Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
Lift your all-round business performance
One of the best ways to lift your all-round business performance is to develop a constant awareness that other people are not you.
It’s a valuable thing across lots of essential areas: management, sales, marketing, advising clients, and more.
The more you understand people, the better you get.
Yet so much business behaviour is driven by the idea that everyone is the same as you.
“Here’s what customers really want,” says the CEO describing his own preferences and the behaviour of his close circle of friends, like it’s genius insight into human nature.
“We’ve developed a campaign that will appeal directly to the lucrative 29-35 y.o upper middle class urban buyer segment,” says the marketing manager who has created a new target group to describe herself.
“All staff want is more money,” says the manager who has spent his whole career wanting more money.
“Many people have told me …”
A code red sign is the line “many people have told me”. Obviously it’s a Donald Trump signature line.
Business people love to use it to project their tiny sliver of experience into a trend for the entire population. They deliver it in a folksy tale that can seem pretty plausible in the meeting.
This gem popped up in a book I read recently from a chap who identifies as an entrepreneurial futurist.
Suuuuuure mate. Many times.
Pretty sure the correct version of this is “I wish someone had told me, just once, a line I have clearly written myself.”
Also, like the cluelessness of people trying to self-bestow a nickname, you can’t use that Tina Turner subhead about yourself.
This sort of anecdata from the most powerful person in the meeting leads to bad decisions. Entire products get launched that probably shouldn’t be.
Mark Zuckerberg: I’ve asked around. Everyone can’t wait to wear huge goggles all day so they can exist in an imaginary world, and all their friends and workmates will be in there. I call it the Metaverse.
Chief Coding Officer: Sure chief, but legs are really hard to do in a realistic fashion.
Zuck: We’ll have people with no legs then. Won’t be weird at all. Any other questions? Good. Now let’s invest, I’m thinking $23.9 billion over the next two years.
Your customers aren’t you
If you’re any sort of business leader, you’re driven by urges that the vast majority of people don’t have. Or want.
They don’t share your obsession with your product. Their daily lives are motivated by totally different things to you.
There is an entire genre of startups based around dropping off laundry, delivering meals from local chefs, finding user-rated babysitters and similar household tasks. Dreamed up by Silicon Valley tech bros who imagine that everyone else in the world wants to hustle or code every waking hour.
Pierre Azoulay, an economist at MIT, dubbed it “the internet of things your mom won’t do for you anymore.”
And almost all of those startups fail because they solve problems that don’t exist in wider society.
Anyone launching a new consumer product should spend as much time as possible in outer suburbs and regional towns, talking to people living normal lives and learning what matters to them. The latest world-changing trends lighting up your social streams aren’t even a tiny blip on their radar.
Your staff aren’t you
This “everyone is me” mindset is a great way to mismanage staff. Driven bosses who love financial reward for above-and-beyond effort believe all their staff feel the same way.
They’ll create complex incentive schemes based on what they, the boss, would respond to. Without asking staff if it suits them.
Staff are motivated by so many different things other than money. This is not to say you should not pay them well. Money is really important. But above a certain point, it isn’t going to change how they perform.
People do a great job because they’re proud to say they work for an organisation known for quality work. Because they have friends at work. Because senior staff take the time to teach them. Because they get to go home on time. Because their ideas are listened to. Because they enjoy the challenge of solving problems. Or because they can leave at the end of the day and totally forget about work and enjoy their lives.
There are hundreds more of these factors, and everyone has different preferences.
And it changes for different periods of their lives. Within the same job, they’ll go from “I want to change the world” to “I’m just doing this to pay my mortgage and look after my kids”, and that’s fine and normal.
Companies with thousands of staff have no choice but to apply a one-size-fits-all approach. If you’re a smaller outfit, you can treat people as individuals. It’s a major advantage in trying to recruit good people when your brand isn’t as well-known as the big players.
How do you find out people’s priorities?
Duh you talk to them.
Don’t ask them to fill out a stupid SurveyMonkey form from HR about what they like at work. That approach will prove that your workplace sucks as much as any other.
Don’t do it in a formal one-on-one meeting. Don’t ask them directly what motivates them because it will bring an uncomfortable Scientology vibe. Nobody is going to come out with a meaningful statement of what motivates them. It’s a deep, personal question that’s hard to talk about.
Just ask them how it’s going and chat. Watch for what topics light them up. Ask about their life beyond work. As you get to know them, you’ll get a sense of where their priorities lie, and how you can help make their work experience more rewarding.
If yours is the kind of business where it’s practical to get out and work alongside your people every so often, do it. Some people open up much more when they’re focused on doing something else. When they’ve had time to relax about your presence, where you’re operating on a more equal footing than normal.
It’s a glorious thing that people aren’t the same as you.
Think of the worst function in your organisation, the task so hideous it makes you squirm just thinking about having to do it (for me it’s any form of admin). There will be someone who lives for that task. Who thinks hard about how to do it better every day. Who is proud to do that job well.
Bless those people. Treat them with the respect they deserve.
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