Never Kick A Kangaroo

October 28, 2008

A few years ago I wrote a book with the working title “Never Kick a Kangaroo”. The publisher said the title didn’t describe what the book was about and changed the title (unfortunately, I think) to “How To Get People To Do Things Your Way”.

Whatever the title, the concept was the same. Be sure your techniques and skills are better than those of your counterpart. If they aren’t, you won’t do well in any interaction or contest. Thus, the working title. If you ever get into any kind of contest with a kangaroo (very unlikely, of course) don’t pick kicking. You’ll lose!

In business we are constantly describing and defending ideas and territories. Clearly, the products and services we offer contribute greatly to our success, but there is another significant element to consider. That’s communicating. We’ll deal with a variety of communication elements in later pieces, but here I want to look at a specific aspect of good communication. That’s listening.

Because most of us focus more on talking than we do on listening, here are a few ideas to consider and practice in both business and pesonal situations.

When you listen – really listen. If you do that, you’ll get more information than the words alone convey. You’ll become aware of the tone of voice, the posture, the geatures, the facial expressions, etc. Every one of those sends a strong message if we pay attention. All of those factors contribute to understanding a message.

Here is an interesting example of that complete message. An orchestra conductor was looking to hire a pianist. Friends of the conductor told him of a talented young man they thought would be an excellent candidate. When he auditioned, he played flawlessly. But he wasn’t hired.

The candidate’s friends asked the conductor why he hadn’t selected the young man who had played the audition composition perfectly. The conductor responded this way. “Yes, he played the composition exactly as written, but we need someone who doesn’t just play the notes. We need someone who can play the music.”

Effective listening is like that. Don’t listen only to the words. Listen to the entire message. Here’s how.

Listen for Key Words. What is the speaker saying about his boundaries? Are there important dollar costs, time frames, percentages, deals, payment conditions and options? What is really important and necessary?

Listen for Key Ideas. What does the speaker really want. Must he win, or is a compromise acceptable?

Listen for Pressure Points. These are the emotional factors that make a person act or react. What is most important to the speaker? Is it success, avoiding failure, a promotion, or just holding on to a job?

If you demonstrate you are truly interested in the person behind the words and not the words alone, you’ll develop a strong personal relationship. That’s what makes business last.

Find those Pressure Points by asking questions and by giving gentle direction. The best questions, of course, are the open questions What?’ Why?’ and How?. The gentle directions include these lines: “Tell me more”, “For example”, and “What else should I know?”

You’ll collect additional information simply by keeping the other person talking. While you’re listening, be sure to send your own positive signals. Look ’em in the eye! Sit up straight. Lean forward when appropriate. Nod your head. Take notes.

When you use those signals to demonstrate you’re giving full attention, you’ll encourage a continuing flow of information. The more information you collect, the better able you’ll be to present your ideas in a way that will be seen as a contribution to the other person.

A final thought here. When the other person is talking, be sure you are actively listening. Don’t start thinking of what you’ll say as soon as you have a chance to talk. If you don’t pay close attention all the time, you’ll likely miss important information.

Use these skills and techniques, and you’ll be better prepared to continue the dialogue, make a sale, or provide a service. When you know more about a subject or situation than your counterpart does, you’ll be able to use that strength and information to make your own case.

Use your strengths against your opponent’s weaknesses, and you’ll “Never Kick a Kangaroo”.

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Talk TO – Not AT

October 5, 2018

Business, civic, and personal conversation seems to have evolved – or devolved – into negative behaviors with increasing frequency and intensity.

I don ‘t know what the root cause is, but many people seem to dislike other people these days. They show little or no respect for the opinions or beliefs of others, and they strive to prevent the fair and equal exchanges of ideas.

Some seem to believe they know what’s best for others and use various techniques to force convictions rather than foster conversation.

Many justify such behavior saying they are just “making their points” by being forceful and articulate. They strive to capture the attention of others and “tell their story” by talking over others who hold different opinions.

In the world we live in, the opinion of one person is as valid as the opinion of another person. The position might be different or even diametrically opposed, but it’s valid. We are free to disagree, but we are not free to disparage or to prevent others from holding a contrary opinion.

The key word in such disagreement is: CIVILITY.

Disagree, but don’t be disagreeable.

Discourse should rely on information not on inflammation.

Let’s take a look at some of the behaviors that get in the way of conversation and produce what has been described as “lots of heat, but little light.”

“IN YOUR FACE” In this part of the world, there is approximately 2.5 to 3 feet of space between participants engaged in a conversation. Any closer creates tension and an atmosphere of aggression – even intimidation. That’s never good for an exchange of ideas.

COSTUMES / Masks In any civil discourse it’s important for participants to be able to see each other. When anyone wears a mask or hides his or her identity there is a barrier. There can’t be sincere discourse when there is secrecy.

When participants hide their identity their motives and their intentions quickly come into question, inhibiting honest discourse.

VOLUME Shouting at others during an exchange of ideas is never productive.

When excessive volume is combined with the “in your face” posture it leads to conflict and greater tension.

DIALOGUE vs. DUOLOGUE   The first term defines equal participation in an exchange of ideas. The second term describes how one party focuses attention on what he will say as soon as the other party finishes. Frequently he interrupts to prevent that conclusion.

PHYSICAL CONTACT / DAMAGE Very rarely, if ever, will touching another person or his property lead to productive ends. Simply stated: Don’t do it!

Now let’s look at factors that can generate positive outcomes in an exchange of ideas or beliefs. No one can guarantee agreement, but everyone can experience an equal and open exchange of ideas that can lead to understanding or at the least, respect for another’s point of view, if not agreement. Here are the key words.

EQUITY Everyone is entitled to equal use of facilities and locations in which to present opinions and suggestions. No group or individual has the right to prevent another group or individual from presenting contradicting ideas in a specific venue.             RESPECT   In any debate or dispute, opposing sides developed their positions as a result of differing experiences. Those experiences resulted in reaching different solutions. Before either side can participate productively, all parties need to understand the contributing factors.

One may not agree, but that’s not license to silence a differing opinion.

LISTEN   That’s how we discover the various elements and factors that contribute to divergent convictions. It has often been said, “Although we think we know what we know we certainly don’t know everything we don’t know.”

Without complete information we may make questionable decisions.

Here is a final thought to remember about CIVILITY in business, civic, and personal behavior.

When you listen, you might learn something new and important, but when you talk, you hear only what you already know.

What’s the point of that?

Recently, I saw a little plaque in an office that read, “Be nice, and visit with us for a while.”

That’s civility!

 

What Did You say?

July 13, 2018

What Did You Say?

 

 

Business ventures succeed because of definition, determination, and dedication. Often throughout that process there is disagreement and doubt, but, in the end, discussion and debate determine the desired direction. Starting and growing any business requires focus and hard work. Often differences are punctuated by heated debate. The end product, however, is determined by discussion and compromise.

As we’re told by the “Old Village Blacksmith”, heat is necessary to produce strength. But the blacksmith knows that without control and caution that heat can do damage. It’s the same with debates and differences of opinion. And language usage is a powerful ingredient in business discourse.

When I was a child I was told, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything.”

In comparison to today’s world, that philosophy seems to have come from a different planet. Not only are many of the comments we encounter now “not nice,” but also they are crude and vile.

I remember another comment about language usage from my early years. I don’t agree with it, but the thought has remained with me. We were told by some adults, “People who use vile language don’t know any better because they aren’t very smart.”

Such belief might be a product of culture or environment or just plain habit. But more and more, it seems to be a reaction to stress or frustration.

Probably many of us know people who rarely use such harsh language, but under certain conditions they “blow up.” That language seems to be coming from a total stranger. It’s “out of character” and it’s shocking.

Currently we seem to be experiencing an increased usage of this shock language from people in a wide variety of fields including: actors, politicians, business, students, and just plain folks.

The intent is to shock those who hear that language.

In 1978 the comedian, George Carlin, introduced his “shocking” language routine titled, “The Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television” and he proceeded to say all of them over and over again to the delight of his audiences. It was a delight because all the people knew the words, but they were never spoken as openly as he used them.

As time passed, however, common usage diminished the shock. It became just coarse, unnecessary, and vile. For many its usage served to diminish the image of the users rather than enhance them.

There is an interesting contradiction here. Everybody is free to use such language, but its use lessens the perceived status and professionalism of the user. That freedom of usage has a price, and all rights have consequences.

This is an appropriate time to examine our language behaviors and the impact they might have on our businesses, our communities, and us. The fact we are free to speak any way we want is a direct result of what we celebrated just three days ago on Independence Day.

Brave and dedicated people stood up and advocated what they believed to be right. They defended the valuable gifts they recognized and enjoyed, and they passed those rights on to us.

Now we are the stewards of those rights.

We certainly have the right to disagree with other people and to defend our beliefs. But that doesn’t mean we should abuse, insult, or diminish others in any way we choose. They have exactly the same rights as we do. We are free to disagree, but we have the responsibility to do it with civility.

People are being berated in some business organizations and institutions simply because of voicing opinions different from some of their co-workers. The rights of some people are being challenged because their views differ from those of others – others who possess the same freedoms to choose, as their opponents possess.

In our business, civic, and personal lives we treasure the rights we inherited, and now it’s our responsibility to preserve, protect, and defend them.

We have the right to speak our minds, but that right comes with the responsibility to respect the same rights others have to speak theirs.

Vile language is nowhere to be found in our founding documents.

 

 

Old Habits Die Hard

May 11, 2017

 

Much of what we do during the day, we do by habit.

Doing “It” by habit (Whatever the “it” might be) has certain advantages, of course. It saves time because we don’t have to think, make decisions. or select options. That’s good, and it’s comfortable.

The behavior seems to take care of itself because we’re on “auto pilot.”

The cycle is clear. We do it often because it feels good, and it feels good because we do it often. That feeling is what makes breaking a habit so difficult.             A ”feeling” is hard to change because the behavior is so much a part of us. The behavior seems to define and us. However, it’s worth considering what unwanted habits can do to us.

So take a few moments to explore a habit. Do this.

Let me explain the complete exercise before you go through the steps. Here they are.

Stop reading. You’ll come back to doing it in a few moments.

Put down the paper, and fold your arms across your chest.. You’ve done this hundreds of times, so it’s easy. But this time pay attention to which arm is “on top.”

Next, open your arms and then fold them again, but this time put the other arm “on top.”

How does that feel compared to the first way? You’re probably thinking, “uncomfortable,” “strange,.” “weird,” “awkward, ” etc.

What caused the difference? Habit!

The first fold was by habit, but the second one was following a specific direction.

Which is better? Perhaps neither. Which will you do next time? Perhaps the first one. Why? Simple. It feels good. Habit wins again!

In the real world it probably makes no difference which arm is “on top”, but if you are learning a new skill, the “feel” of a behavior might create a hesitation if you resist the new feeling.

For all of us, “Habits die hard.”

We sit in the same place at meetings, eat the same foods at lunch, wear the same clothes, drive the same route to and from work, etc. We’re comfortable, because we’re operating on “auto-pilot.”

That might be OK for certain situations, but others might require alternate behaviors.

How we talk, move, write, dress, gesture, etc, when we are addressing a business group or conducting a sales call might limit us.

Specific behaviors might not be appropriate in some circumstances but perfectly fine in others. If that’s true, we can’t rely on habit. We might have to make changes.

Remember this caution: Whatever you do, do it on purpose. Don’t do something by habit, and certainly not just because it feels good.

The way we behave leaves positive or negative impressions on the people we address.

Our behavior creates the impressions we want, and it captures audience attention. We can’t risk just doing something because it “feels good!”

Anyone who has played a sport – or a musical instrument – has lived through the persistence of a “coach.” Even though the player already had achieved a level of proficiency, a coach will constantly encourage and refine the player’s behavior.

Sooner or later it’s quite commonplace to resist those interruptions wanting to do “it” the way that feels good. An attentive coach will persist until the new behavior takes root and, eventually, it “feels good” to the student.

It’s appropriate here to comment (as I have done in previous columns) on this often-quoted adage related to behaviors. “Practice makes perfect.”

It doesn’t! If anyone practices doing something the “wrong way” it never gets good! It just feels better doing it the wrong way. So what does that repetition accomplish? Nothing.!

Here’s a more appropriate adage, one that’s worth remembering.. “Practice makes permanent.”

That relates equally to both good behaviors and poor behaviors.

In coaching situations, often the first step is recognizing and “unlearning” the problem behavior by repeating the desired new behavior again and again – even if at first, it doesn’t “feel” good.

Any golfers reading this? You’re nodding your heads, aren’t you?

Habits may save time, but be sure they produce positive results.

 

Be As Good As You Think You Are

March 23, 2017

 

This new book by Bob and Eileen Parkinson isn’t a “How To” book on “Public Speaking.” It’s a “Here’s What” book that focuses on the overall topic of “effective communication.” That might sound academic, but this isn’t a textbook or an instruction manual.

It’s a collection of ideas, stories, and suggestions Eileen and Bob picked up throughout the course of many years of teaching and coaching businesspeople and just “regular folks” how to convey ideas to their various audiences.

It’s a sharing of experiences and events that will help you become more effective when you speak and write, but it isn’t remedial education.

Everything in this book is designed to help you continue to get better at using what many people call “Soft Skills.”

That’s an interesting label because it creates an impression that “soft” is insignificant. But ask any astronaut or pilot about the importance of a “soft landing.”

Ask any computer user about the importance of software.

Every business transaction – every development is based on how well the involved parties express and defend their ideas. Interactions are dependent upon how well all the parties “make their cases.”

Being able to communicate well is far from unimportant – far from Soft.

In most aspects of daily life we regularly talk to friends, clients,

customers, strangers, and audiences through a variety of presentation channels.

Most of us do pretty well. But that’s the problem. We do just “pretty well.”

Our listeners and readers, however, expect and deserve better than “pretty well.”

They are entitled to our best performance.

That’s probably not a surprise to anyone, but many of us don’t deliver that

expected high quality.

All too often we give ourselves license to be mediocre.

This book will help you examine closely how you package and deliver material. It will suggest methods and techniques to deliver that material well. It will help you communicate your ideas clearly and concisely.

It will suggest changing some behaviors. It will explain several options you can practice. BUT … in no way is this book designed or intended to change who you are.

This book describes how you can convey information with passion and commitment.

It will help you become a better presenter at business meetings and conferences as well as a better conversationalist, and even a more interesting person at social events.

Indeed, the suggestions we offer are what we call “Life Skills.”

This book provides the skills needed to become a more effective, informative, and persuasive you and to –

be as good as you think you are.

 

Available on Amazon and book stores.                        Contact us at: jrp@jrparkinson.com

A Celebration

July 7, 2015

A Celebration

 

 

We just celebrated a birthday, an anniversary, and an acknowledgement of one of the greatest events in modern history – the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We’ll celebrated the gift we received, and we acknowledged the legacy we inherited.

Without that gift, our businesses, and our culture would be far different from what they are today. The holiday’s focus is usually directed to the writers and the signers, but the support and participation of the community at large was necessary for success.

And the combined contributions and participation of the businesses of the time were an essential part of that community effort. Then, as now, businesses are driving forces throughout the country.

Every time I think about Independence Day I am awed by what the colonists did on July 4, 1776. They said “No” to what was perhaps the most powerful country in the world. They told King George III. “We will no longer be governed by you.”

They risked everything when they pledged “…our Lives our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

They wanted to form “a more perfect union” knowing full well that nothing is perfect. They and we aspire to perfection, but achieving it is impossible.

In the years before and the years since declaring independence we have not been perfect. We have made some mistakes, but we’ve done many things right. We have built businesses and, expanded commerce that has had a profound impact around the world, and what we built is worth preserving, protecting, and defending.             What we have is what attracts others from around the world to come here. Every day far more people walk through the “Entrance” door than through the “Exit.”

It’s easy to find thing s or people we disagree with concerning the way our country is functioning. But the important factor is the simple truth that we are free to do precisely that!

Even people who stomp on or burn the flag should recognize why they have the right to do that.

We can disagree, and we can dissent, but we vote to express our beliefs. We work to help have laws passed or to have them changed.

That’s the legacy passed on to us by the actions of July 4, 1776.

“We the People” is much more than an interesting catch phrase.

In this day of high tech communication and text messaging to achieve an economy of words to share ideas, it’s interesting to note the entire Declaration of Independence is only 1,337 words long. That’s approximately the length of two of these columns. Wouldn’t it be exciting if these columns could share such powerful information and be responsible for such lasting ideas?

Thomas Jefferson didn’t have a Smartphone, but the ideas and the commitment he articulated with a quill and a bottle of ink are as powerful today as they were 239 years ago.

As in the life of any business, any individual, or any family, there are good days and bad days, good decisions and bad decisions; but the strength, the fortitude and the commitment to improving and moving forward continue to keep us focused and strong.

On this July 4th, let us resolve to continue working toward that goal of forming a more perfect union.

There will be plenty of cookouts and fire works on Saturday, but the greatest way to demonstrate our commitment is to fly the American flag proudly. Throughout our history businesses have been standard bearers, and they still play that role. In recent years, though, many of us have grown complacent, and the flag is often left in a closet, a storeroom, or in garage.

We are living in a free society, but that freedom is fragile. Remember the line attributed to Thomas Jefferson (and many others, too). “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” We are still facing challenging times that demand attention from all of us.

A strong display of our flag in business establishments, parks, homes, and churches proclaims our values and our intention to preserve them.

Long may it wave!

 

 

 

 

 

Be A Good Ancestor

May 25, 2015

 

Be A Good Ancestor

Remember the Future As Well As the Past

 

This weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, is a high-powered business weekend.

It’s difficult to pick up a newspaper, watch television, or listen to the radio without being overpowered with advertising. It is a wonderful holiday. We all look forward to it, but I think it deserves a bit of thought that is often overlooked.

Memorial Day is recognition of people who have died to preserve our way of life. In a real sense, Memorial Day is a funeral service. Many people feel strange saying “Happy Memorial Day.”

I don’t intend this to be morbid, but it is important to recognize the history of the Day. That recognition includes honoring the traditions and the ceremonies that mark the day.

Recently I saw two photos of men and women in military uniforms saluting the American flag. This is always a moving moment, and as we get closer to Memorial Day we’ll probably see many more such photos. Those pictures seemed to be a good idea at first glance, but upon further review, I realized the flag was displayed backwards! The blue field was in the top right corner. That’s wrong.

There are very specific rules about how the flag should be displayed just as there are rules about displaying a corporate logo. There is a right way and many wrong ways.

Whenever the flag is displayed on a wall, the blue field with the stars is placed at the top left corner. Period. No exceptions. If it is on a pole extending from a wall, the blue field is away from the wall. Remembering just those two rules will take care of most display situations. Correct flag etiquette is easy to find on the Internet in case you want a reminder when you put up your flag this weekend.

Proper display is a matter of respect, and with a little thought that respect will be evident. With improper display the lack of respect will also be evident.

Memorial Day deserves such respect not only because it’s a holiday, but also because it honors all those who died to make all our holidays possible. We have such holidays because people – our ancestors – earned them for us.

And here’s something to think about on this holiday. If we don’t honor and protect those observances, one day they could be gone. Unfortunately, if that day were to come, many people would express surprise and ask, “What happened?”

And the answer would be “’It’ happened because we let it happen.”

Now, let’s change our perspective. Rather than continuing to focus on the past and what others have done for us, for business, society, and family let’s look ahead and consider what we might be able to offer to others still to come.

I was struck by the power of a single sentence I recently read, and I think it can provide inspiration and direction for many of us. Just consider this sentence.

“Be a good ancestor.”

Let that thought roll around in your head for a while.

What does it mean for us? What can we do with that idea? What impact can it have on us?

When we look at events like those leading up to Memorial Day, it’s clear we can’t change any of them. We can benefit from them and learn from then, but we can’t alter them.

What we can control is what is to come. So here are a few things to consider as we enjoy our Memorial Day celebrations. What are we doing today that will have an impact on the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren? That impact might be positive or negative, but either way we’ll be responsible for it.

How are we directing out business activities, and what will our business and our world look like two or three generations from now?

When those future generations look for us on their family tree, what will they find? Will we be pleased and proud of what we did, or will we wish we had done something different? If that’s the case, do the groundwork now so you will indeed “BE A GOOD ANCESTOR.”

 

 

 

 

Behviors Have Consequences

February 19, 2015

Behaviors Have Consequences

 

Whatever we do during the course of our business – and personal – days, produces reactions from our customers, colleagues, and social acquaintances.

Many of the behaviors are unintended, and daily pressures sometimes cause them, so here’s an idea that might help avoid inappropriate reactions.

Attitude is a powerful factor that influences our behavior and how we view situations and conditions.

Consider this definition of attitude my co-author and I used in our book, “Becoming a Successful Manager.”

“An attitude is a state of mind and a predisposition to action based on what you tell yourself.

“Attitudes precede actions; positive attitudes lead to productive actions; negative attitudes lead to unproductive actions.”

From the book, here’s an example showing how attitudes work, and how what we call “self-talk,” can provide control and direction.

The customer-service department of a Midwest company was receiving frequent complaints. Specifically, people said customer service representatives treated them rudely. They were left on hold for what seemed to be forever, disconnected while waiting to be helped, and then not given the help they hoped to receive.

These complaints had gone on for almost a year and were accompanied by a steady decline in sales. During a meeting we had with the five-person department, we asked, “When the phone rings, what do you tell yourself before you answer it?”

We received blank stares and no immediate responses. With some encouragement, though everyone eventually related a variation of the same negative self-talk comment. We heard, “Here comes another complainer!”

After discussing the effect self-talk can have on behavior, we suggested they tell themselves something else when the phone rings. For instance: “This caller has a problem. My job is to help him or her to solve that problem, and I can do that. I’m a valuable resource to this person in trouble.”

As part of the solution, they also adopted the greeting, “How can I help you?” when answering the phone.

This simple question was more than words. It was a genuine positive attitude, revealed in their tone of voice that said, “I want to help you.”

Within a month, the vice president of operations started receiving feedback praising the customer service department.

The lesson learned was this. If your attitude is negative, it will come through; but if your attitude is positive, that, too, will come through.

This positive attitude suggestion isn’t a “magic bullet” that will solve all your problems immediately, but it will go a long way influencing and reshaping behavior. It’s a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

We’ve all done this to ourselves without even thinking about it. There may have been a time you were invited to go to a meeting you didn’t want to attend but didn’t have an option. If you chose a negative attitude and told yourself the meeting would be a waste of time, it was. On the other hand, if you had chosen a positive attitude and told yourself “This is a tight time, but as long as I have to go, I’ll see if I can learn something I might have missed out on had I not been invited, you did.

In all likelihood whichever attitude you choose will result in your prediction coming true. When we have a strong belief about the outcome of a relationship or an impending experience, we do everything in our power to make that belief come true.

It’s a pretty safe bet to say that attitudes are responsible for creating and perpetuating our successes and failures as well as the quality of our relationships.

Business is all about building and maintaining relationships, and directing attitudes by this self-talk can be a great help for all of us.

I’ve written this line before:

People might forget exactly what you say, and they might forget precisely what you do, but they will never forget how you make them feel.

Use this “self-talk” technique. See how your attitude can shape your behavior.

Offended vs. Inspired

January 19, 2015

Offended vs. Inspired

 

Several decades ago, on a radio program in Chicago, I interviewed a man who described a growing phenomenon that would have a profound impact on American business. I didn’t believe this new trend would ever occur. He called it “political correctness.” I had never heard the term PC. As the years passed his predictions about changing conditions and business pressures have proven to be accurate.

As a result of PC, developing clear policies is essential for the effective operation of any business, and the specific wording requires care and caution in order to be “correct” and avoid unintended consequences. But recently that caution seems to have resulted in a trend in businesses wherein the opinions and beliefs of some people overpower those of others.

Sometimes that might be only one person, but without consistent policies, a single individual can negate what countless others have valued for many years.

The pressing question is. “What makes that person’s belief or position take precedence over those of others with differing perspectives?” Can we operate businesses successfully and accept the notion that one point of view is more important and more powerful than an alternative point of view?

In the old television program, “You Bet Your Life,” Groucho Marx said, “Say the magic word, and a duck will come down and give you fifty dollars.” In today’s world the “magic word” seems to be “offended.”

It doesn’t produce a fifty-dollar bill, but it’s changing the names of holidays, removing decorations or symbols from work locations, censoring the names of mascots, and prohibiting wearing certain clothing or accessories in the workplace.

We’ve seen the workplace and classrooms become devoid of the touches and the symbols that define the people inhabiting them.

Not long ago it was possible to learn about a person just by entering his or her workspace – be it a small cubicle, a large private office, or a store. The pictures, plaques, trophies, and other items on display provided insight into family status, religious affiliation, and military service. Today those clues have largely disappeared because someone found them “offensive.” People working in the locations were expected to remove the items because of the sensitivities of others.

Many schools and businesses have come to the point where displaying certain personal items or wearing certain clothes or accessories are grounds for discipline.

We risk becoming homogenized rather than “diverse”– evolving into a one-size-fits-all society where a small group of individuals determines acceptable behavior for all. The grandson of an acquaintance of mine was removed from his classroom because he was wearing (proudly) the division patch his grandfather had worn in combat during World War II because a teacher’s-aide was offended by the military symbol.

By coincidence, on the same day his father was told to remove an American flag pin from his suit jacket prior to joining a meeting at his office because it might offend another participant.

How did displaying an American flag become offensive? As a side note, when I tried to purchase a few small American flags for an event, a clerk at the store told me, “We don’t stock those things any more.” Those things!

In businesses and schools, we now have Winter and Spring holidays. Professional athletic teams are being pressured to accept names that won’t offend anyone.

If such a trend continues, we might see the demise of occupational names like Vikings, Packers, and Cowboys before too long.

And if other activists enter the forum, we might even see the end of the Bears, Broncos, Dolphins, Jaguars, Panthers, and Lions to name just a few.

It’s probably safe to point out that almost everything and anything might offend somebody. So here’s something to consider when developing policies and monitoring behaviors that govern business decisions.

When you hear anyone say, “I’m offended by_____” try this. Revise that sentence by saying, “But I’m inspired by____.”

You won’t be starting an argument; you’ll be stating an equally valid opinion.

Then reflect on the reaction you get, and ask yourself, “Did I just make a difference?”

 

“You Can’t Push A String”

December 31, 2014

You Can’t Push A String

 

That’s the title of my new book published by Black Opal Press.

It’s a collection of essays related to Communication, Customer Service,

Interviewing Techniques (both being interviewed and conducting them),

and a dozen other topics.

Reader feedback has been very positive.

The book is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Black Opal Press

 

 

Resolutions Or Wishful Thinking

December 31, 2014

Resolutions Or Wishful Thinking

 

Making New Year Resolutions is easy. Keeping them is the hard part.

Here’s a technique that will help.

Resolving to climb Mt. Everest can serve as a good example. Many people have already done it, of course, but the feat requires finances, physical ability,

training, time, and good weather to name just a few limiters. So, it might be “possible”, but it isn’t “probable.”

By all means set your goals high, but then identify all the steps necessary to reach them.

Many of us get bogged down and discouraged at this time of the year because, after setting that lofty goal, we don’t identify what the necessary steps are., and achieving any goal requires focus and perseverance.

Here’s a less dramatic example of the need to focus – resolving to learn to play the harmonica. It’s easy to buy one. They’re inexpensive and easily available. But, once acquired, what comes next? Take lessons? Read an instruction manual? Get an app? Something else? Maybe just put it into a convenient desk drawer?

Here’s an approach that might help at the start of 2015. Let language assist with the Resolutions. Apply the discipline of writing to stay focused and on track. No one can fool a blank piece of paper or an empty computer screen. The “nothing” will stay there until someone does something about it. So do this.

In a simple sentence, write the goal. (I resolve to _______”) That’s the easy part, but now comes the plan. Write this. “So, first I’ll have to _______” Now be specific and add “by ______.” If there isn’t a date there isn’t a plan.

Next, list what you’ll need. Being realistic here will avoid disappointment and failure later.

For now, forget Himalayas and harmonicas, and look at business opportunities and options.

What can you do to improve business opportunities as well as your personal relationships? Start by indentifying one factor that could have a powerful productive impact. If you had your “druthers”, what would be your fondest wish?

Write it down. Then determine if you can do it or get it? Is it realistic and achievable? What do you need? First? Second?

Now, ask yourself a question we haven’t mentioned before. Is it important enough for you to work at, or is it just a whim?

Those written language exercises will help use time and talent well – and inexpensively, too.

In many business seminars, I’ve asked participants this question. “What has the greatest impact on your business?” The overwhelming response is “Customer Service.” That really shouldn’t surprise anyone, but what is surprising is how frequently we let it slip because we’re busy, tired, or distracted.

A simple fact in business interactions and personal ones, too, is this. Customers don’t care if you’re busy, or tired, or distracted. All they want – and deserve – is included In the designation itself – Service.

Providing that service is perhaps the most important resolution we can make at this time of the year. Don’t leave it to chance, or assume everything will work out. Resolve to do it, and then make quality customer service a top priority every day.

It’s easy when you want to do it, and it won’t be just wishful thinking. It will be a reality. A resolution is much like taking a road trip or a boat trip. At a minimum, you must know two things – your starting point and your destination. Without those two facts, it’s impossible to set a course.

Here’s a bit of whimsy I’ve used in the past to make that point about decisions and destinations. This brief scene in “Alice In Wonderland” between Alice and the Cheshire Cat sums up the essence of focus, resolution, reality, and results.

Alice: Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?

Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice:            I don’t much care where.

Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Consider the wisdom of that encounter as you enter 2015 in our “Wonderful Land.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR