Your Happiness is Your Responsibility

5 Nov

Your Happiness is Your Responsibility

Contrary to popular belief, it’s the way you think, not where you work, that determines whether you’re happy or miserable. I just read an article in The Atlantic about “workplace happiness” that made me laugh and cry at the same time. I laughed because it was so stupid and cried because millions of people will take it seriously. The article cited the familiar, dismal statistics showing that most workers are unhappy and that unhappy workers are less productive. And like most such articles, it treated the problem as something companies and their managers can and must solve. That’s total bullsh*t. Your happiness is your own responsibility, not the responsibility of your managers, coworkers, customers, or anybody or anything else in your work life. Yes, it’s easier to be happy in a congenial environment among people you like. Your emotions, however, are the result of the mental decisions you make and the mental habits you’ve developed. I’ve known dozens of people who complain through each workday “I’m stressed, I’m SO stressed” without considering that it’s this mantra of misery that’s actually making feel so stressed. I’ve also known people who cope every day with painful physical handicaps or insanely difficult jobs but who are so habitually sunny that people want to hang around them just to take in the sunshine. There are people in this world who have dream jobs but manage to make themselves so miserable that they commit suicide. And there are freelance garbage collectors who manage to stay upbeat. I’m not saying that there aren’t some places and situations where it’s harder to stay positive. If you’re working someplace like that, you owe it to yourself to find a job that’s a better fit for what you want and need. Go for it. And I’m also not saying that bosses shouldn’t strive to create a better work environment. Good pay, reasonable hours, nice digs and so forth give people something positive to focus on. But there’s only so much managers can do. Look, complainers are miserable wherever they work because they’ve got mental habits that make them miserable. Send a complainer to Heaven and he’ll start b*tching about how the clouds aren’t soft enough. Do you want to be happy at work? Well, you won’t EVER be happy if you habitually moan about everyone else’s limitations, bewail circumstances outside your control, and constantly tell yourself that you’re “stressed to the max.” So, seriously, DO you want to be happy at work? Then read this, this and this. Take charge of your emotions. Create your own experience. Take responsibility for your own happiness. Once you do, you’ll never regret it.

— gReader Pro

Your Call Is Important to Us

9 Sep

Your Call Is Important to Us

In 2012, according to Australia’sSydney Morning Herald, an Adelaide man was kept on hold with the airline Qantas for 15 hours. As a recorded message affirmed, over and over, that a customer service agent would be with him “soon,” he simply stayed on—working, reading, waiting. As he told the newspaper, “I wanted to find out what exactly they meant when they said they would be with me as soon as possible.”

14 Customer Service Questions to Ask for 2014

2 Jan

14 Customer Service Questions to Ask for 2014

English: New Year's Resolutions postcard

I love a good list of customer service ideas, and since it’s the New Year, I thought it would be appropriate to share a list.  These customer service questions are for you to ask yourself and others in your company.  These are conversation starters you can use to have discussions about delivering amazing customer service.

  1. What three things do you do best that differentiates you from your competition? Really look at how you are different.  What is it that your competitors can’t say about themselves that you can say about yourself?
  2. You can’t be the best at everything, so what is it you are not good at doing?  Don’t try to change what you are not good at.  Focus on what you are good at and improve upon where you excel.
  3. What does your competition do that you can learn from?  By the way, don’t copy the competition.  Learn from them and improve on what you learn.
  4. What do you do to make people want to be around you at work?  The focus of this question is on your internal customers.  Do they enjoy working around you?  If so, why?
  5. What, if anything, do you do to come up with creative and innovative ideas?  Does your company have some type of employee suggestion program?
  6. How does your company train employees in customer service and relationship building skills?  Many times companies spend a lot of money and time on training technical skills.  The best companies also train soft skills, like customer service.
  7. What policies or processes stand in the way of delivering amazing customer service, and can they be removed?  In other words, how easy is it to do business with you?
  8. What does your company do to actively seek out complaints and problems?  A complaint is an opportunity to show how good you are.  Seek them out.
  9. How do you or your company debrief negative experiences, turning them into teaching opportunities?  Use a negative experience or bad review as a learning opportunity to get better.
  10. How do you celebrate success with your employees?  When you have success, let everyone know they are appreciated.
  11. Have you mapped out the typical customer experience and examined the impact from all touch-points at the front line?  The customer journey map is a powerful tool for spotting opportunities to improve existing customer service.
  12. Have you identified how everyone behind-the-scenes impacts the front-line customer experience?  Everyone has a customer – and sometimes it’s an internal customer.  Jan Carlzon, former chairman of Scandinavian Airlines says that if you aren’t actually supporting the customer, you are probably dealing with someone who is.
  13. What do you “give back” to your community?  Community can be defined as local, global, causes you are involved in, etc.
  14. Does everyone understand that customer service is not a department, but a philosophy?  It’s also an attitude!

What questions would you add to this list?  Let me know.

Shep Hyken

Image representing Shep Hyken as depicted in C...

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. As a customer service speaker and expert, Shep works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is a hall of fame speaker (National Speakers Association) and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.

Sometimes things go wrong

24 May


I hate it when we get it wrong. It’s fair to say I spend most of my professional energy, and a large chunk of my personal energy ensuring we avoid getting things wrong as well as focussing on getting things so right that we delight our customers.

Of course this involves getting the right technology and also the right team who are motivated and inspired enough to be looking for ways to exceed expectations. In the web hosting business this means catering for the start-up business dependant on the Internet, as well as for the multinational enterprise migrating mission critical data onto our cloud.

On the whole, and for the vast majority of our customers, we do exceed their expectations. And that makes my day. I hear from customers all the time who are delighted with us. When systems go down we have had teams spend the night in the office to help the customer fix the problem, even when the problem wasn’t created by us. Basically we care. We really care.

But, sometimes we get it wrong. This can be for many reasons but ultimately I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that things don’t go wrong, but when they do I take it both seriously and personally.

We recently got it wrong for a customer who decided to go with one of our competitors. You know the one – they are big and fanatical. I used to work for them. A bit of healthy rivalry between us is inevitable and a good thing. However, I was saddened to discover that the aforementioned competitor had taken an email from the customer in question, in which they vent their frustrations with PEER 1 (we admit we messed up on this occasion), and had turned that email into a sales tool.

This is depressing because it doesn’t fairly or accurately represent us, or the great work that we do every day. If this specific incident was typical, or even occasionally true, we would not be in business and rattling the competition in the manner we do.

It also is exciting for me because it shows how much impact PEER 1 Hosting is making. I know most of the guys and gals that work for the competition. I hired lots of them. Most of them are great. They have the capacity to be brilliant. The reason that I would have hired them or anyone who now works for PEER 1 Hosting is because they have the vision, passion and care factor to allow customers to focus on the possibilities of the Internet, not the problems.

So, if our competitors come to you with a letter from a disgruntled customer, we will freely admit we got it wrong in this instance. We have similar horror stories from other customers who have come from other competitors. In truth, everyone in this game does. We won’t show you them. If a customer or prospect would rather only focus on the negative and only take in part of the picture, they probably aren’t for us either.

My final thoughts; if any employee working for one of our competitors wants to join a company that will never ask you to sling mud about the competition, please get in touch. We have much cleaner ways for you to get your hands dirty!


Time for a pint – in the office

21 Apr

At PEER 1 Hosting Friday night at 4pm is “beer o’clock”, time to pour some wine or open a few bottles of beer. We do it to promote a team work and a positive office environment. Some times it’s not 4pm and it’s not a Friday but the bar fridge is always full, just in case! We also have plenty of chilled champagne on hands as well as we are prone to some impromptu celebrations.

Its great to now read that new research now show working whilst mildly intoxicated is a boost to creative problem solving. Here is the recent article form by Jessica Stillman

One benefit of being a business owner and your own boss is that you set the rules and can feel free to break them if you find a good business case to do so. What kind of rules can you safely chuck aside? How about the one that says drinking on the job is always a bad idea.

If you operate heavy machinery or wash windows 50 stories up, stop reading now, but for those office-bound folks whose jobs entail being creative at work, there’s new research that suggests an occassional drink or two might do you and your business some good. A study by a team led by University of Illinois cognitive psychologist Andrew Jarosz recently looked into the effects of mild intoxication on creative problem solving, publishing the results inConsciousness and Cognition.

To test the anecdotal observation that creativity and moderate amounts of alcohol often go together, Jarosz’s team split a group of 40 male study participants into two groups, one of which abstained from alcohol and one of which drank a quantity of vodka with the equivalent alcohol of two pints of beer. Both groups then performed a standard test of insightful thinking called the Remote Associates Test, which asks subjects to find a link between three words. The BPS Research Digest summarizes the results:

The key finding of the new research is that the intoxicated participants solved more items on the Remote Associates Test compared with the control participants (they solved 58% of 15 items on average vs. 42% average success achieved by controls), and they tended to solve the items more quickly (11.54 seconds per item vs. 15.24 seconds). Moreover, the intoxicated participants tended to rate their experience of problem solving as more insightful, like an Aha! moment, and less analytic.

Of course, there are serious caveats here, including the obvious key word, “moderate.” No one is suggesting getting sloshed is good for much of anything other than causing embarrassment and a headache, nor should your office drinking reach Don Draper levels of consistency. Study co-author Jenny Wiley stressed this point to BPS: “We tested what happens when people are tipsy—not when people drank to extreme. There could be no argument from these findings that drinking excessively would have the same effects.”

And the context of the drinking matters as much as the quantity. Tasks that involve fine motor skills, dangerous activities, or focused concentration on routine tasks, are clearly not going to benefit from you having a couple of beers. But if you’re at the office puzzling over a problem late in the afternoon one day and have the impulse to enjoy a drink to get the ideas flowing, this research suggests that you should feel free to go ahead.


top 10 ways to motivate employees

18 Jul
List of orders, decorations, and medals of the...

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Top tips for getting the most out of your team 15th July 2011

Staff morale is more difficult to measure than sales or margins, but is equally important. Unhappy employees are likely to be unproductive employees so the mental wellbeing and happiness of your staff is crucial for your business’ success. Not addressing this now could be expensive for your company later – either through an inefficient workforce or high staff turnover. However, fostering job satisfaction doesn’t have to cost the earth. Startups spoke to a panel of entrepreneurs to find out their top tips for motivating staff.

1) Treat everyone as an individual

Respect that different employees have different needs. “Every incentive doesn’t necessarily motivate every individual,” says Andrew Backhouse, national contract director at Timothy James, a 2010 winner of The Sunday Times 100 Best SMEs to work for. Get to know each member of staff and show you understand them by being flexible to their personal situations. For example, if an employee is in a long distance relationship, you may want to let them leave early on Friday afternoons. As a result, they’ll be more inclined to put extra hours in during the week to keep on top of their workload.

2) Praise good work and offer feedback

“We believe in public praise. When someone does a good job, we congratulate them in front of everyone,” says Bradley Placks, co-founder of MyResourcer. Regular feedback and encouragement makes employees feel positive – and that will be invested back in to your business. It is important to be genuine, so find something that has impressed you, even if it is as simple as an employee’s presentation, and let them know that they are doing it well. Following employee demand, some companies have introduced six monthly appraisals. This offers a good opportunity to encourage staff, clarify any issues, and re-establish with the employee their expectations of the company and your expectations of them.

3) Lead by example

A productive team needs a productive leader. As the top dog you need to embody the company’s brand yourself and be true to its ethics. However equally important is that employees see you putting in as much energy as them – if not more. “If you always slope off early on a Friday, these small messages have a huge impact on your staff, undermining any formal messages of motivation that you are trying to get across,” says Adrian Moorhouse, managing director of Lane4. “A good leader needs to lead by example, by role-modelling the behaviours that are expected of staff. Be excited by new challenges, show real enthusiasm for projects and demonstrate your love of the job. Positivity breeds positivity.”

4) Encourage people to take a break

Whilst an employee who doesn’t optimise their annual leave might seem like a good deal for your business, everyone needs to take a break in order to operate at their full potential. Approach people who haven’t used their holiday entitlement and encourage them to get away. This will also show employees that you care about their wellbeing. Similarly, some organisations allow employees a few days a year to engage with the community. Michelle Fuller and Chris Russell, co-founders of eDigitalResearch, run a Personal Development Week for their team. “Every employee gets the opportunity to expand their skill set or get stuck in at charity events, to help with their personal development.”

5) Offer benefits that boost morale (but don’t break the bank)

Sometimes it is the little things that count. While large organisations may be able to offer corporate holidays in sunny climes, a gesture as simple as having fruit delivered to the office each week can show employees that you care. Tailor benefits to your workforce. You could bring a masseuse in once a month to give each employee a 10 minute boost, organise a team activity afternoon or a barbeque. “Events don’t have to be expensive, just well-planned and thought out,” says Damian Milkins, CEO of Control Circle.

Where possible, invite staff to bring their partners as well. “Having a good relationship with people’s partners really helps,” says Simon Corbett, founder of Jargon PR. “All those times when people stay late, instead of getting home to an earful, they get a much more sympathetic response.”

6) Give ownership to your team

While new employees need clear instructions and guidance, once they are on the right track, let go of the reins. Leave them to be led by their own initiative and congratulate them for doing so. “Allow them to work well and without much input. It’s the little things that give ownership to teams and allow them to feel trusted and motivated,” says Dominic Monkhouse, managing director of PEER 1 Hosting and a former consultant for The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for. As well as inspiring self-confidence, this hands-off approach may allow employees to navigate your firm from a new perspective, potentially exposing inefficiencies, untapped opportunities and prospective innovations.

7) Run a ‘no blame’ culture

“When something goes wrong don’t blame the person; analyse the reasons and change whatever actually caused the issue in the first place – learn and improve,” says John Sollars, founder of If you are always pointing the finger, employees will feel tense, which can restrict initiative and innovation. Even if an employee has committed a serious offence, take it as an opportunity to review your recruitment process. It may be that you are not asking the right questions at interview.

8) Communication is key

By keeping open lines of communication with employees and listening to their ideas, they will feel more connected to the progression of the business and thus more motivated to contribute to its future. As a director, it is easy to get distracted by your own objectives but in the present economic climate it is more important than ever that staff are kept informed about changes in circumstances – including how new legislation could affect the company. Henry Braithwaite, Operations Director of Market Makers, recommends twice weekly meetings “when the whole company comes together and shares the successes of the week and what is going on in the company as a whole” as well as an “open door policy” to the manager’s office. Simply showing employees that they are being listened to can be enough to boost morale.

9) Be flexible

Whilst all companies need employment agreements in place to set standards, be prepared to be flexible to reasonable requests for additional leave. Respect that your employees have personal lives to balance with their work commitments and don’t put additional pressure on them when, for example, they have to pick up their children, take care of a sick relative or leave early for a washing machine to be delivered. To avoid completely forfeiting their labour, assist employees with flexible working by helping them to receive their work e-mails on their smartphone or home computer. If you want to be particularly generous, IT company acs365 recommends offering staff additional leave on their birthday. “As part of your commitment to acknowledging the importance of work-life balance, a paid day off is the best present you can provide to staff. This type of initiative helps to create a positive work culture, improving and uplifting staff morale,” a spokesperson says.

10) Get the little things right

Sometimes getting the little things right is more influential than an occasional grand gesture. It is easy to underestimate the importance of basic essentials for a positive working environment. These may include well-maintained toilets, basic kitchen facilities and filtered tap water – conveniences that don’t cost the earth. “It is often possible to quickly fix many of the day-to-day gripes that bother your employees. Listen to what your employees are saying about their workplace and concentrate on these first,” says Laetitia Monereau, head of HR at Simply Business. “You need not spend a vast sum of money improving your staff morale.”

The Hidden Secrets of finding great employees

17 Mar

Carly Chynoweth Published: 13 March 2011 The Sunday Times

Few interviewers who ask job candidates to paint them a picture of their abilities and experience mean it literally. Dominic Monkhouse, Peer 1 Hosting’s managing director, is the exception.

Once candidates have made it through the initial 30-minute telephone interview, they are invited to the web hosting firm’s office and handed a piece of paper and some coloured pencils. “I sit them down and say ‘you have 10 minutes to draw a picture of something that inspires you’.”Some interviews can take an unusual turn – to office golf

He doesn’t expect anyone to produce a Van Gogh — he can only recall one person who has shown the least bit of artistic talent — but asking candidates to talk about what they drew gives a much better sense of who they are than simply asking them questions about their CV, he said. Even a simple refusal, as happened with one senior candidate, is helpful: “If he thought that was daft, he would never have fitted in.”

For the next step the candidate has to accompany Monkhouse and a couple of his team members to the “golf course”, where he can get a sense of how competitive they are and whether they can cope under pressure as their chips skid across the office carpet and into another room.

He also uses more formal interviews and psychometric testing, but candidates who do not get along well with the team are not offered jobs, no matter how well they test.

Even traditional interviews may have more to them than meets the eye, according to Alex Linley, founding director of Capp, the organisational psychologists. He is called in when employers want someone to analyse not only what people say but how they say it. Whether the candidate knows who Linley is and what he is doing depends on the client.

“The key focus is to enable [employers] to identify people’s engagement and capabilities in what they say,” he said. “We get a good read for their natural strengths and preferences in how they answer questions.

“If people naturally have strength in an area, they typically would be able to respond faster and with a more graphic answer, and they would be more energetic and engaged when they gave it. By contrast, if it wasn’t a natural strength it might take them longer to find that answer. In terms of body language things such as leaning forward, more use of hand gestures and movement can be indicators of confidence and knowledge.”

Some candidates, hearing that the interviewer is looking for energy, say, will try to look enthusiastic and energetic on every answer, but it is obvious when this happens. “We would not expect anyone to demonstrate energy across all the questions we asked,” he said.

Hazel Carter, the founder of Carter Corson, an organisational psychology business, said she was once told to show balls by climbing on to a table in a hotel lobby and singing a nursery rhyme. She refused. This went down well, as the interviewer saw her willingness to stand up to him as a good indicator of ballsiness.

There are three key problems with this type of gimmick: it may so irritate the candidate that he or she decides not to accept the job (Carter did take it); it may not be any help in finding the right person; and, finally, it could break the law.

“There are quite strict laws on what is seen as a fair assessment and once you deviate from that you could be on quite sticky ground,” she said. “Unless you can show you know what you want to mea- sure, how you are measuring it and that it is relevant to the job, you could be in trouble.”

This does not mean all creative approaches to assessment are out. For example, Carter works with a big company that takes candidates out to dinner the evening before they undergo an intensive assessment. While there, they are plied with wine to see how they maintain their business presence in social situations.

On one occasion a candidate, not realising that the dinner was part of the test, got drunk and made off-colour remarks. At the assessment the next morning, he was told to go home.

While unusual, this sort of approach could be fair as long as the recruiter could show that the job required people to be able to entertain clients without behaving inappropriately, Carter said.

Pitfalls of the bizarre

There are a number of pitfalls to consider when using unorthodox interview techniques, said Lisa Mayhew at Berwin Leighton Paisner, the law firm. “Unusual assessment arrangements shouldn’t detract from the importance of basing decisions about whether to recruit somebody for a business role solely on job-related criteria and not, for example, on grounds of race, age, sex, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, religion or nationality.” Avoid remarks about a candidate’s appearance and steer clear of “clumsy” humour, which can offend people, and ensure you make objective notes about candidates — remember that they are entitled to see them. Unfairly treated candidates can bring discrimination complaints against individuals as well companies, Mayhew said.