I recently spent time talking to students at a local college. I was interested to listen to their goals and objectives but was left a little flat after hearing their lack of vision or enthusiasm. Maybe I expected more because I was brought up in a generation of entrepreneurs and yuppies.
I asked one of the students what he was studying and he replied a course in computer studies. I felt encouraged that he was trying to better his life and tried to prompt further positive dialog. I questioned him on where he hope his studying would take him, what career did he hope to follow. His response left me deflated, he said “ just a job”.
I desperately wanted to help this vulnerable child to get some perspective and direction so it tried a visualisation technique with him. I suggested that he imagined what type of company he would like to work for, where they are based, what type of industry they cater for, how many people worked there, and what job he wanted to have. The next practical stage was to find the person already doing that job and asked them how they got there.
I’ve done a lot of walking and climbed many mountains. When you stand at the bottom and look at the top, it may seem almost impossible to know how to get to the pinnacle. When you are standing on the top looking down you can see every path to the summit.
By getting the student to talk to someone already doing the job they aspire to have, the experienced employee has already written the map. It creates a shortcut to success.
I recently had a conversation about Succession Planning with an Accountant that I knew. I asked him what his plans where when he wanted to retire. He happily informed me that he would sell his client list and reap the rewards. I agreed with him that his assets consisted of a series of relationships but challenged him on how loyal they would be.
I suggested 50% of his client would discontinue the relationship with the new owner almost immediately and the others would dwindle away over a period of time, reducing the value of his treasured list. He became quite protective of his prized database, but I explained further what I meant by it.
I suggested for example, that if the dentist he used decided to sell their practice, it would create a change point where their clients would have an opportunity to re-evaluate their relationship with that surgery. After all they would have no knowledge of the new dentist. They would have a choice, either to shop around for a new dentist or give unknown loyalty to the new business owner. They could possibly opt for another surgery that was either nearer, cheaper or by referral, but whatever the outcome an indirect choice had been given to them.
The accountant’s business was no different; he was trying to entice clients because of what he did rather than why he did it. He was relying on the commitment of his clients without giving any emotional value back. He wasn’t trying to get his customers to engage with his common cause or believes, so there is no tangible reason why should they remain loyal.
He had made himself a commodity within own business and the possible demise of his life’s work didn’t make him feel great. He started to realise the need for emotional satisfaction for himself and his customers that would satisfy their existence. He had to create an engaging commitment that was far more than money alone. He had to find a way of getting his clients to buy into his passionate for business and why they should remain loyal to his brand, even after he had gone.
Isn't it strange how one person sees a task as a chore, whereas someone else sees it as a challenge, yet it is the same task? Attitude controls our perception and installs our passion. It will either make us receptive or defensive.
We generally consider the word "attitude" to be a negative trait, but if you take attitude in the correct context, it can be a very powerful motivator to strive and achieve. Someone with a positive attitude will drive forward taking obstacles in their stride, creating opportunities and changing outcomes. Someone with a negative attitude can create barriers to be defensive and sabotage change.
Naturally in our daily life we sit somewhere in the middle. Circumstances, stimuli and emotions, can all be factors that determine our attitude at any specific time. Being mindful that we have the power to affect our attitude, it will ultimately determine the outcome. It is interesting to consider that we can control our attitude rather than letting our attitude control us. Are we a passenger in our vehicle of life or are we the driver? The choice is yours.
I believe emotion to be a reactive state brought on by what has happened. Therefore attitude is our conscious effort to make something happen. It is proactive and within our control to change the future. Everyone must have a reason to do something, whether that to be through choice or necessity but attitude creates our passion and our desire.
I believe our body posture has a huge impact on our mood and how we interpret what is going on in our daily lives. Our positive or negative stance will ultimately determine the way we perceive information from the world around us. My own body posture has had a huge effect on my attitude and persona. A song that constantly plays through my mind until my subconscious brain believes it to be true, is a song from my childhood sung by Val Doonican called “Walk Tall”.
“Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye. That’s what my mama told me when I was about knee high. She said son be a proud man and hold your head up high. Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye”.
Whenever I stooped and hid my face, whenever I dropped my glaze and tried to get lost in the crowd, good old Val starts singing to me from his famous rocking chair. I realised that gravity wasn’t pulling me down, it was my lazy demeanour that was too comfortable and was creating the same effect on my mood.
Next time you read a book try to be mindful of your posture. Read a section hunched over the pages and then again with your head up and shoulders back. Although the words are the same it’s amazing how you will interpret the text in a different way. You will change your task from a chore to a pleasure and register the content more easily.
Now try the same thing when you talk to other people. Allow your back to straighten and forehead to lift. Pull your shoulders back and smile. There are so many books written on body language and posture, yet we all fail to adopt these techniques in our everyday life. Even when you talk to people on the telephone, your posture determines your tone and how others receive your message.
I have always been very ambitious, striving to make my family financially secure. I measured success with the size of my wage packet and the material things that I could buy. I wanted to be proud of my achievements and gain the respect of my peers. My prosperous retail career was founded on long and unsociable hours often working in excess of a 60 hour week. Over many years the situation became unsustainable and something had to break.
I reached a point in my life when I couldn't reconcile the huge golf between my successful career and the collateral damage left in my wake. My drive and ambition to secure a career had cost me dearly with my family life and left me feeling a total failure. When the phoenix rose from the ashes of my midlife crisis, I realised that I had midlife choices. I had an opportunity to change my hamster wheel lifestyle to something more meaningful.
Regardless of how long you have followed your path or invested in your future, you still have the choice to change if it no longer serves you. We start our plans with naïve optimism but gain valuable experience along the way. Often we become so fixated on the outcome that we fail to recognise the impact on ourselves and our environment until the pain becomes unbearable. If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Most business owners follow a similar pattern, trying to beat their competitors with a faster service or larger discounts, but either way it’s a huge business expense that doesn’t drive behaviour. To a degree, it may be cost effective in the short-term to buy customers but it’s not inspiring and it doesn’t create loyalty.
People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it!!
To give you an example, why would you buy double-glazing from any company, it’s a very competitive industry with lots of competent companies. You are likely to commit yourself to making a purchase of several thousand pounds and need to leave a sizable deposit without knowing what the result will be like.
Most companies can offer a similar product, made to a similar standard and fitted just as well as their competitors. It becomes a sterile process of comparing prices, haggling for discounts and hoping as a consumer that you’ve made the right decision, it can become a matter of luck.
The inspired few companies out there don’t sell windows they tap directly into the emotional drivers that people want. They sell comfort and security; also they sell reliability and reassurance. These aren’t items on their price list, but are far more important to the end user than any sales pitch a keen representative can muster. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it!! The focus should be, to match an emotional solution to an emotional problem, and for the end user to engage with the real reasons why you want to help them.
I believe that we tend to talk our way into a state of mind on a daily basis just by the language we use. We get sucked into our environment and start to absorb the tone of other people, whether it’s relevant to us or not. Associating ourselves with either positive or negative people will have an influence on our mind-set, but we don’t have to accept what is forced upon us, we can make a difference.
One thing that did have a huge impact on my life was to change the language I used. Rather than saying something was good, I changed to say it was great. Rather than saying my day was okay, I changed to say it was brilliant. Just by changing the emotive words to carry a stronger emotional attachment, made me believe that it was true. Because I engulfed myself in stronger more positive feelings my mood changed for the better.
Alternatively if you tell yourself that something is bad enough times you believe yourself. The subconscious part of the brain can’t rationalise language, it tends to believe what it is told and drives our behaviour accordingly. The conscious part of the brain allows logic, how we interpret and process facts, but it is also influenced by our feelings. Therefore by purposely using more positive words, you can lift your mood and your subconscious brain believes it to be true, creating better behaviours and responses.
Factually the situations going on around me hadn’t changed, but my perception towards what was happening had. My chores became challenges and life seemed a little brighter because I was in control of my language. When negative things happened, they never felt so bad and I could cope with them far better.
Try it the next time you speak to someone and they ask how your day is. Rather than saying that your day is okay, tell them with enthusiasm how brilliant it is and watch their reaction. Generally people will influence the behaviour of others around them, so the words you use can be the catalyst for something better for you and other people.
I often meet business professionals from various industries and I’m fascinated to find out more about their company. Usually I prompt them with a leading question, “So what makes you different from your competitors?” in the hope of receiving an inspired and enthusiastic response. Many times I’m presented with a list of their services and they expect me to be impressed.
I’ve found a percentage of people truly believe their “Unique Selling Point” is way ahead of their competitors and if that is true I would be sorely disappointed by the others following in their wake. What companies fail to recognise is the end users’ expectations and typically the trail blazers only match what the client expects. As a society we have become accepting of poor service as the norm and accept the excuses which are readily provided, as long as it’s cheap enough.
I recently spoke to a firm of solicitors who were proud of their personal service, their prompt responses and their success rate. When challenged “what makes them different”they were confident that they excelled in their industry, but as an end user I would expect these as a minimum starting point.
As a consumer we all end up choosing where to spend our hard earned cash, but our choices generally come down to a sterile process of who can supply a product or service“faster, better or cheaper” and we just accept all the shortfalls that go with the transaction. Usually these cost the company’s bottom line and often the suppler gets squeezed out of the market by decreasing profit margins because their ethos is money driven.
Surely the inspired companies that will win the business and stand the test of time are the ones that do genuinely exceed the customers’ expectations by adding value to the transaction rather than discounting their shortfalls. I believe that creating customer "buy in"is never about money but more so about how you are different.
We have all been ingrained to chase after goals, as this appears to be a measure of our success. Often we fail because we are chasing after the wrong things and feel let down by the process.
How do you feel when you miss out?
Imagine your goal as if you were baking a cake. The plan is to go shopping for the ingredients, the strategy is how you blend them all together and delivery is putting the mixture into the oven. If you’ve managed to complete the process, “hurray” you have made a cake. But, you’ve merely created a result not a reward, which isn’t very inspiring, most motivated people can follow a similar process. Regardless of whether the cake turns out to be a technical success or a culinary failure, you have still achieved your aim to bake a cake.
So do you leave your results to chance and accept meritocracy or do you want to aspire to something that bigger than that? Think about your baking creation and how it makes you feel, the smell of the sweet ingredients, the perfect appearance of the fluffy masterpiece and the pride you feel when you know that it’s turned out really well. You can now understand “what’s in it for you” that feeling behind the task, the emotions that create a burning desire to excel.
Now focus on how others salivate over your masterpiece, rave over your achievements and aspire to bake a creation worthy to compete; now you are starting to create a legacy. You will be known as the person who encouraged them to cook and be remembered for how you make them feel when they have a baking success just like yours, that’s “what’s in it for them”.
In essence, a sterile process doesn’t drive behaviour whereas positive emotions do. By focusing on the emotional rewards rather than just the end result, you will turbo-charge your successes and receive a far greater level of satisfaction.