7 lessons from a 7-year-old

AllieKids are great teachers.  Recently I had the privilege of spending the evening with Allie, a smart, funny, beautiful 7-year-old girl who is the daughter of friends of mine.  After a cancelled babysitting night with her and her little brother (who was sick); we resorted to a Plan B that resulted in a night out with just us.  The few hours we spent together taught me a few lessons that I thought you might benefit from as well. 

Lesson #1:  Every day has a “favorite” part.
During dinner, I asked Allie to tell me her favorite part of the school day (she’s in 2nd grade).  She put her finger on her nose and pondered a bit then told me she learned that tigers may soon become extinct.  That fascinated her and she said wanted to learn more.  What if adults reflected on each day and named our favorite part?  Sure, on some days, just getting through it may be our favorite; but I suspect on most, there is a moment in the day, a conversation or accomplishment we can call our “favorite”.  That simple act is one of gratitude.

Lesson #2:  Everyone needs at least one BFF.
During dinner, Allie told me about her friends.  I asked her if she had a best friend. Without missing a beat, she began to tell me the names of BFF #1, #2, #3 and #4 – in order (3 girls and a boy).  Each friend had different qualities and a specific relationship with Allie – one was a friend since pre-school, another from church and so on.  The same is true for you and me.  Everyone has relationships; but those one or two really close ones help us get through life.

Lesson #3:  An inquisitive spirit creates great conversation.
Our chat about tigers spurred Allie to tell me about her interest in dinosaurs.  And oh, did the conversation get interesting from there.  She was curious how dinosaurs and tigers lived together in the Garden of Eden.  “After all,” she said, “wouldn’t the dinosaurs want to eat tigers?”  Hmm…very insightful question from her little mind.  We talked a good while about that and I could just see her wheels turning.  Questions are good in any environment.  They really do spur wonderful conversation.

Lesson #4:  Hobbies give you balance in a busy world.
Allie loves to read. Students are allowed to visit the library each day at school and check out books and she loves it.  She told me she reads something every night (and loves books about animals).  She sighed a bit when she told me she has to do her homework first!  And let’s just say she was not too crazy about that. What is your hobby (or hobbies)? Yes, we have to get our work done first but those hobbies help bring balance to our lives.  Maybe we should all visit the library?

Lesson #5:  It’s okay to be scared.
After dinner, we saw the movie Zootopia.  It was Allie’s first 3D movie so of course we had a mini fashion show with our glasses before the movie began (hence the pic in our post).  Like most movies, there were good guys and bad guys (or animals in this case).  And those bad guys growl and try to hurt the good guys.  Little by little Allie moved closer and closer to me then told me she was scared. She wasn’t afraid to tell me either.  You know, the same is true for you and me. Some parts of life are hard and it’s okay to admit we are afraid.

Lesson #6:  Holding hands makes you feel safe.
When Allie was scared she reached out for my hand. She just wanted to feel safe.  It was sweet for me but reassuring to her.  What a true concept – being connected to others does provide reassurance.  At some point, everyone needs a sounding board, encouragement and comfort. While we may not physically take someone’s hand, that connection with someone else affirms we are not alone.

Lesson #7;  Belly laughs are good for the soul.
It’s no surprise, we laughed a lot that night.  Sometimes we giggled and other times we belly-laughed.  From the fun of eating blue jello at the restaurant to playing guessing games in the car, the night was full of smiles and laughter.  I hope belly-laughs still happen to you too.  Without them, we are just too “grown up”.

For a few hours, I saw life through the eyes of a child.   At one point Allie called our time together Girls’ Night Out.  I hope she had fun.  I know I did and learned a few things along the way.  Oh, and for the record, we agreed that we would be BFF #5 for each other.  If only you could also be that lucky.

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3 things every customer wants

Have you been there?  You get 10 minutes down the road and realize you left something on in the house…that “oh no!” moment.  We’ve all been there right?  I had a business version of that recently and thanks to great customer service (and Brandi), my day was saved.

My “oh no” moment happened somewhere between Tennessee and Indiana.  It hit me that I had forgotten to print a report for a client meeting.  “Inconvenient, but no big deal, “ I thought.  I could just print it in the hotel business center.  And the story begins.

I’m a Hampton Inn fan.  As a business traveler, I love the convenience, rates, and amenities of these hotels.  And more and more, it’s where I find great example of service. 

Now back to our story.

I arrived late that evening and headed to the business center to take care of my report so I would be prepared for the next day.  Then technology threw me a curve ball and for some reason the printer would not recognize my file.  I tried a few tricks but to no success. 

Brandi - hamptonSo I went to Front Desk to find the location of the nearest Kinko’s and this employee beat me to the punch!  Meet Brandi. Without any hesitation, she said, “No problem, I can print that for you at my desk.”  And she did.  In less than 5 minutes, a printed report was in my hands.

Problem solved.  Brandi saved my day (not to mention printing expense and travel time to Kinko’s).

Why share this story? Because when you experience great service you are compelled to share the story.  And in today’s marketplace, smart businesses know the secret to great success is always in your people.

So what about Brandi stood out?

She did not hesitate.
With a second delay, she offered to print my report on her computer. It was more work for her but her focus was on my need.  Imagine what your business would be like if EVERY employee had this mindset?

She was a problem solver.
Brandi jumped into a “let’s fix this now” mindset.  Rather than try 4 or 5 options in the Business Center, she recognized a way she could solve my problem quickly so I could move on with my evening.  She saved me money and time.  Dream a bit.  What would your customers think if every person they encountered on your team were problem solvers?  How would that change your business.

She was nice in the process.
Finally, what took my experience over the top was HOW she helped me.  When you encounter an attitude of kindness, a smile and genuine helpfulness, a good experience becomes one you rave about.  It’s those “people skills” and the difference-maker in the service world.  What about your employees?  Do they help your costumers because they “have to” or because the “want to”?  Guess what?  Your customers know the difference.

In the service world it’s those intangible behaviors that have a tangible impact to the customer.  Her interactions drove me to talk about it.   And here’s the big question:  what are your customers talking about?  No news?  Not good (you’re no different than anyone else).  Complaints? Not good (you disappointed them).  Raving reviews (it’s where success happens).

My experience with Brandi created this rave review.  Who will inspire your customer’s next one?

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Team lessons from the basketball court

images-6For those who know me, you know I am from Kentucky which means in the spring, I’m ready for March Madness!  And yes, I cheer for the Kentucky Wildcats.  Kentucky basketball is a long-standing tradition  and this season’s team has been somewhat of surprise to the Big Blue Nation.

Kentucky fans are accustomed to winning and this season has been nothing short of frustrating.  One game brings astounding precision and the next may reveal a team that just can’t seem to get it together.  For Kentucky, and really any college ball club, there are some principles that must become standard in order to become a championship team. 

March Madness is still a few weeks away. For basketball fans, you will love these lessons. But even if hoops are not your sport of choice, these three lessons are important to understand for any team who aspires to greatness.

1.  You team must remember the basics
Every sport has its fundamentals.  In basketball, it’s the basics of foul shots, turnovers, offense and defense.  Score as often as you can and keep the other team from doing the same.  When each of these basics are performed well, you will see a victory.  Missed shots will lose a game.  And poor defense will too.  For your team, what are your fundamentals?  How well does your team execute customer service, a great product, ease of purchase, product knowledge, etc? Perfect these and you will win.

2.  Your team must have depth
On the courts, five players work together to score baskets then do the same at the other end of the court to prevent the other team from doing the same.  At any point, a player can get into foul trouble, get injured or simply struggle in scoring.  When that happens the team is in jeopardy and must rely on other players on the bench for support.  The same is true for your team.  If you rely too much on one player (or players), your team could be in jeopardy if he is “injured” in any way.  The remedy?  Create bench strength.  Every player must have a back up who can step in as needed.

3.  Your team must know how to face adversity
Most basketball games include a series of lead changes and often a deficit in which the underdog must rally back to take the victory.  For your team, there will be moments of deficit.  It’s natural.  So when (not if) that happens, how will your team rally to inch forward to victory?  Do we know how to face adversity or even loss?  How well does the team work together and instead of casting blame, focuses on solutions.  Let’s be honest, sometimes the team will lose.  We don’t get a contract or perhaps lose a customer.  The difference is how we rebound, address the problems and move forward.  It’s what great teams are made of.

For basketball fans, we enjoy this season.  From game to game, we watch a team mature and hopefully, make it to March Madness.  I know I’ll be watching.  Here’s hoping yours is becoming a great one too.  Play ball!

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What is on your 2016 Workplace Resolution List?


images-12015 has come and gone.  And as the first day of a new year begins, countless resolutions are professed to focus on health, success and often some form of discipline in an area of life.

Personal resolutions are a wonderful reminder for the opportunity of second chances.   Whether it is the desire to lose weight and focus on a healthy lifestyle or master a new craft or hobby, the practice of starting anew is healthy.

So, what about the workplace? Can this same practice and opportunity exist as we think about our relationships with co-workers or the team we lead?  I say yes.  Why not take this same approach in the workplace for a focus on fresh, new and perhaps even a do-over in your workplace?

As with our personal goals, it’s much easier to state a resolution than to actually keep it. So, to encourage your success, consider these three tips:

#1  What “one” thing would make a difference to my team?
One job of any leader is to remove the barriers that hinder the team from being able to effectively do their job.  Expectations may be clear and the team members may have the skills needed to be successful but workplace dynamics or policies hinder progress. For the coming year, consider focusing on removing at least one obstacle so your team (you and the organization) can move forward.

#2  Stop pushing “buttons”.
We’re human and let’s face it, everyone has pet peeves or “hot buttons” that drive us crazy. Want to improve relationships with your team? Stop pushing their buttons!  The truth is, everyone has at least one button.  Find out what that is and make an honest effort to be sensitive to those “little things” that drive the team crazy.  Some examples often include: micro-management, surprises, little interaction, no direction, and failed promises, etc. 

#3  Be a dependable team player yourself.
How would your peers describe you? Two categories often emerge: competence (what you know) and character (do what you say you will do).  How do you measure up?  When your name is mentioned, do others have confidence in your ability to get the job done?  If not, the coming year offers a great opportunity to change those perceptions.

Resolutions are much more than a sentence on a piece of paper. The real work begins in trying to accomplish them.  To ensure success, create a strategy that will keep you accountable.  Involve others in your process and keep track of your progress throughout the year.

The reality is most people make lofty resolutions on January 1st and by February 1st they are long forgotten.  Don’t become a statistic.  The time you invest in your career is too valuable.  Here’s to making 2016 count!

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Guest Post: Surviving Worker’s Compensation Claims

Welcome to our friend Marvin Brown for this week’s guest post.  His team at ARCpoint Labs of Murfreesboro is a great resource to reduce your company’s for liability.

What do these cases have in common?images

  • Janet injures her hand while intoxicated.
  • Tom loses his hand with methamphetamines and alcohol in his system
  • Tony experiences 3rd degree burns, but is found to have marijuana in his system.

All of these employees filed workers compensation claims, and were denied …right?  As Lee Corso would say, “Not So Fast…”

These three cases demonstrate not only the need for sound safety practices, but also the importance of strong policies related to drugs and alcohol.  Tennessee, like many other states, has a Drug Free Workplace Program (DFWP) that has significant benefits to employers to help them manage risk and improve employee safety within their businesses.

Over the past 5 years, Tennessee has had over 500,000 reports for injuries to the state of Tennessee.  The data shows that on the low side 38% of all Workers’ Compensation claims are related to substance abuse.   Those are BIG numbers that could be positively impacted by administering better workplace programs. 

Did you know that 74% of all drug users are employed?  That means every morning Janet, Tom, and Tony arrive at YOUR place of employment (Well, maybe not every morning, because substance abusers are more than twice* as likely to not show up to work, and tend to be absent more than seven days* a year.), on the days that they do show up, substance abuse workers are shown to be 1/3 as productive.   Would you say that is a problem?  There is more – Healthcare expenses are easily a hot topic for companies, especially small businesses.  Medical costs for substance abusers are 300% higher than your workers who are not substance abusers.  And lastly, there is a higher turnover rate for workers who abuse substances.

Those are sobering numbers to be sure, but how can solid drug policies and testing programs help your company and the aforementioned companies above that employ Janet, Tom, and Tony? Consider the benefits of participating in the Tennessee’s Drug Free Workplace Program:

  • Insurance:  Your Company receives a 5% premium credit.
  • Selection/Rejection: Discharge or discipline of an employee, or refusing to hire a job applicant who is found to be in violation of the covered employer’s Drug Free Workplace Program will be considered done for cause. 
  • Proof Burden:  If an employee suffers a workplace injury and receives a positive confirmed post-accident drug test for illegal use of drugs or alcohol, or refuses to submit to a post-accident drug or alcohol test, the burden of proof is shifted to the employee.

That last point can be huge, and was a big part of how the cases for Janet, Tom, and Tony were decided.  ALL of their workers’ compensation claims were approved.  Surprised?  None of the companies participated in the Drug Free Workplace Program, which ultimately required them to prove that the dominant reason the employees were hurt was due to substance abuse versus, unsafe work conditions.

Where do you go from here?  Awareness and execution are the keys.  Employers have to manage risk, increase productivity, and hopefully save dollars.  Just like the Tennessee’s Drug Free Workplace Program, there are tools and services out there to help create safer workplaces with a positive return of investment. 

Connect with Marvin and his team to learn more about protecting your organization from the hidden costs and liabilities of drug use.

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