These business management files offer up a hodgepodge of advice and anecdotes.

Serving Your Customers' Needs

When defining quality, we typically focus on two issues: conformance standards and customer expectations. Too often, we overlook a key area that is a major focus of marketing: customer needs. If we conform to the plans and specifications but fail to meet the customer's needs, that customer is not likely to be satisfied. That's a good reminder from Charlie Shaw, one of our friends at FMI, management consultants to the construction industry, headquartered in Raleigh, N.C. And if we meet all of the customer's expectations but the project won't properly serve the function for which it was intended, the customer again is not likely to be satisfied.

What needs to be done, Silver asserts, is discovering, describing, creating and structuring the expectations of the customer so that they conform to the customer's real needs. Ask questions that will unearth the attitudes, motives, underlying needs and hidden agendas that ultimately will define value, and thus quality, for the customer.

Your task, says Silver, is to match your own capabilities against the real requirements of the job. If you are able to deliver on the now clearly defined expectations, and do it by agreed-upon standards, you can do the highest-quality job.

Avoid This Safety Trap

Safety expert Dale Malcolm tells us that when a company's safety program ties cash incentives to its accident rate, accidents that do occur may go unreported by employees who want to protect their incentive payments - until a major accident occurs. Problems also can arise when employees who want to report accidents are pressured not to report them by others who want to protect their cash payments. Malcolm advises keeping cash incentives out of safety programs. He says to focus on safety training and creating a safety-oriented culture instead.

Boost Your Persuasion Power

Are you sensitive to the feelings of others? People who truly are perceptive to the feelings of others have that certain something that enables them to acquire charisma. And charisma, according to Roger Dawson, is "the intangible that makes people want to follow you, to be influenced by you."

Dawson, in his book Secrets of Power Persuasion, offers these ways to help you acquire charisma and become a more powerful persuader:

  • Treat everyone you meet as if he or she is the most important person you'll meet all day. Even if you find this difficult at first, people really will become important to you once you've acquired that habit.

  • Develop a sensational handshake and project a positive thought as you meet people.

  • Learn the art of giving sincere compliments. Keep in mind that people do care what you think and appreciate your mentioning it.

  • Work on that smile of yours. And when someone smiles back, keep smiling for those magic two seconds more.

Get Employees to the Next Level

Management expert William Oncken describes five levels of initiative that employees can demonstrate.

Level one employees wait around to be told what to do.

Level two employees will ask the boss what they're supposed to do.

Employees at level three will suggest or recommend a course of action, and then wait for the boss to choose the most appropriate one.

Level four employees act independently, and then immediately tell the boss what steps they've taken.

When they finally make it to level five, employees are acting independently and routinely updating the boss on results.

Catching a Few Winks

The folks at the Better Sleep Council conducted a survey of 1,000 working adults. One of the questions asked was, "Have you ever dozed off while on the job?"

Twenty-six percent of the men surveyed answered "yes," as did 13 percent of the women - an aggregate of 19 percent.

Seventy-three percent of men said they had never fallen asleep at work, and 85 percent of the women said the same for an aggregate of 79 percent.

The remaining 2 percent said they "don't know." Don't know? What's worse, having an employee sleeping on the job or having an employee that doesn't even know whether he's sleeping or not?

Some Terminology Gets Defined

There are plenty of times when a person says one thing but is thinking something entirely different. Maybe the person is trying to be tactful, diplomatic or politically correct - or maybe that person is just a jerk. As with everything else, knowledge is the key, so we offer this handy guide that translates just a handful of the euphemisms you may encounter (or new ones you can use - either way is good).

This Month's Calendar Note

The average American eats approximately 60 hot dogs every year - that's more than 20 billion hot dogs total. The Fourth of July weekend alone sees some 155 million hot dogs consumed, so July is designated National Hot Dog Month.

Frankfurt, Germany is traditionally credited with originating the frankfurter in 1484, but it is likely that the American hot dog derives from a widespread common European sausage brought here by butchers of several nationalities.

There are reports of a German immigrant, selling dachshund or "little dog" sausages, along with milk rolls and sauerkraut, from a pushcart in New York's Bowery during the 1860s. In 1871, Charles Feltman opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand, selling 3,684 dachshund sausages in milk rolls during his first year in business.

The year 1893 was an important date in hot dog history. The Colombian Exposition in Chicago brought hordes of visitors who consumed mass quantities of sausages; they liked this food that was easy to eat, convenient and inexpensive. That same year, sausages became the standard fare at baseball parks.

The term "hot dog" was coined in 1901 at the New York Polo Grounds. One cold April day, concessionaire Harry Stevens was losing money trying to sell ice cream and soda. He sent his salesmen out to buy up all the dachshund sausages they could find, and an equal number of rolls. An hour later, his vendors were hawking hot dogs in portable hot water tanks with, "They're red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they're red hot!" In the press box, sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan was nearing a deadline and desperate for an idea. Hearing the vendors, he hastily drew a cartoon of barking dachshund sausages nestled warmly in buns. Not sure how to spell "dachshund," he simply wrote "hot dog." The cartoon was a sensation - and hot dogs never looked back.

Hot dog minutiae:

  • Sara Lee made a 1,996-foot wiener in honor of the 1996 Olympics.

  • Americans clearly favor mustard on their hot dogs, although kids prefer ketchup. (Travel tip for tourists visiting Chicago: putting ketchup on a hot dog is tantamount to blasphemy - you could end up in the trunk of a car in the remote parking lot at O'Hare.)

  • Mad Martha's on Martha's Vineyard offers hot dog ice cream.

  • Americans will eat 27 million hot dogs in major league ballparks this summer - enough to stretch from Yankee Stadium to Dodgers' Stadium.

    Leadership Makes the Difference

    Whether you're in charge of a crew, a division or the entire company, your leadership makes all the difference. Here are six steps from the Ohio Public Facilities Maintenance Association that you can take to boost your leadership acumen:

    1. Level Out. No one wants to have to guess what kind of mood you're in or adjust to constant mood changes. Level out and watch the tension level on your team evaporate.

    2. Communicate. Workers thrive on feedback, recognition and praise. Make an effort to communicate in these areas, and you'll see immediate results.

    3. Play Fair. Make sure you treat everyone as equals. Workers resent preferential treatment given to certain employees.

    4. Listen. If workers feel you argue with them each time you talk, they won't bring you questions, concerns or suggestions. Discipline yourself to listen and keep yourself in the loop.

    5. Be There. Employees hate having to wait to discuss a problem with you. The more available you are, the faster problems can be solved - and the greater the collaborative spirit among your people.

    6. Be Prepared. From absenteeism and ergonomics, to new legal dangers and emergencies, the best leaders are prepared before situations arise.