The Change Your Mindset Podcast

Welcome to the Change Your Mindset podcast, hosted by Peter Margaritis, CPA, AKA The Accidental Accountant. Peter is a speaker, expert in applied improvisation and author of the book 'Improv Is No Joke, Using Improvization to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life'. Peter's new book, Taking the Numb Our of Numbers: Explaining & Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity will be published in June 2018.

S4E19. 4 Steps to Create a Black Tie Experience for Your Customers with Bob Pacanovsky

How do you define hospitality concerning your customers or clients? Does your organization offer a “black tie” experience — or is it more business casual?

Bob Pacanovsky has been an entrepreneur for 25 years, primarily in the hospitality industry. He and his team have created over 7,000 meetings, events, and receptions that each had just one chance to make a wild experience and a lasting impression on clients and guests alike. Now, as a keynote speaker and strategic trainer, he uses his two decades of experience in the trenches to teach companies how to focus on service excellence and hospitality to cultivate more loyal customers and employees. 

When you go out to eat, you’re expecting more than just good food — you’re expecting a wonderful, memorable dining experience. Good customer service and consistent food quality are the expectations. But if you want to go above and beyond that, if you’re going to exceed expectations, you need to hone in on creating black tie experiences.

There’s a four-step approach to providing a consistent black tie experience.

  1. Build a foundation (or culture) of hospitality
  2. Develop your impact points by becoming your customer
  3. Create your standards of excellence
  4. Transform your customers into brand ambassadors

Culture is the foundation of any company. The key ingredients that make up your culture are your core values. If you promote these and live these effectively, you should have a healthy culture. And the last key ingredient in culture is your people. Do they feel empowered, appreciated, and valued?

Bob likens creating excellent experiences to cooking. You have to practice cooking again and again until the skill of cooking becomes automatic. The same applies to making sure your customer service is automated. And when you’re cooking, you have to follow the recipe. You can’t wing it when it comes to customer service — you have to follow your training. That doesn’t mean you can’t improvise, but you have to know at least what you’re working with. And you have to keep revisiting the recipe: Do people love this dish? Is there too much of any one ingredient or not enough of another? Lastly, you want to make a significant impact with the meal. Any time someone comes in contact with your brand before, during, or after they make a purchase, you have an opportunity to make an impact.

Make sure that the entire meal not only looks great and tastes great but that the experience as a whole is something that people remember and talk about for years to come.

Bob’s Bow Tie Pasta Primavera with Aglio e Olio and Fresh Vegetables

(serves 2)

2 tablespoons- Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ cup walnut pieces

1 teaspoon- minced garlic

1/3 cup- green or red peppers – sliced

1/3 cup- zucchini – sliced

1/3 cup- yellow squash – sliced

1 small onion – sliced

***Other vegetables can be substituted – Sun-Dried or Diced Tomatoes,

Eggplant, etc.

2 cups- Baby Spinach Leaves

½ teaspoon- dried basil

Kosher Salt & Black Pepper mix- season to taste

4 ounces- Bow Tie (Farfalle) Pasta

***You can substitute Whole Wheat Pasta (Spaghetti, Angel Hair, etc.)

2 Tablespoons- Shredded Part skim Low-Fat Mozzarella Cheese

2 additional tablespoons – Olive Oil – to toss into pan after recipe is completed

In a separate pot- cook pasta; make sure it is Al Dente, as it will go into the sauté pan to finish cooking.  (For this event, the pasta will be cooked ahead of time, then added to the sauté pan to bring up to temperature.)

Heat the first 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Add in all vegetables to sauté along with basil and salt/pepper mix.

Add in walnuts and garlic.  Make sure you turn walnuts frequently so not to burn them.  Sauté for 1-2 minutes.

Add in fresh spinach to sauté.  The spinach should be wilted when done.

Once completed, add pasta into sauté pan with all other ingredients.

Add in additional olive oil into the pan and mix thoroughly.

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S4E18. Flawless Presentation

Have you ever given a presentation only to realize, once you’ve finished, that you left out a critical detail? Or that you mispronounced a word, or someone’s name? Maybe you lost your train of thought in the middle of a sentence and blanked out momentarily, losing the focus of your audience.

These mistakes come as a result of a lack of practice, confidence, our nerves operating in overdrive, or all of the above. They might be acceptable for a staff meeting, but not for a board meeting, all staff meeting, an analyst call, or a keynote address. Some leaders can articulate and deliver their thoughts and ideas in a way that inspires and motivates their audience. Others can express their thoughts and ideas through the written form but fail with the vocal delivery.

There are two challenges at hand: mistakes made by the presenter and other variables that can derail a presentation. Let’s begin with those made by the presenter. I mentioned three common errors in the opening. When these kinds of mistakes occur, the audience usually has no idea — only the person speaking notices in most cases. What’s even more critical in these instances, is how the leader handles the mistake in real time.

One way to handle it is to become fixated to the point it derails your train of thought and causes other missteps. You become so frustrated; you walk off the stage. Ideally, you avoid becoming fixated on the error and lean on your preparedness for the engagement. Keep moving forward with your interview, meeting, or presentation, all the while making a mental note of the mistake to assess after you’re finished.

Improvisation plays a clear role in handling mistakes on stage. I have learned from my many years of applying improv techniques to my own speaking engagements that you can’t plan for a perfect presentation. You have to let go of your perfection to adapt to the new reality. Silence the inner critic. Maintain your confidence. Stay present and in the moment throughout. Let mistakes go and move forward. 

When you make a significant misstep, you have an obligation to stop, own up to the error, and make the correction. If you choose to move forward, you’ll lose credibility with your audience and seed a potential larger PR issue down the line. We all hate to make mistakes, but we need to own up to anything that feels overtly incorrect, amend, and move forward.

Other instances can derail your presentation, too. Your laptop could freeze up. The LCD projector light bulb burns out. Your microphone stops working. You lose power just before your virtual presentation. There are many more instances. These are some that I have experienced personally. How you handle them is critically important. Preparedness plays a major role.

In the world of improv, we train to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. I take that approach every time I do any presentation. It helps me keep control over my emotions, because the one thing you never want to do is to lose your cool in front of an audience.

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S4E17. Bouncing Up Instead of Bouncing Back with Mj Callaway

What is your mindset when life throws you a curveball?

Mj Callaway is a former corporate sales trainer and the only female sales executive to rank number one for a national builder. She knows, firsthand, the disruptions that leaders, managers, and executive teams handle daily and how to remain positive, productive, and profitable through it all. A two-time cancer survivor, she’s known for shifting staff attitudes and converting tactics into results. Her newly released book, “Bounce-Up: Outpower Adversity, Boost Resilience, Rebound Higher,” has been endorsed by the CEO and Founder of The Healthy Workforce Institute, Renee Thompson.

When we experience adversity, there are many paths we can choose to go down. We talk so much about “bouncing back,” but wouldn’t that put us right back where we started, before the setbacks? What if we could “bounce up,” and use everything we learned to put ourselves in an even better position than before?

Part of bouncing up is learning how to handle rejection. Anytime you get a no, you should be evaluating what you could have done differently, or what they wanted that you didn’t bring to the table. Use every rejection as an opportunity to learn and improve. When you do that, you start seeking out rejection to collect your learnings. It’s all about attitude.

When Mj was first diagnosed with cancer, she was given a 20% chance to live if chemo was not effective. The chemo was estimated to have a 50% chance of working. She was faced with a choice: she could whine and cry — and she did some of that — or she could make some changes in her lifestyle. She started calling chemo her “magic wand,” both to take the edge off of discussing it with others and to capture and convey her belief that it would work. And it did.

Mj’s story is inspirational, but you don’t have to experience adversity at the level she has in order to demonstrate the same level of resilience to bounce up.

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S4E16. It’s Time to Change the Way We View Innovation

What is true innovation? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it’s, “The action or process of innovating” and “A new method, idea, product, etc.”

During my improv-world journey, I have come across so many quotes about how we should be innovating, such as: “Bad ideas are bridges to good ideas, no ideas lead to nothing,” or, “Bring a brick, don’t bring a cathedral.” The first is saying that all ideas are good, no matter how outlandish. Even though we may or may not implement the crazy idea, we should consider it and see where it takes the conversation. The second quote says that a leader should not bring a solution to the problem, challenge, or goal they are addressing (the cathedral), but rather, their role should be to solicit ideas (bricks) from the group to build a viable solution as a team.

Innovation requires the acceptance of all ideas in order to move forward and be effective. Ego-driven leaders who shoot down ideas from their team stop innovation in its tracks. True innovation is fueled by the former, not the latter, approach, because criticism during creation stifles the creative process. 

There are two kinds of thinking that drive innovation: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the process of coming up with as many ideas as possible and not censoring yourself, criticizing, or qualifying the concept. Divergent thinking is all about quantity, not quality. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is the process of analyzing and critiquing ideas to determine which are viable.

You may be wondering, what is wrong with criticizing an idea during the divergent thinking process? It would seem we are using our time more effectively, right? Not really. When we say, “We can’t do that,” or, “We tried last year,” or, “We don’t have the resources to pull that off,” they turn idea generation off at the source. The risk of volunteering your idea with a high probability of it being shot down makes the risk not worth taking, and a potential good idea, or something that leads to one, dies on the vine.

What’s the alternative? With the philosophy of, “Yes! And”, we are meant to accept another person’s idea and add on to it. When we do this, we are increasing our confidence to take risks and taking risks without fear generates impressive creativity! There is a name for this – it is called psychological safety. Psychological safety during divergent thinking creates a culture of accepting all ideas without criticism or punishment. 

Changing our mindset takes time because we are hard-wired to criticize during the ideation process. However, there are ways to change this pattern. The best way I’ve found to begin to break this pattern is to set a timer for 10 minutes and see how many ideas you and your team can collect without any additional dialogue.

Patience and tolerance by the leader are critical for any team to begin to change their mindset in this respect. The ultimate goal is to create a culture where crazy ideas are accepted and supported with patience and encouragement.

How can you and your team change how you innovate, creating a more robust and engaging environment that encourages and rewards risk-taking, respect of others, patience, vulnerability, and giving everyone a say in the process? Start immediately and work on the process. Over time, your team’s ability to solve problems will flourish.

S4E15. The Difference Between Significance & Success, with Lauren Schieffer

What is your definition of success? What is your definition of significance? And what’s the difference between the two?

Lauren “The Colonel’s Daughter” Schieffer is returning to the show to answer these questions and more. In S4E7, she talked about choosing respect over drama. You can read all about her background here

Most people are programmed to chase success. It’s outwardly focused, with the weighty titles, flashy accomplishments, accolades, and parking spaces. Significance is inwardly focused. It’s about being of service, first, and has nothing to do with how much power or money a person has. True leaders, significant leaders, build people up to be the next generation of significant leaders.

The generic efficiency-focused, profit-motivated leadership of the 20th and early 21st century is what has led us to the situation we’re in today, a raging pandemic, a weakened economy, and one of the most divisive political environments in modern history. 

Productivity, profits, accumulation of wealth, and market share are not inherently bad on their own. But, when they become the sole focus over the wellbeing of the employee base and the community that they serve, the model becomes destructive.

There are nine essentials of significant leadership:

  1. Understand your own value
  2. Treat all people with respect
  3. Act with integrity at all times
  4. Open your mind to new possibilities
  5. Craft a vision
  6. Communicate respectfully
  7. Lead by example
  8. Celebrate the results of others first
  9. Work for your replacement

Lauren’s father, the Colonel, always said, “There’s no reason to be nervous when your heart is in service.” If we all try and focus on being in service every day, on following the nine essentials of significant leadership, we can raise the significance of our presence and impact on the world and people around us. Which do you aspire to, success or significance?

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