Monthly Archives: August 2009

Whatever you do, dont Fuggedaboudit!

Yadda yadda… at the end of the day…..Fuggedaboudit…. we hear this every day. Just words, words which make the point though.
However, I want to remind us all to resist the temptation to Fuggadaboudit when confronted with challenges, issues and concerns. Denial and avoidance is only putting off the discomfort of facing it and these issues not disappear by themselves. In fact, experience will show that, when kept in the dark, they will proliferate like mushrooms. Delayed discomfort is ultimately increased pain. Look what Fuggedaboudit did for Sonny Corleone!
So what do we do?
First, capture the issue on paper. Just write it down so it doesnt get away. Why, because our psychological systems, those wonderful processes that are designed to protect us from overload, will sweep it under the rug of consciousness and it might get lost. WRITE IT DOWN.
Next? The next step is to keep it posted so that when you have the resources of time, money, know how.. whatever, you can FOLLOW the issue and, ultimately, FIX it.
Its been said that ‘the weakest ink is stronger than the best memory’. So when your awareness allows you to see an obstacle to your happiness, productivity, health or prosperity, be sure to write it down… for there is probably a huge leverage opportunity embedded within.



In last week’s Sunday edition of the New York Times, in a section called THE SEARCH, there was a very interesting article on what to do after a job layoff. It was interesting, informative and incomplete. I suggest that you take a look at the article if you get a chance ( If not, here’s a synopsis: After a layoff your self esteem may be impacted; you may go through the grief cycle because of the ‘death’ of your job and your ‘desperation factor’ may have gone up.
Ok, that makes sense to me. The article’s author goes on further to say that the person might want to ‘act as if’ they are confident and positive. Ok. That’s fine with me.
Then the article quotes a private practice Psychologist who also holds a position with the American Psychological Association. The ‘good doctor’ advises that you deal with the situation as a ‘profound loss’, that you ‘download your emotions’ and understand that you may have some immuno-deficiencies associated with the stress and general wear and tear on your emotions and physical body. All good stuff, says I.
And I posit that this is incomplete because it doesn’t give that person much in the way of ‘take control’ tactics.
I advocate that the person in question do the following:
The first step is to take inventory of your job skills and beliefs as it relates to your previous job requirements. Also list out the core job functions of your previous job (and potential future job ) such as managing financials, leading others, writing and interpreting reports, leading meetings, setting strategic goals and on and on.
The next step is to list them; ie. communication skills, managing multiple tasks, etc.
Then, rate yourself in all of the above areas; 1=Poor and 10=Mastery.
Accentuate the Positive. Celebrate yourself for the numbers 8 and over and then Illuminate the Negative by acknowledging those areas where you scored 5 or below. Then get to work on how you will close the gap between poor and mastery in those areas. THUS YOU ARE TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR DESTINY; and enjoying the associated feelings of a boost in self esteem, reduced stress levels, increased value to future employers and increased value to YOURSELF and your family.
I appreciate Sunday’s article and trust that I’ve added a perspective that might increase the utility of the author and Psychologist’s ideas and suggestions.

My Four Lifelong Lessons from Woodstock 1969

It was 40 years ago- almost to the day- that I was wandering around at the Woodstock Festival. Separated from my travelling companion, and just had my 17th birthday few weeks beforehand, I was lost, muddy and very wet. So I scanned for a place to nestle in. There really wasn’t much available so I simply walked toward the stage, saw the entrance and walked in as though I belonged there. Though there was a ton of security, no one seemed to pay attention to me so I just walked straight back to the service trucks where I would find some cover. I stayed there for a bit until the sun set and slept there, backstage, in the sound equipment truck. First lesson: be audacious, bold and take action.

The following day when I was discovered walking around backstage with all of the roadies, rock stars and very very interesting looking hippies who were much older than I was, I was discovered and told to split. I dreaded having to go out into the enormous crowd; alone, no sleeping bag, no food, nothing. Before I left to go looking for my next refuge I noticed a guy nearby who was sitting crossed legged on a table. He had a huge Afro and round spectacles with green lenses. Looked very trippy. Anyway, he looked at me intensely and sort of ‘tractor beamed’ me over to him. I was intrigued. He looked at me as though he was expecting me. He said, “Man, like we’re either green and growing or we’re ripe and rotting… but we’re never standing still.” I was close to getting kicked out of there, scared and alone and this guy drops this ditty on me. I thought to myself in my 17yr old cranium, Ohhhhhhhhkayyyyy… then smiled, flashed a peace sign and went on my way. Happily I carried that phrase around in that cranium (no unadorned by hair) for years and year and then, after college- my ‘formal education’-, his message became clear to me; indeed, we grow or rot! It was then that I committed myself to continuous learning and I live by that credo some 40 years later.
Second Lesson: follow your instincts, listen and store data even if you dont ‘get it’ at first because it just might carry a nugget of wisdom.

Early the next day, which was to be the first official day of the festival- when the music was to begin- I was again discovered and scolded to ‘get the #@!&a out of this area now, kid’. Scared, tired and alone, I jumped up and hung on the fence that separated the stage area from the massive audience with an eye on scoping out my next ‘landing area’. All I could see was an endless sea of people. It was a bit daunting because I was in the middle of what the reporters described as a ‘disaster area’, feeling alone and overwhelmed. I had never seen this large a crowd in my life. Noone had. And as I scanned the crowd which went back as far as the eye can see, I saw, not more than 20 feet from me a vision that was surrealistic. It was a group of friends from my high school! I couldnt believe my eyes. Was it a mirage? No, it was them, my friends from home (which was hundreds of miles away). I was away that summer working at a camp way up north so I had no idea that they were going to the Woodstock Festival. There were no cell phones with which we stayed in constant communication- so we were out of touch. I climbed over the fence and was feeling relief and comfort just being with them. Still no food or shelter but the warming comfort of friends. Third Lesson: scan the field for opportunity- it’s always there even if seems like the odds are against you.

I was ecstatic at finding and hanging with my friends (who were with their older sibs so we were, at some level, feeling more comfortable). They shared what little food they brought – and we ran out the next day. No more food, but lots more music and awesome vibes. We were sustained by the music and energy. People we almost euphoric at being part of this Woodstock Nation. Someone was leaving the ‘madness’ and gave us two sealed bottles of wine and an orange. We were so excited to have something to consume so we made it all dissapear in a matter of 5 minutes. Thus, we got very dizzy, headache and low blood sugar. Took a while to get back on our feet.
Forth Lesson: Love your wine, don’t drink it on a very empty stomach.

Crazy time, amazing festival and lifelong learning:
Be audacious, follow your instincts, look for and discover opportunity and, if it comes in the form of wine,… take it slow!

Are you guilty of BrandSlaughter?

He sat in the witness chair, fidgeting nervously. While he felt that he didnt do anything wrong, it’s still a bit unnnerveing to be in that seat.
The charges- BrandSlaughter in the second degree.
What? He’s the President of the company. He wasn’t even there on the day of the accusation. And what’s BrandSlaughter?

Here’s what happened. A customer came into the business and, without getting into it too deeply, wasnt treated in a manner in which he expected. In fact, his experience was terrible… complete opposition to the company’s values, mission…. and their brand. The employee, when she realized that she was not in integrity with the brand made no ‘course correction’. She knew that she was out of line but didnt adjust at all. The customer was livid, left the business and vowed to never return.

Question: Was the employee wrong? Of course.
Question: Did the employee reduce the value of the brand? You bet.
Question: Should the employee be reprimanded? Of course.
Question: Should the President be held accountable for the brand value being minimized? YES YES YES.

And THAT’S why the Company President is on the witness stand as a Defendant. He is ultimately responsible for the training and development of each employee as to their ‘touchpoints’- where the brand and the employee and the customer intersect and how it is to be managed in a way to support the brand.

An exercise that we conduct with our clients is this: We have each job function’s employee go through a process of identifying their touchpoints and how they could best support the brand.
Further, we have groups of employees walk through the business with a yellow pad. Their task is to make a list of the company’s stated values and go around searching for examples of how the value is being supported (that’s one list)- and also how the value is being undermined (that’s the other list). They end up with two lists: One with great examples of value integrity and another with examples of value undermining and BrandSlaughter.

So, what do we do next?
1. Accentuate the positive. Celebrate the first list- show gratitude and do a collective pat on the back!
2. Illuminate the Negative. Look at the list of negative examples and face them. Follow the reasons that these infractions occur- what contributes to the challenge, etc and then see how you can go about Fixing it.

We Face It, Follow It and Fix it.

Why not do this with your personal values? Make a list of your values. Get out that yellow pad. Inventory where you are living those values….. and pat yourself on the back. Then inventory where you are less than congruent…. and get to work and ILLUMINATE THEM NOW!

From ChangeVictim to ChangeMaster

Its no longer Survival of the Fittest, It’s now Survival of the Most Adaptable. Change, adapt and flex…. or die.
Face it. Change is inevitable. (except in vending machines!)
We live in ‘interesting times’ – a phrase that, in ancient times, was used as both a blessing and a curse. Interesting indeed. Change at breakneck speed- wholesale redefinition of industries, institutions; products and services that never existed before are mainstays in our lives- we dont even know how to use them before they are updated and improved. Whew. Fasten on your seat belts because it’s not going to slow down any time soon.
So what can we do to manage this. I believe that the psychology of change is the key. We can never assist others with the change process if we cant manage our own emotions through it. Here’s a simple model that we’ve used and you will want to adopt.
First, lets look at the process that many people go through when confronted with change; tough change or easy change.
There are four major emotional phases.
First is Denial. ‘No worries, this wont really happen’, ‘i have other things to deal with’.
Next phase: Resistance. ‘this is the pits’, ‘what are they thinking’, ‘im not going along with this’.
The third and forth phase are on the other side of chasm. They are Exploration (possibility thinking) and Commitment (this is great!)
The question that Im constantly asked is ‘how do we get from the Denial and Resistance to Exploration and Commitment.
Here’s what I suggest, what we workshop through and you will want to adopt as a practice. It’s two parts.
1. Argue in favor of the change- as if you were the voice of the change and make all of the points in favor of the change. Your mind may go to ‘ I cant argue in favor, i think it sucks’ and just ignore it.
2. Answer the questions, ‘what’s great about this change?’, ‘how will you benefit from the change?’, ‘im grateful for this change because______.’
These two techniques help to give you a psychological shift. We are all inflicted from time to time with the pseudo disease called Psycho-sclerosis or ‘hardening of the attitudes’, and this model and these two techniques will help unlock your thinking.
Now this doesn’t mean that you will automatically adopt the change as a result of this model and these techniques. It WILL, however, assist you in applying more of your mental and emotional resources in considering it – clearly and relatively unencumbered with the psycho-sclerosis!
Hope this helps you meander through the ‘whitewaters of change’.

Create Complaining Customers

My colleague and dear friend, Phil Wexler, has been a beam of enlightenment for me for many many years. He’s a great philosopher, speaker, trainer and though leader in many areas- especially Sales and Customer Service. Phil, a big fan of Illuminate, reminded me that  a chapter in his book, The Quest for Quality, is in complete harmony with Illuminate. He posits that we should always seek to Create Complaining Customers.  Your reaction, if it is anything like mine was, is probably “why on earth would we want to create complaining customers?”   Phil explains it this way, “We invariably have service lapses. That’s a reality. Creating an environment where the Customer can openly feed back information on our service challenges is critical for growth through learning and also serves as a cartharsis for the Customer.

Creating a relationship with our Customers in which they can freely ‘complain’, offer feedback, get us back on the right track of Customer delight and, overall, help us sharpen our skills is essential. The simple observation that a disgruntled Customer will tell many many more people than they will tell a positive story is spot on. That’s what we consumers do.   Your job is to make and to keep customers- so take that free consulting from the Customer with deep appreciation.

Now, what has this got to do with the concept and model of Illuminate?   Everything.    Creating that environment where we solicit and hear feedback is one of the keys to great business success.  And a big part of that  is taking action on that observation; whether it’s to simply acknowledge their feelings and offer gratitude for the information or to capture the information on paper so that you and your team can dissect it and brainstorm solutions. Better yet, if you have the resources of time, money and know-how  then you can begin to immediately create a solution to the problem/challenge.

Allowing the vulnerability to actually hear feedback from your Customers out there and your ‘internal Customers’ in here is the most liberating exercise.   We might not have the solution at hand but when we are serious about serving Customers we will find the way… maybe not immediately but we WILL find a way. Noone is smarter than ALL of us. Capture the issues, hear the feedback and get on to the task of resolving it- from the root cause on up.

Create Complaining Customers who will serve as the most effective feedback purveyors- and offer up the breakfast of Champions- Complaints!