I’ve been preparing a short talk that I’ll be giving in the coming weeks about the perspective from outside the Washington, DC beltway. I’m not the first to discover the value in being able to step back from something to gain perspective and appreciate it differently.
When I was an ensign on my first ship, I recall junior sailors, frustrated with a lack of information, who would sometimes snark that they were like mushrooms left to grow in the dark. The 3-square meals and a daily muster wasn’t enough. They wanted more — much more. They wanted to know the big picture. I wasn’t sharing enough of what I knew of the bigger picture. Even as the most junior officer on board, I had access to the larger vision merely because I had a different level of access to the leaders of the ship than did the junior sailors.
We’ve all clearly improved in how we lead and communicate as we’ve matured in our roles, haven’t we? Or have we?
Having spent a significant part of my career inside the beltway, I have a good sense of how insular Washington, DC can be. Sources of information tend to be circular. Inside the beltway, we might connect with one another at trade shows, receptions, volunteer board meetings, award ceremonies, etc. “Did you hear?” or “Did you know?” It’s easy to take the idle industry chit chat or news of the day in stride. It’s often assumed everyone “knows,” even though some don’t know, or what they know is wrong. Even in a pandemic, most networks aren’t growing. They are merely reinforcing themselves.
Where’s he going with this, you ask?
Perspective is Valuable
Many of my clients are not based inside the beltway, but their customers and decisions about the client’s future (programs, funding, policy) mostly take place within the beltway. Many smaller companies based across the country can feel like they understand the state of play — but it’s from a specific perspective. They watch the news, are generally well-read and well-informed. Yet, the source of the information is often two or three layers removed from the real story, or the underlying impact of the information conveyed in the story.
Real and actionable information has a value of its own.
Your entire government customer constellation often assumes that what they know is widely known. That same government customer constellation often also assumes that the information they “know” is correct. Turns out, that’s not always the case.
- Do you think you know what your customer knows?
- Do you think your customer knows what you know?
- Are you working with the same information to achieve commonly agreed outcomes?
If you are each assuming you all know, you may be surprised how little you each know. Communicating effectively, actively, appropriately, and in a timely manner is a shared responsibility.
Don’t let yourself be a mushroom. Take control of the dialogue. Be smart.
I’ll be speaking at AUVSI’s Xponential, October 7th at 1 pm Eastern to talk about the 3-Ring Circus.
Need help engaging with the federal government for policy or access to funding for your product? If you need help with this, schedule a call with Gene.
To get a copy of Gene Moran’s book Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring Circus of Federal Sales or information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.