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049: Leslie O’Flahavan: I have the joy of looking over my shoulder

Leslie O’Flahavan Show Notes

Leslie O’Flahavan was a high school English teacher and had deep joy in being a teacher. After her first child arrived, she wondered how she would juggle the long hours at school and the challenges of parenthood. So she (naively) started her own business and quickly proceeded to make only $3,000 in her first year. That’s when Leslie made an important discovery that helped her get over the hump.

Leslie O’Flahavan grew up in Chicago, but she’s lived in Washington, DC since 1988, and she feels like she is “from” DC now.

While Leslie hopes she won’t be leaving anything “behind” any time soon, she hopes her legacy will be that she helped people improve the way they write, so they can understand each other better and do their jobs well.

Leslie believes good writers are made, not born. She believes that most people can be helped to write really well at work. She believes that people do have the capacity to improve the way they communicate.

Leslie is a get-to-the point writer and an experienced, versatile writing instructor.  As E-WRITE owner since 1996, Leslie has been writing content and teaching customized writing courses for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. Leslie can help the most stubborn, inexperienced, or word-phobic employees at your organization improve their writing skills, so they can do their jobs better.

She’s got soup-to-nuts experience with online communication; she’s developed content strategy, written online style guides, trained employees, benchmarked content and e-mail quality, written content, and more. As a result of her work, E-WRITE clients improve their customer satisfaction ratings, reduce training cycles, improve productivity, and limit legal risk.

Leslie is a frequent and sought-after conference presenter, a former faculty member at DigitalGov University, and the co-author of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents. Leslie holds a B.A. in English and Rhetoric from the University of Illinois and an M.S.Ed from Northern Illinois University. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband, daughters, and dog (who barks concisely, of course).

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @LeslieO and get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“The tasks of writing well at work are changing so quickly.” Click to Tweet

“We need writing skills that are made of rubber, not of steel.” Click to Tweet

“Really rigid grammar police, they suffer.” Click to Tweet

“Writing is changing very quickly and good writers change with it.” Click to Tweet

“The principles of effective writing haven’t changed, the channels have changed.” Click to Tweet

“I need to write in a way that makes my reader understand and care.” Click to Tweet

“The writer’s obligation is to make the writing interesting and easy to read.” Click to Tweet

“I can make a vigorous business teaching people to write better.” Click to Tweet

“With the passion and skill in place, making a business is possible.” Click to Tweet

“My goal is the same, but the world around changes.” Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

Leslie O’Flahavan was a high school English teacher and had deep joy in being a teacher. After her first child arrived, she wondered how she would juggle the long hours at school and the challenges of parenthood. So she (naively) started her own business and quickly proceeded to make only $3,000 in her first year. That’s when Leslie made an important discovery that helped her get over the hump.

Advice for others

The market may not be too crowded for you even if what you’re offering is already being offered by other people or seems too humble to offer.

Holding her back from being an even better leader

I don’t have enough staff.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Keep on going.

Secret to Success

I work really hard; it’s not a secret.

Best tools that helps in business or Life

Good presentation skills.

Recommended Reading

Letting Go of the Words, Second Edition: Writing Web Content that Works (Interactive Technologies)

Contacting Leslie

Website: http://www.ewriteonline.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/leslieoflahavan

Twitter: https://twitter.com/leslieo

Resources

Free Chapter: Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agentshttp://www.ewriteonline.com/writing-workbook/preview-the-workbook

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.

 

Show Transcript: 

Click to access edited transcript

Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we uncover the leadership like hat that help you to experience, break out performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligent practitioner, Jim Rembach.

”Contributing to the annual $150 billion loss in training and development investments is downright demoralizing. So raise your spirits and training ROI by increasing learning transfer with ResultPal, get over the hump now by going to resultpal.com/fast and getting a $750 performance package for free.” 

 

Jim Rembach:    Okay Fast Leader Legion, today and I know I have somebody on the show who can definitely help me get over the hump. I met her at a recent contact center industry event in Las Vegas, of all places, but we had such a great conversation that I needed to have her on the show. Leslie Oflahavan grew up Chicago but she has lived in Washington, DC since 1988 so she feels like she’s from D.C. now, and while Leslie hopes she won’t be living anything behind anytime soon, she hopes her legacy will be that she helped people improve the way they write so that they can understand each other better and do their jobs well.

 

Leslie believes good writers are made not born. She believes that most people can be helped to write really well at work. She believes that people do have the capacity to improve the way that they communicate. Leslie is a get to the point writer and an experienced personal writing instructor. As E-Write owner since 1996, Leslie’s been writing content in teaching, customize writing courses for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Leslie can help the most stubborn, inexperienced or work-phobic employees or ‘me’ improve their writing skill so that they can do their jobs better.

 

Leslie is a former faculty member at Digital Gap University and the co-author of Clear, Correct, Concise Email, a writing workbook for customer service agents. Leslie holds a B.A. in English and Rhetoric from the University of Illinois and a Master’s from Northern Illinois University. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband, daughters and dog who barks concisely of course. Leslie Oflahavan, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     I am more than ready and reporting for duty.

 

Jim Rembach:     Now, I’ve given our listeners a little bit about you, but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you better?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     Sure. My current passion is my lifelong passion and that is helping people to learn to write better at work. And because the tasks of writing well at work are changing so quickly, I really want to assure people they can do a good job and help their managers, help them do a good job, this is especially true for customer service writers.  People who many times began their work life delivering customer service on the telephone and now are called upon to do via email, via chat, and via social media. And how would they have known that their work life would have brought them to this place, so I’m reporting for duty, I’m here to help.

 

Jim Rembach:     Listening to you talk there’s so many things that are just flying through my head. And even for myself, talking about the journey of writing, and writing differently in writing e-mail, writing long form text and short form text and chat it becomes so complex. And then you start throwing in the mix up, well, I have so many different generations that I’m now having to communicate with in the workplace as well as maybe even customers that I’m having to communicate and make connections with, how do you a chunk down this massive concept component subject of writing? 

 

Leslie Oflahavan:    The first thing is we need writing skills that are made of rubber not of steel. I think that really rigid grammar police, they suffer as you said, because if you’re very strict grammarian you might say, “Back in my day all your sentences might begin, back in my day we never would have used text at work, back in my day no one would start a professional e-mail, Hi, Leslie—back in my days this, back in my day that, but writing is changing very quickly and good writers change with it, they change with it. So, the principles of effective writing haven’t changed, the channels have changed. And if you can keep your eye on the principles—what are the principles of effective workplace writing? They are—I need to write in a way that makes my reader understand and care, it’s pretty simple, I need to write in a way that makes my reader understand and care. The writer’s obligation is to make the writing interesting and easy to read, it’s an obligation. If you are a boomer and your colleagues are a millennials or colleagues are much younger than that, then you need to make your writing understandable and easy to read in the channel you may not have used before, it’s not that complicated but it’s not that easy. 

 

Jim Rembach:     Gosh! I start thinking about just what you did even mention about how people are saying in my day and that whole nostalgic piece and hanging up on that concept of I know and judging—I can’t even interpret or understand what this person is saying because it was improper context and all of that stuff. When you start talking about working with others to try to get them to open up, be more accepting receptive and all those things that takes a lot of effort and energy. One of the things that we use on the show to help us with effort and energy are leadership quotes. Writers needless to say they probably have created more quotes than anybody in this world, and so I know for you with all the work that you’ve been doing and things like that you have to have some really good quotes to share, but is there one or two that standout for you to help you do give that effort and inspiration?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     You’re calling me out and of course I should have hundred at my fingertips. And the one that I do have at my fingertips you are going to think is so odd. Remember my work is all about the process of going from idea to draft to finished version of whenever you’re writing. Sometimes I help customer service agents go from reading the customer’s question in the e-mail to drafting an answer, to checking it and sending it. Sometimes I help scientist prepare a journal article, so what is our research say? What’s my article draft and how do I send this? So lots of time I’m helping people revise their writing or I’m buildings their willingness to revise their writing, so the quote that comes to mind honors how difficult it is to revise your writing. And I’m quoting the short fiction writer Flannery O’Connor and she said, “I would as soon eat a wool blanket as revise something I’ve written.” And that quote always comes to mind it honors how difficult it is to write well and it honors that there’s tedium there, so she said, “Yes, give me a big wool blanket and I’ll eat it, I’d rather do that than revise what I’ve written.” So, I know that’s kind of odd quote to pull up, but to me I keep that one in mind because it does acknowledge that writing really well can be hard.

 

Jim Rembach:     Definitely and when I’m listening to you with that quote, for me one of the reasons why I absolutely why I wanted to have you on the show and learn more about you and the work that you’re doing is that, I struggle with just doing the activity itself . I ideate and I have ideas all the time but to be able to convert them and put them into written form, that’s a huge hump for me. So I know with all the work that you’ve been doing and where you are right now, and having a long tenured career and really getting a whole lot of success and recognition where you are right now because of all the complexes that we’ve been talking about, we all have humps to go through in order to be able to get to the point that we are today, is there a time where had a defining moment that set you in a better direction, can you share that with us?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     Sure, thank you for asking. I wouldn’t call it a defining moment of difficulty, I would this moment that I’ll describe a defining moment of opportunity and joy and confidence, and it is defining moment of starting my business.  Here we are in the end of 2015 and in May, 2016 my business E-Write will be the right will be 20 years old. So I have the joy of looking over my shoulder at this 20th year anniversary and just remembering founding the business. With my first career, I was a high school English teacher, I had deep, deep joy in this work—deep joy, I love being a high school English teacher.  

 

In 1990, my first child was born. When you work and your life as a high school English teacher, you get to school at 6:30 are 6:45 in the morning and you leave school at about 4:00 PM and you go home and you have a really dry flavorless dinner and then you prepare for the next day. You read, you write, you read student work, you prepare tests, you do a lot of work it’s a very tiring job. So, as I held this little baby in my arms I am ran fresh out of creativity I could not imagine a life where I would be the kind of parent I wanted to be and be kind of teacher I wanted to be and I call this a lack of creativity on my part, you don’t know what you don’t know. 

 

But at the point I said this job, I can’t do both, I really can’t do both. So, I think what I’m going to do is start a business. Well, the joke is on me, of course, because in terms of the amount of time that I’ve worked I’ve always worked as much or more but just that I can remember 20 years ago that feeling of stepping into this new career, that workplace writing was changing, that e-mail was ubiquitous, that people and positions of influence didn’t have assistants who were preparing their writing for them they were writing their own correspondence. And I had this sense writing in the workplace is going to change and I just said, “Let’s put an E in front of the word write, let’s start a company let’s start, and I stepped off into the start with the sense that underneath me was my family’s support, that my skills and my vision were in place, and though I did not know what would happen next that most of it would be good. And so here it is, what else is there? I look back over those 20 years and I was right to take this step into the unknown.

 

Jim Rembach:     When you start talking about going through that process and making that decision and going from a scenario where you have the school year that you’re following, of course it’s very predictable, when you start moving into a business setting and a business environment, entrepreneurial know environment, all of that structure and that consistency goes away, so how were you able to transition from being very structured to unstructured begin having to fine structure?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     That’s a really interesting and thoughtful question. And I would say, the business didn’t go from cold water to a rolling boil overnight. So, I would say I think my income in 1996 was somewhere in the $3,000 range, I had a slow first year. And so, I was able to learn a little bit along the way in the first year perhaps, but something interesting happened to me as an entrepreneur. When you’re a teacher there is no link whatsoever between the amounts of effort you put in and what you earn, they’re disconnected utterly, and they have nothing to do with each other. When you’re an entrepreneur there is a strong link between how much hustle you bring and what you earn. And what I discovered about myself in the first year or so that was very motivating to me, very motivating. So, here’s my business strategy in a nutshell—ahhhhh [Laugh] these work are really, really hard and do all of it all at once, so that what’s happened. 


Jim Rembach:     I know when you start talking about moving from having that guaranteed salary, even though it may not be what was ideal from a teacher perspective to go into that $3,000 a year, that’s a shocker. And they talk about even in podcasting where a whole lot of people right now are getting into podcasting and a very large percentage of those folks maybe do five episodes and then they’re done, they quit. And then a vast majority of those that remain past end of quitting like after six or seven months. So, so when you start looking at who’s continuing to do it and, Woot! Woot!—we’re getting close to a year here at the Fast Leader show which we’re so excited about is that how did you move from that, ‘Hey, oh my gosh! My revenue went down. Yeah, and I’m excited I get all this freedom and I have the opportunity to navigate my own destiny to a certain degree. How did you persevere past that? 

 

Leslie Oflahavan:    Well, that’s a good question. That $3,000 year was one alone that did not happen the next year I always have known that I would make my own way financially in life and I always and that when called upon I would always be able to support the people I love financially, when called upon. That was the first year and that was the end of that nonsense. So what happened was, quickly I started doing both work that brought in revenue right away, building work that would bring in revenue later. And I’ll give an example of this, when we launched the company I had a business partner until January 2011 when she retired, when we launched the company we had the idea that we were going to help people learn to write better e-mail. In 1996, it was too soon, people still were using faxes, they were still using memos and they were confused, why would I need help writing email? Email amounts to this. The 11:00 A.M. meeting will be at 11:30 why would I need any help writing that? So, quickly, 1996 quickly we move to offering writing for the web courses and people did need help right away. I would have picture myself, if you need is a visual I was kind of like a surfer standing on the surfboard in rough water, I wasn’t surfing yet but I was standing on that surfboard in rough water saying, “Where are the waves going to take me? Where is this water going to take me?” And I had to switch off right away. And I was in it for the long run and we started making money in the next year right away. So, that flat year, the revenue I won’t even call it revenue I’m sure I spend more than $3000 of the business in the year that I earned $3000, that was different than the next year. 

 

Jim Rembach:     Gosh! Thanks for sharing that. I’m really inspired by the fact that you were able to persevere and yet remain flexible and get ahead of the curve and that’s fantastic. But if you start talking about all of the things in that transition, being able to not repeat that $3000 year, if you have one piece of advice you’d give to the Fast Leader Legion, what would it be?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     I guess, when I talk to people about what I do for a living, sometimes they have a perplexed look on their face as if, “Can you really make a business teaching people to write better?” Of course I answer yes, I can make a vigorous business teaching people to write better. So, my piece of advice is attached to the humble quality of the service I offer. A grocery stores open all the time, can you really make a new business selling groceries? There’s a Safeway down the street, why do we need a Trader Joe’s? Well, yes because people need to eat all the time. You can a new business selling groceries. And even though the offering might be rather humble or even there may be a lot of competition you can make a business in that same market if you bring something to it that other people want. So, my bit of advice is, that the market may not be too crowded for you even if what you’re offering is already being offered by other people or seems possibly too humble to offer. My passion and my skill at helping people learn to write better is there. And with that in place, with a passion and the skill in place making a business is possible. 

 

Jim Rembach:     Thanks for sharing that. You bring up a couple of things that for me just stood out is that, don’t think that just because other people are already there that there isn’t room for you to bring your uniqueness, your unique selling proposition, your unique personal proposition to the table, that in itself could cause you to have success were others may not be receiving it or obtaining it.  And that’s one of the things that we try to focus on the Fast Leader show, I talked to a lot of our guest before we get on the show on that, our show is different and I get this feedback a lot of time it’s because we talk about the person and that gets woven into what it is they do because that’s really were greatness comes into play. It’s not what you do that makes you great, it’s who you are that makes what you do great. And you need to bring that to whatever you’re doing even if you’re employed, so, working for someone, being an entrepreneur, being a solopreneur, bring your uniqueness to light. 

 

Okay, when you start thinking about all of the complexities of what we we’re talking about earlier, the different generations, the different types of writing because even when you’re explaining things about ideation and being able to convert that into written text, well if we start to chat and things like that, that goes away were not talking about that type of writing, it’s a different types of writing, there’s just so many different dynamics. You also mentioned something about staying ahead of the curve and all these complexities and moving parts, when you start thing about all the things that you have on your plate, even your family and the dog who pronounciates well, if there is one thing that’s really giving you some charge and you have some goal set, what would you say that they would be?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     My goals I guess, remain the same and that is to help people who are either struggling to write well at work, people whose job responsibilities have changed they didn’t use to have to write very much but they do now, people whose ambitions have grown about how they will communicate in writing at work to help them do it better. And because the age curve in the workplace is different—the curve is the same the people are different—we need new ways of helping them learn to do their job well. When I contrast the way business writing was handled 20 or 30 years ago, the way business writing is handled now, there are some substantial differences that some people find objectionable, such as the level of formality, I don’t find this objectionable. My goal’s the same but the world around changes, I just keep trying to meet my goal.

 

Jim Rembach:     And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor. 

 

“Developing your company’s talent and leadership pipeline could be an overwhelming task but your burn is over, with Result Pal you can use the power of practice to develop more leaders faster. Move onward and upward by don’t resultpal.com/fast and getting a $750 performance package for free.”

 

Jim Rembach:     Alright, here go Fast Leader Legion it’s time for the—Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Leslie, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Leslie Oflahavan are you ready to hoedown?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     I am so ready. 

 

Jim Rembach:     Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today? 

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     I don’t have enough staff. 

 

Jim Rembach:     What is the best leadership advice you have received?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     Keep on going.

 

Jim Rembach:     What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:    I work really hard it’s no secret.

 

Jim Rembach:     What do you feel is one of your best tool that helps you lead in business or life?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:     Good presentation skills. 

 

Jim Rembach:    What would be one book you’d recommend to our listeners, it could be from any genre?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:    The book is Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish, it’s a text on writing for online readers. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Okay, Fast Leader Legion you can find links to that and other bonus information from today by going to the Fast Leader show notes page for Leslie and that’s at fastleader.net/Leslie Oflahavan. Okay Leslie, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you’ve been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything you can only choose one, what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:    I would take back a skill I have then, I would hold on to it and help it thrive and that is, watching how people learn and helping them to learn more quickly. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Leslie it was an honor to spend time with you today, can you please share with the Fast Leader Legion how they can connect with you?

 

Leslie Oflahavan:    Sure. You can connect with me lots of different ways. You can find me on Twitter@LeslieO, you can connect with me at my website which is ewriteonline.com or you could pick up the thing with the handset or headset and dial these numbers 301 989-9583 

 

Jim Rembach:    Leslie Oflahavan, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!

 

Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.

 

END OF AUDIO 

 

 

032: Shep Hyken: What did I sign up for

Shep Hyken Show Notes

Shep Hyken took over as President of the National Speakers Association, a volunteer position, and he had no clue what he was in store. After months of consideration, the association leadership team decided to change the name of the association. After the announcement of the name change at the annual member meeting, within 48 hours Shep received 800 emails and 750 of them threatened to quit the association. Shep was now faced with the biggest crisis he had ever faced. That’s when Shep turned to his 5-step process. Listen and learn Shep’s process and what happened to see how it can help you get over the hump.

Shep started doing birthday party magic shows at a young age, and eventually took his comedy and magic routines into nightclubs. He even managed to score a gig at the Playboy Club when he was 16 years old. Nice job for a 16-year old!

After graduating college, Shep was hired full time at the retail company at which he worked while in school. About eight months later, however, the company was sold and Shep was out of a job. Searching for inspiration, he attended an event one evening that featured legendary motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins. He found their messages powerful and amazing. And by the end, Shep felt like he could do anything, even give a speech. Shep was no stranger to performing. With a little business experience and a college background, Shep wrote a motivational speech and started selling it — just picking up the phone and smiling and dialing. As he researched information for the speech, he landed on the topic of customer service. It was a topic in which he strongly believed and had incorporated into all of his previous business endeavors – from the birthday party magic show business to the retail business where he worked during and after college. So the focus of Shep’s business became customer service.

In Shep’s business, every day presents new opportunities and challenges. No day is exactly the same. He travels around the world and lives the life of planes, trains and automobiles (in the form of taxi cabs). But even when he’s on the road, Shep tries to maintain a routine. He starts the day with an early-morning workout and follows it with a good breakfast. From there, Shep meets with his clients in preparation for the speech he will be delivering to their employees.

At home in St. Louis, Shep starts the day out the same way, with a workout. Once in the office he’s on calls throughout the day with clients. He also shoots weekly videos in his studio and does a lot of reading and writing. The content he reads comes from a variety of sources and provides ideas and inspiration for his weekly blog posts, Forbes columns, and other articles. Shep also engages heavily in social media throughout the day to interact with his followers.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen and @hyken will help you get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“Perfection is not reality.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet

“If I strive to do my best along the way, I will probably do my best.” -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong, just do your best.” -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Stoop to excellence.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“When things aren’t going well…that’s when your true leadership abilities come out.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Bad days for me only last a day.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Leaders need to be goal oriented and they need to share those goals.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Retirement is only doing what you love.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“If anything is holding me back it’s my own fault.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Don’t ask people to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“Without the ability to speak or write, you have nothing.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

“I wish I would have written my first book sooner than I did.“ -Shep Hyken Click to Tweet 

Hump to Get Over

Shep Hyken took over as President of the National Speakers Association, a volunteer position, and he had no clue what he was in store. After months of consideration, the association leadership team decided to change the name of the association. After the announcement of the name change at the annual member meeting, within 48 hours Shep received 800 emails and 750 of them threatened to quit the association. Shep was now faced with the biggest crisis he had ever faced. That’s when Shep turned to his 5-step process. Listen and learn Shep’s process and how he got over the hump and moved onward and upward.

Advice for others

When dealing with complaints: acknowledge it, apologize for it, discuss the remedy, do it with the right attitude, and do it fast.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

Nothing. If anything is holding me back it’s my own fault.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Don’t ask people to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.

Secret to Success

I read daily; 30-40 books a year.

Best Resources in business or Life

The internet is my best resource. I get a digest every day of things that I want to know about.

Recommended Reading

Values, Inc.: How Incorporating Values into Business and Life Can Change the World

Contacting Shep

Website: www.hyken.com

email: shep [at] hyken.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shephyken

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hyken

More Resources

Shep Hyken on Amazing Business Radio discusses frontline leadership, conflict resolution, and customer loyalty with Jim Rembach, host of the Fast Leader Show and president of Call Center Coach.

These Two Little Tips are Making Contact Centers Rich – My interview with Shep at Contact Center Expo where we talk about two little tips that can impact the customer experience immensely.

Offer from Shep: “Moments of Magic” and his white paper, “Customer Service Will Fix the U.S. Economy (and a Few Companies, Too).”

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.

Show Transcript:

Click to access edited transcript

032: Shep Hyken: What Did I Sign Up For

 Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.

 

Jim Rembach:    Thanks, Kimberly. Okay, Fast Leader legion, today I am so excited because we have magic on the show to help you get over the hump and that’s going to be performed by Shep Hyken. Shep was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri as a kid he did birthday party magic shows and eventually took his comedy magic routines at the nightclubs. He even managed to score a gig at the Playboy club when he was 16 years old, I don’t know how that was legal. Since Hugh Hefner wasn’t retiring, Shep went on to college and after graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in Speech Communication, Shep was hired full-time at the company that he was working out while he was in school.

 

After about eight months later working for Mars and Marine convenience stores the company was sold and Shep was of a job. Searching for inspiration he attended an event one evening that featured legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins. He found their messages powerful and amazing and by the end Shep felt like he could do anything, even give a speech. Billing upon his magic and comedy experience Shep wrote a motivational speech and started selling it. He just picked up the phone and started smiling and dialing. 

 

As he researched information for speeches he landed on the topic of customer service. It was a topic in which he strongly believed and had incorporated into all of his previous business endeavors, from the birthday party magic show business to the retail business where he worked during and after college. So, the focus of Sheps business became customer service. Now, Shep Hyken is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and customer service expert and Shep still resides in St. Louis, Missouri as an empty nester with his wife Sydney.

 

Shep Hyken are you ready to help us get over the hump?

 

Shep Hyken:     I am ready to rock and roll. [Laugh]

 

Jim Rembach:    Okay, awesome. I’ve given are Fast Leader legion a little bit about you, but can tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you better?

 

Shep Hyken:    Sure. My whole thing and my whole world is making experiences where customers walk away from a business and it could be a customer client, guest, patient, anybody who does business with the company or organization. I want them to walk away and say, “Wow! That was a great place to do business with.” And that’s what I been doing for years. But in the past several years I have gotten more and more involved with an online learning program. I take all my content on customer service and put it online, switch on demand virtual training but here’s what I’m passionate about, I just realize I always been one to give back and I figure out a way to give back, and this is special because you’re the first person that basically publicly I’m sharing this with, this is brand new exciting and here’s what we’re doing similar to the Tom’s shoe model where’s one-for-one, buy a pair of shoes they donate a pair of shoes to people that can afford it, buy a pair of their glasses they donate a pair glasses and do other charitable things. For every company that buys one of my licenses, and actually most companies buy group licensed, 100, 200, 300, 500, I’m going to donate the same number to an urban school so that the kids come out of high school and college can go to this eight hour course, get a certificate of completion and a tax certificate to the resume when they’re out looking for a job. I want to help young people be more successful and I want to do it with passion and I figure out a way to marry them together. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Shep that’s awesome. I really appreciate what you’re doing for society, for our education system. That’s one of the things that we’ve talked a lot about on previous episodes is building that knowledge and skill set within folks so that—one of your passions, I think you had said something to the effect of helping change the American economy through customer service, and that’s one way you’re making a big impact, so thanks. 

 

I know you are of high passion and on the show we focus on several things and one being leadership quotes. And you shared with me, you kind of struggled with that because you have so many quotes that really drive you but, have you been able to focus on one or two that you can share with us?

 

Shep Hyken:    Oh, man. There are so many. One of my favorites, and I don’t have been exactly word for word, but there’s one, Vince Lombardi used to talk about that perfection is not reality. I believe he said perfection is not unattainable, but upon the pursuit of perfection you can achieve excellence. And I would love a perfect world but I know this, if I strive to do my best along the way I will probably do my best. And I think that’s why I inspired the people around me, who work with me to be that way. I talked to my kids about it, don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong, just do your best, and I think that what counts. And if you chase that goal of perfection, along the way great things are going to happen.

 

Jim Rembach:     I think that’s a great point. In keeping that strength to know that your best is something that could change and develop as you—first of all, continue to make the effort and the attempt, just keep trying, just keep striving. Thanks for sharing that with us.

 

Shep Hyken:     Yeah. There’s another one that I’ll share with you real quickly. I love Walt Disney. There’s so many things about Walt Disney and the guest experience and customer service are important but from a leadership perspective he had something he called it ‘stooping to excellence’ if you want to quote it that’s it, stoop to excellence. And what he meant was, as he walk into the theme park, he knew that all of the cast members, the employees that’s what they call them was cast members, would be looking at him going, “Wow, there’s Walt Disney. And if he walked by a piece of paper and left it on the ground he gave permission to everybody else to do that. So, instead he would stoop down, pick it up and throw it away and he call that stooping to excellence. And I believe he modelled what customer service was all about, what guest service is about, he modelled his leadership and I think that’s a powerful thing to do.

I know that in the past I thought about the people that I would like to be most liked and it’s because they do what it is that they talked about, they do what it is that they preaching, believe in, and they are who they wear it on their sleeves. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Definitely being authentic and genuine can have a huge impact with both employees and customers. And trying to be able to do that through all times, whether you prosper or whether you’re struggling that consistency and the authenticity is something that we can never, ever fail to deliver upon.

 

Shep Hyken:    Right. It’s easy when things are going well, it’s when things aren’t going well that’s when I think the rubber hits the road that’s when your true personality and your leadership abilities come out.

 

Jim Rembach:     That’s for sure.  And so with that we often have times where we’ve had humps to get over and they test our character, help build our character in those time, so that we can hopefully as time goes on, not fall. Is there a time for you where you had to get over a hump? And a kind of really gave you that renewed sense of direction and that energy to continue on? Can you share that with us?

 

Shep Hyken:     I do have one  that I’ll share with you but it’s kind of what you think I would normally do. I’m a very optimistic person. I’m very upbeat, I can get up in the morning it’s time to go and my wife jokes that, I’ll be taking late at night in the middle of my sentence I’ll fall asleep I just wake up and continue where I left off. I love life. I play a lot, that’s important. Bad days for me on last a day, they don’t last, just like my philosophy.

 

 So, here’s what happened, I can’t believe I actually did this. I became president of the National Speakers Association, the Industry Organization Association for Professional Speakers. I been on the board for, I’m now on my 10th year but I was just recently president. When I took over as president, and it’s a volunteer position, prior to that our leadership team had decided we were going to change the name of the association from the National Speakers Association to something else what we change it to wasn’t important. 

 

The way we went about it we thought we were doing it right, by the book we’re doing it right, by the by-laws and what our board did and the way we voted on it approve it, it was done correctly. But by our membership, in other words by our customers we didn’t do it right. And when we announced last year at the national meeting that we were changing the name to this name, I received within—I will say 48 hours almost 800 e-mails from our members. By the way, probably 750 of those 800 e-mails said we hate it, we can’t believe you’re doing it were going to quit if you keep this name. We had a crisis on our hands and this was one of the biggest challenges that I ever went through from a business standpoint.

 

We all have life challenges that cause personal—a love one passes away or you have a relationship issue but in businesses this was my biggest crisis I may have ever gone through. I think, maybe what made it work is I’m the customer service guy. It’s not that I want everybody to be happy but I knew we need to respond quickly and I have these five-step process for dealing with the customer complaint real simple, acknowledge the problem, apologize, fix it or discuss what the remedy is going to be, do with the right attitude which is usually one of ownership and confidence and then finally do it fast. 

 

So, this was happening just really quickly. We left the meeting and the next day all these e-mails are coming in. Within three days we put a video up to our membership, “Hey, we hear you and I’m sorry that you guys aren’t happy which means number one, I knowledge it, number two, I said I was sorry and number three here’s what we’re doing were going to have a board meeting by the end of the week, an emergency board meeting were calling all the board members from all over the country plus past presidents who acts ex officio board members—they’re going to get on this board meeting and I promise you I’ll keep you inform but I need you to do me a favor, please stop email me, because if I will answer all of your e-mails will prevent me from getting this good work done. 

 

And the e-mails came to almost a complete halt, by the end of the week I’ll let them know. The board was officially meeting on Sunday, on Monday I got back to them and told them exactly what has happened we reverse the decision, we’re going to create a committee of members—90 members by way, stepped one of the volunteer to determine whether or not we were actually going to change name, not only to the name we propose but any name at all. 

 

Basically, it was crisis management, managed, I’m not going to say to perfection, but it’s good as we could have done it, we acted quick, swiftly we made good decisions, we listen to our members everything seemed to work. As a result of that, we not only renewed the confidence of our members we may have renewed it to a higher-level letting them know that, “Hey, we admit our mistake, we listen to you and here we are today.”

 

Jim Rembach:     That’s a great story. It’s fresh and new in your mind, I’m sure there’s a lot of emotion associated with that as well.

 

Shep Hyken:     Yeah. A year later which was just a couple weeks ago, I was on stage as the president—it take over at the end of the meeting and now it was mine and little self-effacing humor mentioned it from the stage on the first night like probably two sentences literally and it made people laugh. In my opening line was, “It’s great to be here at Influence 2015, the premiere event for professional speakers, this is the National Speakers Association annual meeting. And yes, I did say National Speakers Association and I got a laugh and that’s the last we heard of it. 

 

Jim Rembach:     Good for you. When you’re going through that moment and starting to get that backlash, what was going through you mind?

 

Shep Hyken:     What did I sign up for? [Laugh] This is a volunteer position. And by the way, I didn’t make the decision, the board made the decision. But I am now the face of that board and the face of our association. I need to step up and do what’s right, and I think we did. I must you it wasn’t all me, I have a great team to work with. The CEO, which is our executive director of the National Speakers Association, Stacy Tetschner, he’s an amazing man, the staff was so supportive of the board members who were able to come together and make this decision quickly.

 I met with somebody briefly after this who’s very well informed about these types of things happening and he said,” Shep you did in 10 days what most people take 10 months to do. How did you do it?” And my response was, “I just knew it had to get done and that’s what we did, we just did it.” 

 

Jim Rembach:    I’m sure that as you were going through talking about all of that emotion and getting that thing done that there was probably several epiphanies that you had that you could use as part of a really in setting up a better course of direction for your future as well as for the association, but if you were to stop and think about what advice you would give to our Fast Leader legion from what you learned through that story, what would it be?

 

Shep Hyken:    At that point, when this is happening, I didn’t realize it was a customer service issue. I realize were having a crisis in our management. But when I reflect that what happened in that week. By the way, I realize it right when it happened I said, “Wow, we did exactly that five step process. We acknowledge it, we apologize for happening, we discussed what we’re going to do to fix it and we did we did it with the right attitude, ownership, and then we did it fast, we did it within 10 days, that was pretty quick. 

 

And I started to think back, “Wow, that’s exactly what I teach my clients to do. I mean, whenever we have a customer service situation in our office—somebody didn’t receive a box of books that they ordered from us—it’s really easy we can do all these five things rather quickly. We acknowledge it, apologize then we’re going to send another box of books out right away, thank them again for their business and we acted fast. And then we followed up to make sure that they receive it this time. That’s easy but how about when you have hundreds and hundreds of people breathing down your neck angry, threatening to leave the association that just a day or two before that they laugh, wow, that is a crisis. And I think we handled it beautifully and we handle it in style of managing a customer or members expectations.

 

Jim Rembach:     You know, Shep as I’m listening to you tell that story I even thinking about situations personally within family and friends and things like and those experiences, I think we can apply those same five rules to our relationships as a whole, I don’t  think it matters whether or not it’s business.

 

Shep Hyken:     Any time you had a disagreement it works in your personal and professional life as most good business principles do.

 

Jim Rembach:    So, when you start talking about where you are and all the things that you’re learning and the passions that you have and the work that you’re doing and the give back, which is just incredible, what are some of the goals that you have for the future?

 

Shep Hyken:    Wow, my future? I’m a very goal oriented guy and I think that leaders need to be goal-oriented and they need to share those goals with the people they work with and the people around them. By the way, I shared business goals with my wife, so she knew and can grow with me, just as I share the business goals with their team and say, from a financial standpoint.  Let’s go back –you mentioned that I saw a couple motivational speakers and decided, this is what I wanted to do, and one of those speakers is Zig Ziglar who talked about goal setting. In 1983 I set a goal when I was 22 years old at the time or 23 years old just—I just turned 23, I set a ten year goal from age 23 to age 32 and I hit those goals around age 30 or so, I did it about eight years, not ten. 

 

Then I set another set of 10 year goals, and they’re all financial goals by the way, I needed to make this amount of money in order to be able to build my business, in order to be able to pay for my family’s education and all their well-being, all the good things. When I hit the goals at age 40 I started to move in the lifestyle goals. So, for me, at a certain age—I’m still feeling young and just barely halfway home, so to speak, I’ve got a long way to go. But I know this, I work really very hard, I’ve saved a lot and my goal is to continue to work hard but I what lifestyle to be a good part of that. 

 

So, I surround myself with good people, those good people are best at what they do which allows me to be freed up to do the things that I’m best at doing and try to focus on what I call ‘retirement’ and I learned this from Dan Sullivan, who’s my coach I go to a coach every quarter Dan Sullivan’s program called, “The Strategic Coach” and basically the  was Michael Chandler code shut record and settlements program called the strategic Coach and definition of retirement is only doing what you love. They are part of my business that I love doing and that I hope I can do until the last days of my life. So, I don’t know if that’s somewhat—zappy, but that’s truly where I’m at right now.

 

Jim Rembach:    Shep, I think that’s awesome. The Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Alright, here we go Fast Leader legion it’s time for the –Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Shep, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insight fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Shep Hyken are you ready to hoedown?

 

Shep Hyken:    I’m ready rock and roll time. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?

 

Shep Hyken:    This is a simple word. Nothing. There’s nothing holding me back. If anything holds me back it’s my own fault and I take personal responsibility and there’s nothing in my mind right now that can hold me back. I surround myself with great people, great people that work with, great people that I aspire to be liked and I take in from all of it. 

 

Jim Rembach:    What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?

 

Shep Hyken:    Wow! How about this, don’t ask people to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. I was about 15 years old, I was working at a building doing maintenance and I was struggling to get these weeds out of the ground—I was young, small, these were huge weeds and the owner of the building or the president of the company showed up in his fancy car, had his coat and tie, saw me struggling and he walk over and he told me I was doing it wrong. He took off his sports coat, took off his tie, he got his hands dirty and he started showing me the proper way to get thi big, huge weeds out of the ground. I was like, “Wow! I can’t believe you’d do that” He said, “I would never expect anybody to do something like this if I wouldn’t be willing to do it myself.”

 

Jim Rembach:    What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?

 

Shep Hyken:    Reading. I read daily dozens of articles. Every week I read. I read books, I probably read about 30 to 40 books a year.

 

Jim Rembach:    What do you feel is one of your best resources that helps you lead in business or life?

 

Shep Hyken:    Wow! One of my best resources, this is a good question. Once again I think the Internet is probably my best resource because I Google alert the topics I’m interested in. Every day it gives me a digests of all the places and the written articles and things I can read and learn from.

 

Jim Rembach:    Now, Shep is a reader and also an author. Sometimes it’s difficult to recommend a book or two to our legion but do you think you can make your way through it?

 

Shep Hyken:    Sure  because this is about leadership I have just finished a great book by a woman named, Dina Dwyer-Owens, it’s called “Value, Inc.” And she is an amazing leader in business. She believes that of you have the right core values and can get everybody along with you on that same journey you’re going to be  successful. Values, Inc. great book by Dina Dwyer-Owens. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Okay, Fast Leader legion, you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to fastleader.net/ShepHyken. Shep is also offering a free download of his book, Moments of Magic as well as a white paper on how customer service will fix the US economy and that will be available in the show notes pages as well. Okay, Shep, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question:  Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you have been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have back with you but you can’t take everything you can only take one thing, so, what one piece of skill or knowledge would you take back with you? And why?

 

Shep Hyken:   One word communication. The ability to communicate, the ability to speak and write without that you have nothing—speak, you talk clients, in my business you talk to audience, communicate you write to clients and I write articles. I always tell my friends if there’s something I would have done sooner, I would’ve written my first book sooner than I did. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Shep Hyken, it was great to spend time with you today. Can you please share with the Fast Leader listeners how they can connect with you?  

 

Shep Hyken:    Sure, just go straight to my website  hyken.com and there you’ll learn all about I do but there’s also over 350 articles that I’ve written plus, guest bloggers that had posted on my site and check out my YouTube channel which is just YouTube.com/Shep Hayken. There’s about 400 videos, I take all of my content and make it available at no charge and you get it in chunks and pieces so that you can watch as quickly and as long as you want to do it. Hope you enjoy.

 

Jim Rembach:    Shep Hyken, thank you for sharing her knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump? Woot! Woot!

 

Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.

 

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