Like Riding a Bike: Technical and Customer Service Skills

BikeSkillsIt’s often said that people are hired for technical skills and fired for people skills. That’s not entirely accurate, but it is true that people are fired for having a disconnected between the two.

There has to be a strong balance between back end knowledge and experience, and understanding how to navigate the more complex world of human interaction on the front end.

It’s a bit like riding a bike. If you only have the front end – customer service skills – you’re driving a unicycle. At best it’s entertaining.

If you only have the back end – technical skills – you may be getting a workout but you’re not covering any ground. It’s spin class.

Welding the two together in an inseparable bond is the key to success. You can ride this metaphor down the road as far as you like.

Posted in customer service, Training | Leave a comment

Online Yard Sale


In March I decided to sell a few items online through a local Facebook yard sale group. I put a little more effort into each description than a typical listing and the results paid off.

I sold almost everything and the descriptions entertained more than a few readers.

Often it’s more about creating an experience than the worth of the product. What we put in is what we get out.

Re-posting each item for you entertainment.

Yard Sale (Part 1): Russian Nesting Doll

Yard Sale (Part 2): A Grammar of Akkadian

Yard Sale (Part 3): Wall Mounted Wooden Display Cabinet

Yard Sale (Part 4): Refrigerator Magnet Collection But Wait! There’s More!

Yard Sale (Part 5): Blue 1964/65 New York World’s Fair Stein

Yard Sale (Part 6): Vintage mostly unopened Records

Posted in humor | Leave a comment

Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group: “Ten Pretty Good Rules”

Model Airplane Over Map with Shadow

A list of “Ten Pretty Good Rules” from the Fellows of the Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group.

  1. Never argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference!
  2. Observe everything; admire nothing!
  3. It’s easier to obtain forgiveness than it is permission!
  4. Rarely resist the opportunity to keep your mouth shut!
  5. Don’t ask the question if you cannot live with the answer!
  6. If you want a new idea, read an old book!
  7. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there!
  8. Never have a philosophy which supports a lack of courage!
  9. Never look back unless you intend to go that way!
  10. Never wrestle with a pig; you both get dirty and the pig likes it!

(Compiled by Fellows of the Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group, 1982-1983 Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island)

Posted in innovation, naval, order, organization, revolutionary, Training | Leave a comment

When Change Doesn’t Make Sense and Why it Should


Nearly everyone experiences the frustration of unexpected change. Patterns of life and work flow are often interrupted by innovations that don’t make sense. Everything from software and TV remotes to roadways and voting locations. Change typically comes without much explanation and while the reasons are evident to engineers and developers, others are often outside that bubble.

Users are typically told what is new, but seldom are they told the why behind it. In some cases the explanation given is so broad it’s almost worthless. “To improve traffic safety” or ” to enhance the customer experience.”

Leaving out the why happens in part because it isn’t needed to sell products. Sales is driven by short term what and who. Why is only needed if it helps complete the transaction. Technical support, customer service, trainers, and elected officials are left to sort through questions of why things changed, often without solid answers.

The result of the non-answers they provide is often frustration. Yet with a little explaining on the front end, those who are interested in the why can become strong advocates for “What’s New.” They’ll be less resistant when they get a glimpse of the reasoning behind the changes. Assuming those reasons make sense.

Converting what into why can give advocates more reason to support the change. If it can be explained well, others will share the story. If not, people will make efforts to point out a speculative why, and chances are that speculation with be negative. “They changed it because they’re idiots.” Don’t give them the opportunity.

Take what the engineers, planners, and developers know and put it in terms those impacted by the change can easily understand. Building the right story around the boring details can go along towards increasing confidence in your organization.

Posted in change, communicate, connection, design, maps, story, Training | Leave a comment

Ready to Turn Around?

CountrysideTrue story. A couple living in Georgia drives to Utah to visit family. While in Colorado they see a sign that says ‘Shortest route to Salt Lake City’ and they decide to follow the sign and take the road. The highway changes from four lanes to two, and eventually becomes a dirt road. They know they’ve gone down the wrong road but they keep driving for a while before turning around and finding a highway that takes them to their intended destination.

What is the point of this story? Often we know we’ve gone down the wrong path long before we’re ready to turn around. Sometimes we’re hoping to find another way out. Other times it may simply be the stubbornness of the commitment.

Whatever the reason, it’s helpful to remember that recognition of error doesn’t always equal instant correction. Not in ourselves or in others.

It takes courage to accept a mistake when an individual, couple, or group is committed to a process. Especially when most others will never know how far things have veered off course. They may never know, and what they do know doesn’t matter.

What matters is that individuals make the choice to accept where they are, turn around, and make the journey back even if it requires covering some of the same ground.

Posted in change, choice, fear, grow, story | Leave a comment

Yard Sale (Part 6): Vintage mostly unopened Records

IMG_2779Looking for just the right gift for your hipster child or grandchild? Maybe you need something for that “special” someone in your life during in the post St. Patrick’s Day lull? You’re not alone.

Nothing says I understand you like a vintage vinyl record. The more obscure the music, the better.

Sooth their need for popular obscurity with vintage vinyl. Do they have a record player? Does it matter? Of course not. They’ll enjoy the irony either way. Like an unused fire extinguisher, just having one on the shelf is comfort enough.

They’ll have hours of fun feeling the texture of the grooves, googling the names of song writers and terms like “monaural phonographs.” Yes, all as an expression of your love and deep insight into their complex world.

Not available in stores, these near one-of-a-kind pieces of black plastic surrounded in mid-century cardboard can be yours for the incredible low price of $3.99 each.

That’s right! For nearly a third the cost of minimum wage in Washington DC, give your child, grandchild, or that special someone the gift that keeps on giving. The gift they’ll treasure too much to ever use, the gift of music on vinyl.

That’s $3.99 each or act now and get the entire collection for $24.99! You heard that right, buy all 9 albums and save over $10.00! Unbelievable!

Get them all today!

$3.99 each
$24.99 for the set

Russ Columbo on Air, the “Romeo of Radio” – unopened
Uncle Dave’s 78rpm Nostalgia Party #3 – opened
Al Jolson on the Silver Screen – unopened
Songs of our Times 1922 – unopened
Songs of our Times 1924 – unopened
Songs of our Times 1934 – opened
Songs of our Times 1935 – unopened
Songs of our Times 1940 – opened
Lawrence Welk Memories – opened

Posted in humor, sales

Yard Sale (Part 5): Blue 1964/65 New York World’s Fair Stein

IMG_2811Remember that time your family went to the 1964/65 World’s Fair in New York and they didn’t bring you anything? You’re not alone.

Fortunately your day has come. A recently uncovered stock pile of just one New York World’s Fair ceramic stein was undiscovered and the entire inventory must go! Yes this beautiful, near one-of-a-kind blue and white ceramic piece of history and home décor can be yours. The perfect gift for someone wanting this sort of thing.

You won’t find similar steins priced this low on Ebay and you won’t see this on Antiques Road Show. Just $9.95.

(Warning: Not microwave safe.)

Posted in humor, sales