“But, there are a lot of things that we are good at!”
The frustration filled the manager’s voice as he reviewed the less-than-positive results from a survey of his group’s internal customers. The feedback stung. He might as well have been told by a complete stranger that his baby is ugly. And trust me on this one, no one likes to be told that their baby is anything other than adorable.
The reality of today’s market-driven world is brutal. We are all better at some things than others. Most of us are actually excellent – or at least better than average – at some aspects of our business or personal performance. And, that doesn’t matter unless what we do well adds value to the customer.
The first two questions must be answered for every individual, team, and company to stay relevant in today’s world:
• Are you good at the things your customer values?
• Does your customer value the things at which you are good?
Your answers will determine your market share and profitability as a business. There is a reason why the Apple iPad is flying off the shelf while other tablet devices are hoping that someone will bump into them and knock them into a shopping cart.
Your department’s or team’s answers to these two questions will have an enormous impact on whether your employer retains your function or outsources you as a commodity.
Your personal answers to these two questions determine the size of your paycheck, the amount of your raise, and whether your employer fights to keep you from leaving for a better opportunity. There is a reason why the stars on any professional athletic team make more money than the journeyman. We are compensated based on our perceived value.
You don’t have to be totally amazing in every sense of the word. You must simply be better than those with whom you compete at the things that matter to your customers. Erasmus (of Rotterdam) said it well way back in the 1500’s: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
The Real Question
The third – and most important – question is, “What will you do differently as the result of your answers to questions one and two?”
Every company, team, and individual should ask and honestly answer the two questions about their value to the customer on a regular basis. This is a once per year activity at a minimum. You should do it more often if you compete in a volatile market. The most successful leaders are continually on the lookout to ensure that they are good at the things their customers value.
Unfortunately, most people and organizations won’t do much, if anything, differently based on their actual value to customers. They might ask the questions once. A few will bring it up as an agenda item in a team meeting or strategic planning session. But, most of us won’t answer the question much less do anything different.
We all tend to be guilty of 3-D Vision – Denial, Distortion, and Delusion. We deny the facts, distort reality, and delude ourselves into thinking that our challenges and circumstance are out of our own control.
3-D Vision will make you, your team, and your business irrelevant. And, there is nothing more tragic than individuals, teams, and companies who are good at some things becoming irrelevant because they didn’t have the courage to look at and improve their value in the marketplace.