Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I hear you barking! NOT!

It never ceases to amaze me just how much my dogs can communicate without ever uttering a word. The conversations we have are very revealing; albeit pretty one-side. It’s their nonverbal statements that speak volumes. Okay, before you roll your eyes (a very telling nonverbal sign, I might add); this isn’t a blog about my pets; although they are pretty great and I could share some great stories. This is about nonverbal communication – what we say without saying it and its importance in the workplace.

It was, however, watching Carlos and Lex Luthor (both Labradors) one day last week that got me started on this.  They are masters of the art of nonverbal communication. Through a look, a twitch of an ear, the slap of a paw, the wag of a tail or that look in their eyes, they clearly communicate their wants, their needs and their emotions. The messages they send are quite clear.

The nonverbal cues we exhibit send some pretty clear message as well. Even if we are not aware that we are sending them, we sure know when we receive them. Who thinks the eye roll is a good thing? Or how about the arms folded across the chest like a barricade to fend off any incoming messages? What’s the first thing you did when you didn’t want to be called on in school? You lowered your eyes so you didn’t make direct contact with the teacher. The message? Please do not call on me! On the other side of the coin, nonverbal cues can convey confidence, agreement, like and other positive messages. Nodding the head in agreement, smiling and direct eye contact indicates interest, approval and reinforcement.

The tricky part comes in when the nonverbal signs don’t match the spoken words. As a leader you need to be very dialed in to these disconnects. Communication is definitely hindered and messages are compromised when nonverbal contradicts what is said. Be wary of the team member who voices agreement but never makes eye contact, has that pained facial expression and is doodling during the entire meeting. They are definitely NOT buying in to your program or policies.

If you are a gambler, you are always looking for a “tell” from other players; that one nonverbal that lets you know they are bluffing. Since a number of resources frequently cite that 93% of all daily communication is nonverbal, you better know what your team’s “tells” are if you want to reach your goals.

When verbal and nonverbal communication messages act in concert, information is communicated more effectively. The point? Be careful what you don’t say, it might be sending the wrong message. Or as Peter Drucker says, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

Posted by MJ Thomas

Monday, May 18, 2015

"Stop talking to me!"

Ever feel like just yelling that at the top of your lungs? That was last week at our office. The pace was non-stop, the challenges were coming at us right and left, some critical elements to success were suddenly out of our control and that was just on Monday! Needless to say stress levels were off the chart.  Fortunately, we have an environment where it is safe to vent, laugh and then get on with it. Why? Because stress can make you sick, emotionally and physically.

There are a number of definitions for stress, especially workplace stress. This one however draws to mind an interesting visual as well. Stress is “The confusion created when one’s mind overrides the body’s basic desire to choke the living daylights out of someone who desperately needs it!”

Studies show that job stress is by far the leading source of stress for adults and it continues to escalate. Stress is a leading contributor to accidents and injuries and in the workplace it can jeopardize the safety of your employees. Stress changes how we act, how we think and how we react; it makes us more open to accidents and injuries. Our focus is less clear, we have difficulty understanding and processing.  We are less creative, more defensive, and angrier and tend to over react to our surroundings. We are more likely to break things, are clumsier, make more errors and are more likely to cut corners. Physically it manifests itself in headaches, back pain, sleep disorders and
stomach issues to name a few. In many ways, we become an accident waiting to happen.

In the workplace unrecognized and untreated stress among employees is a recipe for disaster. Stress not only contributes to industry’s high price tag of $300 billion annually as a result of accidents, absenteeism and employee turnover; it contributes to fifty percent of all illness in the United States.

So here’s the $64,000 question; does your “Safety Plan” include stress management for your employees? It should. Ignoring the signs in your employees and hoping someone else will handle it will cost you in more ways than one.

Ready to let out that primal scream? I say go for it.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Monday, May 11, 2015

Make it work!

Anyone who watched Project Runway heard Tim Gunn say those words at least once if not more in every single episode. Sounds simple enough, right? Not always.
More often than not, when faced with a challenging situation, the tendency is to rattle off all the reasons it won’t work. And when you are working with a team – all it takes is one reason why something can’t be done to make those negatives multiply tenfold.

Here's my approach - don’t tell me why it won’t work or can’t be done, tell me how it CAN.  Don’t tell me all the things your competition is doing wrong; tell me what your company is doing right.

It’s not easy but it works.

Let me give you an example.  At one time I served as administrative liaison for a group of volunteers who were hosting a big fundraising event.  At noon – the day of the event – the event coordinator quit.  She left a note in my mailbox; no explanation, no notes, no contacts, just the keys to the event room. Perfect.  Guess just how long it took for that information to circulate among the masses?  In a matter of what seemed like only minutes, my office was filled with panicking volunteers all preparing for inevitable doom.

We sat down to regroup – everyone had something to say and it was ALL negative. After about ten minutes of that (which I realized afterwards was ten minutes too much), I said STOP!  The event could not be cancelled so what could we do? Silence filled the room. Then one brave soul stepped forward. His first words were “we could” and that started the ball rolling. Slowly rolling, but rolling in the right direction. Okay, you know where this is going and you are right. Thanks to a shift in thinking and some dedicated volunteers, the event went off without a hiccup. It was more than a financial success. It was a team success. This team took ownership, overcame the challenges and made it work.

Your team can make it work too!

Posted by MJ Thomas

Friday, May 1, 2015


Read a great article today titled, The One Word that KILLS Your Customer Experience written by Dave Holland MBA. In the article, he shares the 5P’s that great customer service must have. And in my opinion, they are spot on.

As he first relates a personal case of some pretty awful customer service, I find myself shaking my head both in wonder and acknowledgment.  Sure, I have been on the other end of bad customer service, most of us have. But when I hear about or read these examples that just ooze with bad attitudes and total lack of caring, it never ceases to disappoint me.

Holland’s story centers on a hotel stay where the use of the word obviously was like the corporate mantra because that’s how the answer to any of his questions started.  Obviously as in plainly, can’t believe you don’t get it, easily understandable, can’t believe you are bothering me; you must be a moron obviously. Ouch!  Way to make the customer feel important – NOT.

And for me that’s the core of the matter. What customers “experience” in their interactions with your company are a big factor when it comes to determining whether or not they become a loyal, long-term customer or a one-and-done.

So why take the chance? Make sure your employees understand the value of a great customer experience, train them on its importance to the company and the brand. Instill in them a sense of ownership using Holland's 5P’s of great customer service – presence, purpose, passion, pretend and profit. Presence is not just about physical presence but focus and attention on the customer through the whole transaction. Delivering a great customer experience each time, every time is the purpose. When you are passionate about something it shows and truly makes a difference. The opposite is true as well. Even if you don’t think the customer is right pretend that they are. Negotiate with them but don’t criticize. As a consequence of an outstanding customer interaction everyone is better off – financially and emotionally.

Thanks to Dave Holland for his words of wisdom.

Posted by MJ Thomas