Sunday, August 29, 2010

Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit.

Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit.
By Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon, with an introduction by Horst Schulze, Founding President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton, is being published domestically by AMACOM Books, the wonderful publishing imprint of the American Management Association, and distributed internationally by McGraw-Hill.

It is now available at

CBS News - The CW
Micah's Interview on Customer Service with CBS

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Real Connections

group talking
Students getting a tour of Clayton State University Campus.

Photographers who specialize in photographing people have to make real connections to quickly capture the essence of a person. Portrait photographers often know when they have captured a person’s personality because that person’s friends comment about it. When photojournalists photograph a person for a story, they capture more than expression. They take all the elements surrounding that person to place him or her within the context of the story. Those photographers who do this well are able to better transport readers into the story.

Knowing some of the skills that photographers use can surely help you make real connections with people. Learning these skills may even help you make a few more friends in the process. Here are some tips I have learned from working the past 28 years as a photojournalist and from my formal education in social work:

Firm handshake

When you greet the person, reach out and shake their hand firmly. This is not where you squeeze their hand and overpower them. You want to communicate a confidence. A weak handshake can come off like a limp dead fish and lack of self-esteem. People will shy away from you if you are weak or overbearing. The firm handshake is a fantastic way to communicate your interest in them.

Administrator at Clayton State University works with a student.

Be Genuine

You need to treat people with honor, dignity and respect. Either way, people will have a gut reaction to your real motives. We are all wired with a "fight or flight response" -- a primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to "fight" or "flee" from perceived attack, harm or threat to survival. The response is often due to our gut reactions and not just from something always apparent. My point here is that people have a radar which most of the time perceives someone as not being on the up and up. To gain the trust of others you must be trustworthy and honest with them.

It’s not all about you

People would prefer to talk about themselves. Therefore, telling people about yourself is not going to help you make a connection with them. If you show an interest in them first, they will then be more likely to be responsive. At some point in the conversation they will show an interest in you. At this point they will test and see if there is potential for an equally balanced relationship. They will want to see if there is some common ground for which to build a relationship.

Professor of artAlan Xie, Instructor of Art at Clayton State Campus.

Find a common interest

I look around a person’s surroundings and see what it is he or she values. If you are in their office, sometimes photos or objects around the room can clue you in. For example, I find that being a father gives me common ground to talk to someone about parenthood.

Open-ended questions

You want to create a dialogue. To do this you need to ask open-ended questions rather than close ended. Close ended questions have yes or no answers. Open-ended questions require a much longer response. “How did you pick this as a profession?” is an example of an open-ended question.

Listen and ask follow-up questions

If you are listening, you will often find that you need to ask some follow-up questions. How you ask these questions can show how well you are listening. I do not recommend asking someone to repeat something. Learn to paraphrase and then ask a question to clarify what they have said. This will show you heard and want to better understand.

A student’s ear

Listen and ask questions to learn something new. I enjoy meeting people and learning something about what they know and do for a living or hobby. Most people enjoy helping someone understand something they enjoy themselves.

studentsStudents talking between classes at Clayton State University.

Your Body Language

Look people in the eye and try to keep eye contact throughout the conversation. Do not stare, but rather be engaging by paying attention with your eyes. Sitting on the edge of your chair and leaning slightly towards someone shows interest in what they are saying. Lying back in your chair communicates disinterest. Also try not to cross your arms because it makes you look defensive.

Did you make a connection?

How do you know if you are making a real connection? Reciprocity. You will normally notice an in-kind response to you. When you are succeeding, you will feel as though you are making a new friend. If you give people the honor, dignity and respect they deserve, they will trust you to tell their stories.