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Friday, January 13, 2012

Assuming Makes a You know What out of You and Me

Happy New Year from The Customer Service Gurus!  How have you made a difference with the first two pebbles of 2012?  (Click here to see the previous blog on time management).

I recently read the article below on CNN and it made me think in addition to the assumptions we make about work based on what Hollywood shows us, I also think we make assumptions on our own about the work environment.  These assumptions come from the traditions of our culture, our families, and what others say, but eventually they become our inner thoughts.  The business world operates at such a breakneck speed we hardly have time to reflect on what we are actually doing or thinking and the impact we are making.  In other words, are we making a difference and if we are not Whose Darn Fault is It?

Click here to read the CNN article.

Assumption 1 - I am not compensated adequately.

The CSGs theory is we in America may not sign formal contracts for the most part when to begin to work for an organization, such as most Europeans do, but we do subconsciously enter in to a mental contracts with our employers.  This mental contract is how much we decide to ‘give’ to an employer in relation to how fairly we believe we are being compensated. 

Again theory, I believe it is because we are so hush hush about compensation and this puts up a natural barrier of dishonesty in the relationship, and a false sense of how much can each party ‘get out‘ of each other.  The employer in terms of quantity of work for as little dollars as possible.  For employees, it is how little can I get away with at work and not get in jeopardy.  No one knows what anyone else makes, which creates suspicion, but it also creates an opportunity for false assumptions.  “Well, I am sure John is making more than me, so I will spend more time making personal calls, etc.  It is only fair.”   Fair means personal judgment and that is a dangerous, or at least unproductive, position for a leader to be in.

Assumption 2-  The people I work with (customers/clients/direct reports/managers/leaders) are idiots.

The problem with that is people are people (apologies to Depeche Mode fans).   People make honest mistakes.  People honestly do not know what they want or need when they begin a relationship with you.  They have a need, and they need you to fulfill that need.  It is not a bad thing, but it is human thing.  About the only thing that can be counted on in a project is someone, at some point, will change their mind.   Now whether that is a huge costly change or addition to the project depends much on the relationships developed during the project life cycle.

Also, we all should be better about giving benefit of the doubt.  I have heard of older workers being skeptical of younger leaders.  I have heard of those with formal educations be weary of those without one. I have experienced people being suspicious of transfers from other departments, “They don’t know my business.  What are they doing here?!”  

All of these examples could be reversed too, and there are several other forms of this basic complaint, “I am better/smarter than they are.”   The bottom line is you have not walked in the other person’s entire career path.  Give them benefit of the doubt they are in their position for a valid reason.  You may have no idea what it is, but if you don’t have that trust in your leaders, really what you are doing still working for that organization?

Assumption 3 - There is never enough of X (time, resources, labor) to do things right.

I have seen some amazing projects, products, developed and deployed under the craziest of circumstances.   Somehow, even under the most duress and lack of everything, it gets done.   We find the inner strength, intelligence, moxie, to make it work (apologies to Tim Gunn).

Much of this is we are terrible unrealistic planners and we are quick to deal with fires first, because fires are sexy.  Also in some weird way fires are fun.  They make your adrenaline rush, make you think on your feet, make you be a probably better leader or employee than you are in everyday life.  Also fires get you and your team noticed.

But when we start a project, it is almost always with the mindset, “There is not enough of X.”  I think we all know that project nirvana is just never going to happen.  Also we think if we have 4 weeks, then we will take four weeks to do it.  It we have 2, then amazingly two will do.  But what if we embraced that and say, “All right this is what needs to be done, this what we have to make it happen, so how are we going to do it?”  Remember in the movie Apollo 13 when the NASA engineers pulled out only the materials available to them on the pod and from those limited resources they figured out how to get the astronauts home safely?  Perhaps that would be a mindset to bring to the table when starting a project.   

The Customer Service Gurus Advice

My advice is to acknowledge these biases that exist in the workforce and in your own thought patterns.  I am not saying that we have these thoughts every single day, but I am saying that realistically they pop up from time to time, and you need to mentally develop a mindset to combat them. 

If you think you are not adequately compensated, then change it or shut up about it (I mean that lovingly).  Either ask for a raise or start seeking other employment, but be real if it is about money or it is something else.   Don’t use compensation, or lack thereof, to excuse other poor working behaviors or habits.

When you enter into relationships with anyone, absolutely give them benefit of the doubt and respect for the position they are in.  Even if you believe that the person is in the wrong position, it will do you absolutely no good to operate with a rebellious or disrespectful attitude.  As you work with clients, give them respect that even though they do not have your expertise (after all that is why they are hiring you, right?), they do have intelligence in important aspects of their business.  Listen to them!

Finally, with timeframes and lack of resources, do a daily check with yourself if you made progress on projects.  This does not need to be long.  A few minutes of reflective, “Hey, what the heck happened today?”  can give you insight if you are handling sexy fires or operating in balance. 

The perfect work environment is probably beyond our reach, but being conscious about what we say to ourselves and to our employees can make a huge difference in the impact we make to our organizations.

Wishing you many impact pebbles in 2012!   Let The Customer Service Gurus know how we can help.

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