You never know – always be open

When you look there are a lot of doors that can be opened

When you look there are a lot of doors that can be opened

I’m in the midst of a bit of travelling at the moment, currently in BC, where the weather is just beaming down goodness upon us.

This post started the minute I got on the airplane. I was headed to seat 11A only to find out that in fact it was already being sat in. So what does a red-headed adventurer do? Well since I’m usually the last one on the airplane anyway, I just went and sat in another seat – 11D, which dammit, turned out to be someone else’s seat. This lady came after me, I mean come on I’m always the last one on the plane. Well there was another option – 11E was free. I scooted my butt over to the middle seat, jesus how I hated the middle seat, what a shitty seat (stupid friggin’ first world problem – right? I mean soon I would be soaring through the clouds like a goddamn bird.)

Fast forward a little and now I’m chatting with the 2 ladies on either side of me. To my left is Candace and to my right is Janice. Janice was on her way home to Vancouver and Candace was on her way to visit her son. We all chatted for quite some time about all kinds of things that just didn’t matter to anyone, oh the joys of small talk. Then of course the conversation, as always, inevitably turned to what do you do for a living? Funny how that comes up a lot.

The best part though was that as we chatted more and more Candace shared with us this really great story about the digital divide and about missing chances to talk to human beings. Candace began telling us about a book that she was reading about digital distractions. The entire story was pretty funny because at the end of the story the punchline was that in fact she had got on this very plane without that book because she was interrupted from reading it by the ring of her cell phone, Candace put down the book to look at her phone and then was in a rush to load onto the plane, thus leaving her book about how we are being distracted by digital media in the airport lounge. Ironic much?

A small story but a rather funny story and one that happens pretty much all the time in one way or another.

I’m happy she left her book in the lounge and I’m happy you have to turn your cell phones off while you’re on an airplane. It gave me a chance to really chat with 2 other human beings that I otherwise probably would have never met.

I got to learn their stories and one of them, Candace, and I found out that we are both very much creatives and in fact Candace’s entire family is creative – movie director, writers, painters, etc….

By the end of the plane ride I had found out that one of her sons was a stand up comedian so I asked her if her son would be performing while I was in Vancouver. He was, but I couldn’t make it unfortunately. We did want to chat more though, so I ended up meeting her and her son a few days later over a really great brunch.

You just never know when you will run into someone that might be extremely interesting, that could be good for business, or might just turn out to be a friend. In this case, I think I hit the jackpot. Who was this woman? Who was this family? We really could have spent all day talking about the creative industry and our work.

I was open to having a discussion, open to listening, open to learning, and in the end Candace and her family have hired Creativision to help them examine ways to garner attention as well as to strategically grow their various creative pursuits.

Next time you get on a plane, on a bus, are sitting alone at the bar, don’t be afraid to be open – human beings, for the most part are pretty awesome people. (I didn’t even tell you about the amazing chat I had with a really wonderful law student I had on my first flight).

***ok so I was about to post this and then I found this crazy little video about a few things but underlying it was the ability to be open and to start small talk and since I thought it was amusing of course you will too, right?

Don’t be a customer service jerk!

jerkAlright my friends so perhaps a small rant will ensue.

Today I experienced 2, what some may say minor, but I saw horrendous bouts of crappy customer service. I’m here to write the stories so others don’t fall into these holes.

The first one came via an email from a Customer and Community Rep (Known from now on as rep.). This rep. (hmmm…careful who you choose to put in those positions) started their email by incorrectly spelling my name wrong in the reply email. I’m always flabbergasted at this as the email I just sent you had my name written all over it and you still couldn’t find a way to spell it right? Maybe this is just me being a baby after growing up never having anything with my name spelled correctly on it. Maybe I should be blaming my parents? Bah! (or my older brother since my parents didn’t even care to name me, wow so many scars) Anyhow the email didn’t get any better from there. It was a grand total of 1 line. It was perhaps one of the coldest emails I have ever gotten and it basically told me that this person had no time to meet, fair enough. However then this rep. proceeded to ask why I was emailing and what it was I wanted from them (spend some time just read a little bit it was in the original email). I take it this person is very busy and I can get that but what I really want from a GREAT community and customer rep. is someone who pretends to be a human. My email, as they all are was rather jovial and was looking to illicit some kind of fun loving response. The basics of the project which I outlined was that we wanted to have some fun with their company and support a really great cause. What I can never understand and no one will ever convince me is that they are too busy for a phone call. I don’t give a shit how big you’re company is or how grand your position is. Never stop being a damn human being. When someone reaches out to have a bit of fun why not take a few minutes to listen? Like I said this is a bit of a rant and I know some of you will say that maybe this rep. is just too busy and that this rep. shouldn’t waste their time. I fully disagree you’re a community rep. for goodness sakes and my connection came through a mutual friend and a mutual partner. Trust in others and make the time. Learn to laugh and learn to love and be open and you might just get the rewards you deserve. I say all of this because this rep. just lost their business a few thousand dollars ($$$$). Just because this rep. couldn’t pretend to be a human engaging another human for a few seconds.

Ok round two happened a later. I really love a good game of hide and go seek but this was fucking ridiculous. Every time I came around the corner and saw a customer service rep unless I went sprinting down the aisle they vanished. All this hunting and chasing in a store that delivers commissions. Hmm…but I didn’t look like I had money to buy anything, “what a time waster” is what I’m sure most of the customer rep folk thought to themselves. Then when I finally caught one in a corner I was pretty much pushed on to one of their unsuspecting associates as this little nerd was “going on break”. This push and shove continued between associates as more important looking people entered the store. So I left that store with the few hundred dollars I had in my pocket. Again the main lesson here is just pretend to be a human. You never really know who you might meet or what they might be able to do for you.

Bottom line don’t be a customer service jerk!

Just follow these 2 steps and you should be great at pretending to be a human.

1. Smile at everyone and look them in the eyes

2. Listen – and I mean take some time, clear your head and really listen to what that person has to say. You know kinda like you care or something.

A message to employees

frustratedemployeeAfter I sent out a message to managers you employees didn’t think I forgot about you, did you? I certainly did not I have just been out kicking some employees’s asses and getting some inspiration for this post.

Here is where it begins. The workplace can be a shitty place no doubt about it but it doesn’t all land on the shoulders of the managers. Some of the blame can certainly lie on you employees. So what is my advice to folks for making a better work environment?

It is as follows:

1. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, do your own damn job. I know it is always tempting to look over your shoulder and wonder what everyone else is doing but just don’t. “But Shawn….sometimes those other people effect the work I’m doing.” Ok fair enough I can understand that. You need your team members to complete a job. What I don’t accept though is how you might handle that.

2. Stop being so damn passive aggressive. If you are having trouble with someone at work then I suggest you actually have a conversation with that person. You heard that right, a conversation. I didn’t say scowl at them like their head should explode and raise your voice. What I said was ask them to have a quick conversation, ask them what they thought or saw. Oh yes imagine that THEIR opinion first. Let the person you see at fault have a chance to say why or how they saw the situation and then maybe you might understand. Remember a conversation goes both ways and definitely includes LISTENING, a skill I have seen disappear in the workplace far too often.

3. Just because you don’t like confrontation doesn’t mean you should hide behind it. Something someone else said, maybe even your boss, really didn’t sit right with you. Speak up! If you choose (it is always a choice…”oh but Shawn I might lose my job. Well you’re not happy anyway so get over it) to not say anything and to deal with the confrontation that may occur (probably because people aren’t used to openly talking about things in your office/place of work) it will only get worse. Trust me when I say this as I speak from years of listening and working in team development IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE. So speak up.

4. Your managers are stressed out to the max. Now stop laughing and pick yourself up off the floor. I know you all think your managers don’t do nearly the work that you do. Well you are dead wrong. They are doing one of the toughest jobs on the planet. They are dealing with bosses above their head, they are dealing with all kinds of different employee personalities, then they have to think about the future of their business, and goodness only knows what else is on their plate. Your bosses get tired, your bosses have bad days, your bosses can be jerks but in the end they are all human beings. It has even been my experience that most managers find themselves in those roles because of seniority and NOT because they have any formal training in that area. So ask yourself this, if you had to all of a sudden be in charge of 5, 10, 20, or even 50 employees as well as manage all your other tasks AND answer to a higher power than yourself (be it another boss or a stakeholder) how do you think you would handle it? Along these lines I always find myself working with employees and hearing that they want more positive feedback so to them and now by proxy I ask you, how many times have you ever given positive feedback to a manage that has helped you out? You know if you do it enough they might just pick up on what you are doing and reciprocate. Show them you care and they might just show you the same. (Bah but sometimes it is just the chicken and the egg game, eh? well stop it! Be the first, give them a compliment.)

5. Remember the best times. I try to encourage workplaces all the time to chat about the best moments on or around the job. For instance I worked with a veterinarian clinic and everyday those people saved an animals life. I reminded them that collectively they are all doing amazing things. We began talking in specifics. How did you Jennifer help Kevin when there was a major complication with the Golden Lab last week? The reply was so interesting because what happened in the room was first I got a look for saying the breed and not the dogs name-which is a HUGE no no in their clinic. Every dog is a patient. That was a huge sign to me that even in this slightly dysfunctional family/workplace that they had some things they were willing to agree on and bond around. Then it was not only Jennifer that answered my question but so many other people pitched in and pretty soon people were just laughing and crying and remembering their purpose. There isn’t a week that goes by that someone shouldn’t have a good memory and that there shouldn’t be time to chat/read about it somewhere prevalent.

6. Remember your purpose. Why are you there? What got you there? If you don’t have an answer anymore I don’t give one care in the world what the reason is you need to probably be looking at an exit strategy. On the other hand if you can remember why you are there and find that spark again then that will for sure help you get through many days. Have those reminders posted all around you. Talk about your passions with your colleagues.

7. Everyone is a human being. At the core of all of this is the notion that sometimes we forget that our co-workers and bosses are human beings. Take yourself out of the situation and think about the other persons life for just 2 seconds before you react. Take  the time to find out who you are working with. Do you need to LOVE them? No. Do you need to know that they are human and that things in their life can change and that sometimes they might need support? Yes.

Ok 7, that is a good number. There are a whole lot of other tips to share but for now I feel like that is probably all your asses can take. Thanks for following along my friends. I hope some of those kicks in the ass found themselves well placed.

Working can be such a struggle but you always have to remember you play a part in that role as well, so ask yourself what are you doing to contribute?