I recently presented my synopsis of the Frank Luntz book, What Americans Really Want… Really, and read this quote from the book:
To be successful, you have to be willing to set aside what you know, even if it took you a lifetime to learn it. You have to listen, constantly, to a cacophony of information and learn to synthesize the bits and bytes that will help your business grow today, so you can prepare for and prosper in the future. That’s the mission of this text.
That launched us into a discussion of change, a regular discussion topic for anyone in business. One of the participants said this: “I think we should simply realize that any time ever spent in discussing whether or not we like a specific change is wasted time. Because the change is already upon us, and to discuss whether or not we like it is truly wasted time.’’
That’s it in a nutshell. You can’t roll back change, you can’t stop change, you can’t change change – change is upon us. Accept it. Look for the next one that is certainly on its way. And never waste a minute of valuable discussion time on whether or not you/we like it. Because no matter how much you don’t like it, you can’t roll it back.
Now – if only I could actually follow this advice!
I’m speaking at the Nonprofit Organizations Institute for the University of Texas School of Law Continuing Legal Education. (No, I am not an attorney). My assignment: American Wants and Identities: Thoughts for the Corporate and Nonprofit Sectors. I am pulling together key thoughts from two books,
Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes by Mark J. Penn and What Americans REALLY WANT…REALLY: The Truth about our Hopes, Dreams, and Fears by Frank Luntz. Both Penn and Luntz are pollsters/political strategists, on opposite ends of the political spectrum – Luntz is Republican, a frequent contributor to Fox News, and Penn worked on the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign, and coined the phrase “soccer moms.” They have both generated controversy, but they both genuinely have their fingers on the pulse of “what Americans want” and “what Americans are like.”
And what we are like is this: we are segmenting into narrower and narrower groupings. We are all, in one way or another, (to borrow from Seth Godin) seeking to “find our tribe.” Here’s a key quote from the Penn book:
All these people out there living a more single, independent life are slivering America into hundreds of small niches. (The number of households in America has exploded, even though population growth has slowed dramatically).
This book is about the niching of America. How there is no One America anymore, or Two, or Three, or Eight. In fact, there are hundreds of Americas, hundreds of new niches made up of people drawn together by common interests.
I have added my own conclusions at the end of this amalgamated presentation. I arrived at these six as I re-immersed myself into these books. Here they are:
1) People are getting together – in many more ways – than ever before. And if you don’t make room for “me,” you lose “me.” And you have to “make room for me” on “my terms,” not “your terms.”
2) People want a life with no hassles – in their tribe, in their work life, in any part of their life. No hassles. None! Not any hassles! People don’t want hassles! And groups/tribes have to make sure that such groups are hassle-free.
• all jobs are customer service jobs; all organizations are customer service organizations; all customer service is about no hassles! PEOPLE DO NOT WANT ANY HASSLES!
3) The search for meaning in work is ongoing – and important. But meaning includes belonging, the ability to keep growing, the embrace of challenge, and the awareness that helping people really does bring meaning.
4) The segmenting will continue, and become ever more refined/ever more “micro.” It will shape where we work, where we live, the people we hang out with – and what we do with our spare time, our spare money, our passion, and our “cause” energy.
5) People who are alike will find each other – and technology will accelerate this, probably provide the primary means for the segmenting of the groups/teams/tribes. And the “are alike” differentiators will become increasingly “micro.”
6) Our tribes will change. And loyalty – to a company, to a job, to a cause, to any tribe – can be very fleeting. Loyalty has to be earned, and re-earned, over and over again.
These are my six. You might have others. But I think these capture our era pretty well.
You can purchase my synopsis of the Penn book, Microtrends, with audio + handout, from our companion web site 15minutebusinessbooks.com. The Luntz synopsis should be available at the same site soon.
Hassle: “a spot of bother”
We really don’t want any hassles. Any. Ever. Not from customer service reps in stores, not from our bosses, not from our colleagues. Life is too busy, pressures are too many, we have too much to worry about (we also want no worries, but that’s another discussion…), so we don’t want any hassles at all. Ever.
This is one of the key findings of Frank Luntz in his book, What Americans REALLY WANT…REALLY: The Truth about our Hopes, Dreams, and Fears. Yes, we already knew this. But Luntz found out that we really, really don’t want any hassles.
And we especially don’t want any hassles in any customer service interactions. In addition, we don’t like automated phone systems, and foreign accents on the other end of the phone. But this is because we don’t want any hassles, and automated phone systems and long hold times and foreign accents can put us over our hassle quotient…
In customer service, this is what we really want:
1) Someone who knows what he/she is doing
2) Someone who will actually listen and genuinely pay attention – to me.
3) Someone who cares about me and my problem.
(Those are my rewordings of his findings. Here is how Luntz put it:
Three attributes Americans really want from customer-service personnel:
1) to be knowledgeable, well-trained, reliable
2) someone who listens as they explain their problem.
3) In a word: empathy.)
So – here is your agenda. In your interactions with your customers, in your interactions with colleagues, in your interactions with family members and friends and fellow church members, and… find any hassles and every hassle in your system. Anywhere and everywhere. Now – get rid of them. And be on the lookout for new hassles. Then, get rid of them. Aim for hassle free.
Because people really don’t like hassles.
(and, yes, this needs to be my agenda too).
Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of the new Frank Luntz book, What Americans Really Want…Really. Luntz is the seemingly everywhere present focus group/pollster/messaging guy, who regularly conducts focus groups for Fox News following major debates and speeches. He is a numbers man, and he is quite good with words. His earlier book, Words that Work, along with the book by Chip and Dan Heath, Made to Stick, are valuable books for anyone seeking to choose the right strategies and words for effective messages.
Here are a few noticeable and valuable conclusions from Luntz in his new book:
Here are the five lifestyle attributes that really matter:
1) More money
2) Fewer hassles
3) More time
4) More choices
5) No worries
Here are three attributes Americans really want from customer-service personnel:
1) to be knowledgeable, well-trained, reliable
2) someone who listens as they explain their problem.
3) In a word: empathy.
Here is what Americas definitely do not want:
2) automated phone systems
3) foreign accents on the other end of the phone
The book has much more to offer. You might want to check it out.
(My synopsis, with audio + handout, should be available to purchase soon on our companion website, firstfridaybooksynopsis.com).
Credibility really is the coin of the realm…
The word “credit” comes from the Latin word that means “to believe.” The crisis in America and for 300 million Americans is the lack of credit, the lack of credibility, and the lack of confidence that has rocked our nation to the very core. (Frank Luntz, What Americans Really Want…Really).
I’ve been thinking a lot about credibility lately. You can use a few more words to describe this rare and great trait: trustworthiness, reliability. You know the concept – a person, a company makes a claim. The request is: “trust me.” And then the claim turns out to be not quite what was promised. You are disappointed, and the company/individual loses credibility. Credibility lost is really, really hard to restore. And there is a lot of credibility that has been lost in the current era.
I thought of that as I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Andre Agassi. He has written an autobiography, Open: An Autobiography, and Katie Couric interviewed him in just the right way, allowing him to tell his story, with no holds barred. It was filled with very open admissions and confession. He hated tennis (to some extent, still hates tennis). He wore hair weaves, and was scared to death that one would fall off in mid-tournament (and his hair was definitely part of his persona, his “brand”). He took crystal meth for the better part of a year, and lied about it.
And he was denied the possibility of a good education by a significantly overly-demanding dad. His dad demanded a tennis career, and pushed him away from everything else, including education. This is partly why he has done such a terrific job in providing education for students (he established a successful/impressive school in Las Vegas) in his post-competitive tennis life.
I knew little about his story. I’m a big believer in second chances, and I finished the interview thinking that here was an example of credibility lost, credibility regained. But I also ssaw again that when there is no openness, credibility is one of the casualties. Openness is one of the critical pieces in building, and/or regaining credibility.
Rick Reilly (voted National Sportswriter of the Year eleven times) recently wrote about Agassi and his new book. Here are a couple of excerpts:
This is Agassi’s mea culpa — “Open” (from Knopf, written with Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer) — and from the beginning, he and Moehringer set out to write the most revealing, literate and toes-stompingly honest sports autobiography in history. From the parts I’ve been allowed to read, they might have done it.
Why is Agassi so scorchingly honest in these excerpts? Maybe because he once lived enough lies for five men. Or maybe because, as an educator, he’s heard the truth can set him free.
But hopefully, by the time you close “Open,” you’ll know that this book is about more than the wrong turns he took. It’s about how that broken road led him straight to the good man he is now.
Credibility – openness – honesty. These are very good traits to aim for and live out in this very uncertain and suspicious era.
When American are asked “do you see yourself reaching the top 20% in income of all Americans?, ” something like 50% of people say yes. You see the problem, don’t you? Only 20% of Americans will ever reach the top 20% of Americans, and 50% think they will. That means a whole lot of people will be genuinely disappointed.
I thought of this as I did my first skim through What Americans Really Want…Really by Frank Luntz. It is his newest book. He surveyed 6400 people for the book. The actual results of the survey are in the back of the book. Here are a couple of findings that are really provocative, and just about enough to make your head explode.
Here is one of his questions:
“Which do you think is the worst vice affecting Americans as a whole. You can only choose one?”
64%, Greed (the top answer by far, by far – the second answer was 8%, Gluttony)
So Luntz discovered that greed was believed to be the worst vice affecting Americans.
Now for the “my head wants to explode” part.
“If you had to choose, which of the following would you rather be?”
46%, Rich (the top answer, well above the second top answer, 27%, Physically Strong).
So, let’s get this straight. Americans want to be rich more than anything else. And Americans believe Greed is the worst vice affecting America as a whole.
I don’t know if Luntz deals with this contast/dilemma in the book. If he does, I will write a later post about it. But there seems to be a problem. People recognize greed as a problem, they condemn it as a vice (“the worst vice affecting Americans as a whole”) – and yet, they mostly want to be rich.
If you read the definitions of “rich” and “greed,” they pretty much say this (my paraphrase):
Greed – wanting more money than you need.
Rich – having a whole lot of money.
So I guess Americans want to be rich without being greedy. So I guess the desire to be rich is noble, while the desire of that other person over there wanting to be rich is — well, that person is just being greedy.
I’m not greedy — I just want to be rich. That person over there is greedy — he/she wants to be too rich.
I think my head is about to explode.