Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Handling Challenging Conversations

Years ago, I worked with a staffing agency. Each day, I interviewed potential employees, many of whom had difficulty finding stable employment for a variety of reasons. I also trained these individuals, counseled them while they were on assignment, and, when it was warranted, terminated their employment. The job was not without its perks, though difficult conversations were an every day reality. Some of the actual conversations that occurred while I was on this job were amongst the most difficult I will likely face in my life:

"Please don't fire me. My sister just died and I have to support her children."

"If I don't get a job today, I am coming back here with a baseball bat and you are going into the hospital."

"I need a temporary office worker. I only want to hire a white woman."

"By the way, I didn't put it on my application, but I killed my sister when I was 14. I'm not sure if it will show in my record since I was a minor."

One of the most difficult parts of a job, any job, is handling difficult conversations. These conversations could be with angry customers, with employees who are not reaching their full potential, or any number of situations that are faced each and every day that can cause discomfort for all parties.

For some, it is natural to confront a challenging conversation with excuse making, laying blame, or, in extreme cases, even fabricating stories to placate the person on the other end of the dialog. This helps no one, does nothing to build trust, and only delays an inevitable backlash. By staying calm and responding with honest words and action, even the most challenging conversations can be handled effectively.

Naturally, it takes a great deal of practice to master the art of communicating effectively when faced with difficult circumstances, which is why Molloy Business Development has developed the Handling Challenging Conversations Program. This program instructs companies and individuals on how to build confidence when faced with these challenges and how to address concerns effectively. And because the Molloy program is implemented concurrent to the work day and in real time, employees can begin using the methodology immediately.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl Ad Success! Now What?

Companies like PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch spend millions of dollars each year for one night of advertising. On Super Bowl Sunday in 2011, 30 seconds of air time costs roughly $3 million; this does not include the figures associated with producing the ads, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more.

The amount of money spent on television advertising make many people scratch their heads. Is it worth it to these companies to spend this enormous sum on, in most cases, less than one minute of advertising? The easy answer is, there is no easy answer. If a company has created a memorable ad, they can count on the spots being played repeatedly online, with the best (and the worst) being highlighted through nationwide news and entertainment sources. But even with repeated viewings, do the advertising spots equal sales? According to Randle D. Raggio, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Richmond, over six million Snickers bars would have to be sold to pay for one Super Bowl ad. That’s a lot of candy bars, but a well established brand with a solid reputation can have some confidence that the advertising buy is going to pay off.

Most companies purchase advertising spots through local television or radio channels, or take out ad space in trade publications and, increasingly, Internet news sources. Naturally, these cost far less than the $3 million Super Bowl price tag, but advertising money that cannot be backed up is not well spent. Take, for instance, the fictitious Lloyd’s Brick Barn in Sioux City, Iowa. Lloyd’s has been in business for 36 years, selling bricks and brick related products. Lloyd and his wife run the main store and have three branches in central Iowa, each with a team of half a dozen sales reps and brick technicians. The company is breaking even, maybe even turning a small profit, but Lloyd decides to hire a marketing consultant who works up an ad campaign that is spread throughout the state. Before Lloyd can blink, his stores are being bombarded with calls from one end of the state to the other. The great response is overwhelming and Lloyd’s employees are unprepared to handle the influx of new customers. In the end, Lloyd only sees a slight increase in sales, as most customers are frustrated or turned away by the stores when their needs cannot be met.

A company has to not only have the capital for a successful ad campaign, but also has to be prepared for the business the campaign can create. This is why it is absolutely vital that a business of any size has employees who can work with the new customers that marketing dollars bring in. No doubt, a company like Volkswagen Group can handle the aftermath of a successful ad campaign, but can yours?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Guest Blog: Life Based on Wrong Assumptions?

What is the implication if we are living life based on the wrong assumption(s)? We all know that if we look back in history it is easily seen. At one time, between 1480 and 1700’s, we executed women because we thought they were witches. At one time the only people that had rights were kings and priests. We all chuckle and think it’s unbelievable that they thought that way; we would never do something as foolish as that. What happens if we do, what if these assumptions are so much part of the air that we breath that we do not see them?

What is the impact of basing our actions on the wrong assumption? An easy example is if you are at the airport renting a car and grab the wrong map. You try to get to where you are going and you get lost. Along with not getting where we want to go, we have the emotion that goes along with it, like being confused or frustrated. Being a professional in the software development field for many years, the biggest mistake in trying to resolve a bug in the software was making a wrong assumption on where you thought the problem was. Many times we spent hours and even days looking for the problem in the wrong area because we made an assumption rather than allow the facts to drive the direction of where and how we look for the bug. Also, during the process, there are all the emotions that go along with trying to get somewhere or solve a problem such as frustration, anger, and confusion which is also accompanied with our assessment which impacts our beliefs of ourselves. While these emotions can be positive, most of them are not. This repeated over time usually results in what we think as possible to shrink.

What are your assumptions? I claim they are all over our lives. They are in our beliefs and perception of how life shows up for us. And it’s not just you or me. These assumptions live in our institutions. There are many in our education institutions, in the institution of marriage, in our market economy, etc. Just look at marriage, 50% of first time marriages end in divorce, 67% of second time marriages and 74% of third time marriages. Underlying this level of failure are unexamined assumptions or beliefs.

Let me give you 2 examples from my life. When I was in my teens and twenties there was always a friction between my parents. So much so it got to the point that is was easier just to avoid them, just not be around. Not uncommon, yet I discovered something through the EST training that changed my life. Shortly after the training I had this desire, this internal pull to be with my parents. That was odd, especially given that I was living in upstate New York, some 4 hours away, which would mean taking a whole weekend to visit them. My underlying assumption was that my parents were always telling me what to do, and I kepttrying to let them know that I was 25 years old, living on my own, “please give me a break”. I took it to mean that they saw something lacking in me. This was the friction. Yet this time the experience was different. There was no friction, and in fact, there was an easiness about being with my parents. Here is what shifted; while my parents acted the same, I had a new understanding. My parents telling me what to do was their way of expressing their love for me and this would never change. See, love is a verb; it takes form in our actions. So I could allow their expression and did not have to react to it or prove anything. Ten years later my mother was still telling me when I was visiting to come home early. I would just smile and tell her; “I love you too”, then kiss her and leave smiling.

Another situation occurred while in St. Lawrence Hospital when I was with Marcie while a doctor examined her. He spoke to me afterward and told me that Marcie would never walk again. Yet, in this case, I did not accept his declaration. I felt that his assumptions were not correct. Marcie and I worked on her legs and did other exercises and within 2 months she walked out of the hospital.

We have been told throughout our lives that our DNA determines what is possible, that our genetics determine our physical possibilities. Yet that has been changing and a new science called epigenetics states that something outside of genes determines behavior. That outside influence is our thoughts and belief’s. Now science has new evidence of this. What if what you believe has a direct impact on your life? Bruce Lipton has written a book, “The Biology of Belief” that is based on scientific research that goes in depth on his findings.

So, what is possible if we start operating from the correct map? What would you do if you could not fail? I do know from direct experience that our thoughts shape our experience and our possibilities. Remember; shift how you look at things and what you look at changes.

-- John Wienecke

Monday, January 10, 2011

Customer Disservice: When Personal Drama Effects Professional Drive

Steve is having a financial crisis. Steve is in over his head and is quickly running out of options. He says he has sterling credit and a home that is worth far more than the remaining mortgage, yet he cannot get a home equity loan. Steve has children that are in college and is struggling to find the money he needs while putting the kids through school. How do I know all of this? Steve is a tour guide in Boston. More specifically, Steve was my tour guide in Boston.

My family and I just returned from Boston for a trip that was part business, but mostly pleasure. As January in Boston is not known for its mild weather, we opted to spend our sightseeing hours in the comfort of one of the tour trolleys that proliferate this beautiful and historic city. We felt that we made a wise choice when our guide, Mike, was not only knowledgeable and entertaining, but also personalized the tour as we were the only group on the trolley while we were riding with him.

What did Mike do right? He learned about my husband and me by asking questions, then pointed out items and fun facts that he thought would specifically pertain to what we most enjoyed. When we stopped for a 15 minute potty break, he gave us directions to the cleanest restroom for changing the baby and even a spot where we could get a free chocolate milk for our four year old son. Before we hopped off the trolley for lunch, he made suggestions for eating establishments and assured us that we could pop back on any of the trolleys at any time and would receive exceptional service.

Mike was right about dining (I ordered the chocolate sambuca cake he suggested and he was right, I nearly died from joy), but he was wrong about the service of his fellow tour guide. Steve offered to drive us directly to our hotel rather than make the customary stops, but the excellent service ended there. As soon as we were on board, Steve fired up his cell phone and spent half of the ride negotiating finances. When he was off, he apologized, then proceeded to tell us of his financial difficulties until he was near tears and even my eight-month old seemed uncomfortable. Noticing the looks my husband and I were exchanging, he apologized again, pointed out the architecture of a building nearby, then promptly dove into a diatribe on the banking industry and the economy in general.

What did Steve do wrong? Basically, everything. Whereas Mike allowed his personal experiences to enhance his customer service, Steve allowed his personal experiences to not only interfere but to completely overwhelm the task at hand. Steve’s lack of professionalism affected him personally as he received a smaller tip from us, and it also affected the company as a whole. Whereas our experience with the first tour guide left us wanting more, the experience with number two cost the company repeat business and valuable word of mouth. Imagine Steve conducting tours eight hours a day, five days each week, fifty weeks per year. Granted, he may not always be experiencing a “financial crisis” (his words), but it is clear that he does not know when to leave his personal life at home and it became clear to us that the tour company does not put customer service first.