Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day. Where we celebrate work by taking the day off of work! 🤷‍♂️ That has always seemed weird to me.

I prefer the Japanese approach to work as exemplified by the word, Ikigai. The word roughly translates as “the happiness of always being busy” or “reason for being.”

The Japanese characters that make up the word combine the symbol for life and the symbol which means “to be worthwhile.”

According to longevity experts, the keys to living a long life are mostly what you would expect: things like diet, exercise, rest and strong social ties.

But also on the list is having a purpose in life. That purpose? That’s our Ikigai.

Our Ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning. It’s hidden deep inside each of us and finding it frequently requires a patient search.

If you are doing what you were born to do, you don’t really ever retire. You just keep doing what you love as long as possible. And, that meaningful life turns out to be a longer one.

So, how do you find your Ikigai? You do it by answering four related questions:

  • What do I love?
  • What does the world need?
  • What can I be paid for?
  • What am I good at?

Your Ikigai is something you’re passionate about. Something you would do even if you didn’t get paid for it.

It’s also something that makes a difference in the world. That difference could be in your neighborhood or, literally, around the world. The key is that you’re making a difference for someone else. A life focused on yourself may bring short-term happiness, but serving others is the path to true fulfillment.

And if it’s going to occupy the better part of your life, your Ikigai must be something you can make a living at.

Finally, your Ikigai must be something you are good at. It’s your contribution to the world. Something you can do with a degree of excellence.

If you haven’t found that purpose yet, keep searching. If you want a worksheet to help you reflect on what it could be, follow me on Twitter, tweet Ikigai at me and I will DM it to you.

Right after we all take Labor Day off.

Discipline Leads to Freedom

Last November, I received a couple of health wakeup calls.

The first, which I’ve written about here before was cancer – squamous cell carcinoma on my tongue – which I had surgically removed and for which I had my official hospital discharge earlier this month.

The second came at the same appointment when my doctor said that my LDL Cholesterol was 197, HDL 66 and the ratio was 4.2. He wanted to put me on a statin drug, but that was quickly overshadowed by dealing with cancer.

I did a lot of research following those twin health scares and decided to improve my health through discipline rather than drugs.

Nathan Schock

I just had those levels retested and my LDL was 141, HDL 74 and the ratio 3.1. My doctor said what I was able to do in eight months was rare. Most people don’t change their lifestyle.

I’ll tell you what I changed, but first what I didn’t do.

I didn’t count calories. I didn’t adopt a particular diet (keto, Atkins, etc.). I didn’t starve myself. I also didn’t cut much, other than (almost) all sugar, starch and dairy.

I already didn’t eat much sugar, but I wasn’t strict about it. Now, almost the only sugar I have is the little bit that comes from eating out and dark chocolate.

Dairy started because it bothers I have a daughter who needs to be dairy free. We have shifted to almond milk (which my wife makes and is amazing), other nut milks, and sheep and goat cheese.

Gluten because the more you eat bread, the faster you’re dead. Also not allowed for my daughter so it wasn’t difficult to eliminate.

Here’s what I added:

1. Big increase in nuts, especially macadamia, walnuts, pistachios, and Brazil nuts. Nuts are great for cholesterol (who knew) and almost everything else. I have a few handfuls every day. These make for excellent snacks at work and help me not to be tempted by the ever-present candy and cookies.

2. Dramatically increased the amount and, especially, the variety of vegetables. I already ate more vegetables than the average person, but my research on cancer found how good a variety of vegetables are for you. Here is what I added to my daily salad: red cabbage, broccoli sprouts, radishes, radish sprouts, kale. I grow the sprouts at home. Also, replaced almost all rice with riced cauliflower, which I like better. I pre-make a salad for every day that I don’t have a lunch meeting, keeping olive oil and balsamic vinegar at work so I don’t have to use unhealthy salad dressings.

3. Increased herbs. I didn’t know how good turmeric, rosemary, and a host of other herbs were for you. I cook with them all the time and have some supplements.

4. Increased tea, especially green tea. And I drink less coffee because of it. But still didn’t give up coffee. Couldn’t do that!

5. Increased supplements. I’m taking magnesium, turmeric, berberine, vitamin C, fish oil, and more.

6. Increased exercise. I learned how healthy a walk is after dinner, so I have been doing that almost every night.

7. Intermittent fasting. The body needs extended breaks from digestion and I now skip breakfast a few times a week in order to fast for 14-18 hours.

There’s more, but I primarily credit these changes with my improved health. I disciplined myself in order to achieve a longer and freer life.

How Will You Transform Your Clients?

Your clients don’t want your service offering. They want your service to be commoditized. They want it delivered as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Why? So they can spend their limited time and money on experiences that engage them personally and emotionally. (They actually want more than that, which you’ll see in a minute).

If you experientialize your service, you’ll increase the loyalty your clients have towards you. If you don’t, they’ll view you as a commodity.

I’m thinking about this today for two reasons.

First, Joe Pine was just in town delivering this message. I got a chance to spend some time with him, attend one event he spoke at and host him at an event with FiveFour. He had example piled on top of example of businesses that had wrapped an experience around their service delivery.

Second, I just had this very thing happen to me. The nature of our shifted with a client and our primary contact changed. When we recommended next steps for them, it quickly became evident that we were not aligned.

They were looking for the cheapest – the commodity – and that wasn’t us.

How do you prevent this? Understand that clients don’t want your service. They don’t even really want your experience. What they want is a transformation.

They want to be different than they were before as a result of working with you. They want a tangible, lasting result.

Your job is to identify that desired result and then guide the series of experiences that leads to the transformation. Because there can’t be a transformation without a guide. Without a coach.

As Joe pointed out, this is especially urgent if you are in the business of making people healthy, wealthy, or wise. With those services, the day is coming where your compensation will depend on achieving your clients’ desired result.

Do you know the transformation your clients desire? Not just in their business, but in the people?

If you know that – and can help them achieve it – you’ll eliminate most of the competition from those who provide a similar service. Or even those who have a remarkable experience.

If you don’t, you’ll need to transform first. And I’d like to guide you through it. Just take this quick assessment and schedule a time to discuss it with me.

You Already Have a Culture Committee

I recently had a client ask me if they should have a culture committee.

But they already have one. You do, too.

Sooner or later, plenty of companies create a committee charged with “improving the culture.” Typically, this leads to popcorn on Fridays, or company bowling night, or picnics, or… any number of well-intentioned gatherings.  

That’s not culture. That’s a “try to make people happy committee.” 

It’s not that Popcorn Fridays are a bad thing. But it’s not going to solve culture problems. 

The good news? 

You already have a culture committee. It’s called your leadership team. 

And the leadership team can’t delegate culture. Defining who you are and what you do is their most important job. 

It’s leading by example. It’s how you do what you do.  

Popcorn Fridays aren’t going to change a culture if the leaders are still… I will let you fill in that blank.

Employee Experience STarts at the Beginning

If you want to frustrate your best new employees, I have a foolproof way. 

Be unclear on your expectations.  

Frustrated new employees rarely develop into high-quality long-term team members who contribute to a remarkable customer experience. So those first impressions of the work and how they go about it are crucial. 

The good news is that it’s an easy problem to fix. More on that below.  

The reason that a lack of clarity is so serious is that the expectations gap is one of the biggest killers of the employee experience. The expectations gap is: they thought the job was going to be this, and it turns out it’s that.  

Or they know what they’re supposed to be doing, but success isn’t clearly defined for them. 

They never know if they’re meeting your expectations or not. They don’t know if they’re being successful or not. It’s one of Pat Lencioni’s three signs of a miserable job: Immeasurement. 

One of the best ways to fix this is through a job scorecard.  

Not a job description – a scorecard. There’s a difference.  

A description is often a vague collection of adjectives that sort of point in a general direction but are open to interpretation. Or misinterpretation. 

A scorecard is specific with measurable goals and key performance indicators. It lays out the mission for the job, the duties that person will perform, and how success will be assessed. 

Because all good employees want to know the score. They want to know if they’re winning. 

This is a proven tool to develop the kind of team that can help you grow your business. 

Contribution is Key

A plant supervisor I coach told me about something that solidified his belief in his company.

And it’s a great lesson for leaders everywhere.

This supervisor’s work occasionally took him on location with their customers in other parts of the country. And seeing the huge benefit local communities get from his company’s product, gave him a sense of pride in the business.

We then talked about his team, who didn’t have that same opportunity to visit customers, and thus didn’t get to see the product in action. We talked about how important it is for a leader to connect the work of the people he supervises to the difference that work makes in the real world.

It’s the concept of contribution. It’s something I’ve written about here before and this supervisor got it right away. He talked about how his team shares Facebook posts from a customer who uses their product and a recent newspaper article that mentioned the use of their product in disaster recovery.

It’s an especially important topic in a manufacturing facility like the one this supervisor works in. Most of the people who work in manufacturing don’t have the opportunity to see the difference their work makes for the end customer.

It’s the job of the leader to connect individual contributions to real world impact. That’s how you connect people to the mission of the company and make them understand that their work is making a difference in the lives of real people.

It’s what makes work meaningful and it hardly needs to be said that people are more likely to stay in meaningful jobs.

So, if you lead people, be sure to let them know the contribution their work makes to the lives of their fellow humans.

Learn from experience… of others

There’s an old saying that you’ve probably heard.

It’s, “Pride comes before the fall,” and it’s one that I think of often. 

The saying originates with the Bible. Proverbs 16:18 states: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” 

It’s a reminder that wisdom is eternal – and universal. 

I see that lesson played out in many aspects of life, but I was thinking about it in context to business and how sometimes our pride gets in the way of seeking and receiving good advice. 

It’s so important to learn from those who went before you. 

Contrary to what you may have heard, experience is not the best teacher. Those lessons can be painful.

OTHER PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCE is the best teacher. Learning from the mistakes of those who went before you is much less painful than making those mistakes on your own.

Often when we get into business leadership we start to think we need to have all the answers. Successful people figure out that’s not true. Nobody has all the answers. We can learn them from each other. That requires humility, and an openness to listen and learn. 

That’s why I have hired business coaches. So I can learn from their experience.

A few verses later in that same chapter of Proverbs is a related piece of advice applicable to our business life and leadership” “Wisdom is a fountain of life to one who has it, but folly is the punishment of fools.”

If you’re trying to grow your service business, reach out to see if I can help you learn from the experience of all the other companies I have worked with.

The five traits of high-performing teams

Humans are adaptable.  

We’ve survived all manner of calamity to get where we are today. So it should be no surprise then that we’ve found ways to make work “work” in a post-pandemic age. 

That’s what I took from recent research into the common characteristics of high-performing teams in the workplace. An article on the research was published in the Harvard Business Review.

The authors found five areas of commonality. High-performing teams: 

  • Are not afraid to pick up the phone. 
  • Are more strategic with their meetings. 
  • Invest time bonding over non-work topics. 
  • Give and receive appreciation more frequently. 
  • Are more authentic at work. 

Some of this affirms what you might expect as a business leader. Essentially, good people get along with other good people and so they are more productive. And the authors acknowledge that. 

“When it comes to building extraordinary workplaces and high-performing teams, researchers have long appreciated that three psychological needs are essential: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. … Of those three essential needs, relatedness, or the desire to feel connected to others, has always been the trickiest for organizations to cultivate.” 

The question is, how do you find and hire people who fit with the culture of your company – who can relate – so that they are part of the high-performing team that you want to build. 

Good question. 

I practice and teach a four-step hiring system that, while rigorous, produces team members who are more likely to be a long-term fit. The hiring process is so rigorous because nothing impacts culture more than hiring – more than who you decide to put on the bus.

One of those four steps is an interview to assess their cultural fit by getting at those five traits listed above and other traits important to the specific culture a company is trying to foster.

If you want to learn more about my hiring system, just reach out.

Betty White’s secret to success: Authenticity

Betty White’s star just kept rising as she grew older.

The iconic television star died on New Year’s Eve, just shy of her 100th birthday. Though she appeared in many successful television shows and films – including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Golden Girls” – White became a cultural hero beginning in the 2000’s.

She was featured in Super Bowl ads, wrote a book, produced a show which pulled practical jokes on young people and even hosted “Saturday Night Live” at the age of 88.

Betty White

White was smart and worked hard to build a career that lasted seven decades. But that doesn’t explain why she attained what became a kind of mythical status in American culture.

That was something else, which I think is best described as authenticity, and from which we can draw lessons from her.

She attracted people because they believed what she said. More specifically, they thought she believed what she was saying. That’s hard to find in today’s culture but it’s an important characteristic when you think about leadership and success in business.

We’re drawn to authentic people. Those are the bosses we want to work for.

We crave authentic experiences. Those are the activities that we will pay more for.

We want authentic lives. The ones that people will remember.

Betty White was one of those people. Or was she?

She was a performer, an actor. She brought authenticity to the role.

Playing a role is the essence of staging memorable customer experiences. Think of Disneyland.

Your business isn’t a fairytale world of heroes and villains. But in a real sense, we are all acting.

Just like Betty White. The question is do your customers believe what you say? Are you authentic in the role?

How to Transform Your Clients

I had the pleasure of hosting Joe Pine, author of The Experience Economy, on a quarterly webinar for clients of FiveFour. Joe talked about the next level of economic offering above experiences: transformations.

What customers want is not our products and services, or even our experiences. What they really want is for us to use those products, services and experiences to transform them into a better version of themselves.