Category Archives: Organizational Development

5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from a Micro-Manager

leadership lessons from a micro manager

When I was in my early twenties, within the space of about three weeks I lost my job, my grandmother passed away (her funeral was on my birthday, no less), my dog died, and I became fairly ill. It was like a country song gone bad.

During that season, I worked for a guy that was a micro-manager. I was in a job that stretched me, for sure. But I was willing to work on the things that I didn’t know, and I was committed to do whatever I needed to make things work with my boss.

No matter your situation there are leadership lessons that you can learn. Regardless of circumstances, there are always “take-away’s.” These are lessons you can learn if you give it a little thought and reflect on your experiences.

Here are five such lessons I learned from my experience working with a micro-manager:

Be willing to work on your differences

One of my takeaways from that experience is to always be willing to work on the things that make you different. Everyone has unique gifts and strengths to bring to the table.

What are your strengths? What are your boss’s strengths? What are your subordinate’s strengths? What differences are there? How can your differences complement one another?

If you sit down and go through these, chances are you’ll find that your strengths and even differences complement each other and, if you use them correctly, can really move your team from being so-so to being awesome!

Hire the right people for the right position.

Knowing about strengths and personality can also help on the front end. Before you ever hire someone, it would serve you well to perform a personality test and a strengths assessment. Using these two things can tell a boss or hiring manager up front if they are the right person for the position you’re hiring for (and, just as importantly, if they’re not).

There are a number of professionals that use the Stengthsfinder 2.0 assessment for hiring. Leadership guru and virtual mentor, Michael Hyatt, is one of them.

Give people the freedom to do their jobs.

Once you hire a person, you’ve just given that person your endorsement. If you feel a need to micro-manage, then the insecurity is really with yourself. So, back off and let the person do what you’ve hired them to do.

Give your new hire time to adjust to the new position, responsibilities, and culture. If you discover they need additional training for technical skills, then provide

If you discover that someone is not as proficient as they first seemed? You have at least two options:

  • Provide more training.
  • Let them go and rehire that position.

The issue with the second option is that it usually will cost you more to re-hire than to invest in some training.

Develop your people as needed.

Every company should have a training culture. The best companies know that it is easier and cheaper to train staff than to rehire for those positions.

Few people come into a new job or position knowing everything they need to know. Whether it’s a matter of training on company culture and process or learning new hard skills, there is a learning curve for every job. (Even for people that move within a company, different departments can even have their own unique culture within the overall company culture.)

Investing in training leads to more engagement and better retention of employees. Commit to a culture of training and development.

Work on Yourself as the Leader

There are a number of companies that have a great training culture…initially. Does your company continue to develop and encourage the development of its employees beyond the first few weeks or months?

Amazon’s training includes a 1-month initial training program as well as prepays 95% of employee’s tuition for in-demand fields.

Bonobos, a leading retail company, has multiple offerings to train their employees in leadership, management and customer service.

Randstad US not only offers programs in management, leadership, communication, and presentation skills, but also offers its employees both mentoring and coaching services.

As you may have gathered, my boss was not committed to working on things as I was, and I was let go. It was disappointing, but I definitely did learn a lot from that experience.

There are some things that both of us could have done to really make that situation better. I have learned to be a better communicator. The pastor I worked with could have committed to working on the relationship and helping me get better instead of asking me to leave immediately.

It may not have been the right position for me anyway; however, that’s why it’s so important to know more about people on the front end of hiring. I definitely believe that every company, every boss, and every hiring manager could benefit from doing their due diligence before they hire anyone. And every company can engage their employees by providing training to get them familiar with the company culture and continue to develop them as leaders and people.

What does your company do before hiring someone? What kind of on-going training do you provide? 

[photo credit: Nosnibor137 and Bigstock Photo.]

Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

secrets to a super fun team

Have you ever wondered what makes some teams great and some, well, duds? So have I. I’ve been on teams that work really well together and are downright a blast to be a part of. I’ve been on others where I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. For many people, it may be a mixture of both fun and frustrating.

In working with a number of different teams, I’ve noticed a common thread among the ones who work really well together. There are certain characteristics that make these teams click. Lack of any of them, however, can cause any number of team dysfunctions.

Super-fun teams are good at collaboration

Fun teams work well together and have an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. If you’ve ever experienced working with people you don’t trust, you know how stifling that can be. And, it just takes one person to ruin an environment of trust.

You would think trust takes a lot of time to develop. The fact is, trust can be developed very quickly and that foundation can continue to be built upon. According to Stephen Covey, there are 13 behaviors you can us to develop what he calls “the speed of trust.”

Collaboration is a by-product of a high-trust environment. You can see this in those with whom you work. You tend to work well with those you trust and avoid those you don’t. The partnerships you seek are with people you know you can trust – for obvious reasons.

As you look at your team – how would you rate your level of collaboration?

Super-fun teams exhibit effective communication

Teams and co-workers communicate all the time. But is it effective? Have you moved forward with a project, only to find out at the end, that you weren’t given all the critical details?

When your team communicates effectively, it will increase productivity and significantly effect your bottom line, as well as overall team morale. People will feel more engaged and a critical part of the process.

What is the level of effective communication within your team?

Super-fun teams know when it’s time for celebration

I’m a part of a team that loves to celebrate. Whether it’s someone’s birthday, or a new team member comes on board or leaves, we celebrate. (And, no, we’re not celebrating the fact they’re leaving but going on to new adventures!)

The celebration usually centers around food, as well as the person we are celebrating. There is eating, laughing, conversation, eating, more laughing, sometimes singing, maybe a game or two (but not always), eating, frivolity, and did I mention eating? 🙂 Usually there is a theme, and it’s based on something that the person we’re celebrating likes.

We do our best to not talk about work (for the most part we are very successful). It’s not time to check in on business, but it is time for a party. We have lots of fun and don’t worry about work.

So, you may know these things already. The question then becomes, how do we make the above a reality? One of the best ways I know of to increase all of these is through a combination of icebreakers and team building activities.

That’s why I wrote a brand new book of these kind of exercises called, 10 Super Fun Team Icebreakers and Challenges. In it, you’ll find 10 team building activities that have never been printed anywhere else.

super fun team ebook

These are activities that I’ve spent the last few months creating and designing for teams just like yours. Whether you need better collaboration, communication, or you just want a day of celebration, these exercises will help your team, all based on the superhero theme.

You can use these activities one at a time, or you can group them together for a Super-Fun team adventure. Or do a half-day event by picking and choosing a few of the challenges. You decide.

Here’s a sneak peek at the book.

Right now, you can order the book for only $10. It not only includes the activities, but also has suggestions for how to use the book, instructions for how to facilitate each activity, and also (my personal favorite) a “Deep Dive” section where you can take the activity further and dig into the challenges even more.

If you end up buying the book and do some of the activities, please let me know. I’d love to know how it goes – send pictures, email me with how it went – who knows, maybe you and your team will even be featured on the blog or my social media accounts (with your permission, of course!)

Why Every Leader Should Use the DiSC Assessment with Their Team

leaders using disc assessment with team

I first used the DiSC assessment years ago when I was working at a church in Phoenix, Arizona. Our church hosted a workshop and one of the speakers led us in this personality assessment. Since then, I have used it multiple times and with multiple teams to help me discover more about who I’m working with and how to lead and/or work with others best.

Depending on which DISC test you use (there are a few variations), it will tell you how you respond to certain situations. It’s really more of a behavioral predictor (according to some) than an actual personality test, but it will tell you a lot about both.

What I like About the DiSC assessment…

There are a number of things I like about this behavior assessment over others. It has really become one of my go-to assessments when working with teams or even individuals. I even use it on the fly when dealing with colleagues or leaders (and I’ll explain how and why momentarily.) Here are a few of the benefits of DiSC that I see.

It’s Quick

The DiSC assessment takes no more than 15-20 minutes for the full profile. Again, this can vary somewhat depending on which specific assessment you take. I’ve also seen facilitators do a “quick” version of this profile technique in about 5-10 minutes (or less).

It’s Easy

I’ve worked with a number of personality tests and used them for students, leaders, and myself. There are some that are great and may go into more depth than the DiSC; however, I don’t think any are easier both to use, understand, and teach others to use.

This is really key for me. You don’t have to remember strange-sounding words like “choleric” or “phlegmatic” or remember which personality each of those represents. (For some reason, I can never keep those straight.)

You learn 4 letters, and each letter corresponds with the type of personality associated with the letter.

D stands for “dominant”. These are your Type-A people who fall into the natural leader category. They are driven and determined.

I represents the “influencers.” These are your everywhere-and-everything-is-a-party people. They are outgoing and love to be around a crowd.

S represents the “steadiness” personalities. These are the nice people that are very supportive. They are the encouragers and your loyal friends.

C describes the “conscientious” types. They are the organizers and effective members of your team. They thrive on detail and “doing it right.”

It’s Intuitive

This is where it gets FUN! 🙂 Once you get the DiSC assessment down (it doesn’t take long, remember, it’s easy!), then you can begin to use it to improve communication for your team, family, friends, etc.

It gets a little addictive to begin to see people in a different light. Here’s the thing: when you know how people behave in certain situations (or in general) you can drastically begin to improve your communication with them. You can vary your communication style depending on who you’re talking to.

You begin to anticipate  what each person needs:

  • Do they need the big picture or a lot of detail?
  • Do they need to know who’s coming or what the agenda will be?
  • Will they need to know how productive it will be or how much fun they’ll have?
  • And on and on…

The DiSC test doesn’t just help with communication, it also helps you know what each person would be best for specific roles:

  • Who can lead a team?
  • Who can hammer out the details?
  • Who can get everyone at the meeting or function?
  • Who can make sure all feel valued and cared for?

Can you imagine what you’d get done? Can you fathom what your team would get done? Feeling appreciated and understood. Feeling like you really know them and listen to them.

How Your Team Benefits from the DiSC assessment…

Develop Trust

One significant way to build trust with your team mates is for them to know and feel that you understand them and can relate with them. The DISC test helps by showing you what each person needs from you and one another in areas such as leadership, communication, work environment, and more.

Trust grows when you feel safe and know what to expect and what is expected from you. As a leader, it is important to know how to relate to each of your team members.

Increase Productivity

Imagine a work environment where you felt understood, appreciate, and valued. Your team leader gives you just the right balance of freedom and direction. You have open and honest communication with your manager and you feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and asking for clarification if needed.

How productive do you think this team would be?

You can also build on the DiSC assessment by using Strengthsfinder 2.0. This profile allows you to identify the top 5 strengths of each of your team members. The identification of these strengths can then be used to align people into their giftings and further increase the productivity (and satisfaction) of your team.

Strengthen Collaboration

How well your team works together is a direct result of leadership and trust. Here are a few ways that the DISC personality assessment can increase collaboration:

  • Capitalize on each person’s strengths
  • Increase understanding between coworkers
  • Enhance communication strategies
  • Place people in the right roles (the first time!)

Collaboration and employee engagement go hand in hand. The better your team collaborates, the more engaged they will be and the more they will enjoy working on your team.

Communicate more effectively

It’s hard to communicate as it is. What if you could simplify that process and make it easier for you to communicate with others and for them to communicate with you? Each personality style communicates differently and understanding others and how they communicate will increase your communication strategy exponentially.

Have I convinced you yet? It really is a quick and easy way to improve your leadership and develop your team.

If you’re interested to learn more about the DISC or use it with your team these are the resources that I would recommend you start with:

DiSC Assessment (Individual) [Discounts start at orders of 10+ reports or more.]

DiSC Leadership Assessment

I’ve recently switched to PeopleKeys for all my DiSC assessment needs. They’ve been great to work with and their selection of assessments is amazing!

Whether you work with one team or multiple teams, I would also strongly encourage you to think about getting certified as a DISC trainer. This will not only increase your understanding of the DISC personality test but allow you to train others within your company or organization (including managers, team members, etc.)

DiSC Certification 

This certification is through 48Days and Dan Miller. I highly recommend all of his products and training. They are top notch!

What has been your experience with the DiSC assessment? What other ways and assessments do you use with your team? Let me know in the comments below? 

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, and if you decide to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.  Please know that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something but because they are helpful and useful, .  Please only spend money on these products if you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals or your team’s goals.

Want to Be Trained by the Best?

Mark Collard Team Building Workshp
Hey Adventurers –
Have I got a special opportunity for you!
One of my mentors and one of the world’s leading team building trainers and the founder of Playmeo, Mark Collard, will be in the Dallas area next month and you could have an opportunity to train with him too.
I met Mark Collard last year at a workshop in Oklahoma City. I live about 4 hours away but knew I could not miss the opportunity to train with him, so I made the drive and WOW was it worth it! We’ve continued to stay in touch since, and he’s asked me to get in touch with some folks to see if you’d be interested in some training in January.
Mark will be in the Dallas area between January 25-27th. More details coming soon.
He’s so down-to-earth and extremely knowledgeable when it comes to facilitating groups of all sizes. If you live anywhere within driving distance of the Dallas area, you would be crazy not to come!
If you want more from your team(s):
  • Better communication
  • Increased trust
  • More fun
  • Stronger leadership

Then this is something that you won’t want to miss.

Bring yourself. Bring your team. Just get there any way you can.

All you need to do right now is let me know you’re interested in being kept in the loop by filling out this contact form. I will contact you as soon as I know more details.

This is perfect for you if you’re a:

  • Educator (at any level)
  • Youth leader
  • Corporate Trainer/facilitator
  • Outdoor educator or camp leader
  • Project Manager or Team Leader
  • Event or Conference Coordinator

If you’re interested, contact me and let me know. I will get back with you as soon as I have information on where and how to sign up for this unique opportunity!

 

5 Quick and Easy Holiday Team Building Activities

5 quick and easy holiday team building activities

Need some team building activities for the holidays? Here are five different ones that you can use as stand-alone activities or put them together for one amazing holiday gathering.

Each activity comes with instructions, and you can even download a 4-page PDF guide of this post at the end to take with you to your holiday party or team meeting. (The PDF includes additional ideas not listed in the post.)

1. Snowflake

Also called the Paper Tear activity, this exercise shows the importance of communication and clarifying instructions. This activity can be done with smaller teams as well as large groups.

Instructions:

Hand everyone a piece of paper. Once everyone has receive a piece, instruct them that this exercise is to be done with all eyes closed and in silence (except for the rustling of the paper.) Participants are not allowed to ask questions of you, their neighbor, or make comments about the process until it is completed.

Ask everyone to close their eyes and to follow these instructions exactly:

  1. Fold your paper in half.
  2. Fold it in half again.
  3. Tear off the top right corner.
  4. Fold your paper in half length-wise.
  5. Tear off the bottom left corner.
  6. Rotate your paper.
  7. Fold it in half again.
  8. Tear off a piece from the middle

Say, “If you followed these instructions exactly, all of your papers should look the same. Open your eyes and unfold your paper.” At this point, have them compare their papers with those around them.

Debrief questions:

What was it like to follow the instructions?

How hard or easy was it to not be able to clarify?

How does this resemble communication in your organization?

What ways could this process be improved/changed?

2. Helium Peppermint Stick

This is a variation on the helium stick team building activity. One year with a student leadership group, I wrapped red electric tape around a thin, long piece of PVC pipe to make it look like a peppermint stick. Depending on your team, you can create a story to go with this activity:

Santa’s elves have lost one of their peppermint sticks. It appears they’ve accidentally dropped some of the reindeer dust on it because it has a tendency to float up. It’s fairly fragile and very light weight. Because we don’t want to break it, we’re just going to use our index fingers to touch it. In order to reverse the effects of the reindeer dust, we have to set it on the floor as a team. Everyone must be touching the peppermint stick with both index fingers, and they must remain touching it the whole time.

This activity takes a lot of communication and cooperation to complete. It’s much harder than it seems at first.

Debrief questions:

  • What worked well during this activity?
  • What was your communication strategy in the beginning?
  • How did that change over time?
  • What observations did you make during this exercise?

3. Holiday Spectrums

Spectrums is a game that I learned personally from Mark Collard of Playmeo. The game is an icebreaker that asks participants to line up on a continuum based on two choices.

Designate two end points on the spectrum you’ve created. (You can use a couple of small cones, 2 chairs, roll out a long piece of webbing or duct tape, etc.) Tell your group members you’re going to read off what the 2 ends of the spectrum represent. For example, “dog lover” at this end (and indicate which end that would be) or “cat lover” at this end (point to the opposite end of the spectrum). You can choose to move to either end or pick somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter where you go, just pick a spot that you feel represents your answer.

Possible questions/categories for this team building activity:

a. Christmas is (The holidays are) awesome! OR Bah Humbug!

b. Griswold Christmas Lights… or Never put lights up

c. Black Friday shopping… or Stay at home and avoid the crowds!

d. I love holiday traditions… or I love to try new things every year!

e. I use wrapping paper… or I use gift bags.

Get more ideas by downloading the free PDF!

f. Create your own spectrum question(s).

After each person has selected their place, ask them their reason for selecting that particular spot on the spectrum (you don’t have to ask everyone – just get a few responses.)

What can we learn from each other during this activity?

4. Deck the Halls Scavenger Hunt

Option #1

Make a list of holiday items and assign points for each item. The larger or more hard to find items should have more points attached to them.

Give each team a list of the items and a time limit to gather items (typically 1-2 hours). If teams are late, they could face disqualification. I would suggest that you have the teams stay together for this activity. You can designate the teams stay within a certain area or allow them to venture out. (Just be aware that the larger the teams, the harder it will be to stay together if they are allowed outside of a certain area.)

See sample items in the PDF (Free download)

Option #2

This is the “bigger and better” approach to a scavenger hunt. Give each team a small item (small Christmas stocking, candy cane, ornament) and ask them that their job is to go out into the community and ask for something “bigger and better” than what they currently have. The idea is for each team to trade up to the most extravagant item that they can find in a certain amount of time.

Usually you give teams an hour or two to complete the task, meet back at a certain time (or face disqualification), and reveal what each team has been able to come up with. You can select a winner based on size of item or most expensive item. You could also give out other awards such as:

  • Most creative item obtained.
  • Biggest item.
  • Weirdest object.
  • Most likely to be found in a Michael Jackson video.
  • Most likely to be found in our boss’s house.
  • Create your own fun awards!

5. Holiday Mapping (Where in the world?)

Instructions:
Imagine the floor where you are is a map of the world. The center of the map is where we are physically. I will ask a series of questions and you move to the spot on the imaginary map that represents your answer to the question. For example, if I asked “Where were you born?” go ahead and move to that spot now. For each question, don’t worry about being able to afford

Additional question ideas:
a. Where in the world would you like to spend the holidays?

b. What other country’s holiday tradition(s) would you like to learn more about?

c. If you could take a 2-week vacation during the holidays (all expenses paid) where would you go? (You could also ask what they would do there once they’ve moved to their spot.)

d. Where in the world would you like to go for the New Year’s celebration?

e. What place would you absolutely NOT want to visit during the holidays? (This could create some laughs!)

f. <Insert your creative question here.>

After each question, call on a few individuals to name the place where they are and you might ask the reason they chose that particular place.

You’ll have great fun with these activities. Don’t forget to download the PDF (FREE) that also includes ideas for the scavenger hunt items above, as well as additional ideas not listed in this post.

What activities are you planning to use? What other holiday activities do you use for team building? Let me know in the comments below!

10 Ways to Help Your Team Be More Thankful

ways to make your team thankful

‘Tis the season to be grateful. There are lots of things to be thankful for; however, we can often get busy (especially during this time of the year) and become consumed with all that we have to get done before the end of the year.

Here are ten ways to help re-direct your team (and even yourself) to think about others during the holidays and get the focus off of everything you have to do. These activities will not only help your team to grow closer, but also steer the focus to others.

1. Gather shoes for children.

In our community, there is a local shoe closet that collects and distributes shoes for children who need them. We are not a large community, but you’d be surprised how many children have worn out and inappropriate shoes for school. Check to see if there is a shoe closet in your area and what sizes they need. Or, have your own shoe drive and work with your local school district to find out what would be helpful.

2. Collect donations for Christmas dinner boxes.

The college where I work gathered items to give out 100 Thanksgiving dinner sacks that our students could come by and pick up the week before Thanksgiving. The same idea could be used for Christmas. Get your teams together to donate items to make Christmas Dinner sacks or boxes for local families. Work with charities in your area to get the word out. Set a goal and see how many you can collect!

3. Begin a canned food drive.

Every community has a food bank and most of them need donations, especially around the holidays. Have your team start a canned food drive to help your local food bank stock up for the holidays (or re-stock after them.)

4. Donate coats and warm clothes.

Our local community has a couple of coat closets that gather coats to give to those in need during the winter months. (Yes, even in Texas it can get pretty chilly!) Determine how many coats you want to gather (make it a challenge for your team) and deliver the coats together. Take a tour of the coat closet and see what other things they might need or other ways you can volunteer.

5. Serve the homeless.

If you don’t want to collect anything to donate, have one of your teammates organize a day to go feed the homeless at a local shelter. Just about every community has one, and it definitely puts things in perspective. Seeing men, women, and even families with no place to go makes one grateful for all the blessings we truly have.

6. Volunteer at a local non-profit.

As a team, decide on a non-profit you would like to go help. Schedule a Saturday morning and go serve them together. Every non-profit loves volunteers and certainly needs help during this time of year. Want to up the challenge? Make it a goal to serve together once a month or once a quarter as a group. See how your team and teammates grow during the process!

7. Support an Angel.

Every year, the Salvation Army has a program called Angel Tree, where people can get a name from one of the Angel Trees set up in the community and buy a small box of new clothes or toys for needy children. Volunteer to be one of the hosts of a tree or get together with your team and determine a number of families you want to help over the holidays.

8. Participate in a Rice and Bean supper.

Do some searching to see if there is a rice and bean supper in your area during the holidays. The purpose of these is to:

  1. Raise money for local charities.
  2. Raise awareness for poverty.

It’s eye opening when you see how little people live on both in our country and across the globe. The statistics are alarming. Most of the world lives on less than $2-3/day. Yet, we often complain about how little we have. Take your team to one of these dinners and do some debriefing afterwards and talk about thankfulness, giving, and how your organization can help make a difference in your community.

9. Sign up for a poverty workshop.

Our community has hosted several poverty workshops. There are a few organizations who run these and their presentations and information is very eye-opening. The good ones not only talk about poverty but also ways that people in the community can begin to help turn things around.

Work with a local school district or church to schedule a time to bring someone in to lead one of these trainings. (We’ve worked with Donna Beegle before and participated in her poverty institute.)

10. _(Insert your idea here.)_

The last idea is to brainstorm with your team and come up with your own idea. How can you help your community? What ideas do your team members have? What needs does your community have? How can you work together as a team to help those around you?

Some other ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Help cultivate a community garden.
  • Clean up with your city’s parks and recreation department.
  • Build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
  • Volunteer for disaster relief with Red Cross.
  • Tutor kids with an after school program.
  • Mentor students at a local community college.

What idea did your team decide to move forward with? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below!

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? 

 

4 Free Apps to Use for Team Icebreakers

Apps used for icebreaker exercises

Here are some free app’s that you can use to run icebreaker activities in meetings and for special events. All of these app’s are free; although, some of them offer “Pro” or paid versions that offer even more activities or icebreaker questions.

For each app, I’ll tell you a little about the app, let you know what I like about the app but also what I think could and should be improved. I tried a total of 7 app’s. One of them I couldn’t even get to open up. It kept crashing when I tried to launch it. One of them I had to connect via a social media network, answer 10 questions, and then would not let me continue to the main part of the app. I would avoid these 2 app’s like the plague.

1. Icebreakers

Icebreakers is an app specifically designed with facilitators and team builders in mind. It is obvious that it is designed for teams to use in meetings, activities, events, etc., not only for icebreakers, but also for some team building activities.

What I like about this app:

The app includes a good number (more than you might think in a free version) of activities and icebreaker games. They are divided into different categories, as well as options to select them according to group size and situations (such as Sales Meetings, Staff Meetings, Classroom, Outdoors, etc.)

I like that this app includes an explanation of what icebreakers are, their purpose, and also directions on facilitating these, as well as encouragement to debrief these upon completion.

I also like that this app includes different variations with some of the exercises, provides a degree of physical activity (low, medium, high), and also includes how long each activity should run.

What could be improved:

Many of the icebreakers in the app are really more team building activities. Not a bad thing, but the developers might think about renaming the app since quite a few of the games are beyond simple icebreaker activities.

Visually the app could use some improvements. The way the app is designed, some of the instructions are hard to read. It seems like everything is tabbed over to the right somewhat, scrunching things up.

The most annoying thing (really the only annoying thing) about this app is the ads that keep popping up that you have to close in order to use the app.

Screenshots:

App for icebreaker games       Apps to use for icebreaker games 2

Overall recommendation: Of the app’s I reviewed, I would say that this one is definitely worth getting.

Click here to get this app.

2. Let’s Talk

Although this app is not designed for the specific purpose of building teams, the questions in the app can be used as such. This app wouldn’t be the most versatile of these free app’s, but it could be a good place to start in your coworkers getting to know each other.

What I like about this app:

In the free version, there are 4 different categories (there are 9 in the paid version.) Each category has questions that you can scroll through and ask members of your team.

You can also click on a small heart at the bottom of the screen to tag questions as “favorites”. This would be helpful for a facilitator to go through these ahead of time and tag questions they would use to facilitate a group discussion.

The app allows you to go forward and backwards through the questions (not all app’s listed here allow you to go back to a previous question).

What could be improved:

The categories are limited, as are the questions that you get in the free version. Usability is ok, but this app is very simplistic in both design and functionality. Again, it’s not designed for the purpose of icebreaker games, but it is designed to stimulate discussion (whether on a date or with friends or family). That being said, it would be nice to be able to choose questions based on different categories, not just your situation (small group, date, etc.)

Screenshots:

Apps use for icebreaker activities        Apps used for icebreaker activities 2

 

Overall recommendation: Even with its limitations, this could be a good app to use to start discussion among team members. Just remember, the categories are very limited.

Click here to get this app.

3. Icebreakers – Meetings

This is another app specifically created to lead icebreaker activities for your group or team. This app is focused on different categories of icebreaker questions. There are not icebreaker activities in this one, just questions.

What I like about this app:

There are 12 different categories of icebreaker questions to choose from in this app. I like the variety of subjects that you can pick from. The categories include:

Professional Experience
Leadership
Job History
Project Experience
Television
School
Personal/Family
Change
Future
Childhood
Spare Time
Hobbies

That’s a significant number of categories for the free version. Kudos to the developers for that. Having different categories allows you to get to know a person on a deep level (say if you included the Personal/Family and Childhood category) or on a professional level, with questions pertaining to Job History and Leadership.

What could be improved:

The app only takes you through different icebreaker questions. It would be nice for other icebreaker games to be included in this app, if only a limited number in the free version.

Icebreakers are more than just questions. You can learn all kinds of things about people by having fun and doing different kinds of activities beyond just asking questions.

The questions also seem to repeat themselves quite often within each category, regardless of which category you choose. Not sure if more questions need to be added, or the way that the app selects the questions need to be modified.

Overall Recommendation:

If you are merely looking for icebreaker questions, this app is great. If you are looking for more than just icebreaker questions, you might want to keep looking.

Click here to get this app.

4. Wealthy Walrus

This app is another one that’s not designed specifically for icebreaker games, but you could certainly use this to get to know your team mates better.

What I like about this app:

I like the creative premise behind the app:

A wealthy walrus has plenty of money to give out, but you must do certain things in order to earn that amount.

For example,

For $14 million,

“Would you press a button that blows up an uninhabited planet outside of our solar system?”

You then answer Yes or No, and it shows you the percentage of people that have chosen each answer. Some are quite surprising!

What could be improved:

Again, it’s not made specifically for the purpose that we are talking about; however, there are a limited number of questions, and every so often, a pop-up displays asking you to buy more questions (which several additional question packages are available for $0.99 each)

Overall recommendation:

This would be a great app for a creative way to get to know your group. It is pretty limited in its scope, but you can also upgrade to expand the questions. For a simple icebreaker game, though, the free version would be just fine.

Click here to get this app.

All in all, these are a few apps that you could use as icebreakers for your team. My top pick is the first one, simply called Icebreakers. Surprisingly (or maybe not) there are very few apps to choose from in this subject area. It might just be time to create one! 🙂

What apps have you used to foster discussion in your group? What other recommendations do you have for apps to use for icebreakers?

[photo credit Nicola via Flickr]

7 Ways to Motivate Your Team Red-Carpet Style

team building red carpet event

There are a lot of ways to motivate your team and let them know you appreciate them. Since we are in the season of major award shows and nominations, I wanted to offer some suggestions on ways to help motivate and encourage your people “red-carpet style.”

Several of these can be done with a limited budget and many of these can be tweaked or combined to create an all-out superstar event that your people will talk about for years to come.

1. Roll out the red carpet

Make your employees feel like stars. Surprise them with a red carpet experience that they won’t soon forget. Rent a large red carpet and have your employees enter work in style. Encourage a “dress-up day” citing some important people arriving that day.

In addition to the red carpet,  have some volunteers who are clamoring to take their picture with these VIP’s. Who doesn’t like attention like that?

Variations:

Add a limo to have your team take pictures in before going in to work. Or, as they arrive, let them take a ride around the block in the limo and have some paparazzi (see below) waiting for them when they come back.

2. Give Your Team the Paparazzi Treatment

You can pair this with another event listed here, or do it on its own. Surprise your employees at work one morning with a line of paparazzi waiting for them to enter the building.

Imagine your team walking in with people shouting their name and taking massive amounts of pictures of them as they arrive, making them feel like Golden Globe or Oscar nominees.

3. Plan a Limo Lunch for Star Employees

Once a year or once a quarter (depending on your budget), take your star employees out for a nice lunch and transport them there via a limo.

How will you choose which ones go? Have a contest (sales, production, etc.) and set criteria to qualify. Everyone who qualifies gets to go.

Variation: Want to pair this with a way to increase customer service? Combine the qualification process with those who receive a certain number of compliments, customer service awards/points, or positive customer experience evaluations.

4. Host an Oscars Awards Night for Your Team

It’s time for some serious fun and some serious planning. Combine all of the above events to create an awards nights for your crew. This will take a lot of leg work and advanced planning, but what better way to honor your employees?

Hand out awards as part of the night. Be creative. Hand out serious awards, plus some fun ones. Get a team together to help brainstorm and plan the night.

5. After-party.

Plan an after-work party to thank your employees. Hire someone to cater food and drinks. Bring in a DJ for some after-work foot-stomping fun.

Variation: Go to an off-site venue, such as a lake house, hotel, or other hot spot in the area.

6. Create a “People’s Choice Awards” Event

Host an awards night where members of your team vote on different categories of awards to give out at a party dedicated to honoring the best and brightest among your crew.

Possible awards to hand out:

Best Salesman
Best Saleswoman
Best Support Staff
Best Advertising Campaign

Variations:

Have a crazy awards night – brainstorm some creative ideas on awards to give out and make it a fun, creative event.

“Most Likely to Sell Snow to a Snowman”

“Most Likely to Call in Sick After [favorite sports team] Loses”

“Best Excuse for Missing Work”

7. Premier Movie Event

Honor your employees by hosting a premier movie event. Announce that they will be experiencing a one-of-a-kind movie premier as a way of thanking them. What you don’t tell them is that they are the stars in this movie premier.

Hire a videographer to take some covert shots of your crew performing at their best. Have an editor compile it into a movie-premiere styled video and show it off at a local theater.

Variation: Combine this event with the After Party idea and/ or limo rides (above) to make it a special night that will “wow” your team.

What other ways can you think of to thank your people “red-carpet” style? Which one sounds most do-able for you?

[Photo credit: Zoonabar via Flickr.]

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?

« Older Entries