FOCUS: Of Course You’re Reliable! RIGHT??

Are you Reliable?

Are you Reliable?

The far end of reliability is taking things for granted, right?

You hop in your car, perform some kind of ignition action, and you just EXPECT the car to start up so you can go do what you need to do. You head into the barbershop or salon you’ve been frequenting for awhile, sit down for some kind of hair-related operation (maybe with the same barber or stylist you’ve been seeing the whole time…) and EXPECT to look a certain way when you leave. You flip a light switch in your living room and you EXPECT a light of some sort to go on.

It’s when you perform these actions and what you expected DOESN’T happen that you become intensely aware of reliability.

Each of these examples involves an inanimate object, but the same expectations and certainty are what define reliability in relationships as you build trust. In his book on trust, Charles Feltman defines reliability as “the assessment that you meet the commitments you make, that you keep your promises.” You make commitments in two ways: in response to someone else’s request (or, if they’re higher up the food chain than you are, it might be a direction or command…) OR by making an offer to someone. When the other persons accepts your offer they usually consider it a commitment on your part.

Requests can be the problem. Crystal clear communication is crucial here, because if you don’t have all the information you need AND you walk away with the request, the requester will assume you’ve committed to do exactly what they asked…..only you won’t be clear on the specifics, so you chances of success are, shall we say, variable. Sadly, many requests are the only-slightly-less-generic version “go do stuff with that thing and get back to me whenever…”

YIKES!
Feltman writes that you can increase real reliability through what he calls The Cycle of Commitment – basic elements that make for clear, complete, and direct requests:

  • CUSTOMER – Who’s doing the asking here? Who’s the request actually FOR? Never assume anything that looks obvious, here. When someone says something like, “We need to do some research on this” you desperately need to know who the research is for, so you can get to specific expectations about the research and also know to whom you go for further clarification or if you have concerns.
  • PERFORMER – Who’s going to do the work? Is it you? Are you qualified? Do you have the resources (time, talent, funds…) to fulfill the request? Is that clear to you AND to the requester?
  • ACTION – Just what EXACTLY does the customer want you to do? Can you actually do it? What measurements for the action or deliverables will be the outcomes of this action?
  • TIMEFRAME – When does the customer want it to be completed….Oh, and ASAP is not at all helpful.  Get a solid date, since ASAP may mean by the end of the week to you and by the end of the day to the customer.
Make sure you have complete clarity on each of these elements and your chance at success AND demonstrated reliability are significantly enhanced.

So, that’s what it looks like when others are making requests of you, but how can you help others by making your requests more effective?

Be Direct. Direct requests have a much better chance of clarity than indirect requests. Many people often “soften” their requests (making them indirect in a way…) because they feel that direct requests are impolite in some way. Granted, different cultures have different standards and mores surrounding the acceptable kinds of language used in making direct requests, so you need to be aware of that factor, however, what appears to work best in what I will call “typical” European and North American cultures, what seems to work best include the phrases:
  • I ask that you…
  • I request
  • Will you (please)…
  • (Please) do this….
 Less direct request, which are less clear and therefore less direct, include the phrases:
  • I want or I need…
  • Why don’t you…
  • …needs to be done.
 None of these is a real request, but most understand the intention.

Ridiculously indirect requests, which are usually not even perceived as requests, can include phrases like:
  • My coffee cup is empty. (Secret request: Get me more coffee.)
  • The conference room is a disaster. (Secret request: Clean up the conference room.)
  • It’s almost eleven o’clock. (Secret request: Get me the printed slides for the 11:00 team meeting.)
See how helpful being very indirect ISN’T?!

Of course, how you respond to a request is just as important as getting the request right if you’re demonstrating reliability. Once the Customer makes the request, the Performer (you, in this case…) need to respond. Here are the possible responses:

  • COMMIT – “Yes, I’ll do it.” To them this means, “I will do exactly what you’ve asked me to do. Here is where real clarity about the request is critical. If the request is vague or missing information, it is up to you to ask for it.
  • DECLINE – “No, I can’t (or won’t) do it.” This let’s the customer that you aren’t available to do whatever she’s requesting…..she needs to find a different resource. Sadly, in the workplace, many times “No” isn’t an option….however, saying “Yes” is truly setting yourself up for failure, so consider how “No” could be framed.
  • COUNTEROFFER – “I can’t do that, but instead I can do…” This is one way “No” in the workplace could be framed. Create something that MIGHT work. A counteroffer opens a negotiation scenario between you and the customer. This should end in either a commitment or a declination. Leaving things hanging in midair is the same as failure.
  • COMMIT-TO-COMMIT – “I need to check on something (resources, time, etc.) before I can get you an answer. I’ll get back to you by…” You might need more information. Regardless of the reason, be sure to designate a time at which they WILL get a firm answer.
Lastly, there’s the old favorite, the Drive-By Request. Seen mostly in offices, this type of request is the most easily tossed-off and the most likely to fail.

I remember vividly chasing my manager down the hall pleading for more information and clarification as she receded into a conference room and shut the door. As many of these requests are, it was a “short-fuse” request and I could either wait for her to return to her office AND lose precious time, or get hot on the request and HOPE that I hit at least SOME of the actual target. I usually did the latter and paid for it painfully. So, You can live with the stress of unclear deliverables or the stress of waiting for clarification so that success will be more likely. If possible, get together with this customer and go over the Cycle of Commitment with her…..for example, ask her not to assume “Yes” to a Drive-By request. Instead, she should give you a chance to respond to the request and get all the particulars. Everyone involved is much more likely to be happy with the result.

So here are some ways build your reputation of reliability:

  • Make sure you can actually do what is asked of you BEFORE you respond to a request.
  • If the request is unclear, ask for clarification and any missing bits of information.
  • If you are offering to do something, be sure they understand what you CAN and CANNOT do.
  • Listen to people to determine if they are making EXTREMELY indirect requests of you. Are they just talking, or are they creating a framework of expectations that are clear to them and vague to you? Decide which it is, and respond.
Reliability is more than just consistency. I know people who consistently make questionable choices…..that’s not the kind of reliable I’m looking for!

FOCUS: If You Read One Article About Sincerity, Read This One!

Sincerity_Charles_Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon and Sincerity

“Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite.” – Charles Spurgeon.
Building and investing in relationships means building and investing in trust. In my last article, trust was defined as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” This holds true whether you working on building trust in yourself with others, or assessing whether others (loved ones, strangers, pets, organizations, businesses, politicians, whomever…) are worth risking the corresponding valuable thing (feelings, safety, economic well-being, future of the country, etc.)

Sincerity is a key component to building trust.

Continue reading

FOCUS: Are They Twist Ties or Trust Ties?

Trust

Trust is more than a High Five!

Building trust is vital and required.
If you aren’t found to be trustworthy, that pretty much puts the end to having the kind of impact you want to have, whether personally or in business. While the same goes for those around you, you are the only one that can work on your own trustworthiness.

This week I read another mind-provoking article by Valeria Maltoni entitled “What Do We Do About Trust?”.  This led me to get a copy of a book mentioned in the article, The Thin Book of Trust by Charles Feltman, which I devoured in a couple hours. If you have a couple of hours (plane trip, hot afternoon on the patio, etc.) I recommend this. It is relatively short, very well written and focused on the topic in a way that you can absorb and use.

I am utterly fascinated by all of the relationship, network, cognitive and behavioral topics that surround us as human beings in our society and how they influence and guide our businesses and personal lives. Whether psychological studies into why we act the ways we do as they apply and “infect” other areas of study (like Behavioral Economics…how this influences how we actually make choices, both as business owners and consumers, and being aware of the WHY of these actions), to the kinds of thought and work that can make your business more effective, including marketing, VACC (Visitors/Audience/Customers/Community) and content research/strategies, along with the kinds of cognitive bias that keep us from being as successful and happy (…frankly…) as we can be. Much like the world of physics crawling toward The Grand Unifying Theory of Everything (not to be confused with the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything…), I feel there are a lot of overlaps and supporting science and studies that lead to A Grand Unifying Theory of How We Actually Think and Get Along.

Continue reading

More Promising and Valuable: a Partner or a Customer?

Still in the early years of your business and riding the revenue roller coaster? Yeah, me too.

Things are Really Fat for several months (maybe even longer…), so you focus on project delivery and all of the work that entails. Make those clients happy!!!!  Things lighten up a bit, so you take a TEENSY breather (maybe a couple of actual days off in a row….what a concept…).

Things continue to back off, you realize that you’re experiencing the business equivalent of “the pig in the python“, and you’re staring at a mostly empty pipeline. This is not good. You redouble your efforts on business development, lay out some ads, reach out to some referral sources, revisit your business Facebook page (wow….when was the last time you DID that!?), hit those chamber of commerce lunches, contact some leads, and engineer an email campaign, but getting meetings is hard and they all seem to be too busy or in “let’s talk in about 60 days or so” mode.

Again, not so good.

Continue reading

FOCUS: CAN’T SEE IT? YOU REALLY NEED HELP!

You are Very, Very Good at what you do!
That’s one of the reasons you started your business. You’re good at it and you love to do it. So, becoming your own boss seemed like the way to focus in on this passion and expertise, and deliver the benefits to others who are willing to pay you for it. Seems simple, right?

You read a few books, talked to some other friends and maybe even a few other business owners….even took a class or seminar. They shared their experiences and support for this move in your professional life and told you, “GO FOR IT!” You did some research and maybe even made your proof-of-concept available to some people, getting feedback and valuable input. None of this was easy, and you discovered a few things that set you back a bit and maybe even discouraged you, but you are determined….no turning back!

Continue reading

FOCUS: The Simple Obsession of Mindful Marketing

Mindfulness is a light of honesty within yourself that is fed by each moment that passes.

Mindfulness and “being in the moment” are ancient ideas found across cultures. This self-awareness is partly being truly aware of the moment, and partly acknowledging and letting go of the things and thoughts that cling to you or come flying back at you, only to be noticed and let go of again in that moment. It’s an enlightening and maddening place to be, for sure…

I read an article by Seth Godin recently about self-awareness and marketing that brought me to reconsider the role of marketing in my thought life and decision-making process, and in that of my customers and yours, too. To say that we are all relentlessly marketed to by just about everything and everyone is a statement of the obvious that we have become so numb to that we tend to ignore it.  We are in danger of losing the awareness that can allow us a margin of critical thinking.  Godin writes, “Mostly, marketing is what we call it when someone else is influenced by a marketer. When we’re influenced, though, it’s not marketing, it’s a smart choice.” In other words, it’s not “just marketing” when it influences me! I’m not as influenced by the marketing beast as “those other folks!”

Continue reading

The Emerging Truth About The Change of Business

Dealing with Change is a Class-A Pain!

No, really…

First, what does change mean to you, your life, and your business? Is it rapid, gradual, ignored, accepted or the object of ‘magical thinking‘?

Second, how do you manage? Can you really manage without engaging a fortune teller and hoping against hope you can see the future and get ahead of the unknown?

Lastly, how do you feel about it? What does this mean for your business? I’ll get to that…

Continue reading

Last Chance: Spotlight the Superior January Posts

 January is nearly over!

You have already done all your planning, strategizing and begun implementation for 2016….right?!

Here are my top recommendations for articles that will absolutely impact your business this year and help you make the best use of your resources.

2016 Social Media Trends

2016 Social Media Trends

Top Social Media Trends That’ll Change Your Business in 2016

Needless to say, the social media landscape shifts and evolves frequently and keeping track of what will work, what won’t work and what always works (if there is such a thing…) can be time consuming and maddening. That said, this article provides some keen insight into what to focus on in your social media marketing for 2016. For keeping track of all the changes and mutations, well……you should probably ask for some expert help.

Continue reading

The Truth About Revealing Your Customers’ Wishes

Personalized MarketingHow do you crawl into the heads of your customers?
The answer to that question is what’s really at the heart of any successful business. There is an entire industry built around researching customers, numerous methodologies to discern what they see as a good, bad or “Meh…” experience or product, and how to improve that experience (or ‘manage‘ it, in the terminology of the industry). I marvel at the ambition and sheer chutzpah of companies and consultants who aim at controlling people’s behavior via marketing, sales and customer support. Big data, social psychometrics, networking behavior, deep psychological studies and historical patterns can give some great insights, but we’re talking about people….and people are notoriously fickle. In these times when a customer experience or journey takes them online and off-line, as well as through numerous stages of relationships with companies, trying to maintain the thread of great experience, moving to deeper engagement and eventual sales and referrals….well, needless to say, it takes a lot of work.

Continue reading

The Truth About the Hidden Lives of Your Audience

This was a very tough week.

Having your own business and balancing family and holidays is a lot of work. Throw in a death in the family and an unforeseen trip to Iowa from Seattle (and all the turmoil that entails…), and trying to get back in the groove seems insurmountable.

Consider this when you are crafting messages, boosting posts, networking, writing blog posts, speaking with customers and colleagues, and going through your usual day. What is the likelihood that any one of these people has “other stuff happening” in their lives? How does this affect how you reach out to them? How do you create, curate, and communicate online (and connect off-line…) in such a way that, while remaining relevant to those who are all right at this time, also takes into account those who are struggling in some way? This core authenticity, how you remain effectively Human (the foundation of Human-to-Human or #H2H marketing) online is both a strength in building relationships with people, and can make you truly different and more easily discernible through the noise that is the Internet.

Continue reading