"I", "We" and "You"

One of the most profound ways to change your posture and the way you and your organization interact with customers and partners is to change your pronouns.

Instead of saying "I" when you're ready to take credit, try "we."

Instead of saying "we" when you're avoiding responsibility, try "I."

And, every time you're tempted to depersonalize the impact of your actions, try "you," while looking the impacted person in the eye.

Words matter.

       

What investors want

They want you to put the money to use building an asset, something that works better and better over time, something that makes your project more profitable and more efficient.

And they want you to use that asset to create value that will pay them back many times over.

Most small businesses ignore both of these desires. There's so much stress from being on the edge, it feels like money will relieve that stress. And in the short run, it will. But if it doesn't build an asset, soon you'll be back to the edge, with the added problem of having an unrepaid investor as well.

Assets (buildings, machines, powerful brands, new technologies) are less essential than ever before. For many organizations, a laptop is worth more than a building or a punch press. That's great if you're getting started, because the connection economy has made the cost of entry lower than ever before.

It also means, though, that the easy-entry business you're in might not respond well to the investor's money. If there isn't an asset you can buy and build and defend and monetize, you're much better off not chasing one.

       

"There's no need for alarm"

Alarm is overrated.

People say, "there's no need for alarm," as if that rule only applies right now, as if sometimes, there is a need for alarm.

It turns out that there's never a need for alarm, because alarm doesn't do us any good. Alertness, awareness, action... there's a need for this. But alarm?

[Completely unrelated, Roger's new telemarketer hack is pretty clever.]

       

Anchoring can sink you

Canny negotiators know that people respond to anchors. If you tell me that your baseball card is for sale for $18, I'm unlikely to offer you $3. Your offering price anchored the conversation.

The thing is, we do this outside of negotiation, whenever we ask for insight.

If someone says, "can you review this slide deck?" there are a bunch of anchors already built in. Anchor: there are slides. Anchor: there are six slides. Anchor: the slides have text on them.

Before we can even have a conversation about whether or not there should even be a presentation, or whether the content is worth presenting, we're already anchored into slides and text and length. The right feedback might be: Do a presentation, but no slides. It might be: Use 100 slides. But these things rarely come up because the entire discussion was anchored at the start.

Great editors, great strategy consultants, great friends--they're generous enough and bold enough to unanchor the conversation and get to the original why at the beginning of a string of decisions.

Once in a while, start with zero, not with what might be the standard right now.

       

Loose/tight, thoughts on management

If you have a pad of Post-Its, a watch or a car, it's unlikely you hired and managed a team of people to build it for you. That makes no sense. You knew exactly what you wanted, and you bought a finished product that met spec.

If you do online banking, payroll or even printing, you're doing the same thing. The people at those institutions don't work directly for you, instead they provide a service at arm's length.

So why hire employees?

Sometimes, the work is so custom, we can't easily outsource it.

Sometimes, the work is so time critical or location dependent that we need a staff person here and now.

But mostly, we need the insight and judgment and leverage that employees bring us. All of us are smarter than any of us, and adding people can, if we do it right, make us smarter and faster and better at serving our customers.

It can't work, though, if you insist that the employees read your mind. If you have to spend as much time watching and measuring your team as the team spends working, then you might as well just do the work yourself.

Effective post-industrial organizations have overcome this hurdle by differentiating between the loose and the tight.

Tight control might be appropriate for items like: promises kept, or how we treat our customers, or financial rigor.

Loose principles, on the other hand, might be applied to the way people approach problems, communication methods or less standardized matters like setting and tone.

We fail if we misjudge what ought to be tight. And we guarantee frustration when we're unwilling to let the humans we hire be humans.

       

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