When broccoli isn’t broccoli (and better ways to manage perception)

As I continue my campaign for Mom of the Year, I thought I’d recount a conversation I had recently with my son who was trying broccoli slaw for the first time.

Son: “This stuff is really good. What is it?”

Me: “What if I told you it was broccoli?”

Son: “Then I wouldn’t eat it.”

Me: “It’s cabbage.”

A lie? Yes, it certainly is. But I prefer to think of it as managing perception.

I don’t really condone the telling of untruths to counteract a negative message, but I do advise my clients to control the message, or “manage perception, ” when possible. After all, if you don’t manage it, other people will. Here are some of the things  you should do when you have to communicate something negative:

  • Despite my example, always tell what you know to be true. Don’t deliberately try to mislead. People will see through it. While my kid may not want to admit he’s eating broccoli, I’m pretty sure he knows.
  • Tell those who are affected how the situation will impact them, how you’re going to correct it, and when.
  • Don’t speculate on the outcome if you don’t know what the results will be. Wait until you know, then relay it.
  • Don’t over-communicate. People really don’t care about the details. They just want to know how they’re affected and what you’re going to do about it.

And finally, do not under any circumstances blame someone else. Own the situation, whatever it is – your clients will respect you for it.

How have you handled a sticky situation with your kids or your business? Post your comments or send them to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.

Who’s calling me now and what do they want?

“Mama!” I think I’d heard this a hundred times before the sun came up today. When you’re the CEO of a family – or a business – everybody wants your attention. Here’s how to mitigate some of that in the workplace:

  1. Delegate. Do not try to do everything yourself.
  2. Hire people who aren’t afraid to make decisions and take a risk when it’s necessary.
  3. Communicate your goals and philosophies explicitly so employees know how you think and what you value.
  4. Repeat step #3 over and over and over.
  5. Give employees decision-making parameters – for instance, the ability to authorize purchases up to a certain dollar amount, or take the actions needed to resolve a customer service issue.

I haven’t figured out how to take myself out of every interaction in my household. Maybe earplugs would help.

How do you avoid being mama’d to death? Send your stories to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them I’ll feature your business.

How to execute a blueberry

For the last few weeks, I’ve been finding blueberries all over the house. On the kitchen floor. In the hallway. On the porch. If I’m lucky I find them before they are gracing the bottom of my shoes. While it might seem strange, the presence of the blueberries is no mystery.

My oldest son is a blueberry-eating fiend. He’s been known to down two pints of (expensive) organic blueberries for a  post-lunch snack. Don’t get me wrong – they’re wonderful food, healthy and full of anti-oxidants. I’m glad he’s choosing wisely, but I don’t want the fruit strewn across the floors and ground into the rugs. The intent is good, but he’s falling down on the execution.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in organizations large and small has seen significant, well-meaning initiatives fail for lack of proper execution. From my experience, some of the reasons this happens are:

  • Failure to communicate. The initiative has not been adequately explained. As a former communications manager, I can assure you that people don’t necessarily “get it” the first time. Or the second. Or the fifth. You need to communicate the reasoning behind decisions and the desired outcome multiple times, and preferrably through multiple channels, to maximize the chance of  success.
  • Inadequate training. Just because you want something to occur doesn’t mean your employees are going to know how to do it. Make sure the people you are relying on have the skills they need to succeed.
  • Lack of buy-in. One of the most discouraging things I faced was rolling out large initiatives that were embraced by both senior management and client-facing staff, but not middle management. In every case, someone forgot to tell them it was important and it became just another thing to do. Because they were unconcerned, they didn’t help or hold their own teams accountable and the initiatives fizzled before there was ever any real impact to the client.

OK, I  admit, the first two do not really apply to my son. He knows what my expectation is – it has been communicated loud and clear. And he knows how to wash the blueberries and put them in a bowl, and pick up after himself. Which leads me to lack of buy-in. Whatever the reason, make sure that there are systems in place to reinforce the behavior you want and discourage the behavior you don’t want. I’m thinking of assigning him the chore of vacuuming for life.

Are you trying to roll out a new initiative? Send your stories to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.

We’re having what for dinner?

Late the other day, while marooned in a doctor’s office with my youngest child, I typed a quick text to my pre-teen daughter to ask her to start dinner. I needed her to soak some brown rice but wasn’t sure she would know where it was so this is the text I sent : “Put 1 cup of brown rice from cupboard w cereal in a bowl and cover it with water to soak.” Self-explanatory, I thought, until I returned home to find my brown rice soaking away – with a cup of Honey Nut Cheerios  festooning the top of the water. Gross.

I saved the rice, more or less, but stored this away as a good example of why e-communication is no substitute for the real thing. Don’t get me wrong – texting has been a life-saver for me, particularly when communicating with the younger, phone-besotted set. But electronic communication where there is no exchange of physical expression and little opportunity for clarification can magnify the things that typically go wrong in communication – misinterpretation, lack of context and a lack of adequate detail – all making it harder to get the result you actually want.

As your business grows, especially in the Surly Teen  years, you’ll have countless opportunities for miscommunication. More employees and more customers means that more and more often you’ll find yourself resorting to those rare quiet (or after hours) moments to send a quick message via e-mail or text. Here’s a reminder to take a moment to read that message again before you hit “send”. Because brown rice and Cheerios are really not a nice combo.

Have a good example of a miscommunication? Send it to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use it, I’ll feature your business.