Ten years is a great deal of time in the life of a mortal. Considering the average life expectancy of a white bloke in the state of Tennessee is only 73.94 years, this is a really long time. Apparently I’d live eight years longer if I moved to Hawaii? Something to ponder for the future. 😄 For now, it’s time to explore the past. This week I’m celebrating 10 years working for the same organization. People are often curious what has kept a millennial locked into the same job for this long. The answer is very simple - - I’m here because I’m learning terrific things.
Different people have different motivators. Some chase the dollar, while others value co-worker relationships above all. While these things are important, the pursuit of new knowledge is what makes me come alive. This organization has offered countless hours of training and numerous interesting on-the-job challenges. I’ve also had a variety of extraordinary mentors. These investments fill my tank to drive improved customer and employee experiences. Thinking back over the past decade, there have been a few learning moments that really stick out. Below are selected favorites from each year that I hope may aid you in your journey!
Year One - Beware of candle warmers…
I’ll be the first to admit that my tenure here got off to a bit of a rough start. Between the Tupperware mold ecosystem under my desk, having to climb out my car’s window when the door broke, the “pleather pants incident” and a variety of other things, I had quite the winning reputation. The worst was being hoodwinked by a candle warmer. My jumbo apple cinnamon candle had been fully melted down and returned to a soft, waxy state. Thinking it would be like playing with Play-Doh, I picked it up and attempted to extract a sample, sending burning hot wax directly into my lap. I was able to partially escape this blunder after having turned my pants inside out, but I could not conceal the fierce scent of apple cinnamon everywhere I walked. I’m proud to say the past nine years have been nearly wax-incident free.
Year Two – “Have the laser focus of an Olympic athlete” – Marshall Martin
It did not take long to understand that knowledge is power, especially in a customer service role. Knowing things others do not is what separates you as the “go to” guy or gal for both customers and co-workers alike. My problem became a desire to absorb working knowledge of every function and every product so I could answer any question. The result is a “jack of all trades, master of none” situation. Marshall entirely changed my frame of mind to understand the power of “laser focus.” Choose an area in which you can be the very best, and work your butt off in pursuit of this singular objective. This is how you set yourself apart and make a real difference.
Year Three - “Time to make the doughnuts” – Mike Kroll
It’s amazing how quickly time passes by. My early years were marked by a crippling fear of failure… always tiptoeing about and seeking the most risk adverse-path. Years later, my fear is of not failing quick enough! The real adversaries of success are cowardice and complacency. Mike Kroll is someone who knows the value of time and helps everyone around him to raise the bar. “Time kills all deals” was a common phrase on the sales floor. With each new quarter Mike brought the words “all sins forgiven, all victories forgotten,” reminding us that past successes do not exempt anyone from present effort. The things I’m most proud of I started way before I was “ready.” Looking back now I realize I would have never been fully prepared…only the process of learning through failure and taking quick, educated chances brought any level of success. As Ken Booker says, “I’d way rather you swing the bat and miss, than to watch the pitch go by.”
Year Four – “Every outing is a learning experience” – Drew Pomeranz
I’m not sure exactly what it was that pushed me so far beyond my cubical to seek answers. What I do know is that once I tapped into a local community of support professionals, there was no turning back. I’ve had an insatiable hunger ever since to learn everything I can about Customer Experience and to give knowledge back to the community. My ability to innovate and find creative resolutions has skyrocketed as a result. If you feel stuck trying to solve the same old problems, try finding new solutions - in new places - from new people.
Year Five – “Kindness is always fashionable, and always welcome.” – Amelia Barr
I have very little understanding of corporate politics. There is only one way to “play the game” in my opinion: be kind and show respect to everyone - no exceptions. Karin Hurt is a fantastic testimony of the fact that we can not only win, but “win well.”
Year Six – “It’s all about balance” – Dan Brown
It’s easy to think we are working hard for our families, yet there is minimal effort applied to actually developing family relationships. Many of us hide behind work for issues in our personal lives and blame our personal lives for problems at work. Being a creature of extremes, I’ve had to re-learn this lesson many times. My father has been a great role model of finding the right balance between work and everything else. Work should be an energy-giving part of life, not some soul-sucking thing you do five days a week. At the end of the day, no job is worth compromising our most important relationships.
Year Seven – “There are only two ways to influence human behavior; you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” – Simon Sinek
“Start With Why” was my very first audio book…and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Up until this point, I’d been operating with a tumultuous set of guiding principles. I spent very little time considering why something mattered and why those around me should care. Presently, if I’m going to take an active role (especially a leadership one) in any new endeavor, I must ensure it passes the “why test.” Can I clearly articulate why this action matters? Does it bring me closer to my overall goals? If I cannot answer these questions for myself, and explain them to others in a way they can understand, it is time to move on.
Year Eight – “The truth is helpless when up against perception”- Zack W. Van
Customer Experience (and so much of life) is dependent on the perceptions of other people. You could be the very best in the world at following a process and achieving a result, but if people are left with a negative feeling, you’ve accomplished very little. Especially in today’s ultra-connected economy, your reputation is worth far more than your resume. A friend who is able to give you real feedback on how you are perceived is a true friend indeed.
Year Nine – “Contentment is the only real wealth” – Alfred Nobel
There is always a reason to be frustrated. As much as possible, choose to be grateful instead. Mental health is such a critical part of our ability to work and live. Be intentional in this area by fostering contentment on a daily basis. What is success if it comes at the cost of happiness? What good is it to be so driven that you can never stop to enjoy the fruits of your labor? Finding joy along the way will help to prevent burnout and increase your health in all areas.
Year Ten - “To build authentic relationships you need to lead with generosity and serve them first” – Keith Ferrazzi
Many of us come out of school with a warped perception of reality. We believe that in order to be “successful,” we must bend the universe to our will and rush to build our own miniature kingdoms. This is based on a false and selfish worldview. While there is power in understanding what you want and being intentional, this power is greatly diminished when you treat others as obstacles. Giving freely and opening doors for those around you is by far the best way to accomplish your own objectives. Bottom line-- we must give in order to receive.
And there it is! If you are kind to people and avoid pleather pants, you’ve covered ninety percent of it. 😄 Cheers to 10 more years of learning together on the path to CX wizardry!
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Nate Brown is the Co-founder of CX Accelerator. While Customer Service is his primary expertise, Nate is able to leverage experience in professional services, marketing, and sales to connect dots and solve the big problems. From authoring and leading a Customer Experience program, to journey mapping, to managing a complex contact center, Nate is always learning new things and sharing with the CX community. Twitter - @CustomerIsFirst LinkedIn - Nate Brown