This article is a second in the series on Radiating Customer Service. Let’s begin
In our last article we learned that every time someone meets an internal or external customer, customer service begins. Fundamentally, customer service is about forming relationships. The skills we use to form a relationship with a customer are like those we use to from all interpersonal relationships. In this sense, the title of these articles “Radiating Customer Service” could just as easily be “Radiating People-centred Service.” However, there are specific types of relationships that relate to the CSR (Customer Service Representative) and the external customer.
Types of Relationships We Have With External Customers
Our contact with an external customer usually operates at two levels: 1) the need for information about a product or service, and 2) the resulting relationship that binds the customer to the CSR and the business as a brand. Customers have a need for something and they come to a place where they hope that need is fulfilled. It is within these two levels where we experience the exchange between the customer and customer personnel. The extent of that exchange and the relationship that is formed is either transactional, incremental, formative, or formal.
Quick Information Exchanges That Lead to a Transactional Relationship
A “quick information exchange” is usually straight forward. It happens when a customer knows what she wants e.g. “Here is what I want. Do you have it?” "I have a headache. Do you have any aspirins?" In this situation there is limited need for information and limited interest in developing a close relationship.
Although the customer knows (information) what she wants (product), the CSR still must show respect and be available for any questions the customer may have. Here the customer is usually seeking speedy service and convenience. The customer has already decided to pay more for a quality product, or is willing to pay less and is not concerned about product brand, or wants quality at the best price. If the customer has a good experience with this type of exchange, they remember and will return, and branding to the business begins. A “Quick Information Exchange” results in what is called a “Transactional Relationship.”
When customers know what they want, and the product isn’t available, they often do not want a substitute or an up-sell. In fact, they get turned off when a CSR, in all good intention, attempts to substitute brands or up-sell.
An example of a potential transactional relationship gone haywire occurred when Max went shopping. Max went into a menswear store to buy a suit. He knew the style, colour and brand he wanted. He was prepared to sacrifice brand if the style and colour was available, but he wasn’t prepared to give up his colour and style. He told the CSR this. The suit stock did not include the colour, style or brand. The CSR offered a substitute and became persistent that the change of color and style suited Max. Max became frustrated with the CSR and walked out the store. He didn’t want to deal with this CSR again. He told several people about this exchange. In his eyes and in the eyes of others the store brand was diminished by the actions of the CSR.
Supplemental Information Exchanges That Lead to an Incremental Relationship
A “supplemental information exchange” occurs when the customer has some clarity about the product or service he wants but requires additional information. In this case the customer may request, “a pamphlet about the service or product” or say something like, “point me to your website.” This type of need is often expressed over the telephone, by email, or after some discussion with the CSR. Again, just as in a transactional situation, there is limited necessity for a lengthy exchange between the customer and the customer representative, but there is potential for forming or strengthening a future relationship
Supplemental exchanges provide the CSR with an opportunity to follow-up on the request to determine if the customer is satisfied with the information or requires more information. A follow-up shows an interest in the customer outside of the brief exchange and may be the beginning of a more extensive relationship between the CSR and customer, or the customer and the business. In the latter case the customer begins to relate more closely to the business, and the business becomes a brand for the customer. This gets translated as “I go to FACSi Drug Mart (business brand), because the pharmacists (CSR) provide great follow-up service.” The more the customer is satisfied with the information he receives the more he will remember both the CSR and the business. (Note: FACSi Drug Mart is a fictitious name). Supplemental exchanges provide an opportunity for what I call an “Incremental Relationship” as there is an opportunity to incrementally strengthen the bond between the CSR and business brand.
Resolution Information Exchanges That Lead to a Formative Relationship
In a resolution exchange the customer requires more information than in the first two types of exchanges and a closer relationship with the CSR. In this type of customer exchange the customer has a need such that she can’t resolve it by herself. She may not even be able to clearly explain her need, and/or how to resolve it, and/or whether the company provides the product or service to meet it. Here the CSR requires: sound product or service knowledge, where to get the information if he doesn’t know, keen listening skills, and an ability to explain the product or service information in clear and simple language. In the end the CSR wants to ensure the customer has all the information she requires to make an informed decision. The customer will usually remember the CSR as knowledgeable, helpful and respectful when she experiences a positive resolution to her need.
Again, the second stage of the relationship is set. This time the information and the positive customer experience brought about by the closer relationship, binds the customer to the business. I call this a “Formative Relationship” because the CSR is developing or has developed a more lasting relationship with the customer.
Formal Information Exchanges That Lead to a Partnership Relationship
“Formal information exchanges” are extensive and lengthy communications between the customer and CSR. They usually occur at senior/owner levels of the organization and in these cases the owner or senior leader become the CSR. Here the organization and customer establish a bond where each works to achieve a common end. These exchanges reflect a relationship where there is extensive information sharing about products and services and result in a mutually beneficial outcome. Often the exchanges end in a strong legal bond between the business and customer whereby they form of partnership. Hence, I call the results of this exchange a “Partnership Relationship” Partnership arrangement don’t happen that often, but they do occur within the range of customer service relationships.
Companies strive for relational exchanges with their customers through their CSRs. They know the stronger the relationship, the stronger the tie with the business. During all encounters the CSR should: get to know the customer’s name and use it in his explanations; dig to find out more about the customer’s situation that he may use later as a touching point with her; and, keep in touch with her via email or telephone whenever possible.
During each type of relationship exchange we find “moments of truth” discussed in my first article. (LINK) A primary intent of all our relationships, is to strengthen customer loyalty. This means as a CSR we continually strive to raise the bar in our relations with others, not just because it is good for the company, important as that is, but also for ourselves. The more we do for others in a respectful, kind and helpful way the more people reciprocate in the same way. Everybody wins.
Thanks for reading
Richard P. Fontanie
Our next article will explore the importance of a Customer Service Charter.
Since customer service is such an important aspect of business, I will be writing articles over the course of the next several months on this topic. The articles may be a refresher for some, and I hope will provide new ways to improve service for others. Let's begin.
Businesses need customers. Yet, experience suggests that customer service is not always right within businesses. We hear complaints from customers concerning: poor face-to-face service, negative telephone etiquette, inappropriate handling of complaints, and bored customer service personnel. However, when quality customer service is provided we learn that customers are happy, moral is enhanced, the business is well regarded, and the business's bottom line is improved.
When I facilitated customer service workshops business owners consistently told me, after customer service training and after all other factors were eliminated, their revenue was increased by 6-12 percent. This suggests Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) can turn negative approaches to customer service into positive ones.
Who are our Customers
Customers come to us in two ways. The first and most obvious way is through our doors, the internet, emails and over the telephone. These are our coveted external customers. The second way, and not so obvious, is through our organization. They are people we work with daily. They are our internal customers including our boss, manager, team leader, and colleagues. When we relate to customers whether internally or externally our responsibility remains the same which is to treat them with kindness, respect and dignity.
We are all customers as each of us purchase goods or services from others. When we, as a customer, enter any type of business, we want to be treated fairly, respectfully, and honestly. We expect those who serve us know something about the products, listen to our needs and wants, and approach us with a positive and optimistic attitude. We remember these people. The same is true for customers who enter our place of business. They remember the CSRs who treated them well. This exchange between the customer and those who serve is one of the heart – it touches the level of feelings. Maya Angelou put it this way, “People will forget what you said...People will forget what you did...But people will never forget how you made them feel."
So, what we do, how we do it, and how it makes us feel, influences our relationships with customers; and, it appears there is little difference between what we expect as a customer and what our customers expect of us. When FACSi(a) researched what customers expected from CSRs it found they wanted: quality service, a listening ear, an optimistic attitude, positive approach, and solutions to their problems or at least a referral to where service may be obtained. It also found that customers expect service providers to be knowledgeable, well organized, honest, and fair.
There is something else going on with today's customers, and that is their relationship with the internet. With the advent of the internet customers have access to information about the products they want and hence are more knowledgeable about them. Sometimes because of their "Google" search they know more about the product than the CSR. They often know where the products come from, what they are made of, how they are made, whether they are ethically produced and how they compare with other products.
Customers are also more discerning in their choice of service and are looking for a positive customer experience, want a personal touch, seek quality products and value for money. They will go where their needs are met, so it is increasingly important for businesses and CSRs to meet these evolving customer requirements. (For more on this see my article on "The Emerging Retail Experience.)
As businesses provide better service expectations increase and in turn customers expect an increase in the level of service. Someone once said: “Every experience we have as a customer sets a benchmark against which the next experience is judged. This means that we expect better and better service." Darrell Rigby put it this way, "Each wave of change doesn't eliminate what comes before it, but it reshapes the landscape and redefines consumer expectations, often beyond recognition. Retailers relying on earlier formats either adapt or die out."
This suggests that each time businesses improve the customer experience, customers will come back to the business. It also suggests the businesses must consistently up-grade everyone in the organization to meet new and emerging customer expectations..
What is Customer Service
Now we come to the basic question: Just what is customer service?
Customer Service simply refers to managing all those points of exchange between the customer and the business. These exchanges are often called “moments of truth”. They determine whether the customer will be pleased or not. So, every time someone meets an internal or external customer, customer service begins.
The CSR, in whatever position, is the conduit through which the organization is known, and is for the customer the ‘face’ of the organization. Every time an individual meets a customer the stage is set for an impression of service and a “moment of truth” (first coined by Jan Carlzon, president of the Scandinavian Airline SAS). The complete sequence of “moments of truth” – all those acts performed by those who contribute to the customer experience- become known as the full “cycle of service”.
Moments of truth may occur hundreds of times within the cycle of service, for example the cycle of service could include: the customers perception of how the manufacturer packaged the goods and how they are showcased on the shelves; how the customer relates to the store environment and how the CSR treats the customer over the telephone, when he browses for items, approaches the counter, refers the customer to someone else, or when the customer pays for the goods. The cycle of service covers the whole of the customer experience. The Scandinavian Airline discovered more than 50,000 occasions when staff interacted with customers. Each interaction became a “moment of truth.”
In any given day of service, the CSRs can enhance moments of truth by: wishing someone a “nice day,” paying attention to detail, making the most of a bad experience, saying "thank you" as if they mean it, and remembering a regular customer's name. This is common courtesy and just being kind to people, one person at a time.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie
My next article will explore the types of relationships we have with customers
Problems force us to make choices, however, often the choices we make resonate with our present thinking. And, our present thinking reflects our life experiences that form our identity, our sense of self and our own personhood. If this true, then when we face a problem which suggests we choose a different path, or a different way of doing things, the decision to choose that path becomes hard.
The act of solving a problem forces us to choose, to seek alternative ways to the way we think about or do things. When we work through this process we often choose a solution that re-enforces our present way of thinking and acting. Thus, we think inside the box rather than outside the box. It’s not a breakthrough choice. We become trapped within our own world and keep doing what we always did. We don’t want to change, because change takes us out of our comfort zone.
When we are asked to move out of our comfort zone, we often resist. Sometimes we fight, flee or acquiesce in a passive aggressive way by not really accepting the new path and may, consciously or unconsciously, work to undermine the process of moving forward.
This is why, when leaders see a need to take a different course than what people are used to or are comfortable with, they often meet with resistance. On the one hand, leaders see a need for change and on the other people through time and experience have engendered a sense of “fit” with their work and their present way of doing things. They have clothed themselves with a sense of comfort with what is. They are not ready to take on the unknown and the ambiguity of it all.
So how do we as individuals get comfortable with choices that don’t seem to fit with our way of thinking? And how do leaders help others choose a different path?
As individuals we can:
As leaders we can:
Quote: “When you change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” Wayne W. Dyer
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC
We often hear and tell others that communication is the glue that keeps us together whether that be among teams, businesses, organizations or couples. Just what is this glue we are talking about?
The process of communications has many dimensions. We learn about techniques for listening, talking, writing and understanding body language but, as important as these are, they don’t get to the shadow behind communications.
A shadow projects our image when a light shines upon it. Sometimes the shadow is distorted and other times it clearly outlines the shape of our body. A shadow follows us around and is often attached to us in some way. And, there are times when we can identify someone just by seeing his or her shadow.
How does all this relate to communication? When people communicate with each other they hear words, see body language, hear tone of voice but often don’t understand the shadow behind the expressions. The shadow is the profile of the person out of which communication is filtered. That shadow reflects the make-up of the person.
When we communicate, we communicate out of the context of who we are. Who we are is continually informed by our culture, family, positive and negative experiences, education, religion, relationships and so on. This is the backdrop or the shadow from which we communicate. In turn those who we communicate with also have their own shadow which continually informs them.
When we think about communication in this context - outside of the technical aspects of listening and speaking, as well as the sensory aspects of hearing, seeing, smelling and touching - we can begin to appreciate some of the difficulties we have when we communicate with others.
At times we express our frustrations, either directly or indirectly such as “I don’t know where you are coming from” or “I just don’t understand your point of view,” or “why don’t you understand.” One of the factors underlying why we don’t understand relates to the shadow. Particularly if that shadow is not similar to our own.
Perhaps our communications with others would improve if we took the time to understand “where the person is coming from” - to try and understand what is going on within the person's communication shadow? This means taking the time to learn and reflect upon the person's shadow and how it impacts the way we communicate with each other. This is the basis for empathetic communication - we begin to walk in the other’s shadow for a while, and in turn share our own shadow with them. At the root, we get to know others as individuals and they get to know us in the same way
Understanding an individual's communication shadow is extremely important given today's diverse workforce. Most businesses are populated with people who come from a variety of cultures. They are often expected to immediately fit into our businesses and organizations without us spending the necessary time to appreciate the milieu from which they gained most of their first experiences.
This unknowing complicates our communication. And, that complication may find its expression in several ways, such as: misunderstanding words, gestures, family practices, and religion, or, not accounting for awful experiences as a result of war, poverty, persecution or discrimination.
So how do we uncover the shadow of our colleagues, employees, bosses, friends and associates? Here are a few hints:
Find opportunities to explore each other's shadow such as when you are with other person:
Our communication shadow is with us daily and is behind every conversation we have with others. Shine a light on yourself so that you can understand it and don’t be afraid to share it with others. It just may be the opening you need to understand and appreciate your co-worker, employee, friend or partner.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW, FCMC
It sounds strange but we do need resistance if we want to change. Resistance is that force which pushes against moving ahead. Yet without resistance we will unlikely go forward. Positive resistance to change uses force to propel us forward, negative resistance to change uses force to push us back or hold us in a place where we don't move forward or backward. During the change process there is always force to push us forward and counter force to push us backward or to remain in a static position.
Whenever we problem solve we also experience force and counter force, because solving problems is all about change. A problem is usually something that gets us stuck in time and somehow we need to resolve it in order to move forward.
When we attempt to resolve problems we often use "push" force to move forward and when there is resistance, a counter force or push back, we attempt to remove the resistance by more push force. This pushing may erupt into physical clashes or angry outbursts. Great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, based on Gandhi's example, changed the resistant dynamic by countering physical push force with peaceful "pull" force.
Our sphere of influence isn’t like that of Gandhi or King, but it is important none the less. Most of us are wrapped up in small to medium size businesses or organizations where people often resist change. Resistance to change plays out when a new leader enters an organization with a different vision for its success than the prevailing one; or when there is a slump in the marketplace and drastic change strategies are needed for the business to survive; or when an organization's Board gives direction to shake up the organization because in its view the organization is stagnant, atrophied or no longer meets current market place realities.
One approach to resistance is the use of "dictatorial" push force. In such instances we hear statements, often based on fear tactics, that go something like this: "you better change or you no longer work here," or, "let's move resisters to innocuous positions," or, "let's make things as uncomfortable as possible so that people leave." This method is based on dual thinking: it's "my way or the highway." In essence it's an either-or proposition. There's no third way - there's no breakthrough thinking about alternative ways to deal with resistance.
It appears from a distance that this type of dictatorial force is emerging within in the Trump administration. The same "push" force is experienced in smaller organizations where employees are displaced or moved out in an undignified manner. In these situations I have even heard language similar to that used in war such as, "they are casualties" or "we have a lot of collateral damage."
There may be times, however, when the force of "push" is necessary. In these circumstances "push" methods should maintain the dignity and respect of those being pushed while at the same time maintain the integrity and ethical standards of those doing the pushing. One CEO I know calls this "benevolent" force.
In a previous article I suggested that the skills for breakthrough thinking as it pertains to problem solving include empathetic listening, patience and dialogue. These same skill sets are also key to implementing "pull" strategies.
My preferred approach views resistance as an opportunity to find a third path arising not as an either/or choice, but as a way to resolve the problem using a balanced push-pull force. A balanced approach suggests combining the "benevolent push" force with the "pull" force ,or, using them in "tandem." However, there are situations when it's best to use the forces separately. In other words, I mostly "pull", other times I benevolently "push" and still others I use "push-pull" forces in tandem. Moving through resistance in this way isn't easy but it does generate positive engagement and buy-in from those affected with far fewer "casualties," while at the same time supports the dignity, respect and integrity of everyone involved.
Questions to ponder: Do you understand "push" and "pull" as methods of "force" when dealing with resistance? What is your experience regarding "push" and "pull" forces when you encounter resistance in resolving organizational or personal problems? Should we use "push" and "pull" methods deferentially? Are there times when "push" should be the preferred method of force? If so, how should we use it?
Let me know what you think.
Many years ago, I learned that we solve problems not by focusing on opposites but by finding opportunities for breakthrough solutions. We often think in two-way or duality terms such as an "I'm right, your wrong mentality." One solution to this dual thinking is to pose a win-win solution. That somewhere between the two positions there must be a middle. The result usually means each gives up something to obtain a resolution, and in finding that resolution each loses something in the transaction. The other solution to the win-win scenario is win-lose, or lose-lose. I win, you lose or we both lose. In these situations, we go head to head and negotiate a middle ground, lose, win or walk away.
Win-win, win-lose, lose-lose are strategies where people often leave the situation feeling unsettled. They give up something to gain something, or don't give up at all. In a breakthrough resolution approach, we are not thinking with a win-win mentality, we are thinking opportunity, something new, a third dimension or a new creative outcome. For breakthrough solutions to reach full fruition dialogue, collaboration, empathetic listening and transparency of thought are necessary.
Finding breakthrough solutions belies the more conventional approach of individual competitiveness. Rather than competing, a breakthrough approach relies on mutuality and collaborative effort. The process of coming to a solution each empowers the other. In this way, a solution benefits both while at the same time expresses something new. A new entity arises from the two positions but different from them.
If we can resolve problems using this method perhaps we can begin to transform injustices in our workplaces, engender greater respect for each other, strengthen mutual high regard, and in the end, find more enduring solutions.
To become "breakthrough" champions we need to learn how to become less selfish and egotistical, or another way of putting it, we will need to learn how to become more adult in our approach and less of the righteous and petulant adolescent.
One of the keys to breakthrough thinking is to blank out the way we usually solve problems. Rather than framing a situation from one's point of view as a position to defend we suspend all judgement and approach it with new set of lenses. We look for mutual opportunity without the resistance of personal positioning.
Does this mean we suspend our experience? After all, we are who we are based on our experience - it forms our world view about how we approach others and our problems. The short answer is no. It is how we frame the situation and our response that becomes the basis of our breakthrough. An example of this often occurs in meetings when people say such things as 'this is the way we handled this issue in the past," or "we tried that back in 2002, and it didn't work." This is not breakthrough thinking, this is rear view mirror thinking.
Breakthrough thinking draws on our experience without specific reference to the past and looks for new opportunities in the present that will lead to a better outcome in the future. Too many good solutions get shelved because people shut off the flow of creative thinking by dwelling on the past rather than using that experience to explore opportunities which lead to solving today's problems.
When we seek a breakthrough solution we don't think in dualistic terms such as right and wrong, black and white, this way or that way, but rather in triangular or ternary terms. What flows from this and that, black and white, right and wrong, past and future, produces a third opportunity. What flows from black and white is gray, neither black nor white; what flows from right and wrong is situational choice based on conscientious discernment, and what flows from past and leads to the future is the wisdom of the present. Each is a distinct entity different and unique from the other, but flows from the energy of the two to make a third opportunity or result.
At times breakthrough thinking seems to come from a force outside ourselves. It is one of those "ah, ah moments," where a bolt of creativity strikes, and we ask, "where did that come from?" It presents itself not in dualistic terms but as something new and fresh. It may be a result of our subconscious working on the issue, or may be a force beyond ourselves, which many refer to as their Spiritual Source. It is Archimedes in the bathtub or Mary in the last meeting who said, " I just had a unique idea that I think will break our log jam."
It is not easy to arrive at a breakthrough because we seem to be wired to think in opposites and defend our positions rather than seek a third, different course. It takes discipline, energy, collaborative effort and a mutual commitment to go beyond our present world view.
Let's take a couple of typical examples from my own consulting practice:
One of the challenges with breakthrough solutions is that it leads to change because the solution is different from what exists; and this is the rub, because people are often resistant to change (see articles on change). However, if they are engaged in finding a breakthrough the change is embraced as a natural flow from the solution; if they are not engaged then preparatory work is necessary. An edict will not work but a process of open communication, encouragement, empathetic listening and engagement from the ground up will.
What to do: Breakthrough solutions are not always easy, nor are they always possible. However, if we strive in good faith to seek solutions outside of our constricted thinking we may discover better solutions, or at least be clearer about the problem at hand and possible opportunities they present. In any event when approaching breakthrough solutions:
Keep ego in check.
Be open to all possibilities.
Listen deeply and empathetically
Communicate and collaborate openly.
Wait for, and discover together, the "Ah!Ah!" moment.
Prepare self through meditation and work with others unselfishly.
Think opportunity, not in dualistic terms but in third-way and creative terms.
Boris (not his real name) a client of mine found that he was always behind. He was constantly responding to interruptions and getting off task. He was forgetting to follow up on requests, waking up at night with things he was supposed to do and didn't. He was trying to keep a list of all his activities in his rapidly failing memory bank.
One of the exercises most successful people do is to take ten minutes at the end of the work day to examine how their day went and to plan for the next day. They review what they did and what they didn’t do. They then look at tomorrow and see what is on their task list and what they need to carry over from their today's incomplete list. Having set their list of tasks they then put them in order of priority and tackle the most important ones first thing in the morning. Oh, one more thing, they make sure their priority tasks are linked to their overall goals.
This is a simple exercise but it works. It keeps us focused on the important and not on the urgent and ensures that we are marching toward our goals and objectives. It is not always easy to keep "on task" because of the numerous interruptions we have during the day, but having the task list in front of us will keep us on track.
What to do: Take ten minutes at the end of the day and look back. Complete the exercise described above and add some more ingredients like: Think about what good you did, what good you could’ve done and the things you could've avoided. Ask: Do I procrastinate on certain tasks? Why didn't I complete this task? Can I do it tomorrow? Is it a real priority? Did I serve an employee, colleague, or customer with a positive attitude? Can I do better tomorrow. Now look ahead and reset your priorities.
By the way when Boris began tracking and planning his activities he slept better, didn't need to be reminded about what he forgot, and actually produced more in a day with less stress
Want to learn more: Consider one of Priority Management's programs at: www.prioritymanagement.com ; read a good book on time management - I found David Allen's book "Getting Things Done" to be a good resource.
Revised from the Archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions.
Note: Image from Microsoft Clip Art
From time to time leadership teams are faced with a major strategic decision to reduce and redirect dollars and human resources to meet a major downturn in the marketplace. Let's take the scenario where they don't want to let staff go, nor do they want to shift their services away from what they know what works and what made them successful. Revenue is dwindling fast and if they don’t do something soon they know they will be attending one of those dreaded meetings with their banker.
If you are in this position it is time to take a surgeon’s look at all your policies, processes and procedures. Engage your key management personnel in finding ways to do more with less. Your task is to map out everything and measure it against your overall strategic direction. In today’s parlance this would be akin to LEAN, - when we did this we called it "Finding Efficiency." Your overall strategy is to find the savings to weather the storm without terminating employees. One way to accomplish this is to follow a rigorous decision-making process with the following steps:
Finally, make sure that the decisions you make accomplish the results you intended. So evaluate the results on a quarterly basis and “tweak” the decision to meet new conditions as they arise. Here is what I found when companies did this: the economic storm was weathered and the company moved ahead with an improved bottom line which allowed them to keep their valuable people and improve services to their customers in the long term.
From the archives, Fontanie Learning Solutions
We have plenty of opportunity to fritter away precious time in our places of work.
We allow noisy interruptions such as someone knocking on our door and asking, "You got a minute?" to leaving the "sound" on that lets us know that an email has arrived. We also allow silent ones like having little sticky notes on our walls or on our computers and loading our virtual or physical desk top with files, folders and notes. All of these interrupters take us away from our most important priority of the moment. We get further behind and then claim we are "overloaded" with work. Perhaps we fail to realize that every time we are interrupted we lose about 8 minutes of time. Why? Because our mind needs to disengage from what we are doing, deal with the interruption, and then reengage back to the task at hand.
What to do:
Set aside quiet time to work on your most important items. Some companies have established a policy for their employees not to interrupt their colleagues for the first hour of the day. That time is set aside for them to work on their most important priorities. Failing a company policy, make an appointment with yourself. Guard it just like any other appointment and close your door or put a 'do not disturb' sign on the door or doorway, letting others know that you are busy.. When you have completed that important task you can then remove the 'do not disturb' sign and give the person the attention they deserve.
Break the multitasking myth: Many people think they are good at multitasking. The truth is, they are not. It is estimated that only 2% of the population can multitask without loss of productivity or personal energy. This suggests that for the 98% of us who think we can improve our productivity by multitasking, in reality we are reducing it. Studies show that multitasking increases mistakes, slows down productivity by as much as 40%, dampens creativity, increases stress, impacts relationships negatively (think people viewing their cell phone messages while talking to others), and can place us in very dangerous situations (think driving and texting). The answer to multitasking is to focus on one thing at a time, or at least work on similar things consecutively, e.g. pay all bills at one time, even in this case we can only pay one bill at a time
Control Cell Phone Usage. Related to multitasking is the misuse of cell phones. Cell phones give us a sense that we can do many things at once, but frankly they can be a huge distraction at work. Consider those who check their phones in meetings, text under the desk, hide their phones in files and folders during a meeting, have their phones on during meal time, maintain personal social networking while employed, and look things up on their cell phone rather than on their employer's computer because it would not be considered appropriate. Cell phones can be a great tool to affirm relationships, improve productivity and be a mini-computer in our hand; but, they also can be great time wasters and a cause for discourtesy and disrespect if we don't manage them properly. The issue here is one of self-discipline where we need to manage cell phone usage rather than allowing it to manage us.
Commit time for sleep and rest. We now know that if we are sleep deprived we can expect less productivity and more on the job accidents and mistakes. Improve both your efficiency and effectiveness by getting the appropriate amount of sleep.
Delegate but make sure you delegate appropriately. Delegate the "what" and leave the "how" to the delegatee. His or her "how" may actually improve your "how." If so, both you and the members of your team have gained. Of course if the person doesn't know "how" to do the task then coaching is necessary - yet another learning opportunity has presented itself.
Turn off the "sound" your email makes when it lands in the inbox. If you use Microsoft Outlook go to your inbox, open the tab "tools." and click options. Under email click "email options" and then click "advanced email options" and unclick "play a sound." Presto another interruption disappears.
Commit specific time for your email. Go to your email three or four times a day and at a time when you can respond to the messages. This way you can give due attention to the email rather than being interrupted by it.
Set aside time for energy breaks and physical exercise. A vehicle can't run without fuel and must have the right fuel to run. It also needs regular maintenance if it's to operate at top efficiency. So too we need proper food, fluids and physical activity if we expect to function at our best.
Learn to say "no, I don't have a minute right now." Ask how important the issue is and if its really important you may have to take the minute. However, I have found that most people who ask "got a minute?" don't have important and urgent matters that require immediate attention. Let them solve the issue themselves and have them report later on how they handled it. You can then praise them for a job well done or turn it into a learning opportunity for them.
Work on your priorities and commitments throughout the day. Before you leave the office take 10 to 15 minutes to plan for tomorrow, record your achievements, prioritize and reschedule the tasks left unfinished, and thank those that helped you succeed during the day. Then go home relaxed knowing that you have done your best. When you wake up in the morning you will have a plan of action ready rather then asking yourself that profound question: "What am I suppose to do today?"
The Learning: When we apply one or two of these strategies each week they help us to: become self-leaders through focus and self-discipline, take ownership of our responsibilities, be accountable for our actions, improve relationships, become more productive, and respect our own and each other's resource we call time.
Thanks for reading
Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC Updated from Fontanie Learning Solutions Archives
Knowledge is the first step to learning but to take that knowledge and do something with it moves us to action and that is the first step to change. Every day we have numerous experiences. Take one of those experiences and identify in some detail what actually happened during that experience. Clarify ways to improve next time; and then make a call to action - do something - act to change a behaviour, add a strategy to overcome an obstacle, or reset priorities to match core values. What ever it is - learn from the experience and develop positive actions to improve.
When we use this method of learning we turn every day occurrences into learning opportunities.
We make learning continuous when we open our mind to it. A 76 year old can be just as excited about learning something new as a young child. That's why some people say they will never retire. They are always open to new possibilities.
What someone thought they knew about themselves or something thirty years ago often pales in light of what they know today. The "knowing" today is often deeper and has many more dimensions than 30 years ago.
What to do:
At the end of each day take a few moments to identify a positive or a problem experience that happened during that day, reflect on what happened during that experience, clarify ways to improve and then jot down an action for improvement. Put that action in your to do list for the next day.
Remember: “Learning and change are inseparable friends”