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POINT OF VIEW
A valuable lesson for all organizations: There is no 'I' in team


Hey, Bulldogs! Let's talk team. Did you know that there is no "I" in TEAM?


Hmmm obviously not. If you understood the real purpose and definition of team, if you had the emotional maturity to truly be a team member, and if you had had some education and training about your individual responsibility to the team, as well as understanding the responsibility of the team to the individual, you might have had a different impact on the University and the community!


How many of us really understand what the definition of "team" is, and can demonstrate that understanding through our behaviors on the job? As the soap opera regarding the Fresno State Bulldogs unfolds, it becomes clear to me that this is a "team" based on an old school of thought: these young men (or maybe I should call them what they really are) these boys are on the Fresno State's Basketball team.


Team? Is it really a team? I don't think so. The definition of "team" is a group of individuals who collectively pursue a common goal Ñ a means to an end, an approach for achieving that goal as a collective group. While there are many types of teams, and each has a different make-up as a team, every team shares one thing in common: the need for norms to govern itself.


Okay. Stop right there. That definition alone eliminates the Bulldogs from the true definition of team. As competent as each player may be on his own, the reality is that there is no concept of team: the understanding of my individual responsibility back to the group, that I am only part of a greater whole. A team cannot function as a team without each member of the group demonstrating behaviors that say, "there is no "I" in team. I am here for the group (team) effort and achievement.


A team, whether it be the Fresno State Bulldogs, or a team in today's work environment must have an essential ingredient in working effectively together: trust.


And trust is defined in the management world as "the knowledge that you will not deliberately or accidentally, consciously or unconsciously, take unfair advantage of me.


I can put my situation at the moment, my status and self-esteem in this group, our relationship, my job, my career, even my life, in your hands with complete confidence."


Trust. That you will not violate and/ or jeopardize the team effort through selfish, "I am holier than thou" behaviors.


As I listened to the news one night last week regarding two young men (?) from the Bulldogs, who allegedly abused and stole money and a camera from another young man who attends Fresno State, the definition of trust of team and of morals came into my mind, as it has for the past year in reading and hearing about the Fresno State Bulldogs. While I was pleased with Dr. Welty's rightful anger and disappointment with this turn of on-going events with the individuals on the basketball team, my thoughts also began to think in terms of education. Education in organizations regarding the concept of team. Education in universities regarding the concept of team. Education in our public schools regarding the concept of team.


While people think they understand what a team is, many truly have no idea. We talk team. In fact, I have been called in to organizations to conduct sessions in team-building. And, often I find out that until we all do the work of clearly defining team and how it applies to the environment we are in, most people are functioning from their own definition, and unable to demonstrate behaviors that meet the needs of the group with whom they are involved.


For those of you out there who "talk" team, I encourage you to answer the following questions. Have team members been educated, coached, and counseled to:


  • Speak up in team meetings.
  • Ask others for ideas and thoughts, regarding issues, problems regarding business situations, and interpersonal behaviors observed by team members.
  • Take responsibility for one's own thoughts and actions.
  • Accept suggestions from others.
  • Receive and express positive and negative feelings in a mature way.
  • Take into consideration the needs, motivations, and skills of other team members when offering help or advice.
  • Work with other team members when solving a problem.
  • Demonstrate an excitement about coming together for the group effort.
  • Willingly support other team members while working on the common goal.
  • Make tough decisions regarding individuals who's personal conduct violates the established group norms.

A group is not truly a team because someone declares it so. Individuals must be taught that true teamwork comes from an understanding of giving not getting. And, that frequently, members of the group must answer the question, "Do I make a decision that benefits me, when another decision would benefit others?" The days of "what's in it for me?" are over. We must learn about collaboration, trust, and integrity when working with others. We must learn to model behaviors which suggest that "There is no "I" in TEAM."



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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Caring for another soul is becoming a matter of work, play


God Bless.


I hear it more and more. Its usually a closing, like See ya or just plain


Good bye.


But this is not a closing to a personal call. Its a business call. And I sense a change in the air as people in businesses move into a more spiritual awareness. Ten years ago, no, even just two years ago, it was not appropriate to speak in spiritual terms when conducting business, unless of course, it was a religious organization. The times, the frenzied way of life, and the meaningless materialism in our present society have given many a new sense of direction. People are realizing that materialism doesnt scratch the itch! As the saying goes, He who has the most toys when he dies, wins. To that I add, He who has the most toys when he dies is dead! And when he looks back at his life, did he really win? I dont think so.


Growing up in the 50s (okay some of you out there know me). Growing up in the 40s, there was a simple, country, quiet way of life, which meant that we could count on each other. People at work went to their job to perform a task to earn a days pay for a days work. They did not go to work expecting to get their personal needs met, like self-esteem. They did not see the organization as a place to work through anger, a place to look for opportunities to focus on me. To the contrary, the workplace was a place where one practiced his (or her) skills, a place to apply an education, a place to become during those productive adult years.


Many people in organizations today are now realizing, as the business experiences downsizing, re-structuring, mergers, or is bought out by another business, that they might not even be in that particular work environment very long. Most people are realizing, in fact, that the reward for loyalty ù in the old days a gold watch ù is non-existent in todays organization. The organization has not only changed the gift, but the color of the gift! The gold watch has now become a pink slip! Oops! The times have really changed (no pun intended).


The security and sense of community has really disappeared. The connectedness the employee felt over the years is here today, gone tomorrow. And, the hunger is insatiable. People are hungry for meaning, for purpose, for a sense of community, which will promote a connectedness and a sense of security. Ah, I long for the good ole days!


As I observe the shift in cultures, from stability to a feeling of entitlement, to a fearing of fear, I note a strong shift in whats really important. And, the God Bless is a new way to connect to others from the spirit from the soul. And people like it. People need it. And, people are beginning to talk it. Thank God! Its about time!


We have focused so long on products and services. We have focused so feverishly on making the systems and procedures create an environment of total quality management. We are seeing the results of JIT (Just In Time) when reaching the customer. And through it all, we have lost each other.


Well, those are the very times when people will reach out for all that they have lost. A sense of balance. A sense of well-being. A sense of life. The result? As most cling to hope, I hope I dont lose my job. I hope I can pay my bills. I hope I can find time for my family. I hope I dont get sick. There are people who see, feel, and know we dont have to be religious to realize theres more to life than meets the eye. They, in response to the desperation that is prevalent in many organizations and their friends, are the ones who seem to have the depth and maturity to recognize that there has to be a better way.


Sometimes it means slowing down, cutting back, and viewing all of life in a different way. These are the people who have the courage to say, God Bless. And the receiver of the gift feels differently. They know there is more than they have been experiencing in their day-to-day life. They respond. Its such a simple thing. God Bless. It creates such a simple, country, quiet way of saying, I care about you. Its becoming more common, the friend and the employee who know they have soul and can relate to anothers soul. God Bless!




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
They lived happily ever after or discovered work is needed


So, we got married. And, of course, we thought we would live happily ever after. Surprise! There are many days when it is not so happily ever after. The merging of two families is not easy. What went wrong? I ask myself. If only . . . . And so it goes.


The merger is complete. And the day we went to the alter and the day we signed the papers, the marriage began.


If I have learned anything as a consultant in the era of mergers and acquisitions, the closing is just the beginning. Statistics show that companies have a 50-50 chance for success (not unlike second marriages in personal relationships), with the worst case findings showing up to 80 percent of all mergers being disappointments. There are many reasons for the failures. But I would like to focus on the hope for success.


In these times, with society and values as they are, the movement in organizations is fast, fluid, and fuzzy. Many core management teams are trying to be entrepreneurial, which is a good thing. However, many entrepreneurs focus only on the product and the bottom line, and forget the people side of management, which makes or breaks the merger. Once the papers of the merger/acquisition have been signed, the marriage becomes a human transaction. And, the way the parent company and the acquired company behave is the primary determinant of how well the financial gamble pays off.


Success is contingent on communication and extensive education and training for the employees who are working to make the merger work, just as it is when two people get married and focus on the development of a successful family. There really is no difference. When the merged organization spends money on prevention (cures are really more expensive), and when there has been considerable objective insight into putting the right people in the right places (use an outside consultant on this one), the marriage can begin in the right way.


Coaching points I would offer any management team when involved in a merger are these: Anticipate problems and address them as they appear. Try looking for trouble to avoid denial and anger taking over the situation. Reward employees who have enough courage to take the initiative to identify problems. Instead of hiding out because as an executive you have important matters to take care of, hold regular (at least once a week) forums which encourage people to bring solutions to a break down they may be experiencing. In other words, role model a sense of urgency, courage, and honesty to nip problems in the bud.


The interpersonal skills needed in a merger are many. Focus on the value of honesty and openness. People are hungry for straightforward communication, even when the communication is one of, it not going to be business as usual, and we in management havent done this before either. So, please give us the grace of making mistakes along the way. We need your support.


Wow! Now thats honesty. People deserve to see the management team as human beings who are working together to make the marriage work for everyone.


Another suggestion that is just smart management involves forming merger-integration teams that represent different functions for the purpose of providing up-to-date communication to all employees who need it.


Remember: information is power. And, if you do not provide a way to communicate with (notice I said with, not to) employees in the early stages of the merger-integration process, you will lose power! Employees drop out, call in sick, show up for work but wont produce any meaningful work. This costs the organization tons of money in lost productivity. Bottom line, there should be more meetings not fewer, and many of these should be impromptu. More of the planned forums discussed earlier would also be useful.


Practice visibility, visibility, visibility! So it is in a new marriage. If one parent (manager) is never available, or seems to be too busy doing other things, the child becomes lonely and experiences a feeling of rejection. Quality time, with honest, straight talk is needed. And, if the time spent is from the heart, and not just the head, a human and a spiritual connection will usually be created. Thats when things work! Thats when success begins. And, that is when the family/the merger/the new organization begins to climb to new levels.


Marriage or merger. Both can be wonderful. For those of you out there trying to make the relationship work, focus more on each other and you will discover the power of your purpose. Remember: Success is a journey not a destination.




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Finding inner peace is life's most important lesson


Learning how to be. Nothing more. Just getting in touch with one's inner self, so as to not be a slave to one's surroundings. Learning how to be.


Recently I had a call from a client who was affirming my last article, regarding conflict, and how to move forward from those people and situations where conflict becomes the norm. The client works with very special people (aren't we all?) who are elderly, and in many cases, alone. Remember that statement, "We come into this world alone, and we go out of it alone."


As we progress on the journey called life, some people feel alone most of the time. A hunger for connectedness, a sense of community, a sense of belonging is an innate cry from each and every one of us as we move from the infant through childhood and into the adult stages of life. And we all have a need to belong. To be part of something greater than ourselves.


One doesn't have to be religious to know that there is more to life than meets the eye. And, I believe that it is this understanding that causes most of us to behave as we do at home, in society, and at work. In the final analysis, finding one's power of purpose, as we find a sense of belonging, a sense of community in our surroundings, is what enables us to reach inner peace.


Our work environments are microcosms of the society at large. Everything that occurs in the greater society is, in fact, reproduced at work, on a smaller scale. The reason for developing mission and vision statements is not just because it is fashionable. On the contrary, the reason for the mission statement is to state to customers, employees, and the greater society at large what is the purpose of the organization's existence. What does it stand for? Why does it exist? And how does it contribute to the greater good of society and the world? So it goes for the individuals in the organization. And, when answered clearly, the organization (and the world) knows that it is a better place because of the person's existence. And, I venture to say that when one knows his or her purpose, it will be much easier to "rest" and know how to be.


When I met my husband nine years ago, he was charming, witty, and smart. Guess what? Nine years later, he's even more charming, witty, and smart! There has been one change about him, however, that demonstrates tremendous growth and contentment and can be translated into maturity, demonstrated by thoughtfulness and inner peace. And that growth is marked by his awareness of his purpose in life, as well as how to just "be."


Nine years ago, he was addicted to tasks, order, and frenzied activity. One evening after finishing a nice meal, I suggested to him that he sit on the sofa in front of the fireplace, enjoy the fire, and just "be." He went to sleep! "No, no," I told him. "That doesn't work for me. You can't come here, have dinner, and go to sleep. Nor can you come here, have dinner, and immediately begin on tasks be it the dishes, the computer, or files from work. I need to have you just sit in front of the fire with me, and just "be." Well, like any new habit or growth or development, he slowly, but surely, learned how to just relax for a few minutes, without having to do something, or make something happen. He learned to just "be."


The work environment -- that microcosm of society -- may provide a place for each of us to bring our education or vocational skills; a place where we can demonstrate what we know how to do. But few work environments can teach us how to be. And that is, after all, our real purpose in life. Learning how to be.


I have a new card that I am including in the materials that I give to my clients. It is called Symptoms of Inner Peace, written by Saskia Davis. Some of the signs of inner peace are:


  • A loss of interest in judging other people.
  • A loss of interest in conflict.
  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experience.
  • A loss of the ability to worry.
  • Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  • Frequent attacks of smiling.
  • An increased susceptibility to the love and goodwill extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.
  • Contented feelings of connectedness with others and with self.

While we're here we search for, and hopefully discover, our inner selves, and then, our purpose. Hopefully we can also discover how to be. After all, and especially at work, we may be able to teach others what to do. But we can't teach them how to be. That is their own work. And that, my friends will be the real test in the meaning of life.




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Change Agent


People are tired. People are feeling overwhelmed. And, people are bringing more personal "stuff" into the workplace than ever before. I never cease to be amazed at the need for training, education, and better interpersonal skills in this "Information Age." I am recommending to my clients that they rename the "Information Age" the "Relationship Age." Why? Because, in the overall scheme of things, that's exactly how we give and receive needed information through healthy relationships.


Yes, this may be a time of high-tech communication of information. But all that computer data and information means nothing if it is not provided from a relationship of meaning whether it be a supplier, a customer, an employee or a friend! The ability to "turn on" the computer is for naught if the person(s) receiving or sending the information is not someone you respect, or who respects you. While it is true that you might not even know the person with whom you are communicating, it is also true that they are just as human as you are and deserve the same values of respect, courtesy, and honesty that you do, just because they "are."


Trust me, if someone out there doesn't like you, and you need certain information, you won't get it! Information is power and if I do not want to give you that power, I may withhold or alter the needed information. Whoa! That's not what I expect from my computer! But after all folks, someone - a real, living, breathing person just as you are - has to input the needed information and data into the computer for you to get it!


Years ago, when I was a manager in a leading health care organization, the age of "service" began. As health care became the best in the world, due to computers and the advanced technology - Cat Scans, MRI's, etc. - we referred to this world as "high-tech high touch." The high touch had to do with the service piece. The patient could not just be hooked up to machines and get well. There had to be an honest relationship from all of the care-givers to the patient - customer, as other industries referred to it - in order for true healing to occur. The spirit, mind, emotions, and body could not be separated. If the patient was to get well all of these had to be in place and soon became referred to as holistic healing, or healing the whole person. In today's work environment, service is very much talked about. The high-tech contribution is very much the dominant theme for giving and receiving information. Too much information. Wrong information. Information that lacks value and provides any meaning. People are tired. People are overwhelmed. And, people need to feel connected to something besides the computer, or fax, or other machines.


People need to be thinking in holistic terms in this high-tech age. With whom am I communicating? What does this person need from me and from this information? Am I providing the right information in an honest, open way? Do I truly care that the receiver of this information is just as human as I am? Do I provide a service through the way in which I give and receive information? Or do I just push the button and let the technology do the rest?


While this may sound crazy or farfetched to the reader, I encourage you to stop the next time you enter the high-tech world. Take a deep breath. Value not only the extraordinary means by which you can now communicate but the person(s) on the other end of the fax or Net. They laugh. They cry. They feel. They are real.


People are tired. People are overwhelmed. Some people say this crazy world is moving so fast, they feel as if they're going insane! People matter. Yes, this is the Information Age. More importantly, this information age is really about relationships. There's a real person out there. Remember them. Reach out and touch them if not in person, in thought. In spirit. Or we all just might go insane.




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Being a woman is not about having it all


"I am woman. I cannot do it all. I give myself permission to just "be."


This article is for everyone - men included.


I had an opportunity to speak to a group of health care managers - all of whom were women - the subject being "Stress and Time Management: How Do We Do It? As I observed the group of women interacting and serving themselves lunch, I realized something very important. It seemed an innocent, normal gathering of women to explore issues regarding their world as it has been shaped by society and culture. These are women who manage busy medical offices, some as single parents, some are coping with major transitions like losing a teenager to college or the service, and many who are struggling with the realities of a new working world.


So what is the story here?


Thirty years ago, women were primarily in one of four places: At home with a title of "wife" and / or "mother," in a school as a teacher, in a hospital as a nurse, or in an office as a secretary. In the group where I had been invited to speak, the women play all of those roles, as well as many others, as they experience a greater demand by society to be "all things to everybody." Each is a wife and / or mother as the day begins and teacher-secretary and now "boss" for a few hours as the day progresses, and nurse (or nurturer) and back to parent as the day ends. "When," most of these women ask, " do I get to just "be?"


My thoughts for these women are thoughts that I am, hopefully, able to put into action in my own life, as our days grow more frantic, and seem to be filled with more "have to's." I have to drop my son off at daycare and be at the office by 8 a.m. - only to be bombarded with a personnel problem that needs attention immediately. I have to address demands from two physicians, make several phone calls I couldn't return yesterday, and have to leave the office an hour early for the dentist. I have a meeting at noon. At the end of the day, I have to pick up my kids, fix supper, help with homework, and drop. Welcome to the world of "equality" (?) and advancement!


Yukka! No thanks. I don't need it. I don't want it. And, I am very proud to say, I don't live it!


Several years ago, I began to learn the power of the word, "No." We, as women, have far too long brought on our own demise. We wanted - and we got - everything we asked for. And then some. It is the "then some" that creates all the stress. Because, the "then some" comes when you cannot say the word, "No."


And, without that wonderful word, we work, instead of letting the word do the work! Get it? A simple "No" creates a powerful world that translates into freedom, a world in which I can give only as I want and need to, and a world that has boundaries for me, as well as for others who know me. This incredible word has the power to give us back our lives, to create a time and space in which we can just "be." And, as I have learned, in that space with time to fill as we want to fill it, the gifts that come back to us are as fulfilling as the gift of life itself.


What is really important here is time - time to be the person we know we can be. And it isn't measured by things or activities. It's only measured by the relationships we can give to and receive from that really matter.


Yes, women. We have accomplished great advances in our "place" in the world. We have also lost something in our gain - and some of us understand that we live special lives not because we can do it all, but because we have learned to do the real work - use the two-letter word, "No" at appropriate times. When we really are honest about it, the real freedom in life is not in getting more, but in wanting less. And, if we look inward to our purpose here, it's not about being a woman at all. It's about being human - being thoughtful, respectful, and living life to the fullest in our place of "being" - not measured by our activities and titles. Men, beware! Women are learning how to just "be." Can you do it?




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Life is too short to create relationships, memories of conflict


Much of my work these days involves intervention and conflict management. While I understand that it is very “human” for individuals and groups to experience disagreements and turmoil, I am amazed at the energy and time spent staying “stuck” in conflict, as if this will change the outcome somehow! Life is too short to spend it creating relationships and memories of conflict and power needs. This journey called life is really about “becoming,” while experiencing both joy and sorrow.


While in the work setting, we all encounter many joys and sorrows. Some people, based on previous life experiences, choose to label the joys “something I deserve,” and are joyful because “finally! It's about time!” Likewise they label the sorrows as “something I should have, or am entitled to and didn't get.” And therein begins the conflict. I recently saw a new book, “Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety.” The title intrigued me because of the many individuals I meet who seem to “live” the title backwards: Finding Anxiety in the Age of Serenity! As they associate with others in the workplace, they seem intent on making sure that everyone around them lives anxiously as well.


How much better to focus on courage and dignity, on simple values of respect and honesty. After all, if we think about it, the virtue of courage is probably one of the most important of all: Having the courage to swim against the tide; having the courage to follow one's heart and soul, rather than the thoughts in one's head; having the courage to recognize that if the culture doesn't work, don't buy into it! Imagine going to work every day where there are divisions in a group, team, or department. Imagine that one group sees the other as absolutely “wrong” — off-base on a power trip. Now picture the second group as seeing the first group as needing to be controlled, fearing that if they have too much information, too much in-put, that they will have too much power and control. Ouch! What a terrible way to have to spend the day constantly looking over your shoulder or in small cliques focusing on how awful and “wrong” the other group is. What a drain!


We can choose to remain in conflict with tremendous drain on our energy, or we can choose to begin again with courage to change our own attitude and behavior, so that we might leave at the end of the day energized instead of drained.


This is not to say that a typical day's work does not leave the human being tired physically and mentally. It is to say, however, that when we choose to demonstrate courage by refusing to buy into the human needs for power and conflict that are so exhausting, we can leave the work relationships on a positive note, actually looking forward to building more memories with these people the next day.


Every day, each of us is given the opportunity to begin anew. Holding on and letting go tremendous lessons in life, tremendous lessons for the workplace. What is important here? Holding on to conflict? A need for power? Negative feelings which create the glue for staying “stuck”? Remember, be careful of your thoughts. They may become words at any time. And, words from the head, rather than the heart, may create a world shared only by those who have not yet discovered their “inner self.” I believe we are motivated by conscience and an innate sense of compassion for others. I also believe that when we fail to act in courageous ways, we destroy the dignity of others as well as our own. Courage, dignity, respect, and honesty. Last, but not least, I must mention the power and virtue of forgiveness. If I forgive you, I give up my right to get even. If I forgive you, I demonstrate courage to experience and listen to your needs; respect for you, as you share your soul. If I forgive you, I am honest about the true meaning of joy and sorrow. That we are here to experience both. And, when we insist on having only joy, we bring much sorrow into our lives. After all, true maturity comes when we realize that some of our biggest disappointments and some of our biggest conflicts come when we get what we insisted on having.




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Customer Service Should Include Respect For Employees, Too


Customer Service, Customer Service, Customer Service: We hear about it everywhere.


We hear about it from satisfied customers, dissatisfied customers, and from the worker delivering the service. We don't hear much, however, about being a good customer and about providing service to the employee from whom we expect service.


It seems to me that each of us has a responsibility, as we make observations and demands on the service worker, to model the service we expect. I mean, after all, example should not be just the main emphasis, it should be the only one.


I observe many customers, all who expect and require a certain treatment from the employee on the other side of the counter or phone. What I observe isn't always pleasant. In fact, our society has produced a mind-set regarding customer service that is reminiscent of the top-down control and organizational structures of the past. Organizations today are trying to make that imbalance of power a thing of the past.


The structure took hold during the Industrial Age, when a certain dignity and respect were awarded to people with a title, merely because they bore a title. Some of those titled people demanded respect, although they typically learned that respect is something one earns. It cannot be awarded on demand.


A similar type of instant respect for titles appears to be awarded to customers in this modern-day age of service. Employees are trained to deliver unmitigated service regardless of how they are treated by the customer. Customers appear to misunderstand the type of treatment they should receive because they are used to the liberties awarded to the modern-day customer.


After interactions with employees, customers are left with an emotional impression. That feeling typically determines whether or not the customer wants to return for another purchase. What's wrong with this picture? Are we not once again attempting to create a power base of the customer as boss who is allowed to dictate the direction of the employee simply because the customer rules? Hasn't the attitude become something that reads like this: "If you want me to pay you, promote you, or recognize you, you will have to convince me to buy from you again?"


Yuk! (That's the most professional term I can come up with at this time.)


The requirement of power that is due simply because of a label one wears is so exasperating, so ridiculous, and so narcissistic.


Think about it . How can we claim to want to improve our society when we always seem to need special treatment because of a label or title? How can we expect our society to be a better one when we continually request special recognition and treatment but refuse to give it in return?


The Golden Rule is preached to us in our churches, temples and schools. We encourage individuals to practice it, unless of course you might bear the esteemed label of customer. When you are the customer, my friend, you can get away with anything and it is all due to a name.


This name gives you the privilege to request service on your terms, in your time frame and with a focus on you and your needs. But wait just a minute. Aren't you interacting with another human being who needs certain things from the interaction as well, things like courtesy, respect, a pleasant tone of voice, eye contact when possible, and most of all, a simple thank you at the end?


I frequent a copy shop in my neighborhood, a shop which is one of the busiest and best in terms of service or at least that is the way I perceive it. There are some customers who enter the shop and present ridiculous requests like "What? What do you mean you can't run off these 87 different copies in 17 different color tones in 10 minutes? The name of your shop might be "Mister Quick," (not the store's the real name of course), but I'll tell you something, the only "Mister" in here is me and I'm outta' here quick. You guys don't know anything about service.


Pause. Take a deep breath. The intensity of the narcissistic customer is too much.


About a year ago, I wrote about a customer-service interaction I observed at a McDonald's fast food restaurant. If you happened to read the article, you might recall that a male customer was verbally and emotionally abusing the young Asian man who was attempting to serve him. An interesting thing occurred, affirming the power of the group as each customer behind this abusive man used similar behaviors on the McDonald's worker as they stepped up to the counter.


I was appalled to say the least. The observation of such total disregard for the human being, as well as the human spirit, was tragic. I recall thinking to myself, "This really can't be happening." But it was. As I stepped up to place my order several minutes later, I lightly touched the young employee's hand and simply stated to him, "If you have been treated like that all day, you must be exhausted." The young man looked up at me with tears in his eyes and quietly said, "Thank you."


That was truly a lesson in what each one of us must never forget: "We only pass this way but once. Any kindness that I can show, I must show now, for I may not pass this way again."


Customer service means just that: Providing service to another individual. It's not about getting. It's about giving, sharing, and service, regardless of which side of the counter you're on.




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Career-Move Silver Lining Can Brighten Layoff Dark Cloud


Another one of "today's life lessons" – another closing of a major Valley business – has resulted in more people out of work! As I listened to the news announcing the closing of the Dole Plant in Malage, I couldn't help but feel compassion for the many who are now struggling to deal with their loss.


I was caught off-guard when they interviewed one young man, a forklift operator, who said, "We had heard rumors for months that the closing was a possibility, so I'm not surprised. I mean, I feel sorry for all of us who are out of work. We all have house payments, car payments, kids…But that's the way it is today. The way I see it, I've got a great opportunity to explore a new career."


Wow! What a great attitude! This is a man who will, most likely, not only find a new career, but will continue to see "opportunity" as today's life lesson, rather than "security." The days of worker protection, business taking care of the employee, and long-term employment have, indeed, come to an end. And it did not just end today. For several years we have been reading about layoffs, downsizing, and major, major changes in the work place. Many people resist the inevitable by putting their heads in the sand, and hoping it won't happen to them.


Somehow many people have gotten into this "entitlement" mind-set, and they cry "victim" when the employer doesn't take care of them. The sad part about it is that there was a "day of entitlement".


After World War II, business and government created the "Era of Entitlement" with the creation of welfare, Social Security, and a feeling that we were invincible—forever. The difference between those who assume the attitude of that positive young man from the Dole Plant and those who want to be taken care of is enormous. Somewhere along his journey in life, this man became well aware of the need to make it on his own, without business or government taking care of him. And to his credit, he will make it! That is not to suggest that he won't have a struggle as he wrestles with the change taking place in his life, but he obviously sees the struggle as opportunity for not only a new career, but for his own growth as a person. How rich his life must be!


Statistics tell us that people sit in front of the TV for hours. It is amazing to me how "victimized" some become when life doesn't honor them with the easy road. What were they watching on TV? How did they miss the news? And why do they think that news of major change in our world will not apply to them?


We all think we know the answer to these questions. They are too busy escaping the real world, and sliding into their own fantasy world of "The X-files," and "ER." And when the real stories are on, they seem to believe that that, too, is fantasy. It's only TV. "I don't have to live it; I only watch it!" And thus, we have the work force that waits for someone—anyone—to "make it happen."


There is a lesson here. Like a 7-year-old, everyone needs to keep exploring life. Leave no rock unturned in the search for new information, for new ways of doing things, for just staying alive! Those who are stuck are the ones who get caught off-guard, when the world was happening all around them!


I do have compassion for anyone who is faced with loss. And I do realize that not everyone wears behaviors of "entitlement." There are far too many, however, who truly have talents and skills that have value elsewhere. It's not the company's responsibility to develop this insight.


The individual owns that, because after all, he's the one who proudly exclaims, "It's my life!" To those people I hasten to add, "There is no security on this earth, only opportunity!"




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Incivility Is Vogue, But No Match For "Soft Skills"


Soft skills. That's what they call them. "Soft skills." When clients call me to work with their people (better known as their human resources personnel), they are calling for help with operational pressures and needs, and to help people work together better.


And, in these times of such rapid change, as well as handling pressures at work - and at home - people need to be able to grow in their ability to interact effectively and in a meaningful way. People need to learn to understand their own behaviors an how chose behaviors impact others. People need to learn how to deal with conflict (sometimes known as how to deal with evil hearts), and how to deal effectively with change (in other words, life)!


I am also asked to assist those in leadership roles to help employees understand that they are not victims and that the organization is not a place to get childhood needs met. Employees need to learn how to let go of the "entitlement" phase of the Information Age.


I could go on about "Emotional I.Q."- what it means and how to develop it. I could also elaborate on how to be effective with the customer both internal and external to the organization and how to deal with five generations of workers, each with their individual value systems, toiling side-by-side in the work place.


The sad reality is that as long as the media and our society promote conflict and rudeness as winning behaviors, it makes this "soft skill" work more difficult to promote! We get desensitized to these outrageous behaviors and begin to regard them as acceptable ways of being and doing.


A couple of weeks ago, I tuned into a local news report on a local television station. There, right before my eyes, were two of our community leaders in a local version of CNN's Crossfire Program. If you are familiar with the national Crossfire, you know that two leading news commentators argue incessantly about politicians and politics. They are known for their abusive and loud, ranting and raving to get their point across. And they are paid big money for their viewpoints - and their behaviors - which some see as valid, in order to get "the big money!" It is not the opinions or views with which I have a problem. It is the way in which the two people annihilate each other in the process of sharing their views.


The two men on our local channel were at their worst. (Depending on the program's expectations for this fantastic display of juvenile behavior, maybe they were at their best)! At any rate, rudeness, a lack of respect for another while he shares his views, and constant interruptions are not qualities to be promoted.


On one local radio station in the afternoon, a now famous psychologist, who has a strong moral and ethical value base, is being applauded for her direct, quick and confident stand on "right and wrong." After gleaning what this person holds dear from a value base of morality, I heartily endorse what she says. It's how she says it that creates such a knot in my stomach. She is one of the most angry, hostile, abusive women I have ever encountered as she preaches the "scripture" of right and wrong.


It behooves us all who know right from wrong; to use "soft skills" that will promote self-esteem, give a message to others that we can agree to disagree in an agreeable way; give others permission to have answers and insights that we may have missed, and that will relate to people that it is never too late to be what you might have become.


We all must learn to take responsibility to ensure that we find peace in relationships rather than to incite more violence. We all must learn that we have a responsibility to be available for those who seek our knowledge and wisdom without thinking we are "God." And perhaps most importantly, we must take the responsibility to use our very best interpersonal skills when communicating with another human being to at least maintain - and possibly enhance - their self-esteem. These are the "soft skills" necessary for this sometimes frantic and scary world.


That's the secret of this journey, to give and to receive something that will enhance the life we share on this journey and to prepare us for the next journey as well. Amen.




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
The Body Can Be Forced To Work, But The Soul Must Be Wooed


Our pastor, Doug Rumford of First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, always has interesting titles for his sermons. One that stands out in my mind was entitled, "What About the Shepherds Who Didn't Come?" Wow, I thought! How many times have I wondered, "What about the employees who don't want to come to work?!" Labor laws have gotten so out of hand that they are protecting everyone except the employer, as if it is the employee's "gift" – or "right"—to have a place to call "work." In the good ol' days (by the way, that is not an example of Ebonics), individuals were proud to have a work site to go to. There they could produce – with pride—goods and services that exhibited the skills and knowledge they possessed. In today's work place, we see a change regarding the pride and accomplishment once intrinsic to the individual. It seems that the employer feels a pride and accomplishment only if the organization can retain and grow the employee longer than a six month period! Oh, that's not to say that many organizations haven't successfully retained an employee base of 20 years or longer. The problem seems to be more in retaining the soul of the employee, rather than just the physical being.


Seventy years ago, the agricultural era worked both the soul and the physical being of the employee. Farm work was, to say the least, taxing on the body, but the individual was driven by a passion to work the land, always with the reward of a promising harvest, which elicited pride in the total being of the person. As we moved from agricultural production to towns and cities and put workers in work sites called factories, we focused on production of goods which required only one thing of the employee: show up at your work station and perform the task required for output. Sixty years of producing goods created a work culture that truly lost touch with its soul. As the world turned and we became more globally aware, and hence, competitive, there was no focus on soul. The focus was only on production, tasks, and bottom-line profit. And we did that very well.


As the information era arrived, we observed the service-oriented culture in Japan: focused on a nice little adage, "High Tech, High Touch;" and retrained the work force to shift their focus from production, to "production while providing a service to customers. " We left out something very important: Training employees to focus on the gifts they gave, in the interest of service. Instead, the message seemed to be, "Results! Output! Provide the customer with good service! Give, give, give!" Nowhere was there a value regarding the gift of the whole employee—physically, mentally, emotionally, and with a passion and soul—which was the most satisfying reward in the long-ago agricultural era.


All of us are smart enough to realize that when the culture starts demanding for gain, the employee learns that lesson very well, and will, inevitably, begin to demand as well. The demands are about "What's in it for me?" rather than what can I demand of myself in the interest of giving to others. Demands turned into big money for labor unions, for attorneys, and many times, for the individual, who gained not a peace in the soul, but rather a piece of the organization.


One of my client's was recently lamenting the turn in the work place from employer-employee collaboration, to employer-employee frustration. The situation came from an employee who kept insisting that she was giving her all, that she was working up to standard (hers, not the employer's) and finally began creating her piece of the organization by filing a stress claim. Remember, if an employee cannot perform one duty which has normally been a part of the job, a disability claim can be made. This employee claimed a hostile work environment, created by a corrective-action procedure, which required her to work to the employer's standard. One visit to the doctor's office, gave her freedom—her piece of the organization, requiring the employer to shift other workers' responsibilities to cover the vacancy. During the three-month leave of absence, the employer had to hire another employee to fill the position, based on business needs, and ended up having to move to termination of the original employee.


It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out the following in this too-often type of employer-employee relationship:


The employer—at all levels of management—must move decisively and quickly in the best interest of both the employer and the employee. An environment of "games" by human resources, the department manager or the division—or all of the above—maneuvers the outcome of such situations and is detrimental for all, and creates stress at all levels.


The employer must we educated regarding the environment of today's work place, providing expectations and needs that promote understanding and a desire by the employee to enhance the organization through regular attendance.


Employees need to be educated and regain an understanding regarding their gifts to the employer, and how the giving of one's gifts becomes nourishing to the soul, resulting in a sense of worth and pride.


When organizations—the people—recognize the shift from demands to giving and pride, we can all benefit, creating a better tomorrow. "Soul Shaping," as Doug Rumford might call it, is not only necessary, but becomes our process to reaching our reason for the journey. After all, as one great philosopher put it so well, "It is never too late to be what we might have become!"




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Prepare For Change, It Might Be For The Good!


The best is yet to come.


Isn't that a positive way to view the many changes that seem to bombard us every day, at work, at home and at play? We all know the old saying, "You only have to do three things in this life: Die, live until you die, and pay taxes." Only, we all know that one doesn't have to pay taxes, if one is willing to put up with the consequences. But die—and live until you die—we really have to do those.


There's also change. Change is life. And life is about change. The two are practically synonymous! How we deal with change is what the quality of our life is about.


Only 10 years ago, there were few home and desktop computers, no e-mail, and few cellular phones. Schools, banks, and businesses were different. There were more people, task-based procedures and systems. Getting fired was still an ugly thing to have happen; it was more an indication of your performance than the organization's need to restructure or downsize.


Today, some employees wish for "the layoff," hoping to collect unemployment or have a chance (based on something that happened TO them, of course) to do nothing or look for another job. It makes it easier, you know? Having to look for work because the organization was laying off workers. It was easier to explain.


But all of these changes tend to change the way we look at the future. Major change brings an end to the way things were and brings an accompanying opportunity to begin again. It can be exciting. It is quite often scary. And it is always an opportunity to get in touch with that all-important question, "Who am I becoming?"


I am in a service club in Fresno. Most of the people in this club are 45 or older and have been in the club forever. There is an air of excitement as the new president begins his term. While for many longtime members there is an unwritten expectation that nothing will change, the different personality of a new president produces a profound change in the organization. And that change evolves into a new club climate.


Sometimes the change is positive; sometimes, questionable. But one thing is for sure: The new leader can make or break the organization'' culture just by being himself. Currently, an extremely positive climate is being groomed. It is one of optimism, acceptance of others and – perhaps most important of all—a climate of shared power.


After attending my second meeting under the leadership of the new president, I reflected on what the extraordinary change was that I was feeling about being a member of this organization. And I came to realize that when change is being led by someone who knows who he is beyond what the bottom-line needs are, there is a profound effect on all of those who are following his lead. These are some of the positive things I've observed:


An air of freedom. This is the freedom to express thoughts, ideas, and one's self without the fear of being discounted or feeling foolish.


A feeling of being heard. This is probably one of the most important things on any organization today. It is knowing that the leadership truly cares about your thoughts, your feelings and you.


An invitation to growth. This is being tapped to contribute, based on keen observation and interaction from the leader, given leadership guidance when necessary, but especially being allowed to be the adult you truly are.


Recognition and reward. This is taking the time to hear, talk to and invite the person to share who he really is. This can be small acts of recognition—a note, a word or a small gift—for work accomplished.


Recognizing that we're all in this together. This, my friends, is probably the most important aspect of leadership. No one can do it all alone. And when the leadership can give the gift of involvement to others, changes which are made will be changes that encompass positive growth and contributions for everyone.


Change and effective, positive leadership: Today's organizations and tomorrow's world need both. Nothing will be tomorrow as it is today. And if there is caring leadership to assist in the change, tomorrow can only be better.




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
Turn Off Your Phone, Sit Back, And Think


I found myself standing with my telephone in my left hand today, and my cellular phone in my right, as I proceeded to answer (the cellular phone) while being put on hold on the regular telephone! Now, the person who had called on the regular telephone did make sure that I didn't have to suffer any silence, and played sweet music as I held. Just as I realized how "totally weird" this was, my third phone rang in my office—two rooms away—announcing an incoming fax. Ah! The epitome of not missing out on anything! (I think that's the way I'm supposed to look at it.) Anyway, the entire event—and truly it was a communications event—made me stop and think about NOW, this life, the '90s, and the extraordinary events taking place in our lives.


After I wrote the paragraph above, I read it to my husband, who announced on this Friday night—the beginning of a wonderful weekend—that he was glad that I had taken the time to share these thoughts with him, because he needed to make sure his beeper was on, since he was on-call for one of his employees until Sunday!


What a life! A life where no one needs to miss out on a thing, if one chooses to answer. It made me yearn for the long quiet Sunday I remember as a girl in Beecher, Ill. My father was superintendent of schools in that little town of 850 people, and because he had such a prestigious position—in those days ministers and educators were the important people in town—we often took a ride out into the country to visit my parents' friends, usually farmers, who served on the very prestigious school board.


I can remember that never did we try to call first. Instant communication and instant gratification through connecting with others was not the issue. No, this was a family time, a time to be together in our Plymouth, rolling through the countryside, until we reached our destination, and could very slowly turn into the driveway and "see if they are home." No expectations. No urgency. Just a feeling of "let's drive out and see the Franks and visit for awhile."


When they were there, they were so-o-o glad to see us, the whole family. There were always pancakes and eggs, after the initial hour of visiting. If they weren't home, we would just drive on to see the countryside. Not a big thing. No information that had to be communicated right then, with expectations of receiving more communications that could be passed along immediately.


It was a wonderful time, a time of truly caring about family, friends, and the sharing of souls. None of this demand for immediate information so that we could feel in control or so that we would have something to feed our frenzied need for activity. The pace alone provided ample time for thought and emotion. We could actually contemplate our growth! It was important to just "be"—not necessarily "be doing." I can remember my mother saying, "OK, so you're bored. It's good to be bored once in a while. It gives you a chance to think of something to do."


How many times do any of us have to just be? Or to just sit and figure out something to do? I challenge you—those of you who are old enough—to cut off communications from the world around you long enough to get bored, and have to think of something to do.


It's refreshing—and somewhat scary—to have to STOP? And spend time alone, and with our families, while we contemplate the most important thing of all: our own growth and who we are.


In these very nerve-racking times communication is not necessarily high-tech. Sometimes the most important communication we can have is with those closest and dearest to us, as well as with one's self. After all, if "success is the quality of our journey," then the quality just might be determined by an inner journey to the depths of our souls, reached only through the slow, quiet paths of boredom, or at least without feeling a demand from a beep or a ring. As I read somewhere—in one of those boring times—"the person who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings." Surround yourself with freedom, and discover true communication.




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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