covered a lot of ground so far in this series, and in this, our final segment,
we’re going to focus on the actions that a technical professional can take when
providing outstanding customer service.
those actions involves developing the skill to see things around you. And the
best way to explain how you can develop that skill is by understanding
something called R.A.S. and scotomas. If you’ve never heard of either an R.A.S.
or a scotoma, let me begin by explaining what the letters R.A.S. stand for,
which is Reticular Activating System.
thing I want to point out is that everybody has a Reticular Activating System
and it has an important job to do. The assignment of the Reticular Activating
System is to act as a filter and allow you to see what’s important to you when
you need to see it, and also allow you to not bother with things that aren’t
important to you at the moment.
reticular is a Latin term that means like a net, or net-like, and your
Reticular Activating System is just that - a net that catches what you need,
but let’s what you don’t need go through the openings in the net.
explain it this way …
were in the busiest section of New York City and had to get from point to
another, you would be focused on only the things you need to know to get to
your destination. There would be a lot of other things going on around you that
you wouldn’t notice. Heavy traffic, thousands of people, lighted signs, and
other unimportant things wouldn’t be caught in your “thought net,” your
Reticular Activating System, because you would be focused on a specific goal
that would ensure you only look at the important things you need to know to get
from one point to another.
way I can explain how your Reticular Activating System works is to tell you
what happened to me on two occasions when my wife Peggy and I went out to buy
first occasion was quite a few years ago. And after looking around for cars at
a few dealers, we settled on a Dodge Spirit and we bought it from Budget Car
Sales, an organization that specializes in selling late model rental cars.
bought that car, I had never heard of a Dodge Spirit. I figured that it must be
something that was a common rental fleet vehicle. But, it was a nice color, a
light blue, and Peggy decided it was the right car, so we bought it.
we drove home from the car lot, I noticed something I had never noticed before.
Dodge Spirits, lot’s of them, all over the place, and some of them were even
light blue. There they were, all over the place all of a sudden.
it really all of a sudden?
Those cars had always been there, I just didn’t notice them before. Until I had
invested some of my money in a Dodge Spirit, they weren’t real to me. But once
I owned one, they became important to me and my Reticular Activating System
allowed me to see them.
might think this would work only if I purchased a car that was totally
unfamiliar to me. But, the second occasion on which I purchased a particular
car, a Chevrolet Suburban, proved that it doesn’t have to be that way. I have
known about Chevy Suburbans for years. I have friends who drive them. So it
wasn’t that I didn’t know about them. I did.
when I bought one of my own, guess what I began noticing that was never there
before? Chevy Suburbans, that’s what.
to notice them in parking lots where I stopped to shop. I saw them all around
me on the highways and streets that I traveled. And, like the Dodge Spirit,
they were always there, but I didn’t notice them until they became important to
me. When they became important to me, my Reticular Activating System allowed me
to notice them. They got caught in my thought net.
does this relate to you as a technical professional and the job you do?
goes back to providing outstanding customer service - and scotomas. What’s a
scotoma? Well, the word scotoma is Greek and it means “blind spot.”
ever seen one of those pictures that when you look at it one way, you see one
thing, but when you look at it from another perspective, you see something
else? Maybe you’ve seen the one that looks like two faces close together from
one perspective, but then looks like a goblet when you re-focus. Or maybe you’ve
seen the one that looks both like an old lady and a young lady, depending on
how you look at it.
the point I want to make about those drawings is that when one person sees them
one way and another person sees them another way, it doesn’t make either person
right or wrong. It just means that the person who can see the goblet but not
the faces is experiencing a scotoma - that is until somebody points out a way
that they can see the goblet. It’s the same thing with the old lady/young lady picture.
Some people have a scotoma about the old lady and some have a scotoma about the
young lady. The one they see first depends on their background and the
environment that they’re from. If they’ve seen a lot of old ladies, then they
will be able to see the old lady easily, but it will be more difficult to see
the young lady. Or, it may be vice versa.
I want to get across here is that, either way, with practice and concentration,
a person can overcome a scotoma … get rid of the blind spot … and be able to
see what they couldn’t see before. And I want to point out that all you really
do to eliminate a scotoma is to shift your perspective, which is something you
are capable of doing.
you’re providing one service to a customer, and if providing that service is
important to you, your Reticular Activating System can work to “expose” those
other customer needs to you. You’ll catch them in your thought net - meaning
that you no longer have a scotoma - a blind spot when it comes to recognizing
what other services you can provide for that customer. And, by making use of
your Neuro Linguistic Programming skills to communicate to your customer, you
can let them know what you can do for them and why you and your organization
should be the one providing the service.
I’ve said, this all comes down to doing the best job you can do and reaping the
benefits you’re entitled to for doing that job.
brings us to our final topic of discussion in our article series. What I want
to say is that as a technical professional in the pursuit of excellence, you
can take action we’ve talked about to provide outstanding customer service. And
use the knowledge that you gain as you continue to strive for excellence and
accomplish the goals you set. And you can do that by applying what I like to
call the Eight Universal Laws of Success.
list those laws for you first, then take some time to discuss them.
Doing more than you’re paid to do.
present this list at our workshops, we seem to get universal agreement as we
count down … 1, 2, 3, 4 … and then when we get to No. 5, we often get some
comments like, “Whoa, wait a minute there, I’m already underpaid. There’s no
way I’m going to do even more than I’m already doing,” or somebody might say
something like, “Well, those are all good except one.” And of course, we know
they’re talking about Universal Law of Success No. 5, the one that says “Doing
more than you’re paid to do.”
one kind of leap out at you too?
that’s OK. We’ll get to No. 5 and I’ll explain why I think it’s valid and
important to understand. For the moment, let’s focus on No. 1: Enthusiasm.
professional is enthusiastic about what they do, it shows. And, as
professionals, we certainly should be enthusiastic about what we do. I often
meet people who say they’re not happy in their job … some even say, “I hate my
job, but I’m stuck doing it because I need the money it pays.”
one of the things we said at the beginning of this series is that I don’t pull
any punches. So, when I hear this kind of thing from people, I tell them that
in my opinion they have one of two options.
option is to do their customers, the company that pays their wages or salary or
commission or whatever combination thereof, and themselves a favor, and move
on. I mean that. I’m not interested in hearing about how somebody is trapped in
his or her job because of money. I’m convinced that’s a cop-out and a false
belief. So, like I said, if somebody tells me they really hate their job, then
my response to that is that one option they have is to move on to a job they
second option is to find something about their job that they can like.
the situations I pose to people in our workshops is this:
you had just found out that you won a million dollars in a contest or a
lottery? After all the hoopla died down and you bought the new car, or boat, or
took the vacation, what kind of work would you find yourself doing? Would you
be doing something that would include any of what you do now?
perhaps you could find something about your job that gives you satisfaction.
asked this series of questions of a person who worked as a computer instructor
and who said he was quite unhappy in his job.
know,” he said, “now that you mention it, I would be doing something of what
I’m doing now.”
that if he had won a million dollars he would probably move to Hawaii and open
his own school, where he would continue to be involved in teaching computer
classes, because he really enjoyed teaching people how to use computers and he
got a lot of satisfaction out of that part of his job.
know that sometimes the initial reaction we get from people when we present
this scenario is something like, “Well, look, if I had a million bucks, I
wouldn’t be working at all. I’d just sit around and live off the interest from
my money, and never have to bother with the daily grind again.”
somebody considers what they do to be a “daily grind” rather than a work
activity that gives them some satisfaction and sense of accomplishment, that
might be their reaction. If so, so be it. We’re not presenting this series for
people who think they’re in a daily grind, we’re presenting it for
professionals - technical professionals who take pride in their work and their
craft, and can be enthusiastic about the work they do.
there’s something I know to be true about people - we, as human beings, are
simply not built to just sit around. We’re, by nature, goal-seeking mechanisms,
and we are most satisfied when we are accomplishing something. Which means that
even if a person won a million bucks and stuck it in the bank, they would
eventually find them themselves getting involved in something … some kind of
activity or profession … in which they provided a product or service to others.
brings me to my final point about enthusiasm. If money wasn’t a factor at all,
would you find yourself doing something similar to what you’re doing now? If
the answer to that question is yes, then, fine, you can have some enthusiasm
for what you do. If the answer to that question is no, then you’re in the wrong
line of work. And, if you can’t have any enthusiasm for what you do, it’s my
opinion that it would be in your best interest, and in the best interest of
everyone around you, for you to move on to another situation in which you can
be enthusiastic about what you do.
with that said, we’re going to move on to the No. 2 item on our list of the
Eight Universal Laws of Success: Initiative.
all heard this term before, and we know how it relates to being a technical
professional - when a professional takes the initiative in the day-to-day
activities of their job, they will achieve a level of success that will bring
them satisfaction, a sense of achievement, and provide them with an opportunity
to earn more money.
consider the idea of initiative to be related to work habits. Things like how a
person relates to an organization, the other people within the organization,
the rules and regulations of the organization, observance of safety rules,
attendance, punctuality, decorum, dress, or any other factor related to
contributing to the success of the organization. And all those things are
important to a technical professional. But, I like to take the idea of initiative
a step further.
see people who don’t take the initiative in their work and compare them to
those who do, I think about the difference between two types of toy cars.
Really, I do.
of toy car is the one that’s not so sophisticated. You wind it up and turn it
on and set it down on the floor and it goes … as long as it doesn’t run into a
wall, table leg, or other obstacle. When it runs into something, it just sits
there, continuing to run up against the obstacle, not getting anything
productive accomplished. Just wasting energy until somebody comes along and
points it in another direction.
another type of toy car that’s more sophisticated, though. When you turn it on
and let it go, it does something different if it runs into an obstacle. It
backs up and tries a slightly different path of travel, trying to find a way
around the obstacle. It doesn’t wait for somebody to come along and point out
every move that has to be made. It does it on its own. It takes the initiative.
encounter somebody working without initiative, they remind of the first kind of
toy car I described. Once somebody gets them started, they’ll move along OK as
long as no obstacles get in their way. If they run into something, though, they
won’t take the initiative to find out how to solve a situation or get around an
obstacle that’s come up. They just sit there, wasting energy until somebody
comes along and shows them exactly what to do next.
people who don’t take much initiative in doing their jobs will defend their
position with a statement like, “That’s not my job” or “They don’t pay me
enough to do that.”
response to statements like these would be simple questions.
What is it you consider your job to be?
Are you supposed to provide outstanding customer service and use your own best
judgment in any situation?
course, the answer to the second question is yes. That, as we said in Part Two
of this article series, is what it’s all about for a professional - to
implement a personal policy that says “Provide Outstanding Customer Service”
and “Use Your Own Best Judgment In Any Situation.” All of which simply means
that anything that promotes this simple mission is part of the job of being a
technical professional. So, there’s really no situation in which something is
“not my job.” Any situation that arises for a technical professional, any
obstacle that comes up, is “part of the job” and a professional’s obligation is
to take the initiative to solve that situation or handle that obstacle.
Sometimes that means handling it all alone, and sometimes that means asking for
help or a decision on what to do from somebody else, but it still comes down to
taking the initiative.
there is one factor that is key in being able to take initiative, which is No.
3 on the list of the Eight Universal Laws of Success: Self-confidence.
comes to being a technical professional, the idea of self-confidence is fairly
simple. It all comes down to knowing that you are proficient at whatever skill
you need or whatever task you need to undertake in order to do the best job you
can do. And, in order to build, develop, and maintain that knowing, we have to
commit to training, continuous self-improvement, and staying current in our
field. Training initially as a technical professional is usually accomplished
automatically, because, after all, without the basic training we need to do our
job, we would never get started. It’s the continuing education that’s the
challenge for someone who’s working full time.
realize that budgeting time for workshops, seminars, and training programs is a
challenge for a full-time professional, it’s another area in which I don’t pull
the facts as I see them:
the technical professional’s responsibility to stay current in his or her
the responsibility of the employer to assist in the effort.
here’s what I mean by that:
are training materials such as manuals, videos, or other information that’s
necessary, it’s my belief that it’s the responsibility of the employer to make
those materials available. If it’s necessary to conduct a training session, or
for a technician to attend a workshop, then it’s my belief that the
responsibility of presenting, coordinating, overseeing, or covering the
expenses related to a training session or workshop rests with the employer.
it’s necessary to review those training materials, attend the workshop or
training session in the evening or on the weekend, or whatever “off the clock”
happens to be, then that’s the responsibility of the technical professional.
what I mean when I say that it’s the responsibility of the employer to support
the efforts of the technical professional as they live up to their
responsibility to stay current in their field. It’s a two-way street. Training
to stay current doesn’t have to be done “on the clock” and I firmly believe
that the technician who holds the opinion that it should be is practicing
scorekeeping. Which, as I said earlier in this series, serves to diminish the
professionalism of the both the individual and the business they work in.
follows that if a person is investing a great deal of time and effort in the
practice of scorekeeping, then they won’t be fully concentrating on doing the
best job they can do. Which brings us to Concentration, the fourth item on our
list of the Eight Universal Laws of Success.
ability to concentrate on the task at hand is the mark of a professional. Sure,
it’s not always easy. People have families. They have relationships. And they
have challenges that they face from time to time because they have families and
relationships. And people have interests other than their profession … and
that’s as it should be … so that means they want to make time in their lives
for those other interests. None of this is a revelation to anybody. It’s
nothing new. So, I’m not denying that there are things that are sometimes more
important than the work we do, and that, at times, we feel the need to do
something else that provides us with recreation, relaxation, and enjoyment.
certainly an advocate of living a balanced life. When you consider a balanced
life, there can be an extensive list of life areas for you can consider. Here’s
Health (physical and mental)
list may not be complete for you, or yours may be structured differently. The
only point I want to make here is that we all need to learn how to concentrate
on what’s important at the moment.
we’re saying here is that when you’re supposed to be concentrating on your
career, vocation, or profession, you’ll achieve success as long as you have the
ability to concentrate on your career, vocation, or profession when necessary.
And, concentrating on your work means that sometimes you may be willing to, as
item No. 5 on our list of the Eight Universal Laws of Success says, do more than
you’re paid to do.
that this can be a touchy subject. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the one
item on the list that usually generates the most controversy at our workshops
because, often, people equate this idea with an employer taking unfair
advantage of a technician. But, as I also said earlier in this series, I don’t
advocate that a person be taken advantage of, or used unfairly. I’m convinced
that it’s quite right and proper for a technical professional to maximize their
earnings, and I’m also convinced it’s quite right and proper for an employer to
compensate a technical professional as they should be compensated, once it’s
been established that the compensation is warranted.
explain it this way.
like you to imagine with me for a moment that you’re somebody who enjoys
hunting trips. And, that a friend has offered you the use of his cabin in the
mountains of Montana so that you can go there to hunt. It’s January, and you
show up at the cabin, and there’s nobody there but you. Now, let me ask you, if
you were to show up at the cabin, go inside, and sit down in front of the
fireplace and say, “OK, after I get some heat out of the fireplace, I’ll go out
and get some wood from the woodpile,” would that work?
course it wouldn’t. In order to get some heat out of the fireplace, you’d have
to first put the wood in and get the fire started. It’s the same way with
deciding that you want to increase your earnings as a technical professional.
You’ve got to put it in before you can get it out. And if you can put forth the
necessary extra effort and take the approach of “Doing more than you’re paid to
do” on a consistent basis, then it will obligate an employer to recognize your
contribution to the organization, and, in the end pay you accordingly. Let’s
face it, a business that employs a technical professional is a business like
any other, which means that the business must realize a return on the
investment of wages, commissions, or bonuses paid to the technician. So it
makes sense that if the technician is providing an avenue for increased revenue
for the business, it follows that in a situation in which the employer is
reasonable, it will result in increased compensation for the technician.
means that, in the situation we’ve described, the technical professional and
the employer are working cooperatively to create a successful environment for
everybody - the technician, the employer, and the customer. So, Cooperation,
No. 6 on our list of the Eight Universal Laws of Success, is key to success.
that this sounds simple, and it is. But, sometimes being simple doesn’t
automatically equate to being easy. Sometimes being able to cooperate with
everybody in every situation in an environment can be difficult. Sometimes it
will take an extra dose of Self-control, No. 7 on our list of the Eight
Universal Laws of Success.
of the ways we can all learn to exercise self-control is to remember No. 8 on
the list, which is Tolerance. At any given point in our workday, we may have to
be tolerant of someone else. It may be a customer, it may be a supplier, it may
be an employer, or it may be a co-worker. And the reason we may have to be
tolerant of someone else is because they have temporarily forgotten one of the
first seven of the Eight Universal Laws of Success, or it may be that they
never learned about them at all.
brings me to the closing point in our series. We’ve presented a great deal of
information and provided you with many tools you can use to achieve success in
your profession. We’ve talked about how you can strive to provide outstanding
customer service, improve your communication skills, achieve more, and increase
your earnings. And we know from experience that sometimes, when someone within
an organization strives for peak performance by applying the tools and concepts
we’ve presented, there are others within the organization that may be
intimidated by that person striving to be a peak performer.
should happen to you, I want to remind you that this will provide you with an
opportunity to exercise tolerance with those around you who may not understand
or appreciate your philosophy and approach to your profession. And while the
reasons you may encounter resistance or criticism from others as you continue
to learn, grow, and achieve may vary, I don’t recommend you spend a lot of time
and energy trying to understand the specific reasons that you’re encountering
resistance or criticism. I urge you to just remember a simple quote from Albert
Einstein, which is:
spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
with that, I urge you to be that Great Spirit, and I wish you the best as you strive
to achieve success and reach the level of peak performance as a technical
information for this article series is excerpted from Jim Johnson’s “PEAK
Performance for the Technical Professional,” an audio learning program designed
to help technicians develop their sales and communication skills. The three CD
set can be ordered from: Technical Training Associates, HC 70 Box 3172,
Sahuarita, AZ 85629 for $39.95 (shipping and handling included). Mail check or
money order, or send Visa or MasterCard information to the above address.
Credit card orders may also be faxed to 520-648-3334. For more information,
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