Playing Hooky (The case for a mental health day)

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I played hooky today. I’m not sick. My kids are fine. I had no doctor’s appointment. I didn’t have to go to the dentist. I didn’t even have a school event or PTA board meeting to attend.

I simply played hooky. I played hooky and I feel great about that. I decided on November 21st that I would play hooky. Today is December 8th. So my hooky was pre meditated.

We all need an “Ah shit” day

One of my former colleagues, Ligea, used to say we all need an “Ah shit” day. A day where we wake up and say, “Ah shit, I don’t feel like going in.” My friend Kendra would say that everyone needs a “Mental Health Day.” Similar to sick days, mental health days are taken to preserve and nurture our mental health.

This hooky playing was essentially about nurturing my mental health. It’s been such a busy time for me. I just wrapped up several back-to-back keynotes on the road.

I’m a woman. A wife. A mother. A keynote for me is more than just a presentation on the big stage. My husband works nights so when I travel I have to plan for a caretaker (my gracious mother) to stay with my kids overnight and to get them to school daily. I have to prepare meals ahead of time and lay out my son’s clothes. I have to clean my house so that I look like I have it all together when my mother stays overnight.

And then, of course, there’s the keynote.

One of my keynotes was to an audience of 1100. The largest contact center annual conference in the world. I spent 9 months designing and rehearsing that keynote. It took me at least 3 months to select my outfit and shoes for the big day.

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Shortly before my Keynote address at the ICMI Contact Center Demo & Conference in Las Vegas

That keynote was in Las Vegas. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. But I was in South Dakota on business and we didn’t get to celebrate the big 20. So, hubby joined me in Vegas and we had a wonderful 5 days of bliss after my keynote. I loved it. I really did. But my mind was often back home with the kids. Was Warren okay riding with another father to and from football practice? Was Lauren staying on top of her geometry and chemistry homework? Was mom really okay giving up nearly a week of her time to help us out?

Immediately after my Las Vegas keynote I had to gear up for a keynote in Pennsylvania and then right after that, I spoke at a conference for a new client in an industry I am still learning. Insurance. In New York. I wore the same dress I wore in Vegas. I killed it. The keynote in this fairly new industry was truly one of the best I have ever delivered. God was with me. He anointed me and I am still in awe of that favor.

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The auditorium an hour or so before attendees arrive for a keynote in Tulsa

But there was little time to relish the greatness of my New York keynote because Fairfield County Ohio was just days away. A board meeting and two local training sessions in between didn’t allow for any downtime. I was exhausted, but this annual meeting of about 130 wonderful people expected me to be at the top of my game.

Travel into Columbus was a hassle. Delays. Long, long day. 45 minute drive to my bed and breakfast.

Yes, a bed and breakfast. I stayed at a lovely historic bed and breakfast, Shaw’s, where I enjoyed a clean vegan meal and extraordinary customer service. I got up the next morning and delivered a pretty fantastic keynote to some of the best people I have ever met in my life! It was awesome. I loved, loved, loved the people I met in Ohio.

 

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Taking selfies like a teenager in the Green Room right before my keynote at a public library annual staff development day. 

And when I got on the plane after the keynote, I nearly collapsed. From exhaustion. And that brings me to November 21st.

When I returned to Tulsa, I resumed reading my daybook, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnauch. I’m reading this book for the third time. The November21st meditation is entitled “Playing Hooky.” Breathnauch encourages women to find a day where it won’t be catastrophic of us to miss work and to call in and play hooky. A mental health day, if you will. And she suggests we spend the day however we want. Going to the movies alone. Having lunch with a girlfriend. Shopping. Reading a novel in one sitting.

Sitting on my couch that day, I picked up my iPhone, pulled up my calendar and found the first day that I could play hooky without the world falling part. That day was December 8th. And I did it.

I took the kids to school, like it was a normal day. Then, I came home, lit a fire, made a latte and started reading a new novel.

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I heated up leftovers for brunch. At noon I poured a glass of red wine. I had a sugar cookie when I wasn’t even hungry. All day I sat in front of my fireplace reading.

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My reading room (Living room) – I literally spent my entire day on my couch in front of my fireplace. 

I didn’t go into my office. I didn’t reply to any emails. I didn’t clean house. I just read. And I read the entire book before it was time to pick the kids up.

It was truly the perfect day. I needed this day. I loved this day.

Drink Think Relax

Take Sara Breathnauch’s advice. Carve out a day just for you. Play hooky. Do whatever you want. Shop. Nap. Go to the movies. Visit a museum. Treat yourself to a spa day. We all need a mental health day or an ah shit day. Treat yourself and comeback refreshed my friends. You deserve it!

 

Why I Became a Vegetarian

I dine out with clients regularly. And when it’s time to select a restaurant or order my entree, the subject often comes up: Why did you become a vegetarian? I don’t mind the question at all. I love sharing my story of why I became a vegetarian. FullSizeRender

Vegetarian Sushi from Osaka in Tulsa for my daughter’s 15th birthday.

Last year I did a 5-day juice cleanse to rid my body of toxins and to help me lose a few pounds. I liked the way I felt after the cleanse. (I lost 8 pounds and noticed more energy and more vibrant skin.) After the cleanse, my body craved vegetables. I simply lost my appetite for meat.

But within a few months the novelty wore off, habit kicked in, and I began eating fish and chicken again. Then my friend Toneille recommended a book: By Any Greens Necessary, by Tracye McQuirter. One Wednesday in January I sat down and began to read the book. The book described the horrific suffering animals go through to get on my plate. I realized, through this profound book, that animals feel afraid and sad, just like us. They feel suffering. I put the book down and haven’t eaten meat, eggs or milk since. I eat very little cheese and my goal is to ultimately give up cheese as well. IMG_7175

Lovely vegetarian snack my client, Make-a-Wish of America, sent up to my room the evening before my big keynote in Scottsdale. The thoughtfulness of my client nearly brought me to tears. 

I explored being a vegetarian because a plant-based diet made me feel better and it increases my chances of living a long life filled with vitality. I committed to a plant-based diet when I understood the treatment of animals. That is the story of why I became a vegetarian. 🙂

4 Verbal Aikido Tactics Every Employee Who Handles Difficult Customers Should Be Using

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The following editorial was written by one of Myra’s clients, Insurance Consumer Affairs Exchange (ICAE), following Myra’s Verbal Aikido Training at their annual conference in Newport Beach.

Myra Golden (Customer Experience Designer) states that customers are more savvy now than ever before.

Myra Golden, Customer Experience Designer, author of Beyond Wow, and a noted expert on customer service, shared with the group her insights and techniques on the concept and delivery of outstanding customer services.

Difficult customers—yes, they exist

Ms. Golden opened by noting customers are more savvy now than ever before.  Although this sounds like a good thing, the net result is an increase in stress for consumer services professionals.  How much of an increase?  Well, according to Newsweek magazine, the stress level of consumer services professionals is comparable to that of air-traffic controllers and police officers.  In short, the role of consumer services now ranks as one of the 10 most stressful jobs in the U.S.

Golden shared stories and a new vocabulary* with the group.  Sometimes, she noted, difficult customers can be categorized as the consumer vigilante.  These consumers are determined to force corporations—via the consumer affairs professional—to give in to the consumer vigilante’s demands—reasonable or not.  This means the consumer affairs professional must develop a response plan.

OK, what is the solution?

Golden uses the concept of verbal Aikido—a response plan that stresses non-resistance, harmony and assertiveness.   She encourages customer service professionals to recognize each spends more than 50 percent of their time on the dissatisfied customer—meaning the customer for whom nothing will be right (even if nothing was really wrong).  That focus creates a huge drain on resources for those customers who have a solvable issue.  The dissatisfied customers, or consumer vigilantes, need to be recognized as such and placed in a strategic “customer recovery plan.”

 

Myra discusses her verbal aikido approach in the 2-minute video below

 

About the plan

A customer-recovery plan empowers consumer affairs professionals to understand how to create calm; how to work with customers; how to reduce complaints; and how to create a positive conversation. This is done by:

Understanding the issue is not always the issue—many consumers will accept a mistake, but will not accept if the mistake is not quickly and fairly handled.   Therefore, to determine how best to handle a complaint, consumer affairs professionals are encouraged to:

Know what the customer’s expectations and perceptions are—by asking questions to get all details possible, and

Have a consumer recovery plan ready to create confident, assertive (not aggressive)  responses to address the consumer vigilante.

Strategically calm the consumer by:

1. Acknowledging emotion

Golden points out that anger must be recognized as such or it will escalate into a bigger problem.  Consumer affairs professionals who show genuine concern and acknowledge the consumer’s anger are better equipped to handle issues.  Golden urges the path of non-resistance to create calm from within—thereby inspiring a spirit of calm in the irate customer.  Consumer affairs professionals, rather than feeling defensive, need to use comments such as: “I hate it that you even had to make this call.” “I can understand how frustrating this is.”

2. Relate and respond in the here and now

Consumer affairs professionals are not expected to know everything.  Even stating uncertainty for the next step is an OK response.  This response shows the professional as one who does not make assumptions and who treats the consumer as an individual.  By allowing the consumer to be treated as an individual, with individual emotions and feelings, consumer professionals can work with the consumer without escalating any negative—and avoiding  lock up.  Comments such as, “I want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do,” have been known to unlock doors and save consumer relationships.

3. Harmonize

Active listening with a complaining consumer enables consumer professionals to obtain more and necessary information to help structure a lasting solution. Consumer professionals are encouraged to control the pacing of the conversation by asking questions and learning more—about the situation and the consumer.  However, Golden cautioned, take the cue from the customer—a bottom-line customer just wants answers—therefore asking lots of questions may result in a negative encounter.

4. Lead

Once control has been established, it’s the consumer professional’s responsibility to move the customer to closure—meaning the emotion has been reduced and the rational has been re-instated.

Golden expresses how asking three back-to-back, close-ended questions can help diffuse a situation.

Golden notes this return to the rational as a “magic wand” that can be invoked by asking three relevant, closed-ended, questions, back-to-back.  Why?  Well, the relevant, non-repetitive, and genuinely necessary questions will force angry consumers to shift focus from emotional to factual information.  In forcing this shift, consumer services professionals can lead the consumer toward a solution.  For the insurance industry, suitable questions include:

•    The first thing I need from you is….
•    In case we are disconnected, what is your number?
•    Name of your insurance company is…
•    What is your claim number?
•    Can you give me the exact date of occurrence?

Apply the skill

The consumer professionals attending were challenged to adopt, adapt, and apply the concepts reviewed to the insurance industry (whether regulator or carrier).  As a group, two strong ideas were generated to enable consumer affairs professionals to calm down the attack.  These included:

  • Associating the irate customer with someone you know to help establish your empathy.
  • Providing job shadowing opportunities to see the other side of the fence to help understand issues—so have producers work with consumer affairs professionals or invite a regulator in for a real-time visit.

Finally, all participants were encouraged to identify activities to commit to start doing, stop doing, and will continue to do.  Golden noted this written commitment with all aspects of our lives would help empower change for the better—at work, home or play.

For more information regarding the Insurance Consumer Affairs Exchange (ICAE), including membership, please visit their website.

 

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Review the full workshop outline for Myra’s Verbal Aikido Training here or talk to Myra about bringing her Verbal Aikido training to your company or conference.

Myra Golden Doesn’t Look Like This Anymore

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I have gone natural. Or more accurately, I have returned to my natural hair.

For those of you not familiar, going natural is ditching chemical straighteners and wearing your hair in its natural state. My natural state is curly, kinky hair.

I chemically straightened my hair for 30 years. But I’m done with that. For good.

Most of you know me looking like the image above. But if you’ve had me in for a keynote or training in the past couple of months, you know me like this.

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In March  of 2014 I chopped off my chemically straightened locks down to just over a couple of inches. Now I wear my hair kinky, big and often wild. And I freakin love it!

I’m still the energetic, story-telling, high-engagement keynoter you’ve come to know and love. I just do my thing now with kinky hair! 🙂

Blessings Under the Western Sky (My keynote experience for Make-a-Wish Annual Conference)

It’s been a beautifully busy month for me. I have delivered a combined 10 keynotes and training sessions this month for amazing clients and I still have 2 more keynotes next week.

I’m home for a few days. It’s Saturday morning and I just finished journaling while enjoying an Italian espresso. I’m feeling so grateful right now and I want to share some of my gratitude with you this morning.

When I arrived at the stunning Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale on Thursday, my client, Make-a-Wish of America, had this tray of treats sent up to me.

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This gift arrived at just the right time. I had been flying all day and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I was literally on the phone with room service when I heard the knock on the door. I told room service I’d call them back and I got the door.

My client gave me the perfect blend of healthy fruits, nuts, grains and cheeses. Plus, they sent up two chilled bottles of water. This is exactly the type of whole energy food I need before a big keynote. I devoured the tray. Seriously, I did.

Then I enjoyed a restful evening on my balcony watching the Phoenix sunset. It was breath-taking. I was at such peace. I felt the presence of God in a real way. I wanted to cry. I felt just that good.

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The next morning I slept nice and late. I arouse at 6:50am Phoenix time, which is almost 9am CT where I live. My keynote wasn’t until 9:40 PT so I had time in abundance…nearly 3 hours to just enjoy and breath.

I enjoyed nearly an hour of prayer in my bathrobe on the balcony. I was surrounded by mountains.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of the desert land. I felt so close to the sky, so close to God.

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As great as the experience was on my balcony, I had a keynote to deliver. I got dressed, put on my makeup and did my hair. To my delight, I was having a great hair day! My hair was big, textured and full. I knew it would be a great day.

And a great day it was!  My keynote was very well received. I got laughs, people were fully engaged. If felt good. The meeting planners and the executives all gave me outstanding feedback. I didn’t want to leave. But my driver was waiting to take me back to the airport.

I am blessed, so blessed. I am doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do: Run my own business and use the gifts God has given me. Thank you God for this life. Thank you clients, readers and friends who support me on this journey.

A nice note from an attendee of my Make-A-Wish Keynote:

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Liberty World Outreach Center Annual Women’s Brunch

Liberty World Outreach Panel

Me, along with some amazing panelists from the Liberty World Outreach Event. I am second from the left. 

On Saturday morning I had the privilege of being a panelist at the Liberty World Outreach Women’s Leadership Brunch. I was there to share my experience as a woman in leadership, along with the other panelists, yet I learned so much from each of the speakers. I walked away inspired.

In this blog post, I am sharing a few of the questions asked during the panel discussion and my answers. I hope that my sharing of my panel experience inspires you. 🙂

What has helped you to discover your purpose?

My fierce focus, since the 8th grade, has been to own my own business. It took me many years to discover what that business would be and should be, but I’ve always known entrepreneurship was my calling. It started with Junior Achievement when I was in the 8th grade. I joined Junior Achievement and had 4 amazing mentors who met with us once a week after school. We started a business. We chose a business name, selected a board and incorporated. As a team, we decided on a product to sell. We bought parts, assembled our products and we sold them. I loved every single aspect of starting and running a business. I knew then, in 8th grade, that I would own my own business.

And then there were the examples in my family that helped me discover I wanted to own my business. – An uncle who is a medical doctor and who never worked for anyone else. He started his own clinic. An aunt who started and ran a private elementary school. 

In what ways, if any, has your purpose evolved through the years?

In the beginning, for me it was about owning my own business. Making my own money, working for myself. My focus now is being an example, leading by example, and exhorting others to achieve that thing they are passionate about.

What are qualities of effective leadership?

Communication – the ability to share ideas in a highly persuasive way; to get people to believe in your ideas, support your ideas and be influenced by your ideas. Communication includes being able to effectively communicate one on one, in writing, in meetings and from the stage. Communication, I believe, sets mediocre people apart from successful people.

Is there a woman in leadership who has inspired you?

Oprah was one of my first and most profound examples of women in leadership. I was impressed and literally captivated by her communication ability, influence, charisma and her courage to be herself. In the mid 80s, it was unusual to see a black woman on TV as a daytime talk show host. Oprah was the only one. And she was on national networks. It was even more unusual to see a plus size woman in that role. I deeply admired Oprah’s confidence, authenticity and accomplishments.

As a leader in position of authority, what responsibility do you have to others?

I sense I have 2 primary responsibilities. To be an example of what’s possible. And to push others to fulfill their God-given potential. I work to be an example of what’s possible by always pushing myself and sharing my “gifts” with those I am called to serve. I push others by eagerly mentoring women when they come to me.

Related: 

My Keynote Speaking Topics

How I Build a Keynote Presentation

What a Myra Golden Training is Like

Ways I Engage My Audiences

Never Be Boring: 5 Ways to Never Be Boring as a Keynote Speaker

Are you a corporate trainer who is looking for customer service training to deliver to your team?

The Secret to Handling Difficult Customers

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I’m about to reveal a hidden way for you to literally
convert “nightmare” customers into an almost endless source
of loyalty, goodwill and profits.

Simply put, you can use these insider secrets to instantly
turn angry customers into raving fans for you and your
company – without giving away the farm.

Amazing but true … and the best part is virtually nobody
knows about these techniques!

What I’m talking about is my “Stop Screaming At Me” online video training.

Check it out here.