This isn’t a usual post about using technology to enable your business. This is more like what I’ve been calling an “entrepreneurial thought of the day”, or something that I thought of that sort of philosophically explains what may be a success factor for the entrepreneurial mindset.
How do you get people (prospects, leads, employees) to listen to your message? As a consultant, writer, and speaker, I have to be able to get my message across in many different ways every day. Sometimes, it feels like we’re all herding cats, doesn’t it? You know what I mean, when you are giving direction to people who aren’t listening, when you’re trying to push along a process and no one else cares. Just like if you were trying to herd cats, creatures notorious for their ability to ignore both humans and their surroundings.
About 5 years ago I was having this discussion with my friend Leslie who has 2 cats of her own. She had taken on her first managerial position and was running a small team of developers at a Big 6 consulting firm. She said managing her team was like herding cats. I had never heard that term before and we talked about how tough it is to get people to listen. By the end of the conversation I had figured out enough to say, “but I can herd Nina and Sonja (my cats) much easier than I can herd my staff.”
I spent the next 5 years learning why that was the case and what I could learn from it.
I realized that I had figured out how to herd cats but not how to “herd cats” that were employees. How did I herd Nina and Sonja?
They have things that they respond to. A sturdy poke to the hindquarters, the sound of my voice when I sing out “Girls” to call them for dinner, my turning off my light after getting in bed. There are things that every cat knows and is paying attention to whether they are actually paying attention to you or not.
For a cat, the most powerful stimulus of all is the can opener.
It means canned food or the satisfying taste of tuna. It means Daddy loves them enough to give them the treat. It means whatever it means. And you know what I mean. You could have no idea where your cat is and if you push down that can opener lever they come running.
If you want to motivate employees, successfully work with peers, and make sales, then you need to find the can opener. The can opener is the stimulus that gets through to your audience and causes them to respond.
The can opener is a benefit and not a feature. It is the terms in which someone needs to receive your direction. It is the best way to pitch anything from a meeting to an article to a sale.