ASPIRE Conference Coordinator

“Thanks once more for joining ASPIRE this month in Dillon, and for bringing the gift of endorphins! We have summarized the evaluations and I wanted to follow through and close the feedback loop. Both of your sessions were top-ranked for the whole conference, tied with the feel-good TRIO Luncheon.”

Mica Slaven
ASPIRE Conference Coordinator

Chinook Wireless

“Amazing! Your ability to get every employee to engage in the interactive sessions while learning the fundamental objectives of team building was just outstanding. Your energy and positive presentation was contagious. Employees understand the value of teamwork; they now support each other in their different roles and are able to maximize productivity.”

Rosie Serna
Vice President of Customer Service
Chinook Wireless

Huron, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce

“I believe your background has a tremendous impact it on your ability to relate to people. Your experiences of being raised in a successful, family-owned and operated business, the challenges you faced, the values you learned, and the interpersonal skills acquired, come across in a such a genuine, sincere, forthcoming, and experienced manner that makes others immediately feel comfortable and at ease. Thank you for sharing talents with us and others.”

Peggy Woolridge
Executive Director
Huron, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce

Stockman Bank

“What a wonderful addition to have you join us for our final Leadership Great Falls session! Everyone really enjoyed your exercises and presentation. We’re looking forward to your additions to the 26th Program year!”
Erin Townsend
Assistant Vice President
Stockman Bank

McGeeSmith Training and Consulting

“Jeri Mae’s art of storytelling keeps audiences tuned to the information and message she shares in her seminars. She’s energetic, lively, and just plain fun. She brings a variety of participation activities that engages her audiences and enhances their learning.”

Roberta J. Smith
McGeeSmith Training and Consulting

Mending Fences

Oh it seems to me, that sorry seems to be the hardest word.

— Elton John

From popes to politicians, powerful executives to professional athletes…the news abounds with opportunities for us to ponder: What makes an apology effective — and what does not?

“When we reflect back on just how many mistakes we’ve made, and feelings we’ve hurt in our lives, you’d think we’d all  be experts at the healing art of apology,” wrote, John Kador in his book, Effective Apology: Mending Fences, Building Bridges, and Restoring Trust. But we are not.

Why does “sorry seem to be the hardest word?”

If [“Big if”] we realize that we are in the wrong, we may be humiliated and want to hide from the harm we’ve caused. The opportunity to apologize soon and sincerely is missed. The original harm festers.

Perhaps the discomfort and tension of the situation may causes us to lash out. “Even if an apology is offered, it may be unrecognizable as such because the embarrassment or anger of the person giving the apology distorts it,” wrote Holly Weeks in the Harvard Management Update.

In his amazing book, On Apology, Dr. Aaron Lazare says: “Apologizing is rarely comfortable or easy, so if you’re going to do it at all, make it count.” While it is hard for people to get an apology right, the experts agree on five essentials of effective apologies:

1. Acknowledge the Harm Begin by ensuring the injured party knows you truly understand what harm was done. Use accurate language that does not minimize the offense, question whether the victim was really hurt, or hide behind clichés. Not clearly describing the harm caused is the most common apology blunder, notes Dr. Lazare.
2. Take Personal Responsibility The challenge is to explain how the offense occurred, without excusing it. One honest assessment may be to say: “There is no excuse.” Dr. Lazare stresses that, “A humble remark is better than a dumb excuse.”
3. Express Remorse After acknowledging the harm, and taking personal responsibility, share your remorse. Do you feel sorry, regret the error, feel ashamed or humiliated? Say so. Sincerely. Whether it was a physical or psychological harm, confirm that your behavior was not acceptable.
4. Make Amends “Whenever possible, the apology should try to make the injured party whole,” says John Kador. There may be nothing tangible to repair. More often hearts and relationships are broken than physical objects. The question “What do you want me to do?” can begin the process of making amends. Then really listen. Feeling truly heard has incredible healing power and can mend wounds that seem irreparable.
5. Keep Your Promises Fulfill all your commitments to make amends. Don’t repeat the harmful behavior. The healing process can continue only if promises are kept.

There is no guarantee that your effective, sincere, genuine apology will be accepted. The injured party may be too hurt to forgive. Dr. Lazare invites us to see apology as “not always a one time request for forgiveness, but often the opening of a negotiation between the parties.” The relationships that matter to us most are built on trust. It can take time—and promises kept—to restore precious trust when it is lost.

Popes, politicians, powerful executives, professional athletes…you and me. All human beings need to learn what it takes to offer to others the “most graceful and profound of all human exchanges…” a true apology.

Conference Call Do’s and Taboos

telephone switchboardConference calls can be a minefield of false starts, disruptive back ground noises, awkward silences and wasted time. Or, conference calls can be a convenient and cost-effective way for people to discuss important business. Based on personal hours spent on conference calls, I humbly submit the following “must do’s, “please do’s” and “taboos” for leading and participating in effective conference calls:

Call Leaders Must Do

Don’t Schedule a Conference Call What do you want to accomplish? Is a conference call the best way to achieve these results? If “no” don’t schedule the call. If “yes,” continue reading … Continue reading “Conference Call Do’s and Taboos”

The Happiness Advantage

img_postcard-cowboy1What if you could improve your productivity by 30% without sacrificing happiness?

We’ve been told that if you have a good work ethic and work really hard, you can be successful and then you will be happy. New discoveries in psychology say this formula is backwards. If you reverse the order of the formula, you end up with greater happiness and greater success rates. Happiness comes first. Success follows. Continue reading “The Happiness Advantage”

Hot Stove Rule and Employee Discipline

“NO…NO…HOT!” I said, as my toddler reached for the stove. “HOT!”

Fair and effective employee discipline has the same characteristics as a “Red Hot Stove:” forewarning, immediate, consistent and impartial. According to leadership expert Douglas McGregor, all four should be applied to employee discipline.

Forewarning: The closer you get to the red coils, the hotter it gets. You are forewarned if you touch it, you will get burned.

The Hot Stove at Work: Providing detailed warning of expectations in advance is essential. A clear link is made between performance standards, prior warnings, and consequences for unmet expectations. Standards don’t seem conjured up out of thin air. Best of all, the stove [supervisor] feels no “guilt” about later imposing discipline because the employee, despite being warned, chose their behavior.

Immediate: Touch a hot stove and, you know instantly, you have done something wrong.

The Hot Stove at Work: Discipline must occur immediately ensuring the individual will see a clear link between their behavior and the outcome. The more time between the employee’s poor performance and the supervisor’s reaction, the less effective the discipline. And, when time is allowed to pass, people tend to convince themselves they are not at fault. So, don’t wait for the “mandatory evaluation, a more “convenient” time, or (and I’ve actually seen this happen) wait and hope the employee transfers or retires.

Consistent: When you touch a hot stove, it always burns.

The Hot Stove at Work: Discipline does not differ, for the same offense, from one person to the next. Most egregious of offense is when a supervisor “touches the stove” yet, reprimands employees for the same behavior. Nothing fuels resentment like inconsistent discipline.

Impersonal: Whoever touches the stove will be burnt. It doesn’t burn some people and not others.

The Hot Stove at Work: Discipline should reflect the offense … not the person who committed it. Focus on the act, not the individual. It doesn’t matter who the employee is; the boss’s best friend, uncle, someone who is experiencing personal crisis …
The supervisor doesn’t dread disciplining; nor should the employee feel resentment because the discipline is a response to the behavior.
The stove only burns the one who touched it and no one else. Think of how many rules, regulations and penalties are imposed on the many because of the few who actually needed discipline.

When disciplining an employee, your conversations about their performance can include a review all four “hot stove” conditions:

Forewarning– “You knew what would happen, and still you chose to [touch the stove.]”
Immediate – “Just now, you [touched the stove.] As a result …”
Consistent – “Anyone who [touches the stove] gets burned.”
Impersonal – “You are getting burned because you chose to [touch the stove.] ”

The word “discipline” has its roots in the Latin word discere, which means “to learn.” Use the Red Hot Stove Rule to apply discipline fairly and effectively. Discipline, done well, can give your employees an opportunity to grow and learn.

Succeeding in Today’s Experience Economy

In their collaborative book, The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage, authors Pine and Gilmore illustrate how the Industrial Economy supplanted Agrarian Economy—which in turn supplanted the Service Economy.

Today, the economic offerings bar is once again, being raised. In this shift into Experience Economy, we find goods and services pose as mere commodities, and are no longer enough.


This is a fundamental shift in the very fabric of the economy,” say Pine and Gilmore. “As traditional goods and services increasingly become commoditized, companies must stage experiences and guide transformations to establish differentiation and generate economic value.”

Experiences are memorable events, engaging each customer in inherently personal ways. Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, tells business leaders:

“Follow the gospel of ‘Experience Marketing’ in all you do. The shrewdest marketers today tell us that selling a ‘product” or ‘service’ is not enough in a crowded marketplace for everything. Every interaction must be reframed as a … Seriously Cool Experience.”

Some service economy exemplars recognized by Pine and Gilmore:

Cerritos Library in Cerritos California uses themed spaces to display and define library’s collection. A stone paved “Main Street” link Shop-like spaces housing services including, City Hall After-hours, the Friends of the Library Store, Local History Room, and Special Collections and Exhibits.
The Geek Squad repairs computers while entertaining patrons with a Dragnet-like theme. Employees arrive in black and white cars attired as “geeks” in black slacks, white shirts and ties, high-water pants, white socks, displaying a badge identifying computer service and repair expertise.
American Girl Dolls and accessories retail offers an extensive “menu” of experiences including tea parties, birthday parties, even slumber parties where your child and friends can enjoy a sleepover in any American Girl store.
Mid-Columbia Hospital in The Dalles Oregon which was recognized by US News and World Report for innovative, customer-focused services. Patients choose room décor, hospital gowns, and health care services. Patients and their families also enjoy great access to an extensive medical library where they can research their illness and treatment options.

How can your organization profit from today’s experience economy? Smart companies are attracting customers and increasing revenues by wrapping high-value experiences around their products and services these key marketing questions:

• Defining “experiences” differentiating from standard products and services?
• How can we perpetually provide unforgettable, inherently personal experiences informing, connecting, engaging our customers, encouraging them to come back for more?
• How can we refresh the experience, assuring our customer will not become bored?
• How will we integrate experience into marketing campaigns?
• How can we recruit, train, and inspire team members to believe themselves to be
performers in real life? Truly believe Theater is not a metaphor rather, a way of doing business.

Pine and Gilmore warn “Those businesses that relegate themselves to the diminishing world of goods and services will be rendered irrelevant. To avoid this fate, you must learn to stage a rich, compelling experience.”