What’s your day look like?
- Quiet? It’s probably not a result of today, but of many days that led to this.
- Crazy? Your company has bigger problems than today for it to be so.
- Great? You’re doing something right beyond just today alone.
Our teams are only as great as a day in the life would reveal it to be. Change the day to change the company.
Most of us can think of something that could totally change an industry, breaking the way things are done today, for the better. Like self-driving cars for taxi companies. Many fear it:
- “It’ll never actually happen.” Not a good strategy. Hoping it’s impossible limits you and underserves those who trust you with their care.
- “Hopefully nobody’ll do that.” Not a good strategy. Someone probably will, eventually. What happens then?
- “What if we did it?” Good question. It would be hard, sacrificial work, and it could transform the amount of value you provide those you serve.
If you’re already eager to do hard, sacrificial work, and you want to offer the greatest value to those you serve anyway, then why not break your own industry?
Someone doesn’t Iike your work.
They have an opinion about the way you do things, or your communication style, or your priorities. Let them:
- It comes from another world. It’s based on something they’ve done before that worked for them. That doesn’t mean its the best way, or the only way. Is being from another world OK with you?
- It’s from what they’re used to. Something different is something different. Different doesn’t mean better or worse. Is ‘different’ OK with you?
- Familiarity hurts our heads less. So unfamiliarity creates push-back within most people. People need bringing around to new ideas. Is leading that change OK with you?
Too many differing opinions usually results in watered down work. If you answered “Yes” to the above questions, then you were probably right all along.
It need not be another.
Although the alternative is rare:
- “If it’s not one thing, it’s another”: Another fire to put out? Moving from fire to fire feels like progress, but it leaves us battered and burned.
- “If it’s not one thing, it’s no thing”: A better alternative is to make that ‘one thing’ fireproof in future so that it can’t be a ‘thing’ again in future.
I’d like to think “If it’s not one thing, it’s no thing” could be a phrase that replaces the popular alternative. Perhaps then we’d all fix the problems in our work for good, rather than merely chasing symptoms around.
What do these three things have in common?
Progress requires slowing down:
- Slow down to absorb the map, otherwise who knows where you’ll end up. Ten paces in the right direction are faster than twenty going the wrong way.
- Give your guns a break, since growth comes from healing, not tearing. Strong muscles come from training our bodies, not damaging them.
- Don’t overcook the corners, as knowing when to brake is as important to speed as knowing when to accelerate. Good lap times require both pedals.
It’s the smart work, not the hard work, that makes our work thrive.
…are all the parts that really matter.
For teams doing meaningful work, it’s worth keeping that in mind.
- The more we feel, the less we know: We feel stressed when we’re in the dentist’s fluorescent lobby. We feel relaxed in the restaurant’s mood-lit lobby. A mood-lit dentist would jam our senses.
- “I don’t know what it is about that person…” but we trust that feeling at the moment when it comes. We process words differently when we “feel like” you’re stressed (is she lying?) vs confident (he must know).
There are reminders and patterns all around us, thanks to our brains that work tirelessly to keep us safe from danger.
The way we present our work matters more than we can describe. Literally.
What if your price and your value are both great?
There’s a third component to consider:
Redemptive stories are where something bad is somehow used for good.
A tragedy that changes someone’s perspective on life. A desperate circumstance that recommits someone to a cause.
What if we could get ‘the good bit’ without requiring ‘the bad bit’?
- Work that matters: We don’t need to wait until our death beds to ponder if our life’s work was worth it.
- Making it happen: We don’t need to wait until we’re almost ‘finished’ to commit to more sales, better focus, or good investments.
- Remembering what’s important: We don’t need to wait until they’re no longer with us to remember to spend time with those we care about.
We don’t need a redemptive story.
Why not just have a pre-redemptive story instead?
Ever notice how the best in an industry seem to defy industry stereotypes?
- A good sales rep will show the right people they can afford it. Bad ones convince anyone regardless of fit.
- A good cop will show a community how to live well within the system. Bad ones ruin lives and fill quotas.
- A good team will make a vision for the future come to life. Bad ones punch clocks and refuse to take responsibility.
A stereotype represents what’s normal. If you fit one, that might be your problem.
If we can’t say this, there’s a problem.
- Your opinion has too much power: Might we suffer a social or financial blow for disagreeing? If we’re so dependent that we can’t use our brains, everybody loses.
- You won’t listen: If we think it’s not worth trying to fix what’s broken because it’ll fall on deaf ears, we deserve better.
- I won’t listen: If we believe something is wrong and we won’t listen to other opinions, they deserve better.
We should all be able to be wrong.
Does our work benefit from doing it live (together) or anytime (independently)?
The answer might be both, in rhythm: first independently, then together, then independently again:
- Efficient process: 1) Practice an intricate set of steps alone to start with. 2) Rehearse the intricate set of steps live with a group. 3) Trusted to perform those steps independently without need of guidance.
- Quality creation: 1) Learn how to create a particular body of work using the manual. 2) Create that work live with careful peer review. 3) Trusted to create great work anytime, independently and masterfully.
When we know what to do, train as a group, and trust each other to do it masterfully in a way that suits us, we get the best of both worlds.
It’s not always rude to shut the door on people.
- Energetic jumpy-around events: I’m not your market. The emotional state it creates doesn’t work on me like a calm, focused, structured course does. Having me there will only confuse the ambiance.
Sickly-sweet mushy-communication: I’m not your market. If it lacks specificity, clarity, and thought, I’ll probably get bored. I’m unlikely to agree that its “the best thing in the whole world ever,” either.
Knowing who isn’t your market is just as important as knowing who is. Letting the wrong people show up won’t just let them down, it’ll let down those around them. Communicating in the wrong language won’t just confuse them, it’ll frustrate them.
For whom should you do a favor by shutting the door?
We see this written on products all the time.
But which is it: new, or improved?
- ‘New’ gets our attention more than ‘improved’: We refer to the iPhone X as ‘new and improved’ when it’s ‘new’. It dares to try new things, for better and for worse. The iPhone 8, released at the same time, is ‘improved’. It’s what was, but better, without the ‘new’.
- They’re different things, and both are important. We don’t want ‘new and improved’ pacemakers. Only ‘improved’ pacemakers. Similarly, we don’t want ‘improved’ workplace equality, but ‘new’ workplace culture.
We need to do things that are new; to try things that may move us forward, imperfectly. And we also need to perfect what’s there; to refine that which came before it.
And we should be clear: are we making something new, or improved?
Are you training your brain to have good ideas, or to agonize over decisions?
- Thinking on the calendar: Every day at around 8 pm, I sit down and write down my idea for the day. It always comes–usually within around 15 minutes–because my mind knows it’s on the agenda.
- 15 minutes or 15 hours: Either is fine, so long as we’re mindful of the decision. Allowing ourselves all evening to ponder a problem at work trains our brains to need “all evening” to come up with a solution.
- But what else is there to think about? Maybe this is why we’d consider wasting 15 wandering hours instead of investing 15 scheduled minutes. If we don’t train our minds, we don’t get to find out the answer.
Scheduling ideas could mean you’ll make better decisions, faster, simply because you told your mind it’s on the agenda today.
Do you use social media?
It’s where everybody goes to play a game someone else decided we should play:
- Sharing pictures of our food and our faces. When someone’s taking a photograph, I scarcely know whether to politely walk behind or in front of them to avoid interfering anymore. Do you still enjoy this game?
- Sharing empty ‘professional’ salutations. Complete with automatic “Congratulations on 3 years at Corporation Inc.” messages for people you don’t even know. Do you still enjoy this game?
- What game shall we play instead? I like creating dense, daily 200-400 word idea-espressos. Maybe you like taking unique knolling photos every morning. Why not make a new game?
The Internet allows us to play (almost) any game we want. There are (almost) no rules. So: what game shall we play instead?
What is ‘luxury’?
I think it’s the opportunity that emerges when a patron believes your craft is as important as you do.
With luxury comes responsibility:
- Putting your beliefs to the test: Will what you produce match the passion you claim to have for your work? Your “if only” excuses are all gone; it’s time to prove it.
- Innovation and celebration: Innovation is necessary at all market tiers. Luxury introduces celebration; a reverence and appreciation for your work’s craft.
- The future of luxury: If celebration is found in the rearview mirror, innovation is in the windshield; how can the future of your craft mean something bigger?
The future of luxury–I believe–is in bringing more meaning to your work, to complement its heritage. It’s in doing work that matters with and for those who think it does, too.
Whatever your market tier, it’s your responsibility to make that happen.
When did “being a good person” become “building a personal brand”?
Forget the ‘personal brand’:
- It’s not about saying the right things. It’s about meaning what you say, and what others say about you. They’re smart enough to smell a fake.
- We can sense what your intentions are. With the political landscape we live in today, many of us have developed finely-tuned BS-o-meters.
- Your Twitter follower count means nothing. We want to see what you do with things you can’t ‘game’, like how you treat people when nobody’s watching.
We’d all benefit a lot if everyone would focus less on building their ‘personal brand’, and more on building their character.
Every time you write a word or share an image with a prospect or customer, we have a choice to make:
“Are we going to make this about us, or about them?”
- “We made you this.” What if your product ideas were born out of an understanding of your audience’s challenges, and a willingness to solve them?
- “We changed this because of what you said.” What if your work developed not based on what everyone else is doing, but on what your audience needs from you?
Your People & Message can become your Research & Development, and your work becomes a natural expression of a continual conversation and a heart for service.
You’re not in the market you think you’re in.
Unless you really want to be.
- Those walls weren’t built for you. They’re there to tell you how to do your work (like everyone else) and to show your prospects how to judge you.
- Car brands compete against car brands… despite having enough cars. So why does Rolls-Royce compete against yachts instead of cars?
- Restaurants compete on the menu… despite having enough food. If they remembered they’re in the “entertain for an hour” business, would they approach innovation differently?
Do those walls work for you? What happens if you decide ‘no’?
“In progress” means it’s not finished:
- Keep up the good work. If you’re investing in being the best for your audience, you solve an important problem, and you’re dedicated to communicating that as clearly as possible, keep it up.
- Keep up the good price. You’re not too expensive, if your value exceeds your price. Don’t compromise your work by compromising your cost. There’s a difference between “It’s too expensive” and “I can’t afford it.”
- Keep up the good cause. If you do important work, you have a responsibility and obligation to be wise during the inevitable wins, and weather the inevitable losses.
You win some, you lose some. It’s a work in progress. Keep it up.
When our audience can say that, we’re already half way there.
I heard this quote while sitting in on an ImpactCoaching call between our Creative team and a client.
- They hadn’t yet made a single observation: they simply cared enough to ask good questions, and empathize with the answers that followed.
- No fancy language required: there’s no “secret marketing hack” that competes with caring enough about the person speaking. Like our Nana’s would say, “God gave us one mouth and two ears.”
- Foundation for every great message: Can a great message that doesn’t intimately understand who it was written for actually be great?
The Internet is full of “secret marketing hacks”. If you like intellectual entertainment, pick one. They’re a hoot.
But when our audience says that (title), we’re already half way there.
Does your idea make sense?
Draw it for me:
- If it’s simple, draw it simple: When pressed to draw our ideas, we might find we fill half a sheet of paper to fully articulate our new idea. This means we don’t understand it well enough.
- Hiding behind complexity: It’s easy to make an idea seem complicated, because complications let us hide a lack of clarity from ourselves. Clarity is harder.
- Understanding enough to simplify: “A rocket that deploys from a plane so it can break and re-enter orbit in one piece without waste.” “A one-page website that tells a story vs making people click to understand.” Simple.
Simple drawings. Dots, lines, circles. What does your idea look like?
I want to visit England more often.
This sounds Iike a travel challenge. But are faster planes and cheaper fares ‘innovation’?
Let’s ask more questions:
- Why visit England more often? Because that’s where most of my family lives.
- Why does that matter? Because seeing them regularly brings us all joy.
- Why does that matter? Because without that, I feel like something’s missing in my life.
With these answers, perhaps VR/AR (for instance) social tools might also be solutions to explore. Visiting England more often isn’t a travel challenge at all. It’s an opportunity to bring family closer together.
Innovation is asking more questions – divergent ways of getting closer to the source.
And it could be our undoing, if we let it.
We often hear ideas are worth little, and that it’s the execution that makes the difference. There’s a caveat:
- From many ideas, comes the best one. The bad ones are discarded. Even the good ones are discarded. Only the best one survives. If it ends up not being ‘best’ in practice, there’s always the second-best ones to try.
- From one idea, comes no competition. So you just proceed with it. You’ll be committed to it, driving it forward at any cost, because there’s no alternative. It’s either this, or…?
Teams doing meaningful work need choices. From “many ideas” comes choice. Vive les idées.
Vision isn’t about staring at the horizon and trying to march there. That’s how visions die.
Instead, it’s about glancing the horizon then marching another 10 feet ahead:
- The trouble with “BHAGs” (“big, hairy, audacious goals”) is they’re on the horizon, removed from a sense of momentum and happiness. Pull the horizon closer with a series of “SMAGs” (small, motivating, attainable goals).
- Five more push ups: If the thought of doing another 20 is on the horizon, just do another five…four more times.
- Push until you see a change: As in exercise, distant goals may cause teams to lose heart. Work out until you see any change…then do it again.
The horizon keeps moving, no matter how far you go. Marching 10 feet ahead keeps the momentum, fulfills us, and ensures we don’t give up.
“What should I make so that people will buy my thing?”
- If your product isn’t great, ‘spin’ won’t fix it. Great marketing is great communication. Making your product sound better than it is isn’t communication, it’s deception.
- If your product isn’t clear, ‘marketing-speak’ won’t fix it. Great marketing speaks the language of the buyer. If you’re trying to sound clever, you’re making it worse.
- If people won’t try it, ‘things’ won’t fix it. Great marketing makes it easy for the right people to start. Offering unrelated ‘stuff’ instead only delays the inevitable: getting them ready to start.
No more opt-ins: why not communicate clearly and let people try your thing?
You’ve given it our best shot.
You’ve made a book, a product, an article, a design, something.
Two things are about to happen:
- People will help you spoil it. They will give you their opinions. Many opinions will differ. Some will think it’s great, others will say it stinks. They will suggest you change it to match their opinions. Doing so will spoil it.
- People will help you improve it. They will give you their insights. Many insights will become trends. Some will match your vision, others won’t. Matching trends suggest ways to refine your work. Doing so will improve it.
There are always temptations to change the direction of our work, to add more bits to your message, to take bits away, to better match somebody else’s vision.
Make sure your council helps you make a better version of your work.
And everyone around us speaks one.
But which one?
- The language of warmth may be untrusting or wary of your intentions. These want to know that you understand; from that relief and excitement comes an interest in what you have to say.
- The language of strength may be tired of time-wasters who don’t keep their word. These want to know you deliver, consistently; from trust comes respect, and an interest in what have you say.
We’re never told which we need to speak. We figure it out as we go. Being bilingual enables us to create relief and trust, excitement and respect, and permission to give the gift of our ideas.
Sometimes I can’t decide.
Both ideas are good. We lack data to reveal a clear winner.
- So test them. Put them both out into the world, quickly. Only show one to each person you share with, and see how they respond. Which had better responses?
- Get out of your head. If we were going to decide, we would have by now. Getting new eyes and perspectives on it might give you the insight you need to make the call.
- Just pick one. If the above fails you, just pick one. They’re both as good as each other, so it doesn’t really matter. Just make the call and move on.
So, what’s it to be?
What if your company was the product, not the body of work it creates?
- Marketing: The assets you create that pay the bills, indirectly. If done right, this is part of your product, not merely ‘selling’.
- Paid work: The assets you create that pay the bills, directly. If done right, this is part of your product, not a mere ‘transaction’.
- Teamwork: The genius that makes it all possible. If done right, this is part of your product, not merely “human resources”.
Like a restaurant, you come for the experience and service, stay for the food, then bring your friends for more of all three.
Would you ever return if any one were to be missing?