Another pay cut, more anger and uncertainty about the future ...
It's time for agents to get a collective psychological tune-up.
We sought guidance on a specialty called cognitive therapy,
consulting Laura Oliff, Ph.D., a psychologist at the
Manhattan-based American Institute of Cognitive Therapy, as well as
from several self-help books in the field.
Cognitive therapists believe that what you think significantly
affects the way you feel.
For instance, if you change your inner dialogue, challenging
irrational, illogical or overly self-critical thoughts to get a
truer sense of the reality of a situation, you can feel better and
act more effectively, they say.
The concept might sound simplistic, but, according to Oliff,
that's one reason why it works -- because it's easy to use, it's
based on common sense and it's attuned to everyday life instead of
(as in other kinds of therapy) events that occurred in childhood.
And once you learn a few tools, you can practice it yourself.
The first step in the process is to identify the difficult
situation, what you're feeling and -- most important -- the
thoughts fueling that feeling.
For example, if you're angry and feeling helpless over the pay
cuts, you might be thinking, "I'm a victim, and it's not fair. The
airlines are trying to put me out of business."
The next step is to think of a more rational response, such as:
"Yes, the airlines cut my commissions, and they'll probably
continue to cut my commissions until they're down to zero. I have a
right to be absolutely furious -- who wouldn't be if an outside
force cut their pay? But they're a business making business
decisions. Forget about the airlines right now. What can I do to
help myself now as an owner of my own business?"
Oliff offered an additional response: "My industry has changed
drastically, like many other industries. This is a change I'm not
thrilled with, but I have the strength to meet the demands of my
newly changed industry."
More therapy ...
If the example we provided in the above article about cognitive
therapy just made you feel angrier, here's another real-life
example of this technique to consider:
Suppose you're a
fearful flyer who just learned about the Egyptair plane crash the
week before you had to fly to Paris. Your first thought is, "Since
I'm flying from Kennedy Airport -- and everybody keeps talking
about all of these unexplained crashes of planes flying from there
-- then I'm probably going to crash and die!"
The rational response: "You're just nervous and overstimulated
because of all the media coverage about the crash. But it's
probably the best time to fly. Because there was a recent crash,
it's likely that maintenance people are going to be more careful
"Plus, remember the hundreds of flights that take off and land
safely every day. Your task now is to manage your anxiety, not to
think about how you're going to die."
For a highly readable, step-by-step introduction to the
techniques of cognitive therapy, check out "The Feeling Good
Handbook," by David D. Burns (Penguin Group; $17.95).
For a well-written discussion of the theory behind the practice,
pick up Burns' book, "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy." (Avon
Books; $14).Making a statement
Why should I write a mission statement -- and what's the best
way to write one?"
statement offers benefits both within and outside your agency. It's
an excellent way to deliver a clear message on the agency's
priorities -- to your staff and to your customers.
A good mission statement should realistically reflect who you
are, what you do, what you stand for and why.
The best kinds of statements should be able to stand the test of
time, so craft yours carefully.
A good place to begin is by collecting a few mission statements
from other organizations. Ask colleagues at other agencies as well
as those who own other kinds of businesses for samples. Another
good source for samples is corporate Web sites.
Armed with some samples, meet with your employees to brainstorm
words they feel represent your business.
Do not hurry this process. It will take more than one session
before everyone is comfortable with the results. Once you have a
draft, run it by a few of your top customers for their input.
As the statement is being developed, make sure there is meaning
behind the words. Everyone needs to believe in the mission, or the
process will fall flat. For this reason, avoid self-serving or
lofty statements -- the corporate gobbledygook that will be
meaningless to the real world.
Once you've developed a mission statement you're satisfied with,
use it in promotional literature, on your Web site, on business
cards, letterheads and in the orientation of new employees.
Periodically, review your mission statement to make sure it
continues to reflect the current thinking and goals of your
Former agency owner Dan McManus is the publisher of the
newsletter The Successful Worldspan Agent. E-mail him at [email protected].