Happy Thoughts

Actually, it’s not just thoughts, but our actions and our relationships that make us truly happy. According to the premise of the documentary Happy, a film that has (here it goes) happily made its way to Netflix streaming, our happiness is determined according to this mix: 50% genetics (you’re born that way), 10% circumstances (that new Rolex won’t make much difference) and 40% our own choices. In other words, our actions and decisions play a huge role in determining if we are walking around with a frown or grinning with glee.

As the film explains, the man pulling the rickshaw in India is as happy as the average American living in relative splendor. The Himba tribe people in Namibia have no physical wealth, but have the deep connections of family and culture that have endured millennia. They love their lives. Everyone is family, and when one is hurting, they all feel the pain. These examples and others make the film’s case.

The flip side of the coin is brutal, ugly and bleak. Illustrating unhappy is the profile of the Japanese career man who dies of karoshi, literally working himself to death, dropping dead upon receiving news of a quality problem back at the plant. Sudden cardiac arrest and instant death have become all too common in a culture that expects 3,000+ hour work years (Do the math. It’s a lot of time.) and the smallest number of vacation days in the industrialized world. (Incidently, karoshi is most common on Sundays and at the beginning of the Japanese fiscal year in April. Apparently, the thought of returning to the office on Monday morning or facing tough new quotas can kill a guy, and it’s mostly guys.)

Happiness, ultimately, is a choice. We can choose to connect with and nurture healthy, meaningful relationships with others. Family and community that act like family make all the difference.

We can play. Or we can work ourselves to death.

We can enjoy the intrinsic pleasures of activities and relationships. Or we can chase the latest brands and get ourselves into debt trying to impress the world with our bling (until we find that nobody cares).

We can care for each other, serve each other, and build a life that matters. Or we can focus solely on ourselves, wondering why that 10% isn’t making us truly happy.

Do something for yourself that could change the way you see the world, your work, your relationships, your spirituality and everything else important. See the film.

Also see this: Thank Your Way to Happiness

Bill Florin is the President and Owner of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

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Saying Goodbye

Don’t be a jerk. That’s about 98% of what you need to know about leaving your job before taking the next step in your career. The objective is to go out with class, respect for others – even if you don’t like someone – and respect for yourself. You should know most of this, but here are some quick reminders.

Intellectual Property. Remember that stack of paperwork you signed – either actual paper or electronic forms – that talked about the company’s property and secrets. They meant all that stuff. Avoid the temptation to copy and swipe information. An ethical employer is not going to be interested in facilitating or encouraging thievery, anyway. Plus, it’s just wrong.

Contacts. In our hyper-connected age of social media, you should have all of your contacts already, but you should take time before giving notice to have everything that you will need. Names, email addresses and phone numbers at a minimum. You may never see your desk again after resigning.

Proper Notice. Give at least two weeks for your employer to react, but be ready to see the door from the minute you say goodbye. Some companies will have you stick around; others want you gone ASAP.

Coworkers. Everyone has friends at work, and probably one or two that you won’t miss. Fight the urge to tell people how you feel, no matter how satisfying that may be. Chances are great that you will come to regret what you said, and it comes back to doing what’s right. Be respectful.

Be Thankful. Whether you have been with your current employer for six months or 16 years, your run there began with excitement and optimism. Chances are that you learned a lot and your company invested some time and money into developing you. Say thank you to everyone who has helped you. You will all feel great and you burnish your reputation as a professional. Win – win!

Go out with a smile and help others come to miss you and your positive professionalism. Congratulations on your new job!

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

Toxic Missile Boss

Almost everyone has a turn with a bad boss. Our careers include time with a bully, a blowhard or a borderline egomaniac, giving us all great material for cocktail party stories, but leaving us with acid reflux and shaking hands. I can think of one in my life (fortunately not a recent vintage), and maybe you can, too. The story of Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly that came out during the week of July 4th struck me, leaving me remembering my days with Godzilla. In case you missed it, here are some details about the general’s reign of terror in the US Missile Defense Agency.

O’Reilly, while considered brilliant and an expert in his field, also bullied and berated his people, at least according to the dozens of statements taken by investigators. His repertoire of supervisory torture tactics included yelling, screaming, threatening, berating, insulting and the creation of a toxic atmosphere that had subordinates either heading for the doors or shutting down in fear. O’Reilly, according to some, frequently killed the messenger.

Dealing with someone like this is one of the most challenging workplace issues, and the military command and control structure made this case that much more difficult for subordinates to navigate. In the private sector, we have more choices, but none of them are particularly easy to execute. Here are a few to consider.

Leave. Yes, this requires a job search and all of the pain that goes with it, but if your boss is that bad, it could be the best decision. The moment of resignation will be a personal victory.

Talk with the Boss. If you have the guts to do it – and we all need to find the nerve at some point – ask for a meeting and ask your boss this question: “How do you think it makes me feel when you yell and scream?” This may, of course, lead you back to option #1 above, but sometimes a direct approach is best.

Take it to HR. If your company has a functioning HR department that acts when complaints are made, this is an option. An important point to consider, though, is your performance before taking this action. You will be seen as more credible if you have good performance. If you don’t, the complaint could be seen as a smokescreen and an excuse for your own shortcomings.

Build Relationships. If you work for a larger organization, there may be opportunities to build relationships that are outside of your current boss’s area. Over time, this could lead to a job working for someone else. Or, it could give you support when the time comes to confront the bully. Finally, these relationships may give you insights about the company, your boss and the issues that you had not previously considered.

Of course, you can always read the articles about O’Reilly. Your boss probably isn’t that bad, right? That will make you feel better.

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

Give the Grumps to the Competition

No More Grumpy Employees
Let your competition have the grumpy people that hurt your business with bad customer service.

American Public Media’s Marketplace ran a Freakonomics Radio piece this week about customer service. As is true for most of their work, it was entertaining and made a great point. This week I also spoke with a long-time friend who is working with Sheetz, the Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain, as they aggressively expand in North Carolina. Both experiences had a similar theme. When you’re talking about employee quality, you get what you pay for. Pay more to get rid of the grumps.

The Marketplace story makes a simple, really an intuitive point. If employers spend more to attract and retain quality employees, they will take better care of the customers, helping beat the competition with service that drives customer loyalty. Costco and Trader Joe’s are two examples. I would add Sheetz to the list.

As my friend was describing the Sheetz environment, he explained that all employees in the organization, right down to the part-time cashier working a few hours a week, earn a bonus based on the store’s performance. If the unit hits its goals, all share in the rewards. Performance above goal juices the bonus and all get more. Deliver the goods and get more green in your pocket. Simple! The plan has created a culture where the entire team cares about sales, service and profitability. My friend also shared that they have been able to attract great employees from their competitors, hurting the other business twice with people and market share victories.

Compare that to other companies that view payroll as a cost that should be reduced whenever possible. These are the places where people work when they have no other option, but quickly abandon when better opportunities arise.

If you own or manage a business, there is a lesson to be learned. If you care anything at all about your customer’s experience, better employees matter. They will stay longer, learn more, provide better service and build a loyal customer base. When viewed as a cost to be minimized, employees at the low-wage employers will deliver quality commensurate with their pay. Business leaders, make a decision. Do you want the grumps on your team, or your competitor’s?

Bill Florin writes on business and entrepreneurism when not busy helping clients with their career marketing needs at Resu-mazing Services Company.

Sales Basics and the Job Search

Everyone is in sales. Whether you sell for a living or have to influence others in some way, you are selling ideas, products and yourself all the time. Having your eyes open to that fact will work to your advantage as you conduct a job search, and understanding some basic sales tactics can accelerate the process and get you doing what you love, your career of choice. Having worked in sales and sales management, I hope that these concepts that I have learned – some the hard way – can help you.

Use Your Network. People buy from those that they trust. The best way to become trusted is with the recommendation of a valued and respected insider. Continue to build and energize your network, helping others as you can. The day may come when you need a favor (maybe you need one now) and the investment you made in time and energy will pay dividends.

Sell What the Buyer Wants. You must understand the needs of the buyer. You are the seller, and the employer is considering buying your services. What is important to the company and what are the qualifications of the role? What is the organization’s culture and how would you fit in? Study the job posting, read the company’s website, research the organization through other sources (including insiders), and be ready to explain how you can help solve their problems. Focus on the needs of the organization and how you will be a great asset with the track record to prove it.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. If you have ever been on a sales call, as the seller, the buyer or just an interested bystander, you know that a professional sales presentation can lead to success. The presentation includes the person (dress, grooming, professionalism), sales and marketing materials (leave-behinds, brochures), the content of the presentation and asking for the sale. As you sell yourself, you need to consider and plan for your interviews and other interactions. What will you say? What material will you present? How will you follow up?

Multiple Contacts Increase Your Chances. This comes back to the point of trust. We don’t trust everyone we see from the first contact. That’s why you need to work to get your name, face, and work in front of the buyer as many times as you can and through as many channels as possible. At a minimum, this will include your initial contact, a phone interview, a face-to-face interview and follow up (thank you letter). You enhance your chances with a recommendation from an existing employee (back to your network). If you are in a less aggressive job search, consider a drip marketing campaign with potential employers, contact them once every 30 to 45 days with something of value.

Ask for the Sale. When you have gone through the process, ask for the job. Your request could be as simple as this: “I really would like to get to work helping your company capture market share. What are our next steps to me joining your team?”

Consider these sales basics when marketing yourself, and put them into practice. Understand that as you enter the labor market you are a sales person, so be great at it.

Question 2: Why Do You Want To Work Here?

Every recruiter will want to know why you have gone to the effort of applying for a position with the organization. It is a natural question and one for which you need solid answers. If you sound uncertain and unconvincing, that could be the end of the road for this job prospect. Be ready with a great answer and you could engage your interviewer in a great discussion and a chance for the prize. The following are some tips to consider as you plan your answer.

  1. Include something about the employer. This is a terrific chance to demonstrate that you have done your research about the company. If you know your stuff, you can help the recruiter appreciate that you want to be there badly enough to have done your homework.
  2. Discuss how your skills will make a difference. This is the next logical step in your answer. After you have talked about the company, talk about how your skills are well suited to the organization and its mission.
  3. If you know somebody on the inside, talk about it. This can also help in that the recruiter will know that you have a better understanding of the company than someone without that relationship. Here are two words of caution about this point, though. Be sure that your insider knows that you will mention her name. Second, think about your insider’s reputation within the company. If you are endorsed by and have a relationship with someone who is not well respected, your candidacy could take a hit.

Here is a simple example of how you could handle this. Watch for points one and two.

“While researching career opportunities, it was important for me to find a position with a company that feels as strongly about great customer service as I do. I reviewed national service rankings and narrowed my target list down to just a few companies, including this one. I want my next position to be with a company that will best benefit from my superior customer service skills and where I can have the opportunity to demonstrate that skill every day.”

With an answer like this, you have shown an awareness of the company, your critical thinking skills about your job search process, and an understanding about how your skills match the organization’s priorities and culture. You could do a lot worse than this in answering this interview question in just a few sentences.

Question 1: Tell Me About Yourself

Question 3: Tell Me About Your Greatest Accomplishment

Question 4: When Have You Failed?

What If There’s Just One Question?

Slamming the Door in Your Customer’s Face

Getting to the airport early is the first rule of travel, right? That, at least, is what the TSA pounds into our heads. Wanting to do right by the federal employees who have the authority to pat me down when I don’t want that particular experience, I always get there with plenty of time to spare. It’s important that they have time to count and scrutinize my three-ounce bottles. Last week was no different, and I had lots of time to sit, watch and listen.

If you have ever been in the Westchester County Airport (NY), you know that it is small. When waiting, travelers are sitting just feet from the gates, leaving lots of opportunity to observe airline employee behavior. Here is what happened.

Airline Gate Agent (talking into two-way radio, annoyed and impatient): “I need to close out this flight. Is the passenger almost through security?”

Voice on the Radio: “Yes, she is almost done, but she is kind of snotty.”

AGA (picking up and talking on telephone): “Go ahead and close the doors. I’m not letting her on. She is snotty and giving TSA a hard time.”

Seconds later, I could see the cargo door on the commuter jet closing. Ms. Snotty Passenger arrives after her 20 second, 30 yard journey from security screening. She quietly asks, “Am I on time to get on this flight?”

AGA, taking the opportunity to deliver a lecture, lets her have it. “Ma’am, you gave up your seat on this flight as you did not get here 10 minutes before departure time. We had to give your seat away. Please sit down and you will be on the next flight in three hours. Remember in the future that you must get here at least 10 minutes before departure.”

Ms. Not-so-Snotty Passenger accepted this answer, turned and sought out the seat that she would fill for a good portion of that afternoon. She would never know that her delay was so heavily determined by this single airline employee. Her seat had not been filled; the agent simply did not want her in it.

So what’s the point? If you own or manage a business that employs people, your best efforts at advertising and systematic customer service excellence can be snuffed out by your AGAs. What are the values that you work to teach and demonstrate, hoping that your team will make the right choices?

If you work in a service role yourself, you decide how you will behave, the actions you will take and the service you will provide. Think about what that gate agent could have done for the passenger and her company’s reputation had she said, “Ms. Passenger, please hurry. I told them to keep the door open for you so you could make it to your destination on time. In the future, be sure to get here earlier.”

Whether you work solo or in a large organization, finding ways to stretch and serve internal and external customers can make the difference between success and failure. That decision to slam the door on that one passenger was more than an inconvenience. It was a demonstration of the culture of that airline, something that will not be undone by advertising and other efforts to tell me how great that airline is. One person can make all the difference. Yes, come on board, or no, go sit down and wait.