How To Be The Star

Dear Jean,

I’m a salesperson with a national firm.  I do pretty well, but the woman they call their “star” salesperson is making me crazy.  She gets all kind of privileges and she looks trashy.  Jean, I always wear a stylish suit or dress and I am careful about my makeup, hair, nails, etc.  For some reason, I sure don’t get a trip to Bermuda.  What should I do?  Shorten my skirts and lower my neckline?


I’m assuming that she earned those trips to Bermuda by winning contests.  Something I read recently said that we all wear a pair of magic magnifying glasses.  When we look at something, whatever we focus on increases.  If we look at the problem, the problem increases.  If we look at the solution, the solution increases.

My best advice to you is to look at the solution.  What is it you could be doing to increase your personal production?  Do you need to make more calls?  Do you need a refresher on closing the sale?  Do you qualify your prospects properly?  Do you have excellent time-management skills?  If she can be the national sales star, so can you.  Don’t spend any more time thinking about her.  She is living in your head rent-free.

E-Mail and Bad Grammar

Dear Jean,

I receive more than 30 e-mails every day.  I am constantly astounded by the lack of writing skills shown in this correspondence.  I do not expect fine works of literature, but are spelling and basic good grammar too much to ask?


There is e-mail and there is e-mail.  If e-mail is used in the same manner that a formal letter is used, then I agree that the rules of grammar and spelling should apply.  On the other hand, if e-mail is used to take the place of some phone communication, I don’t mind the misspelled words and weird sentence structures.

Now, if you listen in on any spoken conversation, you know that good grammar is usually absent.  Spelling isn’t even a consideration.  As we try to use e-mail in the same manner, grammar and spelling will suffer the same as in regular spoken conversation.

Here’s a question:  If e-mail was strictly required to always be perfect, would it take so long that we could no longer rely on it as an alternative to a phone call?

Here is a link to an article I wrote that was recently published, on E-mail Pet Peeves.  Is your biggest pet peeve mentioned?

Christmas Party?

Dear Jean,

Two years ago, my husband and I started a small manufacturing company.  Although we are still pinching pennies, this is the first year we have had enough money to have a Christmas party.

Our employees come from several different walks of life.  Among those represented are various religions, races, and socioeconomic levels.  It is difficult to be all things to all people, but we really want everyone to feel comfortable and we want to stay within a reasonable yet small budget.  Any suggestions?


You mentioned cultural diversity in your company. Most religions celebrate around this time of year so it’s best to call it a Holiday Party, at least on the invitation.

Here are a couple of low-cost options:

One is a covered-dish party.  You supply the meats and beverages.  Your employees bring the side dishes and desserts.  Those who don’t cook and those that you’re afraid can’t cook can provide chips, dips, and bread.

If you prefer not to ask your employees to bring anything, a chili party at your home or business is a fun and inexpensive idea.  You are only out the cost of chili, beverages, and extras.

Catch Them Doing Something Right

Dear Jean:

On my last performance appraisal, my boss told me I need to give recognition to my staff.  I’m not exactly sure what he meant.  I explained that my staff members know perfectly well when they are not up to par.  I don’t have the need or desire to get all mushy and give people standing ovations for doing their jobs correctly. That’s what they get paid to do.

My boss thinks differently, and I can tell you right now that frothy emotional displays are not for me.  How can I do what my boss wants and not compromise my values?


If this is really important to your boss, my best advice is to explore a way that fits your values.  In the old yet classic, popular book, The One Minute Manager, we learn to “catch” people doing things right and praise them for it.

I’ll adapt this concept to fit your particular style:

Catch one of your employees doing something above and beyond the call of duty.  Describe the performance or behavior you are recognizing and be clear on why you are recognizing it.  Express your appreciation and then say thank you.  That’s all there is to it.

This will be hard for you at first.  Most likely you and your boss have a different idea about what constitutes “above and beyond the call of duty.”  Be sure to discuss this with him so both of you are in agreement as to which kinds of behaviors you want to recognize.

Remember – the performance that you praise is the performance that will be repeated.


Fact: Science has proven that our positive everyday behavior influences the lives of everyone around us. Doing a little “good” here and there counts.

Positive behavior is about taking action on the little things; the way we treat ourselves, our family members, peers, strangers and even the service providers in our lives. Just saying hello and giving a big warm smile to everyone we encounter, helps us and helps them as well. Each morning, we can make a decision to do good for ourselves and to do good for the people around us. Making the decision is the hard part. After making the decision the doing becomes easy.

Granted, it’s rare when anyone is able to a great deal of good at one time. Most of us can’t give ten million to a charity or invent a magnificent technology, yet we can change our world with small actions.

All of us are cogs. Most of us are small cogs in the greater scheme of things. Yet we have choices. We can go to our posts rusty and raspy. Or we can go well oiled and ready to do our part for this day.

Jean Maslanka Kelley