I had a manager who constantly asked me, “What’s the value proposition?” What she was really asking me was, “Why should I, or anyone else, listen to your proposal or opinion?” My responses to these questions were often, “Because it’s the right thing to do,” or, “Because it’s my opinion,” or many other generic reasons that missed the mark. I grew frustrated over time as I continued to develop the answers she sought. I would expand as time went on to include, “Because it saves us money.” She would respond in a manner similar to, “So what?” or, “Why would the customer care?” I would expand to include customer impacts, and she would tack on questions relating to how I thought the people who needed to execute the plan would respond, or what would those funding it get out of it.
I was getting a lesson in ensuring that I was formulating a plan that took into consideration what was needed from people who had a stake in the game. I was also learning lessons in formulating a well-prepared plan that would get people’s attention and create easier buy-in for implementation. I needed this manager’s approach to teaching me how to think things through so that I could present a compelling case that was easy to comprehend. I wanted to add this approach to my go-getter style. I charged forward full steam ahead to learn more.
I also needed to learn to consider unintended consequences. What might be good for a certain population may not always be good for the whole. How many times, as a customer, have you heard a service representative state, “Because that’s our policy.” To a customer, they are saying, “So what.” The customer is not always right; I had to consider the question of the customer’s impact on my own ideas because I didn’t want them saying, “So what.”
I remember far too many times when we created a new rule or process and simply wrote a memo, an email, or posted it to the company website for the people who needed to execute it. We expected the employees to simply embrace and implement the changes. The worst part, many times, was that we did it with very little input from the people who would be charged with doing the job each day. I can remember the times we did this and then had to retract it because we hadn’t anticipated the downstream effects of our decisions.
My manager was not being cryptic when she asked me, “What’s the value proposition?” She was just covering all bases. She needed to ensure that I had gained multiple perspectives and opinions, thought of various scenarios, and formulated the value attached to what I wanted to say. I began to think more holistically and was able to better articulate my points because she had a solid foundation. The value proposition methodology became an ironic lesson in itself. My own value was growing in the eyes of other leaders as she saw me implementing the feedback.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
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How timely and valuable this is. I am interviewing for two different jobs this week. For-thought about value will impact this important step for me!