Archives for May 2008

Create new habits – when we don't have to think about what we do!

Greetings from Australia!

I am reaching the end of a two-week tour of speaking and training sessions. I have had a great time! I’ve met lots of terrific people; had some wonderful meals; and… am close to reaching the desired state of “not having to think about what I do naturally” –  when it come to driving … on the opposite side of the road! Signaling when I intend to turn right – or left! Does this lever turn on my windsheild wipers, or turn on my turn signal? What used to be on my left (in Los Angeles) is now on my right…

This is harder than you think! All change is difficult.

It takes a long time to reach a level of competence – where you can do the things that you need to  be doing – without having to think about them!!! And… to not have to think about the things that you shouldn’t be doing.

Pheww!!! I have a headache now!

And, so should you, after trying to read – and, hopefully, comprehend what I just wrote!

How hard is it to “break” ingrained habits? Quite difficult indeed!

How difficult is it to create new habits? Difficult… but it can be done. It requires concentrated and sustained thought and practice!

Think of the (good) habits that we have acquired. The things that we do without having to think about them – we are unconsciously competent! For example:

  • Indicating that we are going to make a left or right turn.
  • Actually making a left or right turn – and driving in the correct lane when we make the turn!
  • Remembering to (actually) look both ways before crossing the street. I am very lucky to still be alive to write this post after being in Australia for two weeks! I still forget to look to my “right” before crossing the street!

As a professional trainer, I tend to forget how difficult it is to create new habits. I tend to get frustrated when my class does not quickly adopt the new habits that I so logically present and propose.

I still resist saying, “break old habits!” But… I tend to presume that it is easy to adopt new habits. It is not! Not now, not ever!

Either way … it require thought, dedication, and applied effort – sustained over a two-week period before we can start to become unconsciously competent with our new habit!

I hate “breaking old habits.” I prefer to create “new” habits. But … I have to admit – it is easier said than done!

During my training sessions on this trip I have acquired a new appreciation for how difficult it is to acquire new habits. It is harder to do so than I ever said that it would be. I am humbled by the experience!

For example:

  • Every time I get into my car I repeat to myself, “It is DOWN RIGHT silly to be LEFT UP on the rooftop.” This little “saying” helps me to remember the direction of my turn signals – DOWN to turn RIGHt and UP to turn LEFT. At home, in Los Angeles, I never give this a second thought. Here in Australia, not thinking about this (seemingly) inconsequential action could get me into serious trouble.

So… I now have a greater understanding for the difficulty of putting into practice the new habits that I want  to adopt. I need to invest a considerable amount of effort into thinking about what I am going to change – and why it is important!

In Australia, if I fail to think about what lane I need to turn into, I can cause an accident. If I negelect to remind myself that my Right Turn Signal is UP – I can cause others to have an accident.

I consider myself to be an intelligent man. I consider myself to be open to  and willing to change habits.

So… why am I still having to think about these changes in habit after two weeks? Because… change takes time to accomplish – even when you are open to change. Especially when you are commited to change.

Change does not happen over night. Not even over a fortnight! But I am getting more comfortable with it each day.




Will be back posting soon

Just a quick hello from Perth, Australia where I am training a few clients. I have been having Internet connection problems here. I’ll be back posting as soon as I have a stable connection.

Meanwhile, thank you for your patience. Please explore my archive of articles. Just use the handy SEARCH box to access an article of your choice or topic.



When to fire your customer

Have you ever experienced the proverbial “customer from hell?” You know the type – they complain constantly … about any thing … and every thing. You try to please them … appease them … make peace with them … Nothing works. Nothing will ever work – for them. And yet …

  • They continue to purchase your product
  • They talk about your product – in person and on-line
  • They send you detailed reviews about your product after each purchase
  • They even purchase stock in your company
  • And they drive you “nuts” because they will never be completely satisfied – and they tell you that (in so many words and actions)
  • And they tell others (in so many words) on Internet websites and chat rooms

What would you do?

Well here is what Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines told a couple from Cleveland, OH – “We do not want your return business – EVER! You are “banned for life” from our cruise ships.” True story – click here to read it.

In other words, “You will swim with the fishes” before you ever step foot on our ships!

Now, this couple did complain constantly. And… Royal Caribbean showered them with discount vouchers and cruise ship credits if only they would give them another chance. And they did. ..

They claimed the vouchers and cruised again. Then they complained – again and again. And Royal Caribbean gave them even more vouchers to come back… And this continued for several years.

The bigger problem, however, was that the Cleveland Cruise Couple wrote about their experiences on the Internet. To some – including Royal Caribbean – it seemed that they were bragging about how they were (almost) able to cruise for free twice a year – simply by complaining about the service!

“Hint, hint,” they seemed to say, “why don’t you try it too?” It worked for us! It can work for you!

That was the last straw for Royal Caribbean. They telephoned the couple and “deep-sixed” them!

What would you do in a similar situation?

  1. Tell them to “take their business elsewhere.” Perhaps you could even give them the phone number of your competitor!
  2. Do exactly what Royal Caribbean Cruise Line did – push them overboard! And pray that they never write about this experience on any website. (Hey, maybe the Internet will stay down… forever!) After all, cruise ships know that all storms, no matter how severe, eventually pass on. What do you think – “This, too shall pass?”

My own feeling? I think that Royal Caribbean was “embarrased.” They felt that they were taken advantage of and humiliated in public. And… they lashed back in anger. They poured fuel on the fire. They threw a tantrum.

Oil and water will never mix. The Cruising Couple from Cleveland and Royal Caribbean will never mix.

If I were the Customer Service head at the cruise line, here’s what I would have done. After reviewing the client history file, I would have answered their next letter of complaint with a simple, “Thank you! I am sorry that we did not meet your standards.” No discount voucher, no plea to give us another chance. Just say, “You’re right! We did not meet your expectations.”

Here is a related post that I wrote earlier this year on this topic. empathy-serve-it-to-your-customers/

What would you do? Please share your customer service stories with our readers. Add your comments below:


Why customers line up to purchase your product

I had a lovely day walking around the streets of Brisbane, QLD Australia this afternoon.  Great weather, nice parks, lots of people on the street.

About halfway into my walk I came across a long line of people. Why were they lined up? Probably to see a new hit movie, I thought. A new store opening, perhaps. The crowd was younger (than me) but they were much more reserved than I expected. After all, if you are going to a movie, you are usually with your friends and talking – in anticipation or just socializing.

This line of people was different. Quiet, intent and patient.

Imagine my surprise when I saw what they were waiting in line to purchase …Krispy Kreme Donuts!

Yes, the “Hot Light” was on – signaling that they were “fresh” from the oven. But this was a beautiful sunny day – and the early afternoon. And, this was in a pedestrian mall in an urban setting. Not, to my mind, the expected result. I like donuts in the morning. I like them hot and fresh. I like to enjoy them along with a cup of coffee and the newspaper.

Not here. Not on this beautiful day in Brisbane. No place to sit and read and sip a beverage while you enjoy your Krispy Kreme. Lots of people lined up to purchase. Lots of desire and anticipation. Lots of donuts sold. Somthing special was definitely going on…

Buy why? Perhaps it is the “law of scarcity.” This was the only Donut shop that I observed on my walk. I saw lots of (mostly empty) Starbucks cafes. There are a lot of McDonald’s restaurants here. But only one Krispy Kreme!

Back home in the USA, Krispy Kreme was quite the “thing” when they first expanded beyond their home base. I live in Califormia but had experienced Krispy Kremes for years when I visited North Carolina. My wife is a native of Low Angeles and she went “wild” when she had her first Krispy Kreme – with the “Hot Light” on – when we made a trip to the Carolinas. She couldn’t wait for their first store to open in Los Angeles.

But then… they over-expanded. All at once – almost overnight – they went from being something special to being, well… everywhere. In every neighborhood. In grocery stores.

They were everywhere – and yet nowhere. They lost their special appeal – before they gave the market enough time to realize how special they were. They didn’t give their product enough time to become special. They were more interested in growing fast. And they quickly lost their appeal – to many people.

So, it was a shock for me to see this line. I wasn;t expecting it. In my mind, I had written off Krispy Kreme as “yesterday’s news.” As a failed company. As a company that became so fixated on growth that they abandoned the details that had set them apart.

I investigated the Krispy Kreme website and found my answer. They just opened their first store in Brisbane on April 29th – two weeks ago! People camped out overnight in order to be the first in line to “experience” a Krispy Kreme.

The “Law of Scarcity” at work! Let’s see how long this will last here in Brisbane. Will they resist the temptation to “grow big fast?” Time will tell/

Too often, we become obsessed with  growing our business – more customers, more sales, more locations, more money. But we forget about what made us get into business in the first place. What made us special.

Today – halfway around the world – I witnessed a “throwback” in time. I was tempted – for a few moments – to join that line. To rekindle the spark of remembrance of my first Krispy Kreme 30 years ago!

But I didn’t. That spark was extingusihed a few years ago. Krispy Kreme went from being an extraordinary experience to something quite ordinary – nothing special. They violated the “Law of Scarcity.”

I had too much on my mind today to wait in line. I was exploring a new city – to me – and I didn’t have that much time to wait in line. That “magic act” had disappeared for me. Krispy Kreme was no longer special for me. My time was in short supply. Time, for me today, was my own “Law of Scarcity.”



Time and The International Date Line

“Time – unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”

– Peter Drucker

Greetings from Australia! I just “lost a day” by crossing The International Date Line.

Losing a day…. Where did it go? Time flies, I agree. But losing a day by flying (across The Date Line) – that is still quite a concept to grasp.

Increasingly, I am attuned to time. How to make the most of it. How to prioritize my activities. How not to waste time. How to better manage my time so that I can accomplish what I want to.

Time – once it is gone, you can never get it back.

Except… when I return to Los Angeles from this trip. I’ll get back that day that I lost when I re-cross The International Date Line. What will I do with that “found” day?

Better question: “What will I do today? How will I manage my time, today? What will I do in order to accomplish what I indentify as my priorities?

I am going to start by reviewing my list – while I am having my morning coffee.

Have a great day! Use it wisely. You will never get it back.



The Right Words at the Right Time

“The wrong words said at the wrong time discourage me.
The wrong words said at the right time frustrate me.
The right words said at the wrong time confuse me.
The right words said at the right time encourage me.”

– John C. Maxwell

Think about these words for a few minutes. Think about the times when a few well chosen words, spoken at just the right moment, helped you to …

  • gain the strength and confidence you needed to accomplish more than you thought possible.
  • take comfort in the love and care of your friends and family to help you recover from a setback or loss.
  • gather the courage to make a major change in your career.

Yes, words have incredible power. And they gain even more power when the right words are said at the right time. And to the right person.

But the wrong words, said at the wrong time… they can be devastating. They can …

  • damage your self-confidence.
  • dampen your enthusiasm.
  • deter you from moving forward in your job or your career … or your life.

The wrong words, said at the wrong time … Why would anyone choose to utter the wrong words – regardless of the time?

You wouldn’t choose to … unless you were malicious, vindictive or intent on inflicting pain. The operative word is choose.

It is your choice. Do you want to lift people up or put them down? Do you want to prepare your word choices – in advance? Or are you content to just say something – and hope for the best?

Think about what you are going to say – long before you ever have the opportunity to say it. Choose your words carefully. Practice saying them – aloud. Practice saying them over and over again – until you have internalized them. So that your words are sincere. So that the words are yours. So that how you speak the right words at the right time makes an impact – on the right person.

Not sure about which words are the right words? Just think about the words that people say to you. How do they make you feel? Be honest with yourself. Which words and phrases lift you up? And why do they do that?

Now, think about those words and phrases that deflate you. Why did they do that? How did they make you feel? What word choices could have been substituted? How would those word choices have made you feel better? Why?

Are you are taking the time to choose your words carefully? If not, why not? Think about the difference a word can make the next time that you deliver a employee performance evaluation. Better still, reflect upon the words your boss used when he or she last reviewed your performance. How did you react? Why? What would you have preferred them to say?

Choice words. Choose yours correctly. You always have a choice. Words do make a difference – over time!

Please take a few minutes to share your experiences with words and phrases. Which words motivated you? Tell us about those words said at the right time. Enter your comments in the space below. Thank you!

Click here to view or download this article as a Text Document – Published on

Learn to speak with your handshake

What does your handshake say about you? How do your clients and colleagues react to your handshake? Do you give your colleague the same handshake that you extend to a new client? If not, why not? How do you react when someone gives you a “dead fish” handshake? Cold and clammy, I’ll bet!

Want to know more about the “dos and don’ts” of handshaking? Click here to view a slide show of handshaking examples – good and bad –  on the Business Week Magazine website.

How many times a day do you shake a person’s hand? So many times that you probably don’t even think about it.

But you should think about it. Not about the number. You need to examine how your personal handshaking style. You need to be sure that you convey a positive message when you “speak” with your handshake.

Here is why:

New research by University of Iowa business professor Greg Stewart confirms that a firm, solid handshake is an important part of a successful job interview, while a dead fish can end the interview before it even begins.

More important, in fact, than dress or physical appearance, the handshake seems to be a trigger that sets off an interviewer’s overall impression of a person.”

I encourage you to look at the handshaking examples in the Business Week slide show. Here are a few tips:

  • Both men and women should be proactive – don’t wait for someone to shake your hand. Extend your hand first.
  • Ensure that your handshake is firm – not strong – and that you make full-palm contact. The web of your hand touches the web of the other person’s hand.
  • Always make eye contact with the other person when you are shaking hands. This means that you must stand up to greet the other person when you shake hands.
  • Smile when you shake hands.
  • Always keep your right hand available to shake hands.
  • Be aware of “personal space” when you shake hands. In normal situations people will stand about two feet apart. As your relationship develops this distance will narrow.
  • Regardless of your gender, make sure that your handshake is firm. This conveys the message that you are confident and that you are assertive.
  • Start talking – say your name, for example – before you end your handshake.

Your handshake is your calling card. It reflects your personality. It is difficult to “fake.” It leaves a lasting impression of you.

What impression do you want to make? Learn to “speak” with your handshake.

Practice your responses

“Practice doesn’t make perfect, nor is it supposed to. Practice is about increasing your repertoire of ways to recover from your mistakes.”

– Joan Gutin

Mistakes happen. And… they will continue to happen in the future. But… it is a huge mistake if you fail to learn from your mistakes. Especially in the way that you respond to your mistakes.

What can you anticipate? What is likely to occur? How will you respond when it does occur?

Have you thought about your response? Have you practiced your response? If not, why not?

Originally, I planned this post as a follow-up to my previous one – “Why do politicians fumble Q & A sessions?  But then, I thought about this in a broader sense. I am constantly amazed to observe the number of people who:

  • Fail to anticipate sales objections – and to prepare their response.
  • Fail to address risk factors for their projects – and lack a Plan “B” to go forward when they do occur.
  • Fail to offer coaching and feedback to their staff – and wonder why they don’t achieve better results.

It is one thing to anticipate events and to prepare a plan to address to address them. It is quite another to actually practice the words that you will say during your response. To articulate them. To speak them aloud – and with confidence and conviction!

Words alone are insufficient in getting your message across. How you speak the words – your tone of voice – is the key to how your words are received and acted upon.

When I hear a politician – or any speaker – stumble over their words during a Q& A Session, I question their sincerity. I question their truthfullness. I question them.

Why? Because I get the feeling that they are “making it up as they go along.” That their response will be different the next time that they are asked this same question.

It is not what you say but, rather, how you say it that counts.

Let me give you an example. I am a musician. I can play a piece of music on the piano – hitting all of the correct notes. But, my performance will be flat and uninspired if I have not practiced – and internalized – my interpretaion of those notes. I need to practice not just hitting the correct notes, but also striking the right tone – for that piece and for my audience.

Speaking is no different. Sales is no different. Asking your staff to change is no different.

Learn how you can be different. Practice your responses!

Why do politicians fumble Q & A sessions?

Senator Hillary Clinton does it. Senator Barack Obama does it. Many people – not just politicians – do it.

What do they do? They stumble and fumble their answers during debates and Question & Answer (Q & A) sessions.

Why? Well, one easy answer is that they fail to make time to:

  1. Anticipate the questions that they will be asked.
  2. Formulate their answers to these questions – especially the “sticky” ones – the ones that will be repeatedly played on the 24-hour cable news stations and on the Social Media internet channels.
  3. Practice their answers – articulate them – speak them – master them – comunicate them.

As I write this, I have been packing my suitcase and listening to MSNBC repeatedly replaying Sen. Clinton’s crude, clumsy, possibly inflammatory response, ina USA Today interview, as to why she appeals to a broad-based coalition of voters. I lost count of the number of “Ahs,” “Ers,” and “Uhs” in her response.  (Click here to read the interview and also access the audio portion.) Why? Is this the image she really wants to project?

And, Sen. Obama also deserves criticism – why doesn’t he put more time into preparing for his debate performance? Why does he come across as “defensive” or “offended” when he is questioned about his core beliefs? Why does he find it so difficult to articulate his response to difficult questions? (Click here for a linkto an excellent video analysis of Sen. Obama’s weak spots during questioning.)

Surely, Sen. Obama knows that these questions are coming. Why doesn’t he put more time into preparing for them?

Surely, Sen. Clinton must know that her answers will be replayed constantly on TV, on YouTube, on the radio. Why doesn’t she put more time into crafting her response?

Why do they continue to fumble and stumble with their answers during Q & A?

It makes me uncomfortable when I listen to their answers. I have to turn away from the “train-wreck” that is about to occur during the debates – I see their blank stares forming, I feel their cold sweat soaking their shirts and blouses… Why? Why? Why?

Why do they make me feel so uncomfortable during their Q & A sessions? Why do I doubt what they say? Why do I question their core beliefs?

Which candidate am I to believe? The candidate who masterfully delivers their stump speech? Or the candidate who appears completely lost and confused when answering a direct question?

It’s the stumbling and fumbling that they go through trying to get the words out that causes me to feel so uncomfortable. And… I do not think that I am the only one who feels this way. How do you react?

Why don’t their trusted advisors take them aside and say, “Senator, it is time to prepare your responses. It’s time to rehearse. It’s time to practice voicing your answers- forming the words and speaking them out loud.”

Don’t fall into this trap! 

  • Anticipate the questions that you expect to be asked; especially the difficult ones!
  • Gather your thoughts and formulate your response. Put it in writing first if necessary.
  • Practice articulating your response. Say the words – speak them aloud. Record your response if at all possible.
  • Ensure that you have reserved enough time for these practice sessions.
  • Work with a speech coach or a trusted advisor.

Q & A usually comes at the end of a presentation. Make your last impression a favorable one. You never get a second chance to re-do your LAST impression. Make your LAST impression a positive, LASTING impression!


How to compete with competitors

“If you’re playing your competitor’s game, you’re going to lose.”

– David Yoffie

Follow the leader is a fine game to play – if you are a child. It is, however, a losing strategy in life and in business.

In my experience, I have found it easier to compete when I have been the under-dog. Less was expected of me. My goals were sharper. I looked for every opportunity to take advantage of the weaknesses of my competitors. An under-dog can do several things to gain market share:

  • If your competitor processes orders in two days, strive to turn orders around in one day.
  • If they open late and close early, do the opposite – open early and close late
  • If they offer a wide selection of products, do the opposite – find a niche market and carry a deep selection. And hire staff who care deeply about your niche and passionately serve your customers.
  • Find out what your customers value the most – and fill it for them.

Don’t play your competitors game. Play your game! Find your competitive advantage. Give your customers lots of reasons to do business with you.

Worry about your customer – not about your competitor.