EPISODE 55

The Loudest Voices in the Room

Episode 55

Derek and Tucker talk about gathering feedback while prioritizing every voice.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

A common problem we run in to is trying to keep the loudest voices in the room at the weight they need to be at.

Derek This is something we see in nearly every project.

Expand Full Transcript

Derek Keep it in context.

Tucker Context is a huge word here. What we mean by the loudest voice in the room is we need to be mindful that the people who are the most boisterous are the people who have their chests out and they’re really passionate about something. They are only one subset of the opinion of everyone, or even the target market, so we need to take it with a grain of salt.

Derek It’s one voice. It’s one opinion, in this membership case, among 600 people or among the board. Like you said, this happens all the time, and it happens in life and all aspects of business. But as we think about this through the branding lens, if we, as the company who’s hired to help them, make the mistake of taking the loudest voice as the only important voice, we’re going to run into some problems.

Tucker Our job is to make our clients happy. Everyone thinks of that as the primary goal. I think that another primary goal is to get it right. And so it’s really hard to say we’re trying to make everyone happy, but you can’t make everyone happy. But you have to do it right. So, for us, we’re going to try to make everyone happy, but we know we have to make the project go in the right direction, using the right thoughts and using those insights correctly.

Derek Our job is to do right by the entire organization, to do right by the client, even when the loudest voice might be the person who is the lead or the person who even hired us. They hired us to do right by their entire organization.

Tucker So, a little bit of context, what are some of the risks that we take if we just listen to the loudest voice in the room? What happens if that voice is the primary thought that we run through?

Derek The biggest one for me is it’s an extremely limited perspective. It’s only one person’s point of view. Now, if that’s a solopreneur or an independent organization that one person owns, then that’s fine. Their perspective is what counts. But when you’re dealing with a team of people at a sports organization, at a club, or within a business, that one person’s perspective might not have taken all of the information into context, and it might be colored and/or skewed and only following their insight, their opinion. It might have us miss the larger picture by only seeing it from their point of view.

Tucker It creates blind spots because they don’t know everything. And they aren’t everyone and they don’t talk to everybody either. So there’s this level of their personal bias which is likely to come in. When we work on projects, our personal biases come out too. It’s super hard to say that if we only listen to this one person, then we’re not getting the full picture.

Derek I think the blind spots might be the biggest thing. I mean, we’re missing insights. We’re missing valuable points of view, information, perspective, alternate solutions, different ways to approach this, and other things that are important that maybe the quieter voices in the room haven’t had the opportunity to be heard yet.

Tucker For most of the people we work with, this is the first time they’ve done this, so it’s natural for them not to want to step up and say something because they’re not quite sure how this works. They’re not really sure if they should step up and say this or that. And so what we do with that is to be mindful that not everyone has done these projects before and they just don’t know how valuable their opinion is quite yet. The next one is conforming thoughts. So this, for me, is really important because someone, let’s say it’s the CEO, says something and there’s a bunch of people in the room that want to align with that thought because they feel like it’s beneficial to them in some capacity. Excuse my language, but we call this saving their asses. It happens a lot more than you’d think when someone higher up on the ladder has said this one thing and now everyone else agrees with that in some kind of capacity. It’s not realistic to say everyone agrees with that CEO every single time.

Derek But it takes some bravery to not just disagree but to appropriately pose an alternate option or additional information and to not feel like you’re hanging yourself out to dry, putting your job or your position at risk by including whatever the insights are that you think are valid to this whole branding thing that we’re working on that we keep talking about.

Tucker And some people just aren’t naturally confrontational. If you’re not naturally confrontational, someone might say something and you might say, Yeah, I agree with that, I guess. But you might not have if they didn’t say that, or you might have come up with a completely different thought. You just don’t know. So there’s this level of some people need bravery, but also it’s just natural for them to cling on to other people’s ideas because that’s just the natural way it works.

Derek We’ve also run into the exact opposite where we’ve got 7 or 8 very, very strong voices in the room, and all of them think a little bit differently, and all of them need to be heard. That’s a whole different scenario to navigate.

Tucker That’s a totally different podcast.

Derek The next one we titled inequality. The loudest voice isn’t always necessarily the person who actually has the most experience or expertise in this matter. They might have the most authority within an organization. They might be the CEO. So they do have the final say, but the CEO’s expertise might not be in this very specific initiative.

Tucker There’s a saying that usually the smartest people in the room are the quietest people in the room. I don’t know if that’s right or not, but that’s kind of what this is based on. Sometimes you can’t confuse loudness for competence. So not everyone who’s loud knows what they’re talking about. And not everyone who’s loud understands all the different areas that we need to do this for. So that kind of inequality of prioritizing certain voices, because they’re louder, creates this level of only listening to someone because they have that natural instinct to say what they think.

Derek Exactly. Another challenge or problem with only listening to the loudest voices in the room is the potential to miss the mark, to make a mistake, by basically making a decision that wasn’t yet fully informed.

Tucker This comes from my thoughts about us and our team. We can’t be the loudest people in the room either. We’ve done hundreds of branding initiatives with different people. Every single one is different. So what we can’t do is come and say we’re the experts, pound our chest, and say that you need to listen to us about every single piece of this because we don’t know everything either. Every project is a new opportunity to learn something completely different. And, to me, that is this potential for mistakes. If we don’t listen to the people who aren’t the loudest in the room, then we’re really opening the door to missing something that can save us in the long run with a project. And that’s happened time and time again whether it’s at the beginning of a project or whether it’s at the end. Think about efficiencies in just listening to everyone. It might take more time on the front end, but it saves time long term because you find out things that kind of make it easier for you to make those decisions.

Derek It’s our job to do that due diligence, too. We’re working with a club that’s looking at or considering a rebranding initiative, a brand refresh. And we interviewed a cross-section of about 25 members of the club. Our assumption is the list of people that we’ve decided would be good people to talk to, that list was provided to us by the committee. And so it’s a little bit on us to be talking with them to make sure that that list of people does include enough of a cross-section of enough of the membership so that we’re seeing the full picture and not just the 25 people that the person who put the list together already knows is going to back up his specific point of view. There’s some politics that we’re navigating. We’re navigating change management. But again, it’s our job to do right by the client in this case.

Tucker Even outside the club space with projects within the professional team space, there is a subset of fans. There are all these different fan categories. If we listen to one fan group, we might be alienating a different one because they are really passionate about something and this other group isn’t quite passionate about that. But if you go all in on this one category, you’re going to lose the other one. This is like the potential for mistakes. If we’re only listening to the people who might make us feel that this feels right and not listening to everybody, then it creates blind spots. That’s kind of the big theme of this conversation. The last part is stifling creativity. I just had a conversation with one of our designers this morning, and he said that we can’t leave a stone unturned. What he was referring to is design-specific stuff. But this is perfect for this as well. Sometimes when we settle for one answer because it’s just the quickest and the easiest answer, it doesn’t open our minds up to what’s possible and challenge ourselves to be brave and to do something different and surprising rather than doing something obvious and right in front of you.

Derek Exactly. Sometimes the first idea does end up being the right idea, but sometimes the best idea takes a little bit of sweat, blood, and effort because we can’t see it until we see something else. And it’s a whole process of discovery and uncovering. And it’s that next thing that we tried that actually got us to the final right decision – the really authentic, relevant, surprising one.

Tucker I totally agree. Other than the blood thing. We don’t spill blood in any of our projects.

Derek Back in the old days, there were some exacto blade incidents. But, yeah, metaphorical blood. So how do we solve this? For an organization that is about ready to take on this initiative, or who’s already doing one, or a creative agency that’s teeing something up – what’s the solution?

Tucker The short answer would be research. In-depth research would be a better way of saying that – qualitative, quantitative research that helps us balance it. The other way I like to say it is we want to get perspectives. From a data standpoint, it’s helpful to have non-emotional people say, Here’s what they actually think and said. Then we can go from just data points and that’s great from a quantitative standpoint. Qualitative is one-on-one interviews. It’s getting them out of a group. A lot of people love focus groups because of the efficiency of it. I think that we’ve found the most effective way to do it is one one-on-one interviewing with members, whether it’s fan groups, whether it’s a specific fan, or whether it’s staff. We’re talking about getting outside the meeting room, getting outside the boardroom for a second. It’s amazing how many conversations you can have when you have them with a client to say that conversation would never have happened in front of their entire team.

Derek It’s a confidential, safe, one-on-one environment where we’ve given them the license to speak without somebody else talking over them, without them being afraid to put themselves at risk because somebody else was in the room. There are projects that we’ve worked on that would never have been as successful as they were had we not learned what we learned in a bunch of one-to-one conversations. I think those are the most helpful parts of uncovering the blind spots, validating some thinking that they already believed, and then uncovering some new opportunities that we would never have thought of had we not had those opportunities to talk one-on-one.

Tucker And I think of those one-on-one conversations as casual. When we do our interview process, it’s not a very formal sit-down, here’s who we are, here’s who you are, I need to answer these specific questions. It’s an informal conversation about what’s happening and what needs to happen. And in those casual conversations, people just kind of unlock, and shoulders go down. People are like, Oh, we’re talking. Okay. Sounds good. There is no covering your backside on any of this stuff because what you’re worried about is whatever everyone else thinks. But when you have a confidential, casual conversation, people are just like, Here’s what I actually think. Then we do our job by taking that and asking how we can mold a storyline and how we can mold a strategy around that knowing we can’t necessarily use their quotes and saying, Well, the CEO said this specifically.

Derek: It makes us smarter and makes us do our job better. It also helps with the organizational side of change management in giving a bunch of people the opportunity to feel included and involved and not stifled in a bigger meeting setting when they didn’t feel like they had the opportunity to give their two cents. [00:16:00][18.3]

Tucker Overpowered or any of that kind of stuff. I think the phrase for 2024 might be change management. It comes back every single time when we say what makes a really good project is if we have good change management. If people are honest with what’s going on, if they’re informed and they understand how we got here and where we’re going because of how we got here, it makes a huge difference. Takeaways – listen to people. Listen to people and don’t be afraid to not listen to certain people.

Derek Just because you listen to somebody who has a different point of view, it doesn’t mean that that other point of view has to be right, or that that point of view is ultimately going to be the thing that you decide to do, but it’ll help you make the decisions that you do make smarter and more informed. And ultimately, I think it will make your branding initiative more successful.

Tucker The easy way is not always the best way would probably be my biggest takeaway from this. There are a lot of projects we’ve done where you would say, Wow, the CEO thinks this and we’re just going to do it. But just because they’ve just cut through the “let’s do this” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right way. And I know I’m picking on the CEO over and over again. That’s not always it. Sometimes it’s the VP of something, but it’s something to keep in mind. Just because it was easy and quick doesn’t mean that it was the right decision.

Derek It’s the cliche of going slow to go fast. Figure out where you’re going before you just start running. And then once you get that arrow pointed in the right direction, you can sprint. But gather as much information as you can and just make sure you’re hearing the right information and all the information, not just the loudest information.

Tucker Thorough on the front, efficient on the back, is how we think about it.

Derek I like that. You should start using that.

Tucker All right. Write it down.

Derek Until next time.

Tucker Thanks.

Derek Sussner is a branding firm specializing in helping companies make a meaningful mark, guiding marketing leaders who are working to make their brand communicate better, stand out, and engage audiences to grow their business. For more on Sussner, visit Sussner.com.

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