March 13, 2014

Extinguishing the tantrum cycle

By Seth Gordin.

Tantrums are frightening. Whether it's an employee, a customer or a dog out of control, tantrum behavior is so visceral, self-defeating and unpredictable, rational participants want nothing more than to make it go away.

And so the customer service rep or boss works to placate the tantrum thrower, which does nothing but reinforce the behavior, setting the stage for ever more tantrums.
Consider three ideas:
  • Listen to the person, not the tantrum
  • Tantrums want to deal with tantrums
  • Create systems to avoid it in the first place
When an employee calls you up, furious, in mid-tantrum, it's tempting to placate or to argue back. That's the tantrum pressing your buttons. Instead, ask him to write down every thing that's bothering him, along with what he hopes you'll do, and then call you back. Or even better, meet with you tomorrow.

Email tantrums are similar. If someone sends you an email tantrum, don't respond, point by point, proving that you are correct. Instead, consider ways to de-escalate, not by giving in to the argument, but by refusing to have the argument.

Engaging in the middle of a tantrum does two things: it rewards the tantrum by giving it your attention, and it makes it likely that you'll get caught up, and say or do something that, in the mind of the tantrum-thrower, justifies the tantrum. That's the fuel the tantrum is looking for--we throw tantrums, hoping people will throw them back.

When you have valuable employees or customers (or kids) who throw tantrums, that might be a sign that there's something wrong with your systems. The most basic way to decrease tantrums is to find the trigger moments and catch the tantrum before it starts. By creating a way for people to raise their hand, send a note, light a signal flare or otherwise highlight the problem (internal or external) before it leads to a tantrum, you can shortcircuit the meltdown without rewarding it.

If your dog is going crazy, straining at the leash and barking, it turns out that yelling, "sit," is going to do no good at all, no matter how loudly you yell. No, the secret is to not take your dog to this park, not at this time of day, at least not until you figure out how to create more positive cycles for him. Eliminate the trigger, you start to eliminate the tantrum.

Unfortunately, just about all big customer service organizations do this precisely backward. They don't escalate to a supervisor or roll out the kindness carpet until after someone has gone to Defcon 4. They decide that it's too expensive to be flexible, to listen or to treat people fairly, and they wait until the costs to both sides are really high, and then they give an empowered person a chance to solve the problem. There's huge waste here, as the problem costs more to solve at this point, and the unseen challenge is that they've established a cycle in which umbrage is the rewarded behaviour.

And the last (but essential) thing to keep in mind is this: tantrums are really expensive, and if you can't extinguish the ongoing problem, fire it. Fire the customer, fire the employee. Establish a standard that says that people around here don't act like that. Expose the tantrum for what it is, and if necessary, do it in front of the tantrum-thrower's peers. It will free up your resources for those that are able to earn them.

When the cost of throwing a tantrum is high and when the systems are in place to eliminate the triggers, tantrum behavior goes down.

March 10, 2014

The Perfect Comeback

By Martha Beck

Illustration: Adam Simpson

"Don't worry, hon," said Theresa's husband, Guy, when she failed to extinguish all her birthday candles in one breath. "A woman your age has to be in shape to make wishes come true. You just don't have the lung capacity." Guy chortled. Theresa's face turned scarlet. The rest of us chuckled nervously. We were used to Guy, to the jocular way he planted and twisted stilettos between his wife's ribs. Like most of Theresa's friends, I'd always found him just charming enough to be tolerable. But as I watched him serve Theresa's cake, something dawned on me: Guy was a mean person. He'd intentionally humiliated his wife, and he did such things often. It was like that moment in a horror movie when you understand that the rogue car, rather than simply straying off course, is actively pursuing children and puppies.

I recall an urge to kick Guy in the throat, which I controlled by reminding myself that it was both illegal and difficult to pull off in heels. I was studying karate at the time, and though it didn't occur to me then, I would eventually realize that the basic principles taught at my dojo could be used to fight evil not just in action but in conversation as well. I think of it as martial arts of the mind, and if you're subject to subtle stabs, deliberate snubs, or cutting remarks, you might find these techniques an effective defense against the Guys of your world.

Principle 1: Find Your Fighting Stance
Every form of martial arts requires a fighting stance that's fluid, flexible, and centered. Standing this way makes you much less likely to lose your balance, and if someone jumps you, you can quickly duck or dodge in any direction without falling.

Physical fighting stances involve balance, alignment, weight distribution, and posture. A psychological fighting stance is all about emotional balance: self-acceptance, abiding by your own moral code (something you're probably doing anyway), forgiving yourself for failing to reach perfection (this is rarer), and, finally, offering yourself as much compassion as you'd give a beloved friend (I suspect some of us need work in this department). Simply put, you must never be mean to yourself.

This works because cruelty, to be effective, has to land on a welcoming spot in the victim's belief system. Guy mocked Theresa's age and lack of physical fitness because he knew she hated those things about herself. If she hadn't already believed his insults, they would have left her feeling puzzled but not devastated—the way I was when I learned that calling someone a "turtle's egg" is a horrific insult in China. She would have seen Guy as the pathetic head case he was. And that may have led her to our second principle.

Principle 2: Practice the Art of Invisibility
I once purchased a book that promised to teach the ninja's fabled "art of invisibility." I was crestfallen to read that the first step in a technique called vanishing was "Wait until your opponent is asleep." The whole book was like that: Get your enemy drunk, throw dust in his eyes, thump him on the head with a wok, then tiptoe away, forever. Well, I could've told you that.

Nevertheless, I recommend these ninja techniques for dealing with mean people. Get away from them, full stop. Sound extreme? It's not. Cruelty, whether physical or emotional, isn't normal. It may signal what psychologists call the dark triad of psychopathic, narcissistic, and Machiavellian personality disorders. One out of about every 25 individuals has an antisocial personality disorder. Their prognosis for recovery is zero, their potential for hurting you about 100 percent. So don't assume that a vicious person just had a difficult childhood or a terrible day; most people with awful childhoods end up being empathetic, and most people, even on their worst days, don't seek satisfaction by inflicting pain. When you witness evil, if only the tawdry evil of a conversational stiletto twist, use your ninjutsu. Wait for a distraction, then disappear.

"But," you may be thinking, "what if you're stuck with a mean family member, co-worker, or neighbor? What's poor Theresa supposed to do?" Well, Grasshopper, that's when the martial arts of the mind really come in handy.

Principle 3: Master Defensive Techniques
All martial arts teach strategies to deflect different attacks. For instance, I was taught to defend against a lapel grab with a punching combination called Crouching Falcon, follow that with a multiple-kick series known as Returning Viper, and finish with the charmingly titled technique Die Forever. (I prefer my own techniques, such as Silent Sea Slug, which entails lying down and hoping things improve, or Disgruntled Panda, which is mostly curling up and refusing to mate.)

I also learned this closely guarded martial arts secret: Although there are countless techniques, most fighters need only a few. For instance, judo star Ronda Rousey has clobbered numberless opponents using the Arm Bar technique. Her opponents know she’s going to do it, but that doesn’t keep her from snapping their elbows like dry spaghetti. Each good technique goes a long, long way. The following are a few that I highly recommend, in order of degree of difficulty.

Yellow Belt Technique: Trumpet Melodiously

I’m a lifelong fan of “Japlish,” English prose translated from the Japanese by someone whose sole qualification is owning a Japanese-to-English dictionary. One classic Japlish instruction, which I picked up from a car rental company, advised: “When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”

I borrowed the phrase “trumpet him melodiously” for your first anti-meanness technique. It’s meant to nip hurtful behavior in the bud. Use it when someone—say a small child or an engineer—makes a remark that may or may not be intentionally cruel: “You smell like medicine,” “I can see through your pants,” “Why don’t you have a neck?”... You can trumpet him melodiously by saying, “Hey, dude, that’s kind of mean. Back off, okay?” If the behavior continues, tootle him with vigor by saying, “I’m serious. You’re out of line. Stop it.”

Practice these lines until you’re saying them in your sleep, with clear delivery, calm energy. Then, when you use them in real life, a normal person will react by immediately ceasing all hurtful behavior, and even mean people will be taken aback by your directness. They may even begin to behave themselves. Mission accomplished.

Brown Belt Technique: Zig-Zig

As a martial artist, you’ll need to get used to doing the opposite of whatever your enemies expect. For example, if someone were to push you backward, you might push back for a few seconds, then abruptly reverse, and pull your assailant in the direction he’s pushing. He’d be toppled by his own momentum.

This is zig-zigging. It works beautifully on mean people. They expect a fight-or-flight reaction from their victims—either angry pushback or slinking away. The one thing they don’t anticipate is relaxed discernment. Scuttle their plans by zigging instead of zagging, cheerfully accepting any accurate statement they might make while ignoring their malicious energy.

You can observe this technique in the movie Spanglish, when a young wife, played by Téa Leoni, lashes out at her mother, “You were an alcoholic and wildly promiscuous woman during my formative years, so I’m in this fix because of you!” As the mother, Cloris Leachman nods and says pleasantly, “You have a solid point, dear. But right now the lessons of my life are coming in handy for you.” This response stops the daughter cold, partly because it’s true and partly because it contains not a whiff of pushback. The mother zigs when the daughter expects her to zag. The result is peace.

Black Belt Anti-Meanness Technique: Wicked-Kind Parent

If you keep a balanced stance and surround yourself with normal people, you'll eventually master the black belt skill I've named Wicked-Kind Parent. Mean people are adept at adopting the tone of a critical parent, making others unconsciously regress into weak, worried children. To use this defense, refuse to be infantilized. Instead, use the only thing that trumps the emotional power of a bad parent: the emotional power of a good one. This is what happened at Theresa's birthday party. As Guy served cake and cruelty, Theresa's older sister Wendy spoke up.

"Now, Guy," she said, in precisely the tone Supernanny uses with kids on TV, "that kind of petty meanness doesn't become you. Show us all you can do better." Guy tried to laugh, but a glance around the room silenced him. Wendy had called on her good-parent energy to tap a great resource: normal people. Kind people. Outplayed and outnumbered, Guy slunk away, leaving Theresa to enjoy her birthday. This is virtually always the outcome when a mental martial artist encounters a Mean Guy. If you choose the way of the warrior, it will happen for you

Principle 4: Walk the Way of the Warrior
Being a martial artist is a way of life. You can't use your skills in an emergency unless you practice them every day. And such daily practice may lead to unexpected adventures. You’ll no longer watch helplessly as some Mean Guy emotionally abuses his wife—even if you happen to be the wife in question. Where your prewarrior self would've simply wilted, your warrior self will speak up or, if you&'re the wife, walk away.

This may require drastic changes in your life. Are you ready for that? Well, you are if meanness has pushed you to the point of anger or despair. You are if you want to be the change you wish to see in the world. You can begin today. Adopt the stance of dauntless self-acceptance, avoid combat when possible, and practice your techniques until they become second nature. Though it might be helpful to remember that it really does help to wait until your opponent is asleep.

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March 04, 2014

The thing about peanuts!

Note: You can win a prize just by leaving your comments on this article, see details at the end!

The thing about peanuts is we all take them!

I've worked for peanuts.

In fact, I've worked for less than peanuts- I've worked for nothing, just paid in full with big, mushy, exaggerated, tears-in- my-eyes "Thank Yous".

One time I was paid with the credit to my name for hours of writing epic content for a column. Now someone could erroneously assume "this girl don hammer" to have been featured on so and so but I did it for nothing. Months down the line it paid me big time when an international organization asked me to write more epic content because they had seen what I’d written for those guys.

 I've sat listening to a reputable magazine publisher who carried the full page advert of a multimillion dollar company for nothing because he knew their competitor would see it and advertise or  some other company would see it and think if so and so is advertising with you then you are big.

I've also sat in the office of a television content producer worth his salt in the industry, who showed me the total contract sum from a big television network for cast, set, wardrobe, guests, staff, welfare, equipment, studio time, montage, production, and post production for 12 episodes of programming, and the entire thing came down to what the producer would pay a presenter for one episode!

This guy was eating peanuts or “rip-off nuts” cleared eyed for a reason! He knew the effect to his business in the long term! He knew he needed more credibility to get him from local to global.

So when I meet many young starter outers who demand to be paid what their "contemporaries" are being paid, I wonder how much less demanding these  young folks will be, if they knew their more established contemporaries were sometimes paid nothing or less than the true value of their work!

Now there is nothing wrong with making demands, as long as you understand how making demands works.

You use it only for effect. Then you turn around and take the peanuts!

You state your demand to establish your market value. You let the person know this is what so and so has paid you before.

You state your demand to gain goodwill- that thing that makes them call you one year or ten years later to give you big deals or connect you with someone who can.

You let the person feel they can't afford you but you will work with them because you are "humble", "good", "reasonable" and all of those things that add up to the goodwill they should feel for you as a result of this "huge discount" you are giving them.

The other thing about peanuts is you can take peanuts or you can refuse to take peanuts.

So you don’t take the peanuts.

But your competitor down the street does.

I sat in the office of a person who narrated with growing dislike the story of  this young contractor who was bidding for a contract in his office and when he was told what the organization would pay he said in no uncertain terms, complete with a foreign accent that the N2,000,000 being offered was an insult. The person called in a second contractor who agreed to the price and after the deal was closed, the first contractor came back to renegotiate saying his wife was about to have a baby and they needed the money. 

It takes the wisdom of hindsight to acquire a taste for peanuts.

The unwritten rule of peanut taking is: Take the peanuts if you need the money!

When I meet starter outers across the ladder from professionals to the vocationally skilled, who have the attitude of demanding as much as possible from every sale, I wonder how less demanding these people would be if they knew their competitors sometimes sell at minimum prices, making up the difference by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I’ve often jokingly asked hairdressers, dress makers, cobblers, cab drivers  as well as web masters, production companies and business consultants if they intend to buy a house from the cut throat prices they have quoted for one service that their competitor down the street is willing to take much less for. 

Now there’s nothing wrong with quoting prices, as long as you understand how quoting prices works.

You use it only for effect. Then you turn around and take the peanuts!

You use it to profile the customer to see how much they have and how much they are willing to pay not how much you think they can afford. For instance, you may bill a corporate client the full value of your services to make up the minimum billing you've charged a one man business who has less to pay.

 The thing about peanuts is that it’s not about taking them or refusing to take them, it’s about knowing when to turn them down and never look back and when to take them and act like you're being paid a million bucks!

That’s the thing!

Read,Comment and Win!
The best comment wins a copy of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a really great book(Abuja only), offer valid till 31st of March, 2014! If you don't want to enter for the prize, no problemo, I'll still love to hear your thoughts on peanuts, have you taken ém or paid ém? Pls share! 

March 03, 2014

That 5 year plan? Why you need to look back to move foward!


  "Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?"

This morning I found brand materials from "the omonaikee show"; my talk show which debuted in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 2007. I looked at all the branding materials, the scope of the vision, the sponsorship letters, the invitation to guests from Lagos, the exchange of emails between my friends who formed the team that helped me, the budget to fly guests to Zaria, the costs of light, sound, set, cameras, tickets and so on. I saw emails exchanged seeking sponsorship from Cotek and remembered travelling to Kano and Kaduna to get Celtel (Now Zain) to sponsor the show. When I matched my age and stage in life and financial ability to that time period, I was impressed at what I had done as far back as 2007.

I realised I did it without an office space in Wuse 2 or an excess in funding.

Sometime ago I stumbled on logos and complimentary cards I made in 2009 for my company- The omonaikee media company. As I read through business plans, and documents my logo designer had used to try to capture the essence of my brand in the logo and stationery, I again marvelled at what I had done with the resources I didn't have. I remembered registering the company in 2010 and what 50,000 naira - the cost of registration meant to a corper like me at the time.
I realised I did it just by putting one step in front of the other, one small step at a time.

A few weeks ago,  I decided to go over posts that I have written on this blog since I started the blog in 2008. Each post is like a snapshot of my frame of mind at the time period it was written so I could see my progress and development as I got through the posts from 2008 till 2014- all 6 years! And I felt proud of myself- of what I had done.

I realised I have come far. I have made progress. Just by keeping at it.

Then I went home to see my family and unearthed bundles of pictures and a stash of journals I kept through my teenage and young adult life. Volumes of Intel about myself.   I read articles I'd written before there were blogs or social media full of deep thoughts and potent words which reminded me of an interview I had done with cognito studios blog in 2012. I searched for it on the internet and saw the same streak of quality in thoughts and words.

I realised it didn't start today.

The thinking, the reading, the writing, the pitching, the strategizing, the forming of relationships for causes, the content creation, the packaging ... it was there years ago in measure as it is here now.

I realised that that "it" is not in short supply. You don't run out of "it". You don't get tired and stop having "it".

I learnt a lot just by looking back at the last few years.

When you only look at where you want to be in the next 5 years, you tend to see what you have not done, what you do not have and what you haven't attained but when you look at the last 5 years you see what you have done, what you have proved, what you can do, what you have, where you have come up from and what you have attained.

It is important to see both sides because It's not just about the next 5 years but also about the last 5 years and the view from both sides.

While the future is concerned with all the inequalities in the equation and the boxes that haven't been ticked, there is the past to remind us that there are other forces at work and  there have been times in the past when we achieved certain things inspite of not having it all together.

And we can do it again!
I certainly didn't see all I have done today 5 years ago, I just put one foot in front of the other in the direction of where I wanted to be and viola!

Same with the next 5 years!

So what's your 5 year plan daily plan?

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