Culture

What are we so scared of?

THE DILEMMA WE PUT OURSELVES IN WHEN WE PERCEIVE THREAT INSTEAD OF POSSIBILITY

It was an important meeting. A meeting that would be the beginning of beautiful and important things. We would hatch fun and creative plans together. We would make an impact on the community. We would grow our businesses. The limits were endless.

We would talk all things of mutual benefit. Quoting big numbers, and breaking them down into practical milestones, and then into bite sized chunks we could then divvy up and assign to each other. Then, we would have further meetings, do work with each other, plan events, continue to build our relationship, and build a new world. A world of laughter. A world of success. A world of joy.

But alas, this is the meeting that never happened. It is the possibly that was shut down within minutes when the fear got in the way.

The fear of people stealing from us. The fear of people using us. The fear of being sold to. The fear of getting the raw deal. The fear of being inferior. The fear of failure. The fear of success.

Maybe it is all of these things, or maybe what has been proposed to us just isn’t interesting. It is not compelling. It is not useful, or of value.

This situation is such a tough one to crack. When working with other businesses (B2B), it astounds me how much push back there is to enthusiasm. When a small business, or a solopreneur approaches another business to do some simple cross-promotion, or to join in a partnership of some description, there seems to be a fear, or a scepticism that is stronger than any other force. But why? What is this fear? Where does it comes from?

The answer to this is probably quite complex. There are perhaps Ted Talks and Harvard Business Review articles proclaiming to tell us the core of this phenomenon. But of interest to me is the sheer volume of people that can’t see a good deal in front of them when they see it. The definition of strong business to me is strong community.

If I can help my next-door neighbour be a stronger business then that is good for me. If I can help my industry be stronger then that is good for me. Isn’t it?

The need to rid our instincts of fear is vital. The only way forward is to be brave. Be bold. Listen to offers. Be willing to be sold to. Be open to doing something new or different. Be ready to put a little extra effort in to try something new out.

This does not mean that the rules are off and a free-for-all is now the norm. No. All business decisions need to be analysed and every opportunity still needs to be deconstructed for fit and purpose. But, instead of rubbishing an idea, or an activity straight up, we need to propose ways we can do something. How about, we ask “how can this work?”

It is amazing where this sort of thinking can take us. It can even take us to a point where we realise that the person sitting opposite us cannot help us at this time, and we cannot help them. By exploring possibility and investigating the up-side, we can even say no, and shake hands with genuine pleasure and friendliness. Yes – it is possible!

We hear of luck in business a lot. We all need a little bit of luck along the way, right? This is countered by the argument that hard work and persistence brings more opportunity and therefore more luck. I feel that this sort of argument is bogged down by semantics. The core of it is that there are multiple opportunities which come to us every day. Opportunities to grow our business. Opportunities to answer our needs and help us smash through our obstacles.

The question is, will you let that fear drive your actions, or will you ask, “how can this work?”

I hope you do. It will most likely open many doors that were not there before. Just like magic. It’s exciting. Join the party.

The Value of Home - Turning Newbies into Leaders

The induction. Talk to any HR Professional and they will advocate a well-structured and comprehensive induction for all new employees. Some of us do it well, some do it poorly, or sometimes not at all depending on resources, circumstance, and our individual business culture. But, what can we do (no matter what) to increase the chances of a new employee becoming a long-term success?

In a time when Culture is King, many are grappling with how to translate culture into practical commercial success that is both meaningful and sustainable. It can quickly turn into a buzzword-centric topic which is forgotten completely in day-to-day interactions with peers and customers a-like.

The answer seems to reside in the value of making people feel safe and “at home” right from the start. This is a powerful trigger every single leader in a business can utilise to gain long term performance and loyalty out of new employees (and seasoned ones too!)

Daniel Coyle details an experiment in his book, The Culture Code. Coyle discusses an Indian Call Centre called WIPRO that was experiencing costly staff attrition rates. They took a group of new recruits and simply spent one-hour talking to them about their individual needs to perform better. They also gave them a WIPRO shirt with their own name on it. They found that the people in this group were 250% more likely to still be at the company seven months later compared to those that did not have the “one-hour chat”.

This demonstrated that people valued being treated as an individual and being heard from the start of their employment. It displayed that a business must show that they are there to “Serve You” just as much as the employee is there to “Serve Us”. The results spoke for themselves with staff serving longer and at a better performance level in a notoriously high-turnover environment.

When we feel at home, we feel safe. And when we feel safe our concentration levels are elevated due to less distraction and wariness. It’s like your first day at kindergarten – it’s a scary day with lots of anxiety. But if the teaching assistant relaxes you with warmth, attention, and care then it can turn out to be the best fun you’ve ever had.

Recently, I was struck by this idea when watching a Friday Night AFL match between Sydney and Hawthorn at the MCG. It was a cold wet night where Sydney won in a very close contest. The story of the night was that of Ben Ronke. In his third game, this little fresh-faced recruit kicked a game winning 7 goals and made 10 tackles – a new all-time record for the league. Not only is it almost unheard of for a small-forward to kick this many goals in a game, but no one had ever statistically done this in the history of the league!

The impressive part was in the post-match interview. Ronke was asked “What is it about this club that keeps producing such great young talent?”

He responded by saying “It comes down to the Leadership group, and even the up-and-coming leaders. You go to the club and you just feel at home straight away. They make you feel like you’re at home. That takes the pressure off of you and makes you feel comfortable, and with the support of the older boys – it goes a long way”

Wow! In a moment of pure honesty, this young athlete summed it up beautifully.

If we don’t invest individual effort into an employee we run the risk that they will merely exist in their role, and there is only a small chance of them becoming long term successful performers. To take this further, when a recruit is made to feel comfortable, but without an individualised approach then performance will ease off very quickly and revert to a relaxation mode. This is not sustainable either.

Leaders that show even the smallest of gestures that the business is there to serve the employee as much as the other way around, create an experience that is both comfortable and inspiring. This becomes a potent combination feeding the feelings of belonging. In turn, this creates performers that not only excel, but do it for a long time to come.

 

The importance of pretty little things

Booking a hotel room throws up many different variables. I find it very difficult. Especially when you have never visited a holiday destination before. Recommendations from friends and using online social proof sites (Trip Advisor and the like) are the usual starting points. However, to make a final decision means making many calculations and assumptions with the perilous question of “what are we willing to compromise?” Then after some in-house power struggles, you throw-the-dice hoping for everything to work out well.

The dream is that you arrive with a pleasant surprise where the booked hotel destination over delivers, or at the very least, that you have booked something that you can categorise as good value, i.e. it is worth what you paid. On our last holiday where we had a mix of bad experiences balanced by delightful ones. I was left asking myself the question: what actually makes the difference as a consumer?

Good service makes the biggest impact. Right? But what about the food? The spaciousness? The cleanliness? The ease of making plans? The location? The noise (or lack of it)? They are all a part of the overall picture. For me, I came to the realisation that there is a very small detail that drives value in a customer experience. In fact, the smallest of details is crucial. I am referring to the small details. All of them!

Keeping with the theme of travel, my wife and I recently went to Indonesia. Like many Southern Asian cultures, I feel that they absolutely nail the small details with aplomb. The authenticity and beauty of their daily spiritual rituals where tiny palm-sized leaf trays are filled with flowers and complemented with burning incense is a wonderful example. These arrangements are placed in their mini shrines around their premises and are blessed as they go. This is also performed on the front step of retail outlets and cafes as everyday people walk past. I found it beautiful and engaging. When I looked at these arrangements closer they were so intricate and stunningly beautiful. The scent also became a memorable, which I still associate with that trip.

Another example of small details making a big impact is when we ate at a traditional Indonesian Café on the same trip. Here we witnessed the making and use of these beautiful miniature banana leaf cups which are secured in shape with a small toothpick. These cups are used to hold a small portion of rice, or condiments that come with your dish. In one small warung (a small family run café that houses the family room, kitchen, and guest dining room all in the one space with a BBQ on the front foot path) we had a magnificent dining experience. The family had three generations working the business, with a toddler causing her mother all sorts of headaches as she tried to feed her while the grandparents played with the baby. It was an intimate, traditional Indonesian food experience. The thing that stood out for me (other than the amazing food) was the preparation. These small handmade cups were meticulously formed with ingredients carefully put together, expertly cooked, and then portioned with a loving feel and touch being put into each of the small vessels. It was such a pleasure to watch. Almost therapeutic. It is this magical customer experience that we strive to create in our retail experiences – theatre, ascetic beauty, and a stimulating one-off customer experience. It is obvious to me that this family would not have known what you were talking about if you had mentioned any of these key retail customer experience terms to them.

These were only a few of the constant examples I saw on my trip that highlighted the source of where value is perceived by the consumer. The little touches, the smallest of small details. The details displaying our culture. Our values. Our mission. It is not a new idea for a business to get their small details right (even though many fail on this front).

To go a step further, make the small features a key element of the customer benefit. An opportunity many retailers can gain sales tractions with. Embrace your small opportunities – they make the difference in that infinite calculation that our consumer brains are constantly balancing up to answer the question – was this purchase of good value and am I going to rave about it to my friends?

I observe shoppers on a daily basis, and seeing people engage with the intricate details that display your brand’s DNA is a powerful way to impact your business and be memorable for all the right reasons.