While there is a lot of discussion about whether to keep private life and work separate and great suggestions are available about how to separate them, there are also areas where we would benefit from considering them as a unified entity.
I do not refer to the merging of work and life, but rather point out to the fact that lots of principles and experiences we gain from love can equally be applied to business.
When I use the term love in this post, I do not necessarily restrict its meaning to the love between partners, for which I might have little practical experience (Disclosure: I am single and would be grateful for any introductions). Instead, love can also be interpreted in a broader sense to include all people we love communicating with, sharing with and doing business with.
The three principles that stand-out are PPT:
Alexander Graham Bell said it most brilliantly:
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” – Alexander Graham Bell
In love: Most people prepare themselves intensively for love encounters. For example, if you are going on a date, you might be preparing yourself mentally as well as materially by buying the appropriate clothes and/or using the most appealing perfume.
In business: As in love, we need to prepare for success. The more attention we give to the preparation phase, the more likely we are to achieve our desired results.
Categories of preparation
Preparation occurs in several aspects:
There is a well-known story of two shoe salesmen who went to a third world country and discovered that nobody weared shoes. The reaction of the first salesman was: “Nobody wears shoes in this country, I should go home”. The reaction of the second salesman was by far different; he thought to himself: “Amazing opportunity, I can sell to the entire country!”. The same situation triggered by different attitudes can bring about incomparable results.
If a = 1, b = 2, c = 3…. z = 26, then attitude (a + t + t + i + t + u + d + e = 1 + 20 + 20+ 9 + 20 + 21 + 4 + 5) equals 100
In the modern age, where change has become inherent in our lives, attitude has become more important than ever.
Like the clothes you buy for dating, you also need the adequate resources for business. This also includes financial resources. For example, in the start-up where I am working now, we need to make sure we have enough financial resources to continue our business expansion.
Knowledge can often arm us with the power to make the right decisions and catch the opportunity when it comes. For example, if you know what type of business you want to acquire, you will identify it when it comes to your sight. An important part of my previous job at CMC Consulting AG was assisting companies define their ideal M&A targets.
Case: Preparation principle applied to a conference
Attitude: The right positive attitude can make a big difference in a conference. While I was participating in the Baader Investment Conference this week, several people came to me just because I was smiling at them. The people whom I remember the most are also those who gave me their most sincere smile.
Material: You need to prepare the appropriate material to take to a conference: e.g. presentations, flyers, business cards, etc.
Knowledge: You should know what are the types of people going to the conference, what their concerns are and whether you can help solve their problems.
Case: Preparation principle applied to a team event
Attitude: The enthusiasm for a team event can be contagious and add encouragement for people to participate and take part of the event.
Material: You have to make sure food and other relevant material has been taken care of.
Knowledge: The more you know about a team event, the less surprises you have. Do you know how to go to the place? Do you know who is particularly excited about the event and why?
“Love is like a butterfly, hold it too tight, it’ll crush, hold it too loose, it’ll fly away.” – Popular quote
In love: You need to be proactive in order to not let him/her go away; but at the same time you have to be careful as to not hold too tight.
In business: As in love, we need to be proactive in seeking out the people we need to reach and putting our demands forward, but we also have to be careful not to be too pushy as to be interpreted as “salesy”.
Being proactive means seeking out the clients and following-up on them. However, it also means that we should understand the process and not necessarily expect to make a sale on the first encounter, at least not when you are working in a B2B business. If you close sales so easily, it is absolutely admirable, but you should understand the sales cycle of the business.
Not being overly pushy means understanding when the client is not interested in the solution and moving on. We all had the experience where a salesman tries to sell us things very aggressively and we start to feel distant from such an attitude. No one likes sales people who try to sell us things we do not need.
I recently met such an salesman from one of the utility companies in Munich. He knocked on my door and tried to close a deal with me. He kept talking to me and was very pushy because he wanted to make me sign the contract right before him. He probably thought he was doing a fantastic job, and there are probably people who would have signed the contract, but in most cases, such a behaviour might have caused discomfort in potential customers. His strong insistence made me want to close the door to stop him from talking and I decided to cool down the conversation until he eventually understood that I really did not want his offer.
“It is your choice”
Offering and letting the counterpart choose is most often the best alternative. The time where I was most likely to accept offerings was when I felt the freedom to choose on my own.
The best leaders I have met were those who handed the choice to the team members. “Is this something you would like to do?” sounds very friendly and one might not always want to use such an approach, especially if a situation is critical / urgent, but usually the best results are obtained when the idea and action come out of someone’s own willingness as opposed to something imposed upon him/her.
There should be some flexibility and balance between asking someone to do something and the room to let him/her decide on his/her own.
“I believe managing is like holding a dove in your hand. If you hold it too tightly you kill it, but if you hold it too loosely, you lose it.” – Tommy Lasorda
An example where we see a certain balance between offering and letting users decide on their own is the supermarket. You go there regularly because you can feel at ease, knowing that nobody is going to force you into buying something you don’t want. Inside the supermarket, you still see promotions and calls to action, but it’s up to you to decide to buy or not. There is no further pushy words or actions that try to drive you into buy something. If you felt continuously forced to buying things you do not need or did not plan for, you would probably no longer like the experience of going into a supermarket.
Case: Proactivity principle applied to a conference
In conferences, people are often running from one place to another, going to one scheduled meeting after another. If you do not hold on the people whose attention you need, they will “fly away”. You have to approach them and try to gain their attention. However, you cannot hold too tight, because it could hurt the impression you give to them.
If there are no ideal clients, acknowledge it and let the people go. Just as with the search for job candidates, the search for customers is like fitting a puzzle. A rejection means nothing else than the fact that the puzzle pieces do not fit together. Each rejection is a learning process and the next time you will be better prepared for the conference and/or know which other type of conference is better for you to participate.
Case: Proactivity principle applied to a team event
You need to be proactive and encourage your team members to participate in the event, but do not be too pushy, because some people might feel uncomfortable with the offerings and the details of the event: such as drinking beer or going to a noisy place. It is best to accept each individual’s decision. By doing so, you:
- show respect to the invited participant
- have engaged participants (since only the interested ones go)
- make the event more fun
“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” – George MacDonald
In love: You need to trust the people with whom you are. A friend recently told me that the status of a relationship is not as important as the existing trust.
In business: As in love, relationships are best when you can trust the people with whom you are dealing.
Some sales people neglect this fact and focus merely on closing the deals. A nice counterexample comes from a salesman I met at an Apple retail store. He built my trust in him very quickly, because instead of focusing on selling me something, he showed that he cared about my interests. He showed me the products available from other dealers and presented me the alternatives. I ended up buying him the MacBook Pro I am using now. He was an excellent seller who was not only patient, but also realised that trust can be more potent than merely pushing one’s own product.
Trust on the Internet
While the Internet has changed the way we work, it has not yet completely revolutionised the way we connect. Many people still prefer offline connections. I would say this is partially because of a lack of trust. In offline connections, we can rely on non-verbal communication to detect hints and we can find out what type of person one is.
To verify whether someone is worthy of trust, I like to check references and I like to check his/her online presence. The more I find out about him/her, the more I know I can trust he/she is a real person and the better the feeling I get of who he/she is. (To help you gain trust on me, I have also set up my profile on other platforms: LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Tumblr, Xing, Medium, etc.)
Case: Trust principle applied to a conference
Conferences help us gain trust by gathering people with similar interests and whose backgrounds are often checked. As with trust on Internet, we can trust people more easily when we have more information about them. Nice ways to achieve this are name tags and color bands that help us gain information quickly. These methods also help us start conversations easily.
Case: Trust principle applied to a team event
Before people can work well together, there needs to be trust. This can began from knowing each other’s names and finding some commonalities among the participants. Often establishing trust is precisely the purpose of a corporate team event.
Trust in a team can, however, not be blind. As a manager, one should trust that a team member is going to do his/her job, but this is by no means an excuse for not verifying progress. Evaluating is an essential part of management.
These PPT principles guide us silently through love and personal relationships. They can also support us in our business and leadership tasks. Preparation, proactivity and trust are the keys to progress and better results with both clients and team members.
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