A year ago I took an unusual holiday – my kids were attending camp for a week, so my wife and I volunteered to work in the horse corrals for the week. It was very different work, tiring, rewarding, and relaxing in its own way. What I did notice was how easily I was ignored by the campers.
Let’s just be clear: the staff and kids at the camp were wonderful – grateful, fun, friendly – the campers were reasonably indifferent, though respectful and friendly when we interacted with them. I am not complaining, this is what anyone would expect with 12-16 year-olds, or anyone really (especially since we were mostly shovelling horse manure)!
What this experience caused me to notice was how many people were serving me during this week (someone cooked my meals, washed my plates, cleaned my room, etc.), and I had really not noticed until I started to think about it.
But this is not a lecture on being grateful (hopefully it does not seem like a lecture at all!). What I think we do is to define “the help” relative to our own role – clerks, receptionists, junior managers, subordinates – and then how we often ignore them. And this despite the fact that we ourselves may be defined as “the help” by someone else who is ignoring us in turn…to our great displeasure!
I will leave to you any potential connections from treating “the help” better for improved customer service, staff morale and personal growth (and promotion prospects). I suspect that those links are pretty strong. Certainly I know that when I feel valued and appreciated I feel that I am making difference, and I work harder as a result.
What can you do for your “help”? Personally, I like the three “F”s – be friendly, make it fun and occasionally provide food. If those aren’t for you, type in ‘how to appreciate your staff’ in any search engine and see if there is something that works for you there.
Attention ladder-climbers: people will not remember you for that report you got in on time, rather they will remember you for the type of person you were. And in 50 years, they likely won’t remember you at all. Make your time, and theirs, something more!
We have all received feedback at one point or another. We’ve of course received feedback from our boss, but also from our kids (usually quite direct and inconsiderate of your feelings), your spouse, your friends and your “friends”. It is often hard to receive feedback, but it is equally difficult to give feedback, at least if you do it right. And note that there is a difference between feedback and opinion!
How to Give Feedback
“You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself” the saying goes – so when it comes to providing feedback, this saying is very relevant to you and the person you are evaluating. It means that change is a two way street – if you expect someone to change, you may just have to change yourself.
Marshall Goldsmith, in his book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” suggests that before you start to conduct an evaluation or provide feedback, that you make four commitments to yourself:
- Let go of the past: if you cannot get over the things that the person you are evaluating has done in the past, is any feedback you give really genuine?
- Tell the truth: if you are just saying what you think they want to hear, you are wasting everyone’s time
- Be supportive and not negative: there is a “win” in it for you as well if you can improve a subordinate’s (or boss’) behavior
- Pick something to improve yourself: if you also make a change, you, and the person you are evaluating, have a stake in your mutual success.
These four commitments can help set you in the right frame of mind to make a more fair, objective and productive evaluation.
How to Receive Feedback
This is a tricky one. Goldsmith divides this up into different types of feedback.
Solicited feedback – when you ask for feedback – should be accepted gratefully, he suggests. Most of us will not ask for feedback from people unless we know them, and often because they are friends. If you ask for feedback, thank them, ask questions, but don’t disagree or offer your opinion on the feedback. After all, you asked, and they responded, so the right thing to say is “thank you”.
Unsolicited feedback can be harder to take. I once was on the phone with someone I hardly knew, and was asked a question that stumped me for a while. In answering I said “um” a few times (I guess), and the person on the phone said “you shouldn’t say ‘um’ so much it makes you sound very uneducated”. Nice (though I am more aware of my “ums” now, though am not overly grateful for that comment).
Goldsmith refers to a type of unsolicited feedback called the “blindside event”, where someone holds a mirror to your behavior, and you don’t like what you see. The first reaction is usually anger or indignation, and certainly disagreement with the comment. If you are introspective enough, and when you’ve calmed down, you may come to realize that someone else saw something about you that you didn’t. The sticky part is that everyone else may think the same thing of you, and you were the only one who didn’t know.
The feedback – solicited or not – ultimately will benefit you if, in a quiet moment of introspection, you can see the truth of the observation(s) about you. You may have to admit to a fault or apologize to someone or a group of people, and that Goldsmith argues is the important first step to healing and changing for the better.
It is hard work giving and receiving feedback. You need to be honest with other people, and honest with yourself, and sometimes it is not easy to do either!
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter, and is published by Hyperion, New York, ISBN 978-1-4013-0130-9
This year, the MB Chapter started a new project “We Want to Support You!” where the Chapter will sponsor Members that are trying to raise money for a specific charity or event.
On May 3, 2014, my daughter and I participated in the 2014 Marathon- Lace Up Manitoba, 5mile walk/run for the Junior Canadian Diabetes at the St. Vital Park. It was a chilly morning but my daughter and I met a lot of great people at the event and we had a lot of fun.
I raised over $350 which supports to the Canadian Diabetes Manitoba youth camp. The focus of the camps are to provide children living with type 1 diabetes with opportunities to enjoy an authentic camp experience while having all of their diabetes needs monitored by a dedicated team of trained medical professionals.
While at camp, children learn about diabetes management in an enriching, safe and fun environment. At camp, diabetes education is experiential; meaning that learning about how to better manage diabetes happens through doing. These experiences result in “ah – ha!” moments and “diabetes milestones.” When children leave camp, they will have also gained a new level of independence in managing their diabetes and feel empowered to continue the healthy practices they learned at camp
Thank you CIC for your $25 donation to this great cause!
See how to apply for support here. We would love to highlight other members so I encourage everyone to participate in a good cause!
CIC membership seem to be stabilizing after years of effort to reverse the declining membership. The number of CCPs is down though, reflecting the continuing retirement of our members, though most encouragingly, there are close to 140 students in the system which has brought the membership in 2014 to be consistent with that of 2013, the first time membership has not declined sharply year-over-year.
Manitoba’s numbers reflects this overall trend, and membership is consistent with last year. National office’s staff changes caused some delay in sending membership notices out, so our numbers took some time to build. With some phone calls and emails, our membership will grow by a few more numbers before the end of summer.
Click on the image to enlarge.
I had a recent experience with Apple’s Genius Bar. My son was having problems with his computer and insisted we go. I made the appointment online and got a confirmation email right away (a very good start).
In the few days between making the appointment and actually going, I constantly referred to the upcoming meeting as our ‘date at the nerd bar’. Actually, I was looking forward to the experience – my son was genuinely excited about having his machine looked at and happy to be going with me (and vice-versa), and I was interested in what was going to happen.
I will start with the conclusion: the “Genius” of the Genius Bar is not the staff – though they are very knowledgeable. The genius is that there is a Genius Bar at all. It is a free service (for Apple computer owners), and it is staffed by people who listen, respond, and then listen some more.
Technically they are doing after-market service, but what they really did at our ‘nerd date’ was to prepare my son and me for our next electronics purchase. The service was excellent, the staffer solved the problem and answered every single one of my (very chatty) son’s questions.
So what “genius” service can the credit and accounting department can offer to internal staff? That is hard, but I could (and did) take some immediate action…
- I decided to get back into the habit of reading every sales rep’s weekly report (moderately painful to read), and responding when it was appropriate
- I remind my staff that we want to make interactions with credit and accounting a painless experience for them, so they not only want to call back, but let their colleagues know “hey, it isn’t so bad talking to accounting”
So while there is no genius bar, better customer service is possible by just listening, then responding in a timely, informative and friendly manner.
As a side benefit, the reach of the credit and accounting folks is stretched a bit, allowing them to grow in social ability, an area that does not always come as second nature to them. People like being liked, and become more positive as a result, and that starts a circular pattern that grows on itself.
Conclusion: Frank Burns’ (of MASH) was right: “It’s nice to be nice to the nice!“
- BOOK REVIEW - Final Accounting: Ambition, Greed and the Fall of Arthur Andersen
- Barbara Ley Toffler, Jennifer Ringold, 254 pages, Broadway Books, 2003, ISBN 0767914546
Arthur Andersen surrendered its CPA licence (which is the license that allows US audit companies it to perform audits of publicly traded companies) in August of 2002, effectively shutting the company down. After being convicted of obstruction of an SEC investigation (related to Enron and Andersen’s shredding of documents), the once largest audit company in the world was out of business.
Final Accounting outlines how this happened, and places the blame squarely on the culture of a company used to being at the top of its profession, and on the leaders that failed to act on what they knew: the company was headed off the rails.
Toffler and Ringold reveal the making of an “Android” (the term for employees trained the “Andersen way”), the company’s money making strategy called “billing your brains out” and the divisive nature of the incentive plans within the company that pitted partner against partner, employee against employee.
The book chronicles the changes that took the company away from its winning mantra “Think Straight, Talk Straight”, and how those changes put the focus on pleasing the client at all costs.
Even at the very end, when there was little hope to save the firm, Toffler writes how the culture of denial, arrogance and pride caused the leadership at Arthur Andersen to fail to acknowledge that change was needed.
Toffler writes with inside knowledge: she was, ironically, the Partner in charge of Ethics and Responsible Business Practices at Arthur Andersen during the company’s crisis, and in a perfect place to document the fall of the once-great firm.
Companies like Enron, WorldCom and others that Andersen audited failed because of fraud at the highest levels within that company—fraud that Andersen knew about and yet failed to act, or worse, failed to notice.
The read is interesting and fast paced, and captures well the sadness and bitterness over individual failures as well as the failure of this once proud company. Well worth the time!
Subsequent to the release of this book
Interestingly enough, in 2005 the judgement against Andersen was overturned by the US Supreme Court in a unanimous decision. The company was essentially cleared on the basis that the instructions given to the original jury were so broad that the outcome would have been a guilty verdict no matter what the evidence.
Andersen maybe innocent of the charges, but guilty of astoundingly bad judgement. Not surprisingly, the company has not returned to business on a viable scale.