Archives For communication skills

It happens all the time.

The people that matter, the people you’re sending a letter, the people who will read it or see it, they will know if you get it wrong.

They will know you don’t know what you’re doing—unless you have a reliable point of reference to check your work and to answer your question.

It happened to me today. I’m addressing a letter to a personal friend of mine, I have known him for years. He happens to be the president of a university.

On the inside I write Dear, (first name) because, like I said, I know him, it would be pretentious for me to put a full title inside a personal hand-written letter to a friend.

But the envelope must be right. How do you address a letter to the president of a university?

Who cares?

  • I do/you do
  • His/her assistant
  • He/she will know (not because of pretentiousness, but because as I said above, the people you address, will know you got it wrong and, even if just for an instant, they will wonder why)

There’s a solution, an answer, a book and web site you absolutely must know about.

Sometimes it seems like a small detail, but forms of address carry the same weight as proper spelling of one’s name. You wouldn’t want to spell someone’s name wrong, you don’t want to get the form of address wrong either.

Robert Hickey’s book must be on your shelf, in your library, in your office, and anyone sending/addressing correspondence on your behalf must have access to it.

It is a small thing.book_cover_SM

But everything speaks.

Don’t say anything you didn’t intend to say because you got something small “wrong.”

Order Honor and Respect HERE

Use the online resource HERE

We arrived at the Ritz, and our impression was . . .

Wow, they really messed up.

Someone, somewhere, failed to deliver a spotlessly clean hotel room. We were disappointed.

What we saw failed to live up to the standard expected from one of the best hotel organizations in the world. We did not feel the Ritz Carlton experience at that moment. We discovered the condition of the room too late to do anything about it that evening. With both kids soundly sleeping in the adjoining rooms, this had to be put off until tomorrow.

It happens.

Quality customer satisfaction is terribly challenging. Most people outside the service industry cannot grasp the difficulty faced by management and workers each day. Setting a high standard for service comes with a price. When you deliver ‘perfect’ you run the risk of being ignored. That’s right. As Jimmy Collins points out, people seldom notice perfect. “The absence of error or defect” defines perfection; errors and defects jump out at us and grab our attention. The smooth and snag-free nature of perfection sometimes escapes our notice. If nothing jumps up at us as wrong, interrupts our train of thought, annoys us or causes us discomfort, we sometimes do not take notice.

Most businesses do everything possible in order to prevent failures, errors, and lapses in service and quality. Training and retraining with the goal of standardizing service and reproducing quality at high levels requires a great deal of resources and personnel. Whole departments exist for “quality control” and “customer experience.” At times, the emphasis on quality becomes misguided. Too often, customers and clients find themselves bombarded with questionnaires and surveys after the fact. Most of them amount to waisted effort because the truth can be found in the number of complaints rather than the number of artificially harvested “kudos” for greatness.

Fractures in service happen. They just—happen. Despite our best efforts to eliminate them, they happen. When they happen, do not despair—something exceptional comes from deficiencies. Ask yourself: when you, your company, or your organization fail to deliver, despite processes and policies designed to prevent error, how well do you recover? The quality of your people and your training make the difference between convincing customers to return or to stay away. What happens next in situations like ours separates the professionals from the amateurs. How would this Ritz Carlton respond? What happens now?

We contacted the front desk the next day, explaining the situation and how we needed to speak to a supervisor as soon as possible. Within five minutes of our call, Paco Saldaña arrived to discuss the issues. He walked around our suite and listened as we pointed out to him things we believed fell below the standard of Ritz Carlton quality. His attitude and demeanor were nothing short of perfect for the situation.

Paco Saldaña demonstrated the qualities and character of a seasoned professional. He lives up to the Ritz Carlton standard of “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Here’s what Paco did and what he did not do:

1) He was not defensive

2) He did not make excuses

3) He listened, but more than that, he appeared to actually hear what we were saying from our perspective

4) He eagerly and sincerely responded to our concerns

5) He told us his plan of action to remedy the situation, quickly

6) He promised to be personally responsible for the results

We knew Paco took us seriously, understood the problem, and determined a course of action to remedy the situation immediately. He apologized, but did not waste our time with an explanation of “how this happened.” Customers do not care about inter-organizational challenges, how short-handed you are, or what happened last week that used up your resources. Instead, customers care about getting quality goods and services for their money. A good reason for the poor quality probably existed, but he did not share it with us. The truth is, life throws adversity at us constantly. We all face adversity, and we all have to get our jobs done despite it. Blaming others for failures accomplishes nothing other than tearing down a customer’s already weakened confidence in an organization.

Rarely do you find someone actually being an example of the qualities listed above because those qualities run counter to many natural tendencies. We want to deny, defend, explain, and make excuses. Doing the opposite of our nature takes time, training and modeling by example. Training and selection distinguishes organizations like Ritz Carlton apart from others. Paco quickly built up our confidence in him and his organization at a time we were in doubt.

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He delivered on his promises, but he did not stop there. Over-the-Top service requires skillful follow-up. The follow-up really sets things right. By following-up with us the next day and letting us know that he personally participated in the work done in our room, we knew he not only met our expectations but exceeded them. You should have seen the room and presentation when the work was complete. We now had a 5-star suite.

Quality organizations consists of quality individuals with an understanding that errors bring opportunities to deliver, meet, and exceed previous expectations. Errors grant us a chance to go “over the top” and deliver memorable service. In fact, the lingering memory of a fabulous recovery remains with us longer than the “wow” of perfection. Does this mean we ought to “mess up” so we can demonstrate how well we recover? No, not at all, we need not make errors and oversights on purpose, they occur frequently on their own.

What happened to our room? We came back to the room after turn-down and it gave us that Ritz Carlton experience once again. Paco knew how to react when something went wrong.

Get excited about errors. Look in advance for opportunities to set up an over-the-top impression. Recover well and regain your customer’s confidence.

Want to bring your career to a halt or worse?

If your answer is “no” then you ought to consider what you should and should not talk about at work.

We must control both what we say and how much we share in our professional life. The word “professional” turns many people off because they associate it with corporate stuffiness.

Definition of PROFESSIONALISM

1: the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person(see 1professional)

2: the following of a profession (as athletics) for gain or livelihood

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/professionalism

Consider the “conduct, aims, or qualities” of professionalism in relation to your conversation at work.

Success in your career can hinge on the appropriateness of your casual conversations at work. Aim high! Here are two resources that will help.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/business/worklife/seven-things-you-shouldnt-tell-your-colleagues/story-fni0d8zj-1226586820029

http://careerplanning.about.com/od/workplacesurvival/tp/work_talk.htm

Do you ever feel awkward making an introduction?

Do you know who to introduce to whom?

Does it matter?

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Or, maybe you have figured this out—care to share any tips, pointers, or thoughts on how to introduce people without fear?

Maybe you’re comfortable in personal social situations, but a bit uncertain in professional social situations.

Please share your experience!

We’ll talk more about introductions as the week progresses . . .

Have you had any awkward moments making introductions—something memorable that occurred?

Or, how do you feel when you are introduced in a way that is respectful and courteous?

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For several decades I worked with professional communicators. Many were highly professional presenters, capable of capturing and holding the attention of thousands of people as they delivered their messages. A few were masters, true masters of the delivery of the spoken word. I had the pleasure of serving with some of these masters while they were at the very peak of their careers.

Being able to attract and hold the attention of an audience is an impressive feat. But what happens once they walk off the stage, come out from behind the podium, or once the camera is off? How one handles themselves before and after a presentation can actually hold back a person from being all that they can be. Often, this is the “neglected edge.”

Perhaps you excel at preparation, study, and welcomed innovative communication techniques.

Congratulations! But what if one falls short of the mark in the common arena of social interaction. I have know many, and so have you, who were just unaware of their personal presentation in social settings, but the majority of issues are from people who are aware yet simply unprepared.

Why not prepare for all possible situations – communications and social interaction?

Too many professionals are not aware of how loudly their actions speak. The truth is: ”Everything Speaks!”

This is why I chose to shift my focus from creative communications to corporate etiquette and international protocol: because it is more salient than creative communication!

While continuing to work on traditional communication projects, I have over the past several years been training and studying for this shift. I’m pretty excited about it. I have something to offer not only the leader, the boss, or the recognized presenter in the organization, I have something that can make every staff member, regardless of title a polished professional. And unlike leadership conferences that staff may attend year after year after year, business etiquette training can will “stick. It can make a difference with just one application.

Think about it this way. Look at those rusty saws in the photo above. What sense would it make to put a elegant new handle on one of those and leave the blade rusty and dull? Or better yet, suppose I polished only one side of the saw blade? Think about your training and development of self and staff the same way. Is there are “rusty” side that may embarrass you in front of staff, guests, or clients?

Everyone can use a little professional polish! Shoot me an email and let’s discuss.

michael.cooley@mac.com

I have a little quiz for you. It might be a revealing way to determine whether or not you need to upgrade your wardrobe for business. Ready? OK. Answer this question and if your answer is “yes” then you need a clothing intervention.

Did you spend more time picking out the skin for your iPhone, iPad or Android than you did picking out what you wore to your last business meeting?

Don’t get the wrong impression; I appreciate the appearance of a sharply dressed smart phone just as much as the next person. But unless you intend to hold your phone or tablet in front of you all day, it is not likely going to be the first thing people will see. It also has very little to do with the first impression you make on a client.

How you present yourself at work should be given as much thought as how you would present yourself if everyone you will encounter today were to be rounded up and sat in an auditorium to hear a presentation from – YOU!

Judge Not!

I know what some of you are thinking. You want to point out that we are not supposed to judge people by what they wear. You are absolutely correct.

Meanwhile the rest of humanity will continue to judge you; if you do not pass the standards they are looking for, you will be passed over for someone who does.

Do not judge others, but do not be shocked that others are judging you. It’s going to happen.

Do you suppose you will have any luck transforming the world from being judgmental by dressing in a manner that is too casual or “original” when you go to work?

Choose Wisely . . .

Only you can make the right decisions and improve your personal presentation, and the presentation of your iPad case.