Make Your Training and Meetings More Exciting

How could workshop participants NOT come back to finish all my sessions? My ego couldn’t handle it. Disappointed in my retention rate (I had lost 6 people from a class), I had to try something new. My original format was 50% participant activities and 50% leader activities (translation: me talking half the time). This plan failed, proven by the shrinkage data. The new plan: after giving participants detailed materials (slides, articles, video clips, checklists, websites, posters and books), I asked each to select one topic which they would prepare and present to the group. One by one, they took charge. I commented only as needed. Their presentations were distributed evenly over the next seven hours of classes, so they couldn’t afford to drop out and let their classmates down. I lost only one participant from start to finish. And they all came in fired up and more engaged, with their senses on “alert.” They teased the presenter of the hour and pretended to be “difficult participants” just to give each other a hard time. The ratio of participants’ “doing” time was now 80% to the instructor’s 20%. Two factors created this improvement in retention and engagement: 1.  Accountability. No one … Continue reading

A Warm Reception Turns Into Personalized Customer Service

Paula, a receptionist, decided to add her name when she answered the phone. "Good Morning, XYZ Industries, this is Paula." For the first time in her nine years, said Paula, customers responded by calling her by name . . . and then offering their names, "Hello there, Paula. This is Jonathan Price. I'm calling to check on my order." "Thank you, Mr. Price, I'll connect you to Marie Smith." "But then," Paula said, "something different happened to my feeling about that call. I was more careful to come back to my Mr. Price if Marie hadn't picked up within 30 seconds. When I came back on the line to ask if he wanted to hold longer, Mr. Price called me Paula when he thanked me. "I now felt more ownership of this customer. If I thought Marie was more likely to respond to voice mail, I went back to Mr. Price and recommended that he leave a voice message. If I thought she might respond more quickly to my page, I paged her. Mr. Prince would say, 'You must know her habits pretty well.' I said, 'Well, I've been here for nine years.' 'That's a long time, is that your … Continue reading

Silence Is Golden

"Ryan and I went out to lunch last week," Sara said, "and it was the most motivating time I've had in the five years I've worked for him. I felt he saw my work as valuable." "What made it so motivating?" I wondered. "He listened to what I wanted to talk about, never told me a better way I could've handled something, or changed the subject. I'm sure he had things to cover with me, but he just listened. And listened. And listened." Ryan may have had no idea how much his listening meant to Sara. Listening sounds easy, but it's not. It's hard . . . hard not to give advice, or insert "That reminds me of . . ." Listening is tricky. Sometimes Person A will attempt to show interest in what Person B is saying by relating his or her own similar experience. This often fails because Person A gets wrapped up in his or her own story and does most of the talking. As time passes, the two are likely to be interrupted by another person or a phone call, and the conversation never gets back to Person B. I always wonder: did Person A realize … Continue reading

The Eyes Have It

I walked into a small store. The clerk, standing behind the counter at the back of the store, was busy texting, but halfway looked up and said, “Good morning.” I said “Good Morning,” and made my way to her. She had resumed her texting as I walked toward her. I waited a few seconds for her to look at me. When she didn’t, I began asking her a question. A few words in, she was still texting and hadn’t made eye contact. I stopped mid-sentence, not wanting to talk to the top of her head. My silence didn’t work. Finally I said, “I’ll wait till you finish.” That, at last, got her attention and she put down her device. The message I received (intentionally or not) is that they don’t want my business. Texting or answering calls while others are attempting to communicate with us sends the message:   “You’re not important. Someone who’s not present is more important than you.” How do we communicate where our priorities are? The eyes have it. Show 'em your eyeballs.  

Wish You Could Clone Your Highest Performers?

During March and April, I offer you a cost-effective Leadership Analysis (my travel expenses to your location plus $200.00) that will help you bring your struggling leaders nearer the performance level of your highest performers. Here's how Leadership Analysis works: I will: 1.  Conduct behavioral interviews with 3 of your high-performing leaders and 3 leaders who have potential 2.  Identify pinpointed concrete success skills 3.  Send you written recommendations for development, including coaching actions you can take without a consultant 4. Provide written feedback to you for giving to the 6 participants If you'd like to explore this idea to see if it may benefit your organization, please email janisallen@janisallen.com or call me at 828.862.6552.

2 New Year’s Resolutions for When Things Go Wrong

Resolution # 1 “Recalculating . . .” said our vehicle’s GPS voice, gently, when we took a wrong turn. The word “recalculating” is symbolic. When we fail to meet our goals, we don’t have to pronounce ourselves or others to be failures. Using the "recalculate" idea puts us in a solving frame of mind, rather than shaming frame of mind. We see it as making a new, adjusted plan when the first one fails or we goof in our attempt to carry it out. Resolution # 2 When our colleagues make mistakes, we can adopt either of two opposite responses: a.     “Gotcha,” shining the light of blame, or as my colleague, Rachael Caldwell, says: b.     “Gotcha covered!” as we spring into action to help git ‘er done. Have a happy, recalculating, gotcha covered New Year.

To See Ourselves As Others See Us

My former boss told me that his boss, the General Manager, said "I’m not sure Janis understands how serious our problems are in the plants. She looks so cheerful all the time." That stung! My image of the nearly-perfect me was crushed. But this made me realize that I should be getting down to business much more quickly, helping supervisors get quality projects in place. The chit-chat and glad-handing would have to go. From two centuries earlier, Robert Burns’ poem, "To A Louse" proved instructive to my current embarrassment. The young poet’s sighting, sitting in a church pew, of a louse crawling on the hair of the young woman in the pew in front of him, inspired his poetic lesson that we cannot see "behind us" or see those ugly things that might be crawling on us. Like head lice! The last verse of Burns’ classic composition (in Old English) reads "O wad some powr the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!" The information my boss had shared with me about my business style was the giftie. A gift of GOLD. Though it stung like a louse biting my ego, and initially made me feel lousy, … Continue reading

There’s No Such Thing as Constructive Criticism

If it’s criticism, it’s not constructive. A client fired me, explaining, “You’re not asking the hard questions!” Criticism: the act of passing severe judgment; censure; fault-finding Constructive: promoting further development or advancement Here’s the litmus test for “constructive” – When I walk away, will she know exactly what to do? Here’s how to correct others’ incorrect actions, and help them onto the right path: 1. Focus on what you want (speak in future tense) rather than on what the person did wrong (past tense). For example, “David, I want you to be here and ready for work at 8:00,” rather than “David, you’ve been late too much.” 2. Be excruciatingly specific. “Michelle, I want you to email 100% of your day’s patient records to me before you leave work,” rather than “Michelle, you know how important it is to update records on a timely basis.” 3. Ask a question if the person’s failure to perform is not the norm for him: “John, it’s unusual for you to miss something like this. Is something happening that I don’t know about?” Not: “What happened here?!” We wish the problem would heal itself, but magic like this happens only rarely. Address it constructively. … Continue reading

3 Ways to Be the Boss We All Want

1.  "What can I do to help you today?" This is the first question Rinda Green asks each of her employees and contractors as she walks into work each morning, still laden with her briefcase and tote bag. When she asks that question, she means it. When I tell her a task I need help with, she does that first – before she checks her own messages. Most of the time, what I need from her is information or a decision. But sometimes it’s to make copies or unlock the doors to greet arriving meeting attendees. She does the tasks I request and then moves to the next person. You may be thinking, "If I did that with my staff or co-workers, that’s what I’d be doing all day – my work would never get done." Rinda seems to hit that sweet spot of performing quick actions and then moving along, taking 10 minutes or less to cover our whole group. Since we all see and appreciate what she’s doing (and know how busy she is), we’re very selective about asking. Often we say, "Nothing right now, but you’re thoughtful to ask." 2.   Other times, she’ll casually ask, "What are your priorities today?" This is a triple-duty question. It can be … Continue reading

Manage Your Time Like It Belongs to You (It Does!)

Disneyland was built in 1955 in Anaheim, California in 366 days, from the first shovel of dirt to the first ticket sold. When Walt Disney was asked, "How did you get all this done in 366 days?" he answered, "We used every one of them." Ever notice how some people seem to get so much done? Those high-efficiency people have 168 hours in their weeks. You and I have 168 hours in our weeks. Like Disney’s builders, we can also use every one of those days and every one of those hours as we choose. How? Take control of our time. We may not be able to gain 100% control, but we can certainly claim more of our own time by deciding how much time to donate (yes, donate) to other people when they want to talk, whether we want to hear it or not. Below are five tips from the late Randy Pausch, a Professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (School of Engineering):  1.  Start your phone calls by announcing your goals for the call, "Sarah, I have two quick things to cover with you. One, . . . " This sets you up to bring a quick end to … Continue reading