I was walking on the famous Michigan
Avenue in Chicago last week when I noticed a long line of people. There must have been easily 40 or 50 people in a line stretching down the block. My first thought was that it must be some type of free giveaway or maybe it was a truly great restaurant. I stood there staring, trying to solve the mystery of why so many people would stand in a slow-moving line. It was intriguing and perplexing.
I turned and observed a gentleman standing next to me who I thought might be trying to answer the very same riddle. So, I asked him if he knew why so many people were waiting in such a slow-moving line. “What do you think is going on?” I asked.
To say that his answer was a surprise is an understatement. He informed me that all of those people were waiting in line for popcorn. Not free popcorn. They were in line for a popcorn store. I should tell you right now that I love popcorn. I love everything about it: the sound it makes when it pops, the aroma as it permeates the entire house (or movie theater), and especially the taste. There is nothing better than fluffy, hot-buttered popcorn. I can leave the table after a four-course dinner and then sit down with a bowl of popcorn. In fact, I see nothing wrong with having popcorn for dinner once in a while. But, waiting in a long line for well over a half-hour for popcorn, are you kidding me? I draw the line at waiting in line for popcorn.
The gentleman went on to say that his wife and daughter were also in that line. Then he quietly informed me that the popcorn everyone was waiting for was, in fact, the best popcorn in the world. Are you kidding me? Imagine that: I was standing across the street from the best popcorn in the world! I was skeptical, but already I knew I was getting in that line. As the gentleman walked away he said, “get the Chicago Mix – trust me, it’s the best.”
So, after I waited and watched for a few minutes to see if the line was moving or if I knew anyone in line, I headed over to Garrett Popcorn for the world famous “Chicago Mix.” It had not been my intent to stand in a long line or to buy popcorn when I started out that morning, and I seldom buy into propaganda; but, there I was, at the end of very long line waiting for the alleged world’s best popcorn. I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder, front-to-back with a very excited, yet well-mannered group of people all willing to wait for popcorn. Are you kidding me?
There was a buzz up and down the line about what each person was going to buy when it was finally their turn. From what I could hear, most everyone was getting the Chicago Mix. Directly in front of me was a giant of a man who I am sure played football for the Chicago Bears. He was six foot eight and had to weigh 350 to 400 pounds – not the kind of guy you take cuts in front of. I decided to make friends with him instead. “What are you getting?” I asked him. He told me he was going to buy the Chicago Mix. I had to find out what was in this famous Chicago Mix I kept hearing about. Very calmly he explained it is a combination of caramel corn and cheese popcorn that is out of this world. I didn’t think that sounded very good and told him so. I told him I would probably just purchase butter popcorn, after all I am sort of a connoisseur when it comes to popcorn, especially butter popcorn. He looked me in the eye and without any reservation said, “Get the Chicago Mix. It is all you will want to buy. Believe me.” You know, I said I think I might try the Chicago Mix.
It was time for the giant to place his order and all he ordered was a small bag of Chicago Mix. And he even said please. I asked myself: If this stuff was so great, how come he didn’t order a larger size? It was finally my turn to order. I’m not the shy type and so let everyone know that I was knowledgeable about popcorn and ordered a big bag of the Chicago Mix. By the way, it was definitely not cheap.
I took my large expensive bag of popcorn and headed back to my hotel to watch the World Cup. On the train back everyone kept eyeing my bag with the logo of Garrett Popcorn. Finally, back at my hotel room, I turned on the TV to watch the game. The game was already half over, but I was into this now. I kicked off my shoes, arranged all the pillows on the bed, got the remote, got my large bag of the world’s best popcorn, and got comfortable on the bed to partake in what has been a huge build-up to this world famous Chicago Mix.
I try just a few kernels at first. This is unbelievable! I take a handful. Another handful. This is the most fantastic stuff I have ever tasted. It melts in my month and I am eating it as fast as I can only to stop after a few more handfuls as it is so rich and good. I have never tasted popcorn so good in my life. I can’t wait to bring the rest home for my wife, Mary, to try. The next day in the airport, I notice several people with bags of Garrett Popcorn – the greatest popcorn in the world.
Why am I telling you this story? Because people were willing to stand in a long line and pay good money for a small bag of popcorn. Think about that for a minute. Popcorn is a rather mundane, ordinary commodity, which anyone can buy for around 89¢ a pound (un-popped, of course). Those people (including me) waited in line to pay far more than 89¢ a pound for popcorn. It sounds amazing and far-fetched, unless you’ve been lucky enough to have your own bag of the Chicago Mix.
What is your business creating that people would be willing to stand in line to try? Are you creating a 'wow' experience, something that will make people remember you and get them talking about your business to others? How can you achieve a level of business excellence that will keep people coming back?
People may stand in line for you once, but they won’t do it twice unless you make it exciting or at least worth their time and money...
Learn about motivational keynote speaker, Jim Jackson.
This week I was in between destinations and had Sunday to explore Chicago. It was also the day for the finals of the World Cup Soccer – football to the rest of the world. I figured that Chicago would have some outstanding places to watch the World Cup. Sure enough, the place to be was Chicago’s Soldier Field where they expected to have 15,000 to 30,000 people cheering their favorite team on to victory. To get to Soldier Field from O’Hare Airport, I had to ride the Blue Line train to downtown and then catch a bus, hire a taxi, or just walk the remaining five miles to Solider Field!
But, something happened on the way to the World Cup: I stumbled upon a group of ordinary folks playing various musical instruments – violins, flutes, horns and the like. Well, I didn’t really stumble and the men and women weren’t just ordinary folks. I had the good fortune to observe the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra practicing in an outdoor amphitheater.
As I sat in the early morning sun and listened to them practice, I thought of how many businesses I work with who have their own type of orchestra. They don’t realize the 'sound' they make (or are capable of making) with their team. The sounds on this Sunday from this orchestra were beautiful. These magical sounds were created by professionals who have dedicated their lives to a passion for playing a flute or a violin at a concert level, and as one team. Teamwork was essential. Can you imagine the timpani player going off on his own beat and saying this is my department don’t tell me how to do my job. It would never happen with an orchestra at this high level nor would it happen at a high school band level. Because of the sound it would make if teamwork was not in play. There would be discord – no harmony.
My mind began to wander with the music. What does it take to build a successful orchestra? And how does this compare with employee team building for a successful business? The similarities were obvious and amazing. Even more amazing is that business leaders have not asked themselves: How does our business ‘sound’? To an orchestra their sound is what the audience hears as a result of four key team building disciplines:
Discipline One: Define your success for your team. Begin by defining and then owning a clear vision of what your success will look like. In the music world, the concert is the culmination of interpreting and successfully practicing the composer’s written score. The musicians and the audience will know right away if the sound they have created is successful. Have you communicated your vision for success to your employees?
Discipline Two: Commitment of the individual player. The best performers know their role and responsibility as a musician or member of the orchestra. Each individual member understands the effect of their timing, their precision, and their accuracy. Just as important is the tuning and care of their instrument. And, there would be no performance without the musician’s understanding of the written score. These elements are essential to the success of the orchestra. Do the members of your team have a clearly defined role?
Discipline Three: Following the leader. Every orchestra needs a conductor; a leader and coach. Watching them practice, the conductor will stop them periodically and communicate what he expects from the players. The conductor does not accept mediocrity, he expects greatness from each and every musician each time they play. He communicates to each section or specific performer what is needed from them to reach concert level. Do you coach your employees to greatness?
Discipline Four: Practice for success. Practice certainly makes perfect. But, do you want to play perfectly successful or perfectly awful? Once you’ve got the best people in your orchestra (or on your team) they need to have a clear vision or understanding of what perfection will sound or look like. Then, you all know the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. But, one must practice the sound correctly. Practicing correctly makes the sound to your audience -- or customers -- a memorable experience.
The Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, for that short time on that Sunday, allowed me to be a part of their passion. They were masters of their craft and their discipline to practice and perform at such a high level was proof of their success. They were there on a Sunday morning practicing for beauty and success while some were watching the World Cup and still others were watching them! I never made it to Soldier Field that day to watch world-class soccer; instead I listened to world-class musicians. Just by chance on that Sunday, I was blessed to discover a team of masters who possessed a commitment to expect greatness in all they did and the sound was music to my ears.
Here is a challenge for you today, for every day: Ask yourself, how does my business sound? If you don’t like your sound, then check the four disciplines outlined above and make your adjustments. Maybe your team just needs a little more practice. Or maybe you need to take some time developing a more clear vision for your team’s success -- and help them understand what success will sound like. What do you need to do to help your employees deliver top performance? Stop and listen - you can tell by the sound.
Learn more about team building speaker, author and coach, Jim Jackson.
What Does It All Mean?
At the end of the day, the quality of your life has been determined completely by you. You don’t always have control over the situations you encounter, but you always have a choice about how you react to them. You can wander through your life, putting one foot ahead of the other, investing as little energy as possible, just getting by. Or you can make the choice now to do whatever it takes to live a meaningful life. It’s up to you.
Take the time to seriously consider what matters to you. Don’t stop until you identify your true purpose in life. Then take that one step further: Use your imagination to see a vision of how that will play out in your life. Ask yourself: What happens on an ordinary day when I’m living a meaningful, fulfilling life? What am I doing? What does my life look like? And how do I get there from here?
Once you know your purpose, your vision and your values, you can create the action maps that will take you to your goals. That is the way to living a life that has meaning, a life with purpose, vision and value.
It’s entirely based on your own choices. When you start to get a glimpse of the amazing power that gives you, you’ll feel a rush of excitement that will blow you away. Because that will be the day that means anything is possible in your life.
Discover the secrets to finding your vision and more with Jim's inspirational BREATHE program!