The Platinum Rule

the platinum ruleA friend recently talked about the golden rule in one of his posts – treat others as you would like to be treated. It was a great prompt to talk about what people really want – is it the golden rule or the platinum rule? The platinum rule suggests you treat people as they would want to be treated, not as you would want to be treated. The point being, your preferences may be different than theirs. It requires a deeper understanding of the people you interact with, usually by asking them about their interests and observing their preferences.

On the customer side of the house, I’ve been on both the sending and receiving end of information about what customers want from the business. If done well, the business can draw a closer connection with the customer by understanding their needs and preferences and evolving accordingly. As a customer, there is nothing more frustrating than getting a survey, spending the time to complete it, never hearing anything back and seeing no change in the business. On the flip side, it is fantastic when the company takes the feedback and makes a change for the better.

From an employee perspective, great companies engage people. They understand that having a culture that encourages dialogue and fosters engagement is better for the company and for the people. For some people, regular praise is important. For others, it may be a promotion or a raise. And yet for others, it is actively participating in the direction of the company. By having an active dialogue, the virtuous cycle can emerge where people are excited to come to work every day and make an impact, and as a result the company gets better. Everyone gets what they need.

How are you engaging with your customers? With your people? Do you truly understand what they want and how you can deliver on it?

Bridging the gap from what to how

bridging from what to howA client and I recently got into a discussion as he was trying to shape the direction of his business. He knew he had a problem – things weren’t functioning well. He knew he could get people in to tell him what the end state needed to look like. What he wanted most to know was not only the what (future state), but the how (steps needed to get to the end state). Since that conversation, there have been a number of others where people were struggling with the same thing. They know where they need to be, but weren’t sure how to get there.

It’s easy to find articles and books that talk through best practices. Toyota and Walmart are a few of the companies that have had their differentiators well documented examples for any and all to see. And while they both have had issues at times, at the height of their success, their business was well documented. So, why was their success not replicated at the time? Some would argue that while what they did was generally known, how they did it was not (or at least not easily replicated).

Bridging the gap from what to how requires new skills and new approaches. The key is how leadership was able to develop a culture, engage the people and keep them focused on key priorities. In developing a path from current state to future state, new/different processes and technology may be employed. But they will only work if the right people are in place and buy in to the future vision.

How are you doing at engaging your people in making change? Are you able to explain the what of the future state, as well as the how and why? How can you take that leap to transform your organization?

The Power of Gratitude

thank youOver the last few weeks, I’ve had conversations with a number of people after sharing with them how much I appreciate what they are doing. In each case, I’ve heard many people talking about how much impact the person had on them, how their behaviors and actions have changed and overall gratitude for the person. In each case, I was surprised to hear from each person that they very rarely heard the simple words “thank you”, let alone a more extensive note or verbal expression of gratitude.

A friend of mine is amazing at this – she hand writes thank you notes, constantly expresses appreciation and compliments those around her. It is always genuine, heartfelt and a perspective that shows depth of appreciation. The smile in return shows how much the recipient appreciates it. This topic is an area I’ve worked on over time, and continue to work on and look to people like her to emulate. Whether publicly or privately, I’m not sure you can ever express gratitude enough!

The road you know

road you knowAn acquaintance recently reached out and suggested having coffee to catch up. We live and work on opposite ends of town, so he suggested meeting in the middle at a specific Starbucks. Knowing that particular spot, which is heavy to foot traffic, but a little more difficult to reach via car, I suggested an alternate Starbucks that is right off the freeway with a parking lot. Seemed like a great alternative to me and should have been easier for him.

So, I was surprised when he said “let’s stay with the original suggestion. It’s a little tougher for parking, but closer to the freeway.”

Mapping the route in my mind from the freeway to each location, I was still confused by the comment. The alternative location I provided should have been closer to him and closer to the freeway. Then it hit me – people tend to gravitate toward the road they know. It’s easy to flip on autopilot and just go. How often do you take the road you know in business? And by doing that, what opportunities to find a better way are you passing up?

Unintended Consequences

recycled cupsIt’s the end of cold season with lots of germs flying around. To help combat the spread of disease, an airline I fly regularly decided to no longer allow flight attendants to fill up a cup that a passenger brought on board. This includes water bottles, or in my case a cup for tea. Instead, they now bring multiple cups of water that can then be poured into the container brought on board. The change makes a lot of sense from a prevention of disease perspective.

What may not have been thought through is the impact to the environment. With the number of additional cups being used throughout the course of a flight, the impact can get to be fairly significant over time. Think about that in the context of business more broadly. How many times are decisions made with good intentions, only to have an unintended negative consequence? When you make a change in your business, how do you evaluate the impact to your business? How can you make sure your decisions don’t have significant unintended consequences?

It’s Just One Little Tweak

tweak businessA colleague and I were talking about a process he was overhauling. Like many, over the years this company had become bogged down with very long, inefficient ways of doing things. Working together, the group had come up with a better approach that would be much faster and allow the company to be much more efficient.

When it came time to implement, a key stakeholder said:

“We just need to make this one little tweak. It adds time, but it’s not that big a deal.”

The problem isn’t the one little tweak. It’s the accumulation of the “one little” tweaks. Change is hard and it’s pretty easy to get right back to where you started. Holding the line and making the change can lead to amazing results. How are you doing with not letting “one little” tweaks accumulate in your business?

Missed Opportunities

missed opportunitiesA good friend struggled for a few years with brain tumors. He went through ups and downs with treatment and went in and out of contact. Being a few time zones and a few thousand miles away, catching up was always an adventure. But he’s been on my mind for a few weeks now and I’ve been meaning to call. Sadly, another friend just reached out to let me know he passed away. We didn’t have a chance to say those last few words or have those last few laughs. And the last time we spoke there was more to say.

Missed opportunities happen all the time. Sometimes they are significant like the passing of a friend, other times small and go unnoticed. In business, the people and companies that outperform others see the opportunities in front of them. They grasp on and make them happen. How do you keep opportunities from passing you by?

Getting Your House in Order

getting your house in orderSeveral years ago my grandmother started clearing out her house – spring cleaning on a grand scale. While not cluttered, fifty years of stuff had accumulated and filled the three-story house. Grandma is a realist – at north of 90 she didn’t want to leave her family the burden of sifting through all the things that don’t have much meaning or value. And through that process, she also made sure the legal and banking documents were up to snuff. She was getting her house in order. She knew that at some point her affairs would be transitioned to her family.

The funny thing is – transitions happen all the time, whether in business or in life, but many times very little preparation goes in to making them successful. As a result, businesses that have been built over a lifetime languish after a transition because key elements in making a successful transition were not addressed ahead of time. Is your house in order? Or, is some attention needed? What steps can you take now to make sure your legacy is where you want it to be?