The Ripple Effect

As a youngster I really enjoyed dropping pebbles into the puddles on the street after a rainstorm and watching the ripples spread. Looking back, who would have thought that the “ripple effect” would become a metaphor for so many aspects of business and life.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of the ripple effect is:

a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence.

Well, 2020 is certainly showing us that the ripple effect is alive and well in business. Both problems and opportunities result from the ripple effects of COVID-19 directly on an organization’s direct network and supply chain. There is also a compounding effect in the suppliers to your suppliers and the customers of your customers. Magnify this extra consideration because the impacts are being felt around the world.

A colleague from the U of Winnipeg sent me an interesting article on the ripple effect from COVID within the Canadian office rental space market. The article actually formed the basis for an assignment to my strategic planning classes. I am keen to see how they complete their analysis and how many ripples they uncover.

Good strategic planners know how and how often to conduct environmental scans, search for customer insights, and track competitor moves to uncover clues about possible trends or upcoming events/changes in their market. And if not in their direct market, can yours be impacted by the ripple effect from another?

Too often I have seen a focus on SWOT that is:

  • too subjective
  • viewed through corporate rose-coloured glasses
  • not in tune with what is really happening in their direct and adjacent markets

Executives can fall into the trap that they know what customers and competitors are thinking simply by a couple of brief conversations. Discipline and digging is required to ensure the right data is being captured as part of this internal analysis (SW) to assist with capturing the external implications (OT).

Using “what if” scenarios is another useful tool to help planners identify the magnitude of impact resulting from a significant event. I prefer to use large scale events because the thinking in anything slightly beyond the current normal state is “we can handle something like that, and it won’t impact our operations.” A couple of examples are:

  • What if your biggest customer finally accepted that you are substantially better than your competitors and is giving you all their business, which will double your business overnight?
  • What if all your customers each reduced their purchases from you by 10 to 20%?

Working though all elements of your company value chain for these scenarios is a good, structured approach to assessing the real impact of each scenario and the ripple effects created inside and outside your company.

Great planners also seek insights from front line staff that have direct contact with customers and suppliers. Very often, these regular conversations have direct information, or enough hints are dropped, that the staff person’s spider sense is tingling about a coming event. Sometimes it is the hint of a price increase that will spur other thoughts and lines of questioning to determine the full extent of the pending event.

With the right employee culture in place the information is collected and proactively sent to the planner. If you do not have engaged employees, valuable insights may be left to wave in the wind, never to be included in important decisions. This is a valuable assessment leaders should employ to determine the level of internal trust that exists in their organizations and how much they need to encourage employees to come forward with key information.

Successful planning is not a “one and done” annual occurrence. Discipline and consistency are required to track the ripples and see where they lead. Only with regular insights being captured and shared can a great planner see around the corner or under the rock that is under the rock.

After all, if a big rock is dropped into your industry will you be ready to respond to the ripples or will you be quickly pushed to the edge of relevance?

P.S. I have had wordpress issues for almost a week. I am still waiting for one of their experts to respond and help me solve them. Oye Vay!!!

Just a little bit more…

You'll often hear about "doing more with less" or "squeezing a bit more" out of our employees or equipment. Sometimes this is justified when there are clear signs of less than optimal effort being delivered. Other times it smacks of medieval tyranny and power "just because" a manager can play the hard-ass.

As I have said before "all generalizations are false...including this one." Broad brushing these phrases and applying without measure, assessment and context can have disastrous results. 

So, how should a leader assess when to push for more and when to pull back. 

Let's consider a couple of non-human examples first:
* In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Phaedrus talks about various aspects of quality. He also ties in the concept of tightening and the need for a mechanic's feel. If you do not tighten enough, the fastener will loosen and damage or serious injury can result. If you tighten too much you run the risk of stripping the threads and causing extra work to fix this. You are searching for the Goldilocks amount "just right."

* In horse racing, you will often hear the announcers, or other experts, talk about when to "use the whip." If you whip the horse too soon you may tire out your steed and lose out. If you whip the horse too late  you may not be able to make up for lost ground. And if you use the whip when your horse needs a bit of encouragement, a good jockey knows when and how much to give the horse.

In both cases, one looks for the "just right" time and effort to add to the situation to enable a quality result.

People can talk. We should be able to answer how much we can give. "I'll give it a 110% effort, coach. Thanks Timmy, I knew I could count on you." 🙂

Yes, this is an oversimplification, but the question remains "how do you encourage just a little bit more from your people?" Here are some thoughts to consider:

* Ensure everyone in your organization knows what you stand for and against. They need to know the quality of the values of their employer.

* Ensure that everyone knows how their role fits into the delivery of your product or service and how it can impact the strength of the customer relationship.

* Check-in regularly to confirm alignment. Just doing the first two items noted above and then leaving everyone alone does not capture the fallibility of people, processes, and technology. You must check-in to see if fine tuning and adjustment is required. Remember not to tighten with too much torque!

* Ask the people on the front lines where improvements can be made. My good friend the Reverend Deacon Diane and I talked about this the other day. We both believe many great ideas come from the people that do the task every day. 

* In a recent edition of Zig Ziglar's message for daily living he wrote:
"One other factor in all of this is that the example the employer sets, as far as his own personal attitude is concerned, does make a difference. The employer can complain about how difficult it is to get good help, or express appreciation for the fact that he does have good help. In the process, he is making his employees feel they are important, that their jobs are important and that their performance is appreciated. That has a bearing on the bottom line, doesn't it?" A simple, yet timeless, message from someone who lived every day with care and love.

Yes, this post is another self-reflective approach. But we can only control ourselves and our actions. And everyone's situation is different:
* the work you do
* the skill and talent of the people in your organization
* the leadership qualities throughout your organization
* your perspective on what needs to get done and how hard you can encourage extra effort...safely!

I have had two issues with my laptop, still less than a year old, and Dell resolved them both quickly and efficiently. This is honestly some of the best service and support I have ever experienced. One issue was mechanical (the fan needed to be replaced) and the process to confirm the precise issue and recommended solution was excellent. The second was a software issue caused by a Windows update. This issue was solved because the tech had seen it before, knew the drivers that needed to be uninstalled and reinstalled, and did it very efficiently. 10/10 in both cases. Dell is always known for great support and I can attest to this.

Contrast this to our experience with a roofer. Oh, our roof was not done; it was our neighbor's while we were on vacation. We lock our back gate and the roofer could not get into the back yard to collect the garbage they let drop into our yard. I sent an email with pictures to the roofer just to show what we came home to. No response. 

These two contrasting examples show who wants to give a little extra effort and who doesn't. Guess who I will buy my next laptop from? Guess who won't do our roof whenever it needs replacing?

I believe the immortal words of Yogi Berra sums up what extra effort can look like when he was talking about one of the best players of all time, Joe DiMaggio. "I wish everybody had the drive he (Joe DiMaggio) had. He never did anything wrong on the field. I’d never seen him dive for a ball, everything was a chest-high catch, and he never walked off the field."

Now, hop to it!

Marathon of Hope

September 1, 1980, just outside Thunder Bay, Ontario, Terry Fox took the last step of his Marathon of Hope. He now had cancer in his lungs and he was physically not able to continue.

He had already run 5,373 KM. This is about 3,339 miles for those not familiar with metric. This is equivalent to just over 125 marathons – a marathon is 26.2 miles. Terry ran for 143 days, which is nearly a marathon per day. He wanted to raise $1 from every Canadian. He raised $24.17 million, and the population of Canada was around 24.5 million.

Sadly, he passed away less than a year later on June 28, 1981 at 22 years of age.

It was the apostle Paul who once likened life to a race, declaring, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

It is crystal clear that Terry Fox embodied this quote.

Now, I am not trying to guilt anyone into doing something  on this level of grandeur and impact just for the sake of it. I am NOT holier than thou. We must celebrate Terry Fox for his accomplishment and the legacy he left with us.

My main point is that action needs to be taken.

During my business career, I have seen too many studies, reports, and annual plans that sit on the shelf holding up a hardcover set of Reader’s Digest Classics. No action taken on the studies, reports, and plans. And probably not reading the classics, either.

While you must always have a plan you do not need paralysis by analysis. Oops, we missed that customer…we’ll get them with our next plan.

I remember a sessional prof back in business school. In our strategic planning course we were tasked with creating a new business with a classmate. After our dreaming, thinking, and creating our plan for presentation, we got feedback from the prof. His most impactful statement was:

“You will be faced with many decisions during your careers. Get good information, and make a decision. Get off the fence. Quickly. Sitting on a fence can be painful.”

Think about Terry’s situation. 125 marathons in 143 days. And the pain he was in? I cannot imagine what he went through.

He had focus and this led to his fundraising and awareness success.

And yet there is a word to the wise from legendary Coach John Wooden:

“When success turns your head, you face failure.”

Terry Fox kept his eyes forward. He looked to where he was going. He knew his past, accepted what he was dealing with (cancer), and had the perseverance to keep moving forward. He knew his measure of success and he achieved it. $1 million per Canadian.

Only one thing was going to stop him…and it did.

What is holding you back? This is a question each person needs to ask and each company needs to ask on a regular basis. Most importantly, we need to answer the question –  for ourselves and in our companies. Focus is a critical success factor.

Instead of watching four hours of mindless TV each night, there are options. Read a book, study a course, start a hobby, and you can even bake an apple pie for your husband (world’s best crust – thanks honey!).

Please do not mistake what I am saying. We don’t all have to solve cancer. We can make positive contributions to ourselves, and to our families, friends, communities, professional associations, companies, and life in general.

I know we cannot smile through our COVID masks (unless you have the see through plastic version), but your eyes can smile when you talk to someone. And yes, you can have a smile in your voice, too. These small actions can make a difference to someone having a rough day.

A positive mental attitude may also help you think of the solution to the problem at work. Put that into your performance review!

We can be here for a good time, even if it is not a long time.

In our own way, each of us can start our own marathon of hope. Don’t act like things are hopeless. Be hopeful, and take that first step towards your goal. Your success will be however you define it. And the journey will be worth every step you take.

What could you do if you didn’t know you couldn’t?

 

 

 

 

It’s not about you…it’s about me

Hi.

Do you recognize me?

I’m your customer.

Yes, the one who buys your product.

Oh, I see. You are having a hard time remembering if we ever met, aren’t you?

You see, I am probably known by some “customer ID number” that is all coded just for your company. I know it helps you keep things running smoothly, or so you think. Easy to look up on your shiny new customer relationship management system. Ooh, a CRM.

Well, you know what they say – “garbage in…garbage out.” If you don’t have the most current and accurate information about me, your customer, then it is going to be really hard to know me better, isn’t it?

Yah, in this era of big data you like to group similar customers together so you can spot “trends” and “buying patterns.” How is that working for you so far?

When was the last time you actually talked to me or one of your other customers?

I knew it. Pretty close to never for the management, right? Oh sure, you do “focus groups” once in a while and because your management team are all marketing geniuses you make these broad conclusions based on a small sample and limited interaction and “think” you know us all.

Don’t “think”…”KNOW!”

Do you remember the Odd Couple TV series when Felix explained to the judge why he shouldn’t assume:

 

Why do you make so many assumptions about me? And most of them are made as if you are the customer. David Ogilvy, ad pioneer, famously said, “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.”

So, I guess you never heard that before. When you look at the advertising and promotions that you use to try and get me to buy more or to get more customers I believe you think I am a moron. You probably turn the channel when the commercial comes on. Your kids do their best to get away from those awful digital pre-roll ads of yours.

And who talks like your tweets? No normal human being, that’s who. And if I hear you say something is “awesome” one more time…”To the moon!”

 

 

I like Alice’s moxie.

So, what do you think you should do?

Well, I have a couple of considerations for you because I am not going to give you all the answers. You need to do some work, too.

  • build a customer culture. My friends Chris Brown and Sean Crichton-Browne from Market Culture have a dandy tool to help you establish how customer-centric your employees think you are.
  • look for anomalies. The big data does not always give you the insights that you really need about me. I can be 32 years old, single, professional, and involved in quilt-making. My friend is also 32 years old, but she is married with two kids, and currently staying at home with her newborn. Grouping us in an age demographic called “millennials” makes no sense to me. Our priorities are different and one of us doesn’t really need your product. What do you say?
  • ask your staff what they know about me. It is a lot and I bet it isn’t in your CRM. Take a look, I’ll wait…
  • make sure your partners know how you me to be treated. If I go somewhere for your product and I get treated poorly (like last week at a major wholesale club store) I just might not go back there. If I don’t and I cannot find your product at another store I will get your competitor’s. Will I ever come back to you?
  • and finally, use a real agency to create your ads. Give them deep insights about me. See the previous bullets. And do NOT think you can make your own creative. You aren’t one.

There, see how easy that is?

Isn’t it better to have a relationship with me like this? I like it when you know my name.

 

Huh, I’ve never seen that before…

Over a nice lunch with a dear friend, he shared the challenges with the sewer line entering his home. Something was blocking his line, coming off the main line on his street, and he would get some flooding in the basement. After several contractors, city inspector, and major sewer contract experts had reviewed the situation and tried to ascertain the problem, my friend found a couple of them standing around one day outside his home with perplexed looks on their face.

When he asked, “So, what did you find?” The response from everyone was “I’ve never seen this before.” There was a total of at least a hundred years of experience in this profession. And yet…

As we discussed, we reminded ourselves of other situations where technical experts in different professions have said things like:

  • “Hmmm, it should work” when referring to a glitch on the computer
  • “Hmmm, it should work” when the mechanic tells you on the phone what he did and what resulted when you got your vehicle home from the shop
  • “It’s not doing it on my end” when someone is checking the same program you are running
  • “It shouldn’t be doing that” and yet it is – typically for both cars and computers

If the experts cannot solve it, how am I supposed to? I am mechanically “declined!!!”

This always brings me to question how we set up our technical experts for success. Yes, you must train them on the technical aspects. But, like a good doctor, a good tech must have an excellent bedside manner.

Empathy – trying to place yourself in the other person’s shoes (or seat or computer, etc) so you can try to help “from the customer’s perspective.” Please remember it is NOT about you as the tech expert. Your role as Ms. Fixit is to listen first and then chart a path to fix.

Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice!

Possible solutions I see for the tech support/expert:

  • Ask questions from a position to understand – not to prove you are right/smarter/better than the user
  • Listen – with both ears
  • If in person, look in the person’s eyes to gain a sense of the level of frustration
  • No condescension…please
  • The customer doesn’t need to know “if the flamberjam has to connect with the Johnson rod to drive the flywheel.” The customer wants to trust the expert can really fix it. Long technical descriptions to justify your existence are not required

And there are always more that pop up during my morning stroll with Trappar. While he chases the ball, my mind is whirring. Well, more like a pinwheel on a moderately breezy day. But I digress…

There is never an end to discussions about customer service and how it can be improved. Can we please remember that the people we are training are people and that they are dealing with people?

This goes for all other means of contact with your customers, including chatbots.

I had an issue with a previous cell phone and syncing it with a previous laptop. The Samsung chat person told me to connect it to another laptop. Why would I have two? The person just couldn’t get it through their head that I only need one. Painful!

I am not sure how my friend’s situation has resolved itself. An extraordinary project was created to solve the seemingly unsolvable problem. A lot of work. Certainly there was a caring arm offered from one of the key contractors because they wanted to solve it. I hope the solution wasn’t “Something we’ve never done before.” Who knows how that turns out?

Sadly, once it is all said and done – much will have been said and little will have been done.

 

As useless as the “g” in lasagna

I love this phrase and it accurately captured our week of vacation at a rental cottage. Poor wifi, no TV, meant we brought lots to read, took Trappar on long walks, and spent a few evenings playing old fashioned board games.

It was b-e-a-utiful!

Trappar found out he could swim and just wanted to play fetch in the water. What a cracker that pooch is!

I also found that as relaxed as I was, certain phrases or episodes in the books I read brought certain points to mind. While I was relaxed, these thoughts and the corresponding insights make interesting introspection points upon return to the real world. I keep a Field Notes memo book with me to capture what is rolling through the mental wastelands. Their tag line covers it nicely “I’m not writing it down to remember it later. I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

Call of the Wild – it has been forever since I read this classic. What an amazing story about humanity and its foibles, and how a dog can adapt to different situations. Reading the story, I started thinking about different people I worked with over the years that represented the types of humans Buck dealt with. Jack London was a very perceptive person. His books are wonderfully crafted and you really feel like you are in the scenes. After reading this and seeing Trappar swim, I wondered if the COTW was part of him?

From Russia With Love – a couple of years ago Gwen bought me the complete paperback James Bond library. I have been reading them in the sequence Ian Fleming wrote them and it was time for this story. Only 207 pages, no real mention of Bond until around page 70 and then action to the end. James made a couple of slip ups when he “assumed” something or he didn’t pay attention to key signs. When you drop your guard you become vulnerable. Haven’t we seen this today with how some companies have struggled in the impact of the pandemic while others bore down and made necessary changes?

Hornblower and the Atropos – I became a big fan of C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series after I saw the movie starring Gregory Peck. No doubt I am a landlubber, but I sure transport myself to the Atlantic and Mediterranean with the good Captain. Each book I have read so far builds on Hornblower’s leadership. So much of what he does is by the book, but with the right goal in mind. He is tough but fair. He pushes and knows when to pull back. He is an active leader, and he also knows when to delegate. Today’s leaders would be well-served to take a page from this book.

W.B. Yeats poetry – yes, I read some poetry. I am not a good writer of poetry, but I am learning about some of the classics and I read through a wide range. My high school English teachers would be pleased that I am finally diving in. The images portrayed so simply, the thoughts and descriptions of events and feelings are a wonderful way to stretch my brain.

The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holliday has written extensively about the Stoics. This is a powerful book about how a person can get over, around, or through, anything. He doesn’t just use the Stoics, he brings people like Amelia Earhart, Teddy Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, and many others as vibrant examples to reinforce his concepts. This is a “how to” book that can (and should) inspire you to take action to overcome what is holding you back. There are lessons for individuals and companies. It is practical and clear. His guidance can put you at the head of the class.

It Starts With Clients – Andrew Sobel has written some strong work in the past including “Power Questions,” “Power Relationships,” and “Making Rain,” among others. He is one of the top consultants in the world on this topic and his new book is a 100 day action plan to set you up for an improved approach to your client relationships. Highly recommended.

What is something interesting that you have read? Share it for the other readers.

Remember to recharge this summer. The last five months have been crazy. A bit of “g in lasagna” time might be just what the doctor ordered. Or in my case, what my dear wife so wonderfully planned.

P.S. I wrote my last post well before we left. There was a break in the connection from my Word Press site to LinkedIn that I couldn’t fix until my return. Thanks to “The 300” that still read my Thursday Thoughts on the following Monday.

What-might-have-been was a waste of time

Classic strategic planning is a very detailed and elaborate approach to guiding an organization to future success. Many types of analysis are used, and various approaches are updated and relaunched as something new.

Two problems persist in many planning exercises:

  • too much time looking back; and ,
  • too much hope for the future

For certain a look back is necessary to determine what worked and what did not work. And more importantly, answering “why” to both questions.

And then the coup de grace creeps in “what-might-have-been” itis. Folks, the past results cannot be changed. Monday morning quarterbacks abound on, well, Monday morning and literally every day after a game. Great coaches and players forget the previous play so they can focus on the future. When they watch game film it is to learn what needs to be adjusted for the next game. This goes for schemes, plays, and players.

In business, the quicker you learn why the result occurred the sooner you can make an adjustment and move forward. The current business environment is a lesson in “next play” because there is so much that no one knew was coming and to the extent it occurred. It is very hard to look back and not typically very productive.

Unless…

You are learning key insights about your customers and competitors. This assessment is all about what is happening outside your organization. The more you can capture about your customer’s changing needs and wants (based on how their business has been affected by the pandemic) the better you can pivot to ensure you are delivering what is needed now and what is needed next.

How are your competitors responding in this situation? What unique adjustments have they made to improve their position with the customer? If no one has made any changes, the time for you to act is…NOW!

When football teams find a weakness in their opponent, they will exploit it to their advantage and leverage this for a win. In the real world, you are competing to be the provider of choice for your customers and this is done by being better than competitors.

Sure we all want to be the only provider, but that can breed complacency and then turn our customers off so they seek a completely different solution. Your competitors are likely staffed by good, well-meaning people that have families and  contribute to their communities. Healthy competition is typically very good for customers as it keeps every supplier focused on delivering a better and consistently solid solution.

Respect for your competition is okay, fear is not. Find the competitive desire to think deeper and better about what you can deliver. Here are some starter questions to help with your review of what was and how to turn it into what can be:

  • Improve your customer profile data with the latest sales figures, buying trends, order frequency, and order quantity trends – what has changed compared to pre-COVID-19?
  • Compile a summary of what your competitors have done since the start of the pandemic. You can likely get some of this from industry association updates, news releases (because companies want good media coverage), customers, and suppliers to your industry. You are not looking to gather the data illegally. This is honest work.
  • How do your actions fit against the competition and what have your customers said about your actions – do they like you/need you more or less?
  • Consider broader trends such as what your market is doing regarding reopening and easing restrictions. Overlay this with what you learned in the first three bullets to help craft what you need to do next.

And then get ready to assess quickly again to see if the new actions you are taking are successful or if further adjustment is needed. Learn quickly from the past, but do not dwell on “what-might-have-been.”

Appreciate what you have done, thank your employees and customers, and get ready to make well-informed decisions more quickly to guide your future as we move through this crazy business environment.

If you want to look back and be happier with the results, your plans cannot take months, they should be done within a month. And then you can assess your progress and make adjustments. If you wait to complete and old-timed strategic plan, I fear that you will be losing several months of learning and results that are more valuable than several all-day planning sessions at a resort.

Talent abounds in every organization – be a good finder and help create as much great product or service for your customers with the help of your entire team.

John Wooden sums this up nicely with his quote: “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

 

 

 

What I Learned About Marketing – at the Dog Park

For almost five years Trappar and I have gone to one of two, off leash, dog parks close by on almost every Saturday and Sunday morning with the same group of four guys and their dogs. We might have a better record of attendance than the modern postman. We meet at the same time (early) and from +30 to -30, rain (unless a torrential downpour) or snow, we convene with hot coffee so the dogs can see their mates.

We take turns buying coffee and we know each other’s order by heart. We have shared the loss of a couple of dogs, the arrival of new ones. We have shared some of our kids joining for a stroll. We have seen retirements and “re-hirements.” And we are welcoming the first grandchild (not me, one of the others).

This regularity has broadened our circle of friends beyond the “fab five” (Sweet Pea, Bruno, Biscuit, Mila, and Trappar).  We know all the early morning regulars. Dog park etiquette is getting to know the name of the pooch first; and then the owner (Cam, Gord, Scott, and Len). You must have dog treats ready for sharing. And with some, you have to be very careful about how you give them the treat so you can keep all your fingers (watch out for Bruno).

And the dogs are almost always an extension of some trait of their owners. Trappar is high energy and looks for kind hearts willing to part with food. I’m the same, just not the high energy part.

Dogs are real – what you see is what you get. If the dog is stuck up and not friendly, chances are they learned it from their owner.

The conversation ranges from family to work, to eating and drinking (great taste, not volume), to politics and religion, to vacation and travel, etc. The level of respect each person shows to different opinions is something that most organizations lack today. You cannot just drop a bomb and walk away. You have to defend your position, you are given a chance, and it is up to you.

Of course there is kidding and pot shots. We have adopted unwritten rules of conduct that guide these discussions. And we stick by them.

These guys have become really good friends. And a couple of months back, Len suggested I write about marketing and the dog park.

Hmmm, lessons learned and insights gained:

  • Know your customer really, really well – all aspects. Although everyone is at the dog park and you’d think you can group them into a broad persona, there are lots of different owners’ personalities and canine personalities. No generalizations.
  • Take the time to listen to what is being said, and what body language shows as unsaid but with a powerful underlying meaning.
  • Be interested in others because this is not about you – it is about them.
  • We all tell tall tales – some a bit taller than others. They often end with a wink and a smile.
  • Know them beyond the weekend. We don’t hang out all the time, but we have done breakfasts and other visits. Scotch tasting soon, Scott.
  • We share tips on movies and shows to watch, books to read, and new music to listen to.

Reading through this list and putting on my marketing hat:

  • How much do you know about your customers?
  • Do you know something about them that is not on their LinkedIn profile or Farcebook page?
  • Are you well-rounded enough to discuss (not lecture) on a variety of topics?
  • Can you hold a firm opinion and also be open-minded enough to accept a new one?
  • Can you tell a story? I mean a real, impactful story with emotion.
  • Are your customers important enough to remember the details of your discussions for future reference?
  • Do you group people together or seek to know about them individually?

Great marketers know that you must know your customer first, last, and always. The relationship you build will carry you through tough times (like now) and position you as someone that can be relied upon. An important role that offers so many wonderful, positive benefits. I have said nothing about selling something to your customers.

If you had your dog with you for your next team meeting or client discussion, how would your dog react? Is this what you want?

The world would be a much better place if we took some time and walked with friends. Your mind would be opened to new ideas. Your body would be happy with some exercise on a beautiful morning; or even a cold, snowy, blowy morning.

And if you come to the dog park, Trappar likes any treats and I take my coffee black.

Hiring Profiles and Performance Reviews – lessons from adopting a dog

One of my nieces and her husband recently said farewell to their 14 year old dog. In the note she shared about his wonderful life there was an adorable picture of him as a pup. There was also the Ottawa Humane Society adoption profile when he was 12 weeks old (Waggs was not his forever name).

As I read through the various descriptions I thought of the many job descriptions I have created and applied for. I was also reminded of the many different performance review forms I have been a part of.

And nothing I can think of is as concise and informative as this form from the OHS.

Here it is:

OHS Assessment_1

OHS Assessment_2

Seriously, take a look at your job descriptions and performance reviews. Here are some questions that you should consider for your job postings:

  • Do you really know what you are looking for? Can you describe it in simple terms that attract the talent you want?
  • Is it full of useless jargon and gibberish?
  • Do you know what the acceptable characteristics are for the position?
  • Is it easy to determine if a candidate is providing what you are looking for?
  • There is a category to inform you if the candidate can do well with a new owner (that would be you). And the characteristics of the new owner are quite clear. How do you measure up? Be honest.
  • How do you know? What can you ask to give you confidence that what you see is what you will get? HINT: Nice pup he has a lot of potential!!!

And how about your performance review forms? Most managers hate giving these annual assessments. HINT: if you are leaving any and all feedback to a single annual event you are in big trouble. Consider the following:

  • I don’t see a 5 or 7 point Likert scale here. I see phrases and descriptions that truly describe performance.
  • No categories about – “relationships” with peers and supervisors and subordinates. How about “suitability” with children and other animals?
  • Competitive with other dogs over food and toys vs gets along well with colleagues. “Gets along well…” is so generic how does it add value? You need to know when you are competitive – what are the real drivers?

I actually pulled up an old performance review and choked when I saw the categories and questions. Why have we made these so difficult and confusing. Basically, why have we made them irrelevant? Looking at one of my bookshelves I see a book “Get Rid of the Performance Review” by Samuel Culbert, UCLA professor and management guru. Part of the book describes that managers have “with the performance review as their weapon of choice — they have built a corporate culture based on intimidation and fear.” Culbert suggests a performance preview which is “giving managers and their employees the kind of feedback they need for improving their skills and to give the company more of what it needs.”

Gee whiz…that OHS form captures the essence of the performance preview. If you were to work backwards and create your job descriptions from this tool, I am quite certain your hiring success rate would be higher and with greater quality long-term candidates.

Certainly provides a lot to think about while you are sitting on your deck enjoying the lovely summer.

In fact, I think that you “would be as happy as a tick in a huntin’ dog’s ear.”

Jargon and Gibberish and Simplicity

Definition of jargon

1the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group sports jargon
2obscure and often pretentious language marked by circumlocutions and long words – an academic essay filled with jargon
3aconfused unintelligible language
3ba strange, outlandish, or barbarous language or dialect
3ca hybrid language or dialect simplified in vocabulary and grammar and used for communication between peoples of different speech 

Definition of gibberish

unintelligible or meaningless language:
aa technical or esoteric (see ESOTERIC sense 1) language. “The doctors spoke to one another in their medical gibberish that I was unable to follow.”
bpretentious or needlessly obscure language. “The substance of the philosopher’s work is buried in polysyllabic gibberish.” 
Now, here are two Albert Einstein quotes to explain simple:
  • “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
  • “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Why then are we so enamored with a focus on jargon and gibberish at the expense of simple? Why must we over complicate a topic or discussion point with extraneous words? Why do we incorrectly present data to create fear or anxiety – % when it fits my point, or the raw numbers when it fits my point?

“Sales increased 50% this week” because the company added 1 client to its base of 2.

With respect, I saw this description for a company as “___ is a professional service trailblazer focused on digital transformation in the enterprise.”

If you can help me understand this, I am all ears.

Here are some classic examples of workplace jargon:

  • Land and expand – Workplace jargon meaning to sell a small solution to a client and then once the solution has been sold, to expand upon the same solution in the client’s environment
  • Blue-sky thinking – A visionary idea without always having a practical application
  • Think outside the box – This term means to not limit your thinking; it encourages creativity with regards to your job description
  • The helicopter view – An overview of a job or a project
  • Get our ducks in a row – Order and organize everything efficiently and effectively
  • Drink our own champagne – A term meaning that a business will use the same product that they sell to their customers. The champagne is an indicator a good product.
  • End-user perspective – What the customer thinks about a product or service. It also is an indicator of a how a client would feel after having used the product or service.
  • Pushing the envelope – This basically means to go outside of what is seen as normal corporate boundaries in order to attain a goal or secure a target
  • Moving forward – Workplace jargon meaning getting things accomplished or making progress
  • Boil the ocean – To attempt to do something that is impossible
  • Heavy lifting – This refers to the most difficult aspects of a project, as in, “Bill is doing all the heavy lifting for us!”
  • Face time – The time spent with a customer or client in person as opposed to on the phone or online
  • Hard copy – A physical print-out of a document rather than an electronic copy
  • No call, no show – An individual who neither shows up for the day nor calls in with a reason
  • Hammer it out – To type something up
  • Cubicle farm – A section of the office that contains worker’s cubicles
  • Win-win situation – A solution where all parties are satisfied with the results

To further drive yourself bonkers click on this site with tech jargon you must know.

While I’m at it, aren’t these just “Awesome!” This is such an overused word in North America. Everything is awesome until it isn’t.

I now believe that overuse of jargon creates extensive business gibberish that can rival anything Lewis Carroll created. This example from the website brandchemistry.com.au is a terrific shot at this problem:

“Close your eyes and picture this scenario. You are sitting at your desk trying to do your work and you overhear the following:

Colleague 1: Hey, glad I caught you after the meeting, coz we needed to take our convo offline. Do you have 5?
Colleague 2: Sure, but can we GSD I have a hard-stop at 3pm
Colleague 1: Thinking outside the paradigm, I think we need to green-field that role STAT!
Colleague 2: Word. We need to action that pronto. I’ll buzz HR”

AAAAHHHH!!!

George Tannenbaum is a brilliant copywriter. In his wonderful daily blog, Ad Aged, he wrote this gem in 2018. While it is focused on what he has learned to be successful in the advertising profession, you can insert your industry or role and follow his wise guidance.

Simple, but not too simple. Work and assembly is required.

Your message is more powerful when described simply, bringing a link from emotion to your head. A great message is no good if no one reads it. A good message becomes powerful when it is stated clearly and magnified in many places.

Pearls and Swine says it all:

Pearls vodka