Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Credibility Is Quality

Yes, I love food.  And I love relating my theories to food!
Your daughter’s birthday is coming up. You want to get her favorite kind of cake—a triple-chocolate mousse cake. You decide to try the new bakery around the corner. The guy behind the counter is very happy to see you. He takes your order—your daughter’s name, the occasion, size of the cake, flavor—and tells you the cake will be ready at the end of the day.

When you return at the end of the day, the cake is not ready. The bakery is having problems with this, that, and the other, and it turns out Janet’s cake will not be ready until the next morning. This is pushing it since your daughter’s party starts the following afternoon. The cake still isn’t ready in the morning—they need a little more time.

When you finally pick up the carrot cake (you ordered triple-chocolate mousse) half an hour before Janet’s birthday party begins, it reads: Happy Graduation, Janice.

Are you ever going to return to the corner bakery? No.    

Credibility is quality. If you are credible, people will correctly assume you produce a quality product. If you seek to run a successful business (which of course you should—otherwise why are you running it?), credibility is a key factor in making your customers feel confident they have come to the right place. Credibility will compel them to return.

There are certain basic ingredients that go into making a person and/or company credible, just as a chef needs key ingredients for making a delicious cake.

To begin with, reliability and timeliness go hand in hand. Stick to your promised deadlines—say what you mean and mean what you say. A client has to know when you say they can expect a product on such and such date, they will get that product on that exact date. If people feel that they can count on you, they will count on you. This translates into business. Of course, unexpected circumstances and events arise from time to time, and when they do, you must always communicate with clients and keep them informed at all times. Surprises are rarely pleasant in the business world.

It’s also important to be realistic about projects. Assess the workload honestly. Never set an impossible deadline or budget to appease the customer in the short run. In the long run, missing that deadline will come back to haunt you like a boomerang. Pay now or pay later is a phrase that applies to both customer and provider. You know how much the work you provide is worth, and you know how much time it takes. If a customer expects you to compromise on the level of quality you pride yourself on delivering, then your company may not be a suitable fit for that customer. At the very least, they should expect a lesser degree of quality. At the end of the day, such an expectation is unacceptable. Never compromise on quality. It is a direct reflection of who you are and what your company stands for.   

Listening is another key component to sealing your reliability. If you don’t know exactly what the client wants, how can you deliver it? The guy at the bakery obviously wasn’t listening when he was told it was Janet’s birthday. Maybe his mind was on the horse races or some such thing. At any rate, when clients seek you out for your specialized service, you owe them your full and complete attention. If you are unsure about anything, always ask, always keep the lines of communication open. Never assume!   

In addition to building upon your own honorable reputation, another benefit of making your word your bond is that fact that a number of other human beings out there aren’t in the practice of doing this. Rest assured that every time you come through on a project, there is someone out there who didn’t. There are plenty of examples you could come up with in the business world: The cable guy who showed up three hours late. The painters who made a mess of your house. The barber who shaved your head when you wanted a little trim.

Not surprisingly (but unfortunately), there are just as many examples of this in our private lives. We all have the flaky friend, sometimes more than one: The friend who never calls back, who’s always late to the movie, who always forgets our birthday. (Why are you friends with this person? Cut ‘em loose!)  Make sure you aren’t that flaky friend. If you are—and shame on you if you are—you are probably also a flaky business associate. And it’s probably costing you!             

Today’s challenge:
Make a credibility checklist for companies you have to deal with both professionally and personally. Examine what these companies have done wrong and what they have done right.

Determine whether or not you are the flaky friend!  Keep track of who you owe calls to, favors, how many people you’ve rescheduled on simply because you didn’t feel like seeing them, how many times you promised you would do something by a certain date and then missed the date, etcetera.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Fifth Element

It has been quite a while since I published my last blog. The Summer and Fall go so fast that I forgot to think. Publishing this blog helps me do just that. It helps me think!

Dan Sullivan, the creator of the terrific executive coaching program, Strategic Coach, discusses what he call four common referability standards. I believe them to be actually four reliability factors. These are just as essential in business as they are in everyday life, which is why I have instilled these qualities and characteristics in my children.

  • Be on time.
  • Say please and thank you.
  • Do what you say you are going to do.
  • Finish what you start.

What's that? You ask. Those are only four?

Everybody calm down. I’ve added a fifth: Think before you act.

I tell this to my children all the time. (If only I had to say it once, how much more blissful life would be!) This fifth element applies just as much to my business associates as it does to my children—and to me. Actions have consequences. And not anticipating those consequences can make them inherently more dire.

Take the somewhat famous (or infamous) tale of a gentleman from Fort Sumner, New Mexico, who attempted to get rid of a pesky mouse. Once he caught the vermin, he threw it into a pile of burning leaves outside. The mouse, on fire, ran out from under the pile of leaves and back into the man’s house.

The poor mouse was destroyed. But if it is any consolation to you mouse-lovers, the house was destroyed as well. A clear case of not thinking ahead. The man was hell-bent on killing the mouse (in a despicable way). He did not anticipate the mouse would be momentarily alive, capable of running. He most certainly did not anticipate the mouse would be capable of running back into the house and lighting it on fire as well. And because he failed to acknowledge this possibility before throwing the mouse into a pile of burning leaves, he was consequently out one house.

Things go much better when you think ahead. Ask Tracy Porter of the New Orleans Saints. Some time ago, he picked off Peyton Manning and ran it back for a game-winning touchdown in the Superbowl. This wasn’t luck. Peyton Manning’s Colts ran their favorite play, a pass to the outside receiver. They had run this play a number of times during the game, and during the season. Tracy Porter knew there was a good chance they would run the play again. He anticipated and placed himself in the perfect spot for the interception. In his case, the consequences of his actions led to a Superbowl victory.

He thought before he acted.

So you decide.

Would you rather win a Superbowl or have a mouse burn your house down?

That’s what I thought. And speaking of thinking — of thinking ahead, in particular — you cannot run a successful business without anticipating what is around the corner. You might not always be right, but you will always be prepared. And being prepared will allow you to more readily adapt even when circumstances are not what you expected. Simply being reactionary to whatever events unfold is a sure-fire way to run your business into the ground. Time and time again, you will get caught blind-sided and be unable to deal with the crisis at hand. And if there’s one thing that’s for certain—one thing that does not require much forethought—there will be a crisis or two.

Beware: I’m getting ready to go off on a tangent.

Because thinking is The Fifth Element when it comes to reliability factors, and The Fifth Element is a fine science-fiction film staring Bruce Willis, let’s take another example of thinking ahead from a cinematic classic starring Bruce. In Die Hard, Bruce Willis is running all over Nakatomi Plaza battling terrorists. When he meets Hans, the ringleader, Hans acts like a frightened escaped hostage. Bruce tells him to relax, even handing him—the ringleader!—a gun.

Bruce Willis in "Die Hard"
Now everyone in the audience is yelling at the screen: “Don’t do it, Bruce! That’s the bad guy! Nooooo!”

Bruce turns his back and Hans tries to shoot him. But, surprise surprise, Bruce gave him an empty gun.

“You think I'm a shmuck, Hans?” Bruce says, as the audience breathes a sigh of relief.

Bruce thought before he gave Hans the gun. He thought: Should I give this guy a gun? I don’t know him. He could be a bad guy. I’ll give him an empty gun. If Bruce gave Hans a loaded gun and turned his back, that would have been the end of the Die Hard franchise and the title would have to be changed to Die Easy.

Before making momentous decisions involving the path your business is about to take, thoroughly examine all the potential outcomes for your decision. Think, if I do A, then B, C, and D might happen. You’re probably hoping for a particular outcome. But since there are no guarantees in life, simply operating on hope is just too risky. Consider what would happen if options C or D came to pass. Maybe these are less desirable options, maybe they are downright unacceptable—in which case perhaps not taking a certain action is the best possible scenario.

If you do go through with a specific plan, you need to also have specific plans ready for the possibility of things going wrong. That way, if things do take a turn for the worse, you can immediately go into action. You can say to yourself and your colleagues, “We thought this might happen, here’s what we need to do now.”

Having a plan of action in advance also allows for you and your colleagues to be more calm, in greater command when the — um — poker chips hit the fan. A lot of times, going into panic mode simply stokes the flames of a crisis. The ability to stay calm and keep a clear head is vital. And this cannot be done unless someone has planned ahead, has thought before they acted, has anticipated, and was prepared. In business, be a boy scout. Be prepared!

Today’s challenge:

Play a game of chess. Or learn how to play! No other game teaches you to think before you act like the game of chess.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Social Capital

In my previous post, we discussed structural capital. Today, let’s take a look at another equally important piece of intellectual capital: social capital. Social capital is your company’s vendors, referrals, referral sources, and your friends.

Take a moment to consider the amount of clients you have obtained through friendships. Odds are the number is more than a few and maybe most. Friends have value beyond mere friendship; they can help generate business. This is probably the best reason to make friends and have friends, and even to pretend to be friends with people you don’t like. (Okay, so that’s nonsense—I’m just checking to see if you’re paying attention.)

The fact is, aside from being there in good times and bad, friends in the business world can often mean the difference between landing a job, getting that account, or being awarded a juicy contract.

Your means of networking and socializing patterns can be turned into a unique asset with real value. The ability to build relationships is a definite commodity and should be viewed that way. No one else knows the same people you know in the way you know them. No one else has the same resources you have. In all likelihood, you have your go-to guys and gals. Maybe you know just who to call should you happen to need an accountant in Boston. If you need a good lawyer down in Georgia, you can call what’s her face. Or for tickets to the Olympics, you can call one of your Canadian friends (although you’re too late). For getting rid of a body quickly, call Harvey Keitel’s character from Pulp Fiction.

The point is this: the bankers, the insurance people, the number-crunchers are all resources. They are members of your club and vice versa. This is a private club. Not just anybody gets access. They need to be your referral, your customer. Your friend. If you want to have members in your club and in turn be a member of other clubs, you have to be a part of a social capital network.

Once you’ve developed this network, build up this bank account of assets. Systemize it, formulize it. Create conditions in which you can bring the value out to the people you want to deliver that very value to.

Having social capital requires you to be one specific thing: social. Some people are natural socializers— professional socialites. Mingling and shaking hands and getting to know others is simply a way of life. For others, being social is easier said than done. If you are a wallflower, your business may not be flourishing the way it could be for the same reason your life might not be flourishing the way it could be. There is something to be said about being gregarious. Some days, you might not be feeling all that social. That’s normal, that’s part of being human. But if you find yourself not wanting to be social every day, well then, you’re missing out!

I have been given the best advice ever about maneuvering through a strange situation with folks who you don’t know. As the people you meet to talk about their most favorite subject. Them!
  • Where did you grow up? 
  • How did you come to live in this town? 
  • What did you study in school? 
  • What is your favorite movie? 
 The potential questions are endless and the answers are liable to present either new questions to ask or points of common interest and understanding that should reveal you to be one of the best conversationalists in the world.
Not too long ago, I went to a party with friends in a neighborhood I wasn’t all that familiar with. The party was hosted by a friend of a friend—I did not know her. We seemed to drive for hours trying to find the place. It brought me right back to my junior high days.

We finally found a house filled with revelers and joined in on the fun. The mutual friend who brought us to the party had not arrived, and it took us about half an hour to determine we had walked into the wrong party. Everyone had a good laugh, and guess what? It was actually fun. We never wanted to leave that party.

By the time we did, I had made several potential new friends. I’m not suggesting you crash random parties every weekend; I’m simply pointing out that a lot of times the most interesting people are the ones you don’t know precisely for that reason. Everyone has a story—there’s no such thing as a boring person. Even a boring person is interesting by the very fact that they are boring. (My friend Jocelyn knows the most boring person in the world. She loves to tell stories demonstrating how boring this person is. As you might guess, the stories are boring, but Jocelyn has a great time telling them.)

I notice when I go on trips, especially overseas, I am much more social than usual. I like talking to the people I meet. They are just as interesting, if not more, as the ancient ruins and museums any country has to offer (as if museums are ever interesting). When I am on the subway, or in markets and stores in another country, I tend to make an effort strike up a conversation with people. I have met a number of interesting folk this way. Something in the back of my mind tells me, who cares if the conversation doesn’t go well, you’ll never see this person again. Knowing this helps me to relax, be more open to those around me and the possibilities that exist. Then when I get home, I realize I could just as easily be this open and friendly to the people in my own country, my own city and neighborhood. There is no reason not to be. Sure, some people might think you’re a big weirdo if you decide to say hello to them as you pass them on the sidewalk. But that’s their problem. If you’re the type that dreads going to parties, dreads leaving your comfort zone in general—think of social situations as an experiment. Go to that party and imagine you are in another country and that you will never see these people again and that ultimately it doesn’t matter what they think about you. It doesn’t.

“Accept all invitations,” an elderly man, a stranger, said to me in a deli once when I was waiting to be seated. It’s good advice. I’ve benefited greatly from it.

I’ve also heard people say, “I’ve got enough friends,” as if there is a limit to the amount of people someone should have in their life with whom they can share things, laugh, confide in, empathize, sympathize, and relate to.

Yes, having friends can increase the value of your social capital in the business world. But more importantly, in the real world, in the world where we are always striving to get the most out of life and enjoy it and appreciate all it has to offer, you can never have enough friends. They are priceless. Your life will be richer as a result, and not just economically.

Today’s challenge:
Accept all invitations. Go to a party (even one you’re dreading!) and make a point to meet at least one new person. Then consider how you have benefited from this introduction, both as a person and a business associate.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


In any business, the very fact that clients are being charged makes them naturally wonder if the company is simply feathering its own nest. This is especially true in areas where customers are unfamiliar with the terrain. A good example might be auto mechanics. I’m pretty confident I’m not the only one who has taken his car into the shop for an oil change only to be told dragons have destroyed his carburetor and the cost to realign the flux capacitor is $10,000. I’m sure there is an honest mechanic out there—maybe even most—but nobody can deny there are more than a fair share of mechanics in the world who aren’t on the up and up.

Assuming you are an honest mechanic—in whatever your actual chosen field—how do you assure your clients they are being treated fairly and see to it that they provide repeat business?

For starters, you rely on your intellectual capital. Intellectual capital is comprised of three very important elements, the first being human capital—a company’s employees and what they know. This is a commonly discussed topic. But there are two more pieces that are just as important and rarely examined: structural capital and social capital. Each of these deserves its own article: the focus of this article is on structural capital (hopefully you knew that from the title).

If a company is selling its strengths—what its employees know and are best at—the strengths cannot be delivered upon without the processes that have been put into place to help that knowledge be displayed and utilized. The processes are a company’s structural capital. Structural capital includes the office, the equipment, the systems used to make a company run like a well-oiled machine. They are all the physical components that go into gettin’ ‘er dun, as Larry the Cable Guy would say. If a company is going to rise above its competitors, it needs its own structural capital. Your structural capital is a direct reflection of your company and the first means by which customers will be able to form an opinion of you.

Let’s go back to the auto shop for a moment. My Lamborghini Reventon needed an oil change (it’s my article and I can dream if I want to). The first shop I took it to was a mess, even on a most basic level. When customers walked into the front office, papers were strewn everywhere. The mechanics looked sloppy (even more than what it is to be expected), the auto shop seemed more like a junkyard, and I was told they only accepted a certain kind of credit card. The first employee who started to help me was called to some other more important duty; I was handed off to another serviceman and had to explain my situation all over again. Maybe these guys were all a bunch of auto repair geniuses, but their business’s weak structural capital also weakened something in me: my confidence in them. When customer confidence is weakened, and you don’t work tirelessly to get it back, you might as well call it a day.

Not feeling comfortable leaving my precious car at this place, I took it to another shop on the recommendation of a friend. The office was clean and organized. A number of signs pointed out that the place had been accredited by AAA, letting me know that AAA would step in and investigate any concerns I might have. One point person handled my account: I didn’t have to retell my situation over and over. The work was completed on time and on budget. This auto shop’s presentation, professional workmanship, and system of communication guaranteed that next time my Lamborghini needed work, I would bring it back. (I actually drive a Ford Focus, but you get the point.)

A good way to tell if your structural capital is at the level it should be is by taking a close look at the structural capital in your personal life. In my bachelor days, I learned this the hard way. Whether you are going to be successful on a date relies heavily on your structural capital. Before I became the married stud muffin that I am today, I went on more than a few clumsy romantic outings. I didn’t clean my car (the discarded McDonald’s bags in the back were pretty revealing). I took a girl to an Italian restaurant and she was allergic to pasta (a little preliminary investigation would have uncovered this). I learned that dressing in flip-flops and a hoody is not the way to a girl’s heart. And that it is important to open doors for the ladies.

The onus isn’t always on the guy. (Hopefully this is the last time I use the word onus.) I have a friend who tells me of a young lady who invited him up for coffee. When he went into her apartment, there was nowhere to sit—not because there weren’t any chairs, but because the place was so cluttered, he literally had to push objects aside to find a place he could sort of sit. The place sounded like the trash compactor in Star Wars. Weak structural capital caused him to flee before he got buried under the debris field.

Maybe you are married now, and you do not have to worry about the dating world, thank heavens. You still have to worry about structural capital. In fact, you need to pay even more attention to structural capital. If you don’t have a successful system of communication in your relationship—if you are lacking basic necessities in the house and aren’t putting your underwear in the hamper—you will face growing problems. If anything, personal structural capital is even more essential in a marriage because you see your wife or husband more often than someone you are simply dating (hopefully).

Take a sheet of paper and think about your business or personal life. What physical elements and processes do you have and use to assist you in creating the impact your business has on its customers or you have in your personal life.

List them. What could be better?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Presentation

I thought the In Memoriam with James Taylor during the recent Oscar telecast was really nice (though some of my friends will tell you James Taylor’s songs should only be considered as grocery store music.) At my age, you read the obituaries first, before you get dressed.

I have to admit, I also liked watching the arrivals on the red carpet. I don’t care so much about answers to specific questions like, “Who are you wearing?” but I get a kick out of the general pomp and circumstance of it all. (If I ever went to the Oscars and somebody asked, “Who are you wearing?” I’d probably say I was wearing something I picked up at Gary’s Tux Shop at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, site of the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and I needed to get it back by noon the next day.)

But the people arriving, looking glamorous, the cameras flashing, fans waving in the stands, the exclusivity of the evening—all of that is emblematic of feeling special. Anybody walking down that red carpet at the Kodak Theater would feel special doing it. Even if they cannot breathe in their-tight fitting dresses or dashing suits and they have been dieting for a month for this one night. Even if an army of make-up people went to work on them the whole day, and their tan is sprayed on, the moment they are on the carpet being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest, they become Hollywood royalty. And we look at them as Hollywood royalty. We accept them that way. Because of the presentation.

The Oscars are all about the presentation. I lost track, but I think this year’s ceremony went on for about five or sixty-six hours. Was this necessary? Absolutely not. They give out twenty-something awards. The folks at Toastmasters could do that in half an hour.

“Sandra Bullock, here’s your Oscar. Kathryn Bigelow, come and get yours.” So on and so forth. They could do that.

But they won’t. It’s the Oscars. What are the Oscars without interpretive dance depicting the blue people of Pandora? Or a completely unnecessary montage of horror movies that include such frightening films as Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice? Imagine if the Oscars were presented differently. What if the Oscars were simply mailed out to the winners and announced the next day in the Penny Saver? Or if people showed up to the ceremony in their gym clothes? Would it still be the Oscars?

The quality of your work goes a long, long way in establishing your reputation—both professionally and personally—but there is something to be said for what the presentation of your work reveals about you as well. Likewise, your customers, friends, family, also get a strong sense about how much you value them by the way you treat them, by the manner in which they must interact with you and your company. When you go to a high-end upscale retail store like Neiman-Marcus, you expect certain things—certain elements that go along with the sky-high prices.

Three hundred dollars for a shirt, are you kidding me? Well no, they aren’t kidding. You can tell by the piano player tickling the ivories in the middle of the store, by the restaurant with a wait staff inside the store, and the higher-end brands available on the racks.

Go to Sears or better yet, Goodwill, and I guarantee you won’t find a man in a tuxedo playing a grand piano and there won’t be any restaurant on the premises where you can buy French onion soup. And if there were, you’d be surprised and slightly disturbed. French onion soup—at Goodwill? I think not.

You’d probably think you were on some kind "Candid Camera" type show. You have come to expect certain elements in a Neiman-Marcus that you otherwise would not expect at Goodwill and vice versa. A lot of this is what you bring to the table, through your own previous experiences.

The truth of the matter is that we bring these kinds of expectations and judgments in all aspects of our lives, whether they are subconscious or not. And because of these, you impact the way your customers and friends see you. How you present your services, your company, how you treat your customers and your friends, all speak into your presentation and the way you are viewed.

I had a flaky friend who would rarely return my calls. We would make plans and she would cancel or change them at the last minute. I came to expect this. I came to expect that I would need to call her three or four times before she would eventually call me. When I happened to run into her, she told me things had been “so busy” lately and that if she only had an ear piece so she could chat on the phone while driving it would be so much easier to keep in touch. Basically, our relationship hinged upon an earpiece. And I accepted that because I knew that’s the way she was. But then it occurred to me: if our friendship was on such shaky ground, it wasn’t much of a friendship. So I stopped making an effort to be in touch, and sure enough, we aren’t anymore. And guess what? I don’t miss her. Because it turns out I valued her friendship as equally as she valued mine, which is to say not very much.

It boils down to this old adage: You are what you eat. If you eat doughnuts and pizza all day, you’re not going to end up with a svelte body. (I can personally attest to this.) Like putting food in your body, what you put into your process will determine how that process looks.The people around you will value your company and your presence as much as you value theirs. The way you present your reports, maintain your office, answer your phone calls and respond to your e-mails say a bunch about your presence. You want your customers and friends to be comfortable and feel good when they are visiting your office or home or dealing with you in the ether.

Pay attention to the presentation. Make them feel like they are walking that red carpet. Provide the kind of glamour you see on television. Make your interactions with them special and unique. And they will do the same.

Choose a customer or a friend and get them something special for being such a valued part of your life, even if it’s just words of appreciation. Make them aware of how much you appreciate them by going the extra mile and getting something or doing something for them that you don’t have to, but want to.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Be the Dumbest Person in the Room

Would you rather be the smartest one in the room, or be in a room where everyone is smarter? This question was recently posed to me by Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach. Sullivan went on to say that most people sitting around trying to prove how smart they are, but what do they get from this? Admiration? A confidence boost? Maybe, but how does this help them grow?

It doesn’t. I grow a lot more when I’m the dumbest guy in the room. I’m still the same guy as I was hours earlier, but now I’m afforded the opportunity to learn from people who know so much more than I do. And this got me thinking: I’m always the dumbest guy in the room. Sometimes I’m the best wealth legacy coach, or I know the most about the tax code. Sometimes I’m better educated, but I’m always the dumbest guy in the room.

Every single person I encounter knows more about something than I do. My challenge is to shut up and listen to them, to stop worrying about a bruised ego, and to learn how to grow from other people’s wisdom.
Today’s Challenge: With each person you encounter, remind yourself that you are the dumbest one in the room. Ask yourself: What can I learn from this person?
--Tony Rose is the author of Say Hello to the Elephants: A Four-Part Process for Finding Clarity, Confronting Problems, and Moving On.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ultradian Rhythms

A few months back, I read a Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project. Upon reflecting on the good sense his parents had to name him something as fantastic as “Tony,” I went on to actually read the article. Tony talked about Ultradian Rhythms, which are 90- to 120-minute energy-related cycles that human bodies go through. These are cycles of peaks and valleys. Tony concludes that if we take breaks every 90- to 120-minutes and temporarily get our minds off the work at hand, then our efficiency increases significantly.

This theory was tested successfully at Wachovia, where employee work groups took breaks every 90 to 120 minutes. And guess what? They were more efficient.

For go-getters, taking frequent breaks might seem lazy or ineffective. I know a guy who has his day planned to the minute. He races around all day long from one meeting to the next, timing his phone calls with his wife. And sure, he’s effective sometimes, but more often than not, he ends up crashing. I’ve actually been in meetings with him where he’s fallen asleep. His wife tells me that he comes home and just sits. He can’t help around the house. He can’t interact with his kids.

He would be much more productive if he took five-minute breaks every 90 minutes or so. I know this is true because guys named “Tony” don’t lie.
Today’s Challenge: Honor you body’s Ultradian Rhythm by taking five-minute breaks every 90 minutes or so. Note whether your level of productivity increases, decreases, or stays the same.

--Tony Rose is the author of Say Hello to the Elephants: A Four-Part Process for Finding Clarity, Confronting Problems, and Moving On.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wielding Your Strengths

My wife refuses to shop anywhere but Gelson’s, the upscale supermarket in our neighborhood.

What does Gelson’s have that its cheaper counterparts don’t have? I can think of a few things. The parking lot isn’t a zoo. It is always clean. Its produce and meat are of higher quality, and the lines are shorter.

Shopping anywhere else is simply unacceptable for my wife. With respect to my wife, Gelson’s has a monopoly on her shopping needs.

This got me thinking: What can we all do individually to become monopolies of one?

Everyone does something especially well. I am a passionate advocate for my clients that brings them new information in ways they can understand. It is my unique talent. And if anyone wants to get better clarity around a problem and how they can solve it, they come to me. I hold a monopoly on problem solving.

Recently, I blogged about the importance of wielding strengths. What would happen if we all identified that one thing that we, as individuals, hold a monopoly on? Maybe you are the fastest typist this side of the Mississippi. Maybe you can communicate calmly and effectively with everyone. Maybe you are the best damn night manager at a fast food chain. Perhaps you make amazing gut decisions.

Whatever it is, make that your focus. If you spend each day trying to secure a monopoly centered around your unique talent, all of your shortcomings would fall to the wayside. Who cares that you cannot operate a computer when you speak 16 languages? And who cares that you cannot speak 16 languages when you can dissect a computer and reassemble it in 12 seconds flat?

If you are the damn best (or the best that you can be) at one thing, you can offer the world so much more than your talent. You can offer inspiration.

Today’s Challenge: Spend time identifying your “Unique Abilities”.

--Tony Rose is the author of Say Hello to the Elephants: A Four-Part Process for Finding Clarity, Confronting Problems, and Moving On