Do You Realize You Have a Customer?

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Were you startled by the question that’s the title of this post? If you are in the sales business you probably weren’t. You know you have a customer and you know who it is. But how about if you’re not in sales? Let’s say you’re an engineer, a communications manager, an administrative assistant, a plant manager, or any of thousands of other jobs that are not direct sales. Do you realize that you have a customer in every job you do, every task you complete?

Ignoring This Leads to Breakdowns

Whenever I’ve observed breakdowns in my consulting and coaching work with people, 9 times out of 10 it can be traced back to one of two things. Either the work relationships are in disarray or people are unclear about who the customer of a piece of work is and who’s the performer. Or both. And boy, can that lead to some messy, messy situations.

A Take-Charge Guy

Here’s an example.  Ed was a take-charge kind of guy. He firmly believed that he had the best judgment and approach to solve any problem. As a result, he believed he was the customer of any project—even if he was supposed to be the performer. He would automatically assume the role of customer and start delivering orders and expectations to everyone else. Can you imagine how this might have caused problems? Mostly it p—ed people off. But it also led to a huge case of gridlock in many cases. Because Ed was busy being the customer when he was supposed to be delivering a product, things did not get done in a timely way. And any work team he interacted with grew to be resentful of him and automatically stonewalled his efforts.

Figure Out the Roles

So to avoid the breakdowns when everyone thinks they are the customer or conversely when no one thinks they are the customer, it’s important to figure that out going in to any workflow.

The customer is the one who has made the request and who has a set of expectations and conditions of satisfaction for the final product. The performer is the person who says ‘Yes’ I’ll do that job and I’ll do it using your conditions of satisfaction as my guidelines.

A few years back I was working with Sharon who found herself on a committee that was working on producing some materials for her company. Only problem was that they could not get moving. Every meeting ended with a sense of having accomplished nothing and a lack of where the group was going to go next.

In a coaching session she was moaning about how frustrating it was to work with this group and how she dreaded the meetings. It happened that we were discussing the roles of the customer and the performer at that time, so I asked ‘Who is the customer?’

She couldn’t answer. But she resolved to ask that question at the next meeting. Well, lo and behold…everyone at the meeting thought they were the customer of the work. Amazingly, they were all setting out expectations and wondering why it didn’t happen. Gee, with all the customers in the room there was no one to do the work.

Sharon was amazed and overjoyed when the team was able to move forward once they identified  the customer of the work. Success!

Agreement is Important

All sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it is as long as there is agreement about who’s who. That’s the important element. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s not. If your boss makes a request of you, easy. If a group of your colleagues gets together and decides to do a project, not so easy. However until you know who the customer is, it’s going to be hard to move forward productively. In such a situation you’ll do a lot of chasing your own tail—better known as wasting your time—until that gets figured out.  And in some cases, it never does. These are the nightmare projects that take months longer than they should and sometimes just die a slow death, leaving everyone involved with a bad taste in their mouth.

The way this agreement gets figured out is to have a conversation about it. What a concept. You mean we should discuss the roles? Yeah, you should, actually you must if you’re going to get things going in the right direction. And while I’m on the topic of conversations, I’d like to give you another post that I did on knowing who you are really having conversations with . With Whom am I Speaking

This is Not Just for Large Projects

There’s a lot more to completing a successful workflow once you have identified the key players, but things fall into place much more easily if you realize that ANY piece of work needs a customer and a performer to make it go. This can be something as simple as updating an email, or deciding what room to use for your next meeting. Or it can be as complicated as installing a new data system in your company.

Any coordination of action between two or more people needs a customer and a performer. Try looking at these roles in some of your current workflows that have gone sideways and see if you don’t find things improving. And when you start a new project or even a small job, make sure everyone is clear on customer and performer.

Relationships That Work, Work That Matters

If you’d like to know more about this topic, there is an entire chapter on workflow and what makes a good one in my book, Relationships That Work, Work That Matters, available on Amazon.

Will Job Success Make You Happy or Will Being Happy Bring You Job Success?

 

How often have you thought to yourself something like, “If only I could get that promotion I’d be really happy in life.” Then lo and behold, you get the promotion and you’re just not as happy as you thought you’d be. The reason for this is that when we link our happiness to an external event or thing, we keep raising the bar for happiness.

Shawn Achor is a well-known author who writes about the nature of happiness. His book is called The Happiness Advantage. In a TED talk, he talks about how job success is directly linked to how happy we are. If you’d like to watch the video use this link:  Shawn Achor Ted Talk

Only 25 % of Job Success is Linked to IQ

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What’s Grammar Got To Do With Your Promotion?

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Grammar—-oooohh. Brings up images of that high school English teacher with the ever-present red pencil who wreaked havoc on every paper you wrote. Or those sentence diagrams or subject-verb agreement. But in the real world of business and jobs, even though grammar is seldom addressed, it really is important.

Grammar is part of your image…

As you are considered for the next level promotion, particularly if that’s a fairly high level in your company, how you present yourself becomes more and more important. And making good (including impeccable grammar) presentations, for example, is an important skill for supervisors, managers, and executives or anyone who aspires to be one.

One company I worked for put their executives though a ‘charm school’ training with consultants who specialized in polishing executives for the best possible impression. The course included public speaking, speaking to the press, wardrobe, and even dining etiquette…really.

If you want to climb the ladder, pay attention

If you have no aspirations to higher levels within your company/career, read no further. But if you aspire to higher levels of the corporate (or company) ladder, read on. I’m going to point out some of the most common (and annoying) grammatical errors that I hear people making.

· Lie and lay

These two verbs are virtually never used correctly by the average American speaker. The verb lay means to put or place NOT to recline. Here is an example of the correct usage: I will lay the paper on your desk when I find it. It is not correct to say, I’m going to lay down before dinner (which everyone does—except my son who was brainwashed from an early age.)

The past tense of lay is laid as in; I laid the book on my bedside table before I went to sleep.

Now onto lie. Lie means to recline as in; I try to lie down when I’m tired. But to make it even more confusing the past tense of lie is lay. Yesterday I lay down on the floor after hearing the bad news. In the preceding sentence, ‘laid’ would be incorrect. For a more in-depth analysis of lie and lay try this link:  Grammar Girl on Lie and Lay

And if you want to take a quiz to see how good you are– go here. Lie and Lay Quiz. Just learn to use it correctly, at least when you’re in a formal setting.

· I and me

Another common error I hear (and one that bugs me) is the use of I when me should be used. Here’s an example: Sarah left the invitation for John and I. Most people use I. I’m not sure why—I guess people were brainwashed at an early age to think me was undesirable in some way. The correct usage is Sarah left the invitation for John and me. If the sentence were changed to read John and I left the invitation for Sarah, then I would be correct.

Here’s an easy way to differentiate. When there is a compound subject or object (sorry to get so English teacher-y but that IS what it’s called) as in John and me in the above sentence, try taking out the first person named and saying the sentence. Sarah left the invitation for I. Sound right? NO. Sarah left the invitation for me. Yes, that’s it. Therefore that sentence is correct when it reads; Sarah left the invitation for John and me.

Now there is a rule for the correct usage which has to do with whether the pronoun is a subject or an object but you really don’t need to bother yourself with that if you use the method I described above. Capisce? (a little Italian throw in for variety)

Another closely related pronoun mishap is the use of myself. People in business do this all the time. Again I think that they believe it sounds more formal and therefore better somehow. An example: The boss called Tom and myself into to his office. Nope, not right. You know this one already, right? The boss called Tom and me into his office.

Myself is what is known as a reflexive pronoun. Correctly used it emphasizes the subject of the sentence. I often quote myself. So for the correct usage when you have a compound subject or object, just go back to the hint above and take out the first part of the compound to see what’s correct. If you’d like to read more about it go to Wiki and read this entry: Reflexive Pronouns

I could go on and on about the correct use of grammar and its impact on your image in the business arena, however, this is a post not a textbook. And I have to proofread it twelve more times to be sure there are no grammatical errors.

You decide

To summarize my point: depending on your job industry and the culture of your workplace, making grammatical errors can subtly influence the impression that you’re making. And while it may not keep you from getting promoted, in certain situations, it may. Just sayin.’

What To Do When Your Co-Worker is Driving You Nuts

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I’ve been coaching people in the workplace for 14 years now. And as a workplace coach I get the opportunity to listen to a lot of stories of frustration and woe. Invariably these stories are about conflict that my client is having with another person they work with. And of course, it’s always the fault of the other insensitive, inconsiderate, incompetent—or any other in-word that you’d prefer. Of course as a good coach should do, I always listen carefully to the story. And then comes the expectant pause in which I am expected to utter pearls of wisdom. And I do—naturally.

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Know Who You’re Really Having the Conversation With…

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I just finished typing the title to this post and the former English teacher in me(many, many jobs ago) cringed at at a sentence ending with a preposition. So if you’re one of those proper grammar types, we can go with “Know With Whom You’re Really Having the Conversation.” It sounds stodgy but it is grammatically sound. ( I think I need to get out more—I’m starting to have conversations with myself.)

Conversations With Others Grow Relationships—Or Not

But I digress…Back to conversations with OTHERS. It is through conversations that we either grow our relationship with another or diminish it. Of course, we mostly want to have better relationships with others. And if we don’t we’re probably not going to have conversations with them anyway. I’ve been thinking about how sometimes we end up in the middle of a conversation and realize that we’re really talking to someone from our past. [Read more…]

A Sure Fire Way to Improve Your Difficult Work Relationships–Part 2

The More Real You Get…

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As you have probably figured out by now, the focus of my coaching is on relationships. Relationships with others, the relationship with yourself. I believe that it’s wise and productive to be intentional about what you want to create in your relationships. And I like to practice what I preach. [Read more…]

Small Things Make a Difference

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Last week I attended a baseball game for our local team. It was a great night out for our family, filled with all the stuff that says hometown and wholesome family activities. And to finish the night off there were fireworks—what else?

The Monkee Swing

While I was watching the game I found myself watching the people more than the game, especially since the Fightin’ Phils couldn’t buy a run: they lost 6-0. Every so often a guy in a team sweat shirt would position himself at the bottom of the bleachers where we were sitting. Without a word, he would begin to do a double-arm motion that I had seen lots of people doing at the park. It looks a little like the Monkees used to do—if you remember back that far. After a few minutes of this action, most people in the bleachers were following suit and pretty soon most of the crowd was involved. The guy was totally serious about this –really into it. And he didn’t seem to care whether anyone else did it or not. He was doing his thing. [Read more…]