Your People are Disconnected and Your Customer Service Stinks

Recently, I had the opportunity to lead a staff development training day at a major university’s school of dentistry.  There were approximately 60 people in attendance, most of whom worked in some type of support role either at the school, within a private dental practice, or both.

Realizing this training was being held on both the Friday before the U.S. Memorial Day Holiday and on a particularly amazing day (weather wise), I knew I needed to reel them in quick.  I decided to open with an exercise to get them talking to one another and moving around the room (always a great idea first thing in the morning).  I posted with a few questions for them to consider before moving about the room, asking each participant to write down the first answers to each that came to their mind.  The reply immediately voiced from nearly half the people in the room, however, spoke volumes to me when I heard a collective, “But, nobody told us to bring a pen!”

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Pause for a few seconds and think– In that moment, had you been leading the seminar, what would you have done?

What happened next, however, was both a bit of a relief, and an troubling explanation.  Relief in that the local leader had indeed brought along enough ball point pens to pass around for the unprepared.  Explanation in how that single action of providing the pens made me question what other bad habits among this team were being enabled to continue every single day- dismissed as “oh, they’re just like that” and “it’s easier to just hold their hands”.

Here’s the real kicker.  This was about the 5th or 6th day of training this group had received during the entire academic year. “What?”, I thought.  “You didn’t bring a pen to a training class?”

More times than you might believe over the past couple of years, I have witnessed seminar participants sign in at registration,  collect their workbook (with certificate of completion already stashed on the last page), and ask for directions to the restroom….never to be seen again.  And, to be candid, I’m not sure it is entirely their fault.  They simply do not feel empowered to make a difference or influence change back at work and must be thinking, “Why bother?” Often, these are the same employees who have the best opportunities to make it right with your most important customers, clients, and vendors….and simply don’t even try.

Here are a few quick ideas for you, the mighty leader of your team (no, it isn’t a job title, it’s an attitude), to make sure the people around you are engaged, plugged in, and turned on at work:

  1. Hold those around you accountable for their actions. Don’t just enable them by running to get ball point pens they clearly should have brought to the training session. If there are no consequences for unacceptable or unprofessional behavior, why should you expect them to change for the better?
  2. Assign a book report. When you send someone from your team to a training seminar or conference, challenge them to come up with a brief presentation on 3-5 key points they learned and feel others would benefit from hearing about.  If you were the one sent to the class, offer to share some ideas to your group in a staff meeting. Taking initiative says, “I’m working for the job I want….not the one I have.”
  3. Listen. If your team is disengaged and discouraged, you should know it.  If not by what they say, listen to how they say it. More importantly, listen to what they don’t say.  If everyone around you has stopped trying to solve problems and only complain about them, it is up to you to draw them into helping solve the issues.  If you ignore the obvious problems, you are in fact condoning them to continue.

Accountability is the name of the game. Build a solid team, and you’ll see the results with success at every level!


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