Which north?

Yesterday St John asked whether north meant true north or magnetic north. Good question.

As I said, most people have a sense of what the company they work for should be like. It’s natural for people to look for tangible ways to improve things. As we all know, it doesn’t take long for employees to offer a multi-point to-do list.

Listen very carefully to what you are being told. But, at the same time, be careful how you treat this information. Chances are what you are hearing is, at some level, a variation on today. It is magnetic north – the reality they are naturally drawn to. Taken literally, it’s probably an improvement on the reality people are part of – rather than an indication of where you truly need to be heading in order to be competitive. As Henry Ford so rightly pointed out, if he had asked people what form of transport they wanted before he delivered them the automobile, they’d have asked for a faster horse.

Don’t get me wrong, many of the ideas will be insightful and important and need to be acted upon. They can often represent powerful improvement opportunities: fast and effective quick wins that will help shift the momentum. What’s more, it’s very important that staff see their suggestions being taken up. Many of their ideas will certainly be steps in the right direction.

However, those ideas are unlikely to disrupt your existing model enough to recalibrate your competitiveness. To do that, you need to step-change how people feel about you, how they connect with you, how they understand where the future could be.

You want them to make an emotional shift in direction because you will be asking people to commit to feeling a different way about the company and to approaching their work with a different mindset.

Here’s how I address that. Instead of asking “what do you think this company should be like?”, I ask “what would you as part of this company like to feel that you don’t feel now?”.

I ask clients and ex-clients a similar question if I get the chance – “what would you as a client of this company like to feel that you don’t feel now?” or “what would you have liked to have felt that you didn’t feel and that prompted you to leave?”.

The answers help build an emotional gap analysis of the company you are versus the company your clients and your staff would like you to be. Once you know that, you’re ready to develop a strategy for the emotional connections the brand and the culture must look to generate from the inside-out.

I think true north lies at the end of this question: How will we need to feel and work as a company, and how will our customers need to feel about us, in order for our investors to be making the money they deserve?


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