Tips for Self-Refection

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1One of the most helpful tips provided to me in improving my mental health has been to engage in self-reflection.  However, the tip did not come with any other instruction than to engage in self-reflection.  Thus, I provide the following for those who are like me who need a little more than simply being told to “self-reflect more.”  Please note, self-reflection is not complicated, does not require any special tools, and is only contingent upon starting.  The following is a practical guide to helping to spur starting!  It’s that Missouri mindset, I just cannot get away from it!

Self-reflection can be guided and unguided.  For the novice, guided self-reflection is a good place to begin to learn to self-reflect and grow into unguided self-reflection.  Some people will consider self-reflection meditation, and while I fully admit meditation and self-reflection have many similarities, they are different.  Others try to inject religious overtones into self-reflection, and I fully admit self-reflection is used in many religions across the globe to improve worship services; I am not venturing into the religious aspects of religious self-reflection.

If you would like to explore the topics of meditation and religious self-reflection, I know several good resources; don’t hesitate to get in touch with me outside this forum for those resources.

Guided Self-Reflection

Deep PoetryGuided self-reflection is as simple as journaling your thoughts on a specific topic.  Yes, it is that simple.  There is nothing complicated or crazy, no gurus, no chanting (unless you want to), simply writing down your thoughts on a single topic.  The idea is to focus your mind on sticking to a single topic and write.  I find pen and paper the most challenging medium and one that I cannot reliably, methodically, and consistently adhere to, so I use a keyboard and keep a journal in MS Word.

At the beginning of guided self-reflection, C. S. Lewis 365-Journal Topics was a book I picked up, and it helped inspire journal topics to consider.  Thus, the guided aspect of journaling, using the thoughts of others to marshal your thoughts and write them down.  Making your thoughts known is vital to better understanding you.  Please note, the blank page is intimidating; thus, novice self-reflection is enhanced with motivating forces of religious texts, quotes, jokes, memes, political feelings, news stories, etc.  All of which is fodder for getting the thoughts in your head onto paper for later review.

Unguided Self-Reflection

Free-flow writing, I unguided self-reflection and is where no longer is the blank page intimidating.  More to the point, unguided self-reflection occurs where the mind enters a period of peace or tranquility, recognized from journaling and reflects upon recent events surrounding you throughout the day, cataloging these events for later dissemination and discussion in your journal.  The advanced stage of unguided self-reflection occurs at different times and seasons for different people.  Some people go in cycles between guided and unguided self-reflection due to the chaos in their lives.  Other people move rapidly into unguided self-reflection and never return to guided self-reflection.  Some people stay in guided self-reflection; there is no right or wrong to self-reflection!

Tips to Self-Reflection

        1. Start!
        2. Find what works, and stick to it!
        3. Pick a time that works.
        4. Use what you have.
        5. Be you! – A friend keeps buying new technology, new note pads, new books, new etc., and never uses them. New isn’t them.

Be you!  Be real!  If you find yourself journaling on a paper bag with lots of doodles, keep the paper bag, and get more of them.  That is real self-reflection to you!

Some random thoughts on self-reflection.

In defense of writing with pen and paper - The WriterA friend from high school journaled (self-reflected) through their art.  Words could never come, but doodles and pictures were easy.  Each day their art was either beautiful or terrible, but always dramatic and eye-catching.  Most people learned to look at the book for the art before engaging in speech.  At the end of the assignment, the teacher freaked out trying to score the assignments for my friend; the art was expressive to the point that you could relate and feel what was felt that day.  I have never forgotten that art or its impact.

Simon Sinek wrote the book “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” self-reflection helps you to know your “why” to attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and so much more.  While I am not here to help Mr. Sinek sell more books, if you want a great resource to begin guided self-reflection, I do recommend this book.  You need to know your why.  Not knowing your why makes life more challenging, and your mind is easier to be manipulated by every wind of modern influence.  Knowing your why doesn’t necessarily make life easier, but it makes life easier to understand.  Understanding breeds compassion, empathy and allows you the freedom to make better choices.

10+ Best Sketch Drawing Ideas | Free & Premium TemplatesGeil Browning, Ph.D., in discussing reflective learning, talks about self-reflection and learning, providing counsel and essential guidance.  “Reflection is a deeper form of learning that allows us to retain every aspect of any experience, be it personal or professional — why something took place, what the impact was, whether it should happen again — as opposed to just remembering that it happened. It’s about tapping into every aspect of the experience, clarifying our thinking, and honing in on what matters to us.”  Practicing self-reflection takes discipline and intentionality. It requires pressing pause on the chaos of life and simply taking the time to think and ponder about life and the events of daily living, which is not easy for many people to do. But it’s a precious practice.

        1. “The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination… until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.” – Iyanla Vanzant
        2. “What we perceive about ourselves is greatly a reflection of how we will end up living our lives.” – Stephen Richards
        3. “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung25 Beautiful Rose Drawings and Paintings for your inspiration
        4. “It is always our self that we find at the end of the journey. The sooner we face that self, the better.” – Ella Maillart
        5. “I visualize where I wanted to be, what kind of player I wanted to become. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there.” – Michael Jordan
        6. “The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.” – William Makepeace Thackeray
        7. “Our self-image, strongly held, essentially determines what we become.” —Maxwell Maltz
        8. “One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.” —K.L. Toth
        9. “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.” —Marcus GarveyBeauty will save, Viola, Beauty in everything
        10. “Self-awareness gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes.” —Lawrence Bossidy
        11. ”The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.” —Michel Angelo
        12. “You cannot have a meaningful life without having self-reflection.” —Oprah Winfrey
        13. “Honest self-reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change, success, and freedom.” —Unknown
        14. ”Self-reflection is the school of wisdom.” – Baltasar Gracian
        15. “Doubt, not self-reflection, comes from a destructive energy, and when it rears its head, I talk to it like a lunatic.” —Gwyneth Paltrow
        16. “There is one art of which people should be masters – the art of reflection.” – Samuel Taylor ColeridgeArt journal spread "Who She Had Always Been"
        17. “Friendship with one’s self is all-important because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
        18. “Self-reflection entails asking yourself questions about your values, assessing your strengths and failures, thinking about your perceptions and interactions with others, and imagining where you want to take your life in the future.” – Robert L. Rosen
        19. “Emotions are there to enjoy life, but they are not used in self-reflection because they inhibit a proper reflection. They gunk us up.” – Frederick Lenz
        20. “Difficulty creates the opportunity for self-reflection and compassion.” – Suzan-Lori Parks
        21. “Self-reflection is the gateway to freedom. It also brings greater appreciation and enjoyment. We begin to enjoy spending time with our own minds, and we enjoy reflecting on our experience of the teachings. Like the sun emerging from behind the clouds.” – Dzigar Kongtrul RinpocheDecoArt - Mixed Media Blog - Project - Art Journaling the ...
        22. “It is great to be introspective; self-analysis can be useful, but only if it results in action.” —Joe Sacco (emphasis mine)
        23. “Your self-esteem won’t come from body parts. You need to step away from the mirror every once in a while and look for another reflection, like the one in the eyes of the people who love you and admire you.” – Stacy London
        24. “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius
        25. “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” – Margaret J. Wheatley
        26. “Self-reflection is an important stage to diagnose, develop and strengthen your creativity.” —Pearl Zhu
        27. “The ultimate mystery is one’s own self.” —Sammy Davis
        28. “To realize the Self is to be still.” —Ramana Maharshi
        29. “The self is only that which it is in the process of becoming.” —Kirkegaard
        30. “Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed; the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed.” —Indra Devi
        31. “Reflection is one of the most underused yet powerful tools for success.” – Richard Carlson
        32. “Reflection can transform something familiar.” – Diane L. DuntonReflections
        33. “We have so committed ourselves in different ways that we have hardly any time for self-reflection, to observe, to study.” —Jiddu Krishnamurti
        34. “Your greatest self has been waiting your whole life; don’t make it wait any longer.” —Dr. Steve Maraboli
        35. “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Bottle-Necks and Push-Back – Problems in Production Goal Attainment

Knowledge Check!Let me begin with an affirmation when you believe that a problem is insurmountable, you are 100% correct, and nothing will ever change.  If you tell me a problem is insurmountable, I will say to you BULL!  Every time!  Why; because if people built it, people can disassemble it.  We might have to push at it, swear at it, sweat at it, and kick at it some, but people can disassemble it!  When we believe no problem is insurmountable, we are more than ½-way to solving the problem!

At work right now, a colleague has a problem; trainers do not want to come in early and train new hires.  Because new hires cannot be trained in off-hours, his team is slipping in production goal attainment.  When he drops far enough, his regional bosses will decide more resources need to be spent, and public shaming begins to occur because public notice accompanies greater resource allocation.  The bottle-neck is training; the push-back comes from trainers.

Fishbone DiagramThe trainers are pushing back because they are already double and triple tasked to training new hires in two other more “important” departments.  Except, because those other departments are considered “more important,” production goals for the entire facility will never be met.  A core philosophy is missed; when quality fails, nobody meets production goals.  The vicious cycles keep going around; training cannot spare people to train quality, quality fails to meet goals, and production goals are missed due to training.

Exclamation MarkThere are times I have wished this was an isolated example; however, this repeats so often I should have cards made.  Breaking the training bottle-neck requires thinking outside the standard paradigm, or in more basic vernacular, get out of the box and start thinking anew!  While the following solutions are explicitly geared to fixing the training bottle-neck, the pattern for thinking is helpful as a conversation starter.  Start the conversation rolling!

Here’s some ideas:

  1. Off-hours shift training. Look at your operational schedules.  Do you have times when equipment is not operating, when the production floor is down, and when people can be trained?  Use that time!
        • I worked at a manufacturing facility where after the first three days of new-hire orientation, all manufacturing and warehouse employees worked the third shift for their first four months. Why?  Training could operate the floors and equipment and work around maintenance without crimping operational schedules or hindering production.  Then, new hires went onto the day shift where two extra managers could offer management-by-walk around for additional OJT.
        • I have observed warehouses where new hires work a split shift; they come in for 4-hours of training when nobody else is around but trainers, and then 4-hours when the rest of the warehouse is around—giving new hire equipment operators experience in operating in both a quiet environment and a busy environment.
        • The idea is to find times when you can safely train without hindering operation tempo. Use the calendar, use a shift rotation, be honest with people and be upfront on expectations and the reality of business needs.  Guess what, when you are honest, people respond!
  2. Appreciative Inquiry – Believe it or not, when you have a problem, a pressing business need, or an urgent issue, your people will pleasantly surprise you with solutions if you listen and act. Too often, I have been stunned ever to forget this lesson; people have brains and ideas, use them, give them credit, and watch them blossom into your best problem solvers!
  3. It should go without saying, treat people as the professionals you hired.
        • My first boss in supply chain quality control did not teach me basic stuff, e.g., this is a part, how you count the pieces, a SKU, etc. The boss presumed I knew or would ask questions, which saved both of us time and resources.  More to the point, by treating me as a professional, I grew into being a supply quality control officer and loved the job.  I have witnessed the opposite too often to know my experience is not the norm in supply chains, which is detestable.
        • You hired a professional; treat them as a professional. Set standards, show them, explain, train them, and build them into greater professionals, primarily by getting out of their way!
        • Encourage people never to stop learning through example!
  4. Who is your customer? Who are your vendors?  Who are your stakeholders?  Why is this information important?
        • Customer service is dead; however, if you do not know your customer, vendors, and stakeholders are, so is your business model!
        • Customer helping is alive and well; however, your business model is dead if you do not know your customer, vendors, and stakeholders!
        • Managers, let me give you a hint, your customer is your employees. When was the last time you got to know your customers?  When was the last time you helped your customers?  Why did you last help your customers?

LookWhen it comes to bottle-necks and push-back, knowing your customer is the first step in solving the bottle-neck and charting a positive path through push-back.  Consider my colleague, his customer are his employees needing training, his vendor is the training department, and the stakeholders are the rest of the business, those setting production goals, those relying upon his team meeting production goals, and ultimately the paying external customer.  Yet, my colleague, cannot see who his customer is, does not think of training as a vendor, and the rest of the business as a stakeholder, for this is not how he was trained.  Worse, his business unit refuses to accept this method of thinking to improve production goal attainment.

  1. Leadership must lead by first embracing new thinking and possibilities.

Previously in my career, it was a pleasure and adventure to be on a project where the leadership wanted a solution to their problem.  However, the leaders did not want to change, at all.  They wanted a solution, but refused to change in any shape, form, or method.  Worse, the leaders did not admit they did not want to change because they themselves had not considered that a solution would require change.  Thus, when the solution was delivered, it looked like a great idea, on paper.  But, the second it was implemented, reality bit, change was coming, and this scared the leadership team into panic mode.  Add in the coming economic downturn that had already started to hurt the company, and panic turned into a full-on disaster.

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1Leaders, it is imperative that you lead first by example personally, then by actions professionally, then only if necessary by words.  When you observe new thinking on an old idea, embrace that and see where it goes.  Even if the new idea fails, build people!  Production goals are about human efforts distilled into statistical symbols.  Never forget about the human element.  Build people, and you meet production goals.  Build quality into every single transaction, and you meet production goals.  Fail people, and you will never meet production goals!  Fail quality, and you will fail to meet production goals.

I cannot make this any simpler!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Working Man’s Ph.D.

cropped-tools.jpgIn 1993 one of the biggest hits was a song called “Working Man’s Ph.D.” sung by Aaron Tippin.  Aaron Tippin has the most colorful biography of all the country-western singers I know, including a commercial airline pilot, pipefitter, truck driver, welder, farmhand, and songwriter and singer.  The lyrics for the song “Working Man’s Ph.D.” form the backbone to the point of this article and as a means of honoring those who have well-earned their working man’s Ph.D.

You get up every morning ‘fore the sun comes up
Toss a lunchbox into a pickup truck
A long, hard day, sure ain’t much fun
But you’ve gotta get it started if you wanna get it done
You set your mind and roll up your sleeves
You’re workin’ on a working man’s Ph.D

Consider the following line especially, “you’ve gotta get it started if you wanna get it done; You set your mind and roll up your sleeves.”  How many times has grit been the only determining factor between starting and finishing a project?  Starters are many, but enders are few.  Those are the two elements for success, and every working man knows the recipe.  Get your mindset and start by rolling up your sleeves.  Preparation is key to finishing strong.20th Maine

Now, cast your mind to those who have never learned how to be a working man.  They have no grit, no ability to make up their minds, and cannot stand up to adversity and spit in adversity’s eyes.  Yet, they talk a good line.  They want you to think they know.  But the lines on their brow and the lack of callouses on their hands tell another story entirely.

Take a moment and consider your first blister.  Do you remember how you earned it?  Do you remember what you were doing the first time you felt that sting?  I do.  My first blister turned into my first and most lasting callous.  I was hoeing a row of peas in a garden; I was six.  I was told that a blister from working is the mark of a man learning how to work.  I earned that blister on a hoe handled that had been wrapped in duct tape to prevent splinters.  After that row of peas, there was a row of corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and lawns to mow.  By the end of the day, I was exhausted and sore, the blister was bloody, and I learned how to treat blisters so you could go to work the next day.Rocks

Let me tell you a secret; I love that blister and callous!  I have burned that callous on many a stove and pan.  I have cut that callous on several knives and received no injury.  I have softened that callous while wrestling sheep in a shearing pen.  I have milked cows and goats to the cows and goats’ misfortune with that callous.  That callous has taught me many a lesson, including how to get a blister under a callous.  In the middle of a cold winter, while splitting wood, that callous kept my hands sticking to the steel of the handle on the splitting maul.  That maul handle had been replaced so many times that my father had taken the splitting maul to work and replaced the wood with ½” steel tubing.  It heaviest splitting maul I ever used, but I never broke that handle off!

With your heart in your hands and the sweat on your brow
You build the things that really make the world go around
If it works, if it runs, if it lasts, for years
You bet your bottom dollar; it was made right here
With pride, honor, and dignity
From a man with a working man’s Ph.D

Consider something with me, think about your hardest task completed; what did you learn about “pride, honor, and dignity” about accomplishing that task?  Hard work taught you a lesson that ease and prosperity could never teach.  Lessons that you cannot pass along to another person except by teaching them the joys and pleasures of task accomplishment and hard work.  Yet, in the world today, so many want to look down on hard work, and this is a thought process that needs reversing.Good Timber

I screwed up.  I admit this freely.  I took some money for raking my neighbor’s lawn and did a poor job.  My neighbor fired me; she was right to do so.  I felt so disgusted with myself for taking money and not delivering a good job, I went over and finished that job over my neighbors’ objections.  I shoveled her snow for free that year.  I did everything I could to discharge the debt I owed to this woman for teaching me that there is no honor, dignity, and pride in a job not done well.

cropped-snow-leopard.jpgMy wife the other day asked me why I don’t quit jobs I have undertaken.  She doesn’t understand the lessons I have learned; I cannot do a poor job.  I cannot commit to doing a job and give less than my full potential and all of my talents, skills, and abilities.  Even when it means I am surrounded by enemies in a hostile environment where my life is constantly threatened.  I have to give it everything I have; I owe this debt to my neighbor that must be serviced.  I have earned a working man’s Ph.D. as well as a couple of master’s degrees from the school of hard knocks; I owe too much to those who have taught me to forget these lessons.

Now there ain’t no shame in a job well done
From driving a nail to driving a truck
As a matter of fact, I’d like to set things straight
A few more people should be pullin’ their weight
If you wanna cram course in reality
You get yourself a working man’s Ph.D

There is a truth in these simple words, I wish to convey in the soberest words possible, “there ain’t no shame in a job well done.”  There is no end of shame to a job poorly done.  Consider the current president; why does the common person, those of us carrying working man Ph.D.’s, scorn the president?  Why did the common person, those carrying working man Ph.D.’s, heap praise on President Trump?  The simple truth and reality in the sentiment, “there ain’t no shame in a job well done,” but there is no end of shame in a job poorly done.  Use any other person you care to name, John Wayne and Kim Kardashian, who gets the stain and who gets the praise of a job well and poorly done?  President Reagan and Nancy Pelosi?  Michael Jackson and Mother Teresa?Leadership Cartoon

The job doesn’t matter, driving nails, driving trucks, nursing babies, keeping a house, accountant, pipefitting, welder, buyer, etc., what matters is how well the job is completed.  Do you take the job and do it well or poorly?  For if you do it poorly, there is nothing but eternal shame, the work itself will always testify of your performance, and people will speak of your incompetence.  Do it well, to the best of your abilities; even if a scoreboard might proclaim you are a loser, you have won victory and honor, pride, and dignity that can never be taken from you.  How you perform the task is the deciding factor, not the job, not the task, not the scores and the statistics, your performance of the task’s duties.

When the quittin’ whistle blows and the dust settles down
There ain’t no trophies or cheering crowds
You’ll face yourself at the end of the day
And be damn proud of whatever you’ve made
Can’t hang it on the wall for the world to see
But you’ve got yourself a working man’s Ph.D

The hardest lesson I learned in the US Army was how to shave without looking at myself in the mirror.  Then I had to learn how to live with my mistakes to shave and look myself in the eye.  Right there and then, I learned the lesson contained in the following lines, “You’ll face yourself at the end of the day; And be damn proud of whatever you’ve made.”  In junior high school, I read Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary,” and the following quote stuck in my mental craw.  It comes out often to teach me more lessons.

The soil of a man’s heart is stony ground. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ’Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own… always comes home.”

Thank you!Hard work teaches hard lessons, but the lessons learned are worth more than gold and diamonds, and I wouldn’t trade a single lesson learned for all the money in the world and all the fame in Hollywood.  Of all the degrees and titles I have acquired in this world, or will acquire, the only one I ever want is that of “Hard worker,” for that single title says it all.  When the chips and markers are counted at the end of life, I want to be found pulling my weight.  I might be disabled, I might be stubborn as a Missouri Mule with a mean streak a mile wide, but I want to be found pulling my weight.

Now there ain’t no shame in a job well done
From driving a nail to driving a truck
As a matter of fact, I’d like to set things straight
A few more people should be pullin’ their weight
If you wanna cram course in reality
You get yourself a working man’s Ph.D

Bobblehead DollMy deepest thanks to Aaron Tippin for his example and his incredible talent as a singer and person.  I have met many military people who sing Aaron Tippin’s praises, and I am very grateful for the talent shared.  May I encourage you to consider how well your studies are progressing on your “Working Man’s Ph.D.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Rules for Achieving Production Goals

Knowledge Check!Some may scoff, others may scowl, but I will tell you an open secret, if you are not quality first, production goals will never be achieved.  Sure, a company may hit a target now and then, of course a quarterly statement might come in on target, but reliable production cannot be achieved without quality focus and the following rules.

With more than 20 years’ experience in manufacturing, supply chains, logistics, call centers, and much more, the following production rules are at least a moment of your time for reading and two moments for consideration.  Yes, there are a lot of people who will claim they have the path to success mapped and if you follow it, you to can achieve success.  I am not one of them!  I have tried and true lessons, I have common sense approaches, and I offer freely information that when combined with your knowledge, and the people you have working for you, solutions can be generated to achieve success.

  1. Quality is everyone’s job! – Tell me; whose job is it to pick up trash in the parking lot? How much litter is in your parking lot, trapped against the fence, collecting around the dumpsters, and crowding the floors of your facility inside and out?
    • A colleague states the following:
      • I can tell you within five seconds after arriving the quality mindset of the facility I am visiting, by looking at the parking lot.”
    • My colleague is correct; every facility I have visited that has had a clean parking lot, where employees and managers are picking up after themselves, has a quality culture worth emulation. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true!
    • What does your parking lot look like?
  2. Never take your customer, employee, shareholder, vendor, etc., where YOUR brain has not traveled first! – I sat in a meeting where the leader openly admitted, after telling the new strategic focus, goals, and mission plan, when answering questions about this plan regarding implementation, stated, “I haven’t thought that far ahead.” That company is bankrupt.  Not because they did not have good products, customers willing to buy, or great service, but because the leadership took the business places they had not personally already traveled in their minds.
    • How can you expect any goal to be achieved if you cannot answer implementation questions?
    • How can people follow if you do not know where you are headed?
    • Where are you going and has your brain already traveled there?
  3. Data will be misinterpreted if specific explanations are not included! – New manager, fresh from school, knew all the lingo, had all the buzzwords memorized, was handed a sheet of data, and failed to comprehend what the data meant. Worse, he led others into ruin by misinterpreting data.  If data is not explained, if the why behind data is not clearly understood, if the data story is incomplete, the data is useless, meaningless, and valueless!
    • What is your data story?
    • How do you train others in your data story?
    • Can other people explain the why behind the data, or do they have to come to you for that explanation?
  4. When in doubt, trust your people! – Time does not allow me to relate even a tenth of the stories where the people have proven the data wrong, have gone above and beyond expectations, and achieved miracles. Yet too often the people are the first ones cut in a crisis.
    • Juran’s Rule – When something is going wrong, 90% of the time it is the process, not the people. Yet, how many times are the people blamed for bad processes?
    • Appreciative Inquiry – The theory that states that when you have a problem, the people already in the positions doing the job, hold the answers needed to fixing the problems. Yet, how many times are the people the first one’s lost in crisis?
  5. Data lies; humans live! – Recently the data stated that the problem in a facility was in a specific area. The specific area was encouraged to perform better.  The management thought, “Problem solved.”  Production goals were missed, more counseling to this specific area, more encouragement to achieve, more focused spending to target pain points.  Still missed production goals.  Nobody looked beyond what the data said was the problem, and the data was suffering from a pretty severe case of GIGO (Garbage In = Garbage Out).  There was no production goal problem in the area specified, the problem was on the other side of the plant, and because of the investment in the wrong area, it took longer and more resources to fix the proper area.
    • When data is purported to have “concluded” anything, first give it a reality check!
    • Data is only as good as the inputs.
    • Humans live in the real world, whereas data lives in an altered reality that mimics (rarely) the real world.
    • Never forget, data lies. Data can, at best, only support a decision direction.  Data cannot conclude, prove, or justify anything.
  6. The Rule of 6-P’s – The Rule of 6-P’s is known in various forms and words, but the sentiment is always the same, “Proper, Prior, Planning, Prevents, Purely, Poor, Performance.” Yet, how often is planning done without proper prior activities?  How often is poor performance blamed on everything but poor prior planning?
    • Do you know what proper prior planning looks like as an activity?
    • What is involved in prior planning, and how do you tell the difference between proper and improper prior planning?
    • Who is involved in prior planning and why are they there?
  7. Celebrate small achievements! – Here is another open secret, rarely implemented, always discounted, but remains the single most powerful tool in a leader’s toolbox, praise! That’s it.  Praise is better than cash gifts for the brain, research and fMRI imagery support this conclusion.  The research is fascinating.  Yet, honest, regular, sincere praise continues to be the most overlooked aspect of leadership in business today!
    • Praise is celebrating achievement with someone else.
    • Celebrating success is imperative to moral, discipline, and enthusiasm in the workplace.
    • When was the last time you showed genuine praise for your people? When was the last tangible “Thank you” witnessed?  Who witnessed that gratitude, praise, and celebration?
    • Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Issue praise!  Celebrate all achievements, but most of all celebrate the small achievements.
  8. Success is a choice, but you need everyone making this choice! – Find me a successful team where one team member is not fully and wholly committed to achieving success, and I will show you a team that missed achieving the highest success. Production goals are the exact same thing, if everyone on the team does not know the goal, know the why, and are committed to achieving the production goal, that goal will be missed!
    • How do you find the person not interested in achieving the production goal; who is dropping trash and not picking it up?
    • What do you do when the person is identified; that depends, are you a learning organization or a money pit? If a money pit, that person is fired.  If a learning organization, then it is time to ask questions, discover reasons, and explore options.
    • How do you choose to lead, carrot or stick?
  9. Success is designed; who is drawing the lines? – One of the most egregious problems in today’s world is the delegation of authority to those not worthy or capable. On a consultation the boss had delegated his role to an author of a book.  Every question asked of the leader, he grabbed this author’s book and looked for an answer.  The book is a good resource, but the lack of application to direct business problems was not the author’s intent and was beyond the authors ability.
    • Who is drawing the lines designing what success looks like?
    • Why?
  10. The Pyramid Analogy – Use it, Live it, Love it!

The Pyramid Analogy

Consider the triangle from geometry, there are six different classifications, all of which demonstrate production goal attainment, but only the equilateral triangle makes up the pyramid, and only the equilateral triangle can report success in production goal attainment.

Right Triangles:

Right triangle - WikipediaA right triangle has one 90° angle.

The Acute:

Acute triangle | Acute angled triangle
The Acute Triangle has three acute angles (an acute angle measure less than 90°).

The Obtuse:

Obtuse Angled Triangle | Formula and Properties | Solved Examples & Practice Questions
The Obtuse Triangle has an obtuse angle (an obtuse angle is more than 90°).  Since the total degrees in any triangle is 180°, an obtuse triangle can only have one angle that measures more than 90°.

The Isosceles:

Properties of Isosceles Triangle - Definition & Solved Examples
The Isosceles triangle has two equal sides and two equal angles.

The Scalene:

Scalene Triangle (Definition, Area, Perimeter & Examples)
The Scalene Triangle has no congruent sides. In other words, each side must have a different length.

The Equilateral:

Properties of Equilateral Triangles | Brilliant Math & Science Wiki
The Equilateral triangle has three congruent sides and three congruent angles.  Each angle is 60°.

The Pyramid is an interesting shape, it is self-replicating from a single equilateral triangle.  The pyramid is a five-sided object that represents one of the strongest shapes in the galaxy, with integrity to flex without breaking and being destroyed.  Did you know that if you drew straight lines inside the equilateral triangle, and bent the triangle along those lines, a pyramid would take shape?

Volume of a Pyramid - Assignment PointConsider the production environment and the variables generally fall into three categories, inbound, or products needed to make something for a customer; outbound, the product shipped to a customer; quality, the need to ensure the product is acceptable for the customer.

Using a right triangle, if outbound is the 90-degree angle, your quality is way out of reach, and inbound inputs and outbound deliveries are not being properly reviewed by quality.  Thus, the production environment cannot function to its fullest potential, because all three, inbound, outbound, and quality, are not working equally together.

Bobblehead DollTake any other triangle and the story is exactly the same.  When the inbound and the outbound are not equally bound to quality, and quality is not equally bound to inbound and outbound, resources are not properly shared, time is wasted, and production goals will never be met!  Arrange the variables anyway you prefer, and if the pattern is not an equilateral pattern, there is a problem in the production environment and production goals will be missed, opportunities, lost, and money follows potential right out the door.

Follow the rules and watch production meet goals almost by magic.  Fail to follow the rules and production will continue to struggle.  Production goals are effort incarnate, humans pump efforts in, looking for results.  The goals are statistical symbols reporting success, failure, and percentages of improvement towards goals.  At then end of the day, the human element is the only variable worthy of consideration in meeting production goals, and quality is the badge of honor in human efforts.  Thus, quality is the tool that promotes production goal attainment.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

The Walmart Effect – Competition is NOT Just Cost

Exclamation MarkAfghanistan and the fraudulent President Biden have had me thinking about the Walmart effect over the last three days or so, and I cannot help but think there are some lessons to be discussed.  More to the point, the lines of congruence between the Walmart effect and the current political situation possess the potential for correcting course and saving America.  Not just America, but representative governments worldwide.  The Walmart effect is a global pandemic more powerful and pernicious than COVID ever will be, and we need to at least recognize this truth.

What is the Walmart Effect?

Working DollarWalmart has always competed on price.  As if there was nothing else to compete upon.  Lowest prices, regardless of the junk sold, price mattered more.  Hammer the price to nothing in every aspect of the supply chain.  Hammer the costs of doing business to lower costs to consumers.  Cheapen and eliminate packaging, “helping the environment,” and reduce costs.  Force suppliers and vendors to absorb traditional costs stores assumed, lowers costs, and increase profit margins.  Everything in the Walmart model is about lowering consumer costs, and Walmart has been very successful at twisting arms and breaking heads to reduce costs.

But, what has been the result of focusing just on costs the consumer sees?  First, lots of hidden fees have become observed.  Some of which was a good thing, most of which have become more obscure, and this is not such a good thing.  Worse, think of the fuel fees and delivery charges you now pay for having a pizza delivered.  Once a fee is begun to be charged, it is very difficult to stop charging the fee.  The Walmart effect passes costs onto consumers and shows the consumer why they are paying a higher fee, then the consumer accepts the fee as the cost of doing business and does not complain.  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why there are so many fuel fees and why they became apparent almost overnight; I promise the cost of fuel was not the reason, the Walmart effect was the reason, and making money is the purpose.

Pigeon RevengeSecond, quality and service have disappeared in competition.  Safeway, as a grocery store, has excellent service; but they cannot compete on service and quality because the Walmart effect has changed these two adjectives to be synonymous with higher consumer costs.  Believe it or not, the grocery store model has not changed in the last 200 years. Walmart changed society to believe everything was about competing on consumer costs, and the rest of the competition has played along.  Want to know a secret, you as a consumer are being deceived into believing that Walmart has the best prices, but when quality is added to the picture, Walmart is selling you junk.

Third, all big-box retailers employ science to lure you into their stores.  Bright lights, color schemes, smells, all carefully crafted to keep you in the stores.  Musical shelves where products move from day to day in the store to lengthen your time walking the aisles.  Everything is carefully planned and organized to influence you to spend more money.  Now, back to Walmart and the claim about junk.  Some of the items in Walmart are end runs of name-brand products.  Some of the items are cheap knock-offs.  Some of the fruit and vegetables are almost spoiled or completely raw.  Yet, Walmart pushes those products for sale anyway.  Purchasers for Walmart are under strict order to find products for sale at the lowest costs.  After working with a manufacturer supplying big-box retailers, I can tell you that many manufacturers hate dealing with Walmart because of the Walmart costs of doing business.Lemmings 3

Fourth, all big-box retailers represent a plethora of manufacturers trying to get their products in front of customers in the easiest way possible.  This is a truth, and a problem, for the manufacturers, are always competing, think Kraft and General Mills, Post, and other brand names.  These manufacturers compete for every dime you spend; they compete for shelf space; they compete for advertising space; they compete for every second you spend in the store, and dealing with these manufacturers is like herding long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs.  A loose conglomeration controlled by access to the customer portal, Walmart manages an extensive customer portal, Safeway, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. All control certain customer portals and commit to selling XX amount of goods for the manufacturers.  But, this is not “friendly” competition by any stretch of the imagination.  One manufacturer scores a benefit that improves their access to customers over another manufacturer; you can bet another manufacturer will be competing to repeat the performance.  All of which increases costs to the consumer in hidden fees, generally through rebate scams, BOGO “deals,” or my favorite “Rollback prices.”

Interestingly, the political situation in all representative governments is similar to America’s current situation.  A phenomenon I find both alarming and intriguing, but one with enormous potential to be taken advantage of to correct and save representative governments.  The one thing cost-focused competition cannot do is compete with service.  When customer service is truly the focus, cost competitors melt away.  Therein lay the answer, but we must first describe the lines of congruence before we can discuss solutions.Lemmings 5

Consider point one of the Walmart effect, competing on price both hides and reveals costs.  Every representative government worldwide has an entire industry working 24/7, working tirelessly to plasticize words where taxes are concerned to make progress bad and regression good.  Regressive taxes are considered good, even though they kill jobs, ruin lives, cost more, and eventually lead to the ruination of liberty and freedom.  Progressive taxes are hailed as bad, even though they cut government costs, increase liberty and freedom, allow people to keep more of their hard-earned money, and force the government to live on a budget.  While the tax language has been around longer than Walmart, the truth is, the Walmart effect has improved the tax language to the point that representative government can rob you blind, and you never know.  Just like that fuel surcharge on pizza receipts, after the cost of ingredients for the pizza skyrocketed.

Point two of the Walmart effect; where has customer service gone in government?  Since I was a kid, citizens’ accessibility to elected officials has dropped like a sack of lead.  Worse, we have seen active animosity from the elected officials towards the citizenry.  Mayors allow terrorist mobs to destroy public and private property without regard, mobs and gangs to rule, entire sections of cities lost to civilization, and elected officials do not care until they utter empty words in an election campaign.  Enter a government office for a permit, license, get a question answered, etc., and you are treated like scum, and the bureaucrat is doing you a tremendous favor by granting you an audience.  Now, how do you honestly feel when you walk into Walmart and ask an associate a question, provided you can lasso an associate to ask?

Gravy Train 3On the third point in the Walmart effect, politicians spend enormous amounts of effort to use marketing science to play upon emotions to get and keep an audience.  The same marketing science employed to keep you in a retailer making purchases keeps you “connected” to your political party.  Worse, because there are familial traditions in being one political party or another, there remain tighter ties to a political party.  These strings are played to the fullest to bind you ever tighter, so you do not use conscious thinking when voting the party line.

Finally, we come to the fourth Walmart effect, the one with the most pertinence to current political dogma, the bundling of obscure groups into a ruling party.  I have never been shy about admitting that two-party political rule is terrible for America.  I am all for having 10-15 separate major political parties; in the confusion generated by the many voices, better governance occurs, mostly.  I respect the Israelis for their political system with their separate and ungainly political parties because of the need to gain coalitions and be very connected with and responsible to the people in those coalitions and the citizens they represent.  Recognizing that the political system does not always work, a robust system of codified laws is mandatory to keep the government in check and accountable to the people.

Bobblehead DollFrankly, I do not care what side of the political spectrum you come down upon.  What matters to me is how your representative governs.  Once an elected official of a representative government gains office, they cannot simply think they only represent that political party while in office.  Thinking this way is the epitome of the Walmart effect and stems from competing on cost alone.  Worse, thinking that the representative only represents those who placed them in power places that elected representative into a position to abuse their office.

Using others is what Walmart has done because they control such a vast portal to customers, and the manufacturers have been paying a steep price in more than dollars and cents ever since.  Unfortunately, so have the customers.  The harm to the manufacturers is delivered to the end consumer, and Walmart does not care as they are just a portal through which a manufacturer sells goods.  The same thing for the politician, all of society is harmed when a politician can be purchased and influenced; when harm comes to one person because of their political leanings, everyone suffers.

Knowledge Check!Therein lay the other answer to the Walmart effect, recognizing that we must join together, or fall individually, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle since we are all interconnected.  Service and joining together are the only paths forward.  We must not allow divisive political agendas, carefully crafted scientifically marketed political pogroms, and slick groomed politicians to sway us from the important points of freedom, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness.  We cannot afford the governments that have ballooned and festered over the last 60-years.  We cannot afford the Walmart effect; the cost is just too great!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

The Role of Customer Service – Find Solutions!

Bird of Prey24 September 2021 UPDATE:  For the record, the doctor’s appointment forming the central element of this article was with Advanced Neurology Epilepsy & Sleep Center (ANESC), Dr. Aamr A. Herekar M.D.  The staff are now trying to report that I was threatening, demanding, insulting, and reportedly told the commando secretary to “sit on my lap.”  All of which I strongly and hotly contest.  I was at all times professional, but firm.  I did not swear.  I did not insult the staff.  I did not breach professional conduct.  I have never asked any male or female to EVER sit on my lap.  When told to get a face shield, I went to my vehicle, retrieved the face shield, and wore the face shield for the appointment.  For the commando secretary and other staff to accuse me of this behavior is disingenuous at best and I am glad to be rid of this provider.  If you are in the El Paso, TX., are, beware if you are referred to this clinic!

I do not care if there is a pandemic or not!  I care even less if there is sunshine or rain, wind, snow, sleet, or hurricanes.  Guess what; neither do those people expecting customer service.  They want solutions, and when they do not obtain solutions, that customer will be looking at your competition and wondering if their needs can be met elsewhere.Angry Grizzly Bear

Let me set the scene.  I have a follow-up doctor’s appointment this morning.  I traveled more than an hour for an early morning appointment, which included surviving multiple school zones, crazy rush hour parents trying to get kids into school and themselves onto work, and the inevitable school buses working tirelessly to deliver children to school safely.  All of this I can accept; I agreed to the early morning doctor’s appointment as I need to do things this afternoon.  Upon arrival at the doctor’s office, I am greeted by a commando secretary, who knows I have a breathing problem and cannot wear a mask.  Who invents a reason to deny me care.  She calls a supervisor, then “politely” invites me to a back room to try and tell me off.  She then walks out when I suggested she had two options, move my care to another neurologist or have me wear a face shield, and I was leaning towards option 1.

Since January, this scene has repeated itself more than 10-times in two different states, and frankly, I am sick to death of customer service people who refuse to look first for solutions!  Your first duty in customer relations is to find solutions, not complain someone is not wearing a mask, not embarrass, isolate, and denigrate.  Your entire mission is to find solutions that will work with government mandates, business policies, and customer needs.

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1For example, I was a new patient at a medical clinic.  I explained my mask predicament, and the business already had a procedure to protect those wearing masks and accommodate those who could not wear a mask.  Better still, it did not require a supervisor, it did not require special approval, I did not have to be embarrassed by office staff judgments, nor did I have to fight for my right to breathe.  Two different medical offices, two wildly different approaches to the same customer problem, and two phenomenally different solutions and different mental strategies from staff to provide customer service.

Was discussing cellphone service providers; provider one has deplorable customer service, provider two is not much better, and there is no third option.  I asked about solutions for small businesses to compare between the two providers and was aghast at the lack of interest in providing help to owner/operator small businesses.  I do upwards of $3600 in cellphone business a year; yet, even though I have five lines personally and pay for an additional one for my spouse, and am a small business owner, the cellphone provider is not interested in looking for solutions for small businesses.  Is it any wonder that customers are looking for options to ditch their phones?

Call Center BeansInternet providers are another huge pain point for me and my business on the topic of service providers and detestable customer service.  After moving, I am paying double for my Internet service connection, not paying double for the same speeds.  Paying double and not getting similar speeds.  Worse, the customer inattention has gone downhill since I was last a customer of this company 18-months prior.  I have been told that deregulation is why Internet providers cannot compete fairly in markets and scoff.  I have been informed, several times, that the reason the costs are so high for Internet connection is from outdated equipment.  I have scoffed again.  When Google tried to muscle into Phoenix, the current Internet providers threw an unholy fit, and Google was rejected the permits through legal, regulatory means.  Apparently, competition continues to be anathema to cellular phones and Internet service providers, all while these same providers abuse customers and refuse to perform basic customer service, such as finding solutions!

What is the solution; I offer the following as potential places to begin launching a customer service revolution.

    1. Commit to finding solutions first. Quicken Loans is one company I know that asserts that they want to say YES before saying no.  Commit to the same; demand your people learn how to say YES!
    2. This might sound old-fashioned, but believe it or not, it works. Smile and say please and thank you!  When you are thanked, say you’re welcome.  Manners matter in setting the tone in customer relations.  A smile goes a long way to setting the proper tone.
    3. Another potentially old-fashioned idea, but worth considering if your front office staff looks rough. Customers will automatically not want to do business with you if their first impression is tattoos, body piercings, crazy hair, long nails, and scowling faces.  The doctor’s office, the lead office support person, is covered in tattoos, has a body piercing that draws attention to body areas that make professional interactions difficult to conduct. Her hair matches her demeanor, rough and disruptive.

Knowledge Check!Please note, I am not against tattoos and body piercings.  In professional settings, restraint is needed to show respect to the business environment and not distract properly.  The nursing staff all have tattoos, and they are not as disruptive as the lead office support person.  Others have body piercings on their faces, ears, heads, and body parts.  But, these are not distracting, and drawing attention to body parts best left unnoticed in professional settings.  There is a distinct difference between acceptable and unacceptable, and business owners will need to draw a line or be prepared to have problems with customers.

    1. Post in a prominent position what the customer commitment is and who to contact if customer attention fails. Want to raise awareness of customer solutions, post your commitment, and then live that commitment.
    2. Technology is wonderful; there need to be reliable replacement channels when you eliminate a communication channel. For example, the doctor I visited they do not have incoming phone calls.  You can text the doctor’s office, you can fax the doctor’s office, you can send messages through a group insurance website, and you can email the doctor’s office.  When you insist the doctor’s office do something to fit another bureaucracy, e.g., the VA, the office support staff through a fit and stop responding to text messages and emails.   So, not only is their attitudes inappropriate, the customer service communication channels are throttled intentionally to avoid angry callers.  Forcing patients to have to deal in person when technology is made to fail.

WhyCommit to customer relations, find solutions.  Commit to saying YES!  You will be surprised how fast people become customers and want to remain customers when employees representing your business are committed to finding solutions first and excuses NEVER!  End the abuse of customers; I know which doctor I will be ending my relationship with as soon as humanly possible, and I will leave online customer service reports.  Abuse me as a customer, and I will go out of my way to make sure other customers and potential customers know.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Weasel Words – Writing and Speaking Better

cropped-laughing-owlOn Friday, an email crossed my inbox regarding how to write better and weasel words.  The term “weasel words” first appeared in a short story by author Stewart Chaplin titled “Stained Glass Political Platform,” published in The Century Magazine June 1900.  As a term, weasel words were popularized in a 1916 speech by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.  I often write about plastic words being stretched, twisted, and molded to fit situations and distorted and disconnected from their accepted definitions, so I figured it was time to discuss weasel words.

Weasel Words

All clipart on this site has | Clipart Panda - Free Clipart ImagesWeasels words are vague qualifiers like “generally,” “most,” and “probably” that weaken your writing and speaking, reflecting a weak mind and poor logic. Speakers and writers use weasel words to avoid making direct statements, to mystify, and use vocabulary to play linguistic tricks upon the audience.  I heard a joke about weasel words and politicians:

How do you know a politician is lying?
They are speaking
!”

How often have you heard a speaker generalize or witnessed a writer probablize and thought, “How does the writer know?”  Check the weasel words.  Since weasel words have been around for so long, many speechwriters and editors know these tricks and constantly edit them.  But, when you can catch the speaker or author in candid moments, that is when you see just how weaselly they are about the facts and their logical conclusions.Scouring the bowels of the internet | Weasel Zippers | Cartoon jokes, Political cartoons ...

Consider for a moment the following three reasons why weasel words are employed.  When considering them, remember when you have weaseled on your speeches or writing, and self-evaluate to improve:

      • Uncertainty: You use weasels when you’re confused about your point, or you’re not sure what you want to write. Ambiguous terms allow you to equivocate. The result is you get something on paper, but it is cloudy.
      • Fear: You use weasels when afraid of making a bold statement. You may know what you want to write but don’t have the depth. These words give you an out.
      • Deniability: You use weasels to protect yourself or dodge taking a stand. If you don’t say anything firm, the thinking goes, you cannot be wrong.

As I have been writing on this topic, I have considered my writing and speaking habits and improved self-editing.  I am not afraid, uncertain, or need deniability, but I desire to assert more confidently, speak and write more authoritatively, and support others through language.  Hence, the need to understand language and improve how I speak and write."Weasel While You Work" on Vimeo

Examples of Weasel Words

Frankly, I was surprised at some of the weasel words that made the various lists of weasel words found across the Internet.  Some weasel words are absolute and are fully supported, others might be conditional weasel words based upon the conversation, and others might not be weasel words at all.  Now, out of all that blathering about weasel words, which would you edit as weaselly statements?  Yes, I wrote that on purpose!

Well

Experts said Experts have claimed Experts insist
Research proves Research shows Research concludes Researchers claim
Often Probably Possibly Some
Many Could be With all due respect Usually
Basically Somehow Virtually Just

Once identified, what does a person do?  Writers have it easier, for they can revise and edit.5 Tall Tales from 1 Small Mind | Science and Dogs

An author can delete the weasel word following the pattern below:

Read the resulting statement to see if it works.

      • If the message without weasels is confusing …
        Get clarity with your ideas. Determine what you want to say and then say it!
      • If the statement without weasels is too bold …
        Do you have the authority to make this statement; yes, leave it alone. No, quote the authoritarian, and use a reference.
      • If the resulting statement without weasels has no substance …
        Ask yourself whether or not you have something to say. If not, delete the sentence. If so, see the first bullet point again, clarify your ideas, and keep editing.

Speaking and eliminating weasel words requires planning.  You have to prepare what you want to say carefully, plan your audience, prepare and practice delivering your points, and repeat until it feels comfortable.  Speaking requires remaining consciously aware, listening to yourself, listening to questions, and making choices.  Many choices will be made in the preparation and planning stages, and these planning sessions preparing to speak remain critical to mentally speaking to convince.AMID BACKLASH CORRUPT & STUPID DEMOCRATS QUICKLY SWITCH FROM 'DEFUND' TO 'REFUND' THE POLICE ...

However, experience has proven that writing rules work well with speaking, in preparing and planning the message.

Speak aloud the statement to see if it works.

      • If the message without weasels is confusing …
        Get clarity with your ideas. Determine what you want to say and then say it!
      • If the statement without weasels is too bold …
        Do you have the authority to make this statement; yes, leave it alone. No, quote the authoritarian, and use a reference.
      • If the resulting statement without weasels has no substance …
        Ask yourself whether or not you have something to say. If not, delete the sentence. If so, see the first bullet point again, clarify your ideas, and keep editing.

Having spoken publicly and talked to other speakers, it was interesting to see those who spoke well and admitted to speaking into a mirror and those who spoke okay and did not practice the speech verbally.  I learned this data point, the Rule of 7-P’s came forcibly to mind, “Proper, Prior, Planning, Prevents, Purely, Poor, Performance.”  Practice is part of properly planning to avoid poor performances.

Knowledge Check!Regardless of delivery through speaking or writing, create the time to edit.  Create the time to plan and prepare, rehearse, and carefully edit to communicate powerfully.  Stop stooping to being a weasel; you are better than that and deserve to allow yourself the ability to achieve through communicating ideas more clearly and powerfully!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Why Should Your Customers Remain Customers?

Bobblehead DollMy wife is mad at me; I was relating an email survey experience where a financial institution had sent me a customer service survey.  I described the truth, I have no reason to remain a customer and feel less than enthused at remaining a customer.  My wife fearing I had been insulting, derogatory, or denigrating, got mad at me.  I explained my position and how I had answered the rote questions, and she is still not happy.  But, her position and my position bring up an interesting point, centered around the following question, “Why should a customer remain a customer?”

Use My Name!

Daily I receive programmed emails from multiple companies.  Do you know how I pick the ones I want to do business with?  They know my preferred name and use it!  What an incredible concept; since the early 1990s, we have had the technology to put in names, create mailing lists, and use people’s preferred names, and businesses still struggle with this concept.  Why?

LookI have several titles, want my business, know and use my titles.  Pick one, and use it!  How can a company claim they “know their customers” when that company cannot use the customer’s preferred name or title in addressing that customer?  I have worked hard to earn a Ph.D.; I do not expect everyone to call me “Dr.,” but it sure as anything beats being called “mister” all the bloody time.  Worse, I still hold several ranks and positions that come with titles. I could be addressed using them, but even with a preferred name on many company customer profiles, I get that lazy customer service representative that calls me Mr. Salisbury!  Guess what company I am going to ditch at the first opportunity?Shhh----Don--t-Say-A-Thing--Just-Listen--Don--t-Talk.jpg (500×273) | The beauty and danger of ...

On the topic of names, if I say, “everyone calls me Dave,” and you continue to call me “Michael,” “Mike,” or “Mr. Salisbury,” you are either not listening, or your company has the worst policies for addressing customers.  Guess what company I will end my business relationship with post-haste?  I have given permission to use a preferred name, use my name.  Listen to me!

Listen!

Job Interview Cartoons ~ Silly BuntActive listening can be faked!  Customer service agents, I know active listening can be manufactured, I have been a customer service agent, I know your stress, I know your job, and I know your problems.  Thus, to your bosses, I appeal; stop the active listening drama!  If you are not stressing reflective listening to your employees, where they and the customer reach a mutual understanding, you are not doing your job leading customer relations!

My wife claims that conclusion is “Too harsh.”  I disagree vociferously.  Here’s why!  Remember how I just related how I had informed customer service agents, “everyone calls me Dave,” and the agent continued to call me everything but my preferred name.  Failure to listen remains the number one customer complaint for a reason; the agents are not listening to reach a mutual understanding.  Too often, they are not even attempting to listen actively but are listening to respond, responding to the voices in their heads and not the customer!Joke of the Day | Joke of the day, Funny quotes, Single words

Do you want better customer survey responses; try listening, then acting, then listening again.  Not speaking; listening, acting, listening, acting; it’s a pattern worth doing!  Yet, too often, what is the pattern found, maybe listening, speaking, maybe listening, token action, maybe listening, half-hearted action.  Wait for the customer to become frustrated and go away.  Guess which company I am going to be ending my business relationship with quickly?

Respond!

AP 20.96 Short-Answer Questions (SAQ) - Bello's Reference Page - Use GOOGLE CLASSROOM for all ...I have four companies who I have informed (several times) I no longer can do business with them.  They continue to send me emails asking for my business for old properties and cars I no longer possess.  Listening is but half the answer; you must also respond with definitive action.  How many times does a customer have to relate to your business they have moved?  I did business with a windshield repair company in Phoenix, AZ.  Good company, good service, but for the next three years, I received calls from them monthly, and I had moved out of their service area.  They were told this month after month, I was promised month after month this was the final call, and month after month, I received another call.  Guess whose recommendation I deleted online?

People ProcessesBusiness processes matter; honoring your word matters, displaying trust, integrity, and fulfilling a promise made all matters in the customer relationship long before the product or service is discussed.  Yet, how often are these issues on shaky ground, before the ink is dry on the service contract or the receipt for goods?  I have a cell phone provider I detest; I long for the day I can finally walk free of this provider and never look back.  Because their customer attention is deplorable, I feel used and abused every time I interact with this company.  I have the same problem with my current Internet provider.  When your customer service is so deplorable, you have to climb to become terrible; there is a problem that colors, signage, marketing, and gimmicks cannot fix!

Why Would I gladly Pay a Higher Price; Service!

Skillet Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumbs Recipe - Southern LivingI was in the supermarket, my wife asked for a treat.  To her, a treat is a bowl of deli mac & cheese, potato salad, or a bag of potato chips.  As I was in the deli and they had her mac & cheese, I bought mac & cheese.  My wife was shocked, I paid, what to her was an exorbitant price for the mac & cheese, but I was glad to pay the price.  The counter worker wrapped the mac & cheese package in plastic wrap to protect it from spilling, was pleasant, remembered me from a previous visit, and made my day.  The service was well worth the extra cost.

I kept going back to this store, making purchases long after this deli person was transferred to another store closer to their home because the service level did not go down.  Thus, I remained satisfied to pay extra for the service I received.  Walking on a cane, with labored breathing, and having a service representative walk with me, not ahead of me, so I feel like I have to race, is a significant service I would gladly pay more for.  I felt respected and remembered from visit to visit, even if I was sporadic in visiting for over a month.2mm to Sales Mastery | Customer Obsession: Creating "Wow" Moments That Leave a Lasting Impression

Long before the product or service costs are discussed is the customer experience.  If the customer experience fails, you can have the coolest products and the best access to services and fail because you forget the customer experience!  Getting back to the financial survey I just completed, it was full of Likert-style scale questions.  If your company employs a Likert question on a survey, you need a follow-up self-directed qualitative question to explain directly after.

Likert-Style Surveys

Likert-style questions are a quantitative researcher’s bread and butter, showing the relationships between agreement and disagreement on a broad scale.  Generally, on a scale of 1-10, these questions and scales have come to be represented by emojis, colors, statements, and more as technology has advanced.Top 10 Likert Scale Examples for your next survey! | QuestionPro

I completed 15 Likert-styled questions before I was asked why I rated the company as “Neither liked or disliked, neither favorable nor unfavorable.”  Okay, so quantitative data is easier and less expensive to collect, collate, and report.  But, if your customer survey is only collecting qualitative or quantitative data, you are only collecting half the story and none of the customer experiences!  However, you cannot simply ask ½ the questions qualitative and ½ the questions quantitative and expect anything but GIGO.  Careful planning is key to customer survey results worth your time and the customers time!Likert scale questions, survey and examples | QuestionPro

A customer satisfaction survey should first be an instrument of dedicated action!  Where your best and brightest in customer relations work to analyze, report, and propose efforts to satisfy the customers.  They investigate survey findings.  They respond to survey questions and concerns, address real people, and produce tangible results.eCommerce Customer Surveys | An Ultimate Guide 2021

A customer satisfaction survey is not the time, nor the place, for cute emojis and colorful pictures depicting customer attitudes.  Can the customer survey be more than black and white; naturally.  Remember that the customer survey is not where you go to flash and spin; this is where the customer goes, tells the truth, and expects action, not to be played with.  If the customer takes the time to complete a survey, there is a reason, find the cause, know the customer, and win.

Knowledge Check!These are but three basics, fundamental points at the start of the customer relations journey.  If you cannot get these three points right, the rest of the trip will be short, painful, and not fulfilling for you or your customers.  Worse, the experiences will be remembered, and people have this nasty habit of not forgetting bad experiences.  Why do the majority of people despise the DMV; because the majority of customers have experienced the most frustrating issues of their professional lives at the hands of the DMV agents.  Governments abuse their customers, which is as bad as customer interactions get, and everyone feels betrayed when the government and bureaucrats use them.

You are in the private sector; you have competition; your first question daily should be, “Why should my customers remain, my customers?”  When you answer this question, your customers will hear the answer loud and clear!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Customer Service Agent Abuse – Customer Service Begins with Customers

Angry Wet ChickenPlease note, I am not the best person to be around when my “cherub-like demeanor” dissipates.  I continue to invest time and energy in preparation and in unhooking emotion from knee-jerk responses to provide a better customer experience for those I connect with.  I am not perfect; I am not trying to give advice that I am not trying to implement every day, in every situation.  I have read story after story about “how to handle difficult customers,” “how to provide excellence in difficult customer situations,” and I have read the nightmarish tales of agents not allowed to control a call.

While I am a subject matter expert on customer service, customer relations, and customer attentiveness, I miss my high standards often.  I am not bragging; I hate delivering less than exceptional customer service.  I have been a difficult customer when I do not understand, and nobody is willing to explain.  I fall into many of the same traps I work to avoid and appreciate customer service agents who will see through the barbs and help me understand.  When discussing customer agent abuse, I am a bit of a bear when someone makes my people cry and feel there are solutions to challenging customers that do not require ending the transaction.  However, I will not tolerate abuse of customers or customer service agents, ever!

Angry Grizzly BearBack in the 1990s, when I started at a call center on Friday, there were no locks, no badges, no traffic control, and minimal security presence.  Monday morning, we had badges, electronic key cards, traffic control security points, and a host of new security measures.  Why; because a customer showed up at an agent’s cubicle, he had stalked this employee for months, and the only thing saving this person’s life was that she went into labor that morning.  Her stalker showed up with a shotgun and a dozen roses.  While not perfect at controlling my responses, I can clarify and support customer service agents against abuse.

What is Customer Agent Abuse?

Customer agent abuse is any actions conducted over a phone that would not be tolerated in person.  For example, only in the US Navy was going toe-to-toe with another person, threatening bodily harm, and using the foulest of language acceptable behavior.  Even in the US Navy, this behavior was only “tolerated” if you outranked the person you were hollering at, which made no sense during my time in service and even less sense now.  Customer agent abuse includes threats to personal property, life, or family.  Customer agent abuse includes making personal derogatory remarks.

Exclamation MarkWhile some may add or subtract to this list of agent abuses, I prefer simplicity.  Thus, I repeat, only for emphasis, if the behavior is not tolerated in front of a police officer, that is customer agent abuse, and should not be accepted.  Is speaking loudly customer agent abuse; probably not.  However, the situationality of defining customer agent abuse is such that professionals will need clear and specific directions.  Let us clarify a few topics.

What is a Customer?

A customer is anyone asking for assistance.  That is the entire definition, and when we understand this definition, our whole mindset and attitude swings from “customer service is someone else’s job” to “how may I assist you today?”

Who is a Customer Agent?

Knowledge Check!A customer agent is anyone able to provide the assistance being sought.  Will you be the one today to provide the service needed?  Do you realize this is a choice made every time you engage another person?

Reality Check

Would you ever see your family as customers; why?  Do you think those definitions are too simplistic; honestly, when you think about it, no.  Your fellow employees are your first customers.  Your leaders are your first customers.  Then come vendors and shareholders and external customers.  I have never agreed with separating internal and external customers.  Some try to claim an external customer pays the bills.  Sure, but without your team of employees, there are no products or services to sell.

cropped-bird-of-prey.jpgA business owner once told me that this method of thinking was as valuable as arguing about what came first, the chicken or the egg.  Yet, before you can grow into a small business, you must provide a service or good for purchase.  Hence the most essential customer is your fellow employees, and failing to understand this simple fact, breeds an Us vs. Them mentality in employee and customer relations.  Worse, this aggressive attitude only grows as the business grows and is heard by your customers in every transaction!

Customer Agent Abuse

Tell me, as a business leader, would you allow an employee to scream, swear, act belligerently, and raise their voices to another employee?  If the answer is no, why do you allow any other customer to act similarly?  I have worked in many different call centers, I have had my share of abusive customer calls.  I have suffered the slings and arrows of contempt from fellow employees and customers in hostile work environments.  I have been physically assaulted, threatened, sexually harassed, and more in professional settings, including call centers.  So, why do we allow customer abuse?

QuestionWhat is driving business leaders to excuse irrational and detestably unprofessional behavior by customers?  Honest question, if we would not tolerate behavior in person, why is it allowed over the phone?  Why is the customer agent taking the brunt of the abuse when we all know the problem originates much higher than the agent you are talking to.  Customer service, customer appreciation, customer attentiveness, customer relations, customer retention, etc., all circle around the customer culture bred into the business from its days as a small business.  Worse, the leader’s approach to customer service is felt and observed by agents all over the company and soon will imitate that leader’s attitude and behaviors.

I have led teams where my agents were reduced to tears from the verbal harassment.  When I discovered this, I pulled the quality records and calls, documented everything, and exercised my right to refuse service.  Yes, I invited customers to leave employment and my company without batting an eyelash or caring a single bit.  Nobody deserves to be harassed, sworn at, screamed at, or belittled, all in the name of “customer service.”  Customer agent abuse is a failure of leadership!

Ending Customer Agent Abuse

cropped-tools.jpgSome of what I am proposing will be anathema to your organization; I realize this.  I understand that some of what I propose will be hard to implement, face tremendous pushback, and might cause some organizational design changes.  All of what I am about to suggest is achievable through leadership and customer service.

      1. If employees cannot abuse each other, then neither can anyone else!
            • Invite those who swear to call back when they are more emotionally under control. End the call, end the transaction, make notes.
            • Invite those who habitually abuse to stop being customers or employees.
            • Make notes, keep documentation, and refer to legal if additional problems arise.
            • Make your policy known to your customers, all of your customers.
            • Set high standards of behavior and train to meet those standards.
      2. Revise business policies.
            • Listen to the transactions.
            • Make notes on pain points and process problems that irritate customers, and then dedicate yourself to fixing those pain points.
            • Enter the customer transaction with the intent to act!
            • Listen… Listen… Listen… verify what was said; listen some more.
            • Appreciative inquiry, learn it, love it, live it! Your customers know where and who the problems are.  Repeat as often as needed to ensure understanding, then take prompt action!
      3. Write cohesive and clearly understood policies.
            • Train to the policies.
            • Adjust the policies as needed.
            • Revisit policies every 12-months for applicability.
            • Revise policies as needed to meet customer expectations.
            • Set high standards and train customers to meet those standards.
            • Use rewards for improving customer interaction and transactions.
            • Not all rewards cost money!
      4. Embrace Change
            • Many claim they already do this, but they secretly refuse to change and act opposite to any change that threatens their power source. Eliminate that customer!
            • Change requires courage, tenacity, and imagination. All of which become available when appreciative inquiry becomes a principle for achieving excellence!
            • Set shelf-lives for processes, policies, and procedures.
            • Delegate to achieve new blood and new thinking on old topics.
            • Demand excellence, train for perfection and watch people achieve.
      5. Praise!
            • Honest, sincere, and regular praise will demonstrate an attitude of gratitude to your people, who will then pass along the praise to everyone else.
            • Observe people until you can even reprimand with praise.
            • Never criticize!
            • Never demean!
            • Never allow anyone to denigrate or deride your customers, and your customers will always be at your back.

Bobblehead DollIt does not matter whether your business is a manufacturer or a service provider; it does not matter if you are a non-profit or government agency; what matters is your customer.  Be the customer agent they deserve.  Admit fault, always understand that you cannot know everything, and asking questions is not an evil act.  You customers today are your customer agents tomorrow, and being a better customer is a job!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Come, Let Us Reason Together – Chapter 3

Making Money Online: A Guide on How to Earn Money From Home | ResellerClub  BlogWhen a person discusses making money, what does the phrase “making money” mean?  When talking about money, we are not discussing printing actual cash; while that is certainly a way to create money, that always leads to inflationary problems.  Simple economics relates there are two different avenues to make money.  These methods are as old as the Old Testament or recorded history, and every single civilization has used these methods.  The first method is to save money, where interest is paid while someone else uses your money to create products and services, bet on the futures markets for farmers, ranchers, etc., or stock and bonds markets.  Regardless, the first method generally involves receiving interest from saving money.  The second method is also well known; you borrow money and pay usury (interest).  The people who save money make money on those who borrow money and pay the penalty interest.  Through defaults on loans and bankruptcy, the unpaid interest penalty causes risks to increase, and classes of borrowers are created.  Risks also raise prices, remove the ability to borrow funds, and establishes another market, insurance.Taxpayer Money Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock

In Las Vegas, the saying goes, “The house always wins.”  In simple economics, the house is a runaway government that claims, “let’s make things more fair to lower-income earners.”  In reality, they make the low earning income earners and fiscal illiterates, suckers, betting on the government to save them every time they make poor fiscal decisions.  These fiscal illiterates come in every shape, size, color, culture, and financial background in our modern times, but these two ways to make money remain essential to the following article.  Please note that the insurance topic will be covered in a later article; for now, just keep in mind the two methods of creating money, saving money and earning interest, and borrowing money and paying interest.

The Radical Theory That the Government Has Unlimited Money | Occupy.comThe Federal Government during this COVID-Hysteria has paid out vast sums of money, some of which in loans, placing the businesses who borrowed at significant risk, and other sums as payments to individual people.  Either way, that money is not “Free Money.”  Those funds were borrowed from somewhere, and the government will have to pay interest on those dollars borrowed.  When governments borrow money, higher taxes are a direct result from the school board to the Federal Level.  Except, every person in the world will have to be now also penalized a second and third time for the government borrowing money.  Inflationary prices are the second penalty for government spending/borrowing.  Lower interest rates on saving money are the third penalty for government spending/borrowing.

Deficit and Budget Cartoons | Cartoons | US NewsThe secondary and tertiary penalties are often called hidden penalties, or fees, that occur as natural consequences to the government borrowing money.  These penalties cannot be escaped!  The higher the inflation goes, the more people cannot borrow money, the higher prices go, and the less paid as interest for saving money, even if stocks and bonds continue to be traded at record levels.  Look at the stock market growth as the government has borrowed more and more money over the years, and you can trace this pattern.  As the stock market grows, savings accounts empty, and those savings accounts which remain are paid less and less interest year over year.

How to Make Money Online Without Using Google AdsenseThe banks, credit unions, and other saving institutions and markets will continue to use other people’s money on the stock exchanges and futures markets to return a profit to shareholders, but the account holders do not earn the same as a shareholder, even though their money is what is being bet on the stock exchanges, futures markets, and in government investment instruments.  Thus, one needs to understand these essential money creation tools to judge the following facts correctly.

      1. Some states and cities are about to be given $360 Billion in government stimulus to spur post-COVID-economic growth. Laying aside the facts previously covered that spending does not “spur economic growth.”  We, the citizenry, need to understand the money being dumped onto these states comes with a very high price for us individually.
      2. The money being dumped on the states will not be fairly divided but divided by political connection! The pattern was established long ago by the Federal Government and has been used every time the Federal Government wants to reward certain states while punishing others.
      3. There is no such thing as free money. Never has, never will, even money found on the street is not free.  The money found on the street was a loss by the person who dropped the money.  Hence credit and debit are the terms of money, for money cannot just disappear.  A credit to one person always creates a debit to another person.  Simple economics and the credit/debit of money are universal and historically accurate in every economy man has ever produced.
      4. Credits in one category have to come from somewhere as they travel to another area as debits.
      5. Debits in one category have to come from somewhere as they travel to another area as credits.
      6. Money cannot disappear. Money can be physically destroyed, but it never evaporates like water moving from a liquid into a gas.  Money travels, money travel, can be tracked, and even cash comes with these same conditions.

An easily understood example is paychecks.  Your employer pays you for your time as a credit to your wallet.  You deposit your paycheck (a credit to the bank) and immediately start paying bills (debits) to those whose services you enjoy (credits).  Make sense; the debits of your employer to you as a paycheck comes from both the sale of goods and services and through investors who expect to be paid for their continued contributions to that business.  The employee is not “making” money when they are getting paid; they have traded time, sweat, and labor; no money was created for a paycheck.  But that paycheck allowed that employee to pay for groceries, clothes, fuel to get to work, along with other goods and services.  Credits and debits tell the story of where money travels, recording prices for goods and services along the way that governments are supposed to understand as they set tax rates.  However, the more a government borrows and spends, the more the tax rates are set not by people in government but by the penalties of interest.

lb0602cd20160601043644 | Peter Grandich and CompanyMany, if not most, of the American States, are in this predicament right now.  The Federal Government has been in this predicament since at least the 1960s due to the imbalance in trade going to China, the loss of manufacturing jobs in America, and the incredible rate of spending the government has done since WWII. The states and the federal governments are in this predicament also because of union wages.

I am not anti-labor union, I do believe that labor unions are a tremendous legal Ponzi-Scheme, and the victims of labor unions are the people forced to pay higher taxes for the wages and the retirement benefits, as well as the medical, vision, dental, and other benefits of union workers both in the private and public sector.  I also firmly believe that government workers should never be allowed to unionize as the government pays the wages through forced taxation.  In the New Testament, regardless of how you perceive Jesus Christ, there is a story about the Pharisees and Caesar’s Poll Tax which was grievous to be born by the conquered nations in the Roman Empire.  As a point of interest, every time taxes are mentioned in the oldest books known to man; they are always referred to as grievous, or in a negative term; why, because taxes are always a penalty, a legal way to weaken the populace and bribe the citizens with their own money.Chris Hedges Quotes | Labor Unions Rise Against Wage Slavery ...

Historically, conquered nations used to be forced to pay tribute to the conquering governments for the purpose of keeping that nation weakened and unable to rebel sufficiently to overthrow the conqueror.  When standing armies and navies became the norm in history for nations to keep, taxes followed to pay for the standing armies and navies.  Throughout history the story of tribute and taxes have driven people to rebel, become slaves to be bought and sold, and prisons to fill up when the citizenry could not, or would not, pay the tax collector.  The same tax collector who incidentally received for his time, wages from the taxes collected.  Many times, the tax collector was also known to the population as a neighbor, making the paying of taxes a mental as well as a physical burden.  When you have personal friendships with the conquered nations representatives, the story of Ben-Hur becomes more poignant and the appearance of the burdens of the conquered as bitter bondage is better understood.

Gary Varvel's Editorial Cartoons - Lemonade Comics And Cartoons | The  Cartoonist GroupMy aim is to help improve understanding and open the discussion on money, taxes, and what your government has done in the name of “COVID-Relief.”  When the fraudulent president considers inflation to not matter,  one must begin asking why inflation was a major issue when President Obama dumped money into the economy, but magically, President Biden can sleep peacefully knowing there are no inflationary concerns.  The more the current sitting US President speaks, the more I wonder about who is pulling his strings to make him talk!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.