Avoid Confrontation by Diffusing Arguments Before They Begin

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Want to avoid confrontation and create better customer feedback and work relations? Here is some good advice, don’t engage in an argument in the first place. Instead, diffuse the situation before it escalates by agreeing with your adversary’s point of view.


Recently, while dining at a local seafood restaurant a customer came up to the owner to complain about an employee. We happened to be sitting at the bar when the argument ensued. The owner got defensive after a women told him there had been a credit card mix up and suggested he needed to fire his employee and waived her angry finger toward a clerk at the cash register. The owners took the position that his employee had been with him a long time and was probably just having a bad night. This of course could be construed as a logical response, however, to the customer it appeared as if the owner didn’t care. This resulted in a series of threats including posting disparaging comments on Yelp and so forth. After the women left I couldn’t help but comment to the owner.


Clearly she was upset and nothing was going to change her position. What could he have done differently? Change his response to something like, “I understand, thank you for letting me know. I appreciate your comments and I will speak with John. We take this matter very seriously.” Why this approach would work better: You diffused the situation by validating the other person’s concerns. At that point, the customer would have felt heard and had a positive experience instead of remembering both the employee credit card mix up and the owners’ perceived lack of concern.


Another thing you can do is offer a resolution that satisfies everyone’s needs. Example: “We both have had a busy night, may we offer you a free dessert on the house? If you can’t wait, I understand, catch me next time and we will make sure you are taken care of properly.” Most likely, he would have gained a customer for life by turning the situation around using this small recovery strategy. At the worst, he would have opened up a dialogue resulting in a compromise and possibly avoided a negative review on social media.


Diffusing an argument before it starts is a powerful recovery tool that can be used in a multitude of situations in your personal and professional life. Remember to diffuse an argument you must listen, agree, sympathize, offer a resolution and nine times out of ten everyone will walk away satisfied.


Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.

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Lean In or Bend and Flow?

Could Life’s Perfect Formula Be Mirrored By Trees? 

The wind picked up during my morning walk and I noticed a sudden shift in the air. As I looked around I could see the palm trees swaying and bowing as the wind slapped at their branches. The mighty oaks seemed to lean in deliberately taunting the wind as it challenged their aged sturdy canopy. Living in Florida we often see heavy winds, hurricanes and an occasional tornado. After the storms pass the debris can be seen for miles. Isn’t this just an analogy for our life? We hit a rough patch, a Tsunami of sorts, we get hurt, broken and the debris of our lives spreads out for months and sometimes decades.  


Is it better to be like a palm tree or an oak?  Turns out a palm tree is more like a flowering plant, a monocot. The center is made up of cells, a watery flexible sheath like substance which allows for nearly a 90 degree bend. At the base is a root ball system that teeters and tauter’s with pliable roots that rebuild after a storm.  The oak on the other hand is a dicot, a heavily rooted hardwood, which grows massive roots and elaborate canopy systems providing shade and light to pass through similar to an umbrella. I love Oaks, they are confident and respected, but I am not sure I want to be like one when the storms of life hit.


Growing up I would have sworn that the sturdier and tougher you were the better chances you had to weather the storms. As they say, the older you get the more you know. There are powerful forces and seasons in life that require flexibility rather than rigidity. In some cases you must bend or you will break under the pressure. The palm tree’s greatest strength lies in their ability to be pliable when storms come and to regrow and rebuild when they pass. The oak can dig deep, cling on and grow to a massive girth, yet if pushed too hard the tree will uproot and fall.


The winds of change are ever present and my first inclination is always to lean in, pull from my roots and hold steadfast. But life has a way of teaching us lessons and sometimes we learn by toppling over leaving a wake of mass destruction with an empty hole left for weeds to fill. I will never forget one poignant message a friend of mine shared after her husband had passed away. Her biggest regret was that she spent her time scurrying around researching, trying to solve the problem and getting multiple opinions for the cancer that was eating away at her husband. In the end, she had wished she had just been still, sat with him and honored the time they had left together.


When the storms of life hit you, I think the perfect formula may be to rely on your roots, turn to God for comfort and gracefully sway, bow and dance so you can be the thing left standing when the sun shines again.


Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.

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Today’s Leader

Think about the mentors and leaders you have encountered through-out your career. Does anyone stand out as exceptional or unforgettable? By unforgettable I mean someone who challenged you but didn’t really model strong leadership. We learn about how to be a good leader from people we admire. Conversely, we can also learn some important lessons on leadership from bosses we don’t admire.


My Career Path

My first boss was a middle-aged retired nun. She had left the convent got married and adopted two children. To say she was intimidating would be an understatement. During my first month on the job as a hotel sales manager in Miami, Joanne regularly worked through the night.

We would come into the office the next day and find her at her desk, wearing the same outfit she was in the day before, wrinkled and rumpled with her hair all askew. I recall one conversation with parents as I described her and expressed alarm that I may have selected the wrong career path. Her leadership style was less than inspiring to the team, she showed a lack of empathy and no regard for our feelings which had many of us doubting our decision to work in hospitality sales. Today, bosses aren’t quite as intimidating and the workplace is more collaborative. Many of the team members ended up becoming good associates and later friends with her. She did excel in the characteristics of drive, humility and integrity which we all came to appreciate and value.  As a result, we all learned about certain traits we absolutely didn’t want to emulate in our career path.


What characteristics and qualities make for a good leader?

Visionaries

Leaders shape the future with a clear vision. They embrace change and make it their mission to develop and nurture the organizations soul.

Leadership by example

Today’s leaders make things happen, they have the discipline to get things done. They turn strategy into action and accountability. True leaders are committed to others.

Value Human Capital

Leaders understand the importance of having the right skills and talent on board. They see associates as the most important asset in the organization. Leaders create an environment that attracts quality people and put programs in place which help develop, learn and grow this asset along the way. A collaborative work environment draws talented employees who grow vested in the organizations success.

Establish a stable and enriching work environment

Great leaders understand the requirements for long-term success. They listen and work within the paradigm of making an investment in developing competencies for the greater good which later yield sustainable and scalable results.

What leadership style best describes you?

There are many models which help describe the various leadership styles prominent in the workplace today. If you peruse the internet you will see countless articles and definitions circulating on the web. It boils down to five or six true styles.

One book I stumbled upon explained the various leadership styles fairly succinctly. The book is titled The Leadership Wheel by Clinton Sidle.Sidle categorizes the various types into five styles; Warrior, Teacher, Nurturer, Visionary and Sage. I would add a sixth style, let’s call it the Expert. Sidle covers what he calls the positive traits of each style and the shadow side which can create negative ramifications.


To break it down;

  • The Warrior leads by inspiring and risk taking but the shadow side can be controlling. The warrior is perfect during a crisis and can lead a company out of chaos.
  • The Teacher, focuses on doing things correctly. Teachers believe in sharing information and gathering data to find the best processes and systems. Teachers can often get bogged down at the expense of effectiveness.
  • The Nurturer, works on teambuilding and collaboration. They bring unity to the workplace and create bonded and cohesive work environments. On the shadow side they tend to avoid confrontation and can take criticism personally.
  • The Visionary uses their intuitive senses to combine both intellect and emotion to inspire and lead others. They are charismatic leaders with big personalities that infuse energy into any organization. However they can lose focus and fall short when it comes to details.
  • The Sage is an optimistic leader who is addicted to continuous growth and learning. They are great conceptual thinkers who can see both the path and the end zone. Tragically Sage’s can lose hope, be marred by the blues and withdraw from the mission if they see things as unchanging.
  • The Expert, combines both a high level of knowledge and a great degree of skill. This is a leader who is in the trenches and produces alongside his/her team. People tend to respect and value them for what they have accomplished. Sometimes this style of leadership falls victim to comparisons and moral shifts when no one can figure out how to duplicate the exceptional results on their own.

When you reflect on these styles you should note people generally have a natural style but can adapt their style as the situation demands.

For more interesting topics on business and leaderships contact Jodi Cross at jcross@crossnm.com or visit www.crossnm.com to learn more.  


Footnote:

1 C. Clinton Sidle, The Leadership Wheel; Five Steps for Achieving Individual and Organizational Greatness,” (Palgrave Mcmillan, 2005)


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Is Creativity Valued In Corporate America Today?

January is National Creativity Month

I can’t help but wonder if creativity is valued in corporate America today?
 


After 10 years in a corporate marketing position, the company I worked for was bought out by a REIT. When the new team took over there were many changes in senior level directors as well as cultural changes. During one of my first meetings with the new Executive Vice President, I asked him if he valued creativity. He responded, “As long as it drives ROI to the bottom line.” The message was clear, shortly thereafter every meeting and action plan was spreadsheet based and accounting focused. The marketing planning process, which used to include a big idea brainstorming session, was reduced to revenue statistics and measurable KPIs with little to no idea exchange. Don’t get me wrong, businesses should be about profits and driving revenue but I distinctly felt like a fish out of water when I so much as suggested a new idea or a different way to look at something.


Just as I was feeling a bit discouraged about the power of creativity and the value of idea generation in today’s workplace, I stumbled across a speech that the late Steve Job’s gave during his commencement address; “Stay Hungry & Stay Foolish.” As it turns out so many of today’s successful companies were built on the principals of innovation and creativity. 3M’s late president was famous for saying, “Listen to anyone with an original idea, no matter how absurd it may sound at first. If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.” — William McKnight.


So how can you harness creativity and turn it into innovation? Creativity is the birth of an idea, innovation is the action it takes to put it in place. Both need to be valued and nurtured in order to grow. After all, aren’t we in business to solve problems and find new opportunities?


Here are some ideas to help cultivate creativity in your work place.

 


1. Reward creativity and creative accomplishments. When employees come up with suggestions cultivate the idea. The best motivation is to listen, take action and put ideas into practice.

2. Be willing to foster different points of view. Make it fun, create an idea challenge that goes across departmental lines.

3. Hire and mix employees with different backgrounds, cultures and experiences. Include all departments in brainstorming and idea creation.

4. Expect creativity, let all your employees know part of their job is to think and come up with ideas.

5. Make it a pleasure to share new ideas in your company, disallow the use of negative mental blocks such as; That’s not my area, I’m not creative, We tried that, That will never work.

6. Brainstorm the right way. Hold a session with mixed departments and managers with varying backgrounds. Collaborate on idea generation and allow for debate during the session because debate often fuels better and stronger ideas. Be careful not to let the debate turn to blame storming. Never accept the first idea, go for quantity, and always try to get one more idea. If we always remain curious and willing to take risks we will succeed.


Innovation and creativity is one of the greatest natural resources we have and continue to put America in the forefront of the world.


If you are interested in learning more about generating new, fresh ideas to drive your business forward or would like to conduct a Brainstorming Session please contact us today. 


Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com

 

 

 

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Amping Up Your Positioning

 Amping Up Your Positioning

By: Jodi Cross

Recently I heard an interview with Brian Cornell, Targets new CEO about how he plans to reposition the retail giant moving forward. Mr. Cornell, stated that Target was “going back to the basic core values” that made Target a success. Target will once again deliver on their brand promise and tagline, “Expect More, Pay Less and strive to cool again.”  In the interview, Cornell specifically mentioned the brand pillars that made Target a success. They included; trends and fashion, design and style, wellness solutions and customer service.  Under the former CEO, Target appeared to have lost focus and tried to compete with Walmart on price and the addition of an expanded grocery product line. 

I am not only a brand marketer but I am a consumer and I shop at Target. Cornell’s comments were music to my ears. This brings me to the power of brand positioning.  Brands like Target create a relationship with their customers. Their pillars and tag line underscore the brand promise and clearly communicate points of distinction that the consumer can relate to.

At CNMI, we have worked with a multitude of brands to develop value propositions, create long-term advantages and target key customer markets to build and grow revenues.

Here are some insightful questions we use to help define our client’s positioning;

  • What do you want your brand to be known for among your target audience? Do you own that positioning?
  • What advantage do you have over your competition?  
  • Does your brand position match your companies KPI’s and vision?
  • Are your branding goals realistic and attainable?
  • Does your brand relate to the consumer on an emotional level?
  • Does your brand positioning contribute to long-term growth?

To determine the answers to these crucial questions, CNMI conducts a collaborative stakeholders meeting during which we come to mutually agreed upon conclusions and action items. Then we work toward crafting a positioning for your product and/or service.

Here are some key elements to consider when crafting your positioning;

  • Your positioning should differentiate your brand from the competition. The differential cannot be based solely on price or service.
  • Consumer perceptions should play a key role in crafting your position.
  • Consider your audiences, a positioning needs to add value for both consumers and stakeholders.
  • Your brand position must be believable and consistent in all areas.
  • Your product or service position should be easy to communicate and difficult to mimic.
  • Your positioning should match your personality and image and be sustainable over a long-term business cycle.

There are many brands who have gone to or are heading toward the branding graveyard. Radio Shack, Kodak and Blockbuster come to mind. I predict Target will make a strong come back!

If you are interesting in refining or developing your brand positioning, gaining greater market share or driving revenues, contact Jodi Cross at CNMI. We may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or visit www.crossnm.com for more great marketing ideas.  


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Blitz Your Way To New Business

 

Blitz Your Way To New Business

By: Jodi Cross

When was the last time a business owner or representative came to your business and invited you to try their products or services? This is not a new concept and some would argue that sales blitzes or cold calling are no longer effective. But, it is one of the first projects I organized years ago at my hotel sales job.


Recently, CNMI worked with a client to organize a sales blitz of local accounts. The blitz resulted in almost 10K in definite business and nearly 150K in prospects. Like anything else effective results are in the planning and follow up. One thing is for sure, sales blitzes can be a lot of fun and they get people out of a business as usual slump!


Before you begin to organize, identify the key business goals, special offers and need periods. Create your special offers and leave behind collateral based on those pre-determined business goals.


Here are my four “T’s” to blitzing your way to success.


Teams Sales is everyone’s job, without it your business will not succeed. Be sure to target enough time to get all the blitz materials together and team members oriented. 15-20 days in advance is usually a good planning cycle.

  • Identify a leader- usually your head sales person is best suited to manage the efforts.
  • Create cross-functional teams by including all departments.
  • Anchor teams with seasoned sales professionals and pair them with a junior manager from another department. Cross promote specials and offers collectively.

Territories– Use Google maps or your local city and street addresses to carve out target zones with in a 10-mile radius.

  • Set anchor calls in key buildings so you don’t have any problems with security.
  • Target about 30-50 calls for your teams per day.
  • Make your appointments on slow days like Monday’s and Tuesday’s.

Theme’s/Treats-I go back to my original question of when was the last time someone invited you to do business with them and gave you a gift. In this post e-mail, Internet world many of us rarely come out from behind our computer screen let alone thank our customers personally or invite them to work with us. My background is in the hospitality industry. We are in the business to be welcoming and hospitable. What better way to make someone feel good than to thank them for doing business with you or invite them to try your services.  This isn’t unique to the hospitality industry but it certainly is one nice advantage.  Any business owner can do it. Over the holiday’s, my broker from Edward Jones actually dropped off homemade cranberry relish to my office.

  • If you are promoting holiday parties, drop of Santa cookies and wear reindeer ears. You certainly will get the office talking.
  • Perhaps you are looking for more wedding business, dress up in formal wear and leave behind wedding favors.
  • If you are in the spa business, try bringing scented aromatherapy and leave behind a token gift with a bounce back coupon valid for the next month.

You get the idea.


Tracking- All this effort will be for not if you don’t measure and track the results.

  • Set a morning meeting and nightly recap to gather the team’s cards and tracking sheets.
  • Keep a centralized report on all activities and follow up items.
  • Track revenue for all business units. Just because you were looking for catering business but ended up finding a golf member prospect that still benefits the company.
  • Develop an action item plan for follow-up that the sales team or other managers can pursue immediately while the blitz is still happening.
 

With a concerted effort and a little organization your business can see immediate results from conducting a sales blitz.

To obtain your own sales blitz tracking sheet, email Jodi Cross at jcross@crossnm.com.



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