Saturday, 25 August 2007

Vulgarity in the Workplace

Linguistic propriety has gone out the window in the workplace. Walk into any retail establishment and I'm sure you won't have to wait long to hear a clerk use some sort of profanity. Wander the halls of any large corporation and you will hear vulgarity used as every part of speech by senior management (yes every part of speech - there are those who use swear words as prepositions).

What a sad state of affairs.

Friday, 24 August 2007

I'm The Problem

One incredibly common theme in many of the organizations I know (either directly through my own involvement, or indirectly through associates and friends) is an unwillingness to take responsibility. The ability some people have to deflect is absolutely astounding.

Development Group: "It's not our fault. The Database Group didn't design the database properly!"

Database Group: "It's not our fault. The Development Group didn't give us the correct specs."

The line blames management. The management blames the support groups. The support groups blame the senior leadership. Senior leadership blames the line. No one is willing to say: "This is my responsibility. What I'm doing isn't achieving the results the organization needs. I need to change what I'm doing."

In my own organization, I've decided to approach each challenge from the point of view that "I'm the problem." Every challenge that I'm facing must first be met with an assumption that there is something I could do differently to overcome that challenge. I think I've generally approached things that way, but I've never formalized it quite like this before.

It will be interesting to see if it has an impact.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007


Those of you who know me, know that I have a bit of an ongoing fascination with English. I'm often overly excited by a particularly well turned phrase. I greatly enjoy both conversation and reading. If you've ever chatted with me using an Instant Messenger, you'll know that, in a medium with a brutal disdain for grammar, I tend to fully structure sentences and use punctuation.

I'm not sure where this particular fascination came from. Is my reading habit a cause, or an effect? Regardless, I realized this evening, as I was reading Robert Service's poem Call of the Wild that sometimes, the power of language truly transcends it's content. There are a number of poems that affect me that way:
Those are just a few that popped into my head. All of them have stuck with me over the years. If, in particular, has one of my favourite lines of any poem: "If you can bear to hear the words you've spoken, twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools." It encapsulates an entire aspect of life in a single line.

I think we underestimate the power that effectiveness in our spoken and written language has over others. I can't speak to the impact in other languages, but so many of us are judged by the ability we demonstrate in English. People think I'm particularly intelligent, not for the content of my thinking, but for the manner in which I communicate it. Boy do I have them fooled.

Cultivate language. It has a power to impact. It can influence in a manner that transcends the power of the content. I do not advocate style over substance, but rather advocate that substance must be presented with style, or be lost in the endless sea of banality.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Quality in Customer Service

As an Analyst in the Customer Service industry, I'm often struck by how many people seem to approach Customer Service Quality as if it were no different from Quality in the Manufacturing Industry.

In the Manufacturing world, quality is a function of inputs. The nature of the materials used, and the processes applied to them determine the quality of the finished product. If I want to ensure a high quality product, I can do so by ensuring high quality inputs (top quality raw materials and rigourous processes). In theory, I have all but 100% control over the inputs, and thereby, 100% control over the outputs.

In the world of Customer Service, the most significant input is a variable. The Customer is the main input of customer service, and I know very little about that input until I come into contact with it. I don't even know if the Customer is male or female.

The second most significant input is also a variable. That input is the Customer Service Professional. As part of a Customer service group, the CSR has a unique style, a unique set of skills and talents, and a unique set of biases and blind spots. The process that works for another person may not work for the CSR.

We can't approach Customer Service with rigour. Rather, our approach must be principled and dynamic. The CSR must understand what they want to achieve, but they have to have sufficient freedom of movement to use their strengths and to compensate for their weaknesses in achieving it.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

My Leadership Credo

Last year I completed a Leadership Training course conducted by the company for which I work. I learned a great deal, both about myself, and about Leadership. One of the final sections of the course had us draw together all we'd learned in the form of a Leadership credo. I thought I'd share mine.

Day by say, week by week, month by month:
I will do what is right and what is ethical, for myself and for others, and I will pay the cost required of me. I will persevere in the face of adversity, learning the lessons of failure to ultimately succeed. While striving for the ideal I will recognize the practical. I will live a life, not of no regrets, but of no wrongs unrighted, no sins unatoned for and no forgiveness ungranted. I will follow roads less traveled by and often swim upstream. I will be what I believe so passionately, so totally, and so transparently that my being lights a path. I will be the vanguard of something greater than myself and that surpasses me. And I will have fun!