Your Silence is Deafening: How to create INSTANT MAGIC with a few simple words…

communicationAllow me to take you on a brief journey that demonstrates why communication is so important if you want to engage and keep loyal customers and employees.

I’m at the airport, standing in line, waiting for my turn to order a much-needed cup of coffee at 6:10 a.m. I make my way to the counter and greet the cashier with a cheery, “Good morning!”


Thinking she simply didn’t hear me, I repeated, “Good morning.”

A glare from her is my return greeting, while she actually clamps her lips together to show me she is not going to utter one word. Okay, so she obviously heard me; she just doesn’t want to speak to me.

After completing my purchase, I can’t help myself (those of you who know me well are not at all surprised by this!) and comment, “You know, it’s pretty disrespectful to intentionally refuse to speak to someone when they speak to you.”

The manager overhears my comment, asks what the problem is and apologizes for the cashier once I explain what happened. (Flash forward one week: the same cashier is there, behaving the same way to every customer in line, so I buy my morning coffee from a different vendor that day, even though I like the first vendor’s coffee better. However, on my third visit, I notice that she is no longer there… big sigh of relief… and I return to my favorite coffee vendor.)

I know, some of you are rolling your eyes and saying, “How can you be that cheery in the morning?!” Point taken, but if you’re one of those people who doesn’t want to be cheery and greet people in the morning, then please don’t accept a position where it is one of your most important duties to do so.

The point is that a simple word or two would have created INSTANT MAGIC for everyone she dealt with. A greeting of “Good morning” or “How may I help you?” (in fact, almost any words) would have eliminated the impression of rudeness and an uncaring attitude that puts off customers and co-workers alike.

It’s not just “everyone else” who must follow this practice. We must do it ourselves in our everyday lives, as well. For example, just the other day I was standing in front of the self-service counter and drink machines (again at the airport) when I spilled coffee on my coat. While I fumbled with bags, food, and wet napkins, trying to remove the coffee before the stains set, I could feel my fellow travelers getting a little impatient with me for blocking up the area.

I turned and said, “I’m sorry, I just spilled coffee on my coat.” INSTANT MAGIC! My fellow travelers went from slightly annoyed (and getting more so as my silence went on) to instantly understanding and extremely helpful! One offered a WetNap she had in her bag, while another offered me her cup of water, saying it would be more convenient for me to use that (and she was willing to inconvenience herself to go back to the counter and request a new cup).

WOW! A couple of words of explanation was all it took for people to go from annoyed to instantly compassionate and helpful.

The same concepts apply in the workplace when dealing with our team members and colleagues. A few simple words to show we care about others as people, rather than employees who exist solely to work for us, does wonders for their attitude and willingness to go the extra mile for customers, for each other and for us.

Consider the scenario of the golf club staff members who are gathered a short distance from the Manager’s office, planning their morning duties. In the office, the Manager and two other leaders are similarly engaged in planning their day. When the leaders’ meeting ends, all three exit the office and walk right past the staff members – without one word of greeting – as if they didn’t even exist!

The staff members feel disrespected and undervalued by their own leaders. How hard would it be for those leaders to create INSTANT MAGIC by acknowledging them with a “Good morning” or “Thanks for being here right on time – we have a busy day today” or “Good to see you!”? And how inspired will these staff members be to subsequently greet and interact with customers during the day, rather than treating them as if they were simply part of the scenery they needed to walk past on their way to perform their duties?

In one final case, a much beloved Facilities Manager with many locations spread across his facility had no problem engaging his workforce and getting them to go to the wall for him – even the Millennial generation that many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers find difficult to engage. But this Baby Boomer manager talked to them, visited them (even when he didn’t need anything from them) just to say hello and see if they needed anything from him… nice change, huh? Instead of asking for something from them, he asked if he could do anything for them! Because he cared about them (and showed it), they cared about their jobs (and showed it) because that was one way to demonstrate how much they cared about him in return.

When that manager retired, he trained his replacement, telling the new manager what a great group of guys he had, and offering his best piece of advice: visit the different locations once in a while, talk to the guys, get to know them, let them get to know you.

About a year later, he heard from the new manager, who complained bitterly about how he couldn’t get the guys to do anything without repeatedly asking, and even occasionally threatening, because they weren’t doing their jobs.

What? This didn’t sound like his team, so he asked the guys (many of whom still kept in touch with him) what was going on. They told him they never saw or heard from the new manager unless he needed something from them. He hadn’t bothered to try to talk to them or get to know them at all. In fact, their exact words were: “If he doesn’t care about us, why should we care about him?”

BOOM! Same team, same duties… different results. The tragedy is that this new manager could have created INSTANT MAGIC with his team members if he had just taken the time to visit and say a few words to them once in a while to show that he cared about them as people first, and employees second. Instead, his silence was deafening as it sent the subtle message that he wasn’t even going to bother talking to them unless he needed something from them.

The above stories are great lessons because, while we all understand that leaders can’t be “best friends” with their team members, we often forget that there is a big difference between friendship and friendliness. Friendship involves doing things with and for each other, even outside of work, and could be perceived as fostering favoritism inside the workplace. But friendliness simply involves being human and caring about others, regardless of their position, status or relationship with us outside the workplace. When we’re friendly, our humanity dispels the impression of indifference and disrespect inside the workplace.

Remember, every human being on the planet wants to be valued, appreciated and listened to… in other words, respected. And the manner in which employees perform their work reflects not only their work ethic but their leader’s attitude, caring and respect for them.

A few simple words of greeting, acknowledgement, or explanation are usually all it takes to create the INSTANT MAGIC that stops the internal, one-way (often negative), dialogue going on in someone’s head and change it to a positive, two-way, conversation that includes you.

The big lessons here?

  1. Customers will go out of their way to avoid even their favorite vendors if they don’t want to deal with a rude or uncommunicative team member on the front line. (The same applies to team members, who will refuse to offer helpful ideas and suggestions in order to avoid dealing with even one rude, disengaged and/or passive-aggressive co-worker or leader.)
  2. It is imperative to put the right people in the right positions in order to capitalize on their best abilities and serve everyone at the highest level.
  3. Proper training is vital if you want everyone to appropriately represent you and your brand. Set expectations up front and offer feedback regularly (not just once a year at performance review time) to let them know how they’re doing.
  4. If you don’t “walk your talk” and serve as a positive role model by keeping your own lines of communication open, people will not know you’re human and care about them as fellow human beings, and they’ll stop caring about you in return.

Keeping these lessons in mind will not only allow you to create INSTANT MAGIC for everyone you encounter, but it will inspire and show them the way to do the same for everyone they encounter, which has the power to change the course of our businesses, our personal lives and the entire world, a few respectful “human” words or phrases at a time.

Posted in Communication, Respect, WOW Words of Wisdom, WOWplace Tips | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is a Lack of Proactive Thinking Hurting Your Business?

A man calls a golf course to add one more player to a foursome scheduled for 8:12 a.m., asking if he can just add a 5th to the group, or does he need to break them up into two groups.

The team member who answered the phone simply replied, “You can’t do it. You can’t have five in the group and we don’t have another tee time.”

The caller said, “I just looked online and it looks like you have tee times available… I see one at 8:40, and more after that. Can we have one of those?”

“Oh, well, if you don’t mind scheduling the second group later, we can accommodate that. I thought you wanted the tee times back-to-back.”

Wow… if the caller hadn’t looked online, or been bold enough to ask the second question, this golf club would have lost the opportunity to add a paying customer (and possibly the entire fivesome) on that day – and who knows how many other days, if they gave these players a chance to find a different course they may have ended up liking better.

Now multiply that scenario by however many times during a day, week, month or year that scenario, and others, are happening, and you can see how much income is being turned away at the door… not to mention how much will be lost in potential repeat and referral business.

Bad assumptions, lack of foresight, laziness and a whole host of other largely solvable issues are costing our companies millions of dollars. But they can be easily overcome with a few proactive actions on the part of leaders who instill the habit of thinking proactively on the part of their team members.

Here’s a simple process that can help (let’s use the scenario above in the example):

  1. Record every “NO”: Ask your team members to have a pen and paper handy wherever they work. Every time they have to say “no” to a customer, have them write down what happened (it doesn’t have to be a book… just a brief synopsis will do the trick). The synopsis in this case would be: “Caller asked to add 5th player to foursome; no tee time available.” I know, your head is probably exploding right now because there were tee times available later, but this is what happened in the mind of this team member, so this is probably what he would write.)
  2. Record possible solutions: If the scenario represents something the team member couldn’t do because of a policy or procedural issue, have them write a suggestion or two that they think might help solve the situation in the future. (You will probably get people to record these types of scenarios, because they don’t represent a mistake they would have to admit to making, but helping them identify any opportunity to improve is beneficial.)
  3. Record every “YES” that took extra effort to fulfill: Team members often do things that help create loyal customers, without leaders ever knowing they did them. Let your team members celebrate their successes, too. Sharing these actions gives other team members new ideas for proactively creating WOW customer service.
  4. Schedule a Weekly Huddle to discuss what was recorded: Have your team members bring their scenarios to the Huddle to discuss Customer Service experiences and expectations; 20-30 minutes should do it. Make it SAFE for them to report “NO” scenarios – no one will record them if they are berated for not handling something correctly. Thank them for bringing it up, so it could be brainstormed and shared as a proactive learning point for everyone on the team. Be sure to thank them for great ideas and “YES” scenarios!
  5. For each NO, ask the next logical question(s): Discuss each scenario, looking at the issue as described – and then ask the logical questions that would follow that scenario. The next logical question from the above scenario (after hearing that there were NO tee times available… period) would be: “Really? We were completely booked up all day/morning? There were NO tee times available at all?” The team member would need to truthfully reply, “Well, there were tee times later on – just not back-to-back.” The next logical question would be: “And he didn’t want a later tee time?” Answer: “Well, I didn’t think to ask him that. I assumed he wanted them back-to-back.” (By the way, this process can also be done for each YES, to create repeatable successes.)
  6. Debrief each scenario and create a teaching point for similar interactions in the future: “What can we learn from this situation?” 1) We should never assume; 2) We should investigate other reasonable options (such as an alternate/later tee time for part of the group); 3) We should present our customer with those options and let them decide before answering “No” for them. Only after all reasonable (and, depending on the situation and the upside potential for future business, possibly some unreasonable) options have been exhausted should we ever let a customer go away unsatisfied.
  7. Reward team members for bringing scenarios to the meeting: You could thank them instantly and create a friendly competition; for example, the one with the most scenarios/suggestions in a designated period of time gets a gift/award/recognition.

Proactive and critical thinking are often just a matter of instilling the habit of thinking to the next step or two… and asking clarifying questions. It’s not hard to do – it’s hard to REMEMBER to do. But instituting a process of continual improvement depends on people noticing and remembering to bring to the table actions that could create those improvements.

So, begin instilling the habit of thinking ahead in your team members. Not only will you find ways to serve customers (and team members) at a much higher level, but you will also cause them to begin thinking ahead on their own.

In fact, the very act of writing the synopsis may cause a team member to think of the scenario in a different light. For example, when the team member above wrote, “No tee times available,” it may have caused him to stop and think – “Is that true?” Of course it wasn’t true, and he would have had an ah-ha moment that he had just assumed the caller wanted back-to-back times. In this age of Caller ID, it could have been easy for the team member to contact the caller and ask, “Did you want back-to-back times – or would you be OK with a later tee time for the second group?”

This may have salvaged the sale, help the team member immediately learn from the experience, and enable him to feel good about what he did… allowing him to bring a YES to the Huddle, rather than a NO.

And that’s what I call a WIN-WIN-WIN situation!


Posted in Creativity & Innovation, Don't Assume!, Get rid of the Excuses, WOW Words of Wisdom, WOWplace Tips | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Leadership Structure: Hierarchical or Flat? Don’t Go Overboard Either Way

Back in the 1970s, a new concept called “flattening the organization” was introduced, which eliminates much organizational hierarchy and helps people at all levels collaborate and contribute on projects. It came about as a result of excessive levels of management that often got in the way of employee contribution and innovation.

While great in theory, this concept flounders in execution if taken to extremes:

  • Projects suffer and stall because no one has overall responsibility or authority for making decisions.
  • Without a point person to oversee and monitor the overall vision, no one has a bird’s-eye view of exactly how all tasks and sub-tasks fit together. This makes it almost impossible to identify the correct tasks, sequencing and timing.
  • Team members are continually demotivated by meeting after meeting where the same issues are re-hashed without sufficient progress (a.k.a. decision-making) to move the project forward or offer a sense of accomplishment and pride.
  • The company suffers as projects are continually late, over budget or completed incorrectly, due to a lack of sufficient accountability at every step; no one is accountable until the end, when everyone fails – and then begins pointing fingers.

As a result, many leaders have come to dislike the concept. But before tossing it out completely, consider the benefits a modified approach could provide for the organization and its members. The ability to allow lower level team members to collaborate and contribute on a larger scale, and helping them recognize a connection between their activities and the achievement of company goals are just two of those benefits.

The biggest issue is that solving problems by implementing extreme solutions often creates new problems… just because the solution is extreme. While there are exceptions where extreme measures are necessary, these are usually needed for a limited time only, to try to reverse a damaging situation or trend, or reach a very short-term critical goal.

In most cases, or once a critical situation is stabilized, more moderate measures should be used to drive the organization forward and engage all team members at a very high level.

This involves a combination of the best elements of both hierarchical and flat organizational structures, where leaders keep in mind that:

  1. Someone needs to step forward and take control of individual projects, maintaining the overall vision, budget, monitoring and assignment of tasks and duties.
  2. Leaders should ask for help from different individuals who are willing to step forward and take the lead on various projects. Constantly putting all responsibility on the same action-oriented go-getter may get several projects done, but burnout and resentment are likely and you risk losing that highly valuable employee. It also gives the impression of favoritism, as if that person is the only one you can trust to get things done.  When people feel they are not trusted (or valued), they stop trying to be trustworthy or valuable.
  3. If you aren’t sure of a person’s abilities, don’t assign them to lead a critical project, but do start involving them on more responsible elements of other projects. This will give you an ability to see what they’ve got while giving them an opportunity to spread their wings and start contributing on a higher level.

People want to be involved; they also want to know that what they do matters. The more we can help everyone understand how their role fits into the success of the organization, the more engaged and accountable they will be.

Companies often struggle with trying to reward their employees. But, outside of their monetary compensation and some occasional words of recognition and praise, giving them the opportunity to learn, grow and advance their careers is often the best reward leaders can give.

So, flatten your organization enough to get people at all levels involved and engaged in the success of the organization – just don’t flatten it so much that you strip everyone of any ability to get things done.

Posted in Respect, WOW Words of Wisdom, WOWplace Tips | Leave a comment

Employee Engagement Is More About Leaders Than Employees

Much of employee engagement depends upon leadership engagement; it’s a two-way street. In fact, it may be even more of a one-way street from leaders to team members than the other way around.

So often when I talk to leaders about employee engagement, the strong temptation is to place the responsibility (and blame, if you will) on the employees when they don’t engage and do what leaders ask… or don’t do in the way leaders ask for it… or in the timeframe in which they request it. Leaders usually discuss the ever-present question of, “Why don’t they do what they’re supposed to do?” In fact, I’m often hired to motivate a team to engage and perform together as a cohesive unit, which is great because everyone needs education, inspiration and motivation on a regular basis.

But educating and motivating the team is only one piece of the equation. Leaders cannot go about business as usual, as if all responsibility rests on the team. Leaders must also engage because one-time motivation from an outside person will not cut it. I love it when I hear a leader ask, “What do I need to do differently to get them excited about doing what I need them to do?” (OK… maybe not excited, but at least committed and taking ownership for their responsibilities and duties.) This shows me that the leader is committed to engaging just as much as they expect their team members to do, and they’re willing to learn how to do it consistently to create a culture of engagement – rather than a one-time “motivational” event that makes things worse once it’s over and team members realize that there is no change (or ownership) on the part of their leaders.

I was talking to a leader last week who was sharing with me some great insights into his leadership style and why his people loved working with him so much, when suddenly he dropped the motherlode of insights with one quick little story that says it all! Here is what he shared.

He retired a couple of years ago from a company where he had worked for over 30 years. He was a Manager in the Maintenance Department, so his people were in charge of fixing anything and everything that needed attention on the property… a HUGE property. Light bulbs, fans, doors, windows, outdoor equipment… everything.

While he was leading the team, he would go out to the various locations on the property, talk to his people, say hello whenever he saw them individually or in a group, sometimes joke around with them. In other words, he built relationships with them because he showed them that he cared about them as people. Any time he needed anything, his people did everything in their power to not only do it, but do it immediately and do it exceptionally well. They all exhibited extreme pride in their work and in everyone on the team.

As he was preparing to retire, he was asked to train his replacement, which he gladly did. He told the new manager all about the job, but then passed along the best piece of advice he could offer: get to know your people; visit them at the different locations, learn who they are, go out there sometimes JUST to say hello. In other words, “don’t be a stranger.”

He retired, confident in the knowledge that he had done his best to train the new person and was leaving his team in good hands.

About a year later, he began hearing troubling reports. From the manager, he heard that when he requested something of the team, they didn’t always do it right away, but took their sweet time getting around to it. He’d have to go and hound them sometimes to get things done.

From the team members (some of whom had kept in touch with him from time to time, due to the relationships he had built while he was there), he heard, “Well, we never hear from him unless he needs something. He doesn’t care about us, so why should we care about him?”

And there it is: This is the same team, comprised of the same team members, that had gone to the wall for the previous leader (so you cannot make the argument that their work ethic was faulty or missing, as is so often suggested when a team doesn’t perform), but was now demonstrating a seemingly “faulty” work ethic under the new leadership.

Was their work ethic faulty? Absolutely not. The ONLY difference was the style of the new leader, who treated them as just another number… or possibly as a piece of the equipment they were supposed to maintain – only giving them attention when he needed something from them.

Humans rarely react positively to the feeling that you only care about what they can do for you on an as-needed basis… rather than building a two-way relationship with them that inspires them every day to care about whatever might come your way. The same team that responds positively to a mutually engaged leader will disengage just as quickly when that same leader (or any other) disengages from them as human beings and tries to engage them merely as “just another worker.”

But when we let them know we care about them as people, show them that we are there for them (physically, emotionally and in job-related ways), and just be present for them, they will go to the wall for us.

That is engaged leadership… and it inspires engaged followership.

Posted in Be Human... Not Humanoid!, Go FIRST!, WOW Words of Wisdom, WOWplace Tips | Leave a comment

Adjusting Your Leadership Behaviors? Go Slow… Be Subtle

If you want to adjust your leadership style and connect better with your team, take a lesson from this executive’s experience and:

  • Go slowly if you want to change some of your behaviors
  • Be subtle and specific when offering praise, especially if you don’t usually (or ever) do it; don’t go overboard
  • And always be authentic, whether speaking one-on-one or in public

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Posted in Setting the Stage | Leave a comment

Engaging Your People – Part 3 of 6

In the previous article of this series, we talked about how to make the WOWplace respectful. This week’s topic focuses on Rule #3: a WOWplace is HUMAN… not HUMANOID.


What I mean by this is that we all have feelings that seek to be satisfied. We want to laugh, cry, feel. We do not want to (nor can we) check our emotions at the door to the workplace.

Therefore, those who say there is no room for emotion in the workplace are just fooling themselves. There already IS emotion in the workplace. Too bad much of it is negative. So, if we are forced by human nature to make room for negative emotion, we must choose to balance it off by making room for positive emotion, as well.

Just think of the “humanoid” characters in any of Star Trek or Star Wars series:

  • Mr. Spock, half human/half Vulcan (Vulcans have had all human emotion “trained” out of them);
  • Data, an android incapable of feeling or displaying human emotions;
  • C3PO, R2D2 and BB-8 from the Star Wars movies, who are all cute and do seem to have personalities, but lack true human emotions.

While it may be cool to dream about working with any of them on a starship light years into the future, the fact is that today – here and now – we are all human at heart… at our core. And we all have emotions that accompany us everywhere we go – even to the workplace.

Therefore, human compassion and empathy are key factors in a leader’s effectiveness because they allow us to recognize that we are all human, and all dealing with something at any given point in time. How we react to the all-too-human situations that others are experiencing can mean the difference between success and failure when asking for their help, support or even simply their engagement at work, in return.

The following story illustrates our ability (and human obligation) to allow empathy and compassion for others to guide our actions – and their reactions.

My husband has a friend named Joe, a burly, 6’5″ guy with a shock of white hair on his head and a completely infectious laugh that can be heard from one end of a room to the other. Joe absolutely loves life and people – and it shows!

Joe told us of a time when he was a debt collector. I know, that sounds like a contradiction in terms because how many debt collectors do you know who absolutely love life? But I believe Joe was the perfect person to tackle this challenging job.

He told us of a couple who had gotten so far behind on their stove payments that Joe had to repossess the stove. But when he arrived at the couple’s home, the wife was cooking dinner on the stove and it wasn’t done yet.

Any “humanoid”” would have asked, “That’s my problem – why? Oh no, it’s not!” and they would have taken the stove anyway. But not Joe, who had gotten to know and like this couple. Better yet, they had gotten to know and like him.

So, the wife suggested, “Let me finish cooking dinner. Then, please join us for dinner and afterward, you can take the stove. Will that work?” So Joe stayed for dinner!

How many debt collectors do you know who would get invited to dinner at someone’s home, especially when they’re trying to take their personal possessions away? Not many! But not many debt collectors are human enough to get an invitation to dinner, as Joe did.

Joe proves beautifully that you can be human and still get your job done.

How can we apply this in our workplaces?

  1. Start by being more observant. You can’t be human, empathetic and compassionate to anyone if you don’t notice the least little thing that’s wrong – or even just different – about them! Pay attention to their moods, smiles, frowns. Notice when something is different and ask about it. (Or, you can ask your assistant about it – they are usually in the know about everything! They can help you stay in tune with what’s happening with your people.)
  2. Say something right away. Whether you notice someone doing a great job or want to thank them for their help, don’t just PLAN to tell them how much you appreciate them at a later time. Later never comes! Do it immediately, before you get interrupted, forget or just get too busy and never get back to them.
  3. Make what you say meaningful. Studies show that peer reinforcement and praise are often more meaningful than praise from a leader. But this is usually because praise from peers is specific, while praise from a leader is pretty generic. It is obvious when a leader has been told simply that someone did “something good” (who knows what? and who cares?), and they should praise the associate for their “good work.” Thus, it feels like mere lip service, rather than authentic praise. But if a high level leader gets specific about what the person did, how well they did it and the positive effect it had on the organization or their team, the value of that praise rises tremendously because it is genuine! And the higher the level of the leader, the more meaningful that kind of praise becomes because it is so unusual for someone at a much higher level to actually know what their people at all levels are actually doing.
  4. Put your actions (not necessarily your money) where your mouth is. Many small gifts of appreciation cost absolutely nothing to give… or their cost is minimal. A verbal thank you or a hand-written thank you note cost nothing to give, but can have a tremendous emotional effect on someone who continues to serve every day in a (seemingly) thankless job.
  5. Put a tiny amount of money, coupled with action, where your mouth is. A chocolate bar, or a small plant or flower arrangement costs almost nothing, but has the same emotional effect as a thank you note, but amped up by the extra action it took on your part to get it for them. This is especially true if you know the person well enough to know what would really mean something to them. Don’t just give the same generic gift to everyone… find out their favorite chocolate, flower, plant – or even store… and buy something they would truly love.

When a leader is more human in the workplace, engagement, satisfaction and trust/ respect rise proportionately to the level of humanity displayed by that leader. So, truly be a human in the workplace, rather than simply a “humanoid” who looks human, but lacks the emotional aspect of humanity, empathy and compassion for all the other humans around you.

The more human you are, the more your team will connect with, respect and LOVE you for it.

In the next article of this series, we’ll take a look at Rule #4: A WOWplace is Innovative, Creative and Fun!

Have a great week!


Posted in Be Human... Not Humanoid!, Nuances That WOW, Recognition, WOWplace Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Engaging Your People – Part 2 of 6

Last week, we talked about how to make the WOWplace safe for people to engage and contribute. This week’s topic focuses on Rule #2: a WOWplace is RESPECTFUL.


We all work hard to be respected… and to show respect to others. But, often when we’ve worked for years to achieve a certain position of status or income, it is tempting to think, “I’ve earned this level of respect throughout my life; it should be given to me automatically at this point because of all I’ve done in the past to get here!”

While this may be a tempting thought, let’s not forget a few critical facts:

  1.  Many of the people who were around while we were “earning” our respect are not around now, so they don’t really know what we’ve done in the past to get where we are today.
  2. We may be a TITLED leader, but that does not make us an ENTITLED leader. We are not entitled to anything except benefit of the doubt. Once we reach a certain level of success, we should at least be afforded the courtesy of receiving benefit of the doubt that we’ve done something right (often MANY things right) in order to reach that position. But the position, power, income and title do not entitle us to any more than that. Beyond benefit of the doubt, we must earn whatever is to come our way… which brings us to the third fact to keep in mind:
  3. Respect is not something you do once and then you’re done. On the contrary, respect is earned and RE-earned every single day.

The best way to earn respect is to give respect. So, I say: GO FIRST!

For example, if you’ve ever watched the movies The Freedom Writers or The Ron Clark Story, you know they are about teachers who try to prevent students in inner city schools from dropping out and reducing their chances of success in life. But the students didn’t want anything to do with these teachers. In fact, they actively disrespected them in an effort to get them to quit and leave the students alone. But both of these teachers summoned extraordinary courage in the face of active disrespect and decided to show the students respect first – earning the students’ respect in the process.

Someone had to go first – and it wasn’t going to be the students. If both parties had decided to wait for the other party to go first before showing any respect, the stories would not have ended in the successes that occurred. By deciding to go first, the teachers earned the right to have the students listen to – and more importantly, trust – them.

One more thing to keep in mind – actually two more things:

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should…

Just because you don’t have to doesn’t mean you shouldn’t…

Quick story to illustrate these two points:

My husband and I visited Japan and while there, we visited with the high priest of the second oldest temple in Japan (whom we had met through my Japanese language tutor a few months before the trip). Due to Japanese custom, this man’s status in his country is very high and there are very few people to whom he is required to show respect. However, almost all are required by custom to show him respect.

While we were at his temple, we were amazed at the way he showed respect to everyone he met! You could see both the respect they had for him and the respect he had for them, regardless of their position or job duties at the temple. He was a striking example of both the incredible relationship-building power of GOING FIRST and proof that just because you don’t have to (show respect to others) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. By showing respect anyway, he earned more respect than he ever could have earned due to his status alone.

Just keep in mind that trust and respect go hand-in-hand. If we always seek ways to go first to earn both, everyone wins!

In the next post, we’ll talk about WOWplace Rule #3: A WOWplace is Human… not Humanoid!

Have a great week…


Sandy’s book is available on

Posted in Go FIRST!, Nuances That WOW, Respect, WOWplace Tips | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Engaging Your People – Part I of 6

There is a lot of talk about how to get people to engage at work. Too often, we see employees and colleagues who are just going through the motions, creating:

  • Motion without emotion
  • Performance without purpose and
  • “Improvement” without impact.

There is no reason for any of us to “simply endure” until we get to quitting time (when we can get back to our “real lives” – where we actually feel as though we make a difference).

Enter The WOWplace® Rules, which help us see how to engage others in the workplace, help them realize that they have valuable contributions to make… and allow them to make those contributions to advance their own success and the success of everyone around them.

Rule #1: A WOWplace is SAFE


Don’t let people feel like they are “perched on a cliff”!

This rule is all about building trust.

Let’s take one scenario as an example: Why don’t people share their ideas and knowledge in the workplace? Outside of the obvious reasons that they don’t think of sharing them or writing them down – or they’re too rushed to even articulate their ideas – the reason many don’t share is often because they don’t feel safe doing so.

They need to be able to trust us to allow them to:

  • Make the right choice, even if it’s not the popular choice.
  • Use their judgment to do the right thing for a customer or colleague.
  • Offer suggestions without fear of embarrassment, retribution or having a great idea stolen by someone else.
  • Question the status quo, especially when it’s clearly not working.
  • Suggest a great new idea without having to assume full responsibility for implementing it (on top of having an already overfull workload).
  • Show up at work without having to wonder who will show up with them that day – Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde…

This is just a short list of the many variables that contribute to either creating a collaborative and pleasant atmosphere in the workplace… or making it a toxic environment where no one is truly safe to emerge from the ranks to make a suggestion.

Making the workplace SAFE is not limited to those with formal titles. While leaders can certainly exert more power over people’s careers due to their titles, co-workers can exert more power over people’s morale due to their proximity in the workplace. So, it’s up to everyone to make the workplace a safe place to engage, contribute, and make a difference.

Here are a few suggestions to build trust and make it safe for people to engage:

1.  Learn to compartmentalize, so you leave your personal baggage at home.

Find a way to put personal problems into their own “emotional compartment,” so you can put them aside and focus on your work – and your behavior in the office. Not only will this help you be more productive, but it will help your co-workers as well, since they will be affected to one degree or another by your actions and your mood. Remember that no one works in a vacuum – we all interact with and affect each other every day.

Some suggestions to help you compartmentalize are as follows:

  • Talk to a trusted friend or advisor before coming into the office (maybe the night before) in order to get it out of your system before interacting with others.
  • Make a plan of what to do to handle the situation; nothing feels better than knowing at least the first step in how you will proceed to mitigate the negative circumstances in your life.
  • Even if you just yell, scream or otherwise vent in your own car – get the emotions out of your system. Not only will this let off some steam, but articulating those emotions and feelings could actually help you come up with ideas of what to say or do at a later time. Just don’t come to the office an emotional wreck – with all of those emotions right at the surface, ready to explode out at the first person you meet.

This is especially important if you have a titled leadership role. I once had a boss whose interaction with his wife each morning could be ascertained by the way he entered the office: either slamming his way in or by behaving in a gracious manner. Needless to say, no one approached him about much on the days when he came slamming into the office… which became much more frequent over time.

2.   Think first; talk later.

Good leaders share their concerns only with select others, and only when necessary. Rather than straining even close relationships by constantly going to people with every worry or concern, they first think to themselves about what is happening and how to correct a situation. This can often lead to a simple solution that can be quickly implemented without involving everyone in the department (or anyone else, for that matter).

If a problem is large or complex, thinking first about how to effectively articulate and approach it, then deciding who really needs to know and be involved will make those initial conversations quicker, more fruitful and less stressful for everyone involved… which will also lead to quicker resolution of the problem, with as little impact on others as possible.

3.   Refrain from engaging in gossip.

I know this is “common sense,” but how often do others try to drag us into those conversations? And we sometimes find ourselves smack in the middle of them before we even realize what’s happened! Some people are masters at steering a conversation toward their gripes and those who “cause” them.

This doesn’t mean you should treat every potentially negative conversation as gossip. There are times when negative incidents are happening that must be addressed. Or someone just needs to vent to a trusted friend.

When you start to hear what sounds like a complaint, or another person’s name is mentioned in a derogatory manner, first consider the source. Is the person a known complainer? If so, tread carefully so as not to sound as though you simply agree with them and are joining in the bashing of another employee. If the topic is something you’ve heard over and over again from that same person, disengage as quickly and gently as possible. Or defend the other person by saying, for example, “That doesn’t sound like her at all. I hope nothing is wrong.” This lets them know you don’t agree with their generalization while also offering them a way to “save face” by agreeing with you and grabbing the chance to drop the conversation.

However, just because someone is a complainer doesn’t mean that they will never come up with a valid complaint. If their complaint is valid, again be careful of simply agreeing with them, but let them know you will look into the issue and talk to the person to find out what is going on.

The best part of this strategy is that once a complainer knows you will go to the source, they will usually stop coming to you with invalid gripes because they’d much rather complain “behind someone’s back” than have to confront them with an issue. This also lets others know that you won’t take anyone else’s word for it, but will come directly to them to give them a chance to defend themselves.


There are so many ways to make our workplaces SAFE for others to engage at the highest levels and feel as though they are making a difference with their contributions. These are just a few ideas that can be implemented immediately to help build higher levels of trust in the workplace.

Next week, we will move on to Part 2 in this series – creating higher levels of RESPECT.

Have a great week!



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50 Ways to WOW Your Others – Tip #50: Creativity Rules!

Tip #50: Creativity rules!

50 Ways to WOW, creating WOW leadership and customer service

Whatever you do, add a dash of creativity and your own unique personality to it!

Everything is enhanced when you take a couple of extra minutes to do it in a unique and creative way!

Put your own twist on things!

Whether it’s in your words, your actions, written communications, promotional materials, e-mails, brainstorming sessions – everything is enhanced when you take a couple of extra minutes to do it in a creative and unique way.

Remember – you can’t create a WOW if you’re doing something that ends up being the same-old, same-old.

Let your creativity rule the day – and you will be sure to  create many WOWs for everyone around you!


Remember, you can also:

Please leave your tips and suggestions for putting your own twist on everything you do!


Posted in Creativity & Innovation, Get rid of the Excuses, Keep Yourself Motivated!, WOWplace Tips | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 Ways to WOW Your Others – Tip #49: Be the WOW in a World Full of OWs!

Tip #49: Be the WOW in a world full of OWs!

50 Ways to WOW, creating WOW leadership and customer service

Correct something that someone else has done wrong.

Even if you weren’t the cause, if there’s a way you can be the solution, you will create a WOW.

Things go wrong all the time. Sometimes we’re the cause; sometimes others are. But  we can still vow to correct anything that goes wrong (within our power).

For example, when I was a REALTOR, my vow was that “no customer would be harmed in the making of this deal!” One time, one of my sellers bought a new home. We scheduled the closing and 3 days before it, the contractor put the wrong floor in the kitchen… and the right floor was on backorder. Because of this, the sellers couldn’t get a Certificate of Occupancy, so they couldn’t move in. In the meantime, the buyers of their home had given up the lease on their apartment and had to move out.

I asked the contractor’s real estate agent to have the contractors put my sellers up in a hotel for a few days until the new floor could be put in; they refused. I finally got them to agree to allow the sellers to move their furniture into the house and garage so they didn’t have to store it, then I paid for a hotel room for them for 3 nights. It was the right thing to do – and the contractor obviously wasn’t going to do it.

Sometimes, someone has to step up and do the right thing – let it be you!


Remember, you can also:

Please leave your tips and suggestions for helping correct a situation, even when it wasn’t your fault.


Posted in Be Human... Not Humanoid!, Get rid of the Excuses, Go FIRST!, Nuances That WOW, Respect, Risk-Taking, WOWplace Tips | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment