Communication and Your Brand, a Vital Connection

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When  information isn’t shared with employees, they tend to fill the gaps with their own ideas and assumptions, and these are often worst-case scenarios.  Likewise, customers who don’t get necessary information like updates on repairs or shipping dates for example will fill the gaps with their assumptions, and, exactly like employees, their assumptions are often worst-case scenarios. This isn’t some fault in employees and customers it’s actually a natural human tendency having to do with our base survival instincts.  When we don’t have accurate information, if we want to survive, it makes sense to assume the worst.  Better to be alive when the worst doesn’t happen than dead because you assumed the best and were wrong.

Here’s how it works: Lack of information creates doubt which creates fear (not horror-movie fear, rather, the subtle subconscious kind) which creates discomfort which creates worst-case thinking.

Ultimately, lack of information subtly undermines and whittles away at trust, and it can happen unintentionally.  Around the office, simple things like a closed office door, a vague reply, an unreturned greeting as you pass in the hallway, or a canceled meeting with no explanation, all can create worst-case scenario thinking.  For customers, a long wait for a return call, no update on what’s happening with a repair, inexact time of arrival, all of these and more create worst-case scenario thinking.

You can easily prevent this problem though by proactively explaining things, sharing the whats, whys, and hows. Whether it’s with employees or customers, nothing beats timely, transparent honesty.

For example, if you’re a manager and there are changes coming, give your team a heads-up. They can start preparing and won’t be caught off guard.  In addition, they will be able to downplay the rumor mill.

With customers, set expectations by giving them timelines and updates all along the way in the process of their order, repair, or project.

You are not protecting customers or employees by keeping them in the dark. People find out things on their own through research or rumor and then make multiple assumptions that are often worse than reality. The information gaps you may be leaving chip away at trust, your leadership, and your brand, both your personal brand and your company brand. So, in every interaction, take the opportunity to over communicate, explain, and share information.



Grace, Every Day.


Grace.  It means courteous goodwill and an attractively polite manner of behaving.  This holiday season is getting underway and grace seems to always come to the fore at this time.

But what about the rest of the year, why can grace not be part of our habitual behavior? What would it take to make gracious acts more the rule than the exception to it?

When Irma and Harvey were ravaging the South and Southeast earlier this year, grace was abundant.  No more was this evident than in the actions of Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale of Gallery Furniture in Houston.  He opened the doors of his business to give people shelter.  His story is the epitome of service over self and one that is particularly apt for the upcoming season if not for all time.

The worst things happen and it can bring out the best in people.  We saw it on 9/11 and we’ve seen it after so many natural disasters.  People dropping their self-interest to reach out and help others.

This week we give thanks, and I plan to give particular thanks for people like “Mattress Mack” who inspire and challenge me to find the best in myself.  And I am inviting you to do likewise so that maybe, just maybe, we might take that inspiration and practice his spirit every day.  No, I am not suggesting that every day we demonstrate the extremes we see after disasters, but I am suggesting that we perform small acts every day, that we show others the best we can offer.

This Thanksgiving, I pray that I might not only be grateful for the many blessings I have been granted, but also that I might share some grace in whatever small way I can, all year long.

What’s Painted on Your Face?

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What’s your face saying?  Every day you send a message without saying a word and it’s painted on your face.

This face painting comes in many varieties and each sends a subtle message.  Think about the different messages that come across between a great big smile, a permanent frown, or a furrowed brow.

What’s on your face is the first impression you make and sends messages to everyone around you.

For example, a smile says several things, “I am happy to be here”, “I like you” and even “I am happy to serve you”.

A frown can say “Go away”, “I’m tough so don’t mess with me” and “I’m all business and no fun”.

Put this in a business context.  What messages are your customer-facing employees sending to your customers?  What message are the managers in your business sending to their direct reports?  What messages are all of your team members sending to each other and what are they saying about your culture?  It’s written on their faces.

No matter the context, the important thig here is this; we have complete control of the messages we send. Every day we can choose what we want to communicate.

What we paint on our face influences our emotions and the emotions of others, so don’t wait to feel good in order to smile, it’s quite possible that if you smile, you’ll start to feel good…and…so will those around you, it’s like a virus.  Think about the difference that could make in your workplace and with your customers.

So, how’s your face painted right now?  What message are you sending?  Is it the one you want to send?


If It’s Not Helpful, Don’t Do It

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I got an email from Amazon.  It was a reading pick list that was supposed to be for me but I never would have known it given the choices listed.  You see, I never, or at least very rarely, read novels, yet everything on this reading pick list was a novel.  I frankly found the missive in my mailbox annoying rather than helpful.

So what?  Why am I reporting this?  This is a great example of what can go wrong if businesses don’t take time to really get to know their customers.  Maybe they assumed I would like a diversion, maybe they sent the email with all of the right intentions, but my first thought was, “wow, given all of the business I’ve done with them, you’d think they would know what I like to read.”

Please be clear, this isn’t a slam on Amazon.  I think Amazon generally does a great job and is typically very customer focused and I am sure this was just a slip.  But there is a lesson here, get to know your customers and don’t assume things.  Take a look at their history, learn their preferences, learn their hot buttons, and share updates and suggestions only if they closely relate to what you know about them.  Don’t just email to keep your name and brand in their face, provide some value, some attempt to help.

Remember, the point of business is to help people not to bother them. So help people, add value, provide them with information that matches them, and if you want to stretch a little, make some connection to their history.  Make it clear that you are sharing because you sincerely thought it might be beneficial; in fact, explain the connection to their past purchases and how this new thing might help them.

Marketing is important, but useless marketing is irritating at best.  Make your marketing a service not an annoyance.