Category Archives: Global Leaders
RockMe! Retreat

I mentioned in my post Simplify Your Digital Life – On Reducing Complexity” that I learned a few more principles about how I work with the companies I encounter as a small business and private individual. Maybe this helps you to improve your customer experience too.

Reduced Clutter Equals Better Choices

When you consider simplifying your life there are certain standards that you expect. One example that comes to my mind is a website for a seemingly simple transaction such as buying a ticket or sending flowers. In both cases, those websites were overly full of information and had too many options. I probably just clicked what I thought was right, did not read the fine print and made mistakes.

Treat your Costumers like Intelligent Humans

Another site annoyed me in the last part of the buying process where I had invested already about half an hour selecting and declining additional options because they did not tell me that the delivery cost would be added at the end of the transaction. You probably think that this is normal and that I should not be surprised. I understand the principle, but what I did not like was that the delivery cost about 100% of the product. That was way out of proportion and did not make sense to me. I would have expected that there is a standard service with a delivery (a bunch of flowers). Maybe it’s my inexperience with such transactions but I gave feedback. I got a reply but it did not help…but at least I did not have to speak to a robot again.

Consumers should not be treated like idiots. I am happy to spend money but I want to feel that my money is well spent and in a lot of those cases I wasted either time or money because of lame processes or lack of customer service. I often wonder then why employees take no pride in their work, why they are not trying to make their customers happy, why they are not communicating better. The only explanation I have is our corporate culture. If we want to create amazing customer experiences, we also have to create better employee experiences. I think we also need to give our employees more freedom to make decisions to support the customers, like the lady who helped me at the SNCF counter. I also think we need to hire Generation X customer service representatives into shared service centers, who do not treat a 45-year-old like their best friend or their worst enemy and who have the patience to explain a process step by step.

As a Customer Give Feedback

These days, if I come across a bad website or a bad email marketing newsletter I give feedback. I know that I have not been asked to provide feedback, but I know that most of the time it helps me a lot. There are so many misunderstandings in written communication, we all come from different places and for most of us we feel challenged to communicate in our mother tongue, let alone in a second or third language.

Customer Service of Humans Tops Everything

I was annoyed by SNCF, the Novotel, and other sites because they did not allow me easily to reverse a transaction that I made in good faith. I lost money and time. While I am writing this post I am sitting in the same hotel that had annoyed me a few months back. I did not book it. There is no better option either. However, this time I was not expecting service and I was wondering if anyone would talk to me about my 1-star review on TripAdvisor. I even did not have a functioning credit card as a guarantee for them. BUT my experience is amazing. I needed help as I am unwell. I got free medicine and a fresh lemon for tea. The kitchen staff gave me lemons. I was treated friendly and could choose the floor and have a great view now. I am almost considering to reverse the bad review…but then logging in to Tripadvisor took too long again. Maybe I leave it there for a little longer to keep them on their feet.

 

Kind regards

Angie Weinberger

 


I have a funny habit. I prefer to write these posts on my red sofa at home on my laptop. It does not make a lot of sense because I have the beautiful Global People Club Lounge at Hedwigsteig. There I have a bigger screen and a printer. I like to do the editing, designing and fine tuning at the desk. This part feels more like I am paid to do it. Writing itself to me is so relaxing that I do it where I watch movies and where I chill. I’m not sure if you know this but as a child I wanted to be either a writer, a journalist or an actress. I was never meant to end up in a bank or professional services firm. My parents were hippies. So, it might not surprise you that I have a very relaxed attitude to consumption and money. If I did not have to pay invoices and rent, I would spend my time volunteering on Chios. (I will tell you more about that soon.)

 

It could happen that you don’t always want to read my posts and that you feel that they could be punchier or more business-like. And if you feel like that and want to unsubscribe that’s fine for me. I am using storytelling as method but you might prefer boring business reports.

 

So here’s my story on the jacket order.

The Situation

In November my partner showed me his branded dream jacket online. I was in the Christmas giving mood and thought that this would be the perfect gift for his birthday (which is shortly after Christmas). We used to buy his present together in the last few years and it was always a little weird, because most of the time I then ended up giving him the present a lot earlier. Then on the birthday I would not have a present anymore. This is so against the German in me, who believes it’s bad luck to celebrate a birthday a few days before the actual date. My Kashmiri partner could not care less. For him, it’s the value of the present that defines the relationship, not when it is given.

 

I ordered online without paying much attention to what I was doing. It was late at night. We received a confirmation and I was happy. I was a little concerned when after 10 days and a short email reminder I did not get a response. However, with my previous bad customer experience I gave them benefit of the doubt.

The Event

Three weeks later the jacket hadn’t arrived yet so I started to get worried. A parcel from China was in transit and then the birthday came and again I had no present. Early in the New Year, I checked for a scam alert and yes, it was a highly risky site. I had almost lost hope when the Swisspost tracker said that the parcel had  arrived at customs. Then it was on its way to us confirmed. For a day I was hoping for another Sam story. Maybe the website was new, maybe the owners had just been inexperienced and yes, my hopes were high.

My partner was waiting for his branded jacket.

I had pulled up the forms from the credit card company to stop the payment but I did not touch them. Then, we received a parcel from China with fake Rayban sunglasses. Disappointment all around.

The Superhero Moment

When I held the fake sunglasses in my hands and saw the sad look in my partner’s eyes, I became so angry. I informed the credit card company and printed every proof I had that we had been dealing with a scam.

The price I paid

I am not yet sure if I will receive my money back. I had been stressed and angry too.

Not only have I lost a few hours of my life, I also lost faith in Online business transactions and digitization after the Rotterdam Hotel issue and this one. I feel abused and am concerned that someone might have my personal data.

The Price I have won

Normally here I would talk about the price I have won but I cannot see that yet. The story does not have a happy end. What could be a learning for the future is to take more time, check sites before buying and only to buy from trusted sites.

 

Why is storytelling important for you?

On a more important note, I just showed you an example of how to tell a story. I did not invent “storytelling” for the HireMe! program. I took the advice from my writer friend Libby and teach storytelling in the context of preparing expats and their spouses for interviews. As we are normally trained to write short, concise and academic with as little words as possible, we often speak like we are on Twitter.

“Did you also apply COLA and then when you calculated the C2C what happened?”

Or

“I would like to compare the L2L total comp to the SD net and I came across a huge NDI.”

Are you sometimes wondering why your expats do not “get you”. If you are speaking to them like a robot with technical terms they have no chance. Many of us spend hours writing emails to explain why COLA is now lower than the previous year instead of calling the assignee to explain it in layman terms.

We are so afraid of conflict and of explaining the rationale behind the home-based packages that we hide behind a screen and our jargon. I understand why “storytelling” is deemed a quality of GM Managers, not only in interviews. Mercer says so, so it must be true.

I talked to you about my latest shopping failure to explain you the structure of storytelling and to let you know to not order anything from a silly website that promised ridiculously low prices for overpriced branded jackets.

You can pull the template from here.

Have an exciting week ahead.

 

Angie Weinberger

PS: If you need help with storytelling come in for an exploratory session of HireMe!

PPS: Seems I am getting my money back. At least something.

Do you remember the last time you actually closed down your computer only to realize how many open documents and unfinished business you have? Or do you remember the five new business books you ordered from Amazon and when you wanted to dive into them after the first few pages you got a call and then, did you follow up on that?

I laugh at myself when I look through old diaries or notes that I have taken 10 years ago or even longer. I see that my essential challenges are still the same. They boil down to finances, back pain and imposture syndrome. On a bad day, I will probably fall into the trap of telling myself the same story all over again. I also notice that nowadays when I maintain my weekly “sanity rituals” I get out of that self-talk with my inner monster Gollum a lot faster. (I decided to call my inner critic “Gollum” because deep down inside I believe that I am Bilbo Baggins’ granddaughter.)

Do you still believe that it is the agenda and influence of your manager, the loud colleague from the other end of the open plan office or your wife that stop you from completing projects?

On the surface, it is easy to blame others for what we don’t do or don’t achieve. I find it wonderful to use the “I cannot afford it” excuse in order not to invest in my education or in new clothes for example.

When you say “I do”, how can you keep yourself on track?

Here are four approaches to improve your commitment to projects that are important to you.

1) The Engineering Approach

  • Prioritize your projects with an easy classifier such as ABC.
  • Set a deadline for the overall completion.
  • Break down the projects into milestones.
  • Write a project plan that breaks down every milestone into a task and plan time for completion.
  • Do it and tick off every achievement on a daily basis.

 

2) The People Approach

  • Visualize the end result and paint a detailed picture of it.
  • Add post-it notes of people you see connected to this end vision.
  • Consider which role they will play in your end vision.
  • Reach out to them and let them know that you need their help.
  • Find two commitment buddies who will check in with you on your success and report to them on a weekly basis.

 

3) The Agile Approach

  • Focus on one project at the time
  • Pick the one that has the highest lever for you.
  • Work from the bottom up by defining what you would like to achieve in the next three weeks (“sprint”).
  • Spend 80% of your work time on this sprint.
  • Then take a week of reflection, check what worked and what didn’t and take a long weekend off.

 

4) The No-Pain, No-Gain Approach

  • Pick a skill that you would like to have and that you always avoid.
  • Invest an incredible amount of money in order to force yourself to commit (an example could be a personal trainer to follow your fitness routine, or an MBA or a course in Excel).
  • Tell your mother about it and see what happens.

 

I would suggest that you try to work with the approach that speaks to you most. Whichever approach you take you will probably notice that you are committing yourself to DOING rather than just THINKING ABOUT DOING.

What I’ve thought about before writing this was that I would like to share a secret with you. I took an important decision for next year. I’ve applied to a Masters programme in “International Human Resource Management and Global Mobility”. While the thought of spending two intensive weeks with GM Professionals from around Europe totally excites me, I also feel anxiety creeping in as I have graduated back in 97 and universities have changed a fair bit since then. It’s one thing to teach in a program and another to actually go through it yourself. I’m also considering an additional coaching education that will require funding and time. Imagine me running my business and doing a double degree in one year. I’m taking a mix of a no-pain, no-gain approach and a people approach here. Step 1 completed.

Have an inspired week!

Angie

What we know can get in our way. This is true with intercultural knowledge too. We tend to assume that everything works exactly as it does in our home culture. And then we experience the opposite.

It could be that a train is not running when we expect one. The definition of „morning“ could be different than “roughly between 7 and 10 am”. Machines for petrol, for parking or for payments could be running in another way than what we are used to. Locks could turn the other way round.

It could be common to have a net price for a meal on the menu, a charge for the cover, a charge to open a bottle and the VAT added at the end of invoice. Maybe the tip is a lot higher or lower than what you are used to.

Crossing cultures you could be confused by words, by language, by habits, and by standards. It could be that your expectation of „normal“ is absurd in the other context. It could happen that you drink water from the tab and it is detrimental to your health.

Intercultural crossings have been as old as Europe. We (Europeans) never had to go far to hear a language that we do not understand. We know the feeling of being in a place where you have a different currency, different plugs, and different rules. We enjoy these little challenges as long as we are tourists. We enjoy our incapabilities in the language. When we have crossed many cultures and lived abroad, we tend to overestimate our intercultural competence. We tend to think that we are good at communicating with people from other cultures. This might be easy on holidays but it could be a challenge when we are managing a global and virtual team.

As managers, we then often ask our team members to follow our cultural dominance. We assume that we create the rules because we were chosen to lead. We assume that we can become irritable and impatient with our staff if they do not „get it“ right away. We assume that we don’t have to change, but the others have to.

Think of your last week.

Did you think to yourself „Why don’t they get it?“. Have you been annoyed or even angry with one of your team members from another culture? Have you said „…this process is not efficient“? These could be signs that you are not yet a global leader and that your intercultural competence has not evolved yet. It could be a sign that you still have a lot to learn in interactions with people in general but especially with people from other cultures.

Tell me what you remember.

Kind regards,

Angela

PS: This post is about a related theme on aggression at work and five methods to reduce aggressive and annoying behavior in the workplace.

 

In the TGV Lyria the French train running between Paris and Zurich all seats are normally taken. Like on a plane you need to sit in your reserved seat. In Switzerland there are no reservations. When a train gets too full and extra train is implemented during high times. Switzerland deals with this issue by adding more trains.

On Saturday, I entered the train in Dijon (France – the city of mustard) and placed my suitcase at the beginning of the compartment but could not find me seat in the lower deck. First I thought that there was an error on my ticket. Then I noticed the upper deck. I walked back, went up the stairs and thought “I must remember where I placed my suitcase.”

When I found my assigned seat 106 it was taken by a young girl. I experienced how my “Germanic” sense and preference for structure and order immediately was challenged. My stomach gave me messages “Out of order, not right, what is happening here?”

I tried my best French to state that I had a reservation. The girl showed me her ticket and explained in French that there was a mix up as the young couple in the seat in front of her had taken their seats. No one showed signs of getting up for a middle-aged woman. (My brain said “These younglings…no respect for age.”)

I saw no point in getting angry at the girl and her cute little sister who explained again the same.

I was thinking about approaching the couple directly but for a few minutes I did not know what to say and how to stay polite in French. Then a veiled lady told me to wait for the conductor. I felt out of place as people were trying to pass by. I thought about sitting out the problem and felt a frog creeping in my throat as I tried to say in French that I was standing here like an idiot because of a mix up of seats. I was also getting hot in my winter jacket and worried about fainting.

I felt tired and wanted to sit and work. I don’t like it when my plans get interrupted. I waited in silence and looked at my ticket to decide how long I could stand here. The girl (who was in the wrong seat) became nervous. She urged her boyfriend to handle this embarrassing situation. Then another young man got up and showed him something on his phone. The boy turned to me and said in English “You can take my seat. It’s number 64.“

I went back to the lower deck where I had left my suitcase, could not find 64, then went back up, passed by the boy and smiled. “It’s probably over there”. Then I asked the passenger in seat 64 if he had a reservation. He said yes. I apologized, went back to the boy and said “Did you say 64 or 46?”. He smiled “I said 54.”

I smiled, finally found seat 54 and ended up near where I had originally placed my suitcase.

Why am I telling you this?

I thought this is one of the situations that you experience in a new country all the time during your cultural adjustment.

I was proud of myself that I did not get too angry and tried to use humor in an awkward social situation in a language I did not feel 100% comfortable in. It also showed me again that your inner state is important when handling intercultural issues. You can solve problems better when you stay calm and composed even if a situation upsets you.

This situation gave me a good chance to apply my seven principles for intercultural effectiveness and I learnt once again

I could have reacted differently but by being quiet and patient the younglings came up with a solutions that was a win-win for all of us.

Other lessons learnt that help in intercultural settings.

1) Communicate your Needs

I should have said that I need to sit and work. Everything else did not matter to me. I should have said that I did not sleep well and that my back hurts when I stand to long but I did not. Maybe I could have arranged the new seat faster with better communication and checking in about the seat number. How often does it happen in intercultural communication that we do not really understand each other?

2) Forget Powerplay, Authority and Assumptions about Social Hierarchy

It’s not always necessary to play a power game when you can solve problems together. In order to do that you need to keep an open mind and accept a bit of chaos (which is hard with a Germanic mindset). I admit I felt a bit entitled and was going to pull an arrogant move, about how I had paid for my seat etc…but something stopped me from doing that. Maybe I am not that kind of person anymore.

3) Religion means nothing – Love is everything

The boyfriend’s argument “I wanted to be close to my girlfriend…” convinced me and I really did not question that I could take his seat instead. I loved that everyone seemed to sympathize with me and engaged in my “problem”. I expected the least support from the veiled lady but she immediately provided a solution. My heart went out to her as I thought she does not need to help a stranger.

 

4) Small issues can create big emotions

Although this was such a small dilemma it almost made me cry. I felt awkward and out of place, someone who does not fit in and this probably triggered old childhood memories of being new in class with a funny accent when I was showing up in second grade after our big family move. Watch your feelings and emotions. They might be triggered by old memories.