Marc Thornton on Putting your Heart into it this year…

Every year we seem to start off in the same vein;  “I am going to improve myself.”, “Increase my earnings.”, “Be fitter.”, “Spend more time with loved ones.”.  Does that sound familiar? And often by the end of January, we’ve forgotten what we even promised ourselves!

A wise person once said, “Doing the same things over and over and expecting a different outcome is pretty much insane.” Well, that can be attributed to most of us.  I decided over a year ago to do something about a few things that were important to me and I have achieved amazing results.

Have you noticed that TV reality shows (e.g. maternity wards, wedding dresses, fitness, weight) were really getting in touch with people’s feeling and emotions?  It is now the new normal to talk openly and honestly about life and struggles and show vulnerabilities.  As a trainer, I believed I was doing this, but I felt I could put more ‘heart’ into my work and by doing so I anticipated that I would get much better results for everyone concerned.

I wanted to develop myself further so I could relate better to my work colleagues and participants on my courses and most importantly with my family.  I wanted to further develop both my feminine side as well as my masculine side and be able to express myself in a more open way that connected with people.

To achieve a better understanding of myself, I signed up for a few innovative and challenging courses with both the ‘Celebration of Being’ and the ‘Mankind Project’.  These special weekends were life-changing and impactful – my mind, body, and emotions were stretched.  I experienced emotions like never before.  I cried.  I laughed.  I delved into feelings long buried and lots more.

What did I come away with?  As a person and a trainer, the experience was invaluable. Well, certainly I realised that to develop I had to stop talking the talk and instead walk the walk.  I would often procrastinate so I became more action focused on Action Plans (I’m not perfect – I still have some way to go!).  My biggest breakthrough is realising that, especially in business life, it is OK to be emotional, that people are interested in other people’s feelings, and to really relate to others, it is better to be direct, honest and empathetic.

You can grow your business through your people.  Many of us now realise that focusing on your staff and customers are the way to increase revenues in your business when compared to focusing on other assets. To motivate staff, you need to connect with them, understand their needs, be honest and show you care. You may need to set up staff forums or carry out staff surveys to get proper feedback.  You may need to listen more and then implement actions to motivate staff to deliver a better service to customers.

Do you remember the best boss or senior you ever worked with?  It is likely to be one who encouraged you, praised you, took an interest in you and made you feel great.  This validation is vital, and I encourage you to look out for positive actions and opportunities to praise staff whenever possible.  This short video demonstrates this very clearly

Thank and complement your colleagues, business associates, customers, and friends for introductions and referrals or favours in helping you out.  A short note (better than email) or telephone call or gift will be hugely appreciated.  Show your emotions with some genuine appreciation and thanks.  It works.

As a customer care trainer, I am now more focused on getting participants to feel what the customer is feeling, to sense what is needed before being asked, to express yourself honestly and to engage more with customers so they experience a warm, friendly and fun service and will hopefully want to return.

Dealing with complaints is possibly the biggest challenge in the service industry.  Is the customer always right?  Does it matter?  A customer’s perception is their reality.  If we feel what they are going through, we might look at it differently and rather than just say “sorry”, we might offer them something to make up for the hurt and frustration of the service breakdown.  Our empathy and emotional response is so important.

Let’s put people first and this year put the heart into both our personal life as well as our business life.

Marc Thornton is an associate of Heart in Business and one of Ireland’s leading customer care trainers. He has published a book on customer care called “Winning Lifetime Customers”.