Leading the Call Center: Flavor of the Month Philosophies

Chinese CrisisHaving just completed a project that saw me leading a team in a call center, I want to make something clear; quick fixes and flavor of the month philosophies do not work.  I cannot stress this enough; yet, the practice continues to the detriment of call center employees and the organizations served by call centers.  Flavor of the month philosophies is the latest bestseller to fix the problems in business.  We have all seen these programs including, FISH, WAIT, Strengths Quest, and so much more.  These ideas are good ideas, and they possess value, but when changed monthly, these programs, never do more than briefly mark the surface intellect of the call center.  I am not disparaging these ideas in the least; let me elaborate as to why the flavor of the month idea fails.

The project previously mentioned when concluded saw the call center director very much converted to a program of definite value in and using one’s strengths entitled Strengths Quest as presented by Clifton, Anderson, and Schreiner (2006).  The culture of strength promotes unity, and by extension, organizational power, when combined intellectually, becomes the corporate culture.  Integration in business, especially in call center operations, remains crucial to bottom-line health.  The call center director invested a lot of organizational resources to capture everyone’s strengths, publish these advantages, and use this information to measure the call center.  The problem was the staff has no idea why they are investing company time in completing the “Clifton Strength’s FinderÒ (CSF),” and many completed this assignment while taking calls and distracted.  How verifiable is the data if the attention of the person completing the task is diverted?

My assignment, as a call center supervisor, included gauging the employees in the call center about their strengths.  Of the 10-employees in the call center, two had forgotten and blatantly said they do not care.  Three expressed a desire to retake the CSF to more fully focus on the task instead of completing it between calls.  Four employees asked why and what is the purpose of taking the CSF.  Finally, all the employees, when asked how they use the CSF data in their daily actions, expressed the same answer, I do not know.

Let’s be clear; there is nothing wrong with the latest flavor of the month programs to improve an organization, provided the leaders understand change, embrace change, train and teach “the what” and “the why,” and then remain committed long after the excitement over the bright new object fades.  I had the misfortune of working in a call center where the entire corporate culture was expected to change with every fresh flavor of leadership, and the organization is a mental mess.  What is a leader to do when each new flavor-of-the-month is presented as a potential fix for organizational dilemmas?  I suggest the following as a launching point for corporate discovery and leadership support.

  • If the organization is going to invest resources in a particular program, do not change for a set period, which includes pre- and post- measurement and evaluation. If the organization does not know where they start, they can never know what happened or where to go in the future.blue-money-burning
  • Organizational change must be more than surface polish or potential money (Blue Money) is lost, never to be recovered. Organizational change needs to fundamentally affect the organization and be allowed to produce measured results.  Does this mean that if something is not working, we keep at it?  No!  It means to provide sufficient time and measurement to gauge the application and the organizational change.  Many times beta-testing the proposed change can identify the processes, procedures, and other trouble points to be mindful of, or correct in beta-testing, to ensure full organizational change may occur with a higher chance for success.
  • Get everyone involved, enthused, and a willing advocate for the change. Getting everyone involved is not producing marketing materials and desk references.  Getting everyone involved requires explaining why and detailing what in the organizational change.  Getting everyone involved means there will be feedback, pushback, and rebellion.  Expect pushback, but never allow pushback to derail reform.  Pushback is a healthy activity that provides essential opportunities for the leader to explore solutions, answer questions, and evaluate the results.
  • Teach and train; train and teach. Learning should be a constant and desirable outcome of organizational change.  Teaching is not training, training is not teaching; but, both are critical skills needed for leaders and learners.  Teaching is helping someone else acquire knowledge.  Training is teaching a behavior or ability.  Teaching is usually one-way communication using measurement tools, e.g., tests to gauge knowledge learned and retained.  Training should be two-directional communication, is completed through experience in closely monitored environments, and includes 360-degree feedback to improve the training environment.  Never allow teaching and training to become the same confused term; while the words are closely related, they are not the same action.
  • When was the last time you discussed what you are reading with front-line employees? When was the last time you engaged a front-line worker about what they are reading, thinking, and ask for suggestions to improve?  When was the last time you asked to be trained on a process, procedure, or organizational action by those who do it all day?  If recently, did you ask why, a lot?  I promise you will be surprised when you have these conversations, especially since they open up opportunities to explain and expound, learn, change, adapt, and engage with those you lead.
  • Organizational change requires enthusiasm from all parties to begin to engage and deepen the shift from surface polish to fundamental culture adaptation. Enthusiasm takes many shapes, sizes, and colors, including the loyal opposition of followers, opinions, and feedback.  The leader must exemplify and honor, or support, the enthusiasm around them as a tool for succeeding in changing the organization.
  • Clarify intentions. Clarify processes.  Clarify procedures.  Clarify by asking follow-up questions and reflectively listen to obtain mutual understanding.  Clarification remains one of the most critical tasks in organizational change.  When confusion rears its ugly head, respond with explanation and follow-up, as detailed in two-directional communication.  When the comprehension is doubted, ask for feedback as an opportunity to increase clarification.  Clarification is both a tool and an opportunity; do not waste this opportunity and tool by neglecting those needing clarification.
  • Organizational change needs a mechanism for gathering data from many sources, including the employees affected, the vendors, the suppliers, and the customers. Open the valve for data to flow back.  One of the most horrific organizational changes it has been my displeasure to witness was increased because the leaders operated in a vacuum and never allowed data flow that was contradictory to the previously agreed upon results.  The leaders in this organization worked hard to refuse hard data, which contradicted their bias, and this ruined the business, the employees, and the customers.

I cannot guarantee following all these points will make organizational change succeed, roses bloom, bottom lines inflate, rainbows dance, and all of life fall into organized lines leading ever upward.  I can guarantee that without these points, organizational change that promotes an environment of learning will never be more than polish.  Consider the axiom, “Lipstick on a pig.”  The lipstick is not bad, the pig is not bad, but placing lipstick on a pig is out of place and does nothing to improve the pig.  Flavor-of-the-month changes are lipstick on a pig, not bad, but out of place until the entire organization is on board and enthusiastically supporting the move, and proper measurements are in place to gauge, measure, and report the change.

Business theorist Chris Argyris put forth a model, later discussed by Senge (1994) explaining our thinking process as we interact with the world.  This seven-step method is called the Ladder of Inference; according to this model, as we move up the ladder our beliefs affect what we infer about what we observe and therefore become part of how we experience our interaction with other people.  Organizational change can be plotted along the same model or ladder of inference.

Leadership LadderOrganizational change begins with information output; then collect data, preferably through listening and observation while doing the work; interpreting the data includes obtaining data, evaluating meaning, deciphering intent, and understanding value.  Please note, the assumptions should not be made in a vacuum and could be wrong; thus, always return to the data producers and ask questions to ensure mutual understanding.  Once conclusions are mutually understood, they become beliefs; but, don’t stop until beliefs become actions.

If a model is needed, please benchmark Quicken Loans and Southwest Airlines, both organizations are doing a tremendous job with the ladder steps, especially moving organizational beliefs into motivated organizational action.  Remember, one does not climb a ladder to view the horizon and scenery, they climb a ladder to begin working, carrying the tools needed to perform the work, and possessing certain knowledge that the work can be accomplished.  Climb the ladder of success with the intent to work, achieve, and move forward.

References

Clifton, D. O., Anderson “Chip,” E., & Schreiner, L. A. (2016). Strengths quest: Discover and develop your strengths in academics, career, and beyond (2nd ed.).

Senge. P. M. (1994). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.

© 2017 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.

14 Rules on Leadership – Gen. George Washington: Shifting the Leadership Paradigm

General George Washington wrote “Rules on Civility” (1887) and helped to mold and model a growing social environment in America.  These 110 rules for civility also encapsulate good advice to leaders applicable still today and fourteen of them are discussed below as they bear direct application to the current societal ills.  The hope remains that in pointing out these rules leaders may become more of an example, business improves, and American Society as a whole begins to lift itself up to a higher level of performance.

Rule 19:

Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

I worked with a manager who made the following statement about the director we both answered to, “I never know whether he is joking, jesting, or simply being serious.”  This is a failure of leadership and can cause disharmony, chaos, and no end to trouble.  Model and exemplify pleasant emotions.  Never try to confuse your audience, never adopt an emotion without a purpose, and never make your audience to think or wonder about your emotional state or demeanor.  More importantly, looking pleasant builds confidence in those around you to act with pleasantness and harmony; so smile, speak softly, and generate pleasantness.

Rule 25:

Superfluous compliments and all affectation[s] of ceremonies are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be neglected.

This speaks to offering sincere praise, showing gratitude, and returning credit to the source for things that are progressing well and accepting failure when poorly.  I had the displeasure of working with an officer who gave insincere praise making a great ceremony out of giving that insincere praise and then laughing at the person being singled out for the praise for not knowing how to proceed correctly.  The morale of the unit was disastrous and deadly.  Several members of that group held a deep desire for a “friendly fire incident” involving this officer as the victim.  The same problems arise in business and if left to fester potential is wasted, and money follows lost potential.

Don’t forget to limit ceremony, pomp, and procession to the level needed to honor the awardee without allowing the ceremony, pomp, or procession to exceed the degree of the award or the awardee’s comfort level.  Know the audience and limit the service to the comfort of the audience.  Thus allowing those being awarded and those in attendance to celebrate in a manner conducive to the award and their individual comfort level.

Rule 35:

Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.

We have all heard, and many live by the axiom, “Time is money.”  This rule from Gen. Washington speaks to the need for comprehension, timeliness, and specificity.  Limit the words, tone down the tone, restrict the emotional content, and get to the point; thus saving the audience’s attention and exemplifying respect for the other person in the communication.

Rule 39:

In writing or speaking, give to every person his due title according to his degree and the customs of the place.

Did you work hard for your title, yes; thus, reflect the respect for your title to others.  I met two different people in authority, 180-degrees apart from each other that saw this principle from opposing extremes.  One manager refused to use titles calling the whole thing meaningless while demanding respect for their personal rank and title.  20-year employees who had obtained great honor and respect amongst their peers received no respect from the leader who demanded respect.  The other leader cared a great deal for their title because of those who had held that title before them and respected others who had earned titles for the same reason.  The second leader had higher morale, less behavioral problems, and loyal people who achieved greatness.  The first leader had nothing but trouble, never could reach goals and objectives, and passed the failures to produce onto others.

In our global working environment, knowing the culture where titles and showing respect is critical to creating success.  More importantly, if you as a leader have not already cultivated respect for titles, the ability to show genuine respect for those of titles will place you at a disadvantage and harm the businesses you represent.  Make time to learn and practice showing proper respect for those with titles.

Rule 44:

When a man does all he can, though it succeed[s] not well, blame not him that did it.

How many times has success been snatched from the hands of those trying and the leader then berates, castigates, and derides those who tried?  Since measuring individual effort is not possible, first presume everyone did their best, then promote a spirit of learning from failure and build people.  Even if the actions were thought to be malicious and vengeful, praise and support people, you never know and in not knowing, do not assume!  I would also interject the following thought, Juran’s Rule details that when problems arise, 90% of the time the process is failing and only 10% of the time are people failing.  Thus, look to the processes, the procedures, the methods of work for answers, employ training, and only blame people as the ultimate last resort; this includes blaming yourself.

Rule 45:

Being to advise or reprehend anyone, consider whether it ought to be done in public or in private, and presently or at some other time; in what terms to do it; and in reproving show no signs of cholar but do it with all sweetness and mildness.

(Please note, the term “cholar” has had a spelling update and is now spelled “choler” and is defined as showing irascibility, anger, wrath, or irritability.  From Latin is the origin cholera.)

There is great truth hidden here; this rule mimics another axiom, “Praise in public and reprimand in private.”  While speaking to timeliness, this rule allows the leader to select when and where praise and reprimand occurs.  Do not forget Rule 19 emotion is a leadership tool, not a weapon; tools guide and instruct, weapons destroy and demoralize.  Use emotion wisely or choose to not use emotion at all per the rule above, but make emotion a conscious choice!

Rule 48:

Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself, — for example is more prevalent than precepts.

During my military service, I had a mid-level officer that hated and punished severely those who slept on watch, for a good reason.  The problem, the officer regularly slept on watch.  The example was more prevalent than the precepts taught and destroyed morale.  Rules 19, 45, and 48, all discuss powerful leadership principles along with a general theme and should be considered both individually and collectively to make the lessons more powerful.  First, know yourself, then know those you aspire to lead, and finally lead well.

Rule 49:

Use no reproachful language against anyone; neither curse nor revile.

In the world today, many confuse reprimand (rebuke or admonition) with reproach (finding fault, upbraiding, blaming, censure, disgrace or discredit) and this has led to a lot of confusion in communication.  More to the point, the language of leaders has coarsened, hardened, and plasticized or transitioned into bluster and buffoonery instead of calm and controlled.  I know a brilliant person, photographic memory, incredible mental ability, no people skills, no technical expertise, and there is great pride in not having these skills.  This person was promoted to the level of senior officer in the US military.  Who, during an inspection, wept uncontrollably when the plan went to pieces, machinery broke down, and the inspection failed.  This brilliant person could not speak to inferiors without an attitude of superiority cursing and reproach everyone and anyone.  Leaders, especially those placed in command through rank, must understand this communication principle and the power of this principle for good and ill.  Failure to communicate remains the sole variable upon which organizational cancer metastasizes into a full-blown case of organizational chaos leading to destruction (Dandira, 2012).

Rule 58:

Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for ‘tis a sign of tractable and commendable nature, and in all causes of passion permit reason to govern.

The above “rule” is a choice, rather two options.  The first choice is choosing to speak without malice and envy as a sign of your personal nature.  The second choice is to restrict passion.  Leaders only show emotion as a tool, not a weapon.  Conversation requires restricted passion to convey to the audience logic and confidence in the leader.

Rule 59:

Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against the rules before your inferiors.

I used to think this was common sense, and then I met two Chief Petty Officers (CPO’s) in the US Navy and discovered that common sense is not very common.  These two CPO’s remarked upon everything they saw, verbally spewing whatever occurred between their two ears, and were always examples of what not to do and how not to act.  Feeling their rank and position secure, these CPO’s then punished those who did not act in their manner severely and those who replicated their actions were rewarded and protected from the consequences.  With the result being that the followers exceeded the examples displayed by the CPO’s with noticeable results for morale, good order, and discipline.

Rule 65:

Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor in earnest; scoff at none although they give occasion.

I worked with a brilliant and incredible person who took a little time to learn and was very clumsy.  Once the topic being taught was then known, this individual knew that task and performed it in an exemplary manner.  Because of the clumsiness and time, it took to learn, this person was always the butt of his command’s jokes, jibes, insults, and was on every single petty detail possible, and performed those tasks poorly.  When respected, honest and sincerely praised, this person performed incredible feats.  The difference amazed and shocked his command and division, but did not silence these voices of derision to the detriment of the quality of work performed.  Did my friend give occasion to be laughed at, certainly!  Did he deserve to be laughed at, certainly not!  Leaders need to be doing better at controlling themselves and exemplifying the behaviors they desire to see in others.

Rule 67:

Detract not from others, neither be excessive in commanding.

While much of this rule can be considered to be part of Rule 65, detracting from others goes beyond verbal haranguing of Rule 65.  Detract is to reduce in value usually with the intent of making yourself larger.  Managers detract from their workers by taking credit for all the good and passing off all the blame.  Leaders attract the blame and detract the praise to the source.

The final aspect of this rule is necessary to understand, excessive commanding.  Commanding with excessive commands is nothing more than dominating in an authoritarian manner to the destruction of others.  Even commanding without excessive commands but with an attitude of domination can destroy.  Commanding well is an attitude of servitude coupled with a desire to build, grow, and develop people to meet their individual potential and doesn’t generally need commands, but always needs guidance or if you prefer, coaching.  Consider the life of a tree planted in good level ground.  The tree spends the first 10-15 years of life with a guide wire to help the tree grow straight.  Not a command and forced growth, but a guided growth into growing straight and true.  People are like the tree; the leader is like the guide wire, build people through guidance or coaching, not commands.

Rule 73:

Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.

I was raised in a home where pronunciation and annunciation were as critical to speaking as spelling, grammar is to writing well, and the rules included proper and logical thinking, before speaking.  The process of communication is aided and abetted by properly pronouncing and announcing your words when speaking, after carefully thinking and crafting your desires into coherent thoughts.  In the US Army, I did not have trouble with my upbringing interfering with communication.  In the US Navy, I had nothing but problems with how I was raised interfering with communications.  One day, I spent 45-minutes being verbally upbraided by a second-class petty officer that choose to speak with no regard for the rules of the English Language, no understanding of grammar, and no logic, where Ebonics were displayed as a symbol of pride intended to confuse the receiver.  I was then referred to the CPO for not listening and being disrespectful.  I explained I could not understand what was being said and was told that my understanding of language is not his understanding of language and that I am in the wrong for not working harder to show empathy to a higher-ranking person.  Remember, the second-class petty officer chose, while on duty, to speak in a manner that intentionally could not be understood and always spoke in an understandable style when off duty.  If placed into a position of authority, managerial or leadership, that role comes the expectation of communication using logic, common rules of English pronunciation and annunciation, and proper grammar to ensure mutual understanding has the potential to be achieved.  When confusion in language occurs, it is the leaders, or managers, job to then rephrase and change language to meet the understanding of the listener.

These rules as mentioned form the bedrock upon which long and fruitful careers of leadership are built upon.  If weak in a particular rule, choose to obtain training and counsel in how to improve.  Find people exemplifying these rules and support them in their good works.  Train and develop those not employing these rules into better people, and our entire society improves.

References

Dandira, M. (2012). Dysfunctional leadership: Organizational cancer. Business Strategy Series, 13(4), 187-192. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17515631211246267

Washington, G. (2009). George Washington’s Rules of Civility (and decent behavior in company and conversation). Retrieved December 30, 2016, from http://www.digireads.com

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Man’s Inhumanity Towards Man: Shifting the Leadership and Customer Service Paradigm

quote-mans-inhumanity

Recently, I was asked, “What does customer service mean to you?” The question continues to reverberate in my mind. Drawing upon several recent experiences, let’s discuss why customer service continues to be useless, debilitating, and demeaning. Finally, let’s imagine a way forward, a new paradigm for understanding the relationship between people as human beings, customers, and employees, who all deserve the best customer experience we, the professional customer-facers, can provide.

For the record, my wife considers the first example a genuine customer service success and remains a pleased customer. Since the first example concerns both of us, I see the customer service provided as a fail and will explain in greater detail below. According to my wife, this example is a win because of the treatment and ease of concluding her part in the customer service example. This separation of beliefs highlights another reason why voice-of-the-customer surveys (VoC) should not be a knowledge performance indicator (KPI) for service professionals. Service delivery is ambiguous, and as the disconnection between my wife and I represents, service value is in the eye of the beholder.

The first example begins with Amazon.com. The end user received their order for a product (the customer was served), which also contained two items not requested, not ordered, and not paid for (an additional hassle for the customer). The customer service department, at Amazon.com, was consulted and the agent informed the customer, “Since the cost to return the products did not justify shipping the products back to Amazon, the customer could keep the products” with Amazon’s blessing. This is not a good customer service experience for several reasons:

  1. The customer now has to dispose of new products not needed or wanted.
  2. The only justification for not returning the products was the cost, e.g. inconvenience, to Amazon.
  3. The underlying problem, receiving parts not requested, did not come with a solution that served the customer; nor, did the option to keep the parts improve the customer experience.

While the customer-facing agent was kind, considerate, and per the company guidelines acting in all good faith to the customer, in the interests of the company the customer was not served even though a solution was generated and the customer went away. Consider the person who was supposed to receive these parts. They will have to call and either receive a bill credit or the parts need to be shipped, thus delaying the other customer as well as not serving that customer by respecting their time, resources, and honoring the customer’s commitment to using the retailer Amazon.com. With both customers not being served, how can Amazon.com, or any business organization, dare refer to these customer interactions as “service.”

Regarding the next two examples, I am purposefully vague about the entities committing the customer “dis-service” at this moment, for a reason. I do not want distractions, e.g. reader bias, to interrupt or interfere with the focus upon the incidents by naming the organizations. The second example comes from an infamously poor government office that has a reputation for providing poor service to their customer base. The third example comes from a truly infamous retailer who is already struggling but generally has much better customer interactions. The second and third examples’ names will be provided later in this article.

While dealing with a large government entity, both in person and over the phone, three separate and divergent answers to the same problem were received over the period of five different opportunities to assist the customer. By stating this experience happened with a government entity, many people already are presuming the experience was bad. It was, and this is an acceptable and reasonable policy for bureaucrats to exemplify. I disagree most heartily that any government office can produce poor customer interactions and skate by blithely. Since all governments cannot operate without forced taxation, the government entity should be providing better, not worse, customer interactions than those found in the private sector and the need to hold the government to a higher standard is sorely lacking. More to the point, the original problem remains unresolved more than 15-days after the problem was promised a solution within 5-business days. What amazes me the most in this affair is the nonchalance, non-interest, and forthright noncommittal that government employees are allowed, nay encouraged, to get away with in customer interactions with those same taxpayers, who both need help and pay the taxes to keep the government employee employed.

Third, a recent example occurred during this now past holiday season; a customer approached a company representative for directions; the company representative did not have any pressing duties to occupy his/her time and can leave his/her assigned post to aid customers in improving the customer experience. I know this, as I checked with the manager and witnessed the customer service provider playing on a cell phone moments before being asked a question. The company representative gave a broad hand, and arm gestures yelled at the customer and appeared in all appearances to be inconvenienced by the customer’s request for directions. The company’s policy states the company representative is to walk the customer directly to their desired destination and await the customer’s pleasure to return to their original post as the only method to handle this type of service request. When this was brought to the manager’s attention, the manager acted shocked in front of the customer raising the complaint, and then took no action, as the additional action was deemed “not warranted” per the manager’s murmured comments to other employee’s in the vicinity. More to the point, the manager took the opportunity to bad mouth the customer raising the complaint and presented the complaint to other employees, who “snickered” at the language the manager used to describe those making complaints, while falsely thinking the customer who is raising the concerns was not paying attention.

Finally, a recent example from a major fast food franchise, while Burger King as a corporation should not be held accountable for the work the franchise performed, the customer service example remains priceless in showcasing the uselessness of serving the customer and the need for training customer interaction professionals. While using coupons, the customer became confused in the “legal print, ” and the order took longer to place and pay for than normal. The cashier at this point does three things: 1. Assumes the confused customer cannot hear; 2. Bad mouth the confused customer to the next three customers who were waiting patiently; and 3. Blames the customer for taking too long to order their food. Later, the cashier approached the confused customer, blamed the incident on him, offered a faux apology, and walked off muttering about stupid customers not understanding the reality of fast food restaurants.

In the third example, do not be distracted by the poor leadership being presented by the manager. Focus instead on the customer interactions: two different customer experiences, both deemed “acceptable customer service” by the powers that control the experiences. Neither customer was served nor was the problems solved. The first customer found a more helpful company representative who followed the company policy, and the second customer interaction with the manager only strengthened the customer’s resolve to continue to avoid the retailer. Two opportunities to grow a new relationship, enhance a new paradigm upon the customer, and promote goodwill and loyalty with the local customer base were missed. Customer interactions can and should be held to a higher standard, and the following defines my position that focusing solely on customer service is useless along with steps to improve.

Focusing solely on “serving the customer” is useless as all the customer receives is a meeting of their stated needs. In the third example, the customer received directions; thus, the customer’s need was met, and service was provided. In the first and second examples, the customer needed information and a plan of action to overcome the situation experienced. Even if the work resulted in the customer needing to take more action, the customer was “technically” served. In the fourth example, the confused customer received his food, was able to use a coupon, and was thus “served.” Is it apparent that merely serving the customer is useless?

The service to the customer, while technically meeting the customer’s needs, remains not just poor but pointless; all because the focus of the organization is honed to simply provide “service” or meet the customer’s stated need at the lowest cost, the fastest interaction, and the least amount of effort for the company and those employed to provide customer service. Sometimes all that is wanted by the customer is to resolve the problem quickly and efficiently and courteously and move forward with their lives. This is yet another reason why freedom is needed in customer interactions to serve as needed for each customer making contact. Customer facing professionals deserve better from their leadership than simply “providing service to customers.” Customer facing professionals need leadership, guidance, and freedom to develop the rapport necessary to shine their personal, professional pride into the customer interaction, all with the intent of not merely “serving a customer’s needs,” but providing opportunities for the customer to be motivated to brag about their unique customer experience.

In practice, the following steps should be the underlying governing principles to move from service to professional pride.

  1. No matter the method for customer interaction, make the time to show genuine interest in the customer. This will require making conversation, employing reflective listening techniques to ensure mutual understanding of the customer’s position, and representing the company with professional pride. For the customer-facing employees to show pride in the company the company leaders need to ensure the “What” and the “Why” is known to the employees’ so the employee can exemplify the “What” and the “Why” to customers. Leadership is key to communicating with a purpose and promoting the spirit of reflective listening in an organization. Make the connection of mutual understanding and most of the customer problems shrink in size.
    1. Active listening is good, but it doesn’t make the grade anymore.
    2. Reflective listening is all about making sure mutual understanding has been achieved.
    3. Mutual understanding provides one interaction resolution, goes beyond simple servicing needs, and displays the pride and professionalism of the company’s commitment to customer interactions.
    4. Reflective listening can be employed in voice, email, instant message, and face-to-face customer interactions and reflects an easily attained step up from only actively listening.
  2. Promote the customer experience by not differentiating between external and internal customers, treat them all as valuable customers deserving attention, focus, eye contact, and validation that their concern is justified and worthy of attention. Act in a manner that the customer deserves the best, and the spirit of customer interactions will infuse all the customers with a commonality of desire, hope, and professionalism. As a customer interaction professional, how much better do you offer superior interactions with customers when you, receive excellent customer interactions from the company you spend time representing?
  3. Remember to make the human connection in human interactions. Using reflective listening, focus on the clues, the body language, the tone of voice, and acknowledge these communication streams through competent action. For example, if the customer is perceived as stressed and is speaking in a clipped and hurried manner, respond kindly, but through accurate and speedy action acknowledging the customer’s stress and meeting the customer’s need by respecting their time. Human interactions are improved through human connections that reflect respect and that embody this principle in every human interaction, and the customer-facing employee becomes a customer’s hero. Using the information above, are we not all customer-facing employees; yes, we certainly are!
  4. Freedom to think and act in the interest of the customer, based upon sound critical thinking skills, is exemplified at the time of the interaction without second-guessing after the interaction. This happens more often in call centers, but every customer-facing employee has had this occur to them. At the moment, the decision appeared the best course of action, but after the interaction/interference of a manager or a quality assurance (QA) employee has second-guessed and provided “advice” that does not provide value to future customer interactions, doubt is planted removing confidence in acting appropriately in the future. Does this mean allowing poor judgment to survive? Absolutely not; it does mean that the “advice” needs to model and reflect value for future decisions, not cast aspersions upon the previous decisions.
  5. SMART Training. Everyone knows the axiom for SMART Goals; training should also embody the principles of and reflect SMART, “Specific, Measurable, Applicable, Realistic, and Timely.” If the training does not meet SMART levels, the training is not valuable to the persons receiving the training. Make the training SMART, and the potential for improving professionalism in customer interactions grows exponentially.
  6. Never stop learning, never stop reaching, and never stop growing. How often does training cease for employees after the new hire training concludes? How is a new employee supposed to meet the demands of a constantly changing customer population without ongoing training? More specifically, should managers, team leaders, directors, VP’s, and the C-Level leaders also continue to learn and receive training in their positions, roles, and company? If the front-line customer-facing employees need constant refresher training, then every customer-facing employee needs constant refresher training that meets the SMART training guidelines and provides value to the individual using that training.
  7. Stop wasting resources on unproductive goals, e.g., serving customers with excellence. Serving customers, even with “excellence,” remains a useless and wasteful activity; eradicate the term “customer service” from the company vernacular and memory. Begin by realizing the opportunity provided in customer interactions to grow the business, supporting customer interactions through reflective listening where mutual understanding is the goal, and by acting upon the mutual understanding achieved.

We, the professional customer-facing providers, can and should be able to onboard these principles and lead the eradication efforts to remove customer service from our focus and professional labels. The importance of not serving the customer, but elevating the customer interaction, cannot be understated. The customer experience needs to be elevated with reflective listening and prompt action to mutual understanding and a sense of mutual growth as partners in using the company’s products and services. The customer is too important to continue to waste resources only to serve. Make the opportunity to deliver and elevate, and the bottom-line will take care of itself abundantly. The organization in the second example is the Department of Veteran Affairs. The organization in the third example is Target.

quote-mans-inhumanity-2

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved – Image Copyrights used under Fair Use and are not included in the authors copyrighted materials.  AZ Quotes retains image copyrights.

Leadership is Teaching: The Corporate Training Paradox

Training in Corporate America is at a crossroads; due to the pressures of training adults who have been failed by public education (Badke, 2009), the costs of training are skyrocketing, even as technology investments are paying huge dividends. Informational illiteracy is hampering training initiatives, slowing productivity, and decreasing returns on human capital development. Not knowing how to find data, use data, and evaluate data, is frustrating the learning processes and is hidden from view in our current corporate societies. This paper is going to briefly discuss the parameters of the problem and outline a simple solution.

Leadership Means Teaching

Every organization has a problem similar to this scenario. Employee A has been through corporate training for their job. They complete their job with very little supervision and are known as resident subject matter experts. Employee B has also completed corporate training and has tasks similar to Employee A, but Employee B uses Employee A for answers to all questions and concerns while performing their daily tasks. Employee B and A have both received the same training, have access to the same sources for information, but what is the difference and why the disparity. The disparity is found in information literacy and can be answered with a simple question: “Is Employee B informationally literate and comfortable using the resources provided?” Why the disparity if the answer is yes? If the answer is no, what training program is capable or available for teaching information literacy? If Employee A and B have been employed for the same amount of time, the productivity lost by both employees has burned through tremendous amounts of potential money or ‘blue money’ and the organization is not seeing a return on investment (ROI) for either employee.

Information Literacy, as defined by Plattsburgh State University of New York (P-SUNY), Plattsburgh State Information and Computer Literacy Task Force, (2001), is “… the ability to recognize the extent and nature of an information need, then to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed information (Heller-Ross, 2012, Para 1).” As the supervisor, team leader, organizational leadership, evaluating sources and training others are inseparably connected to ROI and human capital development. The problem is many people are missing these skills, and corporate training is not covering how to adapt to the knowledge dearth.

Russell (2009) proclaims that even at the secondary school level it is to late to teach this skill set, except corporate training has never even addressed the problem and the same age as entrance into college is the same age as new hires in corporate entry-level positions. While Russell claims this skill set must be taught in lower grade educational settings, this does not address the current educational lack. If P-SUNY is correct that this skill set is “needed information,” and Ms. Russell is also correct that by the time the individual reaches college age it is too late to teach this skill set, where and how does corporate training meet the needs of the organization to train employees on information literacy?

The current corporate culture is defined by Myron Tribus (2008) as a “Knowing Society.” This means it is not acceptable to not know something or the person caught not being fully informed is perceived as less than useful and will be terminated. Tribus talks about changing into a “Learning Society” where it is acceptable and encouraged to not know everything and ask questions. This ‘learning society’ would foster training as a leadership function, and the solution for information illiteracy would be to train with supervisors instead of resident knowledge experts. Burpitt (2009) talks about this occurrence as exploiting the effectiveness of transformational leadership, or as Tribus puts it, “… [Leaders] must practice what they preach. ‘Don’t say “follow me, I ‘m behind you all the way.” It makes everyone go in circles’ (Tribus, 2008, pg 3).”

Corporate Training Requires Knowing

            Badke (2009) mentions three steps to begin visualizing the problem and through visualizing the problem, individual solutions reach achievability. These steps are “1. Rethink everything, 2. Stop making informational literacy remedial, and 3. Conquer the blindness (Badke, 2009, pg 49).” Instead of re-inventing the wheel, Turusheva (2009) has provided a framework to utilize. The framework rests inside the already developed and tested ‘Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education’ published by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). These standards can form a basic test for corporate trainers to deliver. If an employee meets the proficient level, they do not need more formal information literacy training, although they can take a course if the space is available and the needs of the company dictate. If the employee does not meet the proficient level, organize these employees into a class and offer official training in informational literacy. The ACRL standards include efficiency and effectiveness in finding data and then using that data, thus making these standards applicable for corporate organizations to incorporate into their training regimes. Since data use contains legal, ethical, and social dimensions, the ACRL includes this as a standard, thus adding a level of protection to the corporation when many employees have Internet access for company business. Corporate training requires knowing how to address problems, seeing deficiencies, and meeting those deficiencies with sound training and inspiring learners to learn the needed skills to be successful.

Conclusion

            The ideas outlined above should not be considered remedial, in “rethinking everything” and “conquering the blindness (Badke, 2009, pg 49).” The number one factor must be stressed; this is a needed skill set for the position. Stress the need for the corporate society to always be one where being willing to learn is honored and not knowing means a learning opportunity. Informational illiteracy is almost as bad as illiteracy or not knowing how to read. If a person cannot evaluate data in our current technological society, that person is handicapped and the restrictions have been placed upon that person by their education. An employee who knows how to think, find answers, and solve problems is an employee like Employee A from the scenario and one that needs to be incentivized to remain employed. Knowing how to find data, evaluate that data, and then apply that data is a skill set which can be taught, learned, and fostered in an organization which values their employees.

References

Badke, W. (2009, Jul/Aug). How we failed the NET generation. Online, 47-49.

Burpitt, W. (2009). Exploration versus exploitation: Leadership and the paradox of administration. Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management, 227 – 245.

Heller-Ross, H. (2012). Information literacy: a critical skill and a strategic commitment. Retrieved from http://www.plattsburgh.edu/library/instruction/informationliteracydefinition.php

Russell, P. (2009). Why universities need information literacy now more than ever. Feliciter, 55(3), 92-94.

Tribus, M. (2008). Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools. Retrieved March 16, 2009 from: Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools Web site: http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/den/change_cult.pdf

Turusheva, L. (2009). Students’ information competence and its importance for life-long education. Problems of Education in the 21st Century, 12, 126-132.

© 2015 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Collective Leadership Practices – Understanding The Leadership Dillemma

Please note:  The following was posted at UoPX as an assignment.  While written for an academic audience, this is information many business leaders need right now.  Future business leaders need to understand the core principles to shift out of this academic view of leadership and into a functional and practical role.

The following article will, quite frankly, not be popular.  Many in the “leadership author” business hold the principles of ‘Collective Leadership’ as a guiding star, when quite frankly the practice is anything but practical and everything but useful.  The entire Hickman (2010) article [Ch 18] quoting Allen et al., reads like the Communist Manifesto by Mark and Engels (2013). Including balderdash, academic nuance, and hyperbole wrapped in a shiny wrapper and presenting a chimerical and illusory outlook without any type of practical substance.  Yet, those espousing ‘collective leadership’ refuse to understand the core doctrine and recognize it was wrong.

Nowhere in the entire article are the principles of responsibility and accountability mentioned, discussed, or broached. Yet Robinson (1999) makes clear the principles of accountability and responsibility must be honored and, from a bottom-up perspective, the front-line employees need to know who is ultimately in charge, responsible, and will be held accountable. A committee shirks responsibility and accountability, thus collective leadership never works.  Consider ENRON, WorldComm, or Solyndra, all of these fantastic failures were caused by committees shirking responsibility, accountability, and this led to fraud, criminal actions, and a workforce in confusion. While facilitating learning and fostering growth are good, they cannot be honored fully without the principles of individual freedom and agency, both of these principles cannot be employed unless accountability and responsibility are honored. Preservation of nature and caring communities remain idealistic and utopian, both are not principles that provide bottom-line performance, the primary role of the senior management team.

Courage, integrity, and authenticity are all excellent attributes to possess, but alone they cannot and should not be a solution. The reason is simple; these are actions, principles, and ideals to be worked towards. But they can never work in a vacuum. Rao (2013) discusses ‘Soft Leadership’ and touches lightly upon people needing others like them to combine to live, elevate, challenge, and change. Kuczmarski (1996 & 2003) combine with Kuhn (1996) and Nibley (1987) to seal the thought patterns here by describing the risk inherent in standing for principles and why less risk taking is being engaged upon and the paradigm adopted by organizational managers to stifle competition and remove opportunities to change.

Taken in proportion, all of the items mentioned in Hickman (2010) article [Ch. 18], can be combined to bring a principled stand and improve an organization, but separate these items and they do not and cannot stand independently. Combined into a strategy that is adopted, supported, and lived by the entire organizational structure, including all members of the organization, the organization can change. Separate these items or combine them in such a manner that one is more relied upon, honored, or held more precious than the others, and disaster, chaos, and destruction are not powerful enough words to describe what the ultimate end product will become. A perfect example of the unfeasible nature of these items when separated can be discovered in the current problems being suffered in the US Department of Veteran Affairs, the US Department of the Treasury, specifically the Internal Revenue Service, and the US Department of Homeland Security. The management styles embraced by these organizations are remarkably similar and can almost be lifted verbatim from the pages of the Hickman (2010) article [Ch. 18]. The impossibly idealist attitudes do not work in reality and the result becomes organizations that fail to do their job, are easily manipulated into the designs of conspiring people, and in the process do more harm than good while costing more money than budgeted.

References

Hickman, G. (2010). Chapter 18: Leadership in the 21st Century. In Leading organizations: Perspectives for a new era (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Kuczmarski, T. (1996). What is innovation? The art of welcoming risk. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 13(5), 7-11.

Kuczmarski, T. (2003). What is innovation? And why aren’t companies doing more of it? What Is Innovation? And Why Aren’t Companies Doing More of It?” 20(6), 536-541.

Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. (Third ed., Vol. VIII). Chicago, ILL: The University of Chicago Press.

Marx, K., & Engels, F. (2013). The Communist Manifesto (eBook ed.). USA: Start Publishing.

Rao, M. S. (2013). Soft leadership: a new direction to leadership. Industrial and Commercial Training, 45(3), 143-149. doi: 10.1108/00197851311320559

Robinson, G. (1999). Leadership vs management. The British Journal of Administrative Management, 20-21. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224620071?accountid=458

© 2014 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Shifting the Employment Paradigm – Or, ‘Organizational Psychology to the Rescue’

Before reading further, please follow this link:  Sir Ken Robinson – Changing Education Paradigms.  Sir Ken Robinson discusses changing the education paradigms and lays out a genetic heritage in modern schools.  This same model applies to modern business and the discussion here is to shift the business employment paradigm.  The reason is simple; Dauten (2003) discusses it and makes this proclamation, “Accept that organizations call to the worst in human nature, and be LIBERATED by that knowledge.”  [Emphasis mine]  Happiness is a choice.

As happiness is a choice, all emotion is a choice.  The choice is individual in nature and comes as a response to external stimuli in the environment.  Emotional choices build upon previous choices, snowballing into consequences affecting more than the individual and current environment.  Like ripples on a pond, enough ripples and waves appear; enough waves and danger to small craft can occur.  Emotional choices are similar to ripples on a pond increasing in size and frequency until damage occurs.

Dauten (2003) goes on to describe some interesting points in his book, ‘The Laughing Warriors: How to Enjoy Killing the Status Quo,’ namely, the genetics of why organizations continue to experience the same problems, the same genetics mentioned by Sir Ken Robinson.  These genetic problems are historical in nature, aggravated by government influence, multiplied by labor unions, and are 100% correctable through simplification and shifting the paradigm.

America learned early in the Industrial Revolution from those who considered themselves “enlightened” how to form organizational cultures.  Although the process was de-humanizing, the culture worked, to some extent, early in the Industrial Revolution, but the core problems in the genetic make up had not been addressed.  These enlightened founders of organizations knew the process was incomplete, stated their perceptions were not the full answer, and hoped those following would take the beginning they established and improve upon the design.  Dauten (2003) declares, rightly, “… People are hardwired for mediocrity and conformity.”  From this genetic make up comes bureaucracy, which supports more fear, and more conformity promotes mediocrity shunning change and learning in an attempt to cling bitterly to that which vexes all men, bureaucracy.

Consider the functioning culture of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Veteran’s Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, or any other behemoth bureaucratic organization that exhibits an organizational culture born from inefficiency, duplicity of work, lack of interest and enthusiasm, lack of desire to please, lack of accountability and responsibility, and much more, which causes impediment of work accomplishment, slow service, and often outright aggravation.  The example is clear; Dauten (2003) is correct; there is a genetic code calling for people to build inadequately designed organizations that down trod and digress rather than uplift and progress.  The functioning of such monolithic, controlling, inadequately structured organizations absorbs resources, devalues people, and almost repels change.  Change is feared; thus the tool of free people everywhere remains, initiate, demand, and force change.

The answer to resolving organizationally fed genetic bureaucracy is shifting the paradigms.  Paradigm is defined as a model or pattern.  One example of a paradigm is hierarchy, or work flow and command structure in a business organization.  Often linear hierarchy is the only method of describing this structure.  Shifting from a linear hierarchical structure to a circle hierarchy, parallel hierarchy, or eliminating hierarchy all together is, more often than not, unfathomable.  Thus, organizational psychology holds the answer to improving organizational dilemmas in shifting the hierarchy paradigm.  The topics of “Change Management,” “Organizational Communication,” or “Hierarchical Structure” fall into a simple paradigm in the purview of organizational psychologists intent on improving people to improve performance in business organizations.  More simply put, organizational psychologists review the genetic bureaucracy and help people rewire their individual response to environmental stimuli.  Dauten (2003) calls this the process of becoming a “Happy Warrior” “… intent on killing the status quo.”

Shifting the employment paradigm requires business leaders to consider letting go of the outdated term and perception of employee to focusing on people and their crafts.  At the same time, employees must let go of the genetic assumption that they are incapable of being a boss, being creative, or improving the job while working at the job. Letting go of these thoughts and gaining control of their rights to control their own destiny is essential to the success of the individual as well as the organization.  The Federal Government took the ‘Right to Control’ away from individuals, making them subservient to employers, and shifted the paradigm of control into an unnatural environment.  This single action has caused myriad problems, which bear fruit in the organizational culture, hierarchy, and societal problems in our modern world.

The natural order, provided to man from a higher being, is the individual right to control one’s own destiny.  The Declaration of Independence clearly delineates this natural order and describes man’s ‘pursuit of happiness.’  Once the ‘Right to Control’ was removed from the individual, the unforeseen consequences included groupthink, box thinking, drones forming larger bureaucracies, run-away mediocrity, unbridled conformity, and stifled creativity.

Shifting the employment paradigm should not need a ‘Declaration of Independence’ to bring attention to the need for change, but, if proclaiming independence through a declaration raises awareness to the problem and success is achieved, then employees the world over should ascribe.  The basic tenets of a declaration of employee independence should include:

  • The ‘Right to Control’ – Individuals want it back from their employers, unions, and government.  This ‘Right to Control’ comes with the following:
    • Schedule freedom
    • Remuneration for knowledge attainment
    • Control of the working environment
    • The power to affect change
    • Hierarchical Organization
    • Benefits that possess value – Cost and value are not the same and the new knowledge worker recognizes this fact.
    • Win-Win – Providing services in exchange for money requires a “Win-Win” scenario.  Thus, the organization wins workers, the workers win an organization to serve, both parties remain independent, and both parties can negotiate changes to improve.
    • Responsibility to:
      • Be treated as a knowledge worker
      • Treat others as knowledge workers
      • Level the knowledge playing field through acquiring new knowledge
      • Experimenting to drive value
      • Valuing experimentation in others’ performances
      • Honor – Work is honorable.

It remains imperative of the worker to take what is valuable to him/her and add these points into the conversation.  The business organization also must present that which they value and bring their points, ideas, requirements, into the conversation.  Thus, through the power of negotiation and debate, the employment paradigm is shifted.

Reference

Dauten, D. (2003). The Laughing Warriors: How to enjoy killing the status quo. Richmond, CA: Lumina Media.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

A Contradiction – ‘Or, An Exercise in Restoration.’

Shifting the business paradigm is comparable to shifting the December-placed holiday of Christmas to its rightful place in April.  The enlightenment is a bit distorted at first because of tradition, familial activities, and misguided Christian beliefs.  The enlightenment of shifting the business paradigm is a bit distorted at first because of similar reasons of tradition, company decisions and procedures, Federal and State Government intervention, the de-humanization of business organizations, and misguided employer/employee beliefs.

The history of Christmas is a complex accumulation of events over time originally precipitated by early religious leaders to direct the energies of early Christians away from holidays previously celebrated, specifically, the Roman Holiday of Saturnalia and the Scandinavian holiday, Yuletide.  Thus, a new holiday was created.  The history of business is a complex accumulation of events over time originally precipitated by financial leaders to direct individual craftsmen into organized activities for power with government and other business organizations.  Thus, modern business organizations were created.  Just as the symbols of Christmas stem from the holidays mentioned and were given an acceptable ‘Christ-like’ connection, so did business practices stem from corrupt political practices and were given an acceptable name of democratic enterprise.

Just as Christmas has become a secular as well as Christian potpourri of love, family, religion, greed, frustration, envy, strife, even violence, and other desirable and undesirable characteristics, business practices have evolved into similar characteristics.  Just as craftsmen worked initially because of their love of family, to provide for them in adequate provision, and for their love for their craft, business organizations have morphed into a desire for gain and greed and control.  While de-humanizing, this morph is not bad, simply misguided and easily corrected by returning the ‘Right to Control’ back to the individual employee.

Through the charitable feelings of a person’s heart to “Give good gifts,” the current celebration of Christmas often loses the main component of the professed holiday, Christ.  Well-intentioned people have vainly fought for the rights of the worker with the energies of their hearts only to result in further captivity, the fundamental flaw in the unrecognized logic being not ‘rights’ but individual freedom.  Rights cannot be given by man to man; rights come from a supreme being to man.  Individual freedom can be given from man to man, from business to man, and from government to man.  Since the mid-1600’s, professors of religion and well-intentioned people have been trying to “Put Christ in Christmas” or “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  The problem is a fundamental flaw in the logic of the holiday; Christ does not belong in Christmas.  By celebrating Christmas in a time and season where Christ does not belong, we perpetuate a myth, a sham, and a lie.  Does this mean we should not celebrate Christ’s birth date?  The answer is unequivocally NO!  Labor unions are a lot like Christmas celebrations.  Should we abolish labor unions?  The answer is NO!  Should we condone the violence unleashed when unions are angry, the constant theft of resources, the preparations for something good which ends with legal battles?  NO!  Mixed logic, moral decay, and those who preach ‘Power to the worker,’ and steal that power for personal gain are enemies of individual freedom.

I am not proposing the elimination of Christmas but rather for placing it where it belongs in the month of April when Christ was born, just as I am not proposing the elimination of correct and right business practices but placing it where it belongs in the negotiable hands of free individuals to negotiate a win-win scenario where work is concerned. Moving Christmas does not destroy Christmas, but places the celebration into its proper place and leaves December open for a different holiday.  Mainly, we must choose to celebrate Santa Claus or Jesus Christ.  These are not one and the same; these two people are not and cannot exist in the same holiday without creating confusion, perpetuating lies and deceit.  Power for personal gain and individual freedom cannot exist at the same time without creating captivity, confusion, and the perpetuation of lies and deceit.  An old mentor constantly quoted this axiom, “If the solution is not ‘Win-Win,’ it is a straight loss.”

While St. Nicholas is reported to have been a person or monk who traveled around doing good, he never had a sleigh, reindeer, and magical abilities.  The man celebrated at Christmas as Santa Claus is a myth, and in the same breath as singing ‘Here Comes Santa Claus,’ we want to honor Jesus Christ as the “Reason for the Season.”  The duplicity is a struggle for the conscience and the heart. Just as we inherited and sustained this struggle from the captivity of our fathers, we inherited and sustain a mode of earning a living from our fathers that tries our conscience, our hearts, and wallets.  Consider the problems with being a customer, the dehumanizing influence of the business organization, labor unions, etc.  Many of the problems in business stem from inherited tradition that did not work in times past and continue to not work now, but remain supported simply due to fear of change or because, “That’s now how it is done.”  Holiday celebration and employment conditions are linked in a myopic cycle that is anathema to anything different.  Dauten (2003) talks about this problem extensively and his suggestion of “Killing the status Quo” is excellent.

Tolkien offers wisdom very applicable to our modern world.  “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” Along with, “It’s no bad thing to celebrate a simple Life.”  Ask yourself some questions such as “Do I honor a “Simple Life?”  “Has my holiday celebrations become more about outdoing last year’s celebrations and gift giving for personal achievement?”  “What is the aim of my holidays?”  “Why am I celebrating, what am I celebrating, and/or do I enjoy celebrating?”  If you do not like these answers, change.  Shift the paradigm where holidays are concerned.  The same argument holds for working, ask, “Do I enjoy what I do?”  If yes, “Do I enjoy those I work for?”  If the answer remains yes, consider job security, personal/professional growth, and long-term prospects.  Yet, if at anytime the answer is no, shift the paradigm, consider becoming an independent contractor selling your knowledge and experience.

Just as the Roman calendar and Jewish calendar place the actual birth of Christ in April, the same calendars place the death of Christ in April.  The bible records Christ’s celebrating the Passover before His death.  The Passover was also recorded as occurring during His birth. We can certainly celebrate Christ on His actual birthday, celebrate His death and resurrection more circumspectly, and change how we worship the Savior of the world.  Just as these facts substantiate the birth of Christ, facts of business corruption and coercion substantiate the plight of the individual worker as a craftsman.  We can change that just as we can change when we celebrate the birth of Christ.

With the bustle of Christmas 2012 in the rear-view mirror, with 2013 fast approaching and before the “bills of Christmas” come due, consider the holiday paradigm.  Ponder the feelings of joy, life renewal, and hope that fills the breast in the early days of April.  With the bustle of day-to-day stress, tax seasons approaching, and bills for overextending finances, consider shifting the business paradigm.  Ponder the freedom of negotiating your business life and regaining the control that has been relinquished.

References

Dauten, D. (2003). The laughing warriors: How to enjoy killing the status quo. Richmond, CA: Lumina Media.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved