December 11, 2009

unforgettably positive

I am so excited.   The Canadian Industry Minister has ruled to allow Globalive's WIND to offer cellphone service in Canada.  Yippee!

If you go to their website, you immediately see how different they are. They talk about creating an unforgettably positive customer experience. Wow.

They have three great commercials on the site too.

It will be great to watch them. Go WIND!

December 10, 2009

the right to work

I recently watched Michael Moore's movie Capitalism.  As with all his movies, I was left with a lot to think about.

Featured in the movie was Franklin Roosevelt's speech in January 1944.  In this speech, Roosevelt proposed a second bill of rights, which was never acted upon. It included 'the right to a useful and remunerative job'.

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs includes security of employment as well as security of resources.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (source: Wikipedia)

Thus, Roosevelt's identified right related to a basic human need. And that also explains why the impact of being fired, or laid off, or not having work, is so significant for most human beings. What sense of safety is possible without a useful and remunerative job?

I have seen the impact of the lack of certainty. It wears on one's spirit. This recession has been a difficult time for so many.   And many whom I talk to carry with them an undercurrent of anxiety even if they have apparent security.  A recent Harvard Business Review article spoke to the paralysis gripping organizations, with even those who have not lost their jobs operating at a reduced capacity.

The paper recently proclaimed that the Canadian recession has been officially declared as 'over'.   There have been small trickles of better news, here and there. I look forward to the increasing signs of a recovering economy. In particular, I look forward to the easing of the strain I see. With so much collective energy directed towards survival, there is not much left for transformational projects. And the talent of so many is much better directed towards transformational projects, than survival.

December 6, 2009

Yes!

I am re-reading the book Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive this weekend. I have never been the type to read a good book only once. I find that I am able to glean new insights each time.

This particular book is quite good.  It illustrates how small changes can make a big difference. Subtle changes that could help each of us, in a world where it is important to have the support of others to do what it is that we are committed to doing.

Chapter 16 packs a punch. The authors speak about the significant additional commitment we feel when we respond to a request with 'yes'. A small shift in how a question is posed, a large shift in commitment. We are far more likely to do what we say we will do.  As an example, if we are asked "Will you attend on Saturday?" and respond "Yes", than if we are asked "Please let me know if you will attend on Saturday" and say nothing.

This insight has tremendous application in our work and at home.  I think about how often I make a request of my kids without phrasing the question such that a response is required, and then waiting for that response.  A very subtle change that makes a big difference.

The principle also highlights the value of accountability agreements, which require us to explicitly state what it is that we individually will do to further the cause or move the project forward.

A key weakness often identified with studies and recommendations lies in the implementation.  What might be possible if this awareness was brought into that part of the process?

November 29, 2009

State of the Island Economic Summit

I attended the economic summit organized by the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) this past week.  The event was very well organized and informative.  Attendees were from industry, consulting, academia and various levels of government.  The presenters and attendees shared a common commitment to the future vibrancy of the Vancouver Island economy.  Many ideas and thoughts were shared around what we could do collectively to support economic recovery and growth.

Being part of the session confirmed yet again for me that the work I do is important, and needed.  I developed a mission statement for Inspiricity a few months ago.  It is 'to help B.C. businesses be the best in the world'.   It was great to spend two days in the company of others similarly committed.

November 22, 2009

more on creating loyalty

I have been thinking about customer loyalty.  About what has us become loyal customers.  There is a lot more to it than just having our needs met. Lots of places or people meet our basic needs but we don't think of ourselves as loyal to them.

What makes the difference?

The ideal for any business or organization is to have zealous customers or clients.  I have also heard this described as evangelistic.  Customers who can't stop talking about them, who tell their friends, and pretty much anyone else, about how wonderful the business or the services are.  They spread the word more effectively than any ad.

I have my list of businesses and people I feel this way about. They each have benefitted from my referrals.

There's another list, the list I want to be evangelistic about but I haven't quite gotten there.  I want to love them. The atmosphere or the product or the philosophy and values are there.  Something's missing.  The critical ingredient that would have me feel special as a customer. A sincere and friendly greeting with a little extra conversation.  A reasonable application of rules or procedures appropriate for the circumstance rather than 'by the book'.  A concerted effort to resolve something so that I, as the customer, am satisfied. Being listened to.  Being called back promptly if I leave a message.  Having appointments kept, not cancelled.  Meetings held on time.

These things, and others, are what make the difference for me.  I feel taken care of and valued.  And I become loyal.  When the opportunities come up to refer the business or the person, I do so.  One zealous, loyal individual can make a lot of referrals.

November 21, 2009

ups and downs

I read with sadness this morning in Jack Knox's article in the Times Colonist that
Cabin 12, the little restaurant near the corner of Pandora and Government, has shut its doors.

I had been tracking their progress on and off since they opened.  I was inspired by their story.  A story about someone who had a dream and was working hard to make it happen.  I also have been starting a new business over the last year, and I felt a connection.  Possibly I had it that if they could succeed in this economic time, that was a good indicator for my own success.

I made a point of eating lunch there a few times when I was downtown.  The food was good, the atmosphere was great, the staff were friendly.

That wasn't enough.

As they are shutting their doors, Corey Judd, who started it, is focussed on how much he learned from the experience. How great it was to see his staff pull together, and make mistakes, and learn.  Jack writes about Corey:  He talks a lot about developing a "safe" work environment built on respect, an anger-free zone where people are allowed to make mistakes. And quotes him as saying: "In that respect, it's been the most successful thing I've ever done.  Even if it all crumbles tomorrow we'll walk away far better than we were."

Starting a business at any time is hard. During a recession, it is harder. It would be easy to blame the economic times, or be angry, or bitter.  Not him, and that impresses me.  He has focussed on what has been learned, rather than what has been lost.

Life is full of ups and downs.  The downs are often where the best lessons are, for all of us.

November 16, 2009

the opposite of customer loyalty is...

An article in The Epoch Times announces that three new cellular providers would soon be in the Canadian market.  I can hardly wait.  I hate my current provider.

Now, hate is a strong word and I rarely use it.  But it describes how I feel.  Every now and then I even rant.

Technically, there is nothing wrong with the service.  Dropped calls are rare.  There are few black holes.  The reception is typically very good.

Do I feel well taken care of?  No.  My experience is one of  being 'in jail', trapped by my provider.  Little things that add up.  Being stuck paying for an old phone because the number couldn't be transferred when I got my blackberry, and getting out of it would have cost me $400.  Being charged long distance on incoming as well as outgoing calls.  Having no affordable long distance plan options.  Having to sign a three year contract to make the blackberry even remotely affordable.  And, judging by the meager 'upgrade' credits I am allotted, I am apparently not worth much to them as a customer, even though I have been theirs for over 5 years.

I feel no loyalty to my provider.  They have made several thousand dollars from me, and I will be leaving as soon as I can.  According to the article, and my own conversations with friends, many others feel the same way.

With new providers entering the market, the current big three are probably sweating.  And so they should be.  Through a time when nothing forced them to treat each customer well , they could have anyhow.  A huge opportunity missed.

November 13, 2009

transforming meetings - additional thoughts

I have discovered a wonderful new usefulness for my blog.  Readers of my newsletters often send me great comments on my articles.  Having a blog enables me to share these with you.

In response to the article in my November edition about transforming meetings, Larry Pedersen had the following additional point to share:

"I will add one more thought to your suggestions about accountabilities for good meetings.   Differences of opinions should be sought and discussed in good meetings.  The trick for the chair is to figure out how to mine the value out of differing opinions and preferences around the table.


Have you read “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni?   It is an interesting parable about how to get value from differing views around the table."



I have included the original article from my newsletter below for your reference:

Transforming Meetings
How is it our concept of a ‘meeting’ is so negative? We rarely speak of meetings with enthusiasm. For most of us they are seen as something to be endured, time mostly wasted that gets in the way of getting ‘real work’ done. I even looked for a quote about meetings for this edition and couldn’t find a single positive one.
It is possible to transform meetings. What would it be like if people came to know you as someone who called and held productive meetings that were a good use of everyone’s time?
I googled the word ‘meeting’ and came up with this great graphic from the site, www.visualthesaurus.com. There is no connotation of ‘waste of time’. Being responsible for great meetings is an art as well as a science. The first clue is in the phrase ‘being responsible’. The person who calls the meeting IS responsible: for the time to be well spent. That means responsibility for many things, such as:

• being clear about what the intentions are of the meeting (a way to harness collective intelligence? Brainstorming? A key decision needs to be made?);
• being mindful and respectful of the cost (if you invite 5 people making $50 an hour; a two hour meeting just cost your organization $500);
• ensuring the right people are invited AND able to attend (how many meetings have you been to where a key player wasn’t in the room, thus requiring another meeting?);
• ensuring you have ONLY invited the people who need to be there, and limit the information to what is relevant for the people who are there;
• ensuring that the objectives are communicated ahead of time to the participants (a GOOD agenda (people need to know how to prepare, and those with a preference for introversion
may need time to think about the material beforehand);
• if you want to be able to participate yourself, have someone else facilitate;
• start when you said you would. Don’t waste the time of the people who honoured you by arriving on time to wait for those who are late; and
• follow up with whatever commitments you make in the meeting (notes, action lists).


Taking responsibility for that one or two hour meeting means some prep beforehand and may mean some follow up afterwards. But these few suggestions could make your meetings be seen
as more valuable by the people who work with you.

November 8, 2009

newsletter day...

yesterday was newsletter day again.  I love newsletter days...I love sending out emails and checking in with everyone to see how things are going.  I always receive a collection of updates and notes back, and it feels good to have a sense of what all the people in my life are up to and know that things are well.

If I didn't mail it straight to you, you can check it out here:  newsletter page

Tomorrow is the start of another great week...

November 6, 2009

when the best ideas strike

My best ideas rarely come when I am sitting in front of my computer.  They arrive when I am driving in my car, or out walking, or standing in a line.  Or loading the dishwasher, or chatting in a coffee shop.

In traditional workplaces people are expected to generate good ideas and clear thoughts in front of their computers from Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:30.  Or in a meeting room, sitting around a table facing each other.

Maybe blocks in creativity don't have so much to do with timing as they have to do with the environment.  There's something about sitting in a cubicle and expecting ourselves to be creative and brilliant that just doesn't work.

This isn't new information.  It has been recognized for some time now in some high-performing companies.  Most of us have heard about the Google work environment.  Although initially met by some with disbelief and skepticism, there is no denying that Google is incredibly successful and the way they have their work environment designed gives them access to the best in their people.

Creating learning spaces that foster creativity and recognizing the value of a more flexible attitude to workplaces has made some small inroads in our government and corporate spaces.  The conversation has started in many places.

Does your workspace bring forth the best of your creativity and ideas?

October 30, 2009

golden attitude

Leaving customers - or clients - with a feeling of being well looked after.  Each of us has customers or clients no matter what line of work we are in.

I observed a young man creating a great customer experience this week in the mall food fair.  My boys and I were shopping and stopped for a snack.  My eldest son arrived at the table with his food and an exclamation about what a great salesperson the fellow at the New York Fries was.  Interested in what behaviour had created this feeling in my son, I watched him myself for a few minutes.

His style was that of a performer.  He was juggling...an entertainer as well as a cashier.  He asked each customer about how their day was going...and in fact, whether they were having a fantastic day. Planting a seed of possibility.  His enthusiasm brought up the energy of the people buying fries and left them feeling a little happier, a little more positive, a little better from the experience.  He was probably making minimum wage.  If he continues to bring that enthusiasm to his work, he is worth his weight in gold.

Attitude is everything.

October 26, 2009

thoughts about big rocks

We have a woodstove.  With the shorter days and the stormier weather we like to have fires.

One of my tasks is the chopping.  My ten year old has given me clear instructions on the necessary piece sizes.  All I need to do is produce them.  The fir in our woodpile is seasoned this year and the task is relatively easy. It's also a good reason to take a break from my work and get some exercise and fresh air.

The chopping causes me to think about time.  If the woodstove were our only source of heat, I would be chopping a lot of wood.   I think I might need an hour a day to chop enough.  How would I make space for that in my day?

Time is considered a precious resource.  We are always looking for tools that will save us time.  We never have enough time to do all that there is to do.  How did we manage when we had to chop wood every day?

What there is to do expands to fill the time, so that nothing is left.  The metaphor about putting rocks in a jar uses big rocks to represent the important things in your life, and little rocks to represent everything else.   The metaphor suggests that you place the big rocks in the jar before the little ones.  If you don't, you can't fit the big ones in, because the little rocks take up all the space.

If keeping my family warm meant chopping wood every day, it would be a big rock.  It isn't for me, as we have electric heat.   However, I realize that I don't always have the big rocks clear in my mind.  I define them every now and again, but I tend to lose sight of them as time passes.

I think I will choose to review them often - weekly, even - to ensure that I am spending my time on the things that I have said are the most important.

October 24, 2009

pausing

Becoming a consultant has changed my life in a number of different ways.  Such as my schedule.  I have the option of a lot of flexibility.

For me, there also appears to be a pervasive sense that I need to be doing something to further my consulting every moment.   I don't know if everyone in this line of work suffers from this.  I don't find it particularly helpful.  It can create an ever-present undercurrent of anxiety.

It reminds me that I used to have that feeling - the one that I 'should be' doing something else - all the time, years ago, when my boys were little.  I couldn't relax, couldn't do anything just for me without feeling a sense of guilt.  Somehow, in the flurry of university and working, and then marriage and working, and then babies and working, I had forgotten how to just be, how to relax, and even how to have fun.

I realized at some point how unhealthy this was for me.  In the midst of some other life-changing events at that time, I taught myself how to relax and be in the moment.

With my consulting practice, it appears that I must learn again.  I have noticed this about myself.  It seems that I am meant to learn the same lessons over again in a slightly different way.

A friend of mine refers to taking a break as 'pause' in his model of leadership.  Pausing is critical to health, to creativity, to renewed passion for one's work.

If you can't choose to not do something, then you can't really choose to do something.  I want to always have my work be a choice.

October 22, 2009

learning from a ship's crew

I was in downtown Vancouver recently sitting in the lounge area of the Pan Pacific.  A beautiful spot at any time and a perfect spot for reflection.

There was a cruise ship in port, and it had disembarked its passengers earlier that morning.  Some of the crew were moving about on the deck.   They were in the background for me at first.  However, what they were up to captured my attention and I watched them on and off for awhile.

They were cleaning the funnel.  Probably the more nautically-oriented of you have a more technical name for it.  The part of the ship that the smoke comes out of.

From where I was sitting, it didn't initially look like it needed cleaning.  Several stories tall, it was shining white like the rest of the ship.   Their efforts at first occurred to me like a scheduled task to be done whether it needs it or not (with the focus on 'not' in my judgement), because the schedule says it gets done on, say, Saturday.

There was a team of them working together.  They had a long handled broom, and a hose, and they had another apparatus that looked very low tech - a large, white towel stretched over what seemed to be a wooden frame.

Two of them climbed up to the top of the smoke stack.  One had the broom and a bucket, and scrubbed his way around from the top.  The other at first had a hose, and poured water down the sides.  Then he worked with the others below to raise and lower the towel apparatus with some ropes.  It wasn't until they progressed with their task and dragged the apparatus up and down a couple of times that I could see the funnel was actually quite dirty.

The task didn't take them that long really, less than 2 hours. The funnel was sparkling by the end.

I learned a few things from watching them. Such as...

  • Sometimes tasks that don't look like they need to be done, actually do.

  • Some tasks need to be scheduled to get done because if they aren't scheduled, more urgent tasks can usurp them, leaving them never completed.

  • Low cost solutions can be just as effective.  This team didn't use expensive tools but they got the job done and done well.


October 19, 2009

points of contact

Another week beginning.  I am creating the habit of planning my week on Monday mornings.  And reflecting on the week behind me.

I was on the ferries this past weekend, as a foot passenger.  I was waiting in the lounge area to head back to the island.  It was the 3 pm sailing, which is when the shift change occurs for BC Ferries staff.  There was a security officer standing at the gates.  He arrived just after me, and although I am sure he had a number of responsibilities, he made one task apparent.  He was there to ensure a clear path from the foot passenger ramp through the waiting area to the stairs that head down to the car deck.  Although he didn't explicitly state his purpose, I later learned it was to maintain a clear path for the departing Ferries staff.

I was standing off to the side, marginally in his 'clear path' zone but he chose to let me stay where I was.  I was there about 20 minutes before boarding.  I watched him over and over again in those 20 minutes direct people out of his declared clear zone.  He repeated variations of the same phrase at least 30 or 40 times.

He said the words and those of us around him heard the words over and over again.  But he never lost sight of the fact that the information was new to the people just arriving.  He was clear and direct and polite and patient each time.

He demonstrated a key aspect of good customer service.  He wasn't in a role that we might typically think of as customer service, and he wasn't technically a Ferries employee, yet he was the face of BC Ferries for those 20 minutes.

Every point of contact matters.  He was the point of contact for that lounge-full of foot passengers.  Although I could see things he could do to create a more positive impact - smiling, for example - he did not diminish BC Ferries in the eyes of its customers.

It is critically important for any business to be thinking about its points of contact, and what each one of its customers is experiencing.

October 16, 2009

inspiration

I was thinking about the power of inspiration last night.  When I am inspired by something, I feel unstoppable.  And I know I appear different to the people around me.  More powerful and effective.

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with someone I didn't know well.  What I knew of him, impressions put together without much first hand experience, included that he didn't like his job much and tended to be negative.  My experience in the couple of hours we spent together was completely different.   He was positive, excited and talkative.  Inspiring.  What was the difference?

He was talking about something that he loves.

I couldn't help but think about the contrast.  And the opportunities any one of us could be missing.  What would be possible for businesses, government, beyond.  What if each of us was able to connect to something we are passionate about in our work?

Yesterday I changed the quote on my website to one by Gandhi.  "The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems."  I believe an access to this is in noticing whether you are inspired by your work, or not?

This kind of reflection might lead to choosing to change jobs, careers, direction.  I think creating inspiration for your work is also possible without this.  It can be as simple as a changed point of view.  Reflecting on what matters to you.  What is it that you do, and why do you do it?  What drew you to this job in the first place?  For example, are you making a difference in someone else's life?  Are you a part of building something important or interesting?

October 14, 2009

attitude of gratitude

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to think about what I am grateful for.   I like the reminder to pause and reflect.  I sometimes focus on the parts of my life that aren't working rather than the parts that are.

I read an article on the weekend about coaching kids to help them learn to experience gratitude.  The process suggested in the article - such as thinking about the situation where someone helped, what the benefit was, the intentions of the person to help - is valuable for anyone.  It makes it specific too.  It is relatively easy to say 'I am grateful for having helpful work colleagues'.  It requires something more to say 'I am grateful for Rick tracking down that letter that I needed and sending it to me, even though he had a deadline this morning'.  I find the latter creates a profound connection to the feeling of gratitude.

The personal impact of feeling grateful is compelling.  I know I would like for everyone of us to be 'more satisfied with our lives and more optimistic...less depressed and happier.'   The impact is highlighted in the chapter on the fourth element of 12: The Elements of Great Managing.  The authors explain the impact of expressing gratitude - through recognition and praise - in the workplace.  The reasons for ensuring your business has this culture of recognition are compelling - such as a 10-20 percent increase in productivity and revenue, as well as increased customer loyalty.  The authors also note the same beneficial impact on the individual of expressing gratitude to someone else.  Positive benefits that can last for a month, such as in the example given of writing a letter of gratitude to someone.  The person expressing the gratitude benefits, the person receiving it benefits, and the business benefits.

Feeling gratitude, and feeling gratitude and expressing it.  What would our world be like if we took that on?

October 9, 2009

Newsletters rock

I started a newsletter in June.  I was inspired to do so by two things:  a workshop I attended (with Alan Weiss, author of Getting Started in Consulting ), and a book about the value of networks that a friend loaned me.

I am blessed to have a lot of very wonderful people in my life.  I am sure most have no idea how wonderful I think they are.  I know I do not do a good job of staying in touch with most of them.  A newsletter seemed a possible solution.  Sent out once a month and kept simple...a paragraph or two about what I have been up to, an article with some thoughts to ponder, and sometimes a link to a video, a picture, or a book.

I just sent out my fifth newsletter.  And I have discovered I love newsletters.  I love the days that follow newsletter day.  I am sending it now to 80 of my special people, and I add a few more people each month.  It has become this wonderful stream of connection...generating a flurry of thoughts and perspectives back.

I feel connected.  There's a reciprocal flow of energy.  I know how things are going for people. Sometimes they share what my article contributed to their day.  Sometimes they share a related story or quote that is a contribution to me.

Everyone should have a newsletter.  Newsletters rock.  I am blessed.

September 13, 2009

My first post

I have had this site for a year now and haven't yet taken the plunge into blogging.

I think I am ready! As with all new things, what seemed difficult and challenging a year ago now seems possible.  And I am thinking, why did I wait a year?  It would be cool if I could create this feeling - the feeling that I am ready for something, and that it seems easy - whenever I need it, and much, much earlier in the whole process.  Life is short and I really can't afford to wait a year for myself to 'feel' ready every time I want to take something new on.

Okay...that's it, my first thought, my first post.  Short and sweet.  Talk to you again soon.

Donna