Enlightened Conflict

have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss

October 13th, 2017

red shoes_adventure_by_zvaella

 

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“We all have one foot in a fairytale, and the other in the abyss.”

 

—–

Paulo Coelho

 

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My anger at the world coils inside of me.

It’s a directionless seething, there’s no name or face to aim at.”

 

————–

Claire Zorn

 

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Well.

 

color outside the linesLife demands us to draw a lot of lines.

 

And more often than we would like to admit … it demands we place one foot on one side of a line and the other foot on the other side of the line.

 

That may not sound … well … right.

Or maybe the best thing to do.

It may even sound like I am suggesting you ‘straddle the fence.’

 

This isn’t straddling … this is about being grounded or balancing oneself.

 

If you don’t place one foot solidly on either side, you can be quite easily consumed by the extremes of Life which are, more often than not, found on only one side of a line.

 

If you don’t place one foot solidly on either side, you can be quite easily consumed by others who seek to consume what you may think you don’t really care that much about <but you should … and actually do when you care to think about t enough>.

 

If you don’t you can be quite easily … well … consumed.

 

I guess what I am saying is that Life demands you pragmatically be active in drawing some lines so that you have some sense of when you are getting too … well … “too”. So you can have some sense of … well … where to actually place your feet that is meaningful.

 

Maybe what I am saying is that many of us have no problem ‘making a stand’ but if you really aren’t sure where your line is then it is quite possible you aren’t really sure you are taking your stand in the right place.

 

Maybe think of it this way.

 

It’s kind of like making sure you have things in perspective when you take a stand.

 

It’s kind of like demanding realistic hope.

It’s kind of like demanding some hopeful despair.

It’s kind of like demanding you believe in some fairytales and some abyss-like darkness.

 

It’s kind of like demanding lines for yourself so you can deal with the lines Life is going to demand of you.

 

Look.

 

I don’t really believe there are angry people … they just have so much anger within themselves that their line is drawn differently than others.

 

I don’t really believe there are dreamers … they just have so much imagination within themselves that their line is drawn differently than others.

 

But here’s the deal.

 

You have to draw some lines.

 

draw your lines and choose your side moralThere has to be some reality to ground some imagination.

 

There has to be some truth to ground some questioning.

 

There has to be some principles to ground some rebelliousness.

 

There has to be some fairytaleishness <I made up that word> to balance out some of the inevitable abyss.

 

You do have to have one foot somewhere other than where your other foot resides.

 

I know.

I know.

 

That sounds a little of whack from conventional wisdom because far more often you hear “both feet on the ground” and shit like that.

 

But if you have two feet on the line … well … you have chosen to stand on a thin balance beam and will teeter your entire life. That is tiring & dangerous.

But if you have two feet on one side … well … you have chosen a life of fairytales … or a life in the abyss.

 

All that said.

 

Yes.

 

There are times you draw a line and make a choice to shift both feet solidly onto one side. I would suggest this is a situational decision and not a “living Life” type decision.

 

That is right and that is wrong.

That is good and that is bad.

That is normal and that is not normal.

 

Those are most likely the moments in which Life says “now, in this time and place, here is the line … on which side to you choose to stand?”

I would suggest sometimes we fuck this up by confusing a ‘Life one foot here & one foot there’ decision and a contextual situational decision. What I mean is that in that time and place you may try and keep your fairy tale foot in place and your abyss foot in place … and mistakenly take on a different type of decision demanding a different type of line.

 

That would be a bad decision.empty shoes

 

In that time. in that place. In that moment.

 

You shift your feet.

 

Sigh.

 

I never suggested lines were easy. Just that Life demands we draw a lot of lines. I would suggest that if you do not draw some lines you will find yourself lost in anger coiled within, or maybe constantly living a less than fairy tale life dreaming it all away, or stuck in some dark abyss seeing no way out.

 

Yeah … lines come in pretty handy at times. Pretty handy in managing Life. I can tell you <for sure> that lines can be pretty handy at helping you decide when something should end … and something should start.

contrarian customer-centric thoughts

October 10th, 2017
free-bad-advice-business-blog-contrarian

………. another Bruce contrarian thought piece …….

 

——

 

‘To prosper soundly in business, you must satisfy not only your customers, but you must lay yourself out to satisfy also the men who make your product and the men who sell it.’

 

——

Harry Bassett

 

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“We are all manufacturers – making good, making trouble or making excuses. “

 

——

HV Adolt

 

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So.

 

compete head hurtsI have probably had to think about, and talk about, the business concept of “customer centric” more in the past month or so than I have had to do in the past decade or so.

 

I have seen so many customer-centric presentations over the years that made my head hurt I am surprised my head hasn’t exploded yet.

 

Don’t ask me why but the oft-horridly interpreted and often mis-implemented concept is making a comeback.

 

Customer centric, simplistically, is the concept of creating a positive customer experience at every point of the pre sale, sale and post-sale.

 

It’s a word we’ve been using for decades <dates back to direct marketing in the 1960s & largely credited to a marketing guy named Lester Wunderman> and most of us in business don’t really think too much about it because we think it is kind of an obvious ‘given’ in business.

 

The problem is that customer-centric has been mangled to a point where we actually have to figure out some wacky ways to define it <most people use it in the sense of putting the customer at the center of everything that is done>.

Frankly, I’ve never met a business person who said their company wasn’t customer-centric.

 

Everyone talks the talk <and have convinced themselves they actually are>.

Well.

I imagine the topic keeps coming up because research with customers keeps telling these business people convinced they are customer centric that … well … they actually are not.

customer experience delivery gap Bain-and-Company 2005

 

The most famous of the debunkers is Bain and Company who shared this enlightened graph back in 2005:

 

 

 

It showcases the delivery gap between how customers perceive customer service and/or customer experience and how executives perceive the performance of their organization in that context.

 

 

Suffice it to say … that gap, which can be scarily extreme, debunks the myth of customer centric in practice when a company simply looks in a mirror and says “wow I’m good looking.”

 

Here is where contrarian Bruce steps into this game.

 

Most business people sincerely want to make customers strategically important to how they go about their business, but they also know what they see from most “customer centric experts’ is bullshit.

 

Therefore, they do the best they can and know that … well … theory is difficult to pragmatically, effectively, implement.

 

Here is where I differ from most of the customer centric experts:

 

  • The most important letter in customer centric is “I.”

 

legacy learn imagine hope mctague“I” as in “what I am good at” and “what I can actually do really frickin’ well” and as in “what is my Inner truth.”

 

Oops.

 

None of that is “what does my customer want.”

 

Look.

 

I never suggest ignoring the customer but I do suggest that before you ever sit down and talk about any customer centric things philosophically, and practically, you better be sure you know what you are good at, what you can actually do and what are the ‘truths’ <good & bad> of your own organization.

 

Most experts talk about “customer satisfaction” and I talk about thinking of the customer as someone with ongoing annoyance interspersed with occasional boredom and indifference.

 

Whew.

Now that sounds tough for any business person out there <and slightly depressing>.

 

But I tend to believe rather than try and build some rosy view most businesses should face … well … reality.

 

The reality is that once you establish customers SHOULD have high(er) expectations they are bound to go largely unmet.

 

Sorry.

That’s truth.

 

That is an unfortunate truth because the majority of customer centric practices choose to try and establish their own “best” to be judged by and … uh oh … they rarely actually keep up with the actual best of the best <because that “isn’t our positioning or what we are about” or because “oh, that is not our industry” or they simply just cannot match the best of the best>.

 

Setting high expectations means meeting the expectations of “customers” who will define everything by … well … EVERYTHING they encounter & experience.

A B2B customer will start thinking “experience” based on how the Starbucks barista treats them or how the Apple online assistance rep treats them.

 

Yup.irritation indifference

 

If you follow much of the customer centric bullshit being fed you, you will end up facing well informed customers who will be in a perpetual state of indifference and/or irritation.

 

  • Indifference will hit those customer centric practices that customers know are underperforming, and that they can avoid due to sufficient availability of the best of the best. If you’re working for one of those underperforming customer centric practices, the scary thing is not just selling less (or nothing). It’s that indifferent customers will stop being forgiving; they will stop being cooperative and giving you feedback on how to be more like other, better performing competitors. They’ll just leave and never return, without telling you why.

 

  • Perpetual irritation is just as bad: this will occur when customers are forced to buy from an underperforming customer centric practice, due to limited or no availability of what they already know is the best of the best.

 

 

In this light, pay special attention to fake loyalty and postponed purchases:

 

 

  • Fake loyalty: customers will continue to purchase from underperforming customer centric practices if the ‘real thing’ isn’t available. To the underperforming customer centric practices, all may seem quiet on the western front, until the best of the best suddenly does become available. Good examples of fake loyalty can be found in the airline industry: millions of frequent flyers around the world know that Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines and Emirates offer a superior experience, but since these airlines don’t fly on all routes, customers have no choice but to fly with subpar airlines now or then, or all of the time. Count on them to vote with their wallets every time new routes are added by these ‘best of the best’ carriers, even if they’ve never flown with them before.

 

 

  • Postponing purchases: some ‘best of the best’ customer centric practices like Apple actually manage to indirectly convince customers to postpone certain purchases. Many customers would rather wait for the iPhone or MacBook Air to become available, than to buy a new phone or laptop.

 

So … what should someone do?

 

The power of “I.”

 

inner truth brand position - Copy

….. Bruce’s consumer version of Inner Truth ………

Let me start with a Brucism — I have not found a lot of successful businesses that suck at everything.

In other words … if you have had some success, particularly if you have had some sustained success, it is likely you have <a> some significant expertise in something and <b> pleased some customers in some ways.

 

I am relentless on having businesses find their Inner Truth. It is often a difficult discussion <because it means admitting you are not good at everything> but by finding, isolating an embracing your business Inner Truth it permits the business to find its value core.

Once you find your value core you are able to insure you foster the attitudes & behaviors that feed into that value equation.

In addition, it insures the business leverages off of that foundation for any new ideas or “asks” of the organization itself with regard to new behaviors and decisions.

 

I have said this before and I assume I will say it a gazillion times again … “stop wishing you were something else and start loving who you are.”

That’s sounds like some bullshit Life coaching advice but the truth is more businesses, especially the ones who start discussing customer centric philosophy, should embrace this advice.

 

To be fair <before I begin my constructive enlightening rant> … the foundational aim for any customer centric practices has been and remains the same as always … to express singularities which consistently distinguish the offering of products and services.

 

And within these singularities … or distinctness … people will seek values, leadership, assurance, clarity … and personality <or character>. Maybe better said … some promise.

 

 

Growing a customer centric practices means it has to fulfill a clear promise. Promises are simple and complex. But suffice it to say, in this case, you make a promise and deliver upon it. Simple as that.

 

Here are some basic steps simplify <or at least clarify> some things that make up the foundation blocks for growing the customer centric practices based on “the power of I”:

 

company assessment

The first step in growing a customer centric practices is to assess the customer centric practices ‘parent’ <the organization itself>. There are several methods for obtaining this information from the end-users but suffice it to say that if you don’t know your company <culture, belief system, aspirations> you will never rear your customer centric practices properly. Never has the quote “be true to thineself’ ever rung more true.

 

good and bad research pepsi

research

Whether you think you need it or not … do some ongoing research.

Research will not only provide qualitative information from key stakeholders, including internal and external customers and influencers, but also flesh out the raw concept that resides in the vision.

The number of interviews will vary according to the typical number of end-users that would have an opinion about your company’s image as well as those ‘inside’ who have an image of what you do well.

The total number of potential end-users may be very small in b2b compared to a consumer product such as toothpaste but suffice it to say you seek to find the gaps & non-gaps of expertise between the organization and end users.

You are seeking some consistent feedback … so you hear the same feedback over and over.

The information collected from the survey is the foundation on which your customer centric practices platform will be established. You may find that once all the results are summarized, the information is very much in-sync with your organization’s internal perception of itself.

 

<note: don’t fool yourself into believing the exercise was a waste of time or a worthwhile effort in this situation … it is not only a sanity check but it also alleviates a lot of second guessing at a later date and plays a significant role in aligning everyone on what matters>.

 

 

Anyway.shared intentions lead people

 

In my experience … 90% of most customer centric discussions that businesses are faced with will begin with the customer.

 

That is the wrong place to begin.

 

Everything begins, and ends, with who you are and what your expertise is and what you can actually deliver. Beyond that … well … customer centric is worthless if you don’t get that right and accept, and embrace, that.

 

 

 

 

Which leads me to the next thing most customer centric experts never tell you <and I am fairly sure most of them don’t think about>.

 

  • Accepting Unevenness.

 

Unevenness?

What do I mean?

customer centric model

 

Well.

 

 

It seems like almost every customer centric discussion seems to incorporate some circle, or some 360degree view, in which you envelop a customer with all the love <functional and emotional> they need to create the utmost satisfaction and undying loyalty.

 

Unfortunately that is just theoretical bullshit because reality is just not that neat.

 

Just as there is no such thing as a well-rounded person there is no well-rounded business in the reality of … well … the real business world.

 

Most customer centric bullshit suggests you need to not only protect yourself on all fronts but also ‘project yourself’ on all fronts.

 

This is crazy.

 

Businesses don’t build themselves that way. Shit. People don’t build themselves that way. You are good at some things and not a good on others.

 

That said … the underlying absurdity in most customer centric modeling is in its suggestion of ‘evenness.’

customer centric learning concept knowledge ignorance

 

The traditional customer centric circle diagram concept suggests you push everyone out toward what they don’t know <boundary of ignorance>.

 

However.

 

Enlightenment, and gaining knowledge to overcome ignorance, is just not that neat.

In fact … it is frustratingly un-neat.

 

Frustrating in that every time you learn something … ignorance still remains … outside your existing knowledge base. And this translates into a state of being perpetually dissatisfied <or the glass is never completely full with knowledge> which obviously can be either encouraging, or discouraging, with a person’s attitude to continue learning.

 

Businesses consistently attempt to fulfill their role in this ‘customer centric process’ by focusing attention on the inside of the circle and keeping everyone carefully inside the boundaries. They do this under the guise of “company consistency.”

 

I imagine the good news is that this helps keep employees from falling off the edge into irrelevant material & learning <and it insures all employees gain knowledge in a logical order> but it also, negatively, impedes upon <a> the way most individuals gain knowledge (which is they follow what interests them) & <b> any knowledge or learning that could be attained outside the sphere of consistency.

 

But here is the really bad news.

 

Organizations are not neat round circles of knowledge. Why? Unfortunately, whether you like it or not, organizations are made up of people, not concepts or robots.

 

As I first wrote about back in 2010  <and have spoken on the topic a number of times> the truth about people is that they become more expert and informed on certain topics at the expense of others. The well rounded circle that might have characterized the “perfect customer centric organization” needs to be replaced by … well … reality.

 

circle of knowledge customer centric learn expertise

The reality of any organization is one of a profile of an expert <or passion on a topic> in some particular domain, and not others, and therefore you will never end up with a perfect circle but rather an ellipse or some wacky trapezoid <or something>, in other words, the circle of knowledge & expertise of any business has inconsistent edges/boundaries.

 

 

 

What this means is that organizations are more like uneven spikey boundaries of expertise & knowledge organisms.

Thinking about your organization with regard to attempting to implement some customer centric concepts will help a business better understand their learning flaws, and learning challenges, but maybe more importantly … better understand their areas of expertise.

 

I say all that because you invariably need to grow your customer centric practices … well … unevenly.

 

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“In short, not only are things not what they seem, they are not even what they are called!”

 

———

Francisco de Quevedo

 

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Lastly <leveraging my last thought off of the unevenness point>.

 

In a hypercritical world <online critiquing driven world> 360degree perfection is a fool’s errand … and, frankly, impossible.flawed and still worthy optimal new people best

 

The more successful path to being the best you can be is … well … be the best you can be on the things you know you can actually be the best you can be day after day after day.

This builds value and believability.

 

Unfortunately most customer-centric gurus start this discussion in the wrong place.

They almost always begin by identifying “weaknesses” or “where we need to improve/be better”. In other words … they begin with what is not an inherent expertise, or something the employees apparently don’t particularly want to do, and make a decision to invest energy attempting to make the organization … well … something they are not naturally.

 

Unfortunately most customer-centric gurus start this discussion in the wrong place.

Customer centric discussions far too often focuses solely on those pesky demanding customers <remember indifference, irritation and unrealistic expectations>. In other words. You are likely to be chasing perpetually dissatisfied, or indifferent until they are dissatisfied, people.

 

That is crazy. Absurd.

 

The better way to be the best customer centric organization is actually to identify what the company does best, that increases customer satisfaction, and say “how can we make our best better” <so we can ‘own’ that expertise>.

 

Some people may read this as “settling.” Or if they want to be harsher suggest that I am stating something ‘lesser than’ a best customer service focused organization.

 

I would tell these ‘some people’ I am a pragmatist and have a tendency to focus on the truths of reality.

 

What do I mean?

 

ideas break the mold new think conformLet’s face it.

 

In the past a company <or their customer centric practices> could get away with not performing at its peak on some things.  Or maybe taking a day off performance wise.

You could because customers didn’t experience full transparency of the best, the cheapest, the first, the most original or the most relevant.

 

Well.

 

That’s all over.

 

And things are bound to get even more radically transparent. I wrote about this years ago and called it “the expectation economy.” http://brucemctague.com/expectations-as-an-economy   Reality dictates you focus on the few things you can master and be an expertise on, offer expectations on those, don’t overpromise on others <even if competitors do> and be ‘customer centric’ by being authentically honest where you are consistently okay and authentically set expectations where you can deliver upon a ‘customer centric promise’ day in and day out.

Reality dictate your customer centric philosophy comes to life in an uneven pattern which actually can stand under the scrutiny of spotlight criticism.

 

In the end.

 

Let me go back to the most important letter in customer centric is “I.”

In this case it is “ideas.”

 

Ideas are the new currency in business, any business, including the service business. If you have a business focused solely on “making the customer happy” you are on a fool’s errand. In today’s interconnected world expectations <and what makes a customer happy> are driven not by your competition nor any realistically relevant industry benchmark … but rather by whatever that customer has uncovered anywhere in the world to establish a benchmark.

If you and your business try to ‘follow the customer expectation’ one-by-one … well … one will quickly become a ‘none’ <as in out of business>.

 

Regardless.

 

Suffice it to say if you are not in the business of generating new ideas to refresh your ‘customer centricity’ you are not competing in the same world as the rest of the businesses out there.

 

I end today’s thought on customer centric with that last one sentence paragraph because inherent in almost any customer centric discussion is NOT any discussion on ideas but rather “satisfaction.”

 

Satisfaction, at its core as a concept, is about “reaction.” In other words, if I am seeking to increase customer satisfaction I therefore seek ways to understand how I can do it <from them> and … well … do it.

 

Ideas are proactive.

 

And maybe that is the most important word, and thought, in this entire diatribe – proactive. 90% of the customer centric presentations I have ever seen have dripped with ‘reactiveness’ … reacting to what customers want in order to make them happy & satisfied <assuming your ultimate value is driven somehow by effective reactiveness>.

 

This makes my head explode.value timeline

 

Reactive value is the lowest value you can achieve.

Conversely.

Proactive value offers you the highest value you can achieve.

 

I will not argue that an effective customer centric organization has to have some good reactive mechanisms in place to show responsiveness to needs but I will argue with any customer centric expert who stops there. True customer centric business is beating the customer to the spot – with ideas, solutions and service.

That is a proactive model. And that is what maximizes value to a customer, breeds real loyalty and … well … insures the business itself constantly pushes out on its own boundaries of ignorance by increasing its circle off knowledge.

 

Anyway.

 

What I do know … or am 90% sure … is that you will not hear or read any of this from the traditional customer centric ‘experts.’ That either makes me a moron or … well … a contrarian.

 

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“I am the sea and nobody owns me.”

———-

Pippi Longstocking

 

a pragmatic primer for leading a business

October 6th, 2017

 

ideas thinking group community enjoy the tactic business

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“In general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy. Humans connect with humans.

 

Hiding one’s humanity and trying to project an image of perfection makes a person vague, slippery, lifeless, and uninteresting.”

 

Robert Glover

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“Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

 

—–

Saul D. Alinsky

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So.

 

I was fishing around for some new ways to talk about leading a business <I get old habits new habits forward back progress life choice secretsbored with using the same words and thoughts over and over again> and I came across the Saul Alinsky quote … the second one I used upfront.

 

It resonated with me because I cannot tell you how many times I have sat in some company “forward thinking strategy” meeting discussing how we would expand the business … stretching not only beyond the existing functional strength of the business but also stepping beyond the existing expertise of the employees.

 

This is usually cloaked in the infamous “oh, if we can do this, we can certainly do this” statement … or the even more dangerous “we have always figured it out” mantra.

 

To be clear … progress is always tricky. And leading progress almost even trickier.

 

But, if you want it to be less trickier, ‘feeling secure’ is almost always a great step toward increasing the odds of success.

Now.

You can secure the … well … security … in a number of ways – some reality based and some emotionally charged ways.

 

And that is where Saul Alinsky comes back into the leadership discussion. He big plans ruler universewrote a book called Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals in 1971.   He wrote it as a guide to community organization <uniting “Have-Nots”, in order for them to gain social, political, legal, and economic power>.

 

What I loved about the Rules, beyond the rules themselves, was that Alinsky believed, when organized and directed well, the community can determine & achieve its purpose & goal. That thought, to me, is exactly the attitude a leader attempts to create <supporting a vision offered by the leader> within an organization.

 

What I loved about the Rules is the rules themselves are actually signposts for how to have a company compete in the marketplace.

 

That said.

 

Let me share the rules and some brief thoughts with the rules. The Rules:

 

 

  • “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.

 

Far too often … despite the fact 99% of businesses unequivocally state “our difference is our people” … a business forgets to actually build their power off of flesh & blood.

watch people behavior what they say and doMoney comes and goes.

Machines and infrastructure does what it does.

 

But people, flesh & blood, is the true power. It pays, as a leader, to never forget that.

 

 

  • “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

 

Every business I have been involved with has had an expertise. Uhm. The difficulty is that far too many leaders & managers wish the organization had a different expertise or they aspire to some other expertise.

I, personally, love the thought of isolating a company expertise, consolidating the inside expertise and using it like a battering ram in terms of progress.

People love doing things well and being appreciated for the expertise they have <and not diminished by suggesting they should have another expertise>.

 

 

  • “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.

 

When I saw this one I almost chuckled. It is so good, so solidly strategically right … and I would guess 95% of businesses never think this way. Oh. They may be happy  identifying a “this is what we are better at than they are” and competing with that in their hip pocket … but I struggle to think of any business I have ever been involved with who has sat down and said “let’s go outside their expertise <and consciously accepting they have an expertise.”

 

Crushing a competitor is always fun but ignoring an opportunity to outflank them is stupid.

 

 

  • “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.

 

rule book leading a company behaviorOk.

 

Here is why I loved this one.

I loved it because bullshit & hollow rhetoric and promises/claims are strewn throughout the business world. I can guarantee, with 95% certainty, I could pick up any business’s vision & strategy & ‘rules of the road’ binder and find a significant amount of hollow shit. What would happen if I consciously attacked one of my competitor’s hollow shit? Make them live up to their own book of rules?

I am chuckling.

 

You would crush them.

You would crush them in two ways:

 

  • External perceptions: everyone knows almost all businesses make hollow promises but get aggravated when it becomes too obvious that the promise really is hollow

 

  • Internal perceptions: almost every employee simply accepts that some of the company rhetoric is bullshit but they accept it because it doesn’t really affect them. But if the hollow rhetoric becomes obvious AND a pain in the ass … discontent grows. Bitching at the water cooler increases.

 

This is an awesome leadership thought.

 

 

  • “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

 

I admit. Ridiculing your competition is fraught with peril. However … having i was not made to be subtle me Brucesome swagger and vocalizing your swagger is … well … infuriating to some competition. It puts pressure on them.

Ridiculing, specifically, what a competitor believes is their most potent weapon will … well … infuriate them.

 

Pick your path wisely … but there is absolutely nothing wrong with swagger, infuriating your competition and putting some pressure on them.

 

 

  • “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.

 

Far too often some strategic guru envisions some tactic that will be smashingly successful and then attempt to imbue some excitement within the people who will actually do it. I think the best strategic thinkers find tactics that people enjoy AND can be smashingly successful. Unfortunately this is harder than you would think. But nothing really good is easy.

 

 

  • “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.

 

Amen.

A lesson we forget every day <and should not>.

 

 

  • “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.

 

work value replaced effort smarts businessTactical adaptation is possibly one of the most underrated strategic decisions a business can make. While we talk a good game on this in today’s ‘digital world’ the truth is that most of us chase numbers more than we think about outflanking and expertise advantages. That is kind of the bane of the ‘big data’ world.

 

Numbers are good in judging things but, in the end, people & behavior are not numbers and no matter how good a tactic may appear in a number it can always be replaced.

 

 

  • “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.

 

I am not an empty threat guy, however, ‘power is what the competition thinks you have.’ My point here is not to make shit up and offer empty threats but rather the more you can make a competitor think, and worry, about the wrongs things the better off you are.

 

Stoke their imagination.over thinking mess

Make them have high falutin’ meetings pondering “what if” scenarios.

 

I wouldn’t do this to replace any of the other rules … but in combination?

 

Whew. This is good stuff.

 

 

  • “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.

 

Sometimes in today’s business world we treat tactics like spaghetti we throw against the wall and hope something sticks. I am not suggesting a business should invest gobs of energy developing operations to maintain constant pressure in INDIVIDUAL tactics but I am suggesting that strategic tactics tend to coalesce and operations can be developed to support them.

I imagine the real point here is hollow tactics may generate some numbers for you but they don’t really make any dent into the competition <which, inevitably, is the key to leading an industry>.

 

 

  • “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.

 

I love this thought because, let’s be honest, we have become a mamby pamby business world. What I mean by that is at the first glimpse of any significant negativity we tend to retreat or retrench. Pushing through a negative is not standard operating procedure in a business today.

 

Let me be clear on this one.

If you do Rule #5 well, you will infuriate your competition. An infuriated competitor reacts <usually with some desire to inflict some negative pain> — they will violently react. If you stay the course, maintain your expertise, well … you can push through and own a positive.

More businesses need to remember this.

 

 

  • “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.

 

the end game overI call this “consolidating a win.”

I cannot tell you how many times <but far too many> I have seen a business “lose after winning.” It is maddening, depressing & demoralizing … and completely avoidable.

Far too many businesses chase the success assuming they will be able to take a breath and take advantage of the success in a relatively timely fashion.

This is where ideas die.

 

In the take-a-breath moment.

 

This happens for a bunch of well-intended reasons … the most likely one is everyone invests their energy on the attack and a successful attack rather than diverting any energy & time to “what do we do when we are successful” other than maybe a framework of ‘what will happen.’

 

Unfortunately … frameworks do not consolidate.

The solution to this is so obvious I scratch my head as to why more businesses do not do it. Businesses always have two basic levels … the outside structure and the inside structure. The outside is the face of the organization and most typically is the one that pushes through and creates the ‘wins.’ The inside operations gets shit done … I have always had an ‘inside operations team’ well briefed and ready to go and insert them into the breach as soon as the win has occurred and have the ‘fresh team’ consolidate.

I could write an entire ‘consolidation strategy’ piece but suffice it to say your business gains value in a number of dimensions by doing it this way.

 

The larger point with this Rule is ‘don’t lose a win by not having a plan for when you win.’

 

 

  • “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

 

Well. Let me share the thought that first hit me on this … “a brand is a promise delivered in the store everyday” <this was The Limited’s phrase>. The point is that a business doesn’t exist if it doesn’t deliver upon what it promises.

 

That said … this is an important rule. As in a REALLY important rule that I bet crushed by objectives short term bludgeon99% of companies do not even think about let alone adhere to. Most businesses target another competitor’s users & customers and go about trying to steal them <persuade them to switch>.

 

Well.

 

What about instead we attacked the company, the support network … the “promise” as it were … and make the people who actually deliver the promise start doubting, or start feeling less than secure, or just “less good about their brand & promise”?

If we did this, we create a gap, isolate as it were, between what the customer thought they wanted and what they perceive they are getting or would get.

 

I love this rule.

 

I admit I had never thought about t this way before … but from here on out it is part of my leadership toolkit.

 

———

 

 

Okay.

 

control goal is to create something that will live together vision Life business

Those are some good rules for business.

 

But you know what?

 

It all comes back to the first Rule and my first quote.

 

Flesh & blood is the real power in any business and … people are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy. Humans connect with humans.

 

Honestly … I don’t think most leaders ignore the fact the people in their organizations are important but I think we don’t elevate them to ‘flesh & blood is the power’ status.

And that is where the Rules come in.

Inherent to each rule, and the success therein, resides with … well … the flesh & blood. That is a pragmatic reminder for leading a business.

 

 

you do not get credit for what you are supposed to do

August 28th, 2017

 

work doing the best you can not enough

===

 

 

“A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.”

 

——

Henry Kissinger

 

====================

 

“When you do things right, people won’t be sure that you have done anything at all.”

 

God (in Futurama)

 

===

 

Well.

 

 

Think what you want and say what you want to say about Kissinger … but the unseen lifeopening quote is awesome <although, geologically speaking, it may not be truly accurate>.

 

In our quest for recognition as a leader many business people, and leaders in general, seemingly get shoved <on seemingly a daily basis> into some absurd universe where everyone judges you <mostly on some absurd views of ‘being noticed is what matters’ or ‘shine bright like a diamond‘>. I say that because this means thinking of yourself as a piece of coal seems … well … quite underwhelming and quite ‘unleaderly’ <I made that word up>.

 

Uhm.

 

But.

 

One of the most frustrating things you learn early on in a management career path is that you do not get credit for what you are expected to do.

 

And maybe what makes this most frustrating is that this lesson applies to a crisis as well as the most mundane everyday grind responsibilities.

 

But.

 

The thing is as you gain more and more responsibility you learn that this is actually a good thing.

 

People like reliability.

 

People like consistency.

 

People like a foundation of quiet competent leadership.

 

People like you doing what you are supposed to do <with little fanfare>.

leadership confidence credit insecure Trump

 

 

This is a lesson learned early on in a management career … and you can tell the leaders who <a> did not learn it or <b> saw the lesson but lack self-confidence … because they … well … ignore the lesson and exhibit ongoing aggravating self promotion <even on the things they are expected to do>.

 

That said.

 

This doesn’t mean you aren’t tempted to take amount or two to point out in some fairly loud messaging that you want some credit for what you are doing.

 

This is the ‘dance.’ The management & leader “credit dance.’ I call it a dance because every good leader knows they have to do some self-public relations and, yet, they don’t want to be seen as doing any overt self-public relations.

 

===============

 

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

 

—–

Winston Churchill

=======

 

Being a great leader is all about doing your job and doing the right things at the right time … and <I imagine> figuring out how to actually tell people that you did the right things at the right time. This means not being seen a as blowing your own horn or being some narcissistic attention seeking, credit seeking asshat but rather one who understands it really isn’t about gaining credit or accolades but rather reassuring people that the right things, the good things, just get done under your watch.

 

I would note that reassurance is a powerful tool.

 

It is powerful because doing things right isn’t about small … nor large … but if you do it right … really right … people will not really be sure that you’ve done anything at all and, yet, feel reassured that you are there.

 

Now.

 

In today’s bombastic world it can actually become a bad thing if no one notices. Why? <insert a ‘huh?!?’ here> because someone else at the exact same time is telling everyone what they did … and yes … unfortunately … often the squeaky wheel does get the grease.

 

Aw heck.

 

The truth is that the value is never in the credit. And leaders know that. And we everyday schmucks need to remind ourselves of that more often.

 

—-

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

————

 

Leaders know that the little things can matter and that just delivering upon good person what you do not what you saywhat you are supposed to do really matters <a lot>.

 

A subtle touch can create the needed ripples. Doing what you are supposed to do insures the right ripples are always … well … rippling.

 

Good leaders know you can be the initiator, instigator or implementer … or even all of them … and it doesn’t really matter.

 

I would note that within the realm of doing what you are supposed to do about the only thing that can truly diminish ‘greatness of simple doing’ is not accepting responsibility – for the bad and the good and all that it takes to get to either place.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that what I just stated is ‘character’.

 

Leaders don’t lead by asking or telling people to follow it most often happens by doing the shit you are supposed to do really well.

I know. I know. that doesn’t sound “great” but greatness really cannot be achieved without it.

 

Oh.

This kind of suggests that greatness is a contradiction.

 

Let’s use Winston as an example.

Huge ego. MASSIVE ego. Charismatic speaker. Maybe one of the greatest orators of all time. Made some huge mistakes. HUGE mistakes.

 

But humble in his responsibility. He permitted  the people to get credit for success and strength and what needed to be done … all the while doing what he as supposed to be doing.

 

He was vocal, and sincere, on issues and the people of Great Britain getting credit.

All despite his ego.

 

Great leadership reflects a unique balance of ego and humility.

Ego to effectively lead and humility to be effectively followed.

 

I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere on the line between those two things.

 

I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere in between not getting credit for what they are supposed to do and actually being acknowledged for enabling greater greatness.

 

Well.

 

I know it isn’t popular to say this but most of the best things in Life, and leadership,  are found in the unspectacular:

 

  • The best people more often than not go unseen and unnoticed by the majority.

 

  • The best moments more often than not go unseen until looking back.

 

Just as perfection is most often found in the imperfections … spectacular is most often found in the unspectacular. And, yes, doing what you are supposed to do is unspectacular.

 

But I would argue the spectacular would never ever happen if the ‘supposed to do’ shit never happened.

 

In the end.

 

do what you said you would

Great leaders are often judged by what you don’t see them doing. This also means great leaders are often judged by what they feel comfortable remaining silent about … by what they don’t say about what they are supposed to do and supposed to be.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this is a little more difficult than it may appear. It is a little more difficult because a great leader does have to have some ego and some higher level of confidence and, therefore, some positive affirmation kind of helps to put some well needed oxygen back into the confidence balloon.

It takes a awhile to learn you don’t have to ask for oxygen or even try and fill it yourself … well … at least good leaders learn that … the bad, insecure ones never do.

 

 

businesses running hard

August 18th, 2017

company culture die trying

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“To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult.”

 

Johann Wolfgang Von Goeth

 

=====================

 

“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away.

Not ever.

The only way out, is in.”

 

Junot Diaz

 

===================

 

Well.

 

Almost every business I have ever crossed paths with has claimed they were flee run awayrunning hard. Shit. I have never met a business that said “well, we don’t believe in running hard … we are walkers.”

 

Trust me when I say most businesses do not really run hard.

 

I know that because once you have <a> seen and experienced a company that runs hard everything else will look slow and <b> we have all ‘run hard’ in selected moments in our business career but 99% of those companies also say “it is not sustainable” and 99% of the time run at a lower gear.

 

That said.

When a company is running hard there is a slightly odd dynamic that almost always occurs … wondering whether it is worth it.

 

Yeah.

 

When a company is running hard, working hard and doing hard things daily it can be easy to wonder whether it is worth it. Wonder if you are reaching objectives fast enough, doing the right things and whether you are actually getting closer to where you want to be.

 

By the way … this wondering is often exacerbated by poor managers and management who constantly create a false sense of urgency and manage deadlines like a caffeinated rabbit.

 

Regardless.

 

I feel relatively confident most managers fuck up how they address the wondering.

 

This happens because we inherently want to show people they reached something … a goal, a milestone or some ‘finish destination’ when , in reality, progress is the value you should be showing them to show a causal relationship to the energy they are expending. They are running hard, you are asking the company to run hard … you want to show them a often as you can that they are actually making some progress.

 

We fuck it up because we just aren’t taught that it is okay to let them know … “well … we are lagging behind on some sales objectives, but this doesn’t mean someone is doing something wrong, or you aren’t working hard enough or 19 speak the truththat some competitor is doing some magical thing better than we are.”

 

We fuck it up because most of us do not know how to deliver that message well.  most of us make it sound like we are chasing some unrealistic goal, or maybe we throw in some false sense of optimism or maybe we actually create some ‘midway milestone’ which actually encourages people to maybe invest a little less hard, a little less running and a lot more ‘maybe that is enough.’

 

When your people are running hard you don’t want to tell them that it is … well … going to be hard and that is why you are actually running hard.

But you have to tell them.

 

Well.

You have to if you want them to keep running hard.

 

Tell them: You are asking people to change – and change is hard.

 

Most businesses aren’t just selling shit <something> they are asking a potential buyer to change – change current product, supplier or behavior. While change change self getting better and worse same timereally is hard … we get better at explaining how this change we are asking them to do … is easier than they may perceive every day. Sometimes we have to weave our way through objections and sometimes we have to hammer our way through objections … but everyone, every sales person, service person, management, support staff and anyone who interacts with current and potential customers are doing their part today and doing even better the day after.

 

And while asking someone to change is hard actually implementing the change is harder. I sometimes believe most businesses are in the change management business more than anything else.

You have to tell them you know that no one is better at explaining why that change is good and how that change can occur.

The truth is when you are running hard, and not running simply for running sake, people get better at this every day.

 

The truth is we are not where we want to be but getting there … and getting better at getting there.

 

Next.

 

Tell them: You are asking people to believe what you already know – and educating is hard.

 

Even if your company is good, really good, and even if your company is the best, the leader, every company does have competition. People just don’t believe you just because you are the best or the leader – and most of your people know that <no matter how frustrating it is>. In today’s skeptical world people just don’t say “oh, okay.” And, frankly,  we don’t want someone to say “oh, okay” when one of our competitors makes a claim.  We shouldn’t, and don’t, expect our customers and potential customers to simply believe everything we say. This means we need to educate and consistently address each question and request as if each answer is THE one which will make them a partner of our company.

 

The truth is we are not where we want to be but getting there … and getting better at getting there.

 

blanace greater good matters do

——

“If in a company you change nothing, you are sure to fail.

 

If you change everything you are sure to fail as well.

 

So the art of winning resides in your capacity to draw the fine line between what should be changed and what should not.

 

=

Jean Marie-Dru

——

 

Look.

 

Running hard is not the same as running fast. But businesses are impatient, in general, and absolutely over-the-top impatient if they feel like they are running hard.

 

This means you have to tell them some truth about themselves and the company.

 

I doubt you will ever get to where you want to be as fast as you would want. I imagine every leader in every industry is always perpetually dissatisfied in this way. I imagine every adventurer, every explorer and every innovator is always perpetually dissatisfied in this way. I imagine this is partially what makes an average company great – you understand that tomorrow’s company will be a little bit better than the company today.

Our sales will come. They will never come as fast as you want but our company doesn’t just work hard, you work smart and success is ours whether it arrives in small steps or great leaps.

 

 

Anyway.

 

I have away said this — part of what makes a company great is that feeling of dissatisfaction.

 

A great company wants to be more agile, move faster, and retain that perpetual feeling that they can always do more and be better.kitchen-table-great-idea-concept-lead

 

A great company has a spirit that drives them and gives everyone the sense that tomorrow is another opportunity to be better than today.

 

A great company, typically, does run hard but, maybe most importantly, has a leader who can breathe constant oxygen into the runners in a way that is neither false nor insincere.

 

Not everyone who says they are running hard are really running hard but if you are in a company who is … I can almost guarantee the organization will explode without good leadership and will be an Olympian marathoner with good leadership.

do you ever lose wanting the fairy tale?

August 14th, 2017

 

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graffitti talent

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“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

=======

 

“We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.”

 

Ransom Riggs

 

==================

 

 

So.

 

hope i want the fairy taleI came across this “I want the fairy tale” gif on a tumblr site <from the mediocre movie Notting Hill with a fabulous British cast> while looking for an image and I ignored it for awhile … and then kept coming back to it.

 

 

I kept thinking … “wanting the fairy tale”.

 

Now.

 

I didn’t mean a ‘love fairy tale.’

Nor, as I have written before, am I discussing the importance of fairytales, the stories, themselves.

 

I am thinking more as in ‘your fairy tale.’ As in “doing something that matters” or “be anyone you want” or “being important” or “being on the front cover of Time magazine” or … well … whatever fairy tale you believed was possible when you were young.

Maybe we could call it “your dream.”

 

I guess I don’t care what you call it … but … do we ever really lose wanting the fairy tale?

 

I tend to believe somewhere within us … well … maybe the 90% of us every day schmucks who never really reached the ‘fairy tale’ we may have envisioned in youth … that we haven’t really completely given up 100% of the desire for “it all” … or “the fairy tale.”

 

Now.

 

That said.

 

I don’t really agree with good ole Ransom when he says we cling to our fairy tales until the price.fight for the fairy tale does exist

 

I don’t agree because I actually believe we don’t cling to them … we more often let them slip away under the guise of “Life.”

 

 

I say slip away despite the fact it may seem like we have given it up.

 

 

In fact … I would guess the majority of us have shoved that ‘fairy tale’ deep back into some dusty corner of our mind because … well … we have shit to do and shit to deal with.

But I don’t think we should confuse that as “not wanting our fairy tale.”

 

To me.

 

This is simply reality shouting so loud that our fairy tale cannot be heard.  Its there. It just loses its voice the older and older we get.

 

But here’s what I think I know <and I could be wrong>.

 

  • Your fairy tale is always there

 

I truly believe if you had a real dream, kind of the ‘fairy tale you wanted’, not some silly childish dream … it never goes away. In fact … I think it actually whispers n your ear more often than you are most likely to admit. What I mean life whispers listen closelyby that is it whispers … and we purposefully ignore it as “silly”, unrealistic, ‘that was then’, ‘when I was young and naïve’ and … well … pick your silencing mechanism. We have a zillion different ways to muzzle our fairy tale.

 

On occasion … maybe in a moment of reflection … we actually pull it off some dusty shelf, dust it off, wonder if it still represents the fairy tale we thought it could be <and we could be> and maybe even listen to its whisper for a while.

 

Regardless.

 

Even if you do not hear it … it is still there.

 

Even if you only hear a whisper … it is still there.

 

Even if you believe you have moved on and its voice is not worth listening to anymore … it is there.

 

Which leads me to …

 

  • A fairy tale has no expiration date

 

Fairy tales do not really die. They can live forever. I think we confuse death with “we have quit on it.” now. “Quitting on it” can take on a number of extremely viable good looking high quality t-shirts.

 

Everyday life.

 

My existing career.

 

I am too old to change direction.

 

Its too late.

 

I have too many responsibilities for what I think is a ‘just me’ decision.

 

All of these t-shirts look frickin’ good on you when you look in the mirror.

 

But none of the t-shirts represent the death of your fairy tale … just something that can cover it over. A fairy tale has no expiration date.

And with that said … the only thing stopping you from pursuing your fairy tale is time <depending on your existing starting point and what you may need to do to attain your fairy tale>.

 

Uhm.

 

I think my point today is I am fairly sure most of us had some fairy tale which means that we actually still have a fairy tale.

 

I think my point today is that I am fairly sure most of us believe Life has persecuted us by persecuting our dreams and fairy tales.

 

I think my point today is that I am fairly sure most of us are making a vulgar mistake.

 

Fairy tales don’t go away, we don’t really stop wanting them and they really have no expiration date. You may find yourself at 30 going “time to go for my fairy tale” … or maybe you do so at 50 or at any age.

 

I think we forget that we really do want ‘the fairy tale’ because … well … ‘fairy tale’ sounds so “what kids think.”  fairy tales are more than true

 

That is a mistake … a vulgar mistake of not dreaming simply because you feel like Life is contradicting, and contradictory, to your fairy tale.

 

Personally I think it does no harm to sit down and say “I want the fairy tale” … and then see if it is the time to get your fairy tale. It does no harm because … uhm … what happens if you actually do make the pivot and get the fairy tale?

Sounds like it would be worth it.

Enlightened Conflict