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leeLee McEnany Caraher
Lee is an acclaimed communications strategist known for her practical solutions to big problems. She’s the CEO of a thriving agency Double Forte. She’s an author, a speaker, a trainer, and a doer, and she’s here to share what she’s learned the hard way to help reduce the drama in the workplace. She blogs at Rocksarehard.com

We’re all in a service business of some sort, in that the vast majority of workers are dependent on selling something — hard goods, expertise, capacity of many sorts, etc. – to someone else who chooses you over others. The faster we all realize we’re serving others, the better it will be for the waiters of the world, and the faster we’re all focus on what really matters.

Making other people happy through service is the key to success in any business.

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Three phrases you should bend over backwards NOT to hear from your manager OR the people you serve are:

  1. “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” You’re talking to a conformist who you haven’t brought along in exploring new ways – hopefully more efficient and more effective – to achieve the goal. Avoid this by teeing up the change you want to see with informed discussions with the people you’re serving. MOVE these people along at an appropriate rate — appropriate for those people. Do NOT present a new way to a legacy-prone organization with “We’ve redesigned the process to streamline decision-making….” A) you may not make it out of the room alive and b) you may not know how all of the decision makers are engaged. EASE your way to change with questions and a helpful, collaborative attitude and stepped-process that enrolls the one you serve in the solution. Most importantly, leave your ego at the door and let it be their idea.
  1. “How we doin’?” Ugh. These words, in this order, said in a deceptively cheerful tone by the one you serve, are usually the kiss of death. The asker KNOWS things suck, and is trying to give you an out and let you save face.Avoid this by: a) Understanding what is measured before you start; b) Keeping people up-to-date on your progress and any issues you’re encountering, and c) if the project is off-schedule taking a solution TO the person you serve – don’t let them lead you to this uncomfortable spiral of hell.
  2. “How did we get here?” You’ve presented your results and the silence sets in…and then the dreaded “how the hell did this happen” dressed up as “how did we get here?” Richard Moran’s equivalent in his “Presentation Poison” is “Can we do a process check?” Which is code for “no one knows what the hell we are talking about any more.”

Get ahead of these kisses of death by staying ahead of the one you serve. Manage Up at all times. Keep them informed, find solutions, deliver clear, concise messages. Don’t sugarcoat it. The people who don’t blindside their customers or their bosses are the ones who will succeed the most.

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