Strategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World by Anne Baber, Lynne Waymon, André Alphonso, and Jim Wylde
Play a little. Business conversations can feel heavy, stale, and boring if you can’t laugh a little together. Marquette University professor Father John Naus, once said, “We rarely succeed at anything unless we have fun doing it.” How true. We’re not talking about having a joke for every occasion, but rather seeing the light side, relaxing for a moment in the midst of serious business talk, and laughing together to create a feeling of camaraderie. Phil ran into some coworkers going home on the commuter train the day he was promoted. The car was crowded, so Phil was hanging on to the strap. Then, Jake scooted over on the seat and said, “Here, Phil, sit down. If they can make room for you at the top, we sure can make room for you at the bottom” (page 137).
Now analyze your own strengths and weaknesses. What are the strongest elements of your product or service as they relate to your customers’ deepest wants and needs? Where do you get the most compliments from your customers on your products or services? What makes your customers the happiest when they buy and use your products or services? You must be crystal clear about the answers to these questions. Where is your product or service weak in comparison with your competitors? What is it that you need to change or improve in order to offset this weakness? What can you do immediately to compensate for this weakness so that it is no longer an obstacle to a customer buying from you rather than from someone else? All good marketing strategy is aimed at identifying where your competitor is superior and taking steps to compensate for that strength, and meanwhile identifying where your competitor is weak, and exploiting that weakness (page 40).
Individual goals are the mechanism needed to bring a given strategy to life. The reason the strategy communication plan is so critical is that it opens people’s minds to what the personal commitments need to be in order to execute. I worked with a vice president of operations who did a remarkable job of helping those on his team build robust goals in support of company strategies. He led the small team meetings to share corporate strategies, as we discussed earlier, and added an interesting exercise. First he told everyone to write down how they could personally contribute to the execution of each strategy. Then he had everyone pass those notes to the person seated to the right. The team members took turns reading the commitments that had been handed to them. Because the people reading the notes had no reason to defend what was written, others could ask questions and make suggestions in a comfortable environment. The owner of the goals (the individual who wrote them initially) took notes and then made revisions based on input. At the end of a couple of hours, each team member had tight, aligned goals, including milestones and dates for completion (pages 116-17).
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