3 Opportunities You Are Missing to Provide Value

17 Feb

Why Are People Trying to Provide “Value” by Asking What Others Want?3 Opportunities You Are Missing to Provide Value

Value-making seems to be a full time profession for many people. Everywhere you go there is somebody insisting that they are trying to provide value for their customers, their clients, their company. But what is the value they are trying to provide? People don’t seem to know. Why do I think they don’t know? Because they’re sending out too many surveys. They are constantly talking about value and constantly asking others about value, but they never define value. They value value, but don’t know what it is!?!

Value Is Generic

Value is really a generic catch-all phrase. It’s non-specific. It doesn’t tell me anything about what you do, what you think you should do, or what you want to do. Instead, you sound like everybody else when you talk about value. Do you really need a survey to tell you that people value great customer service? Or timely delivery? Or competitive prices? No, these things are generally a given, though some people will value one more than the other. These values are also generic. Most organizations have these very same values and make promises based on these values.

Problem 1: Organizations Don’t Really Listen

I don’t think people are really listening to the answers their customers, clients, or partners might be giving them about what they value. They’re not listening because the things being said aren’t direct answers. Instead, the answers exist in other interactions.

3 Opportunities to Listen and Provide Value to Customers

  1. For example, when I call any type of customer service line, I expect to get my question answered quickly and professionally. And everybody, including me, thinks their question is unique. No one believes their question is exactly the same as someone else’s question. So why is it so rare to get a real person on the line when you call customer service? Clearly these organizations don’t care about what I really want. But I bet I’ll get a follow-up survey asking me how the phone call went. Instead of this survey, why not have a real conversation with me when I call? Why not listen?
  2. When I’m checking out in a physical store, why doesn’t the cashier listen to what I have to say about my shopping experience?
  3. When I check out online, why doesn’t someone call me to help me through when I’m having trouble? Imagine that level of service.

Problem 2: Value Doesn’t Easily Scale

But these ideas are somewhat of a pipedream because these things many people value don’t easily scale. Amazon can’t scale that level of service to call any customer having trouble checking out online. They’ve already attempted to solve that problem with one-click shopping. Facebook can’t call you when you encounter a log-in issue. Target isn’t suddenly going to have their cashiers strike up a conversation about my shopping experience. Why? It wouldn’t scale well. The utility company, cable company, and so many others aren’t going to get rid of their artificial intelligence operators (standing by, but no real problem-solving skills). It doesn’t scale well.

4 Ways to Scale Value

First, listen in all the interactions you might have with a customer. Don’t have the interaction and then send a survey as a proxy for listening. If you send the survey after the fact, I don’t think you were ever really listening in the first place. Second, be proactive in problem areas. How can you help a customer solve a problem before he/she calls you? Call them first instead. Third, think of every other way you can listen without surveys and pursue those listening opportunities first. Fourth, give all employees the ability and authority to act immediately on whatever they are hearing from customers. Addressing issues after the fact (discovering them through a survey) is hardly ever as good as responding in the moment.

Conclusion: Value People

People want to be valued. Don’t wait to define your values based on surveys. Start first with valuing your customers as people.Constantly act on expected values by listening during conversations and solving problems proactively. If you do these things, you may find that you can say “You’re welcome” more often as customers thank you for your value-based based interactions.

Google’s Services Outage Is Exactly Why I Love Their Services

25 Jan

If you think Google’s Services Outage was a sign to not use their services, I disagree.Google Services Outage Update

[Take the poll at the end of this post]

Imagine having to deal with any outage on your own. Imagine any tech problems you’ve encountered in your own business or organization (or at home!) in the last year. How quickly did you handle them?

Did you have the best engineers in the world working on that problem? Did they resolve it in less than 25 minutes (in most cases) or a bit more than 30 minutes in others?

Did it cost you nothing for the troubleshooting and repair work? (Although I understand some downtime may have cost you in other ways…but maybe you had to start a real conversation or pick-up the phone?)

I prefer to leave my services in the cloud for a company like Google to handle them. They know people count on them. They have the best people working on them. I don’t really have to worry about them. They keep my data safe (well, I know the NSA is “helping” with that, too). They keep things running 99.9% of the time.

And when there are problems (which are inevitable) they’re fixed as quickly as humanly possible.

Thank you, Google.

How to Write a Grant Letter of Intent to a Foundation

21 Jan

How to Write a Letter of Intent for GrantsHow to Approach a Letter of Intent for Grant Opportunities

I was recently asked my thoughts on how someone considering a grant should approach writing a letter of intent to a potential funder. Below are my thoughts. Please add your own thoughts in the comments.

Do your homework – it’s not about what you want to do, it’s about what the funder wants to support.

  • Research their website. Look at what they currently support. Look at who is on their board and see if you can make any connections.
  • Give the program officer or foundation representative a call or email. Many are happy to answer initial questions about how your project might fit their goals.
  • Dig deeper into past grants by finding news releases, past newsletters, any quotes from program officers or board members, etc.
  • Know the exact grant opportunity specifications – does the funder state the average amount and length of grants? You don’t want to ask for too much or too little.
  • Dig even deeper – foundation 990 tax returns contain an unfiltered view of who has been funded and for how much. Even though a certain dollar amount might be publicly suggested the 990 will show you if any exceptions are ever made.

Write a compelling letter

  • Compelling means heart-felt, detailed, and specific.
    • Heart-felt – show your passion by succinctly describing the issue(s) the people/population you or your organization face and how you will address these issues
    • Detailed – demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of the issue be highlighting important facts and figures
    • Specific – but balance these facts and figures with specific stories or examples of the problem and how you will address the problem
  • Highlight how your project fits the funder’s area(s) of interest.
  • Concretely define what success looks like for your project.
  • Make a definite ask.
    • Define what it is you will do, how you will do, when you will do it, your audience, and what the funder could provide to make your project a success for the people you serve.

Follow-up and prepare for next steps

  • The letter is just a first step. You made be given a flat no, but you made be asked for more information, or given a qualitative yes.
  • Be prepared to respond thoroughly and in a timely manner.

Say Thank You

  • Regardless of the response you receive, say thank you. Hand-written notes work well and keep doors open.
  • Of course, say thank you if you are asked to submit a full proposal and be prepared to deliver a great one!

If you would like any help with your letter of intent, please email me at michael.e.roman@gmail.com or fill out the form below; I am happy to take a look through your letter of intent.

Download the PDF version of this article: How to Write a Grant Letter of Intent to a Foundation

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Good morning.

18 Nov

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The Art of Releasing Tension – A complement to the mantra of deliberate practice

26 Aug

If I were to tell you to pay attention to the tension in your body, where would you start?The Art of Releasing Tension

It’s hard to detect tension when it’s been with you for a long time.You cease to notice it; it becomes part of you. And it literally becomes part of you, manifesting itself as knots in your muscles, in your neck, your shoulders, your hips, your back, your wrists, and even your feet.

If you were to notice this tension and try to let it go, you would likely find it hard to do.The tension has become the way you compensate with simply living in your body. Instead of a relaxed state of being, your body has likely picked up habits of carrying tension. And these habits die hard.

I first became aware of the power of tension when I was in college studying guitar. My guitar professor was not one to reveal “secrets” of playing guitar to me. He was a great teacher, yet his style was one of self-discovery, I think. I never really knew if my self-discoveries were by his design or not. But I came to appreciate that space and freedom to develop my own style and habits of practice.

So I will never forget the day he practically yelled at me to let the tension go while I was playing. I still wasn’t getting it so he gave me a visualization. He said:

Imagine all of that tension you are holding in your left hand falling directly to the ground when you release your hand from the fretboard. And you should be releasing all of that tension each and every time you relax your grip on the neck of the guitar.

OK. That was probably the most direct mandate he ever gave me. And it was one of the most powerful. This changed forever the way I thought about playing a musical instrument, or doing anything with my body, for that matter.

I realized that when we say experts make things look “effortless” we are really saying, “look at how they masterfully release tension and utilize effort while they perform their art.”

This effortless comes from knowing the perfect balance between tension and relaxation. Unneeded tension is wasted effort. And if we are wasting effort, we have not perfected are craft. We practice to perfect our movements, whether it be playing the guitar, playing basketball, running, painting, coding, designing, taking photographs,or any other art we take on.We practice to release unneeded tension.

Now this isn’t to say we can’t waste effort. Sometimes our wasted effort provides beauty. It is the Little Prince who said:

It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.

But we must waste effort, or time, knowingly. We need to bring an awareness to what we are doing. It is only when we have mastered the art of releasing tension that we can bring that tension back into our art to make it even more beautiful.

So don’t just deliberately practice. Deliberately practice the art of releasing tension. Bring a new awareness to your body so that you know when and where you bring tension to your art. Learn to master this tension so that you can use to bring even more beauty to the world.

On Leadership, Sherlock Holmes and The Analytical Leader

20 Jul

If you tend to analyze deeply before you make decisions, this article is a great reminder about how that might affect those you lead.

Linked 2 Leadership

Sherlock Holmes

Being Holmes

Known particularly for his shrewd logical reasoning, Detective Sherlock Holmes most certainly possesses a strength both envied and despised. Despite the efforts of those he seeks to thwart, Holmes’s uncanny ability to weed through the details of a case, find the facts, and solve the puzzle has proven he is the best at what he does.

Some might call his methods perceptive, systematic, logical, or even rigorous.

In the Strengths world, however, it is known as Analytical.

Being Watson

One must wonder, what’s it like to work for someone who is Analytical? No one knows the answer to this better than John H. Watson, Holmes’s very own assistant.

As an Analytical leader, Holmes constantly challenges others, following the motto “Prove it”.

When developing a theory of his own, Watson can count on Holmes to ensure his thinking is sound and essentially bullet proof. In Holmes’s more unsophisticated moments…

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Recent Posts on Medium

8 Jul

If you have never checked out http://www.medium.com, now is a good time. It is a beautifully designed site with some fascinating articles. I was recently invited to write on the site and have made a few posts.
You can check out:

The Art of Releasing Tension: A compliment to the mantra of deliberate practice

This post highlights the tension we bring to our practice.

and

Our Utter Arrogance: Do you think too highly of yourself?

This post is a riff on the whole NSA situation.

I hope you find them interesting. Thank you for reading!

Management Philosophy: Things I Don’t Believe

6 Jun

My management philosophy?Management Philosophy- Things I DON't Believe
Here are some things I don’t believe:

I don’t believe in productivity, whether it’s demanding it or measuring it.

I don’t believe in yearly evaluations.

I don’t believe in excuses.

I don’t believe that people prepare well enough for most meetings and I don’t believe that most people treat meetings as if they are important.

I don’t believe in treating customers better than employees or providing better customer service to customers than employees.

I don’t believe that every meeting needs to stick to the exact agenda, especially if that becomes an easy way to avoid conflict or tough questions.

I don’t believe in skill sets.

I definitely don’t believe in skill sets.

I don’t believe age is an indicator of ability.

I don’t believe experience is necessary (though often helpful).

I don’t believe in hiding facts.

I don’t believe in ignoring facts.

I don’t believe that one person’s facts are enough to conclude the truth of the matter.

I don’t believe 100% is ever attainable, thus I don’t believe in launching when things are 100% ready.

I don’t believe in striving for less than 100%.

I don’t believe in management philosophies.

What don’t you believe?

How Silicon Valley Is Hollowing Out the Economy (and Stealing From You to Boot)

9 May

I often think about where money is flowing in our economy. This article does a great job of outlining some of the issues surrounding that question.
And as I often conclude, technology allows money to flow to too few people.
Read to the end for a fascinating idea about how to get some of that money back into the hands of more people.

Business & Money

Jaron Lanier’s latest book, Who Owns the Future?, begins by noting an instructive coincidence: the bankruptcy of the photography giant Kodak occurred within months of Facebook’s billion-dollar acquisition of the photo-sharing site Instagram. This would be just one example of the destructive dynamism of American capitalism, a process through which old companies are overtaken by new technology and new firms more in tune with the needs of customers — and that perhaps benefits us all.

Except for one thing, that is: whereas Kodak employed 140,000 workers during its heyday, Instagram employed just 13 people when it was purchased in April 2012.

“Where did all those jobs disappear to?” Lanier asks. “And what happened to the wealth that those middle-class jobs created?” Lanier’s answer is that the new “information economy,” which is now superseding the manufacturing economy, is developing in such a way that the rewards are filtering to an elite few at the expense of everybody else.

Lanier…

View original post 1,285 more words

Do You Want to Commit? Put Your Money Where You Want Your Time to Go

4 May

Do You Want to Commit-Put Your Money Where You Want Your TIme to GOWe often use money as a way to force ourselves to commit. This is evident in many areas: monthly gym membership fees vs. home exercise equipment or routines; free online college courses (The Truth About MOOCs: Only 10% Of Students Actually Finish Them) vs. paying for a college course; buying a book (we really want to read it) vs. checking it out from the library (maybe I’ll get around to reading it).

Is is that we are bored (The dirty little secret of online learning: Students are bored and dropping out) or is it that people have a hard time committing without putting their money where they want their time to go?

The basic concept behind these examples is loss aversion.People hate to lose what they have or lose money they’ve invested, whether in the stock market or in a gym membership.

Think about the sales of so many apps. What is the benefit to the user to pay for an app as opposed to using it for free? I think many times we buy an app only after we justify to ourselves that we will actually use it. The small amount of money involved-say $1 to $5-can also be enough to help us keep that commitment, at least initially. Once we feel like we “got our money’s worth”, the chances of dropping the commitment increase.

Think about many purchases you make and how they reflect your commitment.

You buy a new pair of running shoes because you want to strengthen your commitment to start or get back into your training routine

You buy a gardening book because you really want to start that backyard garden.

You purchase a magazine subscription because you really want to keep up on your topic of choice (ex. photography, economics).

You buy a set of 10 yoga lessons to make sure you show up every week.

For many of these ideas there are free or less costly options available. You may really need a good pair of running shoes to protect your feet, but why not check the gardening book out from the library? Or why not read all the articles on your topic of interest that are available for free on the internet? Why not buy that yoga DVD that costs a tenth of the cost of lessons?

I’m not saying one alternative is better than another. Spending money on the rights things is a great investment. It does help us commit and reach our goals. I’m saying that understanding why and how our purchases affect our commitment allows us to make better commitments and spend our money more wisely.

We may also benefit by recognizing that a monetary commitment can lull us into a sense of progression. We think we made progress on a goal because we put up money. But buying running shoes is different that actually running three times a week. Buying a set of yoga classes is different than showing up every week even when things get busy.

It is better to think through all of the things involved in keeping some commitment you want to make. Besides the money involved, do you really have the time? If you don’t have or won’t make the time, that monetary investment probably isn’t worth it. Money cannot substitute for time, although I think at times we would like it to. It is often easier to put up the money than to put up the time.

My suggestion: carve out and commit to the time investment. Then, evaluate and utilize the monetary investment to best reinforce your time commitment.

It can pay (pun intended) to figure out ways to best use our money as commitment strategy.

Tell us in the comments what ways you use money to make commitments stick.

Note: There are other clever examples of using this concept to make commitments stick.

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