Archive for September, 2011

Making important information, memorable

Are your messages Sufficiently Sticky?

Why is it that most people can remember stories, anecdotes, fables and gossip – often from many years ago, but seem to quickly forget a crucial mission statement, or a detailed sermon about customer service from the owner of a business? As Dan and Chip Heath point out – it’s all to do with the message’s level of ‘stickiness’

In their book ‘Made to Stick’, the brothers Heath highlight and address one of the biggest frustrations I hear from business owners – “My team just don’t listen or remember what I tell them!” What the book confirms is when information is forgotten, it has more to do with how the message is delivered.

Repeatedly when we want our team to remember something significant (e.g. why customer service is important) we set about telling them in great passionate and logical detail, backed up by compelling statistics, the reasons why we should look after customers – However, unfortunately what your team may be hearing is something akin to the Peanuts cartoon series muffled trumpet sounds used by Charles Schulz to portray the voices of adults.

The authors of ‘Made to Stick’ highlight a formula that makes messages far stickier. They’ve fashioned it into a simple (albeit a bit cheesy) acronym – S.U.C.C.E.S. Simple. Unexpected. Concrete. Credible. Emotional. Story. Essentially they rightfully suggest that to make messages stick – you should use a Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story instead of a longwinded, data-heavy, logical rant!

An example for the ‘why customer service is important’ conundrum might be to gather your team together and offer this succinct proposal – ‘The reason we all get out of bed and come to work is because of  our customers. They are the only reason we exist’ Then ask them for their viewpoints on that. It’s likely to be a very memorable discussion.

Yours in profitable and enjoyable Business

Jeff Austin
Actual to Ideal
Bunbury Business Development

A better way to fix business problems

5 better ways to close Gaps

A Gap is simply the difference between what you’re Actually getting and what you Ideally want. And although some gaps might be big and seem insurmountable – virtually all of them can be closed.

Unfortunately, just about all of them can be made bigger, if your gap closing approach isn’t quite right. Here are 5 common mistakes and 5 better approaches.

Common approach and Common result

  1. Spend large parts of your day putting out spot fires. Usually fixes symptoms, not causes
  2. Send underperforming team members off on a training course or a ‘Gee-em up’ session. If the problem is systemic, training can make the problem bigger
  3. Talk about problems in meetings – Talk about problems in meetings – Talk about… (you get the picture) No one takes action so you just do it yourself
  4. Use a carrot and/or stick approach to motivate people to lift their game. Rewards & punishment achieve the same result – short term compliance
  5. When standards are not being reached, ignore it because it seems too hard. You give people permission to continue

A Better approach for a Better result

  1. Use a process (e.g. ‘5 whys’) that unearths the root cause and apply the right fix. Close the gap permanently
  2. Look for gaps in your systems and your communications before trying to ‘fix’ people. You close the gap for current and future team members
  3. Ask better questions – “What didn’t go well last week?” “What needs to be done better?” Get team members to implement their solutions
  4. Be a referent leader who demonstrates integrity, consistency, fairness, openness. Develop lasting motivation that comes from within people (intrinsic)
  5. Document and discuss (audit) company standards often. Close gaps regularly by being hard on problems – not on people

This short space doesn’t allow the opportunity to provide great detail on ‘how’ to go about the above approaches. However rest assured that it is all achievable. I spent the first 8 1/2 years of my business life completely in that left column. And if I can make the change, there’s hope for everyone!

Yours in profitable and enjoyable Business

Jeff Austin

Actual to Ideal
Bunbury Business Development