From my experience working with many executives, there is one thing that stands out as one of the biggest motivators of action…Losing something. The “Fear of Losing” something is more motivating than the “Opportunity of Getting” something.
And this translates well into our personal lives as well. Here is a simple test you can perform for yourself with your peers, employees, family, and friends. Line up a group of things (objects or benefits to someone) that are of roughly equal value to them. Then talk about each one and the benefits and how it might help them or would be valuable to them. Then tell them you will want them to prioritize them. If they say this will be hard because they are all roughly equal, you have a good test. Then, before you ask for them to prioritize, tell them you are actually going to take one of them away. Invariably, the response will be, “Wait, you can’t take that one away, that is very important to me and might have been one of my most important items.”
It immediately moved to the top (or near the top) of the list…because of the fear of losing it. I use this technique when I am helping companies build their Strategy (business, marketing, social media, or customer experience) and it always works the same. Once the item is threatened to be taken away, it miraculously becomes more important. This is a great way to open up a discussion about why they feel this way and why is it now more important than the rest. It works wonders and helping break the log jam of everything being roughly equal in priority. The fear of losing something is a great motivator to identifying the true priorities.
Now for ONE OF MY PET PEEVES. I can also tell you all day long about how awesome it will be when you have a customer experience that is remarkable and memorable and will cause your customers to love you and talk about you…and you will nod nicely and agree with me all day long…BUT YOU WILL TAKE NO ACTION. Maybe not you personally, but the majority of people I talk to in my speeches or as a team or group. Why does this happen? It goes back to “losing something vs. the opportunity of something.”
But if I tell you how you are AT RISK OF LOSING YOUR BEST CUSTOMERS if you don’t change your customer experience today… you will immediately want to know more and it will become more of top priority to try and figure out how to stop it. The fear of LOSING A CUSTOMER is more motivating than the OPPORTUNITY OF RETAINING your existing customers by changing your experience.
I always believed in talking about opportunity…the dream…the vision of getting somewhere awesome. I’m just that kind of person. I love creating dreams and visions that get people motivated about “what can be” rather than being the doomsday predictor and telling you how soon you will be extinct.
But executives seem to prefer to hear about what will happen if they don’t do something more than what will happen if they do something unique, incredible, and differentiating. This is a continual dilemma for me. Painting the vision of “what if” is much more in my wheel house than “you will be doomed.”
For example, I was talking to a business owner the other day and he said he finally paid attention to me when I gave him one of my favorite phrases…”The Tsunami is coming and you don’t even see it…but you have my phone number when the winds pick up.“
He responded immediately to it and said, “Tell me more…you have my attention.” The sad part is that I have been telling him what a remarkable company he could create if he became customer centric…for the past year! But it wasn’t until he felt the fear of losing something…his business becoming extinct that got him to really pay attention.
The old phrase “Fear sells” is possibly more alive today than ever. I have never heard the phrase “Dreams sell”…ever. Because they rarely do…only the elite, forward thinking “visionaries” see the world this way. The rest wait until there is a “risk of losing something” staring them in the face and they feel the winds of the approaching Tsunami.
Personally, I will continue to talk about how incredibly awesome it is to create a remarkable company where your customers love you and tell all their friends about you…that’s just me. BUT…unfortunately for many of you, nothing will change until you feel the winds of the Tsunami blowing in your face and the fear of extinction hits you in the gut.
OPPORTUNITY gets you there BEFORE YOUR COMPETITION…FEAR OF LOSING gets you there WITH YOUR COMPETITION. As a leader, you get to decide on the timing.