Archive | November, 2013

I just want to be a useful little engine

22 Nov

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I do love being a dad. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had. I especially used to love watching the kids shows with my son when he was a bit younger. He’s on his way to becoming a teenager so we’ll see … but he’s still my boy.

We used to watch a lot of shows together like Fireman Sam, Postman Pat and of course Thomas the Tank Engine. What I really enjoyed was the cosy atmosphere of the small villages where these shows are set. Some are in Wales and feature the beautiful lilting Welsh accent (it’s not a burr is it?) Tight knit communities where everyone seemed to be looking after each other. The characters are warm and friendly and … sweet.

Which brings me to Thomas and his oft heard catch cry “I just want to be a useful little engine!” Sometimes the Fat Controller gave Thomas a real job to do and off he’d go with his smile beaming.

There are lots of people in businesses and organisations everywhere that just want the same thing. They do their job and put something extra in and sometimes, even often, they are overlooked. Why? Because some other engines aren’t so humble. They roar around and make sure they’re seen.

I work with a Thomas. It’s a she actually. She’s a front line customer service/technical support for a medical business and she does a great job. You only have to hear her on the phone to notice the goodwill she spreads. Nothing is a problem and she not only sells, but advises and counsels. It’s all part of the job for this lady.

She’s a useful little engine!

Where would we be without them?

Take time to notice all the useful little engines at your workplace. Get them to train up or mentor other little engines. make it best practice and … reward them!

Love makes the business world go round.

Still life with customer service

19 Nov

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I love art. What else is there in life? It ranks up there with love. Our reason for living.

But what’s art go to do with customer service? A lot really, especially when it’s a still life.

Let’s look at the terminology: Customer service is not really correct. It’s neat but limiting. Great customer service is pre, present and post service.

Still life studies in customer service abound. Pop into a retail establishment and the CS person is on the phone; or writing a first draft of the novel on the computer, or better still, updating Facebook. The point is that they aren’t busy. Yes they greet you with great warmth but there’s as much life in that place as there is in a cemetery. Beautiful surroundings and very calm.

I like to think I was trained by the best of them.

My family was in retail for over 70 years. One of my first jobs was working in a bookstore with an old hand at book retailing.

These people taught me to be busy! Do things. Rearrange the stock. Change the promotions around. Take care of the displays (visual merchandising in today speak.)

Once at the bookstore, this man, who was well into his 60’s was out the front moving the remaindered discount books around. I asked him what he was doing. He replied with just a touch of failed Shakespearean actor:

‘People are sticky beaks. They love to see what’s going on!”

What he meant was that action breeds action.

When people start buying there’s an energy in the room. It’s palpable. Everybody’s up. It’s the makings of a shark feeding frenzy.

Product knowledge is great, but boredom shows.

Don’t have your customer service as a still life work of art. 

BAT CEO = CREATIVE + STRATEGIC

15 Nov

bat maskA young guy I know well has recently been appointed as CEO of a large not for profit organisation. He’s a very clever person and I have watched his career unfold.

When he was first appointed, I know he struggled as to how to be the CEO. He doesn’t wear suits. He’s not a fan of corporate speak. He’s a blend of creative and strategic. He’s an entrepreneur, a musician, a story teller but probably not an administrator.

He knows how to network and he does so at very senior levels. His passion for the good deeds and the clients his organisation serves are what makes this guy so compelling.

He utilises the media and has clear objectives for the publicity. Often it’s to inform policy makers on what’s happening ‘on the ground.’

But what astonished me is a video he sent me: BAT CEO

He filmed himself with a Bat Mask on going around the office enquiring how the team was going but in the gravelly, vigilante voice of the new BATMAN. The reactions of many of the staff was unmitigated glee at seeing their big boss being so light-hearted and well, damn funny.

It was a master stroke in my opinion as it disarmed and calmed while introducing a different mode of leadership.

It’s not always appropriate being BAT CEO. There are difficult strategies and difficult conversations leaders have to have but why not engender some fun.

Humour is a strategy in itself and it breaks all kinds of ice.

Here’s to BAT CEO. Long may he serve!

Icons of Style and Style Guides

12 Nov

ImageCary Grant was a movie star when movie stars were stars if you get my drift. He’s probably not relevant to the Gen X. Y’s and Z’s (are they here yet?) but he had style, and talent did old Archie Leach … that was his real name. Cary Grant was a branded product for the Hollywood studio system and no-one did better business than those factories.

Stars like George Clooney owe a lot to Cary Grant an icon of style!

Now I’m not writing about movie stars here. I’m writing about the importance of Style Guides to content developers, whether they are building, writing, or video-ing content. Whether they are designing training programs or sending out email marketing campaigns > it’s nice to have guides in place for look and feel purposes, branding, version control, recurring text like copyright, fonts, colours and more.

Style guides should be global and accessible.

Style guides formats should be usable to those that need to use them.

Style guides should be simple, uncluttered and not a graphic designers view of how they should present and be used.

Most importantly, Style Guides should be communicated and adopted by all in the business or organisation.

I’m creative and I like to break the mould sometimes and add personality but I appreciate when Style Guides and Templates are used when it makes the project clearer and easier to format.

Develop Style Guides and Templates then manage projects. 

Percy Bysshe Shelley … Ode to a Control Freak

3 Nov

ImageI had an amusing english teacher at High School. He had a loud voice and a pompous manner. He liked to peer at the more rebellious among us and proclaim quite stentoriously ‘shut up son or I’ll belt you!’ And back then, he did and they could. Under this man’s iron fisted rule I learned about certain poets and poetry. The only poem that I can still recite is Ozymandius:

‘I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…’

The poet was that great pioneer of pop star literati poet loser Percy Shelley. He also wrote Ode to a Grecian Urn amongst other treasures. But Ozymandius has always fascinated me. A monumental king of kings > all gone, boom! Just a pile of dust.

Which brings me back to the blog. Control freaks. I kind of love them.

Just recently I was involved at a workplace. The minute I arrived and set up, a person was there, next to me.

Not to be at all sexist here, but it was a lady. A women. You know, the other sex.

She fixed me with her glaring gaze and started to let me know how things were done ‘around here.’ I nodded and smiled and occasionally muttered a phrase of complete understanding like ‘yeah sure.’ But I could see that she (who could have easily been a he) was lost somewhere. Maybe she was in the desert looking at the gigantic monument and trying to make out the visage. All I know is that she was on her own planet and i was only docking for a while.

Now, I’m experienced. I’ve been around the block a few times.

To be honest, I could have been a waiter at the last supper.

I’m skilled and reliable and people relate to me. When I teach they might not learn everything, but they have a good time, which makes for good learning. I use humour a lot to bring people back into the room and off their Iphones. It works for me. I get great feedback. All you have to do is tell me where and when, the topic/subject, any materials and leave me to it.

But this person, lets call them Ozzie had to control me. Why?

Well I thought about it later. What drives a control freak? Insecurity? A need for power? Recognition? Panic? Fear?

All of the above.

Control freaks should read some Shelley and start with Ozymandius.

‘I met a traveller from an antique land who said …’