Tagged: Philadelphia Business Journal Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • feedwordpress 19:28:34 on 2017/12/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Philadelphia Business Journal, Sorry   

    Do you believe these men are ashamed of their behavior? One former Philadelphia TV reporter doesn’t. 

    Saying I’m sorry is becoming overused. Today Show morning host Matt Lauer is sorry. CBS morning anchor Charlie Rose is sorry. Actor Kevin Spacey is sorry. Senator Al Franken is sorry. Movie producer Harvey Weinstein says he’s sorry. Because the word sorry is used so often when someone admits doing something wrong, it has lost is power.

    In our business, we have always advised clients in trouble to apologize if they erred and if they were genuinely sorry.  Saying I’m sorry acknowledges vulnerability and humility. However, when it’s heard too often, it begins to sound insincere and void of any real meaning.

    That’s why I find it interesting that “I’m sorry” is now being accompanied with two new words; ‘ashamed and embarrassed’. The growing list of powerful men accused of inappropriate workplace behavior say they’re “ashamed and embarrassed” that they’ve let people down.

    Should we weep now or hold our tears for a more appropriate moment? I don’t believe for a second these men are ashamed or embarrassed about their behavior. They are ashamed and embarrassed that their behavior is now public. The real shame is for the people these men allegedly harassed who have been living in silence all of these years for fear that their careers or reputations would be damaged.

    Harassment in the workplace is nothing new. What is new, is that people, especially women, are now empowered to speak out. It doesn’t matter how long ago something inappropriate happened. Survivors are regaining power by stripping power from high-profile men who apparently made their own rules. What is new, is what some once laughed away as ‘boys will be boys’ is no longer an acceptable thought process. What is new is that “I’m sorry” is no longer and should no longer be enough.

    A quick unofficial survey of my professional female friends and colleagues reveals that almost all of us have been the victims of inappropriate male behavior. It may have been a touch in an inappropriate place or language that was sexually explicit.

    As a younger television news reporter, I would come home and recount some of the things that happened or were said in newsrooms I worked in. Horrified, my husband used to say if this happened in his office, these men and women would have been fired. He would urge me to report them. In most instances, no one would have done anything about it.

    I recall a television videographer graphically recounting his sexual experience with a woman he was dating. Given we were in a news van traveling at a high rate of speed, I couldn’t get out. I repeatedly told him I was not interested, and he had crossed the line. He just laughed. There was no one to report him to because he would have denied it. It would have been his word against mine.

    In my day, television newsrooms were often synonymous with bad behavior. Inappropriate conduct that didn’t make the news was almost the norm. It wasn’t just sexual advances or inappropriate flirting. It was intimidation, aggressive behavior and a barrage of obscenities hurled at individuals. It was putting someone down in front of others, reducing them to tears.

    I once worked for a news director who threw his typewriter through the plate glass window of his office as the staff was readying for the evening news. The newsroom stopped. Everyone looked up. Then, as quickly as the glass had shattered, everyone resumed working as if the outburst had never occurred.

    Don’t get me wrong; there were many trustworthy ethical people in the multiple newsrooms I worked in. But, like a fast-moving virus, it sometimes felt like the few people with bad values contaminated the entire space.

    I recall an evening that I was asked to cover a specific story. Due to medical reasons and a note from my doctor, I was unable to go. The night time editor cursed at me, called me names, insinuated I was a liar and then proceeded to criticize my qualifications and questioned how I was ever hired.

    Visibly shaken, I called my boss, explained what happened and told her I was going to file a complaint with human resources. The next day, she cautioned me not to ‘make this a big deal’. She said she would talk to him, but he probably didn’t mean anything and was just doing his job. She said if I made waves, it would come back to haunt me. She was the only woman in management and on a fast track to move up the ladder. She didn’t want me to get involved, because she didn’t want to be involved.

    Different times. Different standards. Yet, cultures of silence and fear still exist today.

    While NBC says they had never had a single complaint against Matt Lauer in all his years at the network, I find it difficult to believe that no one even had an inkling that he may have misbehaved. If he did what multiple people said he did, then many must have known about it. They were simply too afraid of him to complain.

    Since Harvey Weinstein was first accused of sexual assault and harassment, three dozen men have been accused of varying degrees of misconduct. Chances are, more complaints will surface. The question the rest of us face: will we become de-sensitized to these accusations as we have to societal violence and other unfortunate but common occurrences?

    Change is always slow, but change can lead to improvement. At the Today Show, CBS, Netflix and other companies who have come under fire for the bad behavior of their employees, we are witnessing management doing the right thing to reinforce what their organizations stand for.

    The immediate firing, publicly communicating and not tolerating this kind of behavior shows us that as organizations, they are the ones who are sorry, ashamed and embarrassed that this has happened under their watch.
    In the past, an apology and statement saying what your business stands for often made things go away. Today, it’s one thing to say what you stand for or have your core values printed on posters that are plastered on walls around the office. It’s something entirely different to enforce those values.

     
  • feedwordpress 22:26:31 on 2017/11/26 Permalink
    Tags: Philadelphia Business Journal,   

    Don’t put words in someone’s mouth. 

    I agreed to do a radio interview about challenges that small businesses face. Only, when the hosts called a few minutes prior to the live interview, I knew I had probably made a mistake. They were throwing out a few F-bombs, trying to sound like shock-jocks and clearly knew nothing about my new book or business, which was why they invited me on their show. I realized it was their shtick and given we teach people how to turn communications to their advantage, I was confident, perhaps over-confident, that I could handle it.

    It started out well. I interjected tips to become a more compelling communicator, specifics for small businesses and provided examples that I knew listeners would relate to. Then, one of the hosts asked: “what is the biggest challenge in your business”?

    I replied that the challenge for all businesses, large or small is to stay current and relevant. Specifically, I explained, as technology changes by the second, it’s tough to keep on top of everything. I said that’s why it’s important for business owners to have partners and reach out to others who can help.

    That’s when she said: “So, what I hear you saying is that you don’t feel relevant anymore.” What? Did I say that or was she putting words in my mouth? Rather than appear defensive, argumentative or repeat her negatives, I responded like this.

    “We pride ourselves on being relevant because we work hard at staying current and constantly reinventing ourselves, challenging ourselves so we are the best we can be for our clients.” I reiterated that it is critical to stay on top of change and look for new ways to address client challenges. I said, “We are constantly creating new content, materials and how-to-videos to stay current.”

    That’s when she said she’d like to offer me advice about my business. I am always open to advice and learning something new, but I was a little leery to accept it from a radio host who put words in my mouth and I wasn’t sure even knew what we did. However, I was on live radio so I said “sure”.

    She told me that I should hire young people right out of college and have each one of them shadow the coaches who work for me. Considering our coaches have extensive communications experience, multiple awards and provide communication guidance to senior executives, I wasn’t sure why she was offering this suggestion.

    She said the young people could learn from the experienced people and say what they say. I explained that knowing what advice and guidance to provide comes from experience, not following a script or repeating someone else’s words. Then she suggested they could improve our social media footprint to which I said, “We’re very active on social media. Is there something you observed that we can do better?” She hadn’t visited any of our social media channels but said she was offering this advice because “You said you didn’t feel relevant”.

    I wanted to blast her and hang up, but that would have become the focus of the story and I would have appeared argumentative. Instead I said “Please don’t put words in my mouth. That’s what you said, not what I said”. She started to interrupt and this time I cut her off. It went something like this.

    “You invited me on your show to discuss the challenges that small businesses face and based on running my firm for two decades, you asked me to provide solutions that may be helpful for your listeners. Instead, you are twisting my words, offering your own advice when you seem to have no real understanding of our business and I clearly made a mistake accepting your invitation. So, we can end the interview now or you can allow me to speak to the challenges of your listeners.”

    There was silence and more silence until she said, “Oh sure, go ahead”.

    Assuming you know how someone else feels or what they think can backfire on you especially if that someone calls you on it. Sometimes, it’s not even what the person is saying, but rather how they are saying it. What if she had asked, “Do you ever feel irrelevant?” Or what if she had said, “Have you had specific experience that made you feel less relevant and what did you do about it?” That takes someone off the defensive and they will likely respond less defensively. Assuming how someone else is feeling and projecting your words onto them will shut down any communication.

    In an article about divorce published in Psychology Today, author Michele Weiner Davis says, “The words we choose can mean the difference between loving, constructive conversations.” She says, “It’s important to say what you want to say in a way that someone else can hear you and not become defensive.” Even if the person thinks you are over-reacting to what was said, she advises backing up a step or two and trying again, using different words.

    The same is true in business. Asking questions prompts two-way conversations and indicates you are truly interested in someone else’s opinion.

    Eventually I did discuss the challenges I believe small businesses face. Here are my top three:

    1. TECHNOLOGY

    Keeping up with technology, having the right systems in place to prevent breaches and having the right tools available to market and grow your business remains a top challenge. Making the right choices and having the right partners is critical.

     

    1. IMPROVING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

    Improving customer experience and staying current to keep your customers is key. That means launching new products, creating new content and being open to change to deepen existing relationships and create new ones.

     

    1. ATTRACTING NEW TALENT

    Looking for ways to attract people with skills that can contribute to the business and be a good match for clients. It’s also important to make sure those who have worked with you for a long time continue to feel valued and appreciated.

     

    When the interview was over, surprisingly, the host said, “That was a great interview, thanks for the advice.” Trying to be gracious, I thanked her in return. The interview wasn’t great because of me. It was great because she stopped talking, started listening and stopped trying to assume what someone else was thinking.

     

    We had a real conversation that was focused on helping her listeners.

     

     
  • feedwordpress 22:40:41 on 2017/09/19 Permalink
    Tags: Philadelphia Business Journal   

    Customer Service Reps Don’t Always Deserve a Bad Rap 

    I think people who make service calls get a bad rap. Some, more than others. Yet, if you really stop to think about it, I bet you’d be hard pressed to count the bad ones on one hand. That includes Xfinity, everyone’s favorite whipping company.

    Just this week, we had numerous service repair people to our home. The dryer was replaced. The air conditioner needed a tune up. A couple of people came out to give us an estimate on a water heater and Xfinity was in the neighborhood checking out an issue. They couldn’t have been nicer or more professional.

    Yet, according to a recent survey by Health magazine, customer service rep jobs are among the most stressful in America, on par with 911 operators. How can that be?

    I would think there are two factors. There is the rep you talk to by phone and the one that shows up at your door. On the phone, it’s easier to be a jerk. After being switched to various departments, being asked to repeat and re-enter the same information multiple times, being put on hold only to be disconnected, then having to call back and start the process all over again, angry frustrated customers can’t help but lose their call. Furthermore, it’s easier to blast someone you can’t see or interact with.

    In person, most of us are a bit more polite to the smiling visitor with an outstretched hand that you invite into your home. We can show these people what the problem is and we watch them, sometimes for hours, working hard to make things right for us again. Furthermore, phone representatives are taught to put up with our rude condescending behavior. If we resort to cursing them out, the worst that will happen is they’ll hang up. When we threaten someone face-to-face, we may risk a physical confrontation.

    Personally, I would not want the stress of being a customer service representative. Most, whether by phone or in person are genuinely trying to help you. Like any other profession, some are better than others. In today’s highly competitive environment, these people are getting squeezed from multiple sides. Managers are pushing them to take more calls, cut call times and sell more services. They also put reps through sensitivity training so they learn how to handle irate customers, even when these customers are completely out of line.

    We’ve conducted some of those trainings for construction workers, tree engineers and utility companies. Most people tell us they genuinely want to help solve people’s problems. Yet, the stories they share are chilling.

    Electric company workers are required to trim trees away from power lines to keep customers safe. One worker told us a customer threatened him with a knife because he didn’t want his tree touched. Utility workers frequently tell tales of angry dogs coming after them. Water department workers have similar stories even when they are working tirelessly to repair main breaks and restore water service. There have even been reports of customer service reps who have killed themselves due to the stresses of the job.

    As a result, companies are trying to help these employees. Nordstrom has created quiet rooms for people to meditate. Call centers have hired on-call psychiatrists. Other companies bring in massage therapists and conduct stress relief workshops. Our sensitivity training programs are focused on communication; how to communicate with angry customers, techniques to diffuse conflicts, body language and better listening skills. You can’t change someone’s obnoxious behavior, but you can change your response to that behavior.

    Regardless of the interaction, over time, people forget the specifics of what happened, but they never forget how the service representative made them feel. Just last month, I flew coast-to-coast on American Airlines. From less leg room to missed connections, to seat snafus, people are quick and often justified when complaining about today’s air travel experiences. Many of these stories even make news headlines. I fly a lot and have also had some of these experiences.

    Yet, on my flights, there are more good experiences than bad. One of the flight attendants on that American flight was exceptional: funny, personable and warm. I filled out a form on the airline’s website to recognize her for outstanding customer service. Most of us and I include myself, are far more likely to complain than compliment.

    So, whether you are the customer or the representative, here are a few tips that work for both sides.

    1. Word Choice. The words you use matter. Instead of “we can’t do that”, try “unfortunately, that is not a service we offer, however here is what we can do for you”. Now the message is positive and it’s about them, not you.
    2. 2. Take Responsibility. Customers want you to tell them how you will fix their problems. They don’t care about yours. Instead of “our vendor had an issue which prevented us from getting your service restored quickly’, try “let me see what I can do for you” or “here is what we are doing to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
    3. Shut Up and Listen. My first book was titled Shut Up and Say Something. In this case, the opposite is true. If someone is angry, let them vent without interrupting. When they are finished, instead of responding with a robotic pre-scripted answer, ask pointed questions that help them further explain the problem so you come across as someone who truly wants to help them fix it. If you’re the complaining customer, come up for air so the rep can ask questions and help you solve your problem.

    Thanks in part to technology making it easier to reach people, today’s consumers have high expectations and short fuses when it comes to customer service. While no one has a right to treat anyone disrespectfully, when someone has a bad experience, posts to social media can tarnish your reputation faster than ever before.

    That said, word of mouth still goes a long way. Just today, I phoned a hotel chain, annoyed that I had submitted receipts and done exactly what the customer service representative told me to do, to receive a refund for a problematic stay at one of their properties. Despite repeated emails, I never heard back or received confirmation that my request was being processed.

    So, I called. When I was rerouted to the second department who said they’d have to transfer me to someone else, the representative sensed my annoyance and frustration. She apologized, asked me questions and listened. Then she stayed on the line and resolved the problem even though it wasn’t her responsibility. She surprised me by awarding me bonus points toward my next stay.

    While I’m not posting to social media, I was so pleased that I told my mother and my son and my husband and some friends. I will book a room at this hotel chain again and thanks to word of mouth, so will they.

    If you want your company to truly stand out, make sure exceptional customer service is center stage.

     
  • feedwordpress 19:32:34 on 2017/08/29 Permalink
    Tags: fake news, , , news, , Philadelphia Business Journal   

    Fake news is nothing new 

    If you’re like me, you probably hate political ads. There are the people who claim, if elected, they will solve all your problems. Others blame their opponents for the world’s ills. Then there are the special interest groups that raise tons of money to tell you why their message is the right one. Are these messages real or is fake?


    Many years ago, I ran for political office and had a front row seat to the process. I was fresh off a career as a television news reporter when a political party asked me to throw my hat in the ring. I had two things going for me:

    1. I had name recognition.
    2.The man who held the seat they wanted me to run for was in trouble for allegedly publicly pummeling his girlfriend.

    What I didn’t know is what I didn’t know. Elected officials would call me in the middle of the night to vent about their personal life. High ranking politicians said they couldn’t support me and urged me to change my position if it didn’t agree with the party. Then came my opponent.

    As the race neared an end, things were tight. So tight, that in a district favoring her party by 5 to 1 odds, pollsters thought I might win. So, days before the big vote, her campaign sent out a mailer to voters stating that unlike her, I had moved out of the district, was not really a long-time resident and didn’t fully understand the issues. Only, it was a lie or what today’s environment would label “fake news”. I did attend college a few hours away and then earned my stripes as a journalist in a couple of cities before coming home. I never moved out of the district. I never changed my residence and I continued to vote in the district.

    Ultimately, on election day, I lost by less than three percent in absentee ballots. While disappointed at the time, looking back, I’m glad I lost. While it was a great experience and I met a lot of fabulous people from both parties, I became better at what I do today because of the people I met and the skills I developed back then.

    Fake news isn’t new. When I was a television news reporter, campaigns used to plant spokespeople and naysayers at opponent’s events to get their point across. They would put out news releases that contained quotes without attribution. And then, like now, they would pay for air time to say what they wanted to say regardless of truth or fact.
    It’s not just politicians who spout fake news. According to recently released reports, in the 1960’s the sugar industry paid scientists to downplay the link between sugar and heart disease to promote saturated fat as the real culprit. Credible sources now suggest that five decades of research into nutrition and heart disease as well as many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been shaped by the sugar industry to derail the real truth that sugar was the culprit.

    Like the childhood game, whisper down the lane, people would see something on the news and tell their friend who would tell their friend and so on. After it was repeated multiple times, some of the facts would be missing while others were exaggerated or flat out wrong. I recall spending days interviewing people at breaking news stories, only to hear some of my own neighbors share incorrect information about the story I covered. When I would correct them, explaining I had received information directly from the source, they would argue, insisting that what they heard was true.

    Campaigns to manipulate public opinion and advance personal agendas have always been commonplace, but today’s execution is unprecedented. Researchers from Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Research Project reported a “global inventory of organized social media manipulation”. The report found that social media propaganda was used in 29 countries to issue false news reports, attack journalists or support a government or political viewpoint. It goes on to say that in some cases, these efforts involved full-blown government bureaucracies of employees on fixed payrolls.

    Mainstream media has always had a soft spot for sensationalism and some might suggest that even respected journalists manipulate information. However, in years gone by, most people got information from newspapers, radio or the evening newscast and they were typically loyal to that news source.

    The difference between now and then is the reach of social media. Fake news is fast news. Social media platforms allow anyone with a phone to spread a lie around the world in seconds. In fact, research conducted by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, says that people who see an article from a trusted sharer, even if it’s written by an unknown media source, have much more trust in the information than people who see the same article that appears to come from a reputable media source.

    Today, because people get their news from other people, and are more likely to believe someone they trust, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake. If someone prefers FOX over CNN, they will believe FOX and the opposite is also true. As my husband frequently comments, we all live in our own bubbles. That means each of us has our own version of reality. What we believe seems more real. What others believe could be fake.
    When we are quick to label someone else’s opinion or belief as fake, that’s the same as trying to shut them up. After all, if I insist you don’t know what you’re talking about and I am a trusted source, then I must be right, even if I’m not.

    Like a negative demeaning political ad that shouts at you knowing you can’t respond, labeling others as fake will only promote fake conversations instead of trying to understand others and solve real problems.

     
  • feedwordpress 17:37:09 on 2017/08/23 Permalink
    Tags: Philadelphia Business Journal,   

    When Mercury goes retrograde: How businesses can survive & thrive 

    If you believe in astrology, then you know when Mercury has gone retrograde. That means the planet Mercury passes between the earth and the sun, appearing to move in the opposite direction of the earth. As it slows down and appears to stop, it creates the illusion of a planet spiraling backward. According to believers, during this three-week time frame, the planetary influence wreaks havoc with your life.

    Because Mercury governs communication, travel and technology, it seems everything that can go wrong does. Technology malfunctions. Business deals are botched. Flights are missed. Communications are misunderstood. Computers and cell phones go haywire. You may even find yourself getting into bizarre arguments with people for no apparent reason. It feels like swimming against the tide. Everything that can go wrong seems to go wrong. Even though there is no scientific proof to back this up, if you are wondering what in the world is going on, chances are Mercury is retrograde.

    Recently, I felt the effects of Mercury going retrograde. It started when prior to presenting at a well-attended leadership event, my computer refused to project. No matter what we did, nothing worked. Despite precautionary measures that included having all of my slides and videos on a memory stick and stored in the cloud, even the professional IT staff couldn’t figure it out. The show went on without my slides and videos.

    Then there was the car rental issue. The windshield wipers didn’t work which I discovered in the middle of a tropical Florida rain storm. During the same time period, at it’s debut, my newly released book Ordinary People: Extraordinary Lessons had a printing issue and had to be re-printed. At home, the washing machine broke. The TV cable box went on the fritz and our phone lines went out. I should have known it was a sign of bigger trouble to come.

    The date was March 2. A friend called to warn me our company might have been hacked. I thought she was wrong. Then other friends and business colleagues started calling to say they received what appeared to be a suspicious email from me. My friend was right. Within minutes, malware had invaded our company database, deleting contacts and sending out emails to hundreds of people from my personal email address asking them to click on a document which would corrupt their database as well. Unfortunately, some clicked before we realized what was going on and alerted everyone.

    Here’s what happened. Earlier that day, I had received an email from a magazine editor I knew. She asked me to open a link and approve some edits to an article I wrote that she wanted to run. It appeared to come from her email address and a program called DocuSign that looked like the real DocuSign. Since I use that program, I clicked, thinking nothing of it. Unfortunately, the email tricks you into opening an attached file which downloads and installs malware on your computer. Since then, DocuSign revealed they were the victim of a data breach of customer email addresses that led to massive phishing attacks.

    For us, the damage was devastating. Even though our company has multiple back-up systems, while attempting to restore current information, much of it was compromised and unable to be restored. Not only did we lose years of contacts and notes, but current information was replaced with outdated information. Today, nearly six months later, we’ve recovered, but are still feeling the effects when looking up contacts that no longer exist.

    Advice to take precautionary measures before a retrograde spell is common sense business advice that we should all heed. Back up your computer, calendar and cell phones. Expect travel delays and double-check contracts and documents before you sign.

    However, there is a bigger lesson that applies personally and professionally other than being extra careful until Mercury returns to direct motion. What can you and your business do that you haven’t done to prepare for the unexpected? Even if you’re prepared, as we thought we were, what other steps can you take to manage chaos if it arrives at your doorstep? Consider these ten tips:

    1. Back up important data every day. Whether using an outside service or doing it manually, just do it!
    2. Have a crisis communication plan. Who will manage the issue? How will you communicate information? Who will be the spokesperson?
    3. Establish social media accounts and monitor them.
    4. Anticipate most likely situations in advance and draft basic message responses for each.
    5. Like going to the dentist, it’s important to get regular checkups to assess where the holes and weaknesses are.
    6. Identify subject experts who you can call immediately. If dealing with a public crisis, these people may also be able to speak on your behalf.
    7. Hold practice and training sessions which will help you identify strengths and weaknesses as well train your key spokespeople.
    8. Re-read all important contracts, documents and bank transactions
    9. Re-confirm appointments and travel arrangements
    10. Google yourself. Are the results positive or negative? What can you do to improve or enhance your digital footprint?

    Like the period before Mercury retrograde, quiet times are often the best times to prepare for the future. In our case, I never thought something good could come out of something so awful. Yet there was. Our database is now updated and more organized than ever before. This has led to more efficient and productive email notifications. We’ve also implemented an additional backup system that we didn’t have before. I am more careful than ever when it come to clicking on links and opening attachments. That means taking extra time to check email addresses even when an email appears to come from someone I know.

    Whether the planet Mercury is to blame or you’d rather label the circumstances bad luck, the key to both is planning in advance so you survive the ride; then recognizing how you can improve so you’re better prepared next time. Yes, next time.

    Mercury goes retrograde three to four times each year. Astrologers say it’s important to be extra cautious during these times. Crisis management experts claim a number of small problems occur in companies every week. They say sometimes managers don’t recognize the crisis or they refuse to accept a crisis is happening.

    When my friend first called to advise we may have been hacked, at first, I didn’t believe it either. I remember thinking, how could this happen to us? After all, we have precautions in place. Despite that, it did happen to us.

    If you think it can’t happen to you, perhaps you need to think again.

     
c
compose new post
j
next post/next comment
k
previous post/previous comment
r
reply
e
edit
o
show/hide comments
t
go to top
l
go to login
h
show/hide help
esc
cancel