Shocking Customer Service and Your Leadership Style!

Business From Courageous Success Inspiration

$1.6 trillion. This is the estimated cost of customers switching due to poor service. 
(Accenture 2017)     

Having had two weeks of travel to Australia and around the UK, I have had plenty of chances to experience ‘customer service’. And some of it has been shocking!
As I went from flight to flight, taxi and restaurant, I observed a clear pattern. Those who delivered great customer service did so based on one core approach, which those who lacked in service clearly ignored.
They didn’t make it about themselves.
Instead, they put their ideas, thoughts, moans, attitudes and needs aside and focused totally on the other person, and making them happy. The result – specialness.
Making people feel special disarms them and opens up realness!  Our walls seem to come down and the real us shines through.
People often say to me that they feel really connected to me, that I stand out, what is this?
It’s simple. 
When I meet you, whether for a meeting, a 1:1, a workshop or in day to day life. I put myself to one side and focus totally on you.
At work, this approach builds strong relationships by making people feel happy.
When the focus is on others rather than yourself, you do a number of things naturally:

  1. You ask the questions.
    So the other person feels valued and can talk about themselves and where they work. You are appreciating them and their presence.
  2. You become genuine.
    Your sincerity shows that you care. Your gates open and so their guards come down, and you show that you’re interested. This connects you both. You step into the moment together. 

Perfecting customer experience, according to research by McKinsey, can grow business revenue by 5 – 10% and cost 15 – 20% less, over a span of 3 years.
It’s also good for us!  Psychology Today quotes research from a US study  (The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support: The Role of Stress-Related and Social Reward-Related Neural Activity) in which fMRI neuroimaging tests were used to explore how specific brain areas were affected by giving versus receiving social support.  The research found that giving ultimately had greater brain benefits than receiving – that our brains are wired to feel rewarded more for magnanimity and selflessness than for meanness and selfishness. 
In this moment, when it is all about them, specialness through these two points is experienced.

Our tips to make it about others at work and in life: 

  • Practice giving people your full attention and remain focused in their conversation and not yours.
  • Remember that where you work is actually a group of human beings that service others in some way – all wanting to do their best.   
  • As a leader or manager – connect regularly with your team, and show your human side; admit mistakes and show vulnerability.
  • Choose to be positive, good, kind and caring every single day.
  • Smile, enjoy what you are doing, and do it in a way that reflects the very best of what you are good at, and truly reflects you at heart.
  • Consider: what is my personal impact on others? What am I radiating to others?
    Create a personal mantra for your way of being, and then express it to make others feel special.
 Helpfulness and focussing on others shows others that you like them, driving acceptance, motivation and engagement – and ultimately not only a happier workplace but also a more productive one. 

Your Performance Appraisal – Love or Dread?

Business From Courageous Success Inspiration

What if, tomorrow all competency frameworks, all appraisal processes, all talent grids and profiles went up in smoke?
Would people stop doing their jobs?

We don’t think so. The appraisal is dead. This is also the view of many commentators today. What real value do they add? How do they help people to be the best of themselves when all we are really doing is placing restrictions on them by comparing them to others, putting them in boxes, scoring them like they’re in a gymnastics or dancing competition?

How many people in employment look forward to their appraisal or talent review? 

In recent months many high-profile organisations have been reported as having abandoned their annual appraisal processes. According to The Harvard Business Review, by some estimates, more than one-third of U.S. companies are doing just that, including Microsoft, Adobe, and IBM and GE systems.

It appears business is coming round to the view that the traditional annual appraisal system doesn’t work.  Gallup research from 550 organizations and 2.2 million employees found that only 50% of employees knew what was expected of them at work.
According to CEB, a corporate research and advisory firm, only 4% of HR managers think their system of assessing employees is effective at measuring performance — and 83% say their systems need an overhaul.

The reason?  Basically, we hold up our job description as ‘our perfect employee’, then once a year measure people against it, often scoring, basically telling people that they are not good enough. Many appraisal systems fail because we’re all human and giving and getting grades can seem threatening. We all want to fit in, be liked and succeed, so being ‘scored’ can feed our limiting beliefs and make us focus on the negative, feel anxious, defensive and take things personally – focusing on fear and ‘prove myself’, rather than performance.

Does your process allow managers to hide behind it?  So, avoid regular feedback, or having difficult conversations, as we know, most of us don’t like doing this.
Performance reviews often become something to be endured for both the manager and the employee. something to report, rather than being inspiring, useful and productive development or celebration of achievement.

Companies that have seen the light have replaced the annual appraisal with more regular feedback conversations.

Are you being accountable?
How many of us actively seek out feedback – or self-appraise, what did I do well in that situation and what could I have done better?  If we all did it more, it would become part of a normal conversation, rather than a forced, formal and weird one.

Tips for Humanising Feedback

Make it a normal part of your company or team culture, start by self-appraising and talk about this positively.

Focus on listening, don’t worry about what to say next.

Curb your emotional response, this is not about you.

Use questions when giving feedback.  E.g: How do you feel it went?  What would you change?  What could make it more powerful?

Avoid using the word ‘why?’ It carries judgement.

Respond to others’ work with warmth, energy and enthusiasm. Show people you like them.

Be clear in your expectations, let people know what you want, how and by when.

Embrace the energy of growing and developing yourself and others.

Watch your tone, don’t be condescending.  Really care about each other and you will grow as a team.

Feedback is about clarity and sharing.  There’s nothing wrong with sharing what you’d encourage someone to do even better – how else can we learn from each other?  Be ready and open to others’ having an opinion too.

How positive and motivating is your performance review process?  If the answer is low – come and talk to us, we’d love to help.

Would You Eat Off a Clean Nappy?!

Business From Courageous Success Inspiration

How our brains construct our emotional responses.

A recent study* on spending habits reports that ‘stress buying’ is costing each of us around £1,250,
US $1,630, AUS $2,100, per year.   * Oct’17

The study shares that stressed, bored or sad people are more likely to make impulse purchases they later regret.  This sounds like many of us looking for a momentary quick hit to make us feel a lot better.
How much of this stress response is negatively impacting us and those around us at work?
Could this money be saved by being better able to understand and then manage our emotions?
A new book by Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychologist at Northeastern University in Boston, USA, ‘How Emotions Are Made’, challenges the theory, stemming from Darwin, that our emotions are distinctly recognisable, in practise our brains construct our experience of them depending on the circumstances.  In her book, featured in a recent BBC article, Barrett uses the example of serving food, completely out of context at her daughters ‘gross out’ party, including smearing baby food on a clean nappy, many of the children actually gagged when contemplating eating the food.


Peanut butter or poo?!




An extreme example but one that shows we can all misinterpret our feelings with profound consequences: ”a rushing heart beat could be interpreted as fun and excitement on a rollercoaster, or acute anxiety if you are giving the speech at a wedding. Or it might simply signal that you’ve drunk too much coffee, but physiologically, there may not be much of difference.’’  Barratt recommends and suggests ways of being more closely in-tune with our emotions to enable better management of them.

HSE research has found that stress accounts for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.  Work pressure is not going to go away, it is what we all experience every day at work.   How can we help ourselves manage our emotional response to these pressures?


People often think that their response to stress is out of their control, it’s what happens to them: life, work, other people etc, however much of it is in our control.



As Barratt suggests by being more in-tune with our emotional response – we can better recognise what happens to us and then have the choice of how we respond. 
72% of our clients say that CS has changed their life, with 81% saying they have the power to change their workplace – shifting the mind-set of powerlessness. 
We underestimate the power that we hold within us to affect how we feel  – to not feel anxious or stressed.

Here are some tips that can really make a difference:
Keep your power.  Create a filter around you, not to cut people out, but to ensure that any negative mood or energy from others does not affect you.  You decide how you are affected.  
Avoid creating drama. Drama (making a mountain out of a molehill, over-reacting), is the greatest creator of anxiety and stress in our experience. Drama is addictive, very negative and a complete waste of time and energy! 
Stop being a Martyr (going for the sympathy vote). Not only is this a negative energy to hold, it destroys your confidence too and passes that negative energy to others. Stop making it about you and move your focus to the constructive and positive.

Do You Take Responsibility for Your Sour Face?

Business From Courageous Success Inspiration

In our experience, when asked to score out of 10 (with 10 being high), people generally give their positivity 6 out of 10.  

The vast majority of people that we work with have some degree of negativity. We tend to be unconsciously negative, often in denial of it, and unaware of how much we let the negativity of others affect our mood. 
Last night, I witnessed a whole cabin crew with sour faces, deliver a two hour in-flight service (I won’t mention which airline!).  Their faces looked like death warmed up, pale as a result – even dull looking. They lost out on the opportunity of two hours of happiness.   
None of them seemed to be aware of the impact they were having on each other or their customers.  If just one of them had decided to enjoy those two hours, I know that the rest would have followed suit – and their customers would have had a much more enjoyable and pleasant experience.
What makes it so hard for us to be conscious of generating happiness at work and for others?

1. Most of us forget.
2. We give our power away, take things personally or are resentful.
3. We fall into a rut.
4. We forget that each day, each hour, can be a fresh start in our experience of happiness. 
5. We totally ignore this responsibility. 


Happiness is contagious. 
A Harvard and UCSD study of nearly 5000 people over a 20 year period (by Dr. Nicholas Christakis and Dr. James Fowler), found that when a person becomes happy:

  • Next door neighbours have a 34% increased chance of becoming happy.
  • A friend living within one mile has a 25% increased chance of becoming happy.
  • Siblings have a 14% increased chance of becoming happy.

”We found that happiness can spread like a virus through social networks. In fact, if your friends’ friends’ friend becomes happy, it significantly increases the chance that you’ll be happy.”
Dr James Fowler 

My belief is that every one of us has a responsibility not to negatively impact on others – and this includes their happiness.  In fact we should all feel a responsibility to impact positively on those around us – it will make us happier too!

So, if you need a little lift, generate some joy and happiness and transform the lives of those around you, transform your experience and your workplace. 


Are Power Games Killing Your Relationships?

Business Growth Inspiration

This week my normal pattern of train commute has changed – I’ve been lucky enough to have early starts at my desk and take late morning trains – lovely! 

With later trains I’ve been joined by holiday travellers. Sat amongst this mix, what has shocked me is the dominance and power that one side of a couple can exude, and I’ve seen again and again, an underlying steaming anger.  What’s going on?
What is it about relationships that means we want to have power within them, and what stops us standing up for ourselves when others try to have power over us?

We see this in leadership personas all the time – dominance and submission. 
Not every business fosters this environment but many do. 
And it’s toxic. 
It destroys confidence, courageousness and engagement.  


There are many types of power and many potentially outdated theories around it.  An interesting one however is French and Raven (1959), and later Raven (1974), stating that there are six bases of social power:


Reward Power:  the ability to give rewards when others comply with your wishes.  This may not work from one setting to the next.  For example, an employee might laugh at a boss’s joke, but the boss’s neighbour might not.

Coercive Power:  the opposite of Reward Power.  It’s the ability to deliver punishments.  While coercion can be effective in the short-term, it creates resentment and individuals will try to end the relationship.

Referent Power:  where role models come into play.  Referent Power is when somebody wants to be like you.  They identify with you.  You are their reference model.  They find you attractive in some way and they model your behaviour or thinking. 

Legitimate Power:  power that comes from a position or role.  It’s positional authority.  For example, you “should” or “ought” to listen to your parents, or your boss.  The unique aspect of legitimate power is that it’s not about rational arguments — the power comes from the position or role. 

Expert Power: “knowledge is power”, where expertise or knowledge is the source. This is where credentials, awards, and know-how play a role.  You end up deferring to greater knowledge for the area of expertise, such as a doctor or mechanic.  It’s limited to the area of expertise. 

Informational Power: the most transitory type of power.  Once you give your information away, you lose the power, e.g. you share the secret, the power is gone.  It’s different from other forms of power because it’s grounded in what you know about the content of a specific situation. 

What types of power do you experience? 

  • How good is your self-awareness? 
  • Is there a fragile base to your need or habit of power? 
  • Are you damaging connections or people by using power? 
  • Do you depend on knowledge for power – and if so, what happens when you don’t have the answers?
  • Are you consciously looking at the impact of power within your workplace?  

At Courageous Success we talk about not giving your power away – we all have the ability to control our emotional response.  

So, what power games are you playing? 

Let Me Look Into Your Eyes!

Business From Courageous Success Inspiration

“Eye contact produces a powerful, subconscious sense of connection that extends even to drawn or photographed eyes.”

A fact demonstrated by Researchers at Cornell University who manipulated the gaze of the cartoon rabbit on several Trix cereal boxes, asked a panel of adults to choose one, and discovered, as they expected, that the box most frequently chosen was the one on which the rabbit was looking directly at them, rather than away.
Eye contact is fascinating, at Courageous Success we explore its power in conversations, intuition, gauging your own levels of self confidence and especially in how powerful, warm eye contact shows people that you like them.
We find that people reduce eye contact when talking about something shameful or embarrassing – because they feel uncomfortable – when they are sad or depressed – because they feel uncomfortable – and when they are feeling exposed and vulnerable – because they feel uncomfortable.  Pattern emerging?
Yes we also look away for other reasons, reflection, creativity, excitement.  But our fundamental finding is that for many, looking into the eyes of another makes them feel self-conscious.  Use it as a gauge – see if you can do it – especially without an agenda.  The learning?  Once again, our interactions reduce because we make things about us and lack self confidence.
As I’ve hinted at above, eye contact with warmth is a powerful way of connecting with others.  What makes it powerful?  If you show that you like someone by smiling into their eyes through yours they trust you – try it, notice when others do it to you. 

Warmth disarms,

but it needs to be meant – fake it and others will know.


Forbes shares that in research presented in May 2015 at the Vision Sciences Society conference, psychologist Alan Johnston and his colleagues at University College London shared their study of 400 volunteers, where subjects indicated their comfort level while watching video clips of actors who appeared to be looking directly at them for varying lengths of time.
Johnston and his colleagues found that, on average, the subjects liked the actors to make eye contact with them for 3.2 seconds, but the subjects were comfortable with a longer duration if they felt the actors looked trustworthy as opposed to threatening. “Gaze conveys that you are an object of interest, and interest is linked to intention,” Johnston explains—so if someone appears threatening and holds your gaze, that could indicate that the person has bad intentions.
More science?  Suzanne Dikker, a researcher in Neuroscience at NYU, studies brain activity when people connect by making eye contact.  She uses ‘Science+art’ installations to illustrate it, including ‘Measuring the Magic of Mutual Gaze’.  In this installation, the participants wear EEG headsets to measure brain activity.  Whenever there is a moment of perfect brainwave between the two people, a connective lightning bolt—originating from the direct brain area that is being charged with electrical brain activity at that moment in each person—flashes onto a large screen showing the two brains. 

Warm eye contact says likable, it’s not embarrassing and it’s not about romance!  It’s about letting go of you and connecting with realness with another.   Try it, it works.

Do You Listen or Make Everything About You?

Business From Courageous Success Inspiration

“One in four corporate leaders has a listening deficit which can paralyse cross-unit collaboration, sink careers, and if it’s the CEO with the deficit, derail the company.”  OUCH!  Ram Charan, co-author of “Boards that Lead”.

Here’s a typical example of an exchange I come across all the time.
Two friends catch up, having just met up after some time.  The pattern of exchange?  “Let me talk about me and my experiences’.  When one had stopped talking about themselves, the other one starts talking about themselves.  And so the interaction continues.  No meaningful responses are made.  We are all so adept at sharing what we are doing and thinking on social media and wanting information as simple soundbites, we have forgotten to be attentive to each other.  
Sherry Turkle (MIT professor and author of ‘Alone Together’) talks about how in the growth of on-line connection:

”…we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection…” a situation where we ”lose out, and may over time forget that there is a difference and stop caring.” 



Turkle talks about how we avoid the realness of human relationships and interactions by ‘cleaning’ them up with technology, to make it on our terms or using it as a way to avoid human interaction altogether – think emailing a work colleague instead of phoning or finding them, and workers sharing an office but all wearing headphones plugged into their devices.

However, real interactions matter, especially at work.  Lots of studies into lack of engagement at work cite ‘not being listened to by managers or leaders’ as a key complaint of workers across business. Gallup in their regular employee engagement research find that, “meaningful exchanges between managers and employees boost the bottom line.”

In our Courageous Success Academy training (how we train our developers) we have a simple exercise around this.  Try it!

  1. Over the next few days note down how you feel when you are not being listened to.  Notice when people hijack your conversation.  How does it make you feel?
  2. Whilst observing others, notice when you jump in to share your experiences, rather than ask others about theirs and sticking to their subject.  What kind of energy is driving your agenda? How desperate are you to share your story rather than get excited for them about theirs?  
  3. Practise giving people your full attention and remain focussed in their conversation and not yours.

Powerfully maximise Coaching & Conversations in your workplace by booking a Courageous Success workshop. e:

I thought it would be another load of management speak, instead I feel inspired with clear tactics to bring out the best in others – and not make it about me!”

Are You Unfit to be a Leader or to be Led?

Business From Courageous Success Inspiration

As many as 60 to 75 percent of managers are unfit for leadership, according to Psychology Today. Meanwhile, about half of employees cite a bad manager as their top reason for quitting a job.
CNBC, based upon Gallup polls.

This week travelling by tube during the London rush hour, I had the pleasure of overhearing workplace banter.  What was it like?  Shocking!  Why?  It was totally them vs. us – with ‘us’ being the employees, and all fuelled by what these people could get out of it.
As the banter continued what was clear was that, once again, it was about the leadership – the boss – but was it really all their boss’s fault?
Earlier that day I was on the train travelling to London, where next to me a chap chatted on his phone about how he “just didn’t care” about what his boss and employers thought of him.  I wasn’t earwigging, he was speaking loudly and was right next to me!  To make matters worse, he boldly explained to his colleague on the other end of the line that he’d decided to have a lie in, catch a later train and did they fancy spending the rest of the day having lunch?!!

The CNBC report shares five reasons for leaders being toxic:

  1. Poor communication
  2. Micro management
  3. Unrealistic expectations
  4. Incompetence
  5. Arrogance


Recognise any of these in you or your boss?
The challenge is, how to be the boss and not be these things.  But I also challenge, how much of this is perception and the workers’ fault?

To help, here are some challenges to you as the leader or direct report.
See if you are fit to lead – or be led!


  • Are you being closed to people in the team you don’t like, especially when you suspect a lack of competence or engagement?
  • Are you using your position to dominate?
  • Are you just reassured that you’ve got to a leadership position, and therefore are doing well?
  • Are you conforming to your corporate culture or being normal and human?
  • Do you seek advice and input from your team about the stuff you don’t know?
  • Do you like the people you work with and if not, what are you doing about liking them and building their competence?
  • Are you actively driving belief in others and their abilities or always being demanding and getting increasingly frustrated?
  • Would you want to work for you?


  • Are you coasting, seeing yourself as being led or are you getting on with your job?
  • If you feel uncommunicated with, are you asking positive questions or are you being difficult?
  • Are you updating your boss so that they don’t feel the need to micromanage you?
  • If you feel overwhelmed, are you looking to yourself to re organise and get on with it, or procrastinating and moaning – wasting time?
  • Do you like where you work?  If not, what are you doing to change the culture or are you contributing to it negatively?
  • Are you taking accountability for your career or expecting the business or your boss to do this for you?
  • Are you conscious of the greater good – the impact you, the people there and your business has on the world, or are you just thinking of yourself?
  • Are you giving up or driving forward openly and with authenticity – to nail your role?

81% of our clients say they now have the power to change their workplace.
100% rate the impact on improving their performance as a Manager or Leader as over 85%.


Inspiring Workaholism or Doing the Minimum?

Business From Courageous Success Inspiration

One inspired employee can produce as much as 2.25 satisfied employees.  Wow!

This Bain & Company Stat, featured in an article by Michael Mankins in HBR this March, highlights the need for self-productivity as well as business to WAKE UP to shift from downsizing and cost cutting – efficiency –  to promoting and unleashing more from those who work within a business – us.
Statistics this week reveal that global productivity continues to decline.
One of the joys of my life has been my workaholism – a term which the dictionary describes as, “a person who compulsively works excessively hard and long hours”.  I am that massively productive person.  I am an expert at it!  But, I have over done it and to prove it, I have recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. My body is reflecting my relentless overdrive to make a difference.  As an expert on this, one of my favourite subjects, I invite you to explore efficiency vs. productivity and the role that inspiration plays in the latter.  How do we work more productively and not fall into dossing about, and how do we inspire others in our businesses to do the same?
As I review the global workplace I am inspired by much, but I also see;

  • Worried people, and a level of anxiety that puts us on personal red alert.
  • A lack of joy and inspiration as we robotically tick off our to do lists to get through it all.
  • A focus on the self rather than the greater good, “that’s not inspiring me”, rather than “that could inspire others to make a significant positive difference”.
  • Self-effacement, as people keep things to themselves, reducing openness, honesty and a human culture, yet on the other hand hold up on Facebook how amazing their world is.
  • A divide between work and life outside of work, with the former formal and an act of doing, and the latter recovery time or a dreamlike place to be – if only forever – fuelling laziness (ouch) and resentment – a “I look after myself” focus.

When I then reflect upon what inspires me to (ok excessively) be productive I find the following to be of vital importance;

  • I feel a purpose and take accountability for thriving in my work.
  • I choose to be positive and I believe I make a difference.
  • I admit my vulnerability and galvanise my courage to get me through challenges.
  • I am myself, and believe that the best person I can be is me.

If efficiency is doing more with less, then productivity is doing more with the same.  However, most businesses are stuck in cost cutting, process reengineering and restructuring to maximise the bottom line.  When we think about managing ourselves we tend to think the same.  What can I drop?  How will I prioritise?  The result?  A treadmill of transactional doing.  With inspiration and ideas to do more with the same, through creativity, generally left for, “when I have time”.
Creativity is inspiring – but achievement is addictive.
85% of Courageous Success clients have a value around achievement – often described as making a difference, having an impact and contribution.  It is addictive because it provides validation and recognition, we don’t want to be dossing about!   Productivity – doing more with the same is Courageous Success the verb – but rather than being applied to pace, speed and content – efficiency – it is viewing everything with creative eyes and energy to inspire what could be done better to achieve even more.


Imagine if every leader had this as their philosophy!





So, it’s less hard work more smart work.  I for one have taken the vow of productivity, what’s getting in your way of doing the same?

  • Are you selfishly thinking about yourself too much – is there a ‘what’s in it for me’ malaise hampering your business and personal growth?
  • Are you as productive as you could be at work or do you work to a level that is what you think you can get away with? Controversial!
  • Are you enduring your work life?  The phrase ‘work to live’ plays into this – it assumes that these are two separate things – one to be enjoyed, the other to be ‘endured’ to pay for it.  Do you feel like this?

Coming back to global and specifically UK productivity, the head of the UK CMI Ann Francke said of last week’s ONS productivity figures, ”Investment in skills and management training is a crucial step to boosting productivity….poor management is costing our economy £84bn each year, and Britain lags other countries when it comes to people skills.”  YES!

Are you being a life changing manager?  An inspirer?




Here are some Courageous Success tips for igniting your inspiring productivity:

Switch off the autopilot!
We are creatures of habit and go through a large proportion of our lives unconsciously. Stir things up.  Take a new route to work.  Regularly speak to people you wouldn’t normally.  Draw ideas on a blank piece of paper.  If you do what you always do, you’ll get what you’ve always got.
Embrace challenge!
Taking on new opportunities will give you the chance to learn and grow. Learning helps the brain evolve new pathways which will literally change your mind. Set yourself a daily or weekly challenge to inspire and see how to do more with the same.

Ask us about working with us 1:1 to boost you and your leader’s productivity, all whilst being the best of ourselves.  We are also now running “I am a life changing manager” workshops, there to potentially save business £84bn.