Stop the Bus!

I work with a liaison who, when faced with criticism or complaints about the performance of his team, throws EVERYONE under the bus, myself included. He does not want to take responsibility for the problems, perhaps thinking that if he does he might come closer to being fired due to the cut throat nature of his company’s work culture, so instead he deflects. He will blame the delivery guys, the warehouse guys, the merchandising guys, he will blame the advertising plans and marketing efforts, saying they are either not enough or that they were not targeted. fun fact, he heads the S&M (giggle) team and he approves the very plans he criticises. He is not a team player in tough times and he drives the proverbial bus over everyone. I was upset about it and complained to my co-worker whose response was “get your own bus!” 

I do have my own bus, for this guy and his team are not at all without flaws, however, I don’t think that this parade of buses is the way to go. I don’t want every meeting to feel like we’re playing in traffic and someone is going to get run over any second. I want us to be able to work together and realise that we all want the same thing – more sales. So I’m sticking with the pedestrian route and trying to use Stop signs – I don’t retaliate, I ensure that all my comments have a positive tone even if I have something negative to say and I always say “we” to enforce the fact that we are indeed a team.

How do you deal with being thrown under the bus? Do you get your own and return the favour or do you stay pedestrian? Tell me in the comments.

SLOPPY!!

I received some correspondence today from a lady looking to form her own company. She is currently employed at one of the companies that we work with and has been in contact with me for over 3 years. The document name had 2 typo errors (which is a lot for just 3 words!) but I tried not to be judgmental and opened to read. The first thing that greets me is address line with my name, department and position. Of those 3, she only got my name right. She put the incorrect department, no title and she spelt my company name wrong. My name, title, company name and address are in my signature on EVERY email I send. Couldn’t she just have copied it? I was hardly interested in reading further but I did. Her company wants to collect and compile data about our products and competing brands in the markets. Not being physically present in the islands, this is actually our local liaison company’s job, the very company she works for! … what?! Also, if the information ABOUT the company is hastily compiled and sloppily done, how can I expect detailed and well formulated reports from this person and their staff?

My mother always impressed upon me that First Impressions are Lasting Impressions, and in this case it was not very good. While I am not above giving anyone a second chance, in this fast paced world with several companies offering the same services, each trying to out-do the other and offering more and better, do we have the time to do so? Can you as a potential service provider afford give less than your best and risk needing said second chance?

Look at it this way…

img: google

I deal with a fair amount of artwork and audio ads for our brands and being a creative with lots of ideas, I often write the scripts or come up with the concepts of how work should look or sound. (nb. not knocking the input/importance of advertising agencies, I used to work for one). Now when I come up with my grand ideas and they take shape in my mind’s eye, I get hooked on this one look or sound and it’s hard to accept anything else besides what went on in my head.

However, I never get that precise execution. Sometimes my grand vision gets a little lost in translation, or the service providers take creative license eg. I want square but they think an oblong suits the project more, and other minor details like that. At this point I become anxious and worry as my vision gets modified. It’s like I built a perfect sand castle and then they come and start adding stuff and editing! But like that little kid building a sand castle, we’ve got to learn to play nice and let people in, when you do amazing things can happen! 

I realised that lots of times, the new way can be just as good, just as beautiful, just as grand and awesome as and sometimes better than my original idea. And even more times, the great grand premise is still there, just dressed in different colours than the ones I chose. So I’ve actively begun opening my mind and fighting back that initial annoyance and road blocks I put up when faced with modifications. I relinquish control and tell myself that it’s all going to work out fine. See, besides the general “I had the idea and I really want it to look like inside my head” thing, my control comes from worry that it will go wrong because I didn’t do enough or pay enough attention.

img: google

I know you’ve all got your babies, ideas birthed sometimes painstakingly, that people will attempt to modify. I’m not saying roll over and let them have at it, but I’m saying to let them give their expert, and sometimes not so expert, opinions, let them have oblong and dress it in different colours. As long as the most important base premise doesn’t change, be open to looking at things another way, the view from the other side is still pretty darn awesome.

Happy Tuesday Guys!

Papercut

I'm sorry sir, we'll get to you soon! img: google

I’m sorry sir, we’ll get to you soon!
img: google

I am behind on my dissertation. There. I admitted it. Said it out out loud instead of rushing by that uncomfortable thought and pushing it to the back of my mind like a nurse in the E.R. pushes a papercut to the back of the room screaming “Sit down sir! I’ve got a GSW to take care of, we’ll get to you as soon as we can!”. Except, there is no GSW, the dissertation is the priority that I’m glossing over. It’s just a papercut now but as I push it away, the papercut starts to turn green and smell, gangrene sets in and if I don’t act fast the whole finger will fall off and then the poor patient will die. I will die, of failure. 

But I get somehow paralysed. I overestimate the time I have and when I realise that time has run out, I freeze, not sure where to start. See, I’m GREAT at starting, FABULOUS at plans (my dissertation proposal was approved with not a single correction from my supervisor) but follow through is my weakness. I always think I have more time to chill than I do. I take breaks too early and never get back to my original task on time. Eg. Dissertation proposal finished? Awesome, I can chill for a week. That week turns into 6 and i’m like holy crap, what the hell happened to April?! oh shoot May’s gone too and it ate half of June!

Then that’s exactly where the paralysis hits. All I can see are those lost weeks, the decreased quality of life and work that I have inflicted on myself and I’m not sure how to make up the time. Can I really finish a 5500 word lit review in 2 weeks? I read like a snail! Worry and fear take over, gluing me to the ground and I look for escape, I play World of Warcraft and watch 4 seasons of Drop Dead Diva back to back, clicking next episode with the compulsion of an addict. 

But responsibility eventually bubbles to the surface like soup in a heated pot and spills over into my escapist reverie like a tsunami tide. I can’t ignore the papercut anymore, things are critical and we have to operate or lose the patient. “Sir! We’re ready for you! This way please and quickly!”

Gowns on and Glove up people, we’ve got work to do!

img: Freedigitalphotos.com (via google)

WOOSAH!!!!!!

img: google

Customer Service is a tough and often thankless job. You get yelled at and vilified for pretty much everything, often things that you didn’t do or things that the customers themselves are responsible for.

In my job, I deal with country reps who often tell me things I really don’t want to hear like how they’re ordering less due to sales drops which shouldn’t have occurred had they implemented the suggested marketing activities or monitored the sales more closely. Obviously this impacts my performance so I get pretty upset and I can feel the steam coming from my ears!!!

But I try never to reply in anger. If I am on the telephone, I take a breath and think positive before I answer or I might ask them to hold while I mutter angrily to myself and try to find my peace. If it’s an email, I let it sit for a bit while I browse 9gag.com for a laugh to cheer me up and calm me down. So far these approaches have helped me cool off and give the best service even in vexing circumstances, what are your cooling options in heated situations? Let me know in the comments. 

Also, apologies for no post on Tuesday, days have been flying by!

Have a great Friday / Weekend!

You are a Brand!

When we think of brands we think of products – eg. Nike – shoes, athletic gear; Gerber – baby food etc etc. However Brands can be people and you, my dear reader, are a brand.

As we covered in last week’s post, a brand is the name under which products are produced and they evoke a feeling in a customer or cause said customer to make a certain association/assumption when they think about it. Your personal image is a brand and anyone that might need something from you be it your co-workers, family or friends, is  your customer.

So, what do people think when you pop into their heads, what are you known for? Everything you do contributes to your personal brand; so for example,  if people know to expect on-time work from you then your brand message is one of punctuality and reliability. However, if they know they can never get an honest answer out of you and your work is sloppy, then your brand is one of dishonesty and bad work ethic. This applies at home too, if you’re the one who never pitches in at family gatherings or says you’ll mow your grandmother’s yard but never, ever get around to it, your family “customers” see you as being unreliable. 

So take an honest look at yourself today, what is your personal brand saying to people and how can you improve? 

See you on Thursday for “No Radio Silence!”, a look at how to handle crisis management. 

Have a good one!

Tony Stark IS Iron Man, are you the brand/product?

I just watched Iron Man 3 and ….

*possible spoiler alert!* 

Tony Stark in the Iron Man Suit
(image from google)

… they (the movie creators) leaned hard on the premise that Tony Stark, the man, the living breathing, brilliant sarcastic jerk who we all love so much, is Iron Man, and not the suit. It made me think about important it is to know what exactly your brand is and how hard it can be sometimes to separate the brand from the product. eg. In Barbados, “Pampers” refers to any type of device used on a child to collect waste. I actually had no idea that “Pampers” was a brand until I saw an ad on TV!

But let’s back up a bit, what’s the difference between a brand and a product? A brand is a name under which many items are produced eg. Adidas or HP. The items they produce are the products eg. the Adidas Clima (gawd those are great shoes!) or the HP Dv7 entertainment laptop.

Brands evoke a feeling in a customer or cause said customer to make a certain association/assumption when they think about it. eg. when you think NIKE you think good athletic gear; when you think converse you think funky cool sneakers; when you think Louis Vuitton, you think luxury. Brand names usually have a following and a dedicated customer base who are buying these products eg. Apple. This makes new product development a lot easier than looking for a new customer base each and every time. However, if your brand name is melded to your flagship product eg. Iron Man is the Suit, and said flagship product needs to be phased out, then you have a bit of a problem and you need to go on a re-association campaign to focus on what you need the customer to think the brand name is. (Also known as brand building) So in this case, perhaps Marvel wants to phase out the suits and focus more on Tony the person, so they spent roughly 130 mins reminding us that Tony Stark is the brand, not the suit. Now that the audience understands this, Tony Stark can open a tea shop and preach peace if he wants, it’ll still fall under the Iron Man brand as long as Stark does it.

So take a look at your brand, ask some customers, suppliers, friends, neighbours and see what your brand is really associated with, might not be what you expected. Maybe you have to distance your brand from it’s own “suit” so you’ve got some room to diversify, maybe you’ve got some brand building to do.

Have a productive Friday and great weekend and see you guys on Tuesday for “You are a Brand!”

It’s a Habit!

image from google

I was listening to Joyce Meyer in the car and she said that bad habits rob you of your best life. That stuck with me, and as usual, I applied it to work – Bad habits rob you of your best work. Think about a bad habit you have right now – maybe you’re often late to work. It’s only 15 minutes you think, but when you get there you need to spend another 15 to get settled in, you’re 15 mins behind on making calls, etc etc. What about if you don’t spell check your work or if you just don’t call people back on time. All of your stuff gets done, but can it be done better? Absolutely! Pick a bad habit and deal with it today!

It’s The Little Things

Greetings from Jamaica, birthplace of this blog! Apologies for no post on Tuesday, work completely tired me out and I didn’t get a chance to set the content to post as I usually do.

I’m staying at the wonderful Courtleigh Hotel, this time with a luxurious King Bed. 

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King Bed! (not a California one though)

However, said King Bed came at the expense of my balcony with mountain view. I still have a decent view though:

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Day-time view from my room

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Night-time view from my room

However this is the edited version, when I look down, I can see the dirty top of the lower level of the hotel, and I can see behind the hotel with the garbage cans and cleaning supplies etc. Kind of a spolier. 

The bathroom is lovely with a glass door and beautiful tiles:

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Bathroom with Lovely marble-like tiles

However, right above the towel rack is a vent, a very dusty vent. And when I think of the air that is coming through there, the dusty air that I am breathing as I shower, it kinda tainted it. 

As I ironed this morning, the steam iron dripped water all over my shirt. I also had to go down to the front desk for soap. I usually bring my own in case but I forgot to replenish this time and the maid also forgot to replace the hotel issued bath wash. 

These things are minor but to a picky customer or someone in a bad mood, they can spoil it. Same goes for your own work, if you write a brilliant report and have spelling errors, that can spoil it for the reader. 

No one’s perfect but even with a good product or good reputation, you need to be mindful of the little things you can improve – clean that vent, check the iron, spell-check the document before you send it. Don’t get complacent, keep striving to be your best.

Have a great weekend guys, see you Tuesday! See below some other pics of the room 🙂

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Flat screen Tv with great cable offering, also mini-fridge! (no honor bar though!)

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beautiful sink and wall art

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I should sit in this chair at least once before I leave…

What Businesses Can Learn from Natural Disasters

Wow, been a tough week for the world, Iran had a terrible earthquake yesterday which left many dead, my prayers are with those injured or mourning loved ones as well. 

In business, several disasters can occur – the market can change drastically and put you out of business eg. nobody rents tapes anymore; a new low-cost competitor can come in and take a chunk of your market share (happening right now in Barbados with a new internet service provider on the scene), and many more disasters lurking around the corner. But by looking at natural disasters, you can lean a few things about how to prevent and deal with those at your company level:

  • This how you currently monitor your market (image from google)

    This how you currently monitor your market
    (image from google)

    The Importance of Monitoring: Earthquakes, Floods and Storms are all pretty sudden occurances but there are always signs, no matter how small. This is why there are always teams in place monitoring the changes in the weather patterns, seismic activity and any other possible indicator. It is just as important for you to monitor the changes in your business environment – keep an eye on those price changes even if by 1 cent, monitor the human resource climate in your office, keep up with your customers’ feelings. These all seem like obvious things to watch but businesses often get complacent and sloppy with their monitoring and then are caught unawares.

  • (image from google)

    (image from google)

    Contingency/Emergency Plans are a Must: I would expect that at your workplace there is a clearly detailed plan for what to do when a fire occurs, everyone knows to exit the building immediately and where to assemble. Fire extinguishers are present all around, but where are your figurative fire extinguishers? What’s your plan for when that hot new entrant lands on the market? If the price of oil suddenly goes up by $20 a barrel, do you know what you have to do to stay in business? What if some new anti-whatever-you-sell campaign lands on facebook – do you have any idea where to begin with a counter? Let’s bring it closer to home, if your product suddenly had mass failures and returns, or mass negative reviews in the case of items you can’t return like a book, what’s your plan?

  • Keep the Public Updated: TV and radio stations as well as newspapers carry great coverage of these unfortunate incidents. The public is updated every hour on the hour on the latest developments, how to proceed, and where help can be found. The same with your business, you need to keep your public updated on your own “disaster”. What’s the return policy on the item, is there a refund? Are maintenance technicians working on the problem, how long will the outage last? Who’s available to talk to about it?

Natural Disasters and Business disasters can strike at any time, make sure you’re prepared for both. What do a hurricane and a failed business have in common? Each can cost you your house! So stop being lazy on monitoring the market, make contingency plans and keep your public updated (even without the disaster).

What lessons have you learnt from your business or personal disasters? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you next Tuesday!