Making Resolutions You Can Keep

This is an example of an article written by Jim Feldman for a publication or newsletter. Jim is an author, keynote speaker and consultant who writes and speaks about Change Management, Customer Service and Innovative Problem Solving. Contact us about using Jim as an author, interview or speaker at 312-527-9111.

Atlas, it's time for your bath
photo credit: woodleywonderworks

About six months ago we all made New Year Resolutions. The problem with most of them is that here we are half way through the year, and now they are forgotten or simply ignored. Instead or resolutions, may I suggest an “I Owe Me”? Think of it as a promissory note to yourself, since most resolutions are broken, but promissory notes are not.

Outline the terms and conditions that will be met. Since it is a promissory note, you need to think of it as the same type of promise you make to the bank. They will foreclose if you do not pay it. To be effective, your “I Owe Me” likewise needs a penalty that is meaningful.

In addition, when you make a promise to the bank they ask you many questions. Usually among them are: “Why do you want to take on this obligation?” “What is the realistic period in which you can repay it?” “What will be the benefit to you?” Be sure to ask yourself the same kinds of questions before you decide on your “I Owe Me.” For me, the most important question is a simple one: “What am I going to do differently tomorrow that will get me better results than I got yesterday?”

Many of the promissory notes we sign to ourselves are not realistic. As I thought about the “resolutions” I made in the past, I recalled how often I promised, “…to lose 100 pounds” But I could never keep that resolution, because it was so daunting. Every day when I reminded myself of that resolution, I subconsciously reminded myself of how long and hard it would be to keep it. I had set myself up to fail.

I was looking solely at the end point, rather than thinking of ways to get me to that ultimate goal. I had to stop trying to do it all at once. I needed smaller “I Owe Me’s,” things that would be achievable in the short term. Instead of losing “x” number of pounds, why not reduce my calorie intake by 100 calories a day? Instead of exercising 30 minutes a day, how about starting by just moving more? Park the car further away from the entrance to the grocery store. Get up and walk to down the hall instead of using the intercom to talk to a colleague. Use the stairs instead of taking the elevator two flights.

Once I started moving more and eating less, I saw results. I was losing weight. Not much, perhaps, at the start, but the weight was beginning to come off and, more important, to stay off. That encouraged me to increase my exercise and decrease my calorie intake even more. Eventually I did lose that first 100 pounds, and at least another 100 since.

Do you create resolutions that cannot be attained? Do you reach for goals that are so audacious that you cannot achieve them?

To succeed and grow, of course, we need to test a few radical ideas and create some audacious goals. But it is the smaller accomplishments that help us reach the larger goals. So, along with those big ideas and goals, you need to identify smaller objectives, so you can see incremental progress and rewards that encourage you to continue towards the larger goal.

The bank requires monthly repayments, do they not? They do not wait for a year before asking for their money back. In fact, they want some of it back within the first 30 days, and then every 30 days thereafter.

Create an “I Owe Me” with the same type of repayment plan for your organization. Write it down and have someone witness it. Make it specific, have a due date, and a penalty. Then see just how much more you can do.

Here are four Better Changes to make 2008 resolutions a reality. It is time to cash in our “I Owe Me’s.”

  1. Try something that has never been done. This is a year of major changes. Gas prices, airline policies, and a presidential election. Take a walk on the wild side. Do something that you have never done. Need ideas? Look around and start asking, Why not? “What If?” and “What’s Next?” You will soon have plenty of ideas.
  2. Expand your products or services. You have a base of clients or customers. Each of them has a need. Find it. Fulfill it. Use the relationships you have created to find a way to satisfy their needs and they may tell you their ‘wants.” It is time to dig deeper into your customer base and find out what you can provide to them that you are not offering today.
  3. Create Customer Envy with incentives. No matter who they are, no matter how much they earn or their level of education, there is something that your customers really want that they have not attained. Perhaps it is going to the Super Bowl or the Masters Tournament. Maybe it is to ride in a helicopter or stay in the Presidential Suite. For most of us, it is something that will give us bragging rights, that will let others know that we have reached the pinnacle of success. Something that will make them envy us.  Your challenge is to find rewards that customers will envy. You have to ask, “What do my customers want and what will they do to get it?” In most organizations, that is the role of the sales team, but the support team should be involved as well. Create an incentive so that they are looking for potential. They do not have time to develop new customers but they service your existing customer base and know what is on their minds. For many, they merely respond: to the customer, or to the sales person who alerts them to pay attention. Make the team, not just one individual or group, responsible, and make them proactive, not just reactive. And “What If” you had a Customer Advisory Committee? You could ask customers directly, “What do you want?” and “What will you do to get it?” This year commit to learning about your customers wants, needs, values, and expectations. Then you can deliver and create “Customer Envy.”
  4. Focus on Current Customers. While Reaching Out to New Ones Honor the lifetime value of your customers. Look for ways to be more valuable than your competitors to your customers. Create “customer insistence” that makes your customers want to come to your organization instead of any other. Delivers a solution to their problems. This will allow you to win a market without a marketing battle.

Build new customers from those groups that you have ignored. Look at the marketplace and determine where you can have the greatest results. To begin, you must know exactly who you are and to whom you are selling, then seek out areas in which to grow. The best place to find growth is in markets that are overlooked by the competition. The next best is to win away the competition’s customers by providing better products and services.

Never attack an entrenched position, but do not be scared by a competitor’s size. Real strength does not come from size. Given the right strategy, a smaller company can out-market a larger one. Size does not matter if the resources are deployed effectively.

2008 is half over. Do you see it as half full or half empty? Do you see the future or complain about the past. What are you going to do today that will benefit you tomorrow?

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