Archive | Social Media RSS feed for this section

Lollipop Moment

25 Jan

I was listening to a podcast the other day, TED Radio Hour.  The topic was Disruptive Leadership, but the one talk that stood out for me was a discussion by Drew Dudley entitled “Have You Changed Someone’s Life Without Realizing It?”

In this talk, Mr. Dudley relates a story of how HE changed someone’s life. It is a GREAT story.  A lollipop figures into the story ( you can google ‘lollipop moment’ and get to the same talk).

This got me thinking about my own “lollipop moments”.  In the 6th grade, I was having difficulty seeing the blackboard at school.  My parents took  me to the eye doctor and had me fitted with glasses.  Now, at Bentley School in Manchester, CT, there were only two male teachers.  One of these teachers was my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Ewald.  When I went to school my first day with glasses, he stopped me in the playground, looked down at me and said, “Richard, you look handsome in those glasses”.

Friends, I’ve seen pictures of myself in 6th grade, and let me tell you, I looked DORKY in those glasses….  But to this day, I can see him. towering over me, almost as tall as the basketball pole behind him.  I’ve rarely considered contact lenses, and never thought seriously about laser eye surgery.   Five decades out of 6th grade, I still wear those glasses.

Even in my adult life, I can remember an executive at a company I worked for back in the 80’s telling me “You’d make a great salesperson!”  I followed his advice, though I had always been an engineer, and never felt that sales was for me.

On the giving end of ‘lollipop moments, my daughter, on more than one occasion, has said,  “You know, Dad.  I always remember you telling me ______”  and the ‘fill in the blank’ is something wise and thoughtful that I have no recollection of ever saying to her.

Keep in mind this cuts both ways.  A careless derogatory comment has as long a life as a quick compliment.  So, be nice.  You never know when what you say will be that ‘lollipop moment’ for someone else.

– RTR

 

Customer Service – Unintended Consequences Part Deux

25 Jul

My wife loves to shop….  However, she does not like ‘returns’.  That’s my job.  It works quite well, actually.  When the clerk at the service counter asks what the reason was for the return, I just shrug my shoulders and say “I’m just doing what I’m told”…

Before my wife left to spend some time with her sisters, she left me with three returns, Target, Payless Shoes and some little boutique place called “White House/Black Market”.

In all three cases, these were recent purchases and I had the receipt….

Here were my experiences:

 

White House/Black Market :

WH/BM:  “Do you have the credit card that was used for this purchase”

RTR: “I’m sorry, no.  It was my wife’s card”

WH/BM: “Well, we can’t do a refund without that exact card.”

RTR: “What are my choices?”

WH/BM: “We can give you store credit, or you can come back with the card”

Not knowing whether or not my wife wanted store credit, I left.

 

Payless Shoes:

PS:  “Do you have the credit card that was used for this purchase”

RTR: “I’m sorry, no.  It was my wife’s card”

PS: “Well, do you have another card that you and your wife both use?”

RTR: “Yes” (handed her the card)

Not ‘optimal’, but the clerk was thinking on her feet and I was able to complete the return.

 

Target:

T:  “Thank you, sir.  The refund was processed to your wife’s card”

Done and done.  Took maybe 5 seconds.

 

Question for you, loyal readers.  Which store will I continue to frequent, and to which store will I NEVER RETURN!

 

Final note.  Adjacent to the Service Counter at Target, there are trash cans, and a recycling bin for the shopping bag that I used to bring in the return.

It’s the little things that make or break customer service…

 

-RTR

 

We Are All Permanent Beta… or we SHOULD be

5 Oct

Back in May, we hired a new Client Support Specialist.  He is a very bright individual, but new to our technology and our line of business.  Now, four months later, he and I were having a discussion about a few customer issues, and I was struck by how, well, comfortable, he looked.

I commented on this, and he told me that while he is more comfortable, he considers himself “Permanent Beta”.  I had never heard that term before (a phrase I believe coined by Reid Hoffman earlier this year).  I love the term, much more high tech than ‘work in progress’

I did a bit of googling and found numerous references to ‘Permanent Beta’.  Ironically, this term has both positive and negative connotations.  The positives being continuous improvement, self improvement, etc.  The negatives were in articles about products that are never finished (example: Google Apps End Their State of Permanent Beta).

Frankly, I like the idea!  Is ‘never finished’ a bad thing?

When I joined the iPhone set, I thought it was really cool that Apps are updated continuously, with no requirement for me to go somewhere to get the update.

I am happy to see technology that brings me along.  I don’t have time to look for version 5.1.3.2.55 or whatever.

So, who would complain about ‘Permanent Beta’?

– People and organizations that are rigid.

– People and organizations using products or technology that require ‘big-bang’ implementations.

– People and organizations that want things ‘the way they used to be’

Not me, I’m loving this idea.

I just joined the local rec center, I’m there every morning, huffing and puffing on the treadmill, lifting embarrassingly small amounts of weight on the machines.  No matter.  I feel better, I have more energy.  I’m permanent beta.

Let’s talk eProcurement.  A year ago I didn’t know what it was.  today I’m creating punch-out supplier connections, loading local catalogs.  I’m permanent beta.

Y’all better get on this band wagon.  The Permanent Beta train is leaving the station and it NEVER STOPS.

The alternative?  You get left behind.

– RTR

 

Attitude – Livin’ The Dream with a nod to Jack Nicholson

23 Aug

Had a visit from Tom the Plumber yesterday.  I’ve known Tom for years, we were both involved with youth football years ago.  He asked me, “How’s it going?”  … I had been online with work when he arrived, and I was a bit preoccupied, so I hesitated in my response.  After a pause he said “Living the dream, huh?”

Later in the day, I had a long convo with a friend, talking about college loans that he may never be able to completely pay off.   I had a less than fulfilling webmeeting with a customer.  I had a long father/son chat with my youngest when he got home around 11:00, I finished the day online with our support organization in Bangalore, and a customer in Australia at about 12:30 AM.

There was a time when I would think of the seminal moment in Jack Nicholson’s movie, “As Good As It Gets” where his character, the OCD Melvin Udall,  says to a group of depressed patients in the waiting room of  his psychiatrist “What if this is as good as it gets?”  I used to love that line, especially when I was feeling sorry for myself ….

… but you know what?  I AM LIVING THE DREAM.

As I said to my son last night, It IS all about attitude.  It is about how you deal with what you can’t control.

Is my job challenging, even overwhelming at times?  Hell, yeah!

Are the weeds threatening to take over my lawn? most definitely!

Are the everyday challenges of  life and relationships sometimes daunting? sure thing.

Do I get everything right the first time?  puh-leeeze!

Does the upstairs toilet still leak? Uh, no (thanks, Tom)

This IS living the dream, gainfully employed, challenged, winning some, losing some, with a loving family, in a great country.

Can’t complain.

– RTR

The Customer Is What?

15 Aug

Just don’t have ANY TIME for blogging lately.  Too busy, too busy, TOO BUSY!!

So, by way of apology, this blog is commenting on a two-week old blog from Harvard Business Review, with the grabber title “If the Customer is Always Right, You’re in Trouble”.  Being in the Client Support Biz, I had to check it out, because, well, my customers ARE always right, aren’t they?

Turns out, the blog is not about customer service at all, it is about “the death of Solution Selling”.  Well, having spent the better part of 20 years selling (if you can call that better) I not only have had Solution Selling training, but also smatterings of Gitomer, Sandler, and, of course, both learning and teaching Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage.  NOW you’ve got my attention, HBR!

So what is this “death of Solution Selling” all about?  This blog describes, in gory detail, how the tenets of Solution Selling just don’t apply anymore:

“Across the last five years, however, we’ve observed both in our data and our conversations with sales leaders around the world a dramatic drop in the efficacy of this [solution selling] approach. In a survey of several thousand B2B customers conducted by our company, CEB, we found that B2B customers were nearly 60% of the way through a typical purchase before they reached out to a sales rep for input. More often than not, the hard reality is that customers have begun the buying long before suppliers have begun the selling. So by the time a supplier is called in, there’s no need to discover needs at all. By and large, customers (believe they) have figured everything out…

… For most companies, the biggest competitor today isn’t the competition, it’s customers’ ability to learn on their own.”

So, what is the answer?

According to HBR, there are two questions that most suppliers overlook:

“First, where do your customers learn? Is it on the Internet? In online communities? From third parties (and if so, where do those third parties themselves learn)?

Second, do you teach customers something new and important about their business that they cannot learn on their own? Because if your biggest competitor is the customer’s ability to learn, then that’s what you’ll need to do to win.”

So there you have it.  It’s not good enough to ask the right questions and get to the ‘C’ suite.  If you are not a Subject Matter Expert that can, in fact, become a Trusted Advisor and “teach your customer something new and important”, you may as well  just sharpen your pencil, because in the sea of look-alikes, it always comes down to price.

– RTR

Commenting on “The Art of Letting Go”, Kenny Rogers and Don Draper

7 Jun

My new favorite blogger, Tony Schwartz, has done it again.  His blog “The Art of Letting Go” is a great piece for that sale, that venture, that relationship that you just can’t give up on.  It reminds me of that classic greeting card a friend once sent me:

They said it couldn’t be done….  How did they know?

Tony talks about how tough it is to go against the grain, how we are predisposed to fight the good fight, persevere against all odds.  The fact that this perseverance does exact an emotional toll.

I recall many instances in my sales career where the handwriting was Sharpied indelibly on the wall.  Without question the deal was dead, but we spent additional time, energy and effort to change the mind of someone who’s mind was already made up.  This is a chronic entrperneurial disease.  It is hard to walk away when you are small, trying to rapidly make the Big Time.

Tony ends the piece with a simple set of four questions:

1. Do I have a feeling in my gut that this dog just won’t hunt?
2. How important will this seem to me in six months?
3. How important will this seem to me in two years?
4. Is there a more enjoyable and productive way I could be investing my time and energy right now?

If the answer to 1 and 4 are “yes,” or the answers to 2 and 3 are “not much,” it’s time to let go.

Which brings to mind the timeless wisdom of Kenny Rogers….

“You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run”

OK, that was way too obvious.

I have a better quote…  Here’s where the connection was made and the fuse blew, and I started writing…

The phrase that came like a bolt out of the blue  into my consciousness came from Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men”, when Don Draper (Jon Hamm)  asked Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) to resign after he was caught embezzling.  I so wanted to get this right, I actually paid and downloaded the episode from iTunes to transcribe it accurately.  Lane sobbed “What do I tell my wife?  What do I tell my son?”…

Don Draper’s words are all the more riveting, considering how the episode played out:

“Tell them that it didn’t work out, because it didn’t

Tell them the next thing will be better, because it always is …

I’ve started over a lot, Lane.  This is the worst part.”

– RTR

The Magnificent Seven

1 Jun

Another great blog from HBR. The blog, “Seven “Non-Negotiables” to Prevent a Bad Hire”, is required reading!  What are the seven?

Respect, Belief, Loyalty, Commitment, Trust, Courage and Gratitude

I have been in industry since the stone age, and have worked for dozens of managers and with hundreds of co-workers.  Many of these people were technologically brilliant, hard working, intense individuals.  However, the ones I remember, the ones I would go to battle with, can be singled out based on the magnificent seven above.

This is especially true in the last few decades, where I have spent my time in small (<50) person organizations.  To elaborate:

Respect – The fastest way to lose a ‘subordinate’ is to treat them like a subordinate.  I don’t know why this happens, I suspect insecurity in the management ranks….

Belief – Nothing will deflate a team faster than a non-believer.  Naysayers drag everyone down.  I have had extremely talented people in an organization that were POISON.  There has never been a situation where one of them has left and things got worse.  They have always improved!

Loyalty – Loyalty to the organization AND loyalty to the individual.  I have worked in companies where organization trumps individual.  This is the ultimate demotivator.  Management sometimes forgets that the organization IS a collection of individuals.

Commitment – Commitment isn’t “I’ll try”, or “I’ll give it my best shot”.  Commitment is “I’ll get it done”.  One of my coworkers here is fond of saying.  “It’s a problem, let’s fix it”

Trust – I had a job once where, when my wife met one of the executives, she said “He wouldn’t look me in the eye, I don’t trust him”.  She was right.  Unfortunately, I didn’t catch on for quite some time.  If a team member is not trusted, respect belief, loyalty, commitment won’t be possible.

Courage – I remember a poster that said something like “If you can keep your head at times like these, perhaps you don’t understand the situation”.  From the outside, this is not always recognized as courage, but that’s what it is.  I’ve had coworkers in the past say, “The boss just doesn’t get it”.  The truth of the matter typically is, the boss DOES get it,  but the boss has to have the courage to push it aside.

Gratitude – I’m not stupid.  I know the difference between gratitude and pandering.  We ALL do.

Great blog HBR!

– RTR

Where PLM and eProcurement Meet…

29 May

My previous world (PLM) and new world (eProcurement) collided in a blog by my friend Oleg Shilovitsky; “New Definition of PLM from UK Datamation Info Assets”.

There has been a significant amount of ‘virtual ink’ spent discussing “exactly what is PLM?”  It’s provided me with a lot of blogging material over the months….

This new ‘definition’ in Oleg’s blog I found to be intriguing:

PLM is different from say CAD, ERP, CRM, etc. and therefore investment decisions in it should be based on different criteria. PLM’s key role, as defined in the Datamation PLM Model report, is the effective management of information assets through-life. In other words, it is a “live entity”

There you have it.  PLM is typically sold based on what it does for you now (vaulting… security… design process management).  Not all that different from an eProcurement system (catalog management, purchasing, contracting).  The key value through life is not that it can handle these day to day tasks.  The key value is based on the fact that it builds an endless repository of all of those transactions.

In the PLM world, this data could be used to create design best practices, or it could be used for intelligent trouble shooting of design flaws.

In the eProcurement world, this data powers Purchase Decision Optimization (PDO).  PDO means that each and every purchase can be optimized, based on previous buyer experience, supplier performance, trends, etc.; the kind of social marketplace that has become 2nd nature in the consumer world, but is still rare in business to business transactions.

So, whether it’s design data in a PLM system, or purchasing data in an eProc system, it’s not how you get the data, it’s what you do with it once you have it that counts.  Learn more about PDO here.

– RTR

I Can’t Improve On This …

1 May

I have commented and opined on Tony Schwartz blog at Harvard Business Review in the past.  I noticed that Tony and I are contemporarys, both turning 60 this year. so this one REALLY hit home.  I won’t try to comment, it speaks for itself:

“Turning 60: The Twelve Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned So Far”

1. The more we know about ourselves, the more power we have to behave better. Humility is underrated. We each have an infinite capacity for self-deception — countless unconscious ways we protect ourselves from pain, uncertainty, and responsibility — often at the expense of others and of ourselves. Endless introspection can turn into self-indulgence, but deepening self-awareness is essential to freeing ourselves from our reactive, habitual behaviors.

2. Notice the good. We each carry an evolutionary predisposition to dwell on what’s wrong in our lives. The antidote is to deliberately take time out each day to notice what’s going right, and to feel grateful for what you’ve got. It’s probably a lot.

3. Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.

4. Never seek your value at the expense of someone else’s. When we’re feeling devalued, our reactive instinct is to do anything to restore what we’ve lost. Devaluing the person who made you feel bad will only prompt more of the same in return.

5. Do the most important thing first in the morning and you’ll never have an unproductive day. Most of us have the highest energy early in the day, and the fewest distractions. By focusing for a designated period of time, without interruption, on the highest value task for no more than 90 minutes, it’s possible to get an extraordinary amount of work accomplished in a short time.

6. It’s possible to be excellent at anything, but nothing valuable comes easy and discomfort is part of growth. Getting better at something depends far less on inborn talent than it does the willingness to practice the activity over and over, and to seek out regular feedback, the more precise the better.

7. The more behaviors you intentionally make automatic in your life, the more you’ll get done. If you have to think about doing something each time you do it, you probably won’t do it for very long. The trick is to get more things done using less energy and conscious self-control. How often do you forget to brush your teeth?

8. Slow down. Speed is the enemy of nearly everything in life that really matters. It’s addictive and it undermines quality, compassion, depth, creativity, appreciation and real relationship.

9. The feeling of having enough is magical. It rarely depends on how much you’ve got. More is rarely better. Too much of anything eventually becomes toxic.

10. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, and don’t expect anything in return.Your values are one of the only possessions you have that no one can take away from you. Doing the right thing may not always get you what you think you want in the moment, but it will almost always leave you feeling better about yourself in the long run. When in doubt, default to calm and kind.

11. Add more value in the world than you’re using up. We spend down the earth’s resources every day. Life’s primary challenge is to put more back into the world than we take out.

12. Savor every moment — even the difficult ones. It all goes so fast.

Couldn’t have said it better,  thanks Tony!

-RTR

Chief Energy Officer…Commenting on Tony Schwartz

18 Apr

Has anyone in leadership ever said to you, “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about” and your instant response was to worry about it?  Welcome to the club!   That’s why Tony Schwartz‘ latest blog over at the Harvard Business Review caught my eye: “Embracing What’s Wrong to Get to What’s Right”.  In it, Tony talks of how fast growing, entrepreneurial organizations are rife with stress and overload.

I’ve seen it as well, and I applaud Tony’s approach.  One of my early stumbles here was directly related to me not taking this approach.  Tony’s five key points

1. Because human beings have a strong “negativity bias,” we pay more attention to our bad feelings than to our good ones.

I am as Pollyanna as they come.  I’ve always been puzzled by the folks that would say “If you can keep your head at times like these, perhaps you don’t understand the situation”.   Some have accused me of not caring, taking things too lightly, joking at inappropriate times.  I’m sure it’s a defense mechanism on my part.   When it comes to problems, my initial reaction may be negative, but I push past it quickly, leaving puzzled friends, family and coworkers in my wake.

I’ve always considered it an asset, not letting things get to me, keeping a positive attitude.  I’ve begun to realize that this only helps me, it doesn’t necessarily help anyone I interact with…  especially when whatever it was that was bothering me does come back to the surface (where did THAT come from?)

2. Negative emotions do feed on themselves, but the solution — especially for a leader — is not to squelch or downplay them.

Here is the key skill.  This is something that they don’t teach you in MBA school (and certainly not in engineering school).  If you can shine a big spotlight on the negative emotions they will eventually wither and die.  Try to bury them?  Not a good idea, they just continue to grow and get stronger, manifest themselves in different ways.

3. Since we all feel negative emotions at times, especially under high demand, it’s important to provide forums at work in which they can be shared openly and without fear.

The key words here? openly and without fear.   If there is any fear of  ‘retribution’ the openly part ain’t ever gonna happen.  The thing that I struggle with is, how long can I bite my tongue when the bitch session goes on endlessly.  The example that Tony used in his blog is so elegant, and it worked so well.  It reminds me of watching the Food Network, or DIY.  Boy that souffle (or cabinet) looks so easy to make.  How come when I do it, it tastes/looks like crap?

4. Because emotions are so contagious, all leaders are effectively Chief Energy Officers.

When I think of the best leaders I’ve met, this is the key element.  I recall meeting George Bush (the first one) when he was VP.  There was an aura, an energy that the TV cameras missed.   He was always portrayed as a somewhat weak character (think of the Dana Carvey impressions).   His presence/energy t took me by surprise (at that time in my life, I was not what you’d call a Reaganite).  There was a quality there that was unmistakable.  The same can be said for many other leaders that I have had the pleasure of interacting with.   It’s something I admire, I have a LONG way to go…

5. The highest skill — whatever your role — is the willingness to embrace opposite feelings without choosing up sides. 

I do like the word choice here.  There is a technique that is taught in the Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage training class for ‘smoking out objections’.  While the end goal is to work through sales objections, at the basic level the idea is to allow people the space, and the grace, to voice their objections.  You are taught to listen, to question, to dive deep into the detail of the situation without agreeing or disagreeing.   If you can master this, I believe the rest is easy,  we all just want to be heard.

The final step is to allow the team to turn the emotion positive.

I’ve really enjoyed the new set of advertisements that GE has put out, where their employees go plane-side/track-side to see their jet engines/locomotives in action.  People cheer, there’s an occasional tear wiped away.

Back in the dark ages, as a fresh-out-of-school engineer, I witnessed this first hand.  My employer, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, was celebrating their 50th anniversary.  The flew in an example of nearly every type of aircraft equipped with PWA engines for a weekend celebration.  Not much work was done the week before and the day after, as we all stood at the edge of the airfield and watch vintage and not-so vintage aircraft arrive and leave.

On the Monday after the show, a group of us stood in awe as an F16 pilot kicked in the afterburner of his F100 equipped fighter jet directly in front of us.  The sound was deafening.  He stood that jet up on its tail like a rocket ship a flew straight up into the stratosphere until he was completely out of sight.   It was a sight none of us would ever forget.  There WERE lumps in the throat.  There WERE tears of pride.  Office morale was unbelievable for the next few weeks.

THIS IS NOT PHONY.  People crave an emotional connection to their career.  If you can’t take time, put the emotion aside, and honestly say, “what I do here really matters”, then perhaps you are in the wrong place.

– RTR