Thursday, 12 July 2012

Really useful philosophy

I get business books recommended to me all the time, from tomes that promise to reduce my working week to just four hours (why would I want to do that? I love my work and I'd be terminally bored) to those that pledge to help me make money while I sleep (intriguing, but I am rather fond of the sense of having worked for what I have.) I want to talk about just one approach that resonated with me years ago, and still holds true.

Back when I was still a thirtysomething, I worked on a temp contract with the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was a six-month maternity cover contract to support a department with employment relations admin, and see that the right stuff got to the right people. I underwent a two week training and induction programme (yes, two weeks for a temp job! Anyone would think they wanted things done properly!) The training manager, a redoubtable and highly personable lady named Liz, introduced me to one of the very best business systems I'd ever encountered. It's still one I touch upon time and again, and it's based on the most beautifully clear, clean and simple principles from the most unexpected source: The Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. 

The guys there do a dirty job, handling cold, stinking, wet fish day in, day out. They do long hours and they work hard.

They are also are legendary for their showmanship and commitment to great service- so much so that they attract crowds of suited and booted office workers early morning and every lunchtime who hope to tap into the energy and vibrancy of this unique workplace, and the people who make it buzz.

The guys realised many years ago that what they had was worth sharing, and so they created the Fish Philosophy, based on the aforementioned simple principles. I still refer to them as my touchstones of how to give great service, inspire loyalty and be remembered. (You can buy a shedload of materials to help you implement this thinking, but all you really need is the below and the ability to read and understand them.)

From the Fish Philosophy website, here are the fab four:

Be There is being emotionally present for people. It’s a powerful message of respect that improves communication and strengthens relationships.

Play taps into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic and having fun. Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind, as in “Let’s play with that idea!” It’s a mindset you can bring to everything you do.

Make Their Day is finding simple ways to serve or delight people in a meaningful, memorable way. It’s about contributing to someone else’s life, not because you want something out of it, but because that’s the person you want to be.

Choose Your Attitude means taking responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. Once you are aware that your choice impacts everyone around you, you can ask yourself, “Is my attitude helping my team or my customers? Is it helping me to be the person I want to be?”

Through The FISH! Philosophy, we build stronger relationships with the team members we work with, the customers we serve, the students we teach and the people we love.

I thought I'd reflect a little on how well I'm doing in living in alignment with these principles.

A small but carefully-nurtured client base means I can deliver on the first. I don't check my phone or emails when I am on time booked out to see a client. I don't blog when I am focussed on a task for a client. I don't tweet. I am there, with them, and that's where I want to be.

Playing can mean anything from getting creative with very few resources to meeting interesting companies. It can mean tweeting, or spinning off on themes that can really add value to a relationship and get people smiling. I do a lot of that. I love to play. Who wouldn't, given half a chance? Mark Twain said that 'Work and play are two words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions', and that's one dude who knew a lot.

Altruism is all too rare. Very few people can honestly go into a situation without pondering 'what's in it for me?' I'll tell you- a sense of having made something that little bit better, and having been a good and decent soul. I don't mean to sound pious, but surely contributing where we can for the good of others feeds our need to achieve? I swear, being able to sit down in the evening and say "I made their day" makes you feel damned good about life. Try it.

I believe in the sixty second effect. If you walk into a room in an ill temper, within sixty seconds you'll have put everyone there on the path to a foul mood, too. Taking a moment outside the door to compose your thoughts helps you choose your attitude. Remind yourself that nobody in that room cares about the traffic you've sat in, your bad hair day or the little gift the cat left in your slippers: it's not their problem. You being a poor version of the real you is. Respect them and don't inflict it on them.

So I think I do ok. I know could do better. But that's what keeps me motivated and determined to stick to the plan. I will always work to ensure that Treacletiger uses these principles in how we behave with clients, colleagues, connections, friends and everyone we meet. 

Try working with just one of the principles and see what happens. Let me know how you get on.

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