Categories
Marketing

Are they tired of your narrative?

Most individuals, organizations, and companies underperform to their potential. Others miraculously live up to or exceed their potential.

Why?

Each tells a story every day and validates it with their actions. Their audience either likes that story (and repeats it) or they don’t.

Take the example of Wal-Mart. Here’s their mission statement:

Wal-Mart’s mission is to help people save money so they can live better.

They are the largest retailer in the world. They are the largest private employer in the United States. Why do they continue to grow? Because people understand their mission and like the narrative that Wal-Mart tells. Even when Frontline did their infamous expose`, “Is Wal-Mart Good For America?” all the film did was validate the company’s narrative. Lowest prices, guaranteed.

People like the narrative, it works for them, and it’s profitable for Wal-Mart. So they keep feeding their narrative with everything they do and their customers keep feeding their cash registers.

A new product idea or a new narrative?

When people struggle they tend to swing the pendulum. They drastically change things about themselves or spin their wheels creating a new initiative. Unfortunately, what they are often doing is validating a story that is spinning things further out of control.

They take the pig that nobody wants, put some different clothes on it, and try to sell it as a different pig. But the world knows its the same stinking pig!

Take the example of the Big 3 auto makers:

Through the 1990s and early 2000s they made cars the market didn’t really want but was willing to buy because of brand loyalty. As market share dipped further and they ran out of working capital, a mantra went around that they needed new designs, new models, and they could engineer their way out of the problem. That just validated the story that they made cars people didn’t want.

Their narrative became outsourcing and layoffs. They hid from their Detroit roots. And when people thought Ford, Chrysler, and GM they thought about out-of-control overhead, plant closings, and unions.

In truth, they are making the same cars with the same people they always have. (And the same problems.) But they are telling a new story that people like. (and are repeating)

Are people tired of your product? Are they tired of you? Or are they simply tired of your narrative?

Categories
Church Leadership family management

You need clarity and focus

Paul’s teacher has been on us for a few months to get his eyes checked out. She’d tell us, “He squints to see the board” or “He says he has to sit up front. I think he needs glasses.

I assumed, just like his big sister, that he’d need glasses eventually. Everyone in my family wears glasses. It’s an inevitability for McLane’s.

Until recently, he never complained about not being able to see well. When we asked him to read a sign or move back from the TV he’d just roll his eyes. In truth, there are a number of behavior issues we are dealing with, so we thought this stubbornness about sitting near the TV was just part of his personality.

It all made sense when I took him to Lenscrafters on Saturday. He was very excited and talkative about the appointment. As we waited for the doctor to see him, he was a nervous kind of chipper that we rarely see.

Then he did the pre-screening. He seemed to instantly shut down. There were four machines with simple tasks. In each of them he was excited to do it. But in each of them when the doctor asked him questions he just didn’t answer.

Uh oh, this isn’t going well.” I sent Kristen a text.

When the pre-screening was over I asked him why he didn’t answer any of the questions. “She was trying to trick me. I never saw anything like she was saying I should. I’m not going to answer and get an answer wrong, I only like correct answers.

That’s when I started to worry. It hit me. It’s not that he wasn’t trying. It’s that he had just failed all four of the pre-screening tests. Had we somehow missed something all along? Does my son have a vision problem?

My mind raced to connect the dots.

Then we went into the big room. The one with the hydraulic chair and big eyeglass contraption. The chair was on one wall and the chart with all the letters was on the other.

Paul, there are no wrong answers. This isn’t an eye test. We’re just seeing how we can help you see better. Is that OK?” He shook his head affirmatively.

She explained what all of the instruments were in the room– so he wouldn’t be surprised by anything. (My heart was pumping a million miles per hour!)

Paul, can you tell me if you see any letter on the wall right in front of you?

Letters? All I see is a white wall.”

She pulled a pen from her pocket and held it about 2 feet from his face.

Can you read the letters on this pen?

Of course I can, duh!” He was starting to have fun.

Within a few minutes she started dialing her contraption to discover the right lenses which would help Paul.

She flashed the first set in front of his face.

Ha! Ha! Now I see the poster on the wall. You weren’t tricking me.

On and on this went. Within a few minutes he was able to read the smallest letters on the chart with ease. First with one eye, then the other.

Finally, she made some measurements and pulled out two lenses from desk. Just as she was putting them in front of his eyes she said, “OK Paul, tell me what you can see now?

His face lit up. He quickly started looking around the room. “Wow! I can see everything.”

A smile was plastered on his face like one I’d rarely seen.

I beamed at his discovery.

The doctor turned to me and said, “Your son is profoundly nearsighted. But he doesn’t have a vision problem. He has a clarity and focus problem. Glasses are going to change everything.

That was a lightbulb moment for me. My mind started to race at all the times I’d taken him to sporting events or movies and he’d turned to me and said, “Can we leave? This is boring.” Or all of the blank stares when we pointed out historic sites. Or why he burned through quarter after quarter looking at New York City through those big binoculars. Or why he hated playing catch with me in the backyard. Or why riding his bike had always seemed so scary. On and on– the dots began to connect.

How many of the behavior problems that we pull our hair out over are tied to this one simple thing… He couldn’t see?

We will soon find out.

The hour between ordering his glasses and picking them up might have been the longest 60 minutes of his life. We wondered the mall aimlessly. And about every 2 minutes he’d ask… “How much longer?

Finally, the time came and the lab technician called his name. As he put the glasses on his face and the technician made adjustments to the frames, I could see his eyes shooting all over. He was reading and discovering everything in the room. It was a brand new world!

As we left the store he grabbed my arm. “Dad, look at those clouds!

What the moral of the story?

There’s a lot of talk in leadership circles about having strong vision. But vision without clarity and focus on purpose will lead you, your organization, and your teams to become near-sighted.

It’s one thing to have big vision. It’s another thing to back that up with clarity and focus.