Maya Angelou may not have been thinking of entrepreneurs when she relayed one of her most profound insights but, as an entrepreneur, I find myself  inspired by it now more than ever.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

It's the "how you made them feel" part of Angelou's quote that I like to hover over, especially as I prepare for a meeting or presentation. Whether I'm having a one-on-one conversation or  speaking to an auditorium full of people, beginning with the end point of how I want that person to feel after our encounter helps to steer my attitude and the message that I convey.

Here are three ways that that's played out for me and company recently, to the benefit of our business.

Teammates

We're a small team with very tight relationships among us, a little like the nerve endings of our fingertips that cluster in small, individual spaces but that necessarily work intimately together. Our impact on each other, and the messages we exchange among our individual roles, resonate throughout the entire system.

How do we want each other to feel, as those messages and their impact are conveyed? Valued, most of all.

We each want to feel that our work is valued psychologically and monetarily, and we want to feel that our contributions are valuable assets for the company and our clients.

Communicating your teammates' value can happen in a number of ways, depending on the nature of your business. For ours, it happens privately in contract negotiations and team meetings where each person's opinion (particularly the softer-spoken ones) is solicited and heard fully. It also happens publicly in the content of our written communications that underscore the high significance of our team's technological skills.

Clients

Naturally clients want to feel that their business has benefitted in measurable ways from working with your business. Less tangibly, however, is the way that individual points of contact feel after encountering your business.

Does working with you make your lead contact feel like they've scored points with their boss? Does your contact look better in their eyes of their peers, as a result of working with you? These are less measurable but no less important results to consider.

Periodically we're asked to deliver the results of a project to a room full of sales people that work for the client, either around the country or around the world. Each person in that room wants to feel that sitting through our presentation empowers them to do their job better and close more deals.

Have I been allotted enough time to address each sales person's individual territory or market dynamics? Inevitably not, but I will have been allotted enough time-- mostly in the execution of the project and preparation of the results-- to speak confidently during the presentation about the process, while also allowing for the opportunity to "slice and dice" the results at a later time so that they matter uniquely to each person involved.

Yourself

As an entrepreneur, how do you want your work to make you feel?

Many of us will answer that we want to feel like our work makes a difference for the better. The contours of that will vary individually, but hovering over the nuances of them helps to articulate what "for the better" means for us specifically.

In my case, making a difference "for the better" means three things. First, empowering an industry that I love with tools that enable it to thrive in an uncertain future. Second, applying those tools for the pleasure and benefit, ultimately, of the end consumer. Finally, making a difference "for the better" for me means serving as a successful example of a woman-owned business in two industries (technology and wine) where women leaders are under-represented.

Spend some time articulating what "for the better" means for you specifically. At the end of the day, reflect on whether you've made progress on those areas and keep track, so that you can reference any evolution.

As Maya Angelou knew so well, how it makes us feel is the most important measurement of all.

Published on: Oct 9, 2019
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