I was honored to be a returning guest blogger on Arment Dietrich‘s must-read blog, Spin Sucks. Here is a repost of a recent blog…in case you missed it!
As humans, we like to fool ourselves. At best, it’s a way to be kind to ourselves (“It’s ok to eat this on vacation!”) and at worst a way to maintain excuses (“I’m too tired to exercise”). As business leaders, however, it can be the worst kind of risky. When you try to look at your own project, business, or even employees without a sharply tuned critical eye, you end up with a viewpoint that inevitably provides some data, but not necessarily the right kind.
I evaluate other organizations’ experiences every day. I work hard to maintain a true third-party perspective, because I know what happens when you’re on the inside looking further in. You make assumptions, based on history. You acknowledge success based on completing a project, whether it is working for your customers, or the business, or not. You hear what you want to hear from existing customers and employees, regardless of what they’re really trying to tell you. But I’m also realistic. We run businesses because we want to do it ourselves. We don’t need to hire an outside consultant for every little glitch. We are often our biggest critics, right? (If you just shouted, “that’s an excuse!” you’re catching on.)
Following are six ways I recommend to truly gain an outside perspective on your company:
- Google It! It’s no secret to search yourself to see how others might see you. But what about your customers? Your competition? Your employees? Do a few different searches on a few different search engines to see how a prospect, a job seeker, or a blog reader might first gain an impression about you and your organization. Click through the links presented and ask yourself, “Is this putting our best foot forward?”
- Mystery Shop Your Organization: Call into your business as a prospect. See what happens. Really listen and think of it as Acting with a capital A! Dive into your character, think about your motivation before you call. Then listen carefully and take notes. If you were actually that person, would you buy? Why or why not?
- Gather Communications from the Last 30 Days: Take a critical eye and review your blog posts, your newsletter, your invoices and anything else you’ve sent to customers. Do they each represent your brand in the same way? Would you bother reading it if you hadn’t sent it?
- Review Your Employee Interactions and Communications from the Last 14 Days: Within the last two weeks, have you dragged your employees into more than three meetings? Have you sent emails you now see were rude, curt, or unappreciative? How are they paid? Is it cold? Are there conflicting pieces of communication about your future, your vision or your plans? Employees are looking for a clear path. Make sure you’ve delivered that to them.
- Call a Few Customers, Past and Present: The trick here is asking the right questions. Don’t ask “What could we have done to keep you?” It’s too open-ended and most of the time, we humans really don’t know! Ask “What did the competition offer that made it more attractive for you to leave?” Don’t make these calls about sales – make them about listening. And a cautionary note – it’s hard NOT to hear what you want to hear and it’s difficult (believe it or not) for customers to say what they REALLY think to you, especially if you’ve had a personal relationship. You will get the *partial* truth, at best.
- Hire A Third Party: I know I said this isn’t always an option, but nothing can give you the gift of perspective faster. Even by taking the steps above, we’re still likely to read the communications with the voice in our head saying, “Oh that email wasn’t written well because that was the day when everything hit the fan and I was in a bad mood!” Or, seeing nothing wrong with the invoices we send because they are accurate and paid on time. That’s not the same as someone reviewing your experience from the customers’ perspective. Humans, it turns out, are tricky. We love to fool ourselves. So do yourself a favor and ask another human to be your eyes and ears when it matters most.
What do you think? When is it vital to bring in the outside perspective?
Photo Credit: _moonpie