Are Customers More Important Than Your Teammates?

Have you ever noticed we often treat customers quite differently from our teammates or subordinates?

We exercise empathy and skill to diagnose where our customers are going, then co-create solutions.

Next we’ll turn around and demand our internal teammates meet a customer deadline we created without their input.  Or we’ll ask them to disregard standard timelines and procedures.

Sound familiar?

Great sales people know leading change with people is similar to leading change with customers.  It’s important to exercise empathy and co-create the future in every interaction with teammates, too.

The only difference is how much you care.

When The Business Model is More Important Than Purpose

In large enterprise, the financial model and process often become more important than the purpose.

Close the month with sales growth of 2.1% not 1.7%...EBITDA must be 10% not 9.5%.

And process is powerful for consistency and reliability…but getting approvals is easy from 2 people, not 6 – whose schedules (and politics) are seemingly impenetrable.

So, the business model and process keep everyone happy, for a while.  Until suddenly, how did that small startup gain so much in our category so quickly?

We were diligently watching our KPIs.  We never said “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  (But we did say “follow the process.”)

Except now, it’s time to talk about change and capturing more value. 

Do we have a methodology for this?  Can our people intentionally craft exchanges of value and make every interaction valuable - with customers or patients or internal colleagues?

Here is the good news.  There are discrete laws governing value creation, a methodology exists that are guaranteed to make you more valuable in every interaction with others.  We just haven’t been talking about them.

Who doesn't want to be more valuable?

Few Can Run a Marathon Tomorrow

Yet thousands of people run a marathon every year.

Don't decide you're unable to run a marathon because 26.2 miles aren't possible tomorrow. But do decide by whether you're able to start a training plan and run 4 miles this week.

The human mind isn't always good at making comparisons.  It often tries to compare your present state to the end state without regarding the growth process in between -- it's rather impatient in that regard, often unrealistic too.

The same holds true for that next big thing you've been wanting to try, or build.  If your brain expects the finished result impatiently, it may overwhelm you and stop you from starting.  The good news is you know this and now you're in control.

You may not be able to create that next big thing right this minute, but you can start the process that moves you toward it gradually and steadily.  After all, the surest way to fail is not starting.

A thousand mile journey begins with only one step.  Where are you going today?

Learn to Craft Better Value

The laws of motion and gravity are fairly well known.  Even if you don't understand them fully, you'd expect negative consequences if you disregard them while building your home.  You don't need to know every law about physics when building a home, but ignoring some can mean the difference between a well built home and no home at all.

This is one reason you hire an architect and general contractor if you want to build a great home.  They ensure your design respects the relevant laws of physics so you end up with a beautiful home.  They are skilled practitioners.

Just like there are laws of physics there are laws of value, which govern exchanges of value or how value is exchanged between two individuals.  Just like physics, ignoring the laws of value has consequences.  Disregard some and you'll never see your value exchange occur, while others may have only a slight effect on the value captured.

How often are you consciously applying the laws of value in what you do to capture more value? 

How much time do you and your teams spend understanding the laws of value and how to apply them more effectively?

Everyone Wants to Be Valuable, but Not Everyone Is

When asked, almost everyone says they want to be valuable.  But not everyone is.  

Our research shows nearly +75% of people in large enterprise lack a complete understanding of the fundamentals governing the process of capturing value and are not confident in explaining them, let alone use them consistently.  

How did we get here?  In mature markets the business model often becomes more important than the purpose.  It can be most important to hit an EBITDA number or a patient volume number than it is to achieve the organization's mission.  And that mindset diffuses into behavior.  This results in compliance oriented behavior and cost minimization.  Plus cost is tangible and therefore easier to understand and manage.  Therefore easier to focus on.

We've also invested heavily into technology and data in the past several decades.  We know have more know-how than we can manage.  Therefore it is important to follow what we know.  Again, fostering a compliance oriented mindset.  

The good news is you can learn the laws and truths that govern Capturing Value.  When you become a Value Practitioner you become more valuable to your colleagues, leaders, customers and friends.  It also happens to be more rewarding.

The Fallacy of "Best Practice"


Most of us want to do better and a popular place to turn is "best practices." What are others doing well that contributes to their success?  

Sure, it's easier to see what others have defined rather than create on our own.  But at the same time, when we start comparing organizations it does come with challenges.

It assumes copying a piece of another organization into your organization will yield similar results.  In reality every organization is comprised of a unique set of individuals who will respond and carry out a similar principle in different ways.  And get different results. Never forget to link change initiatives to solving the problems your best people see in the business.

In the course of benchmarking, or seeking out best practices, you'll discover successful companies who do things better and successful companies who do things worse.  Your change seekers will always spotlight the former and the nay-sayers will always spotlight the latter.  In other words, a best practice can't be the only reason for a change.  Alone it does not create urgency for change.

If we don’t get better every day, we’re on a path to obsolescence. Your star execs will never say things like “best in class” or “industry norm.”  The only benchmark that matters — the only one to beat — is what we look like today.  -- Dave Girouard


Halloween or Orange?

Give your team too much instruction and they can feel less empowered.  Give too little instruction and they will lack clarity.


So how do you balance the level of instruction to be more effective as a leader?  If your team says you give too much instruction or too little, here is a way to tailor how much you provide.

Start with this simple test.  Ask them what comes to mind first when you say “pumpkin”.

Those who prefer to use intuition might say something like “Halloween” or “October” or “fall”.  Something related to the pumpkin in principle, but not necessarily about the pumpkin as an object.  This person may be comfortable with less instruction.  Their intuition will fill in the gaps as necessary to make a decision.

Those who prefer to use less intuition might say “orange” or “round” or “hard”.  Characteristics of the pumpkin itself.  This person may be comfortable with more instruction and detail.  Their strength is using what is seen or heard to make a decision.

Spending more time asking questions is generally more effective than telling.  “What do you think needs to be done for this to succeed?” Or “how would you approach this?”

Give your people a compelling “why” and let them figure out the how.

Most importantly, ask for feedback!  Alignment is a process not an event.  Effective leaders tailor their approach to meet the people where the people are.

Always Ask for More


To the degree we are empathetic is to the degree we can be valuable.  But most of us view openings in a conversation as a chance to tell, not listen.

We listen to respond, rather than to understand.  Telling is more often the habit than listening.  It isn't alignment or empathy we're really after, it's an audience, or checking off a 'to-do'.

This week practice being an audience, not finding an audience.  Listen more.  Instead of telling, ask for more.  You just might grow your audience in the process.

  1. You said "_____", will you explain that a little more?
  2. Will you build on what you said about "_____?"
  3. Thank you for sharing, tell me more about "_____".
  4. I'd like to hear more of your thoughts on "_____".
  5. Great idea.  Can you give me another idea on how we could approach "_____?"

5 Reasons You Don't Already Know Your Patients or Customers

It's easy for us to tell our people they need to understand their patients or customers better.  Go spend more time with them, ask them questions, get to know them personally...just get to know them better.

But why is it we don't already understand them?  Here are a couple key reasons why understanding our patients or customers isn't already happening.

  1. The To-Do List is Addicting.  Task lists don't get any shorter by taking time out of your day job to go build observations about your patients or customers.  Routines are addicting.  In fact if you're coming back with good ideas your to-do list will actually grow.  This is uncomfortable.

  2. We Don't Understand Ourselves.  Because we are generally addicted to doing things and not setting aside time for introspective thinking, it's hard to sort out our own emotion -- let alone that of someone else.  How often do you think about what you think about?
  3. Bosses Say One Thing and Mean Another.  When bosses suggest their people go understand patients or customers better, they often ignore adjusting the routine work load accordingly (that to-do list again).  In effect, bosses say go spend more time with your patients or customers but still get all the other stuff done too.  You can create hours can't you?
  4. It Isn't A Habit.  When building empathy for your patients or customers isn't a habit, you end up spending large blocks of time trying to compensate for a long period of not doing it. This exacerbates numbers 1. and 3. above. 
  5. Did I Mention It's Uncomfortable?  It takes a lot of vulnerability to start asking questions to people we don't know.  The kind of questions which actually have the intent of getting to know someone at a deeper level.  What if someone were doing it to me?!  I don't want anyone knowing who I really am!

Now you can do something about it!  

Put a task on your to-do list or weekly routine to spend more time with patients and customers for the sole purpose of gaining deeper empathy for them.  

Start thinking about what makes you actually change your beliefs.  When was the last time that happened?  

Mutually agree with your supervisor the value and time to spend building empathy for your patients and customers.  

Make it something you do each week.  

Finally, use your courage to be vulnerable and genuine with others.  Let them understand who you really are and they'll be more likely to trust telling you who they really are.

Another Way Retailers Can Make a Come-Back

In behavioral science we learn that the remembering self is very different from the experiencing self.  The way you remember things is different from the way you experience them.  This is important because we must decide whether we are creating better experiences or better memories.

The remembering self cannot possibly relive every moment you experience, so it creates summaries of the experience.  Current research supports that humans remember the Peak and the End of an experience, scientists call this the Peak-End Rule.  

Now back to retail.  Think about the end of your experience with a recent shopping trip.  A long checkout line?  Being surprised by the total bill at checkout?  An unhappy checkout clerk?  Trying to carry all your belongings to the car in the summer heat?  Something you paid for but can't seem to find in your bags?

Compare this to ecommerce.  The last thing you experience is the package arriving at your doorstep.  Or perhaps opening the box - who doesn't like unboxing?  You weren't surprised by the total basket price at checkout (you could put something back easily anyway).  No unhappy clerk.  No long checkout lines.  You're all good unless it doesn't fit, at which point things go downhill quickly.

In order to create better memories of shopping visits, we recommend retailers focus on store designs that maximize the end of the store visit.  Instead of, for example, the token store greeter, focus on the end of the visit instead.