Business and Stakeholder Engagement should be Fun
By N. Suanu
In Jamaica, at one of their beaches, they give one fresh wrap of marijuana in exchange for a full bucket of trash. And that’s how they keep a clean beach. Some people are known to feel guilty for spending so much of their own hard earned money on luxury. To ease that, at Tom’s Shoes in America, they give a new pair of shoes to a child in need somewhere in Africa for every pair you purchase. At Domino Pizza, they put a timer next to your name and the attendant that takes your order. As you place your order, then insert your name and the time frame they’ve promised you on the screen for all to see. The reason for this is that “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to you within that time frame or it’s delivered for free”.
The words “work” and “fun” shouldn’t be antithetical. Business dynamics are changing; driving effectiveness and getting things done shouldn’t be too much work. And work shouldn’t be where people go to, but be what they love to do. This is easier said than done but it should interest us to know that it can be achieved. In business, the main stakeholders include employees to investors, and customers too. You can achieve an exciting brand, from creating a set of processes that drives brand promises and brand attitudes to stimulate a culture that drives the employees loving to work, to the investor’s loving to invest and the customer loving to buy. This means making work more interesting and engaging for all stakeholders. This can be the ultimate differential in a saturated and uninspiring work-life dynamics.
Business success shouldn’t be seen as a destination but a journey. And because it is, achieving your goals and enjoying your life while on that journey should be a priority. Carry more people along too. To do this, moving clients to community members of your business and from it creating a fun mastermind group you can share lessons of failures and celebration from wins. If you have a mastermind group they can become your accountability partner. You can make it part of your weekly check-in to meet up, have some fun while you list your wins. To go fast is to go alone, but to go far, you go together. These days, clients don’t want to be transactional but relational. Find their common grounds with you and engage via it. Maybe that means sharing silly videos on your social media, or talking about your favorite TV show in a blog post, or sharing photos of your home with all its imperfections on Instagram – whatever it is for you, embrace it.
It is okay to not love some things, outsource it. Take for example, if you hate social media, technology or accounting? Outsource it. The whole point of your business is to do mostly of what you enjoy. This should be same for your team too. If you can’t outsource something (yet), can you find a way to make it more fun?
f you happen to be the leader of your firm or team, never give them the impression that all that matters is work, show them how their happiness and development is perhaps more important. Back that up by ensuring that you develop your people. In the words of Harvey S. Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, “the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”
As a country gets tougher, the people get smarter. In line with Potters 5 Forces, Hertzberg and Maslow’s theories as well as the balanced score cards taught in MBA, all stakeholders clamor for more over time. Most of those needs are mostly more psychological than functional. Also, due to inflation, the cost of work and even products and sales become more expensive over time. As customers pay more, expect that your employer or customers will begin to demand justification for what they normally pay since they have less funds and more options from other people, expect that competition will be fierce. Differentiation is key. Brand, deep/spiritual and mental engagement are also key (talking “with” and not talking “to” your market/source). I have come to summarize key concept for stakeholder engagements into creating a set of interesting touch points and brand promises. What’s your own brand promise to your client and staff to have them deliver an intended result?
For example, Hexavia, is a management consulting and corporate training firm. However, they are known for evening cocktails with an extremely cerebral set of attendees. They are known to party by the ocean shores with business executives which we service their firms,they are known for networking events for their clients. In other words, when you pay for a class or consulting, as add on, they offer hangouts and a community for you to interdependently grow with other clients. At this point, let me introduce you to a framework for this. It’s called the Kano Model.
The Kano model is not just a sophisticated graph sheet that defines the different levels of customer expectations. It’s a framework to advise you on how to go above them. Industries have a threshold of averages in expectation. Most people compete around those margins of average. Go above the average. Don’t just deliver on what you have ordinarily promised by what your product does and is expected. That’s what average firms do; go across the borders of the expected.
The Kano Model is a theory for product development and customer satisfaction. It talks about satisfying customer’s need, but clearly states that not all customer needs are equal. Because of that, it tries to categorize and prioritize customer needs and breaks them into 3 touch points. From MVP to one-dimensional quality to Attractive quality that is delighting and unexpected. This is where greater firms play.
Bear in mind, though that over time, based on competition and the mere passage of time of customer’s experiencing it, that delighted attribute you offer will be caught up by competitions. So the delighted attribute will drift over time from Exciting to essential. The drift is driven by customer expectations and by the level of performance from competing products.
Moving outside in, that is from just creating an exciting customer experience to exciting staffing and workplace experiences, let’s zoom in. Let’s zoom into creating a more exciting workforce, let dig deeper into having a more engaging and passionate team. When it comes to having a team that shares your vision and passion understand that it most time has to be caught during on boarding and first sets of interactions or it may just take time. And if it’s to take time, understand some people are like women and love, some fall at first sight, others grow with time. Those that grow with time are more sustainable. Or let’s say they are like paper when they are close to your fire (vision/passion), they catch it immediately!
And some people are like charcoals, when you bring close your fire they don’t catch immediately. But hold it long enough, they get heated gradually then become extremely hot. They burn more intense and longer than papers do. Understand people when they don’t seem to buy totally into what you want them to. At least they are original and a deviation from the Abilene paradox (the Abilene Paradox occurs when a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is contrary to the preferences of most of the individuals in the group). Don’t victimize people for thinking differently. People who stand out should be respected for it is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.
Some just never catch or quench that of others. Know the personality and trait of each member of your team in-line with that analogy. Everyone longs for happiness, even in the work place. And since most of your staff spend more time at work, how about you create “happiness-boosting traditions” with your coworkers. Go on retreats, weekend get away and even vacations as part of your bonding and training activities. In terms of ambiance, you can allow bluetooth speakers with an agreed theme kind of music playing. You can decorate your office or cube. “Why not stick a picture from a recent vacation on your cube’s walls or put a memento on your desk? Another suggestion: keep any cards, thank-you notes, and emails from coworkers or clients that made you smile, and pin them to a cork board or wall of your cube.
Work shouldn’t be work; it can be fun without losing its essence. But if you’re conscientious and keep responsibilities and deadlines top of mind, any fun you infuse will only be a catalyst. And between your firm’s life cycle and into your day and that of your colleagues is only going to make you more productive and engaged by what you’re doing. Life is too short to not enjoy it. In life and business, the bad news is time flies. The good news is, you’re the pilot. Always endeavor to enjoy the flight.