It’s that time of year for one of my favorite traditions, my end-of-year reflections. I appreciate the opportunity to look back upon what has happened and what I learned from it.
We did this on the podcast recently. My podcast partner and I came up with six we learned this past year, and I wanted to share them with you as well.
So, without further ado, here are the six learnings from 2023 that I hope help you as we head into 2024, starting with:
Accomplishments in your personal and professional life require preparation and luck.
Preparing to succeed is essential, but do not discount the ability to recognize and seize opportunity as it presents itself. For example, this past year, my podcast partner was working on a book proposal and fell into another book project with a colleague while doing so. So, he had a goal to write a book, and he is, even if it isn’t the one he originally planned to write.
Having a plan and doing the work is an excellent path to success, but I agree that sometimes luck plays a role, too. However, I have learned over the years that the harder I work, the luckier I get.
We are in danger of allowing history to repeat itself.
This year is about artificial intelligence (AI). As we see it coming, I know a lot of organizations diving into AI integrations. However, I also see some of them repeating the same mistakes we did in the past with the “World Wide Web.”
You might recall when we first learned about the Web, there was an enormous hype about it. Everybody wanted to rush headlong into the “dot.com” future. However, few had a strategy or even a clue about how to leverage the Web. The result was a lot of wasted time, energy, and resources (read: $$$$) in siloed efforts to capture the potential of the Web—that no one understood yet.
The same thing is happening with AI. Different departments within an organization are looking for ways to integrate AI, but they aren’t talking to each other. There is not enough comprehensive organizational strategy to unlock the full potential of what AI can do.
Therefore, I encourage organizations to look back at how the web implementation worked—the one that actually worked, not the one that was a hot mess at the beginning. Also, I would ensure that everyone understands what the AI will be. You can’t assume that your definition of AI matches the marketing department’s or finance’s version down the hall. Having everyone working off the exact definition can eliminate a lot of the time and resources wasted in these implementations.
Don’t neglect that community of social networks and friend groups.
One of the significant changes during COVID-19 was the lack of conferences. Some of you might celebrate that, but some of you, like me, recognize that conferences have a lot of value. Attending a conference to share projects and get feedback is an excellent way to help you navigate your career.
Having that community support is particularly helpful when you encounter professional difficulties. We all need people, even my podcast partner, an introvert who actively avoids people. He may hate large groups of people, but he thinks small groups are fantastic. Plus, when you get enough small groups together one after another, then all of a sudden, you have a community.
Like it or not, we’re social animals. Therefore, it would be best not to neglect your community because you will need it.
People are often better than we give them credit for.
It’s not unusual to feel jaded about people. Sometimes, you think no one would do anything for another person if they didn’t have something to gain from it.
It happens to me all the time. For example, I get many invites for connections here on LinkedIn. It always disappoints me when I accept one, and my new “connection” immediately tries to sell me something.
However, I have also encountered the opposite: people willing to donate their time and money to others. My granddaughter Autumn has a rare genetic disorder that affects her cognitively and physically. As a family, we decided to raise money for the charity supporting her condition. I was astounded by how many people were willing to help in many ways with the project.
So, shake off the skepticism. Try to go into a relationship, a friendship, or a networking opportunity with the idea that most people want to do the right thing.
It is essential to push yourself outside your comfort zone.
When you stretch yourself by taking on a significant project or resetting how you do things by breaking out of your routines and taking on challenges, you can discover a lot of enjoyment. There is power in getting outside your comfort zone.
For example, my podcast partner teaches the same class year after year, and he likes doing it. However, this past year, he took on a new class and developed it from the ground up, something he had not done much in his career. He enjoyed doing it, too.
Could he have avoided taking on the class? Absolutely. However, he would have missed learning that he likes doing that work. Taking on the challenge was rewarding hard work, making him feel like he was adding some value. Also, taking on these types of challenges can be refreshing.
There is great importance in incremental change.
You might have heard me talk about my wife, Lorraine, and her back surgery this year. It was a significant surgery and required a lot of physical therapy in the recovery. However, Lorraine has been working at it, and through small changes over time, it has built into something big. Before the surgery, she was having trouble walking and doing things like going to the grocery store on her own. Now, she can do those things without constant pain.
It wasn’t instantaneous. First, Lorraine learned to walk again with two sticks. Then, she dropped down to one stick. Now, she walks without any sticks.
From a business perspective, the same concept applies to Customer Experiences. You can’t flip a switch and get the organization to be customer-centric. It should happen over time, with incremental improvements moving everyone to a customer-centric culture and experience.
Part of that process is to reflect on your progress. Monitoring your progress and appreciating the changes you made from a year ago, two years ago, and so on is crucial.
You must also celebrate and take joy in those minor improvements. For example, if you get an improvement in a Net Promoter Score (NPS)®1, even if it isn’t the score you want eventually, you should celebrate it. Not only is it good for morale, but it is also excellent motivation to keep working for that higher score goal.
1Net Promoter®, NPS®, NPS Prism®, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., NICE Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld. Net Promoter ScoreSM and Net Promoter SystemSM are service marks of Bain & Company, Inc., NICE Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.
Perhaps more importantly, it is essential to note if you haven’t made any changes. If that is the case, then something is wrong.
Too many organizations are looking for silver bullets, quick fixes, whatever idiom you want to use, and neglecting the importance of making those incremental improvements over time. Sure, they aren’t as profound or dazzling, but they stack up over time and, in some cases, quickly.
I hope that this is helpful to you. I also want to thank you for giving me your time and attention this year. My goal is that these newsletters are useful for you and help you make the changes you need to make in your organization to reach your goals.
Colin has conducted numerous educational workshops, on how to improve your Customer Experience, to inspire and motivate your team. He prides himself on making this fun, humorous, and practical. Speak to Colin and find out more. Click here!