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Outstanding! is Different

Friday, September 24th, 2010

QBQ! QuickNote®

Outstanding! is Different

Since “outstanding” means to stand out—and only a few organizations really do—then it makes sense to say that to be outstanding is to be different.

It’s also true that Outstanding!the book—is different. That is, it’s different from my other two. Yet there is commonality.

“This book will do for organizations what QBQ! and Flipping the Switch have done for individuals: Make them better.

John Duff of Penguin/Putnam, publisher of my books (as well as Who Moved My Cheese?) made that remark the day we agreed I’d write Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional. It’s no surprise that an author would agree with a comment like this, right?! And the truth is, our organizations, just like people, can be better. They can even be outstanding.

But this is what it takes:

Effort. Energy. Time. Commitment. Dialogue. Learning. In other words, it takes work.

It also takes content.

Outstanding! has the content. We ask you to do the work. The book is dedicated to “those who care enough to improve the place,” and my hope is … that’s you!

Outstanding! differs from QBQ! and Flipping the Switch (FTS) in that the latter two offer a quickly-applied, life-changing, thought-shifting, behavior-altering, and habit-busting tool that we at QBQ, Inc. call The Question Behind the Question®. (Sorry if that sounds a bit proud, but it’s what we hear from readers!). These books are focused on one core idea (personal accountability) and one person (the reader) and one goal (the reader improving self).

But Outstanding! is focused on many ideas (47 of them, in fact) and the broader goal of improving the organization. This huge difference lends itself not only to more pages (a couple hour read versus 55 minutes for QBQ! and FTS), but requires a different type of engagement with the content. Many individuals read the shorter books and immediately use the material to eliminate Blame, Victim-thinking, and Procrastination from their lives. But with Outstanding! and its goal of making the organization better, collaboration and teamwork are critical.

So, since you and I believe in practicing The Question Behind the Question (QBQ) methodology of asking accountable questions, I pose this friendly challenge to “QBQ! Zealots” everywhere: Ask QBQs such as, “What can I do today to help my organization be outstanding?” and “How can I provide my team the tools to make our organization better?”

These QBQs direct us straight to Outstanding!a book not to talk about, but to talk through, as a team. A manager emailed saying, “I loved the stories, the bite-size chapters, and the 47 commonsense ideas, but Outstanding! really came to life when my staff and I studied it together as a group.” Perfectly put. Outstanding! is a tool for TEAMS—a book to study, explore, and review, chapter by chapter, page by page, idea by idea.

Here’s our recommendation on how to best put Outstanding! to work:

Since true learning occurs during conversation, discussion, and dialogue, picture your department, work group, or team getting together virtually or face-to-face to work on questions like …

“In what ways can we enhance our focus and ‘keep the mission top of mind’?”
“What can be done to ensure we ‘never forget who pays the bills’?”
“Do we strive to ‘work’ or has entitlement thinking crept into our culture?”
“How does the customer win when we ‘make no excuses’?”
“If we don’t ‘forgive mistakes,’ but rather hold grudges between departments, what are the costs?”
“Do we ‘coach moment to moment’ or just annually on Performance Review Day?”
“What will be gained when we commit to ‘seek no culprits’ and strive only to solve problems?”

There are countless questions a team can work through based on the “47 Ways” in Outstanding! I just provided seven based on seven chapter titles (in single quotes). Go ahead, review those questions and envision your team exploring them after reading the related chapter. I promise you, the experience will range from a fun conversation to a spirited debate—but the result will be the same: Learning.

And as we say around here, when there is learning there is change. And that’s a good thing.

Allow me to be plain spoken: Discussion, dialogue, learning, and change require work. Honestly, it doesn’t take much effort to buy a book, read it, loan it out, or give it away. The real work is done when we get together—investing time and energy, risking our own attitudes and actions being challenged—to delve deeply into the content. Therein lies the value of Outstanding! …

… it’s in the work.

And as I said, the Outstanding! book provides the content. You—because you care enough to improve the place—provide the work.

Bottomline, as Dave Ramsey stated in his front cover endorsement of Outstanding!, your colleagues and you will find a “road map” to becoming exceptional, and exceptional is an outstanding place to be.

So be different—do the work and Be Outstanding!®

So, a special offer: Purchase a carton of 12 Outstanding! books at our store and we will email you 47 FREE discussion questions—one for each chapter—for your team to work through. Believe me, it’ll be outstanding!

Click on this link and type the word “questions” into the order form “comments” box:

Thanks much!

John G. Miller
Author of …

Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional
QBQ! The Question Behind the Question®
Flipping the Switch … Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability

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Outstanding! works

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

It’s emails like this that warm the heart of any author:

Hey John:

Just wanted to let you know I picked up “Outstanding” and have not been able to put it down. It has been great reading and even more fun beginning to implement some of the ideas in my second year in Worcester! Thanks for the recommendation. We will be reading QBQ! as a group sometime this year!!!

High School Principal

Thanks to Margaret for deciding it’s good to strive to be outstanding. She knows it’s the best place to be!

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Treat Vendors Like People

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

“Treat Vendors Like People”

Chapter 42 of Outstanding!

Every single day organizations buy all kinds of stuff—from technology systems to cubicles to paper towels—because they need all kinds of stuff to succeed. I believe that the exceptional organizations treat the vendors that provide these wares like customers.

Let’s say you have an outside sales rep calling on your organization—is she a customer of yours? You bet she is. Why? Because, as the 360-Degree Customer Concept says, she has legitimate expectations of you. Expectations such as being listened to, getting paid expeditiously, being treated respectfully, having phone calls and emails returned in a timely manner, and receiving thanks for a job well done. Communication and courtesy are things that people who sell to us want—and deserve.

In the 1950s, American statistician, professor, and lecturer Dr. W. Edwards Deming helped Japanese industry rebuild itself after World War II. From that experience and others, he developed his now famous 14 Points of Management. In point #4, Deming said that organizations should build long-term relationships of loyalty and trust with suppliers. The reason to do so is this: It is good business. No organization can achieve its goals without their suppliers, and a positive, trusting relationship returns more value over time than one that’s focused only on price and terms.

Do you see your vendors as partners—even colleagues—who help you succeed? Or, conversely, are interactions with them adversarial, filled with give-us-a-better-price friction and fill-out-these vendor-docs-in-triplicate demands? How many hoops does your organization make a supplier jump through to be of service? Are your contracts and procurement policies so lopsided they favor only the buyer?

While hammering out a training agreement with the food company Schwan’s, Kim Stephens, a director in their organizational development department, emailed me saying their legal department had “redlined” our document and he was returning it to me for my review. In our email dialogue, I asked a simple question and got back an outstanding answer:

John: “Tell me, is Schwan’s saying no negotiating on the red-line comments that your lawyer made on the contract?”

Kim: “Not at all. If there’s something you don’t agree with, we’ll talk about it. Marvin Schwan’s spirit is still alive here. As he always desired, agreements need to be win-win for both parties.”

Now that’s an organization that knows how to treat the outsider. Take it from a guy who has sold to organizations for many years: It is a real negative for the outsider when an organization makes the buy-sell process arduous and burdensome. On the other hand, when a customer treats a vendor with respect, the supplier’s desire to serve increases many times over. And let’s not forget: Even if someone is offering a product or service we don’t want or need, they still should be told swiftly, in a candid and kind fashion.

Though it’s easy to forget sometimes when we’re on the procurement side of things, vendors deserve to be treated as any of us want to be: as good, hardworking people doing their best each day. Outstanding organizations understand, as did Dr. Deming, that treating vendors like people is not just the right thing to do, it’s good for our organizations.

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Personal Accountability … Bengy Style!

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Personal Accountability … Bengy Style!

Need to buy a car? If so, then here’s where you go:

Mountain States Toyota, Denver, Colorado.

Why? Because they are outstanding!

Ask for Bengy Martinez—the happy salesperson with the big smile (email him at [email protected]). Let me tell you, Bengy is a star. And like every star, he has a supporting cast. In his case, sales manager, Matt Marr, and General Manager, Tim VanBinsbergen.

Some background: My wife, Karen, and I were not planning to buy two new vehicles this year, but a horrific May hailstorm—like none we’ve ever seen in our dozen Denver years—destroyed her Honda Odyssey mini-van and my fav “candy red” Toyota Tacoma longbed!

So, long story short, off to Mountain States we went, because we’d bought there before and have always been treated with dignity and respect. Well, low and behold there was a “pre-owned” (back in the day we called them “used”) Nissan Xterra for me—almost candy red—and another Odyssey van for Karen.

We bought. And all was well.

A few days later, I noticed the Odyssey’s back right tire looking soft, so I put some air in it. Honestly, I never thought much about it, until a June Saturday evening when our 22-year-old son, Michael, drove Mom and Dad to the Denver Int’l Airport to fly out for that long-planned cruise from Seattle to Alaska to celebrate our 30th. It was then on busy Peña Ave.—the only highway into DIA—we heard a “bam!” and a “bonk” and pulled over to find a flat tire. Yep, right side, rear.

Stupid! I thought. Should’ve gotten that tire fixed!

Decision time: Change the tire on the shoulder, call for a tow from the roadside, or try to go two more miles to DIA and let Mike handle it all. But Mike spoke up with, “Come on, Dad, let’s change the tire.”

“Oh, fine.” I responded, with absolutely no heart in it.

But then—wait for it—the problem that would lead to Bengy, Matt, and Tim becoming heroes presented itself.

There was no spare. Nor was there a Honda-specific tool to remove the wheel lugnuts.

My first thought was, I know it’s a used car that we purchased “as is,” but who sells a car with no spare and no lugnut wrench!?!?

So while calling for a tow truck, we limped on to the airport. Once there, we hugged Mike goodbye and headed to our gate. Fun way to begin the trip!

The next day, before we left Port Seattle, I emailed Bengy this note (abbreviated):

“Bengy, we bought the Odyssey from you and it had a bad back right tire from the start which blew out last night as Karen and I were being driven to the airport. We had to have the car towed to our home where it sits. Karen and I are now heading to Alaska and I’d like to ask what can you do for us? It’s not normal to sell an expensive vehicle without a spare and no way to remove the lugnuts, is it!? Thank you!”

After I sent my polite, frustration-laced note, I feared Bengy and Cast had only three choices:

1. Apathy. Do nothing.

2. Point fingers at the prior owner who kept the spare tire or at the “other department” who took the car into the dealership and didn’t check for a spare. And then do nothing.

3. Do something to help us, but charge us.

I did not really think there was a fourth choice, but that’s what outstanding organizations and people are all about:

Surprising and delighting the customer!

This, of course, causes the customer to send out a QBQ! QuickNote to 28,574 people. It also prevents customers from firing the organization!

So there we were, enjoying life on the “high seas” while the problem back in Colorado was getting solved. As Mountain States Toyota moved fast to excel, son Michael later texted me a suggestion: “Dad, you should write this story up as a QuickNote!” As a father, just that observation makes me proud, because we can’t be outstanding, till we can see outstanding. I’m glad he saw it.

So, what was Bengy’s solution? Mid week, a tow truck was sent 18 miles to our home to pick up the car, tow it to the shop, and repair the tire. Cool, right? But then, on that Saturday night, Bengy, the sales guy, personally drove Karen’s van to our home, parking it in our driveway. When we arrived home Sunday, there it was—ready for “Mom use.”

The next day, joyful, helpful Bengy told me, “Finding your house in the dark out in the boonies was not an easy trick. I bet I passed it five times before I knew it was yours! But, no biggie—glad we got it to you!”

That’s Bengy, a happy guy who loves to serve—and sell cars. And that’s a good thing, since most of us need one.

Oh, and guess what? I later found out that the Odyssey model we have does not come equipped with a spare. This makes Mountain States’ actions even more impressive. Clearly, they could’ve said, “Sorry, not our problem!”

So, do you need a car? If so, go to Bengy and see what personal accountability and outstanding service look like wrapped in a really big smile.

John G. Miller
Author of …

QBQ! The Question Behind the Question®
Flipping the Switch … Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability
Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional

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Outstanding! Happens in Moments

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

QBQ! QuickNote®

Outstanding Happens in Moments

Our QuickNote story is from Antonio in Indiana, an Outstanding! reader.

John, I ordered Outstanding! the minute it was released, and have applied the principles to my personal and professional life. My staff has done the same—and we have seen our business move in an outstanding direction. So, I want to share an “outstanding” story with you that I experienced!

I phoned in a “carry out” lunch order to our local McAlister’s Deli for two grilled chicken salads. The gal on the phone told me they would be ready in five minutes. When I arrived ten minutes later the place was packed with a line of customers reaching the sidewalk.

Slipping up to the counter, I learned from the cashier my order had gotten lost. She apologized for the mistake and told me she’d resubmit it “priority” status. When I moved to the side to wait, the Be Outstanding! Moments began.

Be Outstanding! Moment #1:

As she continued to take orders, the cashier offered me a drink on the house. She had already addressed my problem, but rather than ignore me waiting in the wings, she made sure I did not feel forgotten.

Be Outstanding! Moment #2:

Not more than two minutes later the manager came by and apologized. I never even asked to see the manager about this issue. It just wasn’t that big of a deal!

Be Outstanding! Moment #3:

The manager gave me two complementary meal cards for my next visit, saying, “Please come back and see us again. Next time we’ll get it right.” He offered no excuses about being busy or some “trainee” making a mistake.

Be Outstanding! Moment #4:

The manager started walking up and down the line of patrons. I wondered what he was doing. When he got closer I was able to hear for myself: He was taking drink orders for people and apologizing for the wait. The manager himself was out with the customers. The most outstanding part was nobody was complaining! He was doing this, I assume, because he knows it’s the right way to treat his customers.

Be Outstanding! Moment #5:

My order was ready. After grabbing it and heading toward the door, I realized I had not paid. When I turned and asked the cashier for my total, she said, “Don’t worry about it; your lunch is on us today!”

John, every action I saw them take was designed to avoid what you write about in Outstanding! where you say, “People fire organizations.” Not wanting their customers to vote with their dollar and go somewhere else the next time they’re hungry, this organization went the extra mile at every turn.

Not only do I intend to continue giving McAlister’s Deli my business, I have told countless people about my positive experience. The fact they lost my order is the furthest thing from my mind. That stuff happens. It’s how an organization reacts to their mistakes that will determine if it is “Outstanding!”

Antonio, you’ve said it well. Organizations do not become outstanding overnight. Nor do they fail in a day. Outstanding moments lead to outstanding experiences which lead to the building of outstanding organizations. Remember to make the moments exceptional.

And, if you believe in exceptional customer service, enjoy this week’s guest on the Be Outstanding! show. Lisa Ford is a delight—as well as an expert in this arena. Our next show will be up Monday May 3rd and features author and life coach, Dan Miller. If you’re still looking for the “work you love”—tune in!

Lastly, on a personal note, my wife of thirty years, Karen, and I became grandparents last week! Yep, our oldest of seven—Kristin Lindeen—and my speaker colleague here at QBQ, Inc., gave birth to Joshua. And believe me, he is an outstanding little guy in every way!

John G. Miller
Author of …

QBQ! The Question Behind the Question®
Flipping the Switch … Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability
Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional

Twitter: QBQGUY
Facebook: TheQBQ

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QuickNotes: Outstanding Ownership

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Outstanding Ownership
Please forward to your teams and colleagues as this QuickNote provides excellent lessons in both bad service and Outstanding Ownership!

John, my company required 40 cell phones and a bunch of new equipment so I contacted our carrier. After installation, we started having trouble with dropped calls. I called my sales rep and he said that he’d begin “testing the system” to find the problem. A week later I had to call him again and he told me they couldn’t find any problem with the system and blamed me—the customer—saying, “You must be using the equipment incorrectly.” After several more calls, he became frustrated with me and turned it all over to his supervisor to whom I had to re-explain the problem. She then started from scratch and began to “test the system” again! Two weeks and several calls later—after plenty of my time being wasted—the supervisor decided that since our tech issues were basically in one state and we had purchased the equipment in another, she would pass our problem on to another department to handle.

Then a service rep visited our site because they couldn’t find any problems “in the system.” He proceeded to tell me that, “You bought the wrong equipment”—even though it was recommended by their own sales rep! He then said they would swap out the equipment at no charge, but we’d need additional equipment to make everything run more smoothly—and there would be a charge for the upgraded product.

I said, “Thanks, but no thanks!” and never heard from anyone again.

Two months later we were having the same problems. I called them again. After several conversations the service tech stopped returning my calls, so I went online and looked up other offices representing their firm in my state. I picked one randomly and sent them an e-mail outlining our problems—and I thought that would be the end of that!

Imagine my surprise the next day when I received a call from John Smith (yes, his real name). Mr. Smith apologized for the problems we were experiencing and said he would get the problem resolved. The next call I received was him stating that they would replace everything we’d bought with upgraded equipment at no charge. Within two weeks we were up and running with new equipment: problem solved! Mr. Smith then called to ensure that everything he had promised had been delivered—and assured me if I had any other concerns he would do whatever it took to rectify the situation.

I believed him.

I don’t know if John Smith has read QBQ!, Flipping the Switch, or Outstanding!—but he certainly demonstrated the values taught in your books. He clearly asked The Question Behind the Question, “What can I do to serve?” which lead to action that solved the customer’s problem in a timely manner with no excuses! Bottom line, one person saved our relationship with this carrier.

Tom P.

Tom, great example of Outstanding! Ownership and the power of one. When one person cares enough to say, “I will own the problem!” great things can happen. Now that is personal accountability! In fact, that’s outstanding!

Please share your story of Outstanding Ownership here on this blog. The best anecdotes will win a free Outstanding! book. Thanks for contributing!

John G. Miller
Author of …
QBQ! The Question Behind the Question®
Flipping the Switch … Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability
Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional?

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“Coaching, Moment to Moment” discussion

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Today we sent out a QBQ! QuickNote on coaching, along with our short YouTube video. Please comment here by sharing with us your example of “The Best Coaching Moment Ever” and/or “The Worst Coaching Moment Ever”! The best examples, in our humble opinion, will win an autographed Outstanding! book by John G. Miller!

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John G. Miller on Coaching!

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Meet “Nug the Pug” and hear a few ideas on parenting/coaching. Is there a difference? :-)

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“Outstanding!” interview with John G. Miller

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

A quick 4 minute overview of “Outstanding!” with John G. Miller on a Phoenix, AZ radio station. Enjoy!

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Let’s hire the RIGHT people!

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Enjoy this article! We have a chapter on this in the new Outstanding! book too. This online article I wrote was the”germ” for the book chapter.

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