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Remarkable Learning

Moving to a New Blogging Platform

Posted at 9:00 AM on Friday, December 04, 2009

This was the home of my blog from March 2004- November 2009.  Here you will find over 870 posts about leadership, training, learning and more.  I wrote here to help you become more effective and successful in all parts of your life.

My business (and yours) looks different than it did in 2004 - and the world of blogging and blog tools is certainly different as well.

For all of those reasons, I am now blogging in a new location, using new tools.  While the name of the blog has changed (it is now Leadership & Learning with Kevin Eikenberry), my goals haven't changed - I write to help you tap into and move closer to your remarkable potential.

However you found this page, whether you were referred, found it from a search engine or you bookmarked us long ago. I hope you will follow over to the new blog to continue to learn, grow and be a part of our expanding community of leaders and learners.
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Putring our Celebration in a Customer Context

Posted at 2:18 AM on Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sixteen years ago this week I left the comfort and security of a great corporate job at Chevron Corporation to begin my company, the company that is now known as the Kevin Eikenberry Group. A few weeks ago, when I shared the fact that it was about to be 16 years, someone commented, "16 years in business and married 23 years - and happy with both. Not everyone can say that."

I smiled.

I'm truly blessed.

I've been thinking about the 16 years, the challenges, the surprises, the mistakes, the wins and the lessons. And as a result of that I will be writing blog posts for the next 16 days - posts of lessons learned that can be applied to all of our lives. Those 16 posts are just one of the ways we will be celbrating - but I'll tell you more abou thtat tomorrow.

I grew up on a family farm. We raised crops and hogs, did custom fieldwork and a fertilizer business. While the lessons from all of that experience are many, one of the most important things I learned from a very young age was about how to relate to, treat and revere Customers.

That Customer mindset served me very well during my Chevron career, and has served me even better as an entrepreneur. The first name of my company - Performance Partners - defined that perspective. My goal then, and now, was to become Partners with our Customers to solve their Performance problems.

While we say it differently today - we want to be Your Leadership Help Button - the point is the same. We are here to serve you - our Customers. Any of the success we have had to this point rests firmly on this founding principle.

My challenge for you today, as an individual performer and a leader is to
think about how you think about your Customers - to carefully consider how those thoughts translate into actions - and how successfully you are meeting or
exceeding the needs of those most important people.

Because without our Customers, past and present, I wouldn't be celebrating 16 years in business next month, we are going to make our celebration all about YOU. Tomorrow I will announcing some very cool, very fun, and very valuable activities that will be a part of our month-long anniversary celebration - and all of it is about helping, encouraging, inspiring and thanking you.

Stay tuned for the announcement. . .

and in the meantime, thank one of your Customers today.

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A Three Step Success Formula

Posted at 4:35 AM on Friday, November 28, 2008

Business and Management Articles

I just opened an email that told me I have been named a Distinguished Author by Best Management Articles.

I don't share that to brag or make some sort of pronouncement. I share it here for the lesson it gives to all of us.

If you want something, you must take action.

I've been writing articles for several years - well over 300 of them at this point (not counting over 700 blog posts). In that time I have gotten better (I hope), I have had some great things happen and met some wonderful people. But none of it would have happened - including receiving the email today - if I hadn't:

1. Decided to write.
2. Write.
3. Keep writing.

If I stop at 1 (which many people do) or at 2 (because "I wrote an article and nothing happened"), the results I am receiving and will continue to receive wouldn't have come to me.

By the way, this article isn't about writing unless that is your action too. This article is about deciding to do the things that will help you become more successful and reach your goals.

Maybe you want to be better with Customers. Maybe you want to be more creative. Maybe you want to be a better team member or team leader. Or maybe you want to learn something new.

It doesn't matter what your "what" it; the formula remains the same.

1. Decide
2. Do
3. Keep doing

Chances are you know what your what is. You may have even taken step 1 by deciding to do it.

Now it is time for action and discipline.

This is a very simple success formula. It's time to get going.

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The Six Cancers of Customer Care

Posted at 6:07 AM on Friday, October 10, 2008

Want to keep your organization out of recession? Consider these thoughts about the Six Cancers of Customer Care and how to overcome them.

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Learning as a Relationship Building Opportunity

Posted at 12:00 PM on Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Here I am combining my love or learning and of beer to share a lesson relevant to us as leaders and marketers:

Learning and education is a tremendous relationship building opportunity.

When we help people learn new things, we are deepening our relationship with them.

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Staying Connected

Posted at 6:17 AM on Sunday, May 04, 2008

Staying connected is important for us in any number of roles in our lives: as leaders, as friends, as businesspeople, as marketers, as parents, as family members, as people.

And while there are many ways for us to stay and get connected (including millions that don't include electronics, screens, or the internet), tools for building and strengthening relationships using the electronic/internet world abound and are growing daily.

One of the reasons I haven't been posting as frequently here lately is because I have been learning about and using a couple of these tools - and I added another new one today. As I sit here this morning, I am struck by the options and working/playing hard to find the right balance for me (in all of the roles above!) between the various media, and tools.

As I find answers, I'll let you know. In the meantime, here are some ways you can stay more closely connected to me - using some of the tools I am using the most right now. I hope you choose to connect to me with as many of these tools as you use.

Whether you connect with me, consider how you will connect with others today - whether online, offline, or both. Connections are the start of relationships, and relationships make every part of our lives more rich, valuable, meaningful and fun.

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Customer Relationships are Recession Busters

Posted at 11:47 PM on Sunday, April 20, 2008

This post is about two things: recessions and a solution to them.

Don't worry this is not an economic treatise about the definitions and causes of economic downturns sometimes called recessions. Rather, it is an explanation of how we can think about these events differently and, when these circumstances surround us, how we can improve our results regardless of what the media tells us.

While regional, national or global level economic indicators can show that an economy is slowing down, that people are losing their jobs and the like, I believe that for individuals, a recession is little more than a change in circumstances that we can choose to participate in or not. I would argue that recessions don't even exist for us as individuals, unless we allow them to.

Recessions and Our Response

First, if you are reading this and have lost your job or are facing significant changes in your situation due to the events being labeled "recession", please don't get angry with my comments, but continue reading with an open mind. Use these ideas to be proactive in dealing with the opportunity you are now facing.

The media and/or politicians may say we are in a recession. And yet, businesses are still buying products and services (though perhaps a bit less than 'normal') and businesses are still hiring employees and moving forward.

The key for you and your business is to be the one who gets a larger percentage of the orders or the interviews or job offers that are available. In this proactive way you can choose to recognize that recessions are macro not micro events. You have a choice about how you will view the event the media calls "recession."

What I'm saying is that times might be a little tougher and that it might not be as easy as it used to be (or will be again), but so what? You can succeed through a better plan and a bit of persistence. When things are a little tougher, it simply separates out those who are prepared to work harder and more creatively.

Our Best Response

After you have readjusted your views on what a recession is, and how you can most proactively view those circumstances, your next actions should be focused on the source of your income and profits: Your Customers.

You may call them something else: Clients, Patients, Students, Participants, Users, or Participants. Or you may be thinking, "Kevin I work inside the organization, I don't deal with our paying Customers." That’s fine, you still have Customers. Other departments, the people who you give your work to, the people who give you work, all of these people are your internal Customers. (If you "only" have internal Customers, read on, apply the points and wait for a special message for you before I close.)

Whatever you call them and whoever they are, your Customers are your personal recession buster - but only if you focus on them more completely, deeply and consistently than ever. Think about it this way - your Customers are the source of all revenue for your organization; your Customers write your paycheck. It makes sense to build and deepen your relationships with them always, but that is never more true than in times where they are buying less and probably distracted by the economy themselves.

Your Customers are looking for new solutions. Your Customers want help. Your Customers need you.

Five Ideas

Here are five ways you can focus on deepening your relationships with your Customers, starting right now.

Get in touch. Stop by, make a call, send a handwritten note, send an email (in that order of priority - the further up this list the more valuable the contact will be). Let them know you care, take the effort to be connected.

Stay in touch. Don't make this contact a one-time event but part of an ongoing process of staying in touch, connected and at the top of the mind for your Customer.

Ask how you can help them. No strings and no qualifiers. Do you appreciate it when someone offers to help you with something? So will your Customers, even if they don't take you up on the offer.

Educate them. Send an article, share an idea. After you know how you can help or what their challenges are, it will be easier to determine the best things to share based on their interests and needs.

Focus on serving not selling. People buy from those they like, trust and respect. Sales will come. Focus on the person, building the relationship and serving them.

These are just five ideas - you probably can come up with fifty-five more. Your challenge is to find ways to be relevant, helpful and available to your Customers.

A Final Thought

Before I close, I promised those with internal Customers a final thought. If you will do the things above, you will help your internal Customer better serve the paying Customer. When you sparkle in these efforts, they may even get ideas from your actions to apply with their Customers.

Regardless of where you sit in the organization you can have a direct impact on business success by your actions. Focus those actions on improving relationships with your Customers, whoever they are.
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What Do You Believe?

Posted at 4:34 AM on Saturday, March 08, 2008

I woke up this morning with the words from a Brooks and Dunn song in my head. I didn't know the title, but I assumed it was "I Believe". So, a bit later to iTunes I went to spend my $.99. After doing the search, I didn't find it, but I found 150 results, including an old Don Williams song that was popular on country radio when I was in high school. Yes, I dropped $.99 on it, and did another search.

The song I had been singing in my head is simply titled Believe.

As I worked on email and cleaning my office I listened to my two new purchases. The Brooks and Dunn song has a very gospel message and sound, and the Don Williams tune is a love ballad.

Both have me thinking about believing.

The Don Williams song is a series of statements of things he doesn't believe (right is right and left wrong, that north and south can get along is one lyrical pair), then he closes with a chorus of things he does believe in (including love, babies, Mom and Dad, and eventually the person he is singing to).

All of this has me thinking about what we believe in, and how impacts us as professionals and leaders.

What are the things you believe in most deeply?

How do those beliefs impact your daily actions and behaviors?

Are you living in alignment with those beliefs? (If not, can you be surprised if there is significant stress in your life?)

Yesterday when completing a proposal, I wrote about some of our beliefs and philosophies as a company. Communicating them was important - it will help the potential Client decide if we are the right fit for them or not.

What do you believe?

And how are you putting those beliefs into action each day?

These are powerful questions for all of us.
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Making a Choice

Posted at 7:18 PM on Thursday, December 13, 2007

I recently read this somewhere:

Being right is less important than being successful.

This isn't the first time I've heard this idea, but when I read it this time it hit me as profound.


- A leader who takes ownership of an idea of a team member, frustrating the team member and damaging trust.
- An argument with a customer that becomes counter productive because being right becomes the primary concern.

I could list other examples, but I'm sure you have thought of your own.

We all have the opportunity to make a choice in these situations. This quotation reminds me of the importance of this choice.

When you feel yourself focused on being correct, ask yourself if that focus is serving your biggest goals.
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A Remarkable Learning Event

Posted at 7:22 AM on Saturday, December 08, 2007

Last week I attended the 2007 Author Pow Wow sponsored by 800-CEO-Read. At the end of the two day event the participants were asked to share a single word that encapsulated their feelings and thoughts about our time together.

Words included: fun, invogorating, energy, relationships, genersoity, memorable, learning, and fattening (that was right on Ben). I chose the word Remarkable. The group chuckled at my choice, but it truly is the best word I could have chosen.

Consider this - a highly creative and fun environment thanks to The Catalyst Ranch in Chicago, over 20 business authors working to hone their craft and learn about the publishing and marketing of books, along with experts and gurus from across the expanse of publishing, as well as the 800-CEO-READ team. This group included:

The Authors

Erika Andersen - Growing Great Employees

Greg Alexander - Topgrading for Sales

Jose Castillo - an incredibily smart and creative guy.

Phil Gerbyshak - 10 Ways to Make it Great

Joanne Gordon - Be Happy at Work

Jackie Huba Creating Customer Evangelists

Joe Heuer - check out several of his books, including Business Daffynitions

Mike Kanazawa - Big Ideas to Big Results

Alexander Kjerulf - Happy Hour is 9 to 5

Steve Little - The Milkshake Moment

Ben McConnell - Citizen Marketers

Pamela Miles and Jack Mitchell - Hug Your Customers, and soon, Hug Your People

Robert Mintz - The World According To You

Susan Quandt - Sudden Impact on the Job

David Meerman Scott - The New Rules of Marketing and PR

Michael Stallard - Fired Up or Burned Out

Dan Roam - The Back of the Napkin

John Rosen and AnnaMaria Turano - Stopwatch Marketing

Rajesh Setty - Life Beyond Code

Bill Welter - The Prepared Mind of a Leader

Steve Yastrow - We - The Ideal Customer Relationship

The Gurus

Ray Bard - Bard Press

Mark Bloomfield - Harvard Business School Press

Shelley Dolley - Leap7

Barbara Cave Henricks and Dennis Welch - Cave Henricks Communications

Mark Fortier - Fortier Public Relations

Nick Morgan - Public Words

Gerry Sindell - ThoughtLeaders INTL

Les Tuerk - BrightSight Group

Susan Williams - Jossey-Bass (my inital editor for Remarkable Leadership)

The 800-CEO-READ Team

Jack Covert
Melinda Cross - Concepts Content Copy
Sally Haldorson
Jon Mueller
Kate Mytty
Joy Panos Stauber - Stauber Design Studio
Todd Sattersten
Aaron Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher
Rebecca Schlei

I want to thank everyone involved - the efforts of everyone form the staff at the Ranch, the the 800-CEO-READ team, to the speakers and gurus, to my fellow authors. Each one helped to create this amazing learning experience. All of my expectations for the event were met and surpassed thanks to everyone else.

The lesson here for everyone?

When you have a chance to hang out with and learn from other cool and smart people, make sure you do whatever you have to do to make it happen - it the experience will expand your thoughts, infuse you with energy and change your life if you let it.

A Customer Service post script - the staff and facility at The Catalyst Ranch is amzing - yes, the facility is fun and refreshing, but it wouldn't work without an incredibly customer focused staff. If you are ever having a meeting in Chicago, consider The Catalyst Ranch.

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Words Matter

Posted at 5:53 AM on Monday, October 15, 2007

That was the title of the sermon J.K. Jones gave at Traders Point Christian Church yesterday. While in this post I won't include the scripture references, I believe the five points he made are extremely relevant to all of us as leaders, team members, and professionals (and as human beings).

He suggests asking these five questions regularly:

Are my words true?
Are my words helpful?
Are my words inspiring?
Are my words necessary?
Are my words kind?

If you take the first letter from the key word in each question: true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind; you get THINK.

Asking these questions, and adjusting our actions accordingly will make us better communicators, better team members, better leaders . . . and better at just about anything else you can think of.

In short, words matter, so THINK.


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We are All Accountable to Make a Difference

Posted at 6:27 AM on Thursday, August 30, 2007

I have a new hero - Denny Flanagan. Denny is a pilot for United Airlines and was the focus of a a front page article in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal. You can read the article here.

Captain Denny does a variety of things for his passengers - and none of them are in the United employee handbook. Here are just a few examples:

- he takes pictures of people's pets in the cargo area and show them to passengers.
- when there are long delays he buys McDonald's hamburgers or fruit for all the passengers.
- he hand writes notes to passengers in first and business class, thanking them for choosing to fly United.
- he calls the parents of unaccompanied minors on his cell phone if there are delays.

The article states that the airline reimburses the pilot for his expenses for these unique services, and I'm sure they would do it for others as well.

Captain Flanagan is taking personal responsibility for his Customers. Captain Flanagan is leading, without a leadership title. He is making a difference for hundreds of passengers everyday.

And guess what?

Because of his proactive approach, I'm sure Captain Flanagan enjoys his work far more than most of his colleagues.

All of these things are a choices this pilot, who lives on a farm in Ohio, makes everyday. These are choices that are making a difference for his company, his co-workers, his customers and himself.

You don't have to be a leader to make a difference; Captain Denny Flanagan proves it.

And that is why Captain Flanagan is my hero.

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Rental Car Customer Service and The Remarkable Leader

Posted at 2:49 AM on Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Diane Brady, in a recent Business Week blog post commented on a Customer Service horror story. She recounts how on trying to return a rental car 10 hours early, they (Avis) attempt to charge her an almost 50% premium on her rates!

While she did negotiate those rates back down, it leaves me thinking about what I would do if I was the leader at Avis and at the counter at that location. Maybe more to the point,

What would a remarkable leader do?

Before we answer that question, read the post for yourself.

There are issues at at least three levels here:

Policy level
Empowerment level
Customer Mindset level

These levels are intermingled, but let me unpack a couple of thoughts for you.

Perhaps there is a policy in place to handle these situations (however inane it sounds). If so, a Remarkable, proactive leader would be working to change, abolish or remove this policy. Yes, even if that leader is the night counter manager in Newark - a policy that makes no sense and is detrimental to customers requires change!

Since in this case, the charges were changed, it is clear that even if it was a policy, the person at the desk had the ability to use their judgement and change it. This is an empowerment issue. While Diane had to wait too long and work too hard to make this happen, some "justice" was done. As a remarkable leader it is your job to empower people to make those decisions, based on organizational goals and values. As importantly, to make those decisions quickly when working with Customers, which leads to the third level . . .

Remarkable leaders set the pace in creating a mindset that is focused on Customers and meeting/exceeding their needs. If leadership had created the right mindset, Diane wouldn't have had a blog post to write, and neither would I. What is the mindset in your organization in relationship to Customers. Is the end of Diane's story ("hey, she got the rate changed") good enough?

All of us have these Customer service horror stories. The question is, as a leader what are you learning from them?

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Lean Towards Your Customer

Posted at 3:58 AM on Friday, May 04, 2007

While reviewing a new program from Charthouse Learning called Leader Fish! (a program for leaders based on the Fish! philosophy, I heard a phrase used by Southwest Airlines people on the DVD. They talked about leaning towards the Customer.

This comment was made talking about encouraging people to try new things and not to be afraid of making mistakes. The comment was that no one will ever get in trouble for a decision if they are leaning towards the Customer.

Which led me to some questions . . .

Did I lean towards my Customers today?
Did I encourage my team to lean towards a Customer?
How can we lean tomorrow?
How can we lean next week?

Leaning towards Customers. It obviously works for Southwest. There is every reason it can work for you too.

Go ahead...

lean towards your Customer.
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Speaking Their Language

Posted at 8:16 AM on Wednesday, May 02, 2007

To be the most effective as a communicator, it is our responsibility to communicate in ways that work for the other person. We must become adept at seeing the other person's perspective, their skills and their style. One of the best short pieces I've read recently on this truth was written by Guy Harris (who calls himself the Recovering Engineer) this week.

This communication truth applies to us in all areas of our communication - in working with Customers, leading others, being a part of a team and more.

His article really hit home for me, and I believe it will for you too. It is titled Speaking Their Language, and I highly recommend reading it.


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Customer Loyalty Guaranteed!

Posted at 4:59 AM on Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I had the distinct pleasure of reading a pre publication copy of Chip Bell and John Patterson's new book entitled Customer Loyalty Guaranteed. This book comes out this fall and I encourage you to put it on Amazon wish list today. The book delivers on its promise on helping you to create, maintain and lead for Customer Service and it's a book that you want when it is published by Adams Media in September.

How did I get to read a draft of the book? I was asked to give a testimonial for it, and here is what I wrote:

"Read this book, and put the ideas into action and you will do exactly as the title suggests, you'll guarantee customer loyalty. If you have customers, read this book."


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PhotoReading and Thoughts about Promoting, Selling, and Communicating

Posted at 3:23 AM on Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I am a customer of PhotoReading - a product of Learning Strategies. You can check out my reviews of both the book and the full system as written about in my newsletter, Unleash Your Potential.

I also recently, partnered with Learning Strategies to promote this product to our Powerquotes list . . . which is why I write this post.

A couple of my readers emailed me expressing concern about me "hawking" this product to my list. I replied to these readers with my thanks for their notes and I addressed their concerns.

I wasn't hawking a product, but promoting something I feel is of great value. I wasn't selling it to make a commission, though I will make one. I was sharing the opportunity with people because I see the value and benefits to them. If you are interested in learning more, you can go here.

The lesson for all of us is that it is important that we make our true intentions clear. When we are transparent and truly working from a position of providing value and benefit to the other person, we can't just assume the other person will see this perspective.

As you communicate with others make sure you message and your intent is clear, and you will have much greater success in the communication process and in building the relationship.

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The Power of Gratefulness

Posted at 4:51 AM on Friday, March 09, 2007

It seems everywhere I look, turn or listen I find messages about gratitude. I've always been a person who tries to "count my blessings" and be grateful for the wonderful (and even the not-so-wonderful) things in my life.

I believe that when we need greater lessons and understanding of a topic or idea, if we listen, those lessons will be made available to us. The more I "notice" lessons on gratitude, the more I'm convinced I was ready for deeper lessons.

I have in the past few months become more disciplined about being in a state of gratitude and reminding myself of the things I am grateful for each day. There is no question that this practice is making a difference in my life.

This is not just a personal "feeling better about myself and my world" topic either - there is loads of research that shows that when we are more grateful we build relationships more effectively, communicate more positively and are more effective and efficient. Note this recent post in Curt Rosengren's wonderful Occupational Adventure blog.

It describes a fascinating study of the tangible benefits of being grateful. I encourage you to read it.

Here is an exercise to try today. Before your next meeting, take 2 minutes to write down five things you have to be grateful for over the past two weeks. These can be small or large things - it doesn't matter. Notice how you frame issues and communicate differently in the meeting.

Once you have done this for yourself a couple of times, take a bigger risk (it really isn't a risk but it might feel like one right now) and ask everyone in the meeting to do the same thing.

This isn't a sharing exercise - reassure people that they won't be asked to share what is on their list - it is a personal gratitude exercise.

Taking this action will create a new energy and focus for your meeting. You will create more ideas, and more positive, encouraging conversation.

This is just one example reflecting on your gratitude. (If you are immediately interested and want some other ideas go here.) In the coming weeks and months, I might well have more to share in this area. But even if I don't, this one exercise can make a positive difference in your life when you do it.

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What Could I Stop Doing?

Posted at 12:18 PM on Thursday, February 01, 2007

I met with a new friend today. He is the Vice President for Business Development at a bank. He told me he made a decision about six months ago. His decision?

"I decided to stop selling banking solutions."

He isn't a slacker - he hasn't stopped working or drawing a paycheck. But rather than trying to sell a banking solution he has been trying to connect and help people - to build relationships.

His results?

Production was double of the first six months of the year and he topped his annual target by 25%.

Reminds me of my new question - How can I help you reach your goals in 2007? (see post here.)

Here's a question for you - what could you stop doing today that would help others more and therefore give you greater results with more fun?
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Helping Others Reach Their Goals

Posted at 3:04 AM on Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In an organizational context, there are may connections between our work and helping others reach their goals. Consider:

- It is our responsibility and opportunity as a leader to help others reach their goals.
- As members of teams we have the chance to help others reach their goals.
- As a trainer you are in a unique position to help people reach their goals
- When serving Customers, by definition, if in only a small way that is what you are doing.

Perhaps because of all of these factors, I have been ending emails with "Let me know how I can help you reach your goals in 2007" for a few days now. Since doing so, several interesting things have happened.

1. On the day I decided to make this a regular part of many emails, I sent a note to a colleague and friend, ending it that way. Her response included: "Oh baby - I love that question "please let me know what I can do to help you reach your 2007 goals". That's awesome and right back atcha." She added that a friend of hers had asked her the same question the day before and was also resolved to ask people that question everyday.

2. I added it to my basic email signature yesterday, and a person I didn't know emailed me a question. My inclusion of that line caused him to send a note asking for some help which I was able to provide. (It also led to me finding out that one of my articles was reprinted in a very visible place I was unaware of).

3. Several people have replied, asking me what they can do to help me.

4. Perhaps more important than these occurrences is that I am now much more consciously focused on helping others reach their goals. Not only is that good business, given the business that I am in, but it feels great.

I urge you to ask this question of others in your own way in the coming days. And let me close by saying...

Let me know what I can do to help you reach your goals in 2007.
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What We Can Learn From Rosie and The Donald

Posted at 5:17 AM on Thursday, January 04, 2007

It is hard to avoid it - even if you don't read the tabloids or watch tabloid TV, you probably know that Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump are having a spat. If you need a recap you can go here. I call it a spat, but they'd call it a conflict.

And in the "conflict" is where there is at least two lessons for us.

Lesson 1: If you want to resolve a conflict, you must know where the conflict comes from, and what is in it for the other person to remain in conflict.

In the case of Rosie and Donald, I don't believe they want to get out of this conflict (or really, that it is really even a conflict) at all. What is in it for both of them is the same thing - publicity.

Rosie replaced Meredith Vierra on The View, and while ratings have gone up (I heard last night), the publicity certainly helps. Donald get publicity for his Miss Universe brand, and the fact that the on-air tussle comes when the new season of The Apprentice is arriving, makes it all the better.

Lesson 2: If the other person doesn't want to resolve the conflict, don't escalate it.
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Improve Your Results with a BIG Goal

Posted at 8:01 AM on Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Today is the final in my series of Seven Ways to Improve Your Professional Results in 2007 (or anytime). The first six suggestions are:

- Create more energy in your life.
- Commit to better working relationships.
- Project a contagious, positive attitude.
- Talk less, listen more.
- Mentor someone.
- Keep a journal.

I've never been very good at those "which five CDs would you want on a desert island?" kinds of questions and so I'm not sure I could pick just one of these suggestions, but I could make a passionate case for today's suggestion:

Set a big goal.

The reason this one might be the most important is that if you set a big goal, the other suggestions might well become tactics to help you achieve that goal.

Simply setting a goal would be a good tactic, but setting a big goal is a better tactic. If you have, in the past had trouble getting started, read this article - it will help you take away all of your excuses.

Your goal could be about your application of one of the other suggestions above, but more likely it will be about a skill you want to develop, a financial position you'd like to be in, a possession you'd like to acquire, a promotion you'd like to secure, or any of 1000 other things.

Whatever your goal is, setting it provides you greater focus and raises your intention for success. That is fine.

But if you really want to accelerate your results, make the goal big. Make it outrageous. Stretch yourself beyond where you think you 'should' be.

Create a goal worthy of your potential.

Then go out and achieve it.

You can do it.
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The Biggest Key to Problem Solving

Posted at 4:55 AM on Thursday, December 21, 2006

I have the opportunity to train and coach people on problem solving with some regularity. In fact, we recently built a one day customized problem solving and decision making workshop for one of our great Canadian Clients, OPTI Canada.

In the workshop we talked about a problem solving mindset, what gets in our way, a problem solving process, and much more.

Nothing we taught could be any more powerful than this quotation from Norman Vincent Peale,

"Believe it is possible to solve your problem. Tremendous things happen to the believer. So believe the answer will come. It will."

An open mind, a clear problem statement, the right people involved, and a good problem solving process are all important.

But always remember to start with the belief that the problem can and will be solved.
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Customers 1, Experts 0

Posted at 4:31 AM on Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Last night I heard on television and this morning I read online about the NBA's decision to go back to the old ball on January 1 for the rest of the year.

All of the new ball/old ball story can be referenced from this post, where I talk about the problem with the new ball from an important perspective - the perspective of the players (i.e. the Customers).

The good news of this change back, is that much like what Coca-Cola learned with New Coke; better is defined first, and most importantly by the Customer, not by management, the experts or anyone else.

Kudos to the NBA for rethinking their decision and kudos to the players for speaking their discontent.

The score?

Customers 1, Experts 0.

The NBA will no doubt reopen their look at an improved ball. Here's hoping they learned their lesson and include their Customers in the process next time.

Are you including your Customers (both internal and external) in your perceived process and product improvements?
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Who is the Customer? Who Has the Ball?

Posted at 3:19 AM on Friday, December 08, 2006

In the National Basketball Association, the players have it (the ball).

And this year the League has introduced a new ball - it is constructed differently and is made of a synthetic substance rather than leather (is nothing sacred?!?)

The ball was developed and introduced to have more consistency in the way it handles and bounces. According to the experts (the players) it hasn't achieved those goals. In fact some players are actually getting small cuts on their fingers from the balls.

The Players Union has filed a grievance over the new ball and concurrently (perhaps because of the grievance?) the League has sent the balls back for further testing.

According to the New York Times in this article, (free registration maybe required) David Stern, the League's Commissioner has said, "I won't make a spirited defense with respect to the ball. In hindsight, we could have done a better job. I take responsibility for that."

He added: "If our players are unhappy with it, we have to analyze to the nth degree the cause of their unhappiness. Everything is on the table. I'm not pleased, but I'm realistic. We've got to do the right thing here. And of course the right thing is to listen to our players. Whether it's a day late or not, we're dealing with this."


Who is the Customer here?

The NBA I'm sure thinks about the paying fan, the media and more as their paying Customers. However like any other business they have internal customers and stakeholders - all of whom are critical to meeting the external (paying customer's needs).

Who is the Customer of the ball?

The players of course.

The NBA made the same error that many of us make. We don't think about, and meet the needs of our internal customers.

I don't know if the new ball is better or not - but I do know that part of the definition of better must come from the customers of the product - in this case the players.

How clear are you on the expectations and needs of your internal customers?

How will meeting those needs more completely improve your results with your paying customers?
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More Workers Playing Hooky

Posted at 5:59 AM on Saturday, October 28, 2006

That is the title of the short article in the Indianapolis Star's Business Section this morning. It is a story from the Associated Press that cites a survey conducted for CCH by the Harris Interactive consulting firm. The results?

Unscheduled absenteeism is at its highest point since 1999. The rate is 2.5%.

2.5 % of people won't be at work tomorrow, even if they said they would be when they leave work today.

If you are thinking that people can get sick and that is most of the reason for these absences, according to the survey you would only be right 35% of the time. Personal needs (18%), stress (12%) and the "entitlement mentality" (11%) are some of the other major reasons cited for unscheduled absence.

As I read this short piece all I could think about was the conversation I had with a potential Client yesterday. I was called to come and talk about improving or increasing the engagement of the staff.


People who are engaged in their work, who are passionate and truly care about their work don't take days off for inconsequential things and they certainly don't do it because they feel entitled to the time off.

Some people will read these statistics and think about how people taking unscheduled time off hurts their staffing levels and their ability to provide good Customer Service. They will be right.

Some people will look at the overall labor market and see that as jobs get easier to come by, people are more willing to take the extra time off. I'm guessing in some parts of the country this might be a contributing factor.

Some people will read these statistics and blame it on the younger workers, thinking, "They just don't care like people used to." I don't personally think this is true, but it is a valid perspective.

In the end though I don't think about any of those things. I think about opportunity.

As leaders we have an opportunity to engage our people more fully in their work. When we do they will become more productive, achieve more, and enjoy their work more. They will also come to work when they are scheduled to be there. They'll take Cal Ripken - baseball's all time consecutive games played record holder - as their role model, rather than Ferris Bueller.

We can engage others more fully in their work. When we do those things we are benefiting our business, but we are also benefiting the individual greatly. They will be happier and healthier, and they will choose to come to work because their work is contributing in positive ways to their life.

If you aren't a leader, you can still choose to be engaged or find new work that does engage you.

How engaged are you?

What could you do to become more personally engaged in your work?

The percentages in this survey in 2007 may go down. I hope that if they do the reason is because leaders around the country have taken the challenge to engage people more fully in their work.
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A Lesson at the Deli Counter

Posted at 4:12 AM on Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I overheard a conversation between two employees at the deli counter at my local grocery store recently. The younger of the two women was talking about how people can't be trusted any more. "It's not like it used to be," she said (though she seemed hardly over 25), "People will say or do anything - you can't trust anyone."

"That's why I have just a small circle of friends, and beyond that, I'd just as soon be a hermit."

Her older colleague, listened carefully, then tried to end the conversation by saying, "That may be true, but that isn't going to stop me from talking to people."

I've had a hard time getting this conversation out of my mind.

The belief that "people can't be trusted anymore" is altering woman #1's life. It will impact her ability to be successful at work, build satisfying relationships, and navigate life easily. Her statement about being a hermit shows the depth of her belief.

It isn't my goal in this short post to convince you that her belief is incorrect, but rather to have you reflect on the power our beliefs have on our performance and results.

What beliefs are aiding or hindering your personal and professional progress? Have you consciously chose those beliefs or are they operating as filters in your life without adequate examination?

These are questions worth considering.

No one can do this for you, you must consider them yourself.
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Manners and Customer Service

Posted at 5:27 AM on Thursday, September 28, 2006

Someone recently posed the question to me, "Can we get "jerks" to give good Customer Service? I mean with the overall decline in manners, how can we expect service to be excellent?"

Whew. There is a lot of beliefs dripping around the edges of that question!

My first point would be that if you think you have "jerks" on your team - or think that "jerks" are all you can find to hire, that you are in deep you-know-what before you ever move forward. Leaders need to have a positive expectation of people first and foremost. But let me get off my soapbox there and talk about the rest of the question - which hinges on the connection between manners and Customer Service.

While there's definitely a connection between customer service and manners, good customer service is about a lot more than good manners alone. Good Customer Service requires processes and procedures and tools that will enable good Customer Service. It requires leadership that makes customer service a priority and that empowers employees who work directly with Clients and Customers to make decisions.

Often leaders have expectations about how the Customer will be treated but never share those expectations with employees. They may be thinking "this is so obvious; we don't need to focus on this with our people because they know how to treat others."

Great Customer Service is more than knowing how to treat people; it's more than being nice. It's having processes and procedures in place from the beginning. It's knowing what to do - plus knowing how and when to do it. Customer service declines within an organization when those in leadership positions decline to make customer service a priority.

Those were my initial thoughts to the question posed to me... What do you think?
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Relationship Lessons from Another Language

Posted at 4:05 AM on Monday, August 14, 2006

In the April 2006 issue of Fast Company, there is an article about Dan Mintz, an American who has become a very successful businessperson in China. (You can read the full article here.) Early in the article a Chinese word is introduced - guanxi (pronounced gwan-she). According to the article, it is literally translated as "relationship building", but in practice it means "carefully cultivated clout, a culturally calibrated measure of respect, influence, and honor." The article goes on to say that it is a personal as well as political form of capital.

I've long been interested in learning words from other languages because it is through language that we create understanding. It is no coincidence that our vocabulary and our intelligence are closely linked - the more words we have in our mind the easier it is to express our thoughts and to think in new ways.

Guanxi is a word that does this for me - it expands my thoughts about relationship building. Relationship building is an important part of our lives in many ways - within the last two weeks I have had conversations or done training where relationship building has been discussed connected to Customer Service (even in very short relationships), consulting, leadership, facilitation, and sales. I'm sure you could expand this list and it doesn't even yet include our personal and family relationships.

So here are two questions for you: In the relationships you are working to build now, how would the components of guanxi - respect, influence, and honor - influence your behaviors and choices? Do you think about those factors when building a relationship?

I encourage you to think about those components in the coming days. Recognize that if you want to gain respect, influence, and honor, you will do best by focusing on giving those things first.

Build relationships by putting the other person first - respect them at higher levels, influence them not for your gain but for theirs, and honor them highly.

The dual lesson in this post for me is both the power of the insight gained by adding a new component to relationship building and that these insights came from a new word I learned from another language. I encourage both to think about the lessons of guanxi - both in terms of relationships and vocabulary.
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Resistance and Change

Posted at 6:16 AM on Wednesday, August 09, 2006

In consulting and working with organizations regarding change, a major concern surfaces when I hear questions like:

"What do we do about the resistors?"
"How do we lower the resistance?"
"What if people don't buy-in?"

It is our natural inclination to deal with resistance by combating it, "pushing back" or in some other way getting defensive. We know from our experience that rarely works. And while we know those approaches don't work, we resort to them anyway.

In my experience you will only change your response to the resistance when you view the resistance differently. We encounter three basic initial responses when sharing a change with others:

- Acceptance
- Resistance
- Apathy

Assuming you'd pick acceptance as your first choice, let me ask you a question - would you prefer resistance or apathy? While you might be tempted to think apathy - after all in the moment of conversation that might be easier - in the end you know you don't want apathy either.

When people are apathetic they don't care. When people are resistant, they are engaged, just not sold.

The next time you encounter resistance, remember this mathematical equation,

resistance = engagement

then respond to the resistance you encounter hopefully, openly and eagerly. Your new response will not only be more pleasant, it will be more successful.

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