News + Views

… You’ve Got to Be Worth More


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



It is easier to look good in the workplace when things are going well around us, when the market is up. When the ardor in work increases, our buoyancy depends more on the depth of our “skills.” It is then that we take stock of them, and the measure of our contribution is more at issue. There’s a saying in business, “If you want to be paid more, you’ve got to be worth more.” Yet, our behavioral attachment to an antipodal view is what “turns our heads” more easily—namely, the practice of “trading excuses for results.” In this moment of truth we need to be more aware of the math that proves our value to the organization.

The idea is not meant to increase your anxiety level in this time of economic stress. Rather, the self-assessment necessary to performance improvement is what motivates the discussion. No less than the model of our physical bodies, in their daily effort to regenerate by the manufacturing of billions of cells, the voluntary performance mechanisms of each life hold an even greater promise for success. Were this not the case we would hear nothing about the things we could do to improve our health and wealth.

As the “boys of summer” review their annual charge, the example in their patterning is instructive. To the point, a baseball team relies on a few simple but powerful principles of operation for its success—skills, attitude, teamwork, and leadership. Let’s examine the model.

Those that make it to the “Big Show,” as popularized by the archetype film Bull Durham, do so largely on the strength of their demonstrated skills. If they contribute to winning ways in the minors, the behavior is likely to recommend them in the “Bigs,” as the practice suggests. But even if their minor league team doesn’t do especially well, extraordinary performance is apparent nonetheless. So too, in the more typical workplace, the school you and I attend daily.

In that workplace we scour resumes for indications of achievement, for the skills that help empower us to it. Largely by our penchant for hyperbole in the curriculum vitae, little else is usually evident in the document to recommend us. As it turns out, in the workplace as in baseball, skills are not enough to build a sustainable model of success. Clear examples of the remaining elements in the behavioral model are harder to find in the resume than occasional indications of them.

Attitude, that intangible drive that tilts us forward toward initiatives, people, and personal performance, is a little harder to measure, but evident by its effect on others. A desire to team up, as in baseball, delivers a willing attitude, not just for things we agree with, but for all others—things we agree to. Without a sense of “team,” baseball would be a different game. It’s little different in the workplace, where we must multiply the ideas of a few by the efforts of many—in an organized and structured environment. Attitude identifies those who say, “I can” and those who say, “I can’t”—both right.

Teamwork, in baseball, relies heavily on a positive view of everyday fortunes. It reaches deep in us for a selflessness that sees the opportunity and giftedness in others. It forms the will to help empower others to greater performance. Great players on the field bring out the best in others. Each position on the field of play may require “specialized skill,” but fielding and hitting are common to all. When necessary, players fill in for and back up teammates. It’s no different in other organizational models, like the game of business. To realize our goals we must come together, ever encouraging each other to greater performance. It’s the qui non proficit, deficit of life—he who does not advance, loses ground.

Not least, leadership is at issue in all things. It begins with a sense of self (self-leadership) and extends to others to encourage their best. Success is simply defined as the ability to achieve a planned goal. Similarly, leadership is the innate sense that gives impetus to achievement. Less mind than marrow, leadership explores, encourages, aids, invests, waits on, and points to achievement. It is by example, and by sheer force of presence that one finds leadership—in oneself and in others. It is apparent despite its quixotic characteristics, often difficult to describe.

When the Cardinals’ Ozzie Smith had played his final game, it was no surprise that the tally of his “double-plays” had set an all-time record at 1554. The testament to his defensive skill, winning attitude, team ethic, and leadership was greater than the number that comes to mind when considering his worth to his organization. He wasn’t much at the plate, but his influence at achieving planned outcomes was extraordinary.

Others are notable for the opposite effect on their teams and the game—their names come quickly to mind, and the travel from place to place that marked their careers. Sadly, too many of us are counted among this group, those who would trade achievement for self-aggrandizement and personal gain. If we are to follow the model of our bodies, where growth is most natural to us, we do well to orient our lives—the voluntary performance mechanisms—to the self-same growth. The decision to advance ought to turn us from an easy crowd where we won’t grow. Instead, go where the expectations and the opportunity to perform are high—where your true value takes wing.




November 10, 2017 |

The Language of Commerce


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



At a time when most are looking for solutions that might encourage economic growth, I’m reminded of a catch phrase in a critical thinking model that recommends lateral thinking. It is simply that the solution to most problems is usually hidden in plain sight. Our myopia, as we search for solutions, is a kind of “refrigerator vision” that afflicts most men. You know, when looking for that snack or the milk to go with it we open the refrigerator door and simultaneously call out, “Honey, where’s the milk?” In almost that precise moment, especially if we’ve spied it on the shelf where it usually resides, we gulp our words, hoping that the rush of air and liquids headed for the stomach will suck those words in too as though we’d never spoken them.

The answer, all too often, is the graphic phrase that a mental picture of things in the “fridge” usually forms. That is, when we give ourselves over to the simple work of forming that picture before asking for help. “The milk is on the door shelf next to the orange juice, where we always keep it.” Shoot—the gulp didn’t work!

Our efforts at mechanization or specialization have grown in us a heightened sense of the convenience in the support system around us. We routinely choose not to do things that can be done by another. Sounds efficient, doesn’t it? But at what cost to productivity? Indeed, creativity and innovation is the habit.

Increasingly, the attitude and skills required to grow opportunity—for oneself and one’s organization—require a knowledge base that itself requires a more comprehensive, root-development mindset than the age of specialization of the past 50 years has recommended. It requires that we become better at surviving in our environment and not just joining it. Surviving first asks of us broader skills. They include such things as a deeper understanding of the markets we work in, the societies we live in, and the cultures that influence virtually everything we do.

In our rush to “fix” the economic problems of the hour have we paused to consider the nature and effect of monetary and fiscal policy, for example? Had we done so we would have been prepared for the recovery effects in an increased money supply, and no less, the effects of the “growth and opportunity” sinew natural to a free market economy.

When the Federal Reserve Bank began its “loosening” of the money supply—printing money and short & long rates changes—M0 (notes and coins, bank reserves) increased, making more money available to people to spend. This usually takes a few quarters to show causal effects, but typically produces sanguine results.

The recent uptick of depressed housing markets in California, Florida, and Nevada draws attention to another fundamental economic principle. When the prices of real estate (a scarce commodity) are low and new construction falls off, demand for housing is likely to rise in a market where supply is limited. The resultant effect is a turnaround in depressed markets.

That’s the good news, so far. As fiscal policy, “Stimulus” or “Tax Cut” kicks in (fiscal policy usually works faster than monetary policy), we expect Americans to regain their confidence in the economy and drive it back to health by their spending.

Next, solutions require that we learn the language of those around us and especially those with whom we mean to have a commercial exchange. Consider the last time you went to the dentist. For many, the mere mention of it raises fear, discomfort, and perhaps even latent tendencies of avoidance, worst-case projections, and formal anxiety. The package defines an experience I call “The Chair.” For its effect on the population, most people (60%) consider going to the dentist among the most uncomfortable experiences, pre, peri, and post. It’s a wonder the dentist ever sees the same person twice.

The protective garb, the gurgling, the hook in your mouth, the pipe grease (lip salve) used to prevent cracks from dry mouth, the rape of an otherwise pristine and private enclave, and finally, the drill, and the awful smell of your teeth being ground to enamel dust summarize the assault that ensues. It’s hard not to feel like a fish ready to be yanked from the comfort of an ashamed smile or the now-friendly excuse for the pain when biting down on fresh seaweed.

So, what does this conductor of Poe’s instruments of torture—Briault probes, college tweezers, burs, bits, picks, and needles—do to turn one from a frightened bundle of nerves to putty in his hands? It’s called learning the language of stakeholders, as it orients us to the style, concerns, and hopes of others. Let me illustrate.

Before a dentist gains a “patient” he has a “customer,” just like all businesses. What happens in the exchange determines whether or not the customer turns into a patient, or in the case of a retailer of goods and services, into a patron—a person who gives continual financial or other support to another, an organization, cause, or activity.

He starts with the notion of opportunity, that is, the opportunity in a brighter smile, stronger teeth, or general dental health. Next, he prepares a model of what will happen, and how it will feel, in order to chase predisposing fears in his emerging patient. And finally, he delivers on the promise, assuring the “patient” that all that was promised has been delivered—an effective model of managing expectations.

The practice applies equally to all businesses, which are reduced to the simple equation of delivering on the promise. When done with care and attention to the language of stakeholders, the results are rewarding. No less, “The Chair” is reduced to a comfortable break in the day. Thanks, Dr. Ed.

In the model of “tax cuts” proposed by the current administration (and growing bipartisan support), the language is the same: note the opportunity in the measure, its unfolding, the practical ways each will experience it, then deliver on the promise while explaining every milestone along the way. And one more thing—be prepared to explain the misguiding of naysayers. The Kansas tax cut of 2012 could have been designed better (reducing the rate on businesses formerly subject to individual rates), but its effects—increasing revenue growth in all years (2012-2016) but 2014 (the result of the commodity price crash and an increased federal tax on some states)—were overwhelmingly positive. Simply, when people have more disposable income, they spend it (marginal propensity to spend), and when businesses have more money, they invest it in productivity stimulants, mostly increased wages. It’s a simple model of supply-side economics.




November 8, 2017 |

Now’s The Time


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



At the age of 65, a smallish, bespectacled and white-haired gentleman with a goatee started a company. Today, it has grown to be one of the largest quick-service food systems in the world. And its founder, a quick-service restaurant pioneer, has become a symbol of entrepreneurial spirit. More than a billion of the Colonel’s “finger lickin’ good” chicken dinners are served annually in 80 countries and territories around the world.

The Colonel, so anointed by Governor Ruby Laffoon of Kentucky in 1935, was so honored in recognition of his contributions to the state’s cuisine. It was during this period of his life that he perfected his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices and the basic cooking technique that is still used today. But it wasn’t until 1952, after he learned that a planned interstate would bypass his restaurant, that he auctioned off his operations, paid his bills and began to live off his $105 monthly Social Security check. Confident in his product and his ability to succeed, the Colonel set off around the country to franchise his wonderful chicken. The terms were simple. He’d cook up some chicken, and if the restaurant owner liked it he entered into a handshake agreement with the Colonel that required a nickel to him for every chicken sold. Twelve years later there were 600 franchise stores around the country and the Colonel sold the company for $2 million and entered into a contract to be its spokesman.

His success was no accident. At age 10, he got his first job working on a nearby farm for $2 a month. At 12, he left his home for a job on another farm. He held a series of jobs over the next few years, first as a 15-year-old streetcar conductor and then as a 16-year-old private, soldiering for six months in Cuba. After that he was a railroad fireman, studied law by correspondence, practiced in justice of the peace courts, sold insurance, operated an Ohio River steamboat ferry, sold tires, and operated service stations. When he was 40, the Colonel began cooking for hungry travelers who stopped at his service station in Corbin, Kentucky. He didn’t have a restaurant then, but served folks on his own dining table in the living quarters of his service station.

In working with over 200 companies over the years, I have known a number of Colonel Sanderses, a select wizened few who had the perspicacity to see opportunity in the ordinary, the courage to take necessary risks, the tenacity to stay the course through troubled waters, and the discipline to practice what works. It’s the stuff that seems to grow easiest in those with a little gray around the temples. “Wisdom” is what we call it when objectivity replaces the prejudice against age that often keeps seasoned people from consideration for the best jobs. For most, an alignment with the principles of success in organizations made it possible for my company to contribute to their growth in some small way. I’m grateful for that and the opportunity to learn from those who have earned their stripes by spending time in the bottle; the kind of aging that great wines enjoy.

Not all relationships start well. The mention is instructive inasmuch as it takes more than functional skills to gain the confidence and partnership of seasoned self-starters. It was the case when I met John Brown, a pioneer in the semiconductor business (along with Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove, Jerry Sanders, etc.). John was a physicist by training, but every bone in his body had an entrepreneurial root. More than anything else, John was born to do business and to create new entities, of all kinds. He started and managed successful operations in the chip business, commercial furniture, collateral design, and advertising and public relations. Most were built after the age of fifty. Gruff on the outside, and given to an incisive wit that meant no harm to the insecure, John had a clear view of mission and the practice that produces results. Allow me to illustrate. Not unlike most of John’s ilk he regularly attended the following principles:

  1. Develop, practice, perfect.
  2. Focus on a clear direction.
  3. View mistakes as feedback; learn from them, don’t fear them.
  4. Believe in yourself and your ability to achieve results.
  5. Take small steps, one step at a time—the Kaizen way.

These are well-worn principles, but few have chosen to make them work. Those that do most often succeed, as John Brown did. His acerbic wit notwithstanding, I deigned to learn what I could while working with him. It was a good decision on my part; the lessons from him have stayed with me.

In my most recent experience, I have come across another of this rare breed of late starters. Like the others, he too had been fashioned by a number of disparate occupations along the way to extraordinary success. Not an exemplary student, he found opportunity in the military during the Great War as an interpreter and liaison of sorts. Of Russian decent, he grew up with his ancestral language, a currency that increased in value during a war in which Russia figured prominently. His penchant for adventure usually passed a litmus test that girded his entire life: “Give people what they need and have fun at it.” While he credits “good luck” in his life and success (common among this brand of superstars), he practiced an incisive brand of method business that corresponds closely with the view of many management gurus. In summary, it reads as follows:

  1. Find the capital to start up.
  2. Create a favorable environment in which to employ it.
  3. Hire key people.
  4. Then, get out of the way and let them do what they know.

After the war, he worked in sales for Hearst Publications, Newsweek, and Women’s Wear Daily. He also joined the Apple Commission in Washington state before founding a little publishing company in his home state of New York. It wasn’t much more than a mimeographed sell sheet containing ads from local merchants, but it was something of value that was missing in the market. John Chase, founder of the Yorktown PennySaver, took some money from his pocket, found a partner, and borrowed several hundred dollars to begin operations with his wife in the basement of their home, at the age of 41. You’ve heard the story before, but it’s no less compelling in the retelling of it.

For these wizened few, and many like them, life is an adventure that “starting old” never seems to diminish. It’s the one thing that never changes for them; it’s why late starts are just “starts” for these folks, and the adventure continues. In tough economic times this is never more the attitude to take. Now, more than ever, is the time to start.



October 26, 2017 |

Just One Thing


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich


In thinking about the opportunity that exists in each of those I work with, I’m ever seeking that essential and simple direction that will influence best practices. It presents both opportunity and unique challenges. Gladly, the diversity joins unused brain cells in the gambol toward more effective responses to both. The result has caused something of an epiphany—“a sudden intuitive leap of understanding”—but which more accurately represents a growing appreciation for accumulated knowledge and experience.

The sense that all have felt of being overwhelmed by both the sheer number and immediacy of the challenges we face tends to drive us in two directions. We are either stuck at START, unable to move toward any of the things facing us for an immobilizing focus on all of them at the same time, or we narrow our focus on one thing at a time until all are done or delegated. But the simple wisdom in the approach masks the tension that acts like an emergency brake on a car that just won’t release for having been so seldom used. It’s stuck, like us!

As those of you who read my columns have discovered, I am fond of the character Curly in the film City Slickers. His wisdom is summed up in one expression to the erstwhile cowboys who left the city and their reliance on its conveniences for a trail ride that loses its luster in the hard work of managing cattle on the open range and the grimy and spare conditions of the plain. It is, as he literally points out, one thing! Challenged by the simplicity of it and the anxiety it produces, Billy Crystal is finally driven to ask of Curly just what that one thing might be. Curly leads him on awhile, perhaps to emphasize the value in it, then pronounces it as though it were virtue from on high. “One thing,” he says. “Just do one thing at a time, and do it well and you’ll enjoy success at everything you do.”

“That’s it?” Crystal blurts incredulously?

Our tendency is to see the world as a complex society, unmanageable for its twists and turns. The unpredictable winnowing of order from chance seems far too intricate a puzzle for our daily portion of hours at work to solve. But much like the fox and the hedgehog as depicted in the well-known essay by Isaiah Berlin, there is a need to simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything we do.

But what does this concept have to do with you and the daunting task of preparing an organization for greatness? In his description of the “Flywheels and the Doom Loop,” Jim Collins (Good to Great) models the struggle that is necessary to the success of key initiatives. It is the persistence of a long obedience in the same direction that wins the day. Much like the hedgehog that curls into an impenetrable ball whenever the fox approaches, a single concept that is worked well is the answer.

We have learned that no matter how important or world shattering the end result, transformations do not happen overnight by the power of a single act. Rather, they succeed by the deliberate and focused application of a simple guiding principle—small steps, one at a time, decision-by-decision, push-by-push, of the wheel of progress.

In his effort to inform the method by which post-war nations could revive their industries, Edward Deming fostered the idea of small, continuous improvement, what would later be known as The Kaizen Way, the Japanese name for it. He reasoned that we are so used to living with minor annoyances that it was not easy to identify them or to make corrections to overcome them. Quite oppositely, he discovered these annoyances had a way of growing in size and complexity and eventually blocking the way to change. His breakthrough? Train oneself to spot and solve small problems so as to avoid more sizeable and painful solutions later in the process.

It seems all too simple. In fact, by itself the idea is little more than pleasurable to consider. But the bane of most middle managers, the “how to” in the method, is the deliverance of a dry match in the darkness. With success as the goal, it is necessary to reduce the first step to the smallest possible accomplishment. Once it has been achieved and you have tasted its nectar, it is appropriate to take another. Soon, you will recognize when next steps are automatic, effortless, and joyful. Don’t allow anyone to pressure you into a change of pace—up or down—if it doesn’t feel right to you, Deming urged. Just return to the mind of the hedgehog as you gain the confidence of a practice that works.



October 20, 2017 |

Critical Thinking


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



In all areas of endeavor it is easy to form expectations of the benefits to target groups. We expect students to learn, customers to appreciate the value in our products, societies to live by moral standards, and so on, but we seldom teach them “how” to do it. We are a society given to information transfer, but have little patience for the “process” that is necessary to learning. We are so invested in telling others “what to think” that we fail to teach them “how to think.”

This is a failing of advertising in general. It is, perhaps, with purpose that we avoid this critical element of the “sell” for fear that it will get in the way. For instance, why would an advertiser want to compare your desire for something with your need for it? The logic in such analysis would alter the sensitive math between seller and buyer. It might also better inform the rhetoric of politics.

Typically, we do two things when educating others: (1) we transmit content, and (2) we equip the object group with ways to understand and use it. Here, we are addressing “what to think” and “how to think,” the twin pedals of the learning process. The second of these is called critical thinking, and it is what singularly makes the difference in learning. Yet, it is a skill that is lacking not only in education but also in marketplace organizations.

In its landmark report A Nation at Risk, the National Commission on Excellence in Education concluded: Many 17-year-olds do not possess the ‘higher-order’ intellectual skills we should expect of them. Nearly 40 percent cannot draw inferences from written material; only one-fifth can write a persuasive essay; and only one-third can solve a mathematics problem requiring several steps.

Exposing the Method of Critical Thinking

What does critical thinking look like and how might we tie it inextricably to the information gathering and use model? The first to gain is the “mindset” that aids critical thinking. Let’s begin with “thinking” itself, which we are encouraged to in organizations, but allowed little time for.

Though a key problem-solving technique, critical thinking is hard to find among managers who are generally more comfortable with the traditional plan, organize, coordinate, and control. In truth, critical thinking is a simple method of self-questioning that reveals the logical path to productive ends and the winnowing of the subjective influence in most decision making. To use it requires that we adopt a mindset of critical thinking and then learn the simple tools that aid the practice of it. Simply, critical thinking may be described as “ … reasonable, reflective, responsible, and skillful thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.” Through critical thinking we are better able to ask useful questions, gather good data, analyze them effectively and form conclusions that serve agreed-upon goals.

The following are a number of the skills we might apply in critical thinking, as outlined by Raymond S. Nickerson, an expert of critical thinking. In each is the method of critical analysis that delivers the critical thinking model.

  • Uses evidence skillfully and impartially
  • Organizes thoughts and articulates them concisely and coherently
  • Distinguishes between logically valid and invalid inferences
  • Suspends judgment in the absence of sufficient evidence to support a decision
  • Understands the difference between reasoning and rationalizing
  • Attempts to anticipate the probable consequences of alternative actions
  • Understands the idea of degrees of belief
  • Sees similarities and analogies that are not superficially apparent
  • Can learn independently and has an abiding interest in doing so
  • Applies problem-solving techniques in domains other than those in which learned
  • Can structure informally represented problems in such a way that formal techniques, such as mathematics, can be used to solve them
  • Can strip a verbal argument of irrelevancies and phrase it in its essential terms
  • Habitually questions one’s own views and attempts to understand both the assumptions that are critical to those views and the implications of the views
  • Is sensitive to the difference between the validity of a belief and the intensity with which it is held
  • Is aware of the fact that one’s understanding is always limited, often much more so than would be apparent to one with a non-inquiring attitude
  • Recognizes the fallibility of one’s own opinions, the probability of bias in those opinions, and the danger of weighting evidence according to personal preferences

If the skills above are recognizable and familiar practice, you have discovered the power within. Make them your daily bread and you’ll increase your contribution to any organization and society.


October 13, 2017 |

A More Perfect Union


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



When was the last time you started a relationship with an organization at which you were given a written description of what you might expect from the organization? Whether beginning a new job or project we seldom benefit from a “resume” of the organization’s skills and talents for achieving the stated outcomes. Executive coaches often refer to this quality in organizations as “success dependencies.” The cloud in one’s mind usually reads something like this: What about this new organization is a clear demonstration of their ability to succeed after I get there, and what evidence do they offer to warranty the behavior necessary to the achievement they expect of me? Employers and employees alike are openly passionate about each other, but when it comes time to shake on the deal only one of them has paper in hand with the details of what he must do.

Oddly, for as common as are job descriptions and goal sheets (for individuals), they are seldom matched with the same from the organization. In fact, the psychological contract between employer and employee—a set of beliefs about what each is expected to receive and to give—may be the most unilateral of contracts. If, in fact, a contract at all, by what mechanism have we constructed this model of agreement in which the responsibility of one side is in writing, and that of the other is imagined, or worse, taken for granted?

Perhaps, we are carrying the artifacts of an earlier era in which the employee is assumedly less valuable to the organization than vice versa. What does that mean for the phrase, “People are an organization’s most valuable asset?” One can only imagine, and some have—enter the knowledge worker whose broad understanding of the comprehensive contribution necessary to an ever faster moving market economy is transforming the view of human capital. Clearly, absent real equity in the arrangement, organizations are at risk of losing good people for insensitivity to their responsibility in this important contract between employer and employee.

So much of our effort depends on the passion we develop for our work and our organizations. Whether written or just spoken about, our expectations and the passion that excite them, have a significant impact on how we think, feel, and act, no less on our attitudes toward work. In fact, not unlike the anticipation of flowing ketchup as we take in the smell of grilled hamburger, expressed expectations have a greater emotional effect than the actual meeting of them. Surprised? Think ahead a month or so to anticipated joy in the holidays and the actual results. Here’s hoping you are outside the curve.

In our efforts to form a “more perfect union” between employer and employee, consider three key elements in the model of engagement necessary to cooperative achievement. In everything be reminded to communicate, initiate, and adjust in your march to achievement.


Source: Integro Leadership Institute

October 6, 2017 |

Honor Cultures and the Customer


ROI by Frank J. Richl






By Frank J. Rich



Pride of ownership is a natural aid to the psyche of populations—one that encourages others in efforts to find their best behavior. Clearly, we can all benefit from more time spent in this pursuit. Our sense of belonging—to community, opportunity through education, our neighborhood, indeed, to each other—may depend largely on this pride of ownership. Buoyed by the implied standards that inform it (belonging), we craft a model of honor for the things we hold dear, that forms the psyche driving the day-to-day. Honor, as virtue, is not oft denied; we are somehow made better when the things we do, value, and practice are shared and honored by others.

However winsome a model on the surface, honor cultures bear a cheeky underbelly for the orthodoxy that often arises in it. The pert wisdom in joining with others in common ethic, according to social psychologist Ryan P. Brown in his book Honor Bound: How a Cultural Ideal Has Shaped the American Psyche, appears to have an inimical side; namely, a severe contempt for comments, and others, that do not share it. In short, our preoccupation with honor (as defined here) gives us over to greater scrutiny and sensitivity to, well, behavior, people, and things that do not meet the (self-formed) narrative of so-called “honor.”

The pursuit of individual rights may position all as judge over “rights” and the “appropriate” license to practice them—a predisposing and imposing view of all others as good or bad by how well they measure up to our standards. Clearly, the model poses a threat to free speech and to the “right” to speak one’s mind, even when motivated by a selfless desire to join a diverse population in the joys that diversity provides. According to Brown’s research, so purposeful is the honor culture in preparing a platform for violence, its statistical analysis reveals higher rates of domestic violence and school shootings in “honor obsessed” cultures. The honor culture serves antipodal results—a not too honorable culture, after all.

In answering the question, “What behavioral trait do kids need to be happy and successful?” Michele Borba, educational psychologist and author of the book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, offered empathy alone as the most beneficial trait. Simply, “understanding the people around us—kids and adults—better enables us to collaborate, innovate and solve problems,” she said. We are a nation of people with high anxiety and low self-esteem, giving rise to what Borba calls the “Selfie Syndrome,” among other things. The result is often increased narcissism in our model of behavior, the absence of a realistic self-assessment, humility, and empathy. So serious is the problem that studies show narcissism rates have risen roughly 60 percent over the last 30 years. Bullying, cheating, and general unhappiness are its common signs.


What does all this have to do with customers?

Customer data to grow the critical knowledge base necessary to serve customers with product and services better informs the buyer/seller exchange than ever before. What’s often lost is the perspective that the buyer (like the seller) is a human being with needs beyond the product or service offered. She/he is hurried, economically less endowed than their parents were at their age, emotionally less well adjusted, and wary of the impersonal nature of this information age. In short, the expectation that sellers are always trying to take advantage of us (Americans do not want to be sold), and that buyers are only interested in price as a value proposition (over 70 percent of all offers include a sale, discount, or promotion) leads to an unfulfilling end. What happens to us when we see a policeman approaching us? The fear, uncertainty, and doubt that fills us often leads to obsequious or defensive behavior that often produces a poor result. We tend to find the enemy when “the enemy” is what we’re looking for.

Sellers are mostly doing an honest job at finding product or crafting services that fill needs. At the local level, and without the funds to organize and automate, this is hard work. The customer is usually looking for himself in the things he wants, needs, or is in the habit of buying. That identity is revealed in the things they buy, or no sale is made.

When empathy is in the mix, both do better. We respect the effort the seller makes on our behalf and openly regard his product and service as valuable. The seller who enjoys people finds opportunity to learn their wants, desires, and habits to better serve them… and the emotional needs in the buying experience.

Every cookie that comes out of the oven is different, and for reasons that disappear the moment you taste the goodness in them.



September 29, 2017 |
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