Friday, July 15, 2005

Sometimes being Unfocused is the Risk you Need to Take

I was accused recently of being unfocused. This lady challenged me to decide whether I was a coach, a writer , or a TV personality. She couldn’t imagine that one person could do all of these well and so she told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was just probably being average at all of them.

After coming up for air and licking my wounds, I thought about it for a while and then realized that I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I love. I have been working more on a part time basis for the past few years as my son was a toddler. He’s entering kindergarten this year and am planning on going back full time this year. But because of this woman’s attempt to “kick me in the pants” to get focused on either TV or coaching, I decided to seriously evaluate.

I’ve realized that sometimes peoples’ paths aren’t on automatic pilot. Sometimes they take some incredible detours to get to where they want to go. Sometimes, bad things happen, or we mess up. I remember in my early days of giving workshops and seminars. I would leave the place and literally beat myself up mentally for the wrong things I said or didn’t say. I would feel incredibly silly or stupid at how I must have appeared to the people. I remember my face turning deep red, even when no one was around, at the mere thought of what I had said to the group in which I spoke.

Now? 10 years later? I love giving workshops because I love helping people. In all of those years, I’ve been tossed thousands of questions on coaching, communication, personalities or problems and have learned so much. I’m not stumped as easily these days and even if I am, I’m 100% certain that someone in the audience will know the answer and I’m not afraid to say that I don’t know the answer. There is a certain comfort in knowing that you don’t have to know EVERYTHING.

And then I think about the TV work I’ve done. I agree I haven’t landed the BIG ONE, which would be my own national show, but I’ve done extremely well for a person who didn’t pursue TV as a career for starters. I’ve done local reporting, anchoring, been a guest, a host, been on national TV, 20/20, QVC and pretty much could be camera ready wherever and whenever I needed to be. I love the thrill of TV and the people in the industry. It’s fun and I know now that I’ve gotten more comfortable at it.

I think about the writing that this woman thought was a waste of my time. She’s known me a year and she makes this judgment? Has she seen the dozens of notebooks that I tote around in every move of the thousands of hours that I’ve spent logging my life and my experiences? I’ve been journaling since I was 12, and haven’t stopped. Does that qualify me to write professionally? Does it qualify me to share the stories of the many wonderful people that I know? Does anyone really NEED to give me permission?

What about you? Do you have untapped dreams inside your heart that you are dying to let go? Perhaps you just don’t know how to go about letting them lose and getting them to the place of realization. I’ve been there. Sometimes you just have to jump and let the net appear.

Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t, but you will learn. And you will get better. Perhaps you are satisfied to have tried something, even if you didn’t get to the top of your game with it. Perhaps you just wanted to experience it, like the time I did 146 miles per hour around the race track during the Richard Petty Driving experience. I know I’d never want to pursue car racing on a competitive level, but the exciting experience of flying around the track that fast was a major thrill. Maybe you have one, or a dozen things that you'd just like to try. Can you imagine how fun that can be? Can you imagine if you don't do them just because other people wouldn't?

I’ve thought of all of the mavericks that are in the world and how they must have been criticized. They’ve been told they can’t do something or shouldn’t do something just because of their age, sex, race or background. They’ve been criticized for some hair brained idea, or trying new job after new job or they’ve moved from place to place, trying to find the right fit. It happens to anyone who doesn’t want to settle. It’ll happen to anyone who doesn’t want to be told how to live.

I’m one of those people. I’ve made mistakes for sure, but I’ve also been able to strike out and go on a journey that has taken me all over the country many times. I’ve had experiences that many people will never get in a life time. I’ve probably screwed up more times than most people too, but I’ve learned from my mistakes. I've tried and I've succeeded, and I've tried and I've failed. And it’s made me more compassionate. It’s made me less judgmental, and given me the ability to not have to take myself so seriously.

But being the risk taker isn’t for the faint hearted. It isn’t for the people who have the top value of security. Those people are best suited for a corporate job their whole life. But for people whose value is adventure, or experience or to challenge themselves, then being accused of being unfocused is JUST the thing that will tell you that you are on the right path. The accuser probably has met you in the middle of your journey, and not at the place where the picture all fits together perfectly.

So strike out and get in gear. Get out there and see all of the wonderful places that your heart can take you. You’ll never know who you’ll meet and where you’ll land but one thing is for sure: You won’t be having regrets at the end of your life for not trying. You’ll be playing the game of life by your rules.

And whose game is it that you’re playing anyway? Theirs or YOURS?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Are You Looking for the BBD?

Bigger Better Deal. That’s what everyone always hopes will come along. And if you are one of the few who don’t, maybe you should reconsider!

Last night I was at a happy hour gathering of a bunch of my friends. There were 14 in all and we had quite a time playing musical chairs every so often to make sure everyone got to talk with everyone. We amused many of the people on the sidelines who wondered who we were and WHY we were having so much fun. The energy was contagious!

At one point the conversation settled in on what people did for a living. Since I’m getting more and more into the recruiting and placement side of my business, it seems that everywhere I go, people want to get me their resume. They want me to keep them in mind as I find new job opportunities. At first I was secretly surprised that so many people seem unsatisfied with their current work. It’s not something that people usually talk openly about so when a certain conversation came up, I thought was quite interesting.

One of the fellows that we were with happens to work at NASCAR. He’s extremely bright, hard working and loves what he does. But his attitude about work was one that I’d love to share with many of the people that I coach or have coached, because it ensures that he’ll never be stale or stagnant in a career.

He said that he told his boss “if you think I’m not always looking for another job opportunity, you’re crazy! I’m always looking and if something better (the BBD) comes along, then I’m outta here” . He also shared with his boss that he should be the same way, and that most ambitious people are like that. His attitude is pulling him forward constantly about looking at opportunities, and its’ not sitting back complaining about the situations he has no control over. He’s a great worker so there wouldn’t be any way he’d be fired for something like this, but it’s an example of how someone can continually get ahead.

After he shared the story with us, nearly everyone at the table shared a similar story. They’re all in great jobs, making an excellent income, but none of them want to become stale with what they’re doing. They want to remain excited about their work place and the work that they do, and yet, most of them had long histories with their current employers!

The conversation went into WHERE they each wanted to work after they left Charlotte. The places that came up were: Oregon, Southern CA, East coast beach town and FL. That was me of course, because my husband and I are moving there! In every case, the job was a secondary concern to HOW they wanted to live their lives. They considered the environment or the weather as one of the most important things and what the area offered them in relation to their hobbies. Some of them wanted to move just to experience another part of the county, and some of them wanted to be close to the best athletes in the world. The draw for me is coming home to family so my son can grow up around relatives.

The other sense I got at the table last night was how fortunate every single person there felt that they had met a group of people who genuinely liked each other. Everyone there had swimming in common, even if they didn’t swim, their mate did. But everyone seemed so happy to be accepted for who they are and seemed to just love the camaraderie. I remember having groups like this in high school, college and when living in NYC, but hadn’t had this again until recently until this group came together.

So what I see, is that it isn’t MONEY that makes people happy. It isn’t their house or the clothes they wear or the jewelry they adorn themselves in. It isn’t the car that they drive. Rather, it’s being with people who accept them, working in a profession where they are respected and are able to use their talents well, and live in a place where they feel comfortable.

So ask yourself: Have you gotten content? Have you settled? Are you happy with the place where you are in life? If so, FANTASTIC! If not, then get the wheels turning and get out there and start generating action. Talk to people about what they do for a living and how they like it. Call people from college or from the “old days” to check in to see what they’re up to! Subscribe to the local newspaper of the city of your choice and call a recruiter (ME!) who can start the job search for you. And JOIN a group of people who are doing something that you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it’s scrap booking or swimming, just do something. You’ll be glad you did.

Making our decision to move was a big one, and I’ve noticed that my leap of faith has caused others to review their own life to see if they’re happy or not. I find that if you see yourself being envious of another person for making change, perhaps it’s time you made one too.

Change can be scary. Things don’t always work out. But going for the life you’ll love will always be worth it. And who knows, with a lot of persistence, you might come across that BBD!

Go for it.. and call me if you need help!

Hi mary,love what you wrote about last night on your website-- makes me think. in addition, sounds like you had a blast! ML, Charlotte, NC

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Best Bartender

Don’t you just love it when you meet a person that really stands out? It’s like that moment on American Idol when Simon predicted Cary Underwood would be the winner from the very first day he met her.

It’s like seeing Brad Pitt for the first time on Thelma and Louise and knowing that he was going to be a mega star. Its like seeing Tom Cruise in .. oh,. No.. not him again! It’s like meeting a child who is articulate at age 2 or reads at age 3. You just know that this person is special.

That’s how it is when you go to the Sonesta Resort in Key Biscayne Fl. If you find your way there, you’ll find a good looking bartender by the name of Geno. Geno is a bartender who has been at the Sonesta for almost 30 years. You’d never believe that because he looks so young!

The first time my husband Sway and I met Geno we were impressed by how quick he got to our side of the bar to welcome us and put down a couple of napkins. We were swept up into the charm of this man who obviously loved what he did for a living. Geno’s first impression is really great because he’s very attractive and is in excellent shape from running, but it’s more about his attitude. When I saw that it was GENO that made that bar what it is, I knew that I wanted to get to know more about this individual.

Sway and I sat at the bar the first time for 2 or 3 of Geno’s special drinks: The Geno Special. The Geno Special is a pina colada that has rum poured in the straw so you get a little something extra. It’s topped off with a pineapple slice and served to you by a very friendly and FAST bartender. Geno took the time to talk with Sway and I that day. We both told him about our businesses and how we came to end up vacationing at the Sonesta Resort.

Months later when we were in Miami again, we remembered the special service that we had gotten from this bartender, Geno. So, we decided that having a night or two away by ourselves would be fun, and to go back to where we felt comfortable.. back to see Geno! When we arrived at the bar, we reintroduced ourselves and Geno shook our hands, and acted happy to see us. He said to me, “how are your TV gigs coming along” and he asked Sway, “your sister works in Coconut Grove doesn’t she?”

We were blown away by his memory and I found out then that Geno has a great way of making people feel special. He remembered 1 thing apiece about each of us, and we were so happy that we have been going back to that hotel and bar now for 3-4 years! We always ask for Geno and this last trip we were disappointed to find out that Geno was on vacation. (How DARE he!? J )

I talked to Geno a bit about his rules of great customer service. Geno does speaking professionally for corporations and gets rave reviews. I’ve even talked about Geno in MY speeches, because I’m so impressed by his service.

Here are Geno’s 3 Rules of Excellent Customer Service:

People want a great product.
They want to be treated special.
They want it FAST.

That’s it! Just three rules of thumb. It sounds so easy and he certainly makes it look that way too. He is a living model of what he preaches because I can honestly say he is probably the fastest bartender I’ve ever seen, and is probably one of the fastest service people that I’ve seen in the whole state of Florida.

Geno told me that he uses peoples names to make them feel special, or he’ll remember something special about them and ask them about it. He also serves a great product at a fair price and adds his own little flair to it. Lastly, he keeps people happy and coming back by making sure they don’t have to wait for their drinks and meals. I can only imagine that Geno has done extremely well financially. I bet people tip him huge amounts because he makes everyone feel so loved.

Geno is a great model of what everyone should strive to be in customer service. I think all of us can learn a thing or two from Geno. He has a great attitude, product and service. Its fun to watch him work and it’s fun to learn from him. And who knew that you could see a great businessman in action by sitting down at a bar?

Sometimes all it takes, is a little Pina Colada!

Check out his website:

Saying I'm Sorry Can Make You Money!

A friend of mine and I were talking today as we do several days a week at the gym. We bring every, and all issues to the table.

Today, she told me about a really uncomfortable customer service issue that she had recently. She was still stewing over what happened and knew that I coach in the area of customer service so she shared the tale with me.

For her anniversary, she and her husband decided to find a romantic place to get away for the weekend. They had the grandparents take their kids and they were looking forward to just spending time together.

They found this really unusual and cool place on the internet that boasted about having TREE HOUSES. Thinking that was super cool, they booked a room for $200 a night for 2 nights. When they got to the place near Fire Mountain, NC, it was a rainy and dismal day. But they were looking forward to staying in their unusual selection of a TREE HOUSE. When they got to the room, they discovered a room that fell incredibly short of their expectations. They found a non luxury room that resembled a dorm room. The so called Tree House was actually 3 individual rooms that backed up to the office. They were able to hear everything that was going on in the office and also in the rooms that surrounded theirs. Their treehouse view wasn't terrific because of weather but directly below them outside were some dead plants in pots and air conditioners boxes.

When they mentioned it to the woman at the front desk, she said that others had also assumed that until they called to double check over the phone. My friend just booked directly on the internet and didn't call to make a reservation.

My friend Amanda, who is one of the most polished and tactful women I know, chose to make the best of a bad situation. Even though it rained all weekend and they had a miserable room that they paid $200 a night for, they enjoyed the breakfast and had fun doing other activities. But when she returned home, she wrote the hotel a letter suggesting they change the Website to make it sound more realistic. She commented on the fact that her husband had 10 of his website design associates review the website and they all came to the same conclusion, that they were marketing TREE HOUSES instead of dorm rooms.

A week or so later, my friend Amanda was excited when a letter arrived at their house. When she opened it, she was MORTIFIED that the owner of this so called resort, never expressed any sympathy whatsoever towards my friend's experience, and personally attacked my friend and suggested that she was the first person to ever not be 100% satisfied with the accomodations. She raved on and on that she COULD have read the FAQs on the website to see that it wasn’t REALLY a TREE HOUSE but it just looked OVER the trees. The letter was a 2 page single spaced letter with small print. Not only THAT, but the owner, in so many words, told them NEVER TO COME BACK again!

Now, both Amanda and her husband John were incredibly upset and angry, and rightly so. They are reasonable people and were hoping for a letter that apologized about their unmet expectations with a possible discount for them in the event they could woo them back for another visit. They were shocked that there could be someone like this in business, let alone in the service and hospitality industry!

My suggestion was to go directly to the Better Business Bureau, or the media with this juicy story. However, they feel that the lady might literally come after them with revenge.

I think of all of the times that I’ve had bad service. I’m no wall flower so when someone gives me bad service, I’m the type that will write about it, talk about it to audiences, and write the corporate CEO. On the flip side, when someone goes out of their way to offer exceptional service, I take the time to write a letter of recommendation or make sure to write good things in their suggestion box. So when I get bad service and write a letter, I’ve been comforted over and over when the person acknowledges their mistakes, or tries to make up for whatever the problems were that occurred.

It doesn’t take much training to know that if a service organization messes up in Customer service, they’ll get more with honey than with vinegar. People are forgiving, but they AREN’T forgiving when the person never admits their mistakes, or refuses to apologize for the bad service.

With all of those Mystery Shoppers on the hunt these days, and the internet full of good and bad reviews, people are going to have to WAKE UP and offer excellent and friendly service if they expect to win over the customer and keep customers happy. Customers are becoming more and more savvy about spreading information to save other people the trouble of having a bad experience. The media has played a nice role on that too and that can greatly help the customers.

So here are my tips if you’ve been cheated or taken advantaged of:

1. Speak up! Tell the manager on duty that you’ve just experienced some bad service. Try to say something nice first, but then be direct and report your experience. Good managers will apologize and do something about the situation right away. (I was at a Burger King in SC recently off of I-85, and the male cashier had dirty fingernails. I got the manager and told him how disgusting that was, and immediately the employee was sent to clean up. The manager took immediate action and I appreciated it! But I still couldn’t stomach eating the food after that gross sight!)

2. Next, go over the managers’ head. Write a letter and do a little research. Put it in writing to everyone you can find. I’ve sent letters to CEOs, VPs, Sales Directors, Board members and whoever else I could find on the internet. I “cc” all of them so they know that everyone in the corporation got the letter from me. I’ve also written to the Better Business Bureau about my situation or experience.

3. Be factual, but be blunt that you were treated wrongly. If they refuse to address the issue, then I have stated many times that I’m happy to report this to the media. I’ve stated that I hope that they’re fine with a little PR on my experience.

4. I’ve offered to them advice on what would make me happy. If a gym states that they have a 5 month cancellation policy but I never knew of it, I’ve offered to pay a 1 month cancellation fee. I’ve tried to be fair, and hope that they will also.

5. Lastly, I’ve never gotten into a shouting match or gotten emotional. It’s not personal, it’s business. I let them know that I’m concerned that their business isn’t up to par, and I expect them to rectify the situation. I do these things and I usually get results, and you will too!

So put your best foot forward if you are in customer service. The customer, while maybe not ALWAYS right, has a right to be treated with respect, fast service and a great product. If you are servicing people and can’t keep up with these three things, then find a new job or learn some new skills.

Learning how to say that you’re sorry can save you thousands of dollars if you’ve made a mistake. Its been said that you can have 100 satisfied customers who tells no one and 1 unsatisfied customer and they can share it with hundreds of people. It can save you hundreds of hours of stress too. But the best lesson is to learn from your mistakes so you won’t be getting bad results at all, you’ll be getting raves. And raves my friends, is what good customer service is all about!