"The consumer isn't a moron; she is your wife." ~David Ogilvy
"Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger." - Franklin P. Jones
I always get into trouble on social media when I use Mr. Ogilvy’s quote above because it is rather brash and is easily misinterpreted. What he is getting at is that you can’t fool customers any more than you can fool your own spouse, so don’t try. No need for focus groups, studies, market analysis, etc. just ask your spouse what their thoughts are and they will probably provide you with a reasonable assessment. Now of course this is an overly simplistic viewpoint, but for the purposes of this article, that is exactly what I am after.
As a leader, when I find myself “stuck” or bothered by a particular situation whether it be personnel related, process related or product related I will often run the situation by my spouse. This may not seem obvious outside of “venting” to them, but stay with me through the rest of this post. I don’t have to take their advice on a situation, I am still responsible for my job, but I have found it extremely helpful in the past. If you don’t have a spouse, you can always substitute a parent, friend, or significant other. The key is that they care about you and they aren’t involved directly with your organization. What you get from asking them about the situation is the following:
Simplicity – The first thing you gain from asking anyone who isn’t familiar with the situation is simplicity, if for no other reason than time. The easiest and quickest way to make something understandable to someone is to simplify it. In the process of doing so you may find that there was an obvious solution that you couldn’t see through the fog of details, shortsightedness, preconceived notions, less important obstacles, etc.
Outside Point of View – The second thing you gain is a “sanity check” on what is going on. Your spouse is a semi-neutral third party who can tell you that you are or are not crazy, that is or isn’t the way things are supposed to be, or that you’re wrong. Once you have simplicity from above, it is nice to ensure that the larger perspective of the issue matches what you are seeing.
Hard Advice – And lastly, they know you well enough and have a vested interest in you making the right decisions with your job to give you the hard advice. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a back-and-forth of conversation that takes place on the issue, but you at least know you are getting advice from someone who sincerely cares about you. When no one else will tell you what you don’t want to hear, your spouse is the most likely to.
Now this of course has benefits for the relationship as well as you are sharing and communicating, but it has some very practical work benefits for you as well as laid out above. So the next time you are “stuck” or bothered, go ahead and take a few minutes to explain what is going on. You may be surprised at the result.
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