Proud to be Mediocre!

by Karen on August 12, 2011


After a tough couple of years trying to make sense of the economy and in doing so scrambling to get by with as little resources and investment as possible, do you now feel like things inside your organization are back on track?  They sure are better than they were.  Customers are happier and there are fewer serious service problems.

During the economic turmoil it became a little more acceptable to deliver less than excellent service.  It became the necessity to change schedules, downgrade service commitments and even answer the phone a little slower simply because the human resources and the assets just were not available.  Co-workers might have even started making excuses for each others’ failings, explaining them away because they “understood” the pressure the other guys were under.

And, if you kept your job when many were laid off, you were grateful even if that meant working more hours for less pay.  Caution – that often translates into keeping quiet about problems so as not to be seen as a troublemaker.

What has all of this done to the performance expectations and the service bar of your team?

If you start probing around and hear from the frontline “service is pretty good, better than we were” or “we’re as good as everybody else” it is time to take a hard look at the performance goals (if they are still there) of the organization.  Undoubtedly, they aren’t high enough.

When did it become okay to be as good as the next guy?


Last night I attended the Women Mentors & Friends event at the Calgary Petroleum Club.   I was drawn to the event because of the diverse and meaningful speaker line-up, but even more so by the format the club promised.  The goal for the evening was to provide a strong connection and dialogue between the speakers and the attendees.

The five speakers, all recognized for success in their chosen field, presented to the women in attendance in small groups.  Each break-out session lasted 20 minutes so I was able to sit in on 3 amazing dialogues.  Each woman told their story in brief and then opened it up to an informal and candid discussion.  The 5 speakers were The Honourable Justice Elizabeth Hughes, Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Ruth Ramsden-Wood, President and CEO of the United Way of Calgary and Area, Anna Wallner, Co-Creator, Producer and host of Shopping Bags, A&K’s Grocery Bag, and A&L’s Beauty Call, Esther Colwill, Parntner, Deloitte & Touche AND mountaineer (she has reached 7 summits!) and Carlene Donnelly, Executive Director, Calgary Urban Project Society.

The consistent messages I heard from the three women I listened to was that their success was very much tied to a strong belief in themselves and their ideas, persistence (expect to hear “no” way more than you hear “yes”) and you have to love what you’re doing because it will be hard work, time consuming and require personal sacrifice if you want to reach the top.  None of them regret their choices and the passion in their voice was truly admirable and contagious.

In the end though, I was most surprised by the diverse group of women who attended the meeting.  In the brief time allotted for getting to know your neighbour, I met a social media expert who came from the film industry, a cultural legacy strategist who is coaching organizations up and down the west coast through leadership transitions and a PR and community engagement strategist.  There is a lot going on in this city, and a truly passionate and driven group of women who are looking to make a mark in their industry.

An inspiring evening!



Can you Handle the Truth?

by Karen on January 28, 2011

Effective and efficient businesses and organizations know who their ideal customer or client is, what problems they are trying to solve and why.  The ideal client values what you do, they are willing to pay you appropriately for your service and/or product and view their relationship with you (your organization) as a wise  investment that enhances their organization.  These clients have expectations that fit within your existing operating framework, and when their request is outside your framework, know it will cost extra.  The IDEAL client – – – oh, we all love them.

But what if there aren’t enough “ideal customers?”  Then it is time to ask some tough questions and look at your definition of the ideal client or at what you are offering.

For PROVOKE, the ideal client wants to hear the truth and is prepared to act on it, in fact is eager to look forward to design and implement an approach, process, service or product to better align with their ideal audience.

Quite often, the audience truths reveal that you are over-serving, and in the process increasing costs and stressing systems and people unnecessarily.  In fact, in the last four projects we were involved in, our client was over-reaching what their audience wanted and in the process, losing organization value.  In one instance, it meant adjusting organization goals.  In a second instance, it meant paring down the offering.  And in two instances it meant  amping up existing services for widespread consumption.

The truth may sting a little, it may even hurt a lot.  But the truth ALWAYs provides clarity and reveals opportunity.

Think you can handle the truth?  If you answered YES, then you are ready to take an important step forward.


Are you Really Collaborating?

December 3, 2010

Or are you cooperating? Maybe coordinating?  Turns out the concept of collaboration means different things to different people and expectations of the output of collaboration are equally diverse. “To some, it suggests polite cooperation. To others, it includes everything from shared data to joint operations. To a labor union representative, however, it means getting too […]

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You Made a Difference (or Did You?)

November 19, 2010

As I ponder receiving my precious learner’s first report card of the year on Monday, I can’t help but think – wouldn’t it be great to have that level of feedback on our efforts all of the time? We all toil away every day in so many ways, but is our effort contributing in important […]

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