Category: I’ve Been Thinking

Sequoia and the Power of Silence

August 8th, 2019

My best friend from high school and college was in town recently and we went to Sequoia National Park. First, I must say, what a ride to get to Sequoia on winding, mountainous roads! Once we arrived, we went to the ‘Trail of 100 Giants’, and it was impressive! These Sequoias were over 1500 years old, and gigantic. The largest tree has a diameter of 20 feet and is over 220 feet high.

Yet what stood out was the power of silence. You could hear the rustle of the wind in the trees. It sounded similar to sitting by the ocean. It certainly was a calming and humbling experience as the silence and the sounds of nature overpowered everything else.

Have you ever thought about the power of silence? Do you find it to be more effective than 1000 words? In a business setting, silence can speak volumes…

One tip to implement this week:
We all hear the advice to stop and listen.  Yet, how often are we thinking about silence? The most powerful speakers know the power of silence. The dramatic pause will emphasize just the right words. Certainly the best actors use this technique expertly, and we are putty in their hands!

Or have you thought about how not answering immediately answers the question? For example, at one client, I admit that after a particularly grumpy executive who didn’t want to support our project told me that he didn’t think consultants were valuable and didn’t want to talk to me to answer my questions, I was silent because I was thinking about how to respond that would be productive. Sometimes, it is better to be lucky than brilliant! In this case, since I didn’t respond quickly, he ended up filling the proverbial silence (since we weren’t communicating in person) and came back to me and agreed to do exactly what he just said he wouldn’t do. A light bulb went off that there is power in silence!

Silence is extremely valuable in negotiations. Have you noticed that whoever is silent gains the upper hand? That’s because we are typically uncomfortable with silence and rush to fill the gap. Next thing we know, we’ve given away more power and information than we intended, and we are behind in the negotiation. Yet I have to say, silence used as a manipulative strategy will not achieve your intended result. People will pick up on whether you are genuine or not.

Consider silence instead of a long response the next time you are going to open your mouth in a high stakes communication. Let me know how it turns out.



Dana Point and the Customers’ 1st Experience with Your Product or Service

August 2nd, 2019

Last week, I went to Dana Point for a good friend’s daughter’s wedding. It seemed like an opportunity for a mini-getaway.  So, I spent the night at the Marriott (pictured). Not only does Dana Point appear majestic with the view of the water, the lawn in front of this hotel provides a great first impression.

Your customers’ first impression can be very important. It gives them a “feeling” about your product or service. As my consulting mentor says, “Logic makes people think. Emotion makes them act.” In this case, it gave a calming and majestic feeling. Great for the end of a busy week!

What is the first impression of your product or service? Does it appear to be high quality? Or is your service welcoming and customer friendly? Mainly, is it what you would like it to be?

One tip to implement this week:
Start by taking a step back to think about your first impression. What would a customer experience? One idea is to ‘shop your business’. If you have a product, go to shipping to see what your next customer will receive as a first shipment.  Also, check on the carrier or truck to understand the delivery experience. Perhaps order your product for a family member (so your team doesn’t know it is for you), and see how it arrives. If your provide a service, call a customer upon your team’s first interaction.  Or go to the point of service and observe or test your service. Test your perceptions.

Once you gain an understanding of your first impression, consider ways to improve upon this first impression. Don’t just think about what you would want. Put your mind into your target customer’s experience.  What value could you add (that doesn’t have to cost anything) that they would appreciate and value? The clients that do this the best have a completely different relationship with their customers. It is worth pursuing if you’d like to increase your customer value and your bottom line!

 



A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity for Manufacturing, Logistics & CA to Align

July 15th, 2019

Last week, I went to the California Capitol building as a part of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership’s (IEEP) regional leadership academy. It was interesting to hear how the process works. I also am also representing the IEEP’s Logistics Council as it relates to moving forward with the Brookings report recommendations to create a consortium of logistics and advanced manufacturing excellence in the Inland Empire.

We are positioned ideally to scale up and partner with industry, academia and government/non-profit partners to achieve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of aligning seemingly disparate goals of manufacturing, logistics, California government and the federal government’s interests to achieve a win-win-win-win. Wouldn’t that be a feat!

The idea is simple. The Inland Empire’s predominant high-paying professions include logistics and manufacturing. The IE has been outpacing all of California in job creation due to these industries yet they are not typically supported (to say the least!). Since they are contributing vitally to the IE community and jobs, we have the cards stacked in our favor:

  • IE logistics is #1 in the U.S.
  • IE manufacturing is strong and vast (SoCal is #1 in manufacturing in the U.S.)
  • The IE has access to great talent in the local and surrounding area universities (CSUSB, UCR, Drucker, Harvey Mudd, Cal Poly, Redlands), community colleges (Norco, Chaffey etc.), and partners such as GA Tech
  • And, the IE is in the unique position to leverage advanced technology to increase customer value, improve profit and create clean technologies as a win for the environment, X.

Thus, we are scaling up and collaborating for success.

This opportunity didn’t just fall into the IE’s lap. The leaders saw potential and ‘went for it’. Are you looking for opportunities?

One tip to implement this week:
In our work with clients, it is commonplace for clients to ignore vast opportunities such as this exciting initiative. There are always roadblocks, different interests, money flows to address and lots of other issues that arise. The key question is whether you are looking at each issue as a detriment or if you see the big picture and train your eye to ‘see’ a successful path forward.

Recently, our APICS Inland Empire chapter had the opportunity to provide training and education to Target (thanks to our partnership with the University of LaVerne). When the opportunity arose, we didn’t know how we would scale up and fulfill it successfully. However, we took the leap of faith to create value and had the confidence that we’d figure it out.

At first, we were worried about executing against our commitments.  Yet, it all fell into place. It forced us to be a bit more creative.  So, when the next leap of faith opportunity arose to provide manufacturing and logistics education to high school students to help bridge the gap to a profitable career, we went for it. We continue to evolve as we go but it has allowed us to make a difference in a way we would never had pursued or been involved with previously. Are you taking a leap of faith?



Participation is More Fun

June 20th, 2019

During my recent trip to Sicily, Prague and Belgium, I went on several food tours. I have found food tours can be a fun and interesting way to get to know an area, as well as the food that is unique to the area. So, of course, when in Italy, what better than to have a food tour and make your own pizza! We sort of participated in making limoncello which is always a great taste to include on a tour.  And, we definitely made chocolate treats on a chocolate tour in Brussels.

Each time an activity was included, it added a new twist to the food tour. Isn’t that true with work as well? If you want someone to learn a concept, develop an exercise or a way for him/her to participate. Since returning, I taught a CSCP (certified supply chain professional) class at the Target distribution center and another class with two students at the University of LaVerne/  We had interesting interactive discussions. The students brought up real world examples to participate and relate the concepts to everyday work scenarios and gain immediate advice on a few issues. Bringing concepts to life with active participation is much more memorable than just talking or droning on about a topic. How can you bring concepts to life at work?

One tip to implement this week:
Think about how to build clarity and build participation into your conversations, presentations and discussions. As Jerry Seinfeld says, “I will spend an hour taking an eight word sentence and editing it down to five.” Similarly, I’ve noticed it might take our team at least that long to distill one key concept into a graphic. It is well worth it if the point is clearly communicated and our recommendation is understood and supported. In this case, think about how to engage your team, audience or client to participate in the solution. Not only will they understand it much better but they also will be aligned with it!

There is an art to developing participation exercises that will engage the audience while achieving your end outcome. I find it much harder than it appears. Ask your favorite speakers, educators and leaders how they do it. Take note when someone does it well. How do they introduce the exercise? How do they engage the team? Do they tie the results to the next topic or business need? Little things go a long way. For example, try making your exercise relevant to the audience. When explaining the importance of bills of material for a clay company, we used play dough to make some simple items (thanks to my colleague Diane Garcia for that great idea!). I’d love to hear your ideas for successful participation.

 



Language & Why Quality Is Lost in Translation

June 14th, 2019

I recently returned from a trip to Europe and it highlighted why language and positioning matters. Of course, when visiting Sicily, Sorrento, Prague and Bruges, different languages and dialects were spoken.  However, my comments about language and positioning relate to English. On a day tour in Prague, we had an extremely knowledgeable guide who wanted to tell us everything she knew. We could understand her English.  However, she was opinionated about where we should stand when listening, whether we could stray to take pictures, and whether we could ask questions if she hadn’t told us what she thought we should know. She didn’t position her language in the interests of her customer, so it really wasn’t as enjoyable as other tours where the guides clearly didn’t have the same level of experience and expertise.

I bring this up – because I still was glad I went on the day trip – however, this same topic has arisen multiple times in business in the last several days. In one project update call, the project manager presented important information. Yet, the way he presented it made it seem like the world might be coming to an end, even though it was FAR from reality and not his intention. It could have had drastic unintended consequences if we hadn’t spoken up to re-position.

In another client meeting, the group was talking about relevant details but all the CEO heard was blah, blah, blah because he wanted the bottom line – what those details meant. Of course, he wanted to know that the details were reviewed but the lengthy and wandering explanations made him feel uncomfortable in the conclusion (perhaps we protest too much) instead of confident. The details were intended to provide evidence to support, yet it backfired similarly to the guide’s endless stream of facts instead of focusing on the highlights that were relevant to the customer. Instead, speaking with confidence and conveying that details were considered (without going into detail), highlighting the bottom line result would have done the trick. I can’t tell you how many valuable superstars in clients are overlooked because they don’t know how to use language and convey their ideas successfully!

One tip to implement this week:
As someone who started out horrendously in presenting and positioning, I can tell you with confidence that it is a learned skill. Start wherever you are and make a new effort to improve. Don’t worry about perfection.  It is DEFINITELY overrated. Just strive for improvement on a daily basis. According to my consulting mentor ,Alan Weiss, if you improve by 1% a day, in 70 days you are twice as good. If you think about it, that is really quick!

Start by positioning what you say in the best interest of your audience,not in the light of what you assume is in their best interest. This alone can be revolutionary!

When I was a VP of Operations, I couldn’t understand why a plant manager, who reported to me,  seemed to believe what she said.  It was obviously untrue.  It’s wasn’t until my best friend in an unrelated field explained that people believe their own perceptions and they don’t have to match reality. I was thinking from my point-of-view instead of hers.

How many times have you used arguments to gain approval, funding or resources/support that you would use vs. those that would appeal to your audience? More than we’d like to admit I’d guess!