Archive for the ‘ Customer Service ’ Category

Narcissism and How We Perfected It

I’m taking a rather ambitious stab at clearing the name of an entire generation with a single blog post. I have not been chosen by my generation to represent us, but by definition I’m entitled so I deserve a shot. Many have called Gen Yers as Generation “Me”, but I see it more as “Generation Y Not Me?” We’ve been called rude, entitled, lazy, narcissistic, and smart – ok, I snuck the last one in there, but you get the point.

Ok, so we like to watch a little TV and play video games, so what’s the big deal? We live life on the edge (of reality) and love to surf (the web) and socialize (on Facebook) all day. We are the doers. We seek not war, but peace. We love reality television and hang on every word they say (even the illiterate ones). We are not better than any of you, but we are special. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are just extensions of our inner self. We love rap music, iPhones, and Dancing with the Stars (my wife made me put that in here). We are not all about ourselves; everyone is just all about us.

This is our motto.

normandy soldiers landingTom Brokaw accurately named the World War II generation as the Greatest Generation. After reading the book, watching the Band of Brothers series, and hearing the stories from WWII vets themselves, I can’t deny this. These men and women were some of the purist of Americans—hard-working, dedicated, and loyal to their values. I remember visiting Normandy about 10 years ago and seeing the crosses of the buried soldiers neatly displayed—such a beautiful display of sadness and pain. In my own experience as a captain in the Army and a combat veteran serving in Afghanistan, I hardly saw any sense of entitlement among the troops. There were men and women who were generally unhappy to be there (I admit even sometimes I wondered why we were there),  and hated everything about the war, but they still wanted to fight. There was a sense of pride about them and they fought long and hard. While in Afghanistan, I had a West Point Captain tell me about his 18-month deployment. He said the length of the deployment really hit him hard at the first Thanksgiving dinner. They were just about to start eating when one of his soldiers said, “Hey sir, don’t worry about saying grace. I’ll do it this year and you can say grace next year.”

20090513TalibanUnderwearI don’t claim we are the Greatest Generation but I do think Gen Y has contributed significantly more than just TV and video games. We are a young generation, but like many others we adapt, overcome, and move on. I never liked the label, “entitlement generation” because frankly I don’t think we deserve it. I hope this generation can rid ourselves of this brand and demonstrate the core American qualities that have been delivered to us from previous generations.

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George Washington’s Leadership Legacy

Let’s indulge, for a moment, on a seasonal exposition that preys on a national day of remembrance—not as a desperate attempt to capitalize on optimal web search methods spiked by the holiday; but rather as mildly hopeful attempt to cull out wisdom from the past, in hopes of gleaning some bit of meaning and truth for our present circumstances.

Washington Revolution

Washington Revolution

Yes, George Washington is the father of our county. Yes, he is the guy on the One Dollar Bill and a few of those silver tokens we used to slide into the arcade machine at 7-11 as a kid. Yes, he is one of the four presidents enshrined on Mt. Rushmore, as a tribute to several of America’s most recognized and cherished leaders.

Washington’s wisdom is not found in the mythological figure he has become in today’s modern media culture—although I doubt he would have as many FaceBook friends as his other famous February cult hero, St. Valentine. Washington’s legacy is as solid and secure today as it was the day he published his Farewell Address in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796—One of the great pieces of American Political Literature that every American Citizen should read on a day we should honor the legacy of leadership he has left us with.

It is in this address that the core of Washington’s leadership legacy rings most loudly and clearly. In his closing thoughts, to the American people, a people he had served so nobly throughout the many fragile moments of a nation in its infancy, he turns to them with a most astonishing request.

Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.

American’s Zeus. The conquering hero of the American Revolution! The man who could never tell a lie! The highest authority of a new nation, at the absolute pinnacle of his popularity and power, turning to his people and confusing his shortcomings, before asking for their forgiveness. An astonishing moment in world history, and perhaps the most important lesson for leaders today—having power, but laying the sword of his authority at the feet of his people through service.

Let us not overlook a great leadership lesson amidst a sea of leadership lessons by one of the great leaders the world has known. George Washington shows a humility and grace that set the standard, not only for future presidents, but any great leader—yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

Is Workplace Bullying on the Rise?

Have you ever been bullied by a boss, coworker, or another employee? Chances are, you may have been. Research by the Workplace Bullying Institute has revealed that 35% of the U.S workforce has reported being bullied. That’s an estimated 53.5 million Americans! And that’s bad news for both employees and organizations. Employees who have been bullied suffer tremendously from stress, somatic disorders, anxiety, and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact, in some cases, the effects of bullying were comparable to WPB CartoonPTSD from war or prison camp experiences. The organizations themselves don’t escape so easily either. High turnover, low employee morale, and medical and insurance costs are just a few of the detrimental effects an organization must face. In fact, many European countries have adopted laws against workplace bullying, often called mobbing in Europe, costing organizations millions of dollars a year.

Ok, so still not sure if you have ever been bullied? Well, there are many definitions of workplace bullying (wpb) but a widely accepted one is harassing, offending, socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone’s work tasks. In order for the label bullying (or mobbing) to be applied, it has to occur repeatedly and regularly (e.g., weekly) and over a period of time (about 6 months). Having a bad day at work and yelling at an employee, though not excusable, is not considered bullying. Bullying is a more divisive, targeted behavior that is usually aimed at one particular employee for a long stretch of time.

Bullying can come in many different forms such as intimidating, threats, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and even covert bullying—giving an unrealistic deadline to an associate for the purpose of belittling or embarrassing them.
But people can’t really be that mean can they? Gulp!!! In the years that I have studied the subject, I am more convinced it’s not just the bully who is responsible. It’s an institutional issue and really a global issue. In fact, workplace bullying has been identified as one of the major contemporary challenges for occupational health and safety around the world. In the U.S alone, it has been found to be four times more prevalent than sexual harassment in the workplace.

I used to think bullcartoon bullyying behavior was just a leadership flaw. But it’s much worse. Research has shown the culture of an organization may breed or allow for this behavior to thrive. Many different cultures see exuberant amounts of bullying instances, including the military, para-military (police, fireman) and commercial kitchens—Hell’s Kitchen anyone? If you’re like me, you don’t want Gordon Ramsay critiquing your cooking and you definitely don’t want him as your boss. But why does bullying seem more acceptable or permissible in these environments?
Unfortunately, some of these questions are yet to be fully answered, but hopefully soon these gaps will be filled and we will have a more comprehensive picture of bullying. Both the organization and the individual have a responsibility to mitigate this behavior and should actively seek ways to provide a safe environment for employees to work. Although wpb may seem to suddenly be on the rise due to the economy, social factors, etc., it may be that we are now just revealing what has already been at work for quite some time.

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Laying The Smackdown On Cheaters

Whenever I’m looking to buy something expensive or need to hire a company for some type of service, I always start by looking online at the reviews.  Businesses know that having bad reviews of either products and/or services can send potential buyers running, so what do these businesses do?  Well, they can do the hard thing by listening to those negative reviews and improve the product/service in question (good), or they can cheat by hiring individuals to simply post good reviews to cover up the bad ones (bad).  Kudos to Yelp for pushing businesses to the former.

An article published in The New York Times highlights Yelp’s new push for accurate reviews on their site.  Yelp has had a filtering system in place for a while that looked at various factors about a review to determine if it might be fake.  However, Yelp recently took it a step further by conducting its own undercover operation.  One of the Yelp employees acted as an Elite Reviewer (someone on Yelp’s site who has lots of reviews and generally a good reputation) and posted ads through sites such as 

Businesses which were looking for Elite Reviewers to post positive reviews for them contacted this undercover reviewer.  The businesses busted in this sting operation now have a nice big label on their Yelp pages that state someone was caught trying to purchase reviews.

This is now the new policy for Yelp.  Any business that gets caught trying to purchase bogus reviews will have this label affixed to their Yelp page for 90 days as a warning to potential customers who might be looking at those reviews.  Moving forward, Yelp also has plans to display something similar for businesses that seem to have a lot of reviews coming from the same IP addresses.

Now, this system may not necessarily be perfect. In fact, if I wanted to smear a competitor’s name, perhaps I could pose as someone from a competitor’s business and purposely try to get “caught”.  Now, my competitor looks like a cheater.  However, I have to praise Yelp for trying.  Lots of consumers rely on those Yelp reviews when making a decision about which business to hire for services.

Do you want to know one of the characteristics between a good business and a bad one? 

–        A bad business is concerned more about protecting its own image. 

–        A good business understands that it may have flaws, but it listens to feedback from its customers/critics and makes improvements based on that feedback. 

Sure, a negative review might hurt a business in the short term.  However, which of these two businesses is likely to stay around in the long run?  One which listens to its customers, or one that doesn’t?

 The same can be said for those who lead.  A great leader listens to his/her people.  A bad leader is more concerned with making himself/herself look good.  Which one do you think will be around in the long run?

Leave your comments!

Exploring the Hidden Secrets of Employee Engagement (pt.1)

As I walked out the door of our air conditioned building to go to lunch, I stepped though a stifling wall of heat that took my breath away. It was high noon and the temperature was 95 degrees farenheit…a stunning 20-25 degree difference from the comforts of my office. At that moment, I felt my energy level plummet and a number of thoughts began to run through my mind, including but not limited to, “I can’t wait to get home and put some shorts on,” and “I’d rather be at the beach or in the pool right now,” and “an ice cold beer would really hit the spot,” and “will I be able to recover and have a productive afternoon?”

In an instant, my level of engagement had been shifted by, yes, the weather. Is this example extreme? Perhaps, but is it really that far-fetched to think of a time when the weather outside affected your mood? In contrast to the previous example, a very cold day may have you daydreaming about snuggling up with your favorite blanket and sitting in front of the fireplace with your favorite book. When your mind wanders off to these places during your working hours or, in some cases, leads you to turn your daydream into reality, is that a reflection of your level of engagement and work passion?

My colleagues at The Ken Blanchard Companies have done some amazing research on the subject of employee engagement and work passion. To date, Blanchard has published four white papers on the subject which you can access by clicking here. In the latest installment, Blanchard identified 12 employee work passion factors within three different categories:

  • Job Factors – Autonomy, Meaninful Work, Feedback, Workload Balance, and Task Variety
  • Organizational Factors – Collaboration, Performance Expectations, Growth, Procedural Justice (process fairness), and Distributive Justice (rewards, pay, and benefits)
  • Relationship Factors – Connectedness with Colleagues and Connectedness with Leader

Without question, all of these factors are vital toward achieving an engaged and passionate workforce. What jumps out at me, and with most other’s research on the subject, is that the focus areas all tend to be very, for lack of a better word, work-centric. Whether you subscribe to the notion of work-life balance or work-life integration, my belief is that, in addition to these crucial work-centric factors, any number of outside personal factors may significantly influence an individual’s level of engagement and passion at any given time. And yes, this may even include an individual’s reaction to the weather outside.

It’s important to remember that regardless of your industry, you’re in the people business. Your colleagues and customers are human beings who are affected by other life experiences, both good and bad, besides those that occur while they’re working. We are individuals with unique needs, wants, situations, and emotions. In future posts in this series, we’ll further discuss situations and possible solutions to achieve a deeper understanding of what drives the engagement and passion of the unique individuals who make up your workforce.

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The Excellent Employee

*Part One of a Six Part Series on The Excellent Employee

Excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts. —Aristotle

Nobody willingly pays a person to be average or mediocre. Or at least, they shouldn’t! And individuals shouldn’t be content being paid to be average or mediocre either!

Imagine going into a job interview or pitching a new project with the premise of retaining an individual’s services through the commitment to a steady dose of procrastination and indifference toward key tasks and reasonabilities. It’s an absurd notion. That organization would be foolish to hire for such a promise. It would be foolish for a person to settle for being average as an employee.

So then, why do organizations hire for excellence and settle for mediocrity? Why do teams within organizations get away with doing just enough to “get the job done?” Why do so many individuals settle for coming to work and being average, at best?

While modern thinkers like Jim Collins, in Good to Great, have evolved the meaning of the word “good” to mean something less than great, ancient writers, teachers, philosophers like Aristotle defined “good” as something extraordinary – exceedingly great. The classic notion of good is manifest excellence—actively pursuing behavior that excels beyond the normal, everyday basics of our mere existence—encouraging us to thrive, rather than simply survive. The pursuit of excellence has led individuals to a greater happiness in living and working throughout history.

The Nicomachean Ethics is one of the most important books in the whole history of philosophy and certainly the most influential works of Aristotle. It is a collection of his most profound thoughts and was based on an exhortation to his son to live the best possible life.

Though taught thousands of years ago, Aristotle’s thoughts on excellence—becoming exceedingly good, still serves as a call to action for those who desire and are willing to lead themselves at a higher level. Although there are many narratives that can be culled out from Aristotle’s epic work, there are a several broad narratives that have practical application in our modern workplace.

A Greater Good

For an individual to perform exceedingly “good,” they must believe that “good” is something beyond just their own need, but also the good of the community, organization, or society they live in. According to Aristotle, excellence is a mindset rather than just a set of activities. Most activities are a means to a higher end, or at least they should be, and our work is no exception.

When individuals start showing up to work just to pull a pay check or organizations get too focused on the profit margins, they loose site of why they exist—to serve a greater good. Excellent employees focus on using their skills and knowledge to serve a purpose greater than themselves and in the process meet their basic needs while achieving excellence.

Virtue, Vision, and Values

Excellence depends on living in accordance with appropriate virtues, vision, and values. A virtuous individual is naturally inspired to behave in the right ways and for the right reasons, finding happiness in behaving according to a set of higher standards of excellence—personal standards as well as the standards expected of them by their community.

The Excellent Employee performs all of their duties with clear expectations of their role and responsibilities, in alignment with the core values of the company. Aristotle is not referring to some imaginary notion of perfection, and neither should organizations expect that of employees. But striving for higher levels of behavioral excellence, creating a greater value in products and projects, should be the goal of every employee.

Know Thyself

The phrase, Know Thyself was inscribed above the entrance to the Lyceum that Aristotle attended as a young man in Athens. Most historians attribute the phrase as an admonition to those entering the sacred temple to remember or know their place before entering into the learning process. Modern philosophies and leadership theories have expanded the notion of self awareness as a means to become more in tune with one’s own personal strengths and weaknesses, beliefs and behaviors.

Excellent employees are committed to knowing themselves through a daily process of understanding the vision and values of the organization, and then aligning them with their own Key Areas of Responsibility. They are also keenly aware of their own assumptions about the organization or a project that may be holding them back. They are aware of where they are at in their own learning process, and what they need from others to successfully complete their daily tasks. Most individuals struggle to move beyond periods of disillusionment and conflict, settling for something less than exceedingly good. The Excellent Employee is equipped to understand their own needs and move through those periods of doubt and disillusionment efficiently and effectively.


Aristotle believed that the bonds that tie citizens together are so important that it would be unthinkable to suggest that true happiness can be found in a life isolated from others. This understanding applies to the modern workplace as well. But excellent employees aren’t just good at building effective social and professional networks on Facebook and Linked In, they are dedicated to building intimate and meaningful relationships through personal one on one communication. They’re also aware of the fact that there are more ways to getting a job done by gaining the support of people in positions of power, but rather influencing peers and colleagues through other types of personal power in order to meet the needs of the greater good and do an exceedingly good work.


Aristotle did not think that virtue could be taught in a classroom down at the local Lyceum or simply by means of a “good” argument, but rather by applying virtue and values to your daily actions. His claim that virtue can be learned only through constant practice implies that there are no set rules we can learn from in just a workbook or a presentation alone; rather we must find a means of transferring that knowledge into action. The Excellent Employee is committed to training in the skills sets that will help them excel beyond average. They are consumed with creating solutions and meaningful results, rather than wallowing in the challenges, setbacks, and conflicts that arise in the workplace.

Become Excellent

The Excellent Employee has a strategy to consistently align their vision and values to the organization’s vision and values, through a clear understanding of themselves and their needs. They also utilize key relationships and apply their knowledge and skills to their everyday workflow, aligning it with the greater good of their company and their clients.

Life is short. Be activly committed to living and working at a higher level, for yourself and the greater good. Aristotle would challenge today’s modern employee to become excellent by doing excellent acts.

Jason Diamond Arnold

Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

Wait! That’s not in the Customer Service playbook…

Another day, another angry customer… Many of you have probably seen this video, but if you haven’t, I’ve posted it below for your viewing pleasure.  This gentleman, upset that he was denied a refund from T-Mobile, decided that he would “redecorate” this T-Mobile store without asking for permission.  Still, he probably needed to brush up on his interior design skills because he simply removed a lot of the wall art and painted the floors white using a couple fire extinguishers.

Before I go any further, let me say that I do not condone his behavior.  After all, there are more civilized ways to work out problems with businesses.  I’ve found that in a lot of cases, issues can be resolved by making your way up the corporate chain.  I should also add that I do not know the full details of this story, especially in terms of who was being more “unreasonable”. Was it T-Mobile or the customer?

I’m not singling out T-Mobile, either. I’ve been through three different cell phone providers (four if you count the whole Cingular/AT&T merger) and ALL of them have done at least one thing that almost made me a YouTube sensation just like this man.  Even other types of businesses have pushed my buttons in the past in a way that made me dream of doing something like this just to get even.  Yet, in almost all of those cases including this one, these situations probably could have been avoided. 

I think the core issue comes down to businesses focusing on the wrong thing:


Yes, money is to businesses as to what blood is to humans.  If you’re injured and a doctor tells you that you’ve lost a lot of blood, that is obviously a cause for concern.  Without blood, we don’t survive, and without money, businesses don’t survive, either.

Does that mean that we should constantly be thinking of how much blood we have in our bodies, whether we are injured or not?  With that being said, why is it that a lot of businesses prioritize their policies around profits, even during profitable times? 

Ken has said time and again that money is a byproduct of doing business and should not be the primary focus.  Taking care of your employees should be the goal, in which case, your employees will take care of the customers which results in the money stream.  Taking care of your employees also includes making sure that the employees know that customers are the focus above all.

The same can be said of politics here in the US. For most elected officials, the goal isn’t to serve their constituents, but rather to get re-elected.  In order to do that, those elected officials need money to finance their campaigns.  The focus becomes making deals to acquire funds, rather than serve those who elected those officials to office.

When money is the primary focus, it typically leads to policies which can create unhappy customers just as we see in this video.  By denying this man his refund (or at least by not finding a compromise), the man caused hundreds of dollars in damages to the store.  Yes, T-Mobile could sue him for the cost of those damages, but that’s still going to cost T-Mobile additional time and resources.  Also, think of the bad publicity surrounding this video.  Someone who may have been considering T-Mobile as their new cell phone provider may now have second thoughts after seeing the video.  Again, these are funds lost due to policies put in place.

Without blood, we don’t survive, and without customers, businesses don’t survive, either…

Leave your comments!

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