I don’t remember which book I read this in. It was quite a few years ago. And, I suspect that I have a detail or two off, or missing. But I know I’ve got the overall story right. Here it is.
A woman called her regular salesperson (her personal shopper) at a Nordstrom location in Southern California. She said that she needed the little black dress that was in the corner window inside the mall (she described it in detail), and she needed it for a party by the next day. And she did not have time to come get it. Could the salesperson overnight it to her?
The next day, she received the dress, the very one she had had described. Inside the box was a note from the salesperson that went something like this:
“Here is your dress. I knew exactly which dress it was from your description. It was actually in the Saks window. So, I went to buy it on my break. I paid for it with my own credit card, so if you don’t mind, could you please send me a personal check directly? I hope you have fun at your party.”
Needless to say, this cemented this person’s loyalty to that personal shopper, and it added to the legend of Nordstrom’s customer service reputation.
Here are the customer service lessons:
1) Know your customers. Do whatever it takes to please your customer. The extra effort builds your relationships, your reputation, your future.
2) Know your competitors. This salesperson knew not only the offerings from her own store, but she also knew what her competitors had to offer. That knowledge sent her to the right store to purchase this particular dress for her customer.
3) Be willing to think outside of the norm. This salesperson was willing to obtain the dress from a competitor to keep her customer happy.
4) Do exactly what is best for the customer – don’t try to do what is better for you. In this case, many salespeople would have said, “you’re thinking of a dress from another store – but we have a dress that is similar, that I think you would like just as much.” No, the customer had her mind made up – she just did not remember which window she saw the dress in. And this salesperson set out to please the customer, not please herself.
All jobs demand some combination of sales and customer service. This story reminds us what excellence looks like.
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Years ago, I had a golden retriever named Louie who loved pillaging trash cans.
I tried yelling at him whenever he stuck his nose in the can. I tried different models of trash cans with hard-to-open lids. I tried putting the trash can inside a cabinet.
But it didn’t matter. Louie was a trash can fiend, and he wouldn’t be denied.
It got to be such a problem that I eventually called a dog trainer friend for advice.
She told me to put mousetraps in the trash cans.
After she reassured me that her method wasn’t going to harm Louie, I put a mousetrap in every trash can in the house. Then I forgot about it.
I was working in my office when I heard a SNAP in the other room, followed by the sounds of scampering toenails.
Seconds later, Louie came slinking into my office, his tail between his legs, and a betrayed look on his face. He never touched a trash can again.
The point of the story?
A few weeks ago, I gave you 10 of my best tips for getting inspired to write. They’re good ideas, ones that have worked for me in the past, and I think they’ll help you.
But sometimes 10 aren’t enough. Sometimes, you have an unruly muse who, like my golden retriever, refuses to be good, and you have no other choice but to call a knowledgeable friend and ask for more ideas.
Fortunately, I have another 10 ideas ready and waiting. One of these might just be the mousetrap that finally gets your muse to behave.
[Here are three of the ten]
2. Write a letter to your internal editor
I got this one from one of my college professors, and it sounds really weird, but here’s the idea. As writers, we all have a voice inside our head telling us our work sucks. Normally, it’s just a nuisance, but sometimes the voice is so loud that it overpowers your creative flow, making it impossible for you to write.
In those cases, here’s what to do: instead of trying to ignore it, confront it. Write a letter to your internal editor and tell him (or her) how irritated you are, how he’s ruining your career, and to shut the hell up. Really let him have it. Oftentimes, it’ll shock the little bastard into silence, and you can get back to work.
6. Unlock your unconscious mind
The longer I write, the more I realize it’s largely an unconscious process. You could be taking a shower, washing the dishes, sleeping — regardless of what it is, your mind is ticking away in the background, figuring out what to say and how to say it.
Sometimes though, our minds are so cluttered that we can’t hear our intuition, and when that happens, writing is a struggle. The only way I know to solve it is to sit still and meditate, deliberately quieting your mind and doing your best to listen instead of think.
Many times, a fully developed idea will just pop into your head, and you’ll know exactly what to write and why.
10. Look within
Let’s get down to the real answer, shall we?
If you’re really serious about writing, if you want to make a career out of it, if you want to be so good that people talk about and remember you, then the secret to inspiration isn’t getting inspired. It’s being inspired.
It’s about loving what you do. It’s about loving who you are. It’s about loving your life.
I’ve never heard of anyone who worked a boring job, came home to a boring family, watched three hours of boring television, and then proceeded to write something of spellbinding greatness. It just doesn’t happen.
Here’s why: Your writing is an extension of who you are.
If your life is a soul-sucking heap of mediocrity, then your writing will be a soul-sucking heap of mediocrity. Similarly, if your life is an adventure that brings you such joy you want to weep, then that joy will seep into your words, and anyone who reads them will begin to smile.
The difference between a legendary writer and a merely good one isn’t mechanics. It’s intensity.
Train yourself to find that intensity, and you’ll never lack for inspiration again.
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To read the complete article, check out lots of other stuff, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Copyblogger’s online updates, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Jon Morrow is Associate Editor of Copyblogger. Get more from Jon by visiting http://twitter.com/JonMorrow/.
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There’s absolutely no doubt that women’s affinity groups — grass-roots, company-supported internal organizations — have proved a huge winner for employees and employers alike in this tough economy. These networks nourish career advancement, connecting women to colleagues in different departments, providing opportunities to learn and practice leadership skills, and boosting their confidence to take the next step.
But then what? The innate problem with many networks is that they all-too-easily devolve into a group of peers who gather to gripe, as one diversity leader put it, “about how it sucks to be a woman at our company.” They offer support but won’t leverage you to the next level.
To successfully make that leap requires something more specific: a sponsor. More than a mentor, this is someone in a senior position who’s willing to advocate for and facilitate career moves, make introductions to the right people, translate and teach the secret language of success, and most important, “use up chips” for their protégés. One woman describes a sponsor as someone who can “directly intercede on your behalf to create a different reality for you.”
This is a central challenge for women aspiring to C-suite positions. According to research by the Center for Work-Life Policy as part of their “On-Ramps and Off-Ramps Revisited” study (to be published in the June Harvard Business Review), 89 percent of highly qualified women don’t have a sponsor and 68 percent lack mentors.
Forward-thinking companies recognize that these hidden inequities prevent them from identifying and developing potential talent. Rather than leave these strategically significant relationships up to chance, smart employers are becoming matchmakers.
When American Express examined its workforce at the end of 2008, it discovered that, while women constitute more than half of its employees overall and one of every three of the company’s top 500 positions is held by a woman, like many other major corporations, women are still under represented at the highest tier. To crack this barrier, American Express created “Women in the Pipeline and at the Top.” With full support from CEO Ken Chenault, the program aims to identify and develop women with the potential to reach the top two levels and give them more opportunities to interact and get exposure to the executive team. At the same time, the company is conducting training to raise awareness of the different ways people think, communicate and resolve conflict, to lessen the unconscious bias to promote “people like me.”
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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit email@example.com.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy. She is the author of eight books, including Top Talent.
DeAnne Aguirre is a senior vice president at Booz & Company. She is an expert in organizational and talent effectiveness and change leadership. She and Sylvia Hewlett are co-leaders of Global Talent Innovation™.
Folks, a lot of people got killed last night. Let’s try to keep our eyes on the ball, okay?
(Fictional President Andrew Shepherd, The American President, after the press corps wants to know more about his private life than about the international incident that prompted the press conference).
If Aaron Sorkin wrote a business book, I would immediately buy it, consume it, and then most certainly put it at the top of any list I compiled as the best business book ever. Not because he knows much about business (I don’t know if he does or not), but because I am addicted to anything/everything he writes and puts on the screen. Take your pick: The West Wing, A Few Good Men, The American President, Charlie Wilson’s War, and of course the greatest program in the history of television that never found enough of its audience, Sports Night. (and this is not all).
I realize this is a business book and business issues blog. And I’m quoting from an article by Sorkin written about quite a controversy regarding a Newsweek contributor’s opinion regarding a gay actor playing straight — definitely not on subject for this blog.
But… the article is Now That You Mention It, Rock Hudson Did Seem Gay, written for the Huffington Post. And, here’s the paragraph:
When I need the audience to know that a piece of information they’re about to hear is important, I can use words, a close-up, a push-in, music… when the authors of the no-longer-private-lives “A” story want the audience to know that something’s important, it shows up on our Yahoo homepage. (The third story on my homepage yesterday was that Britain, our closest ally, has a new Prime Minister. The first story was about Justin Bieber. Unless the new Prime Minister is Justin Bieber, something’s obviously gone wrong.)
And here’s the lesson. It is an old lesson. A society that becomes consumed with trivia is a society that really does need to pay attention to the right issues. And Sorkin rather passionately makes that argument in this article.
And for business people, the lesson is this: focus on the right things, and do not, ever, get bogged down on the wrong things. Your moments are incredibly precious. Do not waste any of them on inconsequential trivia. You’ve got important matters to think about and plan and implement. Stay focused and get to it!
Let’s try to keep our eyes on the ball, okay?