Some Things Never Change

STNC-bookI speak to over 100 groups per year both public and private. There are four types of people that come to seminars; Tourists, it’s better to be there than at work; The graduate, they already know everything (they think!) they come to see for sure; The “captive”, there against their will, it usually takes about one quarter of the day for them to warm up; and finally, the student. This person loves learning. They will get the most out of the seminar.

The key is will any one the attendees do anything with what they have learned?

People attend seminars to get better at work or in their personal lives. I’m sure you have heard this saying, “knowledge is power”. That is actually only partly right. Knowledge is power if you do something with it. Most people that learn new information through books, tapes, seminars or hanging around knowledgeable people don’t ever change because they don’t have enough mental strength or self discipline to change the undesirable “habits” they have acquired in their life.

Even though our world is all about “Change” I believe there are things in life that NEVER CHANGE.

  1. Having weekly, monthly and annual GOALS to set you in the right direction.
  2. Learning how to be a better COMMUNICATOR and LISTENER, 90% of what goes wrong at home or work is poor communication skills.
  3. Having SELF CONFIDENCE and strong self esteem to help get you through the tough times.
  4. TIME MANAGEMENT, there is no such thing as mental “multi tasking”
  5. STRESS CONTROL, the number 1 killer in the work place today
  6. CHANGE, Mark Twain once said “nobody likes to be changed except a wet baby”. Everyone has to learn to deal with this.

These “6 things” are the topics of a new three hour “key note” program that I have titled “Some Things Never Change”.

Make Your Business Writing Pop by Steve Milano

Dave-Oakes-Seminars-blogMake Your Business Writing Pop!
By Steve Milano

Steve Milano has been writing for newspapers, magazines, businesses, associations and Web sites for more than 25 years, including “Entrepreneur,” “Sports Illustrated for Kids Parents’ Playbook,” “Fit” and “Business Development Outlook.” He has taught business writing as an adjunct professor and private lecturer. Steve is also a consultant with Dave Oakes Seminars.
In business writing, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. You may provide the exact information you want your customers and potential clients to have, but if you present it in the wrong order or from the wrong perspective, they may not receive the message you intended.

In addition to your writing technique, the format on which your writing will be displayed can affect your message. Verbiage that works well for a letter may not be effective for a Web page, and might be deleted without being read if the reader gets it via e-mail.

Below are a few tips to help your writing pop, and get your message read:

#1 – Consider Your Format
Keep written letters to one page, if possible. Break information into short paragraphs of no more than three to four sentences, with each paragraph containing only one idea. Keep Web copy brief. Successful Internet content producers require their writers to keep articles less than 500 words. Don’t provide details in e-mails. Send one- or two-sentence e-mails that tease people enough to want them to go to your Web page for information. Use e-mails to get people to click on links, not to act.

#2 – Consider Your Lead
The first sentence of your letter, report or memo is critical in determining whether or not your readers will finish reading your message. Don’t talk about your company, product or service. Speak to the reader by identifying a problem or need they have so they’ll want to continue reading to find the solution to their problems.

#3 – Talk About Benefits
Car makers don’t emphasize fuel injection, drive train warranty or other mechanical features in their advertising. They sell reliability, affordability, status, sex appeal or other benefits. They save the specifics for additional support. Sell the benefits of your product or service first.

#4 – Use The Active Voice
“If you use our product, lower costs can be obtained,” is not as strong as, “You will lower your costs using our products.” Use active verbs to make a point.

#5 – Omit Needless Words
Check each word of your copy before you submit it to see which words don’t add any value. Change, “ABC Co. is the state of Georgia’s largest distributor,” to “ABC Co. is Georgia’s largest distributor.” Change, “We have no plans to discontinue our policy at the current time,” to “We have no plans to discontinue our policy.”

#6 – Read Your Work Aloud
One of the most effective ways to proof your work is to read it out loud. When you write something, it’s easy to skip over errors visually. When you read your work, you WILL stumble over and catch awkward phrases.

The Glue of a Customer Service Team

Dave-Oakes-Seminars-blogTeamwork is a key part of customer service. Even though you work hard individually, you are part of an organization that relies on each other. There are 5 components of winning teams:

  • Trust
  • Proactivity
  • Communication
  • Practice
  • Loyalty

The most vital part of a customer service team is Loyalty.
According to Webster’s Dictionary loyalty is defined as “Being faithful to a person, ideal, custom, homeland or government.” Loyalty is wound into every fabric of our lives; customer loyalty, job loyalty, school loyalty, loyalty to a spouse, sports team, diet, fitness program and on and on.

If you are going to be a top performer, there can be no question about your loyalty in three areas. You must be loyal to yourself, to those with whom you live and work, and to your organization. That encompasses every customer imaginable.

To be loyal to yourself, you must work to maintain a healthy self-image. This is not an over inflated ego or the kind of self-confidence that “generally occurs just before we really understand the situation.” Loyalty to yourself means looking for the evidence that supports why you should believe in you.

“You cannot consistently perform in a manner which is inconsistent with the way in which you see yourself.” I cannot stress too much the importance of “seeing” yourself successfully completing your daily tasks. Do you think the heavyweight boxing champion of the world goes into the ring questioning his ability? Absolutely not. Drew Brees, Super Bowl Champion of the New Orleans Saints does not step into the huddle and timidly ask for advice from his teammates!! Rafael Nadal expects to win all of his tennis matches. Tiger Woods expects to be the top money winner on the professional golf tour

Believing in yourself and being loyal to yourself will help you move toward becoming the best at winning new customers. When I say that loyalty to your organization is important, I do not mean you should accept every thought that comes from upper management as if it had come from above and is written in stone. No one expects you to leap with joy when the commission structure has been changed so that there is more for the company and less for you. You may not be overjoyed with management when the working hours are changed and you are allowed to work more hours for the same or less pay. Loyalty to your organization means handling these aggravations in the proper manner. For example not complaining about your areas of concern over coffee with a co-worker who has no authority to change the situation. You do not identify internal problems externally–meaning to someone outside your organization. The person who takes either of these avenues becomes a cancer to the organization. As you know, a cancer is a cell that lives within the body independently of the other cells of the body, and unless it is removed it will eventually lead to the death of the body.

How, then, should the loyal employee manage the situation? The proper method of handling any situation that concerns you is to take the “problem identified” to someone who has the authority to handle the situation. Present it and several “potential solutions” for consideration. If after a realistic amount of time the company takes action on your recommendations or another satisfactory solution, you should congratulate yourself for working from within the organization to make it stronger.

However, if after a realistic amount of time the company fails to take action to change the situation, you have two options; 1) shut up 2) move on. There are no other options! Loyalty to the company is important, but the other side of the coin is that management and the corporation owe that same loyalty to their people.

Here are six tips to help us all be more loyal.

  1. Make yourself lighter to lift. Be upbeat and likable.
  2. Be a good listener. Customers like to talk about themselves, acommodate them.
  3. Accept human deficiencies and limitations; nobody is perfect.
  4. Find qualities to like and admire about others.
  5. When you disagree, remember, you can disagree without being disagreeable.
  6. And number 6……….practice courtesy. It makes people feel better

Loyalty, very simply, is the desire to help customers (even CO-workers) become successful in any or all areas of life. And there are many different types of success. You CAN get what you want if you first help enough other people get what they want.



Without speaking a word, people convey a tremendous amount of information about themselves and their attitude toward you. Body language is a universal language that goes beyond the intellect and the spoken word to reveal the depths of people’s feelings. Once you have become a skilled body language observer, you can use your knowledge to 1) pick up people’s nuances and gestures; 2) respond to them in ways that will put them at ease; and 3) consciously use body language to make your communication more effective.


The feelings conveyed by body language are fleeting. They go by like the frames of a movie. Fortunately, they are easy to spot and are generally repeated often.

Observing body language is second nature for most people. But to use it to your advantage, you must make the observation conscious, which means concentrating on the person you’re talking to. Of course, you do this anyway if you are practicing active listening, which you are aren’t you?
The areas to watch are the hands, arms, face, eyes, legs and the combination of movements between these areas. Facial expressions convey a lot, as do posture and eye contact.


Observing one gesture is almost meaningless. Someone rubbing his eyes can simply have itchy eyes. The key to interpreting body language is to observe clusters of gestures. If someone is rubbing his eyes, pulling an ear, tapping a foot, looking around the room, and shifting uneasily in his chair, there is a good chance he is bored, nervous or frustrated. Careful observation will make the difference. When you do notice these clusters, it’s time for you to do something different.


First, ask yourself how the observed clusters compare to this person’s usual way of behaving. Some people always have poor eye contact. Some people always act aloof. Try not to jump to conclusions. You have to either observe people for a while or know them well before you can interpret their body language infallibly.

Second, get feedback on your hunches. If someone’s behavior has changed, ask a nonthreatening question to find out if you are the reason. You might say, “I hear you saying yes, but I get the impression that something else is on your mind. Would you mind sharing it with me?”

Last, remember what causes people to be comfortable. Some people may get nervous until you reassure them they are doing the right thing. Others react negatively to too much enthusiasm. You have to know when to tone it down and be more subtle.


To be effective listeners we must involve the whole body.

Not only are our ears tuned in, but so are our eyes, our minds (the intellect),
our bodies, our hearts and our intuition. Good listeners give both nonverbal and verbal signals that they are listening.
A “whole body” listener tunes in by

  • Conveying a positive encouraging attitude
  • Sitting in a attentive posture
  • Remaining alert, but comfortable
  • Nodding in acknowledgment of the speakers words
  • Making good eye contact
  • Listening between the lines
  • Looking like a listener

If you have complete rapport you will naturally match the speaker’s physical movements, tone of voice, vocabulary and breathing patterns. Good listeners are in sensory balance with the speaker.
According to Albert Mehrabian, a noted expert in human behavior, our communication is 55 percent body language, 25 percent inflection and tone and only 20 percent words. Then most of the message is seen and sensed, and the words are far less important than the nonverbal cues and tone of voice.
Think about your personal mannerisms and behaviors. Do you have any of the following habits that would distract or confuse a speaker?

  • Fidgeting
  • Blinking
  • Biting your lip
  • Frowning deeply
  • Playing with your hair, tie or jewelry
  • Looking at your watch
  • Staring

Stop for a moment and think about these behaviors. Would they distract you if you were the one speaking? If your answer is yes, you need to find a way to modify your behavior.


Talking to the Media?

* Prepare. If you are the right person to answer the journalist’s questions, think of the one or two main points or responses that you want to get across before entering the interview. Have relevant facts at your fingertips. Resist the temptation – or pressure – to reply at once. Ask “Is there anything else you need to know?” Make a note of the questions. Once you fully understand the story, ask yourself: “Do I know the issues well enough to make an informed comment right away?” If you want to check your facts, have a word with someone or just think about the issues; do not feel you have to answer immediately. You should, particularly for the broadcast media, think about summarizing the issue into a few simple key points.

* Call back quickly. Media are generally under tight deadlines, and the earlier you respond, the more likely it will be that you will be included in the story. Make sure you call the journalist back before the deadline, even if it’s just to explain an unforeseen obstacle. A missed deadline is a missed story. Alternatively, the story could still be used but may report that you were unavailable for comment, implying indifference or defensiveness.

* Handling a tough situation. If you know you are being asked about a very controversial issue, ask your own questions. Say: “I know you can’t reveal your sources but can you give me an idea how you knew this was happening?” Try to find out who else the journalist has spoken to – you may get an idea of the angle of the story. If a journalist quotes something particularly inflammatory, don’t react. Make a note of it for your own response.

* Be ready to explain the issue carefully and patiently. While reporters, particularly specialist reporters, may have a good knowledge of the background, do not assume this. Respect the fact that they know a good story and are interested in what you do. If you can, offer to send the information to them, ideally by fax.

* Listen. Make sure you know what question you are answering. Sometimes the question itself can suggest appropriate ways to focus or phrase an answer.

* Get to the point. Capture the essence of what you want to say in the first one or two sentences of your response, and add details later.

* Keep it simple. Most journalists are looking for clear, simple quotes that can be understood by a wide audience.


Need to be Perfect?


Have to do everything perfectly–even leisure related activities
Drive away others who don’t live up to your “perfect” standard
Avoid things you’re not good at because you fear failure


Distinguish between important and unimportant tasks
Be honest about what you can accomplish and to what degree, then set realistic expectations
Understand that there is more than one way to do something
Eliminate “I should” statements
Don’t magnify your errors
Force yourself to do something unimportant imperfectly
Make a conscious effort to mark the items on your to-do” list that you could do less than perfectly


Give yourself permission to re-establish contact with your creative nature
Accept limitations
Enjoy doing what you’re doing without worrying about what others think
Don’t lose sense of the larger meaning of your life
Let yourself off the hook. Don’t keep beating up on yourself when you make a mistake
Don’t identify your worth as a reflection of your place in someone’s life



Pinpoint which people or situations are fueling victim-type thinking

Assume responsibility
Take action



Being a Type A personality is not a bad thing, if you learn to control life’s stresses. We are all under stress–some more than others–but the key is to regularly reduce it and gain a balanced perspective on life. Achievement in one area of your life is not worth killing yourself for, even if you die wealthy.

To avoid or overcome burn-out, heed the advice in the 12 tips that follow. But change yourself slowly. You cannot adopt 6 or eight new behaviors overnight. Take them one at a time, and before you know it you will be a new person.


1.Limit the number of hours you work. Most workaholics put in 60-80 hours every week. Cut back your work load so you are working a normal 40-50 hour week.

2.Set goals and write them down. Take stock of your activities and determine which offers the highest pay-off. Set goals for these and get rid of as much “busy work” as you can.

3.Learn to say “No!” Refusing to take on more work or responsibilities will not lower your worth in the eyes of others. Fend for yourself.

4. Delegate. Accept the fact that you cannot do everything yourself and that other people can do good work, especially if they are supervised well. In the long run you are better off spending your time training people than trying to do everything yourself.

5. Exercise regularly. This is the best advice we can give you and the one you should act on immediately. It is the best way to reduce stress. Exercise makes you stronger in every way. Research has shown that people between the ages of 55 and 88 who exercise regularly are mentally sharper.

6. Break up your routine. If your routine is very rigid, change it around to give yourself some variety. The same principle applies to what you eat. Avoid food ruts, especially fast food ruts.

7. Take time to relax. Don’t eat lunch at your desk. Use that time to relax, take a walk or just sit and meditate.

8.Get out of town. A change of scenery works wonders, even for a weekend or a day. Plan trips both short and long. They get you away from it all and give you peace.

9.Spend more time with family and friends. Workaholics often downplay the importance of people in their lives. People are very important. Keep connections fun and healthy.

10.Have fun. Pursue your hobbies. Take time to disengage your mind and read, even if you read comic books. Go to sporting events, the theater or whatever you find entertaining.

11. Lighten up. This is the most difficult advice to heed, but it may be the most important. Keep things in perspective, the right perspective being that nothing is worth getting sick about. To help you shift your thinking, spend 10 minutes in a hospital or nursing home. Suddenly you will see the world differently and will not take life too seriously.

12. Repeat.  Go back and repeat the previous 11 steps, year after year, month after month.

Project or Just Work?

How Projects Differ From “Normal” Work

A project is something that is distinct from the normal circumstances of everyday work. A project has the following characteristics:

1. A project is goal oriented.

  • A project has a beginning, a middle and most of all an end. The goal behind any project is to achieve some defined result.
  • A project is never simply an end in itself; rather is is a means to an end.
  • Project–Build a warehouse
  • Not a Project–Get the accounting reports done each month
  • Project–Publish the July issue of the company news letter
  • Not a Project–Decide which work assignments have priority

2. A project consists of tasks that can be put into a connected and interrelated sequence.


3. A project has a limited duration

  • It wasn’t really a project in the first place, but rather a program.
  • It’s a project, but one that is in serious trouble. The goal of project management is ultimately to end the project, preferably successfully.


4. A project is unique and non routine

  • With a project, you are trying to achieve a specific goal. Once the project is complete, you shouldn’t have to do that specific project again.
  • A key element of projects is that they can be broken down into tasks, which are the specific work packages that have to be accomplished in order to achieve the goal. In an important sense, there is really no such thing as project management; rather, there is task management. From a technical perspective, when you manage a project, you break the project down into tasks, organize the tasks into a logical order and manage the performance of the tasks, one by one. If you have broken down the tasks properly and you manage each one successfully, your project’s outcome should be fairly certain.
  • Because projects have specific goals and a plan for achieving them, projects are always and necessarily time-limited. If the project seems never to approach an actual conclusion, one of two things is true:
  • If you do it all the time, and it is the primary activity or at least one of the primary activities of your job, it’s not really a project.

How Is Your Memory?

To improve your memory there are some general principles that are required if you want to train yourself to remember more effectively. The following seven principles will help you understand factors that are essential to memory improvement.

Memory can be improved through:

  1. Interest – It is much easier to remember things that are of interest. Interest helps you store and process information in such a way that you remember it for a long time.
  2. Selection – By choosing the most significant points about an issue, there is no need to remember everything in detail. You will be able to recall it a month, a year, or even 5 years from now.
  3. Attention – Pay attention to what you want to remember. Attending to one thing at a time will help you clarify the task, event or even a person’s name.
  4. Understanding – It is easier to learn and remember something when it is understood. The more new information can be associated with something you already know, the more meaning it will have.
  5. Intention to Remember – We are more likely to recall something when we intend to remember it. It increases our “original awareness.”
  6. Confidence – Positive Mind Set – Without having confidence in our ability to remember, our “will” to remember becomes nothing more than a mere hope. Use positive affirmations about your memory instead of joking how bad it is.
  7. Ego Involvement – Much of what we experience falls in one of two categories: things that please us (or we agree with) or things that displease us (or we disagree with). We seem to learn best when material reinforces our strengths, opinions or beliefs.

Memory is a skill. Like any skill, it can be improved with practice. With the right attitude, you can have fun learning to improve your ability to remember. You’ll be surprised how fast you will increase what you remember with practice.

How is your memory? IT IS GREAT!