Friday, December 10, 2010

A Wine Tasting Gone Bad

I was with one of my clients the other day who had attended a wine tasting event at a local restaurant. The wine was delicious, the food it was paired with was appropriate, and the attendance was great. Guess what? She HATED it. I am sure you are as curious as I was as to why. Her initial account sounded like the restaurateur had put together a great evening, but little did I know it was quite the opposite. The “sommelier” for the evening was reading off of sheets of paper he had printed off of the web, his transitions were pretty rough between wines, and finally they didn’t get to sit in the restaurant’s special wine room. Now that last issue sounds kind of picky don’t you think? Unfortunately the “sommelier” had told the group in the beginning that they would end there, which sounded pretty cool…oops.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the problems:

Expectations – I can guarantee you that my friend and her husband had specific expectations for how the evening would flow. When the train started to go off the tracks they tried extending some grace, but as the evening wore on, their disappointment grew. Many times our clients have certain expectations of how we will execute, communicate, deliver value, etc. When we miss the mark we lose credibility and ultimately customer loyalty. Few things lose business more than mismanaged expectations.

Preparation – This part just makes me want to slap some reality into the “sommelier”. If you honestly think you can engage clients with a “show up to throw up” level of preparation, I hope you also have purchased some sweet parting gifts because they won’t bother to buy from you for very long. When you don’t come to an engagement prepared, you are telling your client through your actions how meaningless they are to you. You’d rather do other things than invest time in building the relationship, understanding industry impact factors, listen to their needs, and ultimately provide innovative solutions. Lack of preparation = Lack of prioritization – plain and simple.

Integrity – When you tell someone you are going to do something, you have to deliver. If I told you about something extra special I was going to provide for you and then not deliver, how would you feel? You would at least prefer a feasible explanation as to why I was unable to provide what I agreed to, wouldn’t you? Part of the problem is that, whether it’s with our clients or our own people, when we talk up something cool and exciting, they don’t automatically think, “This might not happen, so I need to be flexible.” What they actually hear is, “I promise with my-hand-on-my-heart-pinky-swear-on-the-life-of-my-first-born-child-that-what-I-am-talking-about-right-now-WILL-happen-no-matter-whether-it-is-against-all-acts-of-war, acts of God, or acts of the impossible. Now, we don’t normally promise, but that’s what others hear and we need to be cognizant of that little fact. Bottom line – do what you say you’re going to do.

So here’s the punch line, I am also friends with the restaurant owner. The plot thickens! Do you think he knows about this? Maybe….but in all actuality, probably not. What do you think he should do? What would you do? I would argue that we would all have a discussion about expectations, preparation, and integrity, don’t you think?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Right Seat on the Bus Makes the World Go Round and Round

Years ago Jim Collins in his book Good to Great wrote about getting the right people on the bus. I love that idea, but what I love even more is getting them in the right seats. In 2010 I “upgraded” my team and we now have the most talented team in the history of my business. Why? Because we not only got the right people, but also put them in the right seats.

So what happens if you put the wrong person up by the driver? Well, he gets annoyed and may not get the bus to the right spot because of his incessant distraction. Now, that person may fit better in the in middle of the bus where he has a broader audience to work his magic.

What happens if he has the wrong person in the back of the bus next to that great emergency door? You know, the door that always gets opened “by accident” on field trips so that it starts buzzing? The whole bus could get distracted by the door opening, or worse, in an emergency not everyone could get out timely.

What about the people by the windows? Those windows can be pretty tough to open if you’re not strong enough. Who wants to roll down the road in a hot, stuffy bus? Not I. If those people aren’t strong enough, you’re in for a LONG, HOT ride. In an emergency those windows may also come in handy. Maybe the weaker people need to sit on the inside by the isle until they are strong enough to handle the responsibility of working next to the general public.

So take some time during this wonderful season of performance reviews to not only assess your team’s overall talent, but also whether they’re in the right roles. Having your crew in the right seats will give you an instant advantage and jumpstart 2011.