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Archive for April, 2019


Networking for Results

When it comes to networking, size matters. Networking success requires us to build mutually supportive relationships and that requires an investment of our attention, time, and effort. If your network is too big, it becomes impossible to effectively use it; if it is too small, you restrict business opportunities. Like the story of Goldilocks, you want to build a network that is just the right size.

  • What is the maximum number of connections you can comfortably support? If you want to do it yourself, experts believe that most people can handle between 150 and 250 relationships in a meaningful way. If you want to be a super networker and connector, you will need help managing the numbers!
  • Choose a variety of people to add to your network. Go beyond your industry and form relationships with professionals in noncompeting businesses. This gives you access to new resources and new, potential opportunities.
  • Make connections. Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point calls out what he refers to as “Connectors.” They are the six-degree-of-separation people who can connect you to just about anyone. You don’t have to be a super connector like the people Gladwell mentions in his books; rather, just be open and willing to help others by connecting them with people you know. The more bridges you build between the people in your network, the stronger your influence.

Think quality, not quantity when it comes to networking. Visibility counts, so show up and be present. Commit to devoting a certain amount of time to cultivating relationships to ensure your networking is rewarding—and fun!

Hate the thought of networking? See my blog post Networking Tips for Shy People.


Do You Believe in Intuition?

 “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”—Albert Einstein

Intuition is something that cannot be proven; despite this, many people believe in it and use it for decision making. It’s often referred to as a “gut feeling,” as if it resides inside the body like an invisible organ, or a “flash of insight,” like a lightning bolt in the brain. So, what is intuition? Does anyone know? Do you believe in it or do you debunk it as New Age woo-woo?

Cognitive scientists—experts who study the mind and its processes—treat intuitive insights as quick, initial assessments of a situation. The brain recognizes repetitive patterns, especially in areas that we focus on and have experience with. The more you know about a subject or situation, the more familiar you are with it, and the faster your brain can make assessments and find solutions based on your experience. In other words, intuition comes as a by-product of knowledge and experience. For example, an experienced physician can often tell something is wrong with a patient before running a single test. A law enforcement officer can “feel” if something is “off” about a crime scene, even if he or she cannot specifically say what is wrong.

Since intuition draws on what you know and brings past experiences into your present awareness, it can help you form possible solutions that logic and linear thinking may not reveal. It can be a valuable tool in decision making.

Does this mean you should rely on intuition alone? Probably not. But it does mean that intuition has a valid place in decision making. Take those “gut feelings” and “flashes of insight” seriously and evaluate this with your more rational mind for better decision making and problem solving. (See my blog post Tune into Your Intuition for more information.)


How to Calm Angry Customers

At some point, everyone must deal with angry customers who may use a variety of tactics to show their displeasure. Next time you are faced with angry customers, keep these tips in mind to resolve the issue and consistently deliver quality customer service.

  • Stay Calm

One of the greatest challenges in customer service is staying calm when a person is angry. Angry customers often need to vent until they have released their frustration. The key is to not take customers’ behavior personally. They are only reacting to an event, and their anger has nothing to do with who you are. Focus on uncovering the issue behind the anger and do what is necessary to resolve it.

  • Practice Active Listening

Allow irate customers to speak as long as they need while you actively listen to their complaints. Try to avoid interrupting or offering a solution too soon. Acknowledge them by nodding or stating that you understand. Tell them that you are sorry about the situation, even if it is not your fault. Once they have released the majority of their anger, repeat their concerns to let them know that you have fully understood their complaint. (See my blog post Listen and Learn for more information.)

  • Agree to a Solution

There are several tactics that can be used to arrive at a solution with angry customers. Sometimes, customers will have a solution in mind that may be acceptable. If your company already has a policy in place for the specific situation, you can offer that solution to them. After arriving at a solution, take action immediately so that the issue is resolved as quickly as possible and follow up with customers at a later date to ensure continued satisfaction.

Remember that there is often a lesson in every customer encounter. As Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”


Discussing Problem Behaviors for Improvement

Dealing with employee performance issues is one of your most challenging tasks, yet it is important to respond quickly when problem behaviors affect productivity. Often, employees don’t realize how their behavior affects their work and the team, but quickly turn things around when they realize the impact.

Here are some tips for addressing problem behaviors with employees that will set them on the path toward improvement.

  • Get Ready

Once you have identified a performance issue, examine the situation to discover the cause of the problem. Is there an attendance issue, does the employee require additional training, and has this situation occurred in the past? With this information in mind, you will be ready to set a time and place for a formal discussion regarding the behavior.

  • Meet with the Employee

Begin the discussion by acknowledging the employee’s contributions to the team and validate the importance of his or her work. Then, state the problem in clear terms and explain how the behavior is affecting the team. Remain calm and avoid emotional statements, especially if the employee becomes defensive. Keep the employee focused on the behavior that is negatively affecting his or her work performance.

  • Provide an Action Plan

Before ending the discussion, put an action plan in place that outlines what steps the employee will take to improve. Include training classes, mentoring, and additional monitoring, if necessary. Finally, establish a clear time line for each step that needs to be completed, your expectations for results, and any consequences for noncompliance. Make it clear that the main goal is to ensure a productive work environment for everyone.

  • Document and Follow Up

Document the discussion, so patterns can be identified if the problem recurs. Be sure to follow up with the employee according to the time line in the action plan and offer support.

When problem behaviors in the workplace are handled quickly and effectively, the employee’s work performance can show signs of improvement almost immediately. Be sure to acknowledge positive changes and offer support to continue to build a solid track record of improvement. By being proactive and handling problem behaviors early on, you can maintain the efficiency of your department and help your team be positively productive.