Why Your Employees Need to Be Responsible For Their Own Development

How did Michael Jordan become the best basketball player of all time? Sure, for the majority of his career, he had Phil Jackson, arguably the greatest coach of all time. Jackson refined Jordan’s skills, but it was the hours of jump shots, free throws and conditioning that Michael worked on when Phil wasn’t around that made him the greatest player of all time.

Employee development is no different.

You may have heard the old adage,

“You don’t grow businesses, you grow people.”

Which remains true. However, your employees can’t simply rely on their manager to develop them to their full potential.

I read this quote the other day that really resonated with me,

“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”

I still remember the day in 2007 when I committed to understanding customer experience management and how it grows businesses. While working at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, a company that grew from a $1000 investment in 1989 to an organization that earns a quarter billion in sales per year, I was provided with all the support in the world that contributed to my development but I don’t believe I would have been able to become an entrepreneur, advisor or keynote speaker if I didn’t invest in my own education.

How did I invest in my own education?

I read books on customer experience, I set up a Feedly account and read dozens of articles every day on the subject. I reached out to customer experience professionals on Linkedin and asked many questions. To take it one step further, I selected five companies – Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Amazon and Westjet – and studied them intensely. I was flown out to visit Zappos before it was a cool thing to do and spoke to key people at each organization to ask even more questions.

This was all done on my own time, no pay cheque, no “employee of the month” award to recognize my efforts. I was in my mid-twenties when I was working throughout the night on Friday and Saturday nights because I knew it was contributing to my long-term success. It’s not enough to simply work and develop yourself Monday to Friday, 9-5. I don’t know if it’s my South American blood but I take pride in my work ethic.

I’m very thankful when anyone wants to work with me or hear me speak but I will never rest on my laurels. I still study every day (actually) so that I can share my education with my clients and audiences. When I first started out I was studying the aforementioned companies. A coupls years ago, I was studying Uber and Airbnb. Today, I’m researching companies like Warby Parker. To continue to advance my knowledge in customer experience and hospitality, I learn from people like Chip Conley and Danny Meyer.

“I will never stop learning because I’m scared I will become obsolete or irrelevant.”

I recently spoke with someone who I can only assume was in their 50’s or 60’s; “I’m too old to be studying” he proclaimed. This person is dying, maybe not physically, but professionally, they are dead. Educating yourself doesn’t end after university or when you’re in your early years of your career. Regardless of age, you must continue growing and developing yourself.

Individuals who spend time studying and expediting their development are the ones who get promoted. They are the ones who are sitting in on strategic planning meetings with forward thinking ideas. They are the ones who are heavily recruited.

If you genuinely want to be the best at what you do, regardless of what your expertise is, you need to work hard to develop yourself independently. The saying, “work smarter, not harder” has never resonated with me; you need to do both.

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Here’s what I’m doing to help my team members invest in their own education:

  • I connect them with my friends who have a skill set that they want to acquire. For example, Jordan, our Marketing Coordinator, wanted to learn how to manage his time better. While I could teach him how to do this myself I don’t want him only learning from me so I have my friend, Rhys Green, coaching him monthly on this topic. It’s a win, win. Rhys likes doing it and Jordan appreciates the education.
  • We host Goal Setting & Review (GS&R) weekly meetings where we evaluate both of our performances, mine as a leader and theirs as a team member. During this time we also review our company’s five core values to hold each other accountable to them.
  • Purchase affordable online courses
  • Buy relevant books

I use the term culture of learning a lot as it’s something I constantly as it’s something I believe a company needs to grow their team and become an admired employer. I recommend you bring this language into your business and watch how your team, if you’ve hired correctly, rallies behind the philosophy.

Leave a comment below. What is the ‘culture of learning’ like in your company? Do you facilitate learning outside of the office? What would it mean to your business if your team was the most educated in your industry?

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How Customer Experience Creates Customer Loyalty in Real Estate


In December 2016, I had a great opportunity to travel to Australia to go on a keynote speaking tour, visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast, to work closely go with LJ Hooker (Australia’s largest real estate company). During our time together we worked  with their highest performing real estate agents and franchise partners to teach them how to create an experience their customers have never seen before.

While in Sydney, I caught up with Graeme Hyde, LJ Hooker’s COO, to discuss customer experience within the real estate industry. I asked him questions like:

  • How are real estate agents using customer experience to grow their business?
  • Are real estate agents properly using digital marketing to serve their customers?
  • How can real estate agents leverage tactics to increase customer loyalty?
  • What do real estate agents need to do to build a career of longevity?
  • Plus more

Be sure to share this video with any real estate professionals you believe would find value in the education.

If you’re looking for a keynote speaker for your next event, please contact me directly by clicking here.

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My 3 Favourite Customer Service Stories (and What Your Business Can Learn From Them)

Companies, across many different industries and sizes, all have marketing budgets. Most of these businesses allocate a considerable amount of their budget to traditional marketing efforts and, as of recently, have been investing in digital strategies.

But what about investing in customer service stories? Or, as some may refer to it as, storytelling marketing. You may have heard the saying,

“Customer service is the new marketing.”

In many respects, it is. After all, word-of-mouth marketing has the word “marketing” in it. But let’s take a moment to think about why people passionately refer or market your service or product.

Is it because your company has been in business since 1945? No.

Is it because your website has a perfect hue of blue? No.

Is it because you have the lowest price? Maybe. For me, though, playing the “cheapest price in town” card isn’t a sustainable strategy.

The primary reason that people will refer your service or product, and why the media will cover your company, is because you have a story to tell. Memorable customer service stories are much more attractive to readers of publications like Forbes, Inc, Fast Company and The Huffington Post compared to paid media.

These three stories from Warby Parker, Lego and Ritz Carlton are my favourite customer service stories. I encourage you to read the stories and consider the key takeaways, as there are lessons that you can apply within your business, regardless of your industry, budget or company size.



The Customer Service Story: Luka’s dad cautioned him against bringing his Christmas present with him while shopping. Sure enough, the toy falls out of his pocket and is lost.

Luka decides to write Lego a letter explaining the situation:


Pretty great story, right?

I have long said that customer experience can be a reliable source of organic revenue and branding through word-of-mouth marketing, customer loyalty and free PR. This Lego story is a perfect example.

The Takeaway For Your Business: Build a company culture that recruits, hires and motivates team members to manage opportunities (like this customer retention opportunity), similar to what Richard has done for Lego.

Too often, companies would simply think,

“Tough luck, kid.”

It’s clear that Lego has built a customer-centric company culture that is committed to making stories like these a reality.


The Customer Service Story: In one of their retail locations, a Warby Parker customer named Tess arrived to pick up her newly-ordered frames. An alert team member, recognizing that Tess wasn’t having a good day, chatted with her and learned that her car had been stolen earlier. The team member also learned about Tess’ favourite local bar during their conversation.

This is what Tess received in the mail shortly after leaving the store.

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Again, similar to the Lego customer service story, this all came together because of an alert employee, but also consider something else…

The Takeaway For Your Business: For nearly a decade, I’ve said that building a world-class customer experience requires you to first design your employee engagement strategy. I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine that Warby Parker has an operating budget that allows situations like this to happen. Furthermore, their employees most likely don’t have to build a ROI case to be able to have a small budget approved to make these organic customer interactions happen.

Can your company afford to allocate a budget for these types of gestures? Of course you can. After all, consider the ROI of this gesture. This story was picked up by Business Insider, Huffington Post, Consumerist and Reddit, websites that all receive millions and millions of page views.

This is why customer experience can be considered the new marketing and PR.

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The Customer Service Story: A waiter at a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai overheard a guest admiring the beach with his wife, who was in a wheelchair. Recognizing that the couple wasn’t able to enjoy the beach, he connected with the hotel’s maintenance team, and by the next day a wooden ramp was built so the couple could have dinner together on the beach.

The Takeaway For Your Business: In this particular story, the General Manager wasn’t made aware of the above-and-beyond customer experience until after the ramp was complete. Often, most business owners and professionals will want to approve such gestures. However, at Ritz Carlton, all employees have the green light to do so.


If your greatest concern is that you’re worried what your employees will do… well, then you have a much greater problem: you don’t trust your team.

All of these customer service stories have common themes:

  • All companies have reserved an operating budget to deliver memorable customer service gestures
  • All companies have given their employees autonomy
  • All companies have received free PR because of their efforts. Surely, your business can afford $20 (the amount I estimate that Warby Parker spent) to potentially land a story in Business Insider
  • All companies are admired because of their customer experience
  • All companies are industry leaders
  • All companies are massively successful

I want to hear your favourite customer service stories in the comment section below. What companies have delivered memorable customer service and what have you learned from them?

The Most Important Career Development Tip You Can Receive (Or Give)


In this short video, I share the career development tip I used as an employee that helped me get promoted five times in five years. Whether you’re a business person, athlete or artist, this tip has proven to work time and time again.

Hint: Derek Jeter and Beyonce make an appearance in the video (sort of). And, I filmed it at an iconic Canadian landmark.


Video – 3 Net Promoter Score (NPS) Mistakes Every Company Makes

In this video, I explain how Net Promoter Score isn’t properly being used within organizations.

By watching this 2 minute video you will learn:

  • How to focus on Promoters just as much you do Detractors
  • Share the data with your marketing team
  • Introduce Net Promoter Score during employee onboarding for all positions

If you learn something by watching the video, I would greatly appreciate if you did the following (it will only take you a moment):

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel
  • Comment on the video. Let me know your thoughts, comments and questions.
  • “Like” the video by clicking the thumbs up icon.

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3 Things You Should Regularly Tell Your Employees (But Probably Don’t)

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Whether you went to business management school, or learned how to manage employees in a non-traditional way, you know this: positive reinforcement works! Doing so will, more often than not, increase employee engagement.

The Workplace Research Foundation says that highly engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above-average productivity. Employee engagement software company, 15five, recently published a blog post covering some very interesting employee engagement trends for 2016. As the blog post suggests, there is an abundance of data and real-life case studies that suggest employee engagement can be a growth strategy for businesses of all sizes, across any industry.

Along with statistics, it’s interesting to read what proven business leaders have to say about employee engagement. Here are three of my favourites:

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” — Simon Sinek

“It’s about getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment & helping to find a way to innovate.” — Marissa Mayer

“A company is people … employees want to know… am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted.” — Richard Branson

The three conversations I believe most managers fail at having with their team members are to think long-term, invest in yourself and be curious.

Think long-term

When I was growing my career as a wide-eyed, anything-is-possible, eager employee, my greatest strength was that I was able to think long-term. I knew that my efforts would pay off one day. I never chased the pay cheque; I chased the dream. My dream was to one day advise, invest and keynote speak for multi-million and billion dollar companies.

Often this long-term mentality led me to willingly make short-term sacrifices to win in the future. Working for free (i.e. staying an extra 15 to 30 minutes without asking to be recognized or paid) was common. Did I care about receiving recognition or extra pay? No! I was aware that others would notice my diligence and hard work.

As the saying goes:

Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.

As a leader in your organization, it’s your responsibility to help your team members peer into the future. Allow them to envision what their future looks and feels like, then gently bring them back to reality. Help them create a plan for themselves and share real-world examples of how colleagues of yours have propelled their future by making small sacrifices in the short-term to win long-term.


Invest in yourself

I wrote a blog post titled, Employees Needs to Be Responsible for Their Own Development. The thought was inspired by an idea I had while at an airport. In short, the blog post outlines my belief that an employee that wants to excel can’t rely on their manager. Rather, they must take ownership over their own destiny.

I turned to my friend, Annette Franz, a master in customer experience and employee engagement, for her thoughts on this topic.

I wholeheartedly support my employees investing in themselves. As a matter of fact, I tell them they are in charge of their careers, their development, and how far they will go; I’m here to support them along the way, to provide some tools, guide rails, encouragement and direction. I’m always happy to answer any questions they have or to provide whatever help they need, but I also suggest that they look at the vast majority of external resources available to advance their skills and knowledge: books, blogs, Twitter chats, LinkedIn groups, webinars, meet-ups, whitepapers, continuing education courses and more.

What I liked most about Annette’s advice is that several of the ways that you can invest in yourself are free – all it takes is effort. When it comes to customer experience management, Annette recommends the CXPA as an opportunity to learn, network and advance your career.

Be curious (and ask a lot of questions)

Ever since I was a boy, I have always asked a lot of questions and been very curious. Whether it was turning over a stone to see if there were any worms underneath it, or being in the workforce and asking a neighbouring department what they were up to, I always had a desire to ask questions so I could learn new things. These questions led me to conduct my first round of research on customer experience which eventually became my profession.

A primary reason why I’m an advocate of open-office layouts is because it increases the ability to have candid conversations and reduces silos. Furthermore, it allows team members to freely ask questions without skyscraper high cubicle walls to overcome.

Interview Tip: When I advise companies to help them refine their interview strategies – to recruit customer-centric team members – I always suggest that they ask a question or two to understand how curious the candidate is. You can ask a question like,

“When was the last time you were curious about something that eventually became a hobby or regular occurrence.” Candidates may say things like salsa dancing (after watching Dancing with the Stars) or archery (after watching The Hunger Games).

My friend and former colleague, Rhys Green, Director of Field Operations at O2E, takes it one step further with a profound thought.

I don’t hire people who aren’t curious. Curiosity is the fuel that drives learning and a person who doesn’t want to learn is as valuable today as they’ll ever be. I hire for what you’re going to do for the organization in the future, not what you’ve done in the past.

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When managing employees to excel in their current positions, and help them propel their careers to new heights, we must reevaluate how we are mentoring them. It’s easy to go through the suggested management best practices, by identifying your strengths and working on your weaknesses, but that isn’t enough.

The three suggested conversations worked for me when I developing my career and, if you hire correctly (watch this video on how to hire motivated customer service employees), you will be able to inspire your team to exceed your expectations as their leader.

What type of management tricks, tips or tactics do you use to increase employee engagement? I would love to hear what’s working for you; leave a comment below.

VIDEO – Customer Service Training 101: How to Build a World-Class Program

After building your customer-centric culture and learning how to properly recruit exceptional customer service employees you must then build your world-class training program.

In this video, I explain how to build a training program that will provide your employees with the education they need to exceed your customer’s expectations.

By watching this 3 minute episode you will learn:

  • How to develop “micro learning” to increase knowledge retention
  • The type of content your training program must have
  • What Learning Management Software (LMS) to use

Be sure to watch until the end of the episode as I ask my “Question of the Episode.” If you like the video, I would greatly appreciate if you did the following (it will only take you a moment):

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are many more videos coming very soon.
  • Comment on the video. Let me know your thoughts, comments and questions.
  • “Like” the video by clicking the thumbs up icon.