January 31, 2008

Former Starbucks President Podcast

Filed under: Leadership — Mark Sanborn @ 3:31 pm

My friend Jim Canterucci has a Februrary podcast that you will find of interest. It features the former president of Starbucks, Howard Behar. Howard has a people-centered leadership style. Check out the podcast here.


Filed under: Observations, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 11:26 am

It seems that this time of year I fight the blues a little more often than normal. While I think positive thinking is vitally important, I don’t think it is necessarily the antidote to negativity. I’ve come to believe that gratitude is the best cure.

I don’t know who originally said it, but it is helpful to remember: gratefulness creates a great fullness of heart.

All of our lives are filled with a mix of the good and the bad. The ratio of the mix changes and how it changes is often beyond our control. What doesn’t change is our ability to choose where we direct our focus.

Focusing on the blessings and good things in our life isn’t a form of denial. We still know the challenges exist. Gratitude does, somehow, recharge our batteries and provide new energy with which to face the challenges.

I think one reason shows like Jerry Springer are popular is because in a perverse way it reminds us that our lives aren’t nearly as screwed up as the people on the screen.

A better option than watching bad reality television is simply to practice the age old art of counting your blessings.

January 29, 2008

Experience Autopsy

Filed under: Success, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 3:57 pm

When I checked into my hotel last night, I asked (as I always do) if my room was relatively quiet. And I used these words “…it isn’t up against or right next to an elevator is it?” The woman behind the front desk said it wasn’t. She then gave me directions to the elevator bank. “Just take two lefts at the top of the escalator.”

Ten minutes later I was on a house phone trying to find the elevator bank. I’ve adventured travel in Borneo so I’m pretty good at finding my way around. Her directions sucked.

When I finally got to my room, I discovered it was indeed up against the elevator shafts. Many people were using these elevators, and every press of the button set into motion a mechanical cacophony that lasted throughout the night.

Also, there was a message light on my phone. The client had an amenity for me, but since it was after 11:00 p.m. I’d need to call the hotel to get it delivered. They didn’t want to interrupt my evening. I called. They said they’d deliver. 90 minutes later (literally) I was on the phone with the delivery people. “We’re pretty busy and your room is a long way away…” No apology. At 1:00 a.m. my basket of goodies arrived.

I called the manager on duty. I related my experience. He asked if there was anything I wanted him to do. I resisted the urge to be a smart aleck. That was the last I heard from anyone in the hotel about the various service delivery failures.

Nobody is too surprised when things go bad, but customers, colleagues, friends and relatives live with the optimism that whoever caused the problem will do a little something to make things right. Even a simple apology is a good place to start.

Next time you are involved with a serious experience failure, do an experience autopsy. It doesn’t take long, and the insights can be most helpful. Here are the questions:

1. What went wrong?

2. What can we do to make things better right now?

3. What have we learned that we can use to do better in the future?

Making mistakes isn’t a criminal offense. Making the same ones over and over nearly is. When someone–anyone–brings a legitimate problem or concern to your attention (and if they’re bringing it up, it is legitimate to them), take action. Ask some simple questions. Prove to the person you value them by responding rationally and helpfully. And learn something that will prevent you from making the same mistake in the future.

January 28, 2008

The Productivity Cafe

Filed under: Professional Development, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 2:30 pm

Susan Sabo has an interesting blog at The Productivity Cafe. She recently wrote a positive review about my book The Fred Factor, but you’ll find lots of good, practical ideas on “efficiency and a better life” at her site.


Filed under: Observations, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 11:43 am

We choose our words and then our words create our lives. Whether we wound or heal, help or hurt, create or destroy, words are the tools we use.

A careless choice of words, no matter how well intentioned, can be one’s undoing. The right words delivered with the wrong tone of voice create a decidedly different result. Marriages have been saved or lost by the consistent and careful choice of words. Deals have been done or undone with a few small but significant words. Emotions are elevated or inflamed by the choice of words.

Language is the software of the mind. It is also the primary tool for interactions. Musician Larry Norman correctly observed that a limitation of language results in a limitation of thought. It also limits our ability to create.

We often become careless with out words. How often we forget to attend to our tongues. Theologians and philosophers have repeatedly warned us about the danger of using words poorly, but we seem to consistently ignore them.

Are your words creating the life you desire?

January 27, 2008

Rush to Judgement

Filed under: Leadership, Professional Development — Mark Sanborn @ 6:20 pm

The pendulum continues swinging. Rarely does it stop in the middle, at the point Aristotle would have called the golden mean.

Many practices err to one side or the other. In the early 80’s Tom Peters and Bob Waterman suggested managers and leaders practice “ready, fire, aim.” Their advice was a backlash against snail-pace decision making and indecision paralyzed organizations.

The new badge of honor was decisiveness: decide fast and move quickly.

Of course that approach misses the golden mean.

I’ve come to believe that one of the greatest dangers of leaders in a complex environment is premature conclusion. Some decisions are best made after slow and sometimes even painstaking consideration. Other decisions need to be made and made quickly. The art is in discerning what kind of decision you need to make.

Operational decisions are often those that can be made quickly. Decisions involving strategy, significant potential gain or loss, and important relationships need to be made more deliberately. The greatest error you can make is deciding before you have the necessary information. While intuition is important–and I believe it does play a role in good decision-making–it should never replace due diligence. Personally, I’ve used the excuse of acting on intuition to replace the harder work of good decision making. The results haven’t always been pretty.

In a time-compressed world, we resist digging and sorting through the information necessary to make an informed and wise decision. Sometimes we use the mantra of ready, fire, aim and rush to judgment. When the stakes are high, reaching a premature conclusion can be costly.

January 25, 2008

The Right Way and the Wrong Way

Filed under: Politics — Mark Sanborn @ 7:43 am

Barack Obama did something strategic when he moved from complaining about Bill Clinton campaigning for Hillary and started using humor to deal with the situation.

John Edwards, one of the most experienced and yet inept candidates did something poorly. He’s in South Carolina, the state where he was born. Since he’s getting smacked around by Clinton and Obama, Edwards decided to attack. But he didn’t go after his opponents as you might expect. He attacked the sitting president. And he didn’t attack his policies, he attacked Bush, saying if there was an adult in the White House the recession would have been dealt with before it began.

The term is “misplaced aggression.”

Obama got it right; Edwards got it wrong.

January 24, 2008

Night Auditors Rock

Filed under: Difference Makers, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 9:52 am

This morning there was a handwritten note slid under my door at the St. Petersburg Bayfront Hilton. It was from the chief night auditor, John Darr. It read: “I see you’ve already enjoyed our Starbucks. Please have a coffee drink on the  night audit staff.” There was a coupon for a free Starbucks beverage included. Obviously he’d reviewed charges from the day before and seen my room charge from the in-hotel Starbucks. I quickly took advantage of his hospitality and redeemed my coupon.

I share this little anecdote because it is more proof that you can add value to any job. I’m guessing most people wouldn’t think a night auditor was a key link in the chain of service delivery. This night auditor created the single most memorable part of my stay. Why? Because it was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

What are you doing to add value to your customer’s experience?

January 21, 2008

Commitment without Constraints

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 5:52 pm

According to a CNN quick poll, 10% of respondents said they believed it was never too cold to exercise outside. I don’t share it but I admire their espoused commitment.

That little survey started me thinking about commitment. What am I completely committed to doing no matter what the circumstances or conditions? What am I always willing to do regardless of difficulties or obstacles? Which of my commitments have limits? (I try to exercise six days a week, but I often do it indoors. At what temperature do I go inside?)

My brief contemplation suggests that while I do have some “complete commitments” I have more commitments with limits than without. Commitment uniformed by reason and the resultant limits can become fanaticism. Commitments with many or severe limits quickly cease being commitments.

I haven’t come up with any quick answers to the question of ultimate commitments, but I’ve gained a few insights from asking the question.

Making a Difference to Young Writers

Filed under: Difference Makers — Mark Sanborn @ 11:11 am

Yesterday I was a proud father as I watched my son Hunter recognized for a story he’d written that was accepted for publication by the Children’s Family Story Project. The brainchild of Irv Green and his wife Andrea, CFSP encourages children grades 3, 4 and 5 from every school in Colorado to interview a family member and write a story about what they learn. The stories were judged by a panel of professional journalists and 30 stories were selected for inclusion in the book Relatively Speaking.

This was the first year of the volunteer project and as a parent I am most grateful to Irv and everyone involved. Many hours of love and care were invested by many people. The recognition was held at The Tattered Cover bookstore in downtown Denver. Those of you who know me know what a fan I am of The Tattered Cover. Joyce Meskis, the owner, has been a tremendous supporter of all things related to books for many years.
I got started in public speaking at the age of 10 when I entered my first contest, so I am a fan of programs that get kids involved in a skill or sport at an early age. I’m sure some of the kids who were recognized yesterday will go on to have distinguished writing careers.

Even if the kids don’t end up writing for a living, the program has encouraged them to learn about their families and the rich history of their parents, grandparents and beyond.

My wife Darla learned about the program and we both encouraged Hunter to enter (and nine year olds can take a lot of encouragement). He wrote about his Cherokee heritage in a story he learned from his grandmother on Darla’s side of the family. I can assure you that I had nothing to do with the writing or editing of his work. The kids had to write their stories without help from any outsider.
I hope this program continues (I’ve heard that next year it might be rolled out nationwide), and that it encourages and inspires others to create and conduct similar programs where they live. CFSP truly makes a difference to young writers.

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