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Does Your Business Need a Weed Whacker?

Weeds

Do you ever walk around your neighbourhood and wonder about the people living there? I do. I, like most, will gather a first impression about someone by how they take care of their yard. Some people have immaculate yards, some nicely maintain a yard and others, well, they might want to think about living in a condo! The next time you walk through your neighbourhood, contemplate the conclusions you develop about the home owners in your neighbourhood. We all do it!

In his book “Blink”, Malcolm Gladwell writes about ‘rapid cognition, thinking that happens in the blink of an eye’. He says that in the first two seconds your mind jumps to a series of conclusions about something. You don’t have 30 seconds or 15 seconds; you have 2 seconds before conclusions are drawn from a person’s first impression. That’s a pretty powerful piece of information.

No one gets to choose a neighbour; they come and go based on influences outside of our control. We do, however, have to live with them, (so to speak). People care for their own little piece of land and convey an impression based on what they wish to put forth revealing what they hope the world to know or believe about them. Others don’t think it matters.

Conclusions are immediately drawn by immaculate yard owners about messy yard owners and it doesn’t matter if the untidy owners are Nobel Peace Prize winners, our immaculate yard owner will have them painted with a sour and even angry brush.

What do yards have to do with Leadership and Customer Service?

The first impression you or your company offers is astoundingly important.

Great sales people know this and present themselves appropriately to the customer based on customer values. Companies with large marketing departments know this and present a consistent Brand or Image while spending thousands on learning more about their customers.
Small businesses who serve an exclusive clientele are exceptional at it and con-artists could teach courses in it.

Making a great first impression!

That first impression is the key to building a longer relationship with prospective customers. Even more importantly, companies who are good at it know their market enough to “dress” to the market. They know what the customer values and expects and successful businesses meet that expectation.

In business, some leaders begin to lose sight of what’s there, much like a teenager won’t notice the dust in a home or will walk over something in their way without picking it up; business owners will forget to LOOK at their business with the keen eye of a new prospective customer. A restaurant will forget to dust the three-hundred dollar hand blown light fixtures; another business owner doesn’t notice their sign has 2 unlit letters.

First impressions are about the details and a customer can see and capture hundreds of details in a split second. Customers look at an exclusive price on a menu and wonder where the money is going, dust on the lights, a broken glass panel, bathroom is dated, etc. Then they draw a 2 second conclusion: “This restaurant is not worth the money I am paying.”, and they choose not to return, even if the food is exceptional.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing your product or service is the only reason your customer is there.

Consumers come wanting some personal ‘feel good’ about having spent money with you, especially in difficult times. Consumers are watching their pennies and want to make sure they have a decent experience for their dollar. You are feeding their emotions as much as you are supplying them with goods or services. Offering an exceptional experience along with goods and services will make a huge difference in both gaining that prospective customer and keeping them.

When cutting costs, be aware of what first impressions you make with a potential client and what kind of an experience you are providing your existing customer. Take away the experience, and you risk losing them. Check out your competition, or even the area in which your business is located, does your store-front, building, awning or reception area provide a better first impression than other businesses or are you the neighbour who doesn’t think it matters?

What if that messy, weed-filled and overgrown yard is owned by a Nobel Peace Prize winner and she lives next to you? Do you care about her brain or are you frustratingly wishing she would clean up her act so all the weeds don’t spread to your side of the yard? Are you wanting to invite her over for a BBQ and laude her intelligence or do you just wish she would move?

Leaders, how about you, does your business need a weed whacker?

Strategic Sense is a Leadership Development, Customer Service, Plans of Action and Facilitation organization who’s mission is to change the world for the better for leaders and their employees everywhere. We believe each individual comes with their own unique talents and skills that can be enhanced and utilized to help them become the very best leaders only they can be while providing exceptional service to their customers.

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Great Leadership & Corporate Garden Centers

PansiesI was shopping the other day for some bedding-out plants. It’s that time of year when we find ways to beautify our yards and take full advantage of the short growing season in our area. Bedding-out plants have been started in the greenhouse earlier so you have a chance for “instant” life in the garden otherwise many things would not grow fast enough from seed to mature during our short season! (Have trust, this is about leadership.)

My plan was to visit two places. Both places are large box stores and only carry these plants seasonally. I chose these two places because of the types of plants they typically bring in.

There is one significant difference between the plant sections within the two stores I visited and it’s quite remarkable.

Store A is managed and run by a large corporate organization, I have no idea who the venders are, and I am sure there are many. With luck, some of the vendors are local suppliers.

Store B is located at a large corporate organization but, in contrast, it’s run by a smaller green house renting the space from the large corporate organization. They hire local people who have passion and knowledge about plants. It’s a great partnership because payment and location are seamless to the customers, and it’s still supporting a green house owned by a smaller business.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Visiting Store A was a huge disappointment. The workers were young teens or students assigned to the task and working part time jobs. They knew nothing at all about plants or gardening. They’d most recently received some deliveries, all standing in racks on wheels at the opening of the garden section, and those plants were almost dead, bone-dry, and drooping! The Manger was actually attempting to train the employees during one of the busiest plant-shopping weekends of the Canadian year, mid-day. Prices were not readily available. With 4 staff in “training” customers were left to wait for the scanned pricing at the till. The teller kept telling people (who were waiting for their transactions to finish completing) that “It always printed the receipt best if she walked away from the till”. It was hectic, frustrating and there was no one who could help me more than myself.

Visiting Store B was a complete contrast to the first store. The one single staff member there was running around like crazy making certain each and every individual had exactly what they needed. She was watering plants, knew the plants by name, was giving personalized service, was helping customers pick “better looking” selections. She dug hard to find the healthiest plants (and all of the plants looked great) for each and every sale. She ran the till, folded cardboard into boxes to hold the plants, would direct you to a choice with a more reasonable price and all the while laughed and joked and informed. She was amazing. I think I would hire her in a second if I had the chance!

Store A has all the money, the power and the clout to create an atmosphere that delivers great customer service, but for some reason that store did not do it’s homework. I can understand when you as a leader are at the mercy of corporate time-lines and setup. I am guessing the garden section was neither setup nor received it’s merchandise in time to properly train staff in preparation for the May long weekend – a weekend that unofficially heralds spring with more plant and garden sales than any other time of the year in Canada. Somehow something fell short which caused the leader of this store to be forced into doing training amidst hectic shoppers – perhaps corporate time management and preparation were not in place in time, perhaps the leader has poor management skills themselves. Who knows, that’s all just guess-work on my part. What is very clear is this:

The obvious priority for Store A was bottom-line dollars/sales and not the customer.

Store B, in contrast, was obviously wildly aware of the importance of sales over the May long weekend. They were both set-up and prepared for the customer. The plants were well-cared for indicating they had done all the right preparation with the right timing to reduce inventory loss and they had made concerted efforts to put the RIGHT people into place. All of this was accomplished without the strong corporate backing and clout that Store A holds. Store B provided me with an experience.

The obvious priority for Store B was customer service.

As a customer I like to be treated as though the dollars I spend are worth something to the business. How does that happen? By providing me with the sales person’s interest, concern, helpfulness, courtesy, and great service. Will I shop with Store B more frequently? Darn certain I will.

Here is the hidden gem, or dare I say brilliance of the Corporation (Store B) who partnered with a smaller green house and it makes me smile. They offer an expected service to the customer but are well-aware garden centers are not their forte in retail delivery. They create a seamless approach allowing the customer to use the credit and reward cards of the main store. They know without a doubt the expected service is better run by a group who know how to make it work best for both the corporation and the customer. THAT folks is Great leadership!

An Aside: Happy Birthday to Kathie Madden of Kathie Madden Events in Vancouver – hope it is a fabulous day!

Strategic Sense is a Leadership Development, Plans of Action and Facilitation organization who’s mission is to change the world for the better for leaders and their employees everywhere. We believe each individual comes with their own unique talents and skills that can be enhanced and utilized to help them become the very best leaders only they can be. Are you recently out of work and don’t know how to begin looking? Contact us to help with the new path forward.

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Leadership Lessons From Mom!

All of us have a background and history. Many of the lessons I learned about leadership were really common sense child-rearing lessons passed on from one of the most remarkable people I know, my Mother. With Mother’s Day approaching I thought I would share a few with you.

Respect Everyone: No one ever truly knows anyone, what they’ve experienced, what they’re going through now, or who they are internally. Showing respect recognizes everyone partakes in struggle and triumph and deserves respect.

If You Can’t Share it With Your Grandmother, You Shouldn’t Say it, Write it or Do it: This is especially true now, be impeccable with all communication. Words tossed in rudeness, anger, haste or without thought will always come back to bite you in the butt. In this day of high-speed internet and Social Media, it’ll bite immediately, and it could cost you your job or force you to repeat it in court!

Be a Cheerleader: No, not a pom-pom shaking acrobatic one (unless that’s what you love to do), I mean cheer on the success, efforts and opportunities of others, just like you would your own child. Being happy for others rather than resentful feeds your soul.

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously: Sometimes life is absurd, period. People react and are reacted to in ways unexpected. Situations don’t always work out as planned and one needs to redirect. Laugh! Find the humour and the gems of wisdom within the unexpected. You will be all the healthier for it and you’ll make more friends!

Clean Your Own Room First: Before you go criticizing others, take a good look at your own life. The day you can say everything in your own life is perfect, you are exactly who you wish to be and you have no tasks left to perform, go criticize someone else. Until then, collaborate, help, take part and learn the art of allowing, influencing and encouraging others in their path! We live in the same house!

Clean Out Your Backpack: Pay attention to what you choose to hang onto. Holding onto negative emotions, old resentments, anger and frustration is no different than choosing not to take that full milk container out of your backpack, after a while it begins to stink and rot and it ruins things!

Use Your Stuff: My mom lit her candles, used her good dishes and wasn’t afraid of polishing silver or using white table cloths. The deal is, you have it so use it! You are born with and have developed many gifts, talents and strengths worth sharing. You’ll find joy in using them!

Mom taught more lessons than that and I can guarantee you, I wasn’t always a quick study! The beauty of having a mom who models great leadership is that she’s willing to be repetitive, probably to the point of frustration at times! Lucky me that she still continues to persist in providing the lessons in life that, for some, only experience will drive home. Thanks Mom, for being remarkable!

(Original Post was written May 3, 2009. Update, my mother passed away on January 22, 2014 making these lessons ever so much more precious to me now!)

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Why You Think I Am Wrong And What I Have To Say About It.

The thing about being an adult in an adult work world is that we’re forced to deal with many things we may find unpleasant or stressful. Communication between people takes many forms and can be interpreted in many ways. Ideally, we would live in a world where every person with whom we communicated would understand our intentions and not interpret them badly. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

We are emotional human beings with egos, and we are adamant about protecting our viewpoints because we believe we are right. When communication comes our way, our response is typically based upon a reaction to our own view point and when that viewpoint is challenged, we often focus on the parts that anger us rather than the true message behind the communication.

How we respond to communication in our work and personal environments is a clear indicator of our respect for the viewpoint offered us, or how we respect the communicator themselves. Reponses packed with anger, frustration and hurt will put a stop to a relationship very quickly. This kind of a response can be so damaging it can take years to repair the relationship.

Here are a few tips on dealing with difficult discussions in your life. You’ll want to jot them down somewhere, you see you live in the real world and will be forced to deal with difficult discussions frequently.

  • Avoid Public Responses – A response to a difficult conversation or written communication should remain private. Sure, tell a confidant or two if you need to vent, but until you have calmed down and queried the person about their intent behind the discussion, you are reacting blindly and immaturely. Posting an angry note on Facebook will likely lose you the relationship or get you fired.
  • Analyze The Whole Communication – If you are upset about a conversation or a written communication, try these steps:
    • What parts make you angry? Why does it make you angry? Then explain to the other person in a very calm manner exactly how you interpreted what they said, and ask for clarification. Avoid arguing, listen!
    • Work hard to find the hidden gems of wisdom they’re trying to impart, focus on any compliments or positive statements they have tried to convey, rather than letting your anger focus on a single word or perceived slight.
    • If you are truly right, you will have no problem calmly building a compelling case to prove your point. Answer any questions they may have asked rather than lashing out to hurt them back, there is a good chance they were not trying to hurt you at all. Give them a reason to support your viewpoint!
    • Keep your anger private, being outwardly pissed off, rather than dealing with the person directly only proves YOUR immaturity, rather than their insensitivity.
  • Maintain Respect – Most people who initiate difficult conversations do so because they feel they have a significant stake in the topic or success regarding the issue being discussed. It’s extremely tough to initiate a difficult discussion. A person may already have lost sleep, poured over the written form, and feel vulnerable by exposing a challenge or expressing an opinion they know will create heated response. They do it because they care and believe, like you do, that they are right. The ideal situation is to have the issues put on the table and discussed maturely so the two of you can come to an understanding. Be respectful enough to the relationship to treat the other person with consideration and thoughtfulness.

Wanting to become a leader, striving to excel in any environment or hoping to launch your career will be dependent on the relationships you build and your reactions to difficult situations. If you struggle to handle conflict or difficult discussions in your personal relationships, it is almost a given you will struggle in the same manner in your work environment. Becoming a manager or leader of any kind of business will require you to practice and hone the skill of conflict resolution . Your future career or possible future promotions will be based upon your ability to take on the tough stuff, not the easy and inspired tasks.

Life is not all about what makes us feel good, but rather our attitude and response to all life has to offer, good, bad, challenging, beautiful, difficult, tragic, and amazing! Are you willing to accept all that life has to offer and respond to it maturely with a positive attitude that builds relationships or do you really believe life is supposed to hand you all happiness and ease?

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Life Is Like A Series of Meals!

Of all the things from which we learn the most, experience is our greatest of teachers! There are few times a lesson will make an impression to last a lifetime unless one has experienced that lesson being handed to them on a silver platter. The thing is, what you choose to do with each delicious serving is what makes the difference. Great leaders know this.

I guess you could say that life is like a series of meals! Sometimes we’re served fast food, sometimes we have to hunt for food and sometimes we’re offered gourmet cuisine that sets our mouths watering and our hearts longing to savour every glorious tasty morsel passing across our hungry taste buds. Why do I liken experiential lessons to food? Because our reactions to both are quite similar!

Have you ever been watching a fantastic movie with a bowl of popcorn at your side only to become suddenly aware the popcorn bowl is empty and you can’t recall having eaten any? That’s right; you managed to shovel a whole bowl of popcorn down your throat while your focus was elsewhere. When we’re not focused on what’s heading down the oesophageal passageway, we disregard that sustenance without even remembering we’ve chewed and swallowed.

As with the popcorn, the delicious life lessons served us are changed by our focus. Sadly, focus is often based on what we DON’T have rather than what is being served and we completely miss lessons carefully baked within the enchanting recipe. We notice the serving doesn’t meet our expectation and we might even lament bitterly on the lack of care in which it is served. As we age, reality eventually teaches us that life hands us a lot of stuff, we are served challenges, struggles, loss and heartache. We are also served love, compassion, strength, honesty and friendship.

Each of these ‘servings’ is designed to shape and fashion us into the remarkable human being we are meant to become. The secret is in learning from those lessons and ensuring our focus is based upon what some call the “silver lining”. I like to call it the Buried Gift Within, mainly because it’s not always easy to find! Each and every experience tossed into our path or handed our way, (no matter how difficult, heartbreaking or painful), has a gift buried within.

Some might argue about there being a hidden gift, but hindsight tells me my direction and my place in life is shaped and formed into ‘me’ by each experience and my reaction to those experiences. I also want you to know that life isn’t always easy. I share personal experiences with clients when I feel it applicable to presenting a different way of thinking, and they will tell you – I’ve had some tough moments just like everyone else; moments tough to chew and harder to swallow. The true secret is what I learned from each moment.

I don’t want life handing me a bowl of popcorn I carelessly shove down my throat without recollection of having tasted it! I want to become passionately aware of each morsel and flavour, the salt butter and corn all melded together combined with a smell permeating the room such that popcorn in a bowl becomes an experience, otherwise why waste my time eating it?

That which we focus on, we intensify! I have suffered loss and there is always something to come from that loss, be it a lesson left, a behaviour changed or a gift of another’s experience from which I can draw. All great leaders understand this focus.

Exceptional leaders know how to look for the Buried Gift Within. With employees, balance sheets, personal strife, company changes, family challenges, and much more. Exceptional leaders savour and taste every single morsel and then experience the lesson bringing it forward into many more situations. What makes them exceptional is they share those lessons with others and, most importantly, they model and teach others how to discover the Buried Gift Within!

Strategic Sense is a Leadership Development, Plans of Action and Facilitation organization who’s mission is to change the world for leaders and their employees everywhere. We believe each individual comes with their own unique talents and skills that can be enhanced and utilized to help them become the very best leaders only they can be.

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You Are Worthy of A Pause!

I was working with a client yesterday who is talented, driven and efficient. This client is one of those people who, if you added them to your team, would make the world a better place and get it done in half the time while managing to do it in a way that serves others. This client is also exhausted.

For many people the serving of others is often at the expense of self and they’re willing to go past the boundaries which keep them energized and enthusiastic. I’m talking about crossing personal boundaries as we react to each and every request with immediate response. This reactionary serving creates chaos and confusion and certainly does not help maintain balance.

One of the ways in which I suggest to people to add balance is to learn that you are WORTHY of a pause!

Webster’s Open Dictionary shows the following meaning for the word pause (noun):

1: a temporary stop

2 a: a break in a verse b: a brief suspension of the voice to indicate the limits and relations of sentences and their parts

3: temporary inaction especially as caused by uncertainty : hesitation

4 a: the sign denoting a fermata b: a mark (as a period or comma) used in writing or printing to indicate or correspond to a pause of voice

5: a reason or cause for pausing (as to reconsider) <a thought that should give one pause>

Here are some tips for adding pause into your life – or a temporary stop to reactionary chaos!

1. When asked a difficult question requiring you to make a significant decision; a fair response is:

a. “You have given me a lot to think about, can I get back to you next week?”

2. When criticism is tossed your way either in person or in email; consider this response:

a. “Thanks so much for letting me know how you feel. Why don’t I take a day or two to think about it and perhaps we could meet to see how we can find some common ground”

3. Lunch Hour / Meetings / Social gatherings with friends:

a. Take the Blackberry and turn off notices, or put it away or better yet, leave it in your car. There are few TRUE emergencies which occur that cannot be solved AFTER an hour or two. Being present in the moment is a great way to pause and re-energize.

4. When you’re asked to deliver something immediately in your already packed schedule; negotiate:

a. “You want that on Tuesday? Sorry I am jam-packed this week, will Thursday work for you?”

b. If it’s your boss, “Happy to get that to you, would you mind helping me prioritize the most important of the 3 tasks you need done right away and what can be put on hold?”

You are WORTHY of a pause, your time, your energy and your home-life are all worthy of taking pause. Stop temporarily; get back to people on major decisions; negotiate your time; be present in the moment; ask for help. All of these are strategies for maintaining authentic balance in your life.

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Strategic Sense is a Leadership Development, Plans of Action and Facilitation organization who’s mission is to change the world for leaders and their employees everywhere. We believe each individual comes with their own unique talents and skills that can be enhanced and utilized to help them become the very best leaders only they can be.

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A Chicken Doesn't Stop Scratching Just Because Worms Are Scarce!

“A chicken doesn’t stop scratching just because worms are scarce.” ~Anonymous

I love this quote, in fact this weekend on Twitter that quote received the most replies of any quote I sent out. Why? Perhaps it speaks to us about the current economic situation. It speaks to us about never giving up, about knowing deep down that we must keep going. It tells us that we still must eat, pay our bills and says loudly that a defeatist attitude is a greater danger to our success than is scarcity.

To add to this concept I remind you of the inspirational, sincere and heart warming day of the inaugural celebrations both prior to and after the swearing in of the new US President, Barack Obama. Hope, change, transparency are all themes we saw rise out of the incredible activities and the vibration that was Washington!

Take a few minutes for deep thought on “scratching” no matter what your role; Leader, Employee or Newly Unemployed!

Leaders:

When times are tough, some of the first cutbacks are in the areas of Training, IT and Travel & Expenses. Risk management is at an all time high to ensure companies are careful with projects and initiatives such that there’s no room for profit margin fallout. It’s tough to lead in these times, your boss is demanding and your employees are holding you under a microscope. Your heart knows the many things you would LIKE to do as a leader, but the cutbacks make you feel like your hands are tied! Take heart, you are the one who needs to provide energy, optimism and enthusiasm to your team – grab the reins and take the challenge! Perhaps these questions will help you find a path to motivate and inspire your staff.

· Have I been honest with my team about our situation?

· Do I trust the staff and their talent and generosity of ideas for solutions to find our “best actions”?

· Do I know who my employees really are and what significant contributions they make to the company, or how we can work with their strengths to improve?

· Are there ways I can go above and beyond in order to make a difference for my team and their success and ultimately for the company?

· Am I modelling the behaviour I wish to see from my employees?

Employees:

Man, when you get scared that the axe is going to fall it can be hard to head to work every day. It is also hard when the axe has fallen and some of your favourite co-workers have been let go. Morale sinks to an all-time low and some days it’s hard to dig your way out and keep pace with your workload. Remember, you have a job and part of that job is loyalty to the tasks you have been asked to perform. No one can create a great attitude for you; that’s your job!

Now is not the time to lay low and hide, now is the time to shine. Ask yourself these questions to see if you are on the right track.

· What am I contributing to the team in order to help my boss make it through this tough time?

· What have I done in the last 6 months that make a difference for the team such as mentoring or holding a training session for the junior people?

· What can I do over the next 6 months to a year to support the team, my boss and ultimately the company?

· Am I really giving the best I’ve got or am I sliding by in discouragement?

· How am I stepping up to show leadership as an employee?

· Am I willing to bear the load with integrity, honesty, and transparency in order to complete projects and maintain a “thrive-don’t-dive” attitude?

Unemployed:

If you have been a casualty of the many lay-offs around the globe, then you have been hit hard, and most likely blind-sided! You have responsibilities, maybe a family and you certainly have bills to pay. For some of you it’s been a long time since you’ve had to seek work and it’s even possible you were hired out of college through a student co-op with barely any experience in finding work. Answering some of these questions might lead you in the right direction for your search.

· How long am I willing to let the shock, anger and <insert-your-emotion-here> keep me from taking action? How long will I allow myself to grieve? (pin down a date here)

· Have I sent a personal email out to ALL of my contacts letting them know I am available for work? (Now is not the time to feel shame or embarrassment!)

· Am I aware of the many online networking tools available to me?(Linkedin, Twitter, free blog sites, Facebook, Plaxo, etc.)

· When was the last time I wrote an article or whitepaper for a trade magazine in my industry?

· Am I aware of the government programs available to the unemployed for retraining?

· Am I taking advantage of the outplacement sessions provided with my package?

· What kinds of industry networking events are available in my community?

· Have I contacted my creditors to negotiate payments and lower rates?

It is ACTION that brings one to solution; building a plan starts with asking yourself many questions so that you are clear about your situation. By answering the tough ones, by standing up to some truly difficult truths about yourself, you will be able to start your action plan for moving through difficult times!

 

 

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Great Social Media Leadership – A Few Examples

 

Are you a leader, or emerging leader in your craft or technology? It’s not enough to be very good at what you do; leadership requires a whole lot more of you. Having spent a good many years in technology, and a little more than 5 years in a global IT company, the geek in me wanted to take a look at the area of social media, an emerging industry in itself changing the rules of how we do business.

Whether you are on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or the many various blog sites, you will see industry giants such as Starbucks right down to home businesses leveraging the large reach available to them via some of these networks. Business pages, profiles and connections are occurring in the hundreds of thousands daily! So who are some of the leaders in this new business era?

If you frequent my Blog, you’ll notice I have a link to the blog site of Chris Brogan in my blog roll. On his contact page it will tell you that “Chris is President of New Marketing Labs, a social media agency that helps businesses understand business strategy around online communication tools like blogs, social networks, listening tools, and community platforms.” Chris is becoming a true leader in his craft.

What it doesn’t tell you is what kind of a professional you will find in Chris. I follow him on twitter, I read his blogs, I check out his website and I think quite highly of him. Now I would like to tell you why. There may be half a million people out there claiming to be social media experts, but Chris and his pirates are the real deal and Chris takes leadership seriously. Long before there was anyone else working with him, Chris understood that having a following means performing like a true leader.

Chris recognizes his responsibilities as a role model and does so with professionalism, courtesy and respect. In all the running conversations I have seen thus far, he exhibits the four signs of a good role model.

1. Selective with people

2. Upholds core ethics and values

3. Exhibits consistent behaviour toward others

4. Does what he preaches.

His blog has a very large following, and he is exceptional at keeping it updated with very relevant and informative information. His following on Twitter is (as of this writing) 33,119 people! I kid you not, this man has a long list of followers all wanting to learn and find out more about his success in social media and how it can translate to them or their business.

What’s so special about Chris is he understands the importance of this role for the many people who are listening to him. He refrains from negative comments but will occasionally challenge another person’s negative comments to draw the best out of them and he is an example of a great leader.

Another case of media professionalism is Guy Kawasaki, he doesn’t get as involved in conversation as much as Chris, but he does show great professionalism. I have not witness him be rude, rudely criticize an individual or say anything that would alienate people from following him. He, like Chris, has a good sense of humour and is enjoyable to listen to.

This is not the case with all of the top followed social media experts. A few of the social media ‘phenom’ believe that saying anything they want to their followers is fine, and they do so in any form; including:

· personal insults ;

· vulgar language;

· broad generalizations;

· and Rude responses.

Perhaps this is an example of success too quickly or at a young age such that the fundamental teachings of the planet have not yet settled in.

1. It is a very small world, we are global and what you say will have a lasting impact for the rest of your career and maybe your life.

2. Your audience looks up to you and deserves your respect, whether it’s 4 people or 40,000 people.

3. In the end, all you have is your reputation. If you’re building a business on your knowledge, how you treat people directly affects your reputation.

I could go on and list multiple examples of poor behaviour from a couple of the social media giants, but I’d rather highlight the folks who are making a positive difference to the many people who follow them. We all know what poor behaviour and rude comments look like, we all know what it’s like when a “celebrity” of sorts throws disrespect out to their fans, no need to describe it here.

Suffice it to say, there are some lessons the truly great role models show that every young and new emerging leader can follow, regardless of your industry:

1. It does not matter how bright or ingenious you are, the people who look up to you deserve respect.

2. If you wish to be treated as an expert or leader in your field exhibit the behaviour of a good role model.

3. Be careful of your words, they are being heard by many and will have a much larger impact than you realize. In many cases, they will return to haunt you or celebrate you, your choice.

4. You pull your pants on the same way as everyone else, how much money you earn or how successful you’ve been is determinate to your hard work, but does not make you better than any other individual on the planet.

The first sign of a great role model is being selective with people. This means being selective with the company in which you keep; the leaders you choose to follow fit within that category. If you are interested in social media for you or your business, I would suggest you follow Chris Brogan’s blog and pay attention not only to the great information and help he offers in the social media realm, but pay attention also to his exceptional leadership qualities. He models these lessons every day in a very unassuming and genuine manner.

You’ll find Guy Kawasaki’s blog “How to Change the World” a great read and will love his company Alltop for the streams of news information he provides. Although you may not get into many conversations with Guy his respectful treatment of the many people trying to connect with him is worth paying attention to.

If you have even one person listening to what you have to say, you are in a leadership position. Leadership is not a title, it is an honour and responsibility handed to you by the people who follow you. Take it on with integrity, respect, compassion and open honesty for if you do, it will provide you with the many benefits of a truly great leader.

 Strategic Sense Inc. is a Leadership, Plans of Action, Facilitation and Communication company changing the world one manager at a time!

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Dealing With the Consummate Complainer!

You know who they are and they suck the wind right out of your sails, by the time they leave the room you are left depleted and feeling down. Energy is like that, it’s transferable and we humans are energy sponges, soaking up every ounce of energy coming our way. There are days when we wish we could be a mirror and reflect that energy right back at some people so they’d know what they do to us.

There is an old African Proverb that says, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” I firmly believe this, especially when it comes to complaining employees.

Don’t get me wrong, we have times in our lives when we’re blind-sided by more than we think we can handle and we begin to believe there are no solutions. A number of years ago multiple personal events combined with work stress pulled me right off the rails, and I know I was complaining. Thankfully, I did not stay down for long. I did affect others, however, so I removed myself from the situation for a time, gave myself a hip-check and returned with a better outlook and attitude. It’s on our own attitude where one needs to place focus!

As a leader, one of the most difficult people to deal with is the consummate complainer, the person on the team who is never happy, but does nothing about it other than spread the miserable story to others while trying to gain sympathy and a following. This can be quite disconcerting because they rarely share the problem with anyone who has the authority to change it, and they rarely bring a solution to the table.

Bad stories like to spread like wild-fire in a corporation. I witnessed a managerial comment misunderstood by an employee that flew from the 2nd floor to the 4th floor in 2.7 minutes! With various forms of social media and communication devices, it doesn’t take long for 50 people to hear one side and make a judgement call without the manager even knowing he/she had been misunderstood.

What A Leader Can Do About A Complaining Employee

If you have a consummate complainer on your team you need to stop them in their tracks! It’s especially difficult when you hear about all of their complaints as second-hand versions of their story rather than from the complainer, but you can approach the conversation by being considerate to all involved.

1. Never divulge the identity of the person who passed the information on to you, be discrete and considerate of their privacy and welcome their bringing it to your attention.

2. Find a private moment to discuss the “rumour” with the complaining employee and ask if what you heard is something they need your assistance with.

3. Thank the complaining employee for their candid conversation and ask them to come up with a solution to the problem. Then book a meeting by the next day to further discuss.

4. Be completely present in the meeting the next day and make it clear what (if any) of their solutions seem viable and worth looking into, explain clearly why the others will not work.

5. Be willing to mediate and coach the employee into a different tactic at work. Some complainers actually believe they’re not interesting unless they have a sad little story to tell.

6. Make it clear to the employee you are there to make their work experience the best it can be and their responsibility is to come to you first before going to another employee, as you are the one with the authority to affect change.

What A Co-Worker Can Do About A Complaining Employee

1. Understand, people complain to folks who are willing to listen. This co-worker has come to you because they feel you’ll be a friendly listener. It’s your responsibility to tell them that while you understand they are upset, you truly believe it is the Leader in charge who needs to hear this for any change to occur.

2. Cut the conversation as short as possible; don’t allow it to go on and on and on. Any excuse will do, your work deadline, your cell phone is ringing, you have a meeting in another office, just don’t allow it to drag you into the complaint abyss.

3. Find a time when they’re not complaining and let them know that you have a difficult time with negative stories and need some positive ones to get you through the stressful chaos that is corporate or office life.

4. Be a positive mentor willing to direct and coach a co-worker into solution-finding behaviour.

5. Strike up co-worker relationships with other positive employees who will keep the healthy side of you fed. There is a greatstudy by F. Gregory Ashby, Vivian V. Valentin and U.Turken from the UofCA in Santa Barbara/Stanford University that matches positive experience with productivity.

You Know You’re A Complaining Employee if…

1. …You have shared the same story more than once in the same day, as though you were building a legal case in the media.

2. …The response you receive from people you are talking to is always silence. They tend to use words like, “I see.” and their eyes glaze over as they stare at you while you talk, true communication is bi-directional.

3. …Other employees see you coming and find a reason to suddenly be very busy and unavailable, every time you walk toward them.

4. …More than a few minutes in your day was spent using text messaging,MSN, Skype, Facebook, Twitter or any other communication medium to complain about your situation.

The reality is, positive people generate a far better work environment and are better contributors to a team and to the company. Your boss is there to help you solve problems, work with them and let them know you want to make it better. (If you have a horrible boss, lets save that for another blog post, or you can read a great book by Robert Sutton.)

Complainers, even if efficient, kill the productivity of the person to whom they are complaining. Talking to a co-worker about a problem in the company when that co-worker can do nothing to solve the problem is merely gossip. Talking to multiple co-workers all day about the problem is sending a negative virus through the organization and solves nothing.

If you need to share with a good friend to get something off your chest, then do so once and move on, unless you are contributing to the solution, you are part of the problem.

For more inspiration, see a wonderful post titled “10 Suggestions for Self-aware Leadership in 2009” by The Recovering Leader that has some wonderful suggestions for the upcoming year.

If you are looking for Leadership Training, Strategy or Plans of Action specialties in your organization, contact Strategic Sense Inc. at 403-201-8512.

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3 Reasons Why the Customer Is Not Always Right!

I ran across a blog today that wanted people to know that the customer is always right and while that long-held idiom may stand true for some people, it is not always the best approach.

Customer service is very important, without the customer you don’t have a business. Great businesses are built upon transforming a customer’s experience by providing them with a solution to a problem they wish to have solved. The companies who excel at this are the ones who truly serve the customer, create a better experience and who know how to see their service/product/offering in the eyes of the customer.

These companies grow and change and adapt to the customer and care about how the customer feels about their service/product/offering. They find ways to use innovation and technology to keep the customer interested, current and offer feedback. In these cases, the company is listening and caring deeply about the customer experience, and that’s important!

So when is the customer NOT right?

1. When the customer ‘in the right’ gets to supersede the manner in which the employee delivering the service/product/offering is treated. In his book, ‘The No Asshole Rule’, Robert Sutton, weblog here , makes a compelling case for taking a good hard look at company values, and NOT to allow the customer to be first if it is at the expense of the people who work for you. He gives some great examples of companies willing to fire the customer in order to maintain a cultural dignity and respect for the employees within. If you allow the customer to be right in this case, you damage the culture within your company.

2. When the service/product/offering has been contractually met, with very good service and the customer insists on bleeding it out until it is now costing your company to do business with that customer. This often happens in the case of project management deliverables, where the customer will have eaten away at a project team to the point of exhaustion and no leader steps up to say,

“Mr. Customer, we understand your needs and are more than willing to provide those to you, however they do not fall within the scope of this project. Let us know when we can meet to discuss a change-order for that added functionality/application/offering.”

If you look at any successful major corporation you’ll see when they add anything onto the original packaged offering it’s an up-sell. If you allow the customer to be right in this case, you are damaging your own business and profit margin.

3. When the customer is flat-out-wrong. Contractually you have agreed to something and they have defaulted on the agreement, they are unethical or they have created public action that will harm your company. I’m not saying that you get too militant here, or be entirely litigious, but what I am saying is as a company you must respect the business you do and that includes being selective with the company you keep. We have some very tough times ahead, in a difficult environment there is temptation to work with less than ethical customers out of desperation, and that kind of action is understandable, but be very selective about the customer associations you keep.

There is no excuse for poor customer service; there is no excuse for believing your deliverables are more important than the customers’ needs. I would even suggest if you wish to be seen as a GREAT company, that you exceed the customer expectation in terms of service. What I would suggest, however, is that it not be at the expense of your employees, profit margin or good-will. A brand new year is a good time to weed through the good customers and the bad and set a plan for phasing out the bad ones.

All the best for a prosperous 2009!

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Top Ten Lessons From 2008

Top Ten Lessons from 2008

It has been quite a year of change for Strategic Sense; change highlights the adaptive skills inherent in every individual and business! From the tail-end of a boom in Calgary to the significant change in business due to a recession, many lessons have been learned. We wanted to highlight a few here with thanks to each and every one of you for contributing to our early success.

1. It is a very small world on the internet we have been visited from as far away as Indonesia. Seeing the many countries who have visited the website certainly prove we are in a global age.

2. Web 2.0 has significantly changed the face and the means of doing business. We can’t wait for what’s next.

3. Exceptional Leaders are needed in bad market times, especially if they want to get the people rallied around company success.

4. Many people understand how to define a goal, but are not quite certain how to apply the actions for getting results.

5. Employees often tell us they wish we would work with their leaders. Those same leaders often tell us they are doing all the right things. (disconnect)

6. Business can be done from anywhere, but meeting face-to-face is the only way to learn the passion the other individual has for the topic.

7. PayPal is brilliant.

8. The people within a company and the customers they serve are the two most important things to focus on. Internalized self-serving executives will kill a business.

9. Leaders who have employees with bad attitudes are responsible for attitudinal change.

10. The most difficult leadership position, is adequately and responsibly leading yourself!

We wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. May prosperity find you and may you recognize that YOU are in charge of you, YOU are in charge of changing your own world and of making a difference in the lives of others. Happy 2009 from the nice people at Strategic Sense!

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