Several milestone events over the last thirty days have crystalized in my mind the three critical skills that will guarantee your future success.
Technology is leading to an explosion of ideas on which to build a solid business. Ninety percent of the world's data was generated in the last two years and this trend is accelerating. Every minute of the day, YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video, Facebook users share 2.5 million pieces of content, Twitter users Tweet 277,000 times, and email users send 204 million messages.
The information noise around us is endless and it will increase. Critical to progress is identifying the most important listening posts. In all careers, success starts and ends by closely listening to the customer.
Several weeks ago started engaging multiple global retailers in new contract negotiations. Many routes were available including immediate direct engagement with legal, heaps of margin analysis, and scrutinizing the strategic business value of the new business. These items were homework and not part of the initial stages to engage the customer. The first meetings were about listening closely to the positives and negatives of the past relationship. By design, major focus was on crafting a future roadmap for a positive "strategic" partnership. The power of focused listening is an amazing breakthrough relationship building skill.
As Tom Peters once correctly summarized, "celebrate what you want to see more of." A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to host a large employee event. Having exceeded the objectives in our particular area, it was time to celebrate and thank everyone that contributed to our particular team's success. The format was simple. A panelist of key leaders in both the areas that I manage shared 5 minute updates, recognized key contributors in the audience, and thanked everyone for their contributions.
The event was intermingled with simple gestures such as the word "Thank you" in multiple languages around the room, international flags on all the pastries, and some gift certificates and premium Swiss chocolates to individuals that answered questions about the topics being discussed. PowerPoint charts detailing all the metrics of the business were banned; it was just an employee conversation celebrating the success of the global teamwork.
As one employee commented post the event, "almost one week and I still remember the level of energy and excitement over the great achievements shared in this meeting. Thank you panelists for sharing and celebrating key milestones, best practices... for taking the time to organize such a great event, and to inspire, engage and motivate us to deliver our best."
Lasting partnerships are not built in one hour, a week, or even a year. Building true strategic partnerships takes extra ordinary efforts in understanding the value creation process, delivering incremental benefits, and mutually agreeing on the roadmap for success.
Strong partnerships are important both internally with your colleagues and with your customers. Internally, find similarly minded individuals that share your vision and are mentors for mutual success. Externally, partnerships are built with customers by following rule number one above of listening first, speaking and acting second.
As brought home in recent global contract negotiations, building partnerships is not easy, takes time, and must be built on a win-win roadmap formula. The hard work up front to really listen and engage with your customer pays major dividends once breakthrough is achieved. Breakthrough is not the contract itself. It is the deep mutual trust in the building process of the strategic partnership. You will know when that moment is reached. In front of you will not be just a customer, but a new trusted advisor to building your future successful career.
Listen, celebrate success and build strong partnerships; three simple by design focused skills leading to amazing, enduring, and fulfilling success.