Jacky Leonard's blog

Category: Effective Communication

Are you listening, or waiting to interrupt?

Categories:  Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

Constant improvements in technology mean you can communicate with almost anyone you want 24/7. A ring, beep, or buzz can get you reaching for your mobile phone quicker than a gunfighter at the OK corral. Does this come at the expense of your personal and professional relationships? How good are you at being ‘present’ and in the moment with your friends, family and business associates? Are you really listening, or waiting impatiently for your chance to talk?

Developing the important and underrated skill of listening can have a massive impact on your ability to positively respond, influence and interact with others. However, it’s not as simple as it may seem. Effective listening skills can be difficult to acquire and here’s why… Did you know, you talk at a rate of around 125 words a minute, yet have the ability to listen at a rate of 400 words a minute? The result is, you can find yourself way ahead of the person who’s speaking and get easily distracted, by your own thoughts, internal dialogue, or external factors.

These barriers, distractions and noise can be categorised as physical, social and psychological and include:

• Language, vocal tone, pitch and volume

• Location, distance and environment

• Disability, impairment, or tiredness

• Cultural and religious differences

• Different interpretation of what’s being said based on age, gender, class or your opinion of the person speaking

• Personal values and attitude

• Beliefs about yourself, others and the world around you

It’s natural for your mind to wander and you either end up thinking of something else; or the words you hear trigger a connection to something you’d like to share. You’ve now stopped listening and are waiting to interrupt. When you consider all the potential barriers, you’d be forgiven for wondering how you ever manage to communicate effectively. So, it truly does take commitment, effort and a genuine interest if you want to be an effective listener.

Here are 4 simple tips to help you on your way:

1. Put down the device

Technology is here to stay. You’ll probably use numerous devices such as a mobile phone, tablet and laptop to connect with your with friends, help run your business more efficiently and keep you entertained. All really useful, however, if you’re not careful, they can be detrimental to having meaningful personal interactions. It’s almost impossible to focus completely on anyone, if you’re face down in your phone, or answering emails while your colleague is trying to initiate a conversation with you.

Social networking is great, but can leave you being completely unsociable and unapproachable with people standing right in front of you. If you really want to make meaningful connections, put down the device, turn away from the screen and take a few minutes to be in the moment and give that person your full attention. Next time you meet up with your friends, family or colleagues, give it a try.

Agree to leave your phones in your bag or pocket and have a conversation where you really listen to each other. You’ll find you get a better understanding of the topic and appreciate other people’s perspective.

2. Tune in

Everyone’s favourite radio station is WIIFM…What’s In It For Me? Tuning in to them, puts you in their space and makes meaningful interactions more likely. This requires you to completely listen, so you make every person feel they’re getting your full attention. In Geoff Burch’s book Resistance is Useless…the art of business persuasion, he says “It’s not the gift of the gab you need, it’s the gift of the earhole.”

3. Be interested, rather than trying to be interesting

You can only tune in effectively if you really show you’re interested. There’s an old adage, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. It may sound corny, but it’s true. Be curious about your colleagues, suppliers and clients. Ask open questions and really listen to what the other person has to contribute.

Machiavelli said “if you’re talking your giving information and therefore giving power away; if you’re listening and asking questions you’re gaining information, the raw material of knowledge, and therefore gaining power.”

People often talk a lot without getting to what they really want to say, so asking questions, reflecting back and summarising what you hear will help you to find out exactly what the other person thinks and feels.

4. Listen with empathy

One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, Seek first to understand, then to be understood, which means listening with empathy. Covey refers to this as the 5th Level of listening. It’s much more than just keeping quiet; it’s about getting within the other person’s frame of reference and tuning in, without interrupting or preparing your reply. You might have very different opinions, values and beliefs…that’s okay, as long as you learn to listen without prejudice and acknowledge their point of view before presenting your own.

Truly listening to someone is an underused, underrated and powerful skill that will improve the effectiveness of your communication and enable you to understand the motives and actions of others. If you want to win friends and influence people, go and give someone a good listening to.

Managing meetings to maximise results

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Sport and Leisure

“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.”

  • Do you think meetings are a waste of time and money? 

  • Have you been asked to attend a meeting and wondered why you’re there?

  • Perhaps you have to chair them and feel you’re not making the best use of everyone’s time?

Meetings are a vital tool for management and communication.  If run properly they save time, increase motivation, productivity, and solve problems. Meetings can provide a forum for generating new ideas and initiatives, tackling challenges and achieving buy-in from colleagues and clients.  They diffuse conflict in a way that emails and memos cannot and allow the meaning and feeling of the situation to be conveyed through facial expression and non-verbal signals. Effective meetings can help you manage your team and achieve your objectives quicker, easier and at less cost. However, badly run meetings waste time, money, resources, and are worse than having no meetings at all.

Here are my top 5 tips to help you run more productive meetings:

1. People who aim at nothing seldom miss the target

Make sure you identify your outcome.  Decide the purpose of the meeting.  If you don’t have an outcome, what’s the point in holding a meeting?  If you have a reason for holding one, first decide the issues for inclusion and their relative priority, importance and urgency.  Every meeting and every item must have a purpose.

2. Prior planning prevents particularly poor performance

Whenever possible, especially with meetings which occur on a regular basis, agree dates for the whole year at the first meeting so everyone can commit them to their diaries; then circulate and publish the dates as soon as possible.  It isn’t easy to gather people for meetings, particularly if they’re from different departments or organisations, or in the case of volunteers, have other priorities. So before setting meeting dates remember to consider other people’s commitments and planned events so you can select dates that cause minimum disruption for all concerned.

3. Decide who needs to be there

Remember the more people you invite the longer the meeting is likely to take; and decisions may be more difficult to achieve.  Only invite those who genuinely need to be there. Bring in ‘experts’ only when needed and ensure they leave when they have made their contribution.

4. Be confident, comfortable and in control

A skilled facilitator or Chairperson will remain objective about the issues discussed and will ensure all ideas are heard and properly considered, whilst keeping the meeting on track.  The key to your success as a chairperson is keeping control. Stick to the agenda, manage the relationships and personalities, and focus on the outcomes and you won’t go far wrong.    Remind yourself and the group of the required outcomes and steer the proceedings towards making progress.

5. Right place, right time

Venue choice can be critical for certain sensitive meetings and far less so for routine, in-house gatherings. It is your responsibility to check the environment suits your meeting’s needs.  Never leave it to chance; be clear about your requirements and double check your booking in advance, a few days before the meeting and before you start.  Remember if anything goes wrong your credibility will be in question. 

And here’s an additional one for luck…

Follow the basic rules:

  • use an agenda as a planning tool

  • circulate the agenda in advance

  • during the meeting - keep control, agree outcomes, actions and responsibilities, take notes

  • produce and circulate minutes promptly

  • follow up agreed actions and responsibilities

     

If however, you’re like me and prefer to experience your learning with others.  I’m running Managing meetings to maximise results workshops in partnership with CIMSPA over the next few months.  Here are the ones scheduled so far:

10 November  2015     Wolverhampton

02 December 2015       Bedford

Whether you’re involved in attending or arranging meetings, this 1 day workshop identifies the best and worst aspects of meetings and explores how you can maximise your results and get the most from them. Using practical tools, models and learning activities you’ll discover how to make meetings more productive and enjoyable, explore how to manage challenging behaviour in order to get the best from everyone who attends and develop a strategy to ensure you achieve the best return on your investment.

For specific details on venues, times and cost just follow this link to the CIMSPA website http://bit.ly/cimspaevents and book your place.

I hope to see you soon.

 

Engaging with your customers

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

Here we are for the third and final Blog on the topic of engagement. 

This time it’s about the people you do business with…your customers.  Your staff (if you have them) and your end users are the most important people you’ll deal with.  Like them, or loathe them, the simple fact is, without them you don’t exist.  These days’ clients are very discerning; they want a personal service; after all, who wants to be treated like a number?  Transacting is not enough, you have to create exceptional experiences and positive interactions that WOW your customers into returning and leave them desperate to tell their friends how fabulous you are.

The thing is, your clients don’t owe you anything, especially their commitment, unless there’s something in it for them.  The essence of any interaction is mutual exchange.  You’ll find it much easier to sell the benefits of your service if you find out what interests, excites and motivates your clients.  So how can you do this consistently?  Do you, and every member of your team deal respectfully with all customers treating them as a person, not a process, and an individual, not a collective?

Here are 5 simple tips to engage effectively with your customers:

 

1. Say my name

What’s in a name? Well a lot actually!  Destiny’s Child, had it right, it’s so important to use someone’s name as it makes your interaction far more personal and friendly.  Exchanging names is even better.  Don’t wait to be asked…give them yours early in the conversation and let them know you’re available to help them whenever they’re ready.  Knowing and using your customers’ names and remembering something about them helps build rapport and develop a more positive relationship.  Be sincere and genuine in your approach. Good manners cost nothing and a “please” and a “thank you” go a long way too.

 

2. Be interested

Yes, I’ve mentioned this one in previous Blogs and I make no apologies for highlighting it here again.  I can’t emphasise it enough; it’s really that important.  You’re not there to entertain them…unless you’re an actor, comedian or circus performer.  Your role is to provide a service, or better still an exceptional experience.  To do that you must ask, before you tell, or sell i.e. find out exactly what their challenges are, what they want, or don’t want and how you can find a solution that’s the best fit for them.

You can’t possibly provide a personal service that meets the customers’ requirements unless you take some interest.  Follow these simple steps and you’ll be well on your way. 

  • Ask questions and listen to what the client has to contribute
  • Summarise, so you’re sure you understand
  • Ask more questions to clarify if you’re not sure
  • Listen for what they want, what they don’t want and their possible objections 
  • Tell them how you can meet those specific needs

You can’t do this effectively unless you really show you’re interested in them. There’s an old adage, peopledon’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  It may sound corny, but it’s true.

3. Tune in

This leads us nicely on to my third tip…tune in; I mean really listen and make every customer feel their getting your full attention.  You’ve probably heard of every customer’s favourite radio station?  WIIFM…What’s In It For Me?  You have to tune in to it before you begin any interaction and try to put yourself in the customer’s space.  If you’ve done your market research you’ll probably have a very good idea who your ideal client is, where they’re based, what’s their pain and what they’re about. That puts you on the same frequency, but you will still need to tune in and eliminate the static before you can get a clearer sound bite of specifically what they want. 
Be attentive, ask relevant, open questions and focus on their response, without pre-empting it.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’ve heard it all before, particularly if you’ve been in the same business for a long time.  Remember, every customer is different, each have their own challenges, budget and outcomes.  You just need to take the time to listen without prejudice, preconception or pride before you reveal how you can help. 
Removing that third P, pride is particularly relevant when dealing with complaints.  If you find yourself thinking I’ve heard this all before, stop and ask yourself why you haven’t addressed it earlier.  If you don’t bother listening, your clients they’ll spend their money elsewhere.  Many won’t even bother to tell you what they want unless you ask and if they’re dissatisfied with your service they’re more likely to whinge and leave than complain. 

4. Keep your promises

Most customer complaints come from a failure to meet their expectations.  They’ve seen your promotional material, read your website, or even had a recommendation from a friend.  This and their past experiences of similar services have coloured their perception of what they should expect from you.  Imagine how disappointed they’ll be if you fall short of these expectations.
Review your promotional materials, listen to your customer interactions and check if they match the service you provide. You want customers to at least get what they’ve expected so they continue to choose you as their service provider, leave with a good feeling and refer others to your business. 

It’s far better to under promise and over deliver, but if you really want to impress how about over promising and over delivering!

 

5. Check out the customer’s perspective

Be careful not to make assumptions about what you think your customers want; it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you know everything your customer’s heart desires, when the opposite is quite often the reality, particularly if you’ve been in the business for a long time.  Ask and consider...

  • What’s most important to your customers? 
  • Why do they use your services rather than your competitors?
  • What one thing could you do to improve the quality of their visit?

Do an MOT; a Moments of Truth exercise.  It’s a bit like mystery shopping your own business to find out what it’s like from the ‘other side of the counter.’  Check out all the systems, procedures and stages in your client acquisition process.  How easy is it to buy from you?  Looking objectively at your own business is not as easy as it may seem, however it’s really important to keep customer focussed.  So if you can’t do it, engage someone that can. 


There are professional mystery shopping organisations, or you could brief a trusted friend, colleague or existing customer. Also, consider what opportunities you have for your customers to give you their feedback and create a dialogue with you.  Then when they do bother to comment, let them know you appreciate their feedback and remember to inform them what action you’ve taken to enhance your services, particularly if it was something that the client requested. If you receive a complaint, follow it up and do something about it.  It is possible to create a good experience out of a bad one, if you really value your customer.

So there you have it.  Which one will you start with today?

Are You Engaging?

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

My last Blog focused on helping you get engaged with yourself?

In this one, I'd like to turn the focus onto those people that are most important to you…your friends, family and your partner.

How’s your relationship with them? 

How much quality time are you spending with the people you care most about?

It can be difficult to spread yourself around when you’re busy juggling the demands of home, family and work.  How can you ensure that when you are with your nearest and dearest you’re making the most of the time you have together and giving them your undivided attention, rather than checking your emails, updating your status on social media, or watching TV?  And…even when you manage to put down the electronic gadgetry how do you stay present and in the moment with them instead of getting distracted by something else?

Here are some helpful tips to enable you to stay focussed and fully engaged with the people you love most.

 1.  Listen and be interested

Immerse yourself in what they have to say.  Make eye contact and apply active listening.  It’s not as easy as it might seem.  Your brain works twice as fast as you speak and is constantly trying to make connections and associations with things it already knows.  This makes it very easy to become distracted by your internal chatter and even if you manage to shut it off you may get caught ‘waiting to interrupt.’  You know, that phase where a person says something that resonates with you and you can’t wait to contribute your two pence worth.  At this point you stop listening, because all you want to do now is tell the person your story.

Here’s a technique I learned a few years ago, which will help you stay focussed on what the person is saying.  It’s called Rapid Repeat and it works like this.  When someone speaks to you, you repeat exactly what they say, just after they say it.  Be careful to do this in your head, not out loud.  Like any technique it requires practice before you’ll become skilled at it.  It’s worth the effort as it’s a truly powerful tool that will instantly help you engage with others.  It does however come with a health warning.  You can’t tune in constantly. It’s hard work being an excellent listener and you will get tired. You may also find people who know you well, might find your new found ability to be attentive a trifle odd, especially if you’re not a particularly good listener right now.  Persevere with it the benefits are worth it.  You’ll be able to respond better because you actually hear more.  People you know will believe you care more about them and those you meet will find you more engaging, interesting and empathetic just because you’re giving them a good listening to.

 2.  Respect each other’s differences

There’s a good chance you’ll share many of the values your friends and family hold dear.  However, the order in which they sit in your own particular hierarchy of importance might be quite different.  Wouldn’t life would be boring if you all shared exactly the same perspective?  There is strength in diversity.  Once you start really listening to your loved ones; they might surprise you.  It’s good to find common ground, but just as important to be able to voice your differences and learn to appreciate those things that make you and each of them unique.       

 3.  Be patient

If patience is a virtue, how virtuous are you, with yourself as well as others? We live in a fast paced world with sadly, little time to ‘stand and stare.’ With deadlines to meet and tight timescales you can find yourself rushing from task to task, forgetting to acknowledge the people around you.  When this happens, it’s tricky not to become impatient, intolerant and judgemental.  Sometimes your nearest and dearest need to share things with you that are really important to them.  If you are distracted or rushing headlong into the next job they might find it difficult to share or articulate their thoughts and feelings.  It might be they just don’t express themselves in the same way you do.  Remember communication is a two way process that involves transmitting and receiving so take a little time observe their body language, consider their needs and listen to what’s not being said. 

My grandmother has just reached the ripe old age of 98.  She lives independently, is mobile and still quite sharp mentally.  However, she is now prone to repeating the same stories.  We’ve all heard them before…a number of times, but she still insists on telling them as if it’s their first airing.  I guess at here age there are less new experiences to share.  We’re lucky to still have her here sharing experiences none of us have had and probably never will.

4.  Share new experiences

Plan to do something with each other.  Go for a walk, head to the gym or join a local interest group.  Participate in something you’ll both/all enjoy, rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen.  It can be very easy to get into a rut, or unhealthy routine with those closest to you and before you know it your life comprises of very little else than work, eat, sleep.  There are plenty of wonderful things to see, hear and do and once you’ve experienced these things you’ll have a rich source of topics to share in conversation.

I’m fortunate to live in Cheltenham, where we have a wonderful programme of town festivals throughout the year.  Jazz, Literature, Music, Science, Food and of course The Races.  Many of these festivals have free activities and showcases, so you can get out and soak up the atmosphere gratis.  What’s going on in your area that you could share and enjoy with your friends or family?

 5.  Turn off the Visual Valium

In my opinion, TV, or visual Valium as I like to call it, is a conversation stopper and relationship killer.  Don’t get me wrong there are wonderful dramas, comedies and documentaries available to you at the flick of a switch, but it may be worth limiting your time in front of the telly, particularly when you’re in the company of others.  It’s not a particularly interactive medium, unless you’re building in a healthy discussion about what you’ve just watched.   It’s also easy to get territorial over the remote which usually results in resentment from those who don’t have control.  Agree those things you really want to watch (together or separately), then turn off the set and step away from the remote.

 6.  Be Kind

Kind is an interesting word.  Like many words in the English dictionary it means different things to different people.  There’s kind as in generous, or caring, or thoughtful.  What sort of kindness do your loved ones need from you?  Is it a simple gift to show you’re thinking of them, a sincere word of thanks or genuine compliment, a demonstration of your affection in the form of a cup of tea after a hard day, or giving them a jolly good listening to? Consider how you can be kind to someone you care about today.

 7.  Appreciate each other

It’s easy to take those you love for granted.  After all, they’ve probably been with you through thick and thin; enjoyed you at your best and supported you through your worst.  You may subconsciously have huge, maybe even unrealistic expectations of them.  Try to focus on the positives (there are probably loads of them), rather than identifying what they’re not doing.  Say thank you more regularly…and mean it and pay them a genuine compliment.  Remind them what you like about them, why they’re important to you and how much you miss them when you haven’t seen them for a while. 

There you go, 7 re-engagement tips.  Try them and see what response you get.

 

 

 

Good will to all?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Strong people don't put others down. They lift them up.              Michael P Watson 

The weather’s getting colder and the long dark winter days can sometimes have an adverse effect on your mood.  Are you still managing to radiate warmth, positive energy and good vibrations or are you guilty of intolerance, impatience and irritability…often to those you care about most?  In the latter state, it’s easy to find yourself slipping into a self-righteous, holier than thou attitude, judging people on their behaviour, rather than their intentions.  It’s not pretty and can lead to bad feeling, frustration and conflict.

It’s easy to judge others.  You may even feel you’re doing it with the best possible intentions, based on your own high standards, core values and personal moral compass…but who’s to say you’re right?  These measures could very well be right for you, however they may be completely off the mark for the person you’re ‘evaluating.’ 

One NLP (Nero Linguistic Programming) pre-supposition states:

People do the best they can with the resources they have available

Just imagine how different you’re attitude and approach to others might be if you truly believed this statement.  It does offer an alternative perspective and if adopted could enable you to seek the intentions behind the behaviour and help you reserve judgement. 

As you head towards Christmas with the message of ‘goodwill to all men…and women’ ringing in your ears, perhaps it’s worth considering what you could say, or what you might do for a friend, family member or colleague each day that will help to lift them up, as opposed to put them down.  What do you like about them, what do they do well, how do they contribute positively to you or others?  For a change, notice what they do right…and tell them. Try a compliment, rather than a complaint or criticism. 

It’s not as easy as it may sound.  Firstly, you may not be used to doing it.  Secondly people aren’t used to receiving compliments…they may feel awkward, or embarrassed and not know how to respond. They may even be suspicious of your motives, particularly if they are not used to receiving positive comments or reinforcements from you.

A good way to help them accept what you’ve said is to follow the compliment – question method:

Pay them a compliment, then follow it up with a question.

As they’ll be focussed on answering the question they won’t question the compliment.

It might sound something like this…

“Thank you for dealing with that complaint, you responded perfectly.  How did you develop such good listening skills?”

Or

“I really like that jacket you’re wearing, that colour really suits you.  Where did you buy it?”

Following this approach should mean you get less “Do you really think so?”  “What, this old thing?” responses and you’ll leave the person feeling really good having taken the compliment in the manner it was intended.

My new good habit (starting today) is to pay someone a genuine compliment every day.

What will you do today to lift someone’s spirits?

 

 

 

 

 

National Customer Service Week

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

 

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

 

Walt Disney

As we come to the end of National Customer Service week I thought it might be timely to ask, “Are you consistently creating exceptional experiences for your clients or customers?”

Whatever service you offer, chances are someone else is providing something similar just around the corner.  Good clients are hard to come by and often costly to attract, so when you do get them interested you need to WOW! them into choosing you as their preferred service provider and make a consistent and concerted effort to exceed their expectations at every opportunity.

Which of the following are your customers regularly experiencing?

  1. An OW! – a miserable moment.  An experience that fails to meet your customers’ expectations; one they remember, for all the wrong reasons; one they’ll tell all their friends about...and anyone else who care’s to listen, although you’d really prefer they didn’t!

  2. A HOW – a neutral moment.  An experience that is just as the customer expected; no surprises (good or bad); one they’ll forget quite easily because it made very little impression either way.

  3. A WOW! – a magic moment.  An experience that exceeds the customers’ expectations; one they’ll remember and tell their friends about for the right reasons.

Starting off a relationship with an OW! Rather than a WOW! is never a good customer service strategy.  It is possible to create a WOW out of an OW, but would you want to risk it?

Sadly, it seems poor service is too readily accepted these days.  The up side is this makes WOWs quite easy to achieve, providing you listen to your customers and really consider your service from the customer’s perspective.  This can be a challenge, particularly if you’ve been in your business for a long time.  Complacency can creep in and there’s a tendency to start believing you know best as you’ve heard/seen/done it all before.

Failure to WOW! your customers could be costing you…

  • A loss of reputation

  • Shrinking profits

  • Low staff morale

  • Increased staff turnover 

  • Increased client attrition

  • Higher recruitment costs (internal and external clients)

  • Reduced organic growth

  • Loss of up selling and cross selling opportunities

  • Wasted time, effort and money

 

To celebrate National Customer Service week, join me in a quick review and ask yourself:

  • What are the WOWs in my organisation? 

  • Who consistently delivers them?

  • How can I capitalise and create more of these magic moments?

Download my free report which outlines 7 straightforward strategies could save you time, energy and money and help drive clients to your business rather than to the competition.

Go WOW them!

I win, you lose!

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Fairness is not an attitude.  It is a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.” ~ Brit Hume

 

I’d like to think many of you have a fairness value; mine runs through my DNA.  Its real importance to you, as with many of your other values, will often only become apparent when you feel it’s being trampled on. 

The best negotiations are when both parties feel they have won.  You can walk away satisfied that you’ve been heard, treated with respect and benefitted from the exchange.  Win-Win!  I’ve witnessed, on more than one occasion, cases where one party has walked away rubbing their hands in glee, while the other sits looking a little confused and eventually feeling they’ve been shafted.  Win-Lose! 

If you’re the winner in this scenario, you’re sense of satisfaction is usually short lived as, even if your ‘opponent’ didn’t fully realise the significance of the interaction at the time, they soon will and they’re unlikely to trust, or do business with you again.

Consider this personal scenario…you want to go to the cinema with your partner, but they want to have a quiet evening in with you.  What will often happen is one or other of you will ‘compromise’ i.e. do what the other one wants.  That’s OK until you start to feel you’re always the one doing the compromising.  What happens then is you begin to resent your partner.  After all it’s not fair!  Why should they always get their own way at your expense?  Win-Lose!  Sometimes, even if you’re the one who won the exchange you may feel guilty, so you both feel put out. Lose-Lose!  So what’s the answer?  Stephen Covey called it synergy.  It’s an opportunity for values to be shared and outcomes to be aligned to achieve a win-win. 

Let’s look at that scenario again.  This time let’s consider what both parties might have wanted.  If, for example, what’s important is that you both spend quality time with each other, what you actually do becomes less of an issue.  You are now much more open to find an alternative activity that suits you both e.g. a drink at your local followed by a good movie on TV. 

Next time you find yourself in negotiation, try to establish what’s important to you and the other party first.  You may find it far easier to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome.

Constructive feedback?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching

Performance development guru Tony Robbins suggests “...everything before the but is bullshit” and he's got a very valid point.

I’ve heard critical feedback referred to as the 'bullshit sandwich.' In other words a filling of criticism neatly placed between two slices of praise. You don't fool anyone; it's still criticism. There's no such thing as ‘constructive criticism’...it’s just criticism. When was the last time you came away clicking your heels after receiving negative feedback, dressed up as a 'praise burger?' There is however, ‘constructive feedback’ which is framed and presented in a very different, more thoughtful and empowering way.

Think about the last time you received feedback from a friend, colleague or family member. It seemed to be going so well and then their intonation rose and you knew what was coming next...oh yes, that dreaded ‘but;’ that little word with a big meaning. How did you feel after they'd used it? Did you even really listen to what was said after the ‘but,’ or had you switched off by then?

The word 'but' has the unfortunate result of undoing the impact and meaning of the preceding statement. 

Here are some examples:

The way you dealt with that customer was great, but...
I think you have great potential, but...
I'd love to help you with that piece of work, but...

 

Take time to notice when you, or other people use the word, and the impact it has on the recipient. Observe their body language and listen to their response...if there is any. It often has a way of taking the wind completely out of their sails.

So at this point you may well be asking 'what should I use instead?' This depends on the context of the sentence. For instance words such as 'however', 'nevertheless', 'though' are often longer versions of the ‘but’ and can therefore result in a similar disheartening impact.

My suggestion would be to end the sentence on a positive note and start a new one outlining any other feedback, or use 'and' as a link if you have additional pertinent information relating to the same area.

Let's take the three earlier examples:

The way you dealt with that customer was great. I was particularly impressed with the way you actively listened. What could you have done to have made an even bigger impact?
 
I think you have great potential and would like to help you develop your skills further. How could I be of most help to you?
 
I'd love to help you with that piece of work and i can free up some time to talk to you about it next week.
 

So next time you are giving feedback consider the outcome you're trying to achieve and the impact you wish to have and let that influence the language you use. You'll often get much better results, BUT don't take my word for it, try it yourself.

Just Because

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching

“If you’re the boss, just because they don’t ask, doesn’t mean your employees don’t have needs.” 

― James Levine

In my last blog I said I wasn't a fan of 'why' and suggested you replaced the word with more creative ways of asking people for the reasons behind their decisions or actions.

I personally like to know the intentions behind people’s behaviour, so perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m such an advocate of the word.  American psychologist Dr Robert Cialdini, in his book Influence Science and Practice, presents more compelling evidence in support of it.   He says if we ask someone for a favour we “will be more successful if we provide a reason.”   It's a word that’s used as a precursor to many explanations we receive as children, so you’ve more than likely learned to respond in a certain way when hearing it. Psychologists refer to it as a fixed-action pattern, something which triggers your pre-programmed learned behaviour.   An experiment (Langer, Blank and Chanowitz, 1978) demonstrated a simple request with the addition of ‘because’ improved compliance by over 30%, even when no real reason was given i.e. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”

So it would appear this simple word can be an effective influencer and powerful in its application.

In your role as a manager, trainer, mentor, when you give information to your team do you give them the ‘because’ and tell them 'why' things are done a particular way, or why you’ve made a specific request?   It would seem giving the thinking behind your requests or actions is more effective for a number of reasons…

  • It’s an effective influencer
  • It helps 'sell' your idea
  • It enables a greater understanding, thus minimising mistakes that can happen if people do things by rote
  • It can allow your team to consider viable alternatives, solutions or improvements because they appreciate the rationale
  • Having to give a reason is more likely to make you think it through

So, if you can't explain the reasons things are done a certain way, perhaps it's time you did!  Is it because you’ve always done it that way?  You may be missing more creative, efficient or effective ways of achieving the same thing.

Try it and see...because it may pay dividends.

Don't ask me why

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Training & Coaching

I'm not a huge fan of the word WHY in a coaching or leadership context...let me explain my reasons.  It's often delivered in a way that sounds confrontational, accusatory and overly challenging. It invariably sends the recipient into defensive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive mode and it can therefore inhibit the brains capacity for problem solving. It's also a lazy probing question. There are so many other, more effective ways of information gathering.

I'm all for challenging; I think it's healthy to push yourself, or be pulled out of your comfort zone; It's usually when most learning takes place. However, I believe there are more effective ways of getting answers, or kick starting a person's reflective processes than why.  You have to build rapport and have a person's trust before you can ask why and expect a well formed answer.  I’m not suggesting you never use it, merely that you apply it thoughtfully.  When you do believe it’s appropriate consider how you will frame and tone it for best effect.  So what questions could you ask to illicit information, or get someone into a reflective state in a non-confrontational manner?

How about these starters for 10?

  • What was the reason...
  • How did that happen...
  • What caused you to...
  • Tell me about...

These are less aggressive and also offer the subliminal suggestion that there are solutions to each question, if your recipient takes a little time to think.

So how and when will you replace why for a better outcome?

New Year...Brand (new) You?

Categories:  Effective Communication

Everything you say or do, the WAY in which you do or say it and whoever and whatever you’re connected with, projects something about YOU…and will make an impression.  Whether you like it or not, everyday you are being judged personally and professionally.  I apologise if this makes you feel a little uneasy...however, you really are what people are buying into.  In fact, your product or service is of little consequence if you get that initial interface wrong.

A couple of years ago I met image consultant, Sue Pattinson (www.suepattinson.com) and was invited to attend a group image day which she facilitated.  I found the experience fascinating.  I'd had my colours and styling done some years earlier, but found Sue's approach refreshingly genuine, interesting and pragmatic.  I knew there was potential for a colloboration and a seed was planted that has now grown into the Brand You! programme.

Having struggled for years to create my own 'personal brand'...I eventually discovered all the ingredients were already there...I just hadn't realised it.  Aligning my external 'image' with my personal 'brand values' has been a fascinating journey and I feel much more at ease and confident with who I am, what I want and how to project this authentically.  I only wish I'd found the support to take this trip earlier.   

So, if having a 'personal brand' is no longer an option...what message are you intentionally or inadvertently transmitting to the people you meet? 

Perhaps you haven’t given the topic much thought until now…it really is worth the effort.  For a start, it’s difficult to set yourself or your business any meaningful goals unless you first clearly define your internal brand i.e. what you stand for…and what you won’t.    To paraphrase a line from one of The Who’s songs, “who are you?”  What is your personal brand and is it working for you?  How do people describe you and is this congruent with who you think you are?  If you are in a profession where you directly interface with your cusstomer e.g. trainer, coach, therapist or sales person you are often the ‘shop window’ for your business and really need to walk your talk.

Once you’ve established your beliefs, values and goals, you can concentrate on refining your external brand to ensure it is aligned with who you are and what’s important to you.  An understanding of the psychology of business dress will get you off to a good start in gaining the trust of people you meet face to face.   Your efforts to present yourself appropriately (or not) will be noted instantly and can have a dramatic impact on your ability to influence your prospective clients.

In our modern, technological, fast paced society where information can be accessed at the press of a button – it’s all out there for your customers to view, there’s no hiding.  Opinions are being formed the instant a customer comes into contact with any aspect of your service.  Do your promotional materials, website, premises etc. present the appropriate image i.e. one that is aligned with who you are and what you stand for; or are you falling short of the mark?   To be credible, everything connected to you and your business must be transparent and consistent and continue to reflect your brand values.

So, how would your customers, suppliers and competition describe you and your company? How do your marketing materials distinguish you from your competitors? What are your key messages?  Do people instantly get what you are about?  

Being an expert in your field is not enough.  You also have to look the part, be authentic in your approach and committed to continual improvement.  So how are you doing in the personal branding stakes? 

Getting it right can have significant impact on your ability to influence others and increase your business potential.  Get in touch to discuss how Sue and I can help you develop your yoUSP! 

 

Who’s the Daddy (or Mummy)? – your customer that’s who…

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us – we are dependent on him.”

 

If I asked you to list your company’s assets, would you reel off the items on your balance sheet, or would you put your customers first?  They really do deserve that number one slot; think about it; they are the most important people in your business; your life blood; the means and the reason for your business, not an interruption to it!

When I refer to your customer I mean both the internal and external variety; your employees as well as the paying clients.  If, like me you’ve worked in a contractual situation you may have the additional consideration of a purchasing authority to add to the challenges of managing a team and satisfying an end user.

Each of these ‘customers’ is an important asset.  Love or loathe them, you simply can’t ignore them – without them you don’t exist!

Place customer satisfaction firmly and proudly at the heart of your business so everything you do reflects a desire to provide the best service possible.  Forget how important they are and you may not feel the pain immediately, but it will hurt soon enough.  Attrition can start as a small leak; but trust me; it doesn’t take long before you’ll be haemorrhaging customers and it will take more than a sticking plaster to stem the flow. A high turnover staff can have a dramatic effect on the consistency of your service and will invariably have an impact on your ability to retain customers.  The cost of replacing them (staff and customers) is significant and can eat away at your profits at an alarming rate.

The process of exceptional customer experiences start internally.  You can’t possibly create an inviting, friendly, professional environment if your staff are at war with you and each other.  Any unrest within a team will hang over your business like a dark cloud and is about as easy to get rid of as a bad smell.   So before you consider throwing more resources at attracting new customers it may be worth checking if your internal service strategy is fully functional.

Over the coming months I’ll be focussing on how you can consistently provide exceptional experiences for both your internal and external customers.  For me, exceptional service is simple.  It’s the creation of an environment where staff can’t wait to come to work and customers can’t wait to bring their friends. Simple, but not easy; it requires a passion for people, a desire to make a difference and the energy and commitment to take consistent action.

Creating a memorable first impression

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

We live in a world where there are too many suppliers and not enough customers…

Whatever service you offer, chances are someone else is providing something similar just around the corner.  Good clients are hard to come by and often costly to attract, so when you do get them interested you need to WOW them into choosing you as their preferred service provider.  That first impression is incredibly important so do it right.

Customer service comes in 3 distinct packages.

An OW!a miserable moment.  An experience that fails to meet the customers’ expectations; one they remember, for all the wrong reasons; one they’ll tell all their friends about…and anyone else who care’s to listen, although you’d really prefer they didn’t!

A HOWa neutral moment.  An experience that is just as the customer expected; no surprises (good or bad); one they’ll quite easily forget because it made very little impression either way.

A WOW!a magic moment.  An experience that exceeds the customers’ expectations; one they’ll remember and tell their friends about for the right reasons.

Starting off a relationship with an OW! Rather than a WOW! is never a good strategy.

It takes seconds to create that all important first impression and it will often be formed before you even open your mouth.  Consider how you personally present yourself to your customers; are you giving the right impression, or already falling short of their expectations.  Of course it’s not just you; if you employ staff to help deliver your service how do they come across?

And it doesn’t stop there…

Anytime your prospective customers come into contact with any aspect of your service you’ll be judged.  Do your promotional materials, resources, premises etc. present the appropriate image?

Remember, you never get a second chance to create a first impression.  Start well and strive to consistently deliver an exceptional level of customer service every day.

La la la…I’m not listening!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

In my 20 plus years working within service organisations I’ve come to the conclusion listening is an underrated, but really vital skill.  I’m often left cold by what passes for good listening.  What I frequently observe could be more accurately described as ‘waiting to interrupt’!

I was at a presentation for Investors in People a few years back where David Fairhurst, VP People at McDonalds gave his simple success formula for creating exceptional customer service.

It was:

L2 (C+E)+R

The translation?

Listen a lot to customers and employees and respond

Great isn’t it?

It’s about being INTERESTED, rather than INTERESTING!  However, as with all simple concepts, they sometimes aren’t quite so easy to achieve and require a good deal of effort and commitment from the whole organisation and in particular from the person doing the listening and responding.

So what’s the reason listening is such a difficult skill to acquire?

Well, we talk at a rate of around 125 words a minute, yet have the ability to listen at a rate of 400 words a minute.  This often means we are way ahead of the person who is speaking and as a consequence can get distracted.  Our minds can wander and we either end up thinking of something else; or the speakers words may trigger a connection in our brains to information we’d like to share.  At this point we are in ‘waiting to interrupt’ mode, rather than really  listening!  So it truly does take commitment, effort and a genuine interest if you want to be an effective listener.

Go on, give it a try.  Alternatively, you could just stick your fingers in your ears and say after me la la la…I’m not listening!!

Mr Kipling makes exceedingly good Blogs…

Categories:  Effective Communication

I refer of course not to the cake maker, but the one who wrote The Jungle Book (amongst other things) Mr Rudyard Kipling.

You may be thinking what on earth could he have possibly had to do with Bloging?  Well I think his quote below suggests a pretty good formula for anyone considering writing an effective Blog.

“I keep six honest serving men, (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who.”

(Ack: Rudyard Kipling, from ‘Just So Stories’, 1902.)

• Why write a Blog (what’s its purpose, or my outcome)?  Explain the reasons your audience should be interested.  Sell the benefits and get them tuned into WIIFM (What’s in it for me?)

• Who is your audience or your target market?  Give brief details about yourself and how you can be contacted.

• Where will you post it?  Where can your audience get more information or sign up for more details; this may be a link to your website or your email address.

• What do you want to tell them (content)?  Consider what your audience wants to know.l

• How are you going to do get your information across?  Tell them what action they need to take now.

• When am I going to do this?

Try using this simple formula to build your Blog.

Go make things happen…

Jacky Leonard
www.jackyleonard.co.uk

Call NOW to book your free 20 minute business booster consultation
07894 904041