Tag Archives: Career and Self-Improvement Articles

Keys to a Positive Attitude

By Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor

Why do some people have such a great attitude and others a negative one? Well, we wondered the same thing and through our research we found seven keys that those with a positive mental attitude all share. How do you rate?

1) Choose Your Attitude in Advance: When you wake up, you have a choice. You can be in a good mood or a bad mood. You also choose your attitude. You can wake up and mutter to yourself, “This is gonna be a cruddy day,” or you can tell yourself, “This is gonna be a great day!” This choice is the start of a great attitude.

2) Visualize Success: Runners in the Boston Marathon picture themselves crossing the finish line. Picture yourself having a successful day. Self-visualization is a key factor in having a positive mental attitude. Will it work 100% of the time? I wish it would. However, by visualizing your success, you’ll be able to have a better handle on what does happen, and having a better chance of making it happen.

3) Demonstrate Humor, Energy, and Enthusiasm: We call these three items the magic ingredients. Without them, creating a positive mental attitude will be difficult. There is normally humor in every situation. Finding it is key. Sometimes you’ll need to stretch and dig a little deeper to find the humor in a situation. But once you do, you’ll feel so much better. Energy is important because without some energy in your attitude, you’ll be dragging behind everyone. Energy is closely related to the third ingredient, enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious; let’s start an epidemic!

4) Resist Negative Influences: It’s a fact. When we have a negative experience with a company, we’ll tell more people about it than if we have a good experience with the same company. Many times, when you hear that someplace wasn’t very good, you’ll believe the person who told you and choose not to do business with that company. However, you may only be hearing half the story. Check things out for yourself. Especially if the negativity involves a person you work with or know. We’ve all heard negative things about someone we didn’t know and then when we had the opportunity to meet them ourselves, we find that they’re not as bad as someone had alluded to. In fact they might be nice, but you need to be the judge. Take negativity out of your life. Steer clear of those who drag you down and say negative things. Being around other positive people is a good start.

5) Be a Whatever-it-Takes Person: This means, be a problem solver. Life is going to put obstacles in front of all of us. How we go around those obstacles is key. There’s normally a good answer to every problem put in front of us. Dale Carnegie said it best. Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen here?” Then move up from that.

6) Embrace Change; Expect it and Accept it: Some people are very good at handling change and some resist it. The major key to handling change is to accept it; deal with it. In most cases there’s little we can do to stop it anyway.

7) Be Grateful for What You Have: Many people have so much and yet those same people are often the ones that constantly complain. Why wait for some life-altering experience to be grateful? Be grateful, now.

These are the seven keys to having a positive mental attitude. Put them into practice and you will be amazed at the difference they can make.

This article is based on the Telephone Doctor’s video program “The Seven Keys to a Positive Mental Attitude.” Nancy Friedman is President of Telephone Doctor, a customer service training company in St. Louis, MO.

[From Connection Magazine November 2005]

“If You Know Your Party’s Extension…”

By Nancy Friedman

People often tell me, “I hate voicemail!” As we talk further, I find that it’s not really voicemail they hate, it’s the automated attendant. That dull, monotone recording that is supposed to “welcome callers.”

Is there anyone reading this who will disagree that the first voice one hears when you call a company sets the tone? Why on earth do companies put a dull, monotone, robotic message on their automated attendant?

In our recent survey of ‘What bugs you on the telephone?’, the automated attendant is now the second most frustrating ‘bug’ to the American public, coming in right after “being put on hold” which remains the number one frustration! So, let’s make sure that you don’t bug people in the way you use voicemail.

The Automated Attendant: The automated attendant is affectionately labeled ‘the groaner’ because that’s what most people do when they hear the lethargic, “Thank you for calling XYZ. If you know your party’s extension, please dial it now. Blah, blah, blah.”

If you’re the caller, it’s important to realize the moment you hear the “Th….” in “Thank you for calling,” you can normally press zero and bypass the dull, robotic, monotone introduction to the company. In most cases, you’ll reach a person. If you make repetitive calls to one person, learning their extension will expedite your future calls.

If you’re using an automated attendant at your company, please remember that you’re not married to the ‘voice’ that came with the machine. The greeting can be recorded to reflect the mood and style of your company, which by all standards should be upbeat, bright, and friendly.

So, one of the first things you need to consider if you’re using the automated attendant is to re-record the initial greeting that came with the machine. Have one of your bright, happy, friendly-sounding employees be your ‘voice of choice.’ Make it an ‘American Idol’ type contest.

The recording should be as conversational and friendly sounding as possible. Of course, it should be recorded with a big smile. Also, you might consider hiring a professional voice-over expert to record your opening message to your callers. It’s well worth it.

A friend of mine recently wrote her own automated attendant message and recorded the opening message to her callers herself. She made it sound as though you were on a theme park ride. Very clever! Part of the problem with the automated attendant is the dull, somber sounding voice. Call your own system and then ask yourself if that’s the voice that you want welcoming your callers. If not, re-record!

The Greeting: Do you feel as though you’re missing a few messages on your voicemail? It could be the way you greet your callers.  Your greeting to the caller needs to give useful information. If you’re using the standard: “Hi, this is Bob and I’m not here right now,” well duh, that’s not news. Re-think your greeting.

When your personal voicemail message greets the caller, you’re obviously away from your desk or on the phone. So use those very precious moments to be creative and give the caller pertinent information. No one wants to hear where you’re “not.” They need to know where you “are.”

Here’s a sample: “Hi, this is Nancy Friedman, in the sales department. I’m in a staff meeting until 3:00 p.m. Go ahead and leave a message. I do check messages often and calls will be returned. If you need me sooner, please call my assistant, Valerie, at extension 41 and she’ll find me for you. Thanks and have a super day!”

Most important on a greeting is to let the callers know when you will return. It’s nice to know where you are, but callers need to know when you’ll return. And it’s a good idea to always leave an escape valve. Otherwise, your callers are thrown into ‘voicemail jail.’ (Note: This particular tip does mean you’ll need to re-record your greeting daily. It is about an eight-second job that can be done from anywhere in the world.)

If you’d prefer not to do a daily recording of where you are, that’s okay too. Use a generic message. Start your message off with the positive: “Hi, This is Nancy in Sales. I am in the office all week and will return all messages.”

The phrase “I’ll return your call as soon as possible” is not necessary. It’s obvious. If you are one of those folks who just don’t return calls, then you’re fibbing! So if your voicemail greeting says: “I’ll return your call,” do it or don’t include it in the greeting.

Surveys indicate most people will leave a message if they hear you check your machine. Our surveys also show callers respond to a friendly, happy greeting much better than a blah, blah, dull one. So be sure you’re smiling when you record your greeting.

If you’re going to be out of the office for longer than a day, we suggest you let your callers know that. We’ve seen salespeople lose important clients because calls weren’t returned in a timely manner. They had left a generic “I’ll return your call as soon as possible,” and didn’t.

When you call someone and hear the “I’ll return your call as soon as possible,” you might consider zeroing out and finding out if the person is actually in the office. We’ve done that several times and found that the person left a ‘generic’ message but was in Hawaii for a two week vacation and didn’t bother to change his greeting or check his messages.

The Message: This is your opportunity to be great. Leaving a message on voicemail for someone is your electronic business card. You’d probably be pretty embarrassed to hand someone your business card with the wrong phone number, or one that was all messed up, wouldn’t you? Then why leave anything but a great voicemail message?

Remember, when someone goes out to lunch, to a long meeting or is gone for a few days and comes back to their office, they hear something like this: “Hello, you have 52 new messages.” Yours is somewhere in there. It needs to stand out. You have a lot of competition.

There are three kinds of messages to leave: poor, average, or great:

Poor Message: “Hi, this is Bob, give me a call.”

Have you ever had this one? You probably have. It’s maddening, too. Bob who? I know three Bob’s. And from where I’m calling, I’m unable to bring up his phone number. The poorest of the poor.

Average Message: “Hi, this is Bob, call me at 555-1012. I need to ask you something.”

So ask it – on the message you leave. Voicemail is asynchronous communication. Since so much information flow these days is one way, use your message to get the ball rolling, leave enough information to move a process forward. Chances are when the call is returned the answer will be included.

Great Message: “Hi, Nancy. This is Bob Smith, Acme Distributors. I’d like to get together with you to discuss the proposal I sent over the other day. There are some new ideas to talk about. I’m in and out of the office myself, but please call my voicemail and leave me a time we can meet, or call my secretary Debbie at extension 22, and let her know the time. Either way is fine. I look forward to seeing you. Again, it’s Bob with Acme at 555-10-12. That’s 555-10-12.”

The great message has all the meat necessary to do business. Plus, the phone number is repeated at the end, twice and slowly. Notice too, it’s clustered. We didn’t say 1-0-1-2. We used 10-12. It’s an important technique that makes it easier for the other person to remember your number.

Remember, the person you’re calling gets a lot of voicemail messages, so in order for yours to be ‘heard,’ be great – not average. Also, upbeat, friendly messages are far more apt to be returned first. So again, remember to smile when you leave a message.

Exercise your options. Various voicemail systems will allow you to play back what you recorded and offer an opportunity to re-record. Take that option. Don’t hesitate to use these options because it can save you a lot of aggravation.

Also, remember, sometimes people go on vacation and forget to say so in their greeting. Or their mailbox may be full. Check in with the receptionist and ask if the person is in the office, or ask the receptionist if your contact has an assistant you can talk with. Whenever possible, do leave a voicemail message, too. Since voicemail is obviously here to stay, we might as well make it work for us, not against us.

Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor, an international customer service training company, based in St. Louis, MO. Nancy is the author of four best selling books.

Voicemail Tips

  • Expect to encounter voicemail. Be prepared. Only 30 percent of all calls are connected to those you need to talk with, on the first try.
  • Don’t “wing” a message you’re going to leave. Be prepared. Have an objective. Know what you’re going to say. Messages without thought will sound amateurish.
  • Return all calls or have them returned on your behalf. There’s little value to having voicemail unless a message is returned. If your greeting says you will return all calls, then do it or remove the part that says you will.
  • Avoid leaving bad news messages on voicemail. Example: “Hi Nancy. This is the veterinarian’s office calling. Remember you dropped off Trixie this morning? Well….” (You get the picture.)
  • Ask for a call back time when leaving messages. A simple “I need to hear from you by such and such a time” can help. This is not a fool proof technique, but it does help. It gives direction to the listener.
  • Smile, smile, smile. And then, smile some more.

[From Connection Magazine October 2005]

Sealing the Deal Over the Business Meal

By Lydia Ramsey

Doing business over meals is a ritual that has existed for centuries. Taking clients to breakfast, lunch, or dinner has long been an effective way to build relationships, make the sale, or seal the deal. These business meals are essentially business meetings. Knowledge of your product or your service is crucial to the success of the meeting, but so are your manners. Too many people jeopardize an opportunity because they fail to use good etiquette on these occasions.

Here are a few basic rules to make the experience both pleasurable and profitable.

Know your duties as the host. You are in charge. It is up to you to see that things go well and that your guests are comfortable. You need to attend to every detail, from extending the invitation to paying the bill.

Plan ahead when you issue the invitation. Allow a week for a business dinner and three days for lunch. Be certain that the date works for you. That might sound obvious, but if you have to cancel or postpone, you can look disorganized and disrespectful of your clients’ time.

Select a restaurant that you know, preferably one where you are known. This is no time to try out the latest hot spot. Being confident of the quality of the food and service leaves you free to focus on business.

Consider the atmosphere. Does it lend itself to conversation and discussion? If you and your clients can’t hear each other over the roar of the diners and dishes, you will have wasted your time and money.

When you make your reservation, let the staff know that you will be dining with clients. If your guests suggest a restaurant new to you (perhaps you are hosting clients out-of-town), call ahead and speak with the maitre’d. Make it clear that you will be having an important business meal and picking up the check.

Confirm the meal appointment with your clients the day before if you are meeting for breakfast, or that day if you are having lunch or dinner. Things do happen and mix-ups occur.

Arrive early so you can attend to last minute details. This is the perfect time to give your credit card to the maitre’d to avoid the awkwardness that can accompany the arrival of the bill.

Take charge of the seating. Your guests should have the prime seats – the ones with the view. As the host, take the least desirable spot – the one facing the wall, the kitchen, or the restrooms.

Beyond being polite, where you seat your guests is strategically important. When you are entertaining one client, sit next to each at a right angle, rather than across the table. With two clients, put one across from you and the other to your side. If you sit between them, you will look as if you are watching a match at Wimbledon as you try to follow the conversation.

Allow your guests to order first. You might suggest certain dishes to be helpful. By recommending specific items, you are indicating a price range. Order as many courses as your guests, no more and no less, to facilitate the flow of the meal. It is awkward if one of you orders an appetizer or dessert and the others do not.

As the host, you are the one who decides when to start discussing business. That will depend on a number of factors such as the time of day and how well you know your clients. At breakfast, time is short so get down to business quickly. At lunch, wait until you have ordered so you won’t be interrupted. Dinner, the more social occasion, is a time for rapport building. Limit the business talk and do it after the main course is completed.

When you know your clients well, you have more of a basis for small talk. However, because you have established a business friendship, you can eliminate some of the chitchat when time is an issue. When you don’t know your clients well, spend more time getting acquainted before launching your shoptalk.

Sometimes you simply need to use your own judgment about when to get down to business, realizing that if you wait too long, your clients may start to wonder why they were invited. If you begin too early in the meal, your guests might suspect that you are more interested in their money than you are in them.

Keep an eye on the time, but don’t let your guests see you checking your watch. Breakfast should typically last an hour, lunch an hour and a half. Wrap up your business dinner in two to three hours, no more.

Handle any disasters with grace. With all your attention to detail, things can still go wrong. The food may not be up to your standards, the waiter might be rude, or the people at the next table may be boisterous and out of control. Whatever happens, make sure you are not the one to lose control. Excuse yourself to discuss any problems with the staff. Your guests will feel uncomfortable if you complain in front of or to them.

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink at the business meal. The three Martini lunch is mostly a thing of the past. However, cocktails and wine are still part of the business dinner. Since alcohol can lead to poor judgment, keep your consumption to one or two glasses. When guests are drinking liberally and you sense trouble, excuse yourself and discreetly ask the server to hold back on refilling the wine glasses or offering another cocktail.

Your conduct over the meal will determine your professional success. If you pay attention to the details and make every effort to see that your clients have a pleasant experience, they will assume that you will handle their business the same way. Before long you could have them eating out of your hand!

Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert with over 25 years of experience helping others achieve success by adopting professional manners and the author of “Manners that Sell – Adding the Polish that Builds Profits.”

[From Connection Magazine December 2004]

How to Control Call Center Stress

By Dale Collie

Every worker in America has heard of individual stress management techniques – relaxation, meditation, and visualization – good tools for getting through stressful periods. But if they’re so great, why do we still have all this stress?

With the concerns regarding the war, weather alerts, and the fluctuating economy, people are more stressed than ever. They’re also bringing that stress to work and adding to the stress of their everyday responsibilities. We’re going to need more than mood music, aromatherapy, and comfortable lighting to get beyond the stress of today’s workplace. We’re going to need management’s attention because stress control is a leadership responsibility.

The US Army has plenty of experience with stress control as front line leaders strive to keep GIs on the job. Traditionally, the US Army has lost as many soldiers to stress as to enemy gunfire – a ratio of 1:1. The most elite units trim this loss to a ratio of 1:10 — one stress loss for every 10 wounded soldiers.

Regardless of the ratio, every front line soldier is critical to winning the battle. Commanders know that controlling stress under fire is as critical as food, fuel, and ammunition. The same holds true for call centers. You can’t get high productivity with high absenteeism.

Combat leaders watch for stress symptoms and take action. They are taught to “Know your troops, and be alert for any sudden, persistent, or progressive change in their behavior that threatens the functioning and safety of your unit.” (FM 6-22.5, Combat Stress)  Specifically, front line leaders are taught to help overstressed soldiers in six ways:

Army Step 1. Reassurance: Call Center Solution: Some people need contact with the boss to assure them that things will turn out okay. Spend time to understand your employees’ concerns. Ask for their observations on recent events. Find out what they think about upcoming changes. Ask for their advice; they’ll admire you for demonstrating your trust. Simple remarks showing your confidence in workers can make a big difference.

Army Step 2. Rest and sleep: Call Center Solution: It’s worth your while to offer some additional time off if stress is interfering with performance. Consider offering additional breaks to relieve mental and physical fatigue. Often, improved productivity will more than pay for the unstructured breaks that over-stressed agents will take on their own. Find out what’s needed to help employees get more rest at home. Bring in experts to teach the importance of rest and relaxation. Look at your overtime schedule; the extra work might be taking its toll in absenteeism, illness, accidents, and attitudes.

Army Step 3. Food and fluids: Call Center Solutions: You can influence how people eat by getting experts to teach the importance of proper nutrition. Make sure nutritious snacks are available alongside the junk food in vending machines. Provide healthy snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon when energy levels begin to fade. The investment can pay off in better performance.

Army Step 4. Hygiene (bathing, clean uniforms): Call Center Solution: A scheduled break to get cleaned up before lunch or after a hard day can pay off in a big way. As surprising as it might seem, some employees do not have running water at home. Not all of them have hot water. Not all of them have washing machines. If possible, make these things available at your workplace or find alternatives. One-time arrangements can go a long way in helping stressed workers get their emotions under control and get their productivity up where it belongs.

Army Step 5. Discussion – A chance to talk about what happened, to tell war stories: Call Center Solution: Everyone benefits from a chance to tell about what went on. Some people are more sensitive than others are. There is often great value in routine meetings to kick off the shift or explain the day’s activities. Scheduling time before or after meetings to talk about what happened can relieve stress for those in the spotlight. Team discussions after sales calls can help stressed workers understand the results and focus on what needs to be done. In times of high stress, some people need to talk about what happened to others around them. Managers can handle the day-to-day conversations while experts are available to address major stressors. Help your staff tell their “war stories.”

Army Step 6. Restoring identity and confidence with useful work: Call Center Solution: As soon as possible, over stressed workers need to return to their positions of responsibility. They need to see that (a) they can perform well, (b) that management recognizes their efforts, and (c) that life goes on. Emphasize small accomplishments. Find reasons to reward each person for their achievements.

GIs usually return to their jobs after a short rest, a hot shower, a chat with their supervisor, and a warm meal. Your people can do the same. Most of the time, they can continue in their jobs if you pay attention to their basic needs.

Watch for high stress periods in your business cycle and schedule time to work on these six steps. You’ll improve productivity and the workplace environment by taking care of your employees. Your investment of time and money will be rewarded in better performance and lower costs.

Work with your human resource experts to assist those who are beyond your own ability. Let the professionals take care of severe cases while you take care of your other employees and get the work done.

Can you identify employees who are suffering from stress? Do you know what to do about it? Evaluate employee problems with an eye toward stress control. Take these tips and apply them to your staff to see an improvement in stress management.

Dale Collie is an author, speaker, former US Army Ranger, CEO, and professor at West Point. His McGraw-Hill book, “Winning Under Fire: Turn Stress into Success the US Army Way,” takes strategies from the battlefield into the boardroom and beyond. A Purple Heart recipient, Dale has succeeded in both the Army and the corporate world through his management and leadership strategies.

[From Connection Magazine December 2004]

Simon Says: Don’t Stress!

By Elaine Senecal / Illustration by Chris Lewis

Simon Says - March 2004As employers and managers, we need to beware of the warning signs of our employees’ stress level, not just for their well-being but also for how it affects productivity. Stress can result in an indifferent attitude, which may result in agent apathy toward customer concerns.

To alleviate some of the agents’ stress, we can proactively provide support and knowledge about how to manage it. Offering problem solving techniques for situations they may encounter throughout the day will benefit the center’s overall productivity and lower agents’ stress. Other snippets to think about and apply to your particular environment are:

  • Continue to think logically about the situation.
  • Don’t focus on the customer’s behavior.
  • Focus on the cause.
  • Please remember to say “thank you” and “please.”
  • Slow your breathing when you feel stressed.
  • Always use positive words.
  • Don’t point the finger.
  • Keep your voice friendly.
  • Don’t get aggressive.
  • Take a break – away from the work area.
  • Wet your whistle – ice water is best.
  • Stand up – if appropriate.
  • Forget about it when it’s over.

Without a plan of action, a problem solving technique, or a plan for what to do next, stress levels can heighten and productivity can decrease. Having a plan to manage daily anxieties will improve employee performance and reduce stress at the same time.

[From Connection MagazineMarch 2004]

Websites That Can Help You and Your Business

Compiled by Kevin Bachelder

The Internet is a tremendous information source for both individuals and businesses. However, much like your local library it isn’t helpful unless you know where to start! With that in mind, here are 50 websites that can help you with your day-to-day tasks. This is just a small sample from my “favorites” list that currently contains over 2,000 links. [Though the original list contained 50 sites, some are no longer working sites, so the list grows shorter over time.]

Searching for Information
The best place to search for almost anything on the Internet: www.google.com
Another good general search engine: www.dogpile.com
Aid in looking for people or other businesses: www.whitepages.com
Dun & Bradstreet offers all kinds of credit and business info: www.dnb.com
Explanations on things technical and non-technical: www.howstuffworks.com
A dictionary, thesaurus and other guides all in one place: www.refdesk.com

Small Business Related
Inc Magazine: www.inc.com
Entrepreneur Magazine: www.entrepreneur.com
U.S. Small Business Administration: www.sba.gov
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives): www.score.org

Sales / Motivational
Brian Tracy (a leading sales and motivational speaker and author): www.briantracy.com
Anthony Robbins (author and speaker): www.tonyrobbins.com

General Computing and Technology
Information from national speaker Kim Komando: www.komando.com
Excellent resource for articles and reviews of everything technical: www.cnet.com
Information about computers: www.zdnet.com
Articles and email newsletters for the more technically inclined: www.techrepublic.com

Help with Computing
Discussion boards and access to people who can help: www.computing.net
Fred Langa has been a columnist for many computing periodicals: fredlanga.blogspot.com
The latest computer viruses: www.securelist.com

Looking for some good software you can try before you buy

Computing Magazine with a Small Business Focus
Excellent articles and reviews for a small business perspective: www.pcworld.com

Best deals on travel/rental calls/hotels
A partnership of many of the airlines: www.orbitz.com
Travelocity: www.travelocity.com

Need directions on how to get somewhere
Maps and turn-by-turn driving directions: www.mapquest.com

Got some legal issues you could use some help with

Buying books
Books and so much more at excellent prices: www.amazon.com
Site to search over 40 sites for the best price on a specific book: www.addall.com

Need to check out how your favorite team is doing

Want to communicate with other people who share your interests or hobbies

Want to make a difference in the world

Bonus Site

Interact with other Call Center Techs https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/callcentertechs/info

Kevin Bachelder is the Director of Information Technology for Ansaphone in Quincy, MA. He began working in the industry in 1983. Kevin holds multiple computer certifications including the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), the CCA (Citrix Certified Administrator) and the A+ (CompTIA A+ Certified Computer Repair Technician). Kevin reads over 250 email newsletters each week and participates in over 40 email and Web-based technical discussion groups. Contact Kevin at kbachelder@ansaphone.com or 800-782-7587.

[From Connection MagazineDecember 2002]

Call Center Burnout: A Personal Story of Truth and Admission

“Dress like a lady, act like a man, and work like a dog.” That’s been my unconscious philosophy for years. I spent years being a toxic handler and a healing manager. That caused me to pay the price both professionally and personally. At times, I exhausted myself physically and carried psychological baggage. That caused me to burnout.

I was a manager who spent years closing and consolidating telephone answering services and call centers. I was forced to become a manager that voluntarily shouldered sadness, frustration, and anger in addition to carrying a full load of regular work. Often times, I was criticized for making everyone feel warm and fuzzy. The reality is that without the people there is no bottom line. The tougher the work you have to do, the more compassionate you have to be. I played a role that prevented companies’ self-destruction. I was disobedient to the social order to get the job done. Strong emotions are obviously a part of life. They are also a part of business whether or not we want to admit it.

Recently, I found myself on the receiving line of a lay off. It’s not 1960 anymore. I do not have a beehive hairdo and careers do not last thirty years. It used to be that you had a career, but now you have projects. Colleagues turned into networking. Promotions gave way to burnout. After years of participating in employee termination decisions, I found myself on the way to outplacement. So the tables turn. For years, I carried the confidence of others. I kept the secrets well and allowed everyone else to be less troubled. I took the “ouch” out of the bad but necessary situations. Now it was my turn. My own lay off caused me to reevaluate my personal and professional life. It took being laid off to realize that I was a call center burnout. Being laid off and realizing you’re burned out would be tough for anyone. But for me, someone who sacrificed her family, friends, and social life for her career, to feel pushed out was almost too much. It’s tough for the ego, like cutting out a big piece of you. Especially when my job was who I am and who I am is someone who has been in the call center industry for 20 years.

To understand burnout you have to take into account that highly motivated individuals are most susceptible to job burnout. The hardest hit is service providers like us. Burned out employees are most likely your best employees, the ones that care. These employees overindulge and overindulgence is a sort of narcotic. These individuals can be counted on to know what needs to be done and do it. They put in long hours even if the time is “face time.” The burned out employee will work himself or herself to death and if they can, they will hide the burnout or least they will try to hide it. Being highly motivated is like an internal prison or a sickness at best. Always trying to top the last project, thinking, “If I could only make just one more sale or break some type of industry average or standard.” Sometimes we create problems just to relieve the boredom.

The process of reinventing my life included defining the meaning of burnout. For me, this consists of the three Ds: Diet, Divorce, and Displacement. I am a person who accepts trouble as a part of life. When it comes, I take it on and remember, “this too shall pass.” Everyone has seen loss or deep disappointment of some kind. So, I decided to quit having a pity party for myself. Fortunately, pulling myself up by my bootstraps required me to ask myself some basic questions:

  • For what am I most grateful?
  • Do I want to stay in this industry?
  • What are the most important aspects of a job?
  • What attracts and interests me professionally?
  • Do I give too much?
  • Am I too burned out?

I had to look at my professional training and analyze my education and skills. Through that process, I learned that I love to help people, to see the look on their faces when the light bulb goes off. I am interested in and love the challenge of technology. I love to be creative and innovative. I love to see people react to my high energy, even if the energy is dealing with change. I recognize that I once was a diamond in the rough. I am grateful for the mentors I had along the way. I want to be a mentor for others. I want to find a diamond in the rough and develop a jewel.

No one is immune from burnout. Any person, in any industry, at any level can be a candidate. Which of these words describe you?

  • Determined
  • Independent
  • Unrelenting
  • Tenacious
  • Persistent
  • Tireless
  • Enthusiastic
  • Passionate

If you are at least four of the eight adjectives above, you are a possible candidate for burnout. To prevent employee burnout, please take this advice from someone who knows.

  • Don’t allow employees to work long hours
  • Make goals achievable
  • Be candid about burnout during employee orientation
  • Provide ways for employees to express anger
  • Show that you appreciate their sacrifice
  • Don’t rely on the same people over and over
  • Give employees compliments often
  • Offer flexible work hours
  • Create a reward system that includes comp time
  • Keep in touch with the front line
  • Have fun and laughter in the workplace

I’ve now given myself permission to take care of myself. It doesn’t have to be half an hour. It can be five minutes a day to put myself first and get centered. Now I exercise, eat right, and try to get a good night’s sleep. I lost twenty-two pounds! I’ll listen to my favorite CD in the middle of the business day. Now I am setting realistic goals for myself. I am specific in my goals, but flexible. I still struggle with reasonable time limits. I come into the office every morning at about 8 a.m. I get my coffee and I read my Wall Street Journal. Next year, I might even expense it to my company! What’s important to me is having enough time, space, community, health, and freedom to enjoy life. It’s okay to give 120 percent, but not every day.

Remember, when we’re all dead and gone, nothing will matter except the people we have touched in a positive way. It’s the people you touch, ultimately that are all that matter. So, live your life as if it were the beginning. Dance as if no one were watching, sing out loud, and do the hardest thing on earth for you. Write the word “thank you” on a little piece of paper and put it in your wallet where it will remind you to be grateful for the difficulties you have survived.

I thought I was too burned out. I thought I was tired of the call center business. I thought I was tired of the self-sacrifice. Guess what? There is a place in this industry for trustworthy, fair, kind, non-judgmental managers, a place for managers who are relentless in their drive to achieve their goals and not lose sight of business objectives. Managing emotional pain of others is one way of doing this. It is a personal calling. I love this business and will keep doing what I do till I can’t do it any more.

The author is a twenty-year industry veteran and currently General Manager for an outsourcing call center.

[From Connection MagazineMay/June 2002]

Eight Ways to Great Days

By Joe Marino

If you need a little help on the way to success, try these eight steps. Although there is no such thing as instant success, research in peak performance has uncovered working techniques common to any high-achiever. Success is predictable. I’m committed to the belief that you can have more than what you have, because you can be more than what you are. You can be a better you.

The time-honored principles here may seem over simplified because they’ve been put together in a rhyming and memorable form. But don’t misjudge their power. If you choose to use them, you’ll reap a harvest of achievement far outweighing your efforts.

1) In a hole? Set a goal: All you’ve heard about setting goals is true. Goals equal success. Success equals goals. If you are not satisfied with where you are, don’t run off in just any direction hoping things will work out for you. Decide what you want. (The Principle of “clear and simple intention” will work for you) Be specific and write it down. It’s easier to get where you are going when you have a map.

2) Who you see is who you’ll be: Losers live life from the outside in, while winners live life from the inside out. Everything ever achieved was first seen in someone’s mind. Get a clear vision of what you will be like when you have achieved your goal. See the colors and the surroundings in your mind’s eye. It has to become vivid on the inside before it becomes reality on the outside.

3) At the start, play the part: An old adage says, “Play the part and you shall become.” Once you see yourself as having already achieved what you want, it should be easy to act as though you already have it. This is not being phony or lying. We’re not talking about acting as if you are someone you aren’t, rather it is performing at maximum levels. Be what you can be – and you will be.

4) Take choice over the inner voice: Something in all of us wants to do what’s convenient rather than what’s necessary, to be negative rather than positive. The voice inside you will tell you why you can’t achieve your goal and why you don’t deserve it. You must choose to believe what you really want. Have the courage to embrace the greatness for which you were born.

5) Don’t debate, find what’s great: Don’t bother arguing or trying to defend yourself when things don’t go right. Look for the silver lining in every cloud. Every adversity contains the seed of at least an equal blessing. This can be tough to remember in the middle of the storm. But if you waste energy trying to stop the rain, you’ll completely miss the rainbow, and maybe not even be around to enjoy the flowers.

6) After falling down, go one more round: Resilience – the ability to bounce back – is a good quality to cultivate. Successful people don’t talk about failure, but use the words, “setback” or “challenge.” If you are not falling down from time to time, you’d better take another look at your goals. You might be living too far within your comfort zone. You might need to reach higher. One definition for success is, “Fall seven times, get up eight!”

7) For super style, live in the now: You are working toward your future. But true success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile goal or dream. Don’t overlook the joys of today. And remember, guilt is the gift that keeps on giving. The past is past. Never allow your future to become a prisoner to the tyranny of the past. Wherever you are, be there!

8) Going all out will give you clout: Enthusiasm is a powerful force. Be sure you are moving toward something you really want, love and can be excited about. Whatever you do, do it with all your might. Let your goal put a fire in your belly and a lion in your heart. Live your life with passion.

Joe Marino is a corporate educator and Personal Success Coach to high-achievers who want to achieve more without being consumed in the process. Joe can be reached at 904- 247-4065.

[From Connection Magazine – September 2001]