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Put Your Ear to the Ground: Engaging More Directly

Put Your Ear to the Ground: Engaging More Directly


    Get your ear to the ground.

    This approach has been called different things but commonly is summarized as getting close as possible to the interface of the product and producer or consumer. Famous practitioners include Bill Hewlett and David Packard of HP who popularized “management by walking around.” The same approach can be used in your personal and professional life to help you gain fresh perspective on old problems, sniff out issues before they become wildfires, and continue to innovate and create while on a schedule.

    Case Study: Lululemon — From the Folding Table to the Chalkboard

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    It is possible for many people to not know about Lululemon. Yet for those who practice yoga, the brand has risen rapidly in popularity and demand. Lululemon has become a rising star in a multibillion dollar market with comfortable, attractive yoga and athletic apparel. Chief Executive Christine Day attributes her success partially to eschewing conventional market research. Rather than relying on focus groups, website tracking, or customer purchase profiles, the company has designed their stores to eavesdrop on their customers. Folding tables are placed not out of sight, but immediately adjacent to fitting rooms. Sleeves too long? Crotch too tight? Chances are employees will be privy to that information. To allow customers to provide more direct feedback, a large chalkboard is propped up against a wall for shoppers to comment on existing products as well as wish for new ones.

    Take advantage of opportunities to talk face-to-face with people

    When people don’t feel threatened, rushed, or dismissed they are more likely to voice their concerns or frustrations. Rather than maintaining a course towards an iceberg, addressing conflict can prevent them from getting bigger. Likewise, allowing people to voice their honest thoughts can help generate consensus and group buy-in of a proposal even if initial reactions are less than supportive. For example, instead of email-soliciting money from your coworkers to pay for the office water cooler, approaching people known to “mooch” may generate enough guilt or raise awareness to modify their behavior. They may even bring up unrelated but important issues to them which you can support to enlist their cooperation. (“Yes, I’d be happy to remind the other people in the office to not leave old coffee grinds and stale coffee in the drip machine. Having bottled water and taking care of the break room makes work that much more bearable.”)

    Actually experience the good or service you provide

    Every job in the world provides either a product or service to others. It’s too easy to get entrenched in your perspective. Take time this week to actually use your product or experience the service you provide. Personally speaking, as a physician it is incredibly eye-opening and humbling to experience the hospital as a patient. Another example is the Lululemon sales representative who loves a particular brand of pants for the slimming and firming effect they provide without creating embarrassing wrinkles and lines.

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    Put yourself in different shoes to solve complex problems

    Likewise, when you can’t wrap your head around a problem try to approach it from the perspective of someone else. What would the janitor suggest to reduce operating expenses? Does the consumer really value the promotional mailings you provide? What has your boss focused on for other business cycles or projects? Even better is to directly approach the different people involved to solicit their input.

    Case Study: Levi’s Jeans — A Hot Idea from Hot Pants

    Walter Haas — one-time CEO of Levi’s Jeans — stumbled upon a problem he didn’t know about while sitting next to a campfire in the 1940’s. At the time copper rivets were placed at stress points like the crotch area to provide extra strength. Unfortunately, they also conducted heat efficiently and caused quite a few unpleasant campfire mishaps. After being burned, Haas promptly removed the copper rivets. Inspired, he went on to also cover exposed rear pocket rivets to minimize scratch damage to saddles and school chairs in response to complaints by cowboys and schoolteachers.

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    Adopt a new role with your family, friends

    Appreciation is like water to a desert plant. In the interpersonal realm, it’s been established that men and women commonly cheat because of emotional disconnection which can spring from being unappreciated. Have you taken the time recently to realize what your friends and family do for you? Take the initiative to wash dishes, walk the dog, take out the trash, drive the carpool, or organize that birthday party. It may be difficult to do the tasks we naturally avoid, but realize that you are gaining new understanding of your relationships. Gratitude makes life infinitely richer.

    Go where the water is fresh

    In marketing, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of popular trends and ideas. Just like how you need to stay in front of the wave while surfing, you want to develop your ability to sense energy and direction from other people, events, and activities. One way you can do this is by maintaining your hobbies. Do things that excite you and you’ll find that even on a tight schedule, you can work with more energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. Refrain from “dichotomizing” your life into disparate spheres. Try to bring as much of who you are into what you are doing at the moment.

    As you take a closer step to your work, relationships, and the things which make you tick, I hope that you’re able to accomplish more, improve existing relationships, solve difficult problems, and sustain creativity.

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    (Photo credit: Young Man Hearing Sounds via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on December 9, 2019

    5 Warning Signs That You’re a People Pleaser

    5 Warning Signs That You’re a People Pleaser

    Do any of the followings sound familiar…

    You cringe at the thought of saying no. You obsess about what others think of you and whether you’re doing something to make them dislike you. You live your life based on the opinions of others because you are deathly afraid of disappointing them.

    If you say yes to all of these, you are likely a chronic people pleaser.

    It’s hard not to struggle with people-pleasing at one time or another in our lives. As social beings, it’s in our nature to get along with others; our survival and success depend on it.

    However, there is a fine line between healthy social behavior and the experience of emotional depletion caused by chronic people-pleasing. In addition to being emotionally drained, you may find yourself compromising on your principles and values in order to be accepted. As you help others to get what they want, your own health and well-being will suffer.

    As a recovering people pleaser myself, I’ve observed these five common signs of chronic people-pleasing and some ways to overcome it:

    1. You’re Incapable of Saying No

    Do you find it painfully hard to turn down the requests of family, friends, and even acquaintances or strangers? You really want to say no, but instead, you say yes to their various demands.

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    Before you know it, you’ve become the go-to person when something needs to get done. From the small to the large, you take on every task. You may even be considered a hero to some.

    On the inside, you’re suffering. You genuinely want to help others, but you also know that you are depleting your own resources with every “yes.” You may fear that you’ll lose your friendships and good reputation by saying no. After all, last thing you want to be called is selfish.

    Solution

    First, realize that your capacity to care for others and your capacity to care for yourself are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the two are intimately related.

    Second, understand that you are not responsible for the happiness of those around you. They are. Let these two realities give you permission to say no. Start practicing with small requests. Refuse kindly, and without apology.

    2. You Avoid Making Decisions or Sharing Your Opinions

    Do you have a hard time voicing your opinions and feelings in a group setting or with close friends? Do you constantly allow others to make decisions for you?

    You understand a deep truth about decisions and opinions: they divide. However, it’s not in your nature to cause division by speaking up, so you remain silent to avoid conflict.

    Over time, this behavior is deadly, because as you defer to the opinions and decisions of others, you are silencing your own voice. This will rob the world of your unique perspectives and gifts.

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    Solution

    Remember that you can disagree without being disagreeable. People can have divergent opinions and still treat each other with respect and kindness. So give voice to your thoughts, concerns, and needs.

    By speaking up, you may rock the boat. You may even be outvoted. But if you treat others with respect, they will respect you even when they disagree with your opinions and choices.

    3. You’re Crushed When You Discover Someone Doesn’t like You

    This is a hard one. It seems reasonable to assume that if you go out of your way to please everyone, then everyone will like you. But it’s not true.

    Some people will dislike you simply because of who you are or for reasons outside of your control. You understand this intellectually, but you cannot stop trying to win the few holdouts.

    Solution

    Closely examine your desire to be liked by everyone. Did this originate in your childhood, as you tried to win the affections of family members or friends at school? Use tools such as reflection, meditation, and counseling to help you let go of past negative experiences.

    As social beings, we need to be loved and accepted – but not by everyone. Decide whose love and affection is worth the effort and whose is not.

    4. You’re Resentful of Others but Are Not Sure Why

    This often happens when we suppress our feelings and needs over the long term.

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    Do you feel unexplained anger toward your close friends, spouse, or boss? The anger is your subconscious telling you that you have been neglecting yourself while helping others advance their goals. Think of this resentment as the “check engine” light turning on in your car. Don’t ignore it.

    Solution

    Face the truth of what is going on in your life. If you’re feeling overextended or taken advantage of, acknowledge these feelings. Avoid second-guessing yourself. Find time for self care, and make this a priority.

    5. You’re Unaware of How Far You’re Willing to Go – Until You’re in over Your Head

    This is a sure sign that you lack proper boundaries. You avoid setting limits because you believe this runs counter to having a generous spirit. But this simply allows people greater latitude to intrude into your life. The requests may become more and more unreasonable and you may not realize it until someone has crossed the line.

    If you’ve taken on too much, you may experience passive aggressive behavior, crying for no apparent reason, anxiety, or depression.

    Solution

    Be willing to admit that your time and energy are limited, not because you’re selfish, but because it’s the truth.

    Boundaries are simply a recognition of that truth. Do not be afraid to set your boundaries and enforce them. It will take a while for you and others to get used to it, but you’ll experience an increased sense of well-being, and people will learn to accept your limits.

    Learn to set boundaries for good: How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

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    Final Thoughts

    You can be generous without allowing yourself to be used. You can be kind without being a pushover. You can be well-liked without having to sell your soul.

    Don’t allow your fears and insecurities to turn you into a chronic people-pleaser. Instead, make time to please one of the most important people in your life: you.

    Why? Because when you care for yourself, you can care for others out of the abundance of your own well-being. You will do this not because you are afraid of losing their affection, but simply because you want to. You will experience true freedom.

    So decide today to give yourself the same love and attention you give to others. This is one decision you won’t regret.

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    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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