Habit Residue

Coffee Residue

We all have Habits.

Certain things we do that are a recurring pattern. Some we enjoy and are positive in our lives. Others are not great for us, and we struggle with changing them.

Habits become wired in our brains so we can focus on other more important aspects of our lives. Try to be more aware the next time you brush your teeth, take a shower, or get dressed, watch how this pattern of brushing, washing and dressing unfolds. The odds are you have a Habit that follows a pattern.

However, breaking a prior habit and re-wiring something new takes time and effort. In the first few weeks of trying something new, the old Habit tries to reestablish its dominance.

While helping someone establish a new Habit and replace and old one, they became frustrated when the old Habit returned.

“It seems to be back. I am trying.”

“You have made a lot of progress, maybe that is just the Habit Residue.”

“What are you taking about?”

“You know, what is left behind after something is gone. After I drink my coffee, there is coffee residue in the mug. The coffee is gone, I can still smell it, but the actual coffee is no longer here.”

We laughed and they were able to move forward. Somehow putting the Habit Residue in its place made it seem less powerful, less able to reassert itself back in their life.

What Habits are not working for you? What areas of your life, work, home, or relationships could use some new patterns?

Changing these Habits may not be easy, especially when the Habit Residue pretends to be the real thing. Putting the Habit Residue in its place may be a good place to start.

5 Customer Service Skills

Customer Service is on my mind. The recent interactions with companies combined with updating my own presentation to prepare for a few upcoming sessions may be the root cause, but it is there.

While in the middle of updating some materials, an email arrived. It asked a simple question.

“What are the top 5 Customer Service Skills from your perspective?”

I let that email sit for about a week while I pondered my response.

Below is my list.

1. Empathy – the ability to see our customer’s world, their challenges, their struggles even when they seem to do something that we do not understand or agree with.

2. Follow Through – essentially being able to bring about a solution without stopping along the way and learning to either “Ask or Act” if we get stuck.

3. Respect – to treat customers as if we are trying to earn their trust, loyalty, and partnership each day, everyday.

4. Ability to Listen – to hear what is really happening, and not just assume what is being requested or needed.

5. Flexibility & Empowerment – to have enough margin and competence within your sphere of influence to solve what can be solved if possible.

Now a question for you.

“What are the top 5 Customer Service Skills from your perspective?”

We all look forward to your list.

Ask or Act

Neighborhood-Doggarter_large

(Images courtesy of seespotshinedogtraining.com and nhmountainhiking.com)

Two simple choices. Ask or Act.

If things were only that easy.

As I learn more about our “fight or flight” reaction in our brains, there is another “f” reaction that seems to take hold.

Freeze.

The state where we become paralyzed to take any action. The Freeze could be fear of making a mistake, or letting someone down. The Freeze may be a product of our own insecurities and self-doubt. Whatever the cause, the Freeze holds us back from taking action or accomplishing our goals.

I am sure this Freeze came in handy when a ferocious animal was spotted and remaining motionless prevented an attack. However, except for the occasional dog off the leash in my neighborhood when I am running, or the unsuspecting garter snake in my garden, there are not a lot of animals that cause me concern.

What should we do when we find ourselves in a state of Freeze?

Back to the two choices. Ask or Act.

If you are not sure what to do, Ask someone. Ask for clarification or direction. Ask for more details or better guidance. Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen if you make a mistake. Ask for help. Ask yourself what is causing this fear.

If you have an idea what to do, Act and accomplish the task. Act in a way that gets you closer to the goal and moves you forward.

Hopefully these two simple choices help you the next time Freeze takes over.

There is More to this NO than I can Explain

NO

NO. Followed by a puzzled look and a little pushback.

Sometimes there is more to this NO than I can Explain.

Sometimes there is no time to give the explanation due to the circumstances.

Sometimes there are others around who cannot hear the details.

NO needs Trust.

Trust that when the awkward No arrives and seems out of context that there is something more at stake.

Trust that when the situation calms or the opportunity arises, the explanation will come.

Trust that trusts you.

Speaking of Customer Service

I am always looking for new customer service stories. Good or bad, I love to hear how we are all treated by companies and organizations. These experiences help us learn to provide good customer service to our customers either internal or external.

A few years back, a family member gave me a digital thermometer. It is one of those seemingly practical gifts that turns out to be something you use everyday. It has become essential to our cooking.

But there was a problem. We melted/lost the little plastic cover to the battery compartment. For months we had a piece of tape covering the spot, and the battery would fall out of place, requiring repositioning the battery over and over again.

The other day, as I was wrestling with the device, I noticed there was an address and phone number listed on the side.

I called.

Rachel answered the phone. She was nice and listened to my tale of the missing cover.

“I can send you another one right away. Which color is it? Red? Yes we just need your address.”

I thanked her and immediately got an email confirmation that the little red cover was on its way.

Yesterday I went to the mailbox and retrieved a small brown envelope. After a quick tear of the top, the contents slid into my hand.

It was not the cover that made my day.

Customer Service

What a simple act. What an amazing way to demonstrate to a customer that the call, the part, or the issue was not a burden.

Thank you Rachel for setting a standard for all of us.

 

The Shirt, the Challenge, and the Surprise

Coach T-Shirt

The Shirt

When teaching a class on coaching, I joke with the class about having shirts made up that say “COACH” and threaten to hand them out and make them wear them in their workplace.

 “What if I gave you a shirt like this and made you wear it in your workplace when you get back on Monday? Who here would want to wear it? What would your employees say?”

A few replies to my questions from a recent group of leaders during a class on coaching appear below.

“Not a chance.”

“They would ask me if I started coaching one of my kid’s teams.”

“I would be laughed out of the place.”

I pressed a little further to find the root of the hesitation on being labeled the “COACH” in their workplace. Each was a leader in their organization. Each had a title and at least a few employees. But something was stopping them from coaching.

As the conversation progressed, the obstacles became more clear. There wasn’t enough time to coach (and get their own work done). The culture would be critical of this approach. They were not coached as employees, and the list went on and on until an even more revealing answer came to light.

“Because when a team is failing, they fire the Coach!”

There it was, the real fear behind the hesitation. Being the focus of performance may result in the owners switching leaders if the organization is not performing. With the fear out in the open we could move towards agreeing on why coaching is essential to the team’s success.

Coaching goes beyond holding people accountable for task completion. Coaching is about developing people as individuals, stretching them, and helping them achieve more both individually and collectively. Coaching requires a combination of encouragement and accountability. Coaching is needed for teams.

The Challenge

Beyond a mere threat, I actually had these shirts made up and hand them out at the end of the class. Periodically, I would get an email about how wearing the shirt in the workplace helped the leader focus on coaching their employees, despite the initial awkwardness. I even heard from a leader who must wear a uniform each day at work, but wears the “COACH” shirt underneath once a week as a reminder to coach their employees.

A few months ago, I changed my strategy. In addition to having them take a shirt, I issued a challenge. The first leader to email me a picture of them in their workplace wearing the shirt would win a prize.

The Surprise

The responses have been great. Within a day or two I start to receive photos of these leaders wearing their “COACH” shirt in the workplace. The challenge helped provide some incentive, but the results have been greater than just a prize. Many leaders have been surprised as they experience something more once the awkwardness fades: their employees have embraced the concept and are enjoying the coaching.

But that is not the only surprise.

Last week I taught the Coaching class in the morning, but then there was a break where the group had a few other instructors before concluding the day with me. I headed back in the room and started the session.

It was when I clicked to the second slide of the PowerPoint.

There it was. A photo appeared on the screen. It was a photo of the entire class wearing their “COACH” shirts in the lobby. They had managed to take the photo and put it into the presentation during the break.

“Technically, since we are all on the clock, this counts as working.”

I laughed. I was encouraged by their creativity. I was surprised.

After giving out prizes to all of them, I reminded them that now that they had gotten over their initial hesitation, they could all become better coaching in their workplace.

Over the next few days, other photos appeared in my inbox. Coaches were identifying themselves, and starting to do the work. They were making a difference.

How about you? Do you need a shirt as well?

Make a list of those in your workplace, circles, or life that need some coaching. Once the awkwardness fades, it may be just what they need.