Tag: engagement

Do you truly want to be here?

November 15th, 2012

It’s a question we ask all the time, though we may not know we’re asking it. We ask this question because we’re drawn to people who want to be here, and averse to people who would rather be somewhere else.

For instance, here in the Northwest there are two kinds of coffee shops. The first is staffed with people who don’t appear to want to be there. The person at the counter responds to your coffee order as if you’ve interrupted him to ask if he could tie your shoe laces for you.

The second kind of coffee shop is infested by alchemists who delight in your enjoyment of their products, service, and experience. Where do they want to be? Right here, right now, making coffee they believe could, in some small way, change your life. Every interaction for them is an opportunity to infect others with their passion for coffee. They know that not everyone will catch the bug, but those that do will return.

We’re instinctively drawn to people who are present and engaged. They want to be there. Which is why we should be mindful that the people we serve (students, clients, co-workers, and customers) ask this question of us: “Does she really want to be here?”

What’s fascinating is how we answer this question for people we serve. They study our facial expressions, attitudes, responses, and a host of other subtle cues. Research on this topic makes it clear that these cues don’t lie. They speak the truth about whether we want to here or not. We can all tell the truth, even without asking.

    The Listening Organization

    October 24th, 2012

    Listening organizations are the most engaging organizations on the planet. Non-profit organizations, corporations, and universities that listen attract people because they get the people they’re trying to serve.

    Listening organizations study us with Cousteau-like fascination. They engage us because we sense that they get us, know us, and understand what makes us tick.

    Ace Hotel, Apple, and Starbucks study their clientele and create experiences for them that resonate at a personal, meaningful level. But they have to listen to do this well. So do you.

    The DMV doesn’t get us or care to get us. They’re not listening.

    What tools can you use to listen to the people you serve?

    Surveys and focus groups alone won’t suffice as listening activities—not if you don’t dig deeper. Understanding the truth about people is an art. This is why one of the least effective ways to find out what people really want is to ask them. View content and data as windows through which we can better understand people. Look through the glass, not at it.

    Listening organizations don’t merely collect feedback. They invest resources to decipher meaning—a commitment that reveals the depth and authenticity of their interest in us.

    You strive to engage people each day. How do you listen to them, and, more importantly, how do you intuit meaning?

      Are you still making acorns?

      September 22nd, 2011

      I was out running yesterday when I came upon an enormous oak tree that was actively dropping acorns. I gathered a few in my hand and noticed for the first time the enormous contrast between a single, simple acorn and an elaborate, ancient oak tree.

      Simplifying the complex is a form of art that oak trees practice each year. In the course of a lifetime their ever-growing branches house generations of birds, squirrels, and tree forts. But each year they still produce simple, elegant acorns.

      Too often the way we communicate about a topic mirrors the complexity of our knowledge of the topic. As our knowledge grows we need the discipline to refine the complexity of our knowledge into its essential, most defining elements.

      This is how our knowledge grows more complex, according to George Loewenstein, behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University: we want to know more about what we already know. Through learning more about a topic we discover gaps in our knowledge. These gaps spike our curiosity and motivate us toward deeper understanding. In time, as we fill these gaps, our knowledge grows more elaborate and nuanced–like an oak tree.

      The resulting depth and complexity makes us a resource to others. Your physician, for example, is a resource to the degree that she seeks to fill gaps in her knowledge base. But her inability to communicate her topic in relevant terms prevents her from engaging her patients, a shortcoming that renders her less of a resource.

      The simplest, most refined presentation will draw people to your message and to you, the messenger. This discipline makes you and your message more accessible and engaging.

      As you grow into a tree remember to ask yourself, “Am I still making acorns?”