Outswimming the Sharks: Employee synergy creates customer satisfaction

Quick, name three people at your workplace whom you look forward to seeing every day. Now, name three who rain on your parade every time you see them.

Which list was easier to generate?

I believe it was Lucy of "Peanuts" fame who said, "I love mankind. It's people I can't stand!"

But Lucy would have had an argument from former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, who said: "Anyone who doesn't get along with people has earned the kiss of death, because that's all we've got around here are people."

Whether you like them, you need to learn to get along with others. Having a co-worker who is difficult to deal with can destroy an office dynamic, which can be very bad for business. Customers wonder, if they can't get along with each other, how will they treat us?

On the flip side, a staff that has learned how to cooperate regardless of personal differences will project a positive vibe to customers. People, not specs, in many cases will be the key in determining who gets the sale.

Former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett was once asked by a seventh-grader: "How can you tell a good country from a bad one?"

The secretary replied: "I apply the 'gate' test. When the gates of a country are open, watch which way the people run. Do they run into the country or out of the country?"

Bennett's answer can easily be translated to business settings. If a company is good, people want to work there and customers know they are valued. The doors don't spin fast enough at a bad company.

Never underestimate the importance of people in your life. And always look for opportunities to improve your relationships, no matter how good they already are.

What can you do to become a better co-worker?

Maintain a positive attitude. Managers and co-workers appreciate the support of someone with an upbeat outlook. Look for opportunities, not problems and find the bright side of challenges you face.

Always demonstrate integrity. Be honest with people. When you don't have an answer, say so. Admit your mistakes (and concentrate on not repeating them). Keep your promises and meet your deadlines.

Show a willingness to try. Don't be afraid to stretch out of your comfort zone. Volunteer for new tasks and extra responsibility. Take risks. Don't back away from a challenge because of the possibility of failure.

Co-operate. Be a team player -- help your colleagues with their priorities, and share information instead of hoarding it. Offer your support when people need it, so they know you're not just out to get ahead for your own benefit.

Manage conflict. The ability to resolve conflicts among different groups of workers is a coveted skill in most organizations.

Focus on other people. Ask questions that let other people talk, and encourage them to open up and share their thoughts. You'll be less worried about saying something wrong, and you'll probably find enough common ground on which to build a real conversation.

Set a great example. Show others that they can count on you to be fair, friendly and even-tempered. Remember you're dealing with people who also have feelings, opinions and ideas. You can't learn anything if you are doing all the talking.

Then, take these suggestions and apply them to your customer service. Your customers are people, too! If there's one complaint I hear over and over from customers, it is that some companies they deal with treat them like account numbers rather than flesh and blood. Deliver your customer service with a human touch. Your customers should feel like the technology you use is an enhancement of your personal service, not a replacement.

Mackay's Moral: If you want to get ahead, learn how to get along.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or send e-mail to harvey@mackay.com. His column is distributed by United Feature Syndicate.

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