Wired for Problems

How you see the world

Understanding our own behavioral styles is essential to our long-term success. Knowing that you have a tendency to follow the rules, or that you can connect with others helps you leverage those strengths in your style (maybe you have a passion for finance or you are great at sales).

Knowing how you are wired also helps you know when your style needs to be modified (maybe you are too strict at enforcing rules or you connect so often with others that you are not getting your own work done).

The other day I was having a somewhat difficult interaction and an overreaction. When I react this way, I revisit my own style (often with other people) to help determine the cause and see if this insight provides some solution or an easier way to modify my style in the future.

As I described the situation to someone close, they provided some much-needed insight.

I am wired for problems.

How you see the world (1)


My natural tendency is to see things in an unfavorable light. Combine that with the perception that I am in control or have power over a situation, and things get interesting.

What I see as a problem, others may not even notice.

When I want to fix things, others may not be ready or aware that the problem even exists.

Sometimes this style works well.

If organizations, teams, or individuals need to change or improve.

Sometimes this style doesn’t work out as well.

If we are just having a casual conversation, or interaction.

This greater self-awareness helps me understand that although I would like to fix a lot of things, not everything is broken or a problem that needs fixing.

What is the old saying? “If you are a hammer, after a while everything begins to look like a nail.”

How are you wired?

If you know your own style, take a few moments to revisit your results.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What are the best 3 things about my style that really work for me in my role, job, career, or life.

2. What are the 3 things about my style that seem to get in the way the most, or if modified would lead to greater success.

Put that list somewhere where you can see it each day, and leverage what works, and begin to modify what doesn’t work.

If you don’t know your style, drop me a line or connect with someone who can help you identify your style.

Customer Service Coaching and the Salad


(Image Courtesy of http://thehealthyfoodie.com)

While eating at a restaurant while traveling, an interesting customer service interaction unfolded that I could not ignore. As the three people at the adjacent table received their food, I noticed one of them make a face and explain to the staff that something was in the salad. Something that should not be in a salad.

The plate was removed, and the other two people shared their food until a replacement meal arrived. You couldn’t help but notice a pretty thorough examination of the second salad. It was declared clean, and the meal continued.

I gave my salad a close look when it arrived as well.

Although the meal continued, you could not help but notice how this interaction somehow tainted what would normally be a pleasant lunch. Whatever topics that would have filled their time together, had been replaced by a salad and service.

The bill arrived. Redness appeared on faces and necks. Conversation intensity increased.

I could only guess that the salad remained on the bill, and no gesture was made to make up for the prior issue. One of them pulled out their credit card and placed it down with the bill.

I got up and walked over.

“Sorry to bother you, but customer service is an interest of mine, talk to you for a minute?”

They agreed, but were still a little stunned/agitated by the whole lunch interaction. I explained that I witnessed and was aware of what had transpired.

“What is really upsetting is not that the salad remained on the bill, it was the indifferent attitude of the staff. We explained what happened, and instead of apologizing, they simply said ‘ok’ and took the salad away.”

I encouraged them to speak up. Talk to the manager or someone to explain what happened. Typically, a business only hears from 4 percent of their dissatisfied customers. That means for every 100 times you drop the ball, only 4 people will tell you.

Never assume that the absence of complaints equates to satisfaction.

That doesn’t mean your customers are not telling someone. Despite not talking to you, those same dissatisfied customers will tell 8 to 10 other people about their interaction, and some will tell up to 20. With social media, now they can tell hundreds or thousands of people.

They spoke up. I watched a manager come over to talk to them, and a new bill arrived. Their tone, and demeanor changed. They smiled, and prepared to leave.

“We told them that we needed to talk about the bill and the lunch experience, now that we had been coached on customer service.”

We laughed and shook hands as they left.

Things will go wrong with your customers. You will make a mistake, or fail especially when things are hectic or busy. How you treat you customers when you make that mistake can makes all the difference.



Keep in mind, there may be others coaching your customers to make you better as well.

Internal Customers

Customer Service Word CloudA few weeks ago, I was teaching a customer service class. One of the exercises split the group into small teams and they were asked to identify all of their customers. The lists grew, and the flip charts filled.

As I walked from group to group, I began to notice something. All of the lists were outwardly focused. I stayed quiet, but kept walking around the room. The lists continued and so did the focus outside of their organization.

Focusing on the outside customer is not a bad thing. We all need the customers outside of our organization. However, once the teams got up to present their lists to the rest of the room, they realized that there was an entire customer base they had missed. They missed their internal customers.

The teams went back to their lists. The lists rapidly grew and so did the realization. These various organizations or departments didn’t exist by themselves. Each team had an array of departments, individuals, or people that they provide customer service within their own operation. Some realized that a majority of their work is providing service to internal customers.

One team in particular had an interesting observation.

“We wonder if our continued focus outside, and essentially ignoring our internal customers, is a major reason why our external customers are not completely satisfied.”

That observation hit home with all of the teams. As we set customer service goals later in the session, each team began with goals to increase their internal customers’ satisfaction first, before tackling the other customers.

As I drove home from this session, I began to make my list of internal customers. The list included my co-workers, other departments, my wife, my kids, my family, and my friends. As I set goals for my external customer’s satisfaction, I also wrote down a few goals for my internal customers.

We all have internal customers. Do we focus on them? Spend a few minutes today making a list of your internal customers. A little focus internally may be just what we need to be better externally.

Noticing the Artwork

Painting by Iain Young

(Image Courtesy of Iain Young)

At work we are conducting an experiment.

By “we” I mean me and another coworker.

By “experiment” I mean we are messing with stuff and watching for results.

The Background

Throughout the building there are various framed photos, paintings, or prints: Artwork. This artwork appears in offices, hallways, and conference rooms. This artwork includes outdoor scenes, rivers, fields, and the occasional abstract image. For the most part, the artwork is pretty nice, and every person in the building has artwork within their view.

The Experiment

For the past 6 months on Friday afternoons we have been moving the artwork.

Seriously, every few weeks or month we take a minute or two when others have left for the weekend and we swap out the artwork.

When the first Monday arrived, we were beside ourselves, hardly containing the laughs thinking about what will happen when someone notices the change.

Months pass.  Artwork moves. No one notices.

That moment never came.

We even coached a few people while in a meeting where two breathtaking new images appear in a small conference room.

“Wow, this room has such a nice feel today.”

“Oh yeah, maybe the cleaners dusted recently.”

The Conclusion

We move through life and have things to do. We become familiar with our surroundings. We keep our heads down. We fall into routine.

When this happens, we fail to notice the artwork: the small beautiful changes around us.

It happens to all of us.

But we can try.

For the next few weeks, slow down. Lift your head and look around. You may just start noticing the artwork all around you.

Moon and Sun

(Image Courtesy of Another Daughter: Keep painting kiddo!)