Select the right words. Say them well.

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Edition #84

Here’s my question for you. How long will you have to wait before you visit a restaurant restroom and see a sign which says something very different? How about this? “Our team members always wash their hands before returning to work.” Or how about a more snarky version? “Our team members wash their hands without being told.”

Often in these Monthly Memos we point out the opportunities for you to be a little smarter – a little less obvious – or just more thoughtful than the competition. Here’s my assignment for you. Look around your work, or look through the work you send out for others to see. Are there places where you are saying things “because that’s the way we’ve always said it.”? Is the place you work arranged because it’s the BEST way or is it just the way it has been since you got there? Are things thought out – or are they just done?

In the example I referred to above about employees washing their hands, many people turn their brain off when they hear “it’s a legal requirement” to do something. Really? Well, can we make our own message, but still meet the spirit of the law? If you fly Southwest Airlines you already know what I mean. They “do the legal” with the safety message, but they find a way to get you listening by mixing it up a bit. They’re bored doing the same thing all the time and they have bosses who understand that, so they have license to do an even better job by offering some variety to the same stuff you’ve heard a thousand times.

With all due respect to my many lawyer friends, just because it says so doesn’t mean there is just one way to meet the requirement, in many cases. It just takes more thought and flexibility. Are you sitting around conference tables and going with the flow or are you finding a new way? It’s spring for Pete’s sake! (Who was Pete, by the way?) Turn over a new leaf! Make it your rule to break or at least bend a rule once a week. Get out of the rut and find a way to surprise, delight or entertain your client, audience or co-workers.

The weird thing is there is room in the universe for this kind of behavior because SO MUCH of what we experience every day is exactly as we expect. That’s not always bad, but when we are ignoring safety messages or looking past important information because it is done poorly, we lose something.

How does this play out for you? Are there things that you can do to make your important messages STAND OUT instead of getting overlooked? What steps can be taken, big and small, to get that done? (Does it cost Southwest Airlines anything more to make their boring announcements better?) Use this spring to clean house of the old, boring ideas that everyone is ignoring anyway and come up with just a few to help you stand out.

One final note: Okay, I’m taking my Twitter account more seriously. Please follow along with the fun @CaryPfeffer