Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Question of the day

What do you do when you don't know what to do?

This is my favourite question at the moment. I thought of it yesterday when I was redesigning a leadership activity for a client.

I've been thinking about it ever since.

Actually, that's my answer - when I don't know what to do I think - sometimes.

When I don't know what to do I stop and think, spend some time analysing the problem. That would be my head taking the lead.

Other times when I don't know what to do I look and see what everyone else is doing. I check to see whether they look happy and engaged and either collaborate or avoid and change tack.  That would be my heart in charge.

Other times I'll just leap and do something! It may not be "the answer", but something will happen as a result and then I'll probably get a clue about what to do next. That would be me leading from my gut.

I've been talking to leaders lately about the balance between their head, heart and guts when they think about from where they lead. We've been discussing the book Head, Heart and Guts and the concept of the whole leader.

It's been interesting to reflect on my own growth and ripening as a leader. I look back on my days as a young union leader and know that I really lacked heart - not for the members I was representing, but for the people with whom I was working. I was head or guts. I LOVED the drama and thrill of acting on instinct. I usually felt confident and couldn't bear to "fiddle around", as I called it.

I now recognise that I've learnt a lot and am much more balanced and am mindful of whether my leadership actions are representative of a whole leader.

The question of the day is an excellent way to prompt thought and conversation about what your defaults are.  So: What do you do when you don't know what to do? I'd love to know.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Quoting Tara Moss

Tonight's episode of Q and A on the ABC was much better than usual. I put this down to the fact that there was plenty of politics, but no politicians.

Author, model and all round intelligent, fabulous woman, Tara Moss, was wonderful. She said this about sexual abuse:

"Silence protects the perpetrators and shames the victims."

That is all tonight.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Sucked into the call centre vortex

Every two years I have a conversation that I swear never to have again. I had it again yesterday. My mobile phone provider offered me the chance to upgrade my phone and get a better deal. Great, I thought. It will be okay. They've had two years to act on the feedback from the last delivery debacle. Oh, wait, that's what I said to myself two years ago.

The phone and the plan are both great. All the details were quickly sorted out. Then came the dreaded question: "What the is the address for delivery?"

I held my breath and gave my GPO Box which I rent from Australia Post and is completely secure.

The predictable reply came. "I'm sorry we do not deliver to post office boxes. You need to give me your home address."

I inhaled through gritted teeth and prepared to give the standard explanation.

"Who does the deliveries?" I asked.

"Australia Post," came the reply.

"My post office box is an Australia Post box. The parcel will be delivered and signed for by counter staff. You will give me a tracking number, so we will know where the parcel is at all times. A card will be placed in my post office box. I will open my post office box, discover the card and take it to the staff at the counter. The staff will locate the parcel, check my ID, scan it and ask me to sign. They will then give me the parcel. What is the security risk?"

"We don't deliver to post office boxes because they are not secure."

"Please explain to me what happens if you try to deliver to a physical address and I am not there to collect it."

"We will attempt delivery. If you are not there to receive the parcel a card will be left on your front door, and the parcel will be taken to the nearest post office," he explained.

"What happens then?" I asked, knowing the answer.

"You will need to take the card to the post office, hand it over to the staff and they will give you the parcel. You will need to do this within seven days or the parcel will be returned."

This felt like a really hard game of Spot-the-Difference.

We argued back and forth and I was ready to scream the next time the polite Indian man told me "don't worry Tanya, we will get this sorted out for you".

I considered having it sent to one of the workplaces where I work, but was worried as colleagues have had deliveries go missing. That seemed like the best option. I gave the address and specified that Wednesday was the only day I would be there to collect it.

Last night I received emails and texts confirming all the order details. The delivery address was basically my name and a suburb. While I have respect for Australia Post, I don't think that even they would be able to deliver the parcel with only that information. I clicked on the tracking number and the Vodafone website said that it was "on it's way" and "on the truck". I clicked a further link to the Australia Post website and was greeted with the news that the tracking number was invalid.

I became angry.

I called the "customer care" centre at Vodafone. After twenty minute of being on hold while the guy tried to figure out what was going on he suggested that I call Australia Post on Monday and ask them to change the address!

"Why would Australia Post change, over the phone, the delivery address of an item requiring personal deliver and signature when they have no way of verifying me? And anyway, how are they going to find the parcel when it has an invalid tracking number?"

"Well all you need to do Tanya, it is very simple, don't worry, is just give them a call on Monday and they can fix it for you."

"This is not my problem. This is Vodafone's mistake. I don't need to do anything."

"Well if you're not there, they will take it to the nearest post office for collection, don't worry."

"If I'm not "where"?"

"At the delivery address?"

"And what is the delivery address?"


"That's the problem isn't it? The parcel will not be delivered. It will be returned to sender. What you need to do is cancel this order and order me another phone for delivery with the correct address."

"Certainly, Tanya. That will take 10 business days..."

I try not to yell at call centre people. I've worked in one myself. I will confess that this morning I yelled. Nothing makes me as crazy as people who don't listen and aren't customer focussed. They were making this all my problem and it was not my problem.

"I started paying for the phone yesterday when I placed the order. Why do you think that I would be happy to wait for at least another three weeks to get the phone? That's ten days for you to get the phone back and then a week for another order to be placed and it to be re-sent. That is not what is going to happen. You're going to fix this."

"Don't worry Tanya. I will put you through to the upgrades team and they will be able to help you."

"Why didn't you do that 25 minutes ago?"

"Hello! Upgrades. Vipin speaking."

Suddenly I had been put through and it happened too quickly for a handover to have been done.

I told the story again.

"Oh well we can not add more information to the delivery details because our system doesn't allow the space."

This wasn't getting any better. I believe the hysterical, laughter may have entered the conversation at this point.

We went through exactly the same conversation as before. I was put on hold.

After 55 minutes on the phone Vipin offered to call Australia Post and change the delivery details to the complete address on Monday and confirmed that he will also call me on Monday to confirm arrangements. How they're going to find the parcel, given the tracking ID is invalid is beyond me, but I had nothing left.

Why was that not the solution offered in the beginning? I'm trying to have faith that the problem will be fixed, but I have no confidence. The only power I have is to take my business elsewhere. That will involve lots of paperwork,  more money and probably the same issue around delivery. Apart from this biennial problem, I'm very happy with the service and value. Why can't they get this right?

What's your strategy when you get sucked into the call centre vortex?

Friday, 23 May 2014

Design flaws and "common sense"

Sometimes I wonder how things end up the way they are. It's usually little, simple things. Well they seem simple to me, but evidently they are complex. News of France's blunder with their TFT's (too fat trains) set me thinking again this week.

You'd think you'd check something like the width of trains before you spend lots of money. They've got to fit! Some might even say that doing so is common sense.

This term "common sense" is one that I wrestle with. I actually think it must be a myth. If it was common we wouldn't end up with these kinds of errors. Would we?

On my regular travels through Flinders Street Station in Melbourne I am regularly struck by a piece of poor design. Here's a picture:

Display screens for platform 12 and 13 at Flinders Street Station
© 2014 divacultura
This screen is at the entry end of platforms 12 and 13 at Flinders Street Station. Everytime I see it it sets my teeth on edge.

The first thing you might notice is that it doesn't read in numerical order from left to right. Then you might think that's because platform 13 is on the left and platform 12 is on the right.

This is not the case. Platform 12 is on the left of this screen and platform is on the right of the screen.

If you're not familiar with the layout of the platforms it would be easy to go to the right hand platform to catch the Williamstown train and go left for Sandringham.

The only thing I can think is that they put them in alphabetical order. That's a valid order, but not usually how train stations are laid out.

Would common sense say they should be the other way around?

That's before we even look at the gap between services during peak time.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Off to have my water tested!

Sitting opposite me on the train to Flinders Street this morning was an old man. Beside him sat an old woman wearing rose tinted sunglasses, gazing out the window and clutching her handbag on her lap. The man turned his head fully towards her as he spoke very loudly.


The woman continued to gaze out the window, but nodded, barely.




Quietly, the woman said: "Yes. That should be fine."


The train passed the big Melbourne viewing wheel and the woman said, sotto voce: "Adrian took his new girlfriend up there on a date."


"I said Adrian - you know Adrian - took his girlfriend up on the wheel last week. They were on a date, you know," she repeated. I wondered what the relationship between the two of them was. Was she planting a seed, secretly hoping she would be taken on a wheel date? Was she secretly in love with the enigmatic Adrian and ready to push the other woman off the wheel at the first opportunity?




"Not anymore. It's not cracked anymore."

The woman stood up to leave the train at Southern Cross Station, leaving the man to travel solo on his way to deposit his water for testing.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

7 steps to inspire customer loyalty - effortlessly!

My shoe shop called last week. When I tell people, they look at me as though I'm the only person on earth who has a shoe shop. I look back as though I can't believe that they don't have a shoe shop.

My shoe shop is a peek into the relationships I have with businesses with which I deal regularly. These are successful and mutually beneficial relationships. I've been reflecting on what makes them tick. I think the elements are transferable to other situations. It doesn't matter if it's shoes, clothes, electronics, stationery or personal services.

divacultura's 7 principles of customer service to inspire loyalty

1. My first experience was great. I still remember that Alice served me and I bought a pair of long black boots and a pair of red heels. To put this into perspective, my first visit was at least seven years ago.

2. My first experience was so good, I went back. Alice remembered me. She didn't remember my name without a prompt, but she remembered our interaction.

3. Third time through the doors and the staff recognised me and greeted me like a friend.

4. Sometimes I wander in, not necessarily with a view to buying, but with a view to looking. The staff are happy to play if it's not busy and are happy to bring me shoes just to try. Quite often they surprise me with something that I had overlooked on the shelf, but loved on my feet.

5. Even if it is busy when I go in, I never feel rushed and feel like I am being paid full attention.

6. We trust each other. Last year there was a mix up and an extra pair of boots I already owned was put aside under my name and marked as "paid". Rebecca called to find out when I was collecting them. I already had my boots and told her there had been some error. In that split second I realised that I could have just said that I would be in to collect them "tomorrow" and scored another pair of boots. That's not how I roll and I know my honesty was really appreciated.

7. Rebecca knows what I like and keeps an eye out for things that might appeal to me and then gives me a call. There's no pressure. It's a friendly call and I find it helpful.

They followed me home.
© 2014 divacultura
When I look over this list, it's not rocket science! These are easy things to do and they have an impact. I only buy shoes there now. Actually, I'm a very loyal customer. Once I find somewhere I like the people, they like me and I like the product, I will stick with them forever. Notice how the product is the third thing in the list.

I've even considered whether these principles apply in the online retail environment. They absolutely do. (I'm thinking about my favourite online clothing store, Birdsnest.)

Where do you like to shop? What keeps you coming back? If you're in business, does your customer service inspire loyalty?

"My" shoe shop is called Sole Devotion. I was not asked or provided any incentive to write this post (other than being inspired by great service!).

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Brisbane perspectives.

I'm sitting beside the Brisbane River enjoying the sunny view and a cafe latte. (Brisbane finally knows how to make them.) I'd forgotten how much brighter than Melbourne the mornings are. Sleeping past 7:30am without comprehensive blackout curtains, even in May, is an impossibility. So even though my breakfast date is  not until 11am, I'm up, checked out and sitting by the river.

A favourite thing of mine is to visit markets and the Brisbane Riverside Markets were a huge sprawling cornucopia of handmade artisan wares. I expected to easily fill an hour and half but have been disappointed. Perhaps twenty stalls exist, some of them lovely, but most selling junk. Perhaps the online shopping revolution has hit here too.

The Story Bridge looks more serious by day. Its structure black and grim, contrasting with the clear blue sky and sparkling water. The river beneath is busy with traffic - ferris zigzagging from one side to another while cars cross the river above.

Just before 10am my phone tells me it's currently 22 degrees Celsius, yet a man sits at a nearby table wearing the strange combination of skimpy shorts, thongs and a polar fleece jacket. I'd forgotten the craving for seasons that one gets living somewhere like this. During the week, I saw women on their way to work defiantly wearing knee-high boots, scarves and coats. I watched them, dressed in a summer dress.

As I walked in this morning, the river was on my left and the skyscrapers loomed on the right, their footprints substantial, standing solidly, in contrast to the mercurial water opposite. They look so clean and impossible. It must be the space around them that makes them seem bigger than anything in Melbourne.

Three metres from where I sit, a white-haired woman has paid a woman with a matching hair-do to tell her fortune. Her husband has opened his wallet, handed over the cash  - and his wife - and made himself scarce. The two women look like old friends meeting for coffee.

My weekend has been filled with friends and food. I love living in Melbourne but I do feel a tug whenever I come back to Brisbane!

© 2014 divacultura 

Refractions II
© 2014 divacultura

How was your weekend?

Monday, 12 May 2014

What I'm wondering

I'm wondering why I keep receiving notification that peak hour train services have been cancelled due to "driver training". Surely there's a better time to train.

I'm wondering why big organisations pass the buck and fail to take responsibility and help customers (ie citizens, the public).

I'm wondering how to extricate myself from a whirlpool of buck passing.

I'm wondering why hotel bathrooms are lit to make me look at least thirty years older than I am.

I'm wondering why caterers think that luke warm water is any way to make a decent cup of tea.

I'm wondering why rice paper rolls marked as "nut free" contained walnuts - the nut to which I'm most allergic. (I can answer this one, partially...because the chicken mix from the sandwiches was used to make the rolls and the chicken mix from the sandwiches contained walnuts. Still doesn't explain the sign.)

I'm wondering why there are still people in the catering business who think that food allergies are not serious, that is potentially life threatening.

I'm wondering why a person who has requested "fructose free" food is served a plate of fruit at morning tea. Sigh. It is marginally better than cake.

I'm wondering why I have to fight so hard to be paid for my services on a regular basis.

I'm wondering why I didn't decide sooner to call it quits with a couple of clients who are bad payers.

I'm wondering why people (ie politicians) don't take responsibility for their decisions to do something different from what they "promised" in the election campaign.

I'm wondering whether there's a definition of "promise" of which I'm unaware.

I'm wondering why people don't listen.

I was wondering why a nurse working in a health care organisation was doing theatre reviews until I realised that I'm the only embedded creative and that her theatre always involves blood, while mine involves blood only sometimes.

What are you wondering about?

* Posts will be erratic this week due to other commitments. *

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

What are you afraid of? - leadership action

Don't be afraid of what will happen if you act. Be afraid of what will happen if you don't act.

I've found myself having this conversation a lot lately. Leaders tell me that they haven't tackled something they know they should, because they're scared or worried about a reaction. I ask them about what that reaction is likely to be and they describe another person's bad or immature behaviour. They'd rather battle on - and force their team to battle on -  than address a problem.

When I ask what will happen if they do nothing, eye contact is broken, they get a guilty look and then they tell me they know they should do something, but they are gripped by fear.

I ask again - what will happen if you don't act? - and keep asking until they face themselves. Eventually they realise that doing nothing about a problem is worse for everyone.

Sometimes they tell me stories about how they've inherited a problem and that a person has been allowed to get away with certain things for a long time. They tell me these stories, manifesting frustration and blaming the others who came before them and did nothing.

I then ask whether they are about to be the next person who does nothing or will they be the person to make the choice to act?

Some people make the decision to act at that point, others need another nudge, so I tap into their empathy.

"Imagine if you were that person, acting and believing you're doing okay, but actually there are major problems that everyone else knows about, but no one has ever respected you enough to talk to you about it."

It's easy to make excuses when the path of action is challenging. It's easier to do almost everything else when you've made an effort to address problems that need fixing.

I've realised this week while working with another group of leaders that I've brought my activist mindset with me. To me, the business of leading is about acting in a way that sets your people free to do their best work. The key is that leadership is an action, not a noun. It's not a title or a name on a business card. It's action framed by mindset. In any setting.

Are you taking action? What are you avoiding? What are you afraid of?

Monday, 5 May 2014

To shake or not to shake.

I offended people today. A split second later, everyone was okay and I had their undivided attention.

I'm facilitating leadership development for the next couple of days and I usually greet each participant with a smile and a handshake. Today, I refused the offers of hands to shake on the grounds of social responsibility. I'm still struggling with a head cold and so my hands are constantly handling tissues that I've used and covering my mouth and nose when I sneeze and cough, if I don't have a tissue handy. I know that a lack of hand hygiene is one of the best ways to share germs.

The reaction of people whose hands I refused to shake, was interesting. After an initial moment of uncertainty and offence (in one case), I was then thanked for my consideration.

I know how I've felt when offered the hand that I've just seen used to wipe a nose or a mouth, or handle a used tissue: I don't want to shake the hand. Being put in a position where the dirty hand is offered and then it's shake or refuse, is awkward. I'd say it's far better to be proactive and protect others by being as mean as possible with your germs.

I also hope that those whose hands I didn't shake today will consider their own actions the next time they are afflicted with a head cold.

Something else happened as a result of my choice today. The first impression people had of me was of a considerate and respectful person - because I didn't shake hands. It seems counter-intuitive, but shows that sometimes it's worth consciously breaking with convention.

I'm off - the tissue box is calling.

when do you shake hands?

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Cold season - excuse for TV marathon.

This weekend has been a write-off. I left the house once, today, in search of food and cold medication. I've got one of those really annoying head colds; the kind where your head feels full of fluid, your ears are itchy and every time you sneeze, it's both a relief and a violent act. It started with a sore throat yesterday. That's gone today, so hopefully I might feel reasonable by tomorrow morning.

So what is one to do when it's cold and wet outside and you're sick? Fire up the Blu-Ray player and surrender.

Yesterday started with The Master, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams. It's apparently about the beginnings of Scientology. It's a curious film, with fine performances and a very slow pace. The slow pace suited the cotton wool in my head. I'm not sure I would have coped with the 144 minute duration otherwise.

Next came the first three episodes of The Americans, a television spy drama about Russian sleeper spies living in the US while Reagan was President. I was a bit non-plussed and was beginning to wonder whether I should abandon watching anything while ill.

Then I dusted off the Danish political drama, Borgen (Danish for "government") and was gripped from the very first moment. It's the story of a woman's rise to be Prime Minister after negotiating complex deals with coalition partners to lead a minority government. Sound familiar? I kept thinking about our former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and wondered if she's seen it. I suppose it's a bit like a Danish version of The West Wing. (I had to swap my knitting for something I can do without watching or thinking, so I can read the subtitles.) I don't know why I waited so long.

Now, I'm waiting for The Voice to start and the latest dose of cold tablets to stop my nose running, the sneezing and the blocked ears.

Off to facilitate a leadership program tomorrow. Early to bed.

How are you?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Curious people - on the trains today

Travelling home on the train tonight I saw a curious thing. That's not unusual, but I've never seen this before.

The train itself was a model with the articulated joins between carriages. You know the ones? They have sides like a piano accordion and a round platform in the middle of the join. In the middle of this platform, a man stood. Unusually for a peak hour train, there were plenty of seats available so it was a little strange that he would choose to stand, but even stranger that he would choose to stand there. He was wearing a serious blue suit, pin-striped and immaculate. He looked to be in his early 50's. He was looking at his mobile phone, holding an umbrella with his other hand and not hanging on to anything.

I watched him, fascinated. It was a rough ride standing where he was standing. Even if he didn't want to sit, there was plenty of space to stand up in the aisle. At one point, he could have been a surfer out on the waves. I wonder whether he is a surfer and was taking the opportunity to practise his balancing techniques.

The train lurched wildly as it moved from one line to another. The man almost toppled over. He righted himself, but continued to travel in the articulated join.

I stopped watching him when a 50 year old woman sat opposite me wearing a jumper with repeated pictures of Bart Simpson all over it. Eye searing is the only description. The woman wearing it wasn't exactly svelte.

What curious sightings did you have today?