Coaching Millennials At Work, Choice Magazine Article

Last week an article I wrote about Coaching Millennials At Work had been published in ‘Choice Magazine’ – A Coaching Magazine. http://www.choice-online.com

The article speaks to the importance of being a coach – a mentor and a leader when working with Millennials. Work with them well and you will have a loyal, creative, hard working employee. Don’t… and you will be hiring again soon – likely before their 2-year anniversary with your company.

With little fanfare… here is the article. I hope you enjoy.

coaching-millennials-at-work-choice-magazine-2

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Please feel free to share – and to contact me with questions.

Bruce

Executive Coach & Trainer  | Difficult Conversation Training  |  Business Email Etiquette   |  Time Management Training   |   Collaboration Skills  |  Generational Differences At Work  |  Motivating Millennials  |  Leadership Training  |  Behavioral Event Interview (BEI)  |  Creating & Using Stories

Imagine confidently communicating with your customers and co-workers.

“Published in, and reproduced with permission from, choice, the magazine  of professional coaching  <http://www.choice-online.com&gt; http://www.choice-online.com&#8221;

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Listening Skills Empower You And Your Team

Listening skills are an art form. No matter how good your listening skills are, the reality is that every person experiences and reacts to the world differently – our pasts are different which include schools, families, dreams, ambitions and yes – fears. Even if we have been married for years or work for the same company, our personal and professional needs are going to be unique. Therefore, it’s virtually guaranteed that what you interpret is will always be more – or less than what a person means when you listen to them.

Imagine… the miscommunication and waste of time, money and resources when we’re not fully engaged or are texting during a conversation?

Example: Two People / Two Perspectives

Have you ever watched a movie with your partner or a friend and realize that one of you liked it and the other did not? Your listening skills had to be focused on the movie – you couldn’t even talk back to the characters, yet each of you experienced and reacted to the movie differently.

In many ways I’m amazed any of us get anything done at all. Yet for all our differences there are many things we share. Our ability to be respectful and to share empathetically is critical to us being successful at work, to having great friends, and to even falling in love with a special person.

We All Make Mistakes

Having good listening skills doesn’t mean you are going to suddenly be perfect – but it will make you much more successful. We are never going to be able to get it 100% right all the time both personally and professionally. I know that sometimes – no matter how hard I try I misinterpret a signal someone sends me… or they misinterpret one I send… or I just make a mistake. We’re all human. These are the times that mutual respect, forgiveness and goodwill come into play. Goodwill is earned and gives each of us room to not be perfect but still show respect.

Goodwill is of course an accounting term (not a listening skills term), meaning the value of an intangible asset has a quantifiable value. For example, the Coca-Cola brand stands for something with consumers and therefore has goodwill. As of December 31, 2011 Coca-Cola Co. stated in their Statement of Financial Position that their Goodwill was worth USD $12,120,000. Wow! What’s your goodwill worth?

Ask Questions – And Let Others Ask Questions

Good listening skills and active listening means that we ask questions. Asking questions is a good thing. A question is rarely an attack (but often interpreted as one). If someone is asking a question it means they are engaged and wanting clarification. Questions show that your listener is staying with you and remaining open – not closed and / or “checking out“.

So go ahead, ask questions… and invite others to ask you questions.

Listening Skills: Be In Control

Conclusion

Listening skills are about recognizing you have choice. They are about recognizing that you have more options than an absolute “I agree or I disagree” point of view and can embrace an “I understand and respect… even if I disagree“.

Listening skills also mean your thoughts and emotions don’t have to be adrift during a conversation – like on a raft; that your thoughts and emotions can have thoughtful purpose and explore a conversation with mindful technique – like in a kayak with an double-end paddle. Respond (control) or react (out of control).  So the question becomes, “What do you choose for yourself and your team?

Listening skills take practice and you and your team are well worth the investment.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Email Management / IM Management: 4 Easy Productivity Tips

Are you wondering how to increase your productivity? You are not alone.

The average business professional will send and receive between 50 and 200 email each day… or more… and IM (Instant Messaging) is quickly on the rise!  If you try to manage your email and IM without a strategy, your concentration and your performance will suffer. That’s where a few Productivity Tips will be helpful.

1. Don’t Reply Each Email And IM As They Arrive

Trying to reply to each message as it arrives breaks your concentration on your important work and likely impedes your ability to meet your other important work objectives. Replying to each message as it lands also establishes an unrealistic (and in many cases unmanageable), customer service expectation.

Question: If your train your clients and co-workers to always expect an answer in 5 minutes, what will happen when you need an hour of focused concentration, get pulled into an hour-long meeting… or decide to have lunch?

Answer: If you suddenly make clients and co-workers wait more than 5 minutes for a response, their impression of your job performance (and your brand reputation), will suffer… only because you established unsustainable service expectations. They will also likely send a harsh message to your boss – which further hurts your reputation.

Getting to your year-end review and saying that you responded to 25,000 email within 5 minutes but missed your sales or service goals will not get you the raise, bonus or perhaps promotion you want.

2. Address Your Messages Wisely

Your email and IM frustrations are only part technology challenges – part of your challenge is a psychological impulse most of us have. What I mean is that you and I instinctively want to respond when someone asks us question – or even when given the opportunity to ‘add an opinion‘.

Solution 1:  Stop asking. Too many of us add too many people to our To… and Cc… In a recent story, called Email: A psychological defence course, Tom Stafford explains four key psychological principles that hold us hostage to our email.  If you Cc… people who don’t really need you will likely get their feedback… either too early or not at all.

Solution 2: Stop answering. You are likely being sent email you don’t need to reply to… so refocusing on a favourite Time Management habit I have is to ask, “Is this important work or busy work?” If it is busy work it gets moved to the bottom of my pile because I focus on the important work first.

By being very strategic about asking and answering, you will be able to decrease the number of email and IM that come to you… and decrease the incoming volume of your coworkers. You’ll be a productivity HERO!

3. Identify Times To Send Email / Receive Email

The next Productivity Tip that I recommend is to identify times to send / receive email. This tip means you’ll be able to be strategically responsible to your inbox (clients, service providers, co-workers), as well as your other job responsibilities.

I also try to only check once in the morning – more often in the afternoon. Why? Because I’m more creative in the morning – in fact most of us are (even if you don’t think you’re a morning person). Email responses don’t often require creativity… so, I use my creativity where it matters most – for strategic client work, customizing corporate training programs and writing.

If you are tempted to respond immediately you may wish to set your contact management system Send/Receive preferences to every two hours.

4. Use Email Contact Management Alarms, Filters and Folders

Setting up alarms for your top two or three clients (or your boss), so you ‘hear’ when a message arrives is a great solution and can lower your concern of missing an important information (all other email should arrive silently). This way, when you hear an alarm you can scan and prioritize your important message. If their email does need an immediate response then you should drop everything – otherwise get back to your strategy work (important work), and answer their message later.

Using filters or rules lets you automatically file email from each of your clients, suppliers or co-workers.  You may wish to reduce your inbox clutter by creating a folder for all messages you are Cc…’d on so you can read these email later (Cc…’s should be FYI not Action items). Do the same for secondary email like newsletters, blog posts or Google Alerts. Read these messages during time you’ve previously set aside for this purpose.

Conclusion

Notice that the first three Productivity Tips are personal habits – not technical solutions. Only the fourth leans on technology to help you manage your valuable time and productivity. Business Productivity Tips will never let you down. Also, remember to always consider how your message will either enhance – or hurt your professional image and reputation of the organization you represent.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Having Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

How To Keep And Motivate A Multicultural And Multigenerational Workforce

Not too many years ago employees stayed with companies for years… and they accepted that a combination of hierarchy and seniority determined most decisions. But things are different today: at the ready is a multicultural and multigenerational workforce that wants to contribute in a team environment.

For companies that embrace this diversity in the workplace, there are many short and long-term strategic advantages. One of the most obvious is that this workforce also reflects the multicultural and multigenerational nature (needs / wants), of your suppliers and clients.

One of the first things companies have to develop is a plan to attract, keep and motivate top employees from all generations (Traditional Generation or Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials), and cultures. That means companies have to offer top employees more than high pay (the motivator of the young American Baby Boomer). Work / life balance and career / personal development are important for most people in today’s job market. Even the average (now mature), American Baby Boomer is looking to enjoy life, family, and explore a dream or two as they near retirement or begin post-retirement careers.

This means most top employees will quickly look for new employment unless they:

  • Feel motivated along the company goals / values
  • Believe their employer is respectful of their unique perspectives / goals / values
  • See how important exceptional business communication is with co-workers / clients
  • Know how to communicate and work with co-workers / clients… especially from other:
    • Cultures
    • Generations

What’s the solution? Excellent question. The answer is as diverse as your workforce and company – but here are two suggestions. Just remember that people will feel empowered and engaged when they have a choice.

“We are our choices.”

Jean-Paul Sartre

Example 1: Paid Time Off

Paid time off is an excellent solution. Paid time off benefits Baby Boomers who might want to explore a dream or conduct specialized research. Paid time off also benefits Gen X and Millennials (Gen Y), who want to develop additional skills. In both cases the company is also likely to benefit when their (very happy), employee returns.

Before you disregard this option as too expensive, calculate how much employee turnover costs. The average is 1.5 times their salary to search, hire and train middle level employees and up to 4 times their salary for specialized or senior employees… not to mention the less than exceptional performance you might experience while your unhappy employee is searching for a new job.

Consider working with employees wanting paid time off to create a mutually beneficial solution. A discussion makes them part of the solution and gives them choice.

Example 2: Peer Mentoring

People take ownership and learn better when they are part of the learning process. So, establish a one-on-one or group peer mentoring program with people from different generations and different cultures. Within this program, establish this is an environment where learning about each other is one of the primary goals.

Here are a few company and personal benefits / objectives of peer mentoring:

  • Experienced Baby Boomers coach Millennials (Gen Y), on ‘company history and culture’ and traditional business best-practices.
  • Gen X and Millennials introduce Boomers and members of the Traditional Generation or Silent Generation to new technology and coach how to use it.
  • All employees have a chance to be creative in a safe – respected space.
  • Employees from different cultures and generations can openly explore how they ‘feel’ about possible decisions in a safe – respected space.

The important part is to communicate openly so you can share and explore decisions made based on each other’s cultural, experiential and generational ‘nature’.

Whatever You Do… Support Them

No matter what solution you implement your multicultural and multigenerational workforce will benefit from a coach to co-establish objective and processes. A coach will also be able to teach them how to communicate and how to listen (note: this is not a plug – I am a corporate trainer not a coach).

A coach can also help individuals or teams recognize their many similarities (see the following examples). These are important because similarities will help ground the individual / team.

Multigenerational and Multicultural Workforce Similarities *

The desire for:

  • Respect
    • Personal
    • Professional
    • Gender
    • Lifestyle
    • Interesting, ‘rewarding’, challenging, sometimes independent – meaningful work
    • A positive work environment
    • A physically and emotionally ‘safe’ work environment
      • Personal
      • Professional
      • An opportunity to add value – to make a difference
      • An opportunity to grow / learn
      • Work / life balance
      • Fair pay
      • A fun, enjoyable, can-do experience

 “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

Roy Disney

 * This doesn’t mean every person wants the same or rates them in the same order.

 Conclusion:

People from different generations and different cultures are transforming office life. When people with different backgrounds cooperate, creativity and innovation happens. The result from this diversity in the workplace is that people learn how to communicate and generate ideas that usually creates high-impact change with low economic and emotional risk and high economic and emotional gain. Fantastic!

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

What Is Appreciative Inquiry?

What is appreciative inquiry and how do you get it to work for you?

Appreciative inquiry explores at what is possible and what is right rather than what is wrong. Appreciative inquiry helps us explore what is working well and what we want more of while keeping our business environment feeling positive and supported.

For example: Instead of exploring how to stop client attrition we can explore this issue from the positive side of what works. Therefore, from the perspective of:

  • What do we do really well?
  • Why do clients choose us?
  • How do we get the highest satisfaction (from employees and from clients)?
  • Where do we make the greatest ROI?
  • What if we cut client attrition by 50%?

By focusing appreciative inquiry questions on how to expand our world of good, problems are left behind – not because we ignore them but because they lose energy. Problems are solved because most become irrelevant in our pursuit of what we do best.

One of the core pillars is that what people focus on has the highest natural chance of becoming real. Therefore, by exploring an issue from a position of ability, you and I automatically create an environment where people throughout the organization ‘feel‘ trust and empowerment, where work is valued, where employees are proud and where all opinions matter. Consider the reverse: How would everyone ‘feel’ after a team spent one or two days identifying what everyone does that hurts the company?

In short:

  • Positive Exploration = Helpful + Empowering
  • Negative Exploration = Harmful + Demoralizing

Another benefit of appreciative inquiry is that at the end of the investigation process, all that time has reinforced positive behaviour – behaviour we want to see more of. This is fantastic because it speeds up the solution implementation process.

Consider the alternative: if all that time was spent exploring problems, at the end of the exploration phase all we’d be left with is ‘What is bad’. Not only is that demoralizing, there is no clear idea what we should be doing… and now we also have to rebuild employee pride and confidence. Ugh….

When You Begin

As with all brainstorming work, when you set up your appreciative inquiry workgroup, be clear to everyone that their voice, their participation and their ideas are important. You want to make sure participants ‘feel’:

  • Safe
  • Important
  • Respected
  • That they belong

Where Can We Use Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative inquiry can pretty much be used anywhere, however, clear environments are:

  • New product development
  • Organizational Development:
    • Strategic planning
    • Visioning
  • Coaching
  • Problem Resolution – for new problems or issues that keep recurring
  • Mission / Vision / Value exploration
  • Monitoring and evaluation.

Conclusion

When I was working in the Corporate Marketing Department at Scotiabank I fell in admiration of Behavioural Event Interview (BEI), because it helped me hire the right staff by uncovering the best in people through stories of their accomplishments.  In the last 5+ years I’ve fell in admiration for appreciative inquiry because it also uncovers the best through stories and more specifically, positive stories.

Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva at Case Western Reserve University in 1987.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Email Time Management Tips Part 2

Use email to improve your time management so it makes you more efficient and doesn’t slow you down. Your personal and corporate reputation depends on it – including the overall quality of your work.

Please enjoy Part 2 of Email Time Management Tips. Have you read Part 1? Click here for Email Time Management Part 1.

Set Up Times Of The Day

One of your best opportunities to increase your time management, productivity and work quality is to only read and reply to email at specific times of the day. This best practice helps you stay focused on your strategic work and treat email as an information flow / communication flow.

I’ll bet most of your incoming email can wait an hour or two for a reply – they certainly do when you are in a meeting… so, set your server to check for incoming email every few hours. If email is critical and time sensitive to your job, have your email software check your server every hour.

There is great value in this tip. Research shows that the short interruptions like email notices lowers our productivity, errors go up and quality of all of our work (including email writing), goes down.

Don’t Let Disruptions In

You likely have a smartphone, a computer and an iPad / tablet. This means you get three announcements / interruptions for every email that comes in… plus a few more for Instant Messages (IM). Turn these notifications off when you are concentrating on strategic work… or at least leave only one on.

Read Once – Answer, Delegate or Delete

Now that you are sorting your email using Folders and Filters (see Email Time Management Part 1) you are doing a great job of prioritizing your email. The next thing to do is to avoid seeing the same message two or three times before you answer – a clear waste of time.

When you open an email the first time you should try to answer it if you have all the necessary information. If it’s more appropriate for you to delegate it or delete it… then do that.

Create Email Templates For Repeat Responses

Email templates save you and your employees from retyping the same information over and over. Email templates also offer the opportunity to strategically include important information, express organizational values (brand), and check tone.

Email templates can be great time savers but they can also be horrible for your personal and corporate brand if they ‘feel’ canned or impersonal. Everyone who uses email templates should still take a moment to personalize them to their audience and situation.

On Vacation

1- The Out-Of-Office Message

Your out-of-office message lets you manage client and co-worker expectations while you are away.

If you are going to be away for more than a few days include a notice of your pending departure as part of your email signature (and voice mail), ahead of time. Why wait to the last-minute?

For many tips on voice and email guidelines, read my blog post Out Of Office Reply = Customer Service.

2- The Vacation Email Inbox

Returning to work and a full email inbox can make you want to stay home under the covers. Like most things with email time management there are multiple solutions and the right solution depends on you, your style and your job. Two of my favourite options are:

  1. While on vacation take a half hour every morning to sit quietly with a coffee and review your email. Reply to critical ones, delegate to your back up or to other relevant people. Try to not get dragged into an issue, this is your time to relax. Then, go spend the day worry free with your family / friends.
  2. This is a more drastic option. In your out of office message identify who your back up is and that any messages you receive while you are away will be deleted. If they want a reply from you they should resend their message or current status of the situation to you on the day you get back.

Pick Up The Phone

Sometimes email is not the best solution – sometimes a phone call or face–to–face conversation is the best answer. If you are discussing options or solutions then I can almost guarantee email is not your best solution. Also, if someone phones or emails you and asks to speak with you, let that dialogue happen… you should even encourage it.

Unsubscribe From News Feeds

You should subscribe to this blog to get regular updates… but remove yourself from mailing lists you are receiving and not reading. They are not important if you are not reading them. In addition, not only are they loading up your inbox – they may be subconsciously making you feel you are not working hard enough.

Conclusion

Every email you write impacts your personal and professional reputation. Be sure you are using your email and email management software to make the most of your time and reputation.

Have you read Time Management Tips Part 1? Get great tips on using your time well, subject lines, how to use email folders and email filters and much much more.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Email Time Management Tips Part 1

Don’t be a slave to your email. A little preparation will help you determine how you can use email to improve your time management so it doesn’t drag down your productivity and success.

Please enjoy Part 1 of this two-part Email Time Management Tips blog.

Use Time Well

For strategic or complex email it’s best to respond when you are at your best and can allocate 100% of your attention. Most people are at their best between 10AM and 1PM.

Many of your email might not need you to think strategically and creatively. For example, email you are Cc’d on should be for information only (no action required by you), while other email may only need a Yes or No answer. Therefore, respond to your easy email when you are on the commuter train or are 5 minutes early for a meeting (when you don’t need your peak creative capabilities).

Be Proactive With Your Questions

Have you ever asked two or three questions and had only one answered? This is frustrating and wastes everyone’s time. Often part of the reason is that your questions were located in different places throughout your email message. The best way to get your questions answered is to list them using bullet points – and if necessary to summarize them. Example:

I have two quick questions:

  • When will you email me the agenda?
  • When would you like to meet?

Be Proactive With Your Answers

Good email time management also means being proactive with your answers. You will also improve your personal reputation as a helpful, knowledgeable expert. Here are a few examples:

  • Do your best to answer all the questions you’ve been asked. Too often we answer the first question we see and then move onto the next email.
  • Answer the question they didn’t ask. If you see there’s a question they did not ask but should, then by answering that question you will save time and reduce your email volume… and be a hero.

Fast Isn’t Better

Take time to read the email thoroughly before you answer. A quick response is good but sometimes increased speed means incomplete messages (and as discussed above), you might overlook an important question. Slowing down will likely decrease your email volume… and perhaps some customer frustration.

Subject Line

Train everyone at your company to use Subject Line properly – it’s a powerful time management resource that helps you prioritize the content of your inbox so you can pay attention to your important and relevant work first.

Use Your Email Signature Well

Use your email signature block to include important information like your title, phone and web address – this helps OTHERS save time. This way they don’t need to look up your phone number if they want to call you.

Use Email Folders and Email Filters 

Email folders and email filters are two of the best email time management practices you have. They are similar to having an assistant file your work into an orderly filing cabinet. And, your email folders and filters can be personalized to your unique work environment.

Email folders let you effortlessly group messages based on one or more parameters. Folders also save time because they make it easy for you to find email you received days or even months ago.

Email filters let your email system file itself… into email folders. For example, you can filter by:

  • Subject
  • Sender
  • Topic
  • To… / Cc… / Bcc…
  • Project
  • Team

With your email sorted efficiently you are able to find all relevant information quickly and easily and therefore not waste time searching for related email (or miss important information).

Conclusion

Every email you write impacts your personal and professional reputation. It also either makes you more efficient or can slow you down. Be sure you are using your email and email management software to make the most of your time and reputation.

Don’t miss reading Email Time Management Tips Part 2 for tips on creating templates, how to manage email when on vacation, how to manage disruptions and more.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

What Is Procrastination?

What is procrastination and how can we minimize procrastination for ourselves and our team members? We all procrastinate; it’s one of the primary causes of poor time management.

My Procrastination Definition

Procrastination is the intentional avoidance of doing something you should be doing that is also important. For me procrastination has to involve an important task. If the task is not important and you don’t do it (or you delegate it), you may in fact be practicing good time management.

Activities like sleeping and daydreaming are not procrastination… unless you do them to avoid doing something important.

The following are five common reasons why you may procrastinate (note: procrastination may encompass more than one of the following).

  1. The task and/or the outcome is unpleasant for you
  2. The task is uninteresting – boring even
  3. You don’t care about the outcome
  4. You don’t know how to begin (which may mean the objectives were not clearly given)
  5. You fear you will fail

Lets look at an example.

Your boss asks you to consider hiring their friends’ child between university semesters. They meet the job criteria so you hire them.
Unfortunately they consistently arrive late and are indifferent to detail. You provide repeated feedback but your efforts fail to improve their performance.

While you are justified to fire this person you procrastinate.  With the help of your mentor you discover you are procrastinating because you:

  1. Fear that if your boss is unhappy (or if this negatively impacts his personal friendship), that this will impact your career.
  2. Have never had to fire someone and you don’t know how.

Both of these responses are completely normal. Unfortunately doing nothing is a greater risk as co-workers, your boss and customer’s may be noticing. Furthermore, you may feel guilty, frustrated and personally demoralized. Often the longer you procrastinate:

  • The more anxiety you will feel
  • The harder the work will be when you get started
  • The less opportunity you will have to delegate or get other support
  • The lower the quality of your work
  • The most damage to your reputation

When you procrastinate on important stuff you deprive yourself of the success, the experience and the pride from a job well done. So what should you do? The following are a few procrastination solutions.

How To Stop Procrastinating 

  • List all the things that are important to you / your job then list all the things that you are busy with that are not important to you / your job. Refocus your activities on the things that are important and plan how to get them done. This is a powerful time management technique.
  • If it’s important –  start it now. Planning may be your best solution. List all the critical milestones that may be required (you may not list them all immediately… but it will be a start). Next, break those milestones down even further. Include timelines – even really high-level start / end dates. By beginning to explore the steps you can start to see where you can begin the project large tasks start to appear more manageable.
  • Don’t focus on what you can’t do – focus on what you can do.
  • Don’t let a concern of being perfect stop you… especially during the scoping / planning phase. Consider the 80/20 rule; you may be able to delegate the 20% that you will want to procrastinate on to someone who is interested in that work.
  • List all of the pros vs. cons of starting the project… especially if there may be serious +ve or -ve repercussions. By listing all the pros you can help sell the benefit of your actions. By listing all the cons you can try to minimize them or at least be prepared for them.
  • Hold a brainstorming session with your team. Ask for volunteers to work on certain milestones… or delegate. Now you can act as manager and mentor and learn with your staff.
  • Call on your mentor – ask them for guidance.
  • Use the Internet. There is a lot of great support in blog posts and articles. If you find an article you like try to connect via email or LinkedIn with the author. If you are in the same city the author might be able to meet with you. Networking has changed so change with it.

Conclusion

Knowing your personal procrastination weaknesses helps you manage them and not let them run you.

Try a few of the ‘How To Stop Procrastination’ suggestions and you will learn how to stop procrastinating. You’ll also see important components of the project you can (and should), delegate to others. Your pride and confidence will increase, as you stop procrastinating and feel better about your work and yourself.

Happy communicating… Happy training.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Customer Service Communication

Customer service is most commonly thought of as the customer support / help desk department for upset customers. In this post I explore best practices for customer service and customer care from this Micro customer service / help desk department perspective.

On a Macro level however, the customer service is linked to every person and every thing that impacts your customers’ buying, using and even returning experiences. Look for a soon to be released blog post about Macro customer service – or Follow This Business Communication Blog now (upper right side of your screen), to be sure you see it.

There are many workplace stresses (both good and bad) that go with a career in customer service. The valuable thing to know is that whether a customer service experience goes well or goes badly is often the result of the (largely manageable), approach and reactions of the people engaged… not the situation.

So if people are the triggers, how can you help your customer service representatives unload the gun and turn a potential bad situation into a great experience for everyone – preserving both relationship and lifetime value for customer and business?

The following are customer service techniques I expand upon with clients when establishing policy / procedures / training. I must point out that while this looks like a sequential process, every customer care experience has a life of its own. These are best practices for people in customer relationship positions.

  1. As an individual – protect yourself. Allow yourself to have needs for safety, respect and care. Know what your responsibilities are. Stay calm and don’t own the situation – this will help you stay creative and open to suggestions for resolution.
  2. If the customer yells, don’t yell back. You cannot control your customer but you can control yourself. If you stay calm you will be happier, see things clearly and be of much better help to your customer and a better ambassador for your company.
  3. Be polite at all times.
  4. If the customer is ‘heated’ (and some will be), stay calm and listen. Listening is your most important job. Don’t jump into solution mode or judge your company’s actions or the customers’ actions / needs / goals. Assigning blame will likely not help at this stage. Give the customer space to let off steam. Comments like “I understand” are safer than “I agree”.  When the customer is calmer they may see things differently.
  5. Let the whole story evolve. As you listen look for the customer’s real need / goal. It may not be what they are pointing at… that may only be a trigger (read my customer service example of the book and the birthday gift). Look for what is getting in the way of them achieving their goal and for other things that might become an issue later on.
  6. Be careful to use language the customer will understand – which often means staying away from jargon. Communication is based on interpretation and making assumptions – be sure your understanding is correct.
  7. Confirm.
  8. If it’s your company’s problem take responsibility – but you don’t need to take personal ownership of the problem unless it is your fault (see Point 1.)  You should however take personal responsibility for the resolution… for many good reasons.
  9. Agree upon clear expectations and next steps including who is responsible for what and timelines.
  10. Confirm again.
  11. If the resolution takes a while – keep the customer up to date. This shows respect and that you are in control. If they are on hold, check in with them. If the resolution is taking days – call them with an update. If there are delays let them know. Manage their expectations.
  12. Follow through with the resolution promptly. Speed and accuracy are important. This may help reestablish a profitable relationship and avoid a public relations problem.
  13. If you can do something extra and unexpected then do it. In most cases it will be noticed. It doesn’t have to be cash and often the personal gestures like a hand written note are more valuable.
  14. If there is any question as to values, policies or possible next steps… or if you cannot satisfy Point 1 then escalate.

Notes:

  1. Pointing fingers and assigning blame is not helpful – uncovering the reason for the challenge is helpful. If the customer is at fault they will realize all on their own – pointing it out may only embarrass them and put them on the defensive.
  2. Stay positive, upbeat and solutions orientated during the whole process.
  3. As you need, explain the problem. If it’s an internal issue the customer doesn’t need to know every detail… especially if the information is going to shake their confidence in your solution, your product / service and or your company.
  4. Do what you can while staying professional and in-line with company values and policies… remembering not to judge (Point 4 above).  Perhaps ask yourself… “What would I do for my best friend?

If you can win them over with your customer care you will have a customer for life.

When you are done… you are not really done. It never hurts to ask, “Would I have enjoyed that experience?” Circle back to see if there is an internal problem that needs addressing so it doesn’t recur. If you can stop other customers from a negative experience that will be valuable on many levels. This also shows customers and employees you have high standards and that you respect your product / services as well as your customers, employees (professionalism and time), and your company.

If you demonstrate pride and respect your employees will pick this up and also be proud. Pride will take your customer service and customer care to the next level – like booster jets on a rocket.

Happy communicating… Happy training.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

My Business Email (a rhyme – not a poem)

If someone told me yesterday I would be posting a business email rhyme I would have thought that they were off their rocker. Then last night happened.

To be very clear, I am not a poet. However last night I awoke at 11:30 PM with a pile of words rhyming around in my head. I learned long ago sometimes destiny needs to have its own way so I got out of bed and put fingers to keyboard. Soon after I crawled back into bed and was fast asleep having purged the words from my mind.

Long story short… with only a sparse attempt at editing, here is my business email rhyme (out of respect for all poets and poetry readers I refrain from calling it a poem).

My business email
Get to the point
They answer Who, What, Where and When first
Then Why and How last

My business email
Are easy to read
My ‘Action Items’ found easily
For the reader and me

My business email
Use a ‘Subject Line’ that’s clear
There’s no question of purpose
So they’re read first and not… last (at the rear)

My business email
Use To… and Cc… proper
To… means ‘Read This Now Please’
Cc… means ‘This Is Not A Show Stopper’

My business email
Are short not abrupt
Care is important
Email can cause a reader to erupt

My business email
Consider customer service as key
Clients, suppliers and co-workers
Deserve quality attention from me

My business email
Let my values shine through
I remember to do
Everything I can do

My business email
Are used to confirm fact
I use the phone or my feet
When I need to brainstorm or chat

My business email
Know grammar’s a friend
I use bullets and commas
And periods to end

My business email
Use Hello, Please and Thank you
Young family lessons
Are business tools also

My business email
Address people by name
I build trust in my promises
And that trust is my fame

So there you have it my friends and followers. I hope this has brought you a smile… and perhaps an email writing tip. And if you get woken up in the middle of the night by a thought, know you are not alone. I may also be awake. Mine might be the other light that is on down the street.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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