My three rules to live by
Laugh at yourself once in a while. It is what you do, not who you are.
I have worked in customer service for years before I moved into business, product and people development. The first couple of years were very intimidating, when dissatisfied customers would call and simple let me have it. Often times, I felt personally threatened or at least attacked. As a result I would try defending mine or the company’s position, which occasionally lead to the proverbial pouring oil into the fire scenario. By staying on the defensive side, the customer would think I did not care and thus give him even more to yell about. Which in turn, lead me to dig in even further. Quite a while back, I realized that this is all about your own mental approach of separating what it is you do for living, from who you are as a human being. What are customers really mad about? In almost 99% of the cases people are mad about everything else but you personally. Look up and start laughing at yourself, or at least do not take yourself too seriously. Sometimes, we get so entangled in our daily lives, that we take us and our oh-so-important problems way too serious. Customers usually do not take well to taking yourself too serious during a telephone conversation, as they called to get their problems addressed, and not yours. I tried this theory out many times. The once very polarized situation now got defused by me staying focused on the customer’s issues, regardless of how bad they sometimes vented. It is about what you do, not who you are!
Rather be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt
This rule I picked up along the way of getting promoted all the way into management functions at work. With the added responsibilities, came mostly a steady diet of meetings. Meetings have become a staple of my daily schedule. All these people gatherings have a profound key denominator; they are based on personal interaction. The part I was struggling with the most, was to listen what was being said. Unfortunately, proper listening skills do not get taught in high school or during apprenticeship and I did not come prepared with the genes for it either. It was also not part of the on the job training program. So in one-on-one as well as large group meetings, I used to jump to conclusions, rather than to just listen for everyone to finish the points they were trying to make. This was a very foolish thing to do. In hind sight, I should have sat on a rock, and thought about my actions a lot earlier. But right around 5 years ago, during a quiet minute at home, I reflected on a meeting that had gone bad. I asked myself what I could have done better. This is when I realized my habitual mistake, of cutting off other people’s conversations. Changing this habit was tough but worth the effort. It remains a daily struggle, but I manage to this much better now than ever. So can you!
Choose your attitude! Be there! Play! Make their day!
The phrases above are part of a rule that I keep honing and refining throughout my life. They key to success in life is your own motivation and morale, as well as that of i.e. your family, friends, peers and people that you maybe in charge of. A while back, I was watching a motivational and morale boosting tape called “Fish”. It was designed to be shown to employees but it did not feel right to me. Leader-manager should study and own this first before they ask their folks to follow suit. It struck a chord with me, as I finally was able to express in short terms, where motivation comes from. To me it always starts with you. Choose your attitude well after you get up in the morning. This is a simple yet effective mind game; it really is your choice to either feel upbeat, or be moping around all day. Usually, everyone will most likely be impacted by, if not mirror, your attitude. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. “Be there” is all about paying attention, while someone is trying to communicate with you. Have you ever done it? It sounds simpler than it is. After all, most of our interactions are caused by interruptions from people who just want a “minute” of your time. It is much simpler to half listen and to keep on going with whatever you may be doing at the time. But it shows no or little respect to your counterpart. But respect is what every one of us craves. Also, respect is a keystone of keeping up a high spirit. So give them what they need, without dilution. “Play” deals with having fun during the day and committing acts of random kindness. Jokes, even pranks or practical jokes go a long way to loosen up our daily, dreary grunt work. “Make their day” is sprinkling a dash of servant leadership around you. Do things no one expects you to do. Walk in someone else’s shoes for a while; realize how tough her or his job is. It really helps staying focused on what is important in life.
What are your key rules? Ponder them daily!