Archive for the ‘Problem Solving’ Category

FlexibilityRecently, at an EQnomics Series “Pulling the Stress Plug” event I discovered at the last minute that the LCD projector’s cords were not in the bag. I realized one of my colleagues may have inadvertently put them in her/his laptop bag at their last presentation. While normally, I would double-check the cord was there, however, this time being in a hurry I neglected to do so assuming “It’s been there every time and so, of course, it’s in the bag now”. This minor omission of cords left me unable to do a major part of the visual presentation including the really cool HeartMath® bio-feedback computer demo. This was frustrating and no one at the venue had extra cords. What to do?

First of all, a little background first. I have been speaking, training and presenting for over 15 years. I believe strongly in caring for my participants’ experience and their time by presenting high impact, fun, informative, practical and memorable presentations. I do this in part through meticulous and careful preparation. Thus, for every presentation I have contingency plans, built-in equipment/material redundancy, and an over-preparation mindset. For example, I bring extra extension cords, a power strip, black gaffers tape for taping down cords and loose table draping, my own folding fabric screen as some venues have projection screens that are too small for optimal visual impact, fresh dry-erase markers, and so on. I also prepare additional activities as back-ups so we can then draw on other approaches in case we discover that the feel and/or needs of the group have changed. Further, I balance this careful planning with being comfortable with presenting on the fly, and being flexible for whatever may arise for the inherent differences of each venue.

So, what to do? The solution was simple. The training that day was “Pulling the Stress Plug.” I figured, what a great opportunity to model the EQ skill of Stress Tolerance through the EQ skills of Flexibility and Problem Solving. So, while disappointed for a brief moment of not being able to offer the presentation as planned, the EQ skill of Flexibility allowed me to adjust to the situation. Flexibility reminded me that the way things are planned do not necessarily determine the way things actually are. As a result I was immediately able to re-write my presentation and approach in my mind and move forward with a great workshop without any perceived hitches. Preparedness (through content and experience to draw from) aids flexibility greatly.

The outcome? Rather than being stressed, I saw it as an opportunity to adjust, adapt and offer the participants other great approaches to manage their stress. The EQ skill of Flexibility helped me see solutions and opportunities to enjoy instead of just a problem to endure.

So, call me at 801.787.8014 or email me at jonathan@peoplesmarts.biz and we’ll arrange a free and fun no-strings attached Training Demo on any of the great EQ Skills to help your team more effectively manage the stresses they experience.

Jonathan Sherman
Director of Training and Development


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In March, my collegues presented me with an Asian Pear tree in the remeberence of a lost loved one.  It was one of those mail order trees that are shiped without dirt and the roots are wraped in plastic covered diaper filler to keep the moisture in.  It came w/ specific instructions for planting and care.  When I openened the plastic, the roots as promised where 3/4 wet but it looked like a dead stick.  My six year old was witnessing this and after 5 minutes of searching she came up with a good home for it.  We planted it and watered the tree every day for two months as the directions stated.  Nothing happened.  A sprinkler repair person asked me “why do you have a stick in your flower bed?”  He wanted to pull it out.  I agreed but my six year old offered a stay of execution and said she would water it from now on.  This she did every night  with her orange watering can.  I was preparing my “oh it’s OK, somtimes things dont work out the way we want” speech and dreading the dissapointment she would feel after so much work, faith and commitment.

For three weeks during the hot summer she faithfully took care of this stick in the ground that appeared lifeless to most.  One morning on the way to a swimming class she rushed back to in the house screaming with joy “Dad Dad Come look!”  She lead me to the stick and pointed to four small green buds near the bottom of the tree.  That tree is now coverered with foiliage and and because of her innocennce and commitment,  that tree; for it’s life will be known as Adi’s tree.

Sometimes having faith in the process and the commitment to move forward when other “wise minds” have given up, reaps the literal reward of fruit and nourishment.  Be open to the potential possibilities in all of your employees even if they appear to be dead wood.   “The grass is always greener where it is watered.”  Robert Fulgam

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My formal training is in creativity. Every day, I studied and practiced to be more creative, you know, the whole ‘think outside of the box’ thing. If my degrees and grades are any indication, I got pretty good at solving problems using the creative process.

Since then, it seems that I have spent more time just solving problems ’cause they need to be solved and less time using my established system of creativity to kick the problem where it counts. Either way, the problem gets fixed, but could the problem have been fixed better using more creativity?

This then is my conundrum. Do I take the time… time is money, right?… So, do I take the ‘money’ to work through a problem to solve it creatively or do I do the best I can to solve the problem as quickly as possible?

Are we looking for the best, but possibly more expensive and getting less done?


Are we looking to get more things done well but not best?

I don’t know. What do you think?

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The other day I was preparing for the “Pulling the Stress Plug” workshop as a free “Thank you!” Training Demo for one of our long-term clients. Of the various stress mastery techniques and mindsets that we teach in this workshop, one of them involves a neuroscience bio-feedback technique called Quick Coherence as developed by HeartMath. You can read more about the three steps here, but in a nutshell, Quick Coherence is an unusually simple, highly effective, and rapid method for reducing stress, anxiety and improving performance. HeartMath describes it briefly as follows:

“Create a coherent state in about a minute with the simple, but powerful steps of the Quick Coherence® Technique. Using the power of your heart to balance thoughts and emotions, you can achieve energy, mental clarity and feel better fast anywhere. Use Quick Coherence especially when you begin feeling a draining emotion such as frustration, irritation, anxiety or anger. Find a feeling of ease and inner harmony that’s reflected in more balanced heart rhythms, facilitating brain function and more access to higher intelligence.”

emWave-smIn preparation for the workshop, I brought the various HeartMath emWave equipment home to test it over the weekend, thinking my family would find it interesting. Using both sophisticated technology and simple instructions my two youngest (Matthew, age 8, and Molly, age 10) quickly and easily kept achieving optimal coherence levels, as indicated by a green light on the emWave Personal Stress Reliever (PSR). Well, Matthew took to it right away and kept asking if he could use it over the weekend.

Matthew-09Monday, as I was heading out the door to work, Matthew exuberantly exclaimed as he held the green-lit emWave PSR aloft, “Hey Dad! All I’m doing is saying ‘La la la’ in my head and smiling!”. I laughed, hugged him and left. I thought that was all, however, for the rest of the day his words kept coming back to me: “All I’m doing is saying ‘La la la’ in my head and smiling.” There you had it: My 8-year-old son had mastered the Quick Coherence technique in only a few tries. Nothing fancy. Nothing complex. No muss. No fuss.

Some people, usually adults, worry that mastering stress is too complicated and/or that it will involve too much time that they don’t have for mediation or yoga. Take it from a child, folks: Effective stress management isn’t in long-involved methods; It’s in the simple. “La la la” is a child’s version of a mantra—just something to fill the mind (i.e., the practice of mindfulness) with something else other than distraction and worry. The simple act of just physically smiling shifts our neurochemical state by releasing stress-relieving and pleasure-inducing endorphins and DHEA in the brain. Repeated simply over and over produces a coherent, stress-relieving state, quickly.

For years I have said in my stress management workshops that children are little Zen masters and that we would be wise to learn from them. My son proved it to me again. As Darth Vader said to Obi-Wan Kenobi, I can say of my son: “Now the student has become the master.”

An 8-year-old nailed it. Not only that, his example helped me nail it the rest of the day. In fact, it’s helping me right now. I feel fully coherent and peaceful as I’m typing this for my deadline. No stress. No muss. No fuss. I’m just, “La la la” and smiling. I feel just fine.


Jonathan Sherman
Director of Training and Development

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GuitarsEver wonder the effect your customer’s experience has on your brand identity and the public opinion?

In March 2008 musician Dave Carroll flew from Halifax to Omaha, transferring planes in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Apparently baggage handlers in Chicago caused damage to Carroll’s guitar http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-biz-united-breaks-guitars-video-ual-july8,0,4414385.story and after a year of trying to negotiate and work with United’s customer service department to no avail, Carroll decided to take things into his own hands, and has created a very popular YouTUBE music video / anti-United campaign calling the airline out for their failure to take care of his perceived customer service issue. His music video has had over 3 million views on YOUTUBE.

Imagine United’s annual budget for advertising and marketing. They spend millions to create their brand identity and position it strategically within the marketplace. Simultaneously they spend millions of dollars on direct labor, millions on training and development of new and existing employees. As a result of this issue, I am thinking today about the effectiveness of both.

A customer service decision, caused by an apparent operations problem in one facility is creating a media stir at a fraction of United’s budget and achieving a much less than desirable result for the company. Independent of whether or not the baggage handlers actually were negligent in their behavior, due of the increasing popularity and power of social media, United will certainly experience a negative consequence as a result of whatever happened on the ground in Chicago. The company had an opportunity to address the musician’s concern when he originally made his claim, but did not so we have to consider the actions of the customer service team responsible for addressing damaged baggage claims. Are these teams trained to empathetically address customer concerns? Are they calloused by the myriad of complaints they deal with every day and each new case becomes just another in the long list of problems they address? Do these service representatives have the Emotional Intelligence Skills necessary to perform their job functions? Is the culture at this customer service center one with an emphasis on delivering a positive customer experience?

I don’t know the answers to those questions about United’s culture and policy but am truly amazed at the implications and consequences of United’s handling of this customer’s issue, and the power of the media for one person to stand up, and tell their service story to over 3 million (and counting as you read this…) United spends millions of dollars each year to create their brand, but the real brand – the brand that people buy, trust and are loyal to is not created by the marketing department, but by the way the company treats every customer and responds to customer issues.

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