Archive for August 2012
People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it. – Edith Schaeffer
For the majority of us the struggle to achieve work-life balance is a constant one. Even with all of the technology we have at our fingertips, we seem to rush through life at an even faster paste. More now than ever the hectic day-to-day life of most Americans is filled with fifty percent work, forty percent family and ten percent self.
It’s hard to conclude if the true struggle is in finding the balance or defining it. Being the diverse individuals that we are, cultural and geographical upbringing plays a large part in what our image of perfection is. One thing for sure no matter what part of the world you are from, American culture has its own myths of what perfection is or should be. We are fed the dream of obtaining the perfect job, the perfect house and the perfect family. We live the majority of our lives chasing this perfection and carrying the guilt as we run the race. Perhaps we should open ourselves to seeking a more guilt-free life and allow more choices of what perfection is. One of the best ways to do this is to stop seeking perfection and seek happiness.
Happiness over Perfection
In an ideal world perfection would equal happiness. Yet it’s ironic that to be truly happy we must learn to let go of perfection. There are many stages to letting go. It’s important that you conquer each one as they come. Here are five steps you can take to get you started.
1. Know your self-worth: You are good enough just the way you are. Your opinion of yourself is the only opinion that matters. When we are happy with ourselves others are happy with us. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself. Spend more time focusing on the qualities about yourself that you like and less on the ones that you dislike. Your very existence is the proof of your value. Life has no price tag and appreciation of your life starts with you.
2. Don’t compare: The first that we must do is redirect our focus inward instead of outward. Keeping up with the Jones’ drives the focus to someone else, who may very well have the perfection you seek, but not happiness. Focusing inwardly will abort the competing and the feeling that you’re inferior to anyone else. Appreciate yourself and focus what you have done and are doing.
3. Keep your environment realistic: Perfectionism is contagious. Don’t allow the beliefs of others persuade you to live a life you are not at peace with. Surround yourself with family and friends who focus on living their best life and encourage you to do the same. Minimize your contact with all of outside deterrents that encourage the environment of perfection.
4. Accept the nature of mistakes: Making mistakes is how we learn. It’s the law of nature. It’s how birds fly and how babies walk. By nature no one is perfect all of the time at everything. Accepting that we will make mistakes opens our eyes to weaknesses and gives us the opportunity to strengthen. It’s not our mistakes that define us but it’s how we recover from them.
5. There are no failures only lessons: We only fail when we do not learn from adversity. When something doesn’t go the way we planned, there a lesson to be learned. Face your failures head on and apply them when you come up against a similar situation. Instead of aiming for perfection, aim for wisdom and internal growth.
Perfection means different things to different people, therefore it can not be defined for you. If you’re focusing on someone else’s’ definition of perfect, you may never obtain it. If you focus on what brings joy and happiness to your life, not only will you define perfection for yourself but you will have obtained it.
When we set out to do things that haven’t been done before, healthy tension will always shadow us. ~ Amy Jo Martin
If you never dare to fail you are guaranteed never to see success. It’s very common for someone embarking on a new endeavor to feel fear and tension as they get closer to their plans actually becoming a reality. It’s even more common for fifty percent of those people to abandon the idea due to the fear and tension of possible failure. Entrepreneurs find it hard to walk away from the opportunity to see their dreams become a reality. They are not immune to the tension that comes with fear of failure, but they do not underestimate their ability to recover from failure, allowing them to move forward with opportunities.
Take the power out fear by understanding how it affects you. Walking into the unknown is the major source of fear. There is no way to know what the outcome of an endeavor will be, so analyze ways that you can control the tension that comes with it. Seeing the whole picture will help you see through the fear make the logical decision to keep going.
The Endeavors You May Be Facing:
Tension appears every time something changes in our life. When we have to adapt to a new situation we have the choice of seeing it as positive or negative. Some life situations that we face:
- Starting a new business, Going into a partnership, Taking on a big client, Taking your business global, Giving a speech, Quitting a job, Learning a new skill, Changing career paths, Moving to a new state/country, Traveling alone.
The Tension That Comes With It:
Immediately following the emotional feeling of tension are the thoughts that drive how we react. In most cases we sift through the negative before we allow the positive to penetrate. Some of the thoughts that feed tension:
- Failure, Not being understood, Not being heard , Not knowing enough, Your moving too fast, Your moving too slow, Too young, Too old, It’s never been done, It’s already been done, Too out dated, Too innovative.
Control The Tension:
I am the master of my fate. Famous words but true. We have the power within ourselves to boldly face new endeavors and turn the usual negative tension that comes with it into positive nuggets that give us more strength to follow through. Some things we can do to control tension:
Gratitude. Whenever you feel fear, switch it over to what you are grateful for instead.
Keep A Journal. Getting your fears out of your head and down on paper releases you from constantly thinking of them.
Communicate. Don’t throw a pity party, but find a friend or family member who you can share what your feeling with.
Perspective. Put negative thoughts in perspective. Focusing on the negative will block out any positives that are present.
Pray/ Meditate. Seek inward guidance to overcome your fear and tension. Hear the inner voice that speaks positive truths.
More Sleep. A well rested mind and body is clear of the fogginess and better able to challenge tension.
Try Yoga. Fear, tension or any negative energy can get trapped in your body. Yoga allows you to breathe and mentally release it.
Try a Getaway. Give yourself time away from the situation. Spend a few days in an atmosphere far outside endeavor.
Using tension as a positive, rather than viewing it as negative is the ultimate secret weapon of entrepreneurs and people who carry out their dreams. Used to your advantage, tension produces the best problem-solving and clear decision-making at the most fearful times in your life. Commit to understanding tension and taking on the unique perspective of controlling a negative emotion . The benefits of mastering tension will be seen in the success of every endeavor you face head on and conquer.
Most people don’t purposely set out to become a Subject Matter Expert. Over a period of time a person realizes that they have accumulated more knowledge about a specific subject than any other. The best use of this knowledge is to establish and enhance your business’s perception. By establishing yourself as a Subject Matter Expert you lay a perfect foundation for building your Business or Personal Brand. The benefits of being an SME vary by industry, but the universal benefits could be very lucrative and self satisfying for you. Your knowledge is valuable to your customers and it’s your knowledge that sets you apart from the rest, but just knowing about a subject is only the beginning of becoming an expert.
To obtain the label Subject Matter Expert, you must be consistent and invest a lot of time in developing your expertise. Being up to date or even one step ahead in a particular field allows you to go beyond just providing information. Bypassing unseen errors and offering actionable solutions to current ones are the sweet spot for most SMEs. What are the key characteristics of a successful Subject Matter Expert?
1. Stays Within Area of Expertise
A successful Subject Matter Expert knows his/her area of expertise. It’s important not to generalize or you may find yourself grasping at straws and coming up short. Be specific. Businesses come in all shapes and sizes and so do their products or services. Expert fields are made up of a core body of knowledge, and then broken down to even more specialized fields. Accounting is a base field, corporate or small business is more specialized. The more specific you are about your area of expertise the better you will be able to serve the customer. Staying within your area of expertise allows you to respond quickly and more important accurately to the customer’s needs.
- Anticipates the customer’s needs and actions
- Self-corrects without disrupting customer’s business goal
- Coordinates processes unique to each customer’s need
- Maintains clarity of their role
2. Able To Simplify Communication
It’s not what you know it’s what you do. What customers care about is can you solve th problem and help them meet their goals. What knowledge you bring to the table is good, but to the customer it’s just information. What you know has value, but what you do is what matters to them. Most SMEs have a hard time taking the shortcut in communication. What you know is the sum of many years of education and work experience, it’s important that you be able to only stick to what pertains to your customer’s concerns. Instead of focusing on the information, focus on how the customer will use the information. A key trait of the SME is the ability to compact detailed processes into a well communicated package that customers can quickly digest.
- Understand the keywords and natural language your customers
- Ask questions to be sure of the customer’s comprehension
- Communicate ONLY what pertains to the customer’s problem
- Keep the customer engaged with emails, telephone calls or regular face to face meetings
3. Stays Passionate About Your Expertise
Successful SMEs know the value in creating great relationships and strive to sustain engagement long-term. They understand that it takes time to build credibility, trust and influence in the business community. Credibility result from a long-term strategy of growing and evolving by participating over time in activities that will achieve personal and business objectives. Reading publications and web sites dedicated to your expertise helps develop the theoretical side of the area of your expertise as well as understanding the trends for your area. Take on the daily challenge to educate yourself on how others in your field think and do their work. You will be surprised how being on the outside looking in gives you an advantage. Join professional organizations and associations. Let others in your field know your out there and what you have to offer. Be available to answer questions and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Study your target audience’s wants and needs
- Research what questions are they most commonly asking?
- What issues/problems are they looking to solve?
- Know what new innovative trends are being introduced
Being good at what you do doesn’t make you a great source unless you provide an awesome experience customers will remember. Subject Matter Experts that only focus on the problem, solve the problem but fail to create a memorable working experience for the customer. Staying within your expertise, communicating well and showing sincere passion are all important characteristics that solve the customer’s problem and makes the process a great experience as well. The more great customer experiences you create, the more success you will have.
Know what your customers need most and what your company does best. Focus on where the two meet to create the best customer experience.” – Kevin Stirtz
Today we hear a lot about how customer service is focusing more and more on the emotional aspects of the customer’s experience. Businesses are tapping into the psychological understanding of how people make decisions. In the past customer service was defined by the business and focused on how to fix problems after the fact. Today, customer service is defined by the customer and the focus is not only on the end result, but the beginning and the middle as well. To offer the best customer service you must offer the best experience.
Take the time to measure customer service value. Evaluate the agreement made with your customers. Discuss any gray areas found and replace them with clarity. Your agreement with the customer is the roadmap of their experience, tackle possible bumps in the road early and misunderstandings are less likely to happen. Create processes that allow constant feed back that will point out any red flags. Continually upgrading your agreements is a great way to ensure you are providing the ultimate customer experience.
Customer experience is more than just service
Meeting customer expectations is still a requirement for good customer service, but meeting this requirement alone is no longer sufficient. Your business processes, policies, and strategies must be aligned with your customer’s priorities. Talk to your customers about their world and differentiate your brand to align with their expectations. Fifty percent of the customer experience is subconscious, or how the customer feels about your business relationship. Businesses can no longer simply focus on product or services. Instead, companies must engage and understand the emotional interactions with their customers.
A great customer experience doesn’t just happen. Customer experiences are planned journeys that lead to a specific destination. The customer’s problems and needs dictate what the journey will be. By listening and understanding the customer, you can plan an experience that guarantees success. You don’t need to think about your customer 24/7 but you do need to have communication with them on a regular basis. Hear what your customers are saying about what they’re currently experiencing and then create actions that take their experience to the next level.
What makes a good customer experience?
- Know your customer – Get to know your customer’s business. Be able to anticipate their needs.
- Be approachable – Develop a business relationship that the customer will respect and be loyal to.
- Have clear definitions of services – Be sure the customer knows what you will and will not do.
- Communicate often – Contact your customer often just to touch base. A weekly phone call or email goes a long way in showing you care.
- Be consistent – Over promise and over produce. Always look for ways to go above and beyond. Never let customers feel like you’re getting slack or taking them for granite.
Although there is no formula to creating the perfect customer experience, by communicating and listening you can create a unique experience that’s perfect for each particular customer. Be prepared to innovate. As your customer’s grow and change, their experience with you must change as well. Great customer experience translates into repeat business, which translates into business success.
Customers have changed over the past few years, and your branding and marketing message needs to change with them. Today’s weakened and uncertain economy has caused customers to educate themselves before making decisions. Universal marketing messages from the past no longer suffice. Customers don’t trust what you say, they trust what they see. The power of the Web and global communications now provides unlimited information sharing, which has increased the level of expectations the public has for businesses and how a business communicates with the customer.
Often when you hear about transparency branding, you hear how leaders need to be more transparent with their ideas and decision-making, but I believe that it goes even further, with true transparency branding the customer doesn’t see the company they see themselves. When customers need of a service or product they’re look for what they feel best represents who they are. First, customers want to know that their need will be filled or problem will be solved. Second, customers have to feel a connection that translates into trust that produces a committment.
A brand must use consumer participation to shape the fundamentals of what it offers people. It’s the game of relevance, and brand and consumer must be on the same side. – Tracey Follows, VCCP
What is important in ‘transparency’ branding
Before any customer will trust your brand you have to trust it first. How must passion or belief you have in what you’re doing will translate to the customer as your someone who will get the job done. By nature people trust what they’re familiar with. The more your brand resembles th customer, the better chance you have they will trust that your product/service is a perfect fit.
How can you use transparency to build trust
- Share what your goals are for the customer. This shows the customers that the two of you think alike.
- Discuss how will reach these goals. Be open with the customer about your skills and work ethic. Customers who feel your work ethic resembles their own are more likely to have long-term relationships.
- Share who you are working with or have worked with in the past. If your current or past customers are familiar to your potential customers they will feel more comfortable to commit.
- Package your services/product to fit into your customer’s lifestyle. Get to know what your target customer is currently using. How well a service/product works keeps a customer coming back. How well it fits into their lifestyle creates the initial committment.
- Put it in writing. Have a good product/service agreement or contract that the customers understands and agrees with. Spells out what you will do and what happens if you don’t. The customer feels comfortable when they see you are prepared to back up your words with action.
Mirror image –
If customers does not see themself in the brand, then it’s unfamiliar and an emotional connection is never made. To emotionally connect with customers a brand must be able to disclose what it is about the company that mirrors the customer. Once the customer sees themselves they are emotionally connected, and usually followed by the decision to commit.
How can the customer see themselves in your brand
- Use adjectives. The same words that would be used to describe your ideal customer should be used to describe your brand. i.e. if your customer is fast paced and extravagant, you wouldn’t market your product/service as
- Mingle with your customers. People are comfortable associating themselves with brands that are already in their circle. Let your customers see you out attending the same community and business functions that they do.
- Know the trends of your customers. Just because your brand appeals to the customer today doesn’t mean it will tomorrow. Be aware of what trends your ideal customer is moving toward. Customers need to know you’re innovating and growing as fast as they are.
Transparency branding is only the first step. In addition, your product/service must solve a problem and add value to the customer’s life or business. However, if the customer doesn’t emotionally connect with your brand you will never even have the opportunity to prove that what you have to offer is the perfect fit.