Things that make me go “huh”

When you drive around the city, walk around downtown, watch people interact in social and business settings, and when you buy in retail stores there are many things I see that are not easily explained. Here are a few that have caught my eye, or ear, and that make me shake my head:

  • A couple of weeks ago it was -50 in the middle of the afternoon and I saw a car with iced up windows driving slowly around a corner. When I was beside the car I saw that the driver’s window was down and a shivering woman was inside. I wondered if her window had frozen and she was not able to roll it up. And then I saw her puff that cigarette…
  • On a different -50 day I was walking towards an office building. Nobody was on the sidewalk but me…and the man who was shivering, with only a small jacket on, while smoking a cigarette…
  • I was purchasing a couple of things at the grocery store. I paid cash. When I saw the change amount of 45 cents I immediately gave the cashier an extra 50 cents so I would end up with less change in my pocket. It took almost a minute for the cashier to figure out what I had done. So much for the new math…
  • A courier pickup was scheduled like always. Except the courier never arrived for the pickup. A call was placed and tracking number was provided. Told that it wasn’t the tracking number that was needed (to track). After apologizing, pickup was scheduled for 8 AM the next day. Package picked up at 1:30 PM…
  • I was scrolling through Sportsnet app on my phone to catch up on a couple of hockey trades. As my fat thumbs were scrolling I accidentally pressed an ad for some restaurant (The Captain’s Boil? Who would eat that?). Now every time I am on the app that is the only darn ad I see, even though I clicked on “seen it too many times.” Google ads said “we’ll try not to show it to you anymore”…
  • Had an email problem. Needed to report another scam email. The tech support response went into my spam folder, not the original spam email…
  • Buying some goods at a pharmacy. They had a special. Spend $30 and get a $10 gift card. We didn’t know the details until we were paying. At which point the cashier advised that if we made two $30 purchases we could have received two $10 gift cards. But short of returning everything and ringing in the items again and aggravating the growing line behind us we said thanks and left…
  • Went to the grocery store and was buying some lunch meat. Asked for 8 slices “regular thickness.” When I got home it appeared that regular thickness was equivalent to a sheet off paper. Made one average-sized sandwich instead of lunch for four days…
  • Called a store with a service question. Pressed all the correct buttons and was asked if I would”please hold.” Five minutes later I hung up (decent tunes so I stayed on the line) and redialed to be connected immediately to a service rep…
  • Opted out of an email newsletter that I don’t want to read anymore. The confirmation message was “we will remove you from our list. May take up to 10 days”…
  • Received an email from someone I opted out of over three years ago, “you are receiving this email because you had previously signed up or been a customer”…

And there are many more examples I will save for another day.

Does any organization actually act as if they are a customer to check out all the touchpoints and messages? Especially in the digital realm. There is no way I am the only person dealing with the fallout of accidentally pressing a digital ad.

And people who smoke outside or roll down their window in -50? I am not “holier than thou” relative to smokers (I have never smoked so not sure how hard it is to quit), but I would have to think that this weather would cause you to rethink your habit, at least for a while. I am guessing, but maybe they caught a cold/flu from wearing themselves down. Which is a cost to an organziaion or to our health care system for something that is controllable.

Is it unreasonable to ask for folks to think a bit about certain choices? What is the impact on your overall operation with these examples? Or don’t you care?

Huh…maybe I will go to your competitor and see if they actually get it.

Feeling a little plucky

I was listening to some Led Zeppelin and then went hunting for some videos.

Think of the talent and skill that each of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham had. Each of them could have been the star in any other band and they chose to come together. What they created was so unique.

One video clip I found was an excerpt of the “It might get loud” feature that had Page talking guitar riffs and techniques with Edge (U2) and Jack Black. In this particular clip, Page was talking about how he ended one song and then by reversing the order of the chords he created the opening of Kashmir.

I took guitar lessons for a few years back around grades 5 to 7. I wasn’t good because I didn’t work hard enough at it. I actually wanted to play bass guitar, but that never happened. I coulda been a rock ‘n roll star!!!

Or not…

I watched Page in this video as he described what he did in his mind and then how he translated onto his guitar. Masterful!

This is the definition of mastery. He has literally poured his life into his craft to become one of the best guitarists of all time. If not THE best. And he was around 70 years old when he was filmed with Edge and Black.

What are you doing to build towards mastery? Some people dive into certain training and development programs. Others take up new hobbies in a serious way because they have dabbled throughout their life.

Mastery begins with fundamentals. And a plan. And the plan is how to build on the fundamentals.

How far do you want to go? Your plan might state this, but if you do not take the necessary action, your plan is simply a dream.

And I am not talking about the Malcolm Gladwell “10,000 hours” description. The real source of this quote is Professor Anders Ericcson, from Florida State University. His life’s work as an expert is studying experts. He notes that Gladwell misinterpreted his work. Ericcson notes that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” is what is required. You do not get better by doing 10,000 hours of the same level you are at now. you will end up just being good at the level you are at.

A structured and disciplined approach to building on your strengths and addressing any major weakness is what is required for mastery.

So, how come so few people actually make this happen in their lives?

I am not being critical of anyone. I contend that if you are happy, I mean true happiness, in your life and you do not aspire to any level of additional greatness then that is absolutely OK.

However, if you want to bitch, moan, whine or complain about your lot in life then you better get a plan and then take action.

Many people hire a coach to help keep them on track. Others join peer groups, like MacKay CEO Forums, to gain insights from their peers and learn from guest speakers. Still others find a mentor that they can work with on their particular craft, whether physical or mental.

A key to mastery is discipline and resilience. You must commit the time and specific activities. And when your progress slows, stalls or takes a step back, this is when you find out how resilient you are. Do you have the fortitude to pick yourself up and keep moving forward?

This individual mastery is clearly about the journey. And everything that you learn about your craft and yourself along the way.

Otherwise Jimmy Page would have stopped experimenting, learning and performing with different colleagues a long time ago.

Thankfully, Page was a little plucky and decided to “Ramble On.”

Where Did Our Love Go?

The Supremes recorded this song back in 1964. I also like the J. Geils Band version (although my friend Randy wonders why), because of the edginess of their approach.

In addition to the links to the songs,  today’s post is about the concept of the love you may or may not have with your customers and employees.

People love people and living beings. Randy Pausch, in his book that he wrote after his famous last lecture, talks about “things” as being easily replaced, and the importance of the people in our lives. So many products are utilitarian and can be easily replaced. The makers of these products work hard to position their product so that you love it. But can this really be achieved?

Ideally? You bet! Practically? I’m not sure.

As I was prepping for this post I looked around my office, our house, the neighbourhood while I was walking the dog, etc., and other than a couple of heirloom objects, including photos, everything can be replaced. That is because virtually everything is from an assembly line and there are hundreds or thousands of these products used or enjoyed by others around the globe. And, in most cases there are competing brands.

So, how do you get people to love your product or service?

Some smart folks have written about brand love, and there are some wonderful concepts. And while I agree to a point, there is something  that still makes every product or service replaceable.

And so many times what can cause someone to consider replacement is the action or continued actions of the people at the company. Just like with real love, brand love can be tossed aside because someone has stopped caring.

And in many cases, it is because the leadership, and even colleagues, do not create and show a caring or loving environment to all team members. This HBR article reinforces that people do not leave a company, they leave their manager.

Since we know what the issue is, it seems that this aspect can be controlled. And yet the exodus continues. We need to establish our values and ensure everyone knows them and lives them. We need to ensure our customers know that we really do care for them, first. If this mindset is established, as simple as this concept is, you will take a giant step forward to helping people have meaning at work and demonstrate meaning with your customers.

This is a major part of marketing. It is not advertising that you have great customer service, it is having people write about you because of the great service they receive.

Marketing, like football, is a game of inches. The accumulation of positive small steps will lead you to win more customers and become more consistent over time.

This seems simple in theory and yet so few companies can make this happen. A customer first approach, consistent with your employee first operation, will begin to differentiate you from others. Start with watching your staff in their interactions with customers. And then watch as they interact with their colleagues. Be a “goodfinder” and then build a library of these stories.

From this, you need to assess your processes to see how you can improve on the customer touch points. This approach goes beyond simply tracking your customer journey. You must dive in to really understand how your product or service solves a problem for your customer or helps them take a major step forward. This is hard work.

And that is why many people do not do it.

And just like real love, it is required on a daily basis to be real.

And in both cases results may vary.

People are the dynamic that makes life so wonderful.

Share some love today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


They are the Champions; how about you?

I was not cheering for the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. I am  not a fan.

But I have a ton of respect for the organization and how they prepare and play.

People said the game was boring. As a defensive player and coach I admired the game plan and execution that the Pats displayed throughout the contest. And the Rams had several outstanding defensive moments as well. I actually watched with a sense of awe at the consistency and culture of success that the Pats have created under their current key leadership.

The head coach is a football genius. He is also a master at getting his players to buy in to his approach and perform to their highest level possible. Let’s look at their offensive line as an example. This relative patchwork group of veterans allowed Tom Brady to play with barely a wrinkle on his jersey throughout the game. And they created holes in the defense for an abundance of rushing yardage and the game’s only TD.

All this achieved against several of the game’s most dominant defensive players whose names were not mentioned often enough to give the Rams a chance at victory.

How is your front line prepared to play each week? Do your customer contact people have the training, skills, and support to deliver continual moments of “wow” so that your customers will not be tempted to go anywhere else? What does your leadership do to support these VIP’s (very important front line personnel)? Do your leaders bring an “I’ve walked in your shoes so I know what you go through every day” mindset? Or do they preach from high atop the ivory tower?

A big part of this organization’s success over the past decade plus is the accountability within the entire organization. They will get rid of “problem players” and they will bring in discards from other teams if they believe that player’s skill set can help. If you do not perform, you will be “made available to the market.”

What is your level of accountability in your organization? Do your employees understand the organization values? What you stand for and what you stand against? Or do you have problems because “that which you permit you promote?” Your employees are perceptive. If they see co-workers getting away with what is normally considered unacceptable behaviour, how do they react? Do they call it out for what it is? Or do they try to do something just to “get even?”

IF you have not studied how your customers buy from you then how can you create a winning game plan? The Pats knew what the Rams were going to do. It is not that they could predict the plays – nobody can predict the future. They were so well prepared and knew their alignments, assignments and responsibilities (a football term for knowing what you are supposed to do on each play) that when the ball was snapped the players just knew what they should do based on the play call or they knew the adjustment based on what the Rams had lined up to execute. When these adjustments are second nature, the game is effortless for the players and it is all because of their confidence and competence.

How many of you work in organizations, or have worked with clients, that have extreme decision-making challenges? That is, they get paralyzed when the situation “goes live.” It is fine “in theory”, but when the actual workday starts, or the meeting is underway, or the deadline is looming, many people freeze or panic with fear. To me, that means they are simply unprepared. And shame on the leaders for allowing this to happen.

There is a wonderful quote by Einstein about problem solving. He said:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

How much time do you spend identifying what you need to solve rather than rushing to just do something? The PAtriots plan a lot for each game because the time is finite and experience shows that there will only be so many plays on offence, defence and special teams. Each area has priorities and strengths that must be drilled. And this strong foundation allows adjustments to be made as the game progresses.

Perhaps it is time for you to evaluate your preparation to ensure that your systems, processes and people are properly aligned to acquire and keep customers. In this way, your opportunity to become a champion increases.