Chili and Your Intuition:
Eight Ingredients for Making Better Strategic Decisions
by Jeff Mowatt
As a business owner or manager, what you ultimately rely on most when deciding
your company's future, is your intuition. The challenge with so many stakeholders
relying on you to make the 'right' decision, is ensuring that your instincts
are reliable. Effective leaders hone their intuition the way a chef cooks
a pot of chili. Like chili, intuition needs to include the right ingredients
and then be allowed to simmer a while. Here are eight ingredients for you
to stew on.
- Get customer coaching
Even as a senior executive, you'll end up making better decisions after
spending some time at the front line talking directly with customers. Ask
them the key question, "What can we do to improve our service?"
- Listen to those in-the-know
It's an understatement to point out that Sam Walton had good business instincts.
Wal-Mart's founder said, "Listen to everyone in your company, especially
the ones who actually talk to customers. They really know what's going on
out there." 'Nuff said.
- Ask your competitors - really
I'm not just referring to visiting your competitor's store. If you are in
a service industry there may not be a store per se to visit. One
of the best ways to learn from the competition is to join your professional
trade association. There are associations for virtually every occupation
on the planet. I've always found that when it comes to joining a professional
association, the more you get involved and contribute to the group, the
more you ultimately receive. Give a lot to your association and your competitors
will share a lot with you.
- Read by listening
Business books are filled with great ideas; providing you actually read
them. As a time saver, consider buying your books on audio so you can listen
while driving. I subscribe to a service that sends me summarized audio recordings
of two business books each month. I find myself listening to books I wouldn't
otherwise read and I invariably get at least one good idea from every summary.
- Get some seminar smarts
Some folks seem to think that once they complete their formal schooling,
there is no need to continue with their education. That's like exercising
in college and then figuring we can sit on the couch for the rest of our
lives. Learning isn't an event; it's a lifelong endeavor. Make a practice
of attending seminars and training sessions. A bonus of learning with others
is that you have the opportunity to exchange ideas, network, and - provided
you have a skilled facilitator - end up having some fun and stress relief.
- Learn the unwritten rules
You may have a wonderful new idea for your company, but if it clashes with
the culture, you'll soon face resistance and subversion. Savvy individuals
learn where the company has come from so that they can reinforce and uphold
closely held values as they introduce change.
- Clarify your code
We all read the headlines of high profile managers facing criminal charges.
Apparently, their primary moral code is maximizing short term profits at
all cost. Increasingly, individual managers are being held personally accountable
by shareholders, government regulators, and consumers for their ethics.
When making strategic decisions, ask yourself, "Is this the right
way to conduct our business?" I found that since I clarified my personal
values and priorities, my business decisions aren't always as expedient,
but they certainly are better for my reputation over the long term. Over
the long term, your personal reputation is everything.
- Get smarter by going slower
When it comes to honing your intuition, keep in mind one of the great myths
in business that you need to fill every waking moment with activity. Patricia
Katz is a professional speaking colleague and friend who speaks and writes
about the value of giving yourself, "Permission to Pause." After attending
her presentation, it occurred to me that those individuals, particularly
managers, who slow down and reflect are often the most creative, adaptive,
and, ironically, productive. Think of the leader from the employee's perspective.
Who would you rather work for? A person who's running frantically where
everything is an emergency, or someone who seems to be in control, has a
sense of perspective and a clear idea of the direction to take the company?
Perhaps it's time to give yourself, "Permission to Pause."
1When you take all these ingredients, mix em' up, and chew on em' a while.
Chances are you'll end up making wiser decisions for your organization. That's
a flavour all your company's stakeholders will enjoy. Bon Appetite!
This article is based on the critically acclaimed book, Becoming a Service
Icon in 90 Minutes a Month by customer service strategist and international
speaker Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about
engaging Jeff for your team, visit www.jeffmowatt.com
or call 1-800-JMowatt (566-9288).
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