Category Archives: Box-Free Thinking

Uncertainty Is Certain AND Manageable

Suddenly uncertainty descended on us.

Across the globe, individuals from all backgrounds and cultures watched their world and way of life—and possibly their desired future—crumble under the threat of COVID-19 virus.

During the short time the 2020 Pandemic has been with us, we watched in shock as most, if not all, of the certainty of our lives was dismantled or vanished in our efforts to halt the viral force over which we have little control. Jobs lost, education curtailed, businesses trashed, professionals shut down, dreams dashed, hard-won triumphs negated, lives lost….

The war against the invisible virus redefined almost every aspect of society, the economy, and our lives in a few weeks. This reset continues.

The “new normal”—if there even was a “normal” in the first place—is living with uncertainty on a scale never considered possible nor experienced by many people—except perhaps those who’ve lived through a war or an invasion.

Your clients are dealing with all of this uncertainty, plus the loss of your supportive business offerings and possibly your presence. Compounded by their own personal losses and re-directions, this is suddenly overwhelming on almost every level from emotional to financial, from medical to social. Add to all this, the threat of illness, death, or carrying the virus to contaminate others. That’s an exhausting load of negative or destructive uncertainty.

How can you help prospects and clients manage this level of unexpected destructive uncertainty?

Obviously, any relevant constructive solutions you can contribute, depending on your field of expertise and type of products and services, will be valuable and valued.

Uncertainty in itself is not evil. Nor is this hovering unknown an “it” but rather a “them.”

Uncertainty can be either negative or positive and anything in between:

1. In uncertainty’s most negative extreme, uncertainty can be a powerful undermining force or destructive uncertainty, as described above.

2. In the most positive state, uncertainty is constructive uncertainty and can be a terrific motivator and  driving inspiration:

  • Anticipation associated with uncertainty believed to be good, great, or magnificent, is a thrill and an energizer. For instance, looking forward to a special celebration or an amazing opportunity.
  • Anticipation of completion of a hard-won goal, like earning a university degree or successfully launching a start-up, is linked to the exhilaration of the compellingly-unknown and positively-imagined future ahead. That is, the future may hold graduation followed by a great career or ramped-up business growth and acclaim.
  • Anticipation associated with the exhilarating uncertainty of each individual’s path from childhood to adulthood—growing up—is the joie de vive, the thrill of living.
  • Anticipation of a better way, a better life, a better outcome…is at the heart of optimism, enthusiasm, and hope.

Before the virus, the future that lay ahead full of positive contemplation, dreams, and hopes. Now??

Uncertainty, where we fear the outcome, is hard to live with. Consciously, accurately, and constructively redefining destructive uncertainty to reveal related and less-stressful constructive uncertainty opens thinking to neutral or positive alternative outcomes.

Use your professional communication skills and expertise to assist prospects and clients. Help them adopt new perspectives and take constructive action, even if that action is as simple as staying separated during the Pandemic.

As a professional, how do you make your constructive point to clients coping with uncertainty?

Hollow “it’ll turn out alright” statements, groundless optimism, platitudes, aspirations, and parroted phrases may sound good to you, but without practical substance you lose credibility quickly and may be annoying. This saccharin, patronizing “just think positive” approach is like a mental sugar high which may be followed by a mental crash that could intensify desperation.

Dig into your professional expertise and, armed with facts, share the range of opportunity and possibilities visible to you and relevant to clients as their future relates to your offerings, experience, and analysis.

Five Starting Points for the Transformation to Constructive Uncertainty

1. Call on proven, effective communication tools—yours, newly-acquired skills, hired expertise—to provide personalized, clear explanations to consistently make your point with clients.
For instance, using a relevant metaphor that clients can easily relate to, can put the uncertainty in perspective. Make clear how the uncertainty can or will be reduced to enable them to begin to see the choices they have. These can be built on by increasing clients’ awareness of the actual issues at hand. For instance, you are not a powerless leaf blowing in the wind without control or intention. You are a rational, decisive person who can make choices about how to react, what you’ll fight for, and what you let go of as merely a distraction. Hope will grow out of despair if you open your mind to possibilities. That describes your clients, too.

2. Everybody seems touched by the Pandemic, but learn exactly what each of your clients really fear.
Unidentified, unspecified fear is overwhelming. What exactly is each individual afraid of? A common fear like the virus, will materialize very differently for each individual. Fear of which process, outcome, or consequences keeps them awake at night, intrudes on decision making, or paralyzes them with worry? Waiting to see whether the fear of infection or death becomes reality can be torture for non-medical clients. Your expertise may not cover any of those issues, but you know how to locate credible individuals who can raise awareness and reduce unfounded fear. After respectfully listening to clients explain what fears they have, decide what you can do to increase awareness and choice or arrange for another professional to do so. Online communication makes this easier than ever before.

3. Help clients clarify exactly what they might lose.
This may also involve other professionals whose expertise covers important issues raised by clients, but which are outside your expertise. Your experience may involve problem solving to arrive at financial solutions to minimize loss and stress. Or you may help alleviate the distraction of holding on to negative experiences and repeatedly dredging up emotional pain instead of letting go and moving on. Stick to what you know and find the best qualified people to explain other issues. Use humor with caution.

4. Normal was always the wrong word.
In the midst of the Pandemic, people often say, ” I want things to return to normal.” The illusion that normal is best for everybody persists. What others label as normal represents their standard, not yours, nor necessarily the best for anybody. Normal has often been based in the past, driven by bias, grounded in opinion, laden with agendas, or merely a gross generalization with little real value, however:

  • Liberation from “normal” leaves us all free to find a new purpose, standard, perspective, belief…whatever your target clients prefer to ground their lives or businesses on.
  • Instead of feeling society must dictate to you what’s right to do or not do, we may be free to set aside standards like “normal” and decide for ourselves what we want to do and why.
  • Our very diverse, multigeneration populations may finally shake off dated, even old-fashioned, limitations placed on many aspects of life, many of them carry-overs from the 19th- and 20th centuries.

5. There’s no going back, just forward! Onward & Upward are the directions that really matter!
Across the globe, we share societal and economic despair at what is lost and disrupted, but the intensity and critical details vary with individuals and families and their context. If the virus has changed or even destroyed most or all that mattered to you or that you worked for, what’s next? Your choice.
The virus cracked open our “normal” global society. What is it opening up for you?

  • Have you taken the time away from Netflix to think, genuinely think, about what aspects of your life you really miss and which you’re enjoying a break from?
  • What work were you doing because you made a commitment or had not taken the time to see what else was out there? What were you doing for the money and little else?

We are all certain “the impossible” has happened whether individuals point to the Pandemic, the global shutdown, or both. What wonderful outcome did you considered impossible in your life or your future before the virus? And in your new future…?

“Perhaps you could now move to make that impossibility happen? For instance, we’ve been slow to genuinely adopt the credibility of working outside a traditional office setting. Too many—even those who “talk tech”—seem to ignore this practical application for the mind-boggling array of collaborative and other remote-access technology. After the Pandemic fades, there may be no going back to the cubical.” said PJ Wade, The Catalyst

Additional resources:

1. For more on addressing your empathy for clients’ changing perspectives on their present choices and futures, explore our communication example based on the role of “home.” This type of approach is designed to assist relevant professionals express how they remain valuable to those they served without pitching, selling, or marketing…

“The strategic frontline for the war against the COVID-19 virus is our homes, therefore, we can all make a significant difference in how this war plays out. PJ Wade explains how the service of “STAYING HOME” buys time for the hard-working medical community and protects everybody.”… NOW: BV (Before Virus) & AV (After Virus)

2. For more ideas on the next step forward, visit these posts:

3. To explore on PJ’s work as The Catalyst, visit www.TheCatalyst.com

Inclusion Extends to Accessibility: “Me & We”

Is the progress of inclusion slowed by overlooking the obvious?

Inclusive workplaces, organizations, communities, and other cultures of belonging cannot be sustained in spaces, buildings, and environments which are not “inclusive” for everyone—fully accessible and barrier-free in their access, design, and construction.

Accessibility to public and private spaces and buildings should be an inclusive, universal design goal—“Me & We”—that extends intention to remove social and cultural prejudice and bias to include everyone determined to remove physical limitations and barriers.

The point is we say we welcome diversity and inclusion and that we want the full spectrum of people to come together socially, culturally, and without prejudice—inclusively. This push for inclusion means little if interior and building design and construction deliberately favor able-bodied adults and present a varying degree of obstruction to everyone, including even that privileged group.

“Accessible” is a concept directed at those with disabilities and not inclusive of the able-bodied.

Is it time to disrupt “accessibility?”

Instead of this concept concentrating on dictating disability-specific concessions to interior and building design, isn’t it time to begin with design that intends, from the beginning, to ensure everything is accessible to everyone—every age, size, ability, capacity…?

The ubiquitous barriers are there: stairs, insufficient or unreliable elevators, poor lighting, heavy doors, slippery flooring, lack of railings, threshold steps, badly-designed bathrooms, lack of seating….

The point is it’s easier for able-bodied adults to overcome, ignore, or avoid these and other access interruptions, but they are still barriers that don’t need to be designed into buildings undergoing renovations or new buildings in the first place.

This is the same “stuck in the past” thinking which gives strength to prejudice and bias which the inclusive movement must dispel. Technology continues to give us the false impression that digital capacity alone modernizes thinking and automatically overwrites destructive elements from the past.

Electrical wall outlet

Electrical wall outlet

For instance, many aspects of non-accessible building design have historic roots that are not in sync with today’s standards or norms. The height of electrical outlets is a good example. That height off the floor was not set by user needs, but the height of a hammer handle. This was the widespread measurement standard used by construction workers to quickly, easily, and consistently place electrical outlets. No tape measure needed; no reading or math knowledge required.

Trace back why hammer handles were a standard length and you’ll discover how far back and to what degree of current irrelevancy the foundation of inaccessible buildings and spaces was laid. Easy to install, but not ideal for users of any age or physical state today:

  • Small children are at comfort level with these dangerous outlets, so sticking fingers and metal objects in is tempting
  • Adults on hands and knees digging behind the couch to plug in anything, complain loudly about the inconvenience. Those with disabilities may be completely shut out.
  • Easy for workers, but perpetuated barriers for everyone else.

How do we end up with buildings that present barriers to many people, children included? Is it the definition of “people” that needs work? Is it the non-inclusive definition of “people” that causes buildings and spaces to be non-inclusive?

automatic ADA door opener

Automatic ADA door opener

Have you noticed how many people push the automatic ADA door opener buttons to have a heavy door effortlessly open for them? In most buildings I frequent, the majority of people push the button instead of struggling with heavy or germ-laden doors. This means apparently-able adults, whether or not they are carrying small children, pets, or packages, use the accessibility devise. In a number of cases, landlords and business owners have discovered that the automatic door mechanism, intended for low-volume, disabled-only use, breaks down or wears out from almost constant use. Does this mean we’re all ready for barrier-free access?

Accessibility is part of “Me & We” inclusion and vice versa. We can’t bring one into the twenty-first century without moving the other forward, too:

  • In that transformative process, there’s room for many trend-setting start-ups, applications, social media communities…. Can you see a starting point?
  • What’s next? Rename it? Brand it? Crowd source it?
  • Will the expansion of the Inclusive Accessibility Movement create the next disruption frontier?
  • Could this mark a new dividing line between the past and the truly-modern future?

Additional resources...

Disruption: Get Out of Your Own Way!

Disruption is out in the open.

No longer a shock or surprise, disruption is sought-after, copied, and cultivated.

Huge financial returns, wide-grasp power, and lucrative celebrity are key attractive outcomes that make disruption the hot leading edge of business. Since the value of disruption has been proven over and over again, it’s no longer a question of “if” but a clear vision of “when” that has the full attention of forward-thinking leaders.

At the same time, disrupted businesses face an end to their hard-won market share, financial gain, future profit, and perhaps the entire organization.

You know it’s coming whether you admit it or not. How are you preparing to get out of your own way, so you come out of industry or profession disruption and stay way out in front?

⇒ What have you discovered about your vulnerability to disruption?

  • Understanding the ways in which your industry or profession could be disrupted is vital for ventures from start-ups and wanna-be market invaders to those intent protecting their first-in or long-established market lead, or just holding on until owner retirement.
    Where are your vulnerable points?
  • Disruption can truncate or terminate careers, personal holdings, overall worth, and companies. Disruption anticipation must be required analysis for business owners, partners, professionals, and stakeholders on all levels.
    What could disruption cost you and your business?
  • When you see your principal role as maintaining status quo, you may be playing into the hands of disruptors. To fight off change, are you allocating funds and resources into areas which may weaken your market position or are you increasing vulnerability by leveraging assets?
    How can you realize the value built into your business when disruption looms?

>⇒ Example: Identify Disruption Potential

In the webcast “Technology in Homebuilding,” Hanley Wood & Meyers Research CEO, Jeff Meyers shared observations on the potential for disruption in the US homebuilding industry.

Listening to Meyers’ perspective on home building, I was struck by similarities with my observations of other industries and professions. How do the following key points apply to your world?

Home building and construction remain long on tradition and short on digital transformation, making these real estate sectors vulnerable to disruption:

♦ Vulnerability #1. The intention to disrupt is not proclaimed on social media, it just happens.

Anticipation is key.
Disruptors have already moved into real estate: from office disruptor WeWork and hotel/apartment disruptor Airbnb to mega-disruptor Amazon’s attack on retail and other sectors. Meyers related an example of how the disrupted may be the last to know. Greystar, a global leader in rental housing, was seemingly unaware of disruption by Airbnb until that company offered to partner with Greystar by explaining “we have over 5000 of your units in our system.”
What “back door” have you left wide open in your organization or client relationships?

♦ Vulnerability #2. Disruption of an industry requires “deep pockets” for experimentation and exploration to establish the most practical, lucrative disruptive pathway.

The attraction of historically solid returns is a key vulnerability.
Major disruptors like Amazon and Google have billions to experiment with in the home building and construction industries. By example, Meyers mentioned Amazon-backed Plant Prefab as a stepping stone which may lead the way to sustainable modular-prefab projects that challenge traditional development. This practical wedge into home building may be one way in, but there are many potential entry points.
What could “deep pockets” accomplish that you have not?

♦ Vulnerability #3. Combined digital advances and trend-setting technology can transform practices and systems.

Social-media- and technology-driven shifts in consumer behavior and expectations can leave first-in and leading companies far behind.
Disruption takes many forms, but technology enables increased speed and efficiency to open major avenues for change: faster production, faster delivery, faster customization, faster research and development…. Advances in the speed of construction through steel-framing companies like Prescient cut costs, improve affordability, and heighten investment returns, said Meyers.
What changes to “the way it’s always been done” would keep you out in front with your target markets?

Meyers explained his intent in talking disruption was to rally home builders to adopt digital transformation of their sales and marketing processes and particularly their buyer experience.

⇒ Clients and customers can become catalysts for disruption.
Read PJ Wade’s from-the-inside-out examination of how communication and the lack of it may reveal the potential for disruption to home buyers before home builders see the future: Home Builders: Do They “Get” Buyers? on PJ’s Decisions & Communities blog.

⇒ What are your weak spots, exposed flanks, or out-dated hack points?

Believing you’re invincible is one way to get through tough or uncertain times, but it may not be the practical or powerful strategy that current times demand.

Every single aspect of your business and career can not be equally strong and resilient. One weak spot or two or more combined flaws may exist and be underestimated as disruption points.

⇒ Do you understand where your greatest vulnerability lies?

How are you and status quo getting out of the way? How will you react constructively to disruption before it’s too late?

  • Keep your opinions to yourself. Listen more than you talk. You want to learn what you don’t understand about technology and how it is changing people’s lives and the way we do almost everything. Listen to academics, professionals, and experts, who have knowledge and inspiring experience to share.
  • Stop thinking you have time. You’re too late for this to be easy, but not too late to be successful. Technology is snowballing through industry after industry. Nothing is going back to the way it was. Even when online changes do not prove fruitful, there’s no going back. They’ll just be replaced with new online and digital solutions. One significant change is how many are turning to their target prospects, customers, and clients and to their data for ideas on how to make the transformation make sense and make money.
  • Digital transformation is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity.  What you don’t know or understand, many competitors and disruptors do. Concentrate on building your expertise in identifying exceptional experts and hiring them for the good of your company and clients. This is not about what you can do, but what you can put in place. Then, move out of the way of those you hired because they know more than you do.
  • Stop expecting accolades and pats on the back. Concentrate on earning trust by being the one who really knows how to lead by stepping aside and letting the experts you hand-picked self-lead. Retain leadership status by creating a powerfully-cohesive, forward-knowing team and organization and getting out of your own way to take your venture forward.

© 2019 PJ Wade, TheCatalyst.com. Includes excepts from “What’s Your Point?: Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” (print book publication: 2020)

Achievable Focus Essential to Success

Achievable focus takes the “almost” out of your push for success in any context.

Have you gotten so close to achieving an important goal—you can almost taste success—only to find success slips through your fingers?

Therefore, your targeted opportunity suddenly vanishes or a focused competitor swoops in and you’re out. The prospect stays a prospect; the deal does not become a deal; your projected income is zero.

You can want something—a new client account, a new job, a new business, or a second shot at anything—very badly or urgently, but your need alone may not be enough to achieve what you want.

Desire may get you close, but if your focus is even slightly off center or your concentration lapses, success may slip through your fingers.

The truly discouraging truth is that lose your focus and “your success” can slip right into a observant competitor’s hands.

To “focus” means to strategically direct and intensively concentrate your attention, activity, resources, and what is necessary for a goal—“your point.”

As an achievement strategist, key skills lie in achieving and applying what I call Achievable Focus for clients. To me, the distinction between “focus” and “achievable focus” is the difference between “almost successful” and “completely successful,” or almost making your point and making it with a memorable bang for target clients.

No magic or secrets here.

This is well within the skills of an experienced professional, like you.

Focus is not an achievement asset if you lack clarity.

Achievable focus will elude you…

#1. …if you are not completely clear what your point is to achieve your goal.

#2. …if you do not “cut the crap” that has been holding you back and will continue to do so until you let go of the past and commit to moving Onward & Upward, the only directions that really matter!

#3. …if you do not know “Who your WHO is?” so that you can concentrate your focus on the ideal target client for your business efforts.

#4. …if you do not commit to a success that includes having your WHO stick with you, not just open an email offer, download a click magnet, attend an event, or click on your marketing ploy.

Add the preceding four focus elements together and you have created powerful achievable focus. You know what you want to achieve, why, and for whom, so success is crystal clear and your achievement strategies and focus are equally clear.

Weakness or lack of focus with any one element makes success elusive. For instance, #2 Cut The Crap above includes:

  • Stop making excuses
  • Stop blaming others
  • Stop obsessing on why you haven’t been successful so far
  • Drop that and all unproductive baggage that is holding you back.

I’m not expecting you to do all the above immediately, collectively, consistently, and permanently. The first step is becoming aware of your ingrained bad habits and counter-productive patterns of behavior in the context of one goal. We all have room for improvement whether we realize if or not.

As an experienced professional, you can make a serious commitment to suspend your crap as part of shifting to achievable focus. This will focus everything on the main point that you’ve chosen as your top priority.

For instance, the path to achievable focus lies in answering these questions honestly—to yourself, no one else:

  • What are my favorite excuses for not making my best effort?
  • Who is holding me back from success?
  • What “failure reruns” do I dredge up to explain why it’s not my fault things did not work out?
  • What are the top three roadblocks to my success? For example, screen obsession, multitasking, or mental clutter

May I share an example that was directed to real estate and financial professionals? The intent was to help their clients achieve a common and compelling goal—one you may have, too. In helping their prospects make decisions about their goals, the professionals may achieve successful client relationships: Five “Grass Greener?” Challenges in Paradise [article to be posted soon]

Tip #1: Achievable Focus: If the above effort seems too much based on what you want to achieve, you’ve picked the wrong goal or point to start with. Fix that lack of focus first.

Achievable focus achieves success.

Source: “What’s Your Point?: Cut The Carp, Hit The Mark & Stick!” by PJ Wade. Print book coming soon.

© Copyright 2019  PJ Wade The Catalyst   All rights reserved.

Is Payment Not Privacy The Answer?

“There’s big money in your personal data—for others. Why not you? It’s your data, after all.

If you were paid for the use of the digital data you generate—that is, you shared directly in the benefits that draw corporations to this juicy financial frontier—would privacy be an issue?”

How would your clients or customers respond to this income-generating perspective on who benefits from the data they create through their social media interaction and digital transactions?

If your business or practice stresses a strong client-centric mission—like “our clients come first”—is it ethical to use client data to earn profit without respecting clients’ role in its creation and sharing a “piece of the action” with them? Their share could be income or reduction of service fees, interest rates, or other valued service factors.

Sharing All But Profit

The “everyone else does it” argument for cutting data-creating clients out of sharing data-based profits may be wearing thin for these client users, especially as they bear the brunt of data-related risk:

  • Facebook (FB) has granted access or shared FB users’ data with Amazon, Netflicks, and others, but what did FB users get out of this business exchange? FB users were not asked for their permission to allow FB to earn money or engage in business relationships like these with corporations and who knows who else. When social media corporations like FB insist they “do not sell but share” user data, this still means they make money, but consumers do not and consumers may have their privacy jeopardized in the process.
  • The “free” online features and services that initially dazzled users have become compromised and degraded by practices centered on corporate goals and profit, not value for data-generating users.
  • Efforts to manipulate users to spend more time on social media platforms are directed at increasing value to advertisers and at generating revenue, not at client goals. For instance, when user viewing drops, FB sends out intrusive updates designed to entice engagement.
  • Privacy breaches and identity theft are becoming the norm. Will the ease of online shopping and communicating become overshadowed by data vulnerability, hacker devastation, and lack of compensation for data violation?
  • The big data bite comes from Artificial Intelligence (AI), which uses massive data banks of user information and digital activity to generate savings, efficiencies, revenue opportunities, share price increases, clout increases, and service provision for corporate benefit. Haven’t users earned a piece of the action?
  • Technology makes creating and tracking micro-transactions very doable. The degree of detail possible to collect and categorize data could make tracking each transaction in a shared-benefits arrangement straightforward. That’s blockchain. This means that attributing a reasonable percentage to the user who created the date is practical. Repeat use of the data would create a stream of income for users. Will sharing become the new brand loyalty strategy?

For Clarity: Don’t confuse this suggestion of payment with loyalty-reward-point programs which concentrate on gaining repeat business for the corporation—a grocery store, credit card, airline…. Consumers often pay higher prices and are limited to specific spending patterns to gain benefits—not dollar-for-dollar by a long stretch. This involves consumers spending and then jumping through hoops to receive benefits with earned-reward points they must keep track of to manage expiry dates.

New Client-Retention Frontier

Online users realize that the continuous treasure trove of data arises from every digital thing we do each day, each hour. It’s making corporations richer and more powerful. Online users are only now understanding that all their data adds up to big money for others, not for them. Corporate spokespeople—from FB’s Zuckerberg on down—talk about the importance of user privacy, but do not give privacy or respect for users priority over profiting from users’ personal data—considered the juicy corporate profit-center.

Privacy laws are emerging, but they offer too little advance protection for users. Penalties may be as ineffective as license-to-pollute fines levied against environmental violators. The 2018 EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) [ https://eugdpr.org/ ], California’s 2020 privacy law, and emerging regulations are one approach to protecting privacy, but most, if not all,  protection provided occurs after the fact: after sharing, breach, misuse….

Missed Opportunity?

Do your clients or customers understand exactly where you and your organization stand regarding respect of client privacy and full disclosure of benefits gained from using their data, perhaps without preserving privacy?

Is this a new client-retention frontier for earning valuable client trust?

Navigating a World in Disruption

“Disruption” remains the current “hot” word—replacing “sustainable” and “innovative”—to underscore the latest “new thinking.”

Rarely is disruption defined to reveal long-term social benefits and pervasive problems attached to the 21st Century applications that the “new” concept involves.

The context for disruption varies, but unforeseen complexities and unexpected outcomes remain among the greatest challenges in each sector, industry, organization, or walk of life facing disruptive, long-term effects of the hot new approach to anything.

Where do you see yourself with respect to disruption in your profession, industry, or clients’?

You’ve noticed the obvious pattern:

  • Disruptor: Those who benefit, see disruption as a positive, modern force. Those involved in creating it, pat themselves on the back.
  • Disrupted: Those who are in the direct path of disruption lose—their earning power, way of life, standard of living, status, sense of self-worth…—so they do not celebrate disruption. They are busy attempting to replace what they’ve lost and rebuild lives.
  • Distracted by disruption: Those who do not feel they participated in creation of the disruption or were not in the path of its direct negative effects may be unaware of or have overlook challenges or benefits for them or their clients because they consider all of this to be happening to someone else.

Do you investigate disruptions that, at first glance, do not seem connected to your business or clients, but that at very least may create distractions relevant to your world?

Recently, I was invited to attend “Navigating a World in Disruption,” the 12th edition of the International Economic Forum of the Americas’ (IEFA) Toronto Global Forum. This lively, open exchange of ideas and experience brought together more than 3500 delegates and 170 speakers representing more than 65 countries—a mix of disruptors, disrupted, and those distracted by disruption.

FYI: Terrific Places to Think: The four annual IEFA Forums are by design and reputation, places that connect attendees with world leaders and with each other. IEFA declares its mission: “to facilitate agreements, offer business opportunities and provide access to unique insights from leading specialists.”

Navigating a World in Disruption

The three-day Global Forum provided opportunities for business leaders, decisions makers, government representatives, and heads of state to discuss how organizations and economies can thrive amidst intense, seemingly-escalating economic, social, and environmental transformation. Speakers across the broad topic range acknowledged that political upheaval, reactive populism, and protectionism provide charged, distracting climates for businesses. This is a challenge as they are already coping, locally and internationally, with the growing list of disruptive technology: digital transformation, cyber risk, artificial intelligence, fintech, blockchain…and the list continues.

Listening to speakers and attendees revealed practical insights for professional practices, independent business, and entrepreneurial ventures intent on successfully “Navigating a World in Disruption.” My research on disruption definitions confirmed the importance of context.

Reducing external and internal distraction is crucial for individuals and organizations intent on building momentum to take advantage of disruption or avoiding negative effects. Here’s three practical examples:

  1. Cyber-Security:
    Instead of becoming easier, maintaining cyber-security has become more challenging. Often it is the seemingly-simple issues that are most distracting. For instance, weak-password-creation habits persist. Using the same password for multiple accounts is a reality that hackers have trained their efforts on. Do your passwords and those of your employees hold up to scrutiny? These same welcomed users may inadvertently compromise security by clicking on a hacked link or visiting a malware-infested website. When employees leave, how much of your organization’s cyber knowledge leaves with or because of them?
  2. Talent Searches:
    The hiring search for specific IT skills and experience has proven less valuable than unearthing genuine desire and innate ability to learn and share. IT can be learned, but emotional intelligence (EQ) is the socially-valued talent that should be a crucial target during hiring. EQ is an important contributor on many levels from cyber-security to anti- and pro-disruption innovation, among other productivity issues.
  3. Collaboration:
    This word has become a conveniently-evasive catchall that is often used to demonstrate inclusive thinking when little may have taken place. Rarely explained or defined, collaboration frequently remains underestimated and undervalued. Collaboration does not involve only the willingness to cooperate or share, or at least talk about it. Collaboration must include communication skills like active listening, negotiation, and persuasive engagement. For individuals and groups who did not receive communication training in the 20th Century or who concentrated on 21st-Century social media, the conscious use of communication skills like these may not be automatic. The other meaning of the word—collaborating with the enemy—may also detract from its potential. The wish or intent to collaborate may not be enough to create practical, functional exchanges and commitment. Those with the knowledge and experience to facilitate collaboration may have the advantage in navigating the world of disruption.

What are your definitions of “disruption” and “collaboration”?
How prepared are you and your clients for disruption in your industry or their worlds?

Are You An Ageist?

When was the last time you wondered if you are an ageist, that is prejudice against age?

Even if you are approximately the same chronological age as your ideal clients and your peers, you may not be immune from ageism. This insidious prejudice could still be a strong negative influence.

Ageism or prejudice related to age which labels others as either “too young” or “too old” for certain things, is usually automatic and unconscious.

Most people, consciously and unconsciously, adopt different sets of stereotypes as their personal norm. For instance, individuals often apply their own standards to others whom they consider their equal in age. Since individuals usually see themselves as younger by a decade or more than others perceive them, effective communication can become complicated.

Even prospects or clients who are the same age as you, can believe themselves “too young” for some things and “too old” for others. This means they’ll decide this for you, too, whether you share their ageist standards or not.

Do not use age-related comments unless you know exactly why age is relevant to the discussion. It usually is not.</strong

For instance, to build rapport, professional advisors, who perceive new prospects to be older than they are, may use foot-in-mouth comments like “that’s just like my grandparents” or still bad “that’s just like my parents” to break the ice with these “older” people.

  • If prospects see the professionals as being of a similar age, the prospects may feel they have just been insulted.
  • If the prospects are older, the professionals may have lost credibility by pointing out the probably-irrelevant age difference.

How’s that rapport building coming along?

If you want to bring your thinking and communicating into the 21st Century, tackle ageist anchors which may hold you back, personally and professionally. When there is a difference in chronological age between you and your clients—in one direction or the other—you have opportunities to end ageist stereotypes and help clients appreciate themselves as individuals. Which ageist barriers stand in the way of your delivery of extreme service excellence?

Stereotypes represent bias and weakness in our knowledge and understanding. These mental shortcomings emerge as ageism, racism, sexism, and on the -isms go.

This disconnect is compounded by the fact that many of these perceived limitations and restrictions can be traced back to the 19th and 20th Centuries, if not before. Particularly shocking news if the 21st Century is the only one you’re worked or even lived in.

Consider ageism in yourself, your peers, your staff, and those who you answer to, including prospects and clients. Who believes the “too old” and “too young” labels? Remember, ageism is automatic and unconscious. Ramp up your powers of observation before you shrug this analysis off as unnecessary or start calling other people out before taking a long look at yourself.

Which effective communication strategies will achieve the greatest results with the maximum enrichment of relationships and workplace productivity? The key to improvement lies in appreciating individual uniqueness instead of repeating clichés and perpetuating prejudice in its most insidious form—humor. For instance, stop memory-lapse “jokes” like “I’m having a senior’s moment.” Become part of the solution.

How have you deliberately shed out-dated reactions and aligned your communication with 21st-Century realities about chronological age?

Inspiration Is Your Choice

How do you become inspired?

Do you associate inspiration with classic external influences like heroic deeds and nature with its spectacular sunsets and much more?

In reality, whatever your setting, environment, or context, inspiration starts within each of us.

Inspiration is a conscious awakening of creativity, problem-solving, or your special interest or thinking style to reveal otherwise overlooked or untapped potential.

Inspiration involves stimulation of mind and emotions in response to something or someone when we pay attention. Observe something, someone, or some event and react to it by opening your mind to wonder: “How can this experience be interpreted or applied in a different context or to solve a different problem?” Now you’re inspired!

Inspiration is always all around us and within us. An endless and often surprising array of things, activities, problems, or creativity abounds to act as stimulus for a wide range of inspiration.

Summits and conventions are a significant source of fast-forward inspiration for me and my clients. An invitation to attend the recent 109th Rotary International Convention held the added attraction of its theme: “Inspiration around every corner.” I joined 24,000 Rotary members from 175 countries—a mini-United Nations.

  • International big-name speakers and special projects like peacebuilding and end polio inspired many. The showcase of projects presented tradeshow-style as the House of Friendship was inspiration central for me and thousands more.
  • Large-scale events charged up many attendees, but there was inspiration all around us. A chance happening really touched me. A few hundred Nigerian Rotarians, most in native dress, spontaneously burst into their national anthem as the picture-only broadcast of a World Cup Soccer match featuring Nigeria began. Their obvious joy at singing together was only second to my amazement that they all knew all the words and sang them with gusto. Maybe helping people learn to sing their national anthem with obvious enthusiasm is a worthwhile project?
  • I learned a lot from the many Rotary members from around the world that I met. When I asked, “What inspires you about this Convention?,” they all exuberantly told me. The most common response revolved around meeting and re-meeting friends and colleagues they had worked with and stayed with around the world. The many other inspirations gave me food for thought and helped me see fresh opportunity around me and for my clients.

 

What I am reminded of time and again is that self-inspiration or training yourself to remain curious and to wonder about everything is a powerful and under-utilized skill.

Instead, of keeping your eyes on a screen where things—largely marketing—are fed to you, maintain curiosity and wonder as you move through the real world. Consciously, take this constructive stance at least part of each day and you may get hooked.

About Rotary: Rotary ( rotary.org ) brings together a global network of community leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. We connect 1.2 million members from more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in almost every country in the world. Their service improves lives both locally and internationally, from helping those in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.

Raised Your Service Standards Lately?

Professionalism materializes in client service, client satisfaction, and client results.

How would you characterize the standards by which you work and that define your brand?

Are they average? Above average? High? Very high? Exemplary? Top of the field?

How do you know which category your standards fall into?

Did you design services to fit your standards or did services evolve by chance? How do you monitor them? Are you sure you are measuring the right things?

How will you know when your standards and, therefore, your brand need improvement?

  • Ask most professionals and business owners about their business standards and they’ll tell you their standards are high or very high. I know because I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of professionals, entrepreneurs, executives, business owners, and advisors. No one identified their standards as less than “high.”
  • Ask clients who observe these professionals up close how service could be improved and the clients have a lot of suggestions. They always insist they’d share these ideas with the professionals if they were asked. I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of these clients, and asked them what could be done to improve service and returns—and they willingly told me.

Raising your standards essentially means competing with yourself because you know you can always do more, be better.

When you already feel successful, this is a greater challenge as complacency may override constructive curiosity, particularly when you perceive the competition as already “left in the dust.”

When it comes to service, what may be a small thing to you can be a symptom of an attitude which communicates to clients a lack of service:

  • If you don’t listen to a client, why should they listen to you? If you don’t respect a client’s opinion, why should they respect yours? Even if they stay with you, will they follow your suggestions? Will you receive all their business? Will they refer you?
  • Clients who don’t believe that the professionals they hire respect them, may not be as open about their concerns and extenuating circumstances. They may also hold back on disclosing how well-off they are for fear of being charged more. What they don’t tell the professional could compromise results. They may make only token referrals unless they receive benefits they value, which may be genuine respect.
  • If you are not from the same generation as your clients, ageism may be a factor as well. The “too young to know” and “too old to know” cross-generation reactions associated with ageism can accentuate differences of opinion and value systems. These reactions may be compounded by cultural differences and language challenges:
  1. Not listening to an idea may be an ageist brush-off or may be perceived as such even if it is not.
  2. Offering suggestions may be ageist criticism or may be perceived as such.

Recognizing exactly what you are doing and not doing, and all the implications of both, is often difficult.

That’s the invisibility of the box. Unless you hire a professional to critique you regularly, this is a task you have, consciously or unconsciously, decided to take care of yourself. How good at it are you? Mediocrity can creep in through sloppiness, poor time management skills, bad habits, insecurity, sensitivity to criticism, inflated ego, stress, and weak powers of observation.

Extreme Excellence: The New Service Model
Experience confirms that excellence in client service is simple, but that simple is not always easy.

  • You simply need to raise client expectations and, thereby, differentiate your business and services from industry stereotypes and from the competition.
  • Then, simply, unfailingly, deliver on more than clients expect, in ways that clients value, whatever happens—no excuses.

Your knowledge and experience enable you to fully envision what “excellence in client service” involves from the target clients’ point of view, online and off.

You’ve observed first-hand why constructive persistence is essential to consistently achieve high levels of excellence in a continually changing world. How do you put this awareness into action for clients?

Working to make yourself and services indispensable—making it all about you—so clients remain dependent on you for problem solving, leaves clients considering these services as an ongoing cost and the problems they address an ongoing worry. Clients don’t feel freed from the problem. They’ve just added the necessity of dealing with you. This fairly typical business approach could lead them to search out less expensive alternatives or worry-free service providers.

In contrast, the ultimate goal in 21st-Century Extreme Service Excellence should be to solve the problem so completely that you and your services are no longer necessary. Concentrate on doing such a thorough job for clients that you theoretically put yourself out of work, and you’ve hit excellence. That’s what your brand should consistently embody.

Aim to create independence for clients and you’ll make yourself invaluable to them. Your introduction of empowering choice for clients will make them committed to you and your services by choice:

  • Their comfort with you and your services will be greater than the clients’ determination to adopt do-it-myself solutions.
  • Clients feel no need to take on new responsibility and manage the situation or the problem because they have confidence in you.
  • They don’t want the job of training to anticipate the problem and stopping it before it takes hold—they’ve got you.
  • Clients take on some responsibility and work to reduce the problem, but they’re comfortable relying on you to fully resolve the situation and bring them peace of mind.

[Excerpt from “What’s Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” — Chapter 10 Constructive Persistence & Branding]

WBECS: Learning from & with Coaches

To be excellent at what professional communicators—from advisors, architects, and digital developers to lawyers, brokers, and physicians—do best, we must never stop learning.

We not only strive to continuously learn about changes in our profession and related technology, but also about relevant changes in the lives, work, and businesses of our prospects, clients, and target markets.

That’s a lot of effort and investment to expend while also, each work day, engaging prospects, serving clients, running a practice or business, and having a life:

  • When opportunities arrive to improve communication prowess, raise professional standards, and allow professionals to learn from and with their peers and potentially within a target niche, that’s amazing.
  • When that opportunity is live and online—with interaction possible and no travel or inconvenience—that’s perfect.

For professional coaches around the world, the Annual World Business & Executive Coach Summit or WBECS (“webecs” as it fondly referred to) is both amazing and perfect.

WBECS organizers hope many of the 23,000 attending the complimentary WBECS Pre-Summit go on to participate in the Full Summit which reportedly provides weekly learning opportunities in flexible, interactive formats over the coming year.

Over 3 weeks, the Pre-Summit offers two or three 45-minute webinars a day, each designed to challenge, fascinate, and stimulate. I enjoy the range of professional speakers and the diversity of topics.

Unexpected “aha moments” pop up regularly as speakers reveal surprising aspects or dimensions of a seemingly-familiar topic or introduce new elements to the client-service dynamic.

As a professional communicator who lists coaches within my target niche, WBECS provides a high-standard insider look at coaches, coaching, and related challenges and opportunities. Bonus topics include business development and leadership.

Please let me share a few tidbits aimed at coaches, but valuable in many contexts. Each of these WBECS speakers made the highlighted comment within a high-content, thought-provoking webinar:

  • Opportunity Abounds: David Clutterbuck revealed the broad opportunity his latest research uncovered: Politicians may be the new big target. Politicians do not use coaches in spite of the fact that CEOs have come to reply on these professional sounding boards and productivity stimulators. Business opportunities are right in front of us. Don’t you mentally kick yourself when someone in your field steps forward with a brilliant idea that had been staring you in the face? [ https://www.davidclutterbuckpartnership.com/ ]
  • Intentional Learning: Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever, repeated the opening remarks he has become well-appreciated for: “How focused do you plan to be during this webinar?” Do you begin things you believe will be of value to you with this personal fresh-start? I’ve found declaring my intention to myself at the start of anything stimulates retention and assimilation. Thanks again, Michael. [ https://boxofcrayons.com/michael-bungay-stanier/ ]
  • Personal Branding: William Arruda explained his perspective on brand as consistent demonstration of your “unique promise of value.” Arruda reminded us that now the first meeting and first impression usually happen online, not face-to-face or voice-to-voice. As soon as your name is mentioned, you’re Googled. What is your answer to his compelling question: “What do you want to be known for?” [ https://williamarruda.com/ ]
  • Niche Development: Dorie Clark , who’s latest book is Entrepreneurial You, stressed that when you select a target niche suppress the tendency to attempt to envelope the entire community, profession, or sector you’ve identified. Instead, “go DEEP not wide.” [ https://dorieclark.com/ ]
  • Practice Expansion: Alisa Cohn emphasized the importance of a high closing rate (she’s surprised if she’s not 85% effective) to build your practice. An effective closing process, coupled with persistence and practice, which make delivery natural, ensures you attract the clients your practice is designed to serve. Cohn’s creatively-practical session sold the audience of coaches on the value of closing to clients and on the do-ability of this effective communication skill which is too often dodged by well-meaning professionals. [ https://www.alisacohn.com/ ]

Where do you get your inspiration and your insight into your prospects’ and clients’ needs?