Being A Good Customer: Brynn Goes to the Olive Garden

The following is a guest post from our friend and colleague, Keith Fuller. Keith is a leadership development and employee engagement consultant at Fuller Game Production with over 13 years of game development experience. He can be found online at fullergameproduction.com or on Twitter as @someproducer.

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Keith Fuller with his daughter, Brynn, on Father's Day

Keith Fuller with his daughter, Brynn, on Father’s Day

It was a Saturday and Grandma and Papa were taking my daughter Brynn out to Olive Garden for a birthday dinner. Their waitress engaged them in a bit of small talk and quickly found out that this was a special occasion.

“Are you going to a movie next?” she asked.

“Yes,” Brynn replied. I’m sure she was rather shy at first.

“What movie?” asked the waitress.

“Frozen!” my daughter answered happily.

“Disney movies are great. My favorite is The Little Mermaid,” she told the 10 year-old as she took everyone’s orders.

The meal went on and Brynn and her grandparents had a great meal together. Afterward Brynn told Papa, “I want to talk to the waitress’ manager.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I want to tell him she’s doing a great job,” Brynn told him.

Papa asked the waitress for her manager. With understandable trepidation she went off to find him. In short order the manager appeared at the table, probably ready to deal with an upset customer. I’m sure he was surprised to hear a 10 year-old girl sing the praises of her waitress.

“She’s doing a really good job, and she’s really nice and a really good people person.”

I wasn’t there to witness the exchange, but I bet the manager was floored. How often does anyone – much less a young girl – pull a manager aside to compliment the performance of a restaurant employee? How often have YOU done it?

Talking with Brynn afterward I helped her think through how many people were affected by her compliments. The waitress was happy and probably recognized ways to pick up her game. The manager – being responsible for his employees – likely felt a sense of accomplishment. The rest of the wait staff undoubtedly heard about it (I’ve worked in a restaurant…these things get around quickly) and saw an example of how to improve their own performance. And I’m sure more than 1000 customers each week thereafter reaped the benefits of all the employees stepping up, all because one person took a couple of minutes to recognize exemplary behavior.

The manager of this particular restaurant may well encourage his employees with positive reinforcement all the time – at least, one would hope he does. But all the uplifting comments he delivers in a year probably won’t have the impact of one customer going out of their way to say something similar. If you want to see any company improve – whether it’s a restaurant, online content delivery, or any other service-related industry – realize the power you have as an individual to influence how the company does what they do.

On the flip side, what if you told the restaurant manager about your super waitress and the response was disinterest?  Or what if you asked for the manager and were told you weren’t allowed to talk to him? What does that tell you about the importance of customer service at this business? Still want to eat there?

One last point that I stressed with Brynn was the importance of recognizing excellence when you’re the manager. When I was a team leader for a bunch of game designers I went out of my way to make sure to tell them when they delivered something exceptional. Since positive comments have such a huge impact on people, leaders should actively search for opportunities to praise their team members.

As someone who teaches leadership development I was happy to see a local restaurant manager get a boost from a customer’s outstanding compliments, but the greatest personal benefit came when Brynn shared one final comment with me.

“You know where I learned to say nice things to a waitress’ manager? From you, Dad.”

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It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are

The following article was originally published in the December 2012 IGDA Perspectives newsletter on Leadership.  Two worksheets (one with the article and one without) were added at the bottom of this post for you to download to help you complete the exercise from the article. Enjoy!

“I am honest and hardworking” is a phrase pretty much everyone uses: job candidates, employees during reviews, leaders speaking to the press, criminals claiming innocence, etc. Statistically speaking, some of these people are lying. And some of these liars have no idea they’re doing it.

In an ideal world we would all be who we say we are. Better yet – we’d be self-aware enough to know who everyone else thinks we are. Then there’s this world. Here, our insight is cloudy at best. Intent matters less than perception and perception is the only reality.

That’s why when I give some of my talks, I not only explain corporate branding and imaging and how it affects good customer service, but personal branding as well. How you present yourself as an individual and how you handle yourself in various situations all affects how you are perceived. How you are perceived determines how you are treated.

You may think of yourself as the most kind-hearted, patient, and caring human being who has ever existed, but if your professional persona is seen selling out coworkers, yelling at subordinates, and sabotaging rivals, no one is going to associate you with Mother Teresa.

As a leader you have to be extremely careful about how you are perceived because it directly influences your effectiveness. It can be the difference between record growth and a “Going Out of Business” sale.

I can’t claim that I have got this down pat. I’m not immune to lapses. However, I am keenly aware of how I can come across to others.

I learned a long time ago that I picked up a lot of personality traits from my parents, friends, and early colleagues throughout the years. Some of these are great, while others … well, not so much. I’ve been working for the last decade or so to assess these traits, boosting the positive ones and removing or adjusting the negative ones.

The best part is that you can do this too. But first you need to get real about who you are and how others see you. Take a deep breath and prepare yourself – it can be hard to hear that inner you doesn’t match outer you.

I’ve developed an exercise to help with this self-assessment – “5 words or phrases.” It’s a three-step exercise that anyone can do and it’ll take you down the path to self-awareness, understanding how you are perceived, and empowering you to manage that perception. It works like this:


Step 1: Ask yourself who you are

Take out a pen and paper, grab your tablet, open up a text file on your computer, send yourself a text message, or print this out and fill it in the below – just get started. The method doesn’t matter, just that you get it down somewhere. I want you to write five words or phrases that YOU think describe you. This is not how you think others perceive you, but your own feelings about yourself. Focus on the you that exists in this very moment, not the person you were in the past or who you want to be in the future. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

The 5 Words or Phrases I would use to describe myself are:

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5.

Got them? Good – next step!


Step 2: Seek insight from people you trust

Now I want you to go out and find at least five trustworthy people who know you (at any level). Trust is incredibly important. You want people who care enough about you that they’ll be honest, brutally so. Explain to them that you want their help with a self-improvement task and ask them for five words or phrases that describe and define you as a person to them. Ask them not to sugarcoat it – negative or positive, you want honest feedback.

I keep using the word “trust” here very intentionally. It’s of the utmost importance that you trust these people for honest feedback, AND that you trust that they have the best intentions when they respond. Do not take offense to any negative feedback – it is there to help you.

Pro-tip: Try getting feedback from people who have known you for different amounts of time. This way you can compare first impressions to those who’ve known you for a long time. (Think of all those times you’ve heard those “Once you get to know me, you’ll see I’m really…” statements.)

Feel free to meet in person, call, text message, email, post on Facebook or Twitter. Do whatever it takes – the more results the better. I’ve put in space for five responses below if you want to print this out and ask people. Okay – go ask them!

The 5 Words or Phrases ________ would use to describe _________:

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The 5 Words or Phrases ________ would use to describe _________:

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The 5 Words or Phrases ________ would use to describe _________:

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The 5 Words or Phrases ________ would use to describe _________:

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The 5 Words or Phrases ________ would use to describe _________:

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Done? Great – last step!

Step 3: Compare and contrast

Now that you’ve gotten all the data it’s time to compare the two sets of answers. This is where you really get to assess your self-awareness. Did you say you were detail-oriented and 3 out of 5 trusted advisors agree – great! Did you say you were punctual and hardworking but most of your friends said you were lazy or always late? Great!

Yes, I said great! You just got a blessing in disguise. It stings to hear that you’re seen as lazy or disrespectful of other people’s time – but now you know. Better yet, now you can do something about it (if you want to, of course).

It’s okay to dig a little deeper for follow-up. Ask those friends/colleagues why they think you’re lazy or lack punctuality. Perhaps it’s because every time they come to your office you’re always on Facebook or Twitter. It’s possible that you’re a community manager and you have to keep up on what others are saying and manage those mediums for your job. In that case, you can use this opportunity to talk with your friends about why you’re on Twitter, and also use the knowledge to help inform how you interact with others in the future.

Perhaps a few people agreed that you had great attention to detail, but when you probed a little more you found out that they thought it was too much detail. It’s time for more self-reflection. Perhaps you need to be a little more succinct and hold details back when appropriate. It’s all about managing expectations and continuous self-improvement, something every great leader should do.


Bonus Step: The 5 words you wish to be

I also recommend that people consider doing an extra step which is writing down the 5 words or phrases with which you would LIKE to be described.

The 5 words or phrases I would like used to describe myself in the future:

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2.

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5.

This helps give you a goal to shoot for and can help give you actionable steps to progress toward that goal.

For example, if you know that you are consistently described as “late,” but you want to be described as “punctual” in the future, then work to change that. Make it a habit to leave for events earlier than you think you need to, learn to anticipate problems, plan more ahead of time (what to wear, what to bring, etc.), set more alarms, get others to call you to make sure you’re up and moving in the morning. So on and so forth.

The point is that the best leaders are the ones who are constantly aware of themselves, how others view them, and what they can do to enhance that perception. If everyone on your team sees you as a tyrant who couldn’t care less about them, it’s going to be hard to get them to rally their efforts and support your projects. If, on the other hand, they see you as a collaborator who just wants to see everyone reach their full potential, then they might not balk if you send back their work ‘one more time’ for a review and polish.

In the end, though there are some innate traits that will be extremely hard to change, knowing is half the battle. For a great leader, that knowledge is what you use to win the war.

FREE RESOURCES: Please feel free to download one of our 5 Words or Phrases Review guides to have handy each time you complete the assessment!

PDF IconDownload full PDF – Includes entire original article with step-by-step guidance and worksheet to go through the review

PDF IconDownload assessment PDF – Includes review worksheet only

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A Better Experience: Google Calendar Pro-tip

(As originally seen on SheriRubin.com here: http://sherirubin.com/2013/03/google-calendar-pro-tip/)

I’ve seen people respond to Google calendar invites by saying, “I can’t respond to this” or “Can you please send this to my Google address at <insert Google/Gmail associated email here>?”

What many people don’t realize is that you don’t need a/your Google email address to accept or decline the invite. Here’s how:

Step 1: Open up the email which has the Google Calendar invite in it.

Step 2: Right-click and choose “Copy Link Location” (or similar) on the corresponding answer (e.g. Yes, No, Maybe, etc.).

Step 3: Open up any browser where you are not signed in to Google, e.g. if you normally use Firefox and are signed into Google, open up IE or Chrome or Opera or Safari (or just sign out temporarily in your main browser).

Step 4: In a new tab/window paste in the link that you just copied and hit enter/go.

That’s it, you’re done!

Note: for those of you who use Google Calendar for your scheduling system, this method will not put the event in your calendar. It simply provides a response to the person who sent you the invite. This is especially helpful for those who receive a lot of Google Calendar invites, still want to be courteous and RSVP, but do not use Google.

Hope this helps! Stay awesome!
Sheri

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