What Networking is Teaching Me

Those that know me know that I enjoy connecting with others whether it is over coffee, a meal, or a chance meeting. I’ve been blessed to have had some quality networking meetings the past few weeks. In reflecting back on the people and these meetings, I’ve learned a few things:

  • People are generous with their time. That is so true of my community. I know the other person is sharing valuable time with me, so I invest some time before meeting preparing. I write out questions that I have for this person so I can get to know them better and learn about their journey thus far. I want to honor their time commitment with me by making the most of our time.
  • People have struggles just as I do. I have heard stories of jobs not going well and stories of heartache when someone has been fired. Listening and empathizing is a way to connect and encourage others. And they can do this for you, too.
  • People are passionate. I love seeing and hearing how the other person has found their niche and are running hard in that direction. I love hearing how they are impacting their world. I love hearing what they have learned along the way.
  • People share resources. I have learned that there can be a fair exchange of ideas and further connections that will benefit us both. I have heard about new books to explore, places to visit, and people to meet.

If you have yet to try something like this, give it a try. Who can you reach out to?

  • A senior manager at your workplace
  • An admired community leader
  • A business owner in your city

When you land the appointment and have the meeting, end by asking if they could connect you to someone who you can continue this networking time with. I don’t believe I’ve ever had anyone refuse to do this.

Give this a try and see what you’ll learn from networking. Meet someone new. Learn something new.

Coffee shop two business men Stock Photos - Page 1 : Masterfile

Creating Meaningful Customer Experiences

What sets you and your team apart in your company? What sets your company apart when competing with the competition? I conducted a simple survey on LinkedIn the other day. The majority of the respondents said the primary differentiator was customer service.

I’m guessing you are not surprised by this. I would be willing to bet that your teams would not be surprised. But how do our teams create a meaningful customer experience that leads to results? Do they just know or should they be trained on how to do this?

Too often, our team members rush to resolve issues especially if the customer is “energized” (upset). “Stuff” is made up to quiet or calm the customer. And then the next person who encounters the customer is forced to address that “stuff” before even getting to the initial issue.

I have led teams that were customer-facing as well as “back office”. A few years ago, I crafted the following to create the most meaningful customer experiences that lead to results – customer satisfaction, sales and cross-sales, customer loyalty, customer referrals, etc. It is, in my opinion, a common sense approach. A seasoned team member will be able to navigate this process to build solid relationships with your customers. A new team member will be able to understand this and become a successful customer experience provider.

Here it is:

From my experience, many team members want to ACT first. They are anxious to take care of the customer, meet needs, etc. But when they jump to ACT too soon, they miss out on so much that the customer needs. The process above puts the customer first, leads the team member to connect with them, provides information for the team member to ACT in a way that makes sense to the customer, and then follow-up/follow-through to further connect with the customer.

This process has been used in a financial institution. It has been used at universities with college recruiters. It works. It must be managed, observed, and coached. But it works. Customers will feel this. They will respond. They will grow more loyal. You will see results.

Try it. Let me know how it goes. I love hearing stories of success! Share yours here.

Taking a Moment to Connect

I am working near one of my groups this week. About 30 minutes ago, one of our newest team members walked up and asked if he could chat. He wanted to tell me what he was learning from a book I bought for him a month ago. He also asked what activities I had been involved with recently. I shared with him my experiences with our local Chamber of Commerce annual meeting as well as the leadership networking group I co-founded with my brother (www.firstfridaysfw.org). We talked of attending events together to get some networking experience under his belt.

Just a few moments, I was reminded of the power of staying close to your teams. I currently work in another building or at home most of the time. But this brief encounter reminded me how much touch points such as this one charges my batteries. Question: what do you do to connect with your teams?

Where Ideas Come From

Back in February, I challenged one of my teams with an initiative. I required each of them to share 1 idea or 1 area of improvement within our department and/or company. I created a OneNote folder where they would share these things every week. They had to include their name for accountability purposes.

Some took to the challenge immediately and some really great things are in motion today to bring their ideas to life. Some thought they really didn’t have any ideas. But through our 1-on-1 sessions when I got them thinking and talking, ideas flowed.

“But that’s a pretty small thing,” one team member told me after sharing an idea. And I reminded them I wasn’t looking for a cure for cancer. Just simple ideas that would help create less friction or would help others understand a necessary process better or that would create a better customer experience is what we were looking for. Small steps in the right direction compound to have a significant impact in the long run.

Do you know that your team has more to contribute? Do you know they have experiences that are extremely valuable and can be leveraged? Do you believe that ideas should come from all areas of your organization, not just the executive levels?

Give your team a challenge, encourage their participation, and watch them grow. You will see collaboration. You will see people stretching beyond their comfort zone. You will hear some pretty great ideas that you’ve never considered before.

And your team member, you, and your organization will become better as a result.

How to help a New Team Member | Team quotes, Business quotes, Leadership  quote

Tuesday Tip – Who else would benefit from knowing this?

Many of you read articles, blog posts, books or listen to a TED talk and you are inspired. You learn something new. You actually make changes in your professional/personal life as a result. Does it all end there…with you?

My tip for today is take this one step further. Why else would benefit from knowing or getting exposed to this information?

  • Your team?
  • Your colleagues?
  • Another leader in your community?
  • Your family?
  • Your mentor or mentee?

Of course learning and developing as a leader is critically important. Take it one more step and share what you have learned with someone else. Email them a link to that blog post. Send them a podcast link. Take a photo of a powerful paragraph and email that to them. Share what you’ve learned over coffee or lunch.

Some folks will be receptive to this. Others will not. You’ll learn who is open to this. Focus on adding value. This sharing – it is about them, not about you. You could help someone launch something incredible in their life!

Book Recommendation: Tiny Habits

I’ve already read a couple of books on habits. I’m intrigued by how we create and maintain habits and how habits bring about positive change. In my reading, I recently came across a new book written by Dr. BJ Fogg – Tiny Habits.

I’m not through reading it yet, but I am already picking up great ideas that I can apply at work and in my personal life. Dr. Fogg lays out a systematic way to create habits – tiny habits – that have the power to change our lives.

As he writes “there are only 3 things we can do that will create lasting change: Have an epiphany, change our environment, or change our habits in tiny ways.”

He goes on: “One tiny action, one small bite, might feel insignificant at first, but it allows you to gain momentum you need to ramp up to bigger challenges and faster progress.” Jeff Olson (The Slight Edge) calls this the compounding effect.

Like most people, I tend to rely on motivation to try to reach an outcome. Dr. Fogg teaches that this focus will not work. It is the focus on and doing the behaviors that move us towards our outcome – this is the real difference-maker.

If you are interested in learning more about habits and the power they can harness, read this book. If you are looking for ways to help your team improve their results, this book will help. If you are wanting to achieve an outcome personally, read this book.

“There is a painful gap between what people want and what they actually do…the problem is with the approach itself, not with you.”

Buy this book and learn that approach. It is practical. It is actionable.

What happens to YOU when you become a better coach by Jim Johnson

If you lead a team, you are coaching (or, at least, I trust that you are). I gave a presentation a couple of years ago on why coaching is so important for our team members. I also shared the following on what happens to the COACH when he/she becomes a better:

  1. Your reputation improves in your company.
  2. Your influence expands on your team and in your company.
  3. Your voice/opinion is respected on your team and with your colleagues.
  4. Your future will reveal more opportunities for you.

There is no down side to working hard at becoming a better coach.  Yes, your team members will become better, but YOU have benefits when you commit yourself to becoming a better coach.

Remember:  “You influence from a distance.  You impact up close.”  Dwight Robertson

Commit to impact.  You will create a better world around you.

when leaders become beter

Tuesday Tip: Personalize Your Note-Taking

Are you a note-taker? If not, I encourage you to develop the habit of taking notes. “You mean in meetings?” That’s one place. But there’s more times to take notes:

  • Meetings
  • Reading a book
  • Preparation for a meeting
  • Sermon
  • Video content you’re listening to
  • Podcast you’re listening to
  • When an idea hits you and you don’t want to forget it
  • Lectures
  • Reading a blog
  • Reading a magazine

You get the idea. Where do you record your notes? That’s up to you. Carry a small notebook to capture ideas. Use a journal. Use your smart phone/tablet/laptop. Use talk-to-text to capture in-the-moment ideas. Just capture your thoughts.

But here’s the tip that makes the most difference for me. I personalize my note-taking.

When I read a book, I’m a highlighter. When I read, I have a highlighter and a pen with me. I highlight a passage I want to remember. I often write a note in the margin that helps me connect dots (from this thought to a future action).

And once I complete reading the book, I often go back and write in my journal what I learned from that book. So, how do I personalize the notes? I put them in first person even if the author did not write that thought in that way. Here’s an example:

James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits (I highly recommend reading this book and then following him in social media). In the chapter, “How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)”, he writes about “new identities” in light of moving away from the person (habits and all) to the person we want to be.

He asks this question: Who is the type of person that could get the outcome you want? In my journal, this would be written: Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want? Other examples:

I become my habits.

The most effective way to change my habits is to focus not on what I want to achieve, but on who I wish to become.

When I make a specific plan for when and where I will perform a new habit, I am more likely to follow through.

I do this because I want to internalize what I’m learning. Making it personal moves new information and ideas to my heart and to my mind and making the likelihood of me following through much more successful. I create a conversation, of sorts, between me and the author as though she/he is talking to me. I pay attention to the content more. I put more of what I am learning into action.

Next time you take notes – especially when you need to take action on those notes – personalize them. It’s one way you can coach yourself to become better.