November 15, 2010
By Michael Kline
In recent weeks, I’ve been teaching seminars on sales and customer service. Because we cover both of these topics with a different twist than most expect, a common thread quickly becomes apparent to students - that having the proper intention in your dealings changes everything. I don’t mean to start a debate between intentions and results. I believe results are paramount, but only when results are defined to include everyone involved being properly considered in the process. Once the goal is righteous, results are everything. In typical customer service or sales training, or even in supervisory skills training, techniques, rather than a character based approach are usually taught to get what you want. When dealing with people, if your intent is to manipulate, control, defeat, etc., then all the training and scripting in the world won’t help achieve lasting results. If your intention is to be of service, that intention shines through more often than not, and desired results are achieved. We need to identify all our internal and external customer sets – we serve our suppliers, our employees, our regular clients and customers, and the community as a whole. Once we identify the importance of treating our suppliers and our employees as if they were customers, we can be of service to them, and grow the relationship into a win/win proposition.
Next week, I’ll be teaching supervisory skills and I expect a similar thread to guide our lessons. To simplify, ask the question “Am I Being Kind?” Not a push-over, but kind. Dealing with any staff, difficult people or otherwise, requires strong but kind communication skills. Last week we talked about aggressive communication vs. assertive communication. Aggressive is not kind. Often, being passive is where many people go to avoid conflict or being rude. However, passive too often becomes passive-aggressive in the end. Being passive is not fair to you, becoming passive-aggressive is not fair to others. Asserting your position in a professional and polite manner is the kindest and most effective path to making everyone happy, or at least accepting an honest position in whatever you are discussing. So, assertive communication is always the goal. It seems that we can sum up years of lessons with “Be Kind”.
All this talk about kindness is inspired by the book “Am I Being Kind” by Michael Chase of The Kindness Center. I was very proud to be involved in bringing Michael Chase to Kennett High School yesterday. Two local businesses, Soyfire Candle and The Met Coffeehouse, along with the non-profit Evergreen Institute for Wellness felt strongly enough about the kindness issue to pay to bring “The Kindness Guy” to address our community’s youth. Like every other issue we face, nothing happens until someone takes action. I’m always telling business clients to stop complaining and get to work, so let’s stop complaining about what “they” should do go about getting something done. As for our students, these are our future entrepreneurs, employees and employers, our future teachers, selectmen, volunteers and parents. As such, our investment in them and their minds is probably the wisest investment we can make in our community. Kindness should be a part of that curriculum.
In fact, many life choices for all of us at any age deal with the kindness issue. I hope we can launch a community wide kindness movement in the valley. All our business goals exist to support some other bigger goal, which exists to support ultimately, the goal of what makes us happy. The shortest route to happiness is kindness. Let’s put that in our school’s curriculum and in our staff meetings, strategic planning sessions, Employee Handbooks and training programs.