Monday, December 22, 2008

13 Lessons My Customers Taught Me This Year

When I conduct workshops or training sessions, I like to finish up with a little exercise called “Postcard Commitment.” Here’s how it works:

1. First, blank postcards are passed out to all attendees. They are instructed to self-address them.

2. Then, they are given five minutes to write on the back ONE THING they learned during the program … that they are committed to practicing in the next six months.

3. Next, the music starts. There is no talking. There is no sharing. It’s a private exercise. People are free to write as much or as little as they want.

4. When five minutes is up, the music stops. Then, attendees are required to turn in their postcards in the back of the room when the program is complete.

5. Finally, I take the postcards back to my office when I get home. I throw them in a box. Six to twelve months later, I pull the box out, stick a stamp on each postcard and mail it back to the attendee. Ultimately, the purpose of the exercise is to provide a check-up on how everyone’s practice is coming along.

It’s a pretty cool activity, even though I can’t exactly take credit for coming up with it. (I totally stole this little exercise from my friends @ Brains on Fire.)

Anyway, what’s REALLY cool is when I actually get to READ the postcards.

This happened last week...

I sat down with a nice cup of Tazo and began sticking stamps on about 600 postcards. (Thank GOD they were self-adhesive.) And during the process, I couldn’t help but notice some pretty powerful stuff written by my workshop attendees. In fact, some of the people’s thoughts were SO good; I simply HAD to make a list of the ones that caught my attention.

I know. Scott made another list. Shocking.

BUT HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED: People didn’t just regurgitate a bunch of one-liners I told them to write down. They actually took the ideas and practices I shared and tailor-made them to their own situations. Cool.

So, I’d like to share thirteen of these reflections with you. What I’ve done is extracted key one-liners from standout postcards, then expanded on each idea myself. Now, I DID promise my participants that I would keep their personal information anonymous. So, before we begin, I’d like to offer a special thanks TO, and give credit FOR, all the individuals whose words inspired me.

NOTE: If you say to yourself as you read this list, “Yeah, but I know that already,” I challenge you to ask yourself if you’re LIVING that already.

13 Lessons My Customers Taught ME This Year

1. Become someone people can’t resist. Because you’re THAT interesting. Because you’re THAT good of a listener. Because you’re THAT creative. Because you’re THAT passionate. Because you’re THAT relaxed and calm and cool. Who wants to sit in your radius?

2. Believe that you are welcome everywhere. This is the kind of attitude people need to SEE on your face as you enter a room. As if to project, “I am excited to be here … I am going to meet cool people today … I am welcome wherever I go.” It’s about maintaining the belief that people will like you for the YOU that you are. And if they don’t, screw ‘em. Don’t take it personally. There’s no accounting for good taste. Where are you gently inviting yourself?

3. Consistency brings people back. It builds trust through emotional reliability. It builds predictability, which is safe and attractive and inviting. Consistency also reinforces character, a quality that is sorely absent from WAY too many people’s daily practices. Are you the same person online and offline?

4. Don’t change yourself to make other people comfortable. Sure, you adapt to the situation to honor the needs and traditions of others. BUT, you remain true to yourself. Remember: Just because someone’s sense of self is threatened by your personhood doesn’t mean you need to change EVERYTHING to make them happy. Whom are you changing for?

5. Don’t just BE passionate; STAY passionate. That’s the hard part – keeping it up. And you have to regularly monitor yourself – spy on yourself even – to assure the fire doesn’t go out. Ask questions like, “Am I being passionate enough in this moment?” “Whose passion could I invest in today?” and “How could I re-ignite my passion today?” That should help you infuse passion everywhere. How are you rekindling your inner fire?

6. Listen more, react less. The biggest barrier to listening is emotional reactivity. Interestingly, the word “emotion” comes from the Latin emotere, which means, “To disturb.” Which TOTALLY makes sense. After all: Emotions disturb your mind, your stillness and your awareness; emotions disturb the conversation, the listening process and the energy field between two people. Just chill. What is preventing you from listening deeply to this person?

7. Listen to who you are before responding. An audience member of mine suggested this during a recent workshop. Blew the entire group away. What a concept! Can you imagine how honest, how authentic and how approachable people would be if they remembered to do this in their conversations? Man. Listen to who you are before responding. It bears repeating. Are you listening to yourself first?

8. Love people who aren’t like you. Jesus comes to mind immediately. He regularly sought out, listened to and hung with “undesirable” individuals like tax collectors and prostitutes. He didn’t care. They were just people to him. And everybody was shocked. Like this was some terrible act. Ha! What do you see when you see people?

9. Normal is unnoticeable. So is boring. So is average. You need to take stock of your current daily practices – in sales, service, leadership, marketing, whatever – and ask yourself how many things you’re doing that everyone else is ALSO doing. Hopefully, this number won’t be very high. If it is, you’ve got work to do. How are you breaking people’s patterns?

10. Passion diffuses defensiveness. Probably because passion is so deep and so true, that when it surfaces, there’s just too much beauty to be resisted. I don’t care WHO you are, I don’t care WHAT sets you on fire – when passion is involved, the rules change. How are you infusing your passion into everything you do?

11. Smiles initiate conversation. Even been stared at by a stranger? It can be awkward, but only if you make it so. As someone who gets stared at a lot, I’ve discovered that the simplest solution to this potentially uncomfortable situation is to: (1) Look the person directly the eye, (2) Smile, (3) Wave (if they’re at the right distance) and (4) Wait.

In most cases, the person will either smile back or start a conversation with you. And if they don’t, no sweat. Go back to what you were doing. They might even approach you later. Either way, you’ll feel great because you practiced friendliness. How do you transform awkwardness into approachability?

12. Start collecting questions. Really? You don’t keep a running list of your favorite questions? Oh man. You’re missing out. Totally cool exercise. Great for ANY profession. I suggest using Microsoft Word. Be sure to categorize the questions by topic. My approach is to include a three-letter description of the category before each question, i.e., “MKT How many people are part of your permission asset?” This enables alphabetical sorting (Tools → Sort → Paragraph), which enables quick access and efficient organization. How many questions are in your collection? (Mine has 6200!)

13. Teach only after you’ve listened completely. It’s respectful. It’s approachable. It assures you have all the information you need. It also increases the likelihood that someone else will listen to you. Because you did it first. When was the last time you listened – all the way through – to an idea that made you uncomfortable?

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What lessons did your customers teach your this year?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For the list called, "71 Things Customers Don't Want to Hear You Say," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!