Sunday, August 30, 2009

Be Sure To Bring Enough Club

Just over a week ago, I watched a wonderful video from Laura Goodrich titled Seeing Red Cars. Without giving too much away, Laura asserts that we get more of what we focus on. She calls it "seeing red cars." Interestingly enough, she finds that when you ask most people what they want, they're often very clear about what they DON'T want, but not always able to say what they DO want. A terrific observation.

Laura illustrates the point with a golfer getting ready to hit a tee shot to an island green on a 140-yard Par 3 - the signature hole on the course. The golfer takes a pitching wedge, lines up the shot and thinks to himself, "Whatever you do, don't hit it in the water." Of course what happens? He hits it in the water. Because he was focused on what he DID NOT want, he failed to achieve what he DID want. A fitting metaphor.

At this moment during the video, I turned to a colleague and said, "The guy also didn't have enough club; he couldn't get it there with a pitching wedge in a hundred tries!" I then thought to myself, "Maybe there's another lesson to be gleaned." Most people I know, myself included, would need at least 8-iron to get on the green unless assisted by a very stiff wind. So what does that mean?

Realizing our life dreams is first about understanding what we want and second about coming to grips with what it will take to get there - or bringing enough club. For example, once you know what you want, you need to identify and commit yourself to what it will take to make it happen. What relationships do you need to foster? What formal or informal education will you require? How will you prepare yourself physically and mentally, so when you're standing on the tee and it's time to perform, that you have enough club to be successful - regardless of the challenge.

Here's the good news, most successful people haven't achieved that success because they're more powerful than a locomotive or can leap tall buildings in a single bound. They do the things anyone can do; it's just that most of us choose not to. (Sound familiar? Just check the subhead on this blog.)

So whether you want to offer the world's best client service or embark on a new career, it starts with knowing what you want. It sounds easier than it is, that's why the lessons in Seeing Red Cars can help you down this road. Once you know what you want, commit yourself to what it will take to get there and you'll likely realize your dreams; fail to do so and your vision will have all the teeth of the typical new year's resolution.

Shoot for a hole-in-one, bring enough club, and with lots of practice, you'll land it on the green every time...Well, most of the time ;-)

*Image from Houston's Clear Thinkers - Par 3, 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why You Should Interview Anyone Who Asks

I read a terrific post yesterday from Shonali Burke titled Communicator, Sell - and Share - Thyself. She describes an event where communication professionals met with job seekers and offered resume advice. I offered a comment stating that it was a wonderful initiative, but asked that she consider spreading the word about a program I led when I owned my own firm between 1995-2000.

About 12 years ago, much to the chagrin of agency principals and HR professionals alike, I wrote an article that Paul Holmes published describing my interviewing policy. Since I believe in that policy today as much as ever, particularly during these economic times, I thought I'd pull it from the archives:

INSIDE PR - September 15, 1997

Last week, we talked with several public relations firm principals to find out how cutting-edge firms are dealing with the challenge of attracting and retaining the best people. This week, one agency founder suggests a radical approach.

By Leo Bottary

In the fall of 1990, as the real estate market in New England plundered, I found myself without a job. I was laid off my position as director of public relations for a major real estate development corporation, and along with many in those days, found myself looking for work.

At the time, I was relatively self-assured about my background and experience. I had a good resume, strong portfolio, and several byline articles that I had written for various PR and industry trade books. I believed if I could just meet the employers face-to-face, then I could make a strong case for being hired.

I responded to ads, followed-up with phone calls, talked to recruiters, and exhausted my contacts. The competitive environment for communications positions was brutal. My greatest frustration was that I found securing actual face-to-face interviews next to impossible. It was six months before I actually found a job. Enough time to understand the feeling that comes from watching the business world function perfectly well without my personal involvement. I think I had three interviews during my entire search.

I promised myself that if the tables were ever turned, I would do whatever I could to give job applicants the opportunity to present themselves in person. Fortunately, the tables did turn, and since 1992 I have been in the position to hire people.

Today, we interview any person who calls our company seeking one.

Whenever I make that statement to people, their first reaction is: “How on earth do you have time?” What started out as a mission to keep a personal promise has turned into one of the most valuable initiatives for our organization. As a result, we make the time.

Here are the reasons for our interview policy:

• It keeps us informed of all the talent available in our market. Situations can change quickly. It keeps us a step ahead, whether we need to fill a permanent position or find a specialist for a short-term assignment.
• It’s consistent with our mission of serving as a public relations resource. We want to be a PR resource for everyone; we don’t discriminate against job applicants.
• Every person I’ve hired since 1992 has been as a result of this process. No advertising costs. No executive recruitment fees.
• Major corporations and other organizations in the area are aware of our policy. We receive calls frequently asking for recommendations and resumes. (Remember our “PR Resource” mission?)
• It sharpens the interview skills of all our employees who participate.
• These applicants eventually get jobs. Not necessarily with us of course, but better still, companies which can hire us. Individuals who’ve remembered that we gave them the time when others wouldn’t have rewarded us on numerous occasions.
• It’s proven to be great PR for our firm.
• It’s the right thing to do. We’ve all been on the other side of the desk.

We talk to students, people wanting to change careers, individuals who are unemployed or currently employed and actively looking for work in the public relations field. We make the time by simply establishing a few ground rules. All such interviews are conducted between 8:00 – 8:30 a.m. They last no longer than 20 minutes, and we are up-front with the individuals that while we may not have an opening, we’d be happy to learn about them, talk about our firm, and provide an overview of what’s happening in our market.

While this process may still seem frightening to some, it’s well worth it. We are continually delighted by the quality of people we meet and the level of talented PR professionals residing in our community. As for me, I’m grateful for every day that I have an office from which to work.

As I reread the piece today, I wouldn't change a word. You could do a world of good by taking 20 minutes of your day, at least once a week, to offer your ear and your counsel to a person looking for a new job. You could make an enormous difference in someone's life and in all likelihood help your own business in the process. If you like the idea for yourself, start as soon as you can and use the power of social media to spread the word. If you have any questions about it, please share them as a comment! Thanks!

Image from

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Do You Manage Conflict?

I'm not just talking about client conflict, but any kind of conflict. I know someone who's the queen of conflict; she's always ready for a fight no matter what the circumstances or the consequences, and she doesn't just fight to win, she fights to destroy. I have another acquaintance who politely doesn't rock the boat, but manages "situations" by internalizing everything and working back channels to feed his self interest. I find both to be unhealthy extremes.

Personally, I grew up around a number of people who weren't shy about mixing it up. As a kid, I concluded that the more you fought, the more you just didn't get along. So why spend time together? Then I experienced situations where conflict was avoided at all cost; nothing was ever discussed and feelings were bottled up to the point where deep-seated, silent resentment would set like cement. From there, I started to realize that conflict is communication, and it can be healthy, productive communication as long as you have two important dynamics at work:
  1. It's not personal. You argue about the topic rather than attack one another.
  2. That the conflict is not about winning or losing, but about reaching the best solution and sharing credit for the result.
I come to talk about this today after reading a thought provoking post from Edward Boches on the subject of conflict (or lack of it) in social media venues. He's essentially asking for a healthy fight because he knows that out of positive, spirited conflict emerges the best ideas.

Now think about the role conflict plays in your professional life. Can you openly disagree with colleagues to reach solutions that benefit your client? Do you and your client trust each other enough to discuss real or perceived differences in a timely fashion? And when you do, is the relationship helped or hurt?

I'd love to hear your thoughts about conflict - whether you disagree with me or not!

*Image from who suggests that Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots may be the answer. Who could argue with that?

Monday, August 24, 2009

What's Your Priority?

Imagine for a moment you're starting your own business from scratch and one of your goals is client service excellence. Then look at your current company and consider whether you're really set up to accomplish this goal. Who or what is the real priority and what would you change?

Most businesses, even professional service firms, are built with internal operations or financial goals as the centerpiece. Within that structure, leaders who espouse client service excellence as a priority then do the best they can to service clients within the parameters of that model. Sounds reasonable so far, but think about the number of times a client wants or needs something you're not set up to provide. Sometimes you can accommodate them, but often times you can't because your business/organizational model doesn't allow for it. When operations and financial considerations drive your organization, you are limited by definition as to how well you can serve your client.

So what if you built or restructured your organization with client service excellence as the centerpiece? What if your financial and operations models were actually based on meeting your clients' needs rather than asking clients to serve yours. How different would you look? How much better could you serve your clients than your competitors? It's just a little food for thought as you consider writing the next chapter for your organization.

Tough economic times are not only about survival, but about building excellence into everything you do and taking the opportunity to create greater distance between you and your closest competitor. The way to do so is to compete with yourself. Getting your team together and evaluating your actual versus espoused priorities is a great place to start.

*Image from Experience Solutions

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Coming Soon: More Insights

By now I've written more than 500 posts about client service and associated topics. I've done so because I believe any firm committed to client service excellence (really committed) will recruit the finest people, attract the best clients, and retain more of both.

During my Masters Program at Seton Hall University, I learned a great deal that I often passed along in my blog posts. I learned from excellent professors, countless scholars, and most of all from fellow students in my learning team. The beauty of learning teams is that team members are not academic competitors, but colleagues. The more we all worked together, the more everyone gained from the experience. Not unlike how all great teams perform, whether it's in the workplace or on the playing field.

As I begin my doctoral work at Pepperdine (Ed.D. in Organizational Leaderhip), I look forward to enjoying a similar learning experience and sharing more insights with you as they are passed along to me. Thanks in advance to my professors, scholars, and learning team members for their generosity. Let the games begin!

*Image from

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Client Service or Client Relationships?

I was struck by two posts recently that make me feel I (we) have this whole client service terminology all wrong. The first post was from Terry Morawski where he talks about the arc of his relationship with social media. He realizes now of course that social media is A tool, not necessarily THE tool when it comes to marketing communication because it's the relationship, not the tools that matter most. Edward Boches also wrote a terrific post about three new business presentations delivered by Mullen interns that showed incredible promise - not just for their social media prowess, but more for their understanding of building relationships and employing all of today's tools to do so.

Let me add that last week I read Marshall Goldsmith's book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There - a fitting title included in my Carousel of Recommended Books. Marshall talked about the need for many leaders to improve their listening skills, and while he offers some great advice, at the end of the day I thought, you'll never be a good listener unless you care enough about what the other person is saying to pay attention. I believe the model for client service excellence is similar.

The idea that we "service" our clients and, by doing it well, hope to build a relationship is backwards, and the young people coming up in the world today are about to prove it. Their perspective will offer us a model for building great relationships on multiple levels and doing right by the people with whom we do business - ensuring this notion of customer service excellence.

You won't offer truly excellent client service unless you care, and you won't care enough unless you have a strong relationship with your client and a true passion for their business. Build a relationship to improve service, not the other way around.

*Image from

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Carousel of Leadership & Client Service

Speaking of resources, I was intrigued by PROpenMic's use of this Amazon Widget to showcase book titles on its site. After reviewing our updated list of client service blogs, consider reading one or more of the selections below. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Updated Client Service Blog Directory

Ever since I started my first client service blog, I've tried to keep track of the best of the best blogs that cover client/customer service and associated topics. I learn a great deal from reading them. I hope you will also. Thanks for your suggestions. Keep them coming as I'm always eager to add to the list. For your convenience, here's CSI Season 2's updated list of client service blogs for your education and enjoyment. Feel free to share!

Client Service Blogs

Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices

Better For Everyone

CBA Practice Link

Church of the Customer Blog

Customer Excellence
Customers Are Always
Customers Rock
Flooring The Consumer Blog

Golden Practices

Gruntled Employees

How To Change The World

Howling Point

In Search of Perfect Client Service

Infamy or Praise

Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips

LawMarketing Blog

Leaderhip for Lawyers

Legal Business Development

Legal Ease Blog

Legal Marketing Blog

Legal Sanity

Malcolm Says

Management Craft

Minor Wisdom

More Partner Income

My Shingle

Passion, People and Principles

Rainmaker Best Practices

Real Lawyers Have Blogs

Rob Hyndman

Service Untitled

Software for Better Client Service

The [non]billable Hour

The Adventure of Strategy

The Greatest American Lawyer

What About Paris?

*Image from Gruntled Employees


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