Why Does it have to be so Hard?

by Trudy on February 15, 2013

I noticed recently many examples of complications or difficulty in engaging, and I just do not think this is good business sense.

What do I mean?

I experienced the process of having a contract written up for a relatively small and straightforward project that ended up taking about 4 months from “let’s do this” to “we can now get started”. I would think the manpower involved in getting the contract written up and signed was almost as much as the project would take. How can this be good use of time and resources?

I observed the elementary science project with 12 pages of instructions pertaining to what was expected for the project. It was an immense amount of work and detail. And then I got to be a judge and saw the marking score that actually had very little to do with the 12 pages of detail excruciatingly written out. Why make it so hard when there is no correlating upside? Are we trying to scare off budding young scientists?

Our recently renovated offices had a few minor deficiencies to follow up on, and these deficiencies are taking longer to manage then the entire process of sourcing, ordering and installing did. How can one hole drilled into the back of a cabinet (that should have been there when delivered) require 6 people to be involved, and it still not be done?!

We have a client that is regulated and therefore requires a lot of legal approvals to distribute any kind of materials. A routine, straightforward update of some materials took several rounds of reviews and weeks of time. It was more than exasperating; it was a ridiculous waste of resources.

These are all barriers to engagement, serious impediments to relationship building and no deposits to the goodwill bank.

A friend chuckled recently when I said, “You can’t quit when it gets hard.” But I am serious, when it starts getting harder to manage our client relationships, we need to look around and see what we may be doing to create the barriers. And then start ripping them down.


What’s your Passion?

by Vicki on November 2, 2012

I had an interaction last night that reminded me of the importance of having, living, and working your passion.

Our septic system had been acting up (never fun!!!). So I called a plumbing company in to help with the problem. The plumber ended up being longer than anticipated on the job before mine, so he only made it out to our house at 7pm. It was a dark, snowy and foggy drive out to my place plus his truck heater had failed earlier in the day…… and the fact of the matter was that he was coming to my house to tend to sewer issues – not much in his day to be happy about as far I was concerned.

Before delving into the sewer lines, we walked through my setup and he listened to what we had been experiencing as well as what we had done to troubleshoot the issue. And when I say he listened – he really listened. He reminded me of an investigator putting the pieces of a case together.

Once he’d identified what he thought was the trouble, he got to work. Half an hour later, the issue was solved and water was flowing beautifully down my drains.

As he was packing up his equipment to go, we started chatting. He said he’d been doing sewer work for the past 11 years and that he loved it. He explained that they start training technicians with sewer work to “break them in” to the realities of plumbing, and that he was so taken with it, he never left this domain. I asked him what it was about the job that he loved and he talked excitedly about how he could be called to 10 houses for the same presenting problem but the answer and the method to solving it was always different.

This man had clearly put in a long day of hard work in filthy conditions, he had to be tired and maybe even cold given his malfunctioning heater, plus he had another job to complete before his day was done (I won’t share the nature of the next job….but trust me….it was absolutely gross).

But he clearly loved his work. He was animated, enthusiastic, and engaged – 12+ hours into his workday.

My interaction with this plumber was a clear reminder that living and working your passion is fundamental to serving those around you and yourself well.

No matter what kind of crap there is to deal with if you have passion, it will get you through.


Engaging your Audiences

by Vicki on December 16, 2011

The other night I came across a post written by Christine Carter. Dr. Carter is a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

The post in and of itself is interesting. It is written through her lens as a mom and focuses on the Occupy movement – why it matters, why parents should get involved, how parents may get involved, what obstacles stand in the way of getting involved, etc.

But what really drew me into her post was the following excerpt:

Until recently, I’ve had a hard time engaging in the Occupy movement, even though I’m disturbed that our nation is now experiencing the greatest income inequality since 1929. It seems like the political activist in me went dark; a form of learned helplessness, I suppose.

I wasn’t always so resigned. In high school, I was obsessed with ending apartheid in South Africa; in college, I was intensely committed to the feminist movement.

I went to graduate school to study the very inequality that the Occupy Movement has drawn attention to. My dissertation, “Buying Happiness,” was about the stratification of happiness as it relates to family income.

At some point, I started to feel overwhelmed by the world’s social problems, and slowly, the loud political activist in me mellowed.

In this piece, Dr. Carter has managed to beautifully articulate a few issues that many PROVOKE clients grapple with on an ongoing basis –

  • Audiences that are knowledgeable about a given issue, care about the issue, but don’t engage
  • Audiences that are confused or uncertain about how to engage
  • Audiences that feel helpless or incapable of engagement

Although the solutions we develop for each client are highly context specific, it really comes down to some key elements –

  • Clearly and simply articulate the what and the why of your issue (i.e., not simpleton, but jargon free)
  • Connect the dots and paint the picture for your audience on why they should care – not why you think they should care, but the reasons that they actually may care (i.e., relevance to your audience)
  • Think through the “so what” and have an answer to the question – trying to answer the “so what” takes time and effort that people often don’t have to give. Do the work for them.
  •  Make it easy for your audiences to engage – if it appears too difficult or the barriers to engagement are too many, people simply won’t engage

Do you wish your audiences engaged to a greater extent? If so, take a moment to critically think through their experience – what are the key motivators, barriers, perceptions? What is your organization doing to foster engagement? Impede engagement?

And then get onto the task of shaping the engagement you want to see.



Squandered Moments

April 29, 2011

I had the awesome opportunity to go on a field trip recently with a group of grade 4 students. Many would not be excited by this prospect, but I truly was. The reason is, after all of PROVOKE’s work within the education sector (it is one of our core areas of focus and expertise), I […]

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Please do it Without Being Asked

March 25, 2011

At PROVOKE we have been so fortunate to work on so many important social issues – helping clients make sense of the complexity of their problem, helping them gain clarity of action, and push through change. Recently we have been working on something that has really made me sit back and reflect on our relationship […]

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