Monthly Archives: July 2011

Power Words in Difficult Conversations

29 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

Have you ever seen the person you were speaking with shut down in reaction to something you said?  The words you choose can make a huge difference.

Be aware of these powerful words and use them carefully and purposefully:

1. No – “No” stops people in their tracks.  It puts up a wall.  It closes down communication.  Even if you disagree or feel the answer is “No,” you can sometimes still answer “Yes” and clarify the conditions in your response.  For example, the employee asks, “Can I have a $5/hour raise?  You could say, “No way!”  Or you could say, “I’m glad to see your drive.  Here’s what I would need to see in order to give you a raise of that size.  You would need to increase your production by 200%, train new people in the position and be a leader on our annual project.”

2.  Yes – At the same time, “Yes” is extremely powerful as well.  It makes people happy to talk to you.  It opens doors.  It opens communication.  If there is any way you can be honest and forthright and say “Yes,” do so.

For example, “Yes, I’d be happy to look at that.

Let’s find 10 minutes next week,” is much better than saying, “I’m too busy and can’t look at that right now.”  That would cause them to feel unimportant, no matter how busy they know you are.

3. You – It’s almost impossible to start a directive sentence with the word “You” without it feeling like you are pointing a finger.

An example: “You need to fix that problem.”   Instead you might say, “I’d like to see you take on that challenge.  Why don’t you give it a try and if you’re struggling come see me to ask me some questions.”

4. Why – “Why” can be a pushy sort of word, even if you don’t mean it to come across that way.

An example: If I asked you, “Where did you go to college?”  You tell me where, and I ask, “Why?”  You say, “Because I liked it there when I visited.”  I say, “Why?”  Eventually, you start to feel as if I am being critical of your decisions.  Use the other “W” words if at all possible to ask the same question, but in a less pushy way.  “What made you decide to attend that college?”  “When did you make a decision on which college to attend?”  “Where else did you consider attending?”

5. But – When you put “but” in the middle of a sentence, you are usually saying that one half of the sentence is a lie.

An example: “I really like that idea, but it won’t work.”  “That’s a great idea, but…” is essentially saying that it is not a good idea.  Replace the “but” with a pause or an “and.”  “That’s a great idea, and I’d like to explore the details a bit more, including the cost of implementation.”

6. Their name – Everyone likes the sound of their own name.  I realized the other day just how little I ever said my best friend’s name.  You tend to just talk if you are around someone a lot.  Getting someone’s attention by using their name is powerful and will start the conversation on a positive note.

Have you ever responded powerfully to one of these words?  Maybe you bristled when someone told you “No!” or started a statement with the word “You.”  On the other hand, maybe you felt good when you heard the word, “Yes,” or someone used your name when they were speaking with you.  Do you use these power words often and well?

Laziness is often a Misnomer

22 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

Managers use laziness as a reason why employees don’t do a good job or complete tasks they are assigned.  Maybe you have uttered the accusation, “(S)he’s just lazy!”  Some believe that people in general are lazy

I couldn’t disagree more! People are passionate, driven and intelligent beings!  We even see those with great physical and mental limitations accomplish great things. (Like the world-renown pianist who has only four fingers total!)


That drive to contribute, accomplish and succeed is in every person – it may just be buried deeply behind a lifetime of bad experiences, of hearing words that beat up the self-confidence and a barrage of media messages that promulgate mediocrity.

Any employee who works for you has worked other places before, has interacted with friends and family, and has received messages about what they can accomplish and what is acceptable and expected – for years.

Laziness is defined as averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion and slow-moving and sluggish.  Why would someone act this way?

1. Failing to do the work in a previous job did not bring any negative results and they continued to get a paycheck.  They watched others work hard and get paid the same thing or be given more work to do.

2.  They’ve worked hard in the past to reach a particular goal and failed, received harsh criticism for doing so, and were not given any coaching or a second chance.

3.  They have grown up in a generation who believes they are entitled to a great life and it’s easy to get there – just watch TV and pay attention to the messages, and it’s no surprise.

4.  They have never found their passion, gotten really excited about the mission or goals of a company and have never had a leader that connected with them enough to ignite this excitement.

5.  No one has ever “forced” them to be successful, by pushing them out of their comfort zone and providing a safety net to assist in their success.

6.  They have never worked with a boss who took the time to get to know them, what is important to them and where they are coming from – in order to help them feel part of the team and work to their strengths.

I’m sure there are many reasons why someone would appear “Lazy,” and these are just a few.  Below are suggestions of how you, as the manager, might address an employee who acts lazy for these reasons.


1.  No negative results in the past. Ensure you are clearly setting expectations, explaining consequences and holding them accountable.  Take the time to provide the routine accountability, insist they report on their successes and failures and require they give you an idea of what they can do differently to continue to improve.

2.  Past failures. Celebrate success and hard work.  Even little bits of success and small steps in the right direction should be acknowledged by you – as should little failures and small steps in the wrong direction – receive coaching and redirection.

3.  Entitlement. Realize that your employees may have a different mindset, and may not have grown up in a strong environment to teach them otherwise.  Do you as the manager have to act like a parent?  In the role of imparting values, yes, sometimes you do.

4.  Lack of Passion. Share the mission and goals, get them talking about them (notice I did not say that you should talk about them), require they come up with good ideas and show them through leading by example what passion looks like (this means all your managers need to do so, not just you if you are the top dog).

5.  Force Success. No matter how small, require they do tasks and activities outside their comfort zone, check in with them before they have a chance to fail to redirect them if necessary, and help them to taste success!  Your involvement will become less as time goes on.

6.  Bad boss. The best bosses expect great things, demand excellence, impart passion and excitement and most importantly, connect with their people.  They realize that the best processes and systems in the world will have limitations if they cannot engage their people.  Engaging them means taking the time to build a relationship, but a relationship is a two way street – they also insist the employee does their part!

Have you had an experience where you thought an employee was lazy, but were able to uncover a great employee using techniques like those listed above?


Top 3 Myths of Motivating Others – Do you talk too much?

12 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

People motivate themselves.  However, there are things that leaders can do to facilitate the process.  But first, let’s examine a few common myths.

People get motivated by an energetic, enthusiast leader. Some people do, and some just find that level of energy annoying or downright exhausting.  (If you do, you’re probably an introvert who would find great information in reading The Introvert Advantage, a great book recommended by a friend years ago.)  This energetic leader may get others excited about what they are doing, but rarely will this excitement alone result in the person displaying lasting motivation.  And, it can be very difficult for a leader to maintain that enthusiasm level, when they are expected to be the fuel for everyone’s fire all the time.

People get motivated by fear of repercussions. I read once that people would much rather experience all kinds of terrible repercussions than go through the painful process of changing their behaviors.  And over and over I see that is true.  If it’s easy to change their behaviors just enough to not get fired, people may do that, but never will they be motivated by their fear to do any more than the minimum.

People get motivated by hearing how important it is to get things done. It’s true that people are motivated when they are excited about the expected results, ambitious goals and the vision and mission of the organization.  However, the motivation does not necessarily appear because they heard about the expected results or vision/mission.  Very few people will become motivated for longer than a brief time when they hear something.

Most people will agree that those who are motivated do things. defines motivating others as “to stimulate toward action.”  There is a long distance between hearing something and doing it.

Therefore, in order to get others motivated, you need to find a way to get them TO TALK and TO DO.  And ensure they experience success, however small, as a result.

To Talk and To Do:

1.  Stop Talking. If you want to get a message across, speak some and then stop.  Ask questions and have a conversation which includes getting the other person talking.  Talking about the importance of the project/task, the possible methods for getting it done, the obstacles they see, the fears they have and the first steps they will take.

2.  Make First Steps Happen. In order to get started, some people need to be “forced” to take the first step, possibly because of fear of the unknown or perfectionist tendencies which lead to procrastination.  Laziness is often a misnomer.  As their manager, you might have to determine the first step with them, decide on a deadline and hold them to it.  When they experience success, their motivation level will increase.

What successes have you experienced in motivating others?  What challenges do you face?  Do you talk too much in your efforts to motivate others?  Are you effective at holding others accountable?

Your Nemesis & the Battle Plan

08 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

Your Nemesis – that one thing in your business that continually haunts you and inhibits your success. Identify it and Battle it.

Maybe this situation describes where you are right now: You are experiencing success. You have a good team. You have a plan to get better, to grow, to expand and to reach 2011 goals. But something is holding you back from the greatness you could achieve. Although you can picture even more success, it seems to be just out of reach.

Maybe just when things are good, you have turnover in your team and that slows you down.  Maybe when sales are being closed left and right, you lose a large existing customer and the back door seems as open as the front door. Maybe although your employees do a good job, there are just enough errors to make the fire-fighting a significant part of your week. Maybe your employees do what you ask, but don’t seize opportunities they see and add to the potential of the team. Maybe everyone does a good job, but there is tension between key managers or key employees. Maybe… The list could go on.

What is it for you that keeps you from achieving an even greater level of success that you know you could or that your boss is demanding that you do?

What to do? Identify your Nemesis and Correct it.

Identify Your Nemesis. Finish this sentence: “In an ideal world, we would…” At some point we all let mediocrity take over. Even successful companies rest on their laurels in certain areas or at a certain point in their success. Reach back to what you really want to accomplish and determine what is in your way to achieving that.

Then summarize your quality issues, fires fought, frustrations for you as a leader, expectations not met and customer complaints in the first half of the year. Pinpoint common themes and the root causes behind them. What is the problem or challenge that repeatedly comes up? What is your Nemesis?

Correct it. If this problem or issue was easy to correct, you would have done it already, it wouldn’t be recurring and it wouldn’t be your Nemesis.

How to correct a Nemesis? You’ve got to come up with a battle plan. If you want to win against your enemy in battle, try these tactics:

Know your enemy better than they know themselves. A quick look at a recurring problem and an easy solution is not the answer to address something that recurs consistently. Your Nemesis will only be addressed if you really understand it. What is the problem? What is the root cause? How is it affecting us? When does it occur? What have we done to try to correct it? What are best practices in our industry? Why does it occur? How does each person contribute?

Arm yourself with the right weapons. When you know the enemy/problem well, you learn how it fights, what makes it occur and you must identify how to attack it with what it won’t expect. This may mean your managers need new and different tools in their leadership tool box, new technologies or software, or good old fashioned face time with customers, vendors, colleagues or employees.

Attack with the element of surprise and destroy the enemy’s will to fight. In business, this means that you can’t just try the same old approaches and expect they will fix a long term problem. You might need to do something a little crazy. Although it’s hard to “destroy the will” of a turnover problem, the other side of that is your team being committed enough to fixing the problem that they stay focused and committed. When you are successful, the risk is that your team will tell you, “We’re successful. We are doing great. Why upset the applecart by addressing this issue – it’s just part of doing business in our industry. It’s always been that way. Our competitors face the same issue.” And on and on. A true Nemesis takes a lot of courage to fight because it’s a long term problem that may be seen as acceptable.

Fight on the terrain where you are strongest. In the Bible, the Israelites win a battle with foot soldiers against chariots because they are in a valley deep with mud. Use your strengths and your team’s talents and abilities to engage the problem.

You and your team can accomplish greatness! What is standing in your way? Identify your Nemesis and work diligently to correct it.

Can you not see the forest for the trees? A true Nemesis in your business is not easily discovered or corrected. Sometimes it requires a set of eyes from the outside. Someone outside your company can often lead you through the analysis and resolution of a long term, recurring problem. Contact Bridget if you’d like to talk about setting up a company meeting or team retreat to take your company to the next level.

What does Top-of-the-Line Service Look Like in Your Industry?

01 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

In the May 2011 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine, The Best in Business Travel article compared different levels of hotel service, and the description of top-of-the-line Premium service was inspiring!

It described how the hotels in this class remembered a guest’s allergy to feathers and adjusted the bedding, remembered his favorite wine and provided it complimentary, provided an outdoor temperature reading in the room so the guest could dress appropriately, had an enormous fitness center with 30 complimentary classes per week, delivered comic books instead of a newspaper because of the guest’s offhanded remark, and made a special trip to purchase a case of a guest’s preferred type of bottled water.

While I have never held a job in this top of the line hospitality environment, I think it would be incredibly fulfilling.  Or can we provide this level of service in every one of our businesses? Logistically, it requires two things to excel in service – employee time and resources (labor costs) and money (to purchase preferred wine, bottled water outside of a purchase agreement, etc.).  Many businesses, if they don’t charge premium prices, don’t have the revenue or profit margin to add awesome customer service perks.

So, unless you are a 5-star hotel or a Nordstrom’s, are you out of luck?

Ask yourself, “What is it that the guests really like about this Premium service?”   In order to answer that question, we need to look at two types of premium service that I have experienced:  Perks Service and Custom Service.

Perks Service – This is where every amenity is present.  Anything that you think of is readily available at no additional charge.  From the example above, that would be the 30 complimentary fitness classes a week.  This level of service is expensive to provide because each of these perks cost the company money, but the return on investment can be significant depending on your product and your customers.

Custom Service – This is where the customer service is tailored to each customer’s needs and wants.  This requires that we listen to each customer to hear what they really want and what is important to them.  From the example above, this is delivering the guest’s favorite wine or comic books that they mentioned the last visit.

Both levels of service require that we listen to the customer.  The Perks Service requires we listen to them as a group and offer what is important to our customer base as a whole.  The Custom Service requires that we listen to an individual, remember what they’ve said and deliver that customized service next time we interact with them.  This is more difficult, more often overlooked, can have a tremendously powerful impact and has the potential to cost a lot less to implement than the Perks Service.  But, it requires that you hear and remember what the customer says.

Listening is like riding your bike next to someone who is walking.  You can think at 400 words per minute and most people speak about 100 words per minute.  The danger in listening is that your brain is thinking about something else with that excess capacity.

It doesn’t cost anything to listen to someone, and often it doesn’t cost much to customize the service they receive to some degree.  Where are those opportunities in your business and your industry?