“Art as expression, not as market campaigns”

The title of this post is in quotes because I didn’t make it up… it’s a lyric from the song “Natural Science” by Rush.  It actually popped into my head today as I watched a landscaper carefully shape some ground cover plantings with a weed wacker.

Jasmine ground cover (similar to the stuff my guy was working on)

He was taking such care, yet his movements looked effortless.  The end result was quite stunning and I thought, “this guy’s an artist”.  Maybe not in the painter/musician/dancer/poet terms of the word, but certainly in terms of someone who cares about what he is doing, i.e. his craft.

So then I thought, couldn’t we all elevate our craft to the artist level?  To me it starts with understanding the definition of the word “art” (from Dictionary.com)

Art: the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

I think there are three words or phrases that pop out no matter what your chosen craft might be (i.e painter, musician, leader, salesperson, writer, carpenter, teacher, landscaper, insert any profession here).

They are:

Quality – We all want to do quality work, but is that a sliding scale?  Your quality will be measured against others and by others.  But, it’s imperative for you to measure the quality of your output based on it’s relationship to your previous efforts. Is your quality getting better?  If so, you are moving in the right direction.

Appealing – We all need our work to appeal to someone, but will it appeal to everyone?  Certainly as a musician or painter, the answer will be no, and that’s okay.  You may have a narrow niche audience for your craft, but if you consistently provide a high quality product, they will be a loyal bunch. What this looks like for a leader, for example, is being able to adapt your style to appeal to the various individuals you will be leading.  You need them to be loyal so you can produce a quality product.

…Of more than ordinary significance – This is the kicker. We can provide quality and appeal to our audience, but what’s the significance?  In other words, who cares?  And more over, who cares more than an ordinary amount?  When YOU care more than an ordinary amount, it shows in your work. When that amount of attention is given to providing an experience, service, or product to someone else, they can’t help but notice and appreciate the effort you have put in. They may even call it stunning. They may even call you an artist.

If you haven’t made a plan improvement for 2015 yet, feel free to use this as your guide.  Elevate your quality and appeal, and deliver more than ordinary significance in everything you do.  Can’t wait to see what you can accomplish!

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!!




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LiF Twitter

Nick proves your argument is invalid

Last week I posted this tweet after a wonderful experience with an employee at my local Apple store.

Nick TweetWhile sending this tweet satisfied my desire to provide immediate and public praise for an amazing customer care experience, I don’t think it did Nick’s performance justice. For his efforts that day (and I am going to guess everyday) he deserves much more than 140 characters.

Here’s the situation… my 4 year-old Mac was having issues.  I had visited the Genius Bar (in-person Apple support) before and had a good experience with the “genius”, but ultimately we couldn’t pinpoint the problem.  When I left that day, the next step (after trying a few things at home) was potentially going to be wiping my hard drive clean and starting over.

I came to terms with this, backed up every last PowerPoint, spreadsheet and email, and trotted off to the Apple Store in the Altamonte Mall.

When I arrived, I took a seat at the Genius Bar, and was quickly greeted by Nick.  He looked me right in the eye, shook my hand, introduced himself and told me he was going to take care of me.

I’m terrible at judging age, but I would guess that Nick is in his early-to-mid twenties.  I was happy for that, because while I don’t like to stereotype, I felt much more comfortable with someone like Nick working on the problem than I would have been if it were someone more like… me. (i.e Old)

Nick went to work, troubleshooting and explaining things along the way.  He made me feel comfortable enough to ask questions, and patiently answered all of them as if it were the first time he heard it.  Nick moved around the computer and keyboard with ease and speed, never stopping his motion or his thoughts about what to try next.

When he started a diagnostic program that was going to take up to 10 minutes, he asked if it would be okay if he got started with another customer.  He assured me he would be back to finish up, and I no reason not to trust him.

The next 30 minutes saw more diagnostics on my computer, and more time for Nick to help others.  Here’s where it gets good.  Nick was now helping three people, myself and a person to both my right and left.  Normally, this would make many service providers cry for help.  But not Nick.

He would start a process on one computer, have to hold a key down, then shift his body to the other computer, start a process there, explain what he was doing, answer a question, start another diagnostic, etc. This went on and on.  It was like he was three people. It was really a beautiful process to watch.

Much like a symphony conductor, Nick navigated his way through an abundance of situations, guiding us and the computers along with him, ultimately to a successful resolution (at least in my case – I left before the other two were finished).

Once my computer was fixed, we high-fived and Nick wished me a good day and a Happy Thanksgiving.  He was then on to helping the next person…

So what argument does Nick invalidate? The one we make when we say “we can’t find good employees”, “these kids have no work ethic”, “they would rather text than have a face to face conversation”.

Is Nick the norm? Maybe not, but he provides hope that rock stars are out there. But unfortunately, hope won’t help you hire the right people. Hope won’t help you train them properly, and hope won’t teach them to have a good work ethic.

That falls to you and your staff, and if a little tough love is what you need to see what it takes to develop the Nicks in your world, then so be it.

And here it comes.

Stop wasting your energy on what used to be and start figuring out how to deal with the here and now. Your products and services have probably changed to meet customer demand, so why wouldn’t your internal processes change to meet the changing needs of your employees? You may need to look into technology solutions, consider more people resources, or turn your onboarding/training/employee relations process on its head. Can’t pay a lot?  Okay, what other ways can you show your staff how valuable they are? (hint, a thank you goes a LONG way).

If what you are doing now isn’t working, don’t blame your employees… they aren’t the ones who came up with the system that is now obsolete.

Like many of the problems we face, we probably know what needs to be done, but something (most likely our ego or assumptions) is getting in the way.  Could you have a Nick on your team?  Yes!  Could you have a whole team of Nicks? Absolutely, but not if you continue to argue that it’s not possible.

So there, your argument for not having a team of rock stars is invalid.  Now, stop invalidating your team by not putting forth the effort, energy and resources needed to foster a rock star employee experience.

Thanks for reading!




About the author: Matt is not too fond of going to the dentist, but recognizes that DIY dental work is a really bad idea.  If you see that your people processes are broken, but don’t know what to do, don’t go it alone.  Matt can help. Click here to find out how.