The best way to make your customers happy

When it comes to making your customers happy, a recent blog post from our friends at Brains on Fire said it best. “Happy employees lead to happy customers. And that “shared happy” leads to positive word of mouth.”

So, how do you increase the happiness of your employees? Steve Cooper blogged at about Dr. Noelle Nelson’s book, Make More Money By Making Your Employees Happy It turns out that what people really want is for companies to “keep promises and show compassion for their employees.”

Paul Spiegelman, author of Why is Everyone Smiling?, suggests at

Recognize and reward. Give accolades to people who are doing a good job by publicly recognizing what is going well.

Make room for fun. Make time for people to do something wacky or unusual.

Walk the talk. Rules, ethics and consequences apply to everyone, regardless of position.

Implementing these strategies doesn’t mean that your employees won’t face problems. Your job as a leader is to enable true happiness – the ability to effectively confront and work through the difficulties that are inevitable in any workplace.

Need to boost happiness at work? Contact Humanergy.

Photo from istockphoto


You need thick skin AND a big heart

I heard somewhere recently that leaders need both thick skin and a big heart. At face value, those two qualities might seem like an oxymoron. How can a tough, impervious person be vulnerable enough to let the softer side show? Christian D. Warren answers this question in his blog post called The Positive Aspects of Being Thick-Skinned. He says:

“What being thick-skinned really means is that a person can take more pressure, ridicule, and proverbial “hits” than the average Joe. Most of the time, a thick skin also serves to protect a big, soft heart. So being thick-skinned should make a person warm, positive, and very easy to approach, because of the higher understanding of challenges conquered.”

If you’re not naturally thick-skinned and tend to reel when faced with criticism or intense pressure, what can you do to beef up your virtual armor?

Practice new internal messages. We can be our own worst enemies. When we receive feedback or feel great stress, we often have an internal dialogue that perpetuates feelings of uncertainty. You can actively replace internal messages like, “I can’t do this” with new ones. When the pressure is on, think, “I’ve survived worse” or “focus on facts” or “what’s the one next thing I can do?” These calming internal messages put you in control and help you remain rational.

Prepare before intensity strikes. Have a game plan in place so that you are ready to respond well in heated situations. Practice in front of a mirror, so that your facial expressions match your words. One good preparation strategy is to have a statement ready that  allows you to respond appropriately right away and then deal with the issue later. “I really appreciate you sharing that with me. I want to take a little time to think about what you’ve said. Can we meet this afternoon?”

Assume it isn’t personal. In reality, most comments are not intended as personal digs. Even if there is an intent to personally attack you, reacting to it does you no favors. Too often people remember your response, not the “offending” comment. Internal messaging helps here, too. Think, “what can I learn from this?” and craft a strategy to respond, if appropriate. Otherwise, if the comments are merely a distraction, move on.

What if you need to be more tender-hearted?

Be tough about issues and tender with people. Tony Schwartz’s blog, The Only Thing that Really Matters, makes this point perfectly. Your people’s need to feel valued and appreciated is fundamental. No matter what the trigger event is or how irritated you may be, you choose your reaction. Breathe deeply and take a moment to gather your thoughts, so that you can respond in a way that is firm, clear and maintains the dignity of all involved.

Be cautious about appearing unemotional, especially if you’re a female leader. There is a sweet spot for how emotional you appear on the job. Gabriela Cora writes about the detrimental effects of being perceived as cold or unemotional in her post, Thick Skin Pays Off in Leadership. Women are expected to be more emotional and big-hearted, and therefore may be judged more harshly than men for seeming indifferent or aloof.

Earn respect through compassion. There is an old school of thought that can be summarized as follows: To get people’s respect, you must be tough, imposing and “never let them see you sweat.” The more informed school recognizes that respect is earned through qualities such as integrity, kindness and transparency. Contrary to the old thinking, there is no honor in being labeled distant or unapproachable.

Spend time with people one-on-one. While you don’t need to ooze love and compassion, simply take time to sit down with your people for regular conversation. Find out how things are going and how you might help them succeed. Truly listen and then follow up on what you commit to do. Soon you’ll be known as one of the most caring leaders around.

Thick skin can help you thrive in a world where unkind words and adversity can’t be avoided. A big heart allows you to be yourself, help others and contribute to the greater good. Keep a healthy level of both qualities in order to avoid being overly-sensitive or emotionally distant. Otherwise, as the cartoon character Pogo quipped, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Want more info about this or another topic? Contact Humanergy.

Photo by Benjamin Earwicker, who has a collection at stock.xchng, our favorite photo site. Check out his website.

Coherent interorganizational communication or… using plain English to share ideas

Do you ever feel like you’re in a strange world where everyone speaks a confusing language? Just attend a meeting at an organization near you. Between the industry-specific jargon and general office-speak, clarity of communication is nearly extinct. Not at Molson Coors, where “core competencies” are now referred to as “things we do well,” according to a recent blog posted by Miri Zena McDonald on SmartBlog on Workforce. The CEO of Molson Coors isn’t tossing around 10-pound reports anymore either, preferring a conversational video. Let’s all drink to that! (In moderation, of course.)

The real problem here is that using the buzz word of the hour is bad communication strategy. You risk the listener not understanding you at all or misconstruing your message. How can you avoid the trap of using jargon or fuzzy terminology?

Run it by an outsider….preferably a kid. Never assume that people will know what you’re saying. Find someone outside your industry and field-test your message. Kids are great at this, since they tend to take your words at face value. And they’re not afraid to tell you that you make no sense.

Use fewer words. If you distill it down to the absolute fewest number of words, you won’t have the luxury of using jargon in your communication.

Use “older” words and common definitions. Avoid the latest-and-greatest buzz terms, in favor of words that have been around awhile. When choosing a word, use it in its most common form; avoid using the 4th-most-common (and therefore less familiar) definition in the dictionary.

Give incentives for de-jargoning. Hold a contest among your staff to find common-word definitions for unclear or jargon-y terms your organization uses. The prize might be a complementary ambrosial noontime repast (otherwise known as a yummy free lunch).

Many people have weighed in with their least favorite word or phrase on blogs, such as the BBC’s 50 office-speak phrases you love to hate, and BNET’s Avoid “Jargon Monoxide” – 5 Definitions You Need To Know. Some favorites from these blogs: strategic staircase, drill down, synchronous tools and career stations (the new term for cubicles).

Now is your chance to nominate a word or phrase that you want to disappear…or maybe that you’re just puzzled about. Comment on this blog post, and take one small step toward better communication and its result: mutual understanding!

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!

Accountability with compassion

A recent New York Times  interview with Niki Leondakis, chief operating officer of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, illustrated an important point. You can hold people accountable to high expectations and show compassion at the same time. Early in her career, Ms. Leondakis felt that she needed to emulate the other (mostly male) leaders who had a take-no-prisoners, harsh style. Over time, she learned that it not only felt better to show compassion, a more compassionate approach was more effective as well.

What is compassion and how can it help you hold others accountable?

Compassion isn’t weakness. Compassion is rooted in a profound respect for others and reflects an unfailing commitment to uphold the dignity of people. As such, all people deserve compassion, even if they’ve made a mistake or even done something unethical or illegal.

Compassion requires listening. When people don’t meet our expectations, it’s all too easy to jump to conclusions. Compassion requires that you slow down and take time to gather facts and listen to the perspectives of all involved, most particularly the person who appears to have a performance issue.

Make sure performance expectations are clear. Part of being a compassionate boss is clearly outlining what you expect in terms of behavior, results and impact. This should be done not only at the point of hiring, but should be reviewed periodically. Don’t forget that communicating expectations isn’t a one-way process. Check for understanding by asking your direct report to summarize her understanding in her own words.

Schedule check-ins and follow through. The annual performance review should not be the first time your direct report hears that there is a problem. Upon hiring, or when a new project is assigned, schedule time for updates and feedback. Don’t assume that everything is going well. Ask questions and share your perspective; if more resources, such as training, information or time, are needed, advocate for what is necessary for success.

Don’t dilute feedback. You might think that you’re doing the person a favor by being less direct. In fact, you’re potentially creating harm. If your direct report doesn’t hear all of the feedback, performance may continue to deteriorate. Then you’ll be forced to deliver even more bad news – even to the point of disciplinary action.

If disciplinary action is necessary, move forward. Expectations were clear. The person was properly trained and supported. If poor performance dictates disciplinary action, as Nike says, just do it.  Not ruthlessly or in a cold manner, but don’t beat around the bush. Share the behaviors that are a problem and how they impact the organization. Outline next steps and expectations. Don’t forget to listen, too, since this is one way to honor the person’s dignity. You can certainly share that you find the situation unfortunate, but  remember that it’s not something you created; therefore, you cannot apologize for it.

Allow the person to have a reaction. Just don’t fall into the trap of taking responsibility for the other person’s feelings. You didn’t create the situation and aren’t responsible for managing the other person’s emotions. Listen and remain calm in the midst of the storm. Above all, avoid phrases like, I know just how you feel or everything will be all right.

A truly compassionate supervisor not only delivers the good news, but the bad as well. Done well, both types of communication foster positive relationships and professional growth. Having the other person’s best interests at heart is a great foundation. In addition to good intentions, deliver your clear, factual message with compassion. You will sow the seeds of goodwill and future success, and everyone will be happier. As the Dalai Lama says, If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!