In the world of commerce, the word fulfillment refers to the processes that handle, execute, and fulfill customer orders. This entails successfully fulfilling the value chain that delivers on the promises we make to those who buy our products and/or services.
When applied to the human element of business (and life in general), fulfillment refers to the achievement of a desirable goal or state of becoming pursued by an individual or group of people. This can be a lifelong quest, or a short-term pursuit. Either way, it gives achievers a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of “having arrived.”
In one of the learning experiences my company has provided, we trained a group of CEOs a highly effective training method. In order to illustrate this method, we taught these leaders how to rappel. This was a new skill for these folks, and most of them were a bit nervous about the process of descending a near-vertical rock face of about 40 feet. They desired to have the experience–to fulfill it, if you will, but they were uncomfortable. The possible negative consequences were unnerving, to say the least. With this in mind, we assured everyone that the training method we would use would address and overcome their fears.
We proceeded to use the See, Hear, Say, and Do training method. On a very short first rappel, they watched us—the See portion of the training. Next, the short rappel was repeated, while we told them exactly what we were doing at every nuance of the process—the Hear phase. Then, we repeated the short rappel again (several times), having each participant tell us each step in the rappelling process—the Say portion of the training. Finally, in the Do phase, we had each CEO execute the same short rappel, repeating the process until all participants had succeeded. Only then did we move to the 40-footer. Each CEO succeeded, and all had a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
This experience fits both of the fulfillment definitions I’ve mentioned. Our group of CEOs wanted to learn both the training method and how to rappel, and by virtue of our value chain, we delivered those outcomes. By fulfilling our value chain, they were personally fulfilled, having developed new competences that they could confidently use on future occasions.
These measures of fulfillment are essential to the long-term success of your company, and both are a function of the competence and confidence of your people.
In order to achieve high levels of competence and confidence, your organization must maintain a focus on three critical items:
- Your Value Proposition: This is the promise inherent in the product or service you are selling. It should provide a clear set of demonstrable benefits that your customer desires—and that you will consistently fulfill. Your company should have an overarching value proposition as well as a more focused value proposition for each product and/or service that you sell. For my company, the overarching value proposition is “we build successful CEOs.” With regard to the training I’ve described here, it is to “provide CEOs with a high adventure experience that models the See, Her, Say and Do training method.”
- The Operation to fulfill your Value Proposition: This includes your entire value chain. For your company to be successful, your operation must be both effective (delivering the customer benefits promised in your Value Proposition) and efficient (fulfilling the Value Proposition with a minimum of waste and at a reasonable cost). Each member of your team should know not only their own role in the operations of your company, but the roles of others—and how they must interact together to produce expected value for your customer.
- The Competency of Your People: Your operation delivers your Value Proposition only when your people become highly competent in performing and interacting in their essential roles. Leaders should make sure that they have developed mechanisms whereby competency can be confirmed to assure that employees grow from novices to competent individual contributors. Where competency development may appear to be stalled, leaders should remember that human beings learn in a variety of different ways. In that regard, we should consider alternative training processes such as the See, Hear, Say, and Do
Leaders who are attentive to developing the competence and confidence of their people build the foundation for delivering fulfillment of their value proposition, and customer fulfillment as well. Perhaps most importantly, they also facilitate the career fulfillment of their employees!
Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses.