Mindset is Everything

A new year brings time to reconnect with our network. We touch base for updates, follow up after the holidays, gain insights into goals for the new year, attempt momentum as Q1 revs up. During one of these recent dialogues, I connected with an old friend. We reminisced about the days when we worked together, cherishing the fun and synergy of the team. Providing updates of team members we knew had “moved on.” Organically, the conversation moved from work-life to health and family and then insights to new ventures.

When my friend told me what was new in life, there were so many phrases that stood out.

“I failed.
I’ll admit.
It’s embarrassing.

There was a monologue of self judgement and justification to validate a recent career move.  Here was a friend who had reinvented themself and revitalized a skillset during a pandemic. A “bus stop” role attained to sustain family income, yet the personal reflection was negative.  We then talked about mindset and switching thoughts from failure to learning.

Last week during a group networking call, breakout rooms were provided to assist the discovery of common ground. Predetermined questions were given to facilitate the direction of our dialogue. One such question was, what are your goals for 2021? One participant stated their current occupation and then divulged their objective.  Wiping tears from the face, there was genuine heartfelt passion behind this planned jump, but what followed were words of doubt.

“Not certain I can do it. We’ll see what happens.”

Doubts and fears. Moments of hesitation emerging as the unknown becomes visible on the horizon.  We all have these thoughts, but this is where mindset is everything. It’s in these moments that determine our next steps. How do we tip the scales towards productivity? To see the opportunity and find value in the experience vs judging it as greater than, less than, or equal to? Failure vs learning?

If we don’t believe in our goals, how can others support us on our path?

We are each made up 99% positive attributes. Yet we have an uncanny ability to fixate on the negative. That 1% becomes a spotlight effect and we feel the world is watching.  Judging. How is it in these moments of self-doubt that some people remain in stagnant in overwhelm and others just do?

One of my dearest colleagues is one of these people. Last year, Tish mentioned she was going to apply for a Ted Talk.  She didn’t know if she would be accepted or not as she stated, “we miss out on all the opportunities we don’t take.”  This type of mindset sets a foundation for a positive viewpoint.  A paradigm that imagines possibilities. A mindset filled with intention and movement. Tish applied and her talk was selected. She presented for Tedx Naperville this past November.

Mindset truly is everything. Below


  1. Start living life in gratitude. Find gratitude in everything. Stress and tension melt away when we are in a grateful state of mind.
  2. Before your feet hit the floor in the morning, identify three things you’re thankful for and set your intention for the day.

Should the mindset turn negative.

  • Chat to yourself and then Reset.
  • Ask yourself how berating yourself helps the situation?
  • Ask yourself WHY you think you’re not worth it? Then ask this question again.
  • Remember, there was a reason that thought, the dream, the wish, the attainable goal popped into your head. Listen to that inner voice.  What’s it saying to you?
  1. Place affirmations in a place or on a phone and look at them daily.
  2. Create a vision board
  3. Tell others your goals and vision. The more people you tell, the more constant it remains in thought.

Quotes I Love for the Journey

  • “If you think you can or can’t you’re probably right.” – Henry Ford
  • “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney.
  • “It’s Not Whether You Get Knocked Down, It’s Whether You Get Up.” – Vince Lombardi
  • “If You Are Working On Something That You Really Care About, You Don’t Have To Be Pushed. The Vision Pulls You.” – Steve Jobs
  • “The Only Limit To Our Realization Of Tomorrow Will Be Our Doubts Of Today.”  – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • “People Who Are Crazy Enough To Think They Can Change The World, Are The Ones Who Do.” – Rob Siltanen

Mindset IS everything. Choose a good one.


Taking the Temperature of Client Engagement

It’s almost protocol.  Nearly anywhere you go, before you enter the space, a thermometer is pointed at your head to ensure you’re fever free.  They’re taking your temperature. Being proactive.  Not a bad thing to be in any client engagement space. Maybe we could finally learn something from this pandemic. Are you taking the temperature for your client base?  Yep, totally spinning this to customer service. What would it take for your team to provide consistent unwavering and exceptional customer service?

Charles Schwab said, “Good business is good relationships.” These wise words resonate to this day. It’s the relationship and the experience. Yet, we get so focused on the next sale, the next conquest, the next cha-ching. What do we do to keep the relationship current with our current and existing client base?

We buy products and services and things from the people we trust. Our clients share this same paradigm. And this viewpoint is very elementary in nature.  We KNOW this. Where most of us fail is maintaining the relationship after the sale. Consider the gym membership. Your new car purchase. The financial advisor who earned your business. Have you heard from them in a while?

The start of any business relationship is like dating. The honeymoon stage. You’re excited. You get butterflies in your belly. You’re on your best behavior. You’re gung-ho on the new relationship. But like a fading fresh paint smell, when it comes to follow up and staying engaged, we get in our own heads and start thinking, “this element of networking is weird and  awkward.”

Then we attribute the non-engagement to the market, buying trends. We think:

“Most gym memberships drop off in March.

I send a quarterly portfolio.

It’s a lease. They’ll be back when the term is up.”

What would it look like to ensure the relationship is sustained? How are you taking the temperature? What do you do to constantly obtain feedback and insights from your client base?

My friend and real estate agent Brenda D’Amore with Keller Williams Inspire is the YODA of taking the temperature for client retention. I’ve utilized her real estate expertise and have referred her business. I trust and know her team will not only sell or rent a property, but that she has the resources to facilitate the process.  She comes with a menagerie of house inspectors, general contractors, and attorneys.  Her role is to be a resource.  Buy your new home with confidence. That’s just the buying journey.

Brenda has mastered the cadence for follow up for client retention. She champions the element of remaining in contact with clients. Think about it. How often do we buy a house? I not only receive the magnet with the sports schedules for the side of my fridge, but recipe cards, and phone calls and emails. Brenda is constantly touching base to see how we’re doing. During the holidays, she hosts an open house at her Geneva office and provides pies for your family to serve for a holiday dinner. When I’m adding whipped cream to my pumpkin pie and my family asks where it came from, Brenda becomes the topic of conversation.  You see? It’s the relationship.

So, I ask again, how are you taking the temperature of your clients? What are you doing to sustain engagement?

Below are a few tips to sustain that honeymoon phase with your client base.

    1. Genuinely and sincerely value the client and how they contribute to your business.
    2. Ask your client how often they want to hear from you. Then…. Create a cadence for constant touch points.
    3. Plan a calendar for one week, one month, 3 months, 6 months, a year, two, milestones, birthdays, etc.
      • NOTE – every month has a national day to celebrate coffee, dogs, chocolate, etc. Pick a topic and celebrate with a promotional item for your clients.
      • Extra points if it’s specific to your client preferences or need
    4. Take notes to remember personal things about your clients;
          • kid sports, dog names, hobbies, etc.

Have fun and never stop taking the temperature. You never know where the next referral will come from. In business, that’s the highest compliment to receive.


The New Awkward

My sister recently divulged a call-center, customer service experience while following up to an online order.  Ladies, you can relate. Since the pandemic, those who previous kept their nail hygiene current with gel application probably found their hands less than visually appealing near mid-April.

With nail salons closed, my sister found herself with overgrown cuticles and paper-thin nails. Breaking and peeling, needing mineral strength, my sister knew of a polish to harden nails and enhance growth. There are two prominent brands that sell this product, and unfortunately, you cannot find it in stores.

My sister first shops at her go-to spot; Amazon. She is shocked by the price of the polish and hoping to restore nail strength with this magical elixir, she visits the manufacturer site to shop direct. The bottle is half the price found on Amazon and she makes her purchase. At check out, she is told to print the page and retain for her records.

She waits eagerly for the order. Waiting. Waiting. No arrival. Her nails look like hell, and she’s frustrated (I know first world problems, right?) She first contacts the company via email. No response. Not even acknowledgement of the email. Fortunately, the company is US based and she is able to call a customer service line.

My sister provides the order confirmation number to the agent and the agent communicates she won’t even look it up in the system. My sister is told, “Honey, I can tell that’s probably an official order number, but I can’t look it up. We are back logged. We have been back logged since February.  You’ll get that order when you get it.”

WOW?!?!  Awkward. First off, “Honey??”  Awkward.

No time frame for delivery?  Awkward.

No, “thank you for your business?” Awkward.

In customer service and client engagement, it’s always been about the experience.  It’s the experience that we talk about; good or bad.  It’s awkward that some haven’t figured that out. If the business focus is the client or customer, the business operations reflect this.  A business mindset focused on the client experience, results in memorable experiences that increase brand loyalty.

Knowing how to deviate from a process and determine when it helps, hinders, or alienates a client is key.  In a pandemic, we race to establish new patterns and routines. We find ourselves searching for the “new normal.” We sprint to sustain operations when deemed unessential. We battle to exist, forgetting the client experience.

The “new normal” is the “new awkward” when we become a finger-pointing, victimized culture that blames a pandemic for bad customer service. STOP! Choosing not to have a plan of action is a choice.  Choosing not to have a service recovery plan is also a choice. Choosing not to consistently acknowledge that our businesses exist because of the clients who purchase and subscribe to our products and services is arrogant, limited thinking, and a choice that leads to business fatality. In business, that’s always been “the normal” and it remains the norm now. How do we forget this? The new awkward is that poor customer service seems to be a result of a pandemic.

If your businesses offers products and services (which is pretty much everyone) please consider this. No matter the new norm, be certain your teams are focused on the client experience. Customer service is about engagement. Business is about relationships. Ask what the expectations is, then figure out a way to exceed it.

If your team is still establishing the “new normal,” consider the following:

    • Give eye contact and greet every client.
    • Use word selection carefully to provide an experience: ma’am, sir, may I, please, thank you, etc.
    • Extend appreciation to the client, guest, or customer. Make them feel valued.
    • Provide timelines to set expectations.
      • Advise and own up to delays, glitches, issues.
    • Address client concerns.
    • Have a recovery plan for when things go wrong.

These are the basics; elementary in nature, with a huge impact. May you establish your normal and divert from any awkward.

The Quest for Customer Service….and a BIKE!

It’s not just toilet paper and Lysol wipes in short demand. It’s trampolines and freezers. And, have you tried to buy a bike recently? A few weeks back, we did.

The last time I purchased a bike was……well, never. Bikes were a childhood thing, not a mode of transportation I considered in high school or at college. In truth, at college my best friend had many horrid experiences of hitting stop signs or trees in her diversion to not hit pedestrians on a busy IU campus. (Go Hoosiers!) I’ve always opted for running or walking when outside, but when my daughter mastered the art of riding her bike sans training wheels, it was time to purchase a bike for me, so we could venture trails and paths as a family.

I approached searching for a bike, like shopping for a purse or pair of shoes. If I liked the look of the item, I simply “hearted” it on websites like Dick’s Sporting Goods or REI or Meijer. I had no clue the features or benefits of bikes.  My last bike was a Schwinn 10-speed from 8th grade, probably collecting dust in my mom’s garage. Tires rotting.

The Shopping Experience
Here was my shopping approach. If I liked an item or brand, then I would search the brand’s website. Again, looking for the color of the bike. Not realizing there are so many different types. The cruiser. Off-road. Hybrid. Mountain. Electric. The Step Through. A world of overwhelm, the research and purchase became stressful.

I called friends who are bike enthusiasts. In truth, they love the outdoors; biking, swimming, hiking, running.  They advised not to shop at a big box, but to look at local bike stores.  So now surfing the web for my local bike stores, I’m shocked at the sticker price. Holy Cannoli bikes are spendy. Getting over the sticker shock, I began to shop.  Daily consulting calls with my friends for advice and insights commenced. As I found a bike online, I’d call to ask thoughts and suggestions.

It wasn’t until my best friend’s husband advised, “buying a bike is like buying a car.  Once you know the brand, you’ll want to go to a store and test drive it.” This analogy resonated as I consult in the auto industry. The light bulb went on. “Each brand of bike has its own website – its own franchise to provide greater details of the bike you like.” I was given two to three brands suggested for the type of trails and roads I planned to explore.

Shopping then became educational. I began to look at features: size, frame, suspension, seat, speed, tire size.  Then it was time to schedule the appointments.

The Appointment
I know in any industry, when a sale knocks at your door, the response time is key. If an internet inquiry, the closing ratio increases with a 2-minute response. Other metrics will suggest anywhere from a 15-minute to 2-hour response time.  For me, making the appointment was a challenge in itself.

I phoned three local bike stores.  One I left a voice message for, and to this day, I haven’t heard back. The second, I called with only a message that the store was operating on alternate hours due to the pandemic. No option to leave a message was offered. The third answered and scheduled an appointment for later in the week.

On that Friday, we packed in the car, excited to venture out. We were on a mission. The Goal? Purchase a bike and bring it home.  We arrived to the Trek store and the doors were closed. We had face masks on, waiting for acknowledgement that we were there.

The doors opened and the staff looked surprised to see us. We communicated we had an appointment at 2pm, glanced at our watches for a time of 2:04 pm. We were invited in.  We communicated that I was looking for a hybrid and that my husband was also considering a new bike. So that was an opportunity for not one, but TWO sales. (Count Dracula laugh from sesame street – ah ah ah).

Bikes filled the massive showroom and we were told, “We have no available inventory. We would have to order online, and nothing is scheduled to arrive until June.”  There was no sales pitch, no invitation to review bike types or test drive anything. No questions as to, “what might you be looking for.” The staff dismissed us and our attempts to purchase a bike.

My facial expression was hidden by my face mask, yet my eyes spoke volumes. I thought, “why didn’t you tell me this on the phone?  Why make us travel to the store if you knew this in advance?” We had simply interrupted their assembly time, and we were the inconvenience.

We drove home feeling frustrated. But now the mission was on. I would have a bike. I called the other two shops and after multiple attempts to a store in Glen Ellyn, the phone was answered. “Yes, we have inventory. We are getting new inventory every day.” I made an appointment to visit the next day.

We arrived at our scheduled appointment time and realized the appointment was not an actual appointment, rather a “wait in line until the next customer is done.” We were admitted to the store 20 minutes after our “time spot” and we inquired about specific brands and models.

Both myself and my husband were able to test drive the bikes. My husband’s choice was unfortunately purchased by another client who was in the store concurrently. “Apologies, the client who arrived before you, has selected to purchase that bike.” I selected a hybrid and they serviced and added accessories: a water bottle holder and a kick stand (yes, bikes no longer come with these – you purchase them as an accessory.)

We were told to wait in our vehicle and they would bring the bike out when ready. We were advised, they would reach out to my husband, when additional inventory for his bike size arrived. To date, although we’ve made attempts to reconnect with the store, no follow up on their end.


  • Transparency is key. Tell clients what to expect. Limited menus, limited inventory. No inventory. Set expectations before they arrive.
  • Communicate.  Updating websites with call times or messages of “due to extremely high call volumes, our response time is now 2 business days.”  Be certain to under-promise and over-deliver. People simply want to be “in the know.”
  • If you set appointments, keep the time frame.
  • Ask clients what they hope to accomplish during their experience. It’s a good opener to see if you can meet those expectations.  Then plan to exceed them.
  • Have a system for follow up. A CRM or database to track information. Take notes. Take the time to get to know your clients.

The store in Glen Ellyn earned my purchase, but not my husband’s. He rides his older bike and will consider a purchase next season. I question if I will travel that far to service my new Cannondale.

For now, let the family bike adventures begin!

A Line Drawn in the Sand

So let’s talk mindsets people. Because it’s so very important to have a positive one these days.  Mindset is what makes all the difference when it comes to achieving goals. Mindset influences our actions and behaviors. It influences our ability to move forward. And in these times, it’s paramount for us to be extremely selective with our thoughts.

Can you think back to less than 90 days ago?  2020 was going to be thee year.  But, we’re social distancing.  Working remotely.  COVID 19 and speculation for when these uncertain times will end are the topics for every conversation.

For some, right now it may feel like an NFL game with less than a minute to play and the score is 23 to 3. Question. Which team are you on?  That response alone puts a spotlight on where your mindset is.  No matter the score, how do you continue to play with all your heart?  I asked this very question to an individual who emulates focus and an unwavering dedication to health and mindset. During a recent dialogue, NFL Super Bowl champion and FitSpeed owner Darcy Johnson provided insights into how he sustains a positive mindset, dedication and perseverance to his professional and personal goals.

I first met Darcy last summer after I saw a Facebook ad offering a six-week health challenge.  Weary of my scale going in the wrong direction, and eager for a change, I submitted my info and made an appointment to visit the gym. That gym was FitSpeed.

The day of my appointment, I met Darcy and he walks me through the program. His positive energy was instantly infectious. I’m intrigued but as I looked at my calendar said, “There’s no way I can do this. Six-week commitment? I’m a road warrior. I travel too much.”   Darcy looked me dead in the eye and asked me “When will you decide you’re worth it? When will you decide to make yourself and your health a priority?”

It was a line drawn in the sand. And I signed up that day.  In that moment, I took the step to make myself a priority. Now a member of FitSpeed, I love the community I’ve found with my 5:30am workout crew and the strength and endurance I’ve gained from a commitment to fitness.

Darcy is dedicated to fitness and well-being.  His viewpoint:

“Health is so important. It’s our bodies. A healthy body is positive. It keeps us going. It’s like they say on a plane, help yourself before helping others. That’s what health is all about. Help your body support your life.”

And when I reflect on my journey, I wonder what would have happened if Darcy hadn’t challenged me.  If he hadn’t drawn a line in the sand.  So, I question: do we need that? Do we constantly need a line drawn in the sand to influence action? What is that motivating line that sparks action?  What does it look like? Once that line is drawn, how do we keep momentum? How do we sustain the excitement and the initial rush to withstand the journey?

For Darcy, the NFL influenced an unwavering mindset to play with all your heart.  He said,

“You’re always being graded in the NFL. No matter the game, your performance is always being evaluated. You’re not thinking about just that play, but the next game, the next season, the next draft.”

Dedication was further sparked by his wife, Carissa.

“She is my partner and I know how lucky I am for her to be in my life. Before I met Carissa, I didn’t realize that people could live such a positive life.” 

Now the love for God, his wife and family motivate Darcy to live positively every day.

Last month I addressed Mindset and goal planning. Psychologically, I’m intrigued with how we react when faced with challenges.  I find the fight or flight conversation captivating.  How is one sparked to act when faced with a challenge and another not?  So, in these uncertain times, will you fight or flee?  The score is 23 to 3.  Which team are you on? Which team do you want to be on?  What if right now is a line drawn in the sand for our communities? Our cities? Our country? Ourselves?  What if we took this time make ourselves a priority? What if we stopped talking about how we’re powerless and look at the blessings around us and start planning? What if we started to play with all our heart? Intrigued? Here’s how.

Steps to Increase Mindfulness & Emotional Investment.

1 – Know your WHY? Your purpose. Your passion. What we love takes little effort, it’s just what we do and who we are. We’re inspired and motivated. We crave the adrenaline for doing it. We “lose time” in these productive moments. If we live in our ‘why,’ we can easily build more of these moments into our day. **Note: Master this step. It makes the next steps easier.

2 – Build awareness of your internal dialogue and then shift as needed. Are you being supportive or negative? Are your emotions and thoughts past focused or forward focused?  Micheal Hyatt in his book Free to Focus writes:

“We reserve the word discipline for those things we don’t want to do. Thoughts can be limiting. Example:
Limiting belief: I don’t have enough time. 
Shifting: I have all the time I need to accomplish what matters most.”

Are your thoughts sparking and inspiring or limiting? As Ford once said,

Whether you think you can or can’t you’re probably right.”

3 – Plan. If we don’t plan, we’re leaving room for distractions. If the goal isn’t written down with a timeline or plan of action, it’s only a dream. Find your triggers (time of day, after a meeting, after a specific task) and create diversions and alternative space to alter your behaviors. I find planning tasks during specific time frames of the day increases focus and productivity. For example, I won’t allow myself to check email during “writing time.”

4– MOVE.  Movement sparks energy. Walking. Journaling. Actions that release tension and build momentum.  There will always be bad days. Acknowledge them. Release the tension and let it go. Keep focused on the goal – your WHY – and make your goals a priority.  Action is required for any goal attainment.

5 – Find accountability. Find support.  Reach out to a friend or colleague. Hire a coach. Schedule a weekly touch base call with a mentor or individual who will spark more action. Read something funny. Be playful.  Breathe. Keep a quote or song that will get your juices flowing in sight.

6 – Live in Gratitude.  Find appreciation in the little things. Tell someone how they inspire you. Focus outward. Lastly, remember that joy on the journey is what it’s all about. If we we’re waiting for the end result to feel happy, or accomplished, we’re missing out on all the special moments that make us who we are.

Would love to hear how you’re using this time to achieve your goals. Please leave your ideas and thoughts below.


Mindfulness for a Penny

We waited an hour for our daughter to visit with Santa the other night. The queue filled with families emphasized the stress of the season. Overheated parents holding piles of coats. Eager children fidgeting in their holiday outfits; taffeta dresses and patent leather shoes, glittering shirts, matching pajama sets. An endless procession of anticipation waiting to visit St. Nick.

As we neared the front of the line, my daughter had eyes only for Santa. She gazed at him awestruck, grabbed my hand and said, “I get so nervous to speak to him.”

She approached Santa, rehearsing her Christmas list in her mind. The photographer snapped a photo and like every parent, my husband and I beamed with joy in the moment. Because it’s these moments that make the holiday. It’s these moments that I wish I could bottle and distribute to the masses. And I ponder why is it so difficult to sustain them?  I called it the fresh paint smell in a previous blog.

There comes a moment every December when I look at the calendar and become frantic. There’s an endless list of tasks to complete before year end. Shopping, holiday celebrations, sales calls, meet n greets, presentations, final reports, planning for the year ahead, buying presents, wrapping presents, shipping presents, baking. What should be joyful, even spending time with friends, can feel overwhelming.

In these flashes of overwhelm, I have to stop and breathe and remind myself to be grateful and to focus on others. My takeaway for 2019 is this: I’ve realized that when I become stressed and inundated in the day to day, my thoughts are selfish. My needs. My schedule. My agenda. Me.  Yet when I focus on how to help others, the tension goes away. This is the space I cherish. This is the space I mean to live in; to focus on others and impact their day.  Even the most random act can leave an impression.

This year while traveling, I had an experience that I try to keep close to mind. During a hotel stay, I requested more towels from housekeeping by leaving a gratuity and writing a brief note.

“More towels please. Make it a great day.”

The response has forever shifted my viewpoint.  Although I never crossed paths with the housekeeping staff, the colossal tower of towels left in response was astounding. The impact of the gratuity was overwhelming. It was as if my monetary request had gifted the world to this individual.  The response was the following:

“Thank you so much. Have a blessed day.”

You could feel the appreciation from the note.

It made me realize unintentional random actions can be perceived as actions of greatness.  It emphasized how we all place different values on money, time, and space.  Five dollars to one person, could be viewed as a routine cup of coffee. Inconsequential. Nary a second thought. Yet, for some significant. Life changing to others.

I now carry a penny in every one of my coat pockets to remind myself of the moment. Somedays I’ll randomly place my hand in my pocket and feel the penny, and it centers me. It prompts me step back and observe my surroundings; to be present in the moment. To feel grateful for all I have. It was a penny I felt in my pocket while my daughter sat on Santa’s lap.

Other days, when I feel the penny in my pocket, I’ll toss it on the ground hopeful the person who finds it, will feel as if their day has turned for the better.

My wish for you throughout the season, is to experience wonder in a random moment. Step back and look at your team, your space, your family.  My wish for you is to find a penny, that keep it in your pocket and randomly come across it during a hectic day.

May you find endless joy and wonder this holiday season and prosperity in the new year.



Creamer, please?

Sometimes I’m amazed and perplexed by the simplest customer service interactions.

We can become so engrossed in routine, that numbness sets in; resulting in systematic procedures where staff lack insight to provide the basics of customer service.  

Recently, I wrote a blog titled Deviating from the Process. From recent interactions, perhaps shifting the dialogue to training and development may prove more productive.

I love Starbucks. I love Starbucks coffee, chai tea lattes with soy, a peppermint mocha, an iced tea with a pump of sugar. They have so many delicious offerings, and they tailor to it my needs.  I can only imagine the training the baristas must endure to create our personalized caffeinated treats. To start my day, I prefer coffee.  My coffee orders are simplistic; the bold blend with room for cream.

On this particular day, the drive-thru line extended past the ordering lane and encircled the building.   The parking lot offering a plethora of spaces, I decided to venture inside for my bold blend.  The cashier greeted me enthusiastically and prepared my grande coffee leaving room for cream. I then approached the buffet offering cream, sugars, and mixing sticks. I lifted the creamer canister to pour into my coffee and drip, drip, drip.  Empty.  Instant despair.      

I took the canister to the counter to ask for creamer. The staff were focused, concentrated.  A busy drive-thru triggered frenzied team-members to fulfill orders; each with their own station and focus of operation. After a few fleeting moments of eye contact, my imploring looks registered with the cashier and she approached with a smile. Extending the empty creamer canister, I asked, “Would it be possible to have cream for my coffee? The canister is empty.”

There were four dairy jugs on the counter next to the drive-thru window. FOUR.  Two appeared to be milk, one half and half, the other skim or soy. The Barista took the half and half canister from me and vanished to the back-storage area. She was gone for two minutes.  Emerging from the back-storage area, she was flagged by a new guest and stopped to assist with the order; placing the creamer canister next to her at the register.

Now forgotten, I made eye contact with a different employee.  As he approached, I queried, “Could I possibly get some creamer for my coffee?”  This employee nodded yes, pivoted on his feet and vanished to the back-storage area. I stood there in disbelief.  He passed four jugs of dairy in his pursuit. Did they have special cows in the back?

A third employee made eye contact and recognizing my imploring look, approached. This now my third plea for creamer, I tried a different method of inquiry.

With a smile and eye brows raised, he asked, “how can I help?”

I looked at the barista. I glanced at the dairy gallons on the counter. I glanced at the barista and then back to the dairy gallons, at this moment feeling like a puppy looking for food. 

I am looking at your plate of bacon. I am looking at you.

I am looking at your plate of bacon.  I am looking at you.

While looking directly at the gallons of dairy on the counter I began, “could I possibly have some cream,” and I looked back at the barista “for my coffee,” and looked down at my cup. Lid off.  Cup extended. The barista instantly grabbed the gallon of creamer and poured it directly into my dark roast.

I heard angels sing as the creamer filled my cup.

The cashier continued to process the new order. The creamer canister remained at the register.

The second barista never returned from the back-storage area.

As I exited Starbucks, I pondered how two staff when approached with a need for cream, instantly pivoted and vanished to the back-storage area; passing four gallons of dairy on the way.  Two staff who had been trained efficiently on process.  This made me realize; to differentiate the client experience, training for awareness should be exercised in concert with training procedures.  

Do you have a process that inhibits the client experience?

Are your staff empowered to deviate from the process?

How do you communicate client engagement expectations to the team?

What are those expectations?

Are you celebrating exceptional client engagement?

To different your client experience, reach out to Slone Solutions, LLC.

Deviate from the Process

Recently, while excelling as a road warrior, I touched base with my husband on the day of my return to discuss my ETA and any plans for the evening.   On this day, my husband offered to pick up dinner.  At my suggestion of the regular, “just grab chicken and a vegetable,” I was shocked to arrive home to find Sea Bass. Sea Bass was the protein purchased for dinner. I looked at my husband and asked, “who are you and what have you done with my husband?” His response was simply, “thought we could do something different.”

Discussions on flexibility and versatility are rampant lately. In a world where technology is constantly changing, information is readily available at our fingertips, and studies supporting that we, as a society, are evolving faster than ever, it’s becoming paramount to show versatility and the ability change.  Darwin’s theory of evolution is reinforced in business cases that failed to deviate from operations like Toys R Us, Circuit City, Sears and Blockbuster.  These businesses either didn’t see the need for change or adapt to market changes fast enough.

Then we see the success of Netflix whose versatility is the paragon of change in the business world.  Think about your most recent conversation about favorite TV shows and what you may be watching or binge watching.  More than likely a show from Netflix was a part of the dialogue.  A business that once had us skipping with excitement from our mailboxes over the arrival of a red envelope, now has sitting for hours while streaming movies, sitcoms and original shows.  From mailing Blue Rays and DVDs to streaming, talk about a change mindset.  Netflix could be the poster child for change.

Yet, if we step back and analyze the success of Netflix, it’s because an individual within that organization suggested the change.  How often do we encourage our teams to think differently? How often do we foster innovation and creativity?  As a consultant, differentiating and embracing versatility is a consistent conversation with many of my clients.  So, I ponder:

If we expect our teams to change, do we find more success when we practice this personally as well?

There are studies that support the benefits of patterns, processes, and routines.  A plethora of books have been written and interviews with the world’s most successful communicate how daily structure influences productivity and impacts efficiency.  Other research argues how a deviation from process can build attentiveness, increase innovation, and enhance creativity.   There are findings that confirm an increased awareness when we deviate from our daily routines.  Considering all things in moderation, it’s the awareness to deviate or to stay the course we often lack.  While we do like our patterns, we should ask; when to do they help us and when do our routines hold us back? When do processes impact the experience?

Two years ago, I attended a conference with the resounding theme of change.  From the open, the days’ schedule was thrown off when the keynote speaker ran long. Very long.  Over an hour long.  By mid-morning attendees could tell the days’ schedule was off.  Yet sadly, those who had produced this ‘conference of change’ did not deviate from their own process and scheduling to demonstrate what versatility may look like to the attendees.  Indeed, a missed opportunity.  People were hungry and tired, and they wanted lunch. 

Nope, sorry, here’s another speaker and a tour!

Deviating from the process is a leadership cascade.  We must demonstrate what we expect from the team.   There should be conversations on expectations and encouragement for innovative thought, entrepreneurial spirits and proactive mindsets.

What happens if that leadership mindset is not in place? 

Most recently, while checking in to a hotel at the end of a travel day, I found myself in a lobby with a line at check- in. It became humorous to listen to the front desk attendant. No doubt trained eloquently on client engagement and customer service, he rattled his scripted greeting and communicated the features of the property to every single guest as he prepared room keys. Yet as I became the final person to clear the line of late arrivals, rather than a smile with a “welcome” or “did you happen to over hear about our hotel amenities?” he continued to spout the same monologue I’d heard three guests before.  I smiled in wide-eyed amazement as he completed his speech and wondered:

Why was deviating from the process such a natural conclusion from my perspective, yet acutely absent for this front desk attendant?

The next morning while eating breakfast, I overheard a group of business women discussing frustrations over process deviation. From their dialogue they were in the medical field of some sort.  What resonated most was their inability to stray from process. One woman interjected,

“He became frustrated that I didn’t approve the next round of testing, but we can’t approve that until we get the green light from the other team.  That’s the system. That’s how it works.”

I thought in that moment, (warning extremely dramatic thought follows) this is how people die.  Their procedure could be impacting someone’s life, and they were focused on a process.

I ask again, why is deviating from the process so difficult for those in the operational role, yet so clearly transparent to those on the receiving end?

If you think about it, there are processes and routines around us at every moment of every day. We are wired for them. We rely on them. These systems support the very structure of society, and we flow with them like a machine. We become the machine.  We become the patterns that impact client engagement. We become the monologue to welcome guests at a hotel. We become the late lunch at a conference.  We delay a patient’s next step in testing. We become Sears.  Toys R US.  Blockbuster. We lose the ability to adapt and flourish.

Unless………..we deviate from the process.

I believe that building awareness is key.  Processes can be good, but we always need to ask:

What is the goal?

Is the process helping or hindering?

Does the process support and sustain or stifle and limit? 

Are we differentiating? How?

What would happen if we did it differently?

What will you do differently day?

How will you deviate from the process?

The Year of the Dragon

How many of us began March with quarantine and cherished the time spent at home with family, only months later to complain about too much togetherness, ponder the end of this pandemic or whine about the challenges with E Learning? When did we lose the Fresh Paint Smell and become time-oriented and task-focused?  Why do life changing events bring resolutions that fade weeks or months later? How is it that our human nature is prone to judge and evaluate as if things are greater than, less than, or equal too? When does it start?

I remember walking my dogs months ago. Before I rounded the corner, I could hear two young boys at play. Their imaginary world was mystical and filled with castles and dragons. Their voices were filled with a sense of urgency as they encouraged each other to move with haste.  As I came around the curb, I saw two boys on bikes and in their imaginary play, chased by a dragon. Their arms were raised high as if holding swords. Their quest to slay the dragon and release the kingdom from a sinister villain.

Completely enveloped in their magical world, they would glance back and pedal frantically to escape the fire breathing dragon. But as our paths intertwined, the older of the two boys saw me and his imaginary world faded. He lowered his arm, looked down, and slowed his pace.  His younger brother pedaled past; constant in his imaginary realm, escaping the flames of the fire breathing dragon. The younger of the two oblivious to my presence.

The older brother and I locked eyes for a second, and I smiled at him.  But I saw shame and embarrassment for this imaginary play. His eyes shifted downward and he pedaled to catch up with his brother. I was an interloper in their game, and I was sad that I had dissolved this child’s imaginary world.  And in that moment, I thought to myself, what age is this boy with self-inflicted judgement? How did my glance stop his play?

This has been the year of the dragon for our household. Our daughter is obsessed with sculpting dragons, reading books about dragons, and watching TV shows about these mythical creatures.  Emma is 8 years old.  As we watch her more than likely final year of “believing,” we cherish every magical moment; every baked cookie, every Christmas show, walks in the neighborhood to view Christmas lights. I write these moments on my heart because I dread the day when she like the boy on his bike, stops playing. Or worse, finds my association shameful.

Our conversations have shifted this year, showing her growth and confidence. She’s taught us a lot about playfulness through endless games of “would you rather.” Even during a pandemic, her mind has this amazing capability of viewing options and opportunities. What if we could make time to be playful and focus on the opportunities? What if we could play “would you rather” in our day to day?

Would you rather be a fire dragon or an ice dragon? Would you rather be serious or playful? Would you rather be stressed or present? Would you rather assume tomorrow or be grateful for the day?  Would you rather ask for help or feel overwhelmed? Would you rather give help or receive it? Would you rather delete a friendship on social media or listen to differences of opinions and be open to learning new insights?

In the moments I hear my daughter’s laughter, I’m reminded of all the goodness in the world. I’m reminded of the normalcy we try to provide for our families. I’m reminded of the resilience that lies in each of us. I’m reminded that when I am not consumed with my own thoughts, when I’m focusing on others; that I’m at my best and mindfulness is prevalent.

For this season and the throughout the year ahead, let’s look at life through a new lens. Let’s find the ability to be playful and to imagine the possibilities. Let’s live in a space of gratitude and offer appreciation for every interaction. Let’s acknowledge that in a pandemic world we’ve established our own perceived “safe zones’” yet have the ability to look outside our established social bubbles, and then look again without judgment. Make 2021 the year to be open and accepting of what differs from our comfort zone.

Make 2021 the year to listen, to lean in, to think before we speak. To appreciate the air in our lungs, to really hear laughter, feel the sun on your face, have courage to speak out if lonely, offer help, but mostly be the reason someone smiles. Let’s play would you rather.

Wishing you all the joys of the season.


Emotionally Charged

Valentine’s has passed. The shortest month of the year is coming to an end.  Every day we are closer to Winter’s end and the days grow longer with additional sunlight. Green decorations, anticipation for Spring and thoughts of March Madness are on the horizon.  We’ve stopped greeting each other with “Happy New Year.”  Yet……..have you made any strides on your resolution or Q1 goals?  Are you implementing?  Or, has the adrenaline rush for a magnificent 2020 tapered as daily routines absorb your attention? Have priorities shifted? What are you doing to keep momentum?

Do you find planning and talking about goals intriguing?  Get excited talking about the future and what it could be. You can feel the heartbeat accelerate. Envision the dream.  Yet implementation falls short? Is it only the resolution?  Or is there a pattern to the lack of follow through?

I recently spoke at the Corn Belt Seed Conference in Indianapolis, and the focus for the event was client engagement, customer service and the member care they provide to their suppliers, vendors, and teams. Agriculture – the industry that feeds and sustains the world’s population is focused on customer service. Goals to impact the client experience. Goals to leave a thumb print, cultivate teams, and differentiate a field typically not associated with hospitality. Client engagement is truly transcending all industries.

Drinking by fire hydrant, there was a multitude of information presented to these attendees.  Suggestions from myself and other industry professionals on what they could implement with their teams; their own “conference resolutions.”  I challenged the attendees to take out their phones and plan a cascade. To schedule in that moment, a team meeting and at that meeting to plan how to implement. Because, when we attend an event, we can become infused with excitement.  We drink the “kool-aid” and we’re sparked, inspired, on fire. We find genius in simplistic thoughts.  “A-ha!  That’s how it’s done!” But, when we return to our regular environment, the spark fades to a glowing ember. Normal routines and business operations take priority.

I call this The Fresh Paint Smell. You paint a room.  It’s clean and organized. You can smell the fresh paint. You love it. You feel the happiness when you walk in. Two days later, it’s still a fresh room, but the new paint smell has faded and the excitement of it has passed. Over a week or so, it’s the room we love, but the newness is fading. A month or so passes, and it’s just another room in the house.

How do we sustain momentum?  How do we increase our resolve?  What makes one person or business succeed, where another fails to take the first step? We need to look to the emotional investment.  In truth our emotions hold the key to it all.  So, this blog will provide insights into how our momentum is impacted. In March, we’ll reveal insights into HOW to sustain it.



Keep in mind that client engagement is all about emotions. We talk about our experiences because there’s an emotion attached to it. We live reactively.  We observe and an emotion follows.  We get excited. Angry. Happy. Motivated.  But to act on it, here is why it’s a challenge.

As human beings, we are unable to sustain a positive or negative emotion for an extended period of time. The elation we initially feel when we receive the praise, the achievement, the inspiration – cannot be replicated.  Same for the frustration, the anger, the adrenaline rush. We can reflect and feel a similar emotion, but not the initial emotional experience.

In a study, published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, it timed emotions and how long they last.

“Sadness is the longest lasting of all emotions taking on average 120 hours to pass.

Hatred is the second most enduring emotion followed by joy which lasts an average of 35 hours.

Guilt lingers longer than the hot burn of shame; and fear tends to pass fairly quickly compared to anxiety which generally lasts much longer.

The stay-around power of sadness is likely due to its tendency to be associated with events that have a major long-term impact on people’s lives, such as bereavement.”

We observe. Have a thought to determine our feeling and then an emotional response.  Then we act or refrain from acting. Ever notice when implementing a goal, it’s the emotional passivity that triggers the action or inaction?  Thoughts like:

“One brownie today is ok,” or

“Skip the workout.” 

“I’ll reschedule that meeting with the team tomorrow.”

“It’s not like we need to shift our customer service overnight.”

“Our competition isn’t that far ahead.”

These passive thoughts are laced with an underlying element of fear and complacency.  Yet dive deeper and it’s a fear of change.  Fear is the emotion, disguised as complacency.  And frankly, I’ve never seen any business thrive with a mindset of “We’ve always done it this way.” The craving we give in to, the complacent thought, becomes the goal we do not achieve.

Simplistically – it’s building mindfulness. Changing our attitude and behaviors to take consistent action towards our goals.  Intrigued? Eager to learn more? Stay tuned for next month when I interview Superbowl champion & FitSpeed owner, Darcy Johnson on dedication, perseverance and achieving a goal mindset.

Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To

Happy New Year! If you haven’t given up on your New Year’s resolution, bravo! How we fail at accomplishing our resolutions is the topic of every media outlet lately.  Listen to the radio, watch the news, scroll through Facebook, and you’ll find a new statistic of what percentage and when we falter from our self-proclamation of personal and/or professional development.  Recent studies suggest by mid-February 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail.  So why do it? I addressed this in a previous blog; Waiting for the New Year Resolution.

What I find ironic about New Year resolutions, goal planning, and professional development is the judgement we place on ourselves, and the negative dialogue that follows when the objective is altered or abandoned.  It can incite a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Self-deprecating thoughts that fill our mind with incessant dialogue that ‘we’re not good enough.’  Thoughts like, “When have you ever?” “Did you really think you could do that?” “Figures.”  We rarely, if ever step back and ask, “What did I learn?”  Or objectively think, “This isn’t the direction we want to move.”

Whether a goal or a social interaction, we are judging.  Every interaction becomes an assessment. We judge the client. The client is judging us. We judge ourselves.  It’s building awareness of the thought and how we speak to ourselves within the thought that sparks a response or action.

In her research professor Brene Brown found that when we make a goal or have a positive thought, a negative thought instantly follows. It’s in our nature.  We are able to identify the hurdles, obstacles, and speedbumps in our way.  The thought often goes something like, “This year, I’ll lose 20 pounds and I’ll start after this weekend.” Then we glance at the calendar and see that Super Bowl or a birthday party is on the calendar and we waiver in our belief for attainment. “That won’t happen, I’ll be eating pizza on Super Bowl. I’ll start later.”

We’re always thinking, analyzing, evaluating, judging. In truth, we can’t turn it off. Our minds are wired to think; right or wrong, yes or no, 60 – 40. This is anything; social interactions, team goals, customer service experiences or the weather. When we hear a song, watch TV, sit in traffic, or eat at a restaurant, we’re thinking to ourselves, “I like this,” “I love this,” “The service seems slow,” or “This is terrible.” We evaluate every interaction.  How we analyze is the differentiator.

We are trained and influenced to judge at our youngest at school.  My daughter’s first grade math illustrates this.  A year ago, while reviewing her homework, I realized the math terms were all about greater than, lesser than, or equal too. It was a huge a-ha moment. Introductions to terms we utilize in our daily life. Evaluation. The self-chatter begins.

During a 2019 networking event, Stacy Nadeau delivered The Confident Mindset: Why Your Internal Script Matters. She said, “We wouldn’t talk to our friends or worst enemies the way we talk to ourselves.”  The self-judgment and berating can be relentless, ongoing, and unproductive.

With all this negative thinking, how do we achieve our goals, company initiatives and New Year resolutions?  How do we build awareness of our thoughts and increase mindfulness to keep them present?  Even more, how do we commit and make the goal a priority?

Suggestions to retain and attain the New Year resolution.

  1. Reflect – Be present and aware of your thoughts. Listen to how you speak to yourself. How did you talk to yourself today? Were they kind words? Encouraging? If you’re berating yourself, stop. Reflect on WHY the goal is important.  Ask what obstacles might prevent achievement. Reflection helps to build awareness of the patterns we have. Once we know the pattern or identify the consistent doubting thought, we can schedule diversions to support our resolve.
  2. Create Reminders – Set alarms on your phone or throughout your calendar. Create reminders with a quote or photo. Adding a question to an alarm can center you and bring your thoughts to the present. It could be a simple alarm on your phone that reads; “Commit to the New Year resolution” or “Have you taken action on your resolution today?” Keep a visual reminder in a spot that will constantly keep you focused on what the end goal looks like; a trip, an outfit, a house, etc.
  3. Measure Effectiveness –  What’s the benchmark? The lowest you will go? The end result? What does it look like? Feel like? Having a benchmark tells you where to start.
  4. Build Accountability – Work with a coach, friend, or colleague to support you. Be upfront as to how you need to be coached for accountability. It it a text? A phone call? How frequently will you need follow up?

Know this.  If we decree any resolution, initiative, or goal, it means we want to better ourselves, our teams, or our company culture. The intent is to be more than we are. Greater than, not less than, not equal to. Think kind thoughts to yourself. Your thoughts are things. And what you consistently think, you become. If you continuously think about your goals and resolutions, you will achieve them.   Be the 20% that the media doesn’t talk about.

Living in Gratitude to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service.

Why is it that when we start talking about customer service that everyone perks up with a story?  And whether the experience is about a product or service, it’s the experience with that product or service that we discuss.  “Oh my goodness, listen to this one…..”

People are so willing to communicate their most fabulous or most horrendous experiences. We find solidarity in our customer service moments; those of neglect, lack of courtesy, ineptitude of training. We rave of exceptional experiences and speak with passion and dramatic flair, “You simply must go….” 

In conversations, the essence of customer service seems simplistic, even elementary in nature.  We can express eloquently how we want it delivered and how others should provide it.  We want to receive it. We agree there is a need for it. And yet, when lacking, sub-par, inconsistent and non-existent, we become personally affronted.

I recently spoke at FABTECH on How to Deviate from the Process to Deliver Superb Customer Service.  The dialogue suggested a proactive approach; establishing processes and knowing when a practice might be hindering business operations or the client experience.  During the workshop, one of the attendees communicated, “my company believes whole heartedly that they are customer-centric, when in reality they are production driven.”

For an automation trade show, this statement didn’t come as a surprise.  Developing product is what these companies do. We typically don’t associate manufacturing with hospitality or client engagement.  It was refreshing to converse on how to humanize production.  I was impressed by the exchange and the intent to enhance their customer experience; the distributors and suppliers that move product to the shelves we shop.  How to provide deliberate communications and set expectations were the most prevalent concerns.

It reinforces, no matter the industry, customer service is a hot topic.  It’s like food and water. We want it. We crave it. We need it.  But, how do we provide it? How often do we forget why we are in business?  Why is it when it comes to customer service, we often forget that the guest, the client, the customer; however, one might label their patrons, that these purchasers of goods and services are the life blood and the reasons our companies exist?

And I love to have this conversation near the holidays because as Q4 comes to an end, no matter the industry, we try to squeeze in as much production, shipment, services, or sales as possible. We push for a year-end number. We’re wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season. We’re in a rush. Expediting operations becomes the concentration, and we can forget why client engagement is so paramount. We become “me” focused, and the goal becomes to move the line. Yet, are we grateful the line is there in the first place? (Business plug, if you’re relating and need help, let’s connect.)  How are we expressing gratitude to our clients?  How do we show appreciation to the teams who deliver those exceptional moments?

Operations and client engagement work in concert. The businesses that operate with this in mind, creating positive interactions and memorable moments, discover a sustainable path to success. As the holiday season arrives, consider this:

Does your team focus on being customer-centric or production driven?

This season FOUR STEPS to provide consistent customer service.

  1. Review Your WHY.

Does your team know your company mission? Do you talk about it? Do you consistently operate to keep the mission in mind? The company values should be the backbone and artery for every operational decision. It should be a force that makes client engagement thrive. Know your purpose. Never stray from it.

  1. Communicate the WHY to the team.
    Consistent client engagement is the result of consistently communicating the mission and expectations to the team. Our staff cannot deliver great experiences unless we train, provide the resources to deliver, set expectations and hold the them accountable. Be specific on expectations. Make customer service a non-negotiable and a MUST Do.Exceptional client engagement happens when we connect on a personal level. The exchange is remembered because what was delivered exceeded expectations.  There’s emotion attached to it.  Encourage your staff to be in-service for the client. How? Give eye contact. Tailor the experience to the client. Learn about a client need and go above and beyond what’s requested. Add a special touch that communicates, “I’m looking out for you. I’ve got your back.”3. Be thankful (to your team and your clientele).
    When you see any team member deliver on your WHY, express gratitude. Thank them for building your brand and creating an avenue for client loyalty. Celebrate it. Reward it. Then pat yourself on the back for training your staff appropriately.

Remember that we are in business because of the client. Show appreciation to your clients. Thank them for their loyalty. Thank them for their patience. Thank them for referrals. Thank them for future patronage. Let them know they are valued. Show them how they are valued through consistent and exceptional client engagement.

4.  Live in this space.
Stop making it because it’s Thanksgiving or 4th Quarter.  Stop restarting or making resolutions to start at the new year or when it feels right or might be a better time. Decide. Commit. Live in Gratitude. 

This season may you discover the power of gratitude and appreciation in all things. This season be thankful for the vendors and suppliers that support your business. Be thankful for the clients, the customers, the guests who support your income. Revisit your WHY to remain client-centric. Remain ever thankful to the frontline staff who make those memorable moments happen.  This season discover the ability to live in this space.

May you have a season of blessings this holiday and throughout the new year.

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