Do you have a framework to make decisions? Or do you take each one as it comes? If you had a framework or set of criteria, would it be easier and save you time when deciding on things that are presented to you, especially strategic items impacting your business?
I took on the role of Learning Chair for EO San Francisco chapter almost 2 years ago. There was a need to revitalize the learning calendar and events at that time. Many board members and other members had ideas. They had a lot of ideas! Entrepreneurs are great at coming up with ideas. (The challenge is to execute on those ideas.) And they would tell me, email me, send introductions to speakers they had heard, and text and call me with even more ideas. This continued for the first few months, with ideas for events and speakers coming in almost daily. We could have gone any direction with this, or just put together a calendar of seemingly random events that came from member recommendations. But we had an objective, to get members re-engaged and involved with the chapter. So, we put in place 2 criteria that every event had to meet in order to meet our overall objective.
The 2 criteria are:
- Does it facilitate member-to-member connection?
- Does it provide tangible, take-home value that members can use in their businesses immediately?
These 2 questions allowed for sorting and prioritizing of all the ideas and recommendations and also served to guide the conversations with those members recommending an event topic or speaker. For example, when someone would tell me about a speaker they had seen in another state or country, someone who was “amazing” or really inspired them, I was able to respond beyond saying that the speaker sounds awesome and I would follow up with them. That simply would have created way too many follow ups, >3 per week with only 10 events to fill for the entire year.
So, when these conversations would start and the person making the recommendation was very excited and happy to be sharing this thing that had moved and inspired them, I could respond without being negative or automatically taking on more work for myself. My response was generally to start by asking them to tell me more and see if I could find the answers to my 2 questions in the descriptions and answers they gave. I could confirm with them that the event would facilitate member-to-member connection and describe back to them the tangible value that members would receive by attending the event they were describing. If I could do that, then I could follow up with the speaker or idea and further confirm these answers before moving on to things like dates, logistics and costs.
If I could not glean the answers from the conversation, I could then fall back directly on the questions. I would, at that point, tell the member making the recommendation that we had established 2 criteria for the coming year around events and speakers. I would describe the 2 criteria and ask them how their idea would meet at least one of those. Sometimes they were very clear about it and able to re-frame their recommendation around those criteria. If so, great! I had some follow up on something that might pan out and add value for our members. If they still could not, then they understood why I was not going to be pursuing their recommendation at that time. They were generally happy to share, but realized we had a clear objective and were encouraged to share any future recommendations that met these criteria. They now had a framework around what we would consider for future events.
This same strategy works for speakers and bureaus who reach out and contact me directly, as the Learning Chair. I share with them our 2 criteria and ask how they would address those with their presentation or activity. It shortens and focuses the conversation and gets them out of “pitch mode” into a more meaningful conversation that meets my objectives.
This framework saved me a lot of time and kept EO San Francisco on course toward our objectives of increasing member engagement and providing tangible value. But it did not stay stagnant.
At the EO Global Leadership Conference in Bangkok last year, one of the other Learning Chairs shared that, among their criteria, they always asked the questions, “Would this be a 9? How can this be a 9?”. All of our events in EO are rated by the attendees on a 1-10 scale. Everything gets rated, the speaker, the activities, the food, the venue, the take-home value. By using this question they were able to raise the bar on all their events and ensure an even better member experience. I adopted this question so the new framework for every aspect of every event is now:
The 3 criteria:
- Does this facilitate member-to-member connection?
- Does this provide tangible, take-home value that members can use in their businesses immediately?
- Would this be a 9? How can this be a 9?
We apply each of these questions to every aspect, including the food and venue. Buffets, appetizer bars, dessert bars and real bars are positioned to facilitate people moving around and mingling. They achieve our goal of connection better than a sit down, table served meal. Many times we only put a few standing tables out to ensure people continue to move and talk with other members and guests. The venue has to fit with our plan and criteria, as well as the topic, activities and any speakers.
Sometimes we miss. Sometimes we think the criteria will be met, and it just doesn’t come out in the end. But our odds have improved greatly and we’ve delivered a continually improving member experience that far more frequently meets and exceeds our goals. And I’ve been able to share these with the incoming Learning Chair so he can use these and improve upon them during his tenure.
You can do something similar with your business and your customer experience. What are your objectives? What do your customers want? How do you prioritize all the competing projects and ideas that come to you? Does the new idea fit with your company’s Vision, Core Purpose, and Core Values? Can you ask these questions before you move on to the ROI analysis, excitement about a new idea, and jumping from one idea or project to another?
Take a moment to make this actionable, not just another idea. Print this, or get out a piece of paper and try the following.
Write down your top 3 objectives or goals for your business.
Write down your company’s Vision and/or Core Purpose:
List your Core Values:
Now write down at least 2 questions you will ask about each new idea that is presented to you:
Keep this list and post it where you can see it; where you most often get presented with these ideas that come to you through reading, your team, colleague suggestions, or a Facebook group. Use it for a couple weeks and see if it is saving you time and reaping better results.
Does it help you focus on the right things?
- If the answer is no, revise your questions. You may not have the right criteria in place yet.
- If the answer is yes, please share this with people you know who are struggling with focus and chasing too many things while getting none of them done.
Here’s another article from Inc. Magazine on asking questions to regain and maintain your focus.
Did you get distracted by the Inc. article? Or did you finish the exercise first?