December 21, 2014


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1. Critical Questions To Ask Yourself In 2015

Before looking at what others around you could do better in 2015, ask yourself these critical questions suggested by Art Petty on his Leadership Caffeine blog:

  • How am I doing as a leader? Are you getting the frank feedback you need from colleagues to improve? If not, how can you obtain it?
  • Am I taking accountability for the team I have put on the field? Do you have the right people in the right positions, or are there gaps that only you can remedy? If so, what must be done – and do you have the courage to act?
  • Is the organization’s direction clear to everyone on my team? What can you do to improve clarity on direction and ensure others buy in?
  • How am I measuring the performance and success of my team(s)? And do the measures connect to the bigger-picture direction for the organization, promoting the right behaviours and continuous improvement?
  • Am I realistic about the need to embrace change? Social and economic dynamics evolve continually; are you advocating properly to adjust to changes?
  • Am I actively cultivating healthy relationships with my peers and colleagues in other functions? You are dependent on the help of others; is there any rift that needs healing and are you actively trying to mend it?
  • Am I developing myself? What investments have you made this year to strengthen your skills and gain exposure to new ideas – and what can be done next year?

2. Three New Year’s Resolutions For 2015

Executive coach Sims Wyeth says on Inc.com there are three New Year’s resolutions you should make — and they are as simple as ABC:

  • Don’t come across as Arrogant.
  • Take precautions against being Boring.
  • Learn to clarify your messages so you’re not Confusing.

We find arrogance in others offensive and our own pride can offend as well. To guard against that, take the time to allow people to get to know you — the real you. And also take the time to know them. Make eye contact when they speak, and really listen. Pay attention to what they say. Honour them by repeating back what you heard to ensure it’s correct.

His goal as his company’s president is to have inscribed on his tombstone: “He bored them less.” Use (good, clean) humour to lace conversations and keep things interesting. See things from your listeners’ point of view since it’s their own issues that are of most interest to them. Don’t bore people with your talks; use words to capture the imagination, weave stories and arouse emotions.

Finally, avoid confusing messages by ensuring you have a clear, strong voice and a well-thought-out plan. Pay attention to your vocal presence, avoiding mumbling or monotones. Keep conversations interactive, encouraging questions. “I hate it when I don’t know what someone is saying and I’m not allowed to ask questions. I find that I stop listening,” he writes. Pay attention to the focus of listeners, and if they seem confused say, “I suspect I wasn’t clear. What is on your mind?”

3. The 12 (Leadership) Days Of Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas is probably consultant Kevin Eikenberry’s least-favourite holiday song. But that didn’t stop him from using that theme for a series of blog posts suggesting some gifts you can give yourself at this time:

  • The 12th Day – The Gift of Change
  • The 11th Day – The Gift of your Ear … and Your Heart
  • The 10th Day – The Gift of Relationships
  • The 9th Day – The Gift of Feedback
  • The 8th Day – The Gift of (Delighted) Customers
  • The 7th Day – The Gift of (Other) Focus
  • The 6th Day – The Gift of Creativity
  • The 5th Day – The Gift of Meaning
  • The 4th Day – The Gift of Questions
  • The 3rd Day – The Gift of Accountability
  • The 2nd Day – The Gift of Improvement
  • The 1st Day – The Gift of Goals

And in the spirit of the season, he urges you to share them with others.

4. Topics For An End-Of-Year Team Meeting

Consultant Michael Kerr recommends wrapping up the year with a team meeting at which you jointly discuss past and future:

  • Top three positive highlights of the year
  • Top three things people are most grateful for
  • Top three things people are most excited about for 2015.

“Considering the extensive amount of research showing the strong links between happiness and gratitude, as well as reliving and anticipating positive events, it might be a great exercise to do with your family as well,” he adds in his Humor At Work Blog.

5. Zingers

  • A life upgrade for 2015: As you aim for self-improvement next year, blogger Donald Latumahina suggests borrowing from the approach used with apps — develop updated versions, providing new features and bug fixes for yourself. Think as well of major upgrades you could benefit from. (Source: Life Optimizer)
  • Key tech trends: The tech watchers at Gartner point to the following key trends for 2015:  Computing everywhere, as mobiles proliferate; the Internet of Things (connected appliances/devices); 3D printing; and advanced, pervasive, and invisible analytics where the value is found in the answers not the data. (Source: TechRepublic.com)
  • Act like an ambassador: Take a tip from ambassadors, advises entrepreneur Seth Godin. They listen and send notes from the front lines up the chain. They also apologize — not for things they did wrong but for things others did wrong. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Ask, don’t tell: Don’t give feedback; ask questions. Consultant Wally Bock says when you say “Let me give you some feedback” to a team member, you can almost see them putting their defense shields up. Instead, with permission, ask the individual some questions, which gives them more control over the process. (Source: Three Star Leadership)
  • Reflective questions for 2015: Consultant Jesse Lyn Stoner offers these reflective questions to be a better leader: What are you willing to take a stand for? What do you believe will happen if you let go of control? What do you really believe about making mistakes? What standards do you set for yourself? What are your expectations for your team? (Source: SeapointCenter.com)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Dealing with Annoyed or Upset Customers 

Question: What key behaviours should be the focus for training our front-line staff to deal effectively with customers who are angry, annoyed or upset?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood responds: 

There are lots of different “systems” out there, many of which tend to emphasize the same key steps: listening, empathizing, accepting responsibility, problem-solving and preventing recurrence of the error or problem that led to the complaint in the first place.

Last January, we mentioned the Starbuck’s system here.  But Renée Evenson, an expert in the field, presents a more detailed and helpful review in Award Winning Customer Service. Train for strong customer service responses in these five areas:

Why is the customer upset?

  • Listen actively to what the customer is saying. Do not interrupt.
  • Focus on the problem, not the person.
  • Stay calm and composed even if the customer is angry or upset.
  • View the situation from your customer’s perspective.
  • Assure the customer you will take care of the problem.

What caused the problem?

  • Restate the problem to make sure you understand it correctly.
  • Research to identify the root cause of the problem.
  • Think about how you can resolve it.

What can I say to make things right with the customer?

  • Apologize. It is the right thing to do when a customer is upset.
  • Display empathy. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
  • Appreciate the customer for giving you the chance to make things right.

What is the best solution I can offer the customer?

  • Explain what you are going to do to correct the situation.
  • Tell the customer what you can do rather than what you can’t do.
  • Avoid assigning blame, either to the customer or to another employee.
  • If you have no clue about what to do, or if your recommended solution is not satisfactory, work with the customer to find a viable solution.

What do we need to do to keep this from happening again?

  • Follow up to make sure the customer was satisfied with the resolution.
  • Analyze what went wrong, and fix what needs to be fixed.

Customer service is always underpinned by culture and attitude.  As Evenson suggests: When a customer complains, look at it as an opportunity to improve.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler:  2014 Shout Out

It’s been another busy year jammed with fascinating projects, and we’d like to say thanks to those special people we collaborate with and serve — our clients.

Again this year we undertook research, facilitated stakeholder consultations and planning sessions, developed strategies, and designed communications approaches to move their organizations forward.  Best wishes of the season from our team to:

  • Brockville District Hospital Foundation
  • Brockville General Hospital
  • CAMH – Service Collaborative for KFL&A Mental Health
  • City of Kingston – Arts Advisory Committee & Cultural Services
  • City of Kingston – Social Planning & Policy Division
  • City of Kingston – Top 7 Intelligent Communities
  • Community Networks of Specialized Care (Developmental Disabilities Guidelines)
  • DTZ Eastern Ontario
  • Food Policy Council (KFL&A Public Health)
  • Grand Theatre Foundation
  • The Great Waterway (RTO9 Tourism Region)
  • Hotel Dieu Hospital (Mental Health Programs)
  • K3C Counselling Centres
  • Kingston Arts Council & Partners (When Arts Meets Business project)
  • Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO)
  • Kingston Frontenac Public Library
  • Kingston Police
  • Kingston Poverty Reduction Initiative
  • Kingston Symphony Association
  • Kingston 1000 Island Cruises & Trolley Tours
  • Limestone District School Board
  • McMaster University Advancement
  • Northern Frontenac Community Services
  • North York Family Health Team
  • Ongwanada
  • Partners In Mission Food Bank
  • Providence Care
  • Queen’s University ITServices
  • Queen’s University Library & Archives
  • Rural Kingston Family Health Organization (Health Link)
  • St. Lawrence College (Brockville)
  • St. Lawrence Parks Commission
  • Township of South Frontenac
  • Upper Canada Family Health Team
  • United Way serving KFL&A
  • WindsorEssex Community Foundation & Tides Canada/RBC Blue Water Project

 ● § ●

8020Info helps teams think better together to develop and effectively implement research/stakeholder consultations, strategic plans and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries at (613) 542-8020, or by email at watercooler@8020info.com

8. Closing Thought

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry