Monday, September 8, 2008

"For What Purpose?"

Every business or industry has it's own "secrets" to success. Usually it boils down to no more than a few basic concepts that, if truly understood and used, will virtually guarantee success, regardless of nearly anything else you might do. In fact, that idea (mastering a few basic concepts) is the one big secret known to most successful business consultants.

Over my 25+ year coaching and consulting career, I have developed my own set of "secrets" - the ones that set my services aside from nearly all others. Today, I am going to share with you just one - the one to which I attribute a significant portion of my career earnings.

Ask just about any coach, consultant, or even a family therapist to rank what is important in a successful relationship with friends, business partners, employees, customers, and spouses and virtually every one of them will place Communication right up there in the top 2 or 3. Then they proceed to tell (sell) you their own particular take on exactly how you should do your communicating.

I certainly agree with them on the importance of communication. What most of them leave out, however, is the single most important step in the entire communication process. Long BEFORE beginning ANY communication, you must ask yourself,

"For what purpose?"

Consider the following for just a moment.

Every communication results in some action
by the recipient of that communication.

In other words, as a result of hearing, reading, seeing your communication, the recipient MUST react (take some action). They may provide requested information, purchase your product, fall in love with you, say hello, feel good, feel bad, turn left, go home, produce a report, give you feedback or millions of other possibilities, depending on the nature of your communication. They may even choose to ignore it. That is an action, as well. So the real question to ask is,

"What do I want the recipient of my communication to DO, as a result of receiving it?"

When I was a member of the National Advisory Board for The Police Law Institute, I think I must have driven the Institute's Executive Director nuts with that question - "For what purpose?" I asked it so often, in fact, that we developed a shortcut for it. He might ask me to write a letter to a particular client, and my immediate response was "FWP" (For what purpose?). As a result, the Institute's communications, regardless of the form it took, became very targeted (purpose driven) and extremely effective.

  • Create a brochure - "For what purpose?"
  • Write a letter - "For what purpose?"
  • Make a phone call - "For what purpose?"
  • Hold a meeting - "For what purpose?"
  • Hang a sign on the building - "For what purpose?"
  • Create a company logo - "For what purpose?"

These are all examples of things that business do every day. Ask the person doing it "For what purpose," and they will either tell you it is because they are "supposed" to, or they will look at you like you are nuts for not being able to figure it out on your own. I think they are nuts for spending the time, money, and energy do any of these things without being able to specifically articulate exactly what they want the recipient's response to be. We know there will always be a response (reaction). The difference with my approach is that you are at least attempting to produce a response that is in your own best interest, rather than simply leaving it to chance.

Is communication important? You bet it is! That's why it is most important to know "For what purpose?"

As a fun (and often frightening) exercise, spend the next 24 hours asking yourself that question BEFORE any communication. "For what purpose?" - "What do I want to have happen as a result of this communication?" You will likely be surprised at how often you can't answer the question and how your communication will change when you do.

1 comment:

segFault said...

Hmm. It's good question FWP.

In this case it is simply to let you know that people do in fact read your words.

This would be enough in most cases but given the subject matter let's dig deeper.

Also because possibly the thought of making a stranger smile makes me smile; And finally because you made a great point.

Oh, and your mirrors rule ;)

Have a great day.