Trust Your Feelings, Not the Bells and Whistles

Our twin daughters are beginning to look at high schools. We are lucky, because here, in Philadelphia, there are so many good schools. It really is hard to make a bad choice. My wife and I try to use the high school selection process as one of the first major choices the kids have to make somewhat on their own.

We ask them to look at the area high schools and decide which one they would like to go to. We remind them that this decision will be for 4 years. It is their first major decision to make and they will have to stick with it.

We did this with my son and it was such a wonderful learning experience. He felt committed and, on occasion, when things didn’t go as planned, he didn’t whine or complain. He worked through them because he wanted to be there – it was his choice.

Feel your way through big decisions

Recently, my wife took our daughter Ellie to visit a school she was interested in. Ellie is very open minded and  I think she will do well no matter where she goes, however she is having a tough time articulating what she is looking for in a school.

She admires her mother so she is constantly asking my wife what she thinks. And my wife is very  good at reminding Ellie it’s her choice. Mind you, if Ellie asked me, I would most likely say “this is what I think, you should go here.” Thank God for my wife – she is showing me how to listen and help, not just solve.

What I find most interesting are my wife’s suggestions for what Ellie should consider as she’s making the decision:

  • Think about how you feel.
  • What do you want to feel like when you go to school each morning?
  • What will make you happy?
  • Do not get caught up in what the school looks like, but how you feel when you are there.

Blow the whistle on bells and whistles

This genuinely stopped me in my tracks. The advice she’s giving  our 13-year-old daughter can be just as easily applied to business, particularly the buying and selling process. When you are making a major decision, especially one that you will have to live with for years, it is so important not to be sold on bells and whistles alone. Instead, base your decision on what it will feel like living with this partner for years to come.

At SEI, I lead a unit that sells complex solutions in long-term contracts. I am constantly talking about how we manage and service the relationship. I hold that as our real differentiator and the largest value we deliver to our clients. I try to get each prospect to understand it is the relationship and service model that makes the real difference.  However, that is tough for people to see or accept until they make the decision.  They don’t think about how they will feel. They think about the bells and whistles.  And I get that-bells and whistles are tangible, and feelings are not.

Try before you buy

So what to do? Well, Ellie asked if she could spend a day at the school. Something the schools call “shadowing.”  She thought she needed to “live it” to know how she would feel. This got me thinking, how do we create shadow days for our prospects? I am very confident if they shadowed us they would see – and feel- the difference in our solution and our approach to partnership. At some point, each of us made decisions that made us happy and some that made us feel bad, or even regretful. Did we base those decisions on feelings, or bells and whistles? If we could go back to some of those regretful decisions, and test drive the choice first, I wonder if the outcome would be the same.