Making sense of things and communicating those feelings is more important than ever. The last five years have dramatically changed the way your clients, your team, and even you see things. Uncertainty has replaced predictability and stability in our business, in our vocabularies, and in our planning process. Now more than ever we need to find new metaphors and analogies to help us visualize and communicate.
A communication tool I’ve used over the past several years relates to stock prices: Is your stock rising or falling? This simple notion allows you to look at and evaluate your business, your relationships (professional and personal), your clients (now and the future), your product, and your team. When you think about the stock market going up or down, you at least understand that going up is better than slipping. When you see the stock rising, you want to celebrate; when you see it falling, you want to stop the pain and reverse its direction. You will undoubtedly also want to understand why it goes up or down so you can do more or less of what is causing the change. The following are a few ways to put this simple question into practice with your day-to-day business decisions.
Apply to a team member. ”Is Bob’s stock rising or falling?“ This question forces you to look at Bob’s performance and productivity. It makes you think about his commitment to you, your clients, and the business. It also is about Bob investing in his own improvement and success. While you can be a mentor to Bob, he ultimately needs to work on improving himself. So you will certainly need some pragmatic metrics, but the stock metaphor forces you to realize that people are dynamic. They change like everything else and rising is better than falling.
Apply to your product. “Is your product’s stock rising or falling?” This question forces you to look at and think about the changing and competitive marketplace. Is your product or service as well received by your client base today as it was in the past? Have your clients’ expectations changed? Are you more or less efficient or effective? Do you have new and innovative products or services that will position you well for the future? Again, by seeing the stock going up or down on a quarterly or annual basis, you can react rather than just assume it will change on its own.
Apply to you. This may be a little tougher because we generally don’t walk around looking in the mirror at ourselves, so you may ask others who know you. Your personal stock can include many diverse elements. You may ask, “Is my health stock rising?” Very quantitative factors such as weight, cholesterol level, and blood pressure can measure this. What about balance and stress? Again, we all know which direction is better, and the lower or deeper you go the harder it is to get back to where you were. You may also assess your professional stock as it relates to your leadership. This may be hard to quantify; good measures include getting effective buy-in and team member retention. You also might think about your stock as to how well positioned you are for the future. Are you investing time in long-term planning the same way you are with day-to-day activities? By charting your progress like you would a stock, it makes the change real and forces the right questions.
This stock rising and falling metaphor allows us to frame our thinking differently and perhaps more clearly. Oftentimes, it takes many perspectives on foggy and confusing questions to make them much simpler and clearer. What is your metaphor of choice? And how do you use it to better manage and grow your business? Please share it with me.
Mark Richardson is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business?,” and a forthcoming book, “Fit to Grow.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.