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Michael Roman - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Smile when you do that!

Recently reviewed improvement opportunities on the website and came across this blog from several years ago. It is time for a re-broadcast.

Most of our engagements are tactical. Sometimes we assist in Strategic events like an ERP System implementation or re-implementation. When we do, we understand that we are there to assist in creating a “new” cultural focus for their organization. Here is how we approach those types of very political undertakings. This approach took genesis under the direction of a dear friend while working at an ERP Software firm. What follows is Bob Green’s sacred work.

Start Every Meeting with a Smile

Smiles become contagious with time. Smiles are disarming and most often met by returned smiles as well. You never know when a smile is just what someone else needs. Bob started every conversation and meeting with a smile regardless of the point of the conversation. Even when Bob was upset with a client, a colleague, he started the conversation with a smile. Part of Bob’s success was due to his smile.

End Every Meeting with a Smile

Closing is a skill. Whether the closing is for a sale, an educational lesson, or a conversation, the most important closing activity is to have the participants feel good about the activity when it is over. Smiles go a long way to help ‘close’ the activity. Bob sometimes upset people for things he did, but seldom for what he said. That smile at the end of the conversation made you think that there might be some grain of truth in his comments.

Have People Tell People Two Things about Themselves

Manufacturing Practices holds an introductory meeting with the management and project team when we do implementation and selection projects. The meeting has three main functions.

1.       We use it to introduce the teams from our organization

2.       We use it to get to know the team from their organization

3.       We set the tone for the work that is to follow

The “I am such as such and I do whatever” speech is a standard activity when consultants work with companies. We get to know them and they get to know us. Nevertheless, that is not how we work. We have all parties tell one of their most embarrassing moments and one of their greatest accomplishments. We do our introductions and stories first. This tells the client that we are all in the “same boat,” that we will never ask them to do something we would not do ourselves, and it lets everyone understand that we intend to have ‘fun’ while we perform this very important work for their company. The advantage is that it gives us the opportunity to set the tone for what is to follow.

Appoint a Person at Each Meeting to Tell a Funny Story

At the client site, we start each meeting on a light note. At each meeting, someone is responsible for telling a funny story. It takes a few meetings for everyone to remember to do that, so we have a number of stories ready to tell in case someone forgets. Again, the point here is to have fun and not to take ourselves too seriously.

Have a Contest to Create a Funny Tag Line for the Project

This one requires the help of the management team. The company sponsors a prize for the best ‘slogan’ or "project tag line.” The rules are simple, people in the company submit the slogans to our team; we work with the management team to pick the “best” slogan. Management usually awards a “Dinner for two” certificate to the winner and we throw in a gag gift like a “Pimp my Cube” kit. 

At one company, the head of engineering won the contest with a picture from a Gary Larson cartoon. The picture was of some fish standing outside of the fish bowl that was on fire. The caption read, “Of course, you now realize, we are equally screwed!” The Head of Engineering was the only person in the organization who wanted to keep the previous software. As such, he had a little fun with the team with his tag line.

Appoint a Person to be Responsible for Taking Weekly Pictures of the Project Team as They Work, Post it in the Lunchroom and Allow People to Post Funny Comments

Everyone has fun with this one. Of course, there are rules, like no profanity, or suggestive tones. Some very funny comments appear and even management contributes to this one. One of which was of a picture of yours truly walking away after a meeting. The president of the company commented, “Here’s Mike Roman, presenting his best side to the camera.”

At each weekly Status Meeting Award a “Can Do Trophy” to the employee with the best attitude

One company warned us about working with “Coni.” Everyone said she was difficult, short tempered, and the reason she worked in Accounts Receivable was that she “liked” being mean to people. 

Coni won the attitude award every week for the 15 weeks at that company. We are still friends and she sends jokes at least once a month. Coni was a real delight! At the last meeting, whoever won the award gets to keep it. Manufacturing Practices usually sponsors this award, and we present a flashlight with the words, “Follow me” on it.

Find the humor in everything

Now, back to Bob. Bob talked about starting a consulting company when we left the software firm. Sadly, that never happened. Bob died during quintuple bypass heart surgery. He had begun to create our charter for our company.

Bob did not want the traditional funeral or remembrance ceremony after his death. Instead, we gathered outside of his favorite park in the hills just outside of Las Vegas and scattered his ashes. It was a somber affair, no wind and a little warm. Just as we began to spread his ashes, a breeze blew those ashes over every one present. Christine, Bob’s widow commented that Bob wanted everyone to take part of him home. We did, in our eyes, in our hair, on our clothes, and most importantly in our hearts. Christine’s laugh and comments made everyone else laugh as well - a nice send off for a dear friend.


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