“Come See Me in My Office”

The dreaded invitation.

“Come see me in my office.”

When you’re the one inviting, here are a few truths to remember…

  • Your employee didn’t wake up this morning intending to make life miserable for you or anyone else.
  • Your employee is trying. If not, there’s a much deeper problem that’s been simmering for a long time.
  • Your employee is probably very nervous or afraid.
  • Your employee will definitely feel misunderstood and possibly bullied.
  • Your employee almost certainly will not say most of what he’s really thinking.
  • Your employee really wants some encouragement after a tough conversation.

And here are a few things to try…

  • Start things off with a less scary invitation: “Do you have a few minutes? I’d like to go over some stuff with you.”
  • Visit your employee in their own office where they’re comfortable.
  • If you need to close the door, tell them it’s because you want both of you to be able to speak freely with each other without having to worry about what anyone else thinks.
  • Show your employee honor by genuinely allowing that their motivations could be very good. Honestly try to understand your employee (they’ll know).
  • Make it a two way conversation. Ask them what their take on the issue is, what factors are causing it, and how you can help.
  • Tell them how much you appreciate them.
  • Ask them for feedback.
  • End on a positive note. Smile. Be truly excited to help each other make things even better!

Unless, of course, you really are just trying to kick them rudely out the door. In which case, you may be the problem…

“How is everything going for you?”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

This question has been hammered into the DNA of everyone who’s ever worked with customers and clients. Why? So that the company can make sure its customers are satisfied. And uncover more opportunities to sell.

But that phrase has become essentially as ineffective at ensuring customer satisfaction as the phrase “How are you?” is at learning anything meaningful about your friend.

When someone asks how you are, you say “Fine, thanks!” In order to get the real answer you have to dig deeper. Something along the lines of, “Everything been going okay for you lately at work/with the family, etc?”

Similarly, when a customer service representative says “Is there anything else I can help you with?” we automatically say “No.” Unless we were already planning on speaking up about something else. That question has become very bad at actually getting useful information out of customers or uncovering other areas in which clients can be helped.

Here also, we should be digging a little deeper. “Can you tell me how everything has been going with your relationship with us?” “Is there anything we can be doing differently that would help you?” “How’s your experience been with us in the last year?”

Customer surveys are a decent shortcut. But they’re just that–a shortcut–and your customer knows it. Having that conversation yourself with your customer builds more rapport and trust. Your customer feels valued, heard, and genuinely cared for.

Imagine you have a large client who regularly depends on your company for a vital service. Let’s say the client has become frustrated with a lack of promptness from your team, and it has become a big enough problem that they’ve started considering other companies to use. Finally, with no warning, they make the phone call to close out their account. You’re shocked and insist you’ll do anything to help them. But it’s too late. They wouldn’t be ending their relationship if they hadn’t already set up a new relationship with a different company to take your place. And since they’ve got that up and running, you don’t have much going for you. It doesn’t mean the relationship absolutely can’t be salvaged, but you are at a serious disadvantage.

This scenario applies to almost any business. If someone needs a bank account, they don’t close their accounts until they’ve found a replacement. If someone needs an equipment supplier, they don’t end their relationship until they’ve found a supplier they think will serve them better. If someone needs a Human Resources management system, they won’t deactivate their current system until they’ve got the replacement set up and ready to go.

That means waiting till customers bring up their concerns can put you at a huge disadvantage.

What if you and your whole team were always proactive to check in with your clients? Not “Anything else?” or “How are you?” Instead, legitimately checking in–like “What have we been doing well for you lately, and what has been causing problems for you?” or “How can we serve you even better?”

Some customers wear their hearts on their sleeves. But others don’t. And if you want to keep those customers, you have to get them to open up to you before it’s too late.

I do this and and I’ve seen my own team members try it, and I can tell you it’s a game changer for sure.


Want to figure out this whole “life” thing together? Throw your email below. :)

3 Questions I Ask On the Balcony

Isn’t it funny how we usually know exactly what our opinion is when someone else tells us about their problems–that we can tell them exactly “what I would do if I were you”–but when we find ourselves in those same situations, we feel completely lost?

It’s because when you’re emotionally involved in a situation, things never seem as simple or as black and white. In the heat of the moment, they seem a lot trickier than they might really be.

One time when I was extremely stressed out about a situation at work, feeling frustrated and lost, my wife pointed something out to me. When I start to worry too much–or start to panic–I actually stop thinking the way I normally do. Adrenaline and fear don’t help me think clearly. They help me run, they help me fight, they help me freak out. But they don’t help me think clearly.

When all hell breaks loose, you need to stop. Stop. Stop and step away. Calm your nerves. Stop fighting. Stop talking. Stop acting under the direction of your panicking, adrenaline-filled brain.

Easier said than done.

Sometimes it can take days to work on switching from passionate panicking to calm, reasonable analysis.

But you need to get there. For your own sake, and for the sake of everyone involved in whatever screwed up situation you’re trying to fix.

Harvard Negotiation Project’s William Ury, in his awesome book The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes, describes this as “going to the balcony.” After all, your worst enemy in a conflict is yourself, he says. So step away, disengage, go to the balcony–a quiet place, separated from the conflict. Calm down, and think for a while.

When I have to go to the balcony, contemplating these 3 questions helps me assess calmly and rationally how to handle a difficult situation.

1. What really caused this situation?

Be honest. Was it me? Was it them? Was it a combination? (Hint–it’s always both sides.)

Should I really be feeling guilty? Should I be feeling like I’m being unfair? Like I’m making too big a deal out of things? Like I’m being disloyal? Or should I cut myself some slack? After all, their behavior wasn’t up to me.

Am I trying to solve it with the same behavior patterns or communication that got us here?

Did I support this? Were my hands tied? How did it get this far? Should I have spoken up sooner?

Questions like these give us insight that will help us next time and help us determine what might help and what absolutely will not help this time around.

At this stage remember to have compassion for yourself and for others. Don’t blame everything on yourself, and don’t easily assign the worst motives to others. Being negative or hopeless about yourself or others in the situation will absolutely discourage you from trying to fix anything.

2. What long term effects could my different actions cause for everyone involved?

If I choose not to back down, will that really make the future healthier for everyone? Maybe it will! But I need to ask it.

If I take a bullet, will that actually protect the people I’m trying to protect?

If I focus on standing up for myself and my own integrity, will that benefit me down the road?

If I choose to overlook a disease on our team, prefer not to talk about it, what happens to the rest of my team members a year from now?

When we’re freaking out, we’re usually looking for a way to feel better today. But the effects of our decisions will almost always have changed drastically by a year or two later. What feels good today might leave an even bigger mess later for everyone involved. Letting yourself be the scapegoat for someone else’s misconduct leaves others to suffer the same fate later.

3. What kind of person do I want to be in this situation?

Who do you really want to be? Your integrity is one thing others can’t take away from you. And if you give up your integrity, you will absolutely regret it later.

Do you want to be weak? Too sensitive? Angry? Uncontrolled? Passive-aggressive? Cowardly? Hurtful? Insensitive? Positive? Pessimistic? Afraid? Honest? Bold?

Thinking about your options with these values in mind can give you a lot of insight.

Stop thinking: “Should I really hurt so-and-so this way?” Start thinking, “Am I being honest or wise?”

Stop thinking, “What will this person think of me?” Start thinking, “Am I an honest person?”

Choosing today to be the person you want to be means that a year from now, no matter what happened, you look back and feel good about yourself instead of looking back and feeling guilty and disappointed in yourself.

What other questions can you ask? Think about it… write some down… save them in an envelope that says “For next time I’m freaking out.”

However you get from panic mode to a level-headed perspective, commit yourself now to get there every time you find yourself in a sticky situation.

Remember the advice of the writer Ambrose Bierce: “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Full blown adrenaline doesn’t solve conflicts. Take a deep breath.


“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” – Ambrose Bierce