Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Neen James Share Attention Pays Strategies with Virtuoso Travel

We are facing an attention deficit crisis within our businesses today. Professionals are feeling overtired, overwhelmed and overstressed. Everyone is trying to accomplish a productive day of work while facing a barrage of never-ending interruptions and distractions.


Before our time together in Las Vegas, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some tips for boosting your productivity by leveraging your focus. Let’s start with 5 common issues the Virtuoso team of professionals have shared as being their biggest challenge to focused attention.


#1. Overwhelming noise competes for your attention.

We are living in the age of over information. We struggle to get the attention of clients because they are inundated with requests for their time and attention, as are you. As leaders, we get wrapped up in working on other people’s priorities and not always our own. We try to clear our inbox as soon as messages arrive, attend meetings at everyone’s request, focusing on development and multitasking on webinars. The overwhelm from constant noise and demands for our time hurts our ability to focus on the right things that truly matter.


We must learn to prioritize the demands on our attention. When we try to work on projects of importance, we need to be intentional with silencing the other distractions that compete for our attention. For instance, use technology to help you avoid it.


The Freedom App: Allows you to block websites that are tempting to hop on but suck valuable time away from the day. If you find yourself going down rabbit holes wasting too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and more, use this app to force better habits on yourself.


#2. A never-ending to-do list is frustrating.

When did we start living in the world of ‘crazy busy?’ Everyone we talk to is ‘crazy busy’ and barely keeping their heads above water. Why? Have our lives really ramped up to an unachievable pace of errands, tasks and chores each day? Answer is: NO. Professionals have fooled ourselves into believing everything is of the utmost importance and needs to be done right away. That’s just not the case.


We can tackle this challenge by changing the way we define priorities. Start each day jotting down three non-negotiable priorities on a post-it note. Place it on your computer as a reminder that my day is not complete until these non-negotiables are accomplished. Intentionally set aside time on your calendar first thing in the morning and honor it as if it were a meeting with a client. During that time, turn off your devices and silence alerts to give your concentrated focus to these non-negotiables. Once they are complete, I achieve a sense of accomplishment and feeling of satisfaction that boosts my productivity for the rest of the day. This also provides enough time in the rest of the day to handle any pressing issues that do truly require time and attention. As a result, you’ll end each day feeling like you’ve tackled what mattered most.


 #3. There isn’t enough time in the day.

Many of us are guilty of allowing issues that pop up last minute dictate the flow and time within our day. Meetings require much time, as do phone calls, appointments, emails and more. While none of us can evade these responsibilities, we can get smarter with the way we manage our attention toward them.


I’m an advocate of time-blocking. Time-blocking is where you set aside chunks of time on your calendar to allow for specific activities. For instance, set aside time first thing in the morning to address your three non-negotiable priorities for the day. You can use this same principle to block off time for making phone calls, working on special projects and checking emails. As a result, you’ll be able to accomplish more of one task type than hop around from task to task. You will be able to complete more phone calls, respond to more emails and accomplish more on your special projects than if you were going back and forth or trying to split your focus.


#4.  Clients rarely have the same sense of urgency.

When you’re working in a service industry, often the clients on a different timetable than you. Either they want what they want immediately, or they’ll take their time getting back to you when it becomes a priority for them.


One way to tackle this challenge is to talk time. Throughout your phone conversations with clients, recap how long you’ve talked and what’s been committed by when. Establish deadlines and reiterate them throughout the conversation. For instance, say to a customer, “In the 18 minutes we’ve been together, here’s some things we’ve talked about…” When discussing deadlines and needs you must complete their requests, say things such as “It sounds like you would require some proposal information by Thursday, if I get that to you by 4:00 East Coast time, will that work for you?”


This helps because they start registering an expectation. If they say, “No, no, no, my family’s meeting Wednesday night, I need everything for a family meeting on Wednesday,” then you now know what their sense of urgency is.


#5. Procrastination is crippling my productivity.

Procrastination is a self-inflicted paint point we bring upon ourselves for a variety of reasons. Either we don’t feel the project is important enough; or, we dread the mindpower it will take. As a result, we allow other priorities to come before whatever is on our plate.


Thing is, we are ALL guilty of it. It’s human nature to procrastinate. If we feel the habit is far too easy to fall back on, then we must start changing our patterns and self-expectations.


One trick is to go back to your trusty calendar and let it do the heavy lifting. If there are three pressing projects needing your time, block off time on your calendar to do them. Here are some rules of thumb to follow when it comes to determining how:


  • Projects that require creative thinking and brain power need to be scheduled during your most productive work time of day. If your a professional who does your best thinking in the morning, mindfully schedule projects in need of your attention first thing.


  • If it’s a project requiring a significant amount of time, tackle it in 15-minute increments. These types of projects tempt us to procrastinate because of the sheer volume of time and attention they demand. We put them off for a time we think we can accomplish it in one sitting. What winds up happening is we get super stressed and overwhelmed trying to finish it in the last minute. Try working in 15-minute increments. Set aside 15 minutes a day to work toward the project. Little by little, you’ll start to get through the project without feeling like you’ve invested a lifetime into it.


  • Those items you put off merely because you dread them and the toughest to tackle. It’s not that they take a ton of brain power or time, they’re just not fun. These are projects that require accountability. Schedule a non-negotiable date on your calendar to work on the project – make it your own personal deadline. If you feel that’s too tempting to bail on, get an accountability buddy to help force you to finish. Knowing you have someone committed to your accountability is a great way to motivate you to do it.



I can’t wait see you in Las Vegas and make the most of our time together. If you’d like more ideas in the meantime, visit my blog at and subscribe to my bi-weekly ezine. Connect with me on social media on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter with @NeenJames.



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Monday, July 16, 2018

Pay Attention to Peer Departments

support peer departments What are you doing to pay attention to other departments? That’s right. In today’s organizations, we have so many different business models, we have matrix organizations. Whereas a leader you might have virtual relationships with you, that don’t have a direct line to you but maybe they have responsibilities that impact your team. Or maybe you have other departments who have to get work done before you can touch it in order for you to proceed. We need to pay attention to other departments. So, today, what I would like to consider is how do we have that profession attention commitment to other departments?


The first step is an obvious one and that’s about building relationships. Now, building relationships sounds so easy but how are you doing it? Are you inviting people to your team meeting so that they can get an insight into what your team’s talking about? Are you shadowing people to understand what’s going on in their business?


One of my clients is a major media company, and they have an advertising and sales decision. Now in advertising and ad is called a “spot”, so what I was able to do was to follow a spot. Like a day in the life of a spot from the moment they sold the ad to the client all the way through until it was placed on television. What as fascinating about that was working with all the different departments to understand how everything impacts something else.


When was the last time you developed department relationships by reviewing end-to-end processes for efficiencies? What relationships could grow? What policies could you update?


The first step in truly paying attention to other departments is build relationships. This can often happen through things like affinity groups. Another one of my clients has major affinity groups for all kinds of different reasons that people meet. Can you build relationships through affinity groups?


The second strategy is to share success. That’s right. So what does that mean? Understanding objectives of other departments is really important because you can know how to celebrate when they get some great things happening. But in the same way, if another department has an implication, has and impact is probably a better word, on what you do, then share with them when that goes well. Share the successes and not just the challenges. Too often we only reach out to another department when somethings gone wrong.


Wouldn’t it be cool to proactively pay attention to celebrate success together? Share new stories, share customer experiences, testimonials, emails that are great. Share success stories with other departments, so they have a greater appreciation of what they’re doing and how it impacts you and vice versa.


The third strategy is to invite collaboration. When you have someone who comes into your team from another department, they have a very different perspective. They might look at the world more creatively. They might have a great idea so ask for their input, encourage them to share, openly, about anything they see that might improve the way you do things, might enhance the client experience.


I have one client where they do regular Lunch and Learns for other departments. It’s a great way for them to meet other people, to share success stories about what’s going on but also, to be able to collaborate on how they can perform better as a company overall.


Three ways that you can pay attention to other departments. Build relationships, share success and invite collaboration. What would you add?


You see I believe that when we truly pay attention to others, attention comes back over and repeatedly. You’ve heard me say it before and in our book, “Attention Pays”, that when you pay attention, attention pays, right?


What are some additional ways that you can really pay professional attention and commit to other departments? Other departments impact your success as a leader. Inspire other leaders to do the same by sharing this video with them and decide, as a leadership team, to prioritize each other’s departments. Recognize and reward.

Like I said, “When you pay attention, attention pays.”


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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Book Review: Pay Attention to ‘A Friend of a Friend’ by David Burkus

friend of a friend david burkusI have always believed attention is about connection.


Networking is connecting.


David has shared powerful advice in a more meaningful and intentional way and I love how he backs up his social science with practical, implementable strategies to leverage our networks.


His differences between weak, dormant and strong ties were enlightening. The book is filled with examples of unique perspectives on how to successfully tap into hidden networks. I loved this line in the book ‘the bottom line is who you know affects how you think and it affects which friend of a friend you’re likely to meet”


I resonated with his super-connector information and will be sharing this book with my clients and colleagues – pick up your copy, read it and then share it with a team member or friend. A Friend of a Friend is a great addition to every business leader’s collection.


Check out this video review to learn more about how this book can help you increase your network and grow your business.


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David Burkus Friend of a Friend Book Review

Watch video on YouTube here:

David Burkus Friend of a Friend Book Review

Watch video on YouTube here:

Monday, July 09, 2018

Pay Attention to Support Staff

employees talent behind the scenes employees support staffGiving Behind-the-Scenes Staff the Attention they Deserve.


What’s your commitment to your staff? Are you giving your support staff of employees who are behind the scenes as much attention and recognition they deserve? I’d like to give you five ways that you can pay even better attention to your behind-the-scenes employees, and show them how committed you are to their success.


I’ve been privileged to work with my Maria for over 12 years. Now, my Maria is affectionately called the “Queen of Neen” by all of my clients. I could never do what I do without my Maria. I have a position where I am so fortunate to have several people who work with me on my team. Now, notice that they work with me, not for me. These talented team members need to be acknowledged and recognized for the value that they deliver. So, how are you doing that with your support team? Here are five ways I’d like you to consider where you can be even more professionally attentive and committed to your support staff as much as your front line of support.


#1. Train.  First of all, training employees on your mission, vision and values is as important as policy and procedure and the protocols, but in your mission, vision and values.  Send them to conferences and development seminars to help them in their daily work. Encourage them, and provide for them, industry and position-related books that will help develop them.  Share TED Talks and blogs. Training your support staff and committing to their development makes them better at their job and makes your life even easier.


#2. Meet. Maria and I have regularly scheduled one-on-ones, and the reason this is important is not just for me to share with her things I need to be done. It’s for us to talk about her development, our strategy, review all of these things. She drives the agenda, not me. Can you schedule one-on-one so that your support team gets that individual attention from you? Maybe it’s by phone, face time or Zoom. Maybe they actually get to be in your office, but can you meet regularly with your support staff?


#3.  Seek. Seek their feedback and input because they get an unusual view of the world that maybe you don’t get to see. You see, support staff talk to other support staff. People who know me well know that I often say that, “Assistants rule the world,” and assistants do business with other assistants. When you are looking at your process, procedures, sales, and protocols, can you seek their input too? Furthermore, seek their feedback on your ideas and how they may be perceived by others outside of customer-facing teams. Ask them if there’s a better way to do something, a more clever, a more productive way because they look at the world differently to you and their perspective is so valuable.


#4. Review. Now, review in our world means that every summer we take time to review the way the business is going. We look at all of the ways that we organize things for a checklist, for travel, for client work, for invoicing. The team and I review everything coming up in the next six months, operations manual, and more. The summer is better for us because it’s a quieter time for me when many of my corporate clients are on vacation. But review processes do you have in place to truly pay attention and commit to your support staff? We want to always make sure that we are delivering the best value for our clients, and so for us, that means we have to constantly be in review.


#5. Celebrate. Finally, celebrate with your support staff when you’ve had a great win or a fantastic year or closed a sale.  For instance, when we released my book, Attention Pays, we were so excited that it was number one best new release on Amazon. We were super excited that it became the number one bestseller for 800 CEO-READ that month. Now, that was a huge team effort, and my Maria who has been with me for a long time, she and I went out that night and we celebrated. Celebrate your wins with your team too; because they work so hard to help you do what you do.

In conclusion, ask yourself: How are you paying attention to your support staff? What are you doing to recognize and acknowledge the work that they do? For some, it might be just a handwritten thank you note. Others may need a shout-out at the team meeting. It might be tickets to their favorite concert or sending them to a conference or maybe sending them some great books to review. Either way, it’s time to pay attention to those you depend on, your support staff.


Need more inspiration? First, watch this video and share it with other department leaders. Then, join together and commit to shed light on top-performing employees. Take a look, share and then subscribe to my YouTube channel.


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Monday, July 02, 2018

Put Your Phone Down – WARNING: Attention Fireworks Rant Ahead

fireworks rantIf you know anything about me, you will know my most favorite thing in the world, besides my honey, is fireworks. I mean I love them, I’m totally captivated by them.


And what you may also know about me is as an Australian, the only night that I get super homesick for Sydney is New Year’s Eve, because if you know anything about Sydney and New Year’s Eve, it’s summer, and I used to live on the harbor and I had an apartment that looked at the Harbor Bridge. So, can you imagine the fireworks display?


Every year when I’m freezing cold on the East Coast, I get homesick. So, one year my honey and I decided to go back to New Year’s Eve in Sydney, so that I could fix my homesickness. Just recently, I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Turks and Caicos, what a beautiful place.


But let me tell what happened that totally made me crazy. First, you should know,  I’m little.  I’m four ten and a half.  I have to work hard to see above the heads of others in a packed crowd. Can you imagine my horror when I looked up in the sky, only to have my view blocked by people’s outstretched arms holding up their cell phones? Every single person all around me pulled out their stupid devices in a crazy attempt to record the display.


It’s not just that it made me crazy because I couldn’t see, it made me crazy realizing they weren’t being present in that moment. There they were in the presence of the most magnificent fireworks display. I mean in Sydney it was incredible, and this year in Turks and Caicos it was right above me and spectacular. Yet all people did was record it on their cell phones, which, by the way they will probably never watch. And I asked my honey why on earth are they doing this, his response surprised me. “They just want to post it on social media and show off to their friends.” Sad, yes, and likely true.


I mean seriously, this has got to stop. This is crazy. We need to make the most of every moment. Start by putting away devices, be present and make the most of the moment.


So, if you ever watch fireworks with me I warn you now, put away your cell phone. I just want to be with you and experience the joy and the magic of the captivating fireworks. So, this year I challenge you, start paying attention. Join me in the attention revolution and realize distraction decays, but attention pays.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Pay Attention and Create Exceptional Experiences for Customers

customer review retention happiness loyalty satisfactionWith Exceptional Attention to Detail

Do your customers know how important they are to you? And when I use the word customer I’m talking about your clients, patients, members,  students, team members, whatever word you use to describe them, let’s use the word customers today. How are you paying professional attention to your customers, whoever they might be?


I want to share with you what I call B.D.A, which is just my fancy name, for a process, that describes before, during, and after. When it comes to truly paying professional attention, and committing to our customers, I want to share with you an experience I had, and a great example of an organization, or really a hotel, that demonstrates what I call intentional attention through their B.D.A process.


I wanted to surprise a dear friend and she lives in North Carolina, and I had booked a weekend in New York as a surprise. Before I even got to New York I had the opportunity to go to their website, register my details, and it was quite a fun check-in process. And one thing they asked about was there any special occasion? So of course, I mentioned my friend Lesley’s birthday. I was thinking about what made it a really great attentive experience: before I even got to the hotel their website’s well designed, there are so many great pictures. All my questions were answered, their registration process was simple. And I had done quite a bit of research on them through social media.


The Exceptional Customer Experience


I had heard about this unique property called the Library Hotel, with endorsements from others who’d stayed there. I want you to think about what are your customers telling others? What are people looking at when they view your social media accounts? Are they sharing and seeing what you stand for? And do you make it easy for your customers to do business with you?


There are some ideas before you even get that customer interaction. Let’s talk about what happened during our stay at the Library Hotel. It was a very hot summer day, we had both got into the city in very different ways,  jumped in a cab to get to the hotel. It was a hot, sticky day. Imagine our delight when we were offered water by the attentive, kind staff who offered us water upon entering. We were early, so our room wasn’t ready for us at that time.


But, what was amazing was that they wished my friend a ‘happy birthday’ as soon as she walked up to the counter, which is incredible, and they offered us a hospitality suite to be able to change so we could then go and enjoy a luncheon. Not only that, the hospitality suite was equipped with lovely complimentary drinks and snacks, and it was a gorgeous beautiful facility.


We told them a little bit about our day’s plans,  shopping in Soho, and then lunch at Balthazar. Balthazar is one of my favorite French bistros in New York, and it is just a hustling and bustling very New-York-type place. I go there whenever I have a chance.


We had mentioned this as we jumped in our Uber to go out after leaving our luggage at the Library hotel. We had a lovely lunch and after returning from lots and lots of shopping, they told us our room as ready and they had sent our bags up to our room.


Now, here’s what’s interesting. When we got into our room there was a birthday card for Lesley, and little chocolates. There were two mugs from the Library Hotel so we can enjoy them after we left. And I looked across the room and I saw a bottle of one of my favorite champagnes. How did they know? What was even more remarkable was when I found a signed cookbook from Balthazar. Ah-mazing!


They had organized a copy of the book, including a lovely handwritten note from the manager about our experience. This is attention to detail! They gave us a beautiful room overlooking the New York Library – the hotel’s namesake.

Every room is on the Dewey Decimal System. Isn’t that interesting!? You might remember, if you’re as old as me, going to a library and pulling out the draws filled with little-indexed cards with the number and then you had to go find the book.


The Library Hotel is a fantastic case study in how, from the moment we set foot on their property, they paid attention, the staff was trained, everyone was attentive. They listened to our conversation and added little tiny moments that would make us remember it for a lifetime. We had an amazing time at the Library Hotel.


Interesting. After we left, (remember BDA, before, during, and after), they also reached out to see how was our stay. They asked for feedback. We got lovely responses, and obviously, we shared our experience on social media. What are you doing for your customers to make them feel seen and heard, before they interact with you, during their interaction with you, and then after they leave you?


Create Your Exceptional Experience


We work hard to get customers to support our business. There are so many tools available for you to you to pay attention and commit to your customers. Your website,  marketing collaterals,  advertising,  social media,  staff training,  policies, and procedures. And the experience of your physical environment if you have one.


What are all the things you could be paying attention to? All those touch points that leave an impact on your customers? I want to challenge you today to have a look at one of these areas, before, during, or after. Think about what could you do differently and commit to your customers in an even deeper way.


Need more inspiration to uplift customers and prioritize their needs? Watch my video and subscribe to my channel.



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Peloton: The Poster Child of Intentional Customer Attention

peloton exceptional customer experience and attentionCreate an Exceptional Customer Experience with Intentional Attention

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m obsessed with Peloton. What’s a Peloton, you ask? It’s basically a bike that goes nowhere. It is also a case study in my book, Attention Pays.


John Foley, the CEO, is the brainchild of Peloton, a stationary bike with a tablet attached. But what John will tell you is it’s a technology company, not a fitness company.


They are the poster child for intentional customer attention for many different reasons. John is very attentive to the community which has over 80,000 subscribers on their Facebook group. This active community posts questions about features they’d like, and then, the company incorporates them in the software.


They carefully choose instructors they know will resonate with riders. Their instructors have become so adored, they even have their own cult following. These instructors are like celebrities. Each very different and very talented, attracting a certain kind of customer. Instructors often times have their own Instagram and Facebook pages that riders can follow as well.


Peloton pays attention to their community, which is made up of home-riders. These home-riders use their bike in the basement, their home gym and on their patio while following instructors they love. Riders can choose to ride live recordings or ones previously recorded. They can select from many different scenic rides when the class model isn’t what they desire.


They even created the home rider invasion where riders leave the confines of their home and travel to New York. There, they get to meet their favorite instructors and do classes in the studio. Because their rider community is so strong, meeting each other in the home rider invasion is as much of a perk as meeting the instructors.  I a very loyal customer and any day I’m working from home, I take advantage of my Peloton. I love their instructors! Jennifer Jacobs is definitely one of my most favorites.


Peloton’s business model demonstrates how one leader paid intentional attention to the customer and created a revolution in the fitness industry. Are you ready to do the same in your business?

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