Engaging (and the truth about hugs)

I’ve learned from my daughter that real engagement often happens at that moment when we want to disengage. 

This is that moment in a meeting when we stop listening and start thinking about what we want to say.

Sitting face to face with a customer who is telling us a story, we prepare our response before listening to the end. 

At the end of an engagement with a colleague we stand up and start moving away when there is a silence. It appears to be the end of the encounter, but is it?

What I learned from my daughter is that hanging on for another 30 seconds makes all the difference.

With her it is the end of a hug. I’ve learned not to be the first to pull away. It makes all the difference. Stay another few seconds. Be prepared to stay forever if need be.

That seldom happens but mostly some magic happens, if I just wait a little longer. 

Back in business, that thing your employee wanted to really say pops out if given the chance.

My colleague gives me the real feedback beyond the ‘nice’ safe comment they felt comfortable to say.

Our customer tells us what she really wants us to know.

Without giving it a little more time, real engagement is elusive. 


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When listening to customers doesn’t work

The customer is not always right.

If we listened to all customers and they were all correct all the time then what we had to offer would be watered down to the lowest common denominator and would be worthless.

The other aspect of customer relationships that we sometimes get wrong is working for people who haven’t yet paid.

Customers by definition only become customers once they have agreed to exchange money for what we have to offer.

Letters of intent don’t pay the rent (thanks David McWilliam 1999).

People and companies who threaten to be customers by making promises which they do not follow through on, do not deserve to be treated as customers.

The same goes for those who were once customers but stopped paying. 

These are two cases where listening to customers doesn’t work. 

Save your uniqueness for the customers who appreciate it.

If you are running around hoping that your customers one day miraculously turn into well paying and supportive advocates for your work, something which has not happened to date, then you are possibly in an abusive relationship. 


Customers by definition only become customers once they have agreed to exchange money for what we have to offer. 











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