any issues to be created if these mandatory rules and regulations are not followed.

III Offering Motivation to the Sales Teams: Sales is a certainly a high-pressure job that can easily lead to frustration and disappointment for the sales team. Sales training can provide an opportunity for managers to keep their sales team motivated toward reaching their targets or even more. By introducing fun team-building activities and morale-boosting workshops, managers can make sure their sales team does not lose focus on the organizational goals and the means to reach or surpass their determined targets. These sorts of activities and support approaches will likely reduce employee turnover and increase productivity.

IV Enhanced Product Knowledge: Information about the products that one is selling as well as those of your competitors is fundamental for a good sales outcome. A new salesperson needs to be well versed in the product or service that he/she is going to sell so that they can be better prepared to answer questions and determine if they are approaching the right prospects. A training program can provide all the information necessary about the products or services that the organization provides. Then the information can be passed on in an authentic and realistic manner, leaving no room for ambiguity or misinformation that might arise and cause the salesperson difficulties.

V Effective Soft Skills Training: The key to being an excellent salesperson boils down to effective communication skills and other soft skills that allow the salesperson to figure out how best to approach the prospect, grab their attention and ultimately complete the sale. Therefore, selling is both an art and a science as it involves both analytical and creative skills. By providing training in leadership, team-building, and communication skills, employees will be better equipped to showcase your companies’ products or services and employ their persuasive skills to convince potential customers that their product or service best meets the specific needs of that customer. In the end, this will ultimately help to complete more sales and thereby more revenue for the organization.

VI Ensuring High Business Values and Ethics: With increasing sales targets, there is always a risk of employees compromising on organizational business values and ethics. In order for an organization to succeed long term, it has to ensure that its employees follow the business and core values it espouses and this can be introduced and reinforced via an appropriate platform to effectively and positively deliver this key message to the sales force.

In summary, a sales training program provides the following advantages. It increases the efficiency, productivity, and creativity of a salesperson. It helps in accessing the abilities of a salesperson. And, last but certainly not least, it improves the organization’s ROI.

Finally, one can say that sales training is a most valuable investment that helps an organization remain sustainable and competitive for the long haul. It also motivates the team and helps them to remain current with the company’s products, market, core values, and competition.

Are You Assertive or Aggressive?

February 21, 2018 by  

There is a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive and it depends upon your approach.
Aggressive behavior will not usually get you what you want as it offends others. Aggressive people are the blaming finger pointers who insult and aggravate others by demeaning them in nasty ways. This usually does not result in a good outcome and often exacerbates the situation.
It is better when you feel that you have been offended or disrespected, that you do it in an assertive manner……meaning have the difficult conversation in an honest, calm, and respectful way. That does not mean that the person will easily accept what you have to say, as you are criticizing them, however, you will have a much better chance for a win/win outcome with this strategy.

Is it hard to have such confrontational conversations……however, unless they are a mind reader, the person who offended you may have no idea that they did so and anyway, you are the one walking around with the stomach ache. Therefore it is your responsibility to try to rectify the situation by having that difficult conversation. In addition, you must also realize that having that conversation once may not solve the issue and you may have to screw up your courage more than once in order to obtain a change in behavior. Nonetheless, if you do not tell them you are enabling that behavior and they will very likely continue it. This sort of issue could also be when a colleague does not follow directions or comply with the company policy, which could be having an effect on the productivity of the project the team is working on.
In addition, remember it is not a good idea to confront the person immediately after the event occurs as you will not likely be able to remain calm and respectful. It is better to calm yourself down and make a plan for what you will say, how you will answer to their retorts while keeping your cool and try to anticipate what might happen so you can prepare yourself for how you will react. However, if you wait too long, because it was something that bothered you and not the person who did it, they will likely not recall the incident. So try to prepare to speak with them in a day or so, if you can.

Here is a simple format you can use for this difficult conversation:
1. Describe:
Describe the situation objectively, without using judgment words.
2. Result:
Explain what happens because of that behavior.
3. Request:
Make a polite, specific request as to what you would prefer to happen.

Realize that the person may not be happy with what you are saying and may argue or get nasty. If that happens you should just say you understand why they may feel that way, however, you brought this up as you do work together and wanted to make sure that you could continue to do that in comfort. You might also let them know that it is affecting others and that you are sure that was not their intention. If they stay angry or later give you the cold shoulder, you should let them know that you were sincerely hoping that this could be solved amicably so that you could maintain a cordial relationship. In the end, we cannot make people do things they do not want to do and if a person does not want to change their behavior there may not be much we can do other than this…….if you wish to offer a consequence, such as…..”I really do not want to go to the HR manager or our manager about this as I was hoping we could just work it out ourselves. However, if that is not going to work, I guess I will have to escalate this to them. Then, if you must do that, do it!

This is definitely not an easy thing to do, and many people will do almost anything to avoid having a difficult conversation, nonetheless, conflict does not disappear on its own and if it is not dealt with it can erode morale in a workplace, so better to “bite the bullet” and deal with it.
In the end, remember to stay positive, polite, calm, and honest whenever having such an exchange and be very aware of your body language. In other words, pay attention to your tone of voice, the volume of your voice, your stance, the look on your face as well as your gestures. Because if these do not match and reinforce the respectful words you are using, they will likely obliterate them and the person will feel that you are attacking them and they will very likely just want to attack you back.
Being assertive is not an easy task, however, if you practice it you will get better at it and have less conflict and stress in your life.

What Makes an Effective Manager?

February 2, 2018 by  

Developing effective management skills to deal with the challenges and problems of any organization is certainly important for many businesses and organizations in the current globally competitive environment, especially with the rapidly changing technology we face. Every organization should develop an appropriate managerial training program so that when they elevate someone to that position, they will be sure that the individual will be able to be effective in this role.
Effective Management Skills” help people to be successful in leading their team so that they can help each person to fulfill their potential which will benefit both the person and the entire organization. Proper management is vital in today’s complex environment. The quality of effective management styles can help to determine the culture of the organization, the productivity of its staff, and, ultimately, the success or failure of an organization. A manager should have the ability to direct, supervise, encourage, inspire, support, and co-ordinate. They should also be able to embrace and guide changes in a manner that gets others onboard. Managers need to develop their own leadership qualities as well as those of others. Management requires planning, problem- solving, organizational, and communications skills. These skills are key to successful leadership. In addition, a good manager should exhibit qualities such as integrity, honesty, courage, commitment, sincerity, passion, determination, compassion, and sensitivity.

An effective manager should have the following skills:
I. Creative Problem-Solving Skills.:
(1) Ability to describe and analyze a problem.
(2) Ability to identify the causes of the problem.
(3) Ability to develop creative options and to choose the best course of action.
(4) Ability to implement and evaluate an effective and efficient decision.

II. Effective Communication Skills:
(1) Practice active listening.
(2) Employ effective presentation skills.
(3) Use supportive feedback Skills.
(4) Have excellent report writing skills.

III. Conflict Management Skills:
(1) Ability to identify the sources of conflict, both for functional and dysfunctional conflicts.
(2) Ability to understand the personal styles of conflict resolution.
(3) Ability to choose the best strategy for dealing with a conflict.
(4) Be able to develop the skills to promote constructive conflicts in the organization and the team, as not all conflict is bad, in some cases, it gives us a chance to learn a new approach or perspective.

IV. Negotiation Skills
(1) Ability to distinguish between distributive and integrative negotiations, the various positions one should take, and the principle negotiations necessary to be able to resolve the issue appropriately.
(2) Ability to identifying the common mistakes in negotiation and employ ways to avoid them.
(3) Ability to develop rational thinking when negotiating.
(4) Ability to develop the effective skills for negotiation that benefit all parties involved.

V. Self-Awareness and Improvement:
(1) Having a clear understanding of the concept of self-management. This is emotional intelligence.
(2) Ability to evaluate the effectiveness of self-management.
(3) Ability to use creative and holistic thinking.
(4) Having a clear understanding of self-motivation.
(5) Ability to effectively manage self-learning and change.

In addition, there are other qualities that would be essential for a manager to be able to successfully manage his/her staff.
1. Organizer:
A Manager has to take a long-term view; while a team member will be working towards known and established goals, the manager must be a strategic thinker so that these goals are selected wisely and appropriately. Using longterm strategic planning, the manager should select the optimal plan for the team and implement it. The manager ensures that work is completed in a timely manner with as few mistakes as possible, deals with problems as quickly as possible, and ensures that the necessary resources are allocated and made available.

2. Protector:
In any company, there can be issues, which can impact the workforce. The manager should be aware, guard against these issues, and protect the team wherever and whenever possible. If someone in the team suggests a good plan, the manager must ensure that it receives a fair hearing and that the team knows and understands the outcome. If someone on the team has a problem, the manager should try to help resolve it and the team should know that he/she is there for them.

3. Visionary:
An effective manager should have a vision of where the team is going, the ability to articulate that vision, and the ability to get others onboard collaboratively.

4. Good Communicator:
The ability to effectively communicate with people is the most important skill for every manager. The Manager is also the team’s link to the larger organization, so must have the ability to effectively negotiate and persuade when necessary to ensure the success of the team and their projects.

5. “Cheer Leader”:
Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. If a manager espouses a positive, can-do attitude others will tend to follow that lead. Usually, positive people are more committed to their goals and tend to also be more optimistic. No one wants to be around a negative person and it is up to the manager to set the tone for the team.

6. Competent:
Managers should be chosen based on their ability to successfully lead others rather than on technical expertise or having been with the company a long time. Expertise in effective management is another aspect of competence and usually needs to be learned. The ability to challenge, inspire, enable, model, and encourage must be demonstrated if managers are to be seen as capable and effective.

7. Effective Delegator:
Trust is an essential element in the relationship between the manager and his or her team. Your trust in others is demonstrated through your actions. Giving team members autonomy to do their jobs as they see fit is empowering. As long as the parameters and timelines are understood, micromanaging is very detrimental so just let them “do their thing”. Just be sure to delegate the right tasks to the right person.

8. Cool Under Pressure:
In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, under budget, and with no major problems or obstacles. A leader with a positive attitude will deal with challenges in a timely and appropriate manner. When leaders encounter stressful issues, they are prepared to take them in stride, resolve them, and move on. When this is modeled for the team, they will be more likely to handle things in a similar fashion or come to the manager for suggestions.

9. Team-Builder:
A team builder is essentially a strong, capable person who provides the “glue” that holds the team together so that they can work toward their common goals. In order for a team to become a single cohesive unit, the team leader must understand the process and dynamics necessary for this transformation. He or she must also exercise the appropriate leadership style for each stage of team development. The leader must understand the different team player styles and how to leverage each person’s gifts at the proper time for the proper task.

10.Forward Thinker:
If you want your employees to work hard and be committed to the business, you have to keep them in the loop. Open, honest, clear communication helps foster loyalty and gives employees a sense of pride. It helps them understand how their work contributes to the company’s success and how it fits into the “big picture” that you have laid out for them.

11.Goal Setter: Setting deadlines and goals helps keep employees focused, occupied, and motivated them to do their work. Make sure employees understand their professional growth path in the company and help them to do the things necessary to achieve those goals.

12. Active Observer: It is impossible to know about personality conflicts, lagging productivity, or other problems in the office if you are not paying attention to what is going on. If you notice a change in an employee’s work habits or attitude, try to get to the root of the problem before it starts affecting the rest of your staff. If there are conflicts occurring, they will not go away by themselves, intervention is necessary and it usually falls to the manager to get them straightened out.
The first step in dealing with a problem employee is to identify the source of the trouble. Often, a simple, honest talk with the employee will resolve issues such as occasional tardiness or minor attitude problems. Coaching requires a manager to work one-on-one with problem employees or to assign another employee to work with the employee to overcome their shortcomings. The mentor should provide the employee with feedback as well as solutions for improving their performance. Coaching requires patience and a substantial time investment, but it can help modify an employee’s behavior and ultimately enhance the outcome for the team.
Poor performance is not always due to a lack of skills; rather, the employee may simply be disorganized or sloppy. These habits can usually be corrected with proper guidance if the employee is willing to learn new habits. If performance difficulties relate to a lack of skills, then you will need to consider coaching or additional training.

In some cases, an employee becomes a problem because their skills aren´t compatible with their assigned tasks or regular duties. In such situations, offering the employee additional training or assigning them a different set of tasks is usually the most appropriate course of action.
When you notice that, an employee has made some errors, calmly point out the mistakes to the employee, ask them how they think that happened, how they think the unwanted outcome can be remedied and what other option should they consider if this issue appears again. Then encourage them to go ahead and fix the problem and offer support if they need it. Remember to remain positive and focus on how important the employee’s contribution is to the organization and how their efforts help the team.

13.Active Listener: Employee feedback is critical when managing change. Therefore, holding focus groups with employees is a great way to gauge reactions and monitor the progress of how they are accepting and adapting to the change. You also can encourage employees to provide feedback through email or the company intranet. Communication is the cornerstone to successful change management. Talking to your employees is not a one-time event, and you need to reinforce your message by communicating early and often. In addition, if you listen respectfully to them, they will be more likely to come to you with issues and will listen to you when you are speaking with them.

To be an effective manager you must know yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses, as well as those of the people around you. You must know your objectives and have a clear plan for how you will achieve them. You must build a team of people that share your commitment to achieving those objectives, and you must help each team member to fulfill their potential. When everyone works together toward the common goals they will be more likely to be accomplished.
As the manager, you model the way for your team, so the more positive, calm, and competent you are, and the better you are at effectively communicating with your team, the more success you will all enjoy!

Email Etiquette: Are there rules?

January 20, 2018 by  

Email is currently one of the most used forms of business communication. As many of you know, it is sometimes abused. The importance of email, therefore, should not be undermined, rather it should be utilized in an appropriate and respectful manner. So, it is certainly necessary to observe certain rules of business email etiquette.

Here are some basic rules to be observed when using this means of communication:

Rule No. 1:
Before sending an email, you may want to consider all the options available to you for the communication. With the variety offered by technology today, you have many other options such as text messaging, WhatsApp, Instagram, chatroom, even Skype messaging. Thus, it would behoove you to choose the one which is most appropriate for the subject you are dealing with as well as for the receiver with whom you are communicating.

Rule No. 2:
Sometimes you may be sending a sensitive message. Whenever conflicting statements are being made, it is necessary to be very careful. In those situations, you may find it useful to print the message before sending it or at least review and edit it very carefully before sending it off. You might even consider using a grammar tool such as Grammarly, which is free to download and can help you to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation of any document you create. You might also consider making yourself a hard copy so that you have a permanent record of the correspondence as you might need it if the conflict escalates into something more significant.

Rule No. 3:
Whenever you send an important email, it is truly crucial to read it more than once and check for spelling, content, logic, syntax, etc. You may need to improve the wording, clarity, or other aspects of the missive to be sure that it will be convincing, and clear to the reader. Your extra efforts of editing will pay off in the long run.

Rule No. 4:
Always maintain an up to date address book. It is not a good idea to delete names as you never know when you might need that address at some future time. Organizing your address book will make you more efficient. In other words, you may wish to separate your friends and colleagues from your business contacts and you may wish to arrange your business addresses according to certain groups by industry or relationship. This will make you more efficient as it will be easier to find the address you need more quickly.

Rule No. 5:
In business, in spite your best efforts, it can be difficult to maintain equanimity. It is not a good idea to send an email when you are not a good mood or upset by something as it is more difficult to keep that emotion out of the communication. Furthermore, when you are exhausted, you do not think clearly so this is also not a great time for sending messages. An email should be a spontaneous expression of your thoughts and ideas so you do not want other issues to influence the content your email.

Rule No. 6:
Do not try to make a business process simple, in other words, if a face to face meeting will better serve a particular situation, then make the appointment and have that meeting. Making it more convenient, just to suit you, could harm the relationship and the outcome of the exchange. Remember, an email message is never a good replacement for an important personal contact.

Rule No. 7:
Always remember the order for important business contacts. In many situations, a face to face meeting always comes first when trying to convince and influence a prospect. Sometimes that may not be possible, so your next option is to have a telephone conversation. Be sure to put a smile your face before you even say hello, as it will affect the sound of your voice and how your words are interpreted by the person on the other end of the receiver. Prepare the basics for your conversation before the call, you can even have some notes, as they cannot see what you are doing and that way you can be sure to cover all the key points you wish to impart. Lastly, you could leave a voicemail message, however, that is usually not the best of options as it can easily be ignored and it is hard to get much across in a short voicemail message but at least it is personal. When the previous three are not possible you can then use email and sure remember to follow the first 6 rules of etiquette so that your message will be well received and you will be more likely to receive a reply.

Again, technology can be a great advantage and convenience when used well, however, do remember that direct, face to face meetings are usually the best way to establish and maintain important longterm relationships in business or actually in any aspect of your life.

5 Keys to Building & Maintaining a Culture of Innovation

January 3, 2018 by  

In today’s fast-moving world of technology, businesses need to find a way to keep up and even move ahead of the crowd. In order to do that, the leadership needs to create and commit to establishing and maintaining a culture that invites and encourages innovation. In order to do that, employees must feel that they are appreciated, supported, and encouraged as well as listened to respectfully. When that is well known, individuals can be free to think in creative and innovative ways thus being able to freely develop new ideas, processes, and products. When allowed to do that the organization will have engaged, challenged, high-performing, and productive teams. All of which are beneficial to the success and longevity of any organization.

In order to do this the following elements should be considered:

1. The leadership must demonstrate their intention and desire to innovate:
Many business leaders pay only lip service to innovation. Many opportunities are lost if companies stop innovating. Intentional innovation involves not only announcing a company’s plan to ‘innovate’ but also requires the creation of avenues for that innovation to actually occur throughout the entire company. Intentional innovation provides legitimate and meaningful opportunities that allow everyone in the company to be able to bring forth their ideas. This also means that the leadership must have the strength and be willing to make the changes necessary to actually move the new ideas forward.

2. Unstructured and experimenting time must be scheduled:
You cannot develop a strong team overnight and the same is true for great innovation. Your organization has to develop a real and respected place to germinate and develop new ideas. Time and resources must be made available as the best creations come from a mind free from routine. You need to allow for individuals to have some limited latitude beyond the normal confines of the office, such as retreats, outdoor activities, and even just walks at any time, which can all be conducive to creative thought.

3. Permit mistakes as they are opportunities to learn:
Any company ramping up their authentic innovation efforts needs to allow for errors and inefficiencies. Innovation does not always yield its benefits according to preset timelines and costs. We would not have the technological advances, aerial options or even electricity if the inventors had not made mistakes and learned from them. It is not always about profits and accounting processes. Better to give your people the opportunity to just be creative, experience a few bumps, but keep moving forward and experimenting until something viable is developed.

4. Determine ways to effectively measure innovative impact:
One of the keys to nurturing impactful innovative efforts is to have determined just how you will measure their impact and the resulting successes. The key metrics to consider include new additions to your revenue, profit margins, penetration into new markets, a reduction in costs, absenteeism or turnover. All of which generally occur when employees feel appreciated, supported, and encouraged because when that is present so is engagement. Engaged employees are more self-motivated, generally work at a higher level of performance, and are going to be likely to stay with the company because they are happy there.

5. Find ways to motivate in a meaningful way:
Innovation generally changes the way people work, and what they work on. Leaders need to ensure that everyone affected by the changes understands the impact of the innovative efforts and can actually see the benefits for themselves and their departments. This may mean more skills development, promotional opportunities, job diversity, or bonuses, nonetheless, it needs to be seen as important to each employee so that they will all buy into its success. Keeping everyone in the loop about the project will go a long way to getting and keeping everyone on board with the new project. In addition, it demonstrates that the leadership is committed to its success.

Building this internal architecture of innovation is no simple task, it takes patience, dedication, and commitment by the leadership. However, if you are strongly behind it and can demonstrate that support in meaningful ways you will very likely be able to develop and maintain that desired culture and reap its benefits.

Stress: Is it Harmful or Beneficial?

December 6, 2017 by  

Stress is different things to different people and depends upon a person’s perception of a situation and is based on their life experiences.
The initial stress reaction is the same for everyone, it involves a burst of adrenaline that increases one’s heart rate, respiration, perspiration, and energy level…..but only for a brief period. It is caused by mental or physical tension that results from physical, emotional, or chemical causes. In addition, it is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demand exceeds the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.

Stress never seems to go away and is often beyond our control, so having effective strategies that you can exercise when necessary is essential to your well-being. That may mean getting regular aerobic exercise, walking your dog, meditating, singing, dancing, shopping, having a relaxing glass of wine, laughing with friends……it really does not matter, as long as you do something that reduces the effects of the stress situation for you.
When stress occurs for short or even moderate lengths of time, there is the opportunity for your body to recover from the stress reaction. In fact, in truth, short-term stress is actually beneficial as it gives you focus, extra energy, and spurs you to higher levels of performance….but only for a short period of time.
On the other hand, if stress goes on for long periods of time, your body does not recover, in fact, it “thinks” that your organ systems need to be sustained at a high level of operation so releases another chemical: cortisol, which keeps your organs on “high alert” and actually overworks them which can cause irreversible damage. So, long periods of stress can be harmful.

Here is another factor to consider…..men and women actually react to stress a little differently. The initial reaction is the same, however, shortly thereafter, women get a second cascade of chemicals which counteract the adrenalin rush with estrogen and oxytocin. These two chemicals slow down your heart rate and respiration so that you can begin to consider how to problem solve and your nurturing side is released. In men, however, testosterone, enhances the adrenalin rush and keeps you on “high alert” for longer. This difference may be one of the reasons that women tend to live longer than men as their organ systems have experienced less overwork. In addition, women tend to build strong support systems with their women friends and in times of stress, turn to them for needed support and assistance. Men, do have friendships, of course, but tend not to seek help as often or rely on their friends as women do because society has taught them to be “strong” and self-sufficient.

So if we go back to the initial premise: is stress harmful or beneficial……it is both. It just depends on how long it lasts. If you experience short stressful periods, you can actually leverage those high energy periods to your benefit by getting more done and doing it better. However, if you are in a situation that causes long-term stress, and if you do nothing to deflect or reduce it, you will sustain irreversible physiological damage which could result in disease or various physiological harm, panic attacks, other behavioural symptoms, cognitive deficiencies, communication problems, and perception issues. None of which are good for you and which have not allowed your body to recover.

It does not matter what works for you as a stress reducer, it just matters that when you find yourself suffering, that you definitely employ those strategies so that your body can recover. Unfortunately, stress is a part of life and often occurs from situations that were not in your control, that is why you must be able to deal with it effectively so that it can be used beneficially rather than cause you harm.

How to Develop New Blog Ideas

November 18, 2017 by  

Continually coming up with new ideas for your blog can become pretty onerous. Especially if you blog on more than one site.

Here are some ideas you may want to consider when you have time to write more blogs for your site.
1. Invite Others to Offer Blogs: Even though you may be the key expert in your area of expertise, there are likely others who may also have some valuable information that you could share on a particular topic so you ask them to guest blog for you. Contributions from others could ease your load and reduce your burn out time. You can even consider asking other members of your team or colleagues to contribute their ideas or pieces. New input and perspectives will keep your blog fresh.

2. Create a Different Perspective to Another Blog: Some content ideas can be sparked from reading other blogs. So if you follow other industry blogs, you may find one that speaks about an issue or element that you could elaborate upon. You might even disagree with that blogger’s point of view and could write about yours instead.

3. Follow Your Industry’s News: Industry news sources can certainly be a great resource for new blogs. If you explore what other bloggers in your industry are writing about, it might give you an idea for your next article. Sometimes a particularly relevant or interesting news story might provide you with the necessary inspiration for a new piece. It is also a good idea to consider what your readers might be looking for and then use that as your next topic. Finally, be sure to include beneficial elements, tips, or takeaways so that your followers will continue to read your blogs.

4. Combine Concepts: Sometimes when you put two entirely different concepts together an entirely new approach can be developed. This connection could prove to be both valuable and innovative which makes it worthy of consideration.

5. Inspiration Can Pop up from Any Source: Sometimes ideas just pop into your mind from an experience or a situation. When you are doing your regular exercise routine, taking in some local musical event or an art show, or even doing something that relaxes you can actually generate an idea for a new blog. Don’t be afraid to go with the flow!

6. Keep it Simple: Sometimes the most outstanding, creative pieces are the simplest ones. Don’t discount a simple, obvious blog idea, even if you have used the topic before. A new, simple, basic approach could actually become one of your most popular blogs. Contemplate writing a how-to piece that clearly and succinctly explains specifically how to do something that your readers might normally find complicated or difficult. Write it from the perspective of those who have no background in this area.

7. Never Hurts to Revisit a Topic: If you’ve been blogging for a while, you have likely written about every topic in which you have expertise. That does not mean that you cannot write on a particular topic again, this time taking it in another direction or talking about aspects that were not included in the original blog. You can always shine some new light on a topic using a different approach or focussing on a new aspect not elaborated upon before.

8. Include a Variety of Content Formats: Your blog doesn’t have to be just text-based, you can include relevant graphs, charts, pictures, cartoons, even a short video or PowerPoint deck can add interesting content and better illustrate your points in a more visual manner. Be creative, it can make blogging more interesting and fun for you and your readers!

Remember….enjoy what you do, share what you have passion for and it will show in your blog posts!

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