You may have noticed that my speaking here at The Customer & Leadership Blog has been sparse since 2016. A mere eight conversations so far in 2017. There was a time when I’d write that many conversations in one month. Why the change? Because of change in that which takes priority. Before we continue, allow me share the definition of priority that I wish to use in this conversation:
The Critical Importance of Priority
I say knowing and being mindful of your priority (not priorities) is essential to being effective – to making your dent (whatever that may be) in this world. A leader has to show up and operate in manner that embodies and discloses his priority to those s/he seeks to lead. Effective managers plan and execute in the context of that which takes priority. Why?
Priority enables one to focus. Shared priority enables social cohesion and brings into play the power of focus – strength. There is huge difference between one man aiming at a ‘target’ and a cohesive army of men aiming at the same ‘target’. Human history is the history of WE (including the breakdown of we) rather than ME. One is rarely present to this in the Western world because the ideology of the individual conceals/distorts it.
Human existence is a messy affair that requires us (individual, community, nation, world) to make trade-off’s. Being clear on one’s priority enables us to make the right trade-offs and do it quickly. This is especially important when we are talking about groups – where power lies in the members of the group aligning with one another without the gimmicks (almost always expensive and ineffective) that one often sees in business. Gimmicks, to me, disclose that the fundamentals are missing and folks are looking for an easy solution to one of life’s most difficult challenges.
How does one determine if a genuine change has occurred in priority? I say you see a significant shift: in being (how one shows up & travels); in doing (who/what one focuses upon), and in having (the desired outcomes that one is committed to attaining/having).
Think about that. Think about significant shift in being, doing, and having. Significant is the key word – significant enough for those who you touch to notice the change in your priority.
The Central Question Regarding The Customer/Employee Experience
Now tell me if you, your team, your organisation has made easing/enriching the lives of your customers (and/or your employees) the priority.
Ah, I hear you say yes. Yes, CX is one of our priorities. Yes, employees and their experience is also one of our priorities.
I say you didn’t answer my question. Or perhaps you did without meaning to answer my question. What do I mean? What am I pointing at? The clue is this: I used the term “the priority” not “a priority”. Why?
The One & Only Point of This Conversation That’s Worth Remembering
There is a huge difference between priority and priorities. Priority is by definition that which becomes everything else in importance. For a priority to be a priority and work its magic as a priority there can only be ONE priority – always, no exceptions. Turning priority into laundry list of priorities (common practice) is like adding so much water to milk that milk no longer functions like milk.
If time is short and just want the main point you can stop here. If you are interested in my story – my absence and, now, my return then stick around a little longer. Allow me to tell you my story.
My Story Told As Briefly As I Can Tell It
Writing as a form of self-expression and contribution was my priority between 2010 and 2015. Why? I no longer had access to my previous priority: sports. Why? Back pain due to a prolapsed disc pushing against the spinal cord. So I had time – lots of time – and nothing to fill it with. Filling it with writing as a form of self-expression and contribution occurred as a magical way of using my free time. I loved it.
December 1995. I see the neurosurgeon specialising in dealing with the kind of issue that I was dealing with. Yes, there had been a huge change since the last consultation: the spinal cord was in the kind of state that an electrical power cord is when it is trapped under a fully laden chest of drawers. I had come to see the neurosurgeon because I suffered back pain continuously, it had got worse over the last 10+years, the sciatica was worse, most importantly my arms were getting paralysed from time to time. The neurosurgeon was clear: “Before (many times) I had advised you to wait, now I am telling you that you need surgery and soon.” I chickened out because there was a 4% chance I would be paralysed as a result of surgery. I continued writing this blog as best as I could given the back pain. And writing made me happy.
16th March 2016. I walk into the emergency area of the Royal Berks Hospital, it is 09:20. Why? The conditions that my neurosurgeon had told me to watch out for had showed up. Now, with these conditions, there was a 98% probability that I would be paralysed unless I was operated on immediately. Thankfully, the head of the unit (Chris Brown) put on an extra operation at 21:15 that day – as I needed to be operated on that day. I don’t remember much about that day as I was drugged out with morphine. I was told that a 1.5 hour operation had turned into a 3 hour operation due to the damage that the prolapsed disc had done to the sheathing protecting my spinal cord.
To Sept 2016. Recovery and all that goes with recovery. Hospital visits. Physio. Exercises…. The priority, now, is recovery – not this blog, not my family, not friends, not work. No, the priority is recovery – getting back into shape, and healing. Not doing anything stupid that would end up putting me back in hospital.
Oct 2016 to Jul 2017. I get my health back! I say that I find myself blessed with a new life – another shot at the kind of life that I had lived and enjoyed. The priority is living! You know the kind of living that occurs as living – as in being fully alive. I travel abroad with my wife (something I couldn’t do before due to back pain). I walk all day long in Barcelona – day after day for four days. I play badminton after a sixteen year absence – with my 20+ year old racket and it feels great! My family buy me a new bicycle and I am back cycling: 2 miles, 4 miles, 8 miles, 12 miles, 24 miles…. Oh, what a joy living is. Why sit inside and write when I can outside cycling in the sunshine?
Aug 2017. Cancer is confirmed and life changes dramatically. I know what kind of an impact cancer has because I have been walking the path with a friend very dear to me. I found out about his terminal cancer in May17 – I cried, I cried, I cried more. Now it is my turn. How bad is it? Now the priority comes cancer – dealing with that which cancer brings: hospital visits, blood tests, scans, surgery, radiation/chemo…..
16th Oct 2017. I am told that the iodine ablation (chemo/radiation) seems to have worked. There is news not so good news mixed in with good news. The priority becomes living again – this time a balanced living as in sports as well as reading, and self-expression through sharing that which occurs to me as worth sharing through the two vehicles I use – this blog, and the other more personal one.
Yesterday. I find a deeper part of me calling me get up and converse again on the Customer & Leadership Blog. So here I am. And the next conversation will be on the importance of cultivating psychological safety in order to harness the power of the hive mind.
I dedicate this conversation to Richard Hornby – a dear friend who has been there for me every time I asked. A friend who may or may not make it past the next 18 months as he has a brain tumour – the kind Senator John McCain has.
For those of you who have continued to stick with me, with The Customer & Leadership Blog, I thank you for your listening. I wish you great health and the blessing of real friends and friendship.