As business leaders, we sometimes get caught up in the idea that we know a lot. At least, we’re confident in our business experience and hold onto strongly rooted opinions about certain things, like customer experience. But I was recently reminded that there’s a lot to be learned in unexpected places. Specifically, from our children.
You see, my 9-year-old daughter is a first-year Girl Scout Junior. We’ve been involved in the program for the past 4 years. I’m a troop leader and my husband is our troop’s Cookie Manager (yes, that’s a thing).
But I have a confession: this year, I was dreading the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Selling cookies can be hard enough in a normal year, but in the midst of a pandemic? It sounded impossible. Here’s how my daughter and the rest of the girls in our troop helped me shift my mindset and learn a powerful lesson about leadership and customer experience.
Banish your own Limiting Beliefs
One of the main reasons I love Girl Scouts is because of how it empowers girls to build confidence, try new things and embrace entrepreneurship. But before this year’s cookie season began, I found myself doubting all of it. I came into it with the same feelings as many business owners trying to find their way in the pandemic: fearful, concerned about how hard it would be and with my expectations set very, very low. Of course, I tried to stay positive for my troop, but there’s only so far such a limiting mindset can go.
The miraculous part of it all was seeing the inventive ways the girls approached the challenges. Without any actual business experience under their belts, they somehow intrinsically knew that they could view this year’s setbacks as an opportunity to improve their customer experience.
Logically, I know that challenges in business can be the best way to catalyze innovation. But mentally, I wasn’t embracing that belief. I realized after talking with the girls that my limiting beliefs were going to hold all of us back, and I needed to change that. I needed to adopt the mindset of a child and see opportunity instead of obstacles.
Pay Attention to the Details
As my troop and I discussed how we would overcome the hurdles in our path to cookie sales this year, my daughter mentioned a headband. She went on and on about how she wanted a headband that had two antennae to which she could attach two images of cookies she would print and cut out. I brushed off the idea, thinking it was just one more thing we’d have to figure out and make time for. But she was relentless.
I finally asked her why it was so important to her and she said, “Mom, I’ll be wearing a mask when I sell cookies this time so people won’t see me smile. I want customers to see that I’m friendly and here to help.” I was stunned. I had been completely caught up in all the barriers to sales that I perceived were in our way while my daughter was busy innovating. She wanted to convey the same message to customers that she always had, and she found a creative, expressive way to do that despite her limited options. So, of course we had to make the headband happen.
Build Trust & They’ll Search for You
After my daughter and my troop changed my mindset, I eagerly participated in the cookie season and discovered fresh pride in working alongside these young problem-solvers. They came up with one idea after the next for selling cookies in new ways, and reaching customers at a time when so many of our usual conduits for sales weren’t available.
One such idea another girl in my troop had was to set up a “lemonade stand” at the end of our driveway, and sell cookies there. I brushed the idea off, assuming that the traditional method of walking around the neighborhood would be more effective. When she sold out multiple times in the same weekend, I realized I’d been too quick to dismiss the merits of a different approach. We spent hours and hours every weekend at the lemonade stand, and I was floored by how many cookie boxes my daughter sold this way. Several customers who stopped by remarked that they had been “looking for” the Girl Scouts and were so thrilled to find her. This just goes to show that if you’re solving some kind of problem for customers and have built trust with them, they will seek you out and come back.
The Proof is in the Cookies
I’m happy to report that the results were astounding. Our troop sold 6% more than they had the previous year. Most impressively, the pandemic inspired the girls to double down on the mission behind cookie sales. They discussed how we would use our proceeds to benefit the community, and decided to donate cookies to frontline workers. Then, they took it even further and donated some of their cookie proceeds to a local horse rescue. All in all, our troop increased our total donated cookie sales by 246% and were able to donate $1,500 to support animal rescue. In a pandemic. If that isn’t something to be proud of, I don’t know what is.
I tell this story to remind business leaders that obstacles are really just opportunities to improve – and that our mindsets have the ability to either handicap us or propel us forward. The choice is ours.