Life/Work Balance…..Are you managing this?

September 26, 2017 by  

I am sure that no one will disagree that today you are living in very hectic times. Everywhere there seems to be a sense of urgency that things must get done NOW! Between technology and a shrinking, competitive world, you are constantly pressed to do more, work faster, and speed up our bodies and lives. As a result, most of you have very full plates and are experiencing “time poverty” because there is simply too much to do but too little time to do it all.
This current culture, as exciting as it may be, doesn’t always feel very good. As a matter of fact, most of you, if you are truly honest with yourselves, would agree that this fast-paced tempo of life is far from satisfying and comfortable. Yet you often feel unproductive if you are not working at full speed. You may even admit that you aren’t living the life that you truly desire because you lack a quality balance in work/life.

“Juggling” suggests that you must keep “all the balls in the air,” or if you don’t, you feel inadequate. “Balance” means that your work and personal life must be equal. As you know, sometimes they are, and sometimes they are not. That is okay, as long as the periods of when it is not well balanced are short so that you do not miss out on spending sufficient time with your loved ones and friends, or even with yourself.
On the other hand, the term “balancing” connotes the ongoing process you all go through as you attempt to make a living and make a life. Each person’s process is as unique as their fingerprint. The journey to understand what will work involves a commitment for reflection and experimentation. In addition, you need to be flexible as you adjust to the flow of external responsibilities and internal choices.

Knowing how to effectively manage tasks and activities becomes even more challenging as people find themselves on overload. It’s hard to decide where your time and energy should be spent in order to advance in your career and still remain a caring, loving parent, and family member. When you don’t pay attention to the pressures in life and don’t make adjustments, you often experience stress-related symptoms. Typically when your well-being is challenged, life becomes less satisfying and more difficult to manage.

The following reasons contribute to people feeling so frazzled:
 – Working long hours.
 – Developing a mentality that emphasizes “work hard or lose out.”
 – Two out of three couples with children under 18 years old have both parents working for pay.
 – Not all workplaces have adopted flexible work arrangements.
 – There is greater competition in the global marketplace.
 – With shifts in the economy, your jobs are less predictable and/or more demanding (some employees due to downsizing have the work of more than one person)
 – Life can be very unpredictable and challenging.
 – There can be a conflict between society’s expectations about work and personal life and an individual’s beliefs about what success means.

Your life is a work in progress, that means that you are continually balancing your needs and demands in three spheres: your work, your family, and your personal life. It is important to create a full, rich life rather than to try to “balance” or even out what already is your life. What constitutes this view of life is different for each person. Nevertheless, for all of you, it is really about reducing the clutter in your mind and the stuff in your home and workplace. It is about making tough choices to satisfy your needs and wants.

Creating a rich, full life means honouring three spheres or areas of your life. Sigmund Freud, the great psychoanalyst, once said that there are two components of a person:

Work: which gives a sense of mastery. It offers focus and a place to contribute. This is the “workplace sphere.”
Love: which is about relationships with your family and friends. It offers a sense of belonging and support. This is the “social sphere.”

I am going to add another important sphere: your “unique self.” This sphere is the one that reflects your interests, talents, self-care, and ongoing education.

You need all three spheres to feel fulfilled and whole. These three create the person you are. So when you speak about balance, you are talking about honouring these three roles and paying attention to them.

These spheres are not always equal. Sometimes the “work sphere” is larger, especially when you need to spend extra time on important projects, have business travel, or take on more responsibility. Sometimes the “social sphere” is larger if you have added family responsibilities, such as a new baby, an ill older relative, a child who is having a problem, etc. The sphere that often gets short-shifted is the “self.” It’s important to make sure that that doesn’t happen. If you aren’t vigilant about that sphere, you may not be strong enough to manage the other two. In addition, the “self-sphere” is critical for professional and personal development.

People who are successful at navigating the pitfalls of their lives likely demonstrate the following skills and traits:
 – Espouse a positive attitude
 – Make sure you have time for yourself
 – Delegate what you can and set limits for yourself
 – Be well organized
 – Plan well, and prioritize tasks so that you achieve the most for their efforts and are moving toward achieving your goals
 – Set specific goals
 – Communicate effectively in all spheres of your life

In order to manage that balance well it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about the following:
- Your values and principles and how you will live by them
 -Creating and sustaining those important relationships in your life
 -Your organization’s and team’s mission and strategic plans
 –How to create and sustain important relationships (co-workers, customers, family members, friends, community people, etc.)
 -Goals for your job, family, and personal development
 -Strategic plans and actions steps to achieve those goals
 -Ways to restore yourself
Goals are important because they give you purpose, direction, and focus. They help channel your energy into meaningful action and allow you to take charge of your life. If you don’t have goals, you will most likely be in conflict, feel uncertain about what you want out of life, and find that you are just going through the motions of life without having an objective in mind.

Simplifying your life is a process that requires slow changes so here is how you can get started:
1. Adopt a “less-is-more” mindset. When you de-clutter your environment, activities, and thoughts, you free up your mind and life, and you experience considerably less pressure. Think about the activities and tasks that you could eliminate so that you can have time and energy for those that truly matter to you.

2. Buy less. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself, “Do I want or need this item?” Ask yourself if you already own something that does what that item does. Think carefully before you buy more stuff.
When you make choices, you have control. Every day you have the opportunity to make choices about how you spend your time, about the people you want to be with, about the tasks you want or need to accomplish, things to buy, and so forth. Even your work offers an opportunity of choice. Even your attitude is a choice, make it positive!

3. Create boundaries, and say “no.”
A TIME/CNN poll indicated that almost 65 percent of Americans spend our leisure time doing things we’d rather not do. Some people have difficulty making choices, especially when it comes to setting limits and saying “no” to activities or tasks they prefer not to do. There are, of course, tasks that we must do because they are part of our job. People who commit to balancing work and family life realize that they need to say “no” in order to say “yes” to themselves and the priorities in their lives.
When it comes to requests outside of the work arena, it is helpful to ask yourself some key questions that clarify your investment of energy and time:
 Which of the options that I face will help me go from urgency to ease and become the best person I can be?
 Is the activity one that will enhance my life – is it something that I really want to get involved with?
 Will the relationship help me become more of the person I want to be?

4. Enlist the help of family members, colleagues, and friends.
Because it is impossible for you to do everything on your endless to-do list, it is important to use the fine art of delegation. Like others, you may have trouble delegating as it can be difficult to ask for help. In addition, it can be hard to give up control, especially if you like to do things your way. However, when there is a lot on your plate, it is important to figure out how to get some items off it. Once you learn an effective method for delegating and practice it, you will get better at it.

5. Be grateful.
There certainly is a lot that you can complain about! However, the more you complain, the more dissatisfied and agitated you can become. Also, it can mean that we will alienate others more. Research has demonstrated that an Attitude of Gratitude can increase your personal happiness by 25%!

6. Be positive.
Try not taking yourself so seriously. As many wise people have said, “Life is too important to take too seriously.” Make sure that laughter and fun are part of your daily life. When feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself that you have a rich, full life. You are managing a job in which you are fully committed to doing your best. You are being a loving, caring parent, partner, family member, and friend. When situations become especially trying, remind yourself that this, too, will pass.

7. Set reasonable expectations.
When you have high expectations for achievement that are unreasonable, you often experience conflict, overload, and exhaustion. When you place unreasonable demands on yourself, you become like a sponge that cannot absorb any more water. Then your effectiveness is compromised and so is your satisfaction.

So, if you want to enjoy a great life/work balance try to employ some of the strategies offered here and I think you find that you will have a fuller, richer experience in all three spheres of your life.

Being Assertive in the Workplace

September 15, 2017 by  

  • How often have you heard the phrase, “It is a jungle out there!” These days, lifestyle coaches and corporate trainers are training professionals to become more assertive. “Stop being a pushover,” they say. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
    So how important is it to learn to be assertive at work?
  • Is this any different from being assertive outside of work, in your personal life, when for example you have trouble saying “no” to family or friends, partners, or salesmen?
  • What exactly does it mean to be assertive anyway? And does it mean the same irrespective of gender?
  • And, do class or culture count?
    These are important questions to consider for anyone who feels somewhat shy or intimidated, and feels that they are being held back by their inability to speak up.

To start with, what exactly does it mean to be assertive?
Assertiveness means knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner. It is being able to stand up for yourself and your ideas, for what you believe to be right and for what you know to be fair. It is not about simply getting your own way. It does not mean disrespecting others but rather respecting yourself. It means having the self-confidence to speak up when you have a point to make. It also means the ability to say “no” or “I don’t think so” when the situation demands it.
Assertiveness is not simply a behavioral change, something outward and superficial. It has to start from your inner conviction, from having good self-esteem. People who lack confidence or who let others walk all over them worry about the effect of their own words and actions on others. They feel a lack in themselves, be it confidence or self-worth. But as Eleanor Roosevelt so brilliantly put it, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Assertiveness should not be confused with aggression, as it is a positive trait. It comes with the right tone of voice, the right body language, and the right attitude.

Contextual Considerations
However, there are some important considerations, like gender and cultural context for anyone looking to make these changes in their personality and behavior. Cultural differences, in particular, should not be overlooked in our diverse and very global society. For instance, there is a much more vertical hierarchy in Asian business environments than in the western world. What may seem friendly and personal may come across as aggressive and “in your face.” The “cards on the table” attitude of one culture can puzzle or even offend another. Suit your tone of voice and non-verbal communication so you do not alienate others when you are meaning to connect. There is a fine line dividing assertive and aggressive behavior. It is easier to get your voice heard if you can build better professional and personal relationships based on trust, respect, and rapport rather than domination.

Ultimately, assertiveness is more about you as a person, whether in a personal or a professional capacity. If you can develop self-confidence, self-belief, self-esteem, and self-worth, you will find it easier to look someone in the eye and calmly but firmly get your point across. The good news is, these personality traits can be learned, as long as you commit to changing how you deal with others and practice those strategies when the opportunity arises, you will get better at being assertive.

5 Key Ways to Ensure Good Customer Service Outcomes

August 22, 2017 by  

To effectively cater to your customers’ wants and needs, it is very important to have specific customer service etiquette, delivery, and consistency in how your customers are treated. In addition, in today’s very competitive world, staying ahead of the crowd is pretty difficult so one of the main ways to do so is by delivering consist, excellent customer service experiences.

Here are five ways to maintain high customer service outcomes:

1. Have organization-specific guidelines and policies. When hiring and managing customer service employees, it is crucial to outline and specify guidelines that are needed and expected to succeed in that position. Different organizations and positions require different customer service characteristics. For example, the customer service skills needed for a fine dining restaurant are different than those of a bank. Therefore it is essential to create a detailed job description outlining the roles and responsibilities as well as a list of the qualifications necessary to fulfill this position effectively.

2. Use customer service assessments.
Customer service employees represent the face and brand of your organization, so it is extremely important to hire individuals that reflect your organization’s core values, aims, and beliefs. Customer service assessments reveal whether a candidate will be right for your specific needs. For example, these surveys measure how well a person fits the behaviors and characteristics of a specific customer service position and can be industry-specific for hospitality, healthcare, financial services, and retail. This sort of tool can be most helpful in determining if a person will fit into your culture.

3. Be experts.
In customer service positions, it is imperative that one is able to show your customers that you have extensive product knowledge. No matter what industry you are in, competition is steep and customers are faced with many options. In order to have a competitive edge, you want to make sure that every customer service representative has the information and resources needed to show customers they are valued, respected, and cared for.

4. Get direct feedback from customers.
To really know what customers want, direct reports and customer surveys are certainly helpful. Customer surveys can reveal what customer service techniques worked and what did not. This is important to know when you are trying to build loyal, long lasting customer relationships. Remember, it is all about what the customer wants and needs, and how you can best accommodate them that will help to make your business stand out from the competition.

5. Offer employees recognition and rewards.
Employee recognition is a key motivator for customer service employees. Whether it is an employee-of-the-month bonus or an announcement during a team meeting, customer service employees should know they are valued and respected, just like your customers.

If you follow these customer service tips, they should help to raise your customer loyalty and service performance. Remember, it is much easier to please and keep current customers than it is to get new ones and repeat business from happy customers can lead to referral business as well.

Important Tips on Loyalty and Leadership

July 22, 2017 by  

Leadership and loyalty are two elements that can certainly go together in any organization…..in other words, if you demonstrate good leadership, you will engender loyalty in your people because they will be happy following you and being a part of your organization.
Here are some tips to ensure that you are an effective leader who fosters loyalty because you have created an internal architecture that encourages, supports, and respects the members of your team so that they feel appreciated, challenged and happy. When that happens you will have higher performance, more efficiency, productivity, and creativity……all good for the bottom line!

Try to Overcome fear in order to perform at a higher level:

Don’t suffer from “small pie” disease, as this leads to fear and inaction among your team members. There is always enough to go around so don’t be afraid to share and you will be enriched by that approach many fold.
Continue to feed your mind good stuff. In other words, make a habit of reading uplifting and inspiring articles at the beginning of each day, instead of diving straight into business emails or social media. Starting with more positive thoughts will set you on the right track for positive outcomes.
Reduce the negativity in your day. You can accomplish this by writing down the sorts of media you are consuming and how long you spend on it. Once you have done that, then, you can reduce the time you spend exposed to negative and stressful media and increase the positive and inspiring options available.
Earn validation. Record positive memories of times you succeeded and keep them where you can read them easily and often. That way, you can revisit them to build and maintain your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Constructive Criticism can be beneficial. When criticism is delivered in a constructive, exploratory, and supportive manner, the information can give the individual the opportunity to learn from their mistake, fix the resultant issues and consider other options for future situations so that the mistake is not repeated.
Try to follow both your purpose and your passion. This can be done when you align your work activities with your core values, as well as with the sort of word that you love. When that is accomplished, you will have a greater impact on your outcomes and hence will be more successful and happy.

Foster growth at your company:

Be a big picture thinker. There are several types of business owners: dabblers, dreamers, and leaders in pursuit of excellence. The future belongs to the learner who believes that they should continually improve their ability to lead with effectiveness. Leadership, to a large degree, is an ongoing process and the best leaders invite input from their team to find out how they are doing so that they can improve in areas of weakness.
Marketing creates awareness. Attracting customers and sales happen when you have gained the trust and loyalty of prospects who have experienced your product or services and found them to be reliable, consistent and worthwhile. This takes time, effort and cooperation from all the team members who are in contact with your ideal market. The better your people are trained and supported, given a measure of autonomy and flexibility to under-promise and over-deliver, the more repeat business and even referrals you will receive.
Determine your ideal market. Instead of espousing a desperate, take-all-comers outlook, position your company to take only the best, most appropriate clients/customers who allow you and your team to deliver your best work. That, in the end, will actually lead to more great clients and enjoyable work. In addition, it will be a better use of your prospecting time, especially if you have done your homework well.
Hone your elevator speech. Who wants to listen to something that is not truly relevant to them? Instead, develop a great brand identity that is true to who you are, then talk about it, model it and have your people do the same when they are interacting with prospects.

The road to the successful leadership of your employees:

What makes them happy? Consider why employees stay with you. Do they take pride in their work, enjoy serving customers well or just like being part of a great team? If the answer is yes to all of those questions, then you are likely doing a great job. Happy employees are more productive, efficient, and creative. In addition, they are sick less often and less likely to leave a job that they enjoy. So if you have a lot of turnover, many sick days and a general apathy in your work environment, you need to examine your leadership style and the way your run the culture of your business and try to rebuild it so that your people are happy, challenged, appreciated, supported and encouraged. This could require you to be more of a mentor, offer more autonomy, opportunities for training and advancement, as well as explaining more clearly their exact roles and responsibilities so that they truly understand just how they fit into the “big picture”.
Respect the contributions of your employees. Consider going out on jobs to learn exactly what your workers do. With this deeper understanding, you can then show respect by setting appropriate policies and rewards that reflect that understanding. In addition, the acknowledgment of those contributions goes a long way to making individuals feel appreciated and valued in their positions.
Convert your goals into reality. You can accomplish this when you involve your people collaboratively to recast the company’s goals. When they feel they have a stake in the decision making and then the outcomes, they are more likely to buy into both the process and results because they helped design the process. It is much easier to get workers invested in a cause that they embrace. Therefore, there will obviously be a much better chance that those goals will become reality when “all hands are on deck” toward that end.

Explain the big picture. When you show workers how supporting the cause will grow sales, improve outcomes and reap rewards for everyone, it is likely that that will also create a better, more productive work environment with fewer problems and conflicts. The clearer everyone is about how they fit in and what their contribution means to the end results we are all aiming for, the more likely they are to rise to the occasion and perform to the best of their ability…..a win/win for everyone!

So, if you want to lead a successful organization then considering employing at least some of the tips offered in this blog. And remember, happy, challenged, supported, encouraged, and appreciated employees are more likely to perform better, be sick less often, and be innovative. In addition, when they feel satisfied they will be less likely to seek work elsewhere…..which is always very costly.

One last tip…..have fun!

How to Unlock the Minds of Your Audience

June 22, 2017 by  

Chances are, at some point in time, you have likely tried to use a key that was rusted, dirty, or damaged in some way. Sure, the key might still open the lock, but now it takes much more effort and probably some measure of frustration, too.
Your content is the key to any good presentation, but if that key is not well polished, the presentation won’t measure up to your expectations.
A good presentation is easy for the audience to follow and can even be fun to hear. When the audience is intrigued, engaged, and inspired, the room will be filled with energy. This occurs when the speaker allows the audience to focus on the meaning of his or her words, rather than making them exert great effort when trying to figure out what they are attempting to say. The more distractions  the speaker can remove, the easier it will be for the key to unlock the minds of the audience.

So what are those common types of speaker rust, dirt, and damage that can occur?
Here are some examples that you should pay attention to:

1. Irrelevant information or relevant information delivered at the wrong time. As a speaker, it is easier to determine what you should say than what not to say. Some speakers assume they are the center of attention and so believe that their audience wants to hear everything they have to say. Effective speakers understand that it is the audience that is the center of attention, so everything said must benefit them, not satisfy the ego of the speaker.

2. A poorly designed talk. This happens when the audience ends up expending a great deal of energy trying to piece together the bits of information being presented, rather than just being able to enjoy and later expand upon the ideas being provided.

3. Poor presentation style. Distracting mannerisms (ring twirling or not knowing what to do with your hands), verbal fidgeting (ums, ahs, like, you know), and pacing back and forth, all detract from the speaker’s credibility as they make him or her look as though that lack confidence. These behaviours also prevent the audience from being able to readily absorb what is being said and makes them uncomfortable, too. In addition, because the speaker sets the tone of the room, if he or she is anxious and nervous, then the audience will share those emotions and find it more difficult to listen attentively.

4. Lack of attention to audience needs. An audience member who is thirsty, hungry, deprived of caffeine, or in need of a break will have a much more difficult time listening well, which means they will not be able to focus or appreciate what is being shared by the speaker. In other words, the presenter must keep a close on eye on the audience to determine when a break would be appropriate, when to change their pace of delivery, or when to find a way to actively engage the audience.

5. Poorly designed graphics. If the audience is forced to guess what an image used on a slide means, rather than just being allowed to listen to the speaker and understand the points being made, this will likely cause them to disengage. Once you lose the attention of your audience, it is much more difficult to get them back. So again, you must pay attention to how they are receiving your material and ahead of time, put yourself in their shoes to be sure that any graphics offered reinforce the points you are trying to make rather than confusing the listeners.

A good presenter should demonstrate great respect for their audience. They also should show that they value the audience so much, that they want to make their experience totally enjoyable. Most people may forgive a poor presentation style if the content is valuable or interesting; however, they have the right to expect a presentation to have both good content and an excellent delivery. So the next time you are to make a presentation, be sure to take the suggested tips into consideration when preparing your materials and yourself for that event……if you do, you will enjoy much more success as a speaker and will have a much more satisfied audience!

5 Simple Tips to Captivate Your Audience

May 12, 2017 by  

Would you like to engage and motivate your audiences?

Here are 5 simple tips that will make you unforgettable.

1. Make eye contact. Is there anything more basic for persuasion? When was the last time you trusted somebody who wouldn’t look you in the eye? Look at your listeners while you are speaking and you will look more authentic and relatable.

2. Have fun. Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? You set the tone for your audience so if you look like this is a painful experience, your audience will feel pained as well. Instead, if you look like you are enjoying yourself, speaking with energy, enthusiasm, and passion, they will be convinced that you must be saying something worth listening to.

3. Smile. Smiling helps to build trust with your audience. If a smile is inappropriate, at
least wear a pleasant expression and again speak with energy and elan. People connect more with someone who has a nice facial expression, so offer that to them!

4. Energize your voice. Speakers who do not project their voice with sufficient volume make listeners work too hard. So, when you speak, try to generate sufficient vocal power and energy to reach every listener in the room, especially people in the back and those who are hard of hearing. The larger the speaking venue, the more you must project your voice.

5. Be aware of your nonverbal messages. What your body is telling the audience is no less critical to your success than what your voice and words are saying. It is important to be sure that your non-verbal messaging reinforces and matches your verbal message, otherwise it is confusing and can actually cause your audience to disengage.
It is a good idea to spend a great deal of time practicing your presentation rather than just focussing on the content. You need to look comfortable, confident, and knowledgeable when in front of an audience. A good idea is to practice in front of a mirror, friends who will be honest with you or a recording device. In this way you will be able to see what your audience is going to see and can adjust as necessary.

The above tips can help you to become a more captivating speaker and then you will have greater success and more fun when you speak in front of an audience.

How Can you Win Customer Loyalty?

April 28, 2017 by  

Very few businesses amaze and delight their customers and those that do, really stand out. Being innovative is one way to stand out from the crowd, however, in most businesses, our competitors soon copy our innovation and that levels the playing field. The only way to truly stand out and stay ahead of the herd is to win customer loyalty by providing outstanding and memorable customer service. This is the only sustainable competitive advantage that really matters and will differentiate you from the competition.

Here are 10 simple and easy ways to provide consistent and outstanding service to your customers:

1. Adopt a customer-service mindset
Try to stop thinking just about the business you are in and start realizing that providing customer service is essential to your survival and success. Start understanding that you are in the customer service business and happen to sell whatever your products or services are. This sort of mindset has to start at the top and be committed to by the upper echelon. They then need to model it until it becomes the mindset of the entire business.

2. Be proactive
That will require you and your team to make note of your customers’ preferences and take every opportunity to cater to them. You can keep files on your customers in order to remember those preferences and call when their favourite product comes in or you are planning a promotion for something they use regularly, etc.

3. Remember the names of your customers/clients
The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is their name. you will make a very positive impression on your customers if you can address them by their name when they come into your establishment or when they call, etc.

4. Look the part
Dress professionally and accessorize your fashion statement with a smile. Remember what Denis Waitley wrote: “A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.” In any event, people will react more positively to someone with a smile on their face rather than someone who looks angry, upset, or stern. Be sure your attire is clean, pressed, and appropriate for your industry and customer base.

5. Involve your customers in your service program
Provide simple, easy tools that will encourage your customers to give you suggestions that could improve your service or product line. Then truly listen to their ideas and let them know that their opinions are valued.

6. Be punctual
If you set a meeting time of 2 pm then be sure to move heaven and earth to make that happen as promised. Phone as early as possible if events conspire to make it impossible for you to maintain your schedule. No one likes to feel that their time has been wasted as we are all busy!

7. Policies & procedures
Create policies and procedures that are customer-friendly and then infuse these elements into the culture of your business in order for there to be consistency in how all customers are treated:
• how should phone calls be answered?
• what response time is acceptable for emails?
• who pays the postage for returned products?
• do you provide a toll-free phone number?
• how do you process warranty claims?
• how does your business say ‘thank you’

8. Empower employees by giving them autonomy
Give your employees the authority to work around policies that are getting in the way of a satisfied customer.

9. Handle complaints in a timely fashion
Respond rapidly to customer complaints. Acknowledge the issue at hand and take responsibility for fixing it. Don’t be defensive or just quote policy, rather offer a way to make them happy. Bite your tongue, actively listen, and allow them to vent. Then ask them what would make them happy. Finally, do what it takes to regain their trust because the cost of gaining a new customer is many times the cost of simply regaining lost trust.

10. Measure customer sentiment
Use conversations, feedback forms, and surveys to gauge the quality of your customers’ experiences. Do they feel they are receiving your value proposition? If not, what’s getting in the way? Then, be sure to fix it!

Final thought…..
These 10 ideas can give you simple ways to build an outstanding customer service program without huge costs.
But you must remember that today social media and customer review websites have placed enormous power in the hands of your customers. They now have a “megaphone” to tell the world about your service. You can get it right and build loyal relationships or you can get it wrong and become irrelevant in your industry and be on your way to obscurity.

So, be a customer service champ, that is the way to enhance your business and keep you ahead of your competition!

Are these Conflict Management Mistakes that You Make?

March 21, 2017 by  

Some situations need to be argued out and fights can actually strengthen a relationship. Your organization will also face conflict. Anytime a group of people comes together, there will be some level of differing opinions. Therefore ways to resolve those conflicts need to be exercised in order to keep harmony in the workplace.
Diversity is essential to building a successful team, however, this also can contribute to the likelihood of facing conflict. Knowing how to deal with conflicting personalities, experiences, and working styles will help make you a better manager.

“Conflict isn’t just natural—it’s productive.” However, that happens only when people know how to handle it well. The trouble is that most managers are never taught how to manage conflict at work. They develop the skills to become an expert in their job, but they often lack the formal training in the people skills that is necessary in order for them to deal with tricky situations in the workplace. Instead, they are just expected to pick up those skills as they need them. This is not truly the best way to prepare a person for a managerial role.

Learn how to manage conflict by avoiding these common management mistakes:
1. Inaction
Ignoring team conflicts will not make them go away. Unfortunately, this is the method many managers choose for dealing with workplace conflict. This is such a popular choice that apparently 35 percent of managers would rather parachute jump than address a problem with a colleague. Even 8 percent would rather eat bugs. But inaction can sabotage your organization. If a problem goes unresolved, it will grow into resentment that can derail future projects even after the nature of the dispute becomes irrelevant. Inaction can lead to tense relationships between your employees.

2. Competition
Many people many avoid conflict out of fear. They do not want to deal with a conflict because they are afraid they might lose. Fear begins when managers view conflicts as “something they can’t control and are unlikely to win.” So, if you take the element of competition out of the conflict, you will be able to assess the situation from a calmer, more neutral viewpoint. If winning is your only goal, your conflict may never end. One should always put the goals of your company above your personal preferences. This means putting aside your pride and facing problems head on. Removing the element of competition will also help you to evaluate whether it is a personality or organizational issue that you must resolve.

3. Not listening
If you have made it past the step of inaction and taken competition out of the equation, you may still face another hurdle in your conflict resolution skills. Not listening is a common problem for managers to fall into when dealing with employee conflicts. Shutting down your employees before hearing them out can be just as ineffective as inaction. Apparently, “85 percent of what we know is learned through listening.” Therefore, being an active listener is essential to resolving conflicts in a healthy manner that will ultimately build a stronger foundation for the future. You want to do more than just solve the conflict; you also want to prevent future conflicts.

Dealing with conflicts at work comes down to an issue of respect. Effective managers value their employees, as they are the organization’s most valuable asset. When you avoid conflict, you are also indicating that their disagreements are not worthy of your time. Making conflict into a competition occurs when you let your pride get in the way of your work. And when you try to resolve conflicts simply from a position of authority, you can create greater animosity. Keep these common management mistakes in mind and you will help conflict become another tool of your organization’s success.

Interview Mistakes to Avoid

March 4, 2017 by  

It seems that due to the differences in the way women and men communicate, that a few extra rules need to be considered during an interview. These issues can apply to men however, they must be carefully contemplated by women.

Here are some issues to consider.
1. Appear Stiff:
Perception is everything, and the power of likeability almost always trumps experience. A lot of women are good at connecting with others, but for some reason, they seem to turn the ability off when they go into an interview. Just be yourself and let your personality, energy, and optimism be evident to the interviewer. This demonstrates to your potential boss just how passionate you are about the position.

2. Talk Too Much:
Women tend to talk too much in interviews. Experts suggest that the hiring manager should speak for at least 60 percent of the interview. Any prospective candidate should keep their responses to less than one minute and watch for signs that the interviewer is actively engaged. The engagement can be confirmed by the body language of the interviewer. Remember to spend 60 percent of your time listening and only about 60 seconds talking.
Many women are reluctant to tout their accomplishments, fearing they’ll appear arrogant or overly ambitious. All prospective candidates should clearly and confidently state their achievements and talents when the time is appropriate, to show how they will be valuable to the organization. (This is not usually a problem that men have.)

3. Not Negotiating the Offer:
One of the biggest and most overlooked interview mistakes made by women is accepting a job offer without negotiating for a better deal. Women tend to have a depressed perception of the market and often set salary targets too low–sometimes as much as 30 percent lower than their male counterparts. This means it is very important to do your due diligence ahead of time and find out what the market rate is for this sort of position. There are websites that can help you with this information. You can check out: salary.com as well as speak to job recruiters in your network to determine the current pay rate. Again, men tend to not be afraid to ask for what they feel they are worth.

4. Inappropriate Dress:
With a wider range of clothing to choose from, it’s easier for women to make a fashion faux pas as opposed to men.
A common mistake that women can make is appearing “too flashy,” by showing too much skin or wearing too much makeup. This can damage an applicant’s chances for employment.
Instead, you may want to as around or even go to the business and see what employees are wearing so you can take note of how formal or casual they are. It is always best to keep colors muted, choosing navy blue, dark gray, or black, and tone down your jewelry and makeup. A good rule of thumb is to dress one step up from the position you’re applying for. It’s always better to overdress than under-dress.

5. Worrying Too Much:
Women tend to worry more than men. Anxiety can be seen during an interview and will project a lack of confidence. What could be temporary stress will come likely appear as a nervous personality.
It is better to walk into an interview thinking that they are going to absolutely adore you. That sort of positive energy will have a much greater impact on the way the interview will go. Also, try to exude positive nonverbal cues during the interview, such as a smile, good posture, and a firm handshake.
6. Failure to Market Yourself:
This is an issue that almost exclusively affects women because, unlike men, who can seemingly get away with appearing arrogant or pushy, women tend to be too modest about their accomplishments. The interview is the time to project confidence and pride in your work, not reticence, so you show the interviewer how you will valuable to the organization.
Applicants should only focus on the assets they will bring to the job, instead of anything negative.

7. Issuing Disclaimers:
Women frequently “testify against themselves,” saying something like this, “To be honest, I haven’t actually been in charge of an entire division, but …” Instead, the candidate should answer with something like this: “I’ve always been great at motivating a team, and could apply those same skills as a manager here.”
Prefacing an answer with a disclaimer cancels out whatever positive information will follow. Therefore, it is important to concentrate on strengths as opposed to perceived insecurities. Sometimes an interviewer with as about weaknesses, then you must give an answer that shows you are aware of the issue and what you have done to overcome it.

8. Talking About Unfamiliar Topics:
If an interviewer asks you questions on an unfamiliar topic, you should respond by saying, “that’s a really good question, however, I’ll need to do a little research first before I can respond,” or, “I haven’t encountered that superior.” Also, it is not really necessary to bone up on things you’re not familiar with just to impress your interviewer. Remember to be true to who you are and what your expertise is.

Remember that the organization has a position to fill, and positioning yourself to fit the needs will benefit both you and the potential employer. Another thing to remember is that the interviewer generally knows less about what you’ve accomplished and sometimes less about the job than you do. You are the expert on you so be sure to “market” that effectively during the interview!

8 Simple Rules for Good Customer Service

February 21, 2017 by  

Good customer service is truly the lifeblood of any business. You can offer promotions and slash prices to bring in as many new customers as you want, however, unless you can get at least some of those customers to come back, your business won’t be profitable for long.

Good customer service is all about retaining customers. It is also about sending them away happy – happy enough to share positive feedback about your business with others, who may then be encouraged to try your product or service themselves and in their turn become repeat customers.

If you are a good salesperson, you can sell anything to anyone once. However, it is your approach to excellent customer service that determines whether or not you will ever sell that person anything else. The essence of good customer service is forming a relationship with customers, one that makes the customer feel appreciated, listened to, and received what they were searching for.

How can you form this type of relationship?  

You do that by remembering the one true secret of good customer service and acting accordingly; “You will be judged by what you do, not what you say.”
Yes, this verges on the kind of statement that is often seen on a sampler, but providing good customer service is simple to achieve.

If you truly want to have good customer service, all you have to do is ensure that your business consistently does these things:

1) Answer your phone.
Get call forwarding. Or hire an answering service. Hire more staff if you need to. But make sure that someone is picking up the phone when someone calls your business. Customers want to talk to a real person, not a fake “recorded robot or message”.

2) Don’t make promises you cannot keep.
Reliability and accountability are the keys to good relationships, and good customer service is no exception. If you tell them that their new bedroom furniture will be delivered on Tuesday, you need to make sure that it is delivered on Tuesday. Otherwise, do not promise it. The same rule applies to client appointments, deadlines, etc. Think carefully before you making any promises – because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one.

3) Practice Active Listening with your customers.
There is nothing more aggravating than telling someone what you want or what your problem is and then discovering that that person hasn’t been paying attention and needs to have it explained again. From a customer’s perspective, this is the worst! Do away with the sales pitches and the product babble. Instead, let your customer talk and show him/her that you are carefully listening by making the appropriate responses, summarizing what you heard and then suggesting how you can solve the problem.

4) Deal quickly and efficiently with complaints.
Of course no one likes hearing complaints, however, they do occur and must be dealt with respectfully and in the best way possible so that the customer feels they have been appropriately treated. If you give the complaint your full attention, you will likely be able to please this one person and position your business to reap the benefits of that good customer service. When something unfortunate happens, that is when you must solve it in a way that is so memorable that the customer will want to share how you fixed it rather than the problem that happened.

5) Be helpful – even if there’s no immediate profit in it.
The other day I popped into a local eyewear shop because I had lost the nose piece on my glasses. When I explained the problem, the proprietor said that he thought he might have one in the back. He found it, attached it to my glasses and charged me nothing! You can bet that the next time I need new frames for lenses his shop is where I will be going. In addition, of course, I have told many people what he did. Now I am sure the nose piece was not worth a lot, but that does not really matter, he immediately offered to fix it and did so, despite the fact that he had never seen me before. That is excellent customer service!

6) Train your staff to be helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable.
Training is key to good customer service as it not only prepares your staff for just about any eventuality, but it also provides consistency in how customers are treated no matter who deals with them. You can do it yourself or you can hire someone to train them for you, provided you outline the key elements you wish them to take away from the training. It is a good idea to speak with your staff about good customer service and what it would look like. In addition, in order for it to happen, although you must have certain policies and procedures in place, you also need to give them a certain amount of latitude and flexibility so that they can use their own discretion when resolving any issues that may arise. In this way, your employees will not have to to say that they do not know or you will have to wait for the manager. Instead, they will be able to provide a solution that will be able to make the customer happy.

7) Make the extra effort.
For example, if a customer comes into your store and asks for help to find something, don’t just say, “It’s in Aisle 3”. Instead, actually take the customer to the item. Better still, wait and see if he/she has further questions about that particular item or anything else they may need. Whatever that extra effort might be if you want to provide good customer service, be sure to take that extra step to ensure that they feel well taken care of. They may not say so to you, but people definitely notice when someone takes the time to make an extra effort in helping them and will likely tell other people about that experience.

8) Add in something extra.
Whether it’s a coupon for a future discount, additional information on how to use the product, or a just a genuine smile, people love to get more than they expected. In addition, the gesture does not have to be large to be effective. For example, my art framer always attaches a package of picture hooks on the back of every picture she frames. It is just a small thing, but so appreciated.

If you commit to applying these 8 simple customer service rules consistently, your business will become known for its great customer service. The benefits of good customer service; over time it will bring in more new customers and repeat customers than any promotions or price cutting ever would!

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