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Are you Satisfied?

Are you Satisfied?

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      In September of 1960, J.F. Kennedy engaged Richard Nixon in the first presidential candidates’ debate. Kennedy’s opening statement in that debate has now become the famous “I am not satisfied” speech.

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      Besides the rhetorical power of that speech in its repetitive use of the phrase “I am not satisfied…”, what is interesting about it is how Kennedy used it to pull the rug out from under what he knew would be Nixon’s strategy for the debate: Red-baiting. While Kennedy did start by describing the communist threat of the Soviet Union and China, the main body of the speech is about the internal failure of America. Kennedy stole what he knew would be Nixon’s main arguement (the communist threat) and turned it to a debate about domestic, social, and government failures.

      What Kennedy’s team rightly strategized was that in any competitive environment, political or businesses, sustainable success starts with focusing on your own house. You will not win the race by focusing on the competition.

      There are a number of reasons for this.

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      It’s always too late.

      Competing by focusing on the competition is always a ‘trailing’ activity. Your competition moves; you react. This carries the significant risk of always being too late to the dance, and one step behind the music. Further, it breeds a mindset that looks backwards and adjusts to the agenda of others, rather than looking forward and setting your own agenda to make your customers happy.

      It is usually inconsistent with your values.

      There are three main reasons why any initiative fails: inadequate planning, inadequate time, doing something inconsistent with who you are. In my experience new strategies undertaken by businesses that are not in keeping with their values (which are written down in their mission statement, right?) are inevitably abandoned, or worse, lead to unproductive distractions. And if your competition is dictating strategies, there is a great likelihood you will be reacting from a place outside of your best values.

      Your competition is probably wrong.

      In fact from a branding perspective, they almost certainly wrong. Your brand is primarily defined by how your customers perceive you, and by the relationship they have with you. From that perspective, making marketing decisions in reaction to a competitor will throw that relationship out of whack. If your competition really were right for your customers, they would be doing business with them. They aren’t, so focus your decision-making on the customer relationships you already have.

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      Your competitors are a distraction.

      Literally. If focus is one of the absolutely key preconditions for success, to the extent your competitors are able to distract you, they are taking your focus from your customers and your own values. By staying focused on the market environment, on what really matters to you, and on the most direct lines with your customers you will keep your competitors reacting to you rather than the other way around. This is exactly what Kennedy did in 1960. He had not heard Nixon’s opening statement yet, but his team had a pretty good idea that the main thrust would be the ‘communist threat’. Kennedy was able to use his superior rhetorical skills and the brilliant strategy of identifying the greatest threat to America’s security as being internal failures which weakened the country’s ability to deal with its enemies. This worked so brilliantly because it spoke directly to Kennedy’s ‘customers’: it touched their own deep vein of dissatisfaction with the status quo, and connected it to the ‘red scare’ of the times, synthesising a message of real power.

      How do you ensure you are keeping your focus where it belongs? Here is a quick practical checklist based on my work, that will make sure that you are focusing your energies on taking care of your own house:

      1. How are you spending your time? While some time should always be spent scanning your external competitive environment (most small businesses don’t take the time they should at this), the majority of your ‘scanning time’ should be spent finding out what your customers love about your business and what more they need from you.
      2. Size isn’t everything. Just because your competition has added a new space, a new outlet, or a new merger, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do for you or for your customers*. Remember that it’s about profitability, not just sales. Smaller, targeted, efficient operations are often more profitable than larger operations drunk on the big sales figures. And when it is time to move or expand, do so because your customers demand it, not because your competition is pushing you. Like your mother always said “If your competition jumped off a bridge, would you do that too??” She said that, didn’t she?
      3. Are your customers calling the shots? Building your relationship with your customers is more important and more productive than allowing your competition to drag you into a draining battle. Great customer relationships will always be your greatest sustainable competitive advantage. If you know more about your competition than about your customers, then you’ve got your priorities wrong. You’ve also got them wrong if your competition knows more about your customers than you do!
      4. Focus on financial basics: cash flow, profitability, retained earnings. Be as conservative with your financial strategies as you are extravagant in your customer service strategies. Then when the right time comes to make that competition-killing move of expanding or changing to a stronger location, you will have the financial foundation under you to make that move decisively.
      5. Does everyone on your team know where the priorities are? Communicate your priorities and values to everyone on your team and employee group. Let them know that when they are making day-to-day decisions about pricing, products, customer service, etc. that they should be very cautious about reacting to what ‘so and so’ is doing down the street. Remind them that if they are not responding to customer demand, they should re-examine their motives for action. Reacting to changes in the environment is very important, but it should not take their focus from your customers.
      6. Keep your own house in order. Literally. Is your space as attractive to your customers, and as functional for your employees, as it can be? Does your team have the tools to get the job done? Are there any barriers to productivity in your work place? Deal with those before you invest in a fancy new ad campaign just because Acme Inc. down the street did.

      As the last year or so has shown, on Wall Street and on Main Street, the most aggressive, competitive, slickest operations fall like a house of cards if they aren’t focused on what really matters: extraordinary relationships with customers, and sound financial, operational, and human resources fundamentals.

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      “It’s what’s on the inside that matters” is more than just something your grandmother would say when you first commented inappropriately on the phenomenon of physically unattractive people. It is the real foundation of a sustainably competitive business.


      * Size isn’t everything. Want real world proof? Check out the rise and fall of the Royal Bank of Scotland, vs. the Royal Bank of Canada. Until the financial sector reboot, there was lots of crying in Canada about “how come Canadian banks can’t be big and exciting and powerful and sexy like all those European and American banks??” I think we have our answer now.

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      Last Updated on February 20, 2019

      How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

      How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

      Are you stuck in the same position for too long and don’t really know how to get promoted and advance your career?

      Feeling stuck could be caused by a variety of things:

      • Taking a job for the money
      • Staying with an employer that no longer aligns with your values
      • Realizing that you landed yourself in the wrong career
      • Not feeling valued or feeling underutilized
      • Staying in a role too long out of fear
      • Taking a position without a full understanding of the role

      There are many, many other reasons why you may be feeling this way but let’s focus instead on getting unstuck.

      As in – getting promoted.

      So how to get promoted?

      I’m of the opinion that the best way to get promoted is by showing how you add value to your organization.

      Did you make money, save money, improve a process, or some other amazing thing? How else might you demonstrated added value?

      Let’s dive right in how to get promoted when you feel stuck in your current position:

      1. Be a Mentor

      When I supervised students, I used to warm them – tongue in cheek, of course – about getting really good at their job.

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      “Be careful not to get too good at this, or you’ll never get to do anything else?”

      This was my way of pestering them to take on additional challenges or think outside the box, but there is definitely some reality in doing something so well that your manager doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

      This can get you stuck.

      Jo Miller of Be Leaderly shares this insight on when your boss thinks you’re too valuable in your current job:[1]

      “Think back to a time when you really enjoyed your current role. I bet there was a time when this job was a stretch for you, and you stepped up to the challenge and performed like a rock star. You became known for doing your job so well that you built up some strong “personal brand” equity, and people know you as the go-to-person for this particular job. That’s what we call “a good problem to have”: you did a really good job of building a positive perception about your suitability for the role, but you may have done “too” good of a job!”

      With this in mind, how do you prove to your employer that you can add value by being promoted?

      In Miller’s insight, she talks about building your personal brand and becoming known for doing a particular job well. So how can you link that work with a position or project that will earn you a promotion?

      Consider leveraging your strengths and skills.

      Let’s say that project you do so well is hiring and training new entry level employees. You have to post the job listing, read and review resumes, schedule interviews, making hiring decisions, and create the training schedules. These tasks require skills such as employee relations, onboarding, human resources software, performance management, teamwork, collaboration, customer service, and project management. That’s a serious amount of skills!

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      Is there anyone else on your team who can perform these skills? Try delegating and training some of your staff or colleagues to learn your job. There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea:

      1. Cross-training helps in any situation in the event that there’s an extended illness and the main performer of a certain task is out for a while.
      2. In becoming a mentor to a supervisee or colleague, you empower then to increase their job skills.
      3. You are already beginning to demonstrate that added value to your employer by encouraging your team or peers to learn your job.

      Now that you’ve trained others to do that work for which you have been so valued, you can see about re-requesting that promotion. Be ready to explain how you have saved the company money, encouraged employees to increase their skills, or reinvented that project of yours.

      2. Work on Your Mindset

      Another reason you may feel stuck in a position is well explained by Ashley Stahl in her Forbes article. Shahl talks about mindset, and says:[2]

      “If you feel stuck at a job you used to love, it’s normally you–not the job–who needs to change. The position you got hired for is probably the exact same one you have now. But if you start to dread the work routine, you’re going to focus on the negatives.”

      In this situation, you should pursue a conversation with your supervisor and share your thoughts and feelings. You can probably get some advice on how to rediscover the aspects of that job you enjoyed, and negotiate either some additional duties or a chance to move up.

      Don’t express frustration. Express a desire for more.

      Share with your supervisor that you want to be challenged and you want to move up. You are seeking more responsibility in order to continue moving the company forward. Focus on how you can do that with the skills you have and will develop with some additional projects and coaching.

      3. Improve Your Soft Skills

      When was the last time you put focus and effort into upping your game with those soft skills? I’m talking about those seemingly intangible things that make you the experienced professional in your specific job skills:

      An article on Levo.com suggests that more than 60 percent of employers look at soft skills when making a hiring decision.[3]

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      You can bone up on these skills and increase your chances of promotion by taking courses or seminars.

      And you don’t necessarily need to request funding from your supervisor, either. There are dozens of online courses being presented by entrepreneurs and authors about these very subjects. Udemy and Creative Live both feature online courses at very reasonable prices. And some come with completion certificates for your portfolio!

      Another way to improve your soft skills is by connecting with an employee at your organization who has the position you are seeking.

      Express your desire to move up in the organization, and ask to shadow that person or see if you can sit in on some of her meetings. Offer to take that individual out for coffee and ask what her secret is! Take copious notes and then immerse yourself in the learning.

      The key here is not to copy your new mentor (think Jennifer Jason Leigh in “Single White Female.” Just kidding). Rather, you want to observe, learn and then adapt according to your strengths. And don’t forget to thank that person for their time.

      4. Develop Your Strategy

      Do you even know specifically WHY you want to be promoted anyway? Do you see a future at this company? Do you have a one year, five year, or ten year plan? How often do you consider your “why” and insure that it aligns with your “what?”

      Sit down and do an old-fashioned Pro and Con list. Two columns:

      Pro’s on one side, Con’s on the other.

      Write down every positive aspect of your current job and then every negative one. Which list is longer? Are there any themes present?

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      Look at your lists and choose the most exciting Pro’s and the most frustrating Con’s. Do those two Pro’s make the Con’s worth it? If you can’t answer that question with a “yes” then getting promoted at your current organization may not be what you really want.

      The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. –Mark Twain

      Mel Carson writes about this on Goalcast that many other authors and speakers have written about finding your professional purpose.[4]

      Here are some questions to ask yourself:

      • Why is it that you do what you do?
      • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
      • What does a great day look like?
      • What does success look like beyond the paycheck?
      • What does real success feel like for you?
      • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

      These questions would be great to reflect on in a journal or with your supervisor in your next one-on-one meeting. Or, bring it up with one of your Vital Work Friends over coffee.

      See, what you might find is that being stuck is your choice. And you can set yourself on the path of moving up where you are, or moving on to something different.

      Because sometimes the real promotion is finding your life’s purpose. And like Mastercard says, that’s Priceless.

      More Resources About Career Advancement

      Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

      Reference

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