Lately, I finish almost every conference talk in the same way. Sharing with audiences that they are able to future proof their businesses if they stay close to the value exchange with their customers.
A customer-centric strategy FUTURE PROOFS your business. Businesses that fail to do this don’t last long. It makes sense, doesn't it? Add value for your customers or clients and your business will thrive. It’s at the heart of commerce as an idea; it’s called the exchange of value. In the world of business, they call this 'customer centred strategy'.
In a relationship, however, it might be touted as 'put the other person first'. My father used to joke that the key to a great marriage is compromise, ‘happy wife, happy life’. Groan. These days, this seems quite old fashioned, somewhat insulting and chock full of some serious cognitive bias. The kernel of truth behind it, however, relates to something that Zig Ziglar once said, ‘You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.'
For you to achieve this, though, you have to move from a focus on 'me' to a focus on 'we'. My friend Janine Garner wrote a great book, called From Me to We on this very idea. This might also be called switching from 'attention in' to 'attention out' (which I talked about previously here). This is what great leaders do; they switch from being great to helping others to become great.
We are firmly entrenched in a period of egotistical narcissism. Much of it based on little more than 'this is how I feel today'. Lots of opinions, lots of sharing, lots of ‘look at me’. There is lots of freedom to self-express, not a lot of encouragement to self-regulate.
I used to worry that this culture of self-absorption was dooming our society. Yet, I have come to realise that it is just part of the classic cycle of maturity. We grow from the belief that 'it’s all about me'; to wanting others to 'look at me'; to finding that 'you and me' is what is important; then 'it's all about you'; and ultimately, 'there is no me' where we live entirely for others.
Although you might inherently be led to think otherwise, you don't disappear in service to others, you turn up in service to others. I wrote a whole book, Amplifiers, on this idea - how leaders can amplify the best in themselves and their teams. I use the terms ‘i’, ‘you’, ‘we’ and big ‘I’ to discuss where our focus is on the path to becoming a leader who works in service of others.
A customer-centric strategy FUTURE PROOFS your business.
Here are some stepping stones that will help you elevate yourself:
If you are caught in little ‘i’, know this:
It’s OK to be scared, just don’t let fear run your life.
You are correct. We can all see that you are scared and no amount of blaming, shaming or complaining will hide it from an evolved other.
Because we know you are scared, we stand back and let you run around breaking and hurting everyone around you.
We indulge your personal stories and your bias because we have to, not because we want to.
Your drama doesn’t matter and so we let you have your tantrums.
We can see how exhausted you are and even though we want to help you, you make it so difficult for us to do.
Chill out. It’s not always about you.
Put down your paranoia, drop your weapons.
Breathe, and say these three words often: Sorry. Thank you.
You don't disappear in service to others, you turn up in service to others.
If you are caught in ‘you’, know this:
You are not always right.
Defending your point of view is unnecessary.
Being right is not as important as being kind.
No one appointed you Opinion Maker.
Don’t preach, teach. And only if you have experienced it first. Understand that we each need to live through our own lessons.
Pointing fingers at others only highlights what you are deeply afraid of.
We don’t know all your secrets and they don’t matter to us.
Stop competing with everyone, it’s not a race. And if it was, you wouldn’t be the winner.
What you do to one of us, you also do to yourself and all of us.
Go deep inside yourself and heal the hurting little kid. Tell your seven-year-old self that it’s OK. You were doing the best you could with what you had at the time and it’s not your fault.
And again, for those in the back, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
Practice letting go and surrendering. Try going with the flow for a bit.
Work on being patient and slowing down.
So, now that that’s done, can we start to work together, please?
While the first two stages are about OPINIONS and THOUGHTS, the next two are about SPACE. Get into the space of WE, not ME, and from there, you will begin to experience the power of being big ‘I’, your best version of yourself.
Try to realise that you are part of something bigger than you. An egocentric view of the world is statistically flawed. How could 1 person in 7.4 billion really matter as much as you sometimes think you do? It makes no sense. Part of this ‘something bigger’ is how we experience our self in relationship to others. We need to realise that the learnings of this life are often found in the desired and denied elements of our relationships. It is in service to others, that we ourselves will thrive.
It is in service to others, that we ourselves will thrive.
These four simple ideas might make the path easier:
Say thank you
Focus on gratitude as a tool, not just a behaviour. Gratitude helps you switch attention from 'woe is me' to 'wow, thank you'. Trust me, this is a much better place to live.
In her book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, Dr. Michele Borba, makes a case for why empathy is becoming the ultimate competitive advantage. She unpacks techniques that parents can use to help their kids to become more caring and why this will matter more in a tech-centric future. This book also helps your kids to stay kind in their generation’s Lord of The Flies culture of queen bees and wannabees.
Be about Joy
To borrow a phrase from a very popular lady, ask yourself, what sparked joy for you today? Find small moments of joy and be a well of freshness to others (joy as freshness is a teaching of Zen Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh). This is about the importance of experiencing the small things, nature, laughter and perspective. Don’t take everything so seriously. In the now moment, there are no worries. It’s only by projecting upon the past, and prematurely inviting the future, that we fail to be here now (this is a core mantra form the teachings of Harvard professor turned Mystic, Master Ram Dass).
Focus on your best you
Self-reflection is an important tool for lifting yourself. Most people will check in their actions, in hindsight, and rate them as above or below the line of intent. If you choose to, you can rewrite your story. What happened to you is not always an indicator of what you’re capable of in the future. As Tony Robbins often states 'your biography is not your destiny'.
To be your best self, work towards the big ‘I’.
It has long been my opinion that you lead best when the best version of you talks to the best version of us. To be your best self, work towards the big ‘I’.