Posted by: maureen in ideal, ceremony, care on
May 27, 2013
When Katie was little we used to go on Sunday walks. That was our church. We took plastic bags with us and filled them with litter from the side of the road, then dumped them in a trash can at a park near our destination downtown. Then we got the newspaper--remember those?--and a treat for Katie after some mighty intense negotiations with Dad.
The walk home was just for fun. Dad posed trivia questions to Kate, with the promise of another treat if she answered enough questions correctly--and yes, she always did. The trivia came from a movie we’d just watched, a trip we’d just taken, whatever.
When Katie graduated from high school Saturday she and most of the rest of her friends holed up there afterward for an all-night annual ritual designed to keep the senior class safe until dawn. There was pizza and cotton candy and almost anything else the kids had a hankering for. There was an artist applying temporary tattoos, another artist drawing caricatures, and a hypnotist--as well as karaoke and lots of other at least somewhat fun games and activities. There were prizes--cool prizes, big prizes.
Darrell and I were part of the army of parents on hand to orchestrate the event, and as the evening wore on we were on trash duty.
Yeah, trash duty.
We wheeled around a big can and tossed the debris the kids had left on the floor. Somewhere around the third half-eaten cup of yogurt left in the middle of the gym for someone else to take care of, it hit me.
What, exactly, had these kids learned in eighteen years? Where was all the idealism they'd spewed only a few hours earlier at the big ceremony? We were about to unleash almost two hundred creatures on the world, and it was a little embarrassing. Who, exactly, was going to clean up after them?
I’m generalizing here, of course. Some kids--like Kate--walked their trash the few feet to a receptacle as they went about their evening, picking up things their friends had left behind while they were at it. Darrell and I were taking a break when one gal walked up to toss her trash in the can in front of us--and he made a little ceremony out of thanking her. Which was fine. Which struck me as incredible, that now the way you stand out among the rest of your class is by…not littering.
Older folk have been complaining about the younger generations since time began. And to devote this much space to kids who litter strikes me as a bit cranky. But I think there’s a point worth making. Which is, the people you work with someday are going to care a lot less about your fancy degree from your impressive college than they will about what it’s like to work with you.
Will you be the person who uses up the last bit of coffee and leaves the pot on the burner for someone else to refill? Who takes the last donut from the bakery and doesn’t bother to toss the box? Who brings her kids into work on a Saturday morning and lets them leave a trail of destruction for someone else to deal with Monday?
Who cares how much you intend to change the world if someone else has to follow around behind you, changing it back?
Posted by: maureen in service, empathy, care on
Apr 15, 2013
You want people to know you care about them, right? So why do you tell them to calm down when they’re upset?
Rich Gallagher joined us on the show recently to talk about customer service. His new book is The Customer Service Survival Kit
, and if you can demonstrate to a potential employer your ability to soothe irate customers, he dares you to be unemployed for long.
And once again, advice for work--advice for life.
Rich and I both wonder if anything good has ever come from the suggestion to calm down. I haven’t met the person who likes being told how to feel. His reaction might feel appropriate to him. Even if you could prove it isn’t, why would you?
Better, Rich says, to try to identify with his feelings. “Of course
you’re upset!” you could respond. “Who wouldn’t be?” Forget for a moment you
wouldn’t be. Then you can continue the conversation honestly with something along the lines of, “Let’s figure out a way to fix this…”
Argue with someone’s feelings, and you’ll have a different problem. I promise.
Oh, and by the way, Rich says you can practice empathy with people you don’t feel much empathy for. Just try it. They might respond in a way that inspires your empathy after all.
Next up, when “I understand” and “I’m sorry” backfires--and why criticism isn’t what you think.
Posted by: maureen in team, empathy, care on
Oct 30, 2012
“I’m sorry you’re having this problem.”
Who cares if the customer service rep’s reading off a script? I like it! “He gets me,” I think. I want to help him help me. Even if we can’t solve the problem--right away, or at all--I feel good about myself and even better about him.
Sales trainers remind new reps the customer doesn’t care how much you know until she knows how much you care.
When you’re upset, what’s the first thing you want to hear from someone? That it matters. That you matter.
I haven’t met a man who objects to hearing that, at least in passing. And I don’t know the woman who wouldn’t swoon if you lingered on it a bit.
What happens next? Who knows? But I bet it’ll go really well, because you’re on the same team.
Posted by: maureen in truth, experiment, care on
Jun 21, 2012
When I was a cocktail waitress the bartenders spent a lot of time straining mangled corks from the wine in bottles I tried to open.
No one had shown me how to do that, and I never thought to ask. It looked so simple. Thread the corkscrew down the cork, position that little bottle-opener thingy, slowly pull back. At which point the cork crumbled, every time.
It took us a while to figure out what I was doing wrong. Instead of just placing the corkscrew in the center of the cork and slowly turning, I muscled it down. As if it needed help! I took something simple, something easy--and made it difficult. I hate to admit this, but it’s a bit of a pattern with me.
The Career Clinic vignette is a bite-sized version of the talk show and we got some advice recently for how to make it better. I was sounding a bit forced. That’s probably the best--and the kindest--way to put it. What I thought was enthusiastic came off as a little much. How embarrassing! And how wonderful to have people around me who care enough about me--and our work--to tell me the truth.
I’m excited to see what else I can improve on, now. Like a true journalist, I’ll keep experimenting--and reporting back on the results.
Posted by: maureen in sample, letter, care on
May 13, 2012
Once upon a time the folks who supply us with bubble mailers started cramming them into smaller boxes. The result? Crumpled mailers that were difficult to open and difficult to seal.
If Darrell was running that company, he’d want someone to tell him about this. He wouldn’t want to lose customers and not know why. So he wrote a really nice letter and sent it along with a sample of the crumpled product.
The result? A really nice letter back--and a case of mailers that weren’t crumpled--to thank him for the trouble. We’re still using this supplier. They’re still using those smaller boxes, but they don’t pack as many mailers into each--and everything’s been arriving in good shape.
Next up, why you might want to thank a complainer--even if that person doesn’t take as much care as Darrell does when expressing his unhappiness.
Posted by: maureen in care on
Apr 24, 2012
Who can resist a guy--a boss, a colleague, a husband--who pulls you aside to ask how to do something? Soothe a customer, turn a phrase, tame a toddler. It’s enchanting when someone admits he’s stumped.
May I make a joke? Where can I find that guy?
This was one man's way of explaining another man’s seeming indifference to a woman who was upset: “Guys don’t know what to do in situations like that.”
You don’t have to know what to do. And no, you don’t have to ask if there’s anything you can do. If you’re willing to live with a new problem, that is--an employee, a client, or your sweetheart wondering if you’ve noticed…or care.
Posted by: maureen in promise, feeling, care on
Apr 10, 2012
Ever notice how you feel after you eat a big, juicy steak? A bag of potato chips? A big bowl of Fruity Pebbles?
It took me a long time to make a point of noticing, but eventually I did. And eventually I didn’t want to eat steaks or potato chips. Fruity Pebbles still call, but I don’t answer.
Funny thing about noticing how different foods make you feel. You realize how other things you consume--like movies--make you feel.
Don’t bother suggesting I watch Fight Club, for example. Or rather, watch it again. Once was more than enough. I only did it because I promised.
Maybe I should’ve just read the script. The movie wasn’t without merit--but that’s mostly a guess, because I was covering my eyes for most of it.
I’d rather spend a couple of hours watching The Family Man or Moneyball or even Tangled. They go down easy, they stay with me, and they make me want to be a better person.
That just makes me want to be more careful about what I promise.
Posted by: maureen in dream, care, basketball on
Apr 2, 2012
Two dreamy years as a resident of Kansas. Then five dreamy years--more sleepy than dreamy, but whatever--as a resident of Kentucky. And you couldn't have paid me to care whether KU or UK won the NCAA championship basketball game tonight.
Until I started watching.
Kansas was down 27-41 at halftime. That's when I learned the largest halftime margin ever overcome in the tournament's title game was ten points.
Kansas it is!
Early in the second half Kansas was down 30-46. But! Soon after that they came within ten. A little while later, down 16 again.
With 4:17 left on the clock Kansas was behind 50-59. At 3:50 to go they'd narrowed the gap to 52-59. At 1:11 they were six down.
Kansas lost, 59-67.
But they made me care. It was a wild twenty minutes of basketball, and a great time to reflect on one of my favorite questions of all time...
Are you leaving it all on the floor?
Posted by: maureen in power, music, care on
Jan 26, 2012
“The only reason to give a speech is to change the world
Wait a minute!
Isn’t that the only reason to do anything?
“Yeah, right,” I can almost hear you thinking as exceptions come to mind.
What about laundry?
I helped Mom with mountains of laundry when I was growing up. I’m the oldest of eight kids, born in nine years--before disposable diapers were in vogue--and you can just imagine.
What I remember most, besides dreading it every time
, is singing along to the Camelot
album as we worked. Music has the power to transform anything, I learned. Even laundry.
Now I still dread it, but not as much. Because within a few seconds--every time--I think about how glad I am to have people to care for, how soothing it is to start something and finish it, and how much I enjoy the time away from my screens to decide what else I want to make happen today.
You know, besides laundry.
Posted by: maureen in standard, competition, care on
Aug 17, 2011
Ask almost any hiring manager. The number of people who send in application materials with typos is mind-boggling.
“Yeah?” I can almost hear some of you say. “If I eliminate everyone who has a typo on his resume I won’t have any candidates.”
Leadership consultant Dave Anderson
thinks that mindset is a problem.
“Lowering your standards isn’t hiring,” Dave says. “It’s surrender. It’s not the way you build a great company.”
So what do you do?
“Keep looking,” Dave says.
Not convinced? Ask the people who already work for you. Dave guesses they’d rather you hold out for the right person. They'd rather increase their workload in the short-term than pick up the slack indefinitely for a...slacker.
Dave suggests you keep the bar high. You won’t hire just anyone, and that’s good. Who wants to work for someone who thinks otherwise?
Oh. And for the job hunters, did you catch the good news? The people who are careless about spelling--or don’t have the sense to silence their cell phones before the interview--mean less competition. “Unfortunately these days,” Dave agrees, “you can stand out from the pack just by being polite!”