A simple method for stopping decision-making procrastination

Some decisions come easily. It’s a gut feeling and you just know what to do. But other decisions can get us stuck forever. It took me almost two years (2006-2008) to finally decide to work for myself.

I was recently asked how I did commit to that decision and I remembered the process a good friend took me through. It is essentially a “risk management” type process which you can use to forget about long lists or worries and woes about how it will all turn out…

My decision to work for myself did not come without the usual worries : What if it doesn’t work? Will I make enough money? Is it the right time? In the summer of 2008, I was expecting my 3rd child, had bills to pay and my wife was a full-time mother. I didn’t want to get it wrong. And as we all know, fear is a wonderful way to do nothing. In fact, I had already been ruminating for nearly two years.

One day I spoke about it with my friend Kevin and he asked me a few questions that finally sealed the deal. When you are faced with worry about if you really can decide to “do that”, these might help you …

If it works ….

Kevin asked me to estimate on a scale of 1-to-1o the likelihood that it would work out. At the time, I was a learning and development manager with a great bunch of contacts of like-minded learning people and I was planning to start-up as a freelance trainer. I figured someone was bound to give me some work. I had loads of energy, felt very creative and was good at networking. And I had no doubt about my ability to deliver. I estimated a “7”.

Then he asked: “If it does work, how would you measure the impact scale of 1-to-10?” adding that I could think about happiness, money, pride … whatever I wanted. I answered immediately with a conservative 10 🙂 It was exactly what I wanted for so many reasons, I would manage myself and my time, make great money and be much happier.

What if it doesn’t work?

Kevin immediately followed up with that one. “Now estimate from 1-to-10 the negative impact if it doesn’t work out”, he said. On that day, I had 20,000 euros in a savings account, which would give me quite some buffer for not having work immediately. I figured that if I didn’t have ANY work in 6 months, I could double-down for a few more months before I’d be forced to look for another job. As a 30-year old with a pretty nice CV at that time, I thought having a “failed” 9-month attempt at entrepreneurialism wouldn’t be the end of the world. I could always spin-it nicely and surely I’d get another good job one day? Even flipping burgers would pay the bills if we cut back. I estimated the potential impact of failure at a “2”. It would only be money after-all.

And then he asked me: “And what is the likelihood of that all going wrong?” At this point, you might be asking yourself if this method is worth anything at all. Surely these estimations are not worth anymore that that? But as I said in a previous post, we all have tendencies to make up stories that are not worth much. So if you’re already lost in those stories, why not bring a little method to the madness?

So I thought about it: I have a good network, I’m creative etc etc …. I reckon its a “2” again.

When you have measured probability and impact of the reward/risk, its time to do the maths

Anyone who has even been a project or risk manager already knows what we are doing here. Its a typical method. If you want to do it better, you can ask some experts and experienced people to throw in their thoughts on probability and impact. Or you can be a dreamer like me. Either way, you can use this tool to make a decision.

The final step is to multiply the results for reward / risk.

In my case, the result for “reward” was 7 (likelihood it works) x 10 (impact if it does) = 70

The result for “risk” was 2 (likelihood it doesn’t work) x 2 (impact if it doesn’t work) = 4

… and that was that: 70 vs 4. I couldn’t help but say “OK …. I gotta do it”

Now: You can question this method all you want. But this is a tool for when you are stuck with questioning things. So if you are stuck with an important decision, try this and let me know how it goes.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Good luck!

Stay safe,

D

CV

October 2008 – Present

Freelance trainer + coach, speaker and learning consultant

  • Training and coaching in presentation and pitching skills, communication, leadership + negotiation skills.
  • October 2008 – November 2020:
    • Over 11,000 people trained and coached
    • Participants from over 500 different companies
    • Training delivery in French, English (native tongue) + collaborations for Dutch
  • Conference speaker on topics including burnout, non-violent communication, leadership and social-media for learning
  • Implementation of CMS system for asbl of 60 people
  • Development and facilitation of brainstorming sessions
  • Trusted partner for NCOI
  • Active member ATD
  • Publications:

September 2006 – September 2008

Training and Development Manager, LOGICA (now CGI)

  • Design and implementation of strategic training plan for +/-500 employees
  • Management T+D budget
  • Belgian champion of Performance Management System
  • Delivery of soft-skills and internal training modules
  • Management of all internal and external training resources
  • Other specific HR projects/initiatives designed to improve retention/employee performance

September 2003 – September 2006

Training Manager, SITEL

  • Head of training department, responsible for all company trainers
  • Development and implementation of operational call-centre training solutions
  • Trainer in communication and behavioural skills

September 2002 – September 2003

Trainer, SITEL

  • Design and delivery of technical training programmes
  • Support of international call-centre programmes

July 2002 – September 2002

Temporary Employment, following move to Belgium

  • Moving boxes for DISPORT
  • Getting up early and earning minimum wage … but learning French 🙂

June 2000 – June 2002

Project Manager, NOMEN INTERNATIONAL (UK)

  • Project management from initial brief to final presentation for international branding agency
  • Management of creative team and leader of brainstorming sessions
  • Day-today management of UK office
  • Major project: Creation and implementation of brand-naming strategy for Vodafone UK
  • Other international clients incl. Sony, Bosch, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Philips, Toyota

Millenium

Back-packing Australia

  • 9 months travelling following completion of university degree

September 1996 – June 1999

Reading University, Berkshire, UK

  • Graduate Philosophy degree, 2:1
  • Top of 2nd year: Logic
  • Dissertation on the concept of “Trust”

September 1994 – June 1996

Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, Rochester, Kent, UK

  • A-levels in Philosophy, Psychology and Music

Pre-September 1994

Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, Rochester, Kent, UK

  • 8 GCSEs including Double Science, Mathematics and English Literature

Facing the facts

Yesterday, inspired by my 14-yr-old, I wrote a post called “Facing the Fear“. Today I caught myself posting on Facebook that I was “making up stories in my head”. Then I remembered this quaint little acronym : “FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real”. Meditating on that this morning has been helpful and led me to focus instead on facing the FACTS…

Business man afraid of his own shadow monster concept on grungy

We all have our monsters. Some of them exist in the real world and we are right to be scared of them. But many of them are just stories we have made up in our heads.

The Buddha is reported to have said that “all pain and suffering comes from attachment to desire and ego”. This is not to say that when you get burnt, the fire didn’t cause you pain. But to say that much of what causes us distress is our attachment to some story we have made up in our head (some form of “ego”) that we can’t let go of.

To better understand this, let’s take an example : Suppose you have a meeting to go to and on the way, your car breaks down. That little voice might say “Oh no, I’m screwed” or “This is terrible” or “There is nothing I can do about it”.

What is happening? You had a plan and something happened. In this new moment, you have a memory of the past planning you did and things you wanted (to have a meeting) and an idea about what you want to happen in the future (to go to the meeting). Neither of these things now correspond to the current reality (not going) and you get annoyed, stressed, worried etc… It is the separation between reality and story that causes the pain. It is the separation between reality and story that IS the pain.

If you think about this a little, you’ll see that much of what annoys you, stresses you, makes you angry (or even makes you happy!) is not “true” in the traditional sense.

 

So what is this ego? What are these stories? What does all this mean in REALITY and how can we get out of it?

If you want the Buddha’s answer, do the research. If you think you can turn off this “ego”, try meditation (good luck!). And if acceptance is your thing, thats cool too. But a little bit of “cheap psychology” and fact-checking might help too.

 

MANY of the things causing the fear we have are simply not based in reality. A voice in our head is telling us all sorts of things. Most people have a tendency to over-identify with that voice, as it were “me” or “the real me”. Others believe is is just a thing that happens in your body over which you have no control, just like your breathing or your hair-growing.

When this little worrying voice comes up, here’s how it goes: First, there is a thought that comes out of nowhere. You can’t help it, it just happens. Somehow, on autopilot, you compare that (random, uncontrolled) thought with your memories and/or wishes for the future. Then you make conclusions and predictions about “what IS”. This is all normal.

But, in the words of Mr Dylan “It ain’t me babe”. It’s just a thing that happens. A thinking habit. A PIECE of what you DO. But not you, and oftentimes, not true. And to be more philosophical, it’s pretty strange to attach oneself to all this non-existant stuff. The past is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet. In short: Right now is just right now: Stuff is happening, including a little voice in your head. That’s it.

 

So check the facts. Example in case: In today’s economic and health situation, I am (was?) today worrying about the future. I am capable of telling myself “I’ll run out of money” or “No-one can help me” or “This thing could go on forever and I won’t be able to be freelance anymore”. These are normal worries for everyone IMO. But they are not “truth”, in the sense that they are not current reality. They are that little voice thinking about a (thus far) non-existant future and a (gone) preferred past.

This is not to deny that things might turn out as I imagine. And IMO I would be naive to think it will all be all right out of pure optimism. That would be just the same functioning : more stories in my head.

 

So what DAN? What do you want to really say?

Check the FACTS. Anything that isn’t fact NEEDS to be accepted as no more than a story or hypothesis to test or include in risk-analysis. But not more. Not worry, not stress, not fear. If you can already separate for yourself what IS true and what is your own story, you are going in the right direction. Try it..

 

When I see things on social media about what might happen for the Corona virus, it can almost immediately create worry in me (without any effort from the real me :). What do I do? I check belgium.be for the latest facts. Everything else is conjecture, fakenews and fear-mongering.

When I worry about paying bills and wonder if anyone will help me, I check the facts. I heard something about loan repayments being put off. Research… call the bank.

How many times in your life did you worry about something only to find out if didn’t happen? And how many times did you think “Oh, I should have checked that, or thought about that” ? This is hard to do because we get swept away by the worry, the little voice.

There is a lot of stuff in reality today that IS problematic for people. I do NOT deny it and I do NOT suggest ignoring it. I only add that there is also a lot of worry not properly grounded in fact. Go check.

Good luck to all.

 

More from me on this whole “stories” and “perception” thing:

2 of my short stories:

 

…otherwise, I would strongly recommend checking out YouTube videos or books from Alan Watts. I don’t want to start listing all my favourite links to this guy. Just know that he was the first (1950s) and foremost expert on Eastern Philosophy, including Zen Buddhism. If you dig anything I said above, you might like him too.

 

Facing the fear

I will admit it immediately: This post IS inspired by all the Corona mess. But I won’t talk about that any more.

I want to tell you what my 14 year old had to say about being “on hold” and not being sure how to move forward. With the innocence of a child and the natural creativity that goes with it, I think she made a great point : It’s scary to do the things we aren’t used to. And since the older we get, the more get used to, it’s only going to get harder unless something changes. It is time to face up to the fear and dare to do something different. And a change in point-of-view might help …

 

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It all started with cancelled training: Since no-one is in the office, a trainer like me can’t go in and teach about how to pitch an idea, or how to negotiate a deal, or how to manage people. My daughter asked me “Why don’t you do ‘tele-travail’ (working at distance) like everyone else?”

I had a whole load of answers from “Its not the same thing” and “My clients prefer ….” to “I need to be careful with my brand” and “I like to be WITH the people” and, importantly “I’m not sure I want to do that”.

Next daughter question (where does she get this stuff from??) : “Give me one idea of what you DO want to do today” to which I replied that I planned to work on fitness and fix a few things in the house. And then came the magic.. she said “Thats because you know how to do those things and you know what you will get” (!!)

Now, I’m not the guy who tends to, or likes to, think “It’ll never work” but this did strike a chord with me : If I’m truly honest, I have no idea what the future will bring and yes, like many a 42-year old, I may well be getting stuck in my ways. Underneath my “wait and see when this all stops” attitude, there has also been quite a bit of “… and I can’t do anything about it”. I felt silly. I know too much to act like that. (Or maybe I act like that BECAUSE I know too much!)

 

At this point in the story, I was already feeling inspired to get out there and make things happen. “Focus on what you CAN control” and all that. But I didn’t have a chance before she doubled-down and threw her next point into the mix. She said :

“Imagine you were a 25 year old just starting out and you wanted to help people get better at the things you teach. You’d be in THIS reality from the start and you’d be asking yourself ‘How can I set this up?’… So, ask yourself that: ‘How can I set this up?’ ”

What did I get out of all this? What do I really want to say? What is the lesson to be learned ?

 

Our experience and knowledge and “the way things are” puts us in the box. And when the box starts to change form or get broken, it CAN be scary. Looking outside IS hard. Being fresh IS hard. Not KNOWING how things are going to go means trying something new, taking risks, and the possibility of failure. And so its easier to just stick to what you know and hope for the best.

But if you can admit that MAYBE you don’t know everything and MAYBE you have a few assumptions, then MAYBE you can entertain a new point of view, even if only for a moment. It might be scary and it might not work, but there might be a chance for some new results.

 

“I can’t” and the amazing truth about us all

We say “I can’t” all the time: 

“I can’t come to dinner, because it’s my wife’s birthday.”

“I can’t stop smoking. Its too hard.”

“I can’t figure out why I’m so tired. I’m just tired.”

 

But its never true. Every “I can’t” is always an “I don’t want to”: 

“I don’t want to come to dinner because I prioritise my wife’s birthday.”

“I don’t want to have to deal with “too hard” while I quit smoking.”

“I don’t want to figure out why I’m so tired. I’m satisfied with ‘so tired’.”

 

If we can realise that “I can’t” is never an expression of ability, we will be more truthful about what it really expresses: Willingness.

If we can replace “I can’t” with “I don’t want to”, we will be more honest with ourselves and everyone else.

It will be hard, but we will be willing to do “hard”.

 

“Of course,” you will say, “there are limits to this denial of can’t.”

“OK, maybe I don’t want to go to dinner with you, but I can’t play anything on a violin! ”

 

But it’s not true. There are no limits.

If I want to play a violin, I will play a violin. It’s as simple as that. We are all amazing. We are all limitless. And we are all able.

If we want to be.

 

“No, no, that’s enough,” you will say, grasping at straws. “There are still some things I can’t do :

I can’t jump over a tall building without any aid from technology.”

And you will wait for me to say that you could try if you wanted to.

But I won’t. Because that’s not the point and not the truth that gives rise to the point.

 

Yes. There are some limits in physical ability.

I could not go out today and complete an Iron Man faster than anyone ever did.

I can’t jump over a tall building.

 

But that is not a reductio ad absurdum to the real point.

Because the point is not about physical limits and you damn well know it.

When did you ever say “I can’t jump over a tall building” until today ?

You are just looking to argue your way out of hearing the truth about how we all speak all the time.

And the truth about who we really are.

 

The point is about being a lion, not a victim. 

We all have amazing ability.

We all have dreams.

We all have a “real me” hidden behind the bullshitting victim that other “me” is trying so hard to cling on to.

We can all be decisive and take ownership for whatever action we choose to go out and get.

We can all dare to announce to the world the limits we choose to place on ourselves.

And we can all believe in and be willing to be who we really are and do what we really want.

 

Sometimes I don’t want to.

And that’s OK.

 

But I always can.

And that’s the amazing truth about us all.

 

 

Speaking the truth with non-violent communication

The following is a collection of phrases that I regularly think, say myself or hear other people saying. Some seem positive and some seem negative. But none of them are true.

Understanding this and practicing the habit of speaking the truth results from my learning about non-violent communication. Sometimes non-violent communication is about respect towards others and sometimes it is about self-respect. It seems helpful to me because I can more easily share opinions with others, being more open-minded and leaving room for dialogue in place of conflict. When I practice non-violent communication with myself, I feel more self-aware and more confident.

 

I say: I have to write that report this evening

How many times have I thought and said such a phrase? The problem here is that such obligations don’t exist. No-one has a gun to my head and I am free to choose the consequences of not meeting the deadline. When I hold myself to such obligations, I am denying my own ability to choose what seems right to me. And when I use this as an excuse to stay home instead of having dinner with friends, I am being dishonest about my preferences.

I prefer to say: A deadline was set for the end of the day and I would prefer to write this report to achieve that deadline 

 

I say: I’m no good at playing the piano

Sticking labels on myself and my incompetence doesn’t make me feel good about myself. If I can’t play the piano at all today, it might seem fair enough to say I have a limited ability to play the piano. But when I judge that limited ability as “bad” I am holding myself to a standard which I value and then labelling myself as sub-standard. In my head, I create a self-image of someone hopeless.

I prefer to say: At the moment, I can’t play the piano to the standard I would like

Or: I can currently make sounds with a piano that do not correspond to the first graded level of piano playing

 

I say: That’s ridiculous!

..and I wish I could stop saying this! Sometimes it goes so quickly: Someone shares their ideas on things and in a flash before I can even stop myself, I pronounce these words, as if I was the holder of all the answers, the one who knows everything about everything. This kind of language is oppressive and impolite at the worst. At the very least, it translates as “What you say is stupid” and therefore doesn’t seem a nice thing to say.

I prefer to say: I don’t agree with your idea. It doesn’t fit with my way of seeing things.

Or: Given the information we have and my own vision and knowledge of the topic, I don’t see how that can work.

 

I say: She made me really angry

No she didn’t. She did something and I was angry. Anger is not something someone else can cause in me. To make such a statement is to deny the boundaries of responsibility when it comes to feelings. My anger is mine. Her (in)actions or words are hers. Changing this phrase to the preferred statement (below) helps me to take more responsibility for my anger and also to question which values and goals I have that are not in-line with the actions of the other person.

I prefer to say: She did XYZ and I feel angry

 

I say: It’s a beautiful day

Seems fair, right? But the truth is only that there are no clouds in the sky and the sun is shining with more heat than it was yesterday. It is also true that I like that kind of weather. But when I name things as “beautiful” I am imposing my vision of the world onto reality. Does this make it true? If I can imagine anyone having a different opinion (agricultural industry? not enough rain?) this should be enough for me to recognise that my words are no more than personal opinion.

I prefer to say: I like the weather today

 

All of the preferred statements above are attempts to use non-violent communication. For the purpose of this blog, I would define “violent communication” as any speech that mixes up (my) perception with (the) factual reality and imposes the former onto other people. When I push my vision of things on other people, it is not respectful to our differences or potential difference of opinions. It is a form of verbal aggression which can lead to confusion, conflict, loss of dialogue and even sadness and bitterness.

For example, telling my children they are being “bad girls” or that they “can’t do that” are simple everyday examples of violent communication that seek to impose my values onto them and to bend them to my will. As a parent, I might find it best that I decide for my children what they can and cannot do and I might even want to impose that on them. But when I present my ideas to them as the truth about “good” and “bad”, “allowed” and “not allowed”, my communication is violent: It imposes my vision of reality onto them in a non-respectful way. This particularly worries me since I know that my kids are like little sponges soaking up everything Daddy says for the future. If I can learn to instead say that “I don’t like what you are doing” or “In my house, I want you to follow my rules” this is much closer to the truth. It will open the dialogue with my children towards mutual understanding of what we all (don’t) like and or (don’t) want. And I leave them free to form their own opinion.

Outside of family life, the same idea is valid in many environments. I might argue that something is “not fair” when I really mean to say that “I don’t feel comfortable with it” or “I’d like to find other solutions where I get more of what I want”. I might say “You’re performance is unacceptable” when a non-violent version would say “I expected you to achieve XYZ and you haven’t so I am not satisfied”. I might say “You’re disturbing me” when the truth is that “I’m working on something now and I don’t want to talk’.

 

When we use non-violent communication, we respect the rights of other people to think differently and (importantly) we give them an open-door to reply with their own vision of things. We state things as they truly are and not only as we see them.

If you are in the business of oppression and control, stay violent. But if you want respectful communication and the possibility of dialogue that leads to sharing and deeper mutual understanding , go non-violent.

 

See also:

 

Thanks for reading

The man who made up stories

Once you a time, there was a man who liked to make up stories. He liked it so much he did it all the time.

When he heard people talking, he would imagine what they meant and why they said it. When he saw clouds in the sky, he imagined rain coming.

Very often, he was the hero of his own stories. When the characters he had invented spoke to him, he would make up replies to advance his plot. With the fear of rain, he would carry an umbrella. Sometimes he got what he wanted and would call it a good story. Sometimes, he got wet and called it a bad story.

One day, he hit his head and lost his ability to make up stories. 

All of a sudden, there were no more characters and he was no longer the hero. There was no more plot and no more story. Nothing was good or bad anymore. There was only the truth.

 – – The beginning – –

A 5-step process for handing-over work to other people

We all have things to do. Some of us have lists and lists of things to do. But that doesn’t mean everything on the list should be done by us, ourselves, alone. Before you take any action, slow down, look at your to-do list, and consider the following process for handing-over work to other people…

 

STEP ONE: Figure out what is for you and what is not… Ask 3 questions

What must I do myself?

  • These are the things that it would be wrong to give to anyone-else. This is your core functional and personal business. You can’t hand-over a personal medical check-up to someone else and you shouldn’t be handing over strategic decision making either.

What could I give to someone else?

  • Strictly speaking, this is everything left over after the first question. But its worth asking again as it gets you thinking about why you could hand it over. Sure, I like the grass to be cut in nice straight lines and sure I enjoy making that report, but I certainly could ask someone else to do these things.

What should I give to someone else?

  • Depending on your vision of work, your answers may vary. If you are the “Tim Ferris type” you might think that everything that could be handed-over should be handed-over. If you are feeling guilty about workload, you might feel that you should be doing it all yourself. This question is about the reasons why handing-over work could be the best thing for you, for others and for the organisation. Of all the things you could hand-over to others, what things should you give away so you can focus on bringing more value to the organisation? What jobs will give someone else the opportunity to grow and bring more value to the organisation?

 

Possibly, as you tried to answer these questions, you were thinking: “But there is no-one else!” and so the answers went as follows: Everything, nothing, not-applicable.

To really use this process, you need to forget all of this during step one and just move forward. Imagine a perfect world where you were surrounded with opportunities to hand-over work. Now go back and answer the questions!

 

STEP TWO: For whatever tasks you have decided should be handed-over to someone else, define the competence required for the job

Now you have listed tasks/jobs that you ought to give to someone else, answer the following 3 questions for each of them:

  • What knowledge is required to do this job?
  • What skills are required to do this job?
  • What attitude is required to do this job?

 

This step is all about defining requirements for the job. There may be other requirements like time, resources, specific environmental requirements… but right now, we are trying to imagine what competence someone would display in doing the job. Don’t worry yet about who does or does not have this knowledge, skill or attitude. Just name it.

 

STEP THREE: Think about the right people for the work

This is usually the point where people say again “But there is no-one!”. And telling you again to “imagine a perfect world” is too much to handle. So let’s get realistic about people with the following 5 questions. Answer them as they appear. Don’t get stuck on asking whether those people want to do the work or not…

  • Of the people who work for you, who could be good for this job and why?
  • Of the people in your immediate surroundings, team or department, who could be good for this job and why?
  • Of people in any part of your organisation, who could be good for this and why?
  • Of anyone else you know outside the organisation, who could be good for this and why? (yes, ANYone!)
  • Of anyone anywhere currently unknown (!?) who could be good for this and why?

 

Reading these questions, some people will find them ridiculous. But taking the time to ANSWER them often provides new insight. You might realise that this thing should never have been on your to-do list in the first place. Or that its time to recruit. Or that you have a bigger network than you thought. Or that your lower-level tasks can actually be awesome motivating work for someone else…

 

STEP FOUR: Take care before you take action

If by now you are ready to hand-over work to someone, just take a moment to define the risks associated with that:

  • How could this all go wrong? How likely is it that it will go wrong?
  • What will be the impact of this work not being done well?

 

Be careful with these questions. If you are into controlling everything or worried about letting people down, its very easy at this point to just think: “The risk is too high – I’d better do it myself”. But by now you should have realised that doing everything yourself is not the best solution ..or simply not possible.

 

STEP FIVE: Hand-over the work in the right way

Now it is time to actually give this work to someone else, take one last moment to consider the following 3 questions:

  • When is the right time to hand-over this work?
  • What support do you need to help you get the support you need?
  • How will you communicate the job hand-over?
  • How will you follow up on the work?

 

If you have followed the 5-steps and actually answered all the questions above, you might have realised a few things about yourself, the people you work with or your organisation. You might even be ready to hand-over some work.

 

Good luck!

 

 

Creating customer delight

In December last year, I delivered some training in Poland for the European Graduate Programme of one of my clients. Arriving at the hotel after a stupidly long-day of airports and travel, I discovered 2 things: The hotel had a spa with pool and I really should have packed my swimming trunks 😦

 

I asked if the hotel could give me some (clean) trunks from lost-property. With a big smile and much sympathy, the lady at reception told me they could not. But she did offer to arrange a taxi to a large shopping centre just down the road. Already tired, hungry and not motivated, I declined and added: “It doesn’t matter. It’s not a problem.”

 

At that very moment, the hotel general manager had just arrived. He asked “Is everything OK?” and I told him that everything was perfect, I was just disappointed not to profit from the pool at the end of a long day. He looked me straight in the eyes and said: “I will go to the shop and buy you some trunks. What size would you like?”

 

As a polite English man, I felt this was too much to ask and replied that it was OK, not necessary. Again, he looked me straight in the eye and added “I want to help you and I would like you to be able to really profit from our hotel. Please, let me go.”

 

And he did.

 

While he was gone, I ate a great Indian room-service meal and wondered how I would deal with paying for the trunks, whilst not having it on the hotel invoice I would be sending my client and accountant.

 

45 minutes later, a knock came at the door and a smiley face gave me a package: Wrapped in Christmas paper were my new Adidas swimming trunks with a note that they were offered with the compliments of the hotel and wishing me a good stay.

 

In this example, the service was amazing. Conscious of my situation, the hotel went way beyond the standard to satisfy my needs. Since that day, I have been telling everyone about this hotel, posting videos and comments on their Facebook page with my great review.

 

Of course, not everyone can give their time (or swimming trunks) for free. And customer delight doesn’t necessarily come from giving (in) to everything your customer asks. But if you are in the business of serving clients, there is surely something to be learnt here: Whatever your work and whomever your client, are you (not) delivering against expectations or are you creating delight and loyalty with real care, long-term relationships and results?

 

 

ps – when I went back to that hotel last month, I found an inflatable swimming pool ring and arm-bands waiting on my bed 🙂

 

 

The depressed inventor

The depressed inventor hadn’t always been depressed.

For most of his life he had been really happy.

As a little boy, he loved to invent clever ways to fix problems. Once he invented a cat flap to feed the family cat when she came home in the morning. And to get to school more quickly, he invented a really big catapult to throw him from his house to the school yard (although Mummy said “No” to that one).

 

For every problem, he invented a solution.

And that pleased him very much for many years.

 

Until the day he ran out of problems to solve.

At first, he thought it would be a good moment to take a holiday. Surely when he came back, he would find lots of new things to invent?

But when he got home, he still couldn’t find anything to work on.

Until he had an idea: He would invent a problem!

For days and days, he worked very hard at inventing his problem.

No time to eat, no time to sleep. So much work to be done!

 

Finally, he was satisfied: He had a problem to solve!

So he set to work to invent a solution.

No time to eat, no time to sleep. So much work to be done!

He read lots of books and talked to lots of people. He made lots of notes and did lots of sums.

 

But after lots of time, he still hadn’t invented a solution.

And so he started to get sad. And sadder still. And sadder still, under he was completely depressed.

For the first time in his life, he didn’t know what to do.

So he went to bed and slept. And slept. And slept some more.

 

After a few weeks, the doorbell rang.

The depressed inventor dragged himself downstairs.

At the door stood Benny the Baker, who wanted to know why he hadn’t come to buy any bread for so long. And his little girl Jenny, who asked “Why do you look so sad?”

So the depressed inventor explained. He told Jenny how he loved to invent things to fix problems and how he had always worked hard to make everything work just so. When he told her how he had run out of problems, little Jenny started to smile.

As he started to explain how he had invented a problem, little Jenny started to giggle.

And when he said he was sad because he couldn’t invent anything to fix his problem, she just burst into laughter!

The depressed inventor looked at Jenny all seriously and asked: “What’s so funny?”

 

And so little Jenny told him:

“It’s so silly. You can’t fix your problem because you just made it up! And the more you work on it, the worse it gets. But it doesn’t even exist, because you just made it up! Your problem is that you had no problems and made up a problem so now you have a real problem because you can’t solve your problem. But there’s still no problem. It’s so silly!”

 

All at once, the depressed inventor understood.

Little Jenny was right.

And he started to smile again as he remembered he had made up his own problem.

And that’s not really a problem at all !

 

THE END