Self-Awareness Workshops

How to Improve Customer Service

We’ve all experienced situations where we aren’t treated especially wonderfully or competently in our dealings with a business or organization. We tend to write it off as being about one bad employee even though customer service glitches are often a reflection of the company culture rather than a single person’s actions. Thankfully, there are practical things any organization can do to improve its customer service approach:

  • Create a culture of kindness where people treat each other well. If kindness is practiced toward them, employees are less likely to behave negatively.
  • Have leadership model positive behaviors. The way leaders behave is reflected all the way down to front line employees.
  • Encourage collaboration over competition. Employees who know how to work collaboratively are less likely to get into conflicts.
  • Reduce stress. Find ways to make employees’ lives easier instead of harder.
  • Train employees on how not to internalize customer complaints. Show people that complaints are just someone else’s opinion or experience and can be dealt with dispassionately and positively.
  • Teach employees active listening skills so they don’t automatically react to customer issues. When people listen instead of talking they find solutions more quickly.
  • Train employees in effective communication, problem solving and conflict resolution. These core skills help people navigate even the most difficult situations.
  • Hire employees (starting with leaders) who have self-awareness and understand how their behaviors affect others. The ability to understand one’s own behavior and manage it is invaluable when dealing with the public.
  • Allow employees to vent. Have someone on staff who knows how to listen to people and support them in difficult times.
  • Train employees so they’re experts. Give your people the opportunity to look good by giving them the knowledge and information they need to succeed.
  • Develop an “I can help,” attitude. Encourage employees to think creatively to solve problems instead of having their hands tied.
  • Treat your employees very well. Pay generously, give people perks and encourage them to grow. Happier employees treat customers better.

You have a lot of control over the quality of your customer service. Your employees mirror the kind of company they work in and, as a leader, you set the standard that everyone else follows. When you treat your employees well, they’re much more likely to do the same for others. What will you do to improve your customer service approach?

Take care,

Guy

The Lure of Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leadership is practiced in most of our workplaces as an easy way to tell employees what to do and punish them if they don’t do it. It’s a deeply rooted leadership approach stemming from the “parent dominating child” hierarchy we learn to accept in our families. Leaders and employees are used to it because it’s so familiar and they don’t realize there are other leadership approaches that help people motivate themselves from inside instead of being told what to do from the outside. Let’s look at some of the lures and drawbacks of authoritarian leadership as well as some positive alternatives:

Lures

  • It’s an easy, one-way approach. No questioning, just do it.
  • It’s quick. Do it now or else.
  • It’s unambiguous. Here’s what you’re going to do.
  • It feeds your ego. You feel great because people jump when you say jump.
  • It gives you a feeling of power. I control your destiny.
  • You don’t have to give up control to others.
  • You get all the attention. Nobody else gets to shine.

Drawbacks

  • People aren’t motivated unless you give them an order.
  • It limits creativity and critical thinking.
  • You’re only as powerful as the rules you have to keep enforcing.
  • It takes employees’ uniqueness and importance away.
  • It doesn’t welcome new perspectives and points of view.
  • It’s imposed from above. People receive directions and do them.
  • It often reflects the leader’s personal need for power and control.

Alternatives

  • Hire people who genuinely love the work you want them to do and don’t need a lot of direction.
  • Encourage people to lead themselves and trust them to make decisions.
  • Allow people to be creative and explore their own ideas.
  • Encourage people to think critically.
  • Allow people to question the rules and come up with more positive ones.
  • Get a feeling of power from how powerful your employees are.
  • Encourage employees to motivate themselves from within.

During my self-awareness workshops on this topic, someone will usually challenge the alternatives, saying something along the lines of, “You can’t trust people with this type of freedom or control,” which demonstrates how habituated they are to the authoritarian model where employees have no power. It takes time and effort to redirect entrenched leadership habits. The leaders who let go of the need to control their employees find that they have access to much more energy and talent than they ever did before. What will you do to move beyond authoritarian leadership?

Leadership and Trust

When you trust your employees and co-workers it shows that you genuinely value them and believe in their talents and abilities. If you don’t trust, you’re telling people that they don’t matter and you’re somehow wiser or more capable than them. Leaders who practice self-awareness are mindful of how their actions affect others and whether they’re inspiring them to succeed or holding them back. Here are some examples of leadership behaviors that both limit and promote trust:

Behaviors that Limit Trust
Trusting conditionally or only in certain circumstances.
Shouting directions at people.
Bypassing people’s ideas to give them yours.
Rationalizing not being able to trust.
Micromanaging.
Treating people like babies.
Hand holding or hovering.
Assuming that people will mess up.
Punishing instead of educating.
Saying you trust and not doing so.

Behaviors that Promote Trust
Letting people do their thing.
Listening.
Being available to help people when asked.
Assuming that people will do their best to perform well.
Giving people educational opportunities and resources to help them succeed.
Letting people show you what they can do.
Letting go of the need to control what people do.
Encouraging people to think critically and develop their own solutions.
Letting go of the fear that other people will make you look bad.

If you’ve ever worked for someone who knows how to trust, you know it feels great because they encourage you to think critically, work autonomously and showcase your skills and abilities. Many well-meaning individuals in leadership positions function by trying to control their employees’ behaviors rather than discovering what they do well and letting them do it. The more you trust people, the more they will return the favor and do great work for you. It’s up to you as a leader whether you set a positive example and believe in your employees and colleagues unconditionally. What will you do to trust more?

Take care,

Guy

Looking for Answers Outside

People spend a lot of time looking to outside sources instead of looking inside themselves for answers to life’s big questions. Living a meaningful life requires building self-awareness so you can get to know who you really are and live a life that reflects your true self. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you look deep inside and find the answers that work for you:

  • What brings me joy?
  • What do I love doing?
  • If money were no object, what would I do?
  • What is my passion in life?
  • What do I find meaningful in life?
  • Who am I?
  • What kind of person am I?
  • What talent of mine would I love to share with the world?
  • What am I willing to do to live my dream life?
  • What holds me back?
  • What motivates me to take action?
  • What’s my definition of the meaning of life?

Take some time to carefully answer all these questions, they will lead you toward living a genuinely fulfilling and happy life. You can find the answers you’re looking for if you’re willing to look within and listen to your inner voice. What will you do to find the answers inside you?

How to Talk about Charged Topics

There’s a frequently recited adage that you shouldn’t talk about religion and politics in polite company, advice created by people who don’t know how to talk about charged topics without getting angry or hurt. The key to effective communication is for the participants to have the self-awareness to realize that other people’s ideas, beliefs, values and opinions aren’t necessarily an attack on their own, just another perspective. Here are some ideas that will help you talk about difficult issues in your personal or professional life:

  • Go in with good intentions. Keep an open mind and engage in the conversation with the idea that you’re going to learn something and that you’ll do everything you can to make sure things go well.
  • Assume the other person isn’t trying to hurt you. Interact based on the premise that you’re having a positive two-way conversation, not that you’re walking into a life-threatening ambush.
  • Listen to the other person. Don’t talk, interrupt or give your opinion, just listen actively and learn about the other person’s point of view whether you agree with it or not.
  • Practice self-awareness. Be aware of your own thoughts, feelings and actions and manage them so you don’t get angry or defensive.
  • Stay calm. Communication doesn’t have to be a contact sport, it can be calm and pleasant.
  • Resist the urge to fight back. Increase your chances of interacting positively by keeping yourself under control.
  • Avoid participating in an argument. Look at the conversation as an opportunity to learn about another perspective instead of creating conflict.
  • Realize the other person’s point of view is just a point of view. No matter what someone says, it doesn’t mean that you have to change your values or beliefs.
  • Know when to back off. Sometimes people aren’t ready or able to talk about a certain topic. Let them know you’re available to talk when they’re ready.

Individuals who understand and master these skills are able to talk about any issue because their communication style shifts from confrontational to actively listening to what other people are saying. Virtually nothing someone else says merits an explosive reaction unless you decide it does. The key to effective communication is to move from reacting viscerally to consciously working on listening, learning and getting along with the other person. What will you do to behave positively when you talk about charged topics?

Take care,

Guy