Category Archives: Leadership Development

How to Lose a Customer Over 78 Cents

customer service training

I’m a big advocate and proponent of customer service. As in a huge believer. Ever since my mid-20s when I worked in a retail store called Eastern Mountain Sports and went through some phenomenal training, I am sold out on quality customer care and training.

Unfortunately in this day and age, well-done customer service is hard to find. Sometimes, next to impossible to find.

Several weekends ago, I was traveling with my family back from a wonderful weekend filled with friends, family time, and fireworks. We had stopped in a 7-Eleven to gas up and get a snack for my son. My wife let him get 2 candy bars because the sign said they were 2 for $2. She specified that he could only eat one (which he did not, by the way, but that’s another story for another time!) and this is an unusual treat for my son.

When I went to check out, the checker told me the total, and seeming a little high, I asked if the candy bars had rung up at 2 for $2. They did not, he said, so he proceeded to ring them up again. This time the total was 9 cents cheaper. I still didn’t think that was right, but went ahead and paid him.

When I checked the receipt, I noticed the bars still rung up at the normal price. So, I turned around and politely said, “The candy bars still didn’t ring up at 2 for $2.”

To which the checker responded (without any hint of real helpfulness), “Then that’s probably an old special.”

Trying to maintain my composure (my son, after all, was right there noticing what was going on) I replied, “But the advertised price is 2 for $2.”

He quickly retorted, “Well, I will take the sign down in a little bit.”

“So are you going to honor the price.” My voice at this point was probably noticeably agitated.

“There’s nothing I can do.”

“Like give me my money back?”

“I can’t control what the register rings up.”

At this point, one of the other customers, hearing the exchange asked if there was a manager available. The employee only shook his head no, not even looking at this woman.

At this point, I needed to step away. One, because my son was standing right there, and this was not one of my finer moments. Two, because I needed to cool down before laying in to that employee like I so wanted to do.

I took my son to the car and returned into the store. I went over to the cashier and said, “You might not be able to control what the register rings up, but you can control how you treat your customers.”

He said something else about the register, and I finally told him, “Well, you just lost a customer. We’re never returning to this store again.”

His nonchalant response? “Ok. Have a nice day.”

It was at this point that I really wanted to throw something at him more than a verbal sparring match. I refrained however, and went back to the car and left the store.

I vow never go back to that store again and likely will avoid all 7-Eleven stores from now on – not to be vindictive or spiteful but to support stores who care about their customers and treat them with a sense of value.

How could this have been a totally different outcome?

It would have been very easy for this young man to make me a satisfied customer. All he would have had to do was honor the price on the candy bar and refund me the difference. Case closed. Instead, he opted for the “there’s nothing I can do approach.”

Hogwash.

There is always something you can do if you are focused on the customer.

What lessons can be learned from this exchange?

1. Treat your customers with respect.

I felt little respect from this individual and even thinking about it now, weeks after, gets my blood boiling a little bit. There is no excuse for treating people disrespectfully or with a lackadaisical attitude. Both of those scream, “I don’t care!”

What can you do today that will scream, “I care about you, the customer!”?

2. Give the customer what they want.

The companies that will excel in the future are ones who will not only deliver for the customer, they will over-deliver. Sometimes it’s a simple solution; however, at other times, the solution might be a little more complicated. Bottom line – keep your customers happy.

That being said, sometimes you do have to fire customers or clients. These are people that will not be happy no matter what you do. (That’s a different story and blog post all together.)

How can you over-deliver for a client today? 

3. Always be smiling.

I don’t know how long this young man had been working here, but it was obvious he didn’t like it. Or maybe he was having a bad day. I don’t know and frankly, it doesn’t matter. When you’re in a customer service position, sometimes you have to fake it.

Put a smile on your face. Be friendly. Act like you care (even if you don’t). People respond way better to smiles and friendliness and it will make your day go much better as well.

How can you level up your friendliness today? 

4. Train your people right from the start.

Again, customer service training is key, and either this employee didn’t care to heed his training, or he wasn’t trained. Regardless, he didn’t need to be working that day.

Also, in working with a lot of millennials, soft skills are a necessity that don’t get a lot of attention and training. As a rule, most young people lack these kinds of skills and must be trained in them. Don’t assume everyone knows about customer service. Have a specific training plan and take all of your employees through it.

What is your plan to train your employees in customer service? 

 

Warning! Do NOT Read This Unless You Want to Become a Dangerous Leader.

leadership can be dangerous

You might have seen one of these “creatures” before, but you probably didn’t know just how dangerous they can be.

They are prone to wandering outside the box.

They upset the status quo and have dangerous ideas.

They are often hard to manage and continually step out of bounds.

They tend to push ahead and are not easily satisfied.

They are driven but can also be dangerous and tend to upset others.

They seem to create problems and more work for others wherever they are found.

You can often find them brainstorming and creating new and alarming concepts.

They do not always play well with others but have a tendency to run ahead of everyone else.

There is often no reasoning or settling with these individuals.

They have a penchant for risky situations, with no regard for personal safety and security.

They have a tendency to lure people in with their new, shiny notions.

These people are highly intelligent but must be monitored closely at all times.

Though their ideas seem to spread quickly, most people usually tire of them and return to the safety and security of the status quo.

If you see one of these individuals, you are encouraged to keep your distance. These people are a serious impediment to existing conditions.

Do not approach them. Stay away. Unless you, too, want to become one of them.

Have you seen a dangerous leader in action? How would YOU describe them? Please share in the comments below. 

5 Ways to Transform Your Team’s New Year’s Resolutions into Adventurous Goals

transform your new years resolutions

Now is the time when people think about and set New Year’s Resolutions. Chances are you have as well. However, I am not a big fan of most New Year’s Resolutions and here’s why:

  • They’re rarely specific.
  • They’re easy to break.
  • They lack focus and clarity.
  • They’re seldom risky.
  • There’s typically no accountability.

I use this time of the year to set specific goals for how I want my upcoming year to look. There is a process I use to set goals, and it is one that I have used for a number of years, and it is something that I have taught to students and adults alike.

To help transform your team’s resolutions into goals involves five easy steps. It doesn’t take a lot of time; however, these simple steps will help turn those non-specific resolutions into winning goals that you can measure, track, and look back at the end of the year to see all that your team has accomplished.

1. Make the goal specific.

Many New Year’s Resolutions are not specific. They are too general. Examples include:

Lose weight. 

Drink more water.

Be a better leader.

The challenge with these is that there is no specific target to hit. Here are some ways to make the above goals specific.

Lose 15 pounds.

Drink 6 glasses of water daily.

Read 1 leadership book a month.

2. Create goals that are measurable.

As with the initial examples above, there is really no way to measure certain characteristics like “more” or “better”. What does it mean to be a better leader, husband, employee, etc.? How will you measure that? Again, it’s next to impossible.

On the other hand, 15 pounds is something that is specific and measurable. You know when you’ve lost it, and when you haven’t. You can check on your progress along the way. You can also measure if you’ve read a book a month on leadership. It is something tangible that you can look at and know that you’ve accomplished (or haven’t).

3. Make sure the goals are attainable.

Often when resolutions are made, they are not attainable. There are two reasons why this might be. One is that not enough time is given to be able to achieve the desired results, as in losing weight.

Many times, when setting goals, people are over-zealous for what they can achieve. Then, when they fail, they get discouraged and may give up on the process of goal-setting.

Planning out bite-sized steps to achieve each goal can be helpful. Creating a plan of action around each goal will help assure that each small step is completed on your way to completing the big goal!

4. Add some risk to each goal.

While you want goals that are measurable and attainable, I like to encourage people to put a little risk in the goals. There is a fine line here between risky goals and ones that are a bit too much; however, I tend to err on the side of adventurous goals that will excite me.

Many times, for me, when setting goals, in addition to having specific and measurable goals, I will add something to strive for in addition to the actual goal. I find this helps me stick to my goal better.

For example, instead of just a goal of getting in shape or losing weight, add in a 5k or 10k to strive for as you get in shape. These provide milestones and targets to hit as you progress toward the overall goal.

5. Make each goal time-sensitive.

Set an end date for each goal. Have a time frame that you will work with. For example, if you want to drink more water, then a good goal might be:

Drink 5 glasses of water, 5 days a week, for 90 days.

Having an indefinite goal for every day of the week more often than not is unattainable. Breaking the goal into smaller segments can help to create more small wins as you look to accomplish bigger goals. Remember, goals are different than habits, but can be a great kick-start to formulating new habits.

BONUS #1: Partner with someone for accountability.

Setting goals is great; however, being able to set them with someone and help keep each other accountable is a sure-fire way to increase the likelihood of staying on track.

Pair up with someone to help you reach your professional goals. Two are better than one!

BONUS #2: Celebrate small and big victories alike.

As you complete action steps and each of your goals, take time to celebrate! This will boost your motivation and help you keep going. Decide ahead of time how and when you will celebrate your wins.

What other steps do you use to transform your goals? What goals have you set for this year? Let me know in the comments below?

A Team Building Activity Adapted from The Biggest Loser

Team Building idea Chinese lanters

I’m always looking for new ideas for team building activities. Last night, I was watching The Biggest Loser with my family. We find the show very uplifting and encouraging. One of the activities they did inspired an idea for a team building activity that I want to share with you.

The participants had been on a hike together, and at the peak of their hike, the trainers gave them what looked like a small, folded piece of paper. However, inside of the paper was a butterfly. They were to answer the question, “What is your intention for the remainder of your time here?”

After everyone had shared, they opened up their folder paper, and released a butterfly, symbolizing both their journey of transformation and what their part was going to be in that process until the end.

Ways to Use This Team Building Activity

There are several scenarios where you could use this kind of activity:

  1. Launching a new project and using this with project managers or team  leaders.
  2. In the middle of a project that is heading in the wrong direction. Use it to help re-direct both staff and leaders.
  3. At the end of a project to celebrate accomplishments and talk about what’s next on the horizon.
  4. Taking your team to a new level of trust and authenticity.

How to Set Up This Team Activity

Set up for this activity will be relatively easy. I don’t think you necessarily need to have butterflies folded up in paper pouches; although, if you could pull that off, it would be impressive. (If you live near a Butterfly Pavilion, Nature Center or Botanical Gardens, it might be worth a call to see what’s possible.)

Decide what end result you want to achieve. I talk a lot about setting goals and being intentional about team building activities. To get the most out of them, you have to think about what results you want to achieve. Learn more here.

Begin with a hike or some kind of team activity that isn’t competitive and will focus on change and transformation. You can check out Playmeo for a great database of activities.

At the end of the hike, ask the question (you will need to tweak the question depending on how you want to use the activity):

As we’re looking at this new project, what will be your primary intention you will focus on?

Allow ample time for responses. Encourage everyone to share (but we follow the rule of challenge by choice). After everyone has shared, release the butterflies (or other item – see below for modifications).

Debriefing the Activity

Talk about what people have shared and their commitment to the team and project and that part of the responsibility of the team is to hold each other accountable to our intentions and goals.

[You could also combine this activity with a time of goal-setting and looking at ways to hold the team accountable to goals and intentions.]

Ways to Modify This Activity

Knowing that everyone might not have access to butterflies, here are a few ways that this activity could be modified to use:

  1. Instead of butterflies, you could use helium-filled balloons and release them at the proper time. Talk about ways for the groups intentions to stay on track and not become “deflated” (see what I did there.)
  2. You could do this activity at night and use Chinese lanterns. Light them and release them to symbolize the group’s intentions being shared with everyone.
  3. If you are talking about a project NOT going well, you could ask your team to write on pieces of paper things that are not working well, and at the end of the sharing time, you burn the pieces of paper, symbolizing you are letting go of old ways and then brainstorm of ways to get the project back on track.

How else you use an activity like this for your team? What other ways can you modify it to suit your needs?

My First eBook and Conquering Fear

conquering fear and leading teams

Well, today is the first official day of the launch of my eBook, 4 Steps to Choosing the Best Team Building Activities. It’s been an interesting journey. I’ve learned a lot not only about the eBook process, but also about stepping out in the midst of fear.

You wouldn’t think that writing and publishing a relatively brief eBook would be that big of a deal. It’s taken a while for me to complete the book, not necessarily because of the content, but because of the doubts and fears that seem to pause me in my journey along the way.

I want to encourage anyone who is thinking of writing (whatever form that takes) to begin and push through. Simply going through the process has been worth it for me. Regardless of the outcome. The goal of the book is not to make a ton of money, but to get it out, to push past the fear and uncertainty, and to produce and release something that will help others, and that I can be proud of.

Who is the book for?

The book is written for leaders and managers who want to know how to choose and implement the best team building activities for their group. Leading your team through an activity is not enough. There is a process to truly finding and facilitating effective team building.

This book is for those leaders who want to get the most out of these kinds of exercises, and not only lead their team through them, but also transform their team in the process. By following the steps in this book, a facilitator can learn the process by which teams are not only improved but changed for the better.

What is the book about?

First, this book will teach you first about the different types of team building activities. In order to lead these kinds of activities effectively, it helps to first understand the differences between group initiatives vs. low ropes courses elements and several other distinctive activities.

It then lays out a simple 4-step process for choosing the best team building activities. It’s not complicated, although it does require the facilitator to be intentional about each step in this strategy.

It is the exact process I use when working with teams and facilitators.

Whether a half-day program, or multi-day event, this book will help the reader in several areas:

  • How to select the right exercises to boost team productivity, trust,         communication, and more!
  • Feel confident you’ve chosen activities your team will enjoy and benefit from
  • Achieve your team’s goals and objectives.

Why did I write this book?

There are a number of team building resources on the web, but there are only a few really excellent ones. My goal with this site and the books and resources that I develop is to create high-quality resources and training for those who want to learn how to facilitate and lead only the most effective team building activities. This is the first of those resources.

I hope you enjoy the book and learn a lot!

best team building activities cover

To order a copy of the book click here.

What did you think of the book? Leave your comments below. 

Leaders and Ingenuity

I was in Austin last week attending and speaking at a conference for educators, and it has been quite the experience. In the three days that I was there, I noticed several interesting business concepts that I had no idea even existed.

One interesting concept was for bikes that you could rent from one place (self-service) and drop off at a number of different locations. For just a few dollars a day, you could take unlimited brief rides (30 minutes or less) on these bikes.

creative bicycle business

The other business was called Car2Go. It’s basically a self-service car rental company (much like the bikes above) where you rent the car for one ride or all day, depending on what you need. In the downtown area, I noticed quite a number of these cars.

creative car rental business

I began to think about the creativity of entrepreneurs and leaders. On many levels, both groups have to exhibit some level of creativity.

While I think those that start businesses get a lot of credit for being creative, great leaders also must be creative in many areas. What areas are those?

  • Leadership style
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Team recognition
  • Developing other leaders
  • Training

Leaders must be creative in the way they lead. Why? Because no two people are alike and everyone must be led just a bit differently. Some leaders do this on a certain level, but most need to lead people according to their personality style more effectively.

Knowing where your staff falls under personality assessments is just the beginning. Leaders must also know how to lead the different personality styles. And, team leaders must remember that it is a daily process, not a “one and done” training.

Problem-solving is another area where leaders must be creative. There are a number of brainstorming techniques that can be used to propel a team forward out of a rut, or when there’s a difficult issue that needs to be resolved in a more creative way than has been done in the past.

Recently, I read an article in Outdoor Magazine that described the top companies to work for in 2014. I was amazed how so many companies are getting creative with what benefits are offered.

Several companies offered unlimited vacation days (that exhibits a lot of trust, right?). Others offered fitness incentives or gyms and healthy food options in their place of work. Still others offered other benefits like powder days (take a day off and go skiing – just don’t leave your team high and dry) or free fitness classes.

There are lots of businesses and numerous people who claim to be leaders. To combine ingenuity with leadership is a way for a business or a leader to make sure he stands out from the crowd and gets noticed.

How are you using creativity in your business? How do you seek to stand out from the crowd? Let me know in the comments below.

 

What Difference Does it Make?

What difference does it make?

There are a lot of team building activities that exist, and there are also a variety of team building companies that boast everything from a Drum Circle to Cooking to get your team engaged, communicating, and more productive. Sure, they may sound like fun, but what makes a team building experience worth the time, money, and effort that is put into it? Read more

Go Jump Off a Bridge!

Go Jump Off a Bridge

I was standing on a rail looking down into the water. It looked very, very far away. Fear of heights, my old friend, was trying to pull me back off the ledge. My heart was racing, palms sweating, not from the warmth of a summer day in Northern Wisconsin, but from the anxiety gripping me.

“One.”

Gulp. Am I seriously going to do this?

“Two.”

Have you ever had that experience where what seems like a million thoughts rush through your head in a split second?

“This is NOT a good idea.”

“Mom would be so freaking out right now.”

“Dad would never allow this.”

“I wonder if this is going to hurt.”

“People do this all the time. They survived.”

It’s funny how similar thoughts come to you when you’re about to make a big decision that regards life, work, or leadership.

“What if this doesn’t work?”

“What if this DOES work, and I really have to deliver what I’m promising?”

“How am I going to explain what I do to others? Family, friends, my spouse?”

For me, right now, in starting a new business, every day seems like jumping off a ledge into the unknown. Blog posts, emails, newsletters, affiliate programs, internet marketing, WordPress. Most of these are quite new experiences, and each requires a bit of a learning curve.

I’ve been going through an online business course, Internet Business Mastery Academy, and I seriously don’t know what to tell people at times. Not because they wouldn’t be supportive, but I just don’t know if they would understand what I’m trying to do.

Maybe it’s my fear speaking again, but until I get this going, I’m not sure I want to deal with the hassle of questions or looks of bewilderment.

It’s true of any new adventure, though, isn’t it? The doubts. The fears. The oncoming questions coming at you. People are mostly curious and want to be supportive with the best intentions. Only, it doesn’t always come across that way.

“Three!”

For a moment, you feel like you’re just hanging in the air. Then, the water comes screaming up at you like a madman.

Splash!

“Yeeeeaaaaaaaaah!”

“Way to go, Will!”

I must have surfaced with a huge grin on my face. My friends were smiling and yelling. I did it. It was my first time to jump off a bridge, and it was quite the rush. It definitely wouldn’t be the last time, either. As quickly as I could, I swam to shore, ran up the road, back to the bridge and jumped again. 

I find myself on the rail once again looking down into the water which seems so far below.

“One.”

I’m writing an eBook, and I don’t want to release it.

“Two.”

Here comes a million thoughts and questions again.

I’m developing a new course, and I’m afraid to put it on my site. What if no one subscribes?

I don’t think this guest post is good enough to send. What if I get rejected (again)?

What if I advertise for a workshop and no one shows up?

The flood of doubts and fears comes rushing back. Will I let my old friend fear pull me back down off the railing? Back to safety and security?

Or will I leap off the rail, hang in the air for the briefest of moments, and plunge into the cool water below, feeling the rush of adrenaline surge through me?

When I’m standing on the ledge, and I’m looking at the water below, I ask myself some questions:

What’s the worst that could happen? No one ever died from a rejected blog post!

If I advertise for a workshop and no one shows up, I will have learned how NOT to market it.

If I publish that eBook, and no one buys it, I can give it away on my site. It’s not a wasted effort.

No one succeeds without some form of failure. The confidence you gain from failing and pushing through will be worth it in the end. And, that rush of adrenaline, or the feeling of satisfaction is quite contagious. It might just keep you going back to that rail over and over again.

The first newsletter subscriber (besides your mom).

100 and then 1000 likes on your Facebook page.

Your first money made online.

The sale of your very first eBook. 

The income you’ve made that just replaced your day job.

Ok, I’ve made up my mind. Will you join me?

“Three!”

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