Reacting to Screwups

The past few weeks we’ve been talking about some of the challenges we face as business owners, and some of the really simple yet important things that should be done to improve for everyone’s sakes. Today I want to talk about a touchy topic, one that was a bit of a realization over the past month’s thinking and discussion of self-control and the challenges I faced in my life and business.

The topic for today is embarrassment.  Let’s face it, we’ve all been embarrassed by one thing or another that has really been a big oopsie and we’ve felt really guilty about it. Sometimes we feel so guilty that we get angry and lash out at people who didn’t even have a role in it. We yell at others because we didn’t read things well enough or rushed into making a decision that wasn’t life and death, when really there’s no need to blame anyone. But that embarrassment we feel, the frustration that wells up inside us, and the feelings of failure totally overrule any common sense we have, because it means we’ve lost control of the situation.

You’ve probably been on both sides of an embarrassing situation or reaction. You’ve probably been lashed at by that unwarranted anger. It hurt, right? You were probably confused by their over-the-top reaction as well. It usually has the unfortunate result of turning us hostile too. After all, it’s a natural reaction to someone coming at us in a rage. You’ve also felt like an idiot when you did something stupid, made the wrong call or really screwed things up.

So what’s my point in bringing up this topic today? First, to acknowledge that we’ve all been on both sides of embarrassment: we’ve all screwed up and we’ve all been treated unfairly. Unfortunately rather than learning from the situation it just makes some of us more bitter and more likely to lash out. But this won’t get us more clients or help us develop into the leaders that we could be.

Most people are happy to help you make things right or resolve an issue, unless you’ve come at them with guns blazing. You don’t have to fall all over yourself apologizing for something, but we all need to be a little more patient, be a little less in a rush, be willing to admit we were wrong, and most of all do our best not to overreact and hurt someone else.

Who Will Remember You

I’ve been thinking about the number of “great” people that we’ve lost over the past few years, from Nelson Mandela, Shirley Temple, Casey Kasem, Ann Davis, Paul Walker, Joyce Brothers, Abigail Van Buren, and Maya Angelou just to name a few. These are people that the world remembers fondly from their youth or what they’ve been told or shown about them. In this day and age it seems like there are fewer people we would call “great” and mourn for their loss. It’s not because people are any less important or real or amazing, but because everyone is that much more capable and willing to share with the world exactly how amazing they are.

This becomes a good and a bad thing for those who want to be remembered as people like Dear Abby, America’s Little Darling or the man who transformed South Africa. Instead, more often than not we’re only remembered by those closest to us who knew us most personally. So what is one to do when they want to be famous only to be faced with the odds we’ve just discussed? I would do what each of those people did initially: do what they could for the people closest to them.

We’ve gotten so focused on being known around the world because we’re so easily able to access everyone else thanks to airplanes and countless technological innovations. But the reality of being known around the world and making the big impact that used to be made by people is less likely because we’re all better about shining our light.

So what if instead of conquering the world, we set out to make the impact we can where we can do the biggest amount of good? The good news is that today we don’t have to fix the whole world, there are lots of people around the world ready and willing to do their part where they are.  Everyone may not know your name, so make sure that those who matter, those who care about what you care about, do.

The Purpose of Going Places

On Wednesday we talked about the importance of taking action, so today I thought we’d talk about the impact that taking action can have on your family and your relationship.  The biggest benefit to taking action for your family and relationship is that amazing doors can open up and you and your family will be exposed to things that can stretch and grow you.  This is a big part of what it means to be a kid: having experiences that will stretch your mind and give you experiences that you can learn from and build onto and apply as an adult.

The traveling that we did when I was a kid opened my mind to the fact that everyone is unique, special and that there is potential for something new and amazing anywhere you look.  Just because it seems like a town of shacks compared to living near a big city like New York, doesn’t mean that there aren’t really cool things to discover there; you just have to be open to being OK with things being different than you’re used to.

The more games you play, places you go, things you try, foods you make, and experiences you pursue, the quicker you’ll build up your knowledge base, allowing you to excel at work, and better understand and work with the people you come into contact with.  Why? Because you have more knowledge to work from, and you know what has or hasn’t worked in the past and in what situations, and can apply that knowledge going forward.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that you’ll find a place that really feels right to you in your travels, or people that you want to spend more time with and possibly the rest of your life.  It’s people like these that make the traveling more exciting, and life more worthwhile.

“The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.” Amelia Earhart

The Business of Action

There are many keys to being successful in business.  Depending on who you ask will depend on what type of answer you get, and the order in which they list the keys to success. The key we’re going to talk about today is action.  There are a couple of different types of action, and throughout the life of your business you’ll probably take all of them.

One kind of action is a reaction. This is when you’re constantly in scramble mode; that you’re trying to keep up with people, never really charting your own course or taking the steps that will get you to the goals you have.  Here it’s all about panic and taking actions based on the actions and influences of other people.

Another kind is initiative.  This one of the important kinds of actions.  This is the type of action you use after you’ve completed your business plan, after you’ve decided on a goal, and when you decide to pursue a client.  This is you intentionally taking actions that you think will bring you closer to your goal, or will change your course because you’re not heading in the direction you really wanted to go in.

The third we’ll talk about today is repetitive.  This is the one that boggles some people.  Social media is a great example of repetitive action.  You can’t market on your favorite social site for a few months and expect that there will be any positive long reaching results.  Most people can’t market for a small period of time and expect their efforts to last.  You have to keep taking action, often the same type of action, if you want to see the results.  If you’re only in it to be a one hit wonder, you can skip this type of action.  But if you want to have a lasting career you’ll have to keep taking action, often the same actions.

In closing today I want to share a thought about residual income.  For our purposes today this covers all types of passive income including types that make money for you while you sleep, income from books/movies years after they’re published etc.  The simple fact is that at some point in time action had to happen in order for that money to be coming in.  It doesn’t magically do it, you had to make the movie/book, set up the marketing funnel or create the connections that open the opportunities for money to come in when you’re not actively engaging in marketing/promoting activities.

What actions are you taking in your business?

“The Lord gave us two ends – one to sit on and the other to think with. Success depends on which one we use the most.” Ann Landers

The Importance of the Little Things

I’m always amazed that the simplest things can really make such a big difference in the world like fresh food, basic manners and a kind word.  These may not seem like big deals to you, but to someone they can make all the difference in the world. A job as a secretary may not seem like much, but if the boss had to do all that the secretary did each day they wouldn’t be able to run the company as well. If someone wasn’t teaching that pre-k class with love and passion the kids could be stuck in front of a TV all day instead.  If someone didn’t pick up the garbage, we’d be living in a very messy and smelly world.

Your role may not seem as important as the big CEO, teacher or president, but it’s the little things that truly make the world go ’round.  Why?  Because you doing your job means someone else can do their.  Which means that even if your job seems pointless, there’s some purpose in it. I’ve heard from many people who have said that they didn’t like their job until they realized what it would mean to other people if they didn’t do their job.  When they realized how important they were to the function of the entire operation it made them feel important and valuable, and they were happier about doing their job.

Up until now we’ve talked about having value because of the job you do.  But what if you don’t have a job?  What if you’re job searching or home taking care of the kids?  Then you’ve got an even bigger value because you can do things that others can’t.  Like clean out the garage, do the laundry, make healthy dinners and most of all prepare the next generation for the challenges they’ll face.

You don’t have to be the next Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela.  All you have to be is yourself doing the little things that you do to make someone’s life a little better and brighter.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else”. Charles Dickens

Love for Ice Cream

There’s nothing quite like having a bowl of ice cream on a hot summer day, so today I thought I’d share some yummy ways you can top your favorite flavors at your next family event.

Marshmallow spread

Salted vanilla caramel icing

Salted caramel sauce

Caramel sauce

Butterscotch sauce

Chocolate maple sauce

Peanut butter sauce

Hazelnut mocha sauce

Dark chocolate fudge sauce

Hard shell ice cream topping

Praline ice cream sauce

Orange ginger ice cream sauce

Apricot orange sauce

Tart cherry sauce

Raspberry sauce

Homemade sprinkles

Rainbow sprinkles

 What are your favorite ice cream toppings?

Surviving Customer Service

Last week we talked a bit about how challenging customer service can be and how inconsiderate some people are. Everyone has bad days and are allowed a few meltdowns in their lives, but the number of people who are inconsiderate around the world on a daily basis is, in my opinion, unacceptable.  So this week I spent some time thinking about this and how we businesses can combat this in our own way.  We can’t change everyone or force everyone to behave in a certain way, but there are some things we can do to help avoid these situations as much as possible.

First, communication.  I included communication last week but it’s an important aspect for this week’s discussion too.  If we took the time to properly communicate what we offered, what we don’t offer, what ingredients were/weren’t included, how our process works etc., we’d be able to weed out a lot of the questions and issues. Yes, we’d still get some people who are too lazy to read what we’ve so kindly written up, but it helps resolve many issues.

Second, provide good value.  Providing something of good value means people will be happy to tell others about what you offer.  It should be presented in a neat and tidy way, with a clear price and with good lighting if appropriate.  A confused or uncertain buyer usually won’t bother.

Third, atmosphere is important.  Very few people want to shop in a store that is dirty, has outdated products or makes them feel uncomfortable to interact with the employees.  If you want to be successful have a clean store, make it welcoming and comfortable for people to be in and be attentive to things like the employee’s dress and attitude, the lighting of the store and the volume of the music.

You’re probably saying to yourself how simple and stupid some of these things seem.  Yet time and again I work with businesses that can’t be bothered to change the trash, hire employees who never learned any manners and sell products that I wouldn’t want to pass along to starving children around the world.  If these simple things can make such a big impact on our bottom line, why don’t we do them?

“It all comes back to the basics. Serve customers the best-tasting food at a good value in a clean, comfortable restaurant, and they’ll keep coming back.”  Dave Thomas

Let’s Listen

Listening is one of the most important things we can do as leaders and people.  Our ears can do a lot more for us than our mouths can, and they are much less likely to get us in trouble too.  When we take the time to listen to what someone else is saying, really listen to what they’re saying, it does some really good things for us.

First, people like us more.  People like to have their opinions heard and when you take the time to actually listen to what they’re saying you become like a hero in their eyes.  So many people are so busy looking at their phones or rushing off to do something that they don’t take the time to really listen to what people are saying around them.  Which results in a lot of shallow relationships that can be easily broken or forgotten.

Second, we learn lots of things.  Yes, sometimes we learn things we wish we didn’t know, but all too often we could learn something really important to our success, the success of our business, the happiness of our employees and customers, or even things that could dramatically change the future of our personal relationships for the better. Sometimes all it takes is one little thing to reveal the big flaw, the easy fix or the answer you’ve been looking for for a really long time.

Third, we feel good about making the effort.  We don’t feel so good if all we let people do is dump on us, but when we take the time to listen and care about people who are not just complaining but sharing their lives and their hopes and dreams, it does something magical to us: it can reignite our hope in the future of the human race.

So this week, do take time to share your opinion and ideas with someone else, and make sure you take twice that amount of time to listen to what someone else has to say.

“No man ever listened himself out of a job.” Calvin Coolidge

Who’s Stopping You?

Last weekend was challenging for me.  Yes, I’m going to be honest with you: my life isn’t perfect and I don’t know everything.  I don’t want to know everything, and I don’t feel the need to know everything or be right all of the time, I know that no one is perfect, and I don’t expect others to be perfect.  But as we talked about on Wednesday, I do expect a little consideration that we’re all human, do have feelings and need support.  I’m a big believer in helping everyone win, but if one person or group in that circle is not fully on board to everyone winning, it won’t work as well.

One of the things I was challenged by last weekend was something that I discussed with my partner on last Thursday.  It was an important conversation, one that I was initially excited to have because I had, I thought, some good ideas and insights to share.  He was attentive, but after finishing the conversation I felt let down, and I wasn’t really sure why.  So I thought about it off and on throughout the weekend and came to a few important conclusions.

First, I know that I am fully capable of following through on our conversation and getting things done, but I wanted his support as I was doing it.  To not have the enthusiastic response that I thought he would share really hurt me.   I don’t need his approval to be successful, have value or be a special person, but as my chosen partner, I want it!

Second, support is really important.  As I’ve said many times we’re not individuals absolutely isolated on our own islands responsible for every aspect of our lives and without any help or internet or any contact with others.  We’re surrounded by others, and we’re not supposed to do everything on our own.  That’s why we have partners and friends in the first place.

Third, I want his feedback because he is my partner.  I wouldn’t be in a relationship if I didn’t respect and want his opinion or support.  Had he told me that it was a bad idea but I really wanted to do it I would, after making sure I had really heard and thought through the issues he raised.  However, not getting any feedback, positive or negative, left me floundering.

So earlier this week we discussed my feelings after I thought through everything and came to these conclusions. It turns out he was focused on next steps, steps I hadn’t gotten to yet, and didn’t realize or understand that I wasn’t quite at those steps yet, but needed encouragement for the step we discussed first.  So before you stay upset with your partner over something they did or didn’t do, let them know how you feel.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Truth about Unprofessionalism

So this weekend I was doing a write-up for a client and when I had completed it and delivered it to them they contacted me informing me that my report was largely inaccurate, and that I had to do it again.  Why?  Because there was a technical issue on their end that they felt nullified much of my report.  There was no word from them indicating that they were going through a transition when they ordered, there was no emails before the order saying that they would like to work with me but they were planning a transition and could we set things up for after the transition, nothing.  Just a request to redo the work I had done because I was wrong.

In the customer service industry, which all of us are in, we deal with things like this all the time.  There’s the customer who ordered the burger and forgot to tell you they were allergic to something in the sauce so they want a new one.  There’s the customer who pays for house cleaning services before the house purchase has been completed.  There’s the customer who orders something before they have the money for it.  If you’ve been in the business world for any length of time you’ve had at least one customer come back to you with excuses or issues like these.  So what lessons can we learn from this?

First, I don’t believe everything has to be perfect, but you can’t be pushing forward with things that are incomplete or will cause issues for those completing your order.  Yes, the world moves at a very fast pace today but that is absolutely no excuse for rushing things.

Second, communicate!!  If it seems like I share about this on a weekly basis, it’s because I DO!  It’s a big issue for a lot of people.  Some simple communications would fix tons of things, and avoid situations like the one I shared about, altogether.  It’s OK to not have all your ducks in a row, no one does, but no one wants to admit it.

Third, it’s not just that you’re being unprofessional, you’re being inconsiderate and rude.  Just like you don’t want someone sneezing on your pizza, you want the treadmill company to completely install all parts, and you don’t want to be hit by the pushy car behind you, it’s about more than just being in a professional relationship, it’s about the fact that as people we can be so unbelievably inconsiderate of the others in our lives.

As I said earlier, we’re all in the customer service industry, every single one of us, even those of us who don’t own our own businesses.  We deal with people on a daily basis, being just as rude or unprofessional as we want to be.  Why? Because we don’t care?  Because no one told us any better?  Because we think everyone else is less important than we are?  Any of these could be correct, but the simple fact is we have to do better.