shopify analytics

How to Respond to 'Thank You'

We all spend hours of our days at work and home trying to convince other people to think or behave in certain ways.

In fact, research indicates that we all spend up to 40 percent of our time working to influence others. Those in sales, litigation and other arenas must dedicate much more of their time to persuasion.
 
That’s why I’m excited that my friend Brian Ahearn, an influence expert, this week published his first book, Influence PEOPLE, Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical.
 
Brian is one of 20 people worldwide certified by Dr. Robert Cialdini, the researcher whose books form the basis of the science of persuasion. Brian gave me a review copy of the book and what I love about it is that he applies the principles of influence to everyday work and life.
 
I purchased my own copy on Amazon and, if you have an interest in learning how to ethically persuade others to say “yes,” you’ll want to read this book as well. 


influence people.jpg


When we first met about 10 years ago, Brian shared with me the influential way to respond to people who thank you. With Brian’s permission I’m including this excerpt from his book about responding to thanks:
 
A theme I repeat to audiences is this – small changes can make big differences. You’ve probably noticed I’ve repeated it in this book too. How you respond to “Thank you” seems like a small thing but it can make a big difference to the other person. 
 
Robert Cialdini often shares a story about an Australian businessman who attended one of his conferences. Cialdini noticed the man became visibly agitated as he spoke. When they had an opportunity to speak the man shared a story. 
 
He said he owned a software business located in Sydney, Australia and his largest client was in Melbourne, a distance of roughly 700 miles. This important client had a software problem so the business owner took his top two technicians and accompanied them on the trip. Fortunately, they solved the problem rather quickly. 
 
The IT director of the business thanked the man profusely, noting how he, as the owner of the company, took time out of his busy schedule to make the trip along with his top two people. 
 
She said it was above and beyond her expectations. What the man did next sealed his fate because he never got any more business from this client; his largest at the time! 
 
Perhaps a little embarrassed by all the praise he said, “It was no big deal. We love to come to Melbourne. The nightlife is great as are the restaurants. Don’t think anything of it.” 
 
Did you notice what he did? She felt he went above and beyond the call of duty. It made her feel special but he basically said, “You are not special. We would do this for anyone to have the chance to come to Melbourne.” 
 
Pay attention to how people respond to you when you thank them. You’ll probably hear one of these responses the vast majority of the 
time: 

  • “No problem.”

  • “No big deal.”

  • “Just doing my job.”

  • “I would have done it for anyone.”

  • Or worst of all...silence.


Strike each of these from your response vocabulary! None does anything to engage the other person and make them feel special. It doesn’t matter how much effort it took you; what matters is what it meant to the other person.

I have a friend I used to reach out to for lunch every month. One day he thanked me and – not knowing anything about persuasion at the time – I replied, “It’s not that I’m such a nice guy, I’m just really good with my computer.”

I jokingly said that because I’d set up a recurring task to remind me to call him at the beginning of each month. It was almost effortless for me to do this but it meant a lot to him.

I was fortunate he was a long-time friend because he responded graciously, telling me no matter what, it meant a lot to him when I reached out. I never forgot that exchange because it was an “ah-ha” moment for me about how to respond to “Thanks.”

How could I have responded differently to my friend? I should have said something like this; “Your friendship means a lot to me so I am happy to call you each month. I appreciate you making room in your schedule to get together consistently.”

How could the Sydney software executive have responded? Any of the following would have been better than his actual response:

  • “You are one of our most important clients so we were happy to do this for you.”

  • “That’s what long-term partners do for one another. Thank you for trusting us.”

  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with us. We appreciate you and your business.”


How will you respond next time someone thanks you?

  • “It would have killed an ordinary person but I was glad to risk it for you.” (People enjoy humor and this one usually gets a laugh!)

  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me.”

  • “I was happy to do it. I appreciate you (or your business).”

 
How can you Influence PEOPLE? When you hear “Thank you” take the opportunity to engage people in ways that make them feel special. Doing so will also make them feel better about dealing with you. That added satisfaction will keep them coming back and increase the odds they’ll share your fame with their friends and business associates.
 
Thanks to Brian Ahearn for letting me share this excerpt from his new book Influence PEOPLE  and many thanks to you for reading Sunday Coffee.
 
If you’d like to respond to my “thanks” in the proper way or share your thoughts with me just visit my contact page.
 

5 Ways to Cut Through the Clutter

 

It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.

So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.

That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.

And that’s why your books
have such power and strength.
You publish with shorth!
(Shorth is better than length.)

Dr. Seuss


By John Millen

Some of my clients are super-intelligent financial experts, technology gurus, scientists and business leaders who share a common handicap in their communications.

They believe that they must talk in the highly sophisticated language of their field to be respected as experts.

Many also feel that they must give longer, more complicated answers so that people have a deeper understanding of their ideas. They say they don’t want to “dumb it down” by talking more simply.

None of these ideas is true. Today people are so overwhelmed with information and activity that being clear and simple in your talking and writing will give you greater influence and respect.


Successful communication

Whether your communication goal is influencing, informing, educating or entertaining people, you’ll be more successful if you seek to be understood.

And this doesn’t just apply to experts in their field. It applies to all of us. People are not paying attention anymore. We get an estimated 5,000 marketing messages a day, not including your email, texts, news, Facebook and other social media.

Here are five ways to cut though the clutter:


1) Use clear, direct language

Speaking and writing in clear language is more understandable, authentic and approachable. People are put off by jargon they don’t understand. It stops us cold.

When their attention diverts, people don’t hear what you say or write anymore. If they are present at all, they are just hearing you say, “blah, blah, blah.”


2) Use fewer words, not more

I have clients who complain that no one reads anymore. Emails, reports, white papers that took a ton of time to create often go unread.

That’s because, with our short attention spans, people are intimidated by long reports and even emails. Give them a summary, so at least you’ll have them engaged with your basic ideas.

If you hook them in the beginning, you might find that they go deeper or ask you questions. You have to engage them. That's why less is more in your presentations.


3) Use short, simple sentences

The average newspaper in the U.S. is written for a sixth-grade reading level comprehension; blockbuster novels are written for seventh-grade reading level; while the Wall Street Journal is closer to the ninth-grade level.

I learned to write more crisply and directly in high school and in college journalism. The reason you find short, crisp sentences and paragraphs in news writing is to capture and keep people’s attention.

Studies show that our attention and comprehension decline after 30 words in a paragraph. That’s about the length of the previous paragraph. ;-)


4) Be conversational

Some of the feedback I get from readers is that they feel as if I’m talking directly to them. I think this is a great compliment because my mission is to help people communicate more effectively. That won’t happen if you don’t understand what I’m writing.

My goal is to have a conversation with you about topics that matter and give advice you can take action on right away. Part of the reason this might sound conversational is that I dictate much of my writing, as I am doing right now. Does this sound conversational? 


5) Test your communication

You can ask people if you’re communicating clearly, or you can run experiments. Start sending short emails on just one topic. Stay higher level when you talk about a complicated topic. See if people are more engaged, as a result.

You can test the readability of your writing here. Just click the “Try it Now” button, which gives you free access to the tool anytime. You simply paste in your text, and it will be thoroughly analyzed for being readable and conversational.

For instance, the article you are reading gets an “A” for readability; it reads at a 7.1-grade level; 68.4 reading ease (100 is best); 13.6 words per sentence. The tool gives a complete statistical breakdown on every aspect of your writing. This is my first time using this tool, and I’m very impressed. Check it out!

The primary basis of this tool is called the Flesch-Kincaid grading system, originally commissioned by the U.S. Military to write more clear and useful manuals. Dr. Rudolf Flesch’s most famous book, published in 1955, is called Why Johnny Can’t Read: And What You Can Do About ItThat book inspired Dr. Seuss to write The Cat in the Hat in 1957.

Although it may seem easier to write in simple sentences and paragraphs, it’s not. You have to put in more effort and be willing to revise until it’s ready to go. As Mark Twain famously said, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

If you want to engage people, your best bet is to cut through the clutter by using clear, concise and authentic communication.

To share your thoughts or ask me any questions, just hit visit our contact page.

Chick-fil-A's Secret to Success

We're not just in the chicken business, we're in the people business. –– Truett Cathy, Founder 

By John Millen

Quick quiz: Which of these three fast food restaurants has the highest per-store sales in the United States? McDonald’s, Starbucks or Subway?
 
By my headline, you might have sensed this was a trick question. The answer is Chick-fil-A. In fact, this fried chicken franchise has higher per-store sales than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway combined!
 
The statistics for annual sales in 2017 are incredible:

  • McDonald’s –– 14,036 units with $2.7 million in sales per store.

  • Starbucks –– 13,930 units with $945,000 in sales per store.

  • Subway –– 25,908 units with $417,000 in sales per store.

  • Chick-fil-A ––2,225 units with $4.1 million in sales per store!

Most astounding is that Chick-fil-A achieves these sales in six days of the week, since its stores are closed on Sundays.
 
It’s fair to ask, what’s the secret to Chick-fil-A’s success?
 
Its chicken is very good but that can’t be the only draw. While any business has many factors contributing to success, this privately held company has built a culture of employees who are emotionally committed to its mission: To have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.
 
Much of the fast-food industry, and retail in general, delivers in a robotic way:
 
Customer receiving food: thank you.
 
Fast food employee: no problem.
 
Chick-fil-A has a different approach:
 
Customer receiving food: thank you.
 
Employee: my pleasure!
 
That’s right. In a world filled with hate-spewing politics, vile internet trolls and coarse language entertainment, Chick-fil-A is winning with kindness.
 

Credit: Chick-fil-A

Politeness as brand differentiator
 
The company’s focus on showing acknowledgement, respect and even love to customers has become a category-killing brand differentiator.
 
The industry tests and reports on every aspect of fast food interaction and Chick-fil-A is the reigning champion of “politeness” in the drive thru. This 2016 study rated the company’s drive-thru number one based on courtesy to customers.
 
Chick-fil-A continues to win with employees who are trained specifically on the factors tracked in the study: having a pleasant demeanor, smiling and making eye contact, and saying “please” and “thank you.” In the drive-thru, employees go outside to speed the line and make face-to-face contact while taking orders on electronic pads.
 
Words matter
 
This treatment extends to the interior of the store where there are flowers on the table and a well-honed welcoming attitude. Employees learn to use specific language and behavior, such as avoiding terms like “combo” or “super-size,” and opting for “entrée.”
 
“An entrée is different than a combo or a six-piece. It's a different language. ... That language is part of my experience in helping change the expectation,” according to Quincy L.A. Springs IV, who runs a Chick-fil-A location in the Vine City neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia, in an interview with Business Insider.
 
Employees also circulate frequently to visit with guests. Instead of asking, “Can I get your trash?” they ask, “May I clear your tray?” A tweak of phrase that makes a difference.
 
Happy employees, happy customers
 
One of the reasons employees treat customers well is their positive work environment. Glassdoor listed the company as one of the 100 best places to work in 2017. 
 
The decision to be closed on Sunday was made by Truett Cathy when he started the company in 1946. He believed that employees should have “one day to rest and worship if they choose.”
 
It’s estimated that the family-owned business loses up to $1.2 billion per year by being closed on Sundays. But that hasn’t hurt sales. In fact, Chick-fil-A also leads the industry with 51 years of consecutive revenue growth, even through several recessions. 

Chick-fil-A has managed to create a positive culture of employees on a mission to give its customers a positive experience with fast food. It’s made kindness a differentiator.
 
There’s a lesson here for leaders: It always comes back to people. How can you and your team highlight your most valuable resource, your people, and your relationships?
 
To share your thoughts or ask me any questions, just hit visit my contact page.

Photo Credit: Chick-fil-A

Moon Shot Leadership

You’ve no doubt heard that Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of human beings landing on the moon. 
 
It’s hard to fathom today, but the whole world was one for a short time. After the astronauts returned from the moon and were quarantined for twenty-one days, they were whisked away on a worldwide tour.
 
Huge crowds around the globe gave the heroes incredible adulation. Seemingly every nation wanted to see the humans who had walked on the moon.
 
With what we now know about space travel, it’s easy to look in hindsight and assume that this moon landing was inevitable. But it wasn’t. It was a revolutionary effort that made one of human kind’s greatest achievements possible.
 
Today many organizations face challenges that might feel like “moon shots” as they seek to reshape their companies to adapt to unprecedented change: industry disruption, artificial intelligence, machine learning, globalization, work force retraining, changing consumer behavior, and expectations.
 
America’s journey to the moon provides countless lessons for leaders who need to accomplish large or small goals in a fast-changing environment. Here are two connected lessons:
 
Focus on the Vision
 
Too many leaders focus on the details, the analysis, the infrastructure. 
 
President John Kennedy, in office only 125 days when he gave his soaring speech, set a clear, strong challenge for the people of the United States: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to the Earth.”
 
With this bold quest, Kennedy provided a vision that captured the imagination and energy of the entire country. “In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon…it will be an entire nation,” Kennedy said.
 
Having been assassinated in 1963, President Kennedy would not see the miraculous accomplishment of his goal. It’s important to recognize that Kennedy didn’t outline how we would reach the moon, but gave a clarion call to action.
 
In a similar way, in that era the inspiring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t have a plan, he had a dream. Remember to focus on the vision.
 
Listen to all voices
 
As NPR reported this week, the unique approach used to land on the moon came from John Houbolt, who believed he had developed the best answer for a safe landing, and defied NASA protocol to have his idea reviewed. 
 
As in most organizations, there were leading engineers whose opinions carried sway. They were divided over two approaches, one of which was landing an entire rocket on the moon, then blasting off for return to earth.
 
Houbolt, who was not even in the landing group, devised the plan that was ultimately used, called lunar orbit rendezvous, in which a command module would circle the moon while a light-weight lunar module would land on the moon and return to the mother ship. 
 
"Houbolt was not part of the program, and that is really where a core issue comes into play," a colleague said. "He went to his boss and his boss sort of shouted him down and said, 'What are you doing?' because he wasn't working in this area at all."

Frustrated that his ideas weren’t being given a fair hearing, Houbolt jumped the NASA hierarchy and wrote strong letters to the leader of NASA, a breach of the organization’s protocol. You can read his letters from the NASA archives here.
 
I had to share these paragraphs from Houbolt’s typewriter-written 1961 letter not only for their tone and energy but because they reflect what hundreds of thousands of people in business and other organizations going through change feel as their insights are quashed by the hierarchy and bureaucracy:
 
Since we have had only occasional and limited contact, and because you therefore probably do not know me very well, it is conceivable that after reading this you may feel that you are dealing with a crank. Do not be afraid of this. 
 
The thoughts expressed here may not be stated in as diplomatic a fashion as they might be, or as I would normally try to do, but this is by choice and at the moment, is not important. The important point is that you hear the ideas directly, not after they have filtered through a score or more of other people, with the attendant risk that they may not even reach you. 
 
Elsewhere in the correspondence, Houbolt rhetorically challenges the administrator with the question, "Do we want to go to the moon or not?"
 
The answer was “yes” and Houbolt’s approach was ultimately adopted and, well, you know the rest.

There’s a through-line here for every leader: set a clear, compelling goal to focus energy and resources, then kill the hierarchy and let all voices be heard on how to accomplish your vision.

That’s how you achieve a moon shot.
 
To share your thoughts or ask me any questions, just visit my contact page.

Photo Credit: NASA

Why Eye Contact Matters So Much

Eye contact is way more intimate than words will ever be.

 — Faraaz Kazi

By John Millen 

Have you ever been on a video conference with someone and they seem to be looking at you, but not really? Something's off?

During a break in a recent session, a woman leader confessed to me that during one call she held her phone next to the camera and read her email when she got bored with the meeting. 

She said her boss called her after the video conference and asked if she was OK because her eyes were flicking side to side on the screen. She's not sure if she was being called out, but she didn't do it again.

"Fake" eye contact
The importance of eye contact was illustrated this week when it was reported that the new operating system on the iPhone will fake direct eye contact when using FaceTime.

In other words, while you are looking at person on the screen, which is below the level of the camera, Apple's software will manipulate your pupil image to make it appear that you are looking directly into the camera. We crave direct eye contact. 

This is why, working with a team of business leaders in California recently, I stressed the importance of eye contact in human communication.

Our eyes have been called the “window of the soul,” giving us as human beings the opportunity to, we imagine, see inside of the real person.

The color, the shape and positioning of the eyes may be captivating. Their expressiveness gives us enormous amounts of information and meaning.

Searching for trust
In business, we search the eyes for trust; on the street, we search the eyes for aggression; in life, we search the eyes for love. 

Whether we read any of these signals accurately is an open question, but there’s no doubt that the eyes play a critical role in our communication with others.

This is why making direct eye contact is one of the most important and, for many people, the most difficult parts of giving a presentation or talking face to face.

Indeed, eye communication provides a sense of connection for both you and your audience.

Avoiding eye contact
I coach clients who, when presenting to large audiences, have developed a habit of looking to the back walls to avoid looking in people’s eyes. They tell me that when they look at faces in their audience, especially people they know, they feel judged.

In business and in life, the ubiquity of smartphones has reduced eye contact. In many cases, instead of looking directly at someone for an extended period to fully engage them, people may glance up from their phones and possibly nod.

In meetings, instead of watching other people’s eyes to gauge the subtext of meaning, people might be glancing at their phones or computer screens.

With texts and photos increasingly replacing conversation, it’s possible that a generation will lose some ability to understand or use eye contact, but the importance of eye contact will not diminish.

The importance of eye contact
Human beings draw a connection and a lot of information from looking at eyes. If a person shifts eye contact frequently or looks down, we assume nervousness or unease.

If people avoid our eyes under questioning, we think they might be lying. On the other hand, good eye contact can make us feel like somebody is really listening and respects us.

Eye contact is a powerful force, and its importance is demonstrated at an early age. Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., who studies body language, notes that infants naturally lock eyes with their caregivers. She says the significance of eye contact is still retained in the adult mind. 

It shows a lack of confidence when we don't look people in the eyes. Most people look down frequently or avoid eye contact when they’re nervous. A lack of eye contact can betray our apprehension and fear in a situation. 

It is vital to portray confidence to your audience when speaking. Goman found that “If a speaker actively seeks out eye contact when talking, he or she is judged to be more believable, confident and competent.”


Cultural differences
People from different parts of the world interpret and communicate differently. In the United States and Europe, direct eye contact is encouraged. It is viewed as showing respect, trust and attentiveness to what the other person is saying.

In some other cultures, eye contact can be seen as rude or hostile. It may be a sign of respect to avoid eye contact with elders and those in authoritative positions. It is helpful to keep culture in mind when making eye contact — or avoiding it.

How much?
Eye contact is a delicate beam to balance on. Too much eye contact can be seen as aggressive and intimidating. If too little eye contact is made, you might appear inattentive and insincere. The right amount of eye contact creates trust and an overall sense of comfort. 

But the correct amount depends on each situation. Variables such as gender, personality, setting and culture all factor into successful eye contact. Some research indicates that eye contact should range anywhere from 30 to 60 percent during a conversation, depending on the context.

The “flick”
In The Power of Charm, Brian Tracy and Ron Arden’s bring up an additional skill to add depth to your connection and make your eye contact even more natural. They define flicking as “the simple act of shifting your gaze from one of the person’s eyes to the other while you are listening.” 

If you want an example, watch a movie where a man and woman are gazing into each other’s eyes and watch how their eyes flick. Their eyes will be moving back and forth, showing engagement.

This technique helps avoid the vacant, blank stare that may come across as phony listening. Active eyes show involvement in the conversation.

Improving your eye contact
Here are a few other strategies to sharpen the effectiveness of your eye contact: 

Complete a point
In a meeting or presentation, try to maintain eye contact with a person as you introduce and complete a point, then move on to another person or section of the audience to develop a rhythm for you and your listeners.

Early on, talk directly to the people in front of you as if you were talking to a friend at a barbecue. Keep longer-than-usual eye contact with them while you make a point. It will make a connection and help you to feel calm.

Find supportive faces
Similarly, find people in the audience who are supporting you through their body language, such as a smile or head nod. Connect with them. Use them as a touch point and circle to the people around them. You will create a sphere of goodwill in that section.

Scan the room
Divide a large audience into three or four sections and rotate through the sections, looking at individuals near the front to middle in that section. The people behind them will feel that you are looking at them. Don’t just look from side to side, but vary your pattern around the room.

Seek feedback
Develop awareness of how you give eye contact and how you judge the eye contact of others. Do you avoid eye contact? Do you perceive eye contact from others as overly aggressive?

Ask people you trust to give you feedback about your own eye contact. Do you give too much? Do you give too little?

Eye communication is complex and in many ways mysterious. This week, try to develop some awareness of how you communicate with your eyes and be more deliberate in your approach.

Maybe you’ll find that your eyes really are the “window of the soul” and you’ll invite more people to meet the real you.

To share your thoughts or ask me any questions, just visit our contact page.

John

P.S. -- If you know someone who could benefit from these weekly tips, please forward this post. If you're new here you can subscribe below.

Get One Percent Better Every Day

Get One Percent Better
 

Compounding is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time.  —  Albert Einstein
 

By John Millen 
 
Think about a time you’ve tried to achieve change, perhaps to lose weight, exercise more often, increase sales, or develop new skills at work.
 
Most of us want to improve our business or personal lives. So we often set big goals, and start strong with great effort and enthusiasm. Over time we plateau, we back off the effort, and we may even reduce or abandon the goal.
 
Lasting change
The secret to long-term change, it turns out, is small, sometimes imperceptible, changes of habit.
 
As John Wooden, the late Hall of Fame college basketball coach, said, “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning.
 
“Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts,” Wooden said.
 
James Clear argues for the power of small changes in his bestselling book, Atomic Habits, Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results.
 
Clear calls habits “the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.”
 


One-percent solution

Clear cites the effects of simply improving 1 percent every day. If you were to improve at an activity 1 percent, you would improve results by thirty-seven times in a year! 
 
Think about that in the context of what you’re trying to improve: one more sales call per day, one healthy meal per day, one short walk per day. A 1 percent consistent, positive movement can improve your results by thirty-seven times in a year!
 
“This can be a difficult concept to appreciate in daily life. We often dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment,” Clear writes. “It is only when looking back over two, five or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”
 
Continuous improvement
I have a client, the CEO of a Fortune 1000, who is leading a massive change initiative. He often refers to Kaizen, the Japanese concept of continuous improvement. He asks his leaders and associates to take personal responsibility for change by improving their own work and skills every day, which will contribute to the whole company’s success.
It’s bringing our attention to the micro, to the incremental, that creates lasting change.
 
I learned the power of consistent improvement when I trained for a marathon some years ago. While I’ve had a life-long devotion to fitness, 26.2 miles at once seemed daunting. But as I followed a training plan that slowly added mileage each week, I soon found myself happily crossing the finish line of my first marathon.
 
In the same vein, my wife was an inconsistent exerciser until I gifted her with a Fitbit for Christmas several years ago. With a specific goal of 10,000 steps per day, she became obsessed with making her daily quota and remains a devoted daily exerciser. 
 
Develop a simple habit or process that you can repeat every day. This is the secret to long-term, sustainable change.
 
What can you improve 1 percent every day that will improve results in your life or business by thirty-seven percent after a year?
 
If you have thoughts, feedback or questions for me, visit my contact page to connect with me directly.

If you know someone who would benefit from this article please use the buttons below to share.