Villing & Company

Holiday Lessons for the Workplace

Packing up the last of my Christmas decorations, I found myself reflecting on the highlights of the season's festivities and making mental notes of what to repeat or change for next year. The other half of my attention was on upcoming professional commitments and jumping back into a regular work schedule. I realized there were a few parallels between my plans to improve next year's holiday season and my approach to providing excellent client service in 2012.

For most of us, some sort of gift exchange is a big part of the holiday. There are always helpful family members who give you a list. I actually appreciate this input and try to get people what they ask for. However, the lists provided this year were a little thin so I was forced to come up with ideas on my own. In the spirit of avoiding those TV commercial moments where little Janet gets yet another hideous sweater from Aunt Louise, I worked very hard to make my improvised gifts thoughtful and unique to the individual. As packages were opened and words of gratitude exchanged, I found that my well thought out add-on gifts were the favorites and were actually more appreciated than those from their lists.

My client service parallel? Just doing what you're asked to will get the job done, but won't necessarily show initiative or creativity. When you are given an assignment or asked to complete a project it's certainly important to meet the stated objectives. But if you always stop there you're not really providing the added value that can build long term partnerships. As with a shopping budget, there are time and cost factors to consider.  However, effectively identifying when a complementary idea or alternate avenue is relevant and beneficial for your client is a hallmark of great client service. A cautionary note. No one wants their original list ignored or sidestepped. When you look for ways to go above and beyond, it truly needs to be just that – above and beyond the expected.

Something else I want to change next year is my family's pattern for the holidays: lunch here, evening together there and dinner somewhere else. Our traditional routine has worked fine , but I think it's time to shake it up a bit.

I relate this to my professional life as a reminder to never fall into the "if it ain't broke" mentality. I'm certainly not advocating change just for the sake of change. That's never productive and can often be disruptive. But at the same time, comfort zones left unchecked can lead to complacency and a lack of creativity. I need to force myself to periodically review the processes and work patterns I've established and see if they still make sense. Are my current communication patterns with clients the most effective way to get things done? Is that monthly report even looked at by anyone?  If I could carve out time to devote to a new activity, what would be my payoff? Maybe things are fine as is. But if they're not, I want to identify what needs to change. What I certainly do not want is for a client to have to point it out to me.

So as I begin the new year, I appreciate not only the special holiday time I was able to spend with family, but also the time to reflect on improvements in the workplace. Here's looking at a great 2012.

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Villing & Company

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