Developing Identity vs Being Commodity

If we own or are working in a business, we are delivering a service or product. The client or customer expects to receive what it is they’ve purchased according to the specifications, scope, and price. This is a fact that is true, whether conscious in the mind of the buyer and seller or not. This is the baseline. Let’s dive deeper now.

All companies in a category are expected to deliver to the category. Let’s even say that we expect all the scope of work to be delivered to the exact same standard, that we could pick any one of the enterprises in the category, and expect the same exact results. What then would be the differentiator in selection? Price (cost) of course. If all things are 100% equal, then select and work with the lowest cost provider for the specified service or product.

But this is never the case. Products or services from different companies are not all delivered to the same standard. Why is this so? There are many reasons. But let’s focus on differentiation here; let’s focus on core purpose, core focus, core values. Defining the differentiators, the “why,” “what,” and “how,” define the difference, and create the unique value proposition of any enterprise. In fact, all companies have these defining attributes, they just don’t always know what they really are, or how to define them.

“Our Why”: Core Purpose.

This is our reason, our essence, why we do what we do. Unless we want to be more of a commodity, we need a core purpose; a “why;” a reason for the enterprise’s existence. This has nothing to do with WHAT we do, but why we do it. For instance in my company, we “Enable Facades that Inspire.” We “do” things to support that, but those “things” are not our “why.” We love to work on, and to help develop, improve, remediate, fix, oversee facades, building skins, building exteriors, in an inspired manner and to create inspiring outcomes. That’s why we show up every day.

“Our What:” Core Focus.

What is it that we deliver or do as a core focus to support our core purpose? This is the “what” to support the “why.” In my company for instance, we provide design, engineering, science and consulting to support the core purpose to enable facades that inspire. When you work with us you may “get engineering” for example among other things as part of the service, but you don’t buy “engineering” from us. You buy our core purpose (knowingly or not.) You work with us to support your vision on an inspiring facade or exterior building skin. To support that, one service we provide is “engineering” expressed in various forms. What we all do in enterprises is different than why we do it.

“Our How:” Core Values.

How do we do what we do to deliver why we do it? These are the core values; the “how.” What’s our personality, and what values do we live out, manifest, and provide as a group, an enterprise, an organization? Core values (the how) are our guard rails, our sign posts. For instance, at our company we have five core values, developed as a team. They are as follows: communication, integrity, collaboration, client conscious, and capable. Everything we “do” is filtered through this grid, this reality. These are not aspirational, they are reality. These core values define us. For instance, if you don’t want to communicate, and it’s not a value for you, then you wouldn’t want to work for us. The core values are in every job offer, discussed during recruiting, and measured during annual reviews. You don’t have to be perfect in living out the core values, but you have to care, to buy into them, be committed to improvement, and to be accountable to them. Goods and services are delivered with, through and by the core values.

The Story:

So the “why,” the “what,” and the “how” allow us to build our story, a common story, that anyone in the company can express. It gives us a common context to work within, a common reality, a shared experience. This is a powerful lever in advancing with focus and velocity. The story may be manifested or experienced in different forms and expressions. But in the big picture, if talking to someone in the elevator, at the coffee bar, or on break at the conference, asking us, “So what do you do,” we could say something like this, “Well, we enable facades that inspire through services like engineering, design, science, and consulting. You you can count on us to be communicative, and express integrity around commitments and solutions. Plus, we really focus on collaboration, building a shared experience, with a client conscious focus throughout (beginning with the end in in mind). With all that we are as capable as they come.” This is one version of our “story.” This is what you get when you get “us.”

Closing Thoughts and Remarks

So are all enterprises the same? When we purchase a service or product to a spec, a definition, a scope, can we expect the exact same experience from all? Obviously not.

With whom would we rather work? The no purpose, low cost provider, or the clearly purposed, value driven niche company?

Without a “why” everything looks the same. Without a “what” there’s no clarity on what service or product is expected to be delivered and received. Without a “how” it’s all just colorless and without consistent experience; there’s no value added.

Without the core purpose, focus and values, we are just a commodity, a nameless, faceless organization that can only rely on being less expensive. This is a tough reality to live within; impossible really.

Does cost matter? Of course. But that is a topic for another blog post.

Get excited. Start defining today. There’s a process by which you can do so. Put it in writing. Shout it from the roof tops. Make a difference.

A Simple Business Differentiator

“Because I really like working with them….” is an acceptable reason for selecting and maintaining a business relationship.

Assuming all other things being equal in the product or service, “likeability,” or “ease of working relationship,” in itself can be a differentiator.

A good goal is to leave any person or interaction more “energy positive” and to provide value in whatever way is appropriate to the assignment or situation; to provide a solution, path to solution, recommendation, or to help simplify to a point of clarity.

Be the person others like working with.

Fascinating and Motivating- Gauging Emotional Energy

As we gain experience, that which is “fascinating and motivating” changes. What may have been so at one time can become “just ok,” or even “annoying and frustrating.” It’s alright to move on and move forward into the next “fascinating and motivating.” This takes awareness.

While doing so, we can’t forget that our “frustration” with something now is likely someone else’s new opportunity (just like it was for us prior.) We can delegate it, or better yet, hand it over entirely to another colleague or recruit, someone wanting to step into their next “fascinating and motivating.”

It is liberating to recognize this, and to assess our priorities by gauging our emotional energy. Step back and audit what is exciting, what is motivating, where the value is best provided to clients and staff, what increases emotional energy, and what drains it. Re-prioritize, amend, delegate, delete. Stay present to coach, advise, support, and help those to whom we hand off the work,

Sunday Spiritual – Easter

Just me being me on this significant day called Easter.

The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, is one of the most well documented events in human history. He was executed, confirmed dead, his body made ready for burial, then placed in a guarded tomb. He was not present in the tomb on the 3rd day. This was verified. But it wasn’t just that the tomb was empty. He then appeared bodily to many, hundreds, actually. This was documented as well. He spoke to those to whom he appeared, further explained what was up, what it all meant,  how he had told them about it, that he was leaving to go back to the heavenly realm, and that he would  send the “one my Father promised,” the Holy Spirit.

The doctor, Luke, carefully records this in his letter to Theophilus, which we now call the gospel of Luke. Many chose to undertake to write an account of the life of Christ and Luke’s account stuck, along with the accounts from Matthew, Mark and John.

Here’s a brief account from the end of Luke’s letter, with direct quotes from Jesus, after he rose from the dead:

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.” – Luke 24:45-48

I never knew anything about this until I was 19 years old, when I heard about it for the first time. At 24 years old it became life changing. Literally. That was when I felt such a great burning with the reality of this truth, that I had to make a commitment and follow Jesus.

It is just too good to keep bottled up. Anyone who knows me, should know that if I can be forgiven eternally and walk in peace, anyone can. I don’t deserve it, but none of us do. We’re all cracked pots. Thanks to everyone who helped along my path. There were many, some of whom may be reading this.

Personally, I dont think the questions are whether Jesus existed or not, or whether he really died or not, or really overcame death to live again or not. That’s old stuff.  I think the question is “What are we going to do about it?”

There’s another life. It’s available here and after our time has passed here. Life to life.

Happy Easter.

He is Risen. And that makes everything different.

The Island

You can see it in the feet. The tan lines, the little cuts, the dirt under the toenails, the weathered soles. “Island feet.” Shoes are optional. Flip flops are the norm. Barefoot works often as well. Feet on dirt, feet on grass, feet on sand, feet in saltwater, feet on the warm deck wood. All feelings we lose in contemporary society as adults. Unrestrained feet. It’s strangely freeing. I am reminded of this every time I go to the island to spend some extended time. The roads are all dirt. There are no cars, just golf carts, fat-tired bikes, and legs for transportation.

Tee shirts are the norm. The more eclectic the better. Collared sport shirts are considered dress-up. Clothing decisions are simple. Getting dressed takes a minute or so. Shorts, shirt, flip flops, go.

Most weekends, just put on the bathing suit and water gear in the morning. No need then to change. People understand. No one really cares or judges by clothing choice anyway. It’s the island.

Islands have their own rhythm. Wind, sun, rain, tides, sunrise, sunset, fish movements, all are variables that impact the rhythm. Weather has a lot to do with it. The more remote, the more impactful these realities of nature. Sun up, sun down. What’s the wind speed? Is it a beach day or bay day?

The island I am referring to doesn’t have a bridge, so it takes work to get there. It’s only accessible by boat. When I say boat, I mean a private boat service, or your own boat, not a public ferry. So if you’re there, you’re there for a reason. For an island, the more remote, the harder to get to, the less infrastructure, the more intentional a person’s presence becomes. This creates a culture; a certain common thread. People there for a reason. Certain mindsets.

Friends get together on “island time.” Island time means “go ahead and drop in,” or “come on over.” Island time means “sometime around 4:30,” but it’s not rigid. Island time is fluid. It’s less restrictive.

“Friendly” is a big value on an island. If you don’t need someone now, you’ll need them at some point for a tool, a boat ride, flour, an extra set of hands, and for a hundred other things. Mutual dependence is normal. Community creates a much better experience.

Tired at night is really tired. Island tired. Days are long, nights are dark, fatigue settles in quickly. Physical fatigue, not just mental and emotional. The fatigue of being out in the elements, using the body heavily. The fatigue I remember as a kid in the summertime after running all day from early to late.

It’s an island. The feet know it. The body feels it. It’s simpler. It’s slower. It’s freeing. It’s life giving. Once experienced, it’s tough to live without it.

Backwards

I think that we often have our values reversed; or maybe it’s just me.

Why would we want to sleep longer in the morning on our day off ? Don’t we want to get on with our free time?

Why would we want to spend the best of our energy during the work day prioritizing answering emails? Shouldn’t we save it for later, when we have used up most of our creativity on more important problems or value propositions?

Why would we consider it a win, like we’ve cheated the system, to skip a workout day, or a good nutrition day, as if we deserve it? Don’t we want to pursue health every day in some form?

Why do we prioritize the tyranny of the urgent over that which is important? Do we always want to be responding to other people’s priorities for us to the exclusion of everything else?

Flip the paradigm. Own rather than be owned. Initiate rather than just respond. Rethink the value system. Start in some measure immediately.

“Limbo”

There’s a word and phrase in my culture that we may speak to ourselves when we feel stuck, delayed, or unable to make a clear decision- “I’m feeling like I’m in limbo.” Or “I don’t like being in limbo.”

The other day I woke up in that space. There was a conflict in my mind between two major issues that unexpectedly presented themselves, issues that required attention, disrupting the exact timing on another major event I scheduled many, many months ago.

My first thought was, “I can’t be in limbo anymore about this.”

Then I reflected. There really is no “limbo.” Limbo is a mental construct. Limbo is the tension created internally between what I want to do versus what the situation is requiring me to do now; the true NEED versus my WANT or DESIRE.

Limbo is a signal that I am not living in the moment. That I am not being present in what’s before me.

Once I made the shift, I moved out of that tension. There is no LIMBO.

I get to choose. You get to choose.

Strategies and Scripts – Client Relationship Repair

I’ve found through experience, different tones and patterns of communication that get better response than others. This is important in communicating with clients, whether in prospecting, retention, or restoration of the client relationship. In this post I focus on an example of how to communicate to clients when there’s been a fracture in the relationship; when we didn’t deliver what we promised. For example, when we fail to manage to expectation, we miss a deadline, quality suffered, our delivery wasn’t the same as outlined, our communication was poor, etc.

This form of communication and the initiation of attempting to address the issues, opening the door to listening, seeking restoration, is not intuitive. Most hide behind the failure, make excuses, or blame the client. This type of effort must be learned through caring and through practice. I’ve got all sorts of examples of various forms of writing emails or letters. I’ll provide one here for readers to use as an example, but remember to put in your own words. It has to be sincere. Cutting and pasting is not the intention. The intention is to communicate tones. I will explain why as well.

Here’s an example of one where our client just wasn’t satisfied with a tough project we did together. Before I provide the example here’s another important item. We must give the proper amount of time for things to settle before we come back to it. Pushing, badgering, and trying to reach the client too soon afterwards, will minimize or negate the very thing we are trying to do to rebuild and restore. It also can be very insincere and give the message that it’s all about us wanting to feel good rather than really providing value and care to the client.

Here’s an example (the names are random.)

Hi John

I hope all is well. I am not sure if you want to hear from me or not but I thought I’d give it a try. I saw the cool LinkedIn post from your team on the project we worked on together. We were proud to work with you and your team. I know it wasn’t all the experience you expected. The job looks great. Congratulations on a beautiful project.

If you’d like to reconnect I’d be happy to do so, whether just personally or also professionally. If there’s anything I or we can do to repair the relationship with you and your colleagues at your business, I’d be happy to lean in to that process. If there’s too much energy required for you to do that and you don’t have any interest, I understand.

It’s a great industry we work in. I am glad to have been a little part of the work you did and the time we had together.

Either way, thanks for the post on the project and thanks for giving us a shot together in 2019.

This message got an instantaneous response from the client, receiving a response within 5 minutes (less actually.) His response was “Thanks for touching base. No hard feelings here. It was a difficult job.” This was the first part of the email response. He also indicated that he appreciated and respected me reaching out. He mentioned that things were better when I was involved in the work, but that I can’t be involved in everything. He mentioned that collaboration suffered (one of our core values.) He didn’t say he would work with us again, but he didn’t say no. He left the door open.

Why the response? Probably a number of reasons. I faced the reality of the situation and didn’t ignore the experience. I knew they weren’t happy. It’s easy to hide or not have the courage to be transparent and humble about it. I sent an email with no expectation, didn’t excuse, dismiss or blame. I made it clear that if he didn’t respond it was okay, and that I would understand. I sent the message 18 months or more after the last interaction. Remember, we can seek to reconcile but we can’t force it in any relationship. All we can do is make the first step, be humble, and seek to understand. That way we can have no regrets, or at least fewer regrets. Reconciliation takes two parties, two people, not one.

One other thing to know. They say it takes ten-times as much work to secure a prospective client than to retain one. I’ll bet it takes ten-times more than that to rebuild if trust is broken or fractured.

I’ve won and lost clients. I’ve made all the mistakes. The longer I work at my craft, the more careful I become about delivering the value expected. But the struggle doesn’t go away. We’ve got to be vigilant and to care. Why would we not seek to at least acknowledge the problem? How important is a relationship? Very important. It’s all about the relationships, and Integrity is everything.

Lean In

Lean in to the hills; the upward struggles; the view is better at the top

Lean in when the pain is unavoidable; identify the source

Lean in to good times and enjoy; there’s no guarantees

Lean into that special moment; it may never come again in the same form

Lean in to tough times; experience is gained

Lean in to relationships; there’s nothing more important

Lean in to journaling, to expressing thoughts on paper; personal growth takes place in this context

Lean in to listening; much learning takes place

Lean in to change; it’s one of the few constants in life

Lean in to hearing different views; it expands our mind whether we agree or not

Lean in to being flexible; sometimes the magic is found there

Lean in to growth; no one will do it for us

Lean in to understanding; no one can take it away

Leaning is a mental posture.

Leaning in is better than leaning out

Days

A Sunday blog post

If we live to be 80 years old, we will encounter and participate in about 29,200 rotations of the earth with respect to the sun; sun rising, sun setting, one day to the next. That’s a lot of days. Let’s break down just the days between age 18 and age 75 and assume them to be productive days of choice as adults. That’s still 20,805 days. Still a lot of days, yet a finite number.

What’s the visual look like? If 6 grains per second fall through the neck of a hourglass, the device contains about 21,600 grains. So the number of days in our reality on planet earth are similar to the number of grains of sand in an hour glass, each grain equating to a day, or about 24 hours.

The Old Testament Prophet in the book of Lamentations writes in Chapter 3 verses 22 and 23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

New every morning. New each revolution. Every morning. One day at a time.

We get a new day every day. New mercy, new refreshment, new opportunity, new choices, new love that doesn’t consume us, if we choose it.

Choices, awareness, opportunity.

How then shall we live today?