Friday, May 28, 2010

And That's No Bull

Two bulls, one young and full of enthusiasm, and the other older and wiser, see a herd of cows.  The young bull says, "Let's charge down this hillside and have our wicked way with a couple of those cows."  The old bull replies, "No, how about we stroll gently down this hillside and have our wicked way with them all."

I share this bawdy little joke to remind us to see the power of bringing together a diversity of types of people and generations; to see the benefits of youthfulness and maturity, while being able to discern the difference between impulsive reaction verses patient response.

One of the things I try very hard to get my young son to realize is that he has a choice of reacting or responding to situations that are presented to him. To illustrate the difference in my seminars I use another example…when your doctor describes how the medication he has prescribed is working, would you rather him say you are responding to the medication or reacting to it?

In the case of our own human behavior, in the face of certain situations and opportunities, we must make the choice of whether to respond or to react. Reaction is often based on passion and enthusiasm – which is not always bad; but response if more often the result of reflection and logic – which often comes from the wisdom of age and experience.

There are many benefits of youth we are told. We are especially told this by the young. They are faster and stronger. They are more able to make adjustments and change course. They have a keener grasp of technology and how to apply it. The energy of their youth alone makes them a powerful force to be reckoned with; many times accomplishing things through sheer will and determination.

By contrast, our elders would remind us that it is only though time and experience that we gain true wisdom. They have tried things and failed things and tried something else. Through their experiences they have built things and improved things. As they got older they learned the importance of crafting the appropriate and most effective response, rather than the most ready and passionate reaction.

The battle of the generations is as old as human beings themselves. Who hasn’t heard the stories of ancient practices of leaving the elderly to die when they became too old to hunt and gather or provide value to the tribe? And I can remember reading a rhetorical speech in my high school Latin class about how the Ancient Roman society was deteriorating because the youth wasn’t listening to their elders.

Let us also not forget, however, that age is very much relative. I love the fact that in the span of one week I may find myself amongst young teenagers who consider me the “old” mother figure who may – in their minds – be out of touch with what’s going on in the world; yet I then become the youngun’ who is so up on technology and “new” ways of doing things when I am with people old enough to be my parents.

My husband often chuckles when he recalls an exchange between himself and a fellow Masonic brother of his. This gentleman would often make references to my husband being a “young man” and my husband would remind him that he was in his late forties. To which the gentleman would reply, I’m in my eighties, so to me you are a young man.

Taking us back to the two bulls of our joke above…let us not be too bull-headed to see the benefits of those generations to which we are not a member. Embrace the fact that in some circles you will be the wise and mature veteran, while in another you may be the energetic and innovative young person. Your place in society is relative. So remember, no matter which group you find yourself in, learn to appreciate the gifts and wisdom of others; for you would like the same from others when you find yourself in the opposite position.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Is the Cover of Your Book?

Okay, so I know I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to customer service and cleanliness in businesses. Whenever I’m out and about, going through my daily life, I have a more critical eye than most consumers because quality improvement is what I “do”. Many times I have wanted to hand my card to a manager or business owner and say, “Call me. You really need me!” based on what I saw or experienced. I may not give them my card, but I do take the time – especially if it is my desire to continue to be a customer – to let them know they can do better. Such was the case the other day while spending time with my son.

I had taken my son to one of his favorite indoor playground facilities. You know the type; it looks like a giant hamster habitrail type thing, complete with several levels of slides, rope climbs and swinging monkey bars, etc. Anyway, as we pull up to the place I noticed a great deal of garbage strewn about one of the entrances. This particular location is in a strip mall, in what looks like it should have been a grocery store, so there are two entrances, one on either side of a long hallway, allegedly where shopping carts might have been stored. I decide to avoid the one that looked like the stadium parking lot of a university after a football tailgate and entered through the cleaner entrance.

Being a “good customer,” while I’m paying the entrance fee, I let the employee know of the condition of one of the entrances. “I may be the first or the fiftieth to let you know, but…” and I proceed to describe the condition of the entrance. As happens far too often when I do my customer public service reports, I got the “Why are you telling me this?” look. Then I guess she thought of a slightly better response and she proceeded to tell me that they had been very busy and their first priority was to serve the customers inside of the facility.

Okay, so someone had obviously told her the ubiquitous mantra that many a company chants, but less follow through on – the one about “always serving the customer”. I resisted the urge to explain to her that serving the customer starts with the first impression. Garbage being the first thing I see when I bring my child into your establishment doesn’t serve my need to patronize a clean facility.

My son and I spent just under an hour at the facility and as we were leaving I saw and heard the same employee point me out to what appeared to be a manager. “Yeah, she’s the one who said there was trash in the parking lot.” And as I walked out of the building, I saw that nothing had changed. What looked to be a tattered and half filled white kitchen trash bag, its missing contents scattered about a 12 square foot space, was still there. Untouched.

I can only imagine what happened. Since the employee kept saying “parking lot” when I said entrance, she and the other person she relayed my message to, assumed it “was not their responsibility,” perhaps never even venturing outside.

I know enough about retail space rental agreements – I once interned with a real estate development company – to know that the business usually rents the space and as part of that rental fee, the landlord is responsible for common areas like the parking lot. So if the “parking lot” or even the sidewalks leading up to the entrances need attending to, that is under the purview of the landlord, not the tenant.

Okay, that may be the rental agreement, but your customers don’t care about the rental agreement. Here’s what they are thinking. If you don’t care enough about your outside, in this case, the cleanliness of such, how concerned are you with the inside. It’s like with a restaurant’s bathroom. If I go in and find it’s disgusting, my next assumption is that your kitchen is disgusting.

Right or wrong, consumers will take one aspect of your business and assume direct correlations about another part of your business. They are going to assume that poor choices in one area will mean poor choices in another.

Let’s look at this example more closely. As a parent, I want to take my child to a place that is fun, clean and safe. If this facility gets the reputation for being dirty, how many parents are going to want to take their children to it? When you patronize a place, especially if you bring your children, you want to be able to make certain assumptions and be right in those assumptions.

Parents want to assume that owners clean the facility on a regular basis, because lord knows kids bring in germs with them and they are touching every inch of that play structure. Parents want to assume that you clean your kitchen within health regulation standards and that you do not serve food that has been mishandled or has expired because your food safety procedures are lax. Parents want to assume that you check your equipment on a regular basis to ensure there are no loose screws, weak joints or holes in the safety netting that surrounds the structure.

Guess what? You may in fact do all of these things. You may have the best safety and cleanliness procedures in place and are enforcing them. But no one would know it by what your exterior looks like. Just like clothes matter to a professional’s reputation, so too does the outside matter to a business.

So the lessons learned are this….everything matters! If you care about your business or your career, know that what you think is benign and doesn’t really matter may be the lynch pin for your customers. Contrary to what they say about not judging a book by its cover, your customers will judge you.  So in other words…keep your parking lot clean!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Interview with Judith & Jim -- The Heart of Marketing

Your Marketing plan does not have to include "hit your target market over the head" and "hard sell" types of strategies. So say Drs. Judith Sherven and Jim Sniechowski, Authors and Soft Sell Marketing authorities.

Please enjoy my latest Power of CARE Talk with Judith & Jim.

Judith and Jim's latest book is The Heart of Marketing.

You can learn more about them and their book at

Monday, May 17, 2010

Do you have a Why Attitude?

In the Power of CARE, I talk about the importance of having the right attitude.  It's not just about having a positive attitude, although that is important.  Beyond positivity, it is also key that one have an attitude of continuous learning and teachability -- what I call having a Why Attitude™.

So what is a Why Attitude™?  There is a cliche that says, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."  In part, to care about someone means you have put forth the effort to understand her. To understand his why.   And once you understand the why of things and of people, you have the ability to be more effective and innovative.  To be more successful.   Think about teachers.  The most effective ones know that each student learns differently.  When she understands how each particular student learns, she has the ability to individualize her teaching to that student's style of learning.  How a student learns is impacted by a great many things...their socio-economic status, whether English is their first language, a learning disability, their level of interest in the subject matter, physical variables like near-sighetedness of hearing problems, etc. etc.  These all get to the why of the how...and when you understand the why, you can be a better teacher. 

Think about your relationships with your significant others.  How much more effective are you when you understand their thought processes and why it is they feel or do the things they feel or do?  As Stephen Covey teaches in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, when we "seek first to understand and then to be understood", we have the ability to be more effective in our communication and in our relationships.  Your spouse may do something that drives you completely bananas, yet when you discover it stems from his childhood and "that's the way his family always did it" your attitude may change.  You may be able to live with the behavior because you understand "where he is coming from" or you may be better able to communicate about your feelings and his because now you understand the why behind the behavior.

In our society --  whether it is in your business or personal world --  knowing the how and the what only get you so far.  Those who are truly successful, understand the why.   I remember a quote -- I'm paraphrasing -- that said, "People who know the what and how will always have a job, but people who know the why will be their more successful employers."   When you have a Why Attitude™ you are continually seeking to understand, to get to the heart of the "why" of something or someone.

I came across this Ted Talk from Simon Sinek.  He doesn't call it the Why Attitude™ of course, but I was so intrigued by the similarities of much of what he said and what I have learned and taught in The Power of CARE. 

Please enjoy this wonderful lesson about the power of why.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Interview with Amber O'Neal

I had a great interview with Fitness Expert Amber O'Neal. She has "10 Myths About Weight Loss and Food You'll Be Glad to Hear"

If you are interested in more information about Amber, visit her website at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Interview with Author Terry Kohl

I had a wonderful talk with Author Terry Kohl about her new book, "Lost Your Job? Now What!"  I hope you enjoy our talk as much as we did.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers and mother figures out there. 

At church this morning, I was reminded of a poem by a famous mother figure by my church priest, another "Mother" both in her role as a clergy and as one who has given birth to and raised children.

If you have been here before, you know I believe that all of life, especially relationships, are a balancing act between because of, and in spite of.  This poem from Mother Teresa reminds us of the choices we must continually make as we travel through our lives and interact with people.

ANYWAY POEM -- by Mother Teresa

The version found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.