Whenever I meet people I’m inspired by, I always try to understand how they do what they do. Among many questions I ask one is “What book that you read was the most influential on you?”. I take the time to read it as well and reflect. If I have an opportunity to discuss it with that person and ask questions I always do so. For me the fundamental purpose of life is to keep learning – keep improving – keep sharing what you know and creating something new… bringing value to people around you and the society as a whole.

My peer, who I respect tremendously, has recently pointed out the book he said was life-changing for him called “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. I later learned that ideas in that book came from the ancient Toltec wisdom of the native people of Southern Mexico. The Toltec were ‘people of knowledge’ – scientists and artists who created a society to explore and conserve the traditional spiritual knowledge and practices of their ancestors. The Toltec viewed science and spirit as part of the same entity, believing that all energy – material or ethereal – is derived from and governed by the universe. The simple ideas of The Four Agreements provide an inspirational code for life; a personal development model, and a template for personal development, behavior, communications and relationships. Here is how Don Miguel Ruiz summaries ‘The Four Agreements':

Agreement 1: Be impeccable with your word

  • Speak with integrity.
  • Say only what you mean.
  • Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
  • Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Agreement 2: Don’t take anything personally

  • Nothing others do is because of you.
  • What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.
  • When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Agreement 3:  Don’t make assumptions

  • Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.
  • Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.
  • With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Agreement 4: Always do your best

  • Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.
  • Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

As I read the book I can’t help but draw parallels to my personal and professional experiences. I see each agreement being relevant to IT Service Provider Organizations,where the objective should be to build an amazing Customer Experience through people-first culture.

I’m happy to be blogging again… I’m sorry it has been awhile :-)

The subject of Team Building has fascinated me for many years. I was blessed to have an opportunity to lead many different teams across different cultures, backgrounds and generations. I still keep learning something new every day while discovering things I never thought of.

Many say the most important trait of a strong team is commitment. Commitment to put the team’s interests first and willingness of each member to help each other to become everything they can be. A winning attitude is “I’ll forget my own immediate gratification to help a team member succeed, because I know the personal joy that I experience helping my teammates.”

Now the big question is – How do you build such dynamics and keep the fire burning?

I read an interesting book by Patrick Lencioni called “Five Dysfunctions Of A Team” and wanted to share the slide show prepared by Dr. David Packer prepared based on that book.

Hello everyone!

The year went by extremely quickly and it’s time for another HostingCon Conference! We are less than a week away! This year it’s taking place in Boston, and the list of presenters and sponsors is amazing.

I’ll be speaking  on Wednesday, July 18th at 9am on the subject of “Service Cloud”. If you are attending make sure to join me for this exciting session. I promise it will be engaging and you are to take away a lot of useful information.

Check out my Q&A with HostingCon where I expand a bit on the subject of Service Delivery via the Cloud.

Hope to see you in Boston!

Elya

HostingCon 2012 Speaker: Join Me There!

I recently started to contribute for one and only WebHost Industy Review on the subject of Customer Care. I’m super excited to have that opportunity. Please check out the posts: http://www.thewhir.com/blog/profile/elya-mccleave

You may be familiar with Michael Lewis, author of Money Ball, a look inside the world of major league baseball. Since then Lewis turned his attention to football, with the release of his book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.” I didn’t read the book yet, but watched the movie and really enjoyed it.

Lewis tells the story of Michael Oher who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee. He’s uneducated, shy and raised by a drug-addicted mother. He has quite a physical presence: 6’5ft tall and 350 pounds, but never played football. Thanks to certain improbable circumstances Michael ended up attending an exclusive Christian School, and a wealthy family took him in, to tutor, nurture and make him one of their own. They also got Michel to play football – he was now destined for greatness and riches in the NFL.

Michael’s position was left offensive tackle, which protects the blind side of a right-handed quarterback.  “I’ve got you covered.” That’s what a left-tackle is supposed to do. Give the quarterback the time to get the throw off to his receivers. It’s all about protection…

In one of the interviews, Lewis said, “It became very clear to me that if Michael hadn’t crossed out of poor, Memphis and made his way into rich, Memphis, he never would have been discovered. If he hadn’t been protected by this affluent and savvy family, his career probably would’ve been over before it really started.” That family was distended to appear in Michal’s life to protect him, to have his blind side covered. Michel then went ahead to help others on and off the football filed.

Who’s got you covered? And who are you covering? I truly believe we (people) all need each other. You need someone else protecting your blind side – and someone else needs your encouragement and protection also.

For a leader of an organization it carries so much more power and meaning. You are in the position to change lives. It’s a huge responsibility, but can have tremendous rewords. Perhaps that’s what leadership is all about – holding a position of an offensive tackle, protecting the blind side of the team you are responsible for and with that letting them do the same for your clients.  Some of the principles I follow while working with my teams are:

1)  Be there – make sure your team knows you are there for them every step of the way

2)  Be able to ask tough questions and make tough decisions  – it’s not about being a “nice guy”, but being fair

3)  Stay inspired – if the leader is burnt out, the team shall follow the same footsteps. You need to do everything you can to keep the fire burning, and if you are unable – remove yourself and let someone else to step up.

Go to the people. Learn from them. Live with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. The best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will say we have done it ourselves.”  -Lao Tzu

My mom just sent me an interesting story, I thought I’d share with you… I shall never look at coffee the same way again :)

A daughter complained to her father about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose. Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a gas burner. Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the second he placed eggs, and the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

The daughter impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. In about twenty minutes he got up and turned off the burners. He fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He took the eggs out and placed them a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her he asked. “Darling, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. She asked. “What does it mean Father?” He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity, boiling water, but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. But after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

How about you? Are you the carrot that seems hard, but with pain and adversity do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength? Are you the egg, which starts off with a malleable heart? Were you a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, or a layoff have you become hardened and stiff? Your shell looks the same, but are you bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and heart? Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean changes the hot water, the thing that is bringing the pain. When the water gets the hottest, it just tastes better. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and make things better around you.

“Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.” -Plato

The first step is to understand where anger and abusive behavior comes from. People who get emotionally upset tend to forget the methods that are appropriate when dealing with an uncomfortable or unfavorable situation.

When people are infants, they are programmed, instinctively, with methods of getting what they need without knowing how to speak. Adults will regress to this state, in one way or another, when they are faced with a problem that upsets them emotionally or puts them in a position of helplessness. It is important to note the phrase “in one way or another”. Some people handle themselves better than others, depending on how well they can deal with things, without getting emotionally upset.

I would like to review some of the points made by Robert Bacal in his book “Defusing Hostile Customers“. I hope you find this information useful next time you deal with an abuse client.

Some Definitions

Anger

Anger refers to an internal state (feeling) experienced by the person in question. An angry
person experiences some physiological changes, some invisible and some visible. There
are some important things to note about anger, and angry people.

1. People choose their own emotional states. That is, their feelings of anger, or for that
matter, any other feelings, belongs to them. As such, those feelings are not your
responsibility. What is your responsibility, however, is to ensure that you don’t
knowingly or unknowingly do something they choose to take as anger provoking.

2. We need to accept the fact that people will be angry, at times. They have a right to be
angry when they choose. What they do not have a right to do is to take out their anger on
you, particularly when you have done nothing to contribute to it.

Angry Behavior

People express their anger in various ways. Most angry people will raise their voice or
become more animated. Mild expressions of anger are simply ways a person vents a little
steam. As with the feeling of anger, we need to be reasonable in terms of what offends us,
and allow the angry person some latitude in behavior before we deem the behavior
unacceptable.

There is a clear reason for this. If we allow ourselves to be offended every time we
encounter angry behavior, we are going to be pretty miserable and, in turn, ineffective in
dealing with just about everyone. The problem with angry customers is not the anger in
itself but rather the hostile/abusive behavior that sometimes accompanies it.

People choose their own emotional states. That is, their feeling of anger, or for that
matter, any other feeling, belongs to them.

Hostile/Abusive Behavior

What sets apart hostile/abusive behavior from angry behavior is that hostile/abusive
behavior is intended, consciously or subconsciously to have some or all of the following
effects:
– put you off balance
– manipulate and control you
– demean you in some way
– cause you to feel guilty
– intimidate you

It is this kind of behavior that causes the greatest amount of stress for most employees.
While we may tolerate some degree of angry behavior without being concerned, we need
to be concerned about hostile/abusive behaviors. We want to stop these behaviors as
professionally as possible. If we can, at the same time, reduce the anger of the client,
that’s great. If we can’t, we need to recognize that the anger belongs to the client.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse takes a great many forms, from very subtle, to very obvious. Here when we talk about verbal abuse, we refer to behaviors like the following:
– persistent swearing
– yelling
– sexist comments (both explicit and implied)
– racist comments (both explicit and implied)
– irrelevant personal remarks (e.g. about you or your personality in particular)
– personal threats (e.g. I will have you fired).
– intimidating silence
– accusations of various sorts (e.g. calling you a racist)
– comments about your competency, knowledge, dedication, etc.

These behaviors are intended to demean and control you. Don’t be trapped by these
tactics used to bait you.

Non-Verbal Abuse

However rare it is, to deal with an angry or abusive customer who is actually in the
office, it should be mentioned nonetheless. Nonverbal abuse refers to behavior that has
nothing to do with what is said, but has to do with things like body posture, facial
expressions, gestures, etc. Nonverbal abuse is intended to send a message or messages to
you, such as “I don’t like you”, or, “I am fed up”, or even “In my eyes you aren’t worth
anything”. When we talk about nonverbal abuse we refer to behaviors such as:
– standing in your personal space staring at you (long eye contact)
– throwing things
– leaning over you (using height)
– fearsome facial expressions
– loud sighing
– pointing, other offensive gestures

Sometimes, these behaviors may not be intended to intimidate or demean you, and may
be a relatively normal way of expressing anger. However, we classify them as abusive,
because they do tend to have a manipulating effect on you.
As with verbal abuse, we want to take steps to stop these behaviors used to bait us.

Do Not Be Baited

If a customer is truly attacking you, they will likely bait you immediately. A customer
may call and when they get someone start with something like “What the hell is wrong
with you. Every time I come here, you hassle me and give me the runaround If you knew
what you were doing, this wouldn’t happen. And, this is the last time you are going to do
this to me.” This type of statement is meant to bait you into being defensive and to
ultimately control you and your behavior.

If you are being baited, be sure to remove yourself from the situation and not take it as a
personal attack. Don’t allow yourself to fire back in your own defense. Instead, it is
better to commiserate with the customer, ask why they are so upset and ask them how
you can help resolve the reason they are upset.

If you do what the abusive customer expects, such as reply defensively, the attacker will
continue to attack you in order to get what they want while making you feel abused
and/or frustrated. They may also be also able to manipulate you into doing something
you aren’t supposed to do.

Keep The Problem From Getting Worse!

We should not bait a customer, even in return or retaliation of what they may have done
to us. An angry or abusive situation will escalate if a customer feels as if there are no
options or they are trapped in a bad situation. The situation can also escalate if you feel
any of these as well. If an escalation cycle during a conversation or other electronic
exchange is not interrupted it can quickly get out of hand and cause those involved to say
and do things that can ultimately damage the other party in some way. For instance, if a
customer gets angry enough they may post something negative on a public forum about
our company. This is usually the result of a customer feeling trapped in a bad situation or
as if they have no other options and unable to resolve the issue with us directly.
Customers ultimately want you to fix whatever problem it is that they have. Sometimes
this is simply not possible. What will also help in this situation is if you can offer
helpfulness to at least try and perhaps have someone else resolve the problem, give them
some choices of other ways to get around the issue and/or at the very least acknowledge
their situation and feelings about the problem at hand.

“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.” -David Caruso

It has been very busy few months; I left the beautiful island of Oahu and moved to the east coast (Toronto, ON). It was tough to say good bye to magical Hawaii and all of the amazing people I met, but for the professional reasons I had to persevere. New city, new job, new life… same old nerdy and sporty me :)

I have some news – I will be presenting at the HostingCon 2001 Conference next week in San Diego, CA. My talk is at 9am on Wednesday. If you are attending, it is definitely worth checking out!

I will discuss methods for achieving higher rates of customer satisfaction, including some of the new initiatives introduced at SoftCom around customer engagement, public ratings improvement and staff training. You will find out what it really means to focus on your clients as the key to the competitive advantage.

I hope to see you all there!

I  recently joined Frank Kern’s army of fans. Not only he is great selling and marketing things, but he is also quite entertaining. It all started with me watching his early Mass Control presentation and another on Core Influence, which I thought was the better of the two and the one I want to talk about now.

–          Have you ever attended a sales pitch where the presenter said all the right things, used the right body language, the right arguments to pursue you… but there still was something off? .. as the result you didn’t buy the product.

–          Have you ever had a “flow” when everything went extremely well… You met the right people, said that right things… and you thought to yourself “Damn I wish every day was like this!”?

Frank argues, that there are two identities (two versions) of ourselves we all need to be aware of:

1) Shell Identity – walks around every day

2) Core Identity – true identity. The person we day dream about and want to be

The core Identity is held captive due to the circumstances and lack of knowledge. We don’t spend enough time figuring out our core identity and the core identity of our customers. If we did focus on that, the skills of Core Influence would be easy to obtain.

Core Influence comes from the Core Connection/Communication. That happens when you are congruent with your true identity. You are on the same plane with your “audience”  –  you match. Your influence is seamless and not forceful, because you speak to them on the core level. Sky is the limit!

Let’s break it down further … There are two questions to ask:

1)      What you REALLY want and who you REALLY are

2)      What your market REALLY wants and who they REALLY are

Before you can focus on your customers, start with yourself. Discover your true identity! Wake up! Remember that our deepest core desires give clues to our core identity. For example ask yourself why you are here at this moment reading this blog. If it’s knowledge you seek… ask yourself “Why?”

We all want to create and perpetuate experiences. Things are meaningless. A person who drives a Ferrari, it  is not the car (thing) he/she is after… but the feeling (experience) it would provide.  When a family buys a new home, they are not buying “things” but the new life the family will experience in that new home.

The trick is to align your brain and your subconscious:  E + I = L

Experience (E) – We don’t crave things… We crave the experiences the things give us

Identity (I) – Our experiences, believes and values create our identity… Communication comes from our Identity.

Life (L) – Our experiences and Identity work together to form our life.

So how can we go about creating the new life.. the perfect life?

Well the good news is we are all dying! If we all l live an average of 40 more years we’ve got 14,600 more days to go before we are dead. Our life is made up of individual days.  So  to design the perfect life and create your core influence you start with a PERFECT DAY. Yes, individual day holds a key to what you really want.

Exercise:

Answer this question “If there were no Limitations or Consequences what would your Average day look like?”

Limitations: Financial, geographical, health, limiting people, etc.

Consequences: Stuff that could get you “Into trouble”

Average day: You could do it every day and not get sick of it.

Don’t think about stuff think about experiences… The following questions should help

–          Where would you live?

–          What you house would like?

–          What time would you wake up?

–          What would you have for breakfast?

–          What would you do next?

–          What would you have for lunch?

–          Who would you have it with?

–          What would you talk about?

The more detail you are the more profound your results would be.

Biggest stuff:

–          What would you do for personal fulfillment?

–          What life purpose would you strive towards?

–          What would your business be?

–          What time would you start work?

–          What would you actually DO at work?

Really Big stuff:

–          What your relationships with people around you are like?

–          What would you do for family time?

–          What would you have for dinner? Yes! That’s important

–          Where would you eat?

–          Who would you eat it with?

–          What would you talk about?

Wiring Down:

–          What would you do at night?

–          Who would you do it with?

–          Where would you be?

–          What would your thoughts be as you went to sleep.

Notice these questions are all built on desired experiences.. not goals. Remember that our experiences help shape our Identity. Try this exercise, and next time we shall answer the second question from Frank  “What your market REALLY wants and who they REALLY are”

“Repetition is the mother of all Skill” – Tony Robbins

I am a firm believer that each and every one of us holds the key to his/her destiny.  My outlook on 2011 at the end of December will be affected by how I managed the year’s opportunities and challenges.  At the same time, either we like it or not, we are affected by global events and trends.

I recently came across an interesting article by an executive leadership coach John M McKee, where he pointed out  five mega trends he thought would impact most of us in 2011.

If you’re thoughtful and strategic, the odds are better that you’ll be celebrating a good year. If not — or if you try to ignore the big stuff — you may find this new year to be rough. With that in mind, here are five megatrends that Mr. McKee expects will affect us all, one way or another:

1. The global recovery is for real – Although threats remain, and some regions will take longer to return to “normal,” we’re past the worst of it. Expect organizations to start acquiring and increase hiring (although that will be more part timers than in the past). The stock market, after two great growth years, will continue to pay off for smart investors. The United States will continue to keep the currency value down. As of today, Canada’s buck is at parity, and the OZ $ and the Yen have been greatly impacted as well.

2. Wellness takes the stage – Good health will become more of a status symbol than ever before. Those who continue to be sloths (even great performers) will lose “value” internally at corporations, while healthy looking individuals who appear to have greater stamina will move ahead more quickly. Organizations that market health or wellness products that can fix ailments or prevent misery will grow faster as consumers seek to be seen as healthy and wise. Outdoor activity will become more “status-y.”

3. BRIC grows more important – The countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China will affect everyone, worldwide, even more. Investments in people, facilities, natural resources, and infrastructure will continue at the current fast pace in many areas of these countries. At the same time, “older” (in terms of the twentieth-century growth) countries of the Western world will be cutting back on similar spending for years to come as they try to deal with debt management.

4. EnGen Era is on the rise - In the Western countries, the end of gender wars is nearing an end. A new era where gender roles and lifestyle are less rigid is spilling across all aspects of life. In the United States especially, there is much higher male unemployment, and consequently the “bread winners” are more frequently female. Additionally younger people still want children, and there’s greater awareness that old role models were pretty fictitious anyway. With this comes greater integration of tech and art on the job front.

5. World continues love/hate relationship with the United States - Many people around the world enjoyed watching the struggles experienced by the United States over the past two years. It’s almost like when you see an uppity person slip on a patch of ice and fall on his tail. It’s a “They got what was due to them” kind of thing. And yet, when I deal with my clients, subscribers, and colleagues around the world, it’s still very clear that there are many things about the States that they deeply admire and desire. Additionally, the United States accounts for 1/4 of the world’s economy. It invests in fighting wars, at least partially, to prevent horrible situations for poor people and/or women in other parts of the world.”

“The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.” - Albert Einstein

It’s been proven that 85% of your success in life will come from your ability to communicate and interact effectively with others. If you hold a position where you have to be able to use “OPK” (other people’s knowledge) and “OPE” (other people’s effort or energy, or enthusiasm) – effective communication is the the most important skill to posses.

Extensive amount of research has been done and specific behaviors and mind sets that lead to high performance, working well with other people, and effective communication were found among managers. If you plan to reach the top of your industry, you need to know and practice these traits in everything you do that affects the people around you.

The very best managers are clear about what they want and expect. The staff has to know what they are supposed to do, and when they are supposed to do it and to what standard. The greatest demorolizer by far is when a team doesn’t know what’s expected. It’s amazing to to see some managers become angry and upset when people do not do the job they expected and then it becomes clear that the people doing the work have no idea what it was that the manager was looking for.

The second characteristic of the very best managers is a high consideration factor. The employees need to feel that the boss cares about them as people rather than just as employees. They need to feel that the boss looked upon them as friends and was kind and considerate to them as individuals, as well as employees.

The question is – How can a manager be caring, and constructive while driving high performance and making sure the job gets done..  gets done well and on time?

The feedback of course has to be provided, but there is a fine line between constructive feedback and criticism. One of the most successful coaches in the world Brian Tracy said “Psychologically, destructive criticism is the greatest destroyer of human beings ever imagined. If a person is severely criticized as a child, the person can be destroyed emotionally for the next 50 years. Destructive criticism has acted very much like a reverse neutron bomb in the field of human personality. A neutron bomb destroys all the people but leaves the buildings intact. A reverse neutron bomb, in the form of destructive criticism, destroys the person but leaves them alive and walking around, an emotional and psychological danger both to themselves and others.”

Here are some tips from Mr. Tracy on providing performance feedback (and let me tell you they work):

  • Whenever you have a situation where the job is not being done to your satisfaction, begin by asking questions and getting the facts, in advance. Don’t ever assume or leap to conclusions about a performance problem. Very often, you will find that what appears to be a person dropping the ball is a new and even better way of doing the job. Take your time and get the facts before you react.
  • A good starting point is  to assume the very best of intentions on the part of everyone around you. Assume that they are acting on the best information they have and they are using their talents and skills the very best way they know how. Assume that any mistake that has been made has been the result of miscommunication or misunderstanding of instructions or expectations.
  • Focus on the future over the past – the past is inherently negative. Nothing can be done about the past, so continually harping on the past and reminding a person that they did poorly in the past only makes a person feel badly about himself or herself. In a way, the person feels angry and trapped because the past is like spilled milk, it cannot be redone.
  • The purpose of the evaluation is to give the individual valuable inputs and ideas he or she can use to be better next time. Positive people think about the future and think about solutions. Negative people focus on the past and concentrate on who is to blame.
  • When a person has made a mistake, be sure to criticize the performance, not the person. Talk about the job or the work as if it were something neutral, like a book sitting on the desk or table between you. Instead of saying, “You made a mistake,” you can say, “This job is not being done the way we expect it.”
  • At the end of any session of performance improvement, you should reaffirm your belief and confidence in the other person.

“Everything that you do or say helps or hurts. Everything adds up or takes away. Everything either builds a high trust, high performance environment or detracts from it. Nothing is neutral. Everything counts!”
– Brian Tracy