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Your Crystal Ball to Success

crystal ball1“The future depends on what you do today.”
Mahatma Gandhi

What a quarter you had! Of course, it’s encouraging to have been successful in the past, and the numbers stand as testament to what you’ve accomplished. Scanning over  those participation, membership or financial reports, reminds you  just how successful you were. You may even have some unique ratios or benchmarks you use to more precisely assess your past performance. It’s all helpful historical data, but wouldn’t it be even more helpful to have information that would forecast your chances for success in the coming quarters? One man has discovered this crystal ball.

According to Claes Fornell, author of The Satisfied Customer, and developer of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), an outstanding predictor of future profitability is your customer satisfaction score. As Fornell puts it, “Satisfied customers are more likely to come back for more,” he adds,”…long term profits come from satisfied customers.”

The founder and chairman of an international consulting firm, Swedish born Fornell, even demonstrated that an investment  portfolio made up of firms with high ACSI scores consistently outperformed the market. He concludes then that  customer satisfaction improvement will likely lead to improvement in profitability.

You see, what he’s saying is that you can put on your customer service glasses and look into the crystal ball to see what  your chances look like for success in the coming quarters. This then, begs the question, “What’s the best way to assess customer satisfaction?”

There are many ways to determine the satisfaction level of customers, but how about  a method that is inexpensive, simple and accurate? Anonymity, by the way, is essential to higher customer participation and transparency. I recommend online surveys and here are 3 tips on how to do it:

1. Ask the right questions. In my experience there are two key questions to ask to get a big picture view of  your customer’s  satisfaction. First,  “How likely are you to recommend (Insert you.) to others?” I prefer a 1 to 10 scale. Then follow that question with, “What’s one thing we could do to improve that score?” These big simple questions keep you out of the weeds and raise the response rate.

2. Monitor the average. If, over time, the rolling average score on that first question  is headed up,  your chances are better for success in the next quarter, but if you see that average  headed down,  your future is looking cloudy, and it’s time to drill down and find out what’s going on. Closely review the answers to question two. Of course, the fresher and larger your sample the more helpful your score.

3. Keep it short. Every question and word  you add increases the likelihood that you lose a respondent. Need help? Below is a link to a sample that will take  you to the Survey Monkey site.While SM does offer several plans, their low-end, no-fee plan will walk you through the basics of the process and get you started. You can also offer hard copies to the customers who are more likely to participate in this way.

So, there’s your crystal ball to success.

In another post, I’ll describe a simple tool that prompts you to be even more preemptive. It is predictive of trends, not just of your future revenue streams, but  of your customer service scores. In the meantime, remember that…

“Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.” ~ Tony Allesandra

  Click here for the Survey Monkey sample.


Show Your Teeth

Strahan“This is who I am. I’m not perfect. I don’t want to try to be perfect.”  Michael Strahan, Retired NFL  Defensive End

I wanted more perfect teeth, so I tried the Arm & Hammer, “Truly Radiant” toothpaste, but my teeth were still banana colored. My dentist’s advice? “Wear a brown tie.”

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being neat, clean and well-groomed. There is a point, however,  where too much “Hollywood” cover-up  can send the unintended  message that we may be hiding the real person and that underneath it all is someone who is insecure. A  more “au naturale” appearance  may project a  positive self-image and make us more approachable. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis thinks so. “The more I like me, the less I want to pretend to be other people.” says the lightly made-up actress.

For me, I find comfort in reminding myself that long after others forget whether my teeth were white, or  my skin  bronze and flawless, they’ll remember how I made them feel. I now realize that I should be investing less time and energy on my own image and focusing more on building up the self esteem of others.

Bottom line? You are one of a kind. Be you, be natural, and be approachable.

“You don’t inspire your teammates by showing them how amazing you are.  You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are.”    Robyn Benincasa


Great Leaders Read People

Read People“The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.”    Buddha

Relationships can  be built by using a trial and error approach to developing effective communications  with others. Great leaders, however, have learned that there’s a better way to more quickly connect with people – Determine their personality type.

Truly effective team builders have developed the  ability to see beyond appearances and quickly determine a person’s personality type. This provides them with  a time-saving advantage in establishing meaningful relationships, influencing decisions and motivating actions. Here’s a simple tool that you can use  to  rapidly understand the basic personality wiring of the person you’re seeking to connect with. Try the application on yourself first.

Which of these life-slogans  best describes you? Note that you’re likely to be a mix of two, but pick the one that’s most dominant.

1. “Get it done.”   2. “Do it right.”    3. “Lighten up.”   4.“Take it easy.”

Here’s what your choice reveals about your default behaviors:

If  your choice is #1, you’re a RED. You’re wired to be all business and fast paced. You like to get a job done quickly. You’re pleased when you  get a lot accomplished.

If you’ve selected #2, you’re a GREEN. You’re also all business, but you prefer to take your time on each task to assure that you do a thorough job. High quality work is important to you.

If #3 seems to fit you, you’re a BLUE. You’re fast paced and you enjoy entertaining people, particularly by telling stories and jokes. You know many people.

If you see yourself as a #4, you’re a GOLD. You prefer a slow and calm pace. You like helping people. You enjoy close relationships.

Which life-slogan color fits you best? Can you determine the life-slogan colors for others? Practice on your friends.

Once you have a color, then you can adapt your communications style to that color. Here are  some  guidelines for connecting best with each type:

RED- Don’t spend much time on fellowship. Don’t waste their time. Get right to the bottom-line. These folks are outcome-driven. They’re interested in getting back to the task at hand.

GREEN- Minimize the social time. Give them all the details of any project you want them to do. As well, give them plenty of time to process the information and to do  what you’d like them to do.

BLUE- Be a great listener. Let them have the microphone. Show appreciation for what they say and do. Follow up with a written summary of any requests you’ve made of them.

GOLD-  Connect in a warm, caring manner. Be transparent and understanding.  Give them your time, interest and heartfelt support.

Remember that if you’re seeking to lead and influence, you want  to connect with other people based on their  wiring, not your own.

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”  Ken Blanchard

3 Big Benefits of Personality Analytics!

personality“An attitude of positive expectation is the mark of the superior personality.”   Brian Tracy

Whether I’m guiding a group in team building, strategic planning, or relational growth, one of my first steps is to do a personality review on each participant. I do this for 3 reasons:

  1. Personality affects everything we do. The way that we eat, make love, fight, drive, talk and walk are shaped by our personality. In fact, name a behavior, and you can be sure that your personality affects how you express it. So, for anyone seeking to lead or work with  others more effectively,  insight into likely behavior patterns  is valuable information.2. Understanding personality can ease relational differences. Participants often discover that differences between them really aren’t interpersonal, but have their basis in personality dynamics. I’m not surprised any longer when I  hear a previously offended person say something like, “All this time, I thought you just didn’t like me, and now I can see that we’re just wired differently. It was never about me, was it?”

3. Personality analytics affirm strengths and reveal growth opportunities. Usually, the strong      elements of a person’s personality also point to their likely challenges. Take their personality strength to the extreme  and there you’ll find their growth potential. So, the bubbly, friendly extrovert, who brings life to the office, may also  be the one who needs to be careful of being  too self-centered.

There are several personality tools available. I like the Myers-Briggs instrument for groups that will be having a long term relationship together. Here’s a free link for an abbreviated MB tool:

For shorter term relationships, I prefer a personality tool that is simple and has immediate value in improving connections with customers and casual contacts. I use the Hippocratic four basic temperaments. Here’s a free link:

The bottom line is that there’s relational, leadership and customer service value in the information that the  personality analysis provides. I recommend that you add it to your skill set.

3 Powerful People Connectors

Plugs“The best minute you spend is the one you invest in people”               Ken Blanchard, Legendary Service & The New One Minute Manager

Whether at the office, or in your community, using these 3 people connectors will add relational bonding to every contact you have with others.

1. Learn and use preferred names. Don’t assume that the name printed on a uniform or the name you hear others call a person by is what they want to be called. A lady in one of my workshops told me, “Most people at work call me Pat, but I prefer to be called ‘Patty. ‘” If you’re not certain what name to use, ask, “What name do you like to be called?” Remembering and using  that name will improve the power of every connection you have with that person.

2. Discover their passions. You may not even have to ask. Look around. See any telltale lapel pins, trophies, pictures, books or logos? If you don’t see any clues,  then ask, “What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?” If they love the Steelers, then remember to ask about the Steelers quarterback, Big Ben, the next time you connect. You’ve added more power to your connection with them.

3. Know what their current event or project  is. What’s going on in their life that’s important to them. It might be a positive thing like a wedding or a trip or  it could be something challenging like a broken relationship or a health issue. Simply asking, “So, what’s going on with you?”, may reveal important insights that you can respond to in a helpful way. You’re building a powerful connection.

I’m sure you can see that the real key here isn’t these three particular pieces of information. Rather it’s your focus on others.  Remember that when you grab and hold the conversational mike to talk about you and your world, you’re sapping energy from the connection. Particularly if you’re a leader, make conversations about others not you.

“You don’t inspire your teammates by showing them how amazing you are.  You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are.”    Robyn Benincasa

The Meal Every Great Leader Serves

meal“The best minute you spend is the one you invest in people”               Ken Blanchard, The New One Minute Manager

Someone with great insight into the dynamics of delivering legendary customer service said, “ If you don’t feed your staff, they’ll eat your customers.” You’ll be nourishing hungry staff when you serve up ample helpings of your kind, soul- satisfying attention. Here’s the 3 part recipe:

1. Be visible. – Sometimes this can be called MBWA (Management By Wandering Around), but if the goal is to build up your staff, don’t think of this as “Management.” See this as a regular friendly walk-through of your operation that shows your interest in people and your desire to be available. Your congenial passing through  will be noticed and appreciated by most, particularly if you make a connection with each person. So, as you walk through, add this second flavorful ingredient of the recipe.

2. Initiate greetings. – By being the initiator of a greeting with every person you work with as well as customers you meet along the way, you accomplish three things. First, you demonstrate your own personal confidence by being out of your office. Second, you send each person you greet a message that you care. Finally, you model a style of relating that your staff can see and learn from. The  effectiveness of your visit will be particularly satisfying if you add this final ingredient.

3. Know your people.– You’ll put real meaning to each walk-through when you show interest in job satisfaction, problems and even personal passions. Look for ways that you can affirm and assist them in each of these areas. After your journey make some notes so that you’ll be able to follow-up.

Serve this 3-part meal regularly and  every person you connect with is likely to not only feel well-fed, but also, to be much more likely to do the same for one-another and your customers.

“If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.”  Jan Carlzon, Moments of Truth

The A,B,C’s of Team Building

“Wearing the same shirts doesn’t make a team.” Buchholz and Roth

Great teamwork! – You know it when you see it or better yet when you, as a team member, experience the positive effects of it. This energy stirs a contagious “Can-do” team spirit that produces greater outcomes than would have been possible through individual efforts. Teamwork is a powerful tool, but how do you as a leader create such a dynamo?

The building blocks of teamwork can be difficult to discern and even if you can identify each of the elements, they may be a challenge to replicate in your situation with your particular team. In fact, unless you can meet these three prerequisites, you’re not likely to be able to lead a team to a high level of shared enthusiasm and accomplishment.

First of all, you must be a stable leader . If you’re struggling personally, in body, mind or spirit, don’t even attempt to lead your team to a higher level. Focus on yourself first and once you’re generally comfortable with who you are right now, then you can check this one off. Get your own life stabilized and then consider the next step-The vision for your team.

For your second qualifier, you must be able to see the big picture and have an engaging vision and mission for your group. Once you can picture this “best future” then you can move to your next qualifier.

Finally, you need to have the right people in the right places. You cannot build a solid team if you have any square pegs in round holes. You want people who are as enthused as you are about your vision and who have the values, skills and commitment to accomplish the mission. Your hiring process must include an assessment of the candidate’s culture fit.

If you feel that you have satisfactorily met these three prerequisites, then you’re ready to apply the A,B,C’s, of team building.
•A- Acknowledge your personal growth plan to your team. This type of personal transparency by you, the leader, is the rich relational soil that trust blooms and thrives in. Additionally, inviting your team to ask about your progress toward growth targets improves the likelihood of similar transparency being shown by the rest of the team.

Such openness could sound like this, ” I want you each to know that I’m aware that as an introvert I may not be quickly transparent in my views. I also want you to know that from now on I will be more open in sharing what’s going on in my head. I will also be asking you for feedback on my progress.”

As Patrick Lencioni, author of The FIVE Dysfunctions of a Team, advises, “The most important action that a leader must take to encourage the building of trust on the team is to demonstrate vulnerability first.” Insecure leaders will falter at this building block. Confident leaders will show strength and humility here and continually reveal themselves even while they practice the other principles.
•B- Build the leadership and relational skills of your team. Most of the learning your team members will do will happen because they see you modeling these skills. Particular emphasis should be placed on showing and teaching them how to confront issues with one another in a forthright, constructive and caring manner. Being willing and able to openly hold one another accountable to agreed upon values, goals and outcomes takes both commitment and skill, but such mutual accountability is a real measure of the depth of trust on the team. Finally, woven throughout the team building process on a continual basis is this third principle.
•C- Convey your caring compassion toward each person. By demonstrating interest and showing support for the dreams and passions of team members, you spread the bonding agent of sincere connection. This is what holds the building blocks and the team together as a caring community. If for example, you know that one of your direct reports has a great passion for golf. You might let him or her represent the company at a tournament.

They’re simple principles, but when applied over time by the right leader they can lead to amazing teams who are energized to produce outstanding results..

“Teamwork ultimately comes down to practicing a small set of principles over a long period of time.” Patrick Lencioni

Trump & Team Building

trump“Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says ‘Go’, a leader says ‘Let’s go.'” E.M. Kelly

Donald Trump isn’t the first person you’d think of as a team builder, but he does effectively model one important principal of team building. If you want to lead your team follow the Donald’s lead and …

… speak your truth. As I pointed out in my last post, one of the necessary building blocks for developing a cohesive team is transparency. Why? Because transparency encourages trust. For your followers, even if they don’t agree with your truth, they appreciate that they don’t have to wonder what you’re thinking. Even if you haven’t yet come to a conclusion about a matter, saying “I want you to know that I’m still considering the matter and will get back to you in 3 days.” is transparent and builds trust.

If, however, like Trump, you use no filters in how you deliver your truth, your team, even if they agree with you, may run and hide. So, learn from the team building folly of the Donald and …

… watch your tongue. Donald Trump shows us that sharp-edged, unfiltered truth that’s blasted out like buckshot is counter-productive in team building. Such undisciplined rhetoric causes people to scatter for cover. As a team builder, you want to not only be transparent, but also wise in delivering your truth in ways that are considerate and sensitive to your audience.

In addition to learning from Trump’s speaking style, we can also learn from his hairstyle. If you want to be trusted as a team builder, be careful to …

… look like a leader. Look professional, but not fake. Whether it’s a strange looking comb over, teeth that are unnaturally white or skin that’s obviously over-painted, recognize that such embellishments may send the message that you’re self-centered and perhaps hiding something more than a bald spot, yellow teeth or blotchy skin. A natural appearance enhances the veracity of your words. Leaders who are personally stable find their confidence on the inside not on the outside and ,in turn, they’re often the best team builders.

So, if you want to be an effective team builder, say what you think after you’ve considered the best way to say it and present yourself as someone who’s focused on others, not yourself.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African proverb

5 Great Meeting Tips

meeting“People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.” Thomas Sowell, American economist

If you’re in charge of the meeting, follow these 5 tips and you’ll have people not only commending your leadership of ‘…a great meeting.” but also being more willing to trust your leadership in the future.

1. Minimize the frequency and length of your meetings.- Only meet when necessary and, if the session is needed, identify the time frame in the meeting invitation. Then show your integrity as a leader and respect people’s time by finishing early or on time.

2. In advance of the meeting, send out the agenda and copies of anything to be voted on.– Your guideline should be “To assure proper consideration, we don’t vote on items that we haven’t seen in advance.” This should include reports from committees, minutes, treasurer’s report and any proposals needing a vote.

3. State the objective of the meeting– Unless it’s a standard committee or board, assure that everyone is clear on why you’re meeting. Ask at the beginning if anyone has any other agenda items. Avoid, end of meeting surprises

4. Assure participation from all participants.- There’s minimal value in having participants come and have little to say. Ideally, each person has something to offer. An effective leader is prompting comments from each person. If one or two people are doing most of the talking then you may have a “Gasbag” and a leadership problem. It’s the leaders job to balance the conversation.

5. Summarize accepted responsibilities. At the close of the meeting assure that each person understands any responsibilities agreed to and verify that those responsibilities are detailed in the minutes. Follow up before the next meeting.

Follow these 5 tips and you’ll have people commending your leadership of ‘…a great meeting.” and being more willing to trust your leadership in the future.


4 Steps to Becoming a Great Conversationalist

Listening“If God had wanted us to talk more than listen, He would have given us two mouths rather than two ears.” Ken Blanchard

Dale Carnegie, author of the long-time best selling How to Win Friends and Influence People, was often described as “…a great conversationalist.” Carnegie was quick to point out, however, that it was his mastery of one simple skill that earned him this accolade. ” I had been merely a good listener…” he noted. Are you a good listener?

Mastery of the EARS approach can make you “…a great conversationalist.” Here are the steps:

1. E- Engage: Make the other person your total focus. Dedicate you body, mind and spirit to really hearing and understanding what’s being said to you.

2. A- Affirm: Show that you’re really listening by using your eyes, expressions, gestures and comments to encourage the speaker to tell you more.

3. R- Reflect: Bounce the speakers thoughts back to him or her. Even repeating the exact words spoken to you can be helpful in demonstrating that you are listening well.

4. S- Summarize: At the close of the conversation, demonstrate that you’ve listened well by giving a brief summary of what the speaker has said. If dates, times, or tasks were presented, affirm that you have them right and that you’ll follow through on whatever you’ve committed to do.

Soon everyone will want to engage you in conversation.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey