Why is it So Hard to Follow our Own Advice?
Updated: Nov 16, 2020
How often do you say “practice what you preach” to clients or anyone for that matter? Initially, I thought it was just a marketing mantra that we need to drill into the businesses we’re helping but this isn’t true. There are plenty of examples of other businesses who also fall into this trap.
We say we’re experts in our services and we are, that is why we're doing what we’re doing. We know the clients we are helping are benefiting hugely from the technology or the experience or the skills we have.
We know we should practise what we preach. It’s business 101 so why are so many of us not listening to ourselves? Why is it so difficult to do?
Why We Find It Hard To Practice What We Preach
1. WE DON'T REALISE WE'RE NOT
We’re so wrapped up in bringing the best service to clients that we forget about our own business. We’re juggling many situations: we’re putting out fires, we’re finding new business, we’re keeping the board informed, we’re ensuring our staff are happy, we’re developing new ways of working, we’re engaging with our communities and key stakeholders, we’re helping our clients grow. The list is endless. We’re so busy providing an excellent service to our clients, prospects and staff we’re not paying attention to the “little” details because other things are taking our focus.
2. WE DON'T RATE IT AS IMPORTANT
Those small details are ticking a box, they’re doing a job. They’ve been noted as “needing attention” but they are functioning fine and “aren’t a priority right now”. You don’t need to focus on the little details at this moment because they’re not important. Not when the business is doing well, you’ve got clients in and things are running smoothly. It doesn’t seem like a problem. It’s far more important to make sure your clients, staff and board are happy than anything else, so that “anything else” doesn’t need to be prioritised. Which also means the bird’s eye perspective is missed.
3. WE'RE TOO BUSY
We know we should. We know there are items on the do list that would address it. We know that we keep preaching and that our clients are benefiting from it but we just don’t have the time to practise it. There hasn’t been a disaster yet so it isn’t a big problem right now, there are other pressing matters. And our clients don’t seem to mind. They’re not telling us we have any issues so it doesn’t matter. New employees arrive and report discrepancies in our offering or service. It would be great if someone could address it. If only someone had the time.
Someone. Manyana. Nice to have.
Legitimate Reasons, Damaging Delays
These are all strong arguments against why we aren’t practising what we preach but really, they are just excuses. The main reason we aren’t practising what we preach is because we aren’t making the time to ensure its priority.
We allow ourselves to get distracted by other tasks and activities because we get a tangible benefit from them. There’s a transaction that occurs, which we don’t get when we work on our business because it doesn’t happen overnight and because the benefits are not visible. They are wrapped into something else.
If you say you create amazing websites and yours reflects that, you put your lead generation down to your sales team or marketing activity.
If you say you provide first class security and your practices in house reflect this, you put this down to operational efficiency.
Long Term Defects
If your website is basic but you have clients and are having meaningful conversations with prospects, does it matter? Surely, everyone understands that we don’t have time to work on our own companies and they’ll look at our portfolio anyway and realise that we are really good at what we do?
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What about if your practices in-house are not following your own guidelines but you haven’t had any security breaches yet and you’re pretty sure that you’d be able to spot an issue before it becomes a big deal? The main thing is your clients assets are like Fort Knox and are protected because that’s what you do, so it’s not a problem right now.
A Different Perspective
Have you thought about the prospective clients who couldn’t get past your terrible looking website so didn’t make it to your portfolio? Or who thought, "if they can’t even take time over their own website why would they care about mine?" How many of those are there? How many people weren’t guided through the customer journey because the UX wasn’t friendly?
What happens when you do have a data breach? How damaging to your reputation would that be? What about prospects who identify cracks in your armour in their due diligence so go with someone else? Do they tell you that or do you get “we decided to go in a different direction” or “we went with someone else because they suited our needs better”?
How do you know when something you’ve been putting off suddenly becomes not fit for purpose? Are you monitoring that? Is it too late before you actually identify it?
Making Time For Your Business
We’re all guilty of it. The key is to make time. We need to prioritise working on our businesses. A day a week, a month, a quarter. And not just to think about it but take action. If we don’t, it will catch up with us at the most inopportune time and by then the damage will have been done.
It doesn’t need to be a huge deal. There can be incremental changes throughout the year. The point is, if we’re not making the time to practise what we preach, what we’re saying is the business isn’t important.
Do Your Words and Actions Match?
Do you tell people how good you are with employee engagement? Great. Are your staff your biggest brand evangelists?
Do you tell people how much you care about equal opportunities? Brilliant. What does your leadership team look like?
You see, it doesn’t even need to be practising what you preach in terms of what you tell your clients. It is also what you tell your staff. What you tell the world. How you present yourself. How you project your values.
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We can’t just tell though. We must show.
Actions speak louder than words.
How are you practising what you preach? When did you decide to prioritise it? How do you make time to work on your business? How did you discover you weren’t? Perhaps you disagree? Let us know in the comments.