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How To Get Thrown Out Of An Expensive Italian Restaurant December 17, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in #fff, #filterfreefriday, accountability, assertiveness, attitude, complain, conflict, conversation, customer, customer relations, customer service, filter free friday, kevin burns, keynote speaker, mediocrity, service.
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On Filter-Free Fridays™ you get the opportunity to tell businesses, organizations and people how they are doing – in a non-hurtful way.

Last Friday, my wife and I headed out for some Italian at one of the city’s most expensive Italian restaurants. We had never been to this particular restaurant before but the reviews showed well.

We ordered a glass of red wine, the Caprese salad to start and my wife ordered the House Specialty Lasagna and I ordered the Veal-stuffed Cannelloni. They brought fresh bruschetta on crostinis as their welcome. Delicious – well as delicious as you can make tomatoes in December but well spiced and flavorful. The Caprese was alright I suppose – but again made with out-of-season tomatoes – it was good.

Then the main courses arrived straight from the oven in the same dishes. We had to wait several minutes before we could taste since it was piping hot. When we did, my wife thought the bechamel/tomato sauce (which the pastas were swimming in) tasted more like Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup, both pasta dishes were overcooked (disintegrated when touched) and there seemed to be a lack of any sort of seasoning. Have you ever tasted veal or lasagna without seasoning? Well it’s tastes like … uh … nothing.

The “pepper girl” came by a few minutes later and asked if we wanted fresh pepper. I simply replied, “I don’t think that’s going to fix it.”

She immediately summoned our server (turns out he was the owner) and when asked, we simply said that the sauce tasted like tomato soup, the pasta was overdone, there was no seasoning and therefore no taste and perhaps it was the worst pasta I have ever had in an upscale restaurant (true).

“Well then this place is not for you,” he barked and angrily gathered up the dishes. “I will pay for what you’ve eaten. You can leave at any time,” he barked and then threw the dishes into a tub in the kitchen (really he threw them). And we left.

If it doesn’t taste good, don’t eat it anyway and then pay for it. Say something. The worst that happens is they ask you to leave. I suppose I could have said everything was “fine” but then I would have been lying and the next customer who ordered the same dish would get an expensive mouthful of nothing.

On Filter-Free Fridays™, you’re not just helping the business get better, you’re making it better for the next person. Tell the truth. They need to hear it.

How Managers Get Labeled Racist and Bigot November 30, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, assertiveness, boss, communication, confidence, conflict, corporate attitude expert, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture of accountability, culture of high-performance, honesty, integrity, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager.
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It would so easy to blame your life circumstances on your mediocre teachers of your childhood. Hey, if they had no real understanding of success and how to achieve it, how could they possibly prepare you to be successful right?

So why is it that people are so quick to blame their bosses for not getting ahead at work? Nothing irks me more than hearing that incessant whining of “not being recognized” or “my boss plays favorites and I’m not it” or “it’s because I’m (gender, sexual orientation, race, age, weight, etc.).”

Those comments are the result of owning an “entitlement” mentality: you think you are entitled to be further than you are and now you are blaming others for not just giving it to you. Truth is, you are also entitled to be unemployed.

Managers who give credence to the people playing this game for fear of being labeled as a bigot, racist, etc., are just as guilty of keeping this entitlement mentality going.

Look, people who say this stuff do so because no one has told them any different. If they are not being promoted because they aren’t competent, then they deserve to be told they are not competent. Saying nothing for fear of offending allows employees to pull stuff out of the air, to make stuff up in the absence of information – and then you have twice the work to do in straightening it out.

If you speak with your people every single day (and that really IS your job – not paperwork and management meetings, contrary to what you might think) and let them know how they are doing in simple ten-second conversations, you end up eliminating a lot of the backlash that could come later. People want to know how they are doing and in the absence of information, they will make stuff up based on what they THINK is the truth. My Tweak™ – The Future of Management program addresses exactly this.

If this is happening to you as a manager then you’re not managing, you’re defending. And you can’t help your people get any better if you’re constantly defending yourself. When this happens, you are in the way of your people getting any better. Now you need a new manager to start over. Maybe you should have just told them the truth: that their work is mediocre and not worthy of promotion.

A Filter-Free Fairy Tale November 19, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in #fff, #filterfreefriday, advice, assertiveness, attitude, corporate culture turnaround specialist, decision, engagement, family, filter free friday, giving, greatness, health, integrity, kevin burns, keynote speaker, passion, relationships, standards, success, truth, wisdom, work-life balance.
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Part of the reason behind Filter-Free Fridays™ is to give you a chance to tell your team members, fellow employees and the really important people in your life how you really feel about them – especially if they impact your life in a positive way.

Everyone should have at least one person who impacts their life in a positive way. If you don’t have one, you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. I have one in my life that, over these past two years, has made a tremendous contribution to my life in helping me be better – every day.

Her name is Trish and we have known each other since Grade 4. She got pushed ahead the year after we met allowing her to skip Grade 5 so, come high school, we never took any of the same classes. But I saw her everyday. Once, I asked her on a date when I was 15 – she said yes. I took her to a school dance but never asked for a second date only because I thought she was just being nice by agreeing to go out with me – she wasn’t. My self-image as a teenage boy needed some work. So I had to live with my crush on her and never acted on it for fear that she might say no.

Going to a small high-school of 200 students in a small town, everyone knew everyone else. We had the same teachers, went to the same church, had the same friends, knew each others’ parents and came from the same economic background. We had history and a keen understanding of each other’s values. We came from the same place physically and philosophically.

After high-school graduation we went our separate ways: her off to university and me off to Kapuskasing, Ontario to take a radio job. We never spoke again for 30 years – until a high-school reunion. We developed a great friendship over the following six months seeing each other only once in that time due to living 2000 miles apart.

Over these past two years, Trish has become my mentor, my confidante and my best friend. There isn’t a day where we don’t laugh to the point of tears or just relax and feel safe to just be who we really are. There isn’t a day where something ever goes unsaid or that a dream goes unspoken. There isn’t a place we don’t visit together or support each other to be healthy and happy. And if she leaves to do a little shopping, a little part of me goes missing for that few hours while she is away.

Tomorrow, in Gatineau, Quebec, I am going to marry the girl I asked on a date some 35 years ago – and she is going to marry me. She said yes. We will be surrounded by our families and close friends – many from high-school. Trish’s 20 year-old daughter will be Maid of Honor and my 25 year-old daughter will be Best Man.

But the lesson we offer to our children is to set a standard and never settle. Keep your standards high and always believe that if your relationship seems like a struggle, it may not be the right one. The right one makes loving easy.

So pardon how long my gushing might seem, but once in a lifetime, someone comes along who just rocks your world and, in the words of Jack Nicholson, makes you want to be a better man.

Tomorrow, I will prove it when I simply say, “I do.”

And that, my friends, is a glimpse into my personal life – Filter-Free. Do the same for yourself.

3 Ways To Manage Procrastination November 15, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, assertiveness, boss, business, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of accountability, culture of high-performance, Employee Engagement, engagement, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager, procrastination, time management.
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Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada have identified traits of procrastinators:

  • Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators: they don’t pay bills on time, they don’t cash gift certificates or checks, they leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas eve.
  • As a culture we don’t take procrastination seriously as a problem. Because we are so nice; we don’t call people on their excuses (“my grandmother died last week”) even when we don’t believe them.
  • Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner (time management) is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” insists Dr. Ferrari.
  • Procrastinators are made not born. Procrastination is learned. Managers may reinforce (and sometimes even create) procrastination because they tend to be tolerant of excuses.
  • Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those people who drink – the effect of avoidant coping styles.
  • Procrastinators lie to themselves such as, “I work best under pressure” or that time pressure makes them more creative. But in fact they do not work best under pressure nor do they turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
  • Some are thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush. There are the avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them. They would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.

Here are 3 ways to manage procrastination (taken from my new program, Tweak™ – the Future of Management):

  1. Eliminate long deadlines for project completion – in the same way that manufacturing ramps up daily production over a longer term (5000 more widgets over 25 days = 200 more widgets per day) you must break down projects into daily steps. This forces the procrastinator to engage NOW! Tomorrow is always the deadline. This way you don’t get blindsided by being too far behind. You can correct immediately.
  2. “Show me what you have so far” pop quiz in public – risks embarrassing the procrastinator. Knowing that you might ask at any time for status reports forces the procrastinator to have something prepared. Always ask for status. Inspect, don’t expect. Procrastinators fear embarrassment. Use this to your advantage.
  3. Deliver consequences and don’t buy excuses – last-minute efforts produce mediocre results at best. If a procrastinator is not pulling his/her weight, take project responsibilities away from them and swap project responsibilities with a good worker. Give the procrastinator’s project responsibilities to the good worker and give good worker’s mundane tasks to procrastinators so that the good worker is not punished by having to pick up the slack.

What are your thoughts on procrastination? What has worked well for you? Leave me your comment below.

Cowards Write Online Reviews September 16, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in #fff, #filterfreefriday, assertiveness, business, communication, complain, corporate culture turnaround specialist, customer relations, Facebook, filter free friday, honesty, kevin burns, keynote speaker, Twitter.
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… when they don’t bring their concerns either by telephone or face-to-face first to those they are trashing.

Look, anyone can write a bad review and many do – especially the cowards who refuse to voice their opinions to the businesses they trash online. It’s so easy to hide behind anonymity. Businesses serve you face-to-face. Businesses ask you how they did face-to-face. What bothers me is when people repond “fine” when asked how everything was and then go home and trash them on the Internet, trash them on Facebook and Twitter and tell their friends to stay away – all unbeknownst to the people who could have corrected the situation, had only something been said.

Filter-Free Fridays™ are the days you step up, grow a spine and honestly (not hurtfully) tell a business how they are doing. If the restaurant meal isn’t right, send it back, don’t lie and pretend everything is OK.

How can a business improve if you won’t tell them what is wrong? Not saying anything and pretending everything is OK is selfish. Yes, I said it is selfish. Because the people who are about to follow you: to order that same meal, to hire that same contractor, to buy from that same car dealer or whatever will now experience the same poor service or product because you were too afraid to tell them it was wrong.

Is it the fault of the business when they get trashed in their reviews? Sure, sometimes it is. But I’m willing to bet money that the vast majority of problems could have been solved if only someone hadn’t grown feathers (turned chicken) and instead offered up an honest critique – face-to-face.

Do it differently starting on Filter-Free Fridays™.

Ask The Right Questions for Filter-Free Friday™ May 20, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in #fff, #filterfreefriday, assertiveness, attitude, attitude speaker, business model, corporate culture, customer relations, filter free friday, kevin burns, keynote speaker, manager.
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make them be better“How was your stay?” That’s the question asked by the hotel clerk as she did other things on the computer. She didn’t even look at me.

“Not very good,” was my response. Suddenly, shocked, she looked at me.

I explained that the Internet connection didn’t work (called the desk the night before), half of the TV channels had picture but no sound and a broken retractor arm on the window allowed the window to be opened but not closed.

The hotel manager approached, apologized and offered me a 1/3 discount on the room.

Then I suggested to him the following: stop asking customers how their stay was, their meal was, their experience was. Customers will answer “fine” so as to not seem to complain. Instead, ask your customers if there is anything that needs attention. Ask restaurant patrons to rate their meal on a scale of 1 to 10. Ask your customers how you can better serve them – especially when they are happy. And then engage them in conversation to find ways to fix it. Stop asking the wrong questions. You look like an amateur.

And customers, stop answering “fine” if you’re asked amateurish questions like these.

The hotel manager thanked me for my suggestion commenting that it was indeed a great question to ask. In essence, I was paid $50 for my suggestion. So far, since Filter-Free Fridaylaunched in March 2010, I am now at over $250 in discounts and freebies. Are you getting this? Companies will pay you to be honest.

Speak up! You save money when you do. On Filter-Free Fridays, make them be better: restaurants, hotels, stores, suppliers, co-workers, whatever. Offer some useful, constructive and non-hurtful advice to help others be better. You will get better as well because you will start noticing things that need to be addressed.

Think about it, had the previous guests at the hotel not been such spineless cowards, the room would have been in perfect condition. Not speaking up is selfish and ruins a great experience for others that follow you.

(Bonus FFF Tip #1 for ladies: don’t you dare tip your hairdresser, say nothing and then go out into your car and start to cry because the stylist messed it up. You speak up and make them fix it. And DO NOT tip them when they do. A tip is not a requirement. A happy customer is.)

(Bonus FFF Tip #2: if you’re on Twitter, tweet your #filterfreefriday or #fff idea to others. Let’s get this movement started. Make them be better.)

Being Liked And Being Respected August 4, 2009

Posted by Kevin Burns in assertiveness, attitude, attitude adjustment, attitude expert, generational differences, kevin burns, keynote speaker, respect.
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How come you don’t say what’s on your mind? How come you hold it in? You want people to like you don’t you? And you’re afraid that if you deal with the stuff that’s been bothering you, then you may not be liked anymore. Well get over it. You don’t need to be liked anyway. Being liked is the chicken’s way out. Given the choice, you should prefer to be respected far more than wanting to be liked. Being liked is the short-term approach whereas being respected is what everyone should be aiming for.

There has been much talk about how one generation seems to perhaps not hold the same amount of respect for others as another generation. It may be true but maybe not. What seems to be true is that everyone wants to be respected regardless of generational differences.

Respecting others means respecting yourself as well. Just rolling over, laying down and taking the beating it is not respectful at all. It is disrespectful to both you as well as to the other person because you are no longer offering them your very best. When you lay down and allow others to run over you, or at the very least, take advantage of you, you are not offering your best. In fact, you are offering your worst and that is terribly disrespectful.

When you hold your frustrations and irritations in, you try to convince yourself that it’s not that bad. But you still end up holding a resentment towards the other person. There is no way for you to be respectful of someone else or work in a positive way with someone with whom you hold any trace of resentment.

So if the office dork (because that’s what you call him – maybe worse) who leaves an empty coffee pot on a burner ticks you off because he doesn’t start a new pot, then don’t hold it in anymore. Take it to him and respectfully (not timidly) tell him that you expect him to offer more respect to the rest of the staff by replenishing the coffee. Maybe he just doesn’t get it because he has a subservient spouse who looks after little things like this. Maybe he’s forty-five years old and still lives with his mom. Either way, you need to teach him a lesson from the adult world – you know, the real adult world where you have your own place to live and you don’t have someone cleaning up your mess for you.

Other employees talk about this guy don’t they? How respectful is it letting other people grumble and whine about this guy behind his back? You’re letting him hang himself out to dry. That’s not respectful at all. Show a little class by telling him what you are all thinking. And if he doesn’t like you anymore because you told him the truth, well that’s OK. You didn’t like him either and you harbored resentment. You are no further behind.

Deal with your squabbles and irritants before they fester into great big issues that can’t be resolved. Respect yourself and others will respect you too. After all, you can’t give respect if you don’t have any for yourself. You can not give away that which you do not possess.

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