Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

I was fascinated by John Blakely’s blog: “A tale of two cities – listening to the system”. He asks the question that many business coaches and mentors face. How can we change the spirit of an organisation?”

Blakely takes as his starting point the success accredited to Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York. The man who slashed crime believes that he gave a voice to the spirit of New York. from there followed the necessary change.

An interesting approach. Blakely wonders how that model can be applied to commercial firms and organisations. This week, I was faced with such a challenge.

In my case study, I made my way to a manufacturer of housing products near Jerusalem. An established outfit, they have suffered from competitors encroaching on to their space. Further, in an effort to slash costs, advertising budgets have been thrown out of the window. Nobody can find out about their quality services, which are not the cheapest on the market.

The owners are frustrated, restricting themselves to putting out fires in the factory, as opposed to creating a new strategy. In parallel, they are demanding, a quick turn around.

And here is the catch. On the one hand, any their clients will end up spending a lot of money. Yet, the drive to their building is simply unappealing, to say the least. As I tried to explain the dichotomy, the conversation became uncomfortable. I was challenged heatedly. How could my theories possibly be related to making a sale?

Looking for a different approach, I asked my client to step outside and to tell me what he saw. The immediate response was one of near refusal. He only sluggishly rose from his chair. He spent several minutes, claiming that everything looked normal; no need to fix anything and nothing could be fixed anyway due to by-laws.

So, I challenged my client. Who could see the building in order to stop there? Why would anybody park in an area full of litter, when they were being encouraged to lay out lots of good money? What stopped him from creating a welcoming presentation of his products, enveloped in a backdrop of green shrubbery?

There was little further discussion. The man went back inside and produced a tape measure. I was assured that within two weeks, new signs will appear as well as other features. And with a touch of irony, two minutes later a good client walked in and jovially asked the same questions I had posed. My own customer must have felt that I had set him up.

Psychologists teach us that change is not easy for most of us. It is particularly hard for CEOs, who have become encrusted in practices that are known and safe. These ‘cushions’ hide the fact that these same practices are failing! It is the role of the business mentor to show the client, even when the resistance may be fierce, to show why change is not just necessary but feasible and even potentially fun.

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