Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 157, September 2012 )
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On Nantucket Island, visitors put up with cobblestone streets downtown (five miles an hour is about it); screamingly narrow streets where you have to close your side view mirrors when you park; extraordinary prices (top octane gas is over $5 per gallon); restaurants that require reservations far in advance and seldom accept them prior to 30 days from your desired date; and hordes of bike riders who tie up traffic and undermine the bromide that one never forgets how to ride a bike; and car ferry service that makes Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" seem like humanitarian of the year (it is impossible to change a reservation once made).
Yet people flock there, one of the most expensive of all U.S. vacation resorts, where you have to rent houses and hotel rooms up to a year in advance. Why is this?
Because it's God's country, a beautiful place of pristine, uncrowded beaches, great boating, outstanding fishing, super food, and friendly faces.
If Nantucket were a corporation, it would win customer service awards. It's like Apple—you put up with dropped calls on the iPhone and long waits at the Genius Bar because there IS a Genius Bar and because the products are just so darned exciting.
Not enough companies try to create excitement. They strive for an impossible-to-achieve perfection, but forget about excitement. Stop complaining about "big box" sores, and make it fun and exciting to be in your hardware store or bookshop. Stop bemoaning the competition or your age or gender and make it exciting to hire you as a consultant.
Southwest Air's flight attendants made if fun to fly a no-frills airline. Amazon makes it fun to buy books (and other stuff). E-Bay makes if fun to bid on things. BMW makes it fun to drive their vehicles ("The Ultimate Driving Machine"—our SUV drives like a sports car). Richard Branson is going to make if fun to fly into space.
People will tolerate a lot, compensate for a great deal, compromise on their fair share, IF they believe they are engaged in a singular, exciting, enjoyable, satisfying endeavor. When you're at Per Se or The French Laundry, chef Thomas Keller's magnificent dining establishments, you're not in a restaurant, you're in a culinary experience. When my bankers come to my home to discuss finances, I remind them it's not a house—it's a lifestyle.
What are you doing in your business, volunteer work, and relationships to make it exciting for others? If you're successful at that, it will become exciting for you.
NEW AND EXCITING:
And this terrific session authorized by Alan:
The human condition: Responsiveness
I read Drive on the beach in Nantucket in August, and thought it might be nice to establish a relationship with the author, Dan Pink. I sent him an email.
The next day (Saturday) he responded, very politely, and we exchanged some ideas. I was impressed with his work, and even more impressed with him.
I think it's important to be accessible. When people write in response to Balancing Act, or Monday Morning Memo, or Friday Wrap, or anything else, I get back to them immediately. When people make requests that I simply can't satisfy (a lot of people think that by purchasing one of my books they can write me for free coaching), I try to explain why I can't provide what they want.
My experience is that successful executives—in fact, successful people, period—are politely responsive if it's at all possible The people who ignore your calls and emails, who are rude and unprofessional, are usually lower level people trying to artificially inflate their importance, or insecure people who are afraid of the interaction.
Invariably, senior executives are more responsive and faster to reply than are human resources people. Go figure.
The peers I respect conform to this dynamic. Marshall Goldsmith, David Maister, Seth Godin, Jeff Gitomer are all personally available to talk if you're persistent, if they're not on airplanes headed to Bangkok or Marrakesh.
Our ability and willingness to respond tell others a lot about our personal values, our integrity, and professionalism—and our humanity. There are people I've contacted because Ii wanted to hire them who haven't bothered to respond; there are people who I can help with my value, who don’t want to hear about it; there are people who need to hear about something of vital importance to them, who are too absorbed in their own world.
Email has a "reply" button. It's more than a little ironic to me that "social media" platforms universally have an "ignore" option when a request is made. That could be a very bad business decision, and it certainly isn't very social!
My wife insists I have a mind like a sieve, virtually no short-term memory, and that I never pay attention. Otherwise, I'm a veritable bloodhound.
So when she told me at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills that, when I ordered breakfast from room service in the morning, I should include a pot of English Breakfast tea for her, I was determined to dispel my unwarranted reputation.
I successfully ordered it, while my wife slept in the bedroom. When the efficient staff returned to get the serving table and dishes, I carefully kept the teapot, still nice and hot, on a sideboard.
When my wife awoke I proudly pointed to the tea. That's nice, thank you, she said, but where were the spoon, cream, sugar, saucer, and cup?
They had, of course, vanished with the serving cart, where I had left them.
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