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Thursday, July 15, 2010
Volume 16 | # 364
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Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours. » Benjamin Disraeli

Hear. And Now.

While walking through a large retailer recently, an employee's shirt caught my eye and conveyed an instructive message. The lesson wasn’t the printed statement itself.

The lesson gleaned was that the store’s manager(s) seem to have taken their eyes off the ball in regards to the image they portray.

The young woman's tee shirt read, "I'm not listening." (The fact that her facial expressions and body language perfectly matched the shirt only helped sell the message even more.)

While that shirt would likely bring a smile to some in other settings, it struck me as pretty disrespectful. Yes, I realize that saying that sounds kind of old-fogeyish to some. Hey, it's only a tee shirt! Right? It's not like there are any dirty words or vulgar pictures on it. Right?

But my point is that an employee wearing that shirt communicates more than a “dry” sense of humor. It also communicates plenty about what management will put up with.

How many small business owners would allow one of their customer-facing employees to wear a shirt that basically tells customers that they aren’t worth her attention…"joke" or not?

Some managers will quickly be relieved, thinking, "Well, we have dress codes. Employees are already prohibited from wearing something like that." (Phew, dodged a bullet on that one!)

And sure, it's unlikely that a branch employee would ever show up wearing that kind of message on his person. But how many folks do you run into each week who transmit the same message - without the use of screen printing?

Do customers sometimes get the feeling that they are interrupting a more important conversation between coworkers when they approach? Whether or not team members are, in fact, actually listening intently to customers, do they give the visual and verbal cues that make it clear that they are?

Observing that accurately self-labeled young lady, I was reminded of how easy it is to be a customer’s service highlight on any given day.

Over the course of our days, there are few things more important than the brief, personal interactions between customers and our teams.

Are you and your team doing all you can to make sure customers can clearly see that you recognize that fact?

What Exactly Did We Witness?

As coincidence would have it, I made a trip to Cleveland just a few days after the Lebroncalypse. It didn't take much coaxing to get anyone I spoke with to go on a rant about it.

The entire LeBron James "made-for-TV melodrama" wore thin on me about 30 seconds after the Cavaliers season ended.

But I don’t begrudge folks' emotional reactions to these types of things. People take their teams and their sports heroes seriously.

Truth be told, I intentionally found something else to do during the airing of “The Decision.” I watched clips of it later. I’m not a big reality TV fan in general, much less a contrived spectacle. And watching Jim Gray gives me a rash. (But I digress.)

After LeBron handed a rose to Miami or voted Cleveland off his island or whatever he did, I had two life/career lessons running through my head.

I was reminded of the benefit of finding good mentors. A good mentor can save you from many self-inflicted faux pas. I found myself wondering if this young man of 25 has anyone over 40-years-old (ancient, I know) that he listens to. No sane confidant without a monetary interest in that train-wreck-of-a-show would have encouraged it.

It was a horrible idea, with even worse execution. But, hey, besides that, it was great.

Too many people seem to believe that if you're smart and talented, mentors are of little use. These are often also the same folks who wind up making the most head-scratching of mistakes.

The other thing I was reminded of was the importance of acting professionally when leaving an organization. The fact of the matter is that most of us will leave numerous organizations during our careers – both by our own choosing and not.

It’s a small world, and the relationships we have with former employers and coworkers almost always factor into our future prospects. Remaining on good terms with former employers gives prospective employers insight into what kind of team member you will be.

Being a consummate professional during the often stressful times when leaving a company is never, ever a bad move.

Seek out and listen to folks with wisdom on different issues and remain a professional in good times and bad.

Those lessons are even more important for those of us without nine-figure employment contracts and shoe deals.

Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. » Jimi Hendrix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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