Category Archives: Top 5

Top 5 Customer Service Skills You Can Use in Your Everyday Life

We believe customer service is more than a mindset. It’s more than the skills to make a sale or fix a problem.

Customer service is about maintaining healthy relationships that are mutually beneficial for everyone involved. You can improve your customer service at work and at home. Here are five places to start:

Empathy. Try to connect with and relate to the people in your life – from your friend Tim to your Great Aunt Tina. Putting yourself in their shoes and understanding how they feel can make all the difference when they seek your help or input.

Responsibility. Hold yourself responsible for maintaining your personal and professional relationships. If a problem arises, simply having the ability to say “I’m sorry” and “Let me try to fix it” can help ease tension and demonstrate that you’re willing to take responsibility for misunderstandings or mistakes.

Communication. Clear communication is one of the best ways to ensure that both parties understand each other’s needs. And listen up! By listening to someone, not just doing the talking, you’re actually taking the time to hear them. Asking questions can also make them feel valued and respected.

Creativity. Break up your normal, routine decisions. Collaborate with new colleagues at work or discover a random activity to do with your family. Simple choices like these exercise your creative mind, which comes into play when you need to solve a problem or simply keep boredom at bay.

Positivity. A good attitude shows others that you’re truly motivated to be there for them, which helps the other four tips also fall into place. You’ve got this!

Top 5 Ways to Find Joy During Quarantine

Spending more time at home over the past few months has been an interesting journey for many of us. Straying from our daily routines and being distanced from friends and family can leave us feeling isolated, stir-crazy, and anxious. Here are our top five things you can do to bring a little more joy to your quarantine:

1. Take a free online class. There are countless resources available online to learn (or hone) a new skill or hobby like yoga, painting, dancing, or cooking. Taking a one-time course or series of courses can provide you with a tangible goal to accomplish, all within the comfort of your own living room (or kitchen, or studio, or garage…).

2. Cook your favorite meal. Perhaps you miss a certain dish from your favorite restaurant, or maybe you haven’t had your aunt’s famous chicken noodle soup in a few months. Now is the perfect time to gather the ingredients and settle in for a delicious meal – and maybe learn a thing or two while you’re at it!

3. Donate to a local food pantry. With so many people in need right now, there has never been a better time to give. This is also a great way to stay engaged and connected with your community.

4. Perform a random act of kindness. If you’ve ever been in line at a drive-through and had the person in front of you pay for your meal, you know how wonderful that can feel. Random acts of kindness often spur a chain reaction, which can make a whole lot of people feel joy – it can even change a person’s entire day. This can even be as simple as paying someone a compliment!

5. Take a break from social media. Studies have shown that social media can lead to depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has already intensified these feelings, so disconnecting even for one day has the potential to help improve your mood and help you stay fully present in the moment.

Top 5 Ways to Manage Through Change

Change is inevitable. But as the global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us in very real ways, we’ve faced significant change within our personal and professional lives. We compiled a few ideas to help us manage through it, and – dare we say it – experience healthy growth as a result.

1. Self-reflect. Introspection is spending intentional time examining your own thoughts and emotions. It can help you grow your understanding of who you are, who you’d like to be, why you made certain decisions, or why you feel specific emotions. Self-reflection enables you to move from just experiencing to understanding during times of change.

2. Connect with others. Human connection is vital to our overall wellbeing. We’re wired to regularly hold fulfilling interactions and conversations with others. Feeling connected can also reinforce a support system, motivate you, and reduce stress. This can be as simple as reaching out for a regular “pulse check” with your friends or teammates, even if it’s from a distance through video chat.

3. Ease up. You may feel a little out of control or overwhelmed when things change. You may feel like you are not living up to your expectations or that your mind is moving too fast to keep up. Ease up on yourself. We once read a great tip to use when things feel like they’re spiraling out of control – it’s to return to the present. Wherever you are, take a moment to identify a few tangible things around you and recognize that in the present moment, you’re breathing and you’re in control. A small step to feeling better.

4. Focus on positive outcomes. Change presents us with the opportunity to grow, so it’s important to acknowledge the things that have improved around us. Write down a few ways this season of change has impacted you for the better. You may surprise yourself with how many you can list!

5. Stay optimistic. Ultimately, it’s important to see the future through a lens of optimism. We couldn’t have said it better than Simon Sinek: “Optimism is different than positive – and it’s definitely not naive. Optimism is the belief that the future is positive, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we’re heading there, together.”

Top 5 Productivity Tips for Remote Workers

With more people working remotely from home than ever before, we’re all finding ways to navigate this “new normal” and remain committed to our work. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up:

  1. Establish Your Space: If you don’t have a dedicated workspace, your entire house will end up becoming your office. Take time to create a clean and organized area for work, even if it’s at the dining room table. Setting a few boundaries with family can minimize distractions when you’re in your spot. If not, invest in some noise-cancelling headphones.
  2. Set Your Hours. By now you’re probably starting to see patterns in your productivity. While you should always be available for workday meetings, a flexible schedule may help you maintain your momentum. Create a (manager-approved) schedule that works for you, then stick with it!
  3. Keep Connecting. Talk to someone every day, but not just about work. Regular communication among team members is necessary to keep projects moving forward. However, ensuring that your coworkers feel engaged is just as important. To create an even better connection, share your video – and your smile!
  4. Prioritize… Then Unplug. Many managers fear their employees will slack off without oversight. In fact, remote workers tend to have a really hard time disconnecting. Challenge yourself with small goals each day to maintain productivity. Just be sure to take your time off seriously too, or you’ll risk burnout.
  5. Take Care of You. Most people aren’t productive in their pajamas. Take time to shower and put on clean “work clothes” (a slouchy tee is fine) before opening your laptop. Eat healthy meals, drink plenty of water, replace your commute with an afternoon walk, and get plenty of sleep. When you feel your best, it’s much easier to maintain a positive perspective.

Top 5 Tips for Giving Effective Feedback

Giving feedback to another employee can be very difficult. However, it’s also an essential part of building successful teams. If an individual knows where they need to improve, it can help them grow within their role. Here are our tips for making those discussions a more positive experience:

  1. Choose an appropriate time and place. When delivering feedback be sure to leave enough time to discuss the issue without feeling rushed. Choosing a more relaxed environment can be helpful in less formal situations, while potentially difficult conversations should usually be addressed in an office or meeting room. Never give “negative” feedback in public.
  2. Start with questions. Because you never know another person’s situations or intentions, it’s best to start the dialog with questions rather than statements. This approach also creates a two-way interaction which can result in more positive outcomes.
  3. Be prepared. Identify your goals for the conversation and what you hope to achieve. Take time to consider both the employee’s successes, as well as any weaknesses, along with specific examples. Write them down to keep the discussion on track.
  4. Focus on the goal. Effective feedback will encourage problem-solving rather than forcing an employee to change. Make it clear you’re not trying to “fix” them, you’re trying to develop them. By focusing on behaviors and how they impact the team, the employee may be more receptive to development.
  5. Don’t sugarcoat it. In an attempt to be kind, we often soften difficult feedback by downplaying it or “sandwiching” it between two compliments. This can dilute your concern to the point that it’s not even heard. Instead, be direct and assertive — then discuss ways to reach a positive, actionable solution together.

Top 5 Ways to Develop Yourself

If one of your goals for 2020 is to see a better you, you’ll first have to do a little bit of growing. Self-development takes time and energy, but if you’re committed to improving, you’ll notice profound results — both in your personal life and at work! Here are our tips for developing yourself:

  1. Understand what’s driving you. Self-development requires internal motivation, so it often helps to pinpoint what’s at the root of your desire for improvement. So, take an honest look at who you are, how you’re wired, and what you want to get out of the journey.
  2. Get to know the people around you. A simple starting point is to ask questions! There is likely someone down the hall or on your team whose job seems interesting to you. Ask them about it! Networking is vital in any healthy career, so put your name and face in the minds of influencers.
  3. Isolate a particular skill to master. Someone wise once told us: “We can do anything, but we can’t afford to do everything.” When you’re tackling self-development, it’s impossible to do it all at once. If you focus on just one skill for a certain amount of time (developing better listening behaviors, for example), you’ll be more in tune with your progress along the way.
  4. Craft a plan. After you isolate a skill to develop, consider 1) practical ways to apply and improve that skill, and 2) a realistic timeframe for making progress. What is your end goal in 6 months? In 1 year? You can always adjust your plan, but try to keep your sights on the end goal.
  5. Get comfortable with discomfort. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: True change happens outside of your comfort zone. If you want to develop, you’re going to have to face a little discomfort. Challenge yourself to take on tasks or assignments that stretch the limits of your abilities.

Top 5 Tips to (Actually) Reach Your Goals

We all have goals in life — both personal and professional. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to gather up the motivation to make that first step toward reaching them. Here are our favorite ways to set yourself up for success:

1. Be realistic. Those lofty goals may seem motivating at first, but can quickly become overwhelming. Try setting smaller, more attainable objectives to boost your morale and keep you moving toward success.

2. Use the Five-A-Day Rule. Develop a pattern of consistently completing five small tasks each day toward your goals. Small steps will eventually add up to big wins!

3. Take care of yourself. When you’re stressed out and overworked it’s difficult to focus. Make your health (and your sanity) a priority in any goal plan.

4. Keep score. Recording your wins can add to the competition, especially when you’re counting down the clock. If it helps, make a visual chart to keep yourself on track until the finish line.

5. Join forces. Sharing goals with a friend may add some pressure, but accountability can be a great thing. Encourage them to share theirs too — then celebrate each success together!

Top 5 Ways to Relax Over the Holidays

We’ve worked really hard this year, but a bit of downtime with loved ones — or even some time to yourself — will leave you feeling energized, refreshed, and excited to take on 2020. We asked a few of our employees to share their favorite ways to relax as we head into the holiday season. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Spend time in the kitchen…. or outdoors. I enjoy cooking dinner with my family — especially when we get to experiment with new ingredients. I’m also an avid hunter. Hopefully, we’ll have a nice duck to roast before the new year! Matt Haas, Materials Planner

2. Go fishing! It becomes a competition between my husband and I to see who can catch the most or largest fish. Usually he out-fishes me, but there are a few occasions when I get the victory. Boy do I rub it in! Melissa McAskill, Human Resources Manager, Ennis Spring

3. Cheer on your family. I relax by watching my kids sporting events (just maybe not when I’m loudly suggesting they play better defense). It takes my thoughts away from whatever else is consuming them and allows me to be present in that moment. Susan Lee, Sr. Credit Manager II – Remote Specialist

4. Stretch yourself… literally. I really enjoy yoga as a way to relax.  In addition to the physical benefits, it’s a great way to decompress after a stressful day. Ashly Farmer, Paralegal & Billing Administrator

5. Do nothing. For me, relaxation is a lazy, Saturday morning in bed with my family — coffee cup in hand, of course! Chris Cochran, Human Resources Manager, Logistics

Top 5 Tips for a Memorable Holiday Meal

The holidays are all about spending quality time with friends and family — often while gathered around plates of delicious food. However, feeding a crowd can take know-how and a tiny bit of courage. Sue Balcom, our Food Services Supervisor, has both. She leads a team of 5 dedicated food service staff who prepare meals for up to 500 employees a day, and cater around 300 corporate events per year!

We asked Sue to share her best advice for planning a holiday dinner. These tips will make your meal more memorable — and will leave you smiling once you find your seat at the table too.

1. Keep it simple. This isn’t the time to experiment with new, complicated dishes. When planning, select easy recipes with basic ingredients you can source locally. Driving all over town in search of a rare spice or out-of-season produce will quickly drain your holiday spirit.

2. Plan and prep. Leftovers are much better than running out of food. Find out how many guests you will be serving and plan for a 4 oz. portion of each food per person. Make your grocery lists carefully so you only end up at the store once. Then peel, chop, and prep anything you can ahead of time. This will leave you with more time to mingle once your guests arrive. “I like to prepare as much as I can a couple days ahead, especially my pies,” says Sue. “I just bake them that day, so they are fresh.”

3. Include family favorites. Tried-and-true traditional dishes are a must. For Sue, they include creamy corn casserole and baked sweet potatoes. These recipes are generally less stressful in the kitchen and can be sentimental to your guests. Consider creating a family cookbook to record those memories.

4. Have plenty of options… and a few surprises. “I like to make two entrees,” shares Sue. “That way I know everyone will have an option they enjoy.” She also recommends including a unique vegetarian dish — and finds that usually guests will all try it. If others want to contribute, ask them to bring a special side dish. This allows you to try something new too!

5. Treat your guests! Pies, cakes, and pastries are a sweet way to end any special meal. Sue takes it one step further and sends everyone home with a special jar of her homemade jam.

Top 5 Tips to Coach for Performance

For many professionals, the end of the year means performance review season. It’s also the perfect time for coaching – when a leader facilitates the development of an employee.

We asked our coaching expert, Rob Sotlar, to provide his thoughts on the topic. Rob first reminded us that coaching is about collaboration, working together to find a solution, and increasing awareness. It’s not about giving advice or telling an employee how to solve a problem. A coach should be considered a “guide on the side.”

Here are Rob’s Top 5 Tips on Coaching for Performance:

1. Be a good listener. Effective listening is critical for a successful coaching engagement. Listen to identify and then facilitate self-discovery. Do not listen to respond. Remember, you’re a guide on the side.

2. Assist with analysis. This is a biggie. It’s important in the goal creation phase of coaching and during each coaching session. Facilitate a conversation that enables your employee to identify their area(s) of focus. A personal SWOT Analysis is a great tool.

3. Ask questions (a lot of ‘em). Ask the right questions and help your employee realize what they need to do, without telling them. When your employee comes to their own solution, they are more like to take accountability and own the outcome. The GROW Model is a wonderful tool to use here.

4. Hold them accountable. This is a simple, yet crucial conversation to have with your employee. Did they achieve their goal, and why or why not? What part did they play in achieving (or not achieving) the goal? Facilitate the employee stepping through the process to identify successes and opportunities.

5. Provide real feedback. This may be tough for some, but it is essential for a successful coaching engagement. When providing feedback, be specific and focus on facts (the things you can hear and see). Real feedback is often not comfortable for the receiver, but it’s a tool that will enable serious growth.