It’s Not About the Toilet Paper


Courtesy: sprinterlife.com

Across the table he sits, baiting me into an explosion. Emotions boiling, unkind words hurled in accusation, desperately trying to Continue reading

Building Bridges with Cake


Early in my career I had just started a new job. The team I was in was also new. It had been created a mere two weeks before I started in response to a new contract that created a whole new branch of the business. I was team member number two. Within days of my start my new boss Carolyn, a lovely lady in her mid forties with a wealth of experience in customer service, told me we were going to “do cake” with our main service provider. I had no idea what “doing cake” was or why would we take a few hours away from our busy office to meet with people who were providing services to us.

After stopping at a bakery for a quality cake we headed over to share cake and coffee with about five or six women we would be phoning, faxing and sending forms back and forth with every single day. At the beginning of a long-term business relationship we had met our key contacts, put faces to names and learnt a little about them as individuals, and they got to know us a little.

As the months unfolded I noticed that the girls we had done cake treated us differently to other service providers. And we treated them differently too. We had a better understanding. They were more prompt in getting back to us. They double checked if something didn’t feel right with one of the forms. We changed our processes to fit in with their workflow. Phone calls included a genuine “how’s your day?” Not so with other companies we interacted with every day. I realised we had built bridges with cake.

Fast forward a decade and experience at a large variety of organisations, I have learnt the secret of how cake builds bridges. It’s simple really. We all have people that we are customers of or who are regular customers of ours. They may be external to the business we work for or they may be internal (particularly if you work in accounts, HR or IT). In normal business life there is often friction between the processes of one team and another. Accounts desperately wants all receipts in by the end of the month so they can meet their deadlines,but the poor personal assistants are also trying to get monthly reports together, organise end of month meetings and a million other things.

If you don’t know the people you regularly work with, if they are only a name, a face, an email address, it’s easy to believe that they are deliberately choosing to make your life difficult, when in reality maybe they just don’t understand the implications of how their work impacts you. When you know them, if they are a good colleague, a friend, then you are more likely to assume that they haven’t done something, not because they don’t care, but because extenuating circumstances prevented them from helping you.

It’s the social times that build relationships in a workplace. This may be over sandwiches at the lunchroom table each day. It may be that first few minutes of the week when you discuss your weekends. It could be a break time in a conference. And almost always there is food.

A few times I have seen where two teams who work closely together have a morning tea together as an intentional plan to build better working relationships. As they do so, bridges are built, misunderstandings laid aside and procedures are changed to increase workflow between the teams. Individuals get to know each other better as people over the cake and attitudes improve.

Cake, (or any good food really), is also a good way to build relationships within teams too, particularly newly formed teams. Cake may cost a few dollars to the business but it does pay great dividends in increased productivity and morale. I encourage you to build bridges with cake.

Question: Do you relate to this? Have you been in a workplace situation where you have built positive relationships with customers or service providers? Has cake worked well in your workplace? Share your experience with us through a Comment below.

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The Power of a Name


“Mummy said you have to!” “Daddy said I could!” Right from a very early age we learn the power invoked by a name. Just add two words to a sentence and suddenly it becomes a valuable quote and irrevocably true. The choice and order of those two words are critical. Two words like “Nelson Mandela”, “Barrack Obama”, “Oprah Winfrey,” “Dr Phil,” “Jesus Christ.”   Not every name has power, so whether at home or at work we quickly learn which names have power and which don’t. We quote the boss, the authority and the famous. We quote leaders.

Speakers and writers often quote the words of others because of the secret power behind their name. This can be pure magic, unless, and I’m sure you’ve seen it, a speaker quotes someone and everyone in the audience simultaneously thinks “Who???”

A few years ago I was a Very Important Person in Rangers, a kids ministry I love. I held the second highest rank in the state and was the boss of every state and district event. My name had power! I could say to any person “Go and tell them that ‘Gail Said…'” and it would be done, just as I ordained.

At that same time, if I used those same words at work “what a weirdo!” looks would be sent my way. If I tried it at home my housemates and cat would have totally ignored me. Why? Because I didn’t have the same level of leadership and authority as I did at Rangers.

While it’s cool to have that level of power in your name, the famous will tell you that you can be misquoted or your name can be misused. As leaders we need be aware that our name does carry some level of power. We need to use this power wisely and remember that there is a high level of responsibility that comes with it. Responsibility to act and speak with wisdom, integrity, and grace.

Question: Which leaders would you say use the power of their name wisely? Or very unwisely? Add your Comments below.

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But I told you!


“I didn’t hear you. “”I didn’t get the message.” “You never said that.” “How many times do I have to tell you!?!”

It doesn’t matter what the message is, we’ve all been in that situation where a message we tried to give didn’t get through. We believed that we’ve communicated it well enough but no one seems to have heard us. Take this  example, one verbal comment is made to a hundred staff to wear casual dress at work next Monday. On Monday, only about 30% of the staff are in casual dress. Would you say the message got through? I’d say not.

I have adopted several presuppositions to live by and one is:

“Communication is the response you get.”

The power of this belief is that the responsibility of the result of the communication is in the hand of the communicator. With this belief I can’t blame others when they don’t respond the way I expected. Excuses like “you weren’t listening” and “I told you” are no longer acceptable. Instead, as the communicator, their response (or lack of it) becomes my responsibility. Maybe I used the wrong method of communication, I didn’t use the right words, or I picked an inappropriate time. And I can change it.

When I leave responsibility for the response to my communication with my audience, I assume I have no power to influence their response. When I assume the responsibility for communication is my responsibility, I have the power to change the response by changing my communication until I get the desired result.

When I presume that communication is the response I get, I can be proactive. I assess the communications and watch to see what response I get. Then I make appropriate changes and continually learn so that I can become a better communicator.

In the workplace I have chosen to learn how different colleagues like to be communicated with. Adam responds well to emails and will get back to you within a few minutes. Lyn is very busy and is always days behind in emails but will reply to a voicemail within a day. Adele likes sticky notes left on her screen, but if you want to get hold of Rochelle, use MSN. How do I know this, because when I sent a message via one of their non-preferred methods I didn’t get my desired response. When I changed my method, I got the response I want – a quick reply.

Question: Do you agree with this presupposition? What communication tips and tricks have you learnt? Share your wisdom with us through the Comments below.

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