This or That

Shortly after I had joined our business, we were confronting relentless downward pressure on pricing, and a buyer found very well-priced sport shirts.  These shirts were well-priced for a reason: they were not made with the quality standards of our brand.  My dad, the Shale of Mark Shale, was made aware of these shirts through a salesperson who was embarrassed to be offering his customers shirts of such quality. 

Dad immediately had the shirts removed from every store.  In the most public manner, he sacrificed a revenue opportunity from the low-cost market (this) in order to protect the trust customers have in what they buy from us (that).

It’s a powerful tool – making an explicit choice that requires sacrificing the road not taken.  It’s powerful because it’s a visible choice: we must pass up, in front of our customers, our managers, our salespeople – this in order to achieve the more important that.  

In the book Influencer, the authors describe the power of choosing one value over another to motivate and lead an organization in a specific direction.

You must ask yourself, “Why should others believe and follow me?” Then, to give weight to your talk about the importance of the vital behaviors you’re espousing, make sacrifices.  Sacrifice other key values.  Nothing makes a new vital behavior seem more credible than when you sacrifice time, money, ego, and other priorities to demonstrate that what you say is important to you really is important to you.

Influencer, p. 162

I think the organization’s leader actually “mines” for such opportunities to declare a this or that, recognizing its importance in building a culture that produces desired outcomes.  This or that becomes a mythical story for the company: an expression of who we are, and who we aren’t.

Questions in the Mirror

  1. Every business confronts the this or that present in quality or price.  Name a choice you have made and how you used it to convey your business’s values to its employees and to its customers.
  2. Every business confronts the this or that when confronted with a high performing employee who “makes omelets by breaking a lot of eggs”.  Name a decision you made and how you used it to convey your business’s values to its employees and to its customers.
  3. Choosing a this or that is how you increase the speed of the current carrying decisions forward in your organization.  In the month ahead, where do you see opportunity to make this choice clear to the organization that will make vivid its strategic direction?