The Right Vibe

I sat and watched them interact with each other. Laughing, joking, and connecting. It was their party, I was only there because someone close is now part of this team.

I could have been the outsider, but felt completely at home.

My mind wandered back through all of the interactions I have had with various people on this team over the years.

There was something different about them. Something great.

They all had the Right Vibe.

Vibe: a person’s emotional state or the atmosphere of a place as communicated to and felt by others.

I happened to be sitting next to the owner. I couldn’t help myself.

“I have to share something with you. Over the years I have watched your team, and your people. They have a certain Vibe about them. You are in the health industry, and they all have a certain healing Vibe. You feel it when you walk in the reception area, treatment room, and even this party. Thanks for creating the Right Vibe, it is amazing to witness.”

There is a lot of talk out there now about the culture of an organization being the deciding factor on true success. Many are pointing to the culture (what I like to call the Vibe) of an organization as one of the most important aspects to foster and create.

How can you provide amazing customer service if your Vibe is negative, controlling, and overly micro-managed?

How can you provide health care if your Vibe is unhealthy?

How can you motivate your employees to care about a customer’s needs when your Vibe leaves your employee’s needs unmet?

Think about your Vibe. What is being communicated or felt by others?

It may be time to find the Right Vibe.

The Efficiency Expert

They are in every organization. They look at your process, workflow, or procedures and wonder why you are doing things that way.

They scan the world and see what you cannot see: wasted time, wasted effort, wasted energy.

They may be perceived as complaining, but they are not. They are trying to maximize the return for their own time and others.

They are the ones close enough to the action, the actual work, to understand where it can improve.

You may feel threatened, especially if you created the original way or process.

You may not be doing the work anymore, and are not close enough to find better ways.

You may need to listen, and let them help you.

I have my own personal Efficiency Expert.

She is the youngest of four.

Sometimes I misinterpret her motives as complaining or procrastination, but she doesn’t want to waste time or energy.

She finds better ways of doing routine tasks.

She challenges the old way, my way, and many times finds a better way.

The Efficiency Expert - Dishes

“You need to unload the dishwasher.”

“Ok, but this takes so much time.”

“Unload the dishwasher.”

“Ok, but this takes so much time…and I have an idea for next time. Why don’t we all put the silverware together in the same little bin instead of just dumping it in all mixed up.”

“Why would we want to do that?”

“Because just putting it in randomly seems like no big deal until you have to unload and put the silverware away. If we all spent a little more time loading the dishwasher, unloading becomes so much easier and faster. The silverware is already pre-sorted and you just have to pick it up and put it away.”

“You are amazing!”

“I know.”

The Efficiency Expert is in your home, office, or workplace. They can help you and the whole organization when you learn to listen.

Hard Choice Ahead

Hard Choice Ahead

(Images created on roadtrafficsigns.com)

The interview went well. They answered the questions. They were hired. After a few months their performance begins to fade.

You hear from a few people around the office that deadlines are missed. Others are covering the work that is not getting done.

RESENTMENT IS BUILDING

A few of your peers come and talk to you about the issues and what you are doing to correct the problems.

YOU ARE BEING QUESTIONED

Your boss sends you an email asking about your department’s performance.

YOUR TEAM IS UNDER SCRUTINY

There were signs.

Looking back you may be able to see them.

Unfortunately, signs don’t always show up along our journey with bright colors and with enough repetition so they cannot go unnoticed. Failing to see the earlier signs prevented corrective action.

Maybe it was a relationship. Maybe it was a project that has not taken off. The specifics are yours to fill in.

Missing the earlier signs tends to result in one final sign: Hard Choice Ahead.

The choice won’t be easy.

But it needs to be done.

The choice will have consequences.

But it will bring the resolution.

Maybe next time we will become more attuned to watching for those earlier signs.

 

The No Strings Attached Apple Crisp

apple-crisp

A few months ago I made apple crisp for a team that I serve on at work. The apple crisp was partly to celebrate our accomplishment, partly because I love a good apple crisp, and partly because they totally guilted me into making it. (I made one for another team and this team got jealous, but that is another story.)

We consumed most of that crisp, with many having two or three helpings.

Some apple crisp remained.

In order to be able to clean the baking pan, I called another co-worker and offered the remaining apple crisp.

“Hey, I made this apple crisp, it is really good. Do you want some?”

Long pause…

“I guess so…but what do you need?”

I was a little stunned at the reply. I had to regroup.

“I don’t need anything, you see I made this for this particular team, and we had extra and I thought of you.”

Another long pause…

“Ok, but seriously, do you need something from me?”

Eventually the crisp was delivered. A cautious first bite, followed by a second and a third. As I left their office, the suspicion remained.

A few weeks later, I stopped by that office again (not because I needed anything). It was then that the real story came out.

At a company prior to this, if someone did something for you, it was not simply a gesture of goodwill. There were strings attached. Receiving from others created an obligation for you.

Nothing was free. Everything came with a price.

Maybe what we all need is a little more no strings attached apple crisp.

Try it out. Do something for others without expecting something in return. It may be awkward at first because of the expectation of strings from those around you.

Let us all know how it goes. Next time I may try cookies.

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.

Jumping to Offense

Cliff Sign

(Image Courtesy of http://www.aroundtheworldl.com)

The other day during a conversation with someone close, I noticed something about our interaction. It was a simple conversation, nothing too deep or seemingly important, but a pattern revealed itself.

The pattern was simple: I jump to offense.

Let me explain. This means that my mind appears to be on a quest to find a way to be offended at what someone else is saying. By quest, I mean that my mind considers this its highest priority and will devote both time, energy, and resources to ensure the quest’s success.

Here are a few examples:

“It is getting kind of late for sending out Christmas Cards”

My Jump: So are you saying that I should have sent these out?

“It would be nice to do more interactive things at the next holiday with everyone”

My Jump: So they expect me to plan this then be responsible for meeting everyone’s idea of what is fun?

“We need to make sure we are attentive to the bottom line”

My Jump: So they are saying that I am overspending?

There are risks in jumping to offense, just like the risk of jumping off a cliff. It is dangerous and there is unseen peril just beyond the lip. Luckily I am beginning to notice this pattern as it occurs (or shortly afterwards).

I realize that I need to retrain my mind to see the warning sign on the edge of that cliff before I go off jumping. Picturing that warning sign helps, but also explaining to the person I am talking with if it begins to happen.

Here are a few tips for my fellow jumpers:

  1. Recognize your bent toward Jumping to Offense.
  2. Understand that Jumping to Offense is dangerous, for you and others.
  3. Slow down and listen, don’t respond right away.
  4. Ask clarifying questions, make sure you understand what the other person is saying.
  5. If you do jump, climb back up and reconcile with those around you.
  6. Repeat steps as needed.

Where are you Jumping to Offense? Take a few moments to think about where you could, as my grandmother always used to say, “look before you leap.”

P.S. I am going to print out this photo and put it where I can see it every day.

Unspoken Expectations: Hidden Frustrations

In life, work, home, or family we have expectations of others. Others have expectations of us. Some expectations are shared and we can choose to meet the expectation or not.

Your employer may expect you to show up to work on time. They inform you. You wake up early to meet that expectation. There are consequences for being late, and certain actions will be taken if needed.

Pretty clear expectation with appropriate ramifications.

Not all expectations are as clear.

There are Unspoken Expectations.

Unlike regular expectations, the unspoken version are not clear and you may not know that they exist. Not knowing doesn’t prevent being measured against this standard. In fact, the Unspoken Expectations are typically measured more stringently.

Why do we keep these expectations to ourselves?

Why don’t we tell that employee that we really want them to show initiative and take on a project to call their own?

Why don’t we say we really don’t want to eat out there? Or go visit those people? Or attend that event?

Why don’t we tell our boss that we need more concrete feedback, not a passing “You’re Awesome” as they rush past us in a distracted flurry?

Why don’t we say this his how we need to be treated?

As we measure other people against these expectations, our frustration builds. We are not getting what we think need or want from others, and we keep it hidden.

These Hidden Frustrations pile on each other and create distance and difficulty in our relationships and our organizations.

Something prevents us from speaking out these expectations, and the frustrations grow. These Hidden Frustrations damage our ability to lead, follow, or relate to those around us.

Once we know that we may holding others to Unspoken Expectations, two options appear.

1. If the expectation is that important, we need to move past our fear and have a conversation.

2. If our frustration is being caused by an unrealistic expectation, we may need to let that standard go.

Over the next few days, when you are feeling frustrated with others, take out a sheet of paper. Write down the expectations. Seeing those words and expectations will help determine which option to follow.