I was leading a customer service exercise the other day and a woman asked for solutions on how to deter the same customer from asking for their password over and over. We crafted some solutions as a group (One of which was to make it more difficult for the person to reach her. We did NOT encourage that idea!)
In this case, sometimes people give themselves permission to forget things because the answer is so readily available somewhere else. How many phone number did you have memorized 10 years ago? How many now?
This situation reminded me there is often an emotional aspect to customer service that sometimes alludes us. It put me in mind of this story I heard from a 20-year veteran staff member from the Boston Public Library.
Every week for several months, a man would come in asking for information about radios. He seemed distant, unfocused, a little "off," Even though she repeatedly served him, he repeatedly asked for the same information. Of course, after multiple visits she became quite frustrated.
After being absent for several weeks, the man finally returned and approached her. He said, "I was on medication for the last few months. I don't remember much, but I do remember that when I was here, I was helped."
It's a touching story and a good reminder that what might seem a nuisance for us, might be priceless to someone else.
Networking is one of those things that can require a lot of effort, and yet has the potential for a huge payoff. During the New England Museum Association Conference a few weeks ago, I used much of my time looking up attendees, setting up meet and greets and then following through. That meant introducing myself, telling my story, listening and sharing thoughts on the state of the industry.
I had to pull out a skill I hadn't used in awhile; a simple blueprint to maximize your impression and what you get out of the conversation: Ask It, Show It, Know It.
It may seem counterintuitive when you are trying to make a solid connection with a potential business partner, but your goal should not be to brag about your resume, but rather to ask questions and soak up as much information as you can. Ask about their work, their strengths, their challenges, their successes, what they do when they are not working, what do you have in common. A natural opening will come soon enough, and then you can tell your story. Really? Yes. Good question.
Learn as much as you can about the person you want to meet. Look online, talk to peers, read their bio in the program. You want to come to the conversation armed with relevant talking points and to demonstrate a competence that will get their attention. Remember, it’s networking so you don’t just want to make a good impression on them, but that they will remember you when talking to their colleagues.
"Hey, you know who would be perfect for this job? The woman I met at the conference!"
This is the time to telegraph your passion. Most people who network want to make an industry connection, collaborate, increase their knowledge, find a mentor or a protégé, or simple talk shop. Tell them why you love your job and what personal satisfaction you get out of it. Love your work, your projects, your goals…and let it show.
So, the next time you are at networking event, or a party, or a conference overwhelmed by how to make first contact with important people – just remember it’s as easy as Ask It, Show It, Know It.
We throw around the phrase “active listening” a lot in the business world. It's short hand for concentrating, understanding, responding meaningfully, and then remembering the conversation. That can be a challenge, but for the most part we get it right. But what happens if there is more than one voice? How do you manage the different ideas and unique lines of thought?
I sometimes lead an exercise creatively called “story.” Half a dozen participants stand in a line. I point at each of them one at a time and they make up a story, picking up where their colleague left off. Everyone shares the role of the narrator.
It’s collective storytelling, which means in order to tell a coherent story there needs to be collective listening. (For some reason the stories almost always involve dogs. I don’t know why. Someone look into that.)
There are challenges to this practice though. For example, it can be really tempting to throw in your own twist – or as we call it in the business world, "Hey, look at me!"
Once upon a time there was a dog…
…that loved running through the forest…
…and chasing squirrels…
…and then he blew up!
That non-sequitur is the equivalent of jumping to a new agenda item during a meeting, or skipping to the exciting reveal of a client pitch. "Story" quickly demonstrates the need for collective active listening, or, “honoring the intention" of who came before you.
Where was my colleague going with this? What’s the next obvious thing that needs to be addressed? How can I support that idea. It’s sharing the narrative. It’s sharing the story.
Actively tracking each piece of the conversation and being inspired by your team will lead you to a better place. You are literally moving the agenda…pitch…meeting…brainstorming session, in the same direction, with the same intention.