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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why stretching outside your comfort zone is a good thing

Think you have big goals? Several years ago, I read an article in Wired magazine about a long-distance runner named Dean Karnazes.

Get this:

·    He ran fifty marathons in fifty states on fifty consecutive days.
·    He once ran 350 miles in three days—without stopping and with no sleep.
·    He’s run the Badwater Ultra Marathon eleven times. It starts in Death Valley, 250 feet below sea level and concludes, 135 miles later, halfway up Mt. Witney, at 8,360 feet. He won the race in 2004 on his fifth attempt.
·    He runs 100 to 170 miles a week.
·    He couldn’t find time to run 4-6 hours a day, so he began sleeping less. He currently sleeps four hours a night.
·    His resting heart rate is 39 beat per minute!

In another interview in Outside magazine, Dean makes an important point that many of us have forgotten:

Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s little real struggle in our lives. Little sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes pretty easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I pushing hard and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.

This rings true for me. I think there are three reasons why we should embrace discomfort by stretching outside our comfort zone, whether we deliberately choose it, or it simply happens to us.

  1. Comfort is overrated. It doesn’t lead to happiness. It makes us lazy—and forgetful. It often leads to self-absorption, boredom, and discontent.
  2. Discomfort is a catalyst for growth. It makes us yearn to something more. It forces us to change, stretch, and adapt.
  3. Discomfort is a sign we’re making progress. You’ve heard the expression, “no pain, no gain.” It’s true! When you push yourself to grow, you will experience discomfort.
A few months ago, I started a daily practice of meditation. It sounded easy enough. Boy, was I wrong! It has proven to be incredibly challenging to sit for thirty minutes straight. But that’s the very reason I value it. I feel like I’m making progress by doing something that isn’t easy for me.

The bottom line is this: we can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch ourselves—become uncomfortable—and grow. We may think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t. Happiness comes from growth and feeling like we're making progress.

(Check out our post on the 'Progress Principle': )

Get out and stay out of your comfort zone. I believe not much happens of any significance when we’re in our comfort zone.”
                                                                       --Bob Parson, Digital Entrepreneur

Adapted From M Hyatt

30 Ideas for “Goal-Getting” in 2012

Many of us are looking into the new year and thinking about the things we want to change and/or accomplish. Resolutions or goals can be powerful catalysts for improvement. The big challenge for a lot of people is keeping themselves focused on the prize and motivated until they fulfill their resolution or reach their goal.

Most folks know the mechanics of goal setting.  What they may not know, remember or apply are the principles for "goal-getting."  These ideas are not new but they are important because they address the motivational side of keeping New Year's resolutions and reaching organizational, team or personal goals.

1. Focus On What Will Bring Out Your Very Best
Take the time to think about what stirs your passions, inspires you and gets you excited about the future. It is important to remember that goals are maps; they will guide you towards your success – the more detailed your goal setting the easier it will be for goal getting. Also, when you are in the goal setting stage understand that the goal must be better than your best yet – but it must be achievable.

Here's a 1.5 minute video that has a very powerful goal achieving technique:

2. Think Like A Person of Action, Act Like A Person of Thought
No matter how bad you want it to happen, change will never result from thinking alone - you must take action. The world is swimming in dreamers, but only those who act on their desires achieve truly remarkable results.

3. A Daily Habit to Begin Today
Set aside at least 15-30 minutes each night or morning to review your day and plan for the next. It's a simple way to add an element of control to your life. Also, beginning this habit today will help tremendously when you begin to work toward your exciting and inspiring goals.

4. Mix It Up
The wrong routine can spell failure for your goals. To make sure this doesn't happen to you, add at least one new step to your daily routine to help break up the pattern. One new activity will set the stage for many more in the future, making it possible for you to break free of any negative routines.

5. Get Enthusiastic About What’s to Come
You are on your way to reaching your goals. Now is the time to get excited and inspired about what your future holds. Imagine achieving your vision -now make it happen!

6. Raise Your Standards
It's time to raise your standards. It's time to expect more out of yourself than anyone else. Accept nothing less than your absolute best in all that you do and you'll have no problem achieving your goals.

7. Take Ownership
Before positive changes can take place, you must take responsibility for your actions and outcomes. You are in control of your future and are the primary one who can guarantee results. If you give up control and ownership of your life, you will never enjoy the amazing opportunities that life offers to us all.

8. Whom Do You Admire?
Make a list of at least three people that you admire. With your list in hand describe what it is that you most respect about each individual. Often pinpointing what we admire in others offers insight into what we wish to become ourselves.

9. The Moment
Remember a time when everything seemed to be going just right? When nothing could get you down? When you thought to yourself, 'This moment, right now, is what life is all about.' We all have moments in life when we feel we are at our best, but most people don't utilize them. Use the special moments in your life to bring to light goals and desires that are sure to fulfill your needs. Learning from and building on these times will help you create magic moments on a daily basis for the rest of your life.

10. Get Specific
In order for you to create lasting change, you have to be super specific about what you want. Vague ideas just won't cut it. The more specific you make your desires, the easier it will be to act on them. Cloudy hopes create obstacles. You have to know exactly what you want, down to the smallest detail.

11. Small Steps to Big Success
While the nature of your goals needs to inspire, you must also recognize the fact that it takes only small steps to create big changes. The goal will lead the way, but it won't come in one giant leap. Small steps, carried out each day, will bring you to the destinations you seek.

12. Search for Success Stories
The stories of individuals overcoming all odds and achieving their dreams surround you. Seek out and make these stories a part of your life. You are not alone in your search for success and significance. Knowing that others have succeeded in the past can be enough to motivate you to achieve the next level of results.

13. Measure Your Progress

As you begin putting the pieces of your plan in place, be sure to measure your progress along the way. Doing so will help to keep you motivated to achieve the goal as you see real improvement taking place. You will also be able to recognize troubling areas that need more attention or successful methods that could be spread to other aspects of the goal.

14. Essentials of Change

It doesn't matter what you want, someone at sometime throughout history has desired and achieved the same thing. Not only does this prove that your goals are possible but also that you have what it takes to make them happen. People have done so much with so little, proving that the essential requirements of creating change are within you.

15. Become Aware of Your Thoughts
The wrong thoughts played enough times in your mind can sap the strength of anyone's confidence. Become aware of the things you say to yourself. Every time you come to a negative phrase stop yourself, refute the belief with logic, and replace it with a strong and empowering thought.

16. What's Holding You Back?

Take time to really think about what's holding you back from working toward and achieving your goals. Too often people get a 'feeling' and quit on their dreams. You can't fight or solve a vague feeling, but you can solve a specific problem. That's why it's critical for you to zero in on exactly what's holding you back from the level of achievement you want.

17. Share the Excitement

Don't keep your plans for a better future to yourself -share the excitement with those who will not see it as bragging or your ego taking over. This will make the goal more tangible, and include others in the picture who will ask about your progress and keep you heading in the right direction. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure.

18. If Not Now, When?

This is a simple method to adding a powerful boost to your goal-achieving project. People are gifted at the art of rationalization and procrastination. To put a stop to them ask yourself, 'If not now, when?' If you're honest, and I know you will be, you'll realize that now is as good a time as any to begin moving toward a better life.

19. Excuses Have No Uses
Excuses are scapegoats. They cover up the truth so we don't have to face it. You already know this isn't the way to a happy and successful life. You have to put a stop to excuses once and for all. Every time you catch yourself using an excuse to cover up the truth about why you aren't working toward your goal (e.g. I don't have the time), write it down along with at least three solid reasons why your excuse is completely wrong. And never use it again.

20. Fear is Part of the Puzzle
If you're waiting for a guaranteed success, you'll be waiting for the rest of your life. Fear is part of the process of success - there's no way around it. You might think that the people you look up to are free of fear as they work toward their goals you are mistaken. Everyone feels fear when they take a step outside of their comfort zone, the question is whether or not you keep going.

21. The First Step
A single step in the right direction is all it takes to put in motion great things. Every written masterpiece begins with a single word on a page. Every long journey begins with a single step. The things you desire most will be no different. Write down on a clean sheet of paper the absolute first step your goal requires - then do it.

22. The Truth about Change
You will fail. Not once, not twice, but many, many times. This is how the game works. Believing that you will be able to achieve a big goal without a hitch is like believing you can play perfect golf without a single step on a course. It's not negative, it's reality. A winner uses this as an advantage. When something doesn't go according to plan an adjustment is made and the process resumes. A short-term setback will never bring an end to your aspirations.

23. Create a Specific Strategy
When you know exactly what you want, you have to know exactly how you are going to get it. Just as a vague idea of what you want will never lead to success, a hazy notion of how you will achieve your goals will bring about the same fate. Super specific strategies will result in success. Anything less will make improvement difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy.
24. Intelligent Action
Action is key to change - but not just any action. Eating unhealthy foods is action, but it is definitely not the kind of moves you should be making if your goal is to get in shape. The secret is to take intelligent action. Learn how to make the right moves and you'll be on your way to enjoying an amazing quality of life.

25. Windows of Opportunity
What you see today will not necessarily mirror the picture of tomorrow. In other words - things change. You can never know for sure how long the opportunity to act will offer itself. It could vanish tomorrow or in twenty years. The point is: Today is the certainty in your world. Make the best of it.

26. Learn from Your Mistakes
When things don't work out exactly as you had planned (this will happen) don't waste the opportunity to learn something. A short-term failure is a good thing – it teaches you how 'not' to do something, which will bring you closer and closer to the solution you seek.

27. Constant Curiosity
Be curious. The world can be a truly amazing place when you take the time to look around and learn about it. Read, converse, observe, listen, and discover the miracles that surround you. Constant curiosity is the habit that is sure to get you excited about your world, your work, and your future.

28. Your Contribution
What are you going to contribute to the world after you have gone? Living an extraordinary life requires thinking beyond yourself and giving back to the world in some way. What will your gift to the world be?

29. Starting in the Right Direction

You may not realize it, but you've already taken a massive step toward success. Simply reading these words demonstrates your success in the New Year. Now that you've taken the first step, keep it going day after day, month after month, year after year.

30. Enjoy the Ride
While you're working hard to achieve your goals, it's important to enjoy the experience. Don't just focus on the results. It's like taking a road trip through beautiful country with your eyes closed thinking only about the destination. You'll miss out half the joy of success if you forget about the experience of it all.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Plan for Success in 2012

Simple, Effective Steps for Goal Setting in 2012

Goals inspire the plan, the plan sets the action, the action gets the results and the results achieve the success. And it all starts with one word, goal.

Robert H. Schuller describes four kinds of people:

·    First come the opt-outs. These people wing it. They set no goals.

·    Second are the hold-outs. They have a dream, but uncertainty makes them afraid to respond to its challenge.

·   The dropouts are third. They start to make their dream come true, but when the going gets tough, they quit.

·    Finally, there are the all-outs. These brave souls know where they’re headed and do what it takes to get there.

Goal setting is not rocket science (like most things). It’s just that many people do it in a half-hearted manner or don’t do it at all.  Winners make goals, others make excuses.

Goals can motivate a workforce, an individual employee, or even a manager, as long as they’re well thought out and not too complicated.

There are several methods for setting goals. Here's one that can be used for simple individual goals or complex organizational goals. The example provided is goal setting for an employee.

Get real. Choose specific goals that apply directly to the employee’s performance—nothing too vague or overwhelming. If you’re not sure whether a possible goal is clear enough, ask, “How will we know when you’ve succeeded?”

Narrow your focus. Select one goal at a time to work on. You don’t want your employee to be balancing too many tasks at once.

Define your objective. What results do you hope to achieve? These should be measurable and concrete to eliminate any ambiguity about what the employee is working toward.

Draw up an action plan. List the steps necessary to reach the goal. You and the employee may have to break the goal down into segments if your list of steps grows too long. But you need to know exactly what’s required so the project doesn’t bog down as you try to move forward.

Set a deadline. Open-ended goals aren’t very motivational. Identify a due date that’s realistic but ambitious so the employee has a sense of urgency about completing the tasks involved.

Schedule the steps. Work with the employee on deciding when specific actions will take place: “Jan 15. 1, recruit designers for new product . . . Jan. 25, present first prototype . . .” and so on. This will help the employee stay on course and help you to monitor progress.

Check out our 30 Ideas for Goal 'Getting' in 2012 post by clicking:

Happy New Year!

PM in the PM

For more information about creating organizational, team, and individual success in 2012 contact us at and

Friday, December 16, 2011

Handling your Gen Y employees' high expectations

If you feel that your 20-something employees have high expectations regardless of their limited work experience, you’re not alone. A survey of more than 2,500 hiring managers and HR professionals by found the same feeling. High expectations are fine, but what if you have to say “Not yet” because your young employees are short on qualifications? Or because your company, like many, can’t immediately satisfy every demand? The best bet is to explain the realities carefully and develop other options to offer:

·    Expectation: High wages and rapid raises. Be clear and specific about salary structures, and don’t just say, “Those are the rules.” Provide an updated job description and demonstrate how quality and productivity are measured, showing employees what—and how long—it generally takes to earn higher compensation. Help employees work out plans to improve their qualifications. In the meantime, use short-term recognition, rewards, and bonuses to verify that you’re paying attention.

·    Expectation: Rapid promotions. Explain the experience, skills, education, and results needed for promotion. Help each employee create a plan to meet those requirements. In the meantime, pair younger employees with experienced workers who can explain how to go about on-the-job learning and improvement in your group.

·    Expectation: Flexible work schedules. As with salary increases, explain the amount of flexibility and time off available in terms of the amount of work to be done, not in terms of rules. Be creative about finding ways employees can generate days off. For example, can workers who are highly productive or who beat their deadlines earn extra days of vacation?

All the success!

Peter Mclees

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sharpening Your 'Blade' for Improved Results

A Parable about Performance

Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter asked for a job from a timber merchant, and he got it. The pay was really good and so were the working conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.

The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees "Congratulations," the boss said. "Keep up the good work!" Very motivated by the boss’ words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he only could bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he only could bring 10 trees.

 Day after day he was bringing less and less trees. "I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. "When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" the boss asked. "Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees..."

Lesson- Investing in improving your teams' skill development will improve short-term and long-term results.

Work pressures and competing budget demands make it challenging to allocate the time and money for development activities. However, unless companies and individuals prioritize activities they may over time lose their competitive edge.

All the success!

PM in the PM

For more information on developing your team of leaders visit us at

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Check your internal communication IQ

Maybe you can articulate a forward-thinking vision that wins over your customers and shareholders, but if you struggle with internal communication, you won’t get very far motivating your workforce to bring that vision to life. The key to getting your message across is understanding what’s important to your workforce.


Take this quiz to identify gaps that you’ll need to fill in order to communicate effectively:

·     Do employees feel you care about them as individuals? Get to know their career ambitions, outside interests, and personal history to show you don’t think of them as cogs in a great machine. Let them know you want to see them achieve their personal goals, not just company objectives.

·    Are you part of the team? Employees shouldn’t feel that they’re held to a higher standard of behavior and performance than their managers. Set the right example, and pitch in to help as necessary to show that your commitment is just as strong as theirs.

·    Do you communicate respect? Consider your employees’ feelings when you speak to them, write emails, or otherwise communicate with your workforce. Take their ideas and opinions seriously—don’t belittle them or act as if you’re the only person capable of understanding priorities.

·    Do you give effective feedback? Your goal when giving feedback should always be to help employees improve their performance. Explain how feedback benefits them, and don’t give the impression that you’re just reminding them that you’re the boss.

·    Does your behavior support a positive goal? You won’t win the trust and support of your people with constant criticism or micro-management. Consider every action you take in the context of your desire to improve performance, the workplace, and your organization’s goals.

All the success!

PM in the AM

The outrageous cost of a bad hire

The financial costs can be huge, but the soft costs are significant as well.

Would you believe that the true cost of a bad hire is $840,000?

And while the cost is certainly something organizations should be worried about,’s Lance Haun believes there’s two other things to blame for the issue of bad hires: inaction and lack of will to change.

“The inaction part is the easy one. If you let a bad hire sit on your payroll for 30 months, that costs real money — money your executives should see,” he notes. “If you can make a quicker decision once you really know someone is a bad hire, that will save not only that real money but also all of those soft costs that are harder to calculate, like disruption and opportunity cost.”

How can you best fix the situation? He suggests firing the bad hire as soon as you know they’re not working out (and giving him or her a generous severance package). He also says to “hire better, as often as you can, no matter the cost.”

Check out this infographic by Resoomay to see what a bad hire will truly cost your company.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Great Quotes about Leadership and Character from Coach John Wooden

Basketball enthusiasts can quote John Wooden's winning basketball statistics, but leaders around the world can quote his character-centered leadership principles. While people are impressed with Wooden's ten NCAA championships in 12 years and his 88 consecutive wins, it is the coach's unwavering commitment to building character, demonstrating integrity, and focusing on values that most impressed those who worked with him and those who admired his work from afar.

Numerous books, movies and leadership training programs have been written about Coach John Wooden's legendary leadership. Wooden stands out because he didn't just have a leadership style, he had deeply-rooted leadership beliefs that other leaders in a wide variety of management roles wanted to adopt and adapt for themselves.

Luckily, Wooden also had a talent for articulating his leadership philosophy in the form of quotable quotes that many people refer to as "Woodisms." What follows are some of the many often quoted Woodisms from Coach Wooden which explain his philosophies about putting character, integrity, and values into leadership. These quotations have relevance for leaders at every level

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
·        "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."
·        "Talent is given by the maker. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."

·        "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."  (My favorite)
·        "Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability."
·        "Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself,  being especially free of admirers then."
·        "Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."
·        "Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."
·        "It isn't what you do, but how you do it."
·        "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."
·        "I deeply believed that the teacher and coach who has the ability to properly plan... from both the daily and the long-range point of view together with the ability to devise the necessary drills to meet his particular needs for maximum efficiency, has tremendously increased his possibility of success."
·        "Never mistake activity for achievement."
·        "I would spend almost as much time planning a practice as conducting it. Everything was planned out each day."
·        "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
·        "A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment."
·        "Men, I've done my job, the rest is up to you." - (At the beginning of every pre-game locker room speech)
·        "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes."
·        "Learn as if you were to live forever; live as it you were to die tomorrow."
·        "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."
·        "You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."

All the Success!

PM in the AM

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How Honest Leaders Destroy Their Leadership


 No Trust - No Leadership

You can coerce without trust but positive influence thrives on the foundation of trust.

Losing influence is easy because losing trust is incredibly easy.

Trust and respect:
It takes more than honesty to preserve trust; you must show respect.
People stop trusting you when you disrespect them, even when you’re honest.

Danger of disrespect:
When you lose trust by making people feel disrespected, people give themselves permission to question your character and motives. Honesty is not the issue.

You can be honest and lose trust.

Not only do they judge your character, they feel justified, even compelled, to “warn” others about you. You can’t be trusted.

Protecting Trust:
People trust you when they feel respected by you.
When they feel disrespected, however, they are disrespected. Perception is reality.

10 Behaviors that help people feel disrespected
  1. Rushed exchanges. You don’t have time for them.
  2. Unilateral decisions. Lack of participation in decisions that directly impact them.
  3. Poor listening. They don’t feel understood.
  4. Rudeness.
  5. Unsolicited advice.
  6. Emphasizing failure as a tool to motivate forward momentum.
  7. Favoritism.
  8. Cutting them off when they’re speaking.
  9. Rescheduling appointments.
  10. Watching your computer while talking.
10 ways to show respect:
  1. The opposites of the list above.
  2. Invite feedback.
  3. Gently, clearly tell it like it is, even when they disagree.
  4. Appreciate their skills and talents.
  5. Give opportunities.
  6. Admire their contribution and accomplishments.
  7. Public acknowledgement.
  8. Use their title.
  9. Acknowledge their challenges and struggles.
  10. Hold phone calls and other communications while they’re speaking.
The challenging truth:
They won’t keep trusting you if you don’t convince them they’re respected.

All the Success!

PM in the AM

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Trim these phrases from your vocabulary when coaching

The words you use when coaching send a message that’s stronger than their dictionary meaning. In a coaching situation, stay away from these five unfortunate phrases that can cause defensiveness and resistance:

1.      “You have to _____.” The coach’s job is to present options and ideas, not tell the employee what to do. Give suggestions, not orders.

2.      “Why can’t you do this right?” Don’t squelch an employee’s self-confidence by focusing on what he or she is doing wrong. Instead say something like, “Let’s see how you could do this a little better.”

3.      “This is good, but . . .” Don’t mix praise and criticism. The word “but” can erase everything that came before it. Employees may also start feeling skeptical about anything positive you say, expecting the “but” at any moment. Give clear feedback, positive and negative, so mixed messages don’t confuse your employees.

4.      “I’ve told you this before, but _____.” If you have to repeat your advice, chances are there’s a bigger problem than just an employee’s poor memory. Look for other ways to make the same point, and explore obstacles that may be preventing the employee from following your suggestion.

5.      “If I were you, I’d ____.” This well-intentioned phrase can backfire if the employee feels you’re being condescending or ignoring his or her experience. Concentrate on the employee’s strengths, not your own.

All the success!

PM in the AM

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Why 'no problem' is a customer service problem

Rampant use of the popular catchphrase concerns this leadership and customer service trainer.


, we have a problem. It's no problem, a phrase comprising two negatives that's meant as an affirmative.
No problem and its sister not a problem (the Australians have no worries, but that's another story) have supplanted yes, you're welcome, happy to help, OK, that's fine, got it, here you go, and I can handle that for you. All of which are positives.
I relish being told yes, appreciate the good manners of a you're welcome, am delighted when someone tells me he's happy to help me out, am grateful for a simple OK, relax when I hear something's fine, can move on to other things when I'm confident someone has gotten what he needs, am appreciative when I've gotten what I need, and am relieved when I finally reach the person who can indeed handle my problem.
But tell me no problem and I instantly have one. That's because you've started out by saying no, making my system shudder, and then you compound matters with the word problem, which downright rattles me.
Ring, ring.
"Hello, Tony's."
"I'd like a large pizza for take-out."
"No problem!"
"With pepperoni and mushrooms."
"No problem! Is that it?"
"And a cheese steak with fried onions, no sauce."
"Great, no problem! Anything else?"
"Yes. I'd like you to pay for it."
Now, Tony has a problem.
No problem is typically delivered in a friendly, chirpy tone. No problem! Noooo prah blum! No-prob-LEM-o! NO PROB-lem! This is consistent, regardless of the situation. In fact, its use is so rampant that, unless we clamp down on it now, I predict it will have totally eclipsed all other affirmations by 2013:
Do you, Ricky, take Lucy to be your lawfully wedded wife?
No problem!
May I see your driver's license and registration?
No problem!
Look into the camera and say ""cheese.""
No problem!
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.
No problem!
Do you solemnly swear that you will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will to the best of your ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help you God?
No problem!
The biggest problem with no problem is its inherent vagueness. You cannot be sure what to expect, because it's not clear what the person is telling you — perhaps that it's no problem for him.
It's especially disarming when you're after a solution to a problem—any problem—and the person you finally get to, after you've navigated a voice-prompt labyrinth, responds to your inquiry by telling you there's no problem, when the very nature of your call is to resolve one. Noooohprooooblemmmmm ...
Tell me that I've got the right person, or that you'll look into it, or that you understand the situation. And when I thank you, smile and tell me, "You're welcome." Just don't tell me that it's no problem. Thank you.

All the Success!

PM in the AM

Talking to a Needy Customer: A Balancing act of Time and Respect

From the Leader’s Digest Mailbag
Dear Leader's Digest,
I manage a retail store. We have a regular customer who is seventy-five years old, very lonely, and needy. He constantly comes in the store to talk about how he used to be a Hollywood star and a millionaire, or to tell us about each of his seven marriages.
I don't know how to tell him we are busy, but we have each heard his story up teen times and it's starting to make us all feel a little frustrated How can I tell my needy customer that I don't have time to talk without offending him?
At a Loss

Dear Loss,
Thanks for the question and for your genuine concern for a person in need. Let me start by suggesting that this situation calls for a tactful discussion. Your goal is set some time limits in a way that conveys respect for the customer as a human being.

You're right in worrying about hurting the gentleman's  feelings. He's a human being and like all of us, he deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Obviously, you don't want to bluntly tell him to stop talking so much or repeating himself so frequently. And while it's true that he may be lonely and is looking for simple conversation, even companionship, it's not the responsibility of a store manager or employee to meet those needs.
The kind thing to do is to pull the gentleman aside and set your ground rules. Explain that you appreciate his business and enjoy the conversation, yet you face a challenge. The store requires your careful attention and does not allow you to carry on long conversations, enjoyable or otherwise. So you're asking him to conduct his future business quickly—without lengthy discussions—so you can fulfill your responsibilities as a shop owner. Then thank him for his cooperation.
All of this should be done pleasantly, with a slight smile, and with genuine compassion for another person. You're not opening the conversation up for debate, nor are you asking for suggestions. You're professionally and politely defining the boundaries of your relationship.
Now, having said this, let me return to the issue of a lonely gentleman who appears to be looking for more than a simple purchase. Let me write, not just to you, but to all of us—myself included.
Not long ago, I was running (literally) some errands when I passed near an older fellow, a complete stranger, walking the other way. He signaled me to stop and when I did he chatted me up for a full five minutes. I was in a hurry to get back to my task list, but the gentleman seemed oblivious to the fact that I was trying to exit the conversation at every turn. Later that same day, I stood in line to buy a handful of groceries while an elderly woman in front of me wrote out and recorded a check—seemingly in slow motion—while casually chatting with the clerk. I almost climbed out of my skin.
At the end of the day, my mind turned to the intersection of two factors. One, my own lack of patience, and two, a growing number of elderly people who are likely to tax my ability to slow down and smell their roses. As I thought of these two events, I remembered the fact that as baby boomers age, they'll put a massive burden on the healthcare system—leading to a huge shortage of healthcare professionals. I also recalled reading that, in 1950, for every person over 65 there were twelve people of working age, but in 2050, that number will drop to three—burdening social security. I was aware of both the medical and financial burden that will accompany the gray wave. We hear about those issues nearly every day. What I hadn't thought about was the need for love, kindness, a gentle word, and yes—time—from those who will have so much of it on their hands.
The awkward situation at your store provides evidence that there will come a clash between those who are frantically running about their daily tasks—stretched to do the job of two people—and those who will want to slowly write out a check, go on casual walks, and talk with shop owners about the old days.
It's also important to note that older people will account for a larger percentage of customers in the future. Retailers will need to find a way to accommodate elderly customers--while still operating a fast-paced and efficient shop.

And while it's true that the store manager or their employees can't always meet the needs of aging customers, it is equally true that the rest of society will have to come to grips with living alongside a growing number of seniors who are finding their senior years more lonely than golden. As our life paces and interests come in conflict, we'll continually face the question: What do I really want here?
Hopefully, as we ask the question of what we want for ourselves and for others, we'll find both the desire and the methods to spend time with those who have given us so much. Perhaps outside the store someone will talk with your needy customer about the good old days. Maybe a neighbor will bring by a fresh-made loaf of bread, and then sit and chat for a while—doubling the gift. Perhaps his son will call with a short item of business, and then lengthen the conversation to cover whatever Dad wants to discuss. Perhaps all of us will learn to find ways to stop and smell the roses.

All the Success!
    Peter Mclees, Principal


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