February 1, 2008

The Highest Reward

Filed under: Success — Mark Sanborn @ 12:27 pm

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.”                                                                                             John Ruskin

Authenticity Under Attack

Filed under: Observations, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 11:49 am

A recent article in USAToday about fake accents said, “…faking an accent can be considered cool, not unauthentic…”

How can anything fake be considered “not unauthentic”?

Our culture considers to butcher words and concepts for convenience. Katie Couric said moving outside one’s comfort zone “almost always makes you uncomfortable.” Another butchered concept, only it got airtime on national television. Moving outside your comfort zone, by definition, means you’ll be uncomfortable.

Granting that Ms. Couric was just sloppy in her choice of words, let’s return to “fake” becoming a form of “authentic.”

In a world where Second Life is a popular online virtual reality–you can be anyone you choose to be–why wouldn’t we start rearranging the meaning of words and concepts?
And if we do, what’s the harm?

To have value, words must have fixed and shared meaning. While the definition of words can and do change over time, we’ve never accepted individual capriciousness as a valid reason for change.

Bill Clinton was the first public example of redefinition I can recall. Suddenly “oral sex” stopped being “sex.”

Underneath authenticity under attack is the problem of relativism. Why use an external and absolute standard when you can create your own? It isn’t just that people can’t agree on an absolute external standard, it’s that they don’t want to. It is inconvenient to answer to a higher purpose, principle or power.

The result: authentic fakes, or fake authenticity. Sometimes comfortable discomfort. Things that no longer belong to the category they came from.

And an overall demise of the ability to communicate and live with clarity.

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.

Gratitude

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.

Words

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?

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