Category Archives: Extreme Service Excellence

Align: Add Value By Raising Your Standards

Add genuine professional value to your services and products by raising your standardsyour measure of quality and excellence—to align with and exceed those of prospects, clients, and competitors.

When the goal is to add value for prospects or clients, too often the communication go-tos are digital marketing and hyped-up technology.

If flash and hype are what your clients value, what solves their problems, and what they’ll spend more on, go for it.

[ What’s Your Point? Book Excerpt: Chapter 10.1 Raising My Standards (2022). © 2021 PJ Wade, TheCatalyst.com ]

Most prospects and clients want to see themselves in your services and products. That’s how they perceive value.

Pay attention to how target prospects and clients express their beliefs on quality and professionalism.

Select standards and a work ethic that reflect and exceed target expectations.

A good measure of your success with this? How you behave—your professional standards—when you believe no one is watching or would find out.

Unless your standards are crystal clear to you, how can you meet and exceed them?

It’s not how you feel about your standards. It’s whether they align with and exceed target prospect and client standards and expectations.

How would you characterize the standards of quality and excellence by which you work and live? The standards that define your brand?
Are they average?
Above average?
High?
Exemplary?
Top of the field?

Who set your standards? Did you design them to meet the expectations of your selected target market? Your standards evolve from your upbringing, education, and personal life? Your profession’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice (however they’re named) are incorporated in your professional or business standards. Your personal standards for working with and for others must be what is most valuable to prospects and clients.

The key issue is who do your levels of quality or excellence revolve around, empathize with, and focus on. You? Your target prospects and clients?

  • The professional standards you adopt to deliver services, products, and advice should meet and exceed target needs and expectations. Their standards should be reflected in your service and product provision.
  • Your application of industry standards should be well-above average.
  • Your personal standards, which evolve over your life, speak to what matters to you. For target prospects and clients to value and respect you—and you them—their standards must align with yours, and vice versa.

You can tell people your standards are high, but do your actions consistently prove this? However you label your standards, it’s the quality category targets place your standards in that matters. Do you know when prospects and clients feel 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, 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 with first-hand experience of your products and services what could be improved and they’ll have a lot of suggestions. Clients always insist they’d share these ideas with the professionals if they asked. I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of your clients and asked them what could be done to improve the services and returns they receive. They have willingly told me about you.

The challenge lies in recognizing exactly how your standards and, therefore, your brand evolves—what you are doing, not doing…. That’s the invisibility of the box. Unless you regularly hire the right professionals to critique all aspects of your business communication, you have decided—consciously or unconsciously—to take on this evaluation yourself. Is that a wise decision?

Which standards of respect for others do you commit to?

  • Are you receptive and respectful when a prospect or client makes a suggestion to you? Or, do you, consciously or unconsciously, shift to a defensive “don’t tell me how to do my job” stance or persist with an “it’s all about me” attitude?
  • Many prospects and clients will deliberately test professionals to see how responsive and respectful they are. If they appear cold or patronizing, clients back off and may not bother sharing insight, returning, or referring. Then, both clients and professionals are losers.
  • Raising your level of excellence is essentially competing with yourself since you know you can always improve. However, if ego gets in the way and you feel you’ve already beaten the competition, complacency may override constructive curiosity and your standards may suffer as well as your clients and business.

A small thing to you, can be a symptom of a below-standard attitude to others. You may be unaware of this, but it is probably evident to prospects, clients, and competitors:

  • If you don’t listen to a client, why should they listen to you? Even if they stay with you, will they follow your suggestions, give you all their business, or refer you?
  • If you don’t respect a client’s opinion, why should they respect yours? Clients who don’t believe that their hired professionals also respect them, may not be as open about their concerns, the extent of their needs, and their commitment to you.
  • If service, advice, and product standards are based on you at your best, what happens when stress, illness, family issues, or time pressures interfere and you are not at your best?
  • If you are not from the same generation as your target market, ageism or prejudice against or toward age, may be a disrupting factor. 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:
    • Not listening to an idea may be an ageist brush-off or may be perceived as such even if it is not.
    • Offering suggestions may be ageist criticism or may be perceived as such.

Mediocrity creeps in through insecurity, sloppiness, poor time management, bad habits, sensitivity to criticism, inflated ego, stress, weak powers of observation, and in too many other ways.

Without constructive persistence guiding you toward the best path forward, you will always slip back into old habits and follow established ruts or ingrained patterns of behavior. That is, you may slide backwards or go nowhere in spite of good intentions unless you continually and deliberately renew your determination to move forward and raise your standards.

How do I know my standards of quality and excellence are aligned with and exceed those of my chosen target markets?

For more on improving professional value: Disruption: Get Out of Your Own Way!

© Copyright 2021. PJ Wade, TheCatalyst.com. All rights reserved.

Mars Rover & ET Team Leadership

What's Your Point? Mars Rover Helicopter

Mars Sky Crane: Great team results from a less than acceptable idea

Mediocre Team Leadership

In a strong economy, many professionals and businesses are “too busy” to improve communication techniques and approaches, including their team leadership style.

These professionals and executives see little value in or need for change. That’s why “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” “we’ve always done it that way,” and numerous other workplace superstitions are mistaken for business strategies

During hard times or significant competition, too many professionals, teams, and organizations ignore the possibility that they succeeded in boom times because business was plentiful, not because they were at their best. Many suffer the combined influence of mediocrity and an industry-wide need for improvement.

The first step from experience to expertise involves believing that, even when you are at your best, there is always room for improvement in every aspect of communication and, therefore, also the return on investment (ROI).

Next, comes the commitment to continually search out that improvement room and make the most of it for clients, teams, and yourself. That is, when you believe there is a better way, you’ll continually discover opportunities to communicate more effectively, efficiently, and with more innovation.

[The above is an excerpt from “What’s Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” Chapter 1.2 What Is My Return on Improvement?]

Mars Rover & ET Team Leadership

Adam Steltzner, Leader and Chief Engineer of NASA’s current Mars 2020 Mission & Rover Perseverance, thinks beyond the confines of gravity and what exists now to hone his, and therefore NASA’s, view of the future. To get where he believes we can go—Mars in this case—Steltzner, author of The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership and High Stakes Innovation, knows he needs extraterrestrial- or ET-strength team work to get there.

Speaking at the Urban Land Institute Spring 2021 Meeting, Steltzner explained how he brings out the best in his team and he produced ET slides to prove his point. Pre-Covid, that complex team numbered over 6,000 working “shoulder to shoulder”; when Covid hit, the team scattered to remote work locations, leaving only a handful on site. An inspiring speaker, Steltzner laid out key simple facts and deliberate actions to illustrate what creates collaborative cultures.

Highlights from Steltzner’s ULI contribution that can improve your team leadership:

1. Sort fact from opinion: Find balance in a sea of differing perspectives.
Each part of a team knows what is important to it, but the team or its leader may not see the overview. Balancing perspectives involves understanding the challenges of others. Leadership integrates team perspectives and does not encourage teams to work in silos.

2. Make great teams and you will make great work.
Strong teams result in strong products and services. Leadership involves determining how to strengthen teamwork and, therefore, results. What approach do you use, not to push teams to do more under pressure, but to make them stronger as a unit so they naturally achieve more?

3. Find something to love in everyone you work with.
Look for the value in each team member and each team unit and you’ll discover how to lead that team to full value.

4. “My door is always open” policy and unstructured connections in hallways are hard to [replace virtually.]
Steltzner encourages adding 15-minute unstructured “meetings” to team member schedules. No agenda, no list of speaking topics, just “bump into you” clean slates to fill…or not.

5. As a leader, finally, I have been seeing the benefits of less is more. Talk less, listen more.
“We are programmed to want to do more by adding more—features, processes…. This pandemic is a teaching moment—to see how, with less, we can do more.”

An essential element of team leadership is an open mind.
Steltzner earned acclaim for leading the “breakthrough” team that imagined and built the ingenious “sky crane” landing system for the Rover Curiosity which landed on Mars in 2012. In 2021, after a 6-month, 200,000,000 miles flight, the Rover Perseverance landed safely and seemingly-effortlessly on Mars with the sky crane..

To solve the complexities of a safe Mars landing, every possible, and several impossible, solutions were examined. In developing the challenging mini-helicopter “sky crane,” a 2003 “solution,” which was originally labeled “least acceptable,” was dusted off and put under scrutiny. Only as the team dug into the idea, were all the features and potential it offered discovered. “All the attributes—which were amazing and we could leverage amazingly—were not evident when the idea first appeared.”

What potential improvements have you overlooked?

Times have changed dramatically in many respects. Have your systems, procedures, and policies kept up with these changes and our new futures?

More on improving communication…

Hybrid Events: Technology or People?

Virtual event site from connecteventhub.com

ILEA rooftop event hub allowed breakouts and main event with flair

Hybrid Events: The latest hot trend, but is it worth following?

Hybrid events which are part live event and part virtual or digital are a sign of pandemic times. Can’t let Covid-19 get in the way of progress after all,

Since live events can quickly turn into super-spreaders—even if they are allowed—virtual or digital meetings make sense, but can be a let down. Are hybrid events the solution? Just because we can, should we?

Trends involve many others doing the same thing, which proves to many that following trends is safe and profitable. Does that mean you’re smart to jump on the Hybrid Event trend for your next special meeting?

Before you dive in, or hire an Event Professional to dive in for you, think.

Ask two key What’s Your Point strategic questions before you jump online to search anything:

  • Question #1:  What’s my point in hosting an event? That is, when this is a roaring success, what will have been accomplished, communicated, and proven? What is there to gain? What is there to lose?
  • Question #2:  Who’s my WHO for this event? Your pre-Covid WHO may have changed dramatically under pandemic pressures. Is it time to redefine your preferred or target client—your WHO—by re-identifying your target market as it exists now, not as it existed pre-pandemic? Or should you target a different ideal client?
    Timing is everything these days. What will your WHO want or need by the time you expect their buy-in for your event?

Is technology or people the focus of your event?

“Hybrid is a misnomer,” said Boston-based Kevin White, CSEP and Chief Strategist at XPL, an award-winning experiential design agency, during his keynote at a recent virtual meeting of the Toronto Chapter of the International Live Events Association (ILEA). This digital meeting welcomed participation of Chapter members from across the country in a virtual rooftop garden generated by sponsor Connect Event Hub.

White stressed that doing a virtual event and at the same time doing a live event is not a hybrid event as many label such happenings. This is a multichannel event since there are two channels involved: live and digital.

Participants attending either of the two channels will each have a different experience and want different things. If the event is not a hybrid event, can participants have a hybrid experience since the client experience is top of mind in savvy businesses?

“We’ll see true hybrid where the individual experience is a blend of virtual and live,” said White.

His suggestion now? “Use virtual so you can do that safely, if you do not want to have to cancel. If a live version would collapse at any moment, what’s the point of doing it? This is a risk-taking decision. If the next 8 weeks go smoothly, we may be in a good spot in June of 2021. We may be OK. So do a single channel of virtual and do not think about live. The future is not hybrid.”

White emphasized that digital audiences need as much engagement as live-event audiences to entice them to attend the initial virtual live event. Live and in-person has the draw of urgency and immediacy. What is important enough at your digital event to entice attendance when organizers desire it? The worse incentive to attend a virtual live event is offering a view-anytime replay. Everyone loves replays, but who actually views them?

Event professionals are, by definition, ready for anything. That’s the nature of their fast-paced, change-a-minute business world, so the pandemic has them digging deeper into the creative, but not sacrificing safety to do so.

White stressed the importance of building pandemic safety from the start, throughout a live event, as people leave, and once they are home since these are all Covid-19 contamination points. Making individuals feel personally involved in their protection by including post-event follow-up identifies the professional-events skills involved.

Considering your next event? What’s Your Point?

  • Often when business owners hire professionals in any field, these would-be clients end up telling the professionals how to do their jobs. The pandemic continues to keep the world off balance, so that professional expertise and experience is essential to achieve results in spite of continually shifting norms. Is it time to stop telling and time to ask professionals for their assessment of what you need to achieve your definition of success?
  • Technology can distract you from the people you wish to serve. Events are made exciting by technology, but it’s the excitement of attendees that really matters. Event professionals will dazzle you with their problem-solving expertise and their creative-communication powers if you listen instead of telling them “we must have hybrid because everyone’s doing it.”
  • Read on…Uncertainty Is Certain AND Manageable

Defy Mediocrity & Resistance

How do you defy mediocrity to overcome resistance?

Developing the ability to unknow allows you to freshly apply your expertise in existing or new contexts to overcome resistance in yourself and others.

In times of change, this resourcefulness is the most powerful communication lesson experience teaches us.

Unknowing—that is, consciously letting go of existing patterns and behaviors to embrace change—challenges professionals and their clients. Many find it difficult to alter their immediate reactions. They overlook the need to shed and ignore the benefits of shedding related habits in behavior and decision making.

One key reason is that, although they say their intentions may have changed, context does not.

Merely saying “I’ll try to…” when stuck in the same frame of reference and with the same mind-set, means they are destined to repeat their established behavior.

Predictable or reflex reactions are frequently associated with communication errors. With experience, these often-dated mind-sets can be anticipated and counteracted before miscommunication occurs. That corrective communication process is an essential element of the established and emerging services you are paid to deliver to clients.

What have you learned by observing communication errors made by clients, colleagues, and competitors as they deal with challenges, including flawed decision making? If you do not test errors like these for cause and effect, you can drift into mediocrity.

You’ll miss opportunities to head-off repeat mistakes and misunderstanding, which often materialize as resistance, and chances to save others from the same fate.

The following are three examples of opportunities to expand a client base, increase sustainable revenue, and eliminate miscommunication that are often missed:
1. What convinced you to stop looking for someone else to blame and started you understanding the chain of events and communication flaws that cause undesired outcomes, including resistance to change?
2. Which social-media-related communication problems and solutions do you anticipate will challenge you, your target prospects, and your clients?
3. How do you minimize problems and lower resistance to make your online-delivered solutions, including products, services, and standards, easier for targets to further customize?

Successfully heading off communication mistakes for you and your clients means adapting the way you think and communicate to ensure you are always steps ahead. Instead of reacting to what happens, anticipate prospect and client reactions to minimize miscommunication, misunderstandings, and missed opportunity—all elements of resistance to change.

When this proactive skill is perfected into consciously-ingrained communication ability, opportunity is rarely overlooked or discounted.

© 2021  Copyright   PJ Wade The Catalyst   “What’s Your Point?  Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” All rights reserved.

Decision Barriers to Avoid (+ exercise)

Are you decisive or do Decision Barriers get in the way?

How aware are you of how you make decisions?

Do you make decisions differently in the midst of a pandemic than you did before Covid 19 descended on the world?

Before the pandemic, did you make decisions differently when they were your decisions about your life than you did when the decisions concerned your clients and their lives or businesses? What has changed now?

Or has the pandemic kept you from much contact with clients and prospects, so you feel out of practice?

What do you want to improve about your decision making now and post covid?

Your normal approach before the pandemic…What did you say to clients and how did you compensate clients when you overlooked key selection factors or, in hindsight, didn’t choose the best approach to problem solving for them? Or did you stay silent and hope clients didn’t notice?

Your approach in the future…how do you intend to react to the issues in the previous question post pandemic?

The following excerpt from “What’s Your Point?” (to be published in 2021) Chapter 6 “What is Communication?” is an opportunity to take a close look at your decision making process.

Exercise: Action NOW MeAnticipate Decision Barriers

Answer the following questions quickly and in writing (to engage your brain full on) for the most useful results.

  • Am I so focused on helping others make decisions that I forget to question how well I make decisions which affect my income and reputation?
  • What was behind my hesitation in the last tough decision I made?
  • Are the hesitation triggers involved in my other past difficult choices listed below?

Don’t be surprised if you can check off more than one barrier to that decision making. Simple decisions aren’t simple, after all.

Hesitation Triggers & Barriers

  • Procrastination
  • Lack of commitment to possible outcomes
  • Ignoring steps in the creative process
  • Undue pressure and arbitrary deadlines
  • Out-dated thinking, ingrained habits, and biases
  • Impatience
  • Fear, conscious and unconscious
  • Overconfidence
  • Personal agenda
  • Financial pressure
  • _____________ (What has experience revealed to me?)
  1. If I improve my decision making approach, can I think of three ways that will enable me to help clients with theirs?
  2. List three improvements to my support of client decision-making concerns which will be reflected in my bottom line.
  3. Identify three ways increased decisiveness will help me engage with prospects and clients more effectively.
  4. Select five ideas for marketing, business development, product design, or service delivery that are inspired by Hesitation Triggers & Barriers.

Do you understand that the more conscious you are of your decision-making habits, the easier it is to anticipate barriers and to achieve success for all concerned?

Re-visit this exercise in the future when faced with significant decisions to make. Compare what you did previously or “normally” with how you now anticipate decision barriers.

Additional resource: Here’s an example of how to help clients by showing them how to deal with hesitancy and negative aspects of decisiveness in the context of your work together. This article is written to help real estate buyers and the real estate professionals who serve them address this topic —”Buyers: Hesitant or Decisive?

PJ “To facilitate decision making, concentrate on shifting or transforming uninformed thinking into a constructive mindset. With the assistance of your professional expertise, guide prospects and clients so they pivot to an informed point of view.”

© 2020 PJ Wade The Catalyst  “What’s Your Point?” (2021)

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

Innovation: Six KickStarting Points

Innovation—which represents an invigorating kickstart—can begin from any one of Six KickStarting Points:

KickStart #1. Who?

You. Yes, you.

Rely on innovation to come from others and you won’t be receptive when an opportunity appears to you.

  • Know a lot about a subject or service? Your in-depth understanding may allow you to shift parameters or factors around for a new take on the norm. Go as far as exploring the ridiculous, impossible, or outrageous and the new mix may lead to innovation.
  • Know little about a topic or trend? Your clean-slate perspective, combined with your professional-grade comprehension of other topics, may reveal “cracks and crevices” where new ideas could take hold and flourish.

If you’ve always been a “just the facts” professional, remember, it’s never too late to innovate.

KickStart #2. Where?

Innovation may come to you from across the country, the other side of the ocean, or over the net, but the seeds of inspiration lie, often overlooked, close at hand:

  • With your prospects: Their lack of experience with you and your services, leaves them free to have high expectations and to welcome the impossible. Instead of quickly dismissing their ideas or firmly setting them straight on how things have always been done, stop and listen. Consider what they share with you and delve into how to apply their fresh perspectives.
  • With your clients: Their experience with you and your advice, has them coming back for more, but exactly, “Why?” If they’ll answer that question honestly and candidly, you may discover how and why they see things differently from you. This insight, combined with revelations of what they misunderstand or what they understand better than you do, can feed innovation on many levels from product design and branding to goal achievement—yours and theirs.

KickStart #3. What?

Does innovation need to be disruptive to make an impact? No, nor “brand new” or “unique.” Innovation may be large or small, a “lightning bolt” or a tweak, dead-on invention or fruitful mistake. When innovation is effective, it starts a chain reaction or avalanche of ideas, new behaviors, reactions…that trigger new products, expand markets, grow ventures, and expedite goal achievement.

KickStart #4. When?

Always. Stay curious and alert wherever you are and whatever’s going on. Ideas will come to you and further thought will build them into practical innovation.

  • When are you at your most creative and curious? What environments get your creative “juices” flowing? Conferences or symposiums where there’s deliberate mixing of old ideas and fresh new ones? Or is your spirit awakened by experiences widely different from work—travel, sports, museums, music….
  • Don’t just follow old patterns like restricting the search for new ideas to the start of the new year or September’s carry-over fresh start from back-to-school days. Incorporate the search for innovation opportunities into every month, week, and day until it’s your signature habit to continually explore possibilities. Innovation’s the one thing you must make time for to grow your business, earn credibility, deserve trust, and stay ahead of competition.

KickStart #5. Why?

One of the most effective creative approaches for searching out innovation is the one I call “WHY 5.” Ask “Why?” five times and answer thoroughly each time.

  1.  Ask “Why?” and thoughtfully answer this question.
  2. Then ask, “Why?” regarding this first answer.
  3. Take that thoughtful response and ask “Why?” about that answer. By the third response to your “Why?” questions, you’re beginning to dig down and reveal how much surrounding this element of service delivery or another aspect of your business is habit, mediocrity, or “we’ve always done it that way” inertia.
  4. Ask “Why?” again and you may find yourself in unexplored territory.
  5. By the last “Why?” evaluation of your fifth answer, new ideas abound.

If you don’t get this KickStart reaction, you’re not genuinely digging deep to answer each “why.” There’s no benefit without this work.

KickStart #6. How?

How will all this apply to you? What is unique about the context of your work and that of your target clients? The Five Innovation Realities shared in my article, “Ready for Essential Innovation?” will help you evaluate context, meet challenges ahead, and achieve your goals. Discover how in perspectives on innovation common to sales professionals—in this example, real estate and financial professionals—which have implications for all professional communicators or wannabes.

For more on another step forward, check out these posts:

For more 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)

Supercharge Communication: 3. Facilitate Decisively

Supercharge Communication by continually perfecting and investing in EVERYTHING that you need to be effective at and are already good at…facilitate decision making to supercharge effective communication.

The following excerpts from Chapter 6 in “What’s Your Point?” explain why continually perfecting the art of decision making is a valuable, even essential, investment in effective communication for professional advisors and persuaders.

#1. Confident Decision Making

Effective communication is vital to sharing ideas, building knowledge, and making decisions. At its best, effective communication results in fruitful collaboration and confident decision making.

Experience has proven to you that facilitating confidently-made decisions benefits prospects and clients. And you! You’ll also establish value in your offerings to both groups.

Professional expertise should facilitate effective communication and negotiation to ensure that desired results are achieved or exceeded for clients. This should be true for every consumer transaction, business deal, meeting, interpersonal workplace interaction, professional consultation, and offering of products and services, whatever the medium, content, or context.

The prospect and client procedures you’ve employed to build your business and client base can be improved on by analysis of how decision making is facilitated. It’s that simple when there are no hidden, under-handed, compromised, dishonest, or criminal intentions involved.

#2. The core evaluation question is, “How can what the professional sees as relatively-simple decisions appear complex to clients?”

Your success is linked to how well and how consistently your communication, in all media, addresses this question when prospects and clients are selecting, choosing, evaluating, buying, selling, investing….

Professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, and advisors must have above-average skill and knowledge in decision making relevant to delivery of their advice, services, and products. This will include the perfected capacity to interview, facilitate, negotiate, and analyze.

Success for clients often rests with how effectively and credibly the professional communicates to create comprehension in each client’s mind.

“Why?”-questions are inherent to and embedded invisibly and otherwise in most procedures and decisions that require professional advice or intervention.

From financial and medical advice to purchasing and education details, consumers and business-to-business decision makers seek out knowledge, skills, and guidance to enable them to confidently make decisions that matter. The more quickly and completely they understand the whys associated with a specific set of choices, the more quickly and completely they can confidently make a final decision that is their best choice.

Professional communication expertise identifies and explains these issues to simplify and clarify what exactly must be chosen or avoided, and why. This reveals precisely what acceptance involves.

Professionals who do not understand what their clients do not understand, often say: “It’s a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision. You want it or you don’t. You do it or you don’t.” But it is not that simple to the client or would they hesitate?

Clients who are overwhelmed or distracted by details correctly and incorrectly related to a decision—even one described as simple by a professional—believe it is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision, and hesitate to act. They may feel they have more questions than answers and resent being made to feel inadequate. Pressure cancels out trust.

How do you assist prospects and clients in becoming confident about their decision making? What has proven to be your most useful tool in this process? How good are you at personally making decisions with confidence, especially under pressure?

#3. Mastering the Complexity of Simple Decisions

The significant professional purpose in communicating is to make good decisions easy and comfortable to make, and to help others—prospects and clients—confidently commit.

Professionals, advisors, executives, and entrepreneurs are decisive by nature, training, and goal-setting. It’s not surprising that many often think they are great decision-makers. Some even believe that making decisions quickly is a sign of decisiveness, which it isn’t necessarily.

Commonly, after a few years on the job, most professionals feel they have learned all there is about the decision making process. They believe it’s just content, in the form of product specifications, office procedures, and client “hot topics,” that change, not the decision-making process. Professionals who truly understand how ill-prepared most prospects and clients are to make decisions, understand how the professional can help. These professionals realize their value is linked to clients’ confidently-made decisions.

The more professionals understand about the process of deciding, the more useful they are to those that rely on guidance to make up their minds and end second guessing. This is true whether you sell goods, services, or both to individual clients, businesses, or organizations.

The first time you went through one of your profession’s or organization’s decision-making procedures with a prospect or client, it required a lot of concentration, thinking, remembering, and analysis on your part to genuinely engage and serve. Prospects are going through your process for the first time, so remember what that felt like.

Each subsequent training session and actual sale seemed to require less conscious thought from you, even though details varied with each prospect and client. If the professional is selling services or products, particularly when standard, frequently-repeated procedures are used, the prospect or client may be at an even greater disadvantage.

After years of experience, many prospect and client service procedures are second nature to you. They can be carried out almost effortless, and you may feel they do not even require your full attention. Some professionals have gone through the process so often without giving the prospect or client individual attention, that the professional feels they could fill out the form alone. That is not necessarily a valuable progression for prospects and clients, or for the professional.

Conscious effort is required to observe opportunity for improvement, and to identify weaknesses or redundancies in procedures and processes. Have you reached the stage where you can work on auto-pilot? How is that constructive progress? What are you missing that clients, who are not jaded by repetition as you are, and competitors, anxious for opportunity, would value or could contribute?

#4. The following discussion relates to guided persuasion, presented as friendly helping and caring concern. This is not a discussion of high-pressure tactics or heavy-handed selling, which have no place in professional communication.

  • Do answers to the following questions represent information that is readily available to you, or that is largely unknown to you?
  • How many decisions are there for prospects to make from the first prospecting contact until the transaction is finalized and follow-up is complete?
  • Do you have a flow chart or similar outline of this process to share with prospects and clients? If not, how does that foster continuous improvement to the clients’ benefit?
  • How many decisions do you make in managing this process?
  • How is each procedure documented, analyzed, and checked for compliance with legal and ethical standards to protect the interests of the prospect and client?
  • How frequently and thoroughly is each decision-making procedure reviewed and revised?

Your goal in this evaluation should be to identify aspects of decision making—clients’ and yours—that make deciding seem simple with experience and complex without, or without trustworthy professional advice.

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

⇒ Example of how real estate professionals could supercharge communication.