“What do they need?”

I habitually listen to Seth Godin’s podcast, Akimbo. Godin has forgotten more about communication, leadership, marketing, etc., than most people will ever know.

On his most recent episode, “Five Monkeys,” Seth talked about how our organizational culture can help or hinder us.  He posits four questions that can help us examine our organizational DNA.  The first two are:

  1. Who do we serve?
  2. What do they need?

(If you want to see questions 3 and 4, LISTEN TO THE PODCAST. It’s brilliant stuff.  It’ll be the best 15 minutes you spend this week.)

If your calling is any type of service, including education or ministry, “What do they need?” is a loaded question, isn’t it?

It’s problematic because when you assess your clients’ needs (can I use that term, clients? “customers” isn’t the right term), your assessment often does not line up with their assessment.  What you think they need is not what THEY think they need.

I saw this as a professor.

  • I thought that my students needed two things: to be taught how to think, and to be given tools and resources to use in their thinking.
  • My students–many, not all–thought that what they needed was the easiest possible path to three credit hours on their transcript, hopefully with a grade that would improve their GPA.

What do you do when your assessment of your clients’ needs is at odds with your clients’ assessment of their own needs?

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