Taking an Hour to Innovate

Greetings.  It's the start of another week and another chance take a fresh look at your business and the opportunities to improve your performance and deliver even greater value to your customers.  If only you could find time given all the meetings, emails and "to-do's" that have mysteriously piled up over the weekend.  And even though you're keen on innovating, it will just have to wait until you plow through all of these urgent–though not necessarily important–priorities.  You just can't find the time.

But what if it only took an hour to be more innovative?  

Could you find the time then?

Well in a sense that's all it takes to get started.  An hour to clear your head, get out of the office and engage a world filled with ideas, inspiration and possibilities.  An hour to discover the missing pieces in your quest to be the best and the most valued company or organization in your industry.  And here's how you can do it…

By taking a walk around town.

With a sense of curiosity and openness.  Take 60 minutes to explore a part of your city with all of your senses wide open.  And in the process, try to identify anything along the way that strikes you as interesting or even remarkable.  It can be a cool building or museum, a company with a unique and successful business model or a unique product, service or special “offer,” a person or an animal that catches your attention, a statue or a public work of art, an unusual sound or smell or flavor…or anything else.  Or simply visit a place that is thought to be "world class" and try to figure out their secret or secret sauce.  Because somewhere in their formula might be a powerful key to your success or part of the answer to helping your company or organization stand out from the crowd.

All by taking a simple walk with a purpose and a sense of imagination. 

Chicago

We win in business and in life when we make innovation our priority. And when we are willing to take an hour to walk around the block.

Cheers and have a great week ahead!

Building Great Relationships

Greetings.  I'm often asked what it takes to build brilliant customer relationships given that technology and the ways that we interact with customers have changed so dramatically over the past few years.  And while the web, social media, and our customers themselves are causing us to think and act differently, it strikes me that the basics of building and maintaining strong relationships remain the same.  So here are my thoughts on seven things that we ignore at our own peril…

1.  It pays to be prepared.  This was true long before the internet made it easy to do our homework, but it is essential that you understand as much as possible about your customers and prospects before you engage them.  And it's equally important to have a clear purpose in mind before any interaction.  As our friend Arturo Toscanini, the late and great orchestra conductor, once noted:  "How you rehearse (i.e., prepare) is how you perform."  

2.  There is no substitute for listening effectively.  To do this, we need to approach every meeting or interaction with the goal of demonstrating real interest in the customer and becoming as smart as possible in understanding their world and the challenges and opportunities they face.  This means being in the moment and making sure we are perfectly clear about the things they say that really matter.

3.  Asking the right questions is your secret weapon.  If you don't ask the right questions–and get to the heart of the customer's hopes, desires, and fears–you're not likely to craft the best "solution" for them.  And you're not likely to give them confidence that you should be their partner.

4.  The body never lies.  Even if you've never watched CSI or any of the several hundred other TV shows about crimes, crime scenes, forensics, and autopsies, you hopefully realize that your ability to read another person's "body language" is vital to building strong relationships.  Some experts in the "science" of body language believe that 80% of communication is non-verbal, so it's really important to pay attention to the wide range of signals–good, bad, and ugly–that customers and prospects are sending your way.  Do they seem present and engaged?  Are they making eye contact, leaning forward, asking questions with interest and energy, and not looking at their watch or PDA?  Or are they trying to decide whether to race off to an unknown meeting or take a nap?

5.  Your stuff doesn't really matter.  Too often we believe that our products, services, and solutions are gifts from the gods…and that customers and prospects should be grateful for the opportunity to purchase them.  But the real key is helping customers to achieve the result they are hoping for, and that means enabling them to discover the best option possible.  The more we commit to being part of this journey of discovery–and making them and us smarter along the way–the more likely we are to build a trusted and valued relationship.  And the more likely we are to help them deliver the innovation needed to achieve their objectives. 

6.  There's also no substitute for demonstrating real interest.  Everyone wants to be loved, respected, and understood.  To sense that we care deeply and that we've taken the time to get to know them and the things that matter most.  To believe that their world is important to us and that we've tried, as hard as it might seem, to walk 1,500 meters (close to a mile) in their shoes.  And that we wake up each morning thinking about the things that keep them up at night and keenly focused on helping them to become more successful than they ever imagined.

7.  There's magic in following up.  Actions speak louder than silence, and the better and faster we follow up the more likely we are to strengthen our ties to those we have the privilege to serve.  This means identifying ways to drive information, ideas, and possibilities to customers and prospects.  And connecting them with the right people and expertise–inside and outside of our organizations–to move forward.  With the purpose of making them smarter and more capable.  As quickly as possible.

Remember, customers only want to have relationships with us if we make it worth their while.

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We win in business and in life when we respect the value of customers and prospects.  And when we seek to be worthy of the trust they put in us.

Cheers! 

At the Heart of Business

Greetings.  It’s Valentine’s Day here in the U.S. and the one date on the calendar when many of us make a special point of thinking about the power of love, caring, passion, romance, and matters of the heart.  A day for thoughtful and sappy cards, heart-shaped boxes of candy, flowers, romantic lunches and dinners, and chances to show those we care about that they are at the top of our minds.  While the origin of this day has been traced to St. Valentine, who lived in Rome in the 3rd century A.D., many people believe that it was the kind and caring folks at Hallmark Cards, possibly in collaboration with some of the nation's leading confection companies, who really unlocked the full potential of this holiday…noticing perhaps that there were no significant card giving celebrations between Christmas and Easter.  Sure there's "Groundhog Day" and "St. Patrick’s Day" but there just aren’t enough card sales in either of these holidays to keep shareholders happy.

But there is a vital business message in Valentine’s Day as you begin this week of work.  A message about the importance of passion and heart in the success of our companies and organizations.  The passion that we have for a vision and purpose that really matter.  And the passion that underlies our values and what we believe in.  Values that demonstrate our strong commitment to our customers, employees, and the community and world that we are part of.  Values that focus attention on learning, collaborating, growing and innovating tied to a belief in our people and their ability to do remarkable things.  Values that strike at the heart of what it means to be a caring and remarkable organization.

So why not spend part of today thinking about the essential role that passion and heart should play in your business.  And, about whether you and your colleagues are doing enough to capture the real commitment of your newest and your longest-tenured team members.  Because while success is all about winning customers and returning a profit, it's also all about caring, doing work that matters and making a difference.

And if you really want to make this notion come to life, why not take the time to let everyone you work with know that you love them?  That you love their ideas, their hard work, their commitment to customers, their desire to innovate and their hope for the future.  That you realize how important they are to your success, and that this truth is essential more than simply this one day.

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We win in business and in life when we strive to get to the real heart of the things that matter.  And when we see the power of passion in being as innovative and remarkable as we can be.  

Cheers!

Books Worth Reading: “Drive”

Greetings.  Looking for something to read this weekend?  If so, you might want to check out Dan Pink's new book called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  In it, he distills some fascinating research on motivation and offers some important insights on the value and appropriateness of traditional rewards, performance reviews, the power of intrinsic motivators, and what it takes to engage and energize people to do remarkable work.  

At the heart of his formula are three essential elements:  

1.  AUTONOMY — Having choice and control over the work you do.

2.  MASTERY — Being challenged to learn and get better at work that matters.

3.  PURPOSE — Being part of something bigger.

While these aren't radical ideas to inspired corporate and HR leaders, his stories and analysis are thought-provoking and sure to give you a better understanding of what it takes to find, motivate, and retain talented people.  

Drive 

We win in business and in life by giving people a chance to learn, grow, innovate, and make a difference.  And by believing that there is real genius in everyone.  What are you doing to bring out the best in all of your people?  

Cheers!