Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

One More Time: Avoid Embarrassing People In CCed Emails

Think Before You CC

This may seem to be my One Tune Topic for the last few months, but it seems that it cannot be emphasized enough. Consider these snippets from emails, all which were copied to several people (some not even part of the organizations involved.)

•”If you don’t have the skill to do it, at least send it to someone who knows how to do their job and stop wasting my time.”

•”Your email makes no sense at all. Rewrite please.”

•”I have tried to resolve this situation amicably only to face your nastiness time after time.”

•”I reviewed the work of you and your committee and frankly am amazed that you would consider this to be the quality I expected, especially from someone who is supposedly trained to do this kind of thing. If this is an example of your work, we need to be talking about getting you some additional training. There is no way I could list the problems in one email, so apparently I will have to take the time to meet and work on this with you. I’m available Friday afternoon but after that will be gone for two weeks, so let me know if you can meet then.”

•”Re: Your request to attend the conference. No.”

I’ve changed some details in those emails to protect the organization and those who sent the examples to me, but they are all essentially real. How would you like to be CCed on those? How would you like to be the recipients? How does it present the sender? Will any of them improve things?

What If Nothing Else Is Working?

In one of the examples above I was blind copied but several others were obviously copied. I immediately called the sender to register my dismay. She said, “Well, nothing else has worked and I figured if I embarrassed her maybe she would finally do something.”

Do you think that will happen? Even if it does, will the damage ever go away completely?

If the performance or behavior of an employee you supervise concerns you, talk to the employee directly by phone or in a personal email. No employee I’ve ever met develops a more positive approach to work as the result of being chided in a message that is copied to others. If the thing that concerns you is something that others need to be reminded of as well, handle it with a training approach for all, after you have dealt with the other employee personally.

If a coworker is the source of frustration or anger, talk to your manager or supervisor and be factual about what is concerning you. If you CC your manager in an unpleasant email you may find that both the employee and the manager resent your method of informing. That doesn’t mean you should ignore problems, it just means you should be direct not sneaky.

If you have something unpleasant or discomfiting to say to anyone, say it to them alone. Don’t wait until you are in an email “room” and bring it up. Have you noticed how brave or tough people can be when they are showing off for others!

“Look what a tough leader I am?” “Look how direct I am.” “See how I tell people where I stand?” “Notice that I don’t take anything from anyone?” “See how saintly I am compared to that other person?”  Those are the underlying messages conveyed by unneeded CCs. 

If you receive an awkward, embarrassing or inappropriate copied email, let the recipient know you would prefer to not be included on such things. If those who CC were told it was unnecessary or uncomfortable they would be far less likely to preen over their rough and ready approach. If you are a manager, stop such copying when you see it happening. If you are a subordinate, consider doing what one employee told me about: He wrote back directly to the manager and said, “I don’t think I was supposed to be included in that correspondence, but I want you to know that I have deleted it and won’t say anything about it.”

Whatever you do, don’t even inadvertently encourage the kind of rudeness that is the hallmark of unnecessary CCs or BCs.

The bottom line: There is a time for putting your concerns or frustrations in writing. Not all unpleasant mail is inappropriate. However, when you intend to correct someone or negatively critique their performance or behavior, think, think and think again before copying others. There may be rare times when it is needed, but most often, it is not. You and your reputation and effectiveness will be diminished in proportion to how many people you CC unnecessarily.

August 1st, 2011 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 5 comments

Replace Businesslike With Professionally Pleasant

How Do You Look and Sound? 

The concept of sounding and looking businesslike seems as though it would be appropriate for a business setting. Unfortunately, it nearly always translates to an unfriendly facial expression and a disinterested, bored or angry tone of voice. 

Test it by looking in a mirror with a “businesslike” expression. See how robotic and cold you look? Hostile, even? Practice a phrase with what you consider to be a businesslike tone. Can you hear how curt and unwelcoming you sound? When there is no welcome in your voice, it doesn’t matter what the words are, you sound unpleasant.

Now, test yourself by smiling (not a grinning, just  smiling) and asking, with a friendly tone, “How can I help you today?” Smile while saying,  “I’m happy to be asked questions and I’ll also be happy to answer them.”

Whatever you say, say it with a sound that is encouraging and pleased to be asked for help, not discouraging and irritated that you’re being bothered. You will feel differently and sound differently. You will certainly make a better first–and lasting–impression. (This applies to your internal customers at work as well!)

July 7th, 2011 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 4 comments

It’s 2011. Learn To Use Routine Technology

Two pages of instructions for
this new concept.

I found this article and some similar ones, in a 1934 issue of Ladies Home Companion. (Enlarge the page to read the text if you can’t do so. It’s interesting!) Thermostats on gas and electric ranges were still relatively new and many cooks resisted using them.

When my mother moved to Georgia in the 1930s, her mother-in-law (my grandmother, who I don’t remember but who, by all accounts, I would not have liked) had a two-burner propane gas range with a small oven.  It was used for storing pans because she was convinced it wasn’t good for cooking, certainly not baking. Not when she could much more easily adjust the amount of coal in the tray under the coal oven.

What technology at work still requires you to call for help every few minutes?

For many people there is a tendency to resist learning anything that requires very much mental effort (I’m that way!) And, there is often resistance to trying to learn a process that is taught in a manner that is more confusing and demeaning than it is helpful. But, if there is equipment, technology or processes at work that all employees are expected to use regularly, commit to learning to do that part of your job effectively and efficiently. 

It makes anyone sound ignorant, old, lazy and/or ridiculous, to hear them say, “I can barely turn on a computer, so I don’t check my email very often.” “Liiiiiiiisssssaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Can you load the paper in the copier?” Or, “Could you help me right away??? I have to open a file in email and I’m afraid I’ll delete everything if I start messing with buttons or keys or whatever you call them.”

It’s 2011 and we’ve all gotten used to adjusting the thermostat on ovens (even the ones I consider to be completely counter-intuitive.) We no longer stand and stare with wonder as the microwave heats a cup of water. Most of us can use at least 50% of the capabilities of our phones.  We’ve acquired a lot of technological saavy. We should be past expecting someone to bail us out every time we need to unjam a piece of paper, save a photo, use email, or any other routine aspect of our work. (This advice does not necessarily extend to setting the clock on your electronic equipment at home.)

June 26th, 2011 Posted by | Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 3 comments

Ownership, Mountain West Farm Bureau Insurance Company–and You

                                                          Is Ownership Part of Your Character?

 The history of an inspiring company culture: In 1946, the Wyoming Farm Bureau organized an insurance committee to see if it would be feasible to establish an automobile insurance company for its members.  The idea became a reality and for 60 years there has been a great multi-line insurance and financial resource available to people in Wyoming and Montana. I have had the privilege of working with Mountain West Farm Bureau Insurance on several occasions. I was first introduced to the great team there by Cindy Romero, Vice President of Operations, in Laramie, at their handsome–even though windswept–headquarters. I’ve also enjoyed working with Jeff Suloff, Vice President of Claims.

CEO Roy Schmett, one of the other many nice MWFBI people I’ve met, speaks of the Mountain West culture with pride.  It’s a culture that we would be wise to hold and represent in all we do.  It includes: Honesty and Integrity, Teamwork, being Solution Driven, and the component that particularly impressed me: Ownership.  Here is what Mountain West Farm Bureau Insurance says about that concept (I’ve added some italics to emphasize the parts that would be so refreshing if we found it in others and if we developed it ourselves.)

Our organization is only as successful as the people who comprise it. To be successful, we show up and go about our work without coaxing. We do what we say we will do, and we finish what we start. We accept total accountability for our behavior and never blame someone or something else for our actions or our results. We own the work we process, the problems we encounter and the relationships in which we are a part. Our fellow employees, agents, members and policy holders can always depend on us to be there for them.

Does that describe you? Every person you supervise? Your team or work group? You know you have work to do if there is a lot of talk that sounds as though people see themselves as victims of the system, the organization, customers or clients or unpleasant coworkers. Those are valid concerns, but a sense of ownership and appropriate actions are needed to find solutions.

If you drive into Laramie from I-80 you will see the Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance company building. It’s the work home of some great people who are working to keep the culture of ownership alive and well. You and I should be doing the same thing!

June 9th, 2011 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 4 comments

Playing Favorites as a Manager

Who Are The Favorites At Your Work? 

President Lyndon Johnson’s comment applies to the way some managers treat employees:

“There are no favorites in my office. I treat everyone with the same general inconsideration.”

Most other managers have to work at not seeming to favor one or two employees over others. Sometimes there are no favored employees but there are employees who are definitely out of favor and that is even more of a challenge.

What makes favorites?

  • Some people are just more pleasant to be around than others. These employees are often favorites with employees at all levels.
  • When the employee and the manager have things in common outside of work, there is a tendency to gravitate to that employee for conversation.
  • If a supervisor or manager has had a long and positive history with one or two employees there tends to be a connection and loyalty.
  • Some employees have proven themselves to be more dependable, trustworthy and skillful than others, so it’s logical for the manager to seek their thoughts first.
  • Some employees have ingratiated themselves to managers by being a source of information about employees or by saying what the manager wants to hear. Sometimes there are inappropriate personal relationships.

Even if every employee is equally competent and pleasant and there are no nefarious circumstances, a supervisor or manager will probably have an affinity for one or two employees over others because of shared work experiences, similar communication styles or for some other reason. (The same thing applies to coworkers.)

How is it shown? Usually it’s very obvious who the favorites are at work. Sometimes its not a cause for conflict, but carried to extreme it nearly always is. That’s why supervisors and managers need to avoid the actions that send that message:

  • Frequent lunches or breaks with the favored employee and rarely with anyone else.
  • More conversations, laughing and personal talk.
  • Spending time together away from work.
  • The favored person is often seen in the boss’s office, apparently only chatting or talking about non-work issues. 
  • The favored person seems to have more influence and is given rewards in assignments, working conditions or other perks.
  • When the favorite makes a mistake the manager accepts excuses more easily than he or she would from others.

What is the result? The more someone is treated as a favorite and someone else is not, the more likely it is that the individuals involved will do things to reinforce the manger’s feelings. There are other negative results as well:

  • It becomes a source of gossip and speculation, which detracts from the focus on work.
  • Sometime the favored person is rejected by coworkers.
  • Sometimes the unfavored person is pushed out even more by coworkers because they sense the weakened situation.
  • The favored employee often is able to get by with things that others would not.
  • If an employee feels rejected or pushed out by the manager, it can cause anger, frustration or depression. It can create stress and lead to many emotional, health and work problems. Any existing problems will probably get worse.
  • It weakens the reputation and leadership of the manager or supervisor to be seen as playing favorites.

How can a manager or supervisor avoid the appearance of favoritism?

  • Be purposeful about communications at work.  Ensure that you have a mix of conversations with everyone. Don’t make it all fun with one employee and all unpleasant work topics with another.
  • Rotate through all employees for going to coffee or lunch or taking them along to meetings. Go with two employees at a time if you can’t bring yourself to spend half an hour alone with Greg the Griper.
  • Watch the non-verbal communication. If you smile at Laura every time you see her, but keep walking when you see Karen, it will be noticed. If you defer to Bob in meetings but usually read your notes when Bill is talking, that will be noticed too.
  • Ask for another opinion when making decisions that you know might appear to be for a favored employee or long-time friend or against a non-favored person. Seeking another opinion is a documentable action that can be very helpful if there are questions about your decision.

The bottom line: Every workplace is different, so what indicates favoritism in one may not be the same as in another. How to avoid it and fix it may vary as well. The point is to not let your bias toward or against any employee or group of employees be obvious.

You may not feel the same way about all employees; you may have very good reasons for having more positive feelings about one than another; you may not be able to conceal your personal preferences completely. But, it’s wrong and harmful to the workplace to give the impression that you have your own personal caste sytem.

March 25th, 2011 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 5 comments

Secretary–Administrative Assistant–Administrative Professional–Whatever, Show Appreciation.

No, it’s not Administrative Professionals Day (that is on April 27th in 2011). But, the work of an “admin” goes on…and on…and on, every day.  I’m not suggesting you run out today and buy flowers, a plant, or take the AA in your office to lunch–although those are good ideas. Instead, I’m suggesting that everyone who works in a workplace with AAs, secretaries, clerks or other administrative functions, should be aware of the quantity of work being done, sensitive to the hassles, frustrations and irritations that are often part of that work, and should take overt action to include administrative specialists as a respected part of the team.

Times have certainly changed since this supposedly genuine advertisement, which appears to be from the early 1960s. (I don’t usually trust these unless I have taken them from the magazine myself, but this one seems to be real.  If you have information about it, let me know. I can verify that it reflects some of the thinking of the era.) For many employees (usually females) the general philosophy still continues, along with a  much lower salary than for those who rely on them for a wide range of work. Those AAs don’t need patronizing sympathy or to be told they’re Wonder Woman. Nor do they need new titles (Managing Associate of Administrative Technology). What would mean more to them is a salary that reflects the importance of their roles and respectful treatment by coworkers at all levels.

It Works Both Ways

It is also true that there are some administrative assistants who seem to have taken on the authority of their bosses and reflect it poorly. So, if they work for someone who has the organizational clout to give orders, they do as well, only in disruptive or unhelpful ways. Most of us know someone in an AA role who is avoided and tip-toed around even though she’s unpleasant, because she works for someone high up. That’s as wrong as going to the other extreme and should be handled as we would any habitually discourteous behavior. (Just be sure you’re equally quick to halt the behavior of those who are discourteous to the AA.)

Administrative Staff Are Part Of The Team

*Show some sensitivity and empathy about how and when you ask for assistance or assign work. The fact that you’ve procrastinated isn’t a reason for the AA to stay late or miss a break or lunch.

*It’s irritating and offensive to repeatedly toss something on someones desk as you breeze out the door for an early and long lunch time or when you’re going home early but they have to stay to keep the office open. Think about timing and tone of voice as well as your overall demeanor when you require assistance.  

*Don’t let anyone be rude to coworkers who don’t have the same organizational standing as they do. Most AAs tend to feel they can’t speak up or push back, no matter how rude someone is to them. Those that do can be labeled as difficult to deal with. (See It Works Both Ways, above.) Don’t just sympathize about it, say something if you have the status to do so or at least encourage the AA to talk to her own manager about it–or talk to him or her yourself.  

*Be respectful about what is expected of AAs in your office, especially when other employees could just as well be doing the work. For example, not all administrative staff members want to put up holiday decorations. That’s almost certainly not part of a job description and not the best use of time.  In some offices AAs are expected to get all of their work done while still preparing birthday parties, promotion ceremonies and similar functions, without any significant assistance. You be the one who assists or gets others to help you. Better yet, do it all without the AA for a change and let her enjoy the function.

*Avoid the 1960-and-before-approach that the AA’s job is to make the life of others easy, especially about manual labor, domestic type activities or unpleasant chores.  For example, a middle-manager purposely took time off while his office was being re-carpeted and repainted and left the AA a long list of instructions for taking everything down and moving it out, then having it all put back exactly right when he returned. Because of the painter’s schedules the AA had to get child care and come in on the weekend to make it perfect before the manager walked in the door on Monday morning.  I realize that task could be considered part of her work, but doggone it, that’s just not right!  

*When the administrative employee is likely to have insight about various aspect of work, include her or him in your conversations about it. At least ask and listen. Often administrative people have a much bigger picture than others, because they see it from a variety of perspectives.

The bottom line is to think about your administrative team as an integral part of the larger team. Think of individuals as strong contributors in many ways that can benefit effectiveness. Don’t diminish that by reducing their status, even inadvertently and even now and then.

Nice idea, but horrible poetry!

March 19th, 2011 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 11 comments

King Auto Group, Rich Knowlton and Your Work

When my neighbor and former work colleague, Larry Homenick, wanted to purchase a 2011 GMC Terrain he researched for some time and based on vehicle availability and price, went to King Auto Group in Longmont, Colorado. I went along for the fun of watching someone else spend money. By the end of the day Larry got an excellent deal on a GMC Terrain (Merlot Jewel color) with all the features–and I got to watch the outstanding people at King Auto Group in action. I also saw something that reminded me of how we all ought to do our work.

Good Work After the Sale Was Done

The sale was completed, detailing had been done and I was thinking the car looked shiny, clean and ready to go when Sales Manager, Rich Knowlton walked around the car, saw a bit of dust and tire shine over-spray, and said, “Don’t go yet. I see something I want to wipe off.” Within seconds he was inside and back outside with a towel and cleaner to make the car look perfect.  As he moved around the car, doing a last bit of polish and shine, I saw his smiling reflection on the door panel and thought about how he was reinforcing that our work reflects the real us more than anything we say. That is a recurring theme in everything I present and write about (as you may have noticed!) but someone like Rich Knowlton gives a visual image to prove the point.

The King Auto Group Lesson

I had a fun time at King Auto Group. Really! I got cards from Troy Haury, Brad Bohling, Ray France and Ken Paris (the sales associate who helped Larry) and listened to their conversations with customers and each other. I could tell they like working for the King Auto company and that they admire the family who owns it. The company has apparently built a culture that encourages employees to do great work and help people get the kind of car they want for a fair price. Then came the best part–when Rich put the final touches on the car and the transaction.   

Your Name, Face and Spirit Are Reflected In Your Work

The next time you have a job do to—whether it is a written project, a call for service, an investigation, an email, a meeting, working with employees or clients–remember the long-standing-but-still-true advice to think of it as being a reflection of the kind of person you are, your ethics and the way you can be trusted to do your work and live your life. While you’re at it, be like Rich Knowlton and smile while you are perfecting your reflection!

February 21st, 2011 Posted by | Keeping On!, Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 8 comments

The Simplify Challenge–Eliminate Some Work Requirements

Every business, office and function has requirements for internal and external customers, clients and vendors to follow. Many of those requirements are a perpetual source of bad feelings between those who are irritated at having to do them and those who are irritated at having to repeatedly ask to have them done. The complaints about some requirements will sound familiar to you, no matter which side of them you are on.

*Some seem to be illogical, impractical, unreasonable, excessively time consuming or costly to those who must comply.
*One organization or office will have a very easy 1-2-3 step process while another has a long, drawn-out, complicated process for exactly the same task.
*Most procedures and requirements are not reviewed or changed, even when the situations change.
*Rarely is an explanation given for a requirement. In fact, “That’s just the way we have to do it” is the usual apologetic comment.
*Requirements that seem to be only a preference without a purpose often become lines in the dirt between people and groups.
*Many procedures and processes were established to fix a problem that happened once or twice but could have been corrected another way.
*The person who complies is often penalized with the extra work while someone who simply doesn’t do what is required is helped anyway–indicating to everyone that the requirements weren’t necessary.

 Take the Challenge To Simplify Procedures and Processes

You may not have the authority to make changes on your own. However, perhaps you can consider ways to improve some aspect of a problematic process or talk with a manager or your team about it. We want that for the requirements we are required to follow and others feel the same way.

1. Start by focusing on the procedures with which you have the most problems gaining cooperation from users. If you can change the format, timeline, wording, number of copies required or just the length of a form, it shows a good faith effort to make life and work easier.

2. Consider the origin and purpose of the procedure and see if the situation is still the same. If a procedure was developed to stop a problem, consider if the elements of the problem still exist or if there are others ways to deal with it.

3. Ask for input from those who must comply with the requirements. Some may want no formal processes at all and that probably isn’t going to happen. Nevertheless, perhaps you can find out what is bothering them the most. You may be able to make huge gains in confidence and support by working with others instead of fighting with them over a form or requirement they hate. 

4. Don’t have Spite and Malice requirements. Ask yourself if part of the reason you’re insisting you can’t change the procedure is because you’re irritated at even being questioned about it. Could you make some changes without harming effectiveness?

A woman told me she is in a fight all the time with other sections in her organization over a process she established for a relatively minor task. They call her the Queen Bee. Talking about it to me she said, “I know they hate doing what a lowly clerk asks but if they don’t, they don’t get the items and I’ve said that’s the way I want it done, so there.” That was when I decided the bee part might actually be an initial and not the entire word!

Making vendors jump through hoops seems to be an entertainment for some organizations! It’s true that if they want to do business they will have to comply. However, it seems there would be a benefit to having vendors feeling positively rather than negatively about an organization when they do their work or provide their product.

5. Don’t require even one more step than is absolutely necessary. Question every blank to be filled, every requirement, every deadline date, every approval step, every everything. For example, if there is some part of the form that will contain exactly the same material from the same people every time, could you eliminate those sections?

6. Target anything you know or think might be a unique requirement of yours or of your office. Is it really necessary to require a hard copy be submitted, when almost every other office will accept an e-file or fax? Why does your office require a notarized form and no one else does? Are some of the requirements mostly because your own office doesn’t work effectively? Consider improving that problem without punishing other people or groups.  

7. Question (gasp!) the suggestions of attorneys, HR or others who are not considering internal or external customer service. Perhaps the attorneys or other experts could have suggested another more time-effective way if they had been told it was needed. Ask for options and see if the legal or HR resource can help you find some less convoluted methods.

8. If the procedure or some aspect of it is unassailable, explain your reasons to everyone now and then. Explain to help others understand not just to justify your decisions. Regularly thank those who comply. Never let someone get into the habit of cutting corners if the corners are really needed. A good test: If a task was able to be accomplished without your usual procedures and requirements being followed, you probably can do it that way all the time with only a few adjustments.

9. Communicate. If you are going to change a procedure, explain why to avoid seeming to be capricious. If you are adding a requirement, explain that as well. Be open to talking about it and doing some negotiating rather than making every requirement and procedure an open and shut case of “Just do it.”

10. Keep challenging yourself and those with whom you work. The odds are there are some or many things you require of internal and external clients and customers that could be reduced or eliminated without reducing quality, quantity or effectiveness. Try it this week. Then, mark your calendar for about once a quarter and take the Simplify Challenge.

February 5th, 2011 Posted by | Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 9 comments

Is There An Acceptable Excuse For Bad Work?

Unacceptable  Excuses

* “I know I said I’d remove your ruptured appendix today. But, with the holidays and taking some time off and things like that, I’ve been really, really busy. So, it looks like you’re going to need to give me a couple of weeks extension on that job. OK?” 

* “Herman felt really bad about not fixing your brakes, what with you having the accident and getting the broken neck and pelvis and all of that. Just between you and me, I think he’s having some problems at home right now, so you know how that goes.”

* “Yeah, I know you were overcharged $32.75 on your groceries. But, I think you’re overlooking all the times you’ve been charged the right amount.”

* “I know, I know, Mildred shouldn’t have gotten so busy that she forgot to issue your paycheck again this week. But, she said you really frowned at her when you asked her about it. So, it sounds like no one is blameless in this situation.”

Don’t you get tired of hearing excuses for
late work, bad work and no work? 

You don’t want to hear excuses when it comes to being a customer, client or patient.You sure don’t want to be blamed for problems! What you want is the work you paid for, done in a respectful way. That is what everyone wants, whether they are an internal or external customer. Some ways to ensure it:

*Don’t even consider the option of not doing work well and on time. If you are a manager, never let employees think it will be OK to do substandard work or to miss deadlines. If training is needed, work loads adjusted, time managed better or resources provided, that’s something you should work with employees about. But, the final work product should be done correctly by someone.

*Don’t let there be problems with your work. If you see problems developing, do something to fix them well before the deadline. Learn the knowledge and skills needed to do your job right, on time and in a way that builds good relationships with others.

*If you are responsible for the work of others, have an attitude of expectation that work will be done right.You can do that in a pleasant, professional and friendly way. Isn’t that what we think of leaders doing?

*Question a bit, to find out exactly what prevented work from being done correctly and on time. Don’t accept vague, non-specific excuses without finding out the facts. Then, work with the employee to develop the solution for next time and ensure it is implemented.

*Investigate when you are told that some other person or group caused the delay or the mistakes. Find out for sure what happened. If there were problems caused by others, do something to keep your employees from having to deal with that again–or help them learn to work through it.  However, don’t let them develop the habit of blaming, to get off the hook themselves.

*Don’t lower standards of performance and behavior. Do not, in the name of being understanding, allow poor work or late work to be acceptable, just so long as the employee has a reason or an excuse.  That’s not being unreasonably harsh. It’s what you’d want at the factory that made your car, the pharmacy where you get your prescription, the person who provides care for your children or the restaurant that prepares your food.

Make excellent work and effective communications the norm–not a surprise. Make excuses an unacceptable alternative for yourself and others.

“Oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.”
Shakespeare, in King John.

January 19th, 2011 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 11 comments

Time To Change Your Greeting Message

Think of how many voice messages you have received in the last year. Consider that every time you get a voice message, someone has listened to your recorded greeting. Start your new year with a fresh greeting message and keep it fresh.

Correct mumbles and misspeaks. When some of the same people call you repeatedly, they hear you repeatedly fumble your name, clear your throat or speak to someone in the background as you hang up. Record a new greeting that lets them hear you at your best.

Update your greeting and keep it current.  Some people record a new greeting every day. I did that for a time (and received compliments on it) but found it to be more trouble than I wanted to deal with. However, it’s oten necessary to change your messages for specific situations. 

“Hello, this is Mark Sanderson. It’s Tuesday, January 4th, and I’m traveling today. I’ll be returning calls tomorrow,  Wednesday, so please leave your message. Thanks!”

“Hi, this is Jan Rossoni. I’ll be out of the office and won’t be getting messages until February 10th. Paul Nabors will be happy to help you before then and he can be reached at 316-222-0570.  Otherwise, leave a message and I’ll call you back when I return in February. Thank you!”

If you do that kind of updating, call yourself and leave a reminder to change the message before business starts the day you return.

Give callers a fresh mental image of you. When your greeting sounds the same for months or years, frequent callers just wait to get to the spot where they can leave a message. When you occasionally have a fresh sound, even frequent callers tend to listen to it as though they are listening to you speak. Let them hear you as a dynamic person who is engaged in work, not a dull, recorded echo of you from two years ago.

General suggestions:

  • It sounds pretentious for anyone but the President or Donald Trump to have a secretary record the greeting.
  • Don’t pause after, “Hello.” People feel silly when they start talking, then realize it’s a recording. Well, I sure feel silly when I do that, anyway!
  • Say your greeting as though you’re really talking to someone, not as though you’re reading a script.
  • Catch phrases are usually unnecessary and a bit much. (“Have a GREAT day!” “Go Broncos!”  ) Get some input from a colleague about them.
  • Put a slight smile in your voice instead of sounding excessively stern.
  • Call yourself to hear what others hear.  For example, there is no point in saying something that an automated message repeats after your personal message.

The bottom line: Your voice message is you to those who call. Let them hear the best, current you.

January 4th, 2011 Posted by | Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 7 comments

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