If businesses are able to identify customer wants and needs, customers will typically pay more for their products, even if they shop strictly on price [Barlow and Moller].
This year I attempted an alternative type of spring cleaning, with the goal of continual improvement.
Books such as “Treat me like a customer” and “A complaint is a gift” offer recipes for responding to dissatisfaction. Last week I implemented some of these time honored techniques in my own Principles of Management course. I sat down with a couple of students, and asked what they would like to see different.
I have to say this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. The key to garnering feedback, what Barlow and Moller call a “gift,” is to promote an atmosphere in which people feel comfortable (and, in which you act on their suggestions). Many businesses fall apart at point #1 because they’ve engendered fear within their customers. In a “safe space,” you are more likely to experience what’s on peoples’ minds. If you’re defensive and contentious, they will seal shut like a clam.
Upon receipt, immediate action is necessary to ensure a continuous flow of inforation. Daryl Travis of Brantrust Consultants states: “You have to develop an insatiable appetite for … feedback from customers.” How can you eliminate the dysfunctional if you’re unsure of its content? I posed the following query to my online classes: “I’m checking in to see if you need anything (course wise), or if you have any suggestions for course improvement. As I’ve said many times, my students are my best teachers, and I always look forward to learning from them.”
To those who responded, I replied, “Thank you for the gift of your feedback, and for your generosity of spirit in sharing; I value and respect your opinion.” I want to keep the lines of communication open so that I’m “in the loop” as to what’s transpiring in my classes, and I’m “in tune” with what my students deem important.
To elicit honest feedback you must be willing to dismount from your high horse long enough to hear it. In doing so you promote cognitive flexibility, or the ability to see things from another’s perspective. Nepo suggests that by seeing everything in ourselves, we are relieved from self-focus and the perpetuation of past mistakes.
Regarding my students, I do not wish to abuse their trust, nor to dishonor the privilege of their presence. Each semester, I’m grateful they’ve allowed me to be a part of their lives. In the movie “The Mirror has Two Faces,” Jeff Bridges’ character is advised that his teaching style is equivalent to a person having a party by himself. Feedback is way for others to join in the fun.
Getting rid of what doesn’t work applies to a host of things in your life. In the spirit of spring cleaning, consider eliminating the following:
- Toxic people. Individuals who have nothing but negative to say (in general, and in particular, about you) don’t deserve a prominent place in your inner circle, nor should they be connected on the periphery. Avoid them, minimize contact, make excuses. Ensure that they are not in a position to make a direct impact.
- Behavior that puts you in the one down position. This includes keeping your mouth shut when free expression is in your best interests, letting other people use you for their own benefit, and “playing along” when a change in the status quo would result in improvement. Excessive pleasing, accommodation, acquiescence, and the host of obsequious behaviors that deny your existence hurt no one but yourself. If you’re committed to the dysfunctional, then keep things as they are. If you want to breathe new life into a relationship (or to repair trust broken) consider making the first move.
- Insatiable craving. Matthew Kragen is “The man for whom enough is never enough.” Enough can occur in terms of our material possessions, willingness to upgrade, or inability to leave things alone. In terms of physical organizing, I’ve hit a wall both at work and at my home. Constant fiddling (when you should leave well enough alone) makes you feel restless, uneasy, and unsatisfied. At a certain point you need to stop “radically reorganizing” and focus on living in your sorted out space.
Working in a methodical way – with an eye for improvement – will produce over time a thing of beauty. Make each day the process of molting your previous self.