Never Say This In Customer Service

(Mind you, we’re all — yes, all — in customer service.)

esterday, I was on the phone with a company that’s been giving me the run around for way too long. Normally, I’d have taken my business elsewhere. But, because it’s my father-in-law’s health insurance, and part of his pension, I was locked in.

For years, I’ve been facing terrible customer service from this company. Multiple customer service “pros” have been failing to meet their company’s obligations. Finally, during yesterday’s call, I found myself speaking with a supervisor who knew how customer service was done. Carrie (the supervisor) was guaranteeing me this, and apologizing for that. She empathized with me about the long-standing problems I’d been having. She called the experience I’d had so far, “unacceptable.”

Things on the call with her were going well until I asked to be refunded for $40 of prescriptions I’d had to pay out-of-pocket because of her company’s failures. “I don’t have the receipt,” I admitted. Carrie was happy to offer a refund, but understandably needed the receipt to do so. Accounting will be accounting.

And then she said what no person in customer service should ever say.

“There’s nothing I can do.”

If I’m your customer, “There’s nothing I can do,” is the absolute last thing I want to hear from you. I’m looking to you for service. Don’t balk. Find a way to serve. Maybe you don’t have the authority to do what I’m asking. Maybe you have the authority, but not the willingness. Either way, if you determine that there’s something you can do to help, if you only find it, you will find a way. Offer what you do have.

On the call I was describing, I momentarily felt my hopes — finally rekindled by the first responsible and reasonable professional I’d reached after a year’s struggle — dashed by the simple statement, “There’s nothing I can do.”

But, I considered what I’d come to know about Carrie in the past five minutes of excellent customer service. I reached down deep and gathered what was left of my trust, and said, “Carrie.” (I’ve changed her name.) “Carrie, please don’t say that. After the experience I’ve had with your company, I don’t want you to say that there’s nothing you can do.”

She said, “I wish there was. You haven’t been getting the service you deserve. I’d like to give you a refund. I really would. But I’d need a receipt.”

“Thank you, Carrie,” I said. “Here’s what you can offer. I spend $10 with you every month on medications. You can take my word that the refund would be about $40, and you can offer me a credit for the next four months of purchases. You wouldn’t need a receipt to offer me that. Heck, you could offer me that credit simply for the inconvenience and hassle your company has been putting me through on a regular basis for years.”

“We could do that,” she said. She sounded relieved. I’d broken the fear that had caused her to balk. “I’ll credit your account $40.”

It’s Not True. It Degrades Trust.

Guess what. When you say, “There’s nothing I can do,” no one ever believes you. It’s the refuge of the frightened, the lazy, and the powerless.

When you or someone on your team says, “There’s nothing I can do,” your customer’s hopes are crushed, and they start to wish they’d never engaged with your company.

Whatever the reason you’re telling your customer, “I can’t help,” you’re shattering their trust and losing their respect.

Customer Service Alternatives

“I’m not going to do that,” preserves more trust and respect than, “I can’t.”

By saying, “I’m not going to,” you are naming a choice. I may not agree with that choice. I may not like it. But at least you’re being honest and courageous by giving it to me straight.

Better still, if you can’t or won’t do what your customer is asking, then ask yourself, “What can I do? What will I do?”

  • I can’t give you a refund, but I will give you credit.
  • I can ask my supervisor.
  • I don’t know the answer to that question, but I will investigate and call you within the hour to give you the answer.

Happy Side Effect

So, a practice of finding what you CAN do when you can’t or won’t do what a customer (or a colleague) is asking vastly improves customer experience. It can make the difference between losing a client and wowing a client.

It also improves employee experience and employee engagement. None of us likes feeling powerless. When we say we’re powerless, we feel powerless. Look for the power you have, find creative solutions, and you’ll feel powerful.

HEY, POLICY MAKERS!

Meanwhile, employers, give your employees all the authority they need to satisfy the majority of customer complaints. Your customers will be happy. Your employees will be happy, and engaged, and will stay on the job. And you’ll find you’re swimming in loyalty from both customers and employees.

 

 

_______________

Imagine your team operating with high-level EQ. Trouble is, reading an article doesn’t reliably change behavior. That’s why we created Adeptability Training for your team for a high-performance accountability culture that’s fun and fulfilling to work in. Want an Adeptable team?

Book a call today.


"Storied Leadership" with Jody Maberry - MGW #5

GUEST: Jody Maberry — http://jodymaberry.com/

Jody Maberry on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodymaberry

Jody Maberry Show (podcast): https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/jody-maberry-show-helping/id1084178356?mt=2

Our stories are what set us apart. Your story is not the same as anyone else’s, and that gives you the power to connect, intrigue, and inspire others.

 

Some of us think we don’t have good stories, and wouldn’t know how to tell them if we did. “Good stories come to people who can tell them. When you look at life as a storyteller, you will find stories in nearly everything.” And with practice, and by tuning in to your audience, you can become good at it.

 

Why tell stories? Stories stick with people. They’re memorable. And, stories tie things together. Innovation results from tying unexpected things together. So, stories lead to innovation.

 

Whether you’re expert in a given field or not, your experience has something to offer to those who are. Innovation in a field often comes from the connections made by novices and outsiders.

 

People aren’t motivated at work just by the paycheck and benefits package. That’s just the fuel that allows them to spend their time in your organization instead of hunting and gathering. People are motivated to do extraordinary work by a fulfilling story. Story creates identity and satisfaction at work. Every business (as Disney says) is putting on a show. Story creates the roles for people. As employers, we can create an environment where the storytelling is about the value of the work you do, and how fulfilling the work you do can be.

 

Every story you tell informs every action we take. Change the story, change the experience. Each of us needs to be the hero of the story we’re in. Leaders can inspire and motivate those they lead by weaving a story in which everyone plays a critical role in achieving a goal that matters.

 

Our clients and customers are the heros of their stories as well. To serve them well, we must help them through the obstacles they face in their journey.

 

Be alert to the stories your company is telling, even when you are not speaking. Every aspect of your brand and behavior tells a story.

 

——

 

Visit Mighty Good Work and The Yes Works at: www.TheYesWorks.com

 

Theme music by: Miguel Juarez

Midshow break music by : Allan Loucks www.TinEar.com

Check out this episode!


Your Happiness, Your Job with Dana Manciagli - MGW #4

GUEST: Dana Manciagli — Global Career Expert: Speaker and Private Coach

www.DanaManciagli.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/danamanciagli

 

Over decades, Dana Manciagli amassed skills and insights into good work and career wisdom while working at such companies as Avery, SeaLand, Kodak and Microsoft. Now, she gives others the benefit of that wisdom as  an author, blogger, keynote speaker, career coach, and global career expert.

Earlier episodes of this podcast have focused on leadership’s role in great work in our companies. Dana Manciagli is here to talk with your host Aaron Schmookler about what each of us can do to insure that we’ve got Mighty Good Work.Reboot yourself by changing jobs, by jumping division to division, location to location, or company to company.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation with Dana:

 

Make choices! Don’t let your work happen to you. Be deliberate.

 

Figure out what you like, and pursue only what you like.


You can’t be all things to all people. Make choices. Sometimes they’re tough. You don’t have to get it absolutely right. Make a call and take action on it.

 

“What are you waiting for? You have a vision. You know what you want to do next. Why aren’t you doing it?”

 

Don’t rely on your boss to make you happy.

 

Ask yourself, “What was this week like? Did I do my best? Treat my people well? Make good choices?” Take regular accounting of your own performance against your own standards of excellence. Expect greatness.

 

There’s a lot of boss bashing out there. Stop bashing the boss. It only hurts your career.

 

Business revolves around relationships.

 

Rule #1: Build the relationship with your boss. There’s a “we factor” and you’re role in the relationship is equally important. It takes two.

 

YOU have tremendous power in yourself — through your choices — to have good work wherever you are.

 

Put in the work that it takes to enjoy work! Don’t be stuck.Take action to get to joy at work!

 

If you need a private job search coach, contact Dana through her website or through LInkedIn.

 

http://DanaManciagli.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/danamanciagli
Check out this episode!


Company Culture By Design

Company Culture Blueprint

Company culture ain’t a list on the wall. It ain’t platitudes spoken at team meetings. Company culture ain’t even a prevailing attitude that everyone on payroll adopts after they’ve drunk the company Kool-Aid.

“Want to create a productive, lucrative, and personally rewarding culture in your company? You can. Create the contagion.”

Gotta Understand What Company Culture Is

So what is it?

Company culture is the set of contagious behaviors and attitudes shared among the people on your team (and reflected in your clients and vendors as well).

It’s a system of beliefs and behaviors instilled into the zeitgeist of your company. Everybody’s doing it and steeped in it. The indoctrination began during recruiting. Culture is shaped by the stories we tell within a community. It’s the behaviors that have become habitual and automatic. Culture’s details are selected by reinforcement and by disincentives and by benign neglect. Company culture is the behaviors that people exhibit even when the heat is on, they’re under stress, and people are getting under their skin. And company culture can be shaped. It can be changed. It can be trained.

But it can’t be memo-ed. And it can’t be policied. And it can’t be employee handbooked. It is profoundly influenced by behaviors in the C-Suite. But, Company culture is not simply a top-down thing. It’s an all around thing. Think the C-Suite can’t have it’s culture slowly changed from the bottom? Think again. Culture, by its very nature, is definitively contagious. Think of a Grateful Dead show. Imagine Burning Man. Think of a Donald Trump Rally. The people in those environments don’t behave that way — for better or for worse — at home. They get swept up in a powerfully contagious culture wave. That wave is influenced by the behaviors and the stories that surround them.

Sold?

Want to create a productive, lucrative, and personally rewarding culture in your company? You can. Create the contagion. Behavior is contagious. Belief is contagious. Any person at any level can introduce a new contagion. Don’t believe me? What phrase or figure of speech do you use now, but that you didn’t before a co-worker started saying it in your presence. What stories are told in the break room that have you and your colleagues nodding or cheering? That’s an illustration of the contagion of culture.

Gotta Know What to Do

What are the behaviors that lead to a productive, lucrative and personally rewarding culture? Here are some:

  • Give feedback to your direct reports and peers that is:
    • Frequent
    • Specific.
    • Timely
    • Organic
    • Compassionate
    • Heavily congratulatory
    • Corrective when needed
    • Focused on the future
  • Contribute thoughts and ideas freely.
  • Respond to others thoughts and ideas by furthering the discussion (never shooting down).
  • Focus on purpose and on actions that need taking.
  • Observe and inquire about the non-verbal cues of others for greater clarity and communication success.
  • Observe and choose your own non-verbal communication for greater clarity and communication success.
  • Offer solutions, not complaints.
  • Welcome change while respecting tradition.
  • Speak about clients and coworkers with compassion and appreciation.
  • Replace time wasting conflict between people over who is right with effective conflict between ideas so the best ideas are found and forged.
  • Tell stories that cast others in a good light, and in which you are not a victim of circumstance.
  • Manage and supervise in ways that help your people manage fear — to feel less fear, and to act with freedom in the face of fear. We call this a “Got-Your-Back Culture.”

More than the sum

These are the behaviors that awaken the elusive SYNERGY we hear so much about. Synergy is not a mythical unicorn or a woo-woo concept from beyond the pale. Synergy is real. We’ve all experienced it.   And, it’s attainable. One way to get it… the skills and techniques of Adeptability Training correlated to the work you do.

______________

As G.I. Joe used to tell me at the end of each episode… “Knowing is half the battle.” The gap between what your people know, and what they do… fear. If you’d like to build fear-busting Adeptability culture in your company, click to book a call.


Whole Company Well Being with Dr. Laura Hamill - MGW #3

GUEST: Limeade’s Chief People Officer, Dr. Laura Hamill  — https://limeade.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-hamill-5972a44

 

According to our guest this week,the most important asset a company has is its people. And to be the best it can be, a company has got to consider, care for, and nurture this single crucial resource. When we waste resources, whether money, or time, or people, we pay the price.

There are real business reasons for companies to care about their employees. The big brands are noticing that.

  • Talent recruiting and retention
  • Business results as well from engagement

 

Organizational culture must be aligned with what you’re trying to do as a business. You can’t have goals and aspirations that conflict with other goals and stated values, or that friction will chaffe.

 

Culture is contagious. Behavior that happens leads to more behavior like it. You have to articulate what is the culture you want to have. You do have or will have a company culture, like it or not. Culture’s affects on the people and the business are so profound that you must be intentional about the culture you create if you want to thrive. Then, you’ve got to operationalize the culture you want to have. It’s got to be a part of what you measure, what you practice, and what you hold people accountable for.

 

Culture, because people don’t understand it, is often viewed as soft and unimportant. But culture is learned skills and habits, not a set of knowledge or instructions. If the culture is not universal within a company, and reinforced, then it holds no water, and garners no respect. Culture creation is never done. And keeping it on track requires feedback in every direction.

 

“At Limeade,” says Dr. Hamill, “We’ve created a culture of improvement. Each person is focused on improvement.”

 

She sees culture as a job benefit to manage, as a selling point in recruiting equal to health insurance and vacation time. It’s not something to leave to chance, or to create deliberately and then forget about it.

Check out this episode!


Ditch This Destructive Sales Approach Today

Most of the sales people I work with have the best interests of their clients at heart. They’re looking to make deals that’ll be great for all parties involved. But that’s not universal. I’m glad to say that the attitude I’m about to tell you about is rare and getting rarer. But it’s still out there, and it should be eradicated.

This attitude is bad. It’s bad for your relationships. It’s bad for your image. It’s bad for your business. It’s bad for your sales. In fact, I recently met a salesman who offered me an incredible deal on something I’ve been interested in for a long time. And, rather than give him the sale, I’d prefer to go without. By revealing this common sales approach, he lost a slam-dunk sale and a potentially powerful referrer.

The Setup

Last week at an event, I met two guys in sales. I learned from talking with them that they both sell group entertainment packages, each for a different company. Mark (names changed to protect the innocent) sells short, local cruises. He talked about the relationships he had with clients and prospects and about the experiences groups have when working with his company. He showed genuine interest in the work I do, and saw value in it for himself and his team. I’ll refer him business whenever I can.

John (names changed to protect the guilty) sells a thrilling, unique, and amazing ride-like experience to groups. I’ve known about the existence of his product for some time, and I have always thought, “I’m gonna do that. That looks fun!” At the end of our ten minute conversation, John failed to make one of the world’s easiest sales. He offered me the opportunity to do something I very much want to do. He offered it for free. A free thrilling, unique, amazing ride-like experience I’ve wanted to try, offered for free, and I will not accept his offer. I probably will never refer any business to him either.

Why?

At the beginning of our conversation, John told Mark and me the secret to sales. “The secret to sales,” he said, “is to make people feel obligated to you.” That’s the sales approach I’ve been talking about. I wondered immediately if he really meant that, and my improv training kicked in.

My job in improv is to make my partner look good. John was my partner in improv. I thought that statement didn’t make him look too hot, so I offered him an easy-shift alternative. “Yeah,” I said, almost as though I agreed with him. “Gratitude works for me. Express gratitude. Treat people in ways I’d be grateful to be treated. Offer whatever support I can. People respond well.”

“Gratitude, yeah,” replied John. “I guess it’s good to feel gratitude. Obligation, though. That’s the stuff. People feel like they owe you something, so they buy what you’re selling. Works no matter what.”

Ten minutes later, John gave Mark and me his card and offered both of us a free ride, “any time.” I want the ride. But I do not want a relationship where the currency is obligation. John had already pulled back the curtain to show the inner workings of his offer. It’s a spider web. He gives a free ride. He expects I’ll feel obligated to him for giving me something of value for free. And then, out of a sense of IOU, I’ll buy a group experience, and/or, I’ll refer others to him so he can sell them a group experience.

The thing is, I value relationships above all other resources in business and beyond. I’ll never send John business because I won’t deliberately expose anyone I care about to his spider web of expected obligation.

Relationships Matter

Obligation lives right next to resentment. When we feel obligated, that often leads us to feeling resentful of the obligation. “Crap. I’ve got to go do this thing for this person. I wish I didn’t have to.” By contrast, when we’re motivated by gratitude, the story we tell ourselves is different. “I’d like to go do this thing for this person. I’ll feel good to give back to someone who’s given to me.”

If I give to another with no expectations of obligation, then we are equals throughout the transaction, from beginning to end. The transaction is complete immediately after I’ve given. But the transaction stretches on with barbed hooks when I have an expectation of obligation. The transaction is only half complete after I’ve given, even if there’s no cash fee for my service. I’m left in a perpetual state of waiting, of incompleteness until you return the favor. I’ll exact my fee one day. And I’ll resent you if the return doesn’t come within my arbitrarily sensed frame of “right timing.”

Drop This Sales Approach

When I began this article, I expected my guidance would be, “Drop this “obligation” approach to selling. I realize now, as I close, that it’s bigger than that. The expectation of obligation is a symptom of a much bigger disease. The disease is viewing business and sales as a zero sum game. In a zero sum game, there is often seen to be a winner and a loser, but that’s not the only way of creating a zero-sum.

Here’s another zero-sum approach. If I give you something, then I am in the negative and you are in the positive. The world is out of balance until you right the imbalance by giving back to me. You owe me. If you owe me, I resent you. Every time.

A Giving Alternative

If I give to you with no expectation from you, we’re both increased. You’ve gotten my gift. I’ve got the reward of having made a difference in your day or in your life. And I’ve built good will in my community. On last week’s episode of our podcast, Mighty Good Work, guest Chris Free said that if you treat people in your community well, “they’ll call you when they need help. And sometimes… they pay you for that help.”

When you pour generosity into your community without specific expectation, then you find yourself in a community of gratitude and generosity. And, you’ve given people a sample of the value you have to give. It comes back.

In the world we now live in, of white papers and free webinars, and free-mium SaaS products, maybe this isn’t news. But not everyone is here yet in the win-win world we occupy. Sales isn’t zero sum. Win-win isn’t everyone sacrificing equally. The best business transactions elevate everyone’s position.We can both have the better end of the deal.

Be Equal

If John, with a genuine smile, had offered me a free ride, I would have taken it in a twinkling. And I’d have been grateful. He’d have lost nothing (one ride doesn’t cost much for them to provide). I would have gained a thrilling experience. He’d have the pleasure of giving. I’d have the pleasure of feeling grateful. And he’d have the added benefit that I’d be looking for opportunities to refer business to him. I’m a connector.

As it stands, I won’t refer him business, even though he’s made that same offer. His sales approach is toxic. And I won’t poison my relationships.

John’s not a bad guy. He just hasn’t learned to be equal. Business, sales, exists as an opportunity to increase everyone’s position all at once.


Serve Your Employees with Chris Free - MGW #2

GUEST: Rapport Benefits Group Principal, Chris Free — http://rapportbenefits.com/  

Chris Free on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-free-b337714

 

A theme that runs through my conversation with Chris can be summed up with a Richard Branson quote: “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of the clients.”

 

Rapport Benefits Group keeps winning “Top Place to Work” awards because Chris and his business partners take this wisdom to heart, and they run their buiness in support of their employees. I’ve talked to their employees. They love woking there. And the company keeps growing. Business is good.

 

Here are a few highlight points from our conversation.

 

Make sure employees are well respected and treated.

Your employees are the face of your company.

Take care of your employees and they will take care of your clients.

  • Practice flexibility and compassion
  • Time and space for the things that come up in life
  • Look at output over time from a given employee. Some days are up, some are down. It’s the aggregate that matters.

 

Longevity of employees leads to great client relationships

 

Loyal employees are engaged with their work. If your employee is worried about personal, at-home things, they’re not productive. Let them address their life in the timing of life, and they’ll produce.

 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often cited when looking at student productivity in school. It’s just as relevant on the job. Basically, if you’re hungry, or worried about your well being or that of your family, you’re not going to be able to focus on matters higher up the hierarchy — like writing a report or serving a client.

 

Chris told us, “We ask them about their goals. We help develop them to achieve their goals — career and non-career goals.” We want you to fulfill your life. As we do, you’ll perform for our firm.

 

Create a place where people think, “Maybe I don’t want to get out of bed and go to work today, but what if I miss something cool?”

 

You can foster great relationships with people whom you turn down for jobs — by referring them to jobs that’d be a better fit.

 

If you help people promote themselves out of your employ, you’ll have a brand ambassador for life.

 

Don’t create the environment for work that you’ve been disappointed by in past workplaces.

 

Set clear and accurate expectations.

 

Look for outcomes, not features.

 

How do you stand apart? Get out of the office. Get involved with people. Be in the community.

Cultivate a qualitative over a quantitative focus.

 

Theme music by: Miguel Juarez

Midshow break music by : Allan Loucks www.TinEar.com

Check out this episode!


Case Study - Mean to Team (Part 2 of 2)

The trivial details – names, and the like – in this case study have been changed to preserve our client’s anonymity.

Last week, you read about the problems on Jack’s team. They were significant. Some people were at each other’s throats. Some people simply weren’t speaking to one another. Others were simply disappointed to be working in such a contentious setting. Productivity and work product were suffering.

And now, the exciting conclusion…

THE RESULTS:

Four weeks later, Jack said, “You undercharged me. What I got for myself and my job alone was worth what we paid for this workshop. And then there’s what my team got too. You undercharged me.”

Here are a few of the other things Jack told us:

  • “I’ve regained the trust and earned the respect of my team.”
  • “People are coming to me to share, not to complain.”
  • “I’m not stomping out [figurative] flaming bags of shit outside my door every day.”
  • “We have a common language now.”

Specifically, Jack had given us three priorities… three results he wanted for his team from our training:

  • Cohesion
  • Camaraderie
  • Communication

Those things can be difficult to measure quantitatively. However, here is the shift in Jack’s rating of his team (on a scale from 1-10) in those three areas after a single workshop of 4 hours.

 

before after
Cohesion 4 or 5 6 or 7
Camaraderie 6 7
Communication 6-7 7-8

 

Jack rated tensions on his team at a 6 out of 10 before the workshop. Four weeks afterward, Jack’s estimate is just 2.5 out of 10. Jack is planning their next installment of training with The Yes Works.

A few more quantifiable results you’ve got to love:

  • Three people who work in a cubicle pen but didn’t talk even when work required it are now willingly communicating without third party intervention.
  • Mark and Margaret are willingly communicating as well, without needing to involve Gary.
  • Jack reports that before the workshop with The Yes Works, the team was working at a productivity level of 60% of his target for the team. Four weeks later, they are working at 80% productivity (compared to the same target). That’s a 33% increase in productivity almost overnight.
  • No more vomiting before, during, or after staff meetings!

Jack’s team was under significant stress before working with us, so results may vary. But every team can benefit from the collaboration intensive training we provide.

After an intensive training with The Yes Works, Team members will:

  • Improve communication skills and eliminate most miscommunication.
  • Collaborate effectively, considering all perspectives and finding innovative solutions.
  • Experience greater confidence in making decisions.
  • Enjoy greater freedom and personal accountability.
  • Work effectively and with gusto without close supervision.

Call us today to discuss your goals for your team — and to learn what an improv perspective can do to light a fire within the heart of your team.

 

Your company culture engineer,

Aaron Schmookler
253-301-8004


Case Study - Mean to Team (Part 1 of 2)

The trivial details – names, and the like – in this case study have been changed to preserve our client’s anonymity.

THE TEAM:

12 engineers make up the operations team supporting the IT department of a large school with 25K employees.

“You undercharged me.” — Jack, the Team Leader

 

THE SITUATION:

When Jack, the Operations Team leader, reached out to us, he cited communication and cohesion challenges on his team. We soon learned that he was understating the problem.

Interpersonal tensions were so extreme on Jack’s team that he was frequently physically ill before, during, and after staff meetings. Just imagining being in the same room with all those people at once, with the strife he experienced weekly in that room, caused him to vomit. Jack gave us this example of the tension level:

Mark requires Margaret’s work product to complete his own work. Mark won’t talk to Margaret directly, however. He won’t even look at Margaret. She won’t even say, “Good morning,” to him. Instead, when Mark needs Margaret’s work, he asks Gary to get it. Gary goes to Margaret. Margaret rolls her eyes. Gary rolls his eyes. Mark sits at his desk, drumming his fingers waiting for Mark to return so he can get back to work.

What an unnecessary and destructive waste.

On his wall, Jack had posted an acronym of traits he and his team had committed to embodying. While I’ll keep the acronym to myself, to protect the client’s anonymity, I will say that one of the traits was, “professional.”

I complimented Jack on some commendable ideals and asked out of curiosity, “How do you guys define ‘Professional?’”

He answered, “You know. Everyone knows what ‘Professional’ means.”

“Sure,” I said. “You know what it means, and I know what it means. But the problem is that we each have different definitions. But we assume that our own definition is universal.” I laid out a scenario:

Betty and Dave are standing outside their cubicles, talking about their weekends and their kids, and laughing. After about a minute, Stan gets very irritated. Don’t they see him trying to work in the next cube over? They’re so loud. Why don’t they just get to work? It’s work hours. To Stan, they are clearly unprofessional.

Meanwhile, Betty and Dave both wonder why Stan — who is sitting right there — hasn’t joined the conversation or even said hello. It’s clear to them that a little light conversation on a Monday morning reacquaints them with each other. It lubricates the professional relationship, and gives them insight into each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and what stresses or joys from their personal lives might affect their work today. Stan, however, seems to be giving them snide looks and is muttering something under his breath. To Betty and Dave, Stan is clearly unprofessional.

“Yes,” Jack yelled when I had finished my short story. “That’s my team.”

Beyond helping teams define important terms and values so that everyone’s on the same page, we explained to Jack, we also help to establish a foundation of empathy — as a habit — between people. Each person’s perspective helps to create a rich and well-balanced vision for the team as a whole. There’s a bit of one of my father’s favorite jokes in the training we offer:

Two arguing men in the community come to the Rabbi to ask him to settle their dispute. The first explains his perspective. The Rabbi replies, “You’re right.” The second argues his case. The Rabbi says, “You’re right.”

The Rabbi’s wife, overhearing all this, says, “He’s right? And he’s right? How can they both be right?”

The Rabbi shrugs and says, “You’re right too.”

 

THE TRAINING:

Soon after our first meeting with Jack, we met with his team for the first installment of their training. We were there, ready to begin the training on time. For the first time in our company history, however, we did not start our training on time — even with everyone in the room. The first 5 minutes of the training time were spent in an argument.

Kerry was certain that the training had been scheduled for 3 hours. Sally rolled her eyes and said, “I saw that in the last email, but every other email (and the calendar invitation we all got) said 4 hours. 3 hours was a typo. It’s 4 hours.” Kerry insisted it was three. Sally repeated that it was four. This went on for some time with only little variation. Jack, their boss, sat between them, bemused. We, The Yes Works trainers, sat before them, diagnosing the patient and seeing first hand the disfunction that Jack had described.

Each was so focused on being right (and in Kerry’s case, on going home), that they completely overlooked the authoritative resources in the room that could have settled the argument. We were there, looking at them, and would gladly have shared what our intentions were as the trainers (and what we’d been paid to do). Their boss sat only feet from them — between them — and could easily have defined the expectations. But neither of them asked him, and he didn’t interrupt to resolve either the content of the dispute, or the context of the dispute.

Kerry seemed committed to reading any ambiguous communication to him “in his own favor.” Evidently, he defined “in his own favor” as whatever would have him out of this place and this activity the fastest. Sally seemed committed to using the power of her reasoning to defeat Kerry’s wrong-headedness. Jack seemed disinclined to intervene. He did not assert his authority about a matter that had an authoritative answer. He did not bring his employees back to a focus on in purpose instead of self-interest.

When the dust eventually settled, we began our four hour training.

Some of the team was excited to have us there, and participated from the first moments with gusto. Others, like Kerry, were there because they had been required to be there, and were reluctant. Within minutes, however, we had the entire group on their feet. They laughed. They moved past some fears. They saw new sides of one another. They all went through quite a mental workout, each person going through multiple reps of practicing the principles that define our business-relationship training. Many of them did and said things they would not have anticipated doing. All of them participated equally. Kerry was completely involved.

 

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