Saturday, July 31, 2010

What Were Your Early Jobs? What Lessons Did You Learn?

As Labor Day approaches, I am reflecting on some of the jobs I held early in life when I was new to this country, and what lessons I learned that continue to serve me to this day. I like to share some of them with you as well as like to request you to share also.

My early jobs, included newspaper route, dish washing, cleaning offices, warehouse clerk, store clerk and pizza maker. Here are some of my lessons:

1. Good service pays: When delivering newspapers to the elderly up in Johnson City, NY, I used to make it a point to always deliver their paper right to their door. As a result, when came time for collections, I was frequently invited in for milk and cookies, had many great conversations, learned a lot, developed many friendships, and invariably left with great tips too, consisting of nickles, dimes and quarters. Big money for a kid in those days.

2. Everyone counts and everything matters. No job and detail is too big or too small. Imagine, for example, great servers and greeters, nice clean surroundings, and tasty pizza-but delivered in dirty dishes. A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link.

3. Be dependable. When someone doesn't show up, others have to carry the load. Be the solution, not the problem. Others are counting on you.

4. Help others succeed. Always be asking "How can I help you?". Look for opportunities to serve, both internally and externally. While don't expect it, my experience is that when you help others, they will help you when you need it.

5. If you make a mistake, just apologize and ask "what can I do to make it right?", and then just fix it. Don't play the blame game for no one wins. Make it right and everyone wins and very importantly you feel good knowing you did your very best and that you did the right thing.

6. Be an expert in what you do. Once a customer came into store asking for a shirt with European cut. Not having any idea what that meant, boy did he chew me out-and I deserved it. Know your stuff for then you know what questions to ask, to determine what the customers really want, and then help them get it. For example, this guy didn't want just a European cut-what he really wanted was to be comfortable and to look good.

7. It's OK to ask for help. Not everyone knows everything. Asking for help in not a sign of weakness but of strength.

8. Dignity of labor. No job is beneath any one. Never ask others to do what you wouldn't do yourself.

9. Talk less, listen more. This leads to new learning, to new growth.

10. Treat everyone with respect. We all have similar dreams, we're all human, we all matter. It's takes everyone to make this world go around.

What Were Your Early Jobs? What Lessons Did You Learn?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What Are You Responsible For?

This weekend, we stayed at a Hilton Property in New Jersey. As we were having breakfast at the restaurant, we experienced lots of hustle bustle, sensed tension between the staff and the restaurant manager, and the manager was running here and here, talking quickly and abruptly to staff and guests.

Her intent from what I could sense was to be efficient, get the guests in, feed 'em and get 'em out. While the food was fine and prices reasonable, we left not feeling good. Somehow it dampened the experience, not just related to the restaurant for the overall experience. As we were leaving the restaurant, I overhead her on the phone saying she was responsible for the restaurant.

As I reflected on her self-view of her role, I wondered how she would have managed herself and her team had she seen her role as not only being responsible for the restaurant but also being responsible for and contributing to the overall guests experience, as being part of a larger system delivering on the Hilton's brand promise. Clearly while she was in management, it became apparent she saw her role in a very narrow way, as if the restaurant was somehow apart from rest of the system.

I then recalled hearing of an incident from the 1960's where President Kennedy was visiting a NASA facility. During this visit when he met a janitor and he asked him what he did. The janitor proudly replied, "I am putting a man on the moon". The janitor clearly saw the bigger picture and his role as part of a much larger mission.

As many of us move through our days, I am left wondering, what would we do differently, how would we fulfill our roles and carry out our responsibilities if we better understood and saw ourselves not just as our individual roles but as being part of something much larger? In other words, as individuals, what do we see as our responsibilities?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Customer Service. Why Bother?

3 years ago, we purchased a car for my older daughter. As my family has driven Toyotas for many years, we naturally took her to a nearby Toyota dealer first.

Initially, the sales rep was acting friendly and showed us around. Then at one point he asked us if we will be purchasing that very day. As soon as we said no, mentioning that we had just started to look, his attitude suddenly changed. He appeared to lost interest, becoming indifferent–a total turnoff, especially for my daughter.

We then went across the street to the Honda dealer. There the experience was very different. We were asked a similar question as we were being shown around and we gave the same response. Yet this time the sales rep's response, tone and body language were very different.

The sales rep replied, that’s perfectly understandable and he still continued to patiently show us around. As we were leaving, all he said was that if we did decide to buy a Honda, he kindly requested we buy it from them. He further went onto say that if we had any questions at anytime as we were looking around, we ought to feel free to contact him, he'll be glad to answer our questions, and gave us his card. Much better service.

Quality of both cars being nearly equal, we decided to buy the Honda, in which the sales rep's attitude had an important role. We simply felt much more comfortable with the way we were treated by the Honda rep and the dealership overall.

Fast forward 3 years later, we had a similar experience all over again. Same two dealers, different sales reps, similar experience. Our younger daughter too went with the Honda.

In total we spent about US $5o,000 on both cars. More importantly, given the life time value of customers, Honda gained big for I am sure the girls alone will purchase many cars over their life time, and even more expensive ones, as they get established in life. AND as an aside, whenever the conversation comes up in regards to cars, they encourage their friends to buy Hondas too. What a loss to Toyota, much of it due to attitude.

Here’s the kicker. Good service doesn’t cost more and bad service doesn’t cost less. Yet the direction of the paths they set businesses on is vastly far apart. One leads to customer loyalty, growth and profitability while the towards other decline. Therefore, as I see it, building a culture of superior service is what ensures a sustainable competitive advantage.

What are your experiences and thoughts in regards to service?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Keys to Career Satisfaction & Success

When an individual is unhappy in their job, a common first reaction is something like "I need to do something else, go back to school, start another career". In my experience, this is the last move one should make before taking such a step as moving into a new direction.

There are many factors that contribute to career satisfaction and success. In this post, I want to share with you the key factors that I have come to realize through my own journey. If you are unhappy in your job, I encourage you to look at each one in depth and find out where your dissatisfaction lies before you make major changes. In addition, I invite you to share your experiences and lessons learned as well so that we all may learn and grow through each others experiences.

As I have come to understand it, the factors that contribute to satisfaction and success can we summed under the groupings listed here. Let's look at these and then I'll go a bit deeper into each one. They are:

1. Why
2. How
3. What
4. Where
5. Type

  • Is the work you're doing aligned with your values, beliefs, mission, and your life's purpose?
  • Are your intrinsic motivations being satisfied?

We each have a unique energy and when our work is aligned with our natural inherent strengths, our natural talents and abilities, we find "flow" in our work. For example, some are reserved while others are outgoing, and some are more task focused while others are more people focused. So say we put a very reserved in a role that required very outgoing personality, it leads to tension and on one wins.


Every organization can be divided into some common areas. Major ones include:
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Operations
  • Customer relations
  • Sales/marketing
  • Customer service
  • Accounting
  • Human resources
  • IT
  • Research
Are you working in an area that is aligned with who you are?


In my experience, when there is dissatisfaction, assuming you are in the right role for you, this is the area where majority of dissatisfaction arises from. Let's look at these.
  • Are your values aligned with the values of your organization?
  • Do you have confidence and trust in your management and your colleagues?
  • Do you feel respected, recognized and rewarded?
  • Are you satisfied with your role and that it's a good fit?
  • Are you given opportunities for personal growth and development?
  • Do you take pride in your organization?

There are 4 types of businesses and each of have their own unique cultures and ways of working. Which type most resonates with you?
  • Low Cost: Aim is to be the low cost provider of products and services. Given tight margins, they must be operationally efficient and that's where their focus is.
  • Product Innovation: Aim is to stay ahead of the curve in-terms of new product development and therefore they tend to be more entrepreneurial.
  • Product Quality: Aim is to continuously improve the quality of it's products rather then develop new ones as in product innovation.
  • Service: Aim is to provide the best possible service, both to internal and external customers.
These are the key factors in my experience. Of course, it can be difficult to find a situation where one gets all of these matched perfectly. However the greater number of these you can match, the more satisfied you are likely to be. And the more satisfied you are, the more you will put into your work which then leads to both career success for you AND business success for your employer.

Therefore, before you embark on any major changes, review first each of these factors to find the source of your dissatisfaction and then see where you can work to make improvements that will contribute to overall increased satisfaction for you. If you are considering potential careers, give each of there factors careful consideration for in the end, it's not just what you do but also about the many factors that are presented above.

I wish you the very best on your journey!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Leads to Success?

In my professional life, I have experienced both tremendous success, as well as complete failure where no matter what I tried, I was not able to succeed. Spending significant time in reflection as to what in the past lead to success for me, I came to some realizations. I would like to share them with you as well as seek your thoughts on what has lead to your success, however you choose to define success.

For me, I can attribute success to 3 main factors, which are:

1. Clarity
2. Focused Persistent Patient Action
3. Support

Please allow me to expand on this. When I think of clarity, 5 aspects come to mind:

A. WHY am I doing what I am doing. What is the purpose, the driving force. This is important for at one point or another obstacles do surface and it is this clarity which provides the necessary fuel to persevere.
B. WHO am I serving. This allows me to spend my time and energy in the relevant places.
C. HOW I will reach my desired destination and clarity of what that desination looks like, i.e. roadmap.
D. WHAT are my primary products and services and of course having expertise on these.
E. IMPACT I want to have for when their is alignment between WHY and desired IMPACT, immense internal energy arises and it keeps us going in the face of difficulties.

In regards to Focused Persistent Patient Action, success takes time and it's important to spend one's time and energy in a focused way and to persist in the face of obstacles.

Finally, Support. As Brian Tracey once said, no one does it alone. It really helps to have people who not only wish us well but also put in the time and energy in helping us succeed.

What has to lead to your success? What lessons have you learned through your own trials and tribulations?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What If?

Do you ever wonder what the world would be like, if:

1. To our children, we more often said "yes" , then "no"?

2. In our schools, when grading papers, teachers wrote scores on tests and quizzes in-terms of how many the students got right, rather then wrong? For example, write in big bold letter +93, instead of -7?

3. During parent-teacher meetings and later during performance appraisals at work, much more focus was given on what the individual is doing well, what makes them truly special, where and how they add value, and much less focus on weaknesses and where they need to improve?

4. If each person gave just a tad more then they took?

5. If each person left each place they visited just a tad cleaner then when they found it?

6. If we thought more in-terms of what's possible, rather then what if it doesn't work out?

7. If we recognized and rewarded failure, someone taking a risk, trying something new?

What if?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Get Out of a Career Rut & How Introverts are Finding Their Way

I just had 2 articles published in ASSOCIATIONS NOW, a monthly magazine published by The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Check them out at:

1. Get Out of a Career Rut
: If you’re feeling stuck in your current job, these seven steps will help you move forward and find success. ASSOCIATIONS NOW, March 2010

2. How Introverts are Finding Their Way in Associations: A professed introvert tells how the rise of online social networking tools is giving him and his fellow introverts a comfortable way to express themselves and connect with their communities. ASSOCIATIONS NOW, July 2010

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What is Freedom?

This question has been going around in my head, with no clear answer emerging. It then occurred to me, why not ask you all. So here I am. Hoping you can help me.

I mean, this morning I was "requested" by my dear wife to help her with the gardening, and she knows I hate gardening. Sure, I could have said no but then surely I would have been in the dog house for what would feel like eternity.

Am I really "free"?

Then as I did my Home Depot run this morning, a car passed by which had the following bumper sticker: "I Owe I Owe, So Off to Work I Go?".

Is this driver really "free"?

As I reflect on these and many other examples from my own life, I am beginning to wonder: What is freedom? What does it feel like?

What are your thoughts?


PS Happy July 4th.