Archive | March, 2015

The Life Changing Impact of Taking Responsibility

In recent decades, one of the more disturbing trends in our culture has been the gradual decline in personal accountability. From corporate scandals and frivolous personal injury lawsuits to the endless blame games that fuel the gridlock in Washington, the penchant for “passing the buck” has become an endemic to American society.

Although fixing this national malaise may seem overwhelming, here’s an idea that could stem the tide.

Years ago, when I was the sales manager at our Buick Pontiac GMC dealership, I recall searching for a motivational ice breaker to kick off an off-site sales training event. Searching the internet, which was in its infancy at the time, I came across a “Tip of the Day” blog post by national sale trainer Grant Cordonne. While I’ve never been a fan of Cordonne’s bombastic, in-your-face style, his message, entitled “Take Responsibility for Everything in Your Life” got my attention.

He emphatically stated, “The moment you assign responsibility to another human being is the same moment that you resolve never to be in control of your life.”  In his typical strident style, Cordonne challenged salespeople to take 100% responsibility for every unwelcome event in their lives, regardless of the circumstances, peppering his listeners with examples:

“The nick in the car you noticed this morning. You get overcharged for something. The argument with your spouse. Your kids didn’t get to school on time because of the bus. That was your fault. If you get a cold or cough, ask, ‘how was I responsible for that?’ Sure, you were on a plane with a hundred other sick people, but didn’t you buy the ticket?

His message got me thinking: Is it really possible to take personally responsibility for every single unwanted circumstance in your life? It’s easy to sit in a sales meeting and nod your head approvingly, but real life is a different story.

How To Take Responsibility© by Larry Winget

While I don’t believe it’s healthy to feel personally accountable for major, life-altering events, such as the sickness or death of a loved one (I don’t think Cordonne was referring to these situations), I agree with him that accepting responsibility for the everyday “hits” we take that derail our focus, steal our peace, and entangle our emotions makes perfect sense.

Here are four reasons why taking 100% responsibility works:

1. Taking Full Responsibility Shifts Your Focus. There’s a natural impulse in our individualistic culture to assign responsibility to others, especially when it’s others’ actions that create the problem. But as long as the responsibility is external — outside of you — you are a victim. As soon as you accept accountability — even if it’s not your fault — you empower yourself, opening up your mind to more options. So instead of asking, “Why me?” you ask, “What does this make possible?”

2. Taking Responsibility Produces Resiliency and Gratitude. When something negative happens to you, even something minor, you have a choice to either dwell on what you’ve lost, or identify all that you have. This cultivates gratitude, and I’ve found that it is just as important in the little setbacks in our lives as it is the major setbacks.

3. Taking Responsibility Creates a Strong Culture. Instead of spending energy defending their reputation, assigning blame, and posturing, people who practice 100% responsibility tend to influence others from being problem-focused to solution-focused. And when leaders adopt and model this behavior, it catches on quickly, and can transform a family, team, company, even a society.

4. Taking Responsibility Strengthens Character. People who develop the habit of personal accountability at a young age launch a lifelong winning streak. By refusing to implicate others, they reinforce to themselves the rewards of behaving virtuously, becoming leaders in their own right who influence others and shape lives.

Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

I remember when my father encountered a business setback in 1987, when, as one of the top selling Buick dealers in Michigan, Buick abruptly announced a major change in their retail strategy, discontinuing one of the high volume models my father relied on and completely repositioning another. Realizing that these moves would cut the dealership’s new car sales in half, my dad was dejected — but only for a moment. He absolutely refused to dwell on the negative and instead focused on his options. True to his entrepreneurial nature, by the next week, he had hatched an aggressive plan to dominate the expanding used car market in our area, which he accomplished within six months. It was a lesson in resiliency that I”ll never forget.

So the next time one of those unexpected mishaps threatens to knock you off your game — you’re late for a meeting due to heavy traffic, your teenager flunks algebra, or a sale that your were counting on unpredictably falls through — tell yourself, “I’m 100% accountable,” then pay attention to how you respond. And let me know how The Life Changing Impact of Taking Responsibility influenced your decision — I’d love your feedback.

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Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service – Part 7

We’ve reached the seventh and final “sin” of mediocre customer service — forgetting a customer’s name.

Whenever I’ve asked a roomful of people, “How many of you are bad with names?” the vast majority of hands shoot up. In an increasingly connected culture, most people struggle with such a simple but critical step in making genuine connections.

If you’re serious about delivering consistently exceptional customer service, remembering names is a crucial skill.

Name Game | iStockPhoto

The common excuse is “I’m just not good with names.” But, as memory expert Benjamin Levy asserts in his book, Remember Every Name Every Time, telling yourself you’re simply not good with names is a cop out. The truth is, we all have the potential to excel at recalling someone’s name. The problem… is us:

“We’re so unfocused on the person’s name we’re meeting that we never hear his or her name in the first place. Instead, we’re mired in self-consciousness, worrying about making a good impression: ‘Is my hair out of place? I can’t shake hands, mine’s too sweaty! Quick, think of something witty to say!’ In short, we’re so focused on ourselves that the other person remains a blur.”

Here are five simple steps designed to radically improve your ability to remember names from memory expert, Jim Kwik, who uses the acronym “SUAVE.” Having tried it, I found that it has dramatically improved my name recall. Here’s a brief explanation:

The S.U.A.V.E. Method

S – Say the name. It’s amazing how many people, when introduced to someone, will respond with, “Nice to meet you” without saying the other person’s name. Remember, repetition is power. Right off the bat, saying the person’s name immediately after hearing it will more than double the likelihood that you’ll remember it later.

U – Use the name. The more you repeat the name during the conversation — without abusing it — the more firmly you’ll ingrain it in your memory. Shoot for three to four times during a five minute conversation. This will seem awkward at first, but it will seriously enhance your name recall.

A – Ask about the name. Use this tool if the name is unusual — avoid it if the name is common. (You’ll likely come across like a dork.) You can ask about spelling, origin, meaning, etc. People respond to questions about their name. It resonates with them!

V – Visualize. One of the keystone habits of memory experts, visualization is one of the most basic of all skills, but few ever learn how to harness it’s tremendous power. Here’s an example:

Last year my wife, Debbie and I attended an eight week series at our church during which we sat at tables with two or three other couples. The first week, we struck up a conversation with a young couple sitting next to us. True to form, by the next week, I had completely forgotten both of their names, forcing my wife — who is much better at remembering names than I am — to bail me out. After forgetting their names each of the following two weeks, my wife finally whispered to me in an exasperated tone, “Sean Hannity.” When I responded, “What does Sean Hannity (the Fox News Talk Show Host) have to do with them?” she pointed across the table and said, “HE is Sean and SHE is Hanna.” Get it? Sean Hannity!” (I think she wanted to punctuate her point with something like, “You bonehead!” But since she was in church, she held back.) Without realizing it, Debbie used the most powerful tool the human brain has to retain information — the brain’s ability to form images. Seeing something in your mind — reading a description, for example, then looking away and re-visualizing it — is more effective than simply plowing through text. This same dynamic applies to remembering anything — especially names. It’s been over a year, and not only have I never forgotten the names of this engaging young couple, I never will forget them, because the mental association is so strong. It has attached itself to my brain like a suction cup thanks to a simple mental trigger.

Comic by Dave Walker | YouthWork Magazine UK

E – End with the name. Instead of simply saying a goodbye, try to ensure that the last word you say to the person you just met is their name.

There you have it: Five simple steps to dramatically improve your name memory! Make a commitment to try these techniques for 30 days, then let me know how it goes.

Here’s a challenge that will get you more comfortable with this process: For the next week, everywhere you go where you encounter someone with a name tag – restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. – make it a point to address the person serving you by name. Then make a mental note of both how you feel and the response you get from them. I think you’ll be happily surprised!

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Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service – Part 6

The sixth deadly sin is a pernicious habit that not only undermines customer service, but virtually every social interaction. Chances are we’ve all been victimized by it, just as we have all, at times, been guilty of it ourselves.

What is it? Watch comedian Brian Regan as he explains:

Have you ever been the victim of a “Me Monster?” Perhaps at a cocktail party, rehearsal dinner, conference, or social function. “Me Monsters” tend to manifest themselves in predictable personality flaws:

  • Some are extremely opinionated.
  • Some are insecure and have a need to prop themselves up.
  • Some are trying to impress the person/people they are with.

Regardless of the type, “Me Monster” behavior can poison any customer encounter faster than it takes to say “I’m going elsewhere.” To be sure you’re not unintentionally talking your customers into the waiting arms of your competitors, consider the following tips:

5 Ways be Sure You’re Not a Blabbermouth:

via iStockPhoto

1) Know your own triggers. Most of us have certain topics we’re passionate about that compel us to talk more than we probably should. Some common examples:

> Politics
> Sports & Hobbies
> Religion
> Our children
> Certain topics or subjects we view ourselves as being an expert on.

Although it is tempting to express your opinions on issues you’re passionate about, remember: True professionals possess the self-awareness to recognize when they run the risk of over-indulging in conversation. Listening isn’t a talent; it’s a skill, much like creativity. Talents are traits with which we’re born, but skills are learned behavior which require discipline and intentionality.

2) Monitor your audience. Do your listeners often show signs of lack of interest, such as fidgeting, looking away, interrupting you or frequently saying “uh-huh” to push you to get to the point? Although some people you deal with may be poor listeners, if you observe these signs among the majority of the people you converse with, the problem is more likely you.

3) Embrace the silence. Some people are so afraid of the inevitable “gaps” in a conversation, they pay zero attention to the period at the end of each sentence and fill every quiet second with chatter. But if you’re dealing with an introverted personality, you could run your fingernails across a blackboard and chances are you’ll annoy them less than your idle chatter. Learn to appreciate silence by practicing stillness. Like listening, stillness requires discipline. Spend 30 minutes a day, for example, engaging in the practice of a quiet activity that requires concentration. Read a book, or listen to an audiobook. These quiet activities will help you to exercise your mind without simultaneously engaging your mouth.

4) Start tracking your yacking. Personal branding expert Joya Martin advises spending a week writing down how much time you spend talking after every conversation, paying close attention to excessive jabber. A good idea, since what gets measured invariably gets improved!

Here’s a rule of thumb to keep you on track. If, in any conversation, you’re speaking more than 60% of the time, you’re talking too much. Fifty percent is better. Thirty to forty percent is usually best.

5) Practice the one-sentence rule. Martin also suggests practicing responding to any question in a single thoughtful sentence. Compose your response carefully before speaking, instead of thinking aloud and rambling on. Then pause, and wait for a response. This will require some serious discipline and effort. If your conversation partner is interested in what you have to say, they will dig deeper and ask questions. If they don’t, this is a clue that you shouldn’t continue talking. Remember, you should aim to own only 30%-40% of the talk time in any conversation.

No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to bore the socks off of everyone I encounter today!”  Yet every day, well intentioned people sabotage important opportunities to build productive relationships because they simply don’t pay attention.

The stakes are high. If you want to excel in sales, customer service, or any people-related industry, you can’t afford to miss this. As Stephen Covey described in Habit 5 in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”

How do you react when you encounter a “Me Monster?” Have you ever had to approach or confront an employee, friend or colleague about it? How did it go? I’d love to get your feedback.

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