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"Why Choose Between Fun and Content When You Can Have Both"

Well that’s your job! How about doing it?

Patient goes into hospital for a test. Papers are filled out to have results sent to doctor. Doctor does not receive results one week later. Doctor tells you to call hospital and find out where the results are. You call hospital and speak to someone who tells you they will send results right over. Two days later doctor still has no results.

Now considering the medical world is probably solely keeping the fax industry in business this is surprising.

I call back. She doesn’t know why the doctor did not receive them but if I give her the address she will mail it.

“But you have all that information? After all, you supposedly sent them the other day.” Now as to not piss her off, I mena upset her, I say “Perhaps there is something wrong with the fax on your end or their end.”

“Oh, they weren’t faxed, they were mailed.”

“Oh, I see. Well since we’re going on two weeks do you think you can fax them over or transmit them electronically?”

“But then I’ll have to go in the back and locate the files to send and I’m here all alone……….” (I tuned out and that’s when I started thinking…. Well that’s your job! How about doing it!)

I said nothing. There was a long pause. Don’t get mad; get silent is a great approach to getting people to think about their actions and perhaps do something.

“I guess I can do that. I’ll do it as soon as we hang up.” (By the way it was 4:50PM. My gut feeling was she wanted to go home.)

“Now that’s the answer I wanted to hear. Thank you. And I mean it. I know you folks work very hard and things fall through the cracks and I appreciate you going the extra step.”

My friends, there are enough studies out there showing how stressed out people are at work, how hard they are working, how morale is in the crapper etc. etc. I often find that acknowledging the pain, whether you’re on the inside or the outside of the organization, is much better than saying what you are really thinking.

I hung up convinced the fax would not be sent, but slightly hopeful. Very slightly.

Call the doctor the next morning. Guess what!!!!!!

No fax.

Back to the phone. Someone bright and cheerful picks up in radiology.

“Hi, from the sound of your voice you sound like someone who likes their job, knows what she is doing and actually wants to help me.” She laughed.

I explained the chain of events. She apologized for her fellow employees, did not make excuses and told me she just transmitted it while we were on the phone. She suggested I call the docs office to verify and call her back if any problems.

Well guess what. I had to call her back………………….

To thank her!

So here are three questions for you to ponder (and as usual I would love if you’d drop me a line and let me know the answers (or leave comments below):

  1. What techniques are you using to get people to go the extra mile?
  2. What techniques have been used by others to get you to go the extra mile?
  3. Are you having fun at work?

Rules. Destroying creativity one person at a time.

When I was a kid we had no rules. When we played games we made the rules up along the way. We were creative, imaginative and had lots of fun. We also had a fight here or there and ended up not talking to someone ever again.

Then I grew up and entered the world of “The Workplace.” Full of rules, policies and procedures, it seemed that creativity and imagination lost their place.

So when I am out and about and see parents interfering in a childhood game, by imposing their rules and not letting kids be creative, get imaginative and argue a bit, I get worried. Please don’t take their imagination away. Their turn will be coming.

But just in case the parents keep imposing their rules there is hope……..Some organizations recognize that allowing people to be creative and to play is still a good thing. It is how new products, ideas, and customer experiences come to life.

I can only hope that these kids who are being “procedured” through life have an opportunity to gain back their childhood at one of those organizations.

What do you mean your team is not engaged? Maybe you need to P.L.A.Y.

When environments go bad, teams need to do their part to make the best of a situation or turn that situation around. One of the best things a team leader can do is P.L.A.Y. with his or her team.

 Praise – Now more than ever you need to praise them, their work and their contribution. You should be doing it regularly, but sometimes we get too busy, forget or don’t think it is important. Bad environments usually stem from organization changes (such as new policies/layoffs), bad company news or dare I say a bad manager. Everyone on your team is an asset and they should know that – today.

 Listen – What’s really on the minds of your team? Ask them. Hear what they have to say. And no matter how difficult it is for you to do, do not respond with your canned answers, corporate speak or negation of their thoughts. A good listener takes that information, processes that information and turns it into something that can benefit the team.

Acknowledge – So the environment is bad? Acknowledge it. Make sure they know that you know. Perhaps go one step further and take some of the responsibility for letting it get to this point. When you take responsibility others will as well. But please, don’t use phrases like NO HOPE.

Yes – Say YES to their suggestions about how to fix things. Give your team some opportunity to fix the environment. Toss away rules and policies for a few moments (no one is going to do anything so radical that it will land the company in a courtroom) and see who is ready to take on the task of fixing things. A little empowerment, flexibility, and easing of the rules/policies goes a long way, strengthens a team and engages employees back into their roles.

Staying in touch…………..The Old School Way

Thought I’d shake it up a bit today………..

How about a little audio message from yours truly?

Are your customers thanking and engaging you?

Everyone talks about how employers can engage employees or how businesses can engage customers. But did you ever stop and think about how customers can engage us?

These three rocks were given to me by a client several years ago. They sit on my desk as a reminder of how I made a difference in the life of someone else. They are my anchor to keep doing the work I do. They are also a reminder of how important it is to thank or stay in touch with my customers by doing/giving something personal.

Carol hand painted these rocks. She didn’t go out and buy some commercial paperweight. She knew I was a Batman fan – the original Batman. She knew the name of my company is Never Grow Up. She took me and my personal interests in mind when taking time out of her life to thank me.

  1. How are you thanking your customers or perhaps even your vendors?
  2. What personal stuff do you know about the people whom  you engage in business?
  3. What step will you take today to personally reach out to a customer/vendor/employee/peer and thank them? 

Are you a good meeting participant? A bad meeting is everyone’s fault.

Tired of attending meetings? Ever wonder what their purpose is? Does your organization suffer from too many meetings? Do you find that you attend meetings with no point? Are you holding meetings to plan and schedule future meetings?

Congratulations! You are now part of a group of people who employees, coworkers and committees want to push off the roof of a building.
Once upon a time people looked forward to being invited to a meeting; it made them feel important. These days people run as far as they can when a meeting invitation appears and spend more time complaining about the meeting than turning it into a valuable experience.
But did you ever think that maybe you’re part of the blame??????
Here are some thoughts to get you thinking next time you’re sitting in a meeting doodling or counting ceiling tiles rather than being present. And don’t worry I’m not gonna waste your time by listing things like start on time. I’ve given up on that one.
  1. Why am I here? – Seriously, why are you part of this meeting? Your expertise? Your knowledge? Someone thinks you will learn something? Without understanding why you’re in attendance you will never get the full benefit of the meeting or contribute to the level expected or capable. There’s a reason you’re there; so either offer information or ask questions. Or both!
  2. Who else is here? Too often the wrong people are invited to a meeting; and by the wrong people I mean too many or people who could be “filled in” afterwards in a few minutes. The only thing you’re doing is wasting lots of valuable time when the wrong people are there. Five people who don’t need to be in a meeting for an hour is five hours of lost productivity; not one. Who really needs to be there? What contribution will they make? When the meeting is over what is this person going to do? Do they really need to attend the meeting? Don’t be afraid to un-invite yourself; or someone else.
  3. The dreaded To-Do List – So what are the 935 action steps that you’re going to need to take as a result of this meeting? Which are the ones that matter? The ones that don’t matter? What are you going to delegate before you even get back to your desk? One of the major problems with meetings is that people commit to things that cannot or do not need to be delivered. Be realistic in what needs to get done versus what would be nice to get done.
  4. New ideas are not discussed – Why aren’t new ideas discussed before or after a meeting? There is no doubt that someone sitting around a conference room table had an A-HA moment or a brilliant idea. There is no doubt someone had a thought that started with “I wonder if……” or something like that. Leave a few minutes at the end of a meeting to discuss these things – which means you should have an agenda and a set (and adhered to) meeting time!
  5. Rate the meeting – why aren’t meetings rated? Why aren’t we rating our participation? We rate presenters at conferences. We rate content by presenters? But why aren’t we rating the actual meeting itself and the actual value that we contributed to the meeting?
Meetings are only as successful as the people who show up and take responsibility for being there. Do that and your meetings will be more efficient, more effective and probably less often or shorter. So leave your ego at the door, come up with some objectives of your own and turn what has become a way too unproductive event into something much better. In other words, own the meeting and have fun while being there. You might as well, since you already know there are 142 ceiling tiles.
For a free copy of The Meeting PLAYce Mat; a tool to make your next meeting more MEETingful send me an email. Make sure you send me a snail mail address or I can’t send it to you.

Now this is what I call Customer Service!

When I opened my mother’s cell phone bill the other day I thought for sure I was imagining the numbers. Then I realized what had happened………

After an extended hospital stay, a rehab stay, and being bored with television, her “20” minute per month plan didn’t cut it. So I picked up the phone to call Verizon Wireless. (I called from my land line just in case).

Now first of all I spoke to a person. Yes, I had to go through a couple of prompts like entering the number in question and whether or not I spoke English, but I spoke to a person. And not only was Pam a real person, she spoke my language; the version of English that I use on a daily basis.

I explained to Pam what happened and was not looking for anything but what we could do moving forward. I thought there were some features that mom had not taken advantage of….like their Friends and Family allowing you to talk to up to five people unlimited out of network.

We talked. Pam didn’t read me a script. She actually was thinking and using her brain. We made a few changes to the current billing period; changed mom’s plan to get her in line with her current usage and then Pam made a few other suggestions like changing the plan back to her “20” minute plan when she is back home using her land line or me adding her to my plan as a family member since her normal usage under ordinary conditions would easily be accommodated.  

Then she told me to hold on; she would be right back. I waited in silence; not listening to annoying sales promotions or instrumental versions of Lady Gaga. Pam came back and told me that not only was the current billing period being adjusted for the new plan, but the bill in my hands, given the unusual circumstances of mom’s health, would be adjusted to reflect the new plan as well.

This is why I have been with them since the early 1990’s and why I’m not planning to leave in the very near future. Is there a better plan out there? There’s always a better plan being offered by someone. But to me it’s about the following:

  • Knowledgeable people who
  • Speak my language while
  • Using their brain and are
  • Really there to help, not navigate their way through a scripted flowchart of “if-this then-that” scenarios.

Can you say this about the companies you deal with? Better yet, can you say this about the company you work for?

In the end she’s still out-of-pocket due to prescription co-pays, but Verizon did an amazing thing. The health care system…..we’ll save that for another day.

Mom was right! Now she’s running the business.

Shortly after my dad died I was riding in the car with my mother when I turned to her and said “You were right.”

Mom looked at me confused and said “huh, about what?”

My response, “About everything. Consider that statement a blanket.” We both laughed. But seriously, I wasn’t way off in my thinking.

Every one of us ignored the advice of our parents growing up. They couldn’t possibly be right. We didn’t listen and too many times we ended up learning from our mistakes. The great thing was they kept their mouth shut and let us learn.

Organizations can learn a lot from this. I’ve always believed that letting people make mistakes is the way they learn best. Most people don’t learn as much from a success as they do from a setback. Most people don’t learn as much from a success as they do from a bad business deal.

Now I am not suggesting that we let employees drive an organization into the ground, but what I am suggesting is a little less hand holding; a little less control; allow people to be creative.

And if they screw up, be there to help them right the wrong; not remind them of it.

The cool thing is that there are a lot of moms running organizations these days. Just remember they’re probably right; you’re probably wrong. I’m also hoping they’ll act like moms when you screw up and let you learn and not can your sorry butt.

Now these days as mom is getting older she is recognizing that I’m right a lot of the times; and she can learn a lot from me. Not only can she learn a lot from me; she is asking. I find myself telling her what to do. Sometimes she listens; sometimes not.

Again, organizations can learn from this. With all these generations working together we need to realize that everyone has a lot to learn from everyone else. So when mom comes asking for advice; give it to her. And at the same time…….Mom, when the kids come and offer advice don’t chase them out of the kitchen (office); listen to what they have to say.

The Gulf Oil Spill Was My Fault (and everything else wrong with this world)

And I’m very sorry.

Now that we know that Rich DiGirolamo is responsible for every ill on this planet let’s move on and fix things. Let’s start with the tourism and fishing industry that is about to be impacted in the Gulf.

I still cannot believe how much time is spent pointing fingers and passing blame in this world. It happens in the media. It happens in the government. And without a doubt it is happening at the very company that employs you; perhaps you have even been on the wrong side of that pointed finger.

I used to get my laughter reading people’s comments at the end of news articles and blogs on the web. But then I realized something; these people are as much a part of the problem as the current problem at hand; perpetuating negativity and never really offering solutions or ideas that someone might pick up. It’s easy to criticize. It’s easy to point out what’s wrong. Personally I think you should shut up unless you can offer some useful idea; even if that idea seems ridiculous. Ridiculous ideas often allow people to think about possible solutions.

  • So for my tourism friends on the Gulf…….What do people do on rainy days when they can’t visit the beaches? What else do you offer in terms of attractions, amusement, culture, etc. Perhaps it is time to market those venues in full force.
  • And for my Parks & Recreation friends; might be a really good time to promote those parks and pools.

Or maybe we can just put a big giant condom on the oil leak.

Again, I’m sorry about the oil.

Look behind the counter……It’s SuperBeth!

When I walked in to Opticare yesterday morning something was not right. The only person behind the counter was Beth (the office manager); usually there are 400,000 employees behind the counter.

Beth was on the phone; clearly she was dealing with a serious matter. She still managed to acknowledge me and make me feel welcome.

When she got off the phone she checked someone else in and walked me to the exam room. I made the comment about her being alone.

Her response (in a sing-song like manner): “Well it’s Monday morning; this one is sick; this one’s kid has something going on; someone died over the weekend.”

I laughed. She laughed.

But here’s the great thing. Her laughter really was laughter. Beth wasn’t annoyed. She wasn’t troubled. She just jumped in and became SuperBeth!

Several years ago that place was a mess. Employees were miserable, backstabbing, incompetent; I could go on and on. I remember two employees fighting right in front of me. I told them I wasn’t coming back.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was having a horrible customer experience. Beth and the doctors worked very hard to find a team of people that not only work; but like working together. There was no room for even one person not being a fit.

So when a Monday morning like yesterday pops up…….you do what you gotta do and don’t get crazed over it. It’s one morning.

Can you say this about your organization? Be honest.