Mindful Listening

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Through mindfulness I am a better listener.  I don’t mean some kind of Zen-like hear the sounds of waves, the rumbling of my stomach pre-lunch, or what the air feels like against my ears.  I mean listening as in to pay attention to someone or something and different than before; better than before.  I’d add to this the element of understanding; so, through mindful listening I hear someone or something, am aware of the message, understand the message, and possess the ability to mindfully respond; I experience a new level of listening through mindfulness.

So, what?  Right?  When could this really matter, make a difference, provide value….One practical usage is being caught off guard and asked a question (ever been caught off guard and have someone ask you to volunteer at the kids school that day and you say YES?! – yeah, we’ve all been there and done that!).  Mindful listening helps prepare us with responding…mindfully.  Another practical usage is when someone is trying to sell you something.

Take for example the guy who just called about selling me home improvement services.  I was deep in concentration when the phone rang. I answered the phone and it’s a telemarketer.  Yes, we have caller ID and sometimes when our kids call from school, it’s from an unknown number in a local area code – so, I answer knowing it could be them.   However, this time it was Jim.  Jim was nice and I’ve been there many times myself making cold calls.  I know how difficult this is and figured I’d hear him out.  Jim shared that his company XYZ is doing work in our neighborhood and wondered if we had any projects.  I asked, “Oh, which neighbor?”

Now mind you, before mindfulness it would not even have occurred to me to even think of let alone ask, “which neighbor?”.  I would have thought, “Cool, you’re doing stuff in our neighborhood…yeah, let’s talk.”  But now is different.  I am changed. I am better equipped with tools and skills – that work for me everyday, anywhere, anytime.  I am a better listener because of using my mindfulness techniques; they’ve become a part of me – reflexively.  I don’t even have to think  “Oh, use your mindful listening skills” because I’ve done it so many times it comes naturally.  And I’m fully aware.  Fully present.  Even though I got caught off guard.

Jim’s response though was taken aback.  He stumbled.  He fumbled.  He couldn’t find the words.  And what did come out was his company, XYZ, were not doing work in our neighborhood.

OH SNAP!

Houston, we have a problem.  Yes, a significant problem.  Integrity and trust are gone.  Not only for Jim but also for XYZ Company.  A lost sale – for sure.  It’s too bad and very unfortunate.

Calls like this happen all of the time, however, because of mindfulness I am better listener.  I ask questions that wouldn’t even have occurred to me (autopilot, zombie…distracted/not present) but I do now.

A value of mindfulness is being fully present and aware; beyond hearing someone’s words, thorough mindful listening I was able to uncover a common sales tactic that was dishonest and protect myself, my family, and my home – and my money!

Many telemarketers and scam artists call preying on people.  Some may argue and say, “use common sense.” I’d argue that we don’t know what we don’t know AND we don’t know HOW to do something different unless we’re shown and something changes. For example, saying to people “don’t give personal information over the phone” has no meaning unless we are fully aware and fully present –regardless of distractions.  And con artists are masters at distraction. Now I’m not saying that Jim and XYZ Company are con artists.  I am saying they use a sales tactic that is dishonest – and because of mindful listening – was exposed.

So, invest in mindful listening.  See what does it does for you. We can help; we offer a variety of in person workshops and online classes.

Share your thoughts – let us know what you think of this post and how we can be of service!

Mindful Change

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Change.  Change is constant yet people resist change.  There are many reasons why people resist change; everything from it’s too different from what is ‘normal’ to being forced to change.

Though this is true reality, so are the advantages to change.  I find that many people already know benefits of change.  Heck, I’ve feel the same way myself and can write a laundry list of benefits.  What I’ve found is that in the sea of reasons and benefits, people seek questions to help them with the process of first, deciding on to make the plunge (or not), and second, people are looking for help with knowing what to ask themselves.

I’ve listed a few questions to help with these needs.  These questions are mindful questions; they address surface problems and uncover root causes.  Read them over.  Sit with them for a while.  Write down the first 10 answers that come to mind.  Review the responses later that day, a day later, and then 1 week later; make changes and adjustments to your responses.  After a week has passed ask yourself and answer the question: What do I want to do? Then you’ll have an answer.  For now.  For this moment in time.

  • Mindful Questions to the Advantages to Change
  • What are the advantages? To me, personally?
  • What are the results? What will they be? How would I describe/communicate them to others?  **If the details are unclear, revise to the point where they are clear and you could explain to someone else.
  • How do the advantages fit with my values and beliefs, the stuff I know to be “true” from experience and with my needs?
  • How will this work for me? What is my overall sense or “test” to know that it’s working?

How did this work for you?  Share with me your comments and questions!

Corporate Policies Gone Bad

Corporate policies. Every company has them, every leadership team develops them.  Once developed, employees are spoon-fed and even become cheerleaders of their company’s policies.  Employees take pride in memorizing and knowing by heart these policies! Corporate policies offer structure, a consistent way of doing things, ease of training during the on boarding process, and can even support strategic initiatives.  These all seem within reason and good business decisions, right?  Yes and no.  Yes, when they solve problems, provide guidance and structure, and are adaptable.  No, when corporate policies backfire quicker than Cher’s backhand to Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck providing a “snap out of it” wake-up call to both the customer, company  and the company.  Where might , you ask,  does this happen?  In the front lines…in customer service.

Have you ever called a company call center with a problem and were given the candid answer of, “I’m sorry, Miss, but our company policy is……” Yet, what the customer hears is, “I’m not going to solve your problem.”

I experienced two of these situations this week (hence, which prompted me to write this blog).  My first problem that I needed solving was with our home’s HVAC system.  In Minnesota, while it’s not snowing yet (yes, giggle if you will) we did experience a 40+ degree temperature drop.  The day I went to turn on the heat there was nothing.  Okay. Not a problem.  I pay for an extra service with our energy provider that allows us access to 24/7/365 emergency service.  When scheduling the customer service person suggested I check the batteries of the thermostat (that’s nice…thinking of possible solutions) and scheduled us for the earliest appointment on Sunday.  Again, I didn’t think it was a problem…we’d bundle up and get cozy and Sunday was only a few days away.  I did replace the batteries and still no change.

Then in typical Minnesota fashion, the temperature dropped even further.  Regardless if the body feels a drop from 100 to 60 degrees or 70 to 36 degrees, the first time during a season – it’s COLD!  Our house temperature was 65 degrees and tonight the temps are expected to drop even further.  Not a problem, (right?), as I thought I’d just call the utility company back and take advantage of our pre-paid emergency service.   WRONG!  When on the phone with customer service I explained that I’d like to receive same day service and was told, “We are not servicing same day heat or furnace related calls yet as it’s before our winter season service date.  The temperatures are not below freezing.” What?  Then I kindly (yes, I was kind and didn’t turn into Medusa) replied that I pay for this service and would like to get someone out today.  Again, I got the customer service representative proudly regurgitating company policy and she even said, “This is our company policy.” Did she provide me with a solution?  No.  Did she care?  No and that was clear from her tone.  Was she doing her job?  She was doing what she’s been told to do and say. What did I do?  I told her she wasn’t providing me with a solution and asked to speak to a manager.

The manager came on the line, confirmed my account, and then made the comment, “yeah, the recent drop feels really cold.  Would you mind holding for a moment and I’ll speak to a dispatcher to see if we can get out servicing you sooner.”  Wow!  This team lead lady made me feel like at least she heard and understood my problem and was doing something to help to solve it.  When she came back on the line I was told someone would come out today.  Which is great.  Problem solved.

As a business owner though, I cringe at this company policy.  It will deter current customers from renewing this extra option which means loss of customers which means loss of renewing revenue – OUTCH! I’d say to the company leaders: go back and review these corporate policies and create something that solves your customer’s problems (not to mention keeping those renewal revenues accumulating).

The second corporate policy fiasco this week was with scheduling tennis lessons.  While it might seem frivolous, those of you who’ve been reading my twitter feed know that I’ve recently taken tennis lessons which is all part of use-of-mindfulness-for-self; doing the things that you’ve “always” wanted to do is a common outcome of Mindful Living.  For me, one of those things is playing tennis and love it; it helps me reduce stress, I’ve gotten stronger, and it’s a nice way to connect with others.  At my gym, the fall tennis schedule came out and as a mom I’m juggling everyone’s schedules – thank goodness for my iPhone!

I contacted the tennis desk asking about the Saturday morning class.  The time is perfect and right after the kid’s swim classes which to me means let’s-get’it-done-efficiency.  The service person shared that the club wouldn’t start the class with only 1 person registering and the tennis manager would call to talk with me about the class.  Okay.  Cool.  NOT!  After  playing voice-mail tag and talking twice without a solution, then talking to 2 other instructors,  I was without a solution to the problem due to corporate policy.  Corporate policy dictates a minimum of 2 registered people to start a class.  Fine. My husband registered as the second person.  Oh, but wait…the company policies get better…each tennis pro manages their own schedules; one pro was not teaching on Saturday, another could teach but only 1 of the 4 classes, and the tennis manager offered me this, “well, I guess I could do some calling and see if we could get other people to join and then start a class…and I’ll have to find someone to teach….”  All of this back and forth volley was a waste of time.  One thing I don’t like to waste is time.

This company had a customer, not just 1 but 2 practically begging for tennis lessons saying, “PLEASE TAKE OUR MONEY – WE WANT TO BUY” and yet the club lost 2 sales because of corporate policies and because their people could not provide a solution to solve their customer’s problem.  Does the problem still exist?  Nope.  I came up with an alternative and “bought” from someone else.  Would I have preferred buy from my club?  You bet.  But given the situation, I got creative and solved my own problem.  Will I buy from them again?  I’m not sure.  As a business owner, again, I cringe at seeing these types of situations where employees hold to their heart corporate policies that do the exact opposite of what’s intended, that create more problems, provide dissatisfaction instead of a WOW customer experience, and bleed the company’s revenue sources.  Club leaders take note – this isn’t working….

In practical mindfulness, sticking to something that no longer serves its purpose, no longer works, and adds to problems…that’s called “mindlessness.”  Other terms and phrases to describe “mindlessness” are “lights are on but no one’s home,” “zombie,” and auto-pilot.  These corporate policy situations are examples of “mindlessness.”   When employees lack of awareness they become mesmerized (heck, hypnotized) by corporate policies that don’t work and contribute to the already stack of business problems organizations face every single day.  So, be mindful, be aware, people.  Reevaluate corporate policies, reflect, and answer questions such as:  what’s created to work and is it working, what’s being done because we’ve been told to, does it make sense (really?), does it solve our customer’s problems, and if not, then change it!  Create corporate policies where employees can be mindful and aware, that solve customer problems, and provide both financial (renewals) and non-financial (wowed customers) rewards to the organization.