Trust, But Verify

four people holding green check signs standing on the field photography
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

If you want to grow your business, you have to have good people to delegate functional work to. Otherwise, you become the bottleneck and risk making customers unhappy.

Many years ago, I remember learning the lesson of delegation early while working an engineering project. I had a designer working on new revisions for drawings of a machine assembly I was engineering. We talked about what changes needed to be made. I repeated and reviewed the specific changes with him.

Well, I thought by talking through those modifications that professionals get their job done because that is inherent. I had not learned to trust, but verify.

A few weeks later, after we went to prototype and fabricate of the parts, the assembly did not fit together. I was perplexed. I frantically measured all the components and to my dismay, I found that we produced parts from old drawings. There was a mix-up in what was communicated to the toolmaker.

I thought the designer had handled the updates, but that was an assumption. It was a very expensive retooling because the revisions were not communicated to our manufacturing partner.

We had many other revisions that were managed fine previously. This happened to be one of those that did not get communicated, though the work was done.

My business education benefitted though the project budget ballooned from my mistake. I learned a very hard lesson to trust, but verify. When you have teams or disinterested parties, the risk is high for a bad handoff or miscommunication.

Trust, but verify is risk management. We need it because, despite good intentions, humans are fallible. We are terrible at executing consistently. When there’s a handoff, I like to:

  1. Explain what I need
  2. Have the person let me know they understand by explaining back
  3. Documenting it with an email
  4. Reviewing if we met the spec/requirements of the handoff
  5. Provide praise and gratitude for a job well done

I think that last point of gratitude is important because it makes working together easier the next time based on trust. Also, I like letting people know what they did well. We all need encouragement and honesty as feedback.

You may have heard the phrase, “Trust, but verify.” Usually, people learn this lesson from pain. Hopefully, you can create your own approach that consistently makes handoffs and delegations a core, robust way you grow your business through delegation.

We Need a Whole Lot of Better Listeners

listening.jpg

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie

It sure would be amusing if we heard people speaking their minds when they tire of someone talking too much. Can you imagine the painful, humorous candor if people were simply blunt and said, “I don’t think you’re that interesting to talk to,” or “I can’t stand listening to your bragging anymore.”

Maybe we would get people to be more considerate and have healthy conversations that go back and forth like a smooth air bearing on rails.

I do think there is immense fatigue from being talked at inconsiderately from advertising, social media and people that lack listening skills. The great thing is that we have more power and choice to shut out the noise.

Noise is so wasteful.

I like learning new things, and a lot of learning happens by simply asking good questions and genuinely listening and being interested in someone else’s story.

Have you worked hard at becoming a better listener? I mean with rigor, intentionality and passion?

If you took Dale Carnegie’s observation to heart, he’s stating a truism. You get more friends by becoming interested in other people. It’s a habit. And I think it means paying attention and caring about something beyond your own agenda by:

  • Learning to completely focus in the moment on someone else
  • Being a continuous learner. Remember everyone can teach you something. “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Growing a heart that cares about others and their problems

Imagine if you stand out because you simply are a better listener than most people. Why wouldn’t people want to spend time with you and lean in on friendships? It’s a natural response because you are trading value. Someone feels heard. It validates their thoughts and identity.

Every day, I think there is something I can learn and there are people that can teach me. The skill of listening is an age-old virtue. But, it’s becoming more valuable simply because so few people listen well or even care to.

It’s not fancy technology. It’s part of being human and connecting that makes a difference to get influence and results in life. All we have is time and connection. And you can choose to harness this wonderful habit to make the time we have with others worthwhile.

Don’t Start if You Are Not Going to be Consistent

brokendown.jpg

The labor it used to take to simply set something up is lost on this next generation. I can tell my kids don’t relate to the pain I try vainly to communicate when it comes to how hard it was to set up websites, IT systems and even getting your message out. The people that could do the work or hire it out had a strategic advantage previously.

Today, it’s easy to set up a store, a site or any other platform now. That barrier to entry has been shattered.

Everyone feels like they have a voice now. They just have to get attention and become famous or relevant, at least with the people that matter to them.

If you haven’t listened to the Tim Ferriss interview with Derek Sivers and his journey with his CD Baby venture and exit, it’s helpful perspective on how hard it was to even build a platform in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I like how he talks about the pain and joy of building a Buy Now button for a shopping cart. It’s a simple formality today in contrast.

Now that things are easy and everyone can play, what does that mean?

As of the writing of this article, I have over 1,400 articles posted and indexed over ten years. I enjoy sharing out my thoughts and it’s been one platform that has been natural for me to maintain with consistency.

I like writing. I like reading. I like thinking. I like sharing business strategy and helping people win.

I think that’s what has made it easy and fun for me. And, I would tell people that just because there are a lot of shiny platforms out there, don’t start if you can’t even see yourself being consistent over a period of time.

Why? Because showing up is important to the process of building trust and awareness. Getting better at something you can dial into helps you build an asset over time with a connection with your tribe of connections.

Dependability and consistency become harder as you go down the journey. Having something to say becomes more of a differentiator the further you go down the rabbit hole.

We have a lot of choices and options out there. But we are still human and building trust is not so easy to come by regardless of how much content is streaming through our lives. Part of that trust building is knowing there is passion and commitment behind what you are putting into the world. If I know something is not going to be consistent from someone, then my own enthusiasm and commitment will be affected. It’s a natural reaction because I want to invest my attention and focus where there is continuity.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everything in nature. We don’t care so much about transactional items. But when it comes to tribe building, trust and awareness, competing on consistency can differentiate you from those that are semi-committed.

So, a thought to consider. Before you start some work, can you picture yourself being consistent over time?

Will it be painful to extract yourself later? Why not think a bit about what you might start and picture whether you will be consistent with showing up?

When You Interrupt Busy People

When you initiate a contact without trust, you are setting yourself up for a “No”. It’s a brave new world. Yet, there are still people acting out of desperation and ignorance. Why try failing tactics of interrupting people with cold calls, unsolicited emails and other imposing marketing messages? Those are about what you want. And the script which plays out is predictable:

  • You irritate a person
  • You get deleted or identified as spam
  • You lose opportunities for future engagement

You do the same thing. You block out what is unwanted because you have choices of finding what you want when you want it.

Everyone is busy. We are in survival mode with our inboxes. Sure, I advise a strategy of a ZeroInbox, but it takes ruthless vigilance, work and habit. We have to react to so many inputs and non-essentials that anyone who seeks to engage without permission is setting themselves up for rejection.

Serve Busy People Instead

Think it through. If you want to remain relevant instead of trolling the information highways seeking to peddle goods and services, then ask how people buy. It’s what you do when you want something. Check out my ebook, Bought Not Sold, if you want some direction and strategies. The key is to get your eyes off of your wants and focus them on delivering value for others in a sincere and timely manner.

There is not overnight success with this approach. You can’t throw money at it and think a magical output happens. It takes care and work to build trust today. People are busy. They want value and answers. Give them this in a way that helps them and you are creating opportunities.

It’s much better to be perceived as valuable than a nuisance. Take your pick. Get in the game or ignore it at your peril.

How can you get in the business of helping more?

Overcoming Inertia In Your Work

Speed

We’re all ruled by inertia.

I was a mechanical engineer in my past life.  It was drilled into my head that the laws of physics are governed by Newton’s laws of motion.  The first law according to Wikipedia states:

Every body remains in a state of constant velocity unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force.This means that in the absence of a non-zero net force, the center of mass of a body either remains at rest, or moves at a constant velocity.

It is the concept and law of inertia.  Forces acting on a body cause that body to change its state of motion or rest.

This same law acts on us.  Forces such as habits, friendships, thoughts and books motivate us towards movement.  Lacking such forces makes movement difficult.  We can become stuck.

Ironically, it is easier to build something today than ever before.  Automation, systems, order, networks and infrastructure which has been built over the ages has created immense opportunity for those that are in motion.  For those at rest, such opportunity is irrelevant.  It can never be taken advantage of without forces sought out or acting upon them.

Being aware that we need inertia to move us is critical to building something.  Function follows form.  You may need to change something to drive inertia into your actions, motivations and behaviors.  Consider your environment.  Are you in a place which motivates or subdues you?

What about your friends both live and virtual.  Do they propel you to greater things?  Are you reading books which help to shape and broaden your thinking?  The forces that act on you account for your propensity for movement and action.  If you give no thought to what is acting on you then you miss a key aspect of motivation. We are all emotional and forces acting on us are powerful.

Here’s the secret I have discovered: use inertia to help you move to action. Whatever helps you emotionally to increase motivation is fuel. Tap into it and allow it to create momentum for productivity on projects or starting something new. We all need to be inspired. Inertia works both ways. If you are at rest, it can keep you there. If you are in motion, it can accelerate you.

Overcoming Inertia

Respect And Relationships

Respect is the lubricant of healthy relationships.  Our relationships are fragile when there is little trust.  Thus, we can be hypersensitive to disrespect.  It can keep trust from ever developing and allow for healthy relationships.

The give and take in a consulting client relationship is like a dance.  Both parties have to move in synchrony and in step.  If one is out of step then it can cause stumbling.  I think it is much easier to work together when there is mutual respect.  Here is what typically occurs in such a relationship:

  • Openness. Problems are easier to share as well as fears and struggles.  Knowing we are human and accepted creates a secure environment for real issues to be surfaced and addressed.
  • Risk-taking. Respect can breed security which allows for more risk.  Your strengths being affirmed is highly empowering. Accepting your successes and failures creates great freedom and perspective. Secure relationships can open up more opportunity from taking more risk together.
  • Change. Without trust we are on guard. With these overtones in our relationships, we are more apt to change because the conditions are ripe for influence.
  • Execution. Out of regard for the relationship, each party is held to a higher standard and expectation. I have found this is healthy for motivation on both sides for delivering on promises and keeping to agreements.

I would argue that if you do not have respect in place then you do not have much of a relationship. There must be some other motivation such as money, vanity or power that may be the foundation of your association. It may be pragmatic, but it is hollow at best for moving towards substantive achievements.

Think about your relationships and assess the level of respect that is there. It’s a good indicator for how far you will go with the other person.

What have been your experiences?

Results And Caring

Doing excellent technical work is expected.  This is a minimum requirement to work on projects and get business with clients.  We are no longer limited by our choices to a local market of available talent.  We can work with anyone anywhere on the issues we face in our business.  We can measure results and decide if a relationship is worth continuing based on meeting expectations or having unmet expectations.

There is another side of a client relationship which I have learned is a great differentiator in my consulting.  It is the ability to show care for the other person and their interests.  My long-term relationships work because of interest and care about the pain and goals of the other person.  Putting their interest above self-interest is critical for a relationship to grow.

I have seen many businesses which churn through relationships.  They miss the importance of building and earning trust through care.  They might be excellent technically, however, they miss the mark when it comes to going the extra mile beyond a mere transaction. They get stuck thinking about themselves and not the other.  It is often the result that they are working hard to get the next client rather than receiving referrals and further ongoing business.

Here are some ways to express further care in your service to others:

  • Provide the unexpected.  I love it when I am at a restaurant and they think to provide something extra like a dessert or appetizer.  It endears me to their restaurant and shows that they are wanting to win me.  Look into your own offerings.  Give and give some more to provide what is valuable, whether for pain or pleasure.
  • Put yourself in your customer’s place.  It’s hard to be the buyer because of our narcissism.  Be conscience and ask what you would want if you were the customer.  Get tangible and put some action or gesture to what you come up with.  Feel their pain, not just your own.
  • Build bridges.  Your customers are always looking for new customers and relationships.  Work to bring these.  Do it in a thorough way which makes the referral work.  Share your network and make the introductions favor a high probability for mutual success for the parties you introduce.

There is always opportunity to show care when we can look beyond self-interest.  Your success will depend highly on how much you can grow in this area and be authentic in your care for others.  We can all detect selfishness quite accurately.  Value today is what is piercing through the noise of gimmicks and hollow marketing.  Show some care.  The risk is worth it.

How have you shown care that has provided real benefit for your customers?

Gaining Clarity From A Fresh Perspective

In working with clients I have often found problems hit roadblocks because of a lack of perspective.  Being too close to a problem such as stunted business growth, poor sales strategy or low customer loyalty may be something that is hard to see.

Our own blind spots can cause us to miss answers or be willing to see them.  Here are some I often see:

  • Paradigm shifts.  If the world is continually changing around us and we have been used to doing things a certain way, our lack of growth catches up.  We resist change or anything that sniffs of innovation.
  • Personal relationships.  We may become too dependent or have some strong pull to dysfunctional working relationships.  Choosing such relationships over results can often prove difficult to overcome and have to be brought to light.
  • Knowing the goal.  Asking a simple question, “What is the goal?” brings clarity when ambiguity may reign.  A perspective which spotlights the goal is invaluable to focus actions and next steps.
  • The curse of knowledge.  When we are so familiar with our problems as well as all the technicalities of our business, we can become near-sighted.  We know too much and this can prevent us from thinking more broadly about our problems.
  • Lack of urgency.  Our emotions help to drive us to action.  If we don’t have urgency it is because we are not emotionally bought in yet.  Inspiration is important for change to occur.  Getting real about what should happen and the reason behind it is important to move us forward in making things happen.

As an advisor, much of what I do is provide fresh perspectives addressing the obstacles which can muddy clear thinking.  Reframing the problem in terms of stories, metaphor and anecdote can help to move a discussion to new decisions and clear actions.

The value of a fresh perspective pays immense dividends.  You can get clarity and get things done.

Can you recall times when a fresh perspective has helped you see a problem differently?

Being Direct As A Strategy

Candor is a key leadership attribute.  This is especially true today when we are bombarded by convoluted and ambiguous messages from people and companies.  Those that can speak clearly and plainly can create a great differentiation in the marketplace where clarity is highly sought after.

Being direct means you tell the truth and are focused on being understood for the other person’s benefit.  This can have both positive and negative consequences.  There are many advantages to being direct.  Here are a few benefits I have found from my own personal experience and working with clients:

  • You experience great freedom.  You don’t have to live with managing to other people continually.  You can speak from your own convictions.  Conviction allows you to build great things such as friendships, companies and institutions.  Look at Steve Jobs, Thomas Watson and John Sperling.  Their conviction and forthrightness felt by others change the world.
  • Candor builds trust.  Being direct may repel some people.  However, your audience doesn’t have to guess what you are thinking.  If your directness is part of your brand, it can be a powerful way to connect and grow trust.  You can be counted on to tell the truth and say it the way it is.
  • Segmentation and qualification are easier.  Standing for something quickly helps you identify who resonates with your message and who is not a fan.  Trying to please everyone is a poor strategy for winning.  Winning a popularity contest is elusive.  Everyone comes with different prejudices and passions.  Instead, be direct and watch how your audience develops over time.  These are your true fans.
  • You save time.  You may have been in meetings where there was not a decision made or clarity on what to do.  Who can afford such ineptness today?  Directness can cut through the fog and get to actions and decisions.  This is what moves the ball forward.  Continual deliberation is both exhausting and wasteful of everyone’s most important asset – their time.  Dealing with the truth helps everyone to cut to the issue quickly and get something meaningful done.
  • Directness builds a platform.  Your platform is given to you by your audience.  It is access to speak what you think.  This is a powerful marketing channel and tribe that will give you attention, loyalty, and revenue.  There’s a reason that books like Rework by 37Signals and the Power Of Less by Leo Babauta become best sellers.  Their audience relies on them being direct and telling it the way it is.

My mother used to call people who had no opinion or backbone “a leaf in the wind.”  It has always been an apt visual to witness those that have a hard time being direct and standing for something.

The world is segmenting every day along the lines of clear convictions.  Be clear about what you stand for and flex your directness muscles.  You might be surprised of the benefits.

What has kept you from being more direct?  What have you found from being direct in your communications?

Your Buyer And What They Care About

Everyone is not your buyer.  Everyone is not capable of saying, “Yes.”  If you are out there broadcasting a message without targeting it to someone concretely and specifically, then it is not only ineffective but costly.  Your brand will suffer from a lack of focus and connection to your buyer.

Here are some steps to focus your marketing to ensure your message is laser focused:

  1. List the people that can say, “Yes”.   This needs to be identified by job titles.  Is it an owner?  A marketing manager?  A Chief Technology Officer?  Keep the list small.  It should be no more than 2-5 job titles.
  2. Build a buyer persona.  For each job title, articulate what this person is like and what they care about.  Get clear about what is important to them.  Is it revenue?  Cost cutting?
  3. Create content with answers.  If you truly bring value, then you should have answers.  If you are only selling, then you will struggle.  Put yourself in the buyers shoes.  If it is the VP of Sales he is thinking about how to increase revenue.  Create content like “5 Ways To Drive Revenue for B2B Sales Today” which is relevant and works.
  4. Position, package and distribute.  Your sales systems need to be automated and prepared to position you at all times.  The packaging and the delivery need to happen at the right time in synchrony with your sales approach.
  5. Create a nurturing strategy.  More than likely, your buyer is not ready.  Have a strategy to nurture them with further value until the time is right.

This is an approach which is centered around value.  It is how buying is done today.  It requires thinking about the other peson and putting yourself in their place.  By doing so, you are aligning with what is on their mind and what they care about.  That is where the value truly lies.

Having ideas and strategies to help your buyer win creates trust and value.

Who are your buyers and what do they care about?